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Human Rights Defenders

    June 18, 2015

    The Chinese government must release and drop all charges against three human rights campaigners about to be tried on state security charges for publishing books on democracy and activism, Amnesty International said today.

    Tang Jingling, Yuan Xinting, and Wang Qingying will be tried by Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court on Friday for “inciting subversion of state power”, a state security charge regularly levelled against human rights activists and peaceful critics of the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. They each face up to five years imprisonment.

    “This trial is another dark day for freedom of expression in China. It has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with arbitrarily silencing critics of the government,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Anything other than these men walking free will amount to a gross injustice.”

    May 15, 2015

    The Chinese authorities must end their persecution of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, and drop all charges against him, Amnesty International said.

    Pu Zhiqiang was indicted on the charges of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and "inciting ethnic hatred" by Beijing prosecutors on Friday, primarily on the basis of online comments he made. If convicted he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

    “The charges against Pu Zhiqiang are another act of political persecution. The chances of him receiving a fair trial are close to zero,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “He did nothing more than comment on current affairs on social media. The Chinese government is blatantly violating his freedom of expression and attempting to silence an independent voice.”

    Pu Zhiqiang was originally detained by police on 6 May 2014, after he attended a seminar in Beijing that called for an investigation into the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

    May 13, 2015

    The continued detention of two human rights defenders held on fabricated charges of ‘crimes against the security of the state’ is a blatant oppression of freedom of expression and a mockery of justice in Angola, said Amnesty International and four other human rights organizations two months after the men were arrested.

    Jose Marcos Mavungo and Arão Bula Tempo were arrested on 14 March 2015 solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in the country’s Cabinda region.

    Amnesty International, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the International Commission of Jurists and the SADC Lawyers' Association are calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

    “The use of state security and other crimes to punish those expressing critical opinions in Angola is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to crush dissent,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    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 13, 2015

    “I was not jailed because I represented myself, but because I defended the oppressed in my country. Don’t forget me. But most importantly do not forget those I was defending.”

    Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights defender and lawyer for imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, is currently serving a 15 year sentence in addition to a fine of 200,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately $67,000 CAD) and a 15-year travel ban. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his peaceful human rights work.

    March 30, 2015

    Released Monday 30 March 2015 00.01am GMT (01.01am BST)

    Amnesty International today launched a new campaign for the release of Congolese youth human rights activists held incommunicado in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 15 days. The activists were arrested on 15 March when security forces stormed a press conference on youth civic engagement in political processes in the run up to the country’s elections.

    “Through this campaign, Amnesty International members and the public will stand in solidarity with activists experiencing the brunt of Congo’s continued crackdown before next year’s presidential election,” said Christian Rumu, Amnesty International’s Campaigner for the Great Lakes Region.

    “We hope this public outcry will persuade the Congolese authorities to comply with their obligations to release the activists held incommunicado in Kinshasa, and send a clear message that infringement of fundamental rights to liberty and freedom from torture and ill-treatment are not acceptable.”

    March 23, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 24 March 2015

    Legendary folk singer Joan Baez and world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei – both committed activists – will be the joint recipients of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2015, the human rights organization announced today.

    Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award is the organization’s top honour, recognizing those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work.

    The Award will be presented at a ceremony in Berlin on 21 May 2015, with speakers including singer-songwriter Patti Smith.

    “The Ambassador of Conscience Award is a celebration of those unique individuals who have used their talents to inspire many, many others to take injustice personally. That is why both Joan Baez and Ai Weiwei make such worthy recipients; they are an inspiration to thousands more human rights activists, from across Asia to America and beyond,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. 

     

    March 03, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 4 March 2015

    Threats, physical violence and the imprisonment of government critics have become the hallmark of the Azerbaijan regime as the country prepares to host the first European Games, said Amnesty International in a new report released today, 100 days before the opening ceremony.

    Guilty of Defending Rights: Azerbaijan’s human rights defenders and activists behind bars highlights the mounting persecution of government critics, detained under false charges, beaten and threatened and deprived of urgent medical care and lawyers.

    “No-one should be fooled by the glitz and glamour of the international show Azerbaijan is putting on to portray a squeaky-clean international reputation and attract foreign business. Its authorities are among the most repressive in Europe and would certainly be on the medal winning podium if prizes were on offer for the number of activists and rights defenders behind bars,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.  

