A White House task force set up to combat human trafficking held its annual meeting today, chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry. The cabinet-level group, called the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) coordinates the U.S. government's efforts to eradicate the phenomenon commonly likened to "modern-day slavery."
At the meeting, Secretary Kerry stated he had been "stunned by the stories and examples of the evil... It is nothing less than the most predatory, extraordinary modern slavery that you can conceivably imagine."
The PITF was not the only human trafficking-related event this week.
On Monday and Tuesday, the United Nations convened a high-level General Assumbly meeting on the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Plan of Action commits governments around the world to fully implement key anti-human trafficking treaties and to join forces to counter the multi-billion dollar industry which has trapped some 21 million men, women and children in forced labor. At the meeting, actress Mira Sorvino, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, described human trafficking as "one of the great social justice issues of our time." The United States also addressed the meeting, stating, "(t)he solution in face of this scourge is clear – joint action across nations and across UN agencies." United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that "(h)uman trafficking devastates individuals and undermines national economies," and called on governments to prevent trafficking by ratifying relevant treaties, implementing the U.N.'s Global Plan of Action against trafficking, and making contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund to help victims.
The ACLU endorses these measures and encourages the U.S. to do more to address human trafficking through better monitoring and enforcement of existing anti-trafficking laws, policies and practices.
For years, the ACLU has worked with other organizations to protect the human rights of victims of labor trafficking. That work has included:
- Advocating on behalf of 500 guestworkers from India who were trafficked into the U.S. through the federal government's H-2B guestworker program with dishonest assurances of becoming lawful permanent U.S. residents and subjected to squalid living conditions, fraudulent payment practices, and threats of serious harm. The workers' lawsuit, which was filed in 2008, highlights serious flaws in the current guestworker program wherein foreign low-wage temporary workers are subjected to numerous human rights violations including trafficking and forced labor. These violations take place due in part to the exploitation of visa application processes by duplicitous recruiters and employers. The lawsuit also highlights the U.S. government's failure to regulate and supervise these visa schemes appropriately to prevent abuse, and failure to vigorously enforce anti-trafficking and labor laws when violations occur.
- Advocating on behalf of foreign workers, known as Third Country Nationals (TCNs), contracted to perform services for the United States overseas, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these workers have been deceived about how much they will be paid, as well the nature and location of their job, and charged thousands of dollars in recruitment fees that effectively place them in debt bondage. Last year, President Obama issued an important Executive Order aimed at addressing these issues and in January this year Congress enacted legislation designed to achieve these same ends. These measures, while welcome, will only prove effective if they are properly implemented and enforced. Together with a coalition of anti-trafficking groups, the ACLU recently made recommendations to the Federal Acquisition and Regulatory (FAR) Council to ensure the laws effectiveness.
- Advocating on behalf of domestic workers trafficked into the United States by foreign diplomats stationed here and subjected to forced labor and other abuses. Because of diplomatic immunity, victims are left without access to legal remedies for these abuses. Domestic workers are a uniquely vulnerable population as they do not generally enjoy the right to organize, minimum wage protections, or other fundamental workplace protections, and their race, gender, immigration status, education levels, and physical isolation in the home make them particularly susceptible to labor trafficking.
Today's PITF meeting and Monday and Tuesday's UN meetings were important reminders that despite some progress, much more must be done by governments and civil society to combat human trafficking in this country and to provide redress and other support to victims.
In the words of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, "(h)uman trafficking is a vicious chain that binds victims to criminals. We must break this chain with the force of human solidarity."
Yesterday, Maryland's governor signed into law legislation protecting pregnant women from workplace discrimination. This should be a no-brainer.
Picture this: you have a good job, you have medical benefits, you're financially stable, and you decide it's time to start a family. Sounds reasonable, right? But what would you do if your employer decided to place you on unpaid leave and cut your medical benefits because you're pregnant? You might take your employer to court.
That's just what Peggy Young, a UPS package driver from Maryland, did with support from the ACLU, the ACLU of Maryland and over 10 other organizations. As crazy as it sounds, UPS's policy was to offer light duty assignments to a variety of workers who were temporarily unable to perform their regular tasks: workers who were injured on the job, workers with a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, workers who lose their commercial driving licenses, and workers involved in car accidents. But not pregnant women. And, an appeals court, in a decision that defies logic, held that to require UPS to give pregnant workers the same kinds of accommodations it gives other workers would be to grant special "most favored nation status" to pregnant employees.
Fortunately, Maryland realized just how seriously flawed that decision was and, with the ACLU of Maryland's support, enacted legislation requiring employers to provide the same treatment to pregnant employees that they already are obligated to provide to other employees with temporary physical restrictions. Families in Maryland can rest easier knowing that their jobs and benefits will be safe when they decide to have kids.
But our work isn't done. A number of other states are considering similar bills, and a nationwide fix bill, called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, was just introduced in Congress. We'll keep working to ensure that employers can't treat pregnant women worse than other workers who have certain job limitations, and we encourage you to join with us: call your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act today.
An important Congressional subcommittee held a hearing today on domestic drone use. Members and witnesses didn't just rehash familiar concerns; they dug deeper to explore how advanced surveillance technology has become, and the real dangers of the surveillance society that it creates.
The hearing, held by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations began with testimony from the ACLU and three representatives from the academic community. (You can read the ACLU's complete testimony here.) While they had different ideas of what government regulation of domestic drone use should look like, the witnesses all stressed the increasing sophistication of drones, which will lead to levels of surveillance previously unseen. The testimony drove home the fact that drones are getting smaller, cheaper, and their use is about to blow up.
While witnesses disagreed on solutions, the discussion made it clear that drones are just one part of a bigger surveillance state. Tracey Maclin, from the Boston University School of Law, described surveillance cameras that can detect thermal imaging and read license plates, and are even equipped with facial recognition technology that can track individuals based on height, age, gender, or skin color. The ACLU's Chris Calabrese concurred and took the argument one step further, explaining that such information can be tied to sensitive location data pinged from an individual's cell phone – resulting in continuous, long-term monitoring.
Gregory McNeal from the Pepperdine University School of Law referenced the ARGUS-IS to demonstrate how advanced the technology has become. ARGUS-IS, one of the most powerful aerial surveillance systems available (we have written about it in depth here), is basically a super-high resolution (1.8 gigapixel) camera that can be mounted on a drone. As demonstrated in this clip, the system is capable of monitoring and recording an entire city in high resolution.
Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from youtube.com.
The hearing reinforced many of the concerns that we have raised with drone use and other forms of mass surveillance - it changes the very notion of the public space, and intrudes on Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy. The fear that big brother could be watching our every move is likely to chill the exercise of our fundamental rights by affecting our decisions to do anything from participating in a political protest, to attending a mosque service, meeting with a therapist, or simply sun bathing.
