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Freedom of Expression

    June 13, 2016

    The Israeli military today renewed for six months the detention of Palestinian circus performer Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha, who has been held without charge since his arrest in December 2015, in a case that exemplifies the authorities’ arbitrary and repressive use of administrative detention, said Amnesty International.

    Mohammad Abu Sakha performs as a clown and teaches at the Palestinian Circus School in Birzeit, near Ramallah, where he specializes in working with children with learning difficulties.

    “The arbitrary detention of Mohammad Abu Sakha is yet another shameful example of the Israeli authorities’ abusive use of administrative detention. He has already spent more than six months behind bars without being charged or allowed to stand trial - he has been denied even the slightest semblance of justice,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    “The Israeli authorities must either charge Mohammad Abu Sakha with a genuine criminal offence or order his release. For decades, Israel has relied upon administrative detention, in many cases as an alternative to bringing

    June 03, 2016

    The Fijian parliament must overturn the suspension of an opposition MP for merely exercising her right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    “Parliaments can only be worthy of their name when all members can speak freely on all issues,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    “Unless this suspension is immediately reversed, the Fijian authorities are proving they are intent on silencing critical voices.”

    Tupou Draunidalo, an indigenous Fijian parliamentarian and member of the National Federation Party was suspended following a parliamentary motion on 3 June 2016 for calling a government minister “a fool” while responding to comments deriding opposition members of parliament.

    Draunidalo asked the government minister if he was suggesting herself and other indigenous members of the opposition were “dumb natives”.

    May 23, 2016

    Vietnamese authorities must end their crackdown on peaceful protesters and release all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International said today.

    As Viet Nam hosts US President Barack Obama on a three-day visit, the authorities have pressed ahead with their assault on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly by arresting six peaceful activists and orchestrating a campaign of intimidation and harassment against dozens more.

    “Even as it faces the glare of global attention with the US President’s visit, the Vietnamese authorities, shamefully, are carrying out their repressive business as usual,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    The six peaceful activists who have been arrested in recent days are: Nancy Nguyễn, Nguyễn Viết Dũng, Phạm Đoan Trang, Vũ Huy Hoàng, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, and Nguyễn Bá Vinh.

    May 21, 2016

    The Bangladeshi authorities’ treatment of a prominent 81-year-old journalist, who has been held in solitary confinement for several weeks and denied medical care for chronic and life threatening health conditions, is an act of cruelty, Amnesty International said today.

    Shafik Rehman, editor of the monthly Mouchake Dhil magazine, was arrested on 16 April suspected of being involved in a plot to assassinate Sajib Wazed Joy, the son of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

    “The Bangladeshi authorities must end the prolonged solitary confinement of Shafik Rahman and ensure his well-being. It is absolutely shocking that an 81-year-old diabetic man with a history of heart problems is being denied the medical care he needs,” said Champa Patel, Director of Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office.

    According to Shafik Rehman’s lawyer and family members, he has been kept in isolation since 27 April in Kashimpur Central Jail, a maximum security prison, where he is not allowed to interact with other prisoners. He has had minimal access to both his legal team and family members since he was first arrested.

    May 18, 2016

    The Algerian authorities must end their relentless efforts to silence peaceful protesters, said Amnesty International ahead of the start of the trial tomorrow of four protesters from the southern city of Ouargla who are facing up to a year in prison for taking part in protests against unemployment in Algeria’s oil capital, Hassi Messaoud.

    Prominent activist Tahar Belabes, a member of the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC), and three other CNDDC members have been charged with taking part in “unarmed gatherings” in 2015. If convicted, all four men could face up to a year in jail.

    “Imprisoning Tahar Belabes and his colleagues simply for taking part in peaceful protests would be an outrageous attack on the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Their only ‘crime’ appears to be that they stood up for the rights of the unemployed. They should not even be on trial – let alone facing a possible prison term. The charges against them should be dropped immediately,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    May 17, 2016

    Yesterday’s brutal crackdown by Kenyan police against protesters must be urgently and impartially investigated, said Amnesty International.

    Police descended on a crowd of largely peaceful protesters hitting many of them with batons, lobbing tear gas at them and spraying them with water cannons. In one video widely shared on social media, three policemen were seen kicking and beating a protester after he had collapsed by the roadside. Some media reports say the individual later died of his injuries.

    “The brutal beatings by police yesterday amount to arbitrary and abusive use of force, which is illegal under Kenyan, regional and international law,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    May 06, 2016

    The Ethiopian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a prominent opposition politician facing a possible death sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges over comments he posted on Facebook, said Amnesty International.

    Yonatan Tesfaye, the spokesman of the opposition Semayawi (Blue) party, was arbitrarily arrested in December 2015 and held in lengthy pre-trial detention for comments he posted on Facebook. The government says his posts against a government plan to extend the capital’s administrative authority to the Oromia region were in pursuit of the objectives of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which it considers a terrorist organisation.

    “The Ethiopian authorities have increasingly labelled all opposition to them as terrorism. Yonatan Tesfaye spoke up against a possible land grab in Oromia, which is not a crime and is certainly not terrorism,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “He and many others held under similar circumstances should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    May 04, 2016

    Amnesty International deplores the mass arrests of Papuan political activists by the Indonesian police forces both in Papua region and other provinces in the country. They were arrested solely for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Those who remain detained must be immediately and unconditionally released.

    Around 1,700 Papuan activists were arrested on 2 May after they organised and participated in a series of peaceful demonstrations in Jayapura, Merauke, Fakfak, Sorong and Wamena in Papua and West Papua provinces, in Semarang, Central Java province and in Makassar, South Sulawesi province.

    April 28, 2016

    The Chinese government must scrap a new law aimed at further smothering civil society, Amnesty International said today.

    China’s National People’s Congress adopted on 28 April a fundamentally flawed law governing Foreign NGOs and their domestic partners. The new law will have severe consequences for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, which are already sharply curtailed under existing laws and policies.

    “The authorities – particularly the police – will have virtually unchecked powers to target NGOs, restrict their activities, and ultimately stifle civil society,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. 

    “The law presents a very real threat to the legitimate work of independent NGOs and should be immediately revoked.”

    The law is the latest in a raft of legislation aimed at bolstering government power under the guise of national security and at the cost of human rights. A sweeping National Security Law, passed in July 2015, defines “national security” in such broad and vague terms that the authorities are essentially given carte blanche.

    April 27, 2016

    Thailand’s military government is brazenly seeking to shut down debate ahead of a referendum on a draft constitution, Amnesty International said today.

    At least a dozen Facebook commenters have been detained or charged on 27 April under a draconian new Order issued by the head of the military government. The arrests come after they commented on the controversial draft of a new constitution Thailand’s military government is seeking to impose.

    The Facebook users who were charged under the law now face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht ($5,715).

    “If ordinary people cannot comment on a Facebook post without facing the threat of 10 years behind bars and a hefty fine, what hope is there for any open and honest debate on the military government’s draft constitution?” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Director of Campaigns for South East Asia.

    April 21, 2016

    Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release four academics detained for signing a petition critical of the government’s security operations in southeast Turkey and for speaking out at a press conference, said Amnesty International on the eve of their trial hearing.

    “These four academics have been held in pre-trial detention for almost a month on baseless charges of making propaganda for a terrorist organization, when in actual fact all they did was express their concern for human rights abuses in their country, as it is their right to do so,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

    “They must be released from prison immediately and unconditionally and all charges against them dropped. Nothing they have said or done in their appeals for peace can justify arbitrary detention. Amnesty International will campaign for their release as long as this sham trial continues.”

    April 20, 2016

    The brutal killing of an 18-year-old Sudanese university student by intelligence agents yesterday must be urgently and impartially investigated, Amnesty International said today, as repression of students in the country intensifies.

    Abubakar Hassan Mohamed Taha, a first year engineering student at the University of Kordofan in Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan State, died of a gunshot wound to the head. Another 27 students were injured, five of them seriously.

    “This violent attack is yet another shocking episode in a series of human rights violations against university students across Sudan and underlines the government’s determination to put out the last vestiges of dissent,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. 

    “The reprehensible violence by state agents against the students must be thoroughly and impartially investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”

    April 19, 2016

    The brutal assault by Zimbabwe's state security agents on the brother of the abducted pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara must be urgently and impartially investigated and those responsible brought to justice, Amnesty International said today.

    State security agents punched and beat Patson Dzamara with batons and later forced him to drink about four litres of water after he staged a peaceful demonstration at Independence Day celebrations attended by President Robert Mugabe on 18 April at Harare's National Sports Stadium.

    Patson Dzamara held up a placard reading “Independent but not free – where is my brother Itai” near a VIP tent when up to 10 security agents set upon him.

    “The brutal attack on Patson Dzamara for simply lifting a placard is yet further evidence that the Zimbabwean government is prepared to lash out at anyone highlighting its appalling human rights record,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    April 18, 2016

                                 Reverse Worrying Spike in Repression

    The suspicious death in custody of opposition political leader Solo Sandeng and the arrest of his party leader, Ousainu Darboe, and other party members in recent days underscore the repressive nature of the Gambia’s government, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and ARTICLE 19 said today.

    The groups said the government of President Yahya Jammeh should ensure an independent and impartial investigation into Sandeng’s death, immediately release all peaceful protesters and free Alhagie Ceesay, a journalist arbitrarily detained since July 2015 and currently gravely ill in hospital. 

    April 16, 2016
    Authorities in Gambia must immediately investigate the death in detention of a well-known political activist and release all other peaceful protestors who have been detained, Amnesty International said today.   According to information received by Amnesty International, Solo Sandeng, the National Organizing Secretary of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), died in detention shortly after his arrest for participating in a peaceful protest. The circumstances of his death are as yet unknown.   Another UDP member, Fatoumata Jawara, is also detained and is believed to be suffering from serious injuries. The cause of her injuries is unclear but Amnesty International is deeply concerned for her welfare. Both opposition members were arrested by the police on Thursday 14 April following a peaceful protest in advance of December’s elections.    
    April 13, 2016

    Today’s decision to suspend the Mejlis, a representative body of ethnic Crimean Tatars in Crimea, demolishes one of the few remaining rights of a minority that Russia must protect instead of persecute, said Amnesty International.

    The decision – announced by the de facto prosecutor of Crimea, Natalia Poklonskaya – signals a new wave of repression against Crimean Tatar people. It comes after increased attacks to the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine two years ago.

    “Anyone associated with the Mejlis could now face serious charges of extremism as a result of this ban, which is aimed at snuffing out the few remaining voices of dissent in Crimea,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “The decision to suspend the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and ban all its activities under Russia’s anti-extremism legislation is a repugnant punitive step denying members of the Crimean Tatar community the right to freedom of association.”

    April 08, 2016

    The release of dozens of student protesters in Myanmar is a step forward for human rights that should pave the way for the new government to release all remaining prisoners of conscience and amend or repeal all laws that fuel arbitrary arrests, Amnesty International said.

    The Tharawaddy Court in Myanmar today dropped charges against scores of students facing jail for largely peaceful protests in March 2015. The move came after the new government announced on 7 April that it would work to release all prisoners of conscience as soon as possible.

    “Today’s release of most of the student protesters is a huge step forward for human rights in Myanmar, and we are delighted that these men and women will walk free. It sends a strong message about the new government’s intention to end the cycle of political arrest and detention in Myanmar. We are now looking forward to the release of all other prisoners of conscience - including those students who are facing charges in other courts. The new government must ensure that no prisoner of conscience is left in jail,” said Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Myanmar Researcher.

    March 24, 2016

    Myanmar’s new government will take office with a historic opportunity to change course on human rights but must break away from the deeply repressive legal framework that for years has fuelled arbitrary arrests and repression, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    New expression meets old repression urges Aung San Suu Kyi and the upcoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience still behind bars when it takes office in early April.

    “Myanmar’s legal framework reads like a textbook of repression, and authorities have in recent years increasingly used it to silence dissent,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Director.

    “To break the vicious cycle of political arrests, the new government must prioritize reforming the legal code to ensure that speaking out is no longer a crime, and it must release all those imprisoned simply for doing so.

    March 23, 2016

    Human rights activists risk prosecution, asset freezes

    In recent weeks, the Egyptian authorities have summoned human rights workers for questioning, banned them from travel and attempted to freeze their personal funds and family assets. These steps indicate that a five-year-old investigation into the funding and registration of independent human rights groups could soon result in criminal charges, 14 international organizations said today.

    The authorities should halt their persecution of these groups and drop the investigation, which could threaten human rights defenders with up to 25 years in prison, the organizations said.

    “Egypt’s civil society is being treated like an enemy of the state, rather than a partner for reform and progress,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    March 22, 2016

    The trial and continuing detention of a blogger and his assistant who have already spent almost two years in jail is farcical and a blight on the country’s human rights record, said Amnesty International ahead of the opening hearing in Ha Noi tomorrow.

    The organization is calling for the immediate release of Nguyễn Hữu Vinh, founder of the popular blogsite Anh Ba Sàm, and his assistant Nguyễn Thị Minh Thúy who were arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms” in May 2014 in connection with political blogs which were critical of government policies. The pair face a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment if convicted.

    “This is a textbook example of the authorities’ stamping out legitimate criticism and perpetuating a climate of fear in which people are forced to think twice before expressing themselves and asking questions of government,” said Champa Patel, Director of South East Asia Regional Office.

    March 18, 2016

    The Egyptian authorities are expected to freeze the assets of two prominent human rights defenders and their family members tomorrow as part of an investigation into foreign funding of NGOs. The move is yet another blatant attempt to paralyse civil society in Egypt that leaves no doubt as to the government’s resolve to crush freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International said today.

    According to a news outlet close to the government, the Cairo Criminal Court will rule tomorrow on the freezing of assets and travel bans against human rights lawyer Gamal Eid, investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat, and two other unnamed persons, as well as members of their families.

    “The measures against Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid are arbitrary and punitive, imposed in response to their criticism of the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Amnesty International urges the Egyptian government to refrain from imposing such measures, and to end its onslaught against human rights defenders and civil society,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    March 18, 2016

    Amnesty International India Release

    Authorities in Madhya Pradesh must drop charges against and immediately release two men arrested for allegedly sharing a satirical image of the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

    "Arresting people simply because they mocked public figures is an absurd overreaction by the authorities,” said Abhirr VP, Campaigner at Amnesty International India.

    On 17 March, 22-year-old Shaqir Yunus and 21-year-old college student Wasim Sheikh from Khargone, Madhya Pradesh were arrested for allegedly sharing the satirical image on Whatsapp and Facebook, following complaints that the men had hurt the feelings of the Hindu community. The digitally altered image made fun of the RSS’s recent decision to change its uniform from khaki shorts to brown trousers.

    March 16, 2016

    "The arrest of 18 peaceful youth activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo is yet another shameful attempt by the authorities to restrict citizens’ ability to peacefully express themselves in the lead up to elections scheduled for later this year,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “They must be immediately and unconditionally released for they committed no crime when they peacefully protested the continued unlawful detention of their colleagues, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, on trumped up charges.”

    “Bauma and Makwambala, who on 15 March completed a year in jail, must also be released, as well as all other activists arrested for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. Their arrests violate international law and DRC’s own constitution.”

     

    March 16, 2016

    The release last night of Mohammed al-‘Ajami, also known as Ibn al-Dheeb, is a welcome development that ends a needless four year ordeal for the Qatari poet.

