Posts Tagged ‘AI USA’

Remembering Andrew Blane, an Amnesty icon

October 13, 2019

Andrew with his dear friend, the Nobel prize winning Joseph Brodsky, clowning around at Morton Street where he became a longtime tenant. (Photo: Sharon Woolums)

The Villager (Sharon Woolums) writes about the memorial for Andrew Quarles Blane, who died on 6 September 2019 at the age of 90. The memorial was held on 6 October at Grace Church. A Greenwich Villager since 1965, Andrew quintessentially represented all the best of the Village then and now. Best known for his contribution to Amnesty International (AI), which he joined in 1969, Andrew was one of nine delegates to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for Amnesty in 1977.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, spoke of Andrews’ deep sense of justice, humanity and empathy leading to his contributions for the Human Rights Movement — for the release of Prisoners of Conscience, the abolition of torture and the death penalty. Andrew was elected vice chair of the International Executive Committee (IEC) by the International General Assembly from 1979-1985. Known for his patience, warmth, kindness, generosity and humor, Andrew mentored many young activists. Egeland characterized Andrew as politically liberal and a progressive, but a traditionalist in lifestyle.

Nate Schenkkan, director of Special Research at Freedom House, spoke of Andrew’s involvement at the U.N. Convention against Torture and his reaction to Abu Ghraib: “Torture to him was…an assault on their soul,” Schenkkan said. Saga Blane spoke of her father’s steadfast moral compass, his pure and incorruptible heart, and his idealism which left all who came in contact with feeling seen and valued.

Andrew spent his childhood in Guatemala. His family moved back to their home state of Kentucky, where he graduated from Centre College. In 1950, he enrolled in Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. Billed as a “dynamic lay evangelist” Andrew traveled the South speaking to gatherings of students. He earned a masters degree’s in divinity at Cambridge University in 1957 and a doctorate in Russian history from Duke University.

Andrew’s comprehensive biography came out in 1993. He taught Russian history at the City University of New York until his retirement. David Hawk, former executive director of AI USA in 1974, commented, “Andrew was an enormously gentle but profound intellect and committed advocate.” Out of Morton Street came the birthplace of Amnesty’s U.N. office and the Artist for Amnesty Project. With Southern charm, Andrew opened his pull-out couch welcoming traveling asylum seekers, dissidents and friends. Andrew is survived by his wife of 36 years, Dr. Jaana Rehnstrom, their children, Eliot Blane of Manhattan, Saga Blane/Jake Jeppson of Brooklyn and grandson, Finn Blane Jeppson.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the newly-formed Andrew Blane Memorial Fund for Human Rights Defenders at andrewblane.com.

Remembering Andrew Blane, a Greenwich Villager who earned Nobel Peace Prize

Trump marches on with “Commission on Unalienable Rights”

July 11, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, saying the country must be “vigilant that human rights discourse not be corrupted or hijacked or used for dubious or malignant purposes.” As human rights claims have “proliferated,” he said, nations have grown confused about what constitutes a human right and which rights should be respected and treated as valid.

“I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say, or claim, that something is in fact a human right?” Pompeo said. “How do we know, or how do we determine that this — or that — is a human right. Is it true, and therefore ought it to be honored?”

The commission will be chaired by Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Amnesty International USA said there was no reason for such a review given the decades-old protections in place. “This administration has actively worked to deny and take away long-standing human rights protections since Trump’s inauguration,” Joanne Lin, the group’s national director of advocacy and government affairs, said in a statement.

“If this administration truly wanted to support people’s rights, it would use the global framework that’s already in place. Instead, it wants to undermine rights for individuals, as well as

A group of Democratic senators said in a letter last month: “We believe the extent to which this administration has undermined American leadership and credibility on promoting fundamental human rights is of historic proportions,” the senators wrote. “The department’s proposed Commission on Unalienable Rights must not serve as a platform to further erode U.S. leadership and undercut U.S. interests.”

Glendon, who joined Pompeo at the State Department for the announcement, said she was honored to do the job at a time when “basic human rights are being misunderstood by many, manipulated by many and ignored by the world’s worst human rights violators.”

https://bayareane.ws/2LFUzpz

US NGOs react furiously to visa restrictions imposed on ICC investigators by Trump administration

March 16, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new visa restrictions in a press briefing on Friday. (Photo: U.S. State Department)

Human rights defenders expressed outrage on Friday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed that the Trump administration is revoking or denying visas for any International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel who try to investigate or prosecute U.S. officials or key allies for potential war crimes. The move, Pompeo confirmed is a direct response to ongoing efforts by the ICC to probe allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity tied to the war in Afghanistan. There was an immediate and almost unanimous outcry by the key human rights NGOs in the USA:

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU‘s Human Rights Program (the ACLU currently represents Khaled El Masri, Suleiman Salim, and Mohamed Ben Soud, who were all detained and tortured in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008): “This is an unprecedented attempt to skirt international accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day,” Dakwar said. “It reeks of the very totalitarian practices that are characteristic of the worst human rights abusers, and is a blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses.”

Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, called it “an outrageous effort to bully the court and deter scrutiny of U.S. conduct.” He encouraged ICC member countries to “publicly make clear that they will remain undaunted in their support for the ICC and will not tolerate U.S. obstruction.”

Daniel Balson, advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, noted that this is just “the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections.” Visa bans, as Balson pointed out, are “powerful tools typically reserved for the most serious of human rights abusers.” But rather than targeting global criminals, the Trump administration has set its sights on the ICC—an impartial judicial body that aims to promote accountability under international law by probing and prosecuting crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

The move is “is highly indicative of [the administration’s] culture of disregard for rights abuses,” said Balson. “Throwing roadblocks in front of the ICC’s investigation undermines justice not only for abuses committed in Afghanistan, but also for the millions of victims and survivors throughout the world who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law.

Pompeo’s announcement came after John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, threatened to impose sanctions on court officials in September if they continued to pursue an investigation of potential crimes by U.S. civilians or military personnel in Afghanistan….”These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent,” Pompeo added. “Implementation of this policy has already begun.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/03/15/blatant-effort-intimidate-and-retaliate-pompeo-imposes-visa-ban-icc-staff-probing-us

See also later development: https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN1R328X-OCATP

Philippines: killing and harassment of HRDs goes on

February 7, 2019

In a January 2019 decision obtained by Rappler this week, the Department of Justice revived the charges against Ressa and Santos, as well as Rappler Inc., on the grounds that the news article was updated in February 2014, and is therefore actionable. Maria Ressa and Rappler Inc are already facing charges of tax evasion which Amnesty has condemned as politically-motivated. Rappler has been a consistent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, publishing detailed investigations into some of the thousands of extrajudicial executions committed by police and other unknown armed persons during drug-related operations.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/peace-consultant-and-human-rights-defender-randy-felix-malayao-killed

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/yet-another-absurd-legal-attack-against-rappler-and-maria-ressa-in-the-philippines/

Liu Xiaobo: a giant human rights defender leaves a lasting legacy for China and the rest of the world

July 13, 2017

USA AI then mentions some of the many other HRDs who under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have suffered persecution:

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at Minzu University of China in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment for “separatism”. Amnesty International believes that he is in prison for writings posted on the Internet.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/11/hot-news-ilham-tohti-chinas-mandela-wins-2016-martin-ennals-award/]

Women’s rights activist Su Changlan was sentenced in March 2017 to three years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/08/amnesty-international-campaigns-with-7-women-who-refuse-to-wait-for-their-rights/]

Human rights lawyers like Jiang Tianyong have been detained, arrested and harassed by government authorities in the last several years. He was formally arrested for “subverting state power” after being detained in an unofficial detention facility for over six months. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/human-rights-defenders-issues-on-the-agenda-of-the-next-35th-human-rights-council/]

The reaction of the Chinese government to criticism from abroad over Liu Xiaobo’s treatment is by the way typical. See e.g. in the Strait Times of 14 July: “Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with “certain countries” for interfering in its “judicial sovereignty”…….”Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It’s a blasphemy of the peace prize”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]

Source: Liu Xiaobo: A giant of human rights who leaves a lasting legacy for China and the world – Amnesty International USA

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-awarding-nobel-peace-prize-to-liu-xiaobo-was-blasphemy

The end of USA’s human rights policy as we know it?

May 4, 2017

Under the strong title “Tillerson shows why he was a rotten choice to head the State Department describes in the Washington Post of 4 May 2017 how a long tradition of human rights policy by the USA may be coming to an end.

Read the rest of this entry »

International Human Rights Arts Festival in New York: 3-5 March 2017

March 3, 2017

International Human Rights Arts Festival to Feature HAMILTON Dancer, Bessie Winner and More

2016 Bessie Award-winning choreographer Joya Powell brings her Movement of the People Dance Company to the premiere International Human Rights Art Festival, New York City‘s first arts-advocacy festival of its kind. The Festival, presented by The Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, co-sponsored and housed at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St, NYC), will take place 3-5 March, 2017. As part of the Dance portion of the festival, Jessica Chen of J Chen Dance project is working with three additional dance companies to create human rights-oriented dance. Jacqueline Dugal will also create a piece incorporating human rights texts.

Tickets are $10-25 and are now available online with full schedule and participant information at www.dixonplace.org.

Dance can help translate unspoken fears and emotions…” noted Jessica Chen, of the J CHEN PROJECT, “the nuances of a leg held up, a body launched into space, a gesture of yearning is immensely powerful. For this festival, we will use movement and choreography to enhance the conversation about critical human rights issues.”

