HUMAN RIGHTS ON CAPITOL HILL
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National Security and Human Rights
In Case You Missed It
february 2021 NEWSLETTER
Featured: Amnesty International’s Top Domestic Human Rights Priorities
Amnesty International’s Top Domestic Human Rights Priorities
Amnesty International’s Jan. 27 letter outlined our top domestic legislative priorities for the 117th Congress:
- Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to end the mass detention of immigrants and asylum seekers and to protect vulnerable people, including families, from detention
- NO BAN Act to permanently prohibit travel bans that discriminate based on religion
- Refugee Protection Act to restore and reinvigorate the U.S. refugee and asylum systems
- Break the Cycle of Violence Act to provide additional resources to communities to address gun violence
- Background Check Expansion Act to mandate background checks on all U.S. gun sales
AMNESTY’S TOP PRIORITY FOR BIDEN’S FIRST 100 DAYS: FREE PEOPLE FROM IMMIGRATION DETENTION
Amnesty International welcomes the executive orders and DHS actions aimed at restoring access to asylum as well as refugee and humanitarian protection. However, the U.S. government must also free people from immigration detention and end family detention. Amnesty International joined 122 organizations in a Feb. 11 joint letter to the Biden administration urging DHS to implement an individual file-review process to reconsider the custody determination for every person currently locked up by ICE.
Congress must press the Biden administration to free detained immigrants, including all families and children, within its first 100 days. Detained immigrants and asylum-seekers, the overwhelming majority of which are Black and brown, have long faced abuse in facilities, where conditions are well-documented to include overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and a lack of basic hygiene. Their health and their lives, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are at risk.
INTERNATIONAL COVID-19 RESPONSE: U.S. SHOULD JOIN C-TAP AND SUPPORT TRIPS WAIVER FOR HEALTH PRODUCTS
Amnesty International welcomes President Biden’s executive actions to join WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (“ACT”) and COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (“COVAX”) Facility. However, the administration must take additional steps to ensure equitable vaccine distribution to low-income nations.
Amnesty urges the Acting U.S. Trade Representative and Acting USAID Administrator to support the proposed World Trade Organization (“WTO”) TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 health products, which will be on the agenda at the upcoming Mar. 4 WTO meeting.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S KEY PRIORITIES FOR THE 46th SESSION OF THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
On Jan. 29 Amnesty International issued a briefing outlining its recommendations for the 46th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (“UNHRC”) which will run from Feb. 22 to Mar. 23. Amnesty urges the U.S. to support the renewal of accountability mechanisms on Myanmar, Nicaragua, South Sudan, and Syria; work towards a more robust approach to prevent further violations in Belarus, Iran, and Sri Lanka; and respond to alarming reports of violations in China, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, and Russia.
TOP HUMAN RIGHTS PRIORITIES FOR SOUTH ASIA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
In February, Amnesty International outlined the top human rights priorities for the Biden administration to address in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
On February 1 the Myanmar military imposed a state of emergency and detained scores of elected civilian officials including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, other senior political figures, activists, and human rights defenders. The U.S. government should call on Myanmar authorities to drop all trumped-up charges against Suu Kyi, U Win Myint, and the others arbitrarily detained since the coup and immediately release them.
Amnesty urges Congress to swiftly pass the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act to hold senior Myanmar military officials accountable for human rights abuses against the Rohingya, and the Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act to assist civil society in Myanmar working to free prisoners of conscience. Both bills passed the House last session but were not taken up by the Senate.
In recent months the Indian government has cracked down on nationwide demonstrations by farming leaders and journalists, protesting three recently introduced farm laws. Indian authorities have not investigated reports of violence against protesters, but instead have hindered access to protest sites, shut down the internet, censored social media, and used draconian laws against peaceful protesters. The U.S. government should call on Indian authorities to immediately cease the escalating crackdown on protesters, farming leaders, and journalists, and release all those arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.
national security and human rights
END U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS 20 YEARS AFTER 9/11 ATTACKS
Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. response has been 20 years of global war, leading to horrific human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S. government. The Biden administration must finally close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center and end nearly two decades of discriminatory indefinite detention of Muslims without charge or trial, which continues to this day. Congress should end these abuses by repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which has been used to justify the use of force and indefinite detention by successive administrations far beyond Congressional intent, and often with deadly consequences for civilians.
U.S. ENDS SUPPORT TO YEMEN CONFLICT
Amnesty International welcomes President Biden’s decision to end U.S. support to the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition operations in Yemen, some of which have amounted to war crimes. Congress and the Biden administration should block all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, lest they be used to commit further war crimes in Yemen, and also ban the sale of Paveway munitions to Saudi Arabia.
PASTOR STEVEN RELEASED
Pastor Steven, an ordained minister and asylum-seeker fleeing from torture in Uganda, was finally released from ICE custody on Feb. 10 after over two years in immigration detention. Asylum-seekers should be able to pursue their claims in safety, and the thousands of people still needlessly held in ICE custody must be released. DHS must operate under a presumption of release, not detention.
In Case You Missed it
AMNESTY CALLS ON ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WILKINSON TO INVESTIGATE STORMING OF THE U.S. CAPITOL
Amnesty International USA sent a letter to the Acting U.S. Attorney General calling on the Justice Department to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, including, but not limited to examining the role of former President Trump, former White House staff, Members of Congress, and white supremacist and other hate groups and militias in inciting, planning, and executing coordinated actions that resulted in the death of seven people. This investigation must address the endangerment of and death threats toward Congress and staff, and the incitement to continued hate violence through racist chants and the donning of racist, neo-Nazi, and xenophobic symbols. All those found responsible, regardless of their current or former position in government, must be held to account.
PANEL ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY IN AFRICA
Amnesty’s Adotei Akwei joined a Jan. 28 webinar on U.S. foreign policy in Africa. He addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainable development, climate justice, democracy, and human rights. Watch the webinar here.
FRESH EVIDENCE OF POLICE MISUSE OF TEAR GAS LEADING TO PROTESTERS’ DEATHS AND INJURIES
On Feb. 5 Amnesty International published new evidence of the misuse of tear gas by security forces in several countries during the latter half of 2020 including during protests around the Uganda election, Lebanon protests, and Black Lives Matter protests. Visit Amnesty’s interactive website Tear Gas: An Investigation which documents incidents of police committing human rights violations against peaceful protesters around the world.
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Please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our experts or email [email protected] for a general inquiry.
Middle East, Americas: Philippe Nassif
Surveillance, Technology, Digital Rights: Michael Kleinman
Gender, Sexuality, and Identity / Indigenous Rights: Tarah Demant
National Security: Daphne Eviatar
Human Rights Defenders, Prisoners of Conscience & Individuals at Risk: Andrew Fandino
COVID-19, Gun Violence, and all Other Issues: Joanne Lin
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