    Amnesty International has spoken to Mohammed al-‘Ajami’s legal representative, who said that relatives of the poet confirmed to him that the poet was released around 7.30pm Doha time on 15 March. The organization has also seen video footage of him after his release.

    “The release of Mohammed al-‘Ajami is long overdue good news,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program,

    “It is absurd that he had to spend more than four years behind bars, when his poetry was simply the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.

    “We hope that the authorities will take the opportunity of this release to review Qatar’s criminal justice system and ensure that such flagrant violations of the right to freedom of expression are not repeated. This case has been a blight on Qatar’s international reputation.”

    March 11, 2016

    Messages from Edward Snowden, Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot will be broadcast across the internet by AdBlock and Amnesty International on the World Day against Cyber Censorship, 12 March 2016.

    Throughout the day, AdBlock’s 50 million users will be shown messages from Amnesty International where ads would usually appear. The messages will click through to content from people who governments have tried to silence. 

    “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded,” said Edward Snowden in one of the messages.

    “Without freedom of speech there is no modern world, just a barbaric one,” said Ai Weiwei in his message.

    “Authorities don’t just use handcuffs and arrests, but also media attacks,” said Pussy Riot.

    March 09, 2016

    Gambia should free an ailing journalist who has been arbitrarily detained since July 2015 and drop all charges against him, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

    Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, the managing director of the independent radio station Teranga FM, has been charged with sedition and “publication of false news.”  He has been hospitalized twice since the beginning of 2016. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Gambia last week to release Ceesay and drop all charges against him.

    “The use of archaic sedition laws to harass and lock up critics is a serious violation of the right to freedom of expression,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa. 

    “Alagie Ceesay’s case is a further example of Gambia’s blatant disregard for freedom of the press, and he should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    March 08, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT   9 March 2016

    Restrictions on communications compound North Korea’s dire human rights situation

    Ordinary North Koreans caught using mobile phones to contact loved ones who have fled abroad, risk being sent to political prison camps or other detention facilities as the government tightens its stranglehold on people’s use of communication technology, reveals Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    Connection Denied: Restrictions on Mobile Phones and Outside Information in North Korea, documents the intensified controls, repression and intimidation of the population since Kim Jung-un came to power in 2011.

    “To maintain their absolute and systematic control, the North Korean authorities are striking back against people using mobile phones to contact family abroad," said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

    March 01, 2016

    Musicians and filmmakers around the world are being asked to join forces with Amnesty International activists to call on the Iranian authorities to quash the torture-tainted convictions of filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, his brother Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, both musicians, ahead of Music Freedom Day on Thursday.

    The three men are at risk of imminent arrest after an appeal court upheld their prison sentences for ludicrous charges related to their artistic work, Amnesty International warned today amid an ongoing crackdown on artists and freedom of expression in Iran.

    “These sentences lay bare the absurdity of Iran’s criminal justice system, which brands individuals as criminals merely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression through making music and films. These young men should never have been arrested, let alone brought to trial,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    February 28, 2016

    The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) violation of the rights of detainees will come under increased scrutiny over the next couple of weeks as a series of counter-terror trials reach their end, said Amnesty International. 

    Since 2011 scores of Emiratis and non-Emiratis have been arbitrarily arrested using broad counter-terrorism laws.

    “In recent years the UAE authorities have increasingly resorted to using catch-all ‘terrorism’ or national security allegations to arbitrarily detain suspects. In many cases they are held in secret detention for months on end, in some cases reporting torture or other ill-treatment, before being put through deeply unfair trials,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    February 27, 2016

    The Republic of Congo’s refusal of entry and return of an Amnesty International research manager on mission is another worrying sign of the government’s attempt to muzzle criticism ahead of Presidential elections, Amnesty International said today.

    Late on Friday 26 February, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Stephen Cockburn, was refused entry at the border and sent back to Dakar, despite having a valid visa, invitation letter and confirmations of meetings with authorities including the Minister of Defense and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

    “Stifling independent human rights monitoring is unacceptable, and will do little to build confidence as Congo prepares for elections, especially in a context where political opponents have been detained and protestors killed,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

    February 26, 2016

    Today Palestinian residents and activists in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron are holding demonstrations marking 22 years since the Israeli authorities first closed al-Shuhada Street, formerly the city’s commercial centre. They are protesting against illegal Israeli settlements and demanding the removal of the restrictions on their movement, which are applied only to Palestinians and not to Israeli settlers.

    Following a surge in violence and civilians in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank in October 2015, the Israeli military intensified the long-standing restrictions, declaring parts of Hebron’s Old City a “closed military zone” and barring access to Palestinians living elsewhere in the city, as well as human rights defenders. There has also been an escalation in attacks on human rights defenders – Palestinian, Israeli and international – by Israeli forces and settlers in and around the Old City.

    February 26, 2016

    The Ugandan government is continuing to violate the human rights of leaders of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and undermining the ability of their party to legally challenge the results of the 18 February elections, said Amnesty International in a statement, as the 10-day deadline for filing presidential election petitions looms.

    Security forces have repeatedly arrested the aggrieved presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye, and some of his party leadership colleagues and supporters. They have also besieged his home, and raided the party’s main office in the capital Kampala.

    “The FDC has a legal right to challenge the election results and it must be allowed to do so,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “It is unacceptable for the government to stifle a lawfully-registered party from pursuing the only legal recourse available for it to contest the electoral outcome.”

    February 24, 2016

    The sentencing of Bahraini political activist Ebrahim Sharif to one year in prison simply for making a speech calling for reform is yet another example of Bahrain’s intensified crackdown on peaceful critics, said Amnesty International.

    “The sentencing of Ebrahim Sharif to yet another year in prison simply for calling for reform in a speech is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the latest example of the Bahraini authorities’ insidious clampdown on government critics. No one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views. Ebrahim Sharif’s conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out, serving as a warning to all dissidents, and must be quashed immediately,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    February 11, 2016

    Five years after a wave of protests demanding widespread reform rocked Bahrain, hopes for progress on human rights and accountability for past and present abuses have faded, said Amnesty International.

    The mass protests which began on 14 February 2011 were met with violence by the security forces, who shot dead and injured protesters. Others died in custody after being tortured.

    “Five years since the uprising, torture, arbitrary detention and a widespread crackdown against peaceful activists and government critics have continued. Today in Bahrain, anyone who dares to criticize the authorities – whether a human rights defender or political activist – risks punishment,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    January 27, 2016

    Today’s appeal court ruling upholding a two-year prison sentence for five activists, who were convicted of allegedly taking part in a protest last year, is yet another example of the unfair and arbitrary nature of Egypt’s criminal justice system, Amnesty International said.

    Surgeon and poet Ahmed Said was among the five activists who were arrested and jailed in November 2015 for allegedly taking part in a protest. However, according to defence lawyers working on the case, there is no evidence proving that the protest, as stated in the National Security Agency’s investigations report, actually took place.

    The report is based on the investigations of a single National Security Agency officer, but at least two of the activists say they were tortured and ill-treated during interrogation. Some of the offences for which they were convicted, such as assembling without a permit, are in themselves contrary to international standards as they criminalize the exercise of protected human rights, while others, such as disrupting traffic, were unfounded.

    January 26, 2016

    Tomorrow’s trial of seven Moroccan journalists and activists on charges including “undermining state security” and “failing to report foreign funding”, is part of a calculated crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The seven are due to face trial for taking part in a foreign-funded project to train people to use smartphones for citizen journalism. The court papers show that authorities believe that grassroots journalism may “destabilize Moroccans’ trust in their institutions”.

    “This case clearly demonstrates that Morocco's government is stepping up its attacks on press freedom. Helping Moroccans harness smartphone technology to report on what is going on in the country is not a crime, and it is outrageous that it is being treated as a state security offence. Moroccans have the right to receive and spread information about what is happening in their country,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    January 26, 2016

    Malaysia is spiralling into a dark era of repression as the government has launched an unprecedented crackdown through the Sedition Act over the past two years to silence, harass and lock up hundreds of critics, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.

    Critical Repression: Freedom of expression under attack in Malaysia shows how the use of the Sedition Act – which gives authorities sweeping powers to target those who oppose them - has skyrocketed since the Barisan Nasional coalition government narrowly won the 2013 general elections, with around 170 sedition cases in that period.

    In 2015 alone, at least 91 individuals were arrested, charged or investigated for sedition – almost five times as many as during the law’s first 50 years of existence.

    “Speaking out in Malaysia is becoming increasingly dangerous. The government has responded to challenges to its authority in the worst possible way, by tightening repression and targeting scores of perceived critics,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s South East Asia Deputy Campaigns Director.

    January 16, 2016

    The detention of 19 academics in Turkey represents a new assault on the imperilled right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today. 
           
    The wave of detentions started on Friday, targeting academics who had signed a petition calling for peace and criticising Turkish military operations in the south-east. Signatories have also received death threats on social media, and have been compared to terrorists by President Recep Tayip Erdoðan earlier today. 
     
    “The military operations taking place under round-the-clock curfews are generating huge suffering and widespread human rights violations.  The Turkish authorities should be listening to those that are speaking out, not arresting them,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher. 
     

    January 14, 2016

    Released 00:01 GMT Friday 15 January 2016 

    -        Top scholars call on Chinese government to respect academic freedom, in an open letter to President Xi Jinping on second anniversary of Uighur academic’s seizure

    Four hundred academics from across the world have called on China’s President Xi Jinping to immediately release Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti, on the second anniversary of the day he was taken into custody by authorities.

    In an open letter to President Xi, scholars from globally recognized academic institutions - including Harvard University, The University of Hong Kong, and the University of Oxford, among many others - write that the immediate and unconditional release of Professor Ilham Tohti would be “an important way of demonstrating China’s commitment to academic freedom”.

    January 14, 2016

    The grenade attack on the offices of ARY TV in Islamabad represents yet another strike against freedom of expression in Pakistan, underscoring the growing peril faced by media workers in the course of their work, Amnesty International said today.

    Two attackers riding a motorcycle threw a grenade and reportedly fired gunshots at the ARY TV offices late on Wednesday. A video editor at the station was injured by shrapnel from the blast.

    “This is the latest, depressing addition to a series of brazen attacks in which media workers in Pakistan have been targeted for doing their jobs,” said Champa Patel, Director of Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office.

    Pamphlets left at the scene said the attack had been carried out by Islamic State Wilayah Khurasan, an armed group that claims allegiance to the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), in retaliation for ARY TV’s reporting of Pakistani military offensives.

    January 12, 2016

    The arrest of Samar Badawi, a prominent human rights defender, is the latest example of Saudi Arabia’s utter contempt for its human rights obligations and provides further damning proof of the authorities’ intent to suppress all signs of peaceful dissent, said Amnesty International.

    Read Samar Badawi's blog:  "My Husband is in Prison for Supporting Human Rights in Saudi Arabia"

    January 11, 2016

    A new cybercrimes law, which is due to take effect on 12 January 2016, will add a further layer to the web of laws that already restrict the right of people in Kuwait to freedom of expression and must be urgently reviewed, said Amnesty International today.

    The law includes criminalization of a range of online expression – in particular, criticism of the government, religious figureheads or foreign leaders. Dozens of people in Kuwait have already been arrested and prosecuted under other legislation for comments of this kind made on social media sites such as Twitter.

    “This repressive law is the latest, flawed strand in a tangled web of legislation that is designed to stifle free speech,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.

    “Like anyone else in the world, Kuwaitis have a right to peacefully express their opinion, including by criticizing their own or other governments online without fear of imprisonment.”

    January 07, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs  8 January 2016

    The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has steadily deteriorated over the year since blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged for exercising his right to free expression, said Amnesty International the day before the first anniversary of the flogging.

    The past year has seen the Kingdom’s human rights record go from bad to worse. Most recently the mass execution of 47 people in a single day, including Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, sent shockwaves across the region.

    Despite the much hailed participation of women in municipal elections last month, Saudi Arabia continued its sweeping crackdown on human rights activists and led a devastating air bombardment campaign in Yemen that saw the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

    December 23, 2015
    The Thai Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a guilty verdict against the director of an online news site sets an appalling precedent for freedom of expression - particularly online - in a climate where official contempt for free speech has hit new lows, Amnesty International said.   The Supreme Court today upheld the guilty 2012 verdict by the Court of First Instance against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of independent news site Prachatai (“Free People”), for not removing comments from the website which authorities characterised as insulting to the monarchy. Since the verdict in 2012, Prachatai has suspended its online forum.   The Supreme Court also upheld Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s punishment of a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 30,000 Baht (USD830) under the Computer Crimes Act in May 2012, reduced to eight months’ imprisonment and a 20,000 Baht (USD550) for cooperation.  
    December 22, 2015

    The three year suspended prison sentence handed down against human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is a deliberate attempt by the Chinese authorities to shackle a champion of freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    On Tuesday, a court in Beijing sentenced Pu Zhiqiang to three years in prison, suspended for three years, for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and “inciting ethnic hatred”. The conviction was primarily based on seven social media posts, in total approximately 600 characters, in which Pu criticized government officials and polices.

    “Clearly it is positive that Pu Zhiqiang is unlikely to spend another night in jail, yet that cannot hide the gross injustice against him. He is no criminal and this guilty verdict effectively shackles one of China’s bravest champions of human rights from practicing law,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2015

    Yesterday’s banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and association and should be immediately overturned, said Amnesty International.

    The District Administrative Court of Kyiv upheld the request of the Ukrainian Minister of Justice to ban the Communist Party. It will no longer be able to officially operate or participate in local elections.

    “The banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine sets a very dangerous precedent.  This move is propelling Ukraine backwards not forwards on its path to reform and greater respect for human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director of Europe and Central Asia.

    Under four new laws adopted in May 2015, collectively known as “decommunization” laws, displaying Communist or Nazi symbols can lead to criminal prosecution and up to ten years imprisonment. The use of the term “communist” is explicitly prohibited by this legislation. However, the Communist Party of Ukraine refused to make changes to its name, logo or its charter.

    December 16, 2015

    Authorities in Viet Nam must immediately and unconditionally release human rights lawyer Nguyễn Vãn Ðài, who has been detained on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state” shortly after the EU-Viet Nam Human Rights dialogue was held in the capital Ha Noi, Amnesty International said today.

    According to a statement by the Ministry of Public Security, Nguyễn Vãn Ðài was taken into police custody on Wednesday and charged under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which has frequently been used to imprison peaceful activists and human rights defenders. A search warrant was issued for his house in Ha Noi. The arrest comes a month before the once every five years National Congress of the Communist Party of Viet Nam which is often preceded by a crackdown on dissent.

    December 16, 2015

    Released 11:30am local time Kuwait / 08:30am GMT Wednesday 16 December 2015

    The Kuwaiti authorities have arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned scores of peaceful activists, including human rights defenders and political opponents, in their efforts to silence critics and punish dissent, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    The ‘iron fist policy’: Criminalization of peaceful dissent in Kuwait, details the clampdown on freedom of expression in Kuwait since 2011, in the context of an overall deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, and highlights how the authorities are increasingly resorting to a multitude of restrictive laws to muzzle critical voices.

    “In the five years since a wave of popular protests swept across the Arab world we have witnessed a steady, relentless eroding of human rights in Kuwait as the authorities step up the clampdown on dissent. Scores of peaceful critics have been arrested and imprisoned simply for speaking out against a spectre of widespread repression,” said James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    December 10, 2015

    Cuban human rights activists are at increased risk of detention or harassment from the authorities amid demonstrations on International Human Rights Day, 10 December, said Amnesty International following a wave of almost 1,500 arbitrary arrests in just over a month.