Members also debated whether Congress or the courts are best fit to protect our privacy in the face of such invasive surveillance. Calabrese explained that because the courts often only tackle a particular situation or fact pattern, Congress is better suited to protect Americans' privacy by creating carefully balanced legislation. Legislators are in touch with their districts and have an understanding of what their constituents' expectations are. Clear rules can encourage growth in the developing domestic drone industry, while still protecting our right to privacy.
The ACLU continues to support Rep. Ted Poe's (R-Texas) Preserving American Privacy Act, which we believe is a strong first step in this effort. The bipartisan bill would ensure that government's –particularly law enforcement's – use of drones will not violate the Constitution. It would require police to get a warrant based on probable cause before launching a drone to search a non-public area. For public spaces, the standard would be reasonable suspicion of criminal activity as well as a reasonable probability that the drone will capture evidence of that criminal activity. These requirements would guard Americans against being the subjects of mass surveillance by law enforcement, while still allowing police to benefit from the technology.
We applaud the subcommittee for holding this hearing and beginning this important conversation. We encourage them to act in favor of safeguarding Americans' privacy by moving forward with Rep. Poe's bill.
In which state was a Heights High School senior class president suspended and banned from delivering his scheduled convocation speech because of a harmless tweet?
Which political group was unfairly targeted for aggressive enforcement by the IRS?
In which state was a transgender student humiliated by school administrators who misgendered him by placing his name on the ballot for prom queen?
Which Senate Committee is scheduled for three weeks of mark-up sessions to deal with the 300 amendments to the bipartisan immigration reform bill?
True or False? A federal magistrate judge in New York ruled that users should only expect Fourth Amendment privacy protections on their cell phone data when the device is powered off.
In Disturbing Trend, Kansas School the Latest to Punish Student for Harmless Tweet
In a gently mocking 48-character Twitter post, Heights High School senior class president Wesley Teague wrote: "Heights U' is equivalent to WSU's football team." A seemingly innocent message, but you wouldn't know it from the school's reaction. Administrators suspended Wesley for the rest of the school year, stripped him of his post as senior class president, cancelled his scheduled convocation speech and banned him from most graduation-related events. (The school has since decided that Wesley will be able to attend graduation ceremonies, but will not be allowed to speak).
IRS Abuses Power in Targeting Tea Party
The extraordinary revelation this week that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups for more aggressive enforcement highlights exactly why caution is needed in any response to the much-vilified Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC.
It also shows how all Americans, from the most liberal to the most conservative, should closely guard their First Amendment rights, and why giving the government too much power to limit political speech will inevitably result in selective enforcement against unpopular groups.
A Boy Named Issak
Issak Wolfe, a high school senior in Pennsylvania, wanted to be prom king. But the school denied him his chance—simply because Issak is transgender.
Despite taking the proper steps to secure his name on the boys' ballot, Issak found his old female name listed under the candidates for prom queen. To add insult to injury, the school refuses to read Issak's male name at graduation. Issak blogs about the hurt and humiliation he faces because of discrimination by his school administrators.
Immigration Reform: Week One is Done
Only a few short weeks ago, the so-called Senate Gang of Eight – four Republicans and four Democrats committed to producing a bipartisan immigration reform bill – released a bill exceeding 800 pages representing work dating back to November. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened for the first day of mark-up – a process whereby all committee members have the chance to offer amendments to the bill before it proceeds to consideration by the full Senate.
Federal Judge: Only Powered-Off Cell Phones Deserve Privacy Protections
A federal magistrate judge in New York recently ruled that cell phone location data deserves no protection under the Fourth Amendment and that accordingly, the government can engage in real-time location surveillance without a search warrant. In an opinion straight from the Twilight Zone, magistrate judge Gary Brown ruled two weeks ago that "cell phone users who fail to turn off their cell phones do not exhibit an expectation of privacy."
Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it's ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system has failed on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Across the country, the criminal justice reform conversation is heating up. Each week, we feature some of the most exciting and relevant news in overincarceration discourse that we've spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks.
This week, our focus will shift from legislation to an important new report from the Drug Policy Alliance, "An Exit Strategy for the Failed War on Drugs." The report is extensive—it runs 64 pages and includes 75 recommendations—and pragmatic. It doesn't call for blanket drug legalization tomorrow; instead, it proposes a gradual draw-down (to borrow the metaphor) and new approach to the same goal of minimizing drug use and abuse. Here are a few noteworthy recommendations:
- Shift the focus of the federal drug budget from failed supply-side programs to cost-effective demand and harm reduction strategies. DPA cites the ample research which shows that reducing demand through substance-abuse treatment programming is more cost-effective than supply reduction policies. Sticking with "cost-effective" is generous, really; if your measuring stick is drug addiction rates, then supply-side spending isn't really effective, period.
- Raise threshold amounts for what constitutes a federal drug law violation and focus resources on big cases. Stories of people serving preposterously long federal prison sentences for relatively minor drug offenses are far too common. Some federal judges will attest to sentencing hundreds of minor offenders to prison for far longer than is appropriate or effective.
- Reform federal drug conspiracy laws. Most of the preposterously long sentences are the result of conspiracy cases; someone plays a small role in a group—say, buying small amounts of cold medicine on behalf of a methamphetamine cook—but gets sentenced according to the total amount of drug produced or sold. This recommendation should be paired with the one immediately above.
- Expand the mandatory minimum safety valve provision. Currently, a defendant is eligible for the federal safety valve—that is, a judge is allowed to sentence him below the mandatory minimum term—if he meets five criteria, one of which is having one or zero "criminal history points." The idea is to allow judges to sentence first-time defendants to less severe sentences. The problem is that you are over the one-point limit if you've ever been convicted of a crime for which you served more than two months in jail, which could mean shoplifting or forging bad checks or marijuana possession or a variety of other petty crimes. It could also have been ten years ago. The point is that people who are relatively low-risk are nonetheless excluded from the safety valve, no matter what the judge thinks.
The other 71 policies run the gamut from policing to drug treatment to federal foreign policy; you should read them all. It won't take as long as you might expect. Reason's Mike Riggs earns a plug for the second week in a row with his thoughts on DPA's new report.
Here are some other interesting items from the past week:
- Vermont passed a bill to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, which the governor is expected to sign.
- Minnesota has "banned the box"—that is, Minnesota employers will not be allowed to consider a job applicant's criminal history until the applicant has an interview or is offered a job. Employers are still free to not hire someone with a criminal history, but at least applicants won't simply have their applications tossed in the trash can before they've had a chance to make a strong personal case for themselves. The law will help more former prisoners find work, which will make Minnesota safer and more prosperous.
- You can review recent activity in state legislatures to reduce prison populations, with contextual information about each state, at our new map.
This post was originally featured on philly.com.
In 1929, Clara Bell Duvall died in Pittsburgh from complications of an illegal abortion. She left behind a grieving household - five young children, an overwhelmed husband, and her own parents were devastated by their loss. The family barely survived.
In 1960, Sharon Magee lost her mother, Mary Magee, in Philadelphia. The story of her death from an illegal abortion was plastered all over the pages of the Daily News and reverberates in the family even today.
