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    November 12, 2014

    Today the US government finally acknowledged that the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) applies at its Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

    The announcement came during the UN Committee against Torture’s review of the USA, which is taking place in Geneva this week. It means the USA finally recognizes that the obligation it undertook to denounce and refrain from torture and other ill-treatment apply to the government’s actions in the camp.

    Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program, who is attending the Geneva hearing, issued the following statement:

    "Acknowledging at last the long established reality that UNCAT applies at Guantánamo is certainly a welcome move, however late in the day. That said, the USA has a long way to go before meeting its obligations under the anti-torture Convention. We have seen what happens when a government fails in this regard – as with the USA’s resort to torture and enforced disappearance at ‘black sites’ under the previous administration.

    November 12, 2014

    The USA should use its appearance before the UN Committee against Torture to commit itself to justice for the grave human rights violations—including torture and enforced disappearances—committed by US personnel in recent years, said Amnesty International.

    This week in Geneva, the Committee against Torture will review the USA’s record under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

    “The USA proclaimed itself to be a global leader against torture even when torture and enforced disappearance were being authorized at the highest levels of government under the Bush administration. Today the USA asserts that it is committed to the principles of UNCAT even as it fails to bring those responsible for past torture to justice,” said Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program who will attend the hearing in Geneva.

    Amnesty International has submitted evidence to the Committee on the US government’s failure to end impunity and lack of redress for human rights violations, including:

    October 24, 2014

    Following the initial protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, Amnesty International USA dispatched a human rights delegation which included observers to monitor the protests and police response. Today, the human rights organization has released a new report, “On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson,” documenting the human rights concerns witnessed first-hand by Amnesty International while in Ferguson from August 14-22, 2014. The report also outlines a series of recommendations that need to be implemented with regards to the use of force by law enforcement officers and the policing of protests.

    This weekend, human rights activists are gathering in St. Louis for Amnesty International USA’s 2014 Midwest Regional Conference.

    October 16, 2014

    When 71-year-old Herman Wallace died shortly after being released from more than four decades in isolation in a Louisiana prison, a year ago today, the extent of the system’s inhumanity was brought to light once again. But despite the international outcry, on any given day 80,000 people are locked in stark cells in inhumane conditions across the USA.

    When the thick solid metal door shut behind him, Steven was faced with his worst nightmare. He knew he would be forced to spend the following four years locked in a room only large enough to take two steps to either side. He would spend his every minute surrounded by nothing but three walls, a thin mattress, a concrete block for a table and a small sink.

    He knew the only human interaction he would have in the next 48 months would be a few words with his guards, who were not allowed to make conversation with him.

    Phone calls were banned – the mere fact of picking up a receiver to speak to a relative was considered too dangerous. Hugging another person was also out of the question – any visits from relatives would have to be conducted through a glass screen by phone. But nobody came to visit.

    October 14, 2014

    By Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.

    The breathlessness was overwhelming. Standing in that small, dark cell, surrounded by nothing but three concrete walls, a dank toilet, a small sink, a thin mattress, a concrete slab and a perforated metal door that barely let any air in, the oppressive claustrophobia was hard to control.

    This was not the first time I had set foot in a US prison, but it was the first time I had experienced what an isolation cell can do to you.

    Everything about that room – the lack of windows, or natural light, or fresh air, the very thought of not being allowed any human interaction – seems to be designed to dehumanise. The basic penal concept of reform and social rehabilitation is excluded inside those three walls.

    In solitary, punishment is king. The mere thought of spending more than a few minutes in that place was almost unbearable.

    And then, a prisoner told me and my colleague that we were the first outsiders he had seen in 22 years.

    August 14, 2014

    In addition to a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that police shot dead an unarmed teenager in Missouri, an investigation into the use of heavy-handed tactics to disperse a wave of protests in the wake of the shooting must be launched without delay, Amnesty International said.

    “What is now urgently needed are thorough investigations, not further inflammation, of the incredibly tense situation in the aftermath of Michael Brown being shot dead,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Any police officer suspected of having committed unlawful acts must be held to account through effective investigation and, where warranted, prosecution.

    “Using excessive force to quell protests is unacceptable. Police in Ferguson must conform to the US Constitution and international standards on the use of force and firearms. Residents must be allowed to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression and journalists must not be prevented from carrying out their work.”

    July 31, 2014

    The US government must immediately end its ongoing deliveries of large quantities of arms to Israel, which are providing the tools to commit further serious violations of international law in Gaza, said Amnesty International, as it called for a total arms embargo on all parties to the conflict.

    The call comes amid reports that the Pentagon has approved the immediate transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to the Israeli armed forces from a US arms stockpile pre-positioned in Israel, and follows a shipment of 4.3 tons of US-manufactured rocket motors, which arrived in the Israeli port of Haifa on 15 July.

    These deliveries add to more than US$62 million worth of munitions, including guided missile parts and rocket launchers, artillery parts and small arms, already exported from the USA to Israel between January and May this year.

    July 31, 2014
    Aubrey Harris, Campaign against the death penalty coordinator, Amnesty International Canada

    Another ‘botched’ execution in the United States. There have been several this year – the most recent last Wednesday when Arizona spent two hours torturing Joseph Wood to death. The time has come to acknowledge these executions cannot possibly be called ‘botched’ anymore. This torture can only be described as deliberate.

    “Botched” means that a process was ‘fouled up by incompetence or carelessness.’ Arguably carelessness is one possible explanation – but it is well known that the two drug combination used Wednesday in Arizona would result in prolonged and painful death. The US Supreme Court and others seem so willing to ignore evidence and expert testimony that there is no longer any reason to believe that a “humane” execution is intended or possible.

    July 30, 2014
    Chelsea Manning has spent the last year as a convicted criminal after exposing information which included evidence of potential human rights violations.© MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

    Exactly one year after Chelsea Manning was convicted of leaking classified government material, Amnesty International is renewing its call on the US authorities to grant her clemency, release her immediately, and to urgently investigate the potential human rights violations exposed by the leaks.

    Chelsea Manning has spent the last year as a convicted criminal after exposing information which included evidence of potential human rights violations and breaches of international law. By disseminating classified information via Wikileaks she revealed to the world abuses perpetrated by the US army, military contractors and Iraqi and Afghan troops operating alongside US forces.

    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.

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