Featured: U.S. IMMIGRATION
We welcome the Mar. 25 reintroduction of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Adam Smith (D-WA). This bill addresses abusive conditions and profiteering incentives that characterize the immigration detention system. Homeland Security (“DHS”) operates a sprawling network of over 200 detention facilities with the capacity to detain tens of thousands including families and asylum seekers. The mass detention of asylum-seekers poses a danger to the health of detainees and contravenes U.S. obligations with respect to due process, human rights, and refugee protection. Detainees frequently endure horrific conditions including sexual assault, solitary confinement, and denial of medical care. For-profit detention further fuels human rights abuses, and the vast majority of people in DHS custody are locked up in facilities owned or managed by private prison companies or state, county, or local governments.In a national letter Amnesty and 126 organizations urged Congress to swiftly pass this bill. In an Apr. 5 CNN op-ed Rep. Jayapal and Amnesty’s national advocacy director, Joanne Lin, called on Congress and the President to pass and sign the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act.
We welcome the Biden administration’s actions geared towards reducing gun violence, including $5 billion in funding for community-based violence prevention programs in the American Jobs Plan, a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of ghost guns, and the nomination of David Chipman to be the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”). Members of Congress should fund the proposed programs to end gun violence by re-introducing and passing the Break the Cycle of Violence Act.
Two months into his presidency, President Biden administration has yet to sign a new, revised Presidential Determination (“PD”) on refugee admissions. In our Mar. 19 letter to the National Security Council we urged the President to immediately issue the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions of 62,500 refugees. The President’s delay in signing a revised PD has led to over 700 canceled flights for refugees approved for travel to the U.S. and an indefinite suspension of travel for hundreds of additional refugees. This is devastating to refugee families who are anxious to be reunified as well as to the many host communities that have secured housing and set up welcome teams for refugee arrivals. We urge the President to immediately issue the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions of 62,500 refugees, as was proposed to Congress in February.
On Apr. 6 Amnesty International published Amnesty International Report 2020/21: The State of the World’s Human Rights which analyzes the human rights records of 149 countries (including of the U.S.) and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020. The global pandemic has exposed the terrible legacy of divisive and destructive policies that have perpetuated inequality, discrimination and oppression and paved the way for the devastation wrought by COVID-19.
We applaud Secretary Blinken for the reversal of harmful practices by the previous administration that excised sexual and reproductive rights from State Department (“DOS”) reporting and sought to hierarchize human rights and weaponize certain rights to justify discrimination. In the release of the DOS Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Sec. Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to human rights as universal and co-equal, rejecting the findings of the disbanded “Unalienable Rights Commission,” and reaffirming sexual and reproductive rights as human rights. Amnesty submitted this Mar. 10 statement outlining our top international human rights priorities for the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “The Biden Administration’s Priorities for U.S. Foreign Policy.”
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO SUPPORT WTO TRIPS WAIVER FOR COVID-19 VACCINES AND HEALTH PRODUCTS
Amnesty International joined a Feb. 26 letter with 400 civil society groups urging the Biden administration to support an emergency COVID-19 waiver from the World Trade Organization’s (“WTO”) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) agreement. The waiver is necessary to provide greater supplies of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests for lower-income nations. The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be stopped anywhere unless vaccines, tests, and treatments are available everywhere.
For more on the TRIPS waiver and intellectual property restrictions on the equitable distribution of COVID-19 products, read this Mar. 9 Just Security blog and Amnesty International’s statement for the Mar. 10 House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee hearing titled “A Year into the Pandemic: The State of International Development,” and watch this Mar. 10 interview. Amnesty urges the administration to support multilateral efforts to ensure affordable and equitable vaccine access for all, including the proposed WTO TRIPS waiver and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (“C-TAP”).
In response to a statement on Apr. 6 by the Department of Defense reiterating that the United States would continue to develop and use landmines, Amnesty International USA issued a press release calling on the Biden administration to immediately reverse this decision and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
SENATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Amnesty International’s Feb. 27 report documents how Eritrean troops committed serious violations against Tigrayan civilians in Axum in Nov. 2020. Congress should swiftly pass S.Res.97 calling on the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front to protect human rights, allow unfettered humanitarian access, and cooperate with independent investigations of atrocity allegations pertaining to the conflict in Tigray.
Africa & COVID-19
Amnesty submitted a statement for the Mar. 2021 House Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee hearing on COVID-19 in Africa. Amnesty staff joined a Mar. 25 webinar on COVID-19 vaccine accessibility for African countries. Panelists urged governments to support the WTO TRIPS waiver and International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) issuance of Special Drawing Rights (“SDRs”) for low-income countries. We urge Congress to swiftly pass the Robust International Response to Pandemic Act (H.R.986) to ensure U.S. support of SDRs.
Amnesty International’s Mar. 23 report documents how Lebanese security forces have committed shocking violations against Syrian refugees—arbitrarily arresting them on terrorism-related charges and employing some of the same atrocious torture techniques that are used in Syria’s most notorious prisons. Amnesty is calling for an independent UN-led investigation into the Aug. 2020 Beirut port blast and the Feb. 2021 assassination of Lebanese activist Lokman Slim.
In Case You Missed it
DR. AGNÈS CALLAMARD APPOINTED AS SECRETARY GENERAL OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
On Mar. 28 Amnesty International announced the appointment of Dr. Agnès Callamard, one of the world’s leading international human rights expert, as our new Secretary General. Dr. Callamard previously was the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. In that role she led ground-breaking investigations including into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Amnesty International welcomes the Biden administration’s Apr. 2 decision to repeal sanctions on International Criminal Court (“ICC”) staff. Survivors of human rights abuses turn to the ICC for accountability when the justice system in their countries fails to address grave injustices. Having taken a critical first step towards removing obstacles to international justice, President Biden must now reaffirm the U.S. signature of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
VENEZUELA AND MYANMAR DESIGNATED FOR TEMPORARY PROTECTION STATUS
Amnesty welcomes DHS’s designation of Venezuela and Myanmar for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”). These designations will permit migrants from Venezuela and Myanmar to apply for temporary work authorization and reprieve from deportation. Both Venezuela and Myanmar have deplorable human rights records including police killings of peaceful protesters, arbitrary detention, and torture of detainees.
U.S. RESTORES CRITICAL FUNDING FOR PALESTINIAN REFUGEES
We welcome Secretary Blinken’s announcement that the U.S. government would restore assistance for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (“UNRWA”). The $235 million in U.S. aid will provide critical humanitarian, economic, and development assistance for 5.7 million Palestinian refugees.
WHITE HOUSE GENDER POLICY COUNCIL ESTABLISHED
Amnesty welcomes the administration’s Mar. 8 Executive Order to Establish the White House Gender Policy Council. The executive action mandates a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, among other measures to advance women’s human rights and asylum protection for domestic violence survivors.
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