The deaths of these women and countless others are the legacy of the dark days when abortions were illegal in Pennsylvania.
In 2009, Karnamaya Mongar, poor, unsuspecting, desperate, and pregnant, died following an abortion in a West Philadelphia clinic operated by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Like Duvall and Magee, Mongar lacked the resources and education that could have guided her to a safe health provider.
Gosnell has now been convicted on an array of criminal charges, from three counts of first-degree murder to heading a criminal enterprise to, in the death of Mongar, involuntary manslaughter. In addition, his crimes are clearly contrary to every code of medical ethics. As a result, he faces a lifetime behind bars, with no chance of parole.
Does the fault for these crimes lie with the abortion laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or are specific individuals who failed to follow those laws to blame?
By 2009, Pennsylvania had extremely strict laws and regulations for abortion clinics - among the most stringent in the nation. Those laws required the Department of Health to inspect and license abortion clinics.
The department had received complaints about Gosnell's clinic and had been asked to investigate. Simply put, people in the Department of Health - public employees all - did not do their jobs. They failed to follow up, and failed to enforce the regulations designed to protect the safety of women. This wasn't the fault of the Supreme Court, the pro-choice movement, or Planned Parenthood. Employees of the Department of Health, for reasons we have yet to understand, neglected to enforce the law.
How have our legislators responded? Have they investigated the department that did not do its job? Held hearings? Have they tried to discover why the laws they themselves passed were not enforced? No. They have instead attempted to tar all legal abortion providers in Pennsylvania with the Gosnell brush. Under the guise of protecting women, they passed a draconian bill championed by some politicians whose real agenda is to outlaw all abortions.
A woman's right to choose to continue or terminate her pregnancy is constitutionally protected, subject only to reasonable regulation for the sake of health and safety. The new law seeks to circumvent that right by restricting access to safe and legal abortions - to an even greater extent than before. This makes about as much sense as restricting appendectomies all over the state because of one incompetent surgeon.
The new law has caused some clinics in Pennsylvania to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for unnecessary structural changes and has forced others to close. This has already limited access and driven up costs. Will women really be protected? As abortions become harder to obtain, there are likely to be more tragedies of the kind commonly seen before 1973, not fewer.
Opposition to abortion is today a strident political force. Opponents seek to impose their views on everyone and take this personal and private decision out of the hands of a woman and her family. When politicians cave in to these demands, public-health approaches fall by the wayside and the lives, as well as the rights, of women, especially poor women, become pawns in an unrelenting political game. As a result, women are denied fundamental rights to autonomy and equality.
How many more women like Clara Bell Duvall, Mary Magee, and Karnamaya Mongar must suffer before our politicians understand that their duty is to help protect the lives and welfare of our citizens, not to promote the agenda of a vocal minority? Access to safe, legal abortion saves women's lives and preserves families.
Iran’s ban on female presidential candidates contradicts several articles of the country’s Constitution as well as international law and should be removed, Amnesty International said.
Mohammad Yazdi, a clerical member of Iran’s Council of Guardians, a constitutional body responsible for ensuring that legislation adheres to Iran’s Constitution, as interpreted by Iran’s religious scholars and Islamic law, and for vetting presidential candidates has announced that Iranian laws “do not allow women to become presidents”.
Thirty women have registered to stand as candidates for the forthcoming presidential election on 14 June 2013. Women were previously prevented from standing in presidential elections, but there was a chance that the Council could have overturned that situation this time.
The ban on women to run for presidency contradicts a number of articles of Iran’s Constitution, which say there should be equality for all citizens before the law and require respect for the rights of women. It is also in clear breach of Iran’s international human rights obligations.
The recent statement by a member of the Council also contradicts a previous statement made by Dr Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the Spokesman of the Council of Guardians, in 2009 when he said that there was “no legal restraint” on women standing for presidential elections.
“It is beyond belief that women are still being banned from trying to become presidents anywhere in the world,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“Iran should take a closer look at its own Constitution and the international treaties it has committed itself to uphold and ensure no one is prevented from taking part in the upcoming presidential election because of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or politically held beliefs.”
Article 115 of the Iranian Constitution, which is also reflected in the Law for the Presidential Elections, stipulates that candidates must be from amongst “religious and political personalities” [Persian: rejal].
It also states that a potential candidate should be of “Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness” and have “a good past record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country”.
The exclusion of women appears to have been made on an interpretation of the word rejal, used in the wording of Article 115, as meaning “men”.
In previous presidential elections, the majority of candidates registered were disqualified under the article’s criteria, including all women.
Despite discrimination against women in law and in practice, Iranian women have reached high level of education and play prominent roles in the society yet they remain almost completely absent from decision-making positions.
No woman has ever held a position in the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council, a non-legislative body that resolves disputes between Iran’s parliament and the Council of Guardians.
The election is scheduled for 14 June 2013, with the approved list of candidates announced on Tuesday.
Women in Iran have been banned from running for presidency, contradicting a number of articles of the country's Constitution.Media Node: iran Story Location: Iran 28° 36' 48.4524" N, 53° 36' 47.8116" E “It is beyond belief that women are still being banned from trying to become presidents anywhere in the world. ” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
On May 8, the ACLU released a slew of government documents obtained from the FBI, U.S. Attorneys' offices around the country, and the Justice Department's Criminal Division concerning the government's access to the contents of private electronic communications. The media has seized upon one of those documents, an undated memo titled, "Guidance for the Minimization of Text Messages over Dual-Function Cellular Telephones." This memo may show that the Criminal Division is doing nothing at all to avoid reading our text messages; it may show great procedures in place to safeguard the privacy our text messages; or, likely, it may have nothing to do with either of those predictions. The public does not know because the Justice Department put a large black box over every word following the header of the 15-page memo.
While this lack of transparency is stark indeed, at least we know that the document exists. Although the media loved the visual of the full redacted memo, the bigger story is that the Criminal Division withheld a whopping 7,079 pages of records in full—that is, they have effectively drawn that large black box over 7,079 entire pages!
Last year, the ACLU sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to these agencies seeking records regarding whether the government gets a warrant before reading people's email, text messages and other private electronic communications. The documents we did receive (and could read) show that the FBI believes it can read many emails and other electronic communications without a warrant and that different U.S. Attorneys' offices around the country seem to be applying conflicting standards to access communications content (you can see all of the documents here). Further information about the agencies' specific guidelines and practices regarding how and when they access the content of our electronic communications remain a mystery, hidden behind black boxes and withheld documents.
We had sent the same FOIA request to the IRS, and the documents we obtained showed that the IRS, too, has long taken the position that its criminal investigative agents can read emails without a warrant. However, in response to our release of those documents last month and the resulting media coverage and congressional pressure, the IRS updated its policy to state that a warrant is required for access to all emails, regardless of their age. Other agencies should follow suit.
