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Freedom of Expression

    December 07, 2015

    Ugandan police have arbitrarily arrested political opposition leaders and used excessive force to disperse peaceful political gatherings, hindering the ability of Ugandans to receive information and engage with politicians in the lead-up to elections, a new Amnesty International report launched in Kampala today has found.

    Based on 88 interviews including with torture victims, eyewitnesses and senior police officers, as well as analysis of video footage, the report, “We come in and disperse them”: Violations of the right to freedom of assembly by the Ugandan police, documents a range of human right violations between July and October 2015. Members of the political opposition, including their presidential candidates, have been repeatedly placed under “preventive arrest” and police have indiscriminately fired tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators.

    “All Ugandans must be free to attend political rallies and engage with candidates, regardless of their political affiliations,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    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.
     

    November 26, 2015

    Venezuela must urgently investigate the killing of an opposition politician or risk further political violence in the country ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, said Amnesty International.

    “The killing of Luis Manuel Díaz provides a terrifying view of the state of human rights in Venezuela. Unless authorities are decisive in investigating this tragedy and bringing those responsible to justice, the door will be wide open to more violence,” said Marcos Gómez, Director at Amnesty International Venezuela.

    Luis Manuel Díaz, leader of the Democratic Action party in Guarico in Central Venezuela was shot dead during a public meeting.

    Opposition candidates and human rights activists have reported other attacks and intimidation during the electoral campaign.

    Parliamentary elections will be held on 6 December.

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations
    (613)744-7667 #236 jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

    November 25, 2015

    Posted at 0301hrs GMT  26 November 2015

    Activists and political leaders who speak out against attempts by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to stand for a third term in office are being subjected to arbitrary arrest and, in some cases, prolonged incommunicado detention, said Amnesty International, a year before presidential elections are officially due to take place.

    A new report, Treated like criminals: DRC's race to silence dissent in the run up to elections, reveals how DRC’s justice system is being used to silence critics of a third term by President Kabila. It focuses on the cases of eight individuals who were jailed after peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, one of whom spent 145 days in incommunicado detention.

    “In the lead up to next year’s elections, the justice system has been compromised for political purposes to crush dissent,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    November 20, 2015

    Bassel Khartabil, a defender of freedom expression being held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance may be facing a death sentence, 30 local and international organizations said today. His wife has received unconfirmed reports that a Military Field Court has sentenced him to death. His whereabouts should be disclosed immediately, and he should be released unconditionally, the groups said.

    Military Intelligence detained Bassel Khartabil on 15 March 2012. He was held in incommunicado detention for eight months and was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. He is facing Military Field Court proceedings for his peaceful activities in support of freedom of expression. A military judge interrogated Bassel Khartabil for a few minutes on 9 December 2012, but he had heard nothing further about his legal case, he told his family. In December 2012 he was moved to ‘Adra prison in Damascus, where he remained until 3 October 2015, when he was transferred to an undisclosed location and has not been heard of since.

    November 19, 2015

    Papuan pro-independence activist Filep Karma tasted freedom today after being unjustly jailed for more than a decade for simply raising an independence flag at a political ceremony in 2004, Amnesty International said.

    “Filep Karma spent more than a decade of his life in jail when he shouldn’t even have been jailed for a day. It was an outrageous travesty of justice and he should never have been brought to court,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

    “Every Indonesian should have the right to freely express themselves and to the right to freely assemble but these rights were cruelly denied to Filep Karma.”

    Amnesty International has long regarded Filep Karma as a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release. In 2011 the organization’s supporters in more than 80 countries sent more than 65,000 messages of support to him as part of its annual “Writes for Rights” campaign and called for his unconditional release.

    November 13, 2015

    The trial of 15 peaceful activists who have been held unlawfully for almost five months and charged with preparing “rebellion and a coup attempt” will be a crucial test for the independence of Angola’s judiciary, said Amnesty International ahead of their expected court appearance on 16 November 2015.

    The 15 men were arrested and detained by Angolan security forces between 20 and 24 June 2015 in Luanda after attending a meeting to discuss politics and governance concerns. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience and it is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
     
    “The continued detention of the 15 activists amounts to a travesty of justice as they have been arrested solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of association and expression,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “The charges against them must be dropped and state authorities must ensure their immediate and unconditional release.”

    November 10, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs CAT   11 November 2015

    President José Eduardo dos Santos’s tightening stranglehold on freedom of expression in Angola and his government’s decades of fear and repression will cast an indelible stain on the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence, said Amnesty International today.

    As dignitaries and foreign leaders gather in the capital Luanda to mark four decades of independence, at least 16 activists continue to languish in Angolan jails.

    “40 years after independence, many Angolans still have a long way before they realize their human rights freedoms. Those who express views that differ from those of the regime are subjected to brutal treatment. Independence should also be about people being allowed to freely express themselves,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “Many human rights defenders are suffering in jail merely for asking for accountability and respect for human rights. The state is using police and the judiciary to entrench fear and to silence critical voices.”