    Yesterday, police in the capital Havana arbitrarily restricted the movement of members of the prominent Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) group of activists as they prepared for today’s demonstrations. This came after at least 1,477 politically motivated detentions in November 2015, the highest monthly total in many years, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).  

    “For weeks on end, the Cuban authorities have used a spike in arrests and harassment to prevent human rights activists and dissidents from protesting peacefully. This is a systematic problem that silences Cuban activists in their own streets. For years, harassment on Human Rights Day has been the rule rather than the exception, and is absolutely unacceptable,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    December 10, 2015

    The Egyptian authorities’ continued detention of photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, exposes the rank hypocrisy behind their claim to uphold press freedom, Amnesty International said, ahead of the start of the photojournalist’s mass trial with 738 others on 12 December.

    In an open letter addressed to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, the organization called for Mahmoud Abu Zeid to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for all charges against him to be dropped.

    “Mahmoud Abu Zeid is a prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years - 848 days - in pre-trial detention solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “This 28 year-old-man should be free, not languishing behind bars as his health deteriorates. His journalism is not a crime.”

    Mahmoud Abu Zeid is suffering from Hepatitis C and has been denied access to essential medication. His lawyers have appealed to the Public Prosecutor at least 17 times for his release on medical grounds, without success.

    December 09, 2015

    Thailand must stop using the lèse majesté law to criminalize freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today as the US Ambassador to the country faced a police investigation for alleged defamation of members of the Thai royal family.

    Glyn Davies has been accused of alleged lèse majesté offences over comments he made last month expressing concern at the lengthy jail sentences handed down to those convicted of breaking Thailand’s royal defamation law.

    “The authorities’ vicious application of the lèse majesté law has left dozens of individuals in jail for the peaceful exercise of their rights, with some facing military trials without the right of appeal,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research.

    “The fact that allegations of lèse majesté can be made for raising legitimate concerns highlight the current absurd extremes of Thailand’s restrictions on freedom of expression.”

    December 07, 2015

    The arrest of a group of 37 activists in Thailand ahead of a planned anti-corruption protest is the latest evidence that the country’s military government is using arbitrary powers of detention to silence peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

    The group of 36 students and a lawyer were detained on Monday morning while travelling by train to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, central Thailand, to attend a demonstration against alleged military corruption.

    The authorities detached their train compartment en-route and forcibly removed some of the activists from the carriage before being taking them into custody.  All the activists were later released.

    “These heavy-handed and completely unjustifiable arrests highlight Thailand’s need to remove the military’s powers of arbitrary detention, which are being used to harass and criminalize peaceful dissent,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific regional office director.

    December 07, 2015

    Russia’s jailing of a peaceful opposition activist for violating the country’s new law on public assemblies is a shocking and cynical attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in jail by a Moscow court for repeated anti-government street protests. He is the first person to be jailed using the law, which was introduced in 2014 and punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.

    “The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    “This cynical move shows that compared to the drawn out criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in the past, the authorities have now created a shortcut for imprisoning activists. It is more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years.”

    The recent changes to Russia’s draconian law on public assemblies criminalize anyone found to have violated the law more than twice within 180 days.

    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.

    October 31, 2015

    The brutal attacks against two publishers of the slain blogger Avijit Joy and their colleagues in Bangladesh today is further chilling evidence of the horrific pattern of violence against people exercising their freedom of expression in the country.

    “We are deeply shocked by today’s news of yet more attacks against independent voices in Bangladesh,” said Abbas Faiz, Bangladesh Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The situation in Bangladesh is becoming increasingly dangerous for those brave enough to speak their own minds. The latest heinous criminal attacks are a deliberate assault against freedom of expression in the country.

    “Given the horrific pattern of violence, we have reason to believe many other lives are now at risk.  

    “We are calling on the Bangladesh authorities to urgently act to ensure the protection of others in the country against such horrific and targeted violence.

    October 30, 2015

    Spokespeople available for interviews

    Azerbaijan’s dire human rights record is rapidly deteriorating as people prepare to head to the polls on Sunday 1 November amid a backdrop of crackdowns on freedom of expression and the right to assembly, said Amnesty International today.

    “Azerbaijani authorities must uphold their human rights obligations and immediately release all prisoners of conscience, as well as stop persecuting civil society activists, including human rights defenders,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia.

    At least 20 people are currently imprisoned in the country merely for having challenged the government’s policies or having attempted to help victims of human rights abuses. Most of the country’s independent human rights organizations – around 20 – have been shut down, with their most prominent leaders arrested or forced into exile.

    October 30, 2015

    Cameroon's authorities must urgently reveal the whereabouts of a journalist who has been held in secret detention since his arrest three months ago and give him access to lawyer and his family, Amnesty International said today.

    Journalist Ahmed Abba, a Hausa language correspondent for French radio Radio France Internationale (RFI) was arrested on 28 July in the city of Maroua while investigating the Boko Haram conflict in the north of the country. Despite repeated attempts by his lawyer, RFI and his family, he has been refused any contact with the outside world and subject to secret detention - prohibited under international law. In addition, Ahmed Abba has been deprived of his right to be brought promptly before an ordinary civilian court, as well as the right to challenge the lawfulness of his detention. It is unclear if any charges have been brought against him.  

    October 21, 2015

    South African police must use restraint in response to students participating in nationwide protests, said Amnesty International.

    Police have used teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against students in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

    University students have been protesting against proposed fee hikes for 2016.

    “We are alarmed by reports of police officers using teargas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Students have a right to express their grievances peacefully and police must respect this right,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “Law enforcement officials must comply with international standards governing the use of force in policing protests,” said Deprose Muchena. 

     

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

    October 21, 2015

    An armed raid on a journalism NGO in Cairo today marks a dangerous escalation in the Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on freedom of expression and association, said Amnesty International.

    Members of the security forces carrying guns and wearing masks stormed the office of the Mada Foundation for Media Development this morning and arrested all staff members present. The reasons for the raid are not clear but, according to information available to Amnesty International, security forces did not have a search or arrest warrant from the prosecutor’s office as required by Egyptian law.

    “Carrying out an armed raid against an NGO which works to expand the skills of journalists sends a chilling and clear message that independent journalism and activities of civil society will not be tolerated in today’s Egypt. This is an unlawful assault and has all the hallmarks of yet another attempt to clamp down on independent journalism in the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    October 21, 2015

    The Algerian government must cease its relentless campaign of censorship of private broadcasters if it is going to live up to its pledge to uphold and strengthen media freedoms in the country, said Amnesty International as the country marks National Press Day on 22 October.

    Only last week police raided and shut down El Watan TV, confiscating equipment and escorting staff out of the station’s office in the capital Algiers after it broadcast an interview with a controversial government critic.

    In 2014 the government introduced restrictive licensing laws which have left many broadcasters in legal limbo operating under the constant threat of censorship.

    “The government’s repeated shutdowns of private TV stations that dare to criticize it, such as El Watan TV, is a clear and present danger to the survival of a free media in Algeria,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Director of North Africa and the Middle East.

    October 21, 2015

    Today’s appeal verdict against Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, confirming her conviction on charges of “insulting” the King of Bahrain and reducing her three-year prison sentence to one year, is the latest example of the authorities’ total disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    The verdict, confirming a conviction for ripping up a photo of the King in court in October 2014, coincides with Zainab Al- Khawaja’s 32nd birthday and leaves the mother of two facing a prison sentence of a year and at risk of immediate re-arrest

    Zainab Al-Khawaja's family have told Amnesty International that if she is imprisoned she intends to keep her baby son - just under a year old- with her while she serves her sentence.

    October 20, 2015

    Security forces in the Republic of Congo must refrain from using excessive force against protesters, Amnesty International said today.

    Five people are reported to have been killed among reports that the police used live ammunition against protesters who gathered to demonstrate against the proposed changes to the country’s constitution ahead of Sunday’s referendum.

    “A heavy-handed response by security forces not only violates the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, but may enflame an already tense situation,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher.

    “The use of force and the deaths of protesters must be independently, impartially and effectively investigated and if there are grounds to suspect individuals of criminal responsibility they must be brought to justice.”

     Media freedom is also under threat with mobile Internet services, text messaging and the signal of some radio stations cut in Brazzaville.

    October 19, 2015

    The Saudi Arabian authorities today continued their cynical use of a repressive and overly vague counter-terrorism law to purge the Kingdom’s small and embattled civil society by convicting the human rights defender Abdulkareem al-Khoder and imprisoning him for 10 years, Amnesty International said.

    Abdulkareem al-Khoder, a co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was jailed in June 2013 for eight years after a trial before a criminal court. His sentence was overturned last year but he remained arbitrarily detained in prison. His latest conviction was handed down by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) under a counter-terrorism law that took effect in February 2014.

    “By using abusive counter-terrorism legislation and a deeply deficient specialized court to intimidate and lock up human rights defenders, Saudi Arabia is sending a chilling message that anyone who speaks out will be purged,” said James Lynch, Acting Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    October 16, 2015

    The Cuban authorities’ failure to keep to their commitment to release a graffiti artist unfairly imprisoned nearly a year ago is a painful illustration of their disregard for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    “Committing to release Danilo Maldonado Machado on 15 October only to keep him behind bars for no reason other than speaking his mind and criticising the government is not only cruel but sends a strong message that freedom of expression is not on the Cuban government’s radar,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Danilo is a prisoner of conscience, deprived of his liberty as punishment for peacefully expressing his opinions. He must be released immediately and unconditionally and not be made to spend another second behind bars.”

    Yesterday, prison authorities told Danilo’s mother that he had served his time but that they did not know when he would be set free. Danilo, however, has never been brought before a judge or sentenced.

    October 16, 2015

    The acquittal of three bloggers by an Ethiopian court after 539 days in detention must not be dressed up as a victory for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today.

    Natnael Feleke, Atnaf Berhane and Abel Wabela, who were tried on terrorism charges, were acquitted by the federal court today in Addis Ababa but have yet to be released. The fourth, Befeqadu Hailu, was also acquitted of terrorism charges but trial hearings on an incitement charge will continue. A fifth blogger, Soliyana Gebremichael, in exile in the USA, was also acquitted.

    “The imminent release of three bloggers must not be dressed up as a victory for freedom of expression in Ethiopia. It is shameful that the Ethiopian authorities arrested them in the first place, subjected them to a sham judicial process and incarcerated them for nearly a year and a half,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    October 15, 2015

    Myanmar’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a peace activist and a young woman who have been arrested for mocking the country’s army chief on Facebook, Amnesty International said.

    Peace activist, Patrick Kum Jaa Lee, 43, was arrested yesterday evening at his home in Yangon for a Facebook post showing someone stepping on a photo of Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. His phone and computer were confiscated and the post was deleted. He is currently detained in a Yangon police station. A few days earlier Chaw Sandi Tun, a young woman, was arrested for a post mocking the military.

    “It is outrageous to think that someone could face years in jail for nothing but a harmless Facebook post. Both of them must be released immediately and the investigations against them must be dropped. They join a growing number of prisoners of conscience in Myanmar,” said Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Myanmar Researcher.

    October 09, 2015

    The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet’s newly awarded Nobel Peace Prize is a fitting tribute to its members’ work in strengthening civil society and human rights in a society still struggling with the legacy of decades of repression and abuse, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization has worked with and spoken out to defend the rights of three of the four Quartet’s members, which have for decades been at the forefront of the fight to defend the human rights of Tunisians.

    “This is an important recognition of the key role that civil society can play in a country emerging from years of dictatorship and human rights violations,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “These organizations were continually threatened by the government before the 2011 uprising, and showed great courage in a climate of repression. In the difficult years since then, they held firm in speaking out for human rights and the rule of law.”

    October 07, 2015

    Botswana’s authorities must lift the suspension of four High Court judges unfairly targeted if the independence of the judiciary is to be preserved, said Amnesty International and SADC Lawyers’ Association today following a High Court decision yesterday not to reinstate them.

    The judges, Key Dingake, Mercy Thebe, Rainer Busanang and Modiri Letsididi were suspended on 28 August 2015 under Section 97 of the Botswana Constitution for alleged misconduct and bringing the judiciary into disrepute. This followed a petition signed by 12 judges, including the suspended four, calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.

    October 07, 2015

    Freedom of expression is under sustained and severe attack in Azerbaijan in the run up to next month’s parliamentary elections, Amnesty International said today after two of its staff were stopped at the border and deported. 

    Immigration officials retained the passports of two Amnesty International delegates, both Georgian nationals, after they flew into the capital Baku on Wednesday morning and deported them hours later. Amnesty International had informed the authorities well in advance of their upcoming visit but never received a reply. 

    “There is simply no real chance of people being able to take part meaningfully in elections while the human rights crackdown continues and Azerbaijan’s few independent voices are being silenced,” John Dalhusien, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia said.

    “What other dark secrets are the Azerbaijani authorities trying to conceal from the outside world before the parliamentary election?”

    September 25, 2015

    Media workers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free. Just weeks after a court sentenced them to another three years in prison, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has cut short the rest of their sentences and released them under a presidential pardon.

    For more than a year and a half they have been persecuted by Egyptian authorities – forced to endure two drawn-out, politically-motivated trials and months in prison – simply for their work for news channel Al Jazeera English.

    Their release is very welcome news, although they should never have been jailed for the ludicrous charges of ‘broadcasting false news’ and operating as journalists without authorisation. We continue to call on Egyptian authorities to drop all criminal charges against them and their colleague Peter Greste.

    September 23, 2015

    Today’s presidential decree granting pardons to 100 people including Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed and several unlawfully imprisoned activists including Sana Seif and Yara Sallam is welcome news, but represents little more than a token gesture, said Amnesty International.

    The organization said the pardons, made ahead of the Muslim Eid holiday, should be followed by further action to seriously address the appalling human rights record under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including the intolerance of peaceful dissent and criticism of the authorities.

    “While these pardons come as a great relief, it is ludicrous that some of these people were ever behind bars in the first place. Hundreds remain behind bars for protesting or because of their journalistic work. All those jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association or because of their journalistic or human rights work must have their convictions quashed and be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    September 17, 2015

    Burkina Faso’s Presidential Guard must stop using lethal force, beatings and other violence to repress protests and release arbitrarily detained members of the transitional government, said Amnesty International amid reports that demonstrators have been beaten and shot following today’s coup.

    With large protests announced in response to the dissolution of the transitional government, members of the presidential guard (RSP, Regiment de Sécurité Présidentielle) must refrain from again using excessive force against peaceful protestors. In October 2014, more than 10 people were killed and hundreds injured when security forces, including the RSP, fired on unarmed crowds.

    Civilians with gunshot wounds have already been registered at local hospitals in Ouagadougou, while there are also reports of deaths. Amnesty International has spoken with an eyewitness who saw the dead body of one person killed by bullets.

    September 17, 2015

    Cuba is at a human rights crossroads, with important advances such as the recent release of political prisoners and a number of positive reforms to its migration laws overshadowed by the government’s determination to deploy new methods to stifle dissent, said Amnesty International ahead of a state visit by Pope Francis.

    “Over the past few months, we have seen unprecedented openness when it comes to Cuba’s international relations. However, the country still needs to make progress when it comes to allowing people to peacefully express their views without fear of being harassed, detained or attacked,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    Over the past few years, authorities in Cuba have switched from a strategy of incarcerating people viewed as political dissidents for long periods of time to consecutive short term arrests and public smear campaigns.

