The democratic uprisings sweeping the Middle East are creating the possibility of once-in-a-generation progress. But they also present dangers, as repressive regimes crack down on protestors and citizens trying to create democratic institutions where none have existed for years.
Change must come from within—the right to pick leaders and form governments belongs to citizens in these countries—but the U.S. can take action to support human rights and democracy. We’re pushing our government to do just that. While there won’t be a one-size-fits-all policy towards countries in the region, the U.S. should be making clear—in word and deed—that it will stand with people seeking to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms.
We’re focusing special attention on Egypt, where we’ve been working with human rights activists for many years. The departure of Mubarak was a monumental event, but with the military now running the country, it’s unclear whether a more democratic government will emerge. Take action today urging President Obama to end, decisively, U.S. support for despotism in Egypt.
The U.S. Department of Defense hearts military commissions.
On Valentine’s Day, the Obama Administration opened the hearing of Noor Uthman Muhammed, a citizen of Sudan detained for more than eight years because of alleged involvement with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He pled guilty, under a “perverse system where almost the only way one can get out of here is to cop a plea or die,” said HRF’s Dixon Osburn. Read more analysis live from the hearing on our blog.
Meanwhile Congress moved to forbid the use of ANY government funds to transfer Gitmo detainees to the U.S. You helped us defeat this misguided effort in the House. We’ll keep you posted on the upcoming battle in the Senate.
There’s an ongoing debate between “cyber-utopians” and “cyber-skeptics” about the political power of the Internet. In a blog posted ahead of Secretary of State Clinton’s recent speech on Internet freedom, HRF’s Elisa Massimino offered a “cyber-pragmatic” approach, pointing out that the Internet is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. It’s what we make it. She also outlined how the government and companies can defend Internet freedom.
In the speech, Secretary Clinton pledged to take some of the steps we’ve been recommending. She said the U.S. would increasingly confront governments that censor and spy online, establish a cyber-issues coordinator, and expand assistance to online activists around the world.
Last year, we discovered that Russia was using laws against software piracy to crack down on independent media and NGOs, and that Microsoft was assisting in the bogus prosecutions. Anastasia Denisova, an advocate for the rights of immigrants, was one of the victims, and she asked us for help. We brought the facts to the attention of Microsoft headquarters, which decided to provide the licenses to the NGOs and pledged to oppose all politically motivated piracy prosecutions.
Now we’ve published a report, A Campaign Against Dissent, which documents how governments use legitimate antipiracy laws to pursue illegitimate ends. The report provides a set of best practices for tech companies so that they can avoid enabling repression.
We’ve also reached out to telecommunications companies in Egypt to get details on how the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet during recent protests. We have a good idea of what happened—read more about it on our blog, or just check out the cartoon illustration.
Two of our experts just returned from Afghanistan, where they investigated the trials of detainees in Bagram prison. It’s a bleak picture. Ask Daphne Eviatar and Gabor Rona your questions during a live web chat on Facebook, this Friday, March 4th, at 2:30 pm EST.
New Yorkers, come to our offices on March 8 for a breakfast briefing on Iraqi refugees and hear how the U.S. government can better respond to the ongoing refugee crisis in the region. It starts at 9 am. RSVP on Facebook.
For a round-up of our coverage during the protests in Egypt—including President Obama’s response (NPR), lessons from the Internet crackdown (CNN), facts and fiction about the Muslim Brotherhood (LA Times), what’s next post-Mubarak and more—check out our blog.
Read Daphne Eviatar’s op-ed in Politico on whether Obama is on the “wrong side of history” on detainees.