Government openness allows the public to advocate for necessary change, as we saw in the response to the IRS documents last month. The Obama administration came into office pledging transparency, but we have found time and again that the administration has withheld far too much information from the public. The ACLU should not have to go to court to compel the government to tell the public how it operates, especially when something as important as the privacy of our sensitive electronic communications is at stake. In the case of the FBI and Justice Department, the new documents clearly show that Congress needs to reform the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to make clear that a warrant is required for access to all electronic communications. We are not the only ones calling for ECPA reform – this week US Attorney General Eric Holder stated during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that the Justice Department would support reform legislation requiring a warrant for law enforcement access to electronic communications. It now falls to Congress to eliminate the loopholes in ECPA and protect our digital privacy.
Argentina’s former military leader, Jorge Rafael Videla, has died in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his time in office.
“Argentina led the way in the prosecution of those responsible for the torture, killing and disappearance of thousands of people during the many military governments across Latin America,” said Mariela Belski, Director of Amnesty International in Argentina.
“We urge Argentina and other countries in the region to continue with their efforts to bring all those responsible for the terrible crimes committed during the region’s darkest years to justice. There is still much work to be done."
Former military president Jorge Rafael Videla, 87, died this morning in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires.
Last year, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his part in the systematic kidnapping of children during the country’s military regime between 1976 and 1983.
"From the start of Videla's rule, Amnesty International received claims about human rights violations and, in November 1976, sent a research mission to Argentina. The result was the release of a comprehensive report detailing detention without judicial order and torture. There was also the first list of disappeared people."
When he died, Videla was also being tried for his role in Plan Condor – a secret coordinated operation by Latin American countries for the exchange, persecution and disappearance of political activists.
He led the military coup in Argentina in March 1976 and was head of the military junta until 1981. Argentinian human rights groups claim that at least 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared during Argentina’s military government.
Argentina’s former military leader, Jorge Rafael Videla, has died in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his time in office.Media Node: Videla Story Location: Argentina 39° 54' 2.6964" S, 65° 23' 26.25" W “Argentina led the way in the prosecution of those responsible for the torture, killing and disappearance of thousands of people during the many military governments across Latin America. ” Source: Mariela Belski, Director of Amnesty International in Argentina. URL: Argentina: Military era sentences, another historic step towards justice Description: Press Release, 20 December 2012. URL: Argentina: Historical ruling is another step towards justice Description: Press release, 6 July 2012.
A decision by El Salvador’s Supreme Court to, once again, put off a ruling on whether or not to allow a severely ill pregnant woman to have an abortion shows no humanity, Amnesty International said.
Beatriz, a 22-year-old woman whose case is gathering attention around the world, is five months pregnant and has been diagnosed with a number of severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease.
The foetus she is carrying is not expected to survive as it is missing a large part of its brain and skull.
Beatriz is currently in hospital, but has been denied life-saving treatment because it would require terminating her pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador in all circumstances, even when the woman life is at risk.
The Supreme Court had the chance to resolve this issue with a definitive ruling – the delay puts Beatriz’s life in even greater danger than was already the case.
“Yesterday, judges with the power to immediately save the life of a young mother who desperately wants to live chose not to do so. We are outraged at their abdication of their role to protect and defend Beatriz’s life and health. There is no justice in this delay, and definitely no humanity,” said Esther Major, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International.
“To give themselves up to three weeks to decide on whether not Beatriz lives or dies, or is potentially left with severe health problems is cruel in the extreme.
“We urge the judges to immediately uphold Beatriz’s rights and treat this case with the urgency it merits.”
The United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, four United Nations special experts, including the experts on torture and violence against women, have demanded that the state provide Beatriz with the treatment she wants and needs to survive.
“The Salvadoran government must act now to save Beatriz and fulfil its role as guarantor of human rights in the country. The world is watching and urging the authorities to intervene now to guarantee her right to life,” said Esther Major.
It is now more than two months since the hospital treating her requested permission from the government to provide Beatriz with the treatment she needs, but the authorities have still not taken action.
The country’s Penal Code states that anyone seeking or carrying out an abortion could be given a long prison sentence. This means both doctors and Beatriz would be at risk of imprisonment if a termination is carried out.
Beatriz already has a one-year-old son who needs his mother. She was ill before she became pregnant, but her illnesses were under control.
Tens of thousands of people from around the world have urged authorities in El Salvador to provide Beatriz with the medical treatment she badly needs.
More than 70,000 Amnesty International activists have signed petitions and many more are currently taking action.
El Salvador’s Supreme Court has, once again, put off a ruling on whether or not to allow a severely ill pregnant woman to have an abortion.Media Node: El Salvador Beatriz ENG Story Location: El Salvador 14° 40' 32.5632" N, 90° 10' 32.8116" W “Yesterday, judges with the power to immediately save the life of a young mother who desperately wants to live chose not to do so. We are outraged at their abdication of their role to protect and defend Beatriz’s life and health. There is no justice in this delay, and definitely no humanity. ” Source: Esther Major, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International. URL: El Salvador’s officials are playing Russian roulette with young woman’s life Description: Blog, 13 May 2013 URL: El Salvador: “We don't want Beatriz to die, it's that simple” Description: News, 9 May 2013 URL: El Salvador must provide pregnant woman with access to life-saving medical treatment Description: News, 17 April 2013 URL: See Beatriz' plea to the President
Police in the Georgian capital Tbilisi failed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists as thousands of people violently attacked a Pride event today in what Amnesty International said was an ineffective response to organized and violent homophobia.
Georgian LGBTI activists were assembling in the capital's Pushkin park for a peaceful rally to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) when the event was cut short by a throng of angry counter-protesters reported to number in the thousands.
The ensuing violence resulted in 17 people being injured – 12 of whom were hospitalized, including three policemen and a journalist.
“Ironically this shameful violence marred a day that is meant to mark solidarity in the face of homophobic violence around the world, and it shows that the Georgian authorities have a long way to go to promote tolerance and protect LGBTI people and their human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“The authorities must investigate this violence and bring to justice those responsible for committing acts punishable by law.”
Video from the scene depicts dozens of people apparently attempting to lynch a young man because they believed he was gay – something he denies, while making the sign of the cross in front of a nearby church. Police intervened to separate the man from the crowd, but no arrests were made at the time.
The attackers at today's event were accompanied by – and appear to have been encouraged by – the religious authorities from the Georgian Orthodox Church.
According to media reports, on Thursday the Church's highest authority, Patriarch Ilia II, called on the authorities to ban the LGBTI rights event, saying it would be "an insult" to Georgian tradition.
Amnesty International noted that this is the second consecutive year that police in Tbilisi have failed to protect LGBTI activists from violent attacks by Orthodox groups inspired by such intolerance.
“It is becoming a dangerous trend in Georgia to condone and leave unpunished the acts of violence against religious and sexual minorities if they are perpetrated by the Orthodox religious clergy or their followers. It is simply unacceptable for the authorities to continue to allow attacks in the name of religion or on the basis of anyone's real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Dalhuisen.