    September 15, 2015

    The conviction and six-year prison sentence imposed on human rights activist José Marcos Mavungo is a travesty of justice and a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Angola, said five human rights organizations today.

    The organizations, the South African Litigation Centre (SALC), Lawyers for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Amnesty International are calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.

    “The conviction of José Marcos Mavungo politically motivated and is the latest example of suppression of freedom of expression and blatant disregard for human rights in the country,” said Muluka Miti-Drummond, Regional Advocacy Director at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. 

    “It comes days after the European Parliament’s resolution on Angola calling on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, including José Marcos Mavungo, and to drop all charges against them.” 

    September 15, 2015

    Mozambican authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop criminal charges against Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco and Fernando Mbanze over a Facebook post that criticised the then president, Amnesty International said today ahead of the court’s final decision on the case on 16 September 2015.

    “The charges against the two men make a complete mockery of justice. Both men were simply exercising their right to freedom of expression by speaking out about the governance of Mozambique on social media and in a newspaper. That is clearly not a crime,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    Economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco is charged with crimes against the security of the state for publishing a comment on Facebook in November 2013 questioning the manner in which former President Armando Guebuza governed Mozambique. He faces a jail term of up to two years if convicted.  

    September 11, 2015

    Today’s court decision to keep Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu under house arrest for giving a media interview is vindictive and heavy-handed, Amnesty International said.

    The Jerusalem district court turned down his appeal against a week of house arrest imposed yesterday in connection with an interview he gave to Israeli broadcaster Channel 2 on 4 September. The sentence also prohibits him from using the internet or speaking to any journalists.

    “The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu are punitive and vindictive,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “The latest attacks on Vanunu’s freedom are just one more example of the Israeli authorities’ determination to continue to exact retribution and make an example of him for what he did in 1986 and for which he paid the high price of 18 years in prison.

    “Punishing him further now does nothing to protect Israel’s national security – any information he disclosed almost three decades ago is by now way past its sell-by date.”

    September 09, 2015

    An Amnesty International India Release

    The Manipur government should carry out prompt, full and independent investigations into all allegations of human rights abuses related to protests in the state in the past few months, including the excessive use of police force, Amnesty International said.

    “Authorities in Manipur must demonstrate their commitment to human rights and the rule of law. They must ensure that they respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest while maintaining public order and safety,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.  

    “Incidents of violence and vandalism by protestors also need to be effectively investigated, and those suspected of human rights abuses brought to trial.”

    Since July 2015, civil society groups and civilians in the Imphal valley have been demonstrating for the implementation of a system to regulate the entry of non-domicile people into the region.  On 8 July, a 16 year old student was killed in a protest in Imphal after being hit by a teargas shell fired by the police.

    August 30, 2015

    An Amnesty International UK Release

    “It is completely proper that that journalists should cover this important story. The decision to detain the journalists was wrong, while the allegation of assisting Islamic state is unsubstantiated, outrageous and bizarre.”

    Three journalists working for VICE News who have been detained in Turkey, should be released immediately unless the authorities can demonstrate credible evidence of criminal acts, said Amnesty International.

    Two UK-based journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury and a third journalist were detained by anti-terrorism police officers on Thursday night in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır in south-east Turkey.

    VICE news told Amnesty that the detentions took place while the journalists were filming clashes between police and pro- Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) youths taking place in the city.

    Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey Researcher, said:

    “This is yet another example of the Turkish authorities suppressing the reporting of stories that are embarrassing to them. They should release the journalists immediately.

    August 29, 2015

     

    The guilty verdicts handed down against Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt, said Amnesty International. 

    The Cairo criminal court ruled that the journalists broadcasted “false news” and worked without registration, sentencing Mohamed Fahmy to three years in prison and Baher Mohamed to three and a half years in prison. Their co-defendant, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, was convicted in his absence and sentence to three years in prison.

    August 20, 2015

    Fears are mounting that prominent academic Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith could be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment in secret detention since his arrest by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities on 18 August, Amnesty International said.

    “Dr Nasser bin Ghaith’s whereabouts must be immediately disclosed and he must be released if he is being held for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. It is a gross abuse of the legal process to hold him incommunicado in a secret place of detention,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Program Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “We fear that Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the country’s State Security body.”

    August 10, 2015

    A promise today from Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev to “personally oversee” the investigation into the beating to death of journalist Rasim Aliyev [no relation to the President] is unlikely to result in real justice, Amnesty International said.

    “For too long, Azerbaijan’s journalists have been subjected to persecution and horrific attacks such as this one. Their killings frequently go without the culprits being prosecuted and brought to justice, despite the cynical assurances of impartial investigations,” said Natalia Nozadze, Azerbaijan Researcher at Amnesty International.

    In 2005 the president also promised to “personally oversee” the investigation into the killing of journalist Elmar Huseynov, but the case remains unsolved. 

    August 07, 2015

    The Bangladeshi authorities must send a strong message that killings aimed at silencing dissenting voices are despicable and will not be tolerated, Amnesty International said in reaction to the news that blogger Niloy Neel was hacked to death at his home in the capital Dhaka today.

    Known for his secularist views, he is the fourth blogger to meet such a brutal fate at the hands of machete-wielding groups this year.

    “This spate of savage killings must end here. There is little doubt that these especially brutal killings are designed to sow fear and to have a chilling effect on free speech. This is unacceptable,” said David Griffiths, South Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “The price for holding opinions and expressing them freely must not be death. The Bangladeshi authorities now have an urgent duty to make clear that no more attacks like this will be tolerated.

    “Thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigations must be carried out promptly to ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”

    August 04, 2015

    The gathering pace of the Malaysian authorities’ far-reaching crackdown on human rights defenders, the media and opposition politicians in the wake of a corruption scandal allegedly involving Prime Minister Najib Razak is alarming and must end immediately, Amnesty International said.

    “Malaysian authorities have responded to the 1MDB corruption scandal in predictable fashion – instead of genuinely trying to get to the truth of the corruption allegations and sanction those responsible, they have been harassing, silencing and locking up those demanding accountability,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “The government’s assault on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must end. Nobody should be arrested or charged simply for asking for transparency in the investigation of the 1MDB scandal or for the peaceful expression of their opinions.”

    July 30, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST   31 July 2015

    Muslims returning to ethnically-cleansed areas of western CAR have in some cases been forced to abandon their religion, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

    The report, “Erased identity: Muslims in ethnically cleansed areas of the Central African Republic”, reveals how Muslims who have returned to their homes in large parts of western CAR following the 2014 killing spree and mass forced displacement are barred by armed anti-balaka militia from practicing or manifesting their religion in public. Some have been forcibly converted to Christianity on the threat of death.

    “Having forced tens of thousands of Muslims to flee western CAR, anti-balaka militias are now repressing the religious identity of the hundreds of Muslims who remained or who have returned,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

    July 28, 2015

    Russian authorities today used a draconian new law on “undesirable” foreign organizations for the first time to blacklist the US-based charity National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in an attempt to cut a funding lifeline to Russian NGOs, said Amnesty International.

    Using the law, which came into force in May this year, the Office of the Prosecutor General announced that NED’s work in the country is now effectively illegal and asked the Ministry of Justice to register it as an “undesirable organization”.

    “This reprehensible move to blacklist so-called ‘undesirable organizations’ marks another low point for Russian authorities that have systematically sought to slash and burn the country’s civil society in recent years,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    July 23, 2015

    The detention of four human rights activists and a journalist is the latest sign of an increasing crackdown on dissent and blatant violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in Angola, said Amnesty International today.

    The four activists and a Radio Deutsche Welle correspondent were detained for over eight hours yesterday during a visit to Calomboloca prison, Luanda Province, where they were visiting prisoners of conscience jailed last month. On their release they were ordered to present themselves to the Municipal prosecutor for a hearing today.

    “The arbitrary detention of these activists is a clear ploy by the Angolan police and authorities to harass and intimidate anyone who associates with those standing up against the oppressive regime. These tactics are designed to close the space for freedom of expression, assembly and association and this must stop,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    July 22, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs EAT   23 July 2015

    Burundian authorities repressed demonstrations as if they were an insurrection, and now the country appears to be on the verge of conflict, Amnesty International warned in a new report, Braving Bullets – Excessive force in policing demonstrations in Burundi, released today.

    Amnesty International’s investigation in May and June 2015 found that Burundian police used excessive lethal force, including against women and children, to silence those opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third-term.

    “It is a tragedy that demonstrators had to brave bullets to try to have their voices heard,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    July 21, 2015

    The Cambodian authorities must immediately quash politically motivated convictions against 11 opposition party activists handed down today after grossly unfair trials, Amnesty International said.

    A court in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh today sentenced 10 youth activists and one official from the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) to between seven and 20 years in prison on “insurrection” charges.

    “This trial lacked the most basic fair trial guarantees, and the convictions of these 11 activists should be overturned immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “The proceedings were littered with flaws and the defendants were denied the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal.”

    The charges relate to a demonstration in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on 15 July 2014 around Cambodia’s disputed elections, which ended in violent clashes between protesters and “para-police”.

    July 15, 2015

    Amnesty International called today on the Bahraini authorities to release political activist Ebrahim Sharif and end his ongoing prosecution on charges brought solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression following a speech he gave last Friday.

    Ebrahim Sharif, former Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), was arrested at 2.30am on 12 July at his home by security officers and remanded in custody for 48 hours for questioning at the Criminal Investigations Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in connection with statements he made in a speech at a public gathering on 10 July.

    On 13 July, the Public Prosecution interrogated Ebrahim Sharif on charges of “incitement to hatred and contempt of the regime” and “incitement to overthrow the regime by force and illegal means”, under Articles 165 and 160 of the Penal Code. He denied all the charges against him. The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending further investigation. 

    July 15, 2015

    A draconian counterterrorism law expanding the Egyptian authorities’ iron grip on power would strike at the very heart of basic freedoms and human rights principles and must be scrapped immediately or fundamentally revised, said Amnesty International. 

    The draft law, which is being discussed by the cabinet today, represents a flagrant attack on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. It also weakens safeguards to ensure fair trials and widens the use of the death penalty. If approved the law could be signed off by the President and ratified within days. 

    “The proposed counterterrorism law vastly expands the Egyptian authorities’ powers and threatens the most fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. If approved, it is set to become yet another tool for the authorities to crush all forms of dissent,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    July 09, 2015

    The Ethiopian government’s decision to release four journalists and two Zone 9 bloggers, jailed simply for expressing their views, is a positive move. But if this is to be more than a token gesture to clean up Ethiopia’s image ahead of US President Barack Obama’s imminent visit, Ethiopia must release all its imprisoned journalists and bloggers, said Amnesty International today.

    Over the last two days Mahlet Fantahun and Zelalem Kibret, both bloggers from Ethiopia’s Zone 9 collective, and the three journalists being tried alongside them for terrorism offences – Edom Kassaye, Tesfalem Waldeyes and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis – were released from jail after all charges against them were dropped. They had been in detention for over one year. Journalist Reeyot Alemu, detained in 2011 and serving a five-year jail term for terrorism offences, was also released.

    “These releases, while a positive step, are long overdue. Ethiopia has a terrible record of jailing journalists,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    July 08, 2015

    A new move by the Russian Parliament to outlaw so-called undesirable organizations is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression and civil society in Russia, said Amnesty International today.

    The submission by the Council of the Federation, Parliament’s upper house, of a list of 12 foreign NGOs working in Russia to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry may lead to them being banned as “undesirable” under a law adopted last May. “Undesirable” organizations” are loosely defined under the law as those posing a threat to the country’s “constitutional order, defence potential or state security”.

    “The submission of this list is yet another move to suffocate freedom of expression and association in Russia, and its intended targets are not just foreign organizations but independent civil society in the country itself,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    July 01, 2015

    Ethiopian authorities must stop harassing two men and two women linked to the opposition Semayawi (Blue) Party, and immediately release them from detention, Amnesty International said as they were expected to face fresh charges in court today in the capital Addis Ababa.

    “On five separate occasions over the course of the last 10 days, three different courts have ordered the police to release these four people,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes. “Their continued detention is blatantly unlawful and in clear violation of their rights to liberty and a fair trial.”

    Woyneshet Molla, Ermias Tsegaye, Daniel Tesfaye and Betelehem Akalework were arrested in April this year and charged with inciting violence during a rally in the capital. They remained in custody awaiting trial. The four were convicted at the Federal First Instance Criminal Court at Kirkos on 22 June 2015 and sentenced to two months in prison. The judge however ordered their immediate release on the basis that they had already served their time, but the police ignored court orders and returned them to Kality and Kilinto prisons.

    June 29, 2015
    Photo: Mansoura University students Menatalla Moustafa, Abrar Al-Anany and teacher Yousra Elkhateeb, jailed in Egypt on 21 May 2014 for protesting peacefully.

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 30 June 2015

    A continuing onslaught against young activists by the Egyptian authorities is a blatant attempt to crush the spirit of the country’s bravest and brightest young minds, and nip in the bud any future threat to their rule, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

    Free three Egyptian young women protestors jailed for protesting

    June 23, 2015

    The Armenian authorities must urgently ensure an impartial, independent and thorough investigation into allegations that police used excessive force – including dousing people with water cannon – to disperse a mainly peaceful demonstration before arresting more than 200 protesters on the streets of the capital Yerevan early this morning, Amnesty International said.

    Yerevan police said they arrested 237 people after a crowd marched away from round-the-clock protests in a central square towards the presidential headquarters. Since 19 June, thousands of people have taken part in the demonstrations against rising electricity prices in Yerevan and elsewhere, including the town of Gyumri where 12 others were arrested.

    “For the Armenian authorities to disperse what was up until then a peaceful demonstration is a heavy-handed tactic that must be avoided to protect the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Video footage showing high-powered jets from water cannon flinging peaceful protesters to the ground is a cause for concern,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    June 16, 2015

    By Sevag Kechichian, Saudi Arabia Researcher at Amnesty International

    Today, like many people around the world, I waited to find out if Raif Badawi would again be hauled out of his prison cell and mercilessly lashed another 50 times in a public square in Jeddah.

    The same suspense has gripped people for 23 weeks since the first time this act of cruelty was inflicted on the imprisoned blogger on 9 January this year. That day, a crowd of onlookers gathered in the square immediately after Friday prayers to witness this hateful spectacle.

    While flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments are commonplace in Saudi Arabia, they are not necessarily carried out on Fridays and in public. There is often an air of secrecy even around the many beheadings and other executions in the country – which have seen a macabre spike since the beginning of this year.

    Amnesty International has campaigned for Raif’s release since his arrest in 2012. Since he was flogged, it joined more than a million activists, journalists and political leaders in calling for an end to the horror and for his immediate release.

    June 16, 2015

    The verdict against Sheikh Ali Salman today, sentencing him to four years in prison for inciting disobedience and hatred, demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ consistent disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    “Today’s verdict is shocking. It is yet another clear example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for its international obligations. Sheikh Ali Salman has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “For a country that has expressed outrage at criticism of its human rights records, Bahrain has not hesitated to suppress political opposition and muzzle critical voices at every opportunity. The authorities must release Sheikh Ali Salman immediately and unconditionally, and ensure his conviction is quashed.” 

