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Human Rights Defenders

    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. 

    December 09, 2015

    The Vietnamese authorities must put an end to a wave of vicious and violent attacks on human rights defenders and end the persistent impunity by ensuring those responsible are brought to justice, Amnesty International said.

    In the latest attack on Sunday 6 December, four activists – including prominent human rights lawyer and former prisoner of conscience Nguyễn Vãn Ðài – were abducted and beaten by a group of 20 men in plainclothes. They were returning from a public forum on constitutional rights in Nghệ An province, which the authorities had tried to shut down.

    “Brutal attacks on human rights defenders have become routine in Viet Nam yet no steps have been taken to bring those responsible to justice. This wave of violence must end immediately,” said John Coughlan, Amnesty International’s Viet Nam Researcher.

    “Peaceful activists in Viet Nam are working under harsh conditions and suffer impermissible restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It is outrageous that they have to risk both their health and liberty simply for speaking up for human rights.”

    December 01, 2015

    NGOs and human rights defenders have come under increased scrutiny and pressure from the Huthi armed group in areas of Yemen under its control over the past six months, said Amnesty International in a new statement published today.

    At least 27 NGOs have been raided and shut down since the Huthi armed group took control of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and human rights activists have reported coming under increased monitoring from the group and even received death threats towards their family members.

    “By harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and shutting down NGOs the Huthi armed group is fuelling a climate of repression and sending a clear message that dissenting voices will not be tolerated in areas under its control,” said James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International.

    November 27, 2015

    The six-year prison sentence against leading Chinese human rights campaigner Guo Feixiong for his peaceful advocacy of human rights and political reforms is a clear-cut act of political persecution, said Amnesty International today, as it called for his and two other activists immediate and unconditional release.

    Guo Feixiong, 48, the better-known pen-name of writer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong, was convicted of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, by a court in Guangzhou, southern China.

    Fellow activists, Liu Yuandong, 37, and Sun Desheng, 32, were sentenced to 3 years and 2 and a half years in prison respectively after being found guilty of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”.

    “It’s a dark day when people advocating for press freedom and democracy are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and sentenced to lengthy prison terms after sham trials,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    October 06, 2015

    Ahmed Mansoor was selected by a jury of 10 Global Human Rights organizations (See list below). The Award is given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk. The aim of the award is to provide protection through international recognition. Strongly supported by the City of Geneva, the Award will be presented on Oct. 6th.

    Ahmed Mansoor (United Arab Emirates)
    Since 2006, he has focused on initiatives concerning freedom of expression, civil and political rights. He successfully campaigned in 2006-2007 to support two people jailed for critical social comments, who were released and the charges dropped. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of UAE issued an order not to jail journalists in relation to their work. Mr Mansoor is one of the few voices within the United Arab Emirates who provides a credible independent assessment of human rights developments. He regularly raises concerns on arbitrary detention, torture, international standards for fair trials, non-independence of the judiciary, and domestic laws that violate international law.

    October 02, 2015

    A recent armed attack on a human rights defender and his 9-year-old son in a raid on their home in Caracas must be a wake-up call to the Venezuelan government to immediately ensure the effective protection of human rights defenders, said Amnesty International today.

    Marino Alvarado was attacked in his doorway as he arrived home with his son on 1 October, according to local rights group Provea. Three unknown attackers forced their way into the building brandishing 9mm calibre firearms and hitting Marino Alvarado on the head. In the 40 minute ordeal, they bound him and his son, raiding the apartment from which they took two laptops, a tablet, two phones, a camera and cash.

    “This appalling attack on Marino Alvarado and his child is only the latest in a disturbing string of attacks against human rights defenders in Venezuela,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Americas.

    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.

    September 27, 2015

    Released: 16:01 GMT Sunday 27 September, 2015

    The Chinese authorities must immediately release eight mainland activists detained for supporting last year’s pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Amnesty International said on the first anniversary of people taking to the streets in the city.

    Five of the activists, Su Changlan, Chen Qitang, Wang Mo, Xie Wenfei and Zhang Shengyu, have since been formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. A sixth person, Sun Feng, has been indicted with the same crime. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

    Two others, Ji Sizun and Ye Xiaozheng, could face up to five years in prison on the charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Ji Sizun faces an additional charge of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”, which also carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

    September 11, 2015

    Angolan authorities must drop the charge of “rebellion” against human rights activist José Marcos Mavungo and immediately and unconditionally free him, Amnesty International said today ahead of the court’s final decision on his case on 14 September 2015.

    “The trial against José Marcos Mavungo had nothing to do with justice. Instead it was designed to silence him and intimidate other human rights defenders in Angola,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “This trial is indicative of the shrinking human rights space in the country and Angolan authorities must release him and stop intimidating dissenting voices.”
    José Marcos Mavungo, who spent six months in pre-trial detention, was charged with “rebellion” after he was arrested on 14 March 2015 for helping to organize a peaceful demonstration against bad governance in Cabinda Province.

    Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

    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.”

    August 14, 2015

    Sixteen international organizations have joined the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in welcoming the release of its president Mazen Darwish and in calling for all charges against him and his colleagues to be dropped, as well as for the release of all other prisoners of conscience who remain detained by the Syrian authorities.

    Whilst welcoming this week’s release of Mazen Darwish and of his SCM colleagues Hani al-Zitani and Hussein Gharir last month we are extremely concerned that they continue to face charges of ‘publicizing terrorist acts’ and are due to face trial later this month. We continue to call for all charges against them to be dropped immediately and unconditionally, and for an end to the persecution and judicial harassment of the three men for their legitimate human rights work. The authorities in Syria must further guarantee that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

    August 13, 2015

    The eight-and-a-half and seven year sentences respectively handed down today to human rights defenders Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus show the continuous criminalization of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, Amnesty International said.

    Both were convicted for “fraud” and other crimes related to their NGO work at a trial in the capital Baku. International observers and journalists were refused entry to the court and only a handful of diplomats were allowed to attend.

    A charge of treason, purportedly spying for Armenia, is also pending against the couple, but it has been sent to a separate court for consideration.

    July 11, 2015

    The Chinese authorities must end their assault on human rights lawyers, Amnesty International said on Saturday, after more than 50 lawyers and activists were targeted by police in a nationwide crackdown.

      LATEST UPDATE
    3.30pm [Beijing time] Monday 13 July   Total number of lawyers and activists targeted: 101  
      Total number of lawyers and activists still missing or in police custody: 25   TAKE ACTION

    Prominent human rights lawyers Li Heping and Sui Muqing are among at least 20 people feared detained. All the individuals missing since the crackdown began on Thursday 9 July are well-known for their work on human rights cases.

    July 09, 2015

    The authorities must respect due process and ensure an impartial investigation in the case of 15 people, most of them human rights defenders and student activists, arrested yesterday in the capital Bogotá in connection with last week’s explosions in the city, Amnesty International said today.

    On 2 July, two small explosive devices were detonated in Bogotá leaving several people injured but no fatalities. The authorities attributed the attack to the guerrilla group National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN).

    In setting off these explosives in the city, with the high risk to civilian life that this entailed, those responsible clearly showed a complete disregard for human life.
    The authorities have a duty to investigate any criminal activity and bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility through an independent and impartial process which conforms to international law and standards.

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