“It was clear from last year’s events, as well as this year’s announcements for the planned counter-demonstrations, that violence was to be expected. The police appeared to have been woefully unprepared and failed once again to ensure that LGBTI activists could exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression.
“By failing to take effective measures and hold these accountable to justice, the Georgian authorities are allowing the intolerance and impunity to grow and fester. They must improve their policing of peaceful demonstrations in future and ensure that this is not allowed to happen again,” Dalhuisen added.
Police in the Georgian capital Tbilisi failed to protect LGBTI activists as thousands of people violently attacked a Pride event today in what Amnesty International said was an ineffective response to organized and violent homophobia.Media Node: Georgia IDAHO violence Twitter Tag: IDAHO Story Location: Georgia 41° 45' 17.7192" N, 43° 50' 27.3912" E “Ironically this shameful violence marred a day that is meant to mark solidarity in the face of homophobic violence around the world, and it shows that the Georgian authorities have a long way to go to promote tolerance and protect LGBTI people and their human rights” Source: John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: Activists worldwide target homophobia in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa Description: Feature, 17 May 2013 URL: ‘Virulent’ homophobic attacks put South Caucasus activists at risk Description: News story, 18 May 2012
There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.
On 12 March, the activist Hassan Mostafa was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor in Alexandria – accusations he vehemently denies. The case was marred by procedural irregularities and the refusal of the trial court to hear all defence witnesses. Hassan Mostafa is currently being held at the Borg al-Arab Prison and will attend his next hearing on Saturday.
“We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“The appeals court must review all the evidence in this case.”
The alleged incident took place in the morning of 21 January this year inside the Manshiya Prosecution office in Alexandria. Hassan Mostafa had gone there with a group of local lawyers and activists to enquire about the fate and whereabouts of dozens of protesters and passers-by, including children, who had been arrested a day earlier during unrest following the trial of police officers accused of killing protesters during the "25 January Revolution".
About an hour after leaving the Manshiya Prosecution office, Hassan Mostafa was arrested inside the adjacent Alexandria Court complex, in a corridor outside the office of Alexandria's Attorney General. According to other activists present at the time, a group of riot policemen beat them with sticks as they were trying to shield the activist from arrest.
Colleagues of the plaintiff led the investigations and brought the charges against Hassan Mostafa.
“In view of the concerns this raises about impartiality, Amnesty International believes that the interests of justice would have been better served if evidence-gathering and investigations into the alleged crime had not been conducted by prosecutors from that office,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
At his first appeal hearing on 4 May – which an Amnesty International delegate attended – witnesses testified that, while a verbal altercation did occur inside the Manshiya Prosecution office, Hassan Mostafa did not slap or otherwise physically assault the public prosecutor.
At this hearing, the judge decided to postpone the proceedings until 18 May in order to hear testimony from the prosecution witnesses. He also ordered the prosecution to present evidence linked to a hospital medical report which reportedly documents the redness of the plaintiff's cheek after the alleged incident – since the defence lawyers raised concerns about its reliability.
Before his recent arrest, Hassan Mostafa had been active in Egypt's opposition movement for several years. In April 2010, he was detained during a protest demanding the end of emergency laws, which the then-President Hosni Mubarak had kept in place for decades.
Amnesty International fears that the charges he faces are linked to his opposition activism and, more specifically, his activities urging the Manshiya Prosecution to reveal the fate and whereabouts of individuals arrested in connection with the unrest earlier this year.
His lawyers told the organization they fear that additional charges are likely to be brought against him in relation to his participation in another protest, in an apparent attempt to keep him imprisoned for longer.
Hassan Mostafa’s hearing comes amid a notable increase in legal harassment of opposition activists, bloggers, comedians, protesters, and others in Egypt. Charges of insulting President Mohamed Morsi or other officials, or of “defaming” religion – as well as sweeping arrests of opposition protesters – are now the norm.
There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.Media Node: Alexandria court Story Location: Egypt 31° 10' 47.676" N, 29° 57' 15.2064" E “We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release ” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: Egypt’s opposition activists in the dock Description: Blog, 14 May 2013 URL: Opposition activists in the ‘defendants’ cage’ amid ongoing crackdown Description: Blog, 9 May 2013 URL: More face charges in Egypt’s escalating free speech and dissent crackdown Description: News story, 3 April 2013 URL: Egypt: Grant Alexandria activist a fair trial Description: Public statement, 25 February 2013
While science has vastly advanced since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more than 30 years ago, the ways in which many criminal laws treat people living with HIV look like throwbacks to the dark days of the past when fear and misinformation about HIV and how it is transmitted were rampant.
There are presently 32 states that have criminal laws that punish people for exposing another person to HIV, even in the absence of actual HIV transmission or even a meaningful risk that transmission could occur.
If you are assuming that these laws are merely paper relics from a bygone era that have no real effect on those who are living with HIV today, guess again. Here are three illustrative cases on their very modern misuse:
In March 2010, the ACLU of Michigan filed an amicus brief in the jaw-dropping case of a man living with HIV who faced bio-terrorism charges after he allegedly bit another man during an altercation (despite the fact that HIV is not spread through saliva). Fortunately, a judge eventually threw out the bio-terrorism charges against the man.
A man living with HIV in Iowa received a 25-year sentence after he engaged in a one-time sexual encounter during which he used a condom and HIV was not transmitted. The man was charged under Iowa's law on the criminal transmission of HIV — which, despite its name, doesn't actually require transmission of HIV to occur. The man's sentence was eventually suspended, but he was nonetheless required to register as a sex offender.
And earlier this year, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the Center for HIV Law and Policy filed an amicus brief with the Minnesota Supreme Court in a case where a jury found that the defendant disclosed his HIV status before engaging in consensual sex – but prosecutors continue to push for criminal penalties, which, if upheld, would infringe on a host of constitutionally protected freedoms.
To address the injustice of cases like these, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) have reintroduced the REPEAL (Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal) HIV Discrimination Act. This legislation would help in modernizing current criminal law approaches that target people living with HIV for felony charges and severe punishments for behavior that is otherwise legal (such as consensual sex between adults) or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission, or that singles out people living with HIV for harsh criminal penalties.
The need to modernize discriminatory HIV criminal laws is clear and compelling. These laws undermine HIV prevention efforts. For example, criminalizing exposure does not encourage people to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners, and most of these states do not treat the use of a condom during sexual intercourse as evidence that the risk of HIV transmission was both mitigated and not intended. More fundamentally, these laws perpetuate stigmatization and marginalization of people living with HIV.
Our criminal laws must be rooted in facts, not outdated myths used to target people living with HIV. Reps. Lee and Ros-Lehtinen deserve credit for introducing legislation that addresses this important, often overlooked, issue.
The Moroccan authorities must immediately launch a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that six Sahrawi activists – including a child – were tortured in police custody in Western Sahara, Amnesty International said.
