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Human Rights Defenders

    July 30, 2014

    The persecution of human rights activists continues unabated in Azerbaijan, in spite of the obligations the country committed to as a member of Council of Europe and currently a chair of its decision making body, the Committee of Ministers, Amnesty International said today.  

    The latest human rights defender to be targeted by the Azerbaijani authorities is Leyla Yunus who was detained today on her way to a press conference in the capital Baku. Her husband Arif Yunus was also briefly detained while visiting her in the Baku prosecutor’s office.
    “Leyla Yunus is yet another independent voice in Azerbaijan who, for a long time, the government has tried to silence through threats and intimidation. Failing to achieve this they have now resorted to trumped up charges and detention in order to punish her for criticising the government,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s researcher on Azerbaijan.

    July 22, 2014

    Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent human rights lawyer and a founding member of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is serving a 13-year imprisonment in Evin prison. The Iranian government forcibly shut down the CHRD in December 2008.

    He was arrested on 10 September 2011 on charges including “spreading propaganda against the system”, “setting up an illegal opposition group [the CHRD]”, and “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security.” This is not the first time Abdolfattah Soltani has faced charges for his work as a human rights defender.

    Abdolfattah Soltani and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, served as a lawyer for the family of slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in Evin prison from beatings sustained after her arrest in July 2003. He also served as a lawyer for leaders of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i community, trade unionists, and other political prisoners.

    June 27, 2014

    By upholding a draconian requirement for three more independent organizations to register as “foreign agents”, a Moscow court is rubber stamping the authorities’ witch hunt against peaceful human rights defenders, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to silence any form of dissent or criticism is astonishing. This week’s decision will further cripple civil society in Russia and have a disastrous impact on thousands of Russians who will see their chances of having their human rights protected greatly diminished,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.  

    On 24, 26 and 27 June, the Zamoskvoretskiy district court in Moscow ruled against appeals by the NGOs Golos, Yurix and Public Verdict not to have to register as “foreign agents”. The registration is required under the repressive “Foreign Agents Law” enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012.

    June 26, 2014

    The Libyan authorities must ensure that yesterday’s killing of a leading human rights activist in Benghazi is properly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice, Amnesty International said.

    Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer who played a prominent role in organizing protests at the start of the uprising that overthrew Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, was shot dead at her home in Benghazi by unknown assailants on the day Libyans voted for a new parliament.

    “The shocking, ruthless killing of Salwa Bugaighis robs Libyan civil society of one it’s most courageous and esteemed figures. But sadly she is by no means the first activist struck down during the political violence that has plagued the country since the uprising and in its aftermath,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    June 25, 2014

    A prominent Saudi Arabian activist convicted today for speaking out on the human rights situation in his country should have his sentence quashed, Amnesty International said amid an ongoing crackdown on rights groups.

    Fowzan al-Harbi, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was sentenced to seven years in prison and a travel ban of equal duration by a court in the capital Riyadh after being convicted on a range of spurious charges related to his human rights work.

    “Fowzan al-Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “His sentence should be quashed immediately and he should walk free from the court. He should never have faced trial in the first place.”

    June 22, 2014
    Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger •First hours after arrest crucial window of opportunity to mobilize action •The press of a button sends an immediate SMS distress signal to activists’ own networks  Fast to activate and hard to detect Tried and tested with more than 100 users in 17 countries

    A new Panic Button app, to give human rights defenders urgent help from their own networks when facing attack, kidnapping, or torture is now available for public download on Google Playstore, announced Amnesty International today.

    The ‘Panic Button’ mobile app for Android, developed by Amnesty International in collaboration with iilab, activists, tech experts and volunteers from around the world, transforms a user’s smart phone into a secret alarm which can be activated rapidly in the event of an emergency, alerting fellow activists to the danger their colleague faces so that they can get help faster.

    June 19, 2014

    Three anti-corruption activists have been imprisoned today simply for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly and should be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said.

    Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping were sentenced to six and a half years’ imprisonment by the Yushui District Court in Xinyu City, Jiangxi Province, while Li Sihua was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

    All three of them were originally charged with “illegal assembly” – which was later changed to the more serious charge of “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance”. Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping were additionally charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement”.

    June 13, 2014

    The Chinese authorities must drop spurious charges against a prominent human rights lawyer and immediately release him, said Amnesty International.

    Pu Zhiqiang was formally arrested on 13 June for “picking quarrels” and “illegally obtaining personal information”. He was originally detained by police on 6 May after he attended a seminar in Beijing that called for an investigation into the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

    “These are trumped up charges against Pu Zhiqiang. The Chinese authorities must end the witch-hunt against those championing the rights of others and immediately release Pu," said William Nee, Amnesty International’s China Researcher.

