Quoted: Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial — “Rethink approach to repressive Egypt”

Rethink approach to repressive Egypt

Editorial Board, Star Tribune, June 24, 2014

‘Sham’ conviction of journalists just the latest human rights slide.

The unjustified conviction of three Al Jazeera journalists on charges of conspiring with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a miscarriage of justice. It’s also a symptom of a broader, brutal repression of post-coup dissent in the country.

Several Western nations, human rights organizations and everyday citizens already have protested the prosecution, which may be a manifestation of Egypt’s hostility toward Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based. Pressure should be kept on Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, the former general who just became president in a sketchy election, to free the journalists and to respect international human rights standards. Already el-Sissi appears to be as oppressive as Hosni Mubarak, the last military man to rule Egypt.

The three journalists — Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste — were held in a courtroom cage and convicted in a trial that Amnesty International called a “complete sham.” The three men are widely respected by their peers, and their collective reporting resumes include work for CNN, the New York Times and the BBC. They were simply doing their jobs, and now Greste and Fahmy face seven years in prison, while Mohamed, who had kept a spent bullet casing from one of the protests as a souvenir, faces 10 years in an Egyptian jail. Several students were also convicted in the Orwellian trial, and other journalists were convicted in absentia.

Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other organizations say there is no evidence to suggest that the three had links to the Muslim Brotherhood or that they reported anything but the truth about Egypt’s turmoil.

Instead, this appears to be a clear attempt to silence them and to intimidate other journalists from exposing, let alone challenging, el-Sissi’s autocracy.

“In the last year, there have been a number of attacks on journalists and media institutions by Egyptian authorities in an effort to silence critics,” said Sunjeev Bery, Middle East and North Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International USA. “It’s all part of a larger crackdown on human rights and basic freedoms across Egyptian society.”

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Iraq’s Crisis: 3 Quick Points for U.S. Policymakers

As the latest crisis in Iraq unfolds, here are three basic points for U.S. policymakers to keep in mind:

  1. The protection of civilians must be a top priority in Mosul and in every Iraqi community facing armed conflict.
  2. The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.
  3. The U.S. government must push the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms in order to address long-term public discontent and instability.


500,000 civilians are reported to have fled Mosul following its takeover by one or more armed groups that include those belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). This follows the reported displacement of close to half a million Iraqis in Fallujah since January, following ISIS’ expulsion of Iraqi security forces there.

ISIS armed groups, Iraqi security forces, and other potential armed groups must avoid repeating the violence against civilians that took place in Fallujah. Iraqi government forces have used indiscriminate shelling in Fallujah in the past six months, including on hospitals and in residential areas. There have been over 5,000 civilian deaths.


  • The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.

Thousands of detainees languish in prison without charge. Many of those who are brought to trial are sentenced to long prison terms or to death after unfair proceedings. In many cases, convictions are based on “confessions” extracted under torture.

Iraq remains one of the world’s most prolific executioners with at least 169 executed in 2013. As with prison terms, death sentences can also follow “confessions” extracted under torture. In many cases, such “confessions” are televised nationally.

Torture and other ill-treatment inside prisons and detention centers is rife and routinely goes unpunished.


  • To ensure stability in Iraq, the U.S. government must address popular discontent by pushing the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms.

Iraq’s long-term human rights crisis can no longer be viewed by the U.S. and other external governments as “Iraq’s problem” or an internal matter. To ensure security and safety in Iraq, widespread popular discontent must be addressed by pushing the Iraqi central government to end its terrible human rights record.

Interview: The Pope’s Call for Action on Refugees and Migrants


"When it comes to immigration, Pope Francis says our globalized world has led to globalized indifference to their suffering. Boston Cardinal O'Malley is working to end that indifference. What role does the Church play in worldwide immigration crises?"

Thousands are fleeing economic hardship, repression, and violence via boats from North Africa in a desperate attempt to reach Europe’s shores.

Today I joined a panel on Huffington Post Live to talk about Pope Francis’ recent call for action on refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers attempting to enter Europe.

You can watch the clip here.

Interview: “Even Under Rouhani, Iran’s Schools Have Little (If Any) Freedom”

The Iranian authorities have waged a ruthless campaign of repression over the past three decades against students and academics because of their peaceful activism, views or beliefs.

I spoke with  Alyona Minkovski at Huffington Post Live about Amnesty International’s latest report on repression in Iran’s higher education system:  “Silenced, Expelled, Imprisoned:  Repression of Students and Academics in Iran.”

You can watch the clip here.

Quoted: MSNBC – “The World Cup disaster in Qatar”

Amnesty believes the U.S. can also take a more aggressive approach in demanding that a certain set of international standards be met.

“Members of Congress and the White House need to incorporate labor rights in [the U.S.’s] bilateral relationship with Qatar,” said Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty [International USA]’s Middle East and North Africa advocacy director, to msnbc. “Sporting events are frequently used as opportunities for host government to rebrand the country. It’s important that the 2022 World Cup not become a situation where massive human rights abuses are swept under the rug.”

Why the World Cup is no game

05/30/14 07:00 AM—Updated 05/30/14 09:49 AM

By Emma Margolin


A man carries a flag of Brazil during a protest against the World Cup in Sao Paulo.
A man carries a flag of Brazil as members of Brazil’s Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), who are living at the “People’s World Cup Camp” which houses some 2,800 families of the movement in the district of Itaquera near Sao Paulo’s World Cup stadium, Arena de Sao Paulo, block a road during a protest against the World Cup in Sao Paulo, May 15, 2014. Nacho Doce/Reuters
Forget #SochiProblems. When it comes to snafus, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is putting the most recent Olympics to shame.

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Quoted: Bloomberg | “Obama Seeks to Reassure Saudi King on Iran Talks, Syria”

“The president’s silence demonstrates once again that when it comes to human rights, the U.S. holds repressive allies to a much lower standard than adversaries,” said Sunjeev Bery, Amnest International USA’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Bloomberg: Obama Seeks to Reassure Saudi King on Iran Talks, Syria

By Julianna Goldman and Mike Dorning

March 29, 2014

President Barack Obama sought to reassure Saudi King Abdullah that negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program won’t undercut the strategic interests of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. partner in the region. Continue reading


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