Human Rights First will be at the Stewart/Colbert rally tomorrow. Join us!
“I have hope that the powerful urge to be free and live with dignity can exist despite hatred and discrimination, despite fear and despair. And that those who experience this urge can join their voices together – and drown out those who hate.”
Julius Kaggwa, Human Rights Award recipient
Last week, we gathered at our annual Human Rights Award dinner with more than 800 of our friends and supporters to celebrate our victories and rededicate ourselves to the challenges ahead.
We were privileged to honor two courageous human rights activists fighting discrimination against vulnerable minorities: Julius Kaggwa of Uganda and Viktória Mohácsi of Hungary. Julius promotes the rights of sexual minorities in Africa, and Viktória, a former EU parliamentarian, advocates for the rights of the Roma people across Europe.
In a poignant and moving reminder of where fear and hatred of “the other” can lead, our special guest, Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein, presented the awards to Julius and Viktória with these words: “The honorees and I share something more than this prestigious award – something, quite sadly, that we did not seek, something we were simply born into. We – a Jew, a Roma and the member of a sexual minority — are all members of a tragic society: survivors of communities persecuted during the barbarous acts of the Holocaust..The yellow star, the brown triangle, the upside-down pink triangle – they sound like shapes children would draw. Each of our people were marked with these symbols – and branded as unworthy. Many in our communities still feel the ghostly imprint of these marks today – because we still face discrimination all around the globe.”
Julius, Viktória, and Gerda inspire us with their courage and dedication to the principle of equality. Together, we are working to ensure that all people can live in dignity, free from discrimination.
Thanks to all who were able to be with us in person – as well as those who were with us in spirit! Read more about the event and our honorees. Watch videos about their lives and work.
President and CEO
Human Rights First
In September, the first Guantanamo trial began in New York City. We went to the scene to document the “mayhem” predicted by fearmongers: except, there wasn’t any…
Our video was picked up by several news outlets, including Talking Points Memo (twice!), Salon, The Hartford Courant, and it was a “winner” on Charles Kaiser’s blog. More than 5,000 people have watched it on YouTube—watch it and send it to your friends!
The upcoming parliamentary elections in Egypt next month and expected presidential elections next year, could be a turning point for democracy and human rights—and a crucial test of the Obama administration’s commitment to advancing them. But the early signals are not good, and many expect rigged elections, violence and repressive tactics.
Human Rights First will head to Egypt next month to work with human rights and democracy activists to find innovative ways to monitor and report on elections. Together, we’re leveraging online organizing and reporting tools—but Egypt continues to crack down on these and other methods. International election monitors are needed to make sure the vote is fair.
Egypt is one of the U.S. government’s closest allies and a top recipient of U.S. aid—and yet the United States hasn’t done enough to pressure Egypt to end repressive tactics. This is no time for subtlety; the United States must “call things by their proper names,” HRF’s Neil Hicks argued recently in the Washington Post.
Help us pressure the Egyptian government to accept international election monitors and stop repressing opposition voices. Write President Obama today.
An arbitrary deadline on applications for asylum in U.S. law has barred thousands of refugees from receiving protection in the United States. A missed deadline can send them back to persecution.
A new Human Rights First report examines real cases that exemplify the harmful effect of this deadline, and shows how it has increased costs and delays in the asylum system. Read the New York Times article covering the report.
Help end this and other harmful refugee policies—ask your Senators to cosponsor the Refugee Protection Act.
The disturbing attack against three gay men in the Bronx, violent protests against the pride parade in Belgrade and other recent hate crimes against those in the LGBT community underline the importance of creating a climate of tolerance—in the United States and abroad.
We’ve been working with activists and governments across the world to adopt laws against such heinous acts of hate—and to ensure that they are enforced.
One of our Human Rights Award Winners this year, Ugandan LGBTI activist Julius Kaggwa, is leading the fight against the draconian anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda that would punish homosexuality, in certain cases, with death. At the same time we were honoring Julius and his work, a newspaper in Uganda published the “top 100″ homosexuals in the country, including names and addresses, under the headline titled “Hang Them.” This is not just about a piece of legislation—in many places, being homosexual itself is a death penalty, says Kaggwa.
Three trials this month leave little doubt about where we should try terrorist suspects:
- In a Manhattan federal court, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, got a sentence of life in prison without parole. His trial ended less than six months after he was arrested and taken into the U.S. criminal justice system.
- Also in a Manhattan federal court, a judge barred the torture-tainted testimony of a prosecution witness in the trial of Ahmed Ghailani, accused of bombing two East African embassies in 1998. The rule of law prevailed.
- Meanwhile at Guantanamo, the U.S. is preparing a plea bargain for Omar Khadr. Khadr was fifteen when he was captured, there is credible evidence he was tortured, and the U.S. has held him for eight years while it tried to fix the secretive, capricious, and rights-denying military commissions.
Though the choice seems obvious, it’s far from clear the country will make the right choice.
That’s why Human Rights First is monitoring trials, sharing facts with congressional candidates, and mobilizing retired military leaders to get the facts out to the public and policy makers. Last week we issued a powerful TV ad with these leaders urging the government to use civilian courts to try terrorism suspects, shown throughout Pennsylvania, where this issue has become a partisan one in the Senate campaign.
We’re urging candidates in the upcoming elections to ignore the fearmongering and trust our courts—sign our petition today!
Human Rights First mourns the loss of one of our founding fathers, Lou Henkin. Professor Henkin served on our board for more than three decades. He was our North Star, and a beloved role model for the countless human rights advocates he mentored. “Literally and figuratively, he wrote the book on human rights,” said HRF President and CEO Elisa Massimino. Read the obituary in the New York Times.
In an op-ed published in Politico, Daphne Eviatar discusses the shaky legal framework of military commissions—you just don’t learn this in law school. Daphne is in Guantanamo for the Khadr sentencing.
The Washington Post On Faith blog featured an opinion piece by Tad Stahnke on “How American ideals won in Quran Burning Controversy.” He draws lessons from this controversy to explain why we should not adopt “defamation of religions” resolution at the UN.
Human Rights First is cosponsoring, with Rabbis for Human Rights, Human Rights Under Fire: A Jewish Call to Action, an event that brings together an impressive list of speakers and will feature conversations on subjects ranging from indefinite detention to Netanyahu, exceptionalism and Jewish values.