On 15 May, 17-year old El Hussein Bah was jailed in Laayoune, Western Sahara, in spite of a previous decision to release him on bail. He and five other Sahrawis had been arrested on 9 May after protesting for the self-determination of Western Sahara.
All six have been charged with “violence against public officials”, “participating in an armed gathering”, “placing objects on a road obstructing traffic” and “damaging public property”, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
They are currently in pre-trial detention in Laayoune Civil Prison, and there are fears they face unfair trials after reportedly being tortured into making “confessions”.
“Reports that the Moroccan authorities subjected these six detainees – including a child – to torture and other ill-treatment to extract ‘confessions’ are deeply disturbing. The allegations must be thoroughly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“El Hussein Bah must be and the remaining detainees must be treated humanely, protected from further torture and other ill-treatment, and have immediate access to all necessary medical care.”
Amnesty International fears that the decision to re-arrest El Hussein Bah three days after his release on bail was in retaliation for him speaking out about his alleged torture.
During his short release, the 17-year-old told Amnesty International that during his initial detention, police tortured him, threatened him with rape, and forced him to sign papers including a “confession” which he was not allowed to read.
He alleged that police officers pressed a urine-soaked sponge against his face and pulled his trousers off before threatening him with rape. During his interrogation, he was beaten while kept in a position known as the “roast chicken” – where he was suspended from his knees, with his wrists tied over his legs.
All six detainees told the investigative judge that they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated and that their “confessions” were extracted under torture in police custody. El Hussein Bah reported hearing other detainees being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in separate cells while in police custody, and later noticing their visible bruising, handcuff marks and swollen joints.
Moroccan security forces reportedly failed to produce arrest warrants when they arrested the six Sahrawis at their homes on 9 May. Their family members have not all been allowed to fully exercise their right to visit the detainees.
Calls for self-determination
The demonstration on 4 May in Laayoune was the culmination of 10 days of protests across Western Sahara calling for the region’s self-determination after the United Nations Security Council voted to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping mission, known as the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
MINURSO was originally mandated in 1991 for a transitional period to prepare for a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara could choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
MINURSO is one of the few UN peacekeeping missions that does not include a human rights component. A recent move by the USA to include a human rights component in the draft resolution under consideration by the Security Council was quashed after the Moroccan government objected.
In recent years, Sahrawi pro-independence activists have faced restrictions on their work, including harassment, surveillance by the security forces, limitations on their freedom of movement, and in some cases prosecution on grounds of threatening Morocco’s “internal” and “external” security. They have also been unable to obtain legal registration for their organizations, apparently due to politically-motivated administrative obstacles.
Besides the recent case, other Sahrawis have also been imprisoned following demonstrations calling for the right to Western Saharan self-determination, and others have reportedly been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during questioning by Moroccan law enforcement officials, allegations which have not been properly investigated.
On a recent visit to Western Sahara, an Amnesty International delegation met protesters who reported being injured by security forces in Laayoune on 25 and 26 April and in Smara on 28 April 2013. The delegation observed security officers hurling rocks at protesters on 27 April 2013 in Laayoune, an incident that was also backed up by video footage.
For several years, the organization has been calling for a United Nations human rights monitoring mechanism to look into Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps across the border in Algeria.
“The UN needs an adequate human rights monitoring presence in the region to provide independent and impartial reporting on the current situation, including allegations of torture and other ill-treatment,” said Philip Luther.
“It would play a key role in documenting human rights violations that would otherwise go unreported, and prevent unfounded accusations in other cases.”
The Moroccan authorities must immediately launch a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that six Sahrawi activists – including a child – were tortured in police custody in Western Sahara.Media Node: Sahrawi Story Location: Morocco 25° 29' 48.606" N, 12° 20' 55.0788" W “Reports that the Moroccan authorities subjected these six detainees – including a child – to torture and other ill-treatment to extract ‘confessions’ are deeply disturbing. The allegations must be thoroughly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice.” Source: Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Date: Thu, 16/05/2013 URL: Morocco: Six arrested and tortured in Western Sahara Description: Urgent action, 15 May 2013 URL: UN 'miss opportunity' to allow Western Sahara human rights monitoring Description: News story, 25 April 2013
Scholars to Senate: Prolonged and Indefinite Immigration Detention is Unconstitutional and un-American
While most countries accept the return of their citizens if the United States orders them deported, several refuse to take back them back, either because of a lack of formal relations with the U.S. (Cuba, for example), or simply because of slow background check processes.
To prevent people from being held in indefinite limbo, the Supreme Court ruled in Zadvydas v. Davis (2001) that the indefinite—or potentially lifelong—detention of immigrants raised "serious" constitutional concerns and interpreted the immigration statute to authorize detention of such immigrants only where their removal is reasonably foreseeable in the future. Most of the lower courts have also extended the principles of Zadvydas to the prolonged detention of immigrants, for months or even years, while their immigration cases are being decided, including asylum seekers with no criminal records or longtime lawful permanent residents with misdemeanor crimes. The courts have overwhelmingly found detention for months or years to be likely unconstitutional in the absence of the basic process of a bond hearing to determine if someone needs to be locked up.
But Sen. Chuck Grassley(R-Iowa) must not be up on his constitutional law because last week he proposed an amendment (number 53) to the Senate's immigration reform bill requiring the indefinite detention of thousands of immigrants who cannot be deported and the prolonged detention of immigrants for as long as it takes for their cases to be decided, without the basic protection of a bond hearing.
Today, 67 leading constitutional and immigration law professors and scholars sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee sounding the alarm.
The letter reads, in part:
Senator Grassley's Amendment 53 proposes precisely the type of indefinite . . . detention that the Supreme Court has found to raise constitutional concerns . . . The amendment would unconstitutionally authorize extended detention for anyone convicted of one of a broad range of crimes – including minor misdemeanors and decades-old convictions – even if DHS concedes they cannot be removed. . . . Many individuals subject to this provision would have already spent months, and in some cases years, in immigration detention prior to a final removal order.
[The amendment] would [also] create a regime under which people in deportation proceedings would be mandatorily detained for years without ever having an immigration judge, nor even a DHS employee, determine whether they pose any flight risk or risk to the community. [It] would expressly authorize prolonged mandatory detention, "without limitation" of people with a very wide range of convictions, including nonviolent misdemeanors such as petty theft or marijuana possession, as well as the prolonged detention of arriving asylum seekers with no criminal records whatsoever . . . . The amendment would authorize prolonged detention even of people who have won their cases before an immigration judge based upon factors such as hardship to U.S. citizen children, long residence in the United States, domestic violence, or fear of torture or persecution, and who are defending against government appeals, including many individuals who will ultimately win the right to remain lawfully in the United States on these grounds.
Rather than create an expensive and draconian new preventive detention system that raises serious constitutional concerns, the senators should stick with what's already in the bill: namely, real solutions that provide bond hearings to all immigrants subject to prolonged detention to ensure that people aren't locked up unnecessarily on the taxpayer's time and mechanisms to put diplomatic pressure on countries who do not want to take back their citizens.
