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Human Rights Defenders

    August 04, 2016

    The Chinese authorities must end their relentless suppression of human rights lawyers and activists, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent lawyer became the latest to be convicted after an unfair trial.

    On Thursday, Zhou Shifeng was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of “subverting state power”, following a trial that lasted less than a day at Tianjin No.2 People’s Court in north east China.

    On Wednesday this week, democracy activist Hu Shigen was sentenced to seven-and-a half-years for “subverting state power”, and on Tuesday activist Zhai Yanmin was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, after being convicted of the same charge.

    “This wave of trials against lawyers and activists are a political charade. Their fate was sealed before they stepped into the courtroom and there was no chance that they would ever receive a fair trial,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    August 01, 2016

    Authorities in Mauritania must drop all charges and immediately and unconditionally release 13 anti-slavery activists arbitrarily detained in an attempt to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, Amnesty International and 16 other civil society organisations said today. 

    The activists will appear before a court on 3 August in the capital Nouakchott accused of rebellion, use of violence, attack against public authority, armed assembly and membership of an unrecognised organization. If convicted, they face a fine and a jail term of up to two years.

    “These activists are prisoners of conscience who have been falsely accused and are behind bars in order to impede their legitimate work. They have been targeted persistently for their views and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Kiné Fatim Diop Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner.  

    “The long-time persecution has no legal justification. The authorities must end their rule of fear and repression on anti-slavery activists.”

    July 25, 2016

    The Thai authorities must immediately drop the criminal investigation against three of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, including the chair of Amnesty International Thailand, who could be charged tomorrow for documenting and publishing a report about torture by Thai security forces, the organization warned.

    Somchai Homla-or, Anchana Heemmina, and Porpen Khongkaconkiet, who was appointed Chair of the Amnesty International Thailand board last month, face the prospect of five years behind bars and a fine of US $4,800 if found guilty on charges of “criminal defamation” and “computer crimes”. The three are due to report to Pattani police station on 26 July.

    “At a time when the Thai government has promised to introduce anti-torture legislation, it is a cruel paradox that they are harassing activists for exposing the abhorrent practice,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    July 07, 2016

    Bahraini authorities must immediately release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and drop all charges against him ahead of his trial next week over Twitter posts criticizing the war in Yemen and allegations of torture in Bahrain’s main prison, Amnesty International said today, reiterating its call on the government to end its barefaced assault on freedom of expression.

    The European Parliament also called for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate and unconditional release today in an urgent resolution that expressed grave concern over the ongoing campaign of repression of human rights defenders, political opposition and civil society. Bahrain has witnessed a month of intensified clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and movement.

    July 04, 2016

    Bodies dumped in river after enforced disappearance

    (Nairobi, July 4, 2016) - Kenyan authorities must urgently investigate the killing last week of three men, including a human rights lawyer, and ensure that those found responsible are held to account in fair trials, 34 Kenyan and international human rights organizations said today.  Human rights activists will today hold demonstrations in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya today to protest the heinous killings.

    The shocking abduction, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings of lawyer Willie Kimani, as well as his client and their taxi driver that day, whose bodies were recovered from a river 73 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, should be cause for alarm over the state of human rights and rule of law in Kenya, especially in the face of reports suggesting that police officers were involved. 

    June 20, 2016

    The Thai authorities must reverse their decision to charge three prominent human rights defenders with criminal defamation and computer crimes for documenting and publishing details of human rights violations in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    “Instead of using broad and vague laws to target human rights defenders, the Thai authorities should be following up on the reports of alleged torture and other ill-treatment, with a view to holding those responsible accountable,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.

    The three well-known Thai activists, Somchai Homla-or, Pornpen Khongkhachonkiet, and Anchana Heemmima, have all been summoned to appear at Pattani Police station on 26 July 2016, to face charges of criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crimes Act.

    June 02, 2016

    The life of a wrongfully imprisoned Iranian Kurdish human rights defender and journalist rests in the Iranian authorities’ hands, said Amnesty International. He is gravely ill in hospital nearly a month into an ongoing hunger strike.

    The 54-year old prisoner of conscience Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, who is approaching the end of a decade-long prison sentence on fabricated charges, has been on hunger strike since 8 May. He is protesting against the authorities’ efforts to condemn him to a further prison sentence on a spurious charge of ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ from inside the prison.

    “Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has already spent close to a decade in prison simply for doing his legitimate human rights work and journalism. The fact that the authorities are building a fresh case against him so close to his release date suggests they are plumbing new depths in their efforts to keep this resolute defender of human rights behind bars,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    May 29, 2016

    Saudi Arabia’s authorities today continued their relentless efforts to stamp out independent human rights activism by sentencing another key activist to eight years in prison, Amnesty International said today.

    Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, is the only active founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), an independent human rights organization, who is not behind bars. He was tried at the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) and sentenced under a repressive counter-terrorism law. He faced a number of different charges which included “communicating with foreign organizations” and providing information to Amnesty International for use in two of its reports. He also faces an eight-year travel ban, during which time he is forbidden from writing on social media.

    May 20, 2016

    Today’s release of human rights defender, José Marcos Mavungo, after the Angola Supreme Tribunal upheld his appeal against a six year sentence is a long overdue triumph for justice, said Amnesty International.

    He has served over a year in prison following his arrest on 14 March 2015. He was convicted on 14 September for ‘rebellion’ for his involvement in organizing a peaceful demonstration. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience.

    “José Marcos Mavungo was merely exercising his rights to freedom of assembly and association and his arrest and subsequent trial on rebellion charge was a travesty of justice,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “Whilst his release is cause for celebration, José Marcos Mavungo should never have spent a single minute in jail. The decision by the Angola Supreme Tribunal demonstrates that there are still judges who are guided by the rule of law.”

    Background

    May 19, 2016

    The shocking 16-year prison sentence against prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who has several serious, chronic illnesses, represents an all-out attack on human rights defenders in Iran, and demonstrates how Iran’s abusive criminal justice system is used as a tool of repression, said Amnesty International.

    Narges Mohammadi, a distinguished human rights defender, a supporter of the anti-death penalty campaign Legam (Step by Step to Abolish the Death Penalty) and vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was sentenced by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran which convicted her of several trumped-up national security related offences in connection with her human rights work. The verdict was communicated to her lawyer on 17 May.

    May 19, 2016

    Prominent Egyptian human rights defender, Mina Thabet, Director of the Minority and Religious Groups Department at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was arrested today as the government escalates its assault on Egypt’s NGO community.  He was seized during a raid on his home in Cairo in the early hours of this morning by members of the Egyptian National Security Agency, who ill-treated him and his family members and refused to disclose his place of detention.

    “Mina Thabet is a pillar of Egypt’s human rights community. He has tirelessly worked to defend the rights of minority groups, including Coptic Christians whom the government has suppressed for decades. His arrest is a flagrant attack against freedom of expression and association and provides damning proof of the Egyptian authorities’ vindictive resolve to silence anyone who dares to challenge the government’s narrative,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    May 09, 2016

    Pakistani authorities are failing to protect human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today.

    The murder of Khurram Zaki, a human rights defender and former journalist, who was gunned down at a restaurant in Karachi on 8 May 2016 marks the latest such killing of a noted Pakistani human rights defender in recent years.

    “As a human rights defender, Khurram Zaki, who was known to face threats from violent groups, deserved protection from those who meant him harm,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

    “Pakistani authorities must immediately initiate a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into his murder and bring his killers to justice.”

    Zaki’s death comes as human rights defenders across Pakistan were marking the anniversaries of the killings of activist Sabeen Mahmud, who was shot dead in Karachi on 24 April 2015, and lawyer Rashid Rahman, who was killed at his office in Multan on 7 May 2014.

    May 04, 2016

    The Cambodian authorities and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) must immediately end its ongoing and unlawful campaign to dismantle the political opposition and undermine the invaluable and legitimate work of the country’s human rights’ groups and political commentators. It is time for the international community to step in and to call on Cambodia to end this campaign which threatens to fatally undermine the Cambodian people’s constitutionally and internationally protected rights.

    On 2 May 2016, four staff members from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, and Lem Mony, were arrested and charged with bribing a witness along with former ADHOC staff member and current deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee, Ny Chakrya, who was charged as an accomplice. The Anti-Corruption Unit also issued an arrest warrant for Soen Saly, an officer of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), despite his immunity from arrest granted under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. He is also charged as an accomplice.

    April 24, 2016

    The sentencing of human rights activist Issa al-Hamid to nine years in prison and a travel ban of equal duration is the latest evidence of the Saudi Arabian authorities’ resolve to continue their ruthless onslaught against civil society in the Kingdom, said Amnesty International.

    Issa al-Hamid is a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), an independent human rights organization. The majority of its founding members are currently serving lengthy prison terms for their peaceful human rights activism and calls for reform.

    April 07, 2016

    The vicious killing of another secular activist in Bangladesh is a grave reminder that the authorities are failing to protect people exercising their right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    Four masked men attacked Nazimuddin Samad, 28, with a machete in Dhaka late last night before shooting him dead. No one has claimed responsibility, but the killing fits the pattern of other similar attacks on secular activists by radical Islamist groups over the past year.

    “There can be no justification for the brutal killing of Nazimuddin Samad, who has apparently paid with his life for nothing but being brave enough to speak his mind. This is not just a senseless murder, it is a blatant attack on the right to freedom of expression,” said Champa Patel, South Asia Director from Amnesty International.

    Nazimuddin Samad was a student activist who had organised campaigns for secularism on social media. He was named on a “hit list” of 84 bloggers published by a group of radical Islamists in 2013.

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