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Prisoner of Conscience

    July 04, 2017

    Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested and detained in Swaziland after writing an article raising concerns about judicial independence and integrity in the country. He and his wife Tanele sit down with us after his release from prison to tell their story and share their sincere thanks to Amnesty supporters.

    Amnesty: So Thulani tell us what happened to you. What was your story? What happened to you in Swaziland in 2014 and 2015?

    Thulani: March 2014. Maybe the best way to answer the question is to say perhaps most of my life I have been involved in the struggle to create a better society in Swaziland. A society that respects the rule of law, human rights and dignity of the Swazi citizen so that includes me writing for a magazine called The Nation. I’m a monthly contributor.

    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.

    September 19, 2016

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada English Branch. Originally published in the Globe and Mail. 

    When Dr. Homa Hoodfar was arrested in Iran 100 days ago, the circumstances and motivation behind her unfounded and illegal imprisonment were far from clear. While much of that uncertainty remains, what is clear is that she has endured more than three months of grave human rights violations.  Her plight resonates with wider concerns Amnesty International has recently documented in Iran, including a broad crackdown against perceived feminists and routine attacks on prisoners’ health.

    It all adds up a grim human rights reality for Dr. Hoodfar.  One hundred days into her nightmare, efforts to secure her immediate and unconditional release must be escalated even further.  

    July 21, 2016

    By Gloria Nafziger, Amnesty International Canada's Campaigner for Iran

    Where would you spend a Sunday in July?

    On Sunday July 17, the members of Amnesty International’s TriCities Group in Coquitlam BC chose to stand in solidarity with Iranian prisoner of conscience, Narges Mohammadi

    Narges Mohammadi is a human rights defender who received a 16-year prison sentence after she was convicted, following an unfair trial in April 2016, of the charges of “founding an illegal group”, “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, and “spreading propaganda against the system”. She is already serving a six-year prison sentence from a previous case. Her convictions are based solely on her human rights work.

    Narges is critically ill. She suffers from a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs) and a neurological disorder that has resulted in her experiencing seizures and temporary partial paralysis. She needs ongoing specialized medical care, which she cannot receive in prison, as well as daily medication.

    July 04, 2016

    Jim Joyce: AICS(ES) Coordinator for Israel, OPT, Palestine

    “This state, this country, this society, are too important for me to be silent. I wish my refusal, even if I pay a personal price for it, will help bring the occupation to the Israel public discourse.”

    These are the words of 19 year old Conscientious objector (CO), Tair Kaminer, an Israeli from Tel Aviv who was given her sixth and longest prison sentence [forty-five days] on 19 June 2016 for refusing to serve in the Israeli army. She objects to her military service call-up because she does not wish to participate in the commission of human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    Israel’s practice is to sentence a conscientious objector to a short period of detention usually twenty or -twenty five days. Upon its end, the call up is renewed, and if refused, another period of detention is ordered by the military judge. Israel has never granted a CO a hearing on the grounds for the objection to military service.

    November 27, 2015
    Phyoe Phyoe Aung with husband Lin Htet Naing

    By Lin Htet Naing

    In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, her husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.  

    My favourite day is April 11, 2007. It’s the day we fell in love. I love my wife because she is simple, honest and very kind to me. I think she loves me because I am a little bit bad :D. We just want a sweet home and a family together.

    I met her at a student book class in 2006. I thought she looked like a boy. And she wasn’t afraid of anyone. She was always debating with our classmates, and talking about why globalization is good.
     

    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

    June 16, 2015

    By Sevag Kechichian, Saudi Arabia Researcher at Amnesty International

    Today, like many people around the world, I waited to find out if Raif Badawi would again be hauled out of his prison cell and mercilessly lashed another 50 times in a public square in Jeddah.

    The same suspense has gripped people for 23 weeks since the first time this act of cruelty was inflicted on the imprisoned blogger on 9 January this year. That day, a crowd of onlookers gathered in the square immediately after Friday prayers to witness this hateful spectacle.

    While flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments are commonplace in Saudi Arabia, they are not necessarily carried out on Fridays and in public. There is often an air of secrecy even around the many beheadings and other executions in the country – which have seen a macabre spike since the beginning of this year.

    Amnesty International has campaigned for Raif’s release since his arrest in 2012. Since he was flogged, it joined more than a million activists, journalists and political leaders in calling for an end to the horror and for his immediate release.

    June 04, 2015
    Gao Yu journalist and prisoner of conscience

    By William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. On twitter @williamnee

    26 years have passed since the tragic days in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

    But even though the tanks have long left the city’s infamous square, President Xi Jinping, appears as determined to quash anyone perceived as challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony.

    When President Xi took office in late 2012, he declared power would be put “in a cage”, but it is the independently minded academics, journalists, lawyers, and rights activists that have been thrown in jail.

    We are witnessing one of the darkest periods for freedom of expression in China since the bloodshed of 1989.

    April 29, 2015

    In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

    As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.

    These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.

    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.

    April 10, 2015

    Today will be a nerve-wracking day for Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old US-Egyptian activist who has been languishing in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison, where he has been on hunger strike for more than 14 months.

    The court sentenced his father, Salah Soltan, and 13 others to death on 16 March. Their sentences may be confirmed after consultation with the Grand Mufti.

    Tomorrow, Mohamed and 36 others will face the same court on charges including “funding the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in” – a mass protest in Cairo in August 2013 that was forcibly dispersed by security forces – and spreading “false information” to destabilize the security of Egypt. They are part of a group of 51 individuals arrested after the sit-in as part of a sweeping crackdown on supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.

    Mohamed’s sister, Hanaa, is incredibly anxious about what the future might hold for her family. Below is a harrowing letter she wrote to her brother:

    Dear Mohamed,

    April 07, 2015

    By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty Internationa. Follow Hassiba on Twitter @HassibaHS.

    For 600 days Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, a 27-year-old Egyptian photojournalist, has been holed up in a small cell in the infamous Tora prison. His crime: taking pictures of the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013. He is one of dozens of Egyptian journalists arrested since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013. Six have been killed since then.

    Here’s a harrowing letter that Mahmoud Abou Zeid sent from his cell:

    “My life changed forever on the morning of Wednesday 14 August 2013. I was taking pictures of people protesting on the streets of Cairo when police came and locked down the streets. Thousands of people were immediately arrested – not only Morsi supporters, but also dozens of people caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    March 05, 2015

    Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

    After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment.

    The following Friday, while a medical committee had advised that Raif Badawi should not be flogged because of high blood pressure, another prison doctor insisted that there was nothing wrong with him and that he should be flogged. Then, for five consecutive weeks the Friday floggings were not carried out for reasons that remain unknown. It is anybody’s guess whether the next part of his sentence will be carried out tomorrow.

    Raif Badawi has made headlines around the world. But his case is just the tip of the iceberg for the Gulf Kingdom’s appalling human rights record. Here are 10 sobering facts from Amnesty International’s research:

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