    June 15, 2015

      Over 200 Rights Groups Urge Respect for Free Expression, Assembly

    (Kinshasa) – Congolese authorities should immediately and unconditionally release two activists who were arrested three months ago, on March 15, 2015, during a pro-democracy youth workshop in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a coalition of 14 international and 220 Congolese rights organizations said today. Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala were arrested at a workshop organized to launch “Filimbi,” a platform to encourage Congolese youth to peacefully and responsibly perform their civic duties.

    The government should also release and drop any charges against other activists, opposition party members, and others detained solely for their political views or for participating in peaceful activities.

    June 11, 2015

    The Mombasa High Court ruling issued today barring the Kenyan government from declaring two human rights organizations as terrorist entities is a partial victory for justice over politically motivated intimidation and harassment of civil society, said Amnesty International today. 

    However, despite winning the case, the prominent non-governmental organizations, Haki Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), did not have their bank accounts unfrozen, as they had requested. 

    “Haki Africa and MUHURI are legitimate human rights organizations that should be allowed to freely carry on their work as human rights defenders without fear of harassment or intimidation”, said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. 

    “The original decision declaring these two groups as having terrorist links was clearly politically motivated. If justice is to be fully served the bank accounts of both organizations must immediately be unfrozen and other regulatory and administrative steps impeding their full operations must be reversed.” 

    June 10, 2015

    Escalating threats against journalists and other media workers in the past week are worrying signs that journalism in Burundi has become increasingly dangerous since an attempted coup last month, Amnesty International warned today.

    Media freedom and coverage is critical to provide accurate information given the electoral impasse triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, as well as growing fears of renewed conflict with wider regional implications.

    “The intimidation is real and has sparked a climate of fear among journalists. If the police are shooting peaceful protesters, journalists must be able to report that. If Burundian citizens are fleeing the country, journalists should be free to report that too,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes.

    “Burundians have a right to information about government activities including the stalled electoral process and mediation efforts to forestall renewed conflict in the region.”

    Recent threats and resstrictions

    June 10, 2015

    Press conference on media and NGO crackdown in Azerbaijan cancelled,but findings released today

    Amnesty International have been forced to cancel a planned visit to Azerbaijan after being told by the government at the last minute that the mission should be postponed until after the European Games.

    The visit, which was intended to launch a briefing – Azerbaijan: the Repression Games. The voices you won’t hear at the first European Games – was cancelled after communication was received late yesterday afternoon from the Azerbaijan Embassy in London stating that “Azerbaijan is not in a position to welcome the Amnesty mission to Baku at the present time” and suggesting that any visit should be postponed until after the Games.

    June 07, 2015

    The decision by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia to uphold the sentence of the blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is a dark day for freedom of expression in the Kingdom, Amnesty International said.

    “It is abhorrent that this cruel and unjust sentence has been upheld. Blogging is not a crime and Raif Badawi is being punished merely for daring to exercise his right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “By failing to overturn the sentence Saudi Arabian authorities today have displayed a callous disregard to justice and to the tens of thousands of voices around the world calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Now that his sentence is final and cannot be revoked, his public flogging might start as soon as Friday and he will unjustly serve the remaining of his sentence. The court’s decision casts a further stain on Saudi Arabia’s already bleak human rights record.”

    June 05, 2015

    Ablikim Abdiriyim was released from prison on May 31, 2015, after completing his sentence and is now safe with his family.

    His deteriorating health and the harsh prison conditions, which included torture and solitary confinement, in China makes his release even more welcome.

        Rebiya Kadeer 

    Like his mother, prominent Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, Ablikim was in prison for defending the rights of the Uighur minority in China. And like her, the Chinese authorities threw him in jail for standing up for human rights. And they hurt him, tortured him, in part to punish Rebiya for all her activism. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and campaigned tirelessly demanding his release.

    Rebiya said that she believes efforts by the international community helped to protect him during his detention:
     

    June 04, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  5 June 2015

    Amnesty International  &  Privacy International

    Governments must accept they have lost the debate over the legitimacy of mass surveillance and reform their oversight of intelligence gathering, Amnesty International and Privacy International said today in a briefing published two years after Edward Snowden blew the lid on US and UK intelligence agencies’ international spying network.

    “The balance of power is beginning to shift,” said Edward Snowden in an article published today in newspapers around the world. “With each court victory, with every change in law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear.”

    June 04, 2015

    The Thai military government’s last minute shutdown of a panel discussion on human rights is a blatant attempt to silence criticism in violation of Thailand’s international legal obligations, Amnesty International said.

    The event, a report launch by the NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, on human rights violations in the year since the 2014 military coup, was today cancelled by Thai authorities at the last minute. Media reports said that authorities claimed the event was “likely to cause disturbance”.

    “Authorities must stop repressing free speech and peaceful assembly in the name of security. The shutting down of this event is a blatant attempt to silence criticism of the authorities and flies in the face of their obligations to respect freedom of expression,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific Research Director.

    June 04, 2015

    Four months before national elections in Guinea, President Alpha Condé should act to strengthen a proposed new law that could help put an end to the country's history of violent demonstrations and reject another that could criminalise dissent, Amnesty International said today.

    On Tuesday a bill on maintaining public order was passed by the National Assembly, defining how and when force can and cannot be used to police protests. According to information collected by Amnesty International, at least 357 people have died and thousands have been wounded during demonstrations over the last decade.

    “Guinea’s recent past has been marred by the violent repression of demonstrations in which hundreds of people have died. New legislation to ensure force is only ever used as a measure of last resort, and under strict conditions, is welcome but needs to be strengthened and enforced if Guinea’s history of violence is not to repeat itself in the coming elections”, said Francois Patuel, Amnesty International Researcher for francophone West Africa, who is on mission in the country.

    June 04, 2015
    Gao Yu journalist and prisoner of conscience

    By William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. On twitter @williamnee

    26 years have passed since the tragic days in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

    But even though the tanks have long left the city’s infamous square, President Xi Jinping, appears as determined to quash anyone perceived as challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony.

    When President Xi took office in late 2012, he declared power would be put “in a cage”, but it is the independently minded academics, journalists, lawyers, and rights activists that have been thrown in jail.

    We are witnessing one of the darkest periods for freedom of expression in China since the bloodshed of 1989.

    June 03, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  4 June 2015

    The Cambodian authorities must provide justice to those killed, disappeared and injured during the crackdowns on protests by security forces, Amnesty International said today in a new report.  

    Taking to the streets documents how not a single official or member of the security forces has been held to account for the often brutal repression of protests in Cambodia, including around the disputed 2013 elections.

    “Protesters in Cambodia have had to brave batons and sometimes bullets to voice their opinions. Over the past two years people have taken to the streets to demand their rights like never before, but the authorities have regularly responded with violent repression,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “Our report documents how victims of serious human rights violations by security forces have been left without justice and effective remedies, while those responsible continue to walk free.”

    June 02, 2015

    The guilty verdict against an opposition activist in Myanmar today for “insulting religion” is a serious blow to both freedom of expression and religious tolerance in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Htin Lin Oo, a writer and former information officer of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmar’s main opposition party, was today convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour by a court in Sagaing region.

    The charge on which he was convicted relate to a speech he gave in October 2014 in which he criticized some groups for using religion to stoke discrimination. A 10-minute edited version of the speech circulated on social media soon after, causing outrage among Buddhist nationalist groups that led to his subsequent arrest. He was acquitted of a second charge of “wounding religious feelings”.

    May 28, 2015

    A decree signed today by President Vladimir Putin making deaths of Russian forces “in peacetime” a state secret is yet another attack on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The new decree, which bans all information about losses of Russian troops “during special operations” in peacetime, comes amid longstanding accusations that President Putin has sent military assistance to separatists in eastern Ukraine.  

    “Not only is this decree a blatant attack on freedom of expression, it also has sinister undertones that will intensify speculation President Putin has something to hide – specifically losses incurred by Russia’s military in Ukraine,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director. 

    The Kremlin has consistently denied sending troops and weapons to help separatist forces across the border.

    “The move also increases fears for the safety of Russian media workers and civil society activists who have already faced harassment for trying to independently cover the conflict in Ukraine.” 

    May 27, 2015

    Angola’s authorities must abandon efforts to resuscitate the criminal defamation case against investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, said Amnesty International today.

    Rafael Marques de Morais is due to appear in court on 28 May 2015 for sentencing.

    On 25 May the Public Prosecutor in his trial requested that the judge convict him of criminal defamation and sentence him to 30 days in prison, despite a settlement agreement last week which resulted in more than 20 defamation charges against him being dropped. 

    “The Public Prosecutor’s request for Rafael Marques de Morais to be found guilty of criminal defamation is a clear sign of abuse of the judiciary to intimidate those who dare to speak truth to power in Angola,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “This prosecution must not go ahead, and the Attorney General and Public Prosecutor must unconditionally drop all charges against him following the terms of the agreement negotiated in open court.”

    May 27, 2015

    The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) refusal to allow an Amnesty International expert to enter the country last night to speak at a conference is the latest in a shocking series of incidents highlighting the government’s desire to silence dissenting views and tighten its stranglehold on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    James Lynch, the organization’s Acting Head of Business and Human Rights, arrived in Dubai airport last night only to be refused entry and forced to book a return flight to the UK early this morning. He had been invited to today’s Middle East Economic Digest Construction Leadership Summit (MEED) in Dubai, to speak about the responsibility of corporations to ensure migrant workers’ rights are protected in the massive construction boom across the Gulf region.

    Authorities in Dubai airport gave no justification for their actions, but Lynch said one of the officials held a deportation order which included the Arabic text: “Prevented from entering the country for reasons of security”.

    May 25, 2015

    Diamonds. Murder. Torture. Broken promises. Important officials. International players. All the elements of a gripping narrative told in a Hollywood blockbuster. Except this isn’t fiction, and the person on trial was the journalist who made sure the world knew the story.

    Rafael Marques de Morais, Angolan journalist and human rights defender, spent the last nearly three years defending his right to tell what happened to the miners and villagers in the Lunda Norte diamond fields region.

    He alleged in a book that seven Angolan generals and two mining companies were complicit in the human rights violations he documented. Those generals and the companies then sued him for criminal defamation, first in Portugal where the book was published and then in Angola.


     

    On May 21st, 2015, Rafael Marques de Morais walked out of court a free man.

    He was facing over 10 years in prison and a fine of $1.2 million US dollars but all charges were dropped.

    May 21, 2015

     

    The dropping of criminal libel charges against Angolan journalist, Rafael Marques de Morais, by the Luanda Provincial Tribunal is a victory for freedom of expression and human rights in the country, said Amnesty International today. The court dropped all charges after his appearance in court on 21 May 2015.

    Amnesty International calls on the Angolan government to stop further targeting him for doing his work

    “The dropping of the charges against Rafael Marques de Morais is a clear demonstration that there was no case against him as we have been saying from the beginning. As a journalist, whose only crime was to document human rights violations in the country, we believe that he has always been innocent,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    May 20, 2015

    Released 00:01 CAT Wednesday 20 May 2015

    The Zimbabwean government’s continuing stranglehold on community radio and its refusal to issue licences to all but commercial operators with links to state-owned companies or those with government ties is a ploy to stifle freedom of expression, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    ‘Beyond Tokenism: The need to license community radio stations in Zimbabwe’ also details the crackdown on those who have been campaigning for the licensing of community radio stations, in line with the country’s constitution. The police have arrested them, and state security agents have subjected them to surveillance, harassment and intimidation.
    “Despite promises and laws enacted more than 14 years ago to free up the airwaves for much needed community radio services, the government of Zimbabwe has failed to deliver on its promises and commitments,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    May 19, 2015

    Today’s passing of the draconian “undesirable organizations” bill is a dark day for freedom of expression and association in Russia, said Amnesty International.

    The bill which passed its third and final reading in the State Duma today, enables the state to ban the activities of foreign or international non-governmental organizations deemed to be undermining “state security”, “national defence” or “constitutional order”. It will also then punish Russian activists and civil society groups for maintaining ties with those “undesirable” organizations.

    The bill needs to be approved by the upper chamber of the Russian parliament and signed into law by the president. This is in practice a mere formality.

    “This legislation is the latest chapter in an unprecedented crackdown against non-governmental organizations which is effectively criminalizing lawful activity and squeezing the life out of free speech and association,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    May 15, 2015

    Three sisters were reunited with their family today after spending three months in secret detention after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities subjected them to enforced disappearance, Amnesty International said. They were detained after posting comments on Twitter on behalf of their brother, a prisoner of conscience in the Gulf state.

    According to Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights defender, the sisters, Asma Khalifa al-Suwaidi, Mariam Khalifa al-Suwaidi and Dr Alyaziyah Khalifa al-Suwaidi, were dropped off at their family home at close to noon local time today.

    They had not been heard from since they were summoned for questioning at an Abu Dhabi police station on 15 February and then taken into the custody of the UAE’s state security apparatus.

    “It is not yet known what pressure the al-Suwaidi sisters were under while in detention, if they were charged with any offence, or if their release carries any conditions,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.

    May 14, 2015

    The appeal verdict against Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab confirming his sentence of six months in jail for insulting government institutions on Twitter, demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ complete disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today.

    “Today’s verdict shows once again that Bahrain is brazenly flouting its international obligations. Nabeel Rajab has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion, the Bahraini authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally, and ensure his conviction is quashed,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    “The Bahraini authorities have expressed outrage at criticism of their human rights record, claiming they have introduced a series of reforms in recent years. However, this case provides further proof that these reforms amount to little more than empty gestures. Bahrain today remains a country where exercising freedom of speech is treated as a crime.”

    May 12, 2015

    The Bangladeshi authorities must deliver justice over the shocking murder of the secularist Bangladeshi blogger Bijoy Das – the third such killing this year – if they wish to avert a looming crisis for freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International.

    This latest attack again demonstrates Bangladesh’s secular bloggers are being targeted in a vicious campaign which the authorities are unable or unwilling to prevent.

    “Some of these killings have been claimed by extremists – but they have been facilitated by the official failure to prosecute anyone responsible,” says Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher. “The murder of Bijoy Das again shows that Bangladesh is not doing enough to protect critics of religious intolerance, or to prosecute their attackers.”

    “The prevalent impunity for all these cases continues to send a message that such attacks are tolerated by the authorities. Ending impunity and ensuring protection for those at risk must be a priority for the Bangladeshi authorities.”

    May 08, 2015

    Amnesty International today slammed a Russian court’s sentencing of three opposition activists who participated in a peaceful protest in a public square in Moscow this week.

    The Moscow court yesterday sentenced Aleksandr Ryklin and Sergei Sharov-Delaunay to 10 days of administrative detention after they each staged one-person pickets in the capital’s Bolotnaya Square on 6 May to mark the third anniversary of a violent police crackdown on opposition protesters there in 2012.

    Irina Kalmykova, who joined other peaceful protesters in the square that day, was sentenced to six days of administrative detention, in a trial in which the judge arbitrarily refused to admit her lawyer.

    “Nobody should be locked up just for holding a placard and standing in a public square – the fact that these three individuals are being deprived of their liberty for doing just that is yet more evidence of the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to stamp out all visible dissent,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.

    May 07, 2015

    The US government’s mass surveillance of communications received a major setback today with a court of appeals ruling that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records is illegal, said Amnesty International.

