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    August 28, 2017

    By Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research, Amnesty International 

    Winter is coming. 

    Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know the iconic, sinister saying. In the TV show, it is muttered meaningfully as a warning not only that after a long summer a harsh winter is ahead, but that winter brings with it an existential threat to the world—an army of the dead. This threat makes all the vicious scheming, treachery and feuding look insignificant and petty. 

    As a human rights defender watching leaders around the world scapegoating and dividing to score political points, I can’t help thinking that winter may be coming for all of us—a dark future where protection of human rights won’t mean much anymore. 

    The “summer” was long and fruitful. Seventy years ago the world came together in 1948 and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated for the first time that human rights must be protected across “all peoples and all nations.”  

    August 28, 2017

    Photo: Four-year-old Carlos spent nearly half his life in immigration detention in the U.S. with his mother, Lorena. Now he and three other children and their mothers are free!

     

    GOOD NEWS: The Berks Kids are free!

    No child should grow up behind bars. But thanks to Amnesty supporters, courageous lawyers and activists on the ground, four children and their mothers are finally free after nearly 700 days in an immigration detention center in the United States!

    On 17 August, four-year-old Carlos and 16-year-old Michael along with their mothers, Lorena and Maribel (all names changed to protect their identities), were ordered released from Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania by an immigration judge after nearly 700 days in detention. This follows the release of two other young boys and their mothers held in Berks for over 22 months on 7 and 14 August.

    August 25, 2017

    AI USA Release

    For the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against the state’s capital sentencing statute, Florida has executed a prisoner, killing Mark Asay via lethal injection.

    Amnesty International recently issued a report outlining the state’s response to the Supreme Court ruling.

    “There is no place in a just society for capital punishment, which is inherently cruel and arbitrary in application,” said Kristina Roth, senior program officer for criminal justice at Amnesty International USA. “The state of Florida should be ashamed for resuming its machinery of death.

    “It’s too late for Mark Asay, but Florida still has a chance to be on the right side of history by commuting the sentences of all other death row prisoners and ending capital punishment once and for all.”

    August 21, 2017

    Ahead of a planned resumption of executions in Florida on 24 August, 18 months after the last one, Amnesty International is issuing a paper on recent developments relating to the death penalty in the US state.

    “Death in Florida” outlines the state’s response to the January 2016 US Supreme Court decision that Florida’s capital sentencing law was unconstitutional, and the governor’s reaction to a prosecutor’s subsequent decision to reject the death penalty.

    When State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced that she would not seek the death penalty due to its demonstrable flaws, Governor Scott immediately responded by ordering her replacement with a different prosecutor more willing to engage in this lethal pursuit. So far the Governor has transferred 26 cases to his preferred prosecutor.

    Racial discrimination was one of the death penalty’s flaws – along with its costs, risks and failure as a deterrent – cited by State Attorney Ayala, the first African American to be elected to that position in Florida.

    August 18, 2017

    By Aubrey Harris, Amnesty Canada's Coordinator for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. Follow Aubrey on Twitter @AmnestyCanadaDP

    The fact that torture occurred in Guantanamo Bay is not news. Not only did former president Barack Obama state it bluntly as “we tortured some people,” even former vice-president Dick Cheney implied it in his “dark side” quote justifying some forms of torture. International law, however, is explicit in it. The International Convention Against Torture makes clear that any statement extracted as the product of torture cannot be used except as proof that the torture occurred.

    Efforts to present the public perception of torture as “acceptable” exist not only in the tough-guy films of Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino, but most explicitly in the propaganda film “Zero Dark Thirty.” For the first 25 minutes of the film, a man is portrayed being tortured by operatives at CIA black sites in order to obtain information to find Osama bin Laden.

    August 17, 2017

    Four-year old Carlos* and 16-year old Michael* were ordered released from Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania today after hearings with an immigration judge.

    Carlos and his 34-year-old mother Lorena* fled threats, intimidation and severe and repeated gender-based violence in Honduras before arriving in the United States. They have been held at Berks for over 22 months. Likewise, Michael and his 41-year-old mother Maribel* have also been held in detention for over 22 months. They fled El Salvador following constant death threats to the family when Michael was targeted for gang recruitment in El Salvador.

    August 14, 2017

    In response to President Trump’s comments on the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists following this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville — Amnesty International USA Deputy Executive Director of Campaigns and Membership, Njambi Good, issued the following statement:

    “Despite today’s speech, President Trump has traded in bigotry since day one, putting ordinary people at greater risk of violence and harassment by white supremacists. It’s time for Trump to completely change course, and commit to concrete steps that will prevent white supremacists from inciting discrimination, hate, or violence.

    “If the President is serious about stopping racism and religious discrimination, he must abandon the bigoted agenda that he campaigned on and that continues to fuel hate-based violence, including the refugee and Muslim ban.”

