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    July 16, 2013

    (WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Brian Evans, director of Amnesty International USA’s Abolish the Death Penalty campaign issued the following statement in response to the Georgia Fulton County Superior Court granting Warren Hill a stay of execution based on a challenge concerning the secrecy of the lethal drugs the state of Georgia acquired and planned to use in Hill’s execution:

    “Warren Hill today was granted a stay of execution because of the secrecy surrounding the lethal drugs. Amnesty International welcomes this development and the chance for the courts to address these troubling questions of secrecy and medical ethics.

    “Beyond these important issues, Warren Hill has been determined to be ‘mentally retarded’ and thus his execution would have been unconstitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court banned such executions in 2002. His petition on this important question is scheduled to be considered at a conference on September 30.

    July 15, 2013
    Slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin

    by Aubrey Harris, Coordinator, Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty

    The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in Florida has understandably upset many. The facts as known broadly would to most people seem to indicate that the acquittal or at the very least the law, is unjust.

    Certainly the "Stand Your Ground" law, which takes self-defence to a confusing extreme (pre-emptive strike?), has resulted in many confusing verdicts (see this good analysis from the Tampa Bay Times). It pales in comparison to two other, extremely troubling aspects of Florida's legal system:

    Of states with the death penalty, Florida has the highest number by far of wrongful conviction in capital cases in the USA. Florida recently signed into law further restrictions on the right to appeal in capital cases 

    That means, despite the worst record on convicting the right person, Florida is accelerating the process to kill those people who may well be innocent.

    July 12, 2013

    Amnesty International met with US whistleblower Edward Snowden at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Friday. Sergei Nikitin, Head of Amnesty International's Moscow office, who was at the meeting said:

    “Amnesty International was pleased to reiterate our support for Edward Snowden in person.  We will continue to pressure governments to ensure his rights are respected - this includes the unassailable right to claim asylum wherever he may choose.

    “What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified. He has exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programmes that unquestionably interfere with an individual’s right to privacy.

    “States that attempt to stop a person from revealing such unlawful behaviour are flouting international law. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right.

    “Instead of addressing or even owning up to these blatant breaches, the US government is more intent on persecuting him. Attempts to pressure governments to block his efforts to seek asylum are deplorable.”

    July 12, 2013

    The U.S. government should immediately drop the most serious charges against Pvt. Bradley Manning, Amnesty International said today after the conclusion of all testimony in the case.

    “We’ve now seen the evidence presented by both sides, and it’s abundantly clear that the charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ has no basis.  The government should withdraw that charge,” said Widney Brown senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International.

    Manning’s lawyers asked the judge to dismiss these and other charges in a motion filed over the weekend.  

    “The prosecution should also take a long, hard look at its entire case and move to drop all other charges that aren’t supported by the evidence presented,” said Widney Brown.

    Last week, prosecutors withdrew a charge that Manning had leaked intelligence to a “classified enemy”.

    July 10, 2013

    An elderly man who has been held in solitary confinement in a prison in Louisiana for over 40 years and has now been diagnosed with terminal cancer should be immediately released on humanitarian grounds, Amnesty International said.

    “He has already spent decades in cruel conditions” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International. “He was found guilty on dubious evidence in the first place and he should now be allowed to live out his last days with dignity in the care of his family.”

    Herman Wallace, aged 71, was originally jailed for armed robbery. However, in 1973 he was convicted of the murder of a prison guard along with Albert Woodfox ; both have been held in isolation ever since.

    No physical evidence linked the men to the crime; DNA evidence that could have cleared them has been lost over the years, and the testimony of the main eyewitness has subsequently been discredited.
     
    Last month Wallace was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and the prognosis is that he only has months to live .

    July 02, 2013

    The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights Amnesty International said today.

    “The US attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are deplorable,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.”

    The organization also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the USA.

    “No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment,” said Bochenek.

    “We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.”

    June 26, 2013

    (Washington) - Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, issued the following comments in response to the Supreme Court ruling today on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8:

    "We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section 3 of DOMA to ensure that legally married same-sex couples can access federal benefits.  However, we are concerned about the Court’s decision on California’s Proposition 8 which effectively punts on the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout the United States.

    Marriage equality for same-sex couples is a human right.  By effectively denying recognition of marriage rights for same-sex couples outside of the state of California, the Court has allowed to continue a discriminatory legal system that also prevents many people from accessing a range of other rights, such as rights to housing and health care, and stigmatizes those relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."