    "For almost two years since the Snowden revelations, the US government has claimed the bulk collection of phone records is legitimate. Today's decision is a sign that the case for mass surveillance programmes is crumbling," said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    "This is just one of several court challenges questioning the legal basis of the mass surveillance programs pursued by the USA and its allies. This should be the beginning of the end as governments are forced to face facts and admit that their surveillance programs have gone far beyond the remit of the law. This decision should spur Congress to let the sun set on section 215 of the USA Patriot Act which has been used to conduct surveillance far beyond even our worst fears.

    May 04, 2015

    By Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada's Secretary General. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeve Amnesty

    Amnesty International has reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel  regarding Public Diplomacy Cooperation ( MOU) which was concluded between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries on 18 January, 2015.

    May 03, 2015

    Released 4 May 2015 00.01 GMT

    French authorities will be handed extensive powers to monitor people online and offline if the National Assembly votes to pass a new surveillance bill tomorrow, Amnesty International warned.

    The organization said the prime minister’s sign-off without court approval did not provide adequate checks and balances.

    “This bill would take France a step closer to a surveillance state where nothing is secret except the surveillance itself. Even journalists, judges, politicians and people who have unwittingly come into contact with alleged suspects could be subject to invasive surveillance,” said Gauri van Gulik, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “French authorities could soon be bugging peoples’ homes, cars and phone lines without approval from a judge, even where there is no reasonable suspicion that they have done anything wrong.”

    May 01, 2015

    Nearly 100 days after King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud came to power in Saudi Arabia prospects for human rights progress in the Kingdom remain grim, said Amnesty International, as widespread violations continue unabated.  

    At home, scores of prisoners of conscience, imprisoned purely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly, have remained behind bars, and unfair trials of human rights activists accused of “terrorism” have continued. Within the new King’s first 100 days in power Saudi Arabia has led a military campaign in Yemen involving aerial bombardments in which hundreds of civilians have been killed, including in attacks that raise concerns that international humanitarian law may have been flouted.

    “Any hopes that the arrival of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud might herald an improvement in human rights in Saudi Arabia have been crushed,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    April 30, 2015

    Authorities in the Maldives must ensure that opposition-led May Day protests are allowed to pass peacefully and police who have threatened to crack down on demonstrators must refrain from excessive force, Amnesty International said.

    Supporters of the opposition coalition “Maldivians against Tyranny” are planning to stage a protest in the Maldives capital Male on 1 May. They demand the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed who has been imprisoned on charges of terrorism since March 2015 after an unfair trial. The opposition claims many thousands of people might take part in the protest, in what could be one of the largest such gatherings in the island nation’s history.

    “The May Day demonstrations come at a time when political tensions are threatening to boil over in the Maldives. The country’s security forces have a troubling history of violently repressing opposition protests, not least over the past few months – this must not happen tomorrow,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.

    April 30, 2015

    When 12 people working at the satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo were gunned down at their offices in central Paris in January, the world woke up to the grim reality of the threats thousands of media professionals face daily.

    The global campaigns of support for the magazine’s work sent the unequivocal message that no one should pay with their lives the price of exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    But behind this single story that dominated the international news headlines are thousands of media professionals who, in every corner of the world, are harassed, intimidated, threatened, tortured and unfairly jailed by governments and armed groups in a vile attempt to prevent them from holding up a mirror to society.

    In countries such as Mexico and Pakistan, owning a press card is so dangerous that many media professionals end up quitting their jobs altogether, out of utter fear.

    According to Reporters without Borders, 22 journalists and media workers have been killed and more than 160 have been imprisoned in 2015 alone. Nearly 100 media professionals were killed because of their work in 2014.

    April 29, 2015

    In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

    As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.

    These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.

    April 29, 2015

    The Burundian government must halt its brutal clampdown on protestors contesting President Nkurunziza’s bid to stand again in the forthcoming elections, Amnesty International warned today, or risk the situation spiralling out of control.  

    “It is alarming that people have been killed as a result of expressing their views about the electoral process. This sets a dangerous precedent at a time when the Government of Burundi should be prioritising human rights and the protection of the population in the lead-up to the elections,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
     
    “The failure of the government to even guarantee people’s rights to life and security sends a worrisome warning signal about the risk of serious human rights violations. The police and the Government of Burundi must uphold their obligations with respect to peaceful demonstrations.”

    “It is now critical for all parties in Burundi to take a clear and common stand against human rights abuses”.

    April 28, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 29 April 2015

    Whereabouts of more than 75 held after protests unknown

    Iran’s intelligence and security forces have rounded up and detained scores of Ahwazi Arabs, including several children, in what appears to be an escalating crackdown in Iran’s Khuzestan province, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. 

    According to activists and family members, many arrests took place in the lead-up to the tenth anniversary of mass anti-government demonstrations that gripped the Arab-populated province in April 2005. Family members said the arrests have been carried out without warrants by groups of armed masked men affiliated with Iran’s security and intelligence services, usually following home raids of Ahwazi Arab activists during the late evening or early morning hours. The human rights organizations expressed concern that people may have been arrested merely in connection with their perceived political opinions, for peacefully expressing dissent or for openly exhibiting their Arab identity and culture.

    April 28, 2015

     From Amnesty International USA

    (Baltimore, MD) —Following protests over the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray in police custody, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins issued the following statement:

    "The police-related death of another young unarmed black man has understandably sparked anguish and protests in the streets of Baltimore this week. While we await the findings of a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, we call on the Baltimore Police to exercise restraint during the protests, to prioritize non-violent means and only use force when absolutely unavoidable, in a manner designed to minimize injury.

    April 23, 2015

    The trial of Angolan journalist, Rafael Marques de Morais, is a mockery of freedom of expression and charges against him must be immediately and unconditionally dropped, said Amnesty International today as he returned to court in a criminal libel trial.

    Rafael Marques de Morais faces more than 20 defamation charges for publishing a book in Portugal in 2011 highlighting corruption and human rights violations allegedly committed by the Angolan army generals and companies operating in the country's diamond communities.

    "The case against Rafael Marques de Morais demonstrates a sustained attack on an individual and the right to freedom of expression in Angola. He is being targeted for simply expressing his thoughts about societal wrongs in the country. This must stop," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    Rafael Marques de Morais is a recipient of numerous prestigious international awards and has been recognised for his courageous journalistic work. He has been arrested and detained several times in Angola.

    Amnesty International has been following the trial since it began last month.

    April 23, 2015

    The human rights situation in the Maldives is deteriorating alarmingly as authorities are muzzling peaceful protesters, silencing critical media and civil society, while abusing the judicial system to imprison opposition politicians, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.

    The briefing comes on the back of a five-day fact finding mission to Maldives (17 to 22 April 2015), when an Amnesty International delegation interviewed lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists and political activists. The delegation was unable to meet with government officials during this visit, but intends to accept an invitation to do so later in the year.

    “There’s a climate of fear spreading in the Maldives, as safeguards on human rights are increasingly eroded. The authorities have a growing track record of silencing critical voices by any means necessary – be it through the police, the judicial system, or outright threats and harassment. This must end immediately,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher, who launched the briefing at a press conference in Delhi, India.

    April 22, 2015

    Sudan’s ongoing election period has been characterized by state sponsored human rights violations with dissent violently suppressed and political opposition figures subjected to arbitrary arrest, Amnesty International said. 

    Sudan went to the polls from 13-15 April in the country’s first election since the south ceded from the north in 2011, although final results have not yet been announced. 

    “This election was meant to mark a brighter future for Sudan’s citizens, but instead it has been blighted by a wave of repression coupled with an appalling lack of accountability,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director. 

    April 17, 2015

    The unnecessary use of force by South Korean police against families of the Sewol ferry tragedy is an insult to the victims and a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said on Friday.

    Police used pepper spray against participants of a vigil walk in memory of the victims, near Gwanghwamun district in central Seoul on Thursday night according to local media.
    One woman, the mother of a child who died in the accident, is reported to have suffered fractured ribs after a police officer used his shield to push into the crowds.  

    “The clampdown against an overwhelming peaceful protest is totally unjustified, unnecessary and an insult to both the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy and their families,” said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

    The ongoing protests started on Thursday when tens of thousands of people took part in the vigil to mark the first anniversary of the ferry accident in which 304 people, mostly school children, died.

    April 17, 2015

    The beating of peaceful protesters, including a prominent human rights activist, by Zimbabwean Police shows a complete disregard for the rule of law and a culture of impunity, said Amnesty International today.

    The organization is calling on the government to conduct an immediate, full, transparent and impartial investigation after dozens of police were captured on video beating up human rights activist Sydney Chisi with batons earlier today.

    “The brutal beating of Sydney Chisi by anti-riot police is abhorrent. It is against international standards on policing of peaceful demonstrations. This must stop,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    Sydney Chisi was one of scores of protesters demonstrating outside the South African embassy in Harare against xenophobic violence in South Africa, where Zimbabweans, and other foreign nationals, have been targeted.

    Sydney Chisi was admitted in hospital and treated for injuries sustained during the beating. Several other protesters were also injured.

    April 17, 2015

    The sentencing of the highly respected journalist Gao Yu to seven years in jail by a Chinese court is an affront to justice and an attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said on Friday.

    Gao Yu, 71, was found guilty by a court in Beijing of the spurious charge of “disclosing state secrets”. Her trial in November was held behind closed doors. Her lawyer has said she will appeal against the sentence.

    “This deplorable sentence against Gao Yu is nothing more than blatant political persecution by the Chinese authorities. She is the victim of vaguely worded and arbitrary state-secret laws that are used against activists as part of the authorities’ attack on freedom of expression,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Gao Yu is a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government. She should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    April 14, 2015

    Authorities in Guinea must urgently carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the military shooting which resulted in the death of one opposition protester and injured at least 15 others, Amnesty International said today.

    A 30 year old man was shot dead from a bullet to the chest on Monday 13 April 2015 during clashes between the security forces and demonstrators at an opposition rally in the capital Conakry.  Eleven people including minors have been arrested and charged with participating in a non-authorized demonstration causing public disorder.  

    “Law enforcement officials must apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms, which may be used only if non-violent means have proven to be ineffective. The use of such excessive force, which resulted in one death and several injuries, is deeply worrying” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.

    “The Guinean authorities must not bring back the old demons of violence. All those responsible for the excessive use of force must be clearly identified and brought to trial”.

    April 10, 2015

    Sudan must end arbitrary detentions and ensure restitution for the three opposition political party leaders released yesterday, Amnesty International urged, with less than a week to go until the country’s elections.

    Farouk Abu Iss, Dr. Amin Maki Madani and Farah Al-Aggar were freed today after being arbitrarily detained for more than four months because of their political opposition to the government.

    “These three men had been arbitrarily detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. We had demanded their immediate and unconditional release.  It has taken 124 days for the Minister of Justice to dismiss their case, which was clearly politically motivated,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “The government of Sudan should offer restitution to the three for their arbitrary detention. It should also prevent any further arbitrary or unlawful detentions, particularly in the context of the upcoming elections.”

    April 01, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 2 April 2015

    With the general elections fast approaching in Sudan, the government’s clampdown on dissenting voices threatens the independence and freedom of action of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, students, the media and members of the political opposition, Amnesty International said in a briefing launched today. 

    The clampdown has been exacerbated by recent constitutional amendments giving sweeping powers to the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). 

    “As Sudan enters elections, the NISS’s control of what the media should say and what civil society can comment or act on is deeply disturbing,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa. 

    “Human rights violations by NISS, now at unprecedented levels, only serve to quell dissent and criticism of the National Congress Party (NCP) government in the run up to April’s general elections,” said Michelle Kagari. 

    March 31, 2015

    The conviction and sentencing this morning of a Thai businessman to 25 years in prison for posting messages allegedly critical of the royal family on Facebook is preposterous and shows the urgent need for Thailand to amend its outdated lèse majesté law, said Amnesty International.

    A Thai military court found Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee, 58, guilty on all five counts of posting messages deemed to be defamatory of Thailand’s royal family between July and November of 2014.

    The sentence comes the same day that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a request to Thailand’s King to allow the lifting of martial law. The interim constitution gives the Prime Minister unchallenged authority to replace martial law with new legislation he claims is necessary for maintaining national security.

    Since martial law came into force in Thailand on 20 May 2014, hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained and dozens dragged before military courts for peacefully exercising their rights to assembly and expression.

    March 30, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 31 March 2015

    All but one of independent Crimean Tatar-language media outlets – including those providing children’s entertainment – will be shut down on 1 April as the midnight deadline expires for re-registration under a Russian law, Amnesty International said.

    Despite submitting applications in good time, Crimean Tatar-language publications, websites and broadcast outlets that have been arbitrarily refused re-registration or not heard back from the licensing authorities, will be forced to close. Failure to do so will lead to heavy fines and criminal prosecutions.

    “At the stroke of midnight, all but one Crimean Tatar language media outlets, which have come under a sustained assault since the Russian annexation, will fall silent,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “This blatant attack on freedom of expression, dressed-up as an administrative procedure, is a crude attempt to stifle independent media, gag dissenting voices, and intimidate the Crimean Tatar community.”

    March 30, 2015

    The horrifying murder of a blogger who was hacked to death in Dhaka this morning, the second violent killing of a Bangladeshi blogger in a month, must be a “wake up call” to the authorities on the need to create a safe environment for journalists and activists to express their views, said Amnesty International.

    Washiqur Rahman was killed near his home in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. Two men have been arrested near the scene. Police has said the blogger was attacked for his alleged “anti-Islamic” writings.

    His murder comes a month after US-based writer and atheist blogger Avijit Roy was killed with a machete while visiting the Bangladeshi capital. He had previously received threats for his atheist views. Police have arrested one suspect.

    March 30, 2015

    Today, as the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security commences its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, seven of Canada’s leading human rights organizations reiterate their call for the Bill to be withdrawn.

    Since the Committee began its hearings on March 9, 2015, it has heard concerns raised by expert witnesses representing a variety of perspectives. As Canadians learn more about Bill C-51, public concern and opposition to the Bill continues to grow, as reflected in the rapidly growing numbers of Canadians who have taken part in demonstrations and who have signed petitions and letters. Meanwhile, editorial boards from across the political spectrum continue to critique the Bill and the manner in which it is being deliberated in Parliament.

    March 24, 2015

    The death this morning of at least eight peaceful protesters, shot by members of the Huthi-loyal Yemeni Central Security Forces in Ta’iz, illustrates a shocking disregard for human life as the country descends into chaos, said Amnesty International.

    Doctors working at two hospitals in the city of Ta’iz told Amnesty International that at least another 119 individuals were admitted with injuries inflicted by security forces since anti-Huthi protests began on Sunday. Most were treated for injuries related to tear gas inhalation and at least 38 had gunshot wounds.

    “Human rights in Yemen are in free-fall as even peaceful protest becomes a life-threatening activity,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “The Huthi leadership must immediately rein in the security forces and armed men under its control and tell them that force must not be used against peaceful protesters. People should not be at risk of death or serious injury for merely voicing their opposition to the Huthi takeover of towns and cities.  

    March 23, 2015

    The arrests of scores of protesters as well as two human rights lawyers in separate incidents yesterday and today in Malaysia are the latest troubling signs of an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly, Amnesty International said today.

    “These latest in a string of recent arrests point to a clear and worrying trend and reveal the very grim reality of the Malaysian authorities’ stance on upholding basic freedoms,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher.

    “The space for dissent and debate in Malaysia is rapidly shrinking, under the guise of punishing ‘sedition’ or maintaining public order.”

