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USA

    July 24, 2014

    The prolonged execution of a prisoner in Arizona yesterday represents another wake-up call for authorities in the USA to abolish the death penalty, said Amnesty International.

    “How many more times do officials need to be reminded of the myth of the ‘humane execution’ before they give up on their experiment with judicial killing?” asked Rob Freer, Amnesty International Researcher on the USA.

    At least three executions have not gone according to plan in the USA this year alone.

    Amnesty International does not believe that there is any such thing as a humane execution, or that the cruelty of the death penalty is confined to what goes on in the death chamber.

    Holding someone under a threat of death – for years or even decades – can hardly be described as the conduct of a state adopting a progressive approach to criminal justice or human rights.

    “However the state chooses to kill the prisoner – and whether the execution goes according to plan or not – does not change the fact that this is a punishment incompatible with fundamental human rights principles,” said Rob Freer.

    July 16, 2014

    The US government’s callous and dehumanizing practice of holding prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement in the country’s only federal super-maximum security prison amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is in violation of international law, said Amnesty International today.

       

    Highlights from the report

    July 10, 2014

    Amnesty International spokespeople available for interview

    As US Edward Snowden seeks to extend his stay in Russia, Amnesty International called for effective international protection for whistleblowers.

    “Edward Snowden has been effectively punished to live in exile with no long-term security only for exposing serious abuses of power,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director for International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “It is high time for governments across the world to stop persecuting people whose only ‘crime’ is to bring to light information that is in the public interest.”

    The former National Security Agency contractor’s one-year permit to stay in Russia is due to expire at the end of July.

    Possible talking points:
    ·        Persecution of whistleblowers globally, particularly in the USA.
    ·        Right to privacy.
    ·        NSA surveillance programme.

     

    June 18, 2014

    The US government must ensure that Ahmed Abu Khattalah, who is being held in secret and incommunicado detention, gets immediate and unrestricted access to a lawyer amid fears that he may be being held or interrogated in inhumane conditions, said Amnesty International today.

    Ahmed Abu Khattalah has been allegedly charged with participation in an attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi in 2012 in which four US nationals were killed. He was seized by US forces in Libya on 15 June and is currently being held at an undisclosed location, possibly a US naval vessel.

    “While Ahmed Abu Khattalah is suspected of a serious crime, that does not mean his has forfeited his right to humane treatment and due process,” said Erika Guevara Rosa, Director of Amnesty International’s Americas Program.

    “In addition to the absence of accountability for torture carried out under the Bush administration, there is still cause for concern about the USA’s treatment today of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

    June 04, 2014
    Photo: Edward Snowden’s revelations shocked the world and proved, beyond a doubt, that governments have systematically violated their citizens’ rights to privacy.© Barton Gellman/Getty Images

    Posted at 0001hrs (BST) 5 June 2014

    There is an urgent need for international protection for whistleblowers and major reform to protect the right to privacy, said Amnesty International on the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations on the extent of government spy networks in various countries across the world.

    “The persecution Edward Snowden has faced for his vital contribution to our knowledge of governmental abuses of power is despicable,” said Michael Bochenek, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International.

    June 03, 2014

    By Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International

    The questions came fast and sharp as the 2014 Stockholm Internet Forum (#SIF14) kicked off yesterday.

    Given that the theme of this year’s conference is “Internet — privacy, transparency, surveillance and control”, why was Edward Snowden not invited? The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ response, that there were limited places for participants and that they had to ensure gender diversity, did not cut the mustard with participants, judging by comments on Twitter and in the hallways.

    April 30, 2014

    Last night’s “botched” execution in Oklahoma provides yet another stark reason why authorities across the USA should impose an immediate moratorium on judicial killing and work for abolition of this inescapably cruel punishment, Amnesty International said today.

    Witnesses have described how the condemned man, Clayton Lockett, began to gasp and writhe after he had been declared unconscious and when the second and third drugs began to be administered. At that stage, about 16 minutes after the lethal injection process had begun, officials drew a curtain across the viewing window, preventing witnesses from seeing what was happening. Almost half an hour later, Clayton Lockett was pronounced dead of a heart attack. A second execution scheduled for the same evening, of Charles Warner, was stayed.

    April 11, 2014

    (WASHINGTON, D.C.) - In response to the disclosure by McClatchy Media of information about the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA detention and interrogation, Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Security & Human Rights Program, issued the following statement:

    "This is a game changer. The debate about torture should be over once and for all. President Obama should immediately declassify the entire report so that safeguards can be put in place to ensure that the U.S. government does not use torture again.

    "The U.S. should, among other steps, withdraw its reservations to the Convention Against Torture and revise the Army Field Manual on Interrogation. Furthermore, international law requires accountability for the crime of torture, including remedy for victims and prosecutions where warranted."