    November 10, 2015

    The long overdue release of a campaigner jailed after he protested against the devastating environmental impact of the Sochi Olympic Games is no doubt a great relief for him and his family, but his imprisonment on absurd charges was a prime example of the disturbing tactics used by the Russian authorities to silence critics, said Amnesty International today.

    Evgeniy Vitishko of the NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus was jailed for 15 days in February 2014 on trumped-up charges of “hooliganism" after he was accused of "swearing at a bus stop”. Immediately after serving this term, he started serving the three-year sentence for allegedly damaging a fence that was concealing illegal construction in a protected forested area.

    Today a court ordered his release, effective 20 November, after having served half of his sentence in a prison colony in Russia’s Tambov region.

    November 08, 2015

    The arrest of a prominent advocate of freedom of expression in Egypt today is a clear signal of the Egyptian authorities’ resolve to continue with their ferocious onslaught against independent journalism and civil society, said Amnesty International.

    Hossam Bahgat was summoned by military intelligence to appear for questioning this morning, apparently in connection with articles that he wrote about the Egyptian army, which the military has deemed to be a threat to its security. Amnesty International has learned that he is being charged by the military prosecutor in what could be a flagrant violation of his right to freedom of expression.

    “The arrest of Hossam Bahgat today is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Egypt. He is being detained and questioned by the military prosecutor for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and must be immediately and unconditionally released. Any charges brought against him must be dropped,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    November 05, 2015
    TAKE ACTION FOR STUDENT ACTIVIST PHYOE PHYOE AUNG BY JOINING WRITE FOR RIGHTS!

    The jailing of peaceful activists, restrictions on free speech, discrimination and the political disenfranchisement of minority groups – in particular the persecuted Rohingya– seriously undermine elections in Myanmar, Amnesty International said ahead of the vote on 8 November.

    November 05, 2015

    Malaysian authorities must immediately drop politically motivated charges against one of the country’s best-known cartoonists, who could face a long prison sentence for a series of tweets, Amnesty International said ahead of his trial, which is starting on 6 November.

    Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known by his pen name Zunar, is facing nine charges under Malaysia’s draconian Sedition Act – a colonial-era law the government is using to harass and silence critics. The charges relate to a series of tweets critical of the government that Zunar sent after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed on sodomy charges in February 2015.

    “These charges against Zunar are clearly politically motivated and must be dropped immediately. Zunar has for years highlighted government corruption and repression through his cartoons – this is what he is being punished for,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

    “It is absurd that Zunar is facing potentially decades in prison for a series of tweets.”

    November 04, 2015

    President Abdulla Yameen’s declaration of a 30 day state of emergency in the Maldives ahead of planned anti-government protests raises the prospect of further attacks on dissent and human rights in the country, said Amnesty International today.

    “The declaration of a state of emergency must not be a precursor to a further crackdown on dissent or other human rights violations. The government should not use this state of emergency to silence free speech or infringe on other human rights,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.

    “The Maldivian authorities have a disturbing track-record of supressing freedom of expression and any form of opposition, which has intensified over the last two years. It is vital that authorities respect their obligations under international human rights law during this period of emergency.”

    November 03, 2015

    The detention of three journalists arrested for publishing a story linking senior police officers to a poaching syndicate is a shocking attempt to threaten freedom of the press, said Amnesty International today, as it called for their immediate release.

    The editor of the state-controlled The Sunday Mail, Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and journalist Chinawo Farawo were arrested on 2 November 2015. They were charged with “publishing falsehoods” after implicating some senior police officers as part of a group behind elephant killings in Hwange National Park. They are set to appear in court tomorrow.

    “Arresting journalists on the basis of ‘publishing falsehoods’ has a chilling effect that may restrict the ability of the media to expose alleged criminal activities by the authorities,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “These actions create a climate of fear in Zimbabwe and perpetuate impunity.”

    November 02, 2015

    Malaysian authorities must halt plans to charge one of the organisers of a peaceful anti-government rally staged in August. These moves are clearly politically motivated and highlights a wider, vindictive push to silence others who took to the streets to voice their opposition, Amnesty International said.

    Police are expected to charge Maria Chin Abdullah, chairperson of the NGO coalition Bersih 2.0, on Tuesday 3 November under the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) for failing to give prior notice of at least ten days for a demonstration.

    In late August, Bersih 2.0 organised the Bersih 4 rally when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Malaysia to voice frustration with government corruption and human rights issues.

    “These vindictive charges against Maria Chin Abdullah are clearly politically motivated and should be dropped immediately. The authorities in Malaysia are trying to punish those who voice their opposition peacefully and create an overall climate of fear to deter other activists from doing the same,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Campaigns Director.

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