    "It was a deeply disturbing sign when Pu was first detained. The past month has seen a widespread campaign of repression with the authorities going further than in previous years, both in terms of who has been targeted and the harsh measures being used.”


    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332

    June 02, 2014

    The Turkmenistani authorities must grant a retrial to an unfairly imprisoned human rights activist who has hours to live following a 14-day dry hunger strike, Amnesty International said today.

    Mansur Mingelov has refused all food or drink since 19 May in protest at the 22-year sentence for alleged drug and child pornography offences passed down after an unfair trial. Prison doctors say he is in a critical condition.

    The 39-year-old was arrested in 2012 after recording evidence of police torture from detainees from Turkmenistan’s Baloch ethnic community.

    “Mansur Mingelov was imprisoned after an unfair trial after daring to expose police human rights violations against an ethnic minority group,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.

    “The Turkmenistani authorities can avert his death by abiding by their obligations and granting Mansur Mingelov a fair trial.”

    May 23, 2014

    A Moscow court has upped the ante in the Russian government’s assault on independent civil society by refusing to overturn an order forcing a leading human rights organisation to register as a “foreign agent”.

    In the spring of 2013 the Prosecutors Office ordered several Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Human Rights Centre Memorial, Golos, Public Verdict and Jurix, which were in court today, to register as “foreign agents” under draconian new legislation introduced last year.

    Today Memorial lost its case. The hearings in the cases of the other three NGOs, Public Verdict, Golos and Jurix have been postponed.

    “The hearing was a grim farce. The court had the opportunity to uphold the right to freedom of association. Instead, it has helped the authorities put another nail in its coffin,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

    May 20, 2014

    (Berlin, May 20, 2014) – Turkmenistani authorities have barred the family of one of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders from traveling abroad, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said today. The Turkmenistani government should immediately end its longstanding practice of banning government critics and their family members from foreign travel, the groups said.

    On April 10, 2014, Turkmenistani authorities barred Ruslan Tukhbatullin from flying to Istanbul to visit his brother, Farid. Farid Tukhbatullin is the head of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, one of the most prominent human rights groups working on Turkmenistan. He has lived in exile in Austria since 2003, after he was released from prison in Turkmenistan. He had been convicted of politically motivated charges and pressured by the authorities to leave the country.

    May 02, 2014

    The Belarusian government has scored its own goal by cracking down on civil society in a bid to silence dissenters ahead of the Ice Hockey World Championship, which opens 9 May in Minsk, said Amnesty International as it starts a new campaign calling for the immediate release of peaceful activists.

    Civil society activists are currently working in an atmosphere of heightened repression in Belarus. In the last 10 days, 16 have been arrested and detained.

    “Instead of cleaning up their act ahead of the championship, the Belarusian authorities have preferred to silence those they feared would expose abuses. As criticism is increasingly quashed within Belarus, it must come more forcefully from abroad,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of the Europe and Central Asia programme at Amnesty International.

    April 23, 2014

    This award is selected by the International Human Rights Community (See Jury Below) and given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk. The aim of the award is to highlight their work and protect them through increased visibility.

    Cao Shunli (China): Her death in detention was announced on March 14 th. She disappeared on Sept 14th shortly before boarding a flight in order to participate in the Human Rights Council. Chinese authorities only acknowledged her detention months later. She died in custody after being denied medical attention for known health conditions until it was too late. Since 2008, she vigorously advocated for access to information, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. For this, she spent over two years in the “re-education through labour” system and was subjected to repeated harassment. This is a tragic example of reprisals suffered by human rights defenders who work with international human rights mechanisms.

    April 11, 2014
    A court in Beijing has rejected an appeal by Chinese human rights activist Xu Zhiyong (left) against a four year jail sentence.© Private

    A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International.

    A court in Beijing on Friday rejected Xu Zhiyong’s appeal against his conviction in January for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”
    “Today’s ruling makes a mockery of justice as the decision was a foregone conclusion. The shock would have been if the appeals court had overturned the guilty verdict.  Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement.”

    April 04, 2014

    Amnesty International has paid tribute to Dinh Dang Dinh, the Vietnamese environmental activist, blogger and former prisoner of conscience, who has died aged 50.

    The activist was unjustly jailed in 2011 after starting a petition against a mining project and was diagnosed with cancer while in prison.

    The authorities only allowed Dinh Dang Dinh to be treated in hospital from January 2014, where he was kept under constant surveillance. He was released temporarily on medical grounds in February, before being released permanently in March.

    Dinh Dang Dinh died of stomach cancer at his home in Dak Nong province in Viet Nam’s Central Highlands yesterday evening.

    “We join human rights defenders in Viet Nam and across the world in mourning the loss of Dinh Dang Dinh and express our deepest condolences to his family,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “It is a tragedy that the Vietnamese authorities stole the last years of Dinh Dang Dinh’s life, locking him up away from his loved ones.”


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