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Human Rights Defenders

    June 27, 2017
    Rosmit Mantilla

    “I often woke up believing my strength was running out, believing I couldn’t keep going, and then I received photographs of Amnesty International human rights activists from all over the world requesting my freedom, respect for justice and for life. Infinite thanks, friends—without you I wouldn’t be here!”

    These personal words of thanks for your support came from Rosmit Mantilla during his struggle to be freed from a Venezuelan jail. Rosmit is a prominent Member of Parliament, human rights defender and former prisoner of conscience. He is an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and a member of the opposition party Voluntad Popular. He was freed in November following two years in prison.

    June 09, 2017
    Lolita Chavez Guatemala Indigenous defenders

    Maya-K’iche human rights defender Lolita Chavez is known to Canadians for her determined and principled stance on the right of Indigenous peoples to determine what happens in their territories. Lolita has spoken to Canadian leaders, investors and the public about the ways in which the Guatemalan government has failed to protect Indigenous peoples and how this leaves them exposed to abuses by corporate actors, such as mining, hydro-electric or logging interests. Most people in the region rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and are concerned that these industrial activities would destroy sources of water needed for irrigation and drinking. Lolita organized a community referendum on resource development in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Quiche department and residents overwhelmingly voted ‘NO’ to any form of industrial development on their lands.

    May 19, 2017
    Journalists in Mexico protested this May 16 against the killing of one of their colleagues and called on the government to take action.

    By Erika Guevara-Rosas

    The tragic news of the brutal murder of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a Mexican journalist renowned for his fearless reporting of the drug war wreaking havoc across Mexico, has sent shockwaves through the country.

    His journalism was particularly well-known in his home town of Culiacán, in Sinaloa. There, thousands of people are virtual hostages of a war between ruthless drug cartels and a government that is at best, unable to protect its people and, at worse, in collusion with those it claims to be fighting against.

    Javier was gunned down by unidentified men near the office of Riodoce, the weekly newspaper he founded and one of the few in the state still reporting on the wave of deaths sweeping through the area.

    May 17, 2017

    By Guadalupe Marengo, Head of Global Human Rights Defenders Programme, Amnesty International

    May 14, 2017

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada

    In early April, the courageous journalists at Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that over a hundred men suspected of being gay had been abducted, tortured, and some killed in a coordinated government campaign in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya. Men who are released from detention are not safe; they may face honour killings by family members. In response, Chechen officials denied the existence of gay men in Chechnya, and denied they had ordered ‘preventative mopping up’ of people considered to be undesirable.

    People worldwide were outraged. How could this be happening? What could be done to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities in Chechnya from discrimination and violence? What were we doing and could we do more?

    May 01, 2017

    By Ta*, an LGBT activist in Bangladesh

     

    “I might not come any longer. I’m afraid. You had to flee from one place to another out of fear of being slaughtered by the extremists. If something like that happens again, I don’t have the strength or ability to do things like you.” I have received many messages like this from fellow LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) activists in Bangladesh over the past year. On 25 April 2016, Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were killed mercilessly by extremists for promoting LGBT rights in Bangladesh – nothing has been the same since.

    March 21, 2017

    By Ahmed Elzobier, Sudan Researcher at Amnesty International

    Three Sudanese human rights defenders were released from jail on 6 March after paying a fine of 50,000 Sudanese Pounds (about 7,700 US dollars) each.

    Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Midhat A. Hamdan and Mustafa Adam had been sentenced to one year in jail and a fine, but were released after nine months on time served after paying the exorbitant fines.  The crimes they were found guilty of? Two of them were convicted of dissemination of false information and one for espionage.

    All three are members of TRACKS, a human rights organization that provides training on a range of themes including human rights and information technology to civil society in Sudan.

    Over the last two years, TRACKS’ offices have been raided twice, on 26 March 2015 and 29 February 2016. On 22 May 2016, NISS officials detained several of its staff and members and charged them with a number of offences including crimes against the state.

    January 22, 2016

    By Mohamed Lotfy, Executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and former researcher for Amnesty International. 

    Never before in my 10-year career has working on human rights in Egypt been so dangerous. 

    Today in Egypt, human rights activists, lawyers, political activists and independent journalists, all have to live with their phone calls being tapped, endless smear campaigns and hate speech from state-affiliated media as well as continuous harassment and intimidation from the authorities. 

    For some, this relentless persecution can even lead to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, harsh sentences after unfair trials and sometimes even torture, enforced disappearance at the hands of the state or death in custody as a result of medical negligence. This is pretty much the same list of human rights violations suffered by the people whose rights such defenders are meant to be protecting through their activism and work. 

    September 30, 2015

    By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights  

     

    One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from  communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.

    August 31, 2015

    Narges Mohammadi has been in and out of prison for more than a decade for her support of human rights in Iran. Three months after her most recent imprisonment, she wrote this personal letter from jail on what it means to be apart from her children.

     

    MY TWINS WERE BORN ON 28 NOVEMBER 2006

    I was not allowed to hold my son Ali and my daughter Kiana when they were born because of my poor health. I was only able to see them through the door of the hospital room. It seems as if their fate was to be apart from me from birth. When I held them for the first time, all the scars from the caesarean, the difficulties I had breathing, the fear of death and all the pain were forgotten. I had become a mother.

    WHEN KIANA AND ALI WERE THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS OLD

    August 24, 2015

    By Tanya O'Carroll, Technology and Human Rights Officer for Amnesty International. Follow Tanya on Twitter @TanyaOCarroll

    One year after the launch of Panic Button, our phone app for human rights activists, we find out how it’s helping them to prepare for attacks, coordinate with their networks, and stay safe.

    “We are afraid. We are afraid that the abduction that happened to our parents might also happen to us.”

    April 16, 2015

    A letter from Samar Badawi to her imprisoned husband, the Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. Samar is also the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi.

    Words are not enough for me to express how proud I am of my husband. How deeply proud I am of the man who believed in me and my cause when I was imprisoned. As my lawyer, he defended me and never left me alone to face those who unjustly attempted to impose their patriarchal authority over me just because I am a woman who dared to speak up. Everyone turned their backs on me except for my husband who remained by my side until he had helped achieve justice for my cause.

    He has always been my rock whenever I felt weak, he was my strength and my source of motivation and inspiration.

    April 14, 2015

    By Ensaf Haidar, via The Washington Post

    On June 17, 2012, my husband, Raif Badawi, the father of my three children and my best friend, was arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. For nearly three years, as he has languished in prison, my family has been trapped in a nightmare.

    Raif is a man of principle and a respected activist in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, he started a blog where readers could openly discuss politics, religion and other social issues. But in Saudi Arabia, one can pay an unthinkable price simply for blogging. Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws.

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