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    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

    May 02, 2013

    The US state of Maryland has joined the overwhelming global trend towards ending the death penalty, Amnesty International said today after Governor Martin O’Malley signed the abolition of capital punishment into law.

    The abolition bill, passed by the state legislature in March 2013, makes Maryland the 18th US state to relinquish use of the death penalty since the US Supreme Court approved new capital laws in 1976.

    “Maryland has abandoned a punishment that should have no place in a society that claims to respect human dignity, and that in the USA is riddled with discrimination and error,” said Brian Evans, Amnesty International USA’s Abolish the Death Penalty campaign director.

    “More than a third of US states have now abolished the death penalty, and we urge the remaining 32 states, and the federal government, to follow suit.”

    Amnesty International urges Governor O’Malley to commute the death sentences of the five men who remain on death row in Maryland despite today’s abolition bill. This would avoid the cruel prospect of the state applying a punishment that it has rightly rejected.

    April 22, 2013

    The US authorities must urgently end indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay, Amnesty International said today after it was confirmed that more than half the detainees are now on hunger strike.

    As of 21 April, 84 of the 166 detainees held at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were recognized by the military authorities as being on hunger strike.

    Detainees began their protest in early February, in reaction to what they said were abusive cell searches and deteriorating conditions.

    The military authorities have rejected the claims, but have acknowledged a sense of despair among detainees because they think the US administration has abandoned its efforts to close the detention facility.  

    “The current situation in Guantánamo serves as another reminder of the abject failure of the USA to resolve these detentions,” said Rob Freer, USA researcher at Amnesty International.

    April 17, 2013

    (Washington, D.C.) – The Supreme Court today dismissed the closely-watched case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co in a severe blow for victims of human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, and severely limited the reach of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a law enacted in 1789.

    The Court’s decision significantly reduces access to the U.S.courts for all survivors of human rights abuses committed abroad, a radical departure from its own precedent and a decision that Amnesty International believes flies in the face of the trend toward enhancing accountability for serious human rights violations.

    The Court’s ruling was in relation to the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. The suit was brought by members of the Ogoni community in the Niger Delta in relation to human rights violations committed against them and their families in the mid-1990s by the military government in power in Nigeria at the time.

    March 14, 2013

    US President Barack Obama must take the lead in securing a strong global Arms Trade Treaty, a group of 18 Nobel Peace Prize winners said in an open letter delivered to their fellow laureate at the White House today. 

    Amnesty International, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Dr. Óscar Arias are among the Nobel Laureates, who also include leaders on human rights, humanitarian and disarmament issues from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa.

    The letter was delivered ahead of talks starting on 18 March at the UN in New York to conclude the negotiations on an historic treaty aimed at bringing the poorly regulated global arms trade under control.

    “The US and other arms supplier states have both a moral duty and a national security interest to help achieve [a strong] Treaty in order to protect human rights and save the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of conflicts fuelled by the irresponsible international conventional weapons trade,” the Nobel Laureates said in the letter.

    January 21, 2013

    The use of lethal force by the US government must be in accordance with international law, Amnesty International said amid reports the USA is finalizing a “manual” for targeted killings including drone strikes.

    US media over the weekend reported that the administration of Barack Obama is finalizing guidelines setting out its counterterrorism policies.

    “There already exists a rulebook for these issues – it is called international law. Any policy on so-called ‘targeted killings’ by the US government should not only be fully disclosed, but must comply with international law,” said Susan Lee, Americas Program Director at Amnesty International.

    To date, the justifications publicly offered by senior Obama administration officials have shown only that US government policy appears to permit extrajudicial executions in violation of international law.

     

    Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) inhale toxic dust as they mine the cobalt that powers the batteries we rely on for our phones and laptops. Yet electronics manufacturers – global brands including Apple and Samsung – won’t tell us if their cobalt supply chains are tainted by child labour. They have a responsibility to do so –to check for and address child labour in their supply chains, setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow.

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