Hitting the Campaign Trail to Close Guantánamo
This week marks a new low at Guantánamo, as the United States begins the trial of Omar Khadr, who was picked up in Afghanistan at age 15 and has spent more than a quarter of his life at Guantánamo. International law prohibits the use of children under 18 in armed conflict and requires states to rehabilitate child soldiers by assisting with their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration. The United States has failed to abide by these obligations; instead it began jury selection in Khadr’s trial, undermining a fundamental norm and setting a dangerous precedent for children forced into armed conflict around the world.
This development underscores what we know from our years of observing military commissions at Guantánamo: setting up a trial system that depends on coerced confessions, redefining the laws of war, and violating fundamental human rights standards is not only wrong, it’s counter-productive. And in terms of convicting those who have committed terrorist acts, military commissions are a poor substitute for our federal courts. Not only have they failed to guarantee due process, they have only managed to convict four people, while the federal courts have convicted more than 400 terrorism suspects since 9/11.
As the election season gets underway, we’re sharing the facts about military commissions with congressional candidates. Next week we will be in Illinois with retired military leaders who continue to speak out against torture and Guantánamo. They will make the case to candidates from both parties that closing Guantánamo and relying on our time-tested federal courts for terrorism trials will make our nation stronger and more secure.
You can join us in Illinois next week by signing our petition which we’ll deliver personally to the candidates.
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Human Rights First
Last week Naomi Campbell appeared as a witness in the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor. How does a supermodel end up in an international tribunal? In 1997, Taylor allegedly gave Campbell the gift of a blood diamond. Prosecutors sought Campbell’s testimony to help establish the timing of Taylor’s possession of diamonds from Sierra Leone, which he allegedly exchanged for weapons that armed Sierra Leonean rebels who used them in brutal attacks against civilians.
HRF’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino explains in the Los Angeles Times why we need to pay attention to the supply chain for mass atrocities and how focusing on the enablers of these crimes can help prevent them in the future.
500 million. That’s how many people are now on Facebook. So it’s no surprise that activists from around the world are adapting their strategies to the networked world. During a recent trip to Cairo, HRF’s Neil Hicks interviewed Egyptian activist Esraa Abdel Fattah on how she is using social media and other online tools in support of democracy and government transparency in the lead-up to elections in Egypt.
Like many netizens we work with, Esraa is enlisting new media technologies to organize a movement, risking retaliation by an often repressive Egyptian government. Listen to her describe how, and watch other video testimonials from netizens around the world»
Mike Posner talked about democracy, human rights and labor (and which one is his favorite!) on the Colbert Report this month. Check it out!»
In a victory for equal rights, California’s Proposition 8 was overturned last week, ending the ban on gay marriage in the Golden State. Ruling the proposition unconstitutional, Judge Vaughn Walker explained that the measure “enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”
But around the world, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face legalized discrimination and threats far more severe than restrictions on marriage. Being gay is a crime in more than eighty countries. In Uganda, for example, existing law already criminalizes homosexuality, and a new bill would make “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death. Human Rights First has been working with a broad coalition of partners to oppose this draconian legislation. In February, we invited the prominent Ugandan rights activist Julius Kaggwa to participate in our Human Rights Summit in Washington, DC. Julius explains what the proposed bill would mean for Ugandans in an exclusive interview to HRF»
Human Rights First is giving real-time updates from the Khadr trial on our blog, and we’ve been picked up by numerous media outlets including CNN, CBC News, and others. Check out our commentary in this round-up»
Article of interest: Two prominent former judges, Eugene Sullivan and former FBI Director Louis Freeh, published an op-ed in the Washington Post supporting federal court trials for Guantánamo detainees… at Guantánamo. Read their argument»