Select this search icon to access the amnesty.ca search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

USA

    October 04, 2013

    Justice deferred to the end

    Today is a sad day for human rights and justice.

    Herman Wallace, the 71-year-old man who spent over 41 years in solitary confinement in prison in Louisiana, finally passed away after losing his battle with liver cancer.

    The only solace was that he died a free man. Last week a federal judge overturned his conviction.

    Even then, consistent with their decades-long obsession with keeping Herman Wallace behind bars, the state of Louisiana appealed against the court order for his immediate release.

    Thankfully, within hours, the same federal judge denied the appeal and threatened to hold the state in contempt of court. Only then did the state finally release Herman Wallace.

    He was so weak that he left the prison by ambulance, to be taken directly to hospital.

    From the unsafe conviction at his deeply flawed trial in 1974, through 41 years of confinement in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions, to a belated terminal diagnosis and his death, Herman Wallace’s treatment at the hands of the state was dogged by a fundamental disregard for his human rights.

    October 01, 2013

    The decision to overturn the conviction of a terminally ill man held in solitary confinement for more than 41 years after a flawed trial is a positive step but long overdue after four decades of injustice, Amnesty International said.

    “The case of Herman Wallace is a tragic example of ‘justice’ gone wrong in the USA. Finally a federal court has acknowledged some of the unfairness surrounding this case. However this sadly comes too late for lasting benefit as he is at death’s door with terminal cancer,” said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International.

    “The state must not now try to block his release.”

    Herman Wallace, 71, was placed in solitary confinement in Louisiana State prison after being convicted in 1974 of the murder of prison guard Brent Miller.

    Today’s ruling focused on one aspect of his trial: the systematic exclusion of women from the grand jury. Many other irregularities have been raised over the years but have been rejected by the state courts.

    September 24, 2013

    Following reports that Secretary of State John Kerry will sign the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of the USA on Wednesday morning, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General commented:

    “This is a milestone towards ending the flow of conventional arms that fuel atrocities and abuse. The US is the world's largest arms dealer, but has so far had a mixed record of suspending arms supplies on human rights grounds.

    “We now need to see this commitment by the US - and the 86 other countries that have signed the Arms Trade Treaty - matched by action. They must implement the Treaty and bring to an end the supply of weapons to countries where they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious human rights violations.

    “The tragic situation in Syria underlines the horrific human cost of the reckless global arms trade. The Arms Trade Treaty is the opportunity to prevent such human suffering in the future. Governments must seize this once in a lifetime opportunity. The world is now waiting for China and Russia to match the US commitment."

    August 30, 2013

    The refusal by California’s prison authorities to explore options to resolve the hunger strike crisis in the state’s high security units is a dangerous move that could lead to the deaths of inmates in their custody, Amnesty International said.

    More than 30,000 prisoners joined a hunger strike last July over inhumane detention conditions in California’s security housing units (SHUs). More than 70 are still refusing food.

    “It’s nothing short of appalling that instead of dealing with the complaints, California’s prison authorities have chosen to threaten inmates with force-feeding and disciplinary measures, and have moved some to other facilities,” said Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.  

    “No one should be punished for exercising the right to peaceful protest. California prison authorities must stop toying with people’s lives and meet with the mediation team to begin a meaningful process of negotiation.”

    Amnesty International has also received reports that some of those on hunger strike have been denied medical care.

    August 21, 2013

    President Obama should commute US Army Private Bradley Manning’s sentence to time already served to allow his immediate release, Amnesty International said today.

    Military judge Col Denise Lind today sentenced the Wikileaks source to 35 years in military prison – out of a possible 90 – for leaking reams of classified information. He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

    “Bradley Manning acted on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in US helicopter attacks, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.  

    August 01, 2013

    Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum is a positive development and should allow governments and civil society to focus on the sweeping nature and unlawfulness of the US government’s surveillance programs.

    “The drama of the five weeks since Snowden’s arrival in Russia has distracted attention from the key issue: how the ever-burgeoning security apparatus in the US has used secret courts to undertake massive, sweeping and systematic invasions into the right to privacy of people living in the USA,” said Widney Brown, senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “Let’s not lose sight of why Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia. Once he disclosed the full scope of the US government’s actions, they cancelled his passport and called him a criminal.

    “Freedom of expression – a fundamental human right – protects speech that reveals credible evidence of unlawful government action. Under both international law and the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, the US government’s actions are unlawful.”

    July 31, 2013

    US authorities have failed to deliver justice for serious human rights violations committed in the context of counter-terror operations dating back more than a decade, Amnesty International said as the sentencing phase opened today in the military trial of Army Private Bradley Manning.

    Manning, who exposed potential breaches of international humanitarian law and other violations by US forces, could face up to 136 years in prison after being convicted of 20 separate charges – including theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act.

    “There’s a stunning contrast between the extraordinarily severe sentence Bradley Manning could receive and the leniency or complete impunity enjoyed by those responsible for the types of grave human rights violations he exposed,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    July 30, 2013

    Despite the acquittal of Private Bradley Manning of the most serious “aiding the enemy” charge against him, today's verdict reveals the US government's misplaced priorities on national security by finding him guilty today of a range of other charges, Amnesty International said.  

    “The government’s pursuit of the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Manning’s intent to harm the USA by releasing classified information to Wikileaks,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.

    July 22, 2013

    California prison authorities have again breached international human rights obligations by taking punitive measures against prisoners on hunger strike over conditions for thousands held in solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, Amnesty International said today.

    “Prisoners seeking an end to inhumane conditions should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest,” said Angela Wright, Amnesty International’s USA researcher.

    “Prolonged isolation under conditions which can only be described as cruel and inhumane treatment is prohibited under international law.”

    More than 1,000 inmates in prisons acrossCalifornia remained on hunger strike as the protest enters its third week .

    This is down from approximately 30,000 prisoners in more than 24 prisons who began their hunger strike on 8 July to protest the state’s policy of long-term solitary confinement in Security Housing Units (SHU).

    July 18, 2013

    The decision by the US military judge not to drop the charge accusing Private Bradley Manning of “aiding the enemy” is a travesty of justice, Amnesty International said today. If he is found guilty of the charge, he faces a possible life sentence in military custody with no chance of parole.

    “The charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ is ludicrous. What’s surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet – whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times – can amount to ‘aiding the enemy’,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    To prove the charge that Manning has “aided the enemy,” the US government has to establish that he gave potentially damaging intelligence information to an enemy, and that he did so knowingly, with “general evil intent”.

    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 .

    Pages

    Subscribe to USA
    rights