    June 26, 2013

    NEW YORK – On the eve of President Obama’s trip this week to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, Amnesty International USA is urging the president to demand greater respect for and protection of human rights across the African continent. In a letter sent to the president last week, Amnesty International USA asked him to address the issues of gender-based violence, violence and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities. Today, Amnesty International released a report documenting escalating homophobia and arrests of LGBTI individuals across Africa. The letter also urged attention be paid to ending gender based violence against women and deepening threats to civil society.

    June 26, 2013

    Amnesty International is calling on the US state of Texas to halt its 500th execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the United States of America in 1976. In what it describes as a “shameful milestone”, Kimberly McCarthy, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection in Huntsville at 6pm local time barring a stay of her execution.

    The 52-year-old African American woman was sentenced to death in 2002 for murder.

    “Capital punishment in Texas has been arbitrary, biased and prone to error,” said Brian Evans, director of Amnesty International USA’s campaign to abolish the death penalty. “It is a profound and irreversible injustice. The death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading, and a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said.

    June 24, 2013

    The US authorities must not prosecute anyone for disclosing information about the government’s human rights violations, Amnesty International said after Edward Snowden was charged under the Espionage Act. 

    The organization also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the USA.

    "No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations by the US government. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International. 

    "It appears he is being charged by the US government primarily for revealing its and other governments’ unlawful actions that violate human rights.”

    June 07, 2013

    New revelations about the alleged reach of the US National Security Agency (NSA)’s surveillance efforts raise serious questions about the US authorities’ respect for the right to privacy, Amnesty International said today.

    On Thursday The Washington Post in the USA and The Guardian in the UK reported on the NSA’s alleged ongoing efforts to monitor activities of millions of people both inside the USA and overseas.

    This includes accessing information on social media and other internet sites, as well as collecting data from mobile phone call records.

    “The sweeping nature of the records allegedly sought by the government and the systems it has reportedly accessed raises red flags about privacy,” said Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

    “The onus is always on the government to demonstrate that infringements of the right to privacy are lawful, that they pursue a legitimate goal and are necessary and proportionate.”

    June 03, 2013

    Bradley Manning must be allowed to argue that he acted in the public interest when he distributed information to Wikileaks, Amnesty International said today as the trial against the US soldier begins in the US state of Maryland.

    Manning faces multiple charges in relation to obtaining and distributing thousands of classified documents to unauthorized parties, including “aiding the enemy”.  

    The charge of aiding the enemy carries a potential death sentence, although the prosecution has said it would not seek this in his case. Instead, Manning faces a possible life sentence or decades in prison.  

    “The court must allow Manning to explain in full his motives for releasing the information to Wikileaks. It disturbing that he was not permitted to offer the ‘public interest’ defence as he has said he reasonably believed he was exposing human rights and humanitarian law violations,” said Anne FitzGerald, Director of Research and Crisis Response at Amnesty International.

    May 23, 2013

    President Obama was right to reaffirm the need to close Guantanamo, address the need for greater transparency, and acknowledge the troubling issues surrounding his killer drone program. Now it's time for him to take immediate and further action and get the job done.

    Transfers can and must resume today, and all detainees must either be fairly tried in federal court or released. President Obama was right not to endorse the concept of indefinite detention, but his proposal to restart unfair military commissions in the mainland U.S. should be rejected as both unlawful and unnecessary.

    What's needed on drones is not a "kill court," but critically, much more transparency regarding the legal basis for the drones program, including the release of the newly approved presidential guidance as well as independent investigations of alleged extrajudicial executions and remedy for victims.

    May 16, 2013

    A senior US diplomat has said his government will be quick to sign the new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a move Amnesty International said raises hopes for swift implementation of the potentially lifesaving treaty around the world.

    Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman said on Wednesday that the USA would sign the ATT “in the very near future”. Many other governments are also indicating that they will soon sign the treaty which will be open for signature and ratification at the United Nations in New York on 3 June 2013. At least 50 states must ratify the treaty into their national law before it can come into force.

    The USA – by far the world’s largest arms producer and exporter – is a key state to support the ATT. Despite playing an obstructive role earlier in the treaty process, US support during the final round of UN negotiations in March this year was an important factor in finally achieving the overwhelming vote of 155 states to adopt the treaty in the General Assembly on 2 April.

    May 07, 2013

    “Given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantánamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures.”  High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on the latest Guantánamo hunger strikes

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