     

    This statement can be found online at https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/amnesty-international-usa-response-to-trumps-remarks-on-hate-groups/

     

    August 14, 2017
      Eight-year old Antonio* was ordered released with his mother from Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania today after being granted bond by an immigration judge. He and his 24-year-old mother Marlene fled kidnapping threats and severe physical and sexual assault before arriving in the U.S. seeking asylum. They have been held at Berks for over 23 months.   “Families fleeing horrific violence come to the United States in search of safety. But instead of showing true leadership and protecting refugees, the U.S. is imprisoning vulnerable mothers and children,” said Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA. “This practice is unconscionable and cannot be allowed to stand. While this ruling is obviously a huge relief for this family in the short term, we must not rest until family detention centers like Berks are shut down once and for all.”  
    August 12, 2017

    AI USA Release

    NEW YORK – In response to today’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Amnesty International USA Deputy Executive Director of Campaigns and Membership, Njambi Good, issued the following statement:

    “The authorities must act to deescalate tensions in Charlottesville and take immediate steps to counter hate against people of color, immigrants, refugees, Jews, Muslims and others.

    “Every time the Trump administration equivocates on white supremacy, it risks emboldening more acts of violence, harassment and discrimination. Around the world, we have seen what happens when governments fail to act consistently and promptly to condemn racial and ethnic hatred. Violence and discrimination result, and ordinary people pay the price of government inaction.”

    This statement can be found online at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/trump-must-condemn-racial-and-ethnic-hatred/

     

    August 08, 2017
      In an extraordinary move, three-year old Josué* was freed from Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania today after being granted release by an immigration judge. He and his 28-year-old mother Teresa fled kidnapping threats and physical and sexual assault in Honduras before arriving in the US seeking asylum. They have been imprisoned at Berks for over 16 months. Josué has spent over half his life in detention, learning to walk and talk in confinement.   Amnesty International launched a campaign in June to end the detention of children and their parents held at family detention facilities like Berks County Residential Center. Currently, there are dozens of children and parents jailed at Berks, one of three such family detention centers, which are akin to jails, in the United States. At least 3 other families at Berks have been held for more than 600 days.  
    July 26, 2017
      Following tweets from President Donald Trump announcing he would no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military, Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA’s director of Gender, Sexuality, and Identity program issued the following statement:

    “Today’s announcement violates the human rights of all transgender Americans. It lays bare the president’s prejudice and underlines the fact that creating policy based on bigotry is becoming a dangerous and cruel pattern for President Trump. The administration continues to target minority communities without pause and without facts. From stripping protections from transgender students to today’s announcement, the Trump administration has made clear it has an agenda of discrimination.”  
    July 20, 2017
      ‘GIVE A HOME’ GIGS TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH OVER 22 MILLION REFUGEES   SHEERAN WILL BE AMONG 1,000 MUSICIANS PLAYING AT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND SOFAR SOUNDS EVENTS GLOBALLY 0N 20 SEPTEMBER     With just two months to go, Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds have announced that Ed Sheeran is delighted to play in their global concert series Give a Home. Taking place in cities all over the world on 20 September 2017, Sheeran’s announcement comes just ahead of the next bulk of additional major artists to be announced in early August.  
    July 19, 2017
      Following the Supreme Court’s decision to partially stay a Hawaii court’s ruling on the refugee ban, Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA senior director of campaigns, released the following statement:    “This ruling jeopardizes the safety of thousands of people across the world including vulnerable families fleeing war and violence. On top of that, this prolonged legal battle is creating further distress and confusion for ordinary people who need to visit the U.S. to get medical attention, reunite with family or get an education. No part of this cruel and discriminatory ban is reasonable. Congress must intervene and end the ban once and for all.”
    July 14, 2017

    A federal judge in Hawaii has enjoined the Trump administration from including grandparents and other family members in the travel ban, as well as refugees with formal commitments from refugee organizations in the United States to resettle here. Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA senior director of campaigns, released the following statement:

    “This decision is another rejection of the Trump administration’s cruel and discriminatory policy. It is welcome but temporary relief for the thousands of refugees and family members who remain uncertain of their future. They cannot wait for another drawn-out legal battle; Congress must step in now and end this cruel and discriminatory ban once and for all.”

    July 13, 2017
      On July 12, 2017, after resettling 50,000 refugees this year, the United States hit the cap in refugee admissions set by President Trump’s March 6 executive order. This is the lowest number of refugee admissions ever set by the executive branch. Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA, released the following statement.   “As a result of the Trump administration’s cruel agenda to ban refugees from entering the country, thousands of vulnerable people fleeing war and violence from all over the world are in heightened danger. Many of the 26,000 refugees who have already undergone vetting and been approved to come to the U.S. to live could be left stranded because of the administration’s narrow interpretation of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the ban. The United States is turning its back on people who are fleeing some of the world’s most desperate situations.  

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