Join a Web chat with Egyptian Activist/Blogger Nora Younis
Last week, 28 year old Khaled Saeed was at an Internet café in Alexandria, Egypt when two police officers came in and demanded to see everyone’s ID cards. Saeed protested, and what happened next is shocking: witnesses report that the police brutally beat Saeed to death, threw him into their car and later dumped his battered body on the street. Read our blog for more detail.
Repressive tactics and violence against activists has become increasingly common in Egypt, but this incident is different—Egyptian police carried out this brutal attack in broad daylight, in full view of eyewitnesses. In Tuesday’s Washington Post Egyptian activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, winner of HRF’s 2002 Human Rights Award, writes that U.S. policy towards Egypt is emboldening the regime.
Nora Younis, our 2008 Human Rights Award winner, was at protests in Egypt this weekend and witnessed violent police tactics there. Nora has agreed to share her on-the-ground perspective in a web chat next Monday. Send us your questions in advance via Twitter (@humanrights1st) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Watch our website or Facebook page for details.
This month, Human Rights First gathered a group of retired military leaders in Philadelphia for meetings with eleven congressional candidates from varied political parties in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In private meetings with the candidates, the retired generals and admirals made the case that military commissions give terrorists a warrior status they don’t deserve; instead, they should be treated like criminals and tried in our federal courts.
Retired four-star Marine Corps generals Joseph Hoar and Charles Krulak, who co-chair the group of retired generals and admirals, also took this message to the public with an opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a radio spot that aired on the top news-talk stations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and around the state, reaching more than 800,000 listeners.
While we were in Philadelphia, President Bush was in Michigan where he remarked to the press that he’d waterboard again “to save lives.” The military leaders reacted strongly to this cavalier support for torture. Talking to congressional candidates about how we treat detainees is an important part of our efforts to make sure these mistaken policies are a thing of the past.
Lend your voice: sign our petition to close Guantanamo and use our courts!
As the Obama administration continues to detain people indefinitely without charge or trial at Guantanamo, some commentators and legislators are calling on Congress to authorize wartime detention. The Supreme Court, however, ruled clearly in its 2008 Boumediene decision that deciding whether detention is lawful is a job for our courts.
What do federal judges think? Human Rights First and the Constitution Project issued a report examining how federal courts have handled the cases of Guantanamo detainees who have challenged the legality of their detention through habeas corpus. Endorsed by a group of distinguished retired federal judges, the report concludes that legislation is not only unnecessary, it would be counterproductive. Congress should not authorize detention without charge.
Read commentary on our blog and Huffington Post.
When Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act in 1961, the U.S. was deep in a Cold War, and the idea of universal rights was a relatively new concept. Today, nearly 50 years later, the law governing how the U.S. thinks about foreign aid is badly in need of an overhaul.
Congress is poised to take on this important task, and Human Rights First is working to make sure that promoting human rights is seen as a core objective of U.S. aid.
HRF President and CEO Elisa Massimino, testified before Congress this month at the first hearing to address these issues. Massimino gave practical recommendations on how to align foreign assistance with human rights goals, including making sure aid does not assist or embolden human rights violators, making sure that aid is part of a broader strategy to promote human rights in each country, and getting all parts of the U.S. government to promote these goals. Read her testimony for details.
Right now in Kyrgyzstan, tens of thousands of people are fleeing their homes to seek refuge from ethnic and political violence. Forty-five thousand of them have crossed the border into Uzbekistan, but the Uzbek government has just closed the border. The plight of those forced to flee for their lives is a grim reminder of why the right to seek asylum from persecution is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and why we mark those commitments every year on World Refugee Day.
Human Rights First is working to ensure that refugees arriving on U.S. shores are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Our asylum program wins over 90% of its cases and has helped thousands of refugees find safe haven.
But there are systemic problems that need to be resolved. We will be on Capitol Hill next week to rally congressional support behind the Refugee Protection Act, which would fix problems in the U.S. asylum system such as long delays, poor conditions of detention, denials based on false claims, and other issues that harm those we should protect.
We need your help. Ask your senators to cosponsor this critical bill.
Watch our video on the importance of the original Refugee Act.
The Defense Department recently banned four journalists from covering military commission proceedings at Guantanamo as punishment for releasing the name of an “anonymous” witness in the Omar Khadr trial.
The name of this “anonymous” witness has been public for years—and even appears on Khadr’s Wikipedia page.
Human Rights First quickly organized a letter to the Defense Department – but we need your help to make sure that the public is informed about what happens at Guantanamo. Barring journalists with experience covering Guantanamo from the island would severely hamper the public’s right to know and understand what goes on there.
Tell the Defense Department to let these reporters go to Guantanamo for the upcoming hearings. Sign our petition before the hearings start later this month.
HRF President Elisa Massimino took on the head of Facebook in a letter to the Washington Post regarding Facebook privacy issues. Pointing out that repressive governments have used information to target and persecute critics, she writes, “So long as Facebook bases its privacy policies on the belief that privacy is an outdated notion being replaced by a principle of ‘openness,’ it will continue to put its users at risk and will play a dangerous role in degrading a fundamental human right that, in many countries, has life or death consequences.” Read the full letter.