    January 15, 2015

    The Mauritanian authorities must release three activists - including a prominent opposition politician - jailed today for holding anti-slavery rallies, Amnesty International said.

    Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protestors in front of the court who were demonstrating against the judgment.

    The court in the southern town of Rosso handed down two-year sentences to three anti-slavery activists and human rights defenders, Brahim Bilal, Djiby Sow and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, a former presidential candidate. They have been convicted of membership of an unrecognized organization and of taking part in an unauthorized assembly. Seven other activists were acquitted.

    “The conviction of these activists for taking part in peaceful protests on charges which are vague and open to abuse violates their human rights to free expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,’’ said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa Researcher.

    December 14, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 15 December 2104

    Russian authorities should act to end a campaign of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders in Chechnya, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today after the office of a local human rights group was burned down. They should also offer genuine protection to all activists threatened for doing their work.

    In the evening of December 13 the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) ,a human rights organization that works with non-governmental organizations from other Russian regions, was destroyed in a fire in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in a suspected arson attack.

    “These acts of intimidation are part of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the region. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov appears to bewaging a personal campaign against the Joint Mobile Group and its leader Igor Kalyapin,” said Anna Neistat, senior director ofresearch at Amnesty International.

    December 09, 2014

    Campaigners, lawyers, journalists, community leaders and trade unionists, all human rights defenders who put their lives and liberty at risk in the fight for human rights, continue to suffer intimidation, harassment and violence across Latin America and the Caribbean according to a new Amnesty International report published today.

    Launching on International Human Rights Defenders Day, Defending Human Rights in the Americas: Necessary, Legitimate and Dangerous gives an overview on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas region. The report focuses primarily on over 200 cases of attacks and abuses on which Amnesty International took action during the last two years.
     
    “The tragic reality is that many human rights defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean are constantly persecuted and attacked in reprisal for their work. In various countries we have seen a worrying and shameful increase in the rate at which defenders suffer violence and repression just for standing up for human rights and justice,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    November 20, 2014

    Trials of two leading activists on Friday will lay bare the Chinese authorities’ duplicity over the rule of law, Amnesty International said. 

    Gao Yu, 70, a highly respected journalist, is accused of sharing state secrets and could face a life sentence if convicted at her trial in Beijing, which is being held behind closed doors.

    In a separate case on the other side of the country, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, prominent Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, 45, is due to learn the outcome of his appeal against a life sentence for “separatism”, handed down on 23 September. Both cases have been marked by serious legal failures including the use of torture and other ill-treatment.

    “If Gao Yu and Ilham Tohti were to receive genuinely fair hearings, the charges against them would be dismissed as blatant political persecution,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.  

    October 07, 2014

    Alejandra Ancheita has been selected by the International Human Rights Community as the 2014 Martin Ennals Award Laureate.

    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 7 October.

    Alejandra Ancheita (Mexico), Founder and Executive Director of ProDESC  For over 15 years she has worked with migrants, workers and indigenous communities to protect their land and labour rights vis a vis transnational mining and energy companies. These disputes have included violent attacks on those she is trying to protect. She is also one of the pioneers in seeking accountability for transnational companies in Mexican courts when local communities’ rights are not taken into account. In Mexico, there is a clear pattern of attacks, threats, criminalization and murders of human rights defenders. Ms Ancheita and ProDESC have been subjected to surveillance, a defamation campaign in the national media and a break in at their offices.

    September 12, 2014

    Today’s arrest of the suspects in the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai offers an important opportunity for the authorities to address their poor record in protecting human rights defenders in Pakistan, Amnesty International said.

    “By her words and deeds, the brave education rights activist Malala Yousafzai proved that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher.

    “But human rights defenders promoting the rights of women and girls in her native Swat and across Pakistan remain especially at risk of deadly attacks and other abuse from the Taliban and other groups, not least because of the authorities’ continued failure to hold the perpetrators to account.

    “Human rights defenders play a critical role in promoting the rights of everyone in Pakistan society. With the world watching, it is critical that Pakistan seizes this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, justice and rule of law.”

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