J CHEN PROJECT Commissions: Jessica Chen of JChen Dance Project comissioned works will be based in and incorporate a specific textual inspiration, ranging from the words of great human rights defenders (such as MLK Jr. or Gandhi) to a bland recitation of statistics on refugees, civilian war deaths, famine due to autocratic governments etc. The four pieces, comprising an hour of dance, will run both Saturday and Sunday, and be previewed at the opening festivities. Saturday, March 4, at 10:00 pm; Sunday, March 5, at 4 pm (see below for full lineup)…

 

The International Human Rights Art Festival will bring together more than 70 artists producing more than 40 events, all of them oriented toward advocacy. Artistic media will include theatre, performance, dance, spoken word, painting, photography, music, literary arts, workshops, panel discussions, a kidsfest (hands-on activities to introduce children to using art for socially-transformative purpose), film and others. Rigorously curated for quality as well as content, the event includes some of New York’s most passionate rising artist-activists. It will raise social, cultural and political issues, as well as offering gentle, positive responses through thoughtful beauty and political and social thinking.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Producer Tom Block, a 20-year activist painter, author, playwright and arts producer, as well as creator of the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival (MD, 2010) is bringing the concept to NYC, with the 2017 International Human Rights Art Festival. The event is part of the growing number of initiatives of the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, which Mr. Block founded last year to teach, learn from, and work with New York’s activist artist community. www.tomblock.com

Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita talks on 10 June in Washington

June 2, 2015

Wednesday 10 June, 2015 (p.m.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Peace Brigades International, and Amnesty International USA organize a “Discussion with Colombian Human Rights Defender Berenice Celeita“. The event will feature Ms. Berenice Celeita, the founder of the Association for Investigation and Social Action (NOMADESC) and winner of the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Through NOMADESC, Ms. Celeita advises and accompanies social organizations and unions as well as civic, women’s, indigenous, afro-descendent, and family farmer organizations.

Ms. Celeita will discuss the current human rights situation in Colombia, including the most pressing issues faced by marginalized communities claiming their rights, and will speak about strategies for combating human rights abuses against these populations.

[For years, civil society activists in the Cauca and Valle del Cauca Departments of Colombia have endured incidences of intimidation, harassment, and persecution as a result of their work. While these incidences have recently intensified, they are not new and form part of a long pattern of threats and attacks against the work of human rights defenders and community leaders in Colombia. The internal armed conflict in Colombia generates internally-displaced populations and sexual violence against women, and further marginalizes impoverished populations. Indigenous and afro-descendent leaders who stand up for their rights and defend their lands are acutely at risk of death threats and other forms of intimidation. In this context – characterized by a lack of security and government accountability – the work of human rights defenders and civil society activists is paramount and must be safeguarded, as they serve as the voice and guardians for local populations facing evictions, violence, and persecution.]

To attend contact: rsvp@rfkhumanrights.org before 8 June.

John Legend writes for Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign.

December 18, 2014

Award-winning singer/songwriter John Legend joined Amnesty International USA as part of its annual Write for Rights campaign. For Human Rights Day 2014 the Write for Rights cases included Chelsea Manning, victims of gun violence in the USA and Brazil, and women and girls of El Salvador impacted by the country’s abortion ban.

JOHN LEGEND:
Writing is a transformative experience.
I write songs to express myself.
I write songs to give hope.
I write songs to heal the hurt.
I write because living free from violence is a human right.
I write because I refuse to accept this is ‘just the way it is.’
I write because leaders who let their police forces jail, beat and kill people who are simply, peacefully trying to express themselves need to know the world is watching.
I write because I take injustice personally. Because there are no throwaway lives.
I write because silence feeds violence.
I write because lyrics change music, but letters change lives.

Human rights documentary “Beatrice Mtetwa & The Rule of Law” on television and internet

November 6, 2014

On 13 November KCETLink, a US national independent public media organization, presents the television premiere of “BEATRICE MTETWA & THE RULE OF LAW“, chronicling the courageous human rights defender and her fight against social and political inequalities in Zimbabwe. Through interviews with Mtetwa and some of her clients, the film tells the story of what happens when leaders place themselves above the law and why defense of the rule of law is the cornerstone of society in which human rights are respected. Although Mtetwa’s platform is centered in Zimbabwe, her message and bravery are universal.

The television broadcast of BEATRICE MTETWA & THE RULE OF LAW coincides with the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage presented by Georgia Tech honoring Beatrice Mtetwa on Thursday, 13 November, 2014. The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage recognizes individuals around the world who, by asserting moral principle, have positively affected public discourse at the risk of their careers, livelihoods, and sometimes lives.

On Tuesday 11 November, viewers will have the opportunity to watch a live stream of a Q&A with Mtetwa and filmmaker Lorie Conway moderated by Jacqueline J. Royster, Dean of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, starting at 8 p.m. ET at linktv.org/mtetwa.  In advance of the Q&A, viewers can also submit questions for Mtetwa online at linktv.org/mtetwa or on Twitter and Facebook using #allenprize. Amnesty International USA will also host the live stream of the Q&A on its website at amnestyusa.org.

The film is also available online at linktv.org/mtetwa.
KCETLink Presents World Television Premiere of Human Rights Documentary, Beatrice Mtetwa & The Rule of Law | KCETLink Press Releases | Press Room | KCET.