Civil Rights

Due process, detention and defense

In the halls of Congress, many issues divide us, but there are also issues that unite us as Americans. Protecting the due process rights of American citizens and legal permanent residents should be at the top of the list. Every American deserves their day in court. Every American is innocent until proven guilty. These are core values enshrined in our founding document – the United States Constitution.
 
A few months ago, Congress voted on legislation to fund our national defense. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) secured a pay increase for American military personnel, funded the operations at every base and national laboratory in our country and continued vital cybersecurity programs that are keeping America safe.

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A chance for Congress to help Haitian women

Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan were three of Haiti’s most forceful advocates for women’s rights. They established some of the few groups that helped Haitian women recover from domestic violence and rape, pursue justice and restart their lives. All three perished in the quake on January 12, 2010.

Haiti’s weak laws on violence against women often stymied their efforts. They joined forces with other activists in calling for legal reform to fix the many gaps in law and services. For the last two years, it has seemed that their hope of transforming Haiti’s laws to improve services for victims of domestic violence and rape remained buried in the rubble.

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Violence Against Women Act needed now more than ever

On December 14th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the initial findings of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). The full 124-page report is available here.

This large-scale, ongoing study is based on a nationally- representative telephone survey that collects detailed information on sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization of adult women and men in the United States. The survey collects data on past-year experiences of violence as well as lifetime experiences of violence. The 2010 survey is the first year of the survey and provides baseline data that will be used to track trends in sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence.

According to the study: Nearly 1 in 5 women have been the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Nearly 1 in 2 women have experienced other forms of sexual violence. 1.3 million women have been raped in the United States in the last 12 months. 1 in 5 men have experienced a form of sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.

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Nothing to hide, everything to fear

With passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, we look away again as Congress exposes Americans to the specter of prison without charge or trial and smothers that basic right of free citizens to invoke the law against their government.

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President Obama: It’s not too late to reject bad detainee law

Yesterday, Congress enacted legislation intended to militarize the handling of terrorist suspects and limit the president’s options for prosecuting or releasing them. Pointing to minor changes in the most recent version of the bill, President Obama’s advisors have withdrawn an earlier recommendation that the president veto the legislation. But the decision to veto legislation is the president’s alone. The bill represents a major setback for both human rights and national security, and President Obama should veto it.   

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The other 5 million

The right to vote is one of our most fundamental rights. In recent weeks, the national news media has focused significant attention on the swath of restrictive voting laws that several states have enacted this year, zeroing in on a particularly alarming statistic: namely, the 5 million eligible voters whose access to the polls has been undermined by these new restrictions on the franchise.

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It’s time to pass a law to end racial profiling

Last week, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and 37 other members of Congress introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (ERPA), H.R. 3618--a bill that would prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and gender.  ERPA is a companion bill to S 1670, introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and nine others in the Senate in October.

Support from people impacted by the problem--particularly communities of color--is substantial. The End Racial Profiling Act should be passed without delay.

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Myths about religious freedom abroad

While Americans routinely enjoy religious freedom, most people live in places where it is seriously restricted.

In 1998, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), committing America to support this universal human right abroad. As Congress attends to the issue of the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which IRFA created and on which we've served, it's time to address some myths about backing religious freedom overseas:

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Obama should veto the Defense authorization bill

Last week, the Senate voted to pass a bill that would codify indefinite detention without trial in the United States, mandate military detention for terrorist suspects, and stop the transfer of even innocent detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay and Bagram military prisons.

If that sounds bad enough, just wait:  As we head into the holidays, the bill could get even worse. This week, the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, goes to conference, where the House and the Senate will try to reconcile a bad bill with a worse one.  Expect an even harsher, broader-reaching and more nonsensical bill in time for Christmas.

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Renewing our commitment to combating domestic and sexual violence

Last week, we joined together to introduce the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011.  For almost 18 years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been the centerpiece of the federal government’s commitment to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  We should reauthorize and strengthen these programs. 

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