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    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.

    January 17, 2014

    The Texas authorities must halt the execution of Mexican national Edgar Arias Tamayo, set to take place on 22 January, which would violate an international court order, Amnesty International said today.

    “Texas has been shamefully insistent in scheduling this execution in the full knowledge that to carry it out will violate international law,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA.

    Edgar Arias Tamayo was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston police officer in January 1994. The execution is set to go ahead despite an order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004.

    Last September, US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to the Texas Governor, Rick Perry, urging that an execution date not be set for Edgar Tamayo. The letter reiterated that the ICJ’s ruling “is binding on the United States under international law”.

    “The federal authorities, and officials around the country, should not let up on Texas. A Texas execution is a US execution. Even if Texas officials don’t care about this, those in the rest of the country should,” said Rob Freer.

    January 06, 2014

    US corporate interests must not be allowed to invalidate the Conflict Minerals Rule, which requires companies to investigate and disclose whether their products contain certain minerals that help fund armed groups in mineral-rich countries in Africa, said Amnesty International today.

    The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear a challenge by three industry groups against the rule on Tuesday. Amnesty International joined the lawsuit to support the rule.

    “This legal challenge to the Conflict Minerals Rule is nothing but a crass effort by industry groups to put profits ahead of principles,” said Steven Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

    “The rule was required by Congress to save lives and stop human rights abuses by curbing the flow of funding to armed groups operating with impunity in the areas these minerals are mined – in Democratic Republic of the Congo and other central African countries.”

    The Conflict Minerals Rule was required by the US Congress in 2010 as part of a raft of measures to reform business practices after the 2008 economic downturn.

    January 06, 2014

    Released at 0:01 GMT 6 January 2014

    Authorities in the US state of Louisiana must end their campaign of vengeance against Albert Woodfox and release him after nearly four decades of cruel solitary confinement, Amnesty International said on the eve of a Federal Court of Appeals hearing on his case.

    “The state of Louisiana’s action is not in the interests of justice. Its insistence in keeping Albert Woodfox behind bars after decades in solitary confinement amounts to a campaign of vengeance, paid with taxpayers’ money,” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International.

    “It is incomprehensible that the state continues to keep him behind bars. This conviction has been overturned three times in what is a deeply flawed case, yet Louisiana has opposed every remedy ordered by the courts.”

    November 20, 2013
    Grant clemency to Chelsea Manning and release her

    By Justin Mazzola, attorney and researcher with Amnesty International USA

    Let’s all take a trip down memory lane to our Sesame Street days and engage in the following exercise of “Which One Doesn’t Belong”:

    November 04, 2013

    Any potential trial of whistleblower Edward Snowden would amount to political persecution if it covers his revelations about the US government’s human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

    Over the weekend top US officials, including the White House and leading lawmakers, went on the record saying the former intelligence agency contractor – who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia – should not receive clemency for leaking information about the USA’s wide-reaching surveillance programs. 

    “Edward Snowden is a whistleblower who has disclosed an unlawful global digital surveillance program that has violated the right to privacy of millions of people. As such, he has grounds to seek asylum abroad out of well-founded fears the USA would persecute him for his actions,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Program Director at Amnesty International.

    October 22, 2013

    New evidence indicates that the USA has carried out unlawful killings in Pakistan through drone attacks, some of which could even amount to war crimes, Amnesty International said in a major new report released today.

    The report, “’Will I be next?’ US drone strikes in Pakistan”, is one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the US drone program from a human rights perspective.

    It documents recent killings in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas and the almost complete absence of transparency around the US drone program.

    “Secrecy surrounding the drones program gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law. It’s time for the USA to come clean about the drones program and hold those responsible for these violations to account,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher.

    “What hope for redress can there be for victims of drone attacks and their families when the USA won’t even acknowledge its responsibility for particular strikes?”

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