    Mass detentions of protesters

    Today (23 March) at least 79 protesters were arrested at a sit-in protest outside the Customs Department in the Petaling Jaya area of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Around 40 riot police were sent to control the public action, and a “scuffle” was reported. Those arrested were among around 100 people protesting against a new Goods and Services Tax to be implemented in the coming weeks.

    March 23, 2015

    On the passing on Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

    “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family of Lee Kuan Yew and others who mourn his passing.”

    “Lee Kuan Yew more than anyone else built modern Singapore, and his legacy will be unrivalled economic progress and development. There is, however, a dark side to what he leaves behind – too often, basic freedoms and human rights were sacrificed to ensure economic growth. Restrictions on freedom of expression and the silencing of criticism is still part of the daily reality for Singaporeans.”

    “Lee Kuan Yew’s passing, just a few months short of Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence, happens just as the country enters a new era. We urge the next generation of leaders to ensure that this is marked by genuine respect for human rights.”

    March 21, 2015

    Equatorial Guinea must release a human rights defender detained simply for campaigning against the unlawful arrest and subsequent restriction of movement imposed on opposition leader Guillermo Nguema, Amnesty International and EG Justice said today.

    Luis Nzo was arrested yesterday 19 March 2015 in the capital Malabo while he was peacefully distributing leaflets and using a megaphone to denounce the arrest of opposition leader Guillermo Nguema, and his arbitrary transfer to Mongomo, hundreds of miles away from the capital. Nguema was threatened not to leave Mongomo and is facing severe unlawful restrictions of movement.

    “The arrest of Luis Nzo and the restriction on freedom of movement of Guillermo Nguema underscore Equatorial Guinea’s current disrespect for human rights,” said Marta Colomer Aguilera, Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner.  

    “Luis Nzo must be immediately and unconditionally released, and all restrictions of movement lifted from Guillermo Nguema. There is no legitimate reason to justify this – it is simply a crackdown on dissent.”  

    March 18, 2015

    The Yemeni authorities must set up a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into today’s despicable killing of leading journalist and activist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, Amnesty International said.

    According to media reports, unidentified gunmen on a motorbike shot Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani dead near his house in the centre of the capital Sana’a today. A former recipient of Amnesty International UK’s Special Award for Human Rights Journalism under Threat, he had been imprisoned several times and faced years of harassment under former President ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh.

    “Given the history of intimidation and harassment Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani faced for his outspoken journalism and peaceful activism, his despicable killing today smacks of a politically motivated assassination,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    March 18, 2015

    The de facto authorities in Crimea have failed to investigate a series of abductions and torture of their critics, and resorted to an unrelenting campaign of intimidation to silence dissent, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today on the first anniversary of annexation.

    Violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in Crimea highlights how the de facto authorities in Crimea are carrying out a catalogue of human rights abuses against pro-Ukrainian media, campaigning organizations, Crimean Tatars and individuals critical of the regime.

    “Since Russia annexed Crimea, the de facto authorities are using a vast array of bully boy tactics to crack down on dissent; a spate of abductions between March and September have prompted many vocal critics to leave the region. Those remaining face a range of harassment from authorities determined to silence their opponents,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    Abductions and torture – no effective investigations 

    March 17, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 18 March 2015

    The United States’ mass surveillance of internet and phone use flies in the face of global public opinion, said Amnesty International as it published a major poll to launch its worldwide #UnfollowMe campaign.

    The poll, which questioned 15,000 people from 13 countries across every continent, found that 71% of respondents were strongly opposed to the United States monitoring their internet use. Meanwhile, nearly two thirds said they wanted tech companies – like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – to secure their communications to prevent government access.

    “The United States should see this poll as a warning that surveillance is damaging its credibility. President Obama should heed the voice of people around the world and stop using the internet as a tool for collecting mass data about peoples’ private lives,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    March 17, 2015

    The Angolan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release two human rights defenders who were detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country’s Cabinda region, five organizations including Amnesty International said today.

    Jose Marcos Mavungo was arrested on 14 March 2015 – the day of the planned protest - and charged with sedition on 16 March 2015. Another human rights defender, Arao Bula Tempo, was also arrested and detained on unknown charges.

    “These arbitrary detentions are the latest disturbing example of growing repression of dissenting voices, peaceful protest and freedom of expression in Angola, particularly in the province of Cabinda,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “We believe there is no basis for the arrest of the human rights defenders or the sedition charges brought against one of the activists. This makes a mockery of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.”

    March 17, 2015

    The Cameroonian authorities must ensure humane treatment for detained journalist Gerard Kuissu, Amnesty International said today. His treatment must comply with international human rights law and Cameroon must ensure that he enjoys all fair trial rights and guarantees against ill-treatment.

    Gerard Kuissu, an online journalist and coordinator of human rights group ‘Tribunal Article 53’ was arrested with three of his colleagues in the night of Saturday, 14 March, in Douala after meeting Amnesty International delegates visiting the country. His three colleagues were released the same night after two and a half hours of questioning, while Gerard Kuissu was transferred to a detention facility in the capital Yaoundé managed by the Ministry of Defence. He should either be charged with a recognizably criminal offence or released. He has been held without charge for three days.

    March 17, 2015

    The conviction and prison sentence handed down today against two managers and the owner of a bar in Myanmar for displaying an image of the Buddha wearing headphones should be overturned immediately and is a chilling indication of the growing climate of religious intolerance in the country, Amnesty International said. 

    Tun Thurein and Htut Ko KoLwin from Myanmar and Philip Blackwood from New Zealand were today imprisoned for “insulting religion”. The charges stem back to December 2014 when the Buddha image was used to promote their Yangon bar online.

    “It is ludicrous that these three men have been jailed simply for posting an image online to promote a bar. They should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for South East Asia and the Pacific. 

    March 10, 2015

                 
    Amid growing fear for the safety of abducted journalist and pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara, Amnesty International is calling on the Zimbabwe government to immediately investigate and ensure his safety.  

    Itai Dzamara, was abducted yesterday, 9 March 2015 by five men while he was at a barbers’ shop in Harare’s Glen View suburb. The abductors are said to have accused him of stealing cattle before handcuffing him, forcing him into a white truck with concealed number plates and driving off. He has not been seen since.

    “The abduction of Itai Dzamara is deeply alarming. The Zimbabwean authorities, especially the police, must urgently institute a search operation and do all within their power to ensure his safe return. There must be a full and thorough investigation into his abduction, with those responsible brought to justice,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International Southern Africa’s Deputy Director for Research.

    March 10, 2015

    The violent police crackdown on largely peaceful protesters in Myanmar amounts to unnecessary and excessive use of force and must end immediately, Amnesty International said.

    Police today forcibly dispersed student protesters who had gathered in Letpadan township in Myanmar’s central Bago Region to protest a new education law. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that when protesters tried to dismantle a police blockade, police started beating protesters, including some who had fallen to the ground, with batons.

    “The violent response by police in Myanmar against the student protesters in Letpadan was completely disproportionate. Police clearly used excessive force against protesters, and also beat helpless people who had fallen to the ground, which amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “Eyewitness accounts and images of police beating fleeing demonstrators with batons are a stark reminder of just how repressive the climate still is for activism in the country.”

    March 06, 2015

    Associates of Umarali Kuvvatov, a founding member of a Tajikistan opposition group, are at grave risk of further attacks after he was shot dead in Istanbul last night, Amnesty International said today. 

    Umarali Kuvvatov and his family previously told the organization he had received threats, as well as tips from sympathizers that there had been “orders” to harm them, allegedly coming from the highest levels of Tajikistan’s authorities.

    “Umarali Kuvvatov’s killing sends a chilling and extreme message to Tajikistani political dissenters both at home and abroad. The Turkish authorities must lead an impartial, effective and prompt investigation into his unlawful killing, reveal the full truth and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    “We have received reports of death threats and attempted assassinations of dissenters from Tajikistan in foreign countries in recent years, but this is the first actual killing of a Tajikistani political activist. It begs the immediate question: how many more are at risk?”

    February 27, 2015

    Three women who have been detained incommunicado for nearly two weeks in a chilling display of repression by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and must be urgently released, said Amnesty International.

    The women, three sisters, disappeared after they were summoned for questioning at a police station in Abu Dhabi on 15 February after speaking out about their brother, who is a prisoner of conscience, on social media.

    “The authorities are clearly punishing these women for speaking out on Twitter to draw attention to their brother’s unfair trial. Shortly after posting a tweet that said ‘I miss my brother’, Asma Khalifa al-Suwaidi and her two sisters were summoned by police and now have vanished as if into a black hole,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    February 18, 2015
    By Levan Asatiani, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Ukraine @levan_asatiani 

    At least 77 people died as a result of clashes between police and protesters at Kyiv’s EuroMaydan roughly a year ago and another 1,000 were severely injured.

    These numbers may sound like dull statistics, but for me they were transformed into real individual stories of injustice as I attended launch of Amnesty International’s report: A year after EuroMaydan, justice delayed, justice denied in Kiev this morning. One of the most outspoken victims of police violence at EuroMaydan – Vladyslav Tsilytskiy – was present at the report launch.

    Fighting for justice

    February 17, 2015

    On 10 February 2015 Malaysia’s Federal Court, the highest court in the country,  upheld the decision of an appeal court to overturn opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal on long-standing ‘sodomy’ charges, which date back to 2008, and sentenced him to five years in prison.

    Amnesty International believes this is a deplorable judgment, and the latest chapter in the Malaysian authorities’ relentless attempts to silence government critics. This oppressive ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.  The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim have always been politically motivated, and he should be released immediately.

    Anwar Ibrahim is a prisoner of conscience – jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Anwar Ibrahim stated that he is innocent of the charge; that it is the result of a political conspiracy to stop his political career - and that he will never surrender.  

    February 16, 2015

    The horrific execution-style killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by the group calling itself the Tripoli Province of Islamic State is a war crime and an attack on the fundamental principles of humanity, Amnesty International said today.  

    A video published online by the media wing of the armed group purports to show the beheadings of 21 Copts, mostly Egyptians, on a beach in an unknown location in the province of Tripoli. The atrocity was carried out in retaliation for the alleged abduction of Camilia Shehata, an Egyptian woman, formerly a Christian, whose conversion to Islam sparked a wave of protests in 2010.

    Nothing could justify the cold-blooded murder of the men who appear to have been targeted solely on account of their faith, Amnesty International has said.
    The video titled “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” shows a group of men dressed in orange jumpsuits who are paraded on the beach by masked men, then forced to kneel, and then beheaded.

    February 10, 2015

    The Taiwanese authorities must drop criminal charges against people solely for participating in or organizing peaceful demonstrations, Amnesty International said, after more than 100 people were charged for protesting during the so-called “Sunflower Movement”.

    “While the government has been keen to press charges against the student leaders and citizen activists who took part in the Sunflower Movement, it seems content to let the police and politicians who may have carried out human rights abuses at the Executive Yuan get away without any independent investigation,” said William Nee, Amnesty International Researcher.

    “The right to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental human right, and all states have a positive obligation to facilitate this right in law and practice.”

    In contrast to the criminal investigations against the protesters, to date there has been no thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the police conduct during the removal of protesters from the Executive Yuan and surrounding areas on 23/24 March.

    February 10, 2015

    A Malaysian court’s decision to uphold a “sodomy” conviction against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and to hand him a five-year prison sentence is an oppressive ruling that will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Malaysia’s Federal Court, the highest court in the country, today upheld the decision of an appeal court to overturn Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal on long-standing ‘sodomy’ charges, which date back to 2008, and sentenced him to five years in prison.

    “This is a deplorable judgment, and just the latest chapter in the Malaysian authorities’ relentless attempts to silence government critics. The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim have always been politically motivated, and he should be released immediately,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

    February 05, 2015

    Malaysian authorities must immediately drop politically motivated sedition charges against a lawyer who could face up to three years in prison over a tweet criticizing an Islamic state agency, Amnesty International said.

    Eric Paulsen, a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the NGO Lawyers for Liberty, was today charged under Malaysia’s Sedition Act for a tweet he sent on 12 January 2015. The tweet called on the government to prevent the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) from “promoting extremism”.

    “These politically motivated charges must be dropped immediately and unconditionally. It is ludicrous that someone could face three years in prison simply for a tweet critical of the authorities,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “Eric Paulsen is a known human rights defender, and has been targeted simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. If he is jailed, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience.” 

    February 02, 2015

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel must call upon the Hungarian authorities to stop their unprecedented crackdown on NGOs said Amnesty International today as it published a new report coinciding with her visit to the country this week.

    Their backs to the wall: civil society under pressure in Hungary details the orchestrated attack on NGOs by the Hungarian authorities over the past year. It has included public smearing, criminal investigations, office raids and the seizure of equipment, and a politically motivated audit which could eventually lead to the closure of organizations.

    “The Hungarian authorities’ ongoing assault on NGOs has all the hallmarks of a witch-hunt. EU leaders should be extremely alarmed that practices coined in Russia are gaining currency in an EU member state. Angela Merkel must not miss the opportunity to challenge these practices this week,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    February 01, 2015

    The continuing plight of Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy must not be forgotten as their colleague Peter Greste is deported from Egypt.© KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

    The continuing plight of Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy must not be forgotten as their colleague Peter Greste is deported from Egypt, said Amnesty International.

    The organization has been calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all three men since their arrest in December 2013.

    “The news that Peter Greste will finally be allowed to leave Egypt after more than a year in prison comes as a welcome relief, but nothing can make up for his ordeal. It is vital that in the celebratory fanfare surrounding his deportation the world does not forget the continuing ordeal of Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy who remain behind bars at Tora prison in Cairo,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa .

    January 21, 2015

    Three of the released activists freed by Cuba had been recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, including the twins Bianco Vargas Martín and Diango Vargas Martín, who had been imprisoned for “public disorder” offences.
     
    In the days following the initial releases, the Cuban authorities reportedly released dozens of other political prisoners. In total, it is believed 53 were released as relations thawed between Cuba and the USA.

    What happened?

    Government repression in Cuba has long stifled freedom of expression and led to hundreds of arrests and detention. Journalists and political activists faced harassment and intimidation by security officials.

    January 17, 2015

    Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnistie Internationale Canada francophone, gives a snapshot of some of the widespread global campaigning for Raif Badawi. Raif has been sentenced to ten years and 1,000 lashes after starting a website for public debate in Saudi Arabia.

    When the vigil in Montreal ended, we were all frozen to the bone. It was a gorgeous day, but to motivate activists and supporters to stay outdoors for over an hour in -20 degree temperatures, you have to be creative.

    Motivating them to come in the first place wasn’t that hard – I could see the energy and the anger in their faces. They were outraged at what was happening to Raif Badawi, and they wanted to act. Another reason to attend: standing beside me, upright, silent and proud, small in stature but great in spirit, was Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who has taken refuge in Quebec along with their three children. Together, we our determined to reunite this family.

    January 16, 2015

    A string of at least 69 arrests in France this week on the vague charge of “defending terrorism” (“l’apologie du terrorisme”) risks violating freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    All the arrests appear to be on the basis of statements made in the aftermath of the deadly attacks against the magazine Charlie Hebdo, a kosher supermarket and security forces in Paris on 7 and 9 January.

    “In a week in which world leaders and millions around the world have spoken out in defence of freedom of expression, the French authorities must be careful not to violate this right themselves,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “How the French authorities act in the aftermath of the horrific killings is the litmus test for its commitment to human rights for all.”

