Last week, Amazon dropped WikiLeaks from its servers after U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman asked the company to end its relationship with WikiLeaks. Other companies quickly followed suit.
In a world where China, Iran, Egypt and other repressive governments pressure Internet companies to censor content and crack down on online communication to stifle dissent, these reactions by U.S. officials and companies to Wikileaks may be setting a dangerous precedent. The stakes are high, and there are still too many unanswered questions about the process these companies used to decide to limit access to information around WikiLeaks. Human Rights First is seeking answers. Read our letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
In a separate case, we saw a success with Microsoft. After being made aware of the role of its in-country representatives in participating in Russian selective enforcement of antipiracy charges against activists and independent media, Microsoft changed course. Its new licensing policy, extended to thousands of activists at risk, was announced following discussions with Russian activists that Human Rights First arranged here in New York.
It’s important that companies keep human rights at the top of their agenda as technology rapidly evolves. We’re pleased that Microsoft listened to human rights concerns—and we’ll keep pushing other companies to do the same.
President and CEO
Human Rights First
HRF’s Joelle Fiss had the opportunity to speak with General David Petraeus at the NATO Summit last month.
Asked by Joelle about what he would say to those in the United States who advocate a return to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture), Petraeus responded with a deadpan “Don’t go there, girlfriend.” General Petraeus also took the opportunity to thank Human Rights First for our work to end torture—a proud moment. Watch the clip.
Recently in Manhattan, former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani was convicted on a terrorism charge. The conviction carries a sentence of 20 years to life, the same sentence that Ghailani would have received had he been convicted of all counts on which he was indicted. A judge will determine the precise sentence in January.
Because this was a federal trial, not a military tribunal, Ghailani’s rights were respected and Americans can be proud of their justice system. None of the dire predictions of the fearmongers came to pass: the trial in lower Manhattan caused no disruptions, no chaos, no security problems. In fact, it went largely unnoticed by city residents.
Still, the usual suspects—claiming that the trial was a failure because the defendant was convicted of only one charge—are clamoring for secretive, rights-abusing military tribunals. These are the same people who approved of—and seek a return to—the use of torture. Yet that is precisely what ended up being a stumbling block for prosecutors on many counts in the Ghailani indictment. Hmm. Read more about the verdict and the trial on our blog, and if you missed our video featuring New Yorkers’ reactions to the fact that a Guantanamo detainee was being tried in their midst—check it out.
Recent parliamentary elections in Egypt were a test of the democracy and political reform promised by Egypt’s leaders. They failed.
Human Rights First worked with Egyptian activists who organized online and used cell phones for reporting—but with no international election monitoring to ensure a fair vote, the elections were marred by violence at polling stations and apparent vote rigging.
Human Rights First will continue to support frontline activists through the presidential elections next year—and continue to support their call for international election monitoring to ensure a fair, violence-free vote.
Malawi just passed a new law criminalizing same-sex relationships between females. (It was already illegal between males.) Read more on our blog about the struggle for gay rights throughout Africa.
Today, HRF’s Paul LeGendre will debate David Bahati, the Ugandan leader championing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Come back to our blog for the clip from Voice of America.
The New York Times notes Human Rights First’s work with Microsoft on new software license that will protect activists against prosecution.
CBS Evening News interviewed HRF’s Daphne Eviatar on the Ghailani verdict.
After the FBI released its Hate Crime Report, HRF’s Paul Legendre commented in the AP that, while the report documents improvements, there is still a need for laws and policies to combat bias-related violence.
Earlier this month, an Egyptian blogger was beaten and detained by the police. Read our commentary on the CNN blog.
Politico analyzed the divide between the Obama Administration and House Republicans on the war on terror, relying heavily on HRF President and CEO Elisa Massimino’s analysis. Read her explanation of why the Obama Administration should pull off the Band-Aid and close Guantanamo.
The Washington Post reports on HRF’s appeal to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange that he not put human rights activists in danger by disclosing their identities.