Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Call for Videos: Tell Your Human Rights Story to the United Nations!

Nationwide, United States of America: You now have a chance to speak at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Through the Testify! Project you can submit 30 second to 2 minute video testimony on human rights concerns in your community. Selected submissions will be played for UN officials during preparation for the first ever UN review of the US Government's entire human rights record, called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

WHAT: The Testify! Project documents human rights concerns and violations in the United States using short videos and 1 page written testimonies. These videos and testimonies are
an important way to explain to the US Government and representatives from the rest
of the world whether the US is complying with its human rights obligations and how
it can improve.

Submissions should tell a story about an injustice occurring in your area and
suggest a solution to the US government. Submissions can focus on virtually any
social justice issue, including but not limited to: labor rights; women's rights;
immigrant rights; access to necessities like food, housing, education, health care;
discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or identity;
environmental (in)justice; racial profiling; censorship; and any other rights
mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or other key human rights

WHERE: This online contest is on Videos can be uploaded directly to the YouTube Group.

WHEN: A compilation of submitted videos will play in Geneva, Switzerland at the UN
in September and again right before the U.S. government is reviewed as part of the
UPR on November 5th, 2010. Finalist videos will be shown in their entirety. Each
deadline will have one winner, receiving the following prizes:

1) To qualify to join a US Human Rights Network delegation to Geneva to present
your story to UN delegates in-person, submit your video on or before August 20th
at 11:59 pm.
2) To qualify for a new Flip Camera, to continue your video activism, submit
your video by October 8th at 11:59 PM EST.

WHY: For the very first time, the United States faces a review of its entire human
rights by other countries as part of the UPR. This new review process, developed in
2006, reviews every country in the world by the same standards. The United States
government will have to answer questions from other countries about how well the US
follows the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, and
international human rights treaties.

To be sure that the questions asked and recommendations made reflect what is
happening here in the United States, we need you to tell your story. Individuals and
non-profit organizations from the U.S. will share your stories at an event at the UN
in Geneva this September to influence the questions that are part of the November
review. Testify! Project submissions will show these delegates what violations we
are facing in the United States.

Intern Spotlight: Kate Greenberg

Kate Greenberg is a third year law student at Temple University in Philadelphia, who plans on pursuing a career in public interest law, specifically LGBT rights.

Why Human Rights USA?

I was looking for jobs where I could work on issues in regards to gender and sexuality, human rights, or a combination of the two. I was impressed with Human Rights USA’s work with trafficking.

What has Human Rights USA done for you?

Working here has reinforced my desire to go into public interest law. My research, especially about domestic violence, constantly reminds me that there are a lot of inherent problems in the legal system that bar peoples’ access to justice.
Working on trafficking cases allowed me to gain a lot of hands on experience. I have seen the forming of trial strategy and the nuts and bolts of the writing and editing process, and I have learned about various international instruments that the U.S. has been integrating into domestic practice. I have also gained an appreciation for the nonprofit world and an understanding of how a nonprofit works.

How has Human Rights USA benefited from your help?
Well, I kept everyone well caffeinated.
But seriously, I hope that I will contribute to an eventual victory in the important case I have been working on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Taylor, Jr. Decision Makes Headlines

The appellate court decision in the Chuckie Taylor Case is making headlines all over the world. Read the full story online.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Felony Torture Statute is Constitutional

Today, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the statute passed to implement the Convention Against Torture is constitutional. The decision upholds the jury verdict and sentence holding Charles "Chuckie" Taylor, Jr.'s accountable for torture committed when he was head of the Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) in Liberia.