Prolonged, indefinite, and preventive detention belongs to repressive regimes, not America, and will almost certainly be challenged in court. Grassley 53 should be rejected.
For more information about the immigration reform bill, go to: https://www.aclu.org/immigration-reform-2013
In Jamaica, some men are labelled as criminals just for expressing their love.
Attempts to hold a Pride in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv have repeatedly run into roadblocks because of very real threats of violence and a police force unwilling to protect participants.
And in South Africa, homophobic hatred all too often leads to violent attacks and killings which frequently go uninvestigated by police.
These three countries provide just a snapshot of the types of discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people the world over. In many countries, such a climate of prejudice increases the likelihood of physical attacks and other human rights abuses against people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
On 17 May, to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), Amnesty International supporters worldwide will take action to highlight the human rights situation of LGBTI people in these three countries and show solidarity.
High levels of discrimination
Around the world, individuals face numerous human rights violations because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTI people face disproportionately high levels of discrimination when accessing healthcare, education, employment and housing. In many countries, consensual same-sex conduct remains criminalized and LGBTI people are often subjected to violence, harassment, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, imprisonment, and torture. Several countries still impose the death penalty for same-sex consensual relations, and it is at risk of being introduced in some others.
They are also denied the right to freedom of expression and assembly – in some countries, activists organizing Pride events face bans by city authorities or inadequate police protection when the Prides are threatened with violence.
IDAHO was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to such issues. It takes place on 17 May each year to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify “homosexuality” as a mental disorder.
“Simply because of who they are, LGBTI people in many countries face discrimination, violence and fear as a part of their daily lives,” said Emily Gray of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme at Amnesty International.
“On the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Amnesty International is calling on thousands of activists to make a strong show of solidarity to help change attitudes and realities in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa.”
In Jamaica, consensual same-sex conduct between men continues to be criminalized and punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. While these laws are rarely implemented, the resulting climate of prejudice increases the likelihood of discrimination, physical attacks and other human rights abuses against people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
Such discrimination translates into frequent incidents of arbitrary arrests, detention and ill-treatment of LGBTI people. Access to healthcare, housing, employment and other services is also limited by disproportionately high levels of discrimination.
During December 2011 electoral campaign, the current Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, stated that “no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation”, and that the “government should provide protection” for LGBTI people.
Amnesty International activists are using Twitter to remind the Prime Minister and her government of the urgency to take concrete action to back up this pledge.
Meanwhile in Europe, LGBTI people in Ukraine face negative stereotyping and discriminatory treatment by members of the public and officials. Religious leaders and elected government officials have been known openly to make discriminatory comments about LGBTI people.
No Pride march has ever taken place in Ukraine. A march planned in the capital Kyiv last May was cancelled because of threats of violence against participants from members of the public, and a police failure to put adequate security measures in place.
Other public events by LGBTI groups have been banned for fear of eliciting negative reactions from the public, and LGBTI activists have been prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
There are fears that a Pride planned for 25 May this year may once again be cancelled because of threats and inadequate protection measures from the police.
Amnesty International fully supports Kyiv Pride. It has been working with the organizers to ensure local authorities allow it to go ahead without hindrance, and will send a delegation to support the march.
Activists are also focusing on South Africa, where hate crimes targeting individuals because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity are all too common.
Between June and November 2012 alone, Amnesty International documented seven murders of LGBTI people in the country – though the actual number is likely to be much higher.
There is an apparent disconnect between South Africa's progressive laws on LGBTI issues, and practical access to justice for LGBTI individuals who are victims of hate crimes. This is evident in the failure of the police to investigate adequately cases of violence against LGBTI people and the continuing climate of fear they endure, especially in townships and rural areas. On the whole, impunity for such hate crimes pervades.
On and around this 17 May, Amnesty International supporters will send personal messages of solidarity to LGBTI activists in South Africa, to stand together against hate crimes.
“Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to exercise their full human rights without fear of violence, discrimination and persecution,” said Emily Gray.
On 17 May, to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), Amnesty International supporters worldwide will take action to highlight the human rights situation of LGBTI people around the world.Media Node: IDAHO Amnesty International Index Number: EUR50/005/2013 Twitter Tag: IDAHO Story Location: South Africa 31° 31' 42.978" S, 22° 30' 0" E “Simply because of who they are, LGBTI people in many countries face discrimination, violence and fear as a part of their daily lives. On the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Amnesty International is calling on thousands of activists to make a strong show of solidarity to help change attitudes and realities in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa.” Source: Emily Gray of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme at Amnesty International Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia Description: External web portal URL: Ukraine: Discrimination and violent attacks in pervasive climate of homophobia Description: News story/report, 16 May 2013
Open Letter to the Corrections Corporation of America after 30 Years of Locking People Up for Profit
What do I have to say to the Corrections Corporation of America?
After 30 years, CCA should be ashamed.
For thirty years, CCA's profits have grown because more people are behind bars. For CCA, the fact that America incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world isn't a human tragedy – it's something they celebrate, because it makes them rich.
When CCA's shareholders hold their annual meeting today in Nashville, I hope they will remember that the cost of their riches is thirty years of human rights abuses, escapes, violence, understaffing, and preventable deaths in CCA's prisons. In Mississippi alone, CCA has had two deadly prison riots in the past twelve months. And in Idaho, CCA recently admitted that their officers falsified nearly 5,000 hours of time records, billing the state for security posts that they left unfilled. After 30 years of this, you should be ashamed.
CCA is not just the first for-profit prison company in modern America – it is also the biggest, raking in a staggering $1.7 billion a year. Since CCA started out, this country has seen massive increases in overall incarceration rates. From 1970 to 2005, the U.S. prison population increased by approximately 700%. Mass incarceration has allowed CCA to profit. But for the rest of us it has broken state budgets, torn families and communities apart, and failed to promote public safety in any significant way.
On an average day, CCA locks 81,384 people in their prisons and jails. In statements for their shareholders, CCA refers to these human beings as a "revenue stream" or a "unique investment opportunity."
Many of these people are immigrants detained by the federal government – nearly half of whom are detained in for-profit prisons. While CCA may be profiting off of this, they are failing to adequately manage these prisons. Just this month, two immigration detainees committed suicide within days of each other at Eloy Detention Center, which CCA runs. Before that, according to public records the ACLU obtained in 2009, Eloy had nine known fatalities — more than any other immigration jail under contract to the federal government.
Thirty years of profiting off mass incarceration is nothing to celebrate.
Fed up with 30 years of CCA banking on human bondage? Join today's protest of CCA's annual shareholder meeting in Nashville, TN and upload a video to the YouTube channel telling CCA they have nothing to celebrate.
The Jamaican authorities must swiftly appoint a commission of inquiry with an adequate mandate, resources and powers to carry out a thorough investigation into the security forces’ conduct during the 2010 state of emergency, Amnesty International said today during a visit to Jamaica.