    April 08, 2014

    Former US intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden’s latest allegations point to a very real risk that human rights defenders, including Amnesty International staff, have been the targets of mass surveillance by the US and British spy agencies.

    Snowden, who is living in exile in Moscow, made the remarks this afternoon via videoconference to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France.

    When asked if the US National Security Agency (NSA) or its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) were actively spying on human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, he said: “Without question, yes, absolutely …The NSA has in fact specifically targeted the communications of either leaders or staff members in a number of purely civil or human rights organizations of the kind described”.

    April 08, 2014

    Texas Governor Rick Perry must stop Wednesday’s execution of Ramiro Hernández Llanas, a Mexican national with a mental disability, Amnesty International said today.

    The state has relied upon racial stereotyping and the views of discredited “expertise” to secure this death sentence – now due to be carried out shortly after 6pm, local time, on 9 April.

    After the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Ramiro Hernández Llanas on Monday, his final hope for mercy is a reprieve from the state governor.

    “This case cries out for Governor Perry to use his power of reprieve. He must recognise that the state has relied upon shoddy ‘expert’ testimony to get Ramiro Hernández Llanas to the death chamber,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA.

    April 03, 2014

    The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has voted for a degree of transparency on the now long-festering injustices associated with the secret detention program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

    Given the systematic failure of the US authorities to declassify and disclose anything like the full truth about the CIA rendition, detention and interrogation programs, any transparency on them is a step in the right direction.

    The SSCI has voted to submit for declassification the summary and findings of its review of the secret detention program, authorized by former President George W. Bush in September 2001 and ended by President Barack Obama in 2009.

    But publication of the SSCI summary and findings – hopefully without redactions – will be just one small step. The administration and Congress must do far more to ensure accountability for past violations and their non-recurrence in the future. For a start, the full SSCI report – and the CIA rendition, detention and interrogation programs themselves – should be declassified.

    February 11, 2014

    The USA must charge or extradite a former Guatemalan soldier involved in a massacre in his home country, Amnesty International said.

    Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes was sentenced to 10 years in prison for omitting to mention his membership of an army unit which killed more than 200 people in the town of Dos Erres in 1982, while applying for citizenship in the USA.

    “In addition to immigration violations, Sosa Orantes has a case to answer for war crimes. The US authorities must extradite him to Guatemala or prosecute him in the USA for crimes against international law,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Governments across the world have a responsibility to ensure those suspected of having committed human rights abuses face justice, wherever they are.”

    Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International’s researcher on Guatemala, is available for interviews in English and Spanish.

    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Amnesty International’s press office: +44 207 413 5566, press@amnesty.org

    February 10, 2014

    The authorities in California must introduce radical changes to the cruel conditions of the state’s solitary confinement units, said Amnesty International.

    Tomorrow, 11 February, a representative of the human rights organization will give an oral submission before the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. It is currently considering a series of reforms to its Security Housing Units (SHUs), proposed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

    “The authorities in California have an historic opportunity to end the inhumane conditions of detention of the hundreds of prisoners held in isolation across the state,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International.

    Most of the inmates are held in isolation units in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison.

    They are confined to their windowless cells for at least 22 hours a day. Exercise is limited to one 90-minute session a week, alone, in a bare, concrete yard, with 20 foot high walls and only a patch of sky visible through a partially meshed plastic roof.

    January 22, 2014

    The Governor of Texas must stop the execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo, a Mexican national scheduled to be put to death this evening in violation of international law and despite a new finding that he was denied a fair trial, Amnesty International said.

    “Under Texas law, the state governor can stop this execution right up until the last minute, even though the clemency board has voted against mercy,” said Rob Freer, US researcher for Amnesty International.

    “Governor Rick Perry should promptly announce that he is calling off this execution and that he will ensure Texas meets its obligations under international law.”

    Edgar Arias Tamayo was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston police officer in January 1994.

    He was not informed of his right to seek consular advice after his arrest. This assistance could have provided pivotal evidence in the case. Edgar Tamayo’s claim that he was prejudiced by this violation of international law has to this day never been reviewed by any court.

    January 19, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 20 January 2014

    The continued operation of the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is a prime example of the USA’s double standard on human rights, Amnesty International said today, almost five years after President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the facility.

    "On 22 January 2009, ordering the closure of Guantánamo within a year was among President Obama’s first official decisions after he came to office,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Director of Amnesty International's Americas Program.

    “Five years later, this promise of change has become a human rights failure that threatens to haunt President Obama’s legacy, just as it has his predecessor’s."

    Twelve years after the first detainees were brought to Guantánamo, strapped down in planes like cargo, more than 150 men are still held there. Most of them are held without charge or trial.

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