The court's decision reads: "After thorough review, we conclude that all of Emmanuel’s convictions are constitutional. The United States validly adopted the CAT [Convention Against Torture] pursuant to the President’s Article II treaty-making authority, and it was well within Congress’s power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to criminalize both torture, as defined by the Torture Act, and conspiracy to commit torture. Furthermore, we hold that both the Torture Act and the firearm statute apply to extraterritorial conduct, and that their application in this case was proper. Finally, we conclude that Emmanuel’s trial and the resulting convictions were not rendered fundamentally unfair by any evidentiary or other procedural errors, and that his sentence is without error. Accordingly, we affirm Emmanuel’s convictions and sentence in all respects."

The full decision is available here:

Friday, July 9, 2010

There is Hope

While 13-year-old children in the United States enjoyed packed lunches and field trips in middle school, Sofia* was being abused and repeatedly raped by her 26 year old teacher in Guatemala. After Sofia’s family found out that the teacher had been assaulting her for an entire year, they forced her to marry him to protect their pride.

Sofia’s new husband forced her to perform labor and continuously raped her. He refused to let her see her family, or to even finish middle school. After two years of enduring his abuse, Sofia managed to escape to freedom in the United States. The escape was not easy. At 15, Sofia wandered through the desert for 5 hours until she was found by Customs and Border Patrol.

Yet, Sofia was one of the lucky ones. Because of her young age, Sofia was released to the custody of her grandmother in the United States, rather than kept in detention while the Immigration Judge decided whether to grant Sofia asylum or deport her to Guatemala. Currently, while Sofia is attending school and working towards a better future, Human Rights USA is arguing before the immigration court to grant her asylum and protect her from the rape, abuse, and forced marriage that she faces in Guatemala.

If Sofia is given asylum, hope will be renewed for thousands of women that face forced marriage and abuse. As we work with her on her case, we hope that she will be able to become the nurse she plans to be and become an icon of hope for so many others.

Sofia’s case is still pending. Click here to stay updated on her story. Click here to donate now and help Sofia and many others attain freedom from forced marriage.

*These names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual

Supermodel Naomi Campbell Subpoenaed in War Crimes Trial

Naomi Campbell
      Model Naomi Campbell, Actress Mia Farrow, and Campbell’s former agent Carole White have been subpoenaed to appear in the U.N. backed trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes. If proven, the allegations that Taylor gave Campbell rough-cut diamonds at Nelson Mandela’s reception in 1997 would provide an extraordinary piece of evidence against him. However, Taylor denies ever giving the rebels weapons in exchange for their diamonds and claims that he never owned rough diamonds.

      The former President of Liberia is charged with many human rights abuses including murder, torture, mutilation, rape, sexual slavery, use of child soldiers, and the backing of rebels in Sierra Leone’s long civil war. All totaled, Charles Taylor stands accused of victimizing an estimated half a million people.

      Farrow has provided the prosecutors with a written statement asserting that Campbell told her about the gift, and White allegedly witnessed the action. According to the “Daily Mail,” White herself said, “there were six small diamonds… I saw them. I had them in my hand.” Campbell denies ever receiving the diamonds. Until the summons was issued, she has refused to testify to protect her safety, and even violently erupted at an ABC News camera when asked about the diamonds.

      Now that Campbell’s lawyer has accepted the subpoena, the three women will be expected to appear at the trial in The Hague, Netherlands.

      Human Rights USA has a special interest in this celebrity connection to international justice, given our past work to hold Taylor’s son, “Chuckie Taylor,” accountable for human rights abuses he committed when his father was President of Liberia. As the leader of the Anti-Terrorist Unit, Taylor, Jr. committed horrific crimes against those who opposed his father’s regime. Many human rights groups have documented the extensive human rights abuses the ATU committed: torture, abduction, rape, recruiting child soldiers, beating people to death, and burning people alive. When Taylor, Jr. flew to the United States to escape responsibility for his crimes abroad, the U.S. government arrested him and eventually indicted him for the crime of torture – the first such prosecution in the U.S.. With the help of Human Rights USA, Taylor, Jr. was sentenced to 97 years in prison. Our clients, who were victims of his torture, subsequently filed a civil suit and were awarded $22.4 million in damages.