Three years after the state of emergency resulted in serious alleged human rights abuses – including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests – the Jamaican government has finally acknowledged the need for a commission of inquiry. This followed the Office of the Public Defender’s call for a commission as part of an interim report it presented to Parliament on 29 April.
The Public Defender’s report found that at least 76 people and one soldier were killed in the first days of the state of emergency, representing “the greatest loss of life in a single State Security Forces operation in independent Jamaica”. However, the “interim” report does not state final conclusions on the events; it only recommends that the events be subject to further investigation, by a commission of inquiry and relevant criminal justice authorities.
“After three years, Jamaica still has not met its obligation to complete a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the dozens of allegations of unlawful killings by security forces and other serious human rights abuses during the state of emergency,” said Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Jamaica.
“The previous and the current governments should take responsibility for this failure and must immediately do everything necessary to ensure that the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations are fulfilled without further delay.”
According to the Public Defender’s report, inaction by officials in the initial days after the events of 2010, such as the failure to protect crime scenes, unnecessarily impeded investigations. The Jamaica Defence Force was also initially reluctant to cooperate fully with the Public Defender’s investigations. The report shows how a lack of resources prevented crucial forensic tests, such as ballistic exams, from being concluded, despite international expertise being provided.
Despite several calls from the Public Defender, Jamaican civil society and Amnesty International since shortly after the incidents, the ruling government at the time of the events, as well as the current one that took power in January 2012, refused to appoint a commission of inquiry until the Public Defender’s report had been released.
“The appointment of this commission of inquiry is long overdue – at the very least the government should have previously provided the Office of the Public Defender with the necessary resources to complete its report in a more timely manner. The victims of human rights violations cannot wait any longer for answers and justice,” said Liguori.
As Amnesty International already recommended in its May 2011 report A long road to justice? Human rights violations under the state of emergency, the government should consult with civil society in drawing up the commission’s terms of reference. These should be framed in a way that will require the commission to assess the operations carried out by the security forces against international human rights laws and should include an obligation on the commission to formulate recommendations on how the security forces should operate in the future.
Members of the commission of inquiry should be selected based on recognised impartiality, competence and independence, and civil society should be consulted about the appointments. The commission must also have adequate powers and authority to guarantee access to all relevant evidence, should ensure the involvement of victims and other parties and should be open to public scrutiny, Amnesty International said.
On 23 May 2010, the Governor-General of Jamaica declared a month-long State of Public Emergency in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew. The situation arose from resistance by armed supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke to government efforts to take him into custody. The US authorities were seeking Coke’s extradition to the USA where he faced drug-trafficking and firearms charges.
The declaration of the state of emergency gave the security forces broad new powers to restrict freedom of movement, search premises and detain persons suspected of involvement in unlawful activities without a warrant.
The Office of the Public Defender’s interim report found that at least 44 of the deaths during the state of emergency could represent unlawful killings. It also pointed to four possible victims of enforced disappearance and allegations of hundreds of arbitrary detentions – finding that some 1,000 people were detained towards the beginning of the state of emergency.
The report also covers investigations into the killing of businessman Keith Clarke in his house by security forces on 27 May 2010, for which three officers of the Jamaica Defence Force were charged for murder in July 2012.
Its key recommends are to appoint a Commission of inquiry “to conduct a judicial enquiry into the activities of the State Security Forces and illegal gunmen during the State of Emergency, 2010” and to adequately equip and staff the Forensic Science Laboratory in order to “facilitate completion of outstanding ballistic work in accordance with the agreed Protocol”.
The Jamaican authorities must swiftly appoint a commission of inquiry with an adequate mandate, resources and powers to carry out a thorough investigation into the security forces’ conduct during the 2010 state of emergency.Media Node: Jamaica Tivoli gardens Story Location: Jamaica 18° 1' 24.9492" N, 76° 48' 54.1188" W “After three years, Jamaica still has not met its obligation to complete a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the dozens of allegations of unlawful killings by security forces and other serious human rights abuses during the state of emergency” Source: Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Jamaica Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: Jamaica: A long road to justice? Human rights violations under the state of emergency Description: Report, 23 May 2011
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.
“Amnesty International commends the US government commitment to sign the Arms Trade Treaty in the very near future and thus avoid any action that would undermine the treaty. We will continue pushing leaders in the USA and elsewhere in the world to ratify and implement the treaty as soon as possible in order to ensure that arms transfers no longer fuel atrocities and abuse,” said Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.
A group of US Senators – emboldened by the country’s powerful gun lobby – have shown resistance to future US ratification of the ATT. But Amnesty International has pointed out that their concerns are rooted in baseless assertions about the treaty’s reach into domestic gun control regulations.
In his remarks, Countryman once again allayed fears about the ATT’s impact on domestic gun legislation, reiterating that it poses no danger to US constitutional rights. By signing, he said the USA would set an important example and encourage broad adoption and enforcement of the ATT worldwide.
“Our hope is that all the major arms-producing states will eventually support the ATT. In the interim we will encourage as many countries as possible to sign the treaty on 3 June or soon afterwards, and begin taking the necessary measures to ensure its implementation nationally,” said Brian Wood, head of arms control at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has campaigned since the early 1990s to achieve robust, legally binding global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and abuse.
Despite some shortcomings in the treaty text, the organization believes that the ATT represents a significant step towards this goal and provides a firm foundation to better regulate the international flow of weapons.
“While parts of the treaty – such as the definitions of scope and the risk of misuse of arms – could be stronger, the ATT has the real potential to reduce violations of human rights and humanitarian law, particularly if states implement its Articles 6 and 7 in good faith and in line with the object and purpose of the treaty”, said Wood.
Article 6.3 is an important step forward, as it prohibits arms transfers by a state if it has knowledge that those transfers would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Article 7 will require a State Party to not authorize an arms export where there is an overriding risk that the export could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights or humanitarian law – including summary and arbitrary killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.
The treaty also obliges states to assess the risk of arms exports being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.
Iran, Syria and North Korea – all of which have been under some form of international arms embargo – were the only three countries to vote against adoption of the ATT when it went to a vote at the UN General Assembly on 2 April. The USA was among the 155 countries to support its adoption.
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.Media Node: USA ATT Twitter Tag: ArmsTreaty Story Location: United States 38° 53' 43.782" N, 77° 1' 13.224" W See map: Google Maps “Amnesty International commends the US government commitment to sign the Arms Trade Treaty in the very near future and thus avoid any action that would undermine the treaty. We will continue pushing leaders in the USA and elsewhere in the world to ratify and implement the treaty as soon as possible in order to ensure that arms transfers no longer fuel atrocities and abuse” Source: Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Date: Thu, 16/05/2013 URL: UN puts human rights at heart of historic Arms Trade Treaty Description: News story, 2 April 2013 URL: The long journey towards an Arms Trade Treaty Description: Feature, 27 March 2013 URL: Global Arms Trade Treaty – a beginners’ guide Description: Feature, 11 March 2013 URL: Arms control and human rights Description: Campaign page