    January 15, 2015

    A criminal investigation launched today against one of Turkey’s largest daily newspapers for “insulting religious values” in its coverage of controversial cartoons published in France amounts to state censorship and will have a chilling effect on journalism and freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The investigation follows a police raid on Cumhuriyet daily’s printing press in Istanbul on Wednesday after a prosecutor discovered the newspaper was publishing a selection of cartoons from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

    Turkey's Prime Minister called the reproduction of the cartoons a “grave provocation” stating that “the freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to insult”.

    “Raiding a printing press or launching criminal investigations into journalists because of what a newspaper has published are a drastic limitation on freedom of expression and amount to state censorship,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.

    January 14, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 15 January 2015

    Burkina Faso’s transitional authorities must investigate the use of excessive and lethal force by the military, including the presidential guard, against largely peaceful anti-government protesters, which left at least 10 dead and hundreds injured last autumn, Amnesty International said in a detailed report published today.  

    The report,“Just what were they thinking when they shot at people?” Crackdown on anti-government protests in Burkina Faso, is based on an in-depth investigation into the excessive and often lethal use of force by the presidential guard known as Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle or RSP, gendarmes  and the military during the protests that erupted in Ouagadougou and other cities from 30 October to 2 November 2014.

    Evidence suggests that little or no warning was given by the military before they opened fire on protestors, some of whom had their hands up and many of whom were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Under Burkina Faso law the military was not even authorized to be deployed in such circumstances.

    January 09, 2015

    An eyewitness account of the flogging today of Raif Badawi an activist in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate. The witness has not been named for security reasons.

    When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.

    They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?

    January 08, 2015

    The release of at least nine jailed opposition activists by the Cuban authorities since last night is a positive step which should be followed by a new human rights agenda on the island, Amnesty International said.

    Cuban activists have confirmed that five political prisoners were released on Wednesday evening, and at least four more activists were released today (8 January). Among the nine men, three were previously recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

    It is believed this could be the first in a series of releases of more than 50 prisoners in Cuba as part of a deal announced last month to “normalize” relations between Cuba and the USA.

    “The release of these nine prisoners is clearly an important step towards righting past injustices in Cuba, and hopefully the first of many such releases of those jailed for politically motivated offences,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    January 08, 2015

    Bangladeshi authorities must investigate the killing of protesters and release prisoners – including a prominent journalist and an opposition leader – arrested this week as part of an apparent crackdown against the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Amnesty International said.

    Two people were reported killed on Wednesday night during clashes between police and BNP supporters in the southern district of Noakhali. At least six people have been killed in protests since Monday.

    “The government of Bangladesh has a duty to launch an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into these deaths and bring those responsible to justice,” said Abbas Faiz, Bangladesh Researcher at Amnesty International.

    The unrest in Bangladesh comes a year after a disputed election on 5 January 2014 that brought to power the current Awami League government, led by Sheikh Hasina.

    The opposition boycotted the election. On the anniversary of the vote this year, the BNP leader, Khaleda Zia, urged supporters to take to the streets and enforce a transport blockade.

    January 07, 2015

    This morning’s deadly attack by gunmen on the Paris office of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo is a chilling assault on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The attack, allegedly carried out by masked gunmen who fled the scene after engaging in a gunfight with police, reportedly left 12 people dead and several more wounded at the newspaper’s office.

    "This is a dark day for freedom of expression and a vibrant press culture. But above all, it is an appalling human tragedy,” said Stephan Oberreit, Director of Amnesty International France.

    “It is an atrocity that sought to kill journalists, suppress freedom of expression and sow fear. It must be utterly condemned and the French authorities must ensure all those responsible are brought to justice in a fair trial. Journalists under threat must be protected and allowed to carry out their work without fear of deadly violence.”

    Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical newspaper based in Paris, has faced controversy in the past for its publication of cartoons deemed to be insulting to Islam.

    January 06, 2015

    The decision by a military court to continue the detention of Tunisian blogger Yassine Ayari is a gross violation of the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International as his re-trial started today.

    The organization called for his immediate release from prison, and for his conviction on charges that he had “defamed the army” in a series of Facebook posts to be quashed. Yassine Ayari was sentenced to three years in jail last November.

    “It is unacceptable that Yassine Ayari has been imprisoned for criticizing state officials. As a civilian, he should never have been tried by a military court and he should be released immediately,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “Tunisia’s new parliament, elected two months ago, should make it a priority to repeal laws that make defaming state officials and institutions a criminal offense, and that allow civilians to be tried by military courts.”

    December 19, 2014

    A decision by South Korea's Constitutional Court to dissolve an opposition political party could have chilling consequences for freedom of expression and association in the country, said Amnesty International.

    The court found that the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) violated the country's "fundamental democratic order" after the government accused the party of supporting North Korea. The ruling also disqualified all sitting UPP lawmakers from representing the party.

    "The ban on the UPP raises serious questions as to the authorities' commitment to freedom of expression and association," said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “The dissolution of a political party can have far-reaching consequences and should only be taken with the utmost restraint.”

    The Constitutional Court considered the case against the UPP at the request of the government. This was the first such request from a South Korean government since the end of dictatorial rule in 1987. The last time a party was disbanded was in 1958.

    December 15, 2014

    The Yemeni authorities must investigate the killing of a political activist shot dead by security forces during a peaceful protest in the southern city of Aden today, Amnesty International said.  

    Khaled Al-Junaidi, a leading activist in Yemen’s separatist Southern Movement, was leading a strike in the district of Crater when he was ordered out of his car by five masked security officers and shot in the chest.

    “This shocking, deliberate killing appears to be an extrajudicial execution prompted by Khaled Al-Junaidi’s peaceful activism promoting independence for southern Yemen,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “The Yemeni authorities have an obligation under international law to ensure that an independent, impartial and prompt investigation into this killing is conducted, and that all those responsible are brought to justice, including anyone who ordered the killing.”

    December 14, 2014

    Released 0:01 GMT on 15 December 2014
     

    The South Korean authorities must immediately stop the planned shipment of massive amounts of tear gas to Turkey, where the security forces have frequently abused riot control equipment amid repression of peaceful protests, Amnesty International said.

    A credible source has tipped off the organization about a planned export to Turkey of nearly 1.9 million tear gas cartridges and gas grenades manufactured in South Korea. The first batch of riot control equipment is scheduled for delivery by a South Korean company to the Turkish government in mid-January 2015.

    “All shipments of tear gas and other riot control equipment to Turkey must be suspended immediately or they risk fuelling further repression and abuses,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

    December 09, 2014

    Thailand’s military authorities must halt the alarming deterioration in respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including ending the unprecedented use of the lèse-majesté law, Amnesty International said ahead of International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

    “We are seeing a spiral into silence in Thailand – ongoing, harsh restrictions that are stifling free speech and suffocating a once vibrant civil society,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Denying the space for debate and jailing peaceful critics through the repressive lèse-majesté  law will do nothing for the ‘national reconciliation’ that the authorities have promised.”

    Official sensitivity to perceived criticism is high. Censorship spans from controls on academic seminars to the media – authorities are regularly calling in editors and in recent weeks have threatened them with prosecution should they infringe restrictions on what they can report.

    December 05, 2014

    Justice for victims of the 2007-2008 post-election violence is still an urgent priority, said Amnesty International, following today’s move by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to withdraw charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

     
    “Thousands died in the post-election violence in Kenya and this development throws a stark light on the continuing impunity for those who committed these serious crimes. Victims of these crimes are still waiting for justice and closure,”  said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “The withdrawal of the charges is not a vindication of President Uhuru Kenyatta, rather it is an indictment of the government of Kenya and the International Criminal Court, both of which continue to fail the victims of the post-election violence by denying them the justice they rightfully deserve.

    December 03, 2014

    Zimbabwean authorities should immediately begin a thorough and impartial investigation into the abduction and beating of pro-democracy and rights activists on 2 December 2014, and bring suspected perpetrators to justice, Amnesty International said today.

    Three members of the pro-democracy activist group Occupy Africa Unity Square were abducted and severely assaulted by suspected ZANU-PF supporters yesterday in Harare while engaging in a peaceful protest.

    The activists sustained injuries and were later handed to the Zimbabwean police by their abductors. They were subsequently released by police without charge and admitted to hospital where they are currently receiving treatment.

    “It is worrying that people exercising their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed freedom of assembly can be so brutally attacked in broad day light by known people and police let the perpetrators escape justice. Such conduct by police is deplorable and needs to come to an end,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty international's Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    November 28, 2014

    With thousands of pro-democracy protesters expected to take to Hong Kong’s streets again over the weekend, the city’s police chief must urgently stamp out any arbitrary and excessive use of force by police officers, Amnesty International said.

    The past two days have seen major police operations to disperse protesters from the Mong Kok area of the city marred by incidents of unjustifiable force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.

    “The heavy-handed approach by police violates the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and risks exacerbating an already tense situation,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

    “Police Commissioner Andy Tsang must not turn a blind eye to the use of excessive force by his officers. There needs to be an unequivocal message from the top that any officer violating human rights will be held to account.”

    November 26, 2014

    The prison sentence for blasphemy handed down today by a court in Pakistan against four people including the owner of a major private TV channel and one of its star actresses will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the media, Amnesty International said. The organization also noted serious concerns about the fairness of the trial.

    An anti-terrorism court (ATC) today sentenced in absentia Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo TV and its parent Jang Media Group, actress Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir and TV host Shaista Wahidi, to 26 years in prison each for airing a “contemptuous” program. Geo TV has a tense relationship with Pakistani authorities and was earlier this year temporarily taken off air following the blasphemy allegation.

    “This sentence will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan. It is appalling that someone should be sent to prison for decades over a TV program. Today’s judgment shows how Pakistan’s deeply flawed blasphemy laws have become another tool to silence media,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    November 26, 2014

    Restrictions by the Moroccan authorities on human rights organizations including Amnesty International have continued unabated despite the upcoming World Human Rights Forum being organized in Marrakech on 27-30 November.

    In recent months, for the first time since 1993, the Moroccan authorities have sought to impose limitations on Amnesty International’s human rights activities in the country.

    •        In September 2014, Amnesty International’s annual youth camp in Bouznika near the capital Rabat was banned by the authorities, in spite of the organization taking all the required steps to notify the authorities.
    •        In October 2014, the authorities denied entry to Morocco to an Amnesty International delegation seeking to document the situation of migrants and refugees.
    •        In November 2014, a fact-finding visit by the organization was cancelled after the authorities requested prior meetings in Rabat to agree on the parameters of the trip.

    November 25, 2014

    On November 19, Iran freed Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan after six years in prison. Amnesty International supporters had called for his release since his unfair trial.

    Five plain-clothed officers arrested Hossein Derakhshan at his family home in November 2008 during a visit to Iran. Although a dual Canadian-Iranian national, Derakhshan was not permitted to receive  help from Canadian embassy officials in Iran.

    He was detained before his trial for approximately  19 months. The authorities stopped him from having regular contact with family or legal representation during this time. His trial began in June 2010, and in September 2010, he was sentenced to 19 and a half years’ imprisonment on vaguely worded charges relating to national security.

    Amnesty International believed that Hossein Derakhshan was likely targeted for the peaceful expression of his views in relation to his blogging. Amnesty International called for his immediate and unconditional release if he had been prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    November 25, 2014
    Amnesty International has called for law enforcement to protect the rights of those who peacefully protest the grand jury's decision.© 2014 Getty Images

    Missouri law enforcement personnel must not resort to excessive use of force as protestors take to the streets following the Grand Jury decision not to indict a police officer accused of shooting the teenager Michael Brown, said Amnesty International today.

    “There cannot be a repeat of the abuses that occurred during the policing of protests in August. The right to peaceful demonstration is a human right that must be protected vigilantly. Officers are duty-bound to respect and facilitate that right, not impede it,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins.

    “People must be assured that measures will be taken to prevent unnecessary or excessive force. The actions of law enforcement in the next few days will be absolutely critical to provide the necessary confidence that lessons have been learned. Amnesty International, and indeed the world, will be watching.”

    November 20, 2014

    Posted at 0300hrs GMT   21 November 2014

    Indonesian authorities have increasingly made use of a range of oppressive blasphemy laws to imprison individuals for their beliefs, contributing to an intensifying climate of intolerance in the country, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today. 

    Prosecuting Beliefs shows that the number of blasphemy convictions skyrocketed during former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s decade in power (2004-2014) compared to previous administrations. Scores of individuals have been imprisoned – some for nothing more than whistling while praying, posting their opinions on Facebook or saying they had received a “revelation from God”. 

    November 19, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 20 November

    A new tool to enable journalists and human rights defenders to scan their computers for known surveillance spyware has been released today by Amnesty International and a coalition of human rights and technology organizations.

    Detekt is the first tool to be made available to the public that detects major known surveillance spyware, some of which is used by governments, in computers and mobile devices.

    “Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists’ private emails and remotely turn on their computer’s camera or microphone to secretly record their activities. They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

    November 18, 2014

    The Chinese government’s increasing efforts to influence global cyberspace rules is a further sign that internet freedom is under a sustained attack, said Amnesty International, ahead of China’s first World Internet Conference.

    The event, which takes place in the eastern Zhejiang province, between 19 -21 November, brings together senior Chinese officials and global web leaders to discuss the future of the internet. It is seen by many internet experts as part of China’s attempt to have a greater say in the rules that govern the web.

    “Internet freedom is under attack by governments across the world. Now China appears eager to promote its own domestic internet rules as a model for global regulation. This should send a chill down the spine of anyone that values online freedom,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

    “China’s internet model is one of extreme control and suppression. The authorities use an army of censors to target individuals and imprison many activists solely for exercising their right to free expression online.”

    November 17, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 18 November 2014

    Scores of activists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been harassed, arrested and in some cases tortured in custody according to a new report by Amnesty International that sheds light on the repressive tactics widely used by the government to silence its critics.

    “There is no freedom here”: Silencing dissent in the UAE lifts the lid on the climate of fear that has taken hold in the country since 2011, with the authorities going to extreme lengths to stamp out any sign of dissent, criticism or calls for reform in the wake of the mass popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Beneath the façade of glitz and glamour, a far more sinister side to the UAE has emerged showing the UAE as a deeply repressive state where activists critical of the government can be tossed in jail merely for posting a tweet,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program. 

    November 12, 2014

    The Mauritanian authorities must stop the harassment, intimidation and repression of anti-slavery activists, Amnesty International said today following the arrest of a number of high-profile campaigners.

    At least nine people including Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) and runner-up in June’s Presidential election, were arrested on 11 November and are being held in different detention centres in the southern city of Rosso, without family visits.

    Others arrested include Djiby Sow, President of the NGO Kawtal and Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, Vice President of the IRA.

    All of those arrested represent non-governmental human rights organizations that actively campaign against slavery in Mauritania. Over the last week they have been travelling across the country organizing rallies, public meetings and lectures. This was halted yesterday in the southern town of Rosso, when a police unit was sent to stop the meeting, citing the absence of any authorization documents. The IRA had sent a request but the government refused it in a written statement.

    November 04, 2014

    The Pakistani authorities must bring to justice those responsible for the vicious mob killing of a Christian couple accused of blasphemy today, Amnesty International said.

    Local police reported that an angry crowd today attacked and killed a Christian married couple in Kot Radha Kishan outside of Lahore, Punjab, and then burned their bodies at the brick kiln where they worked. Rumours circulated that the couple had desecrated a Qu’ran the day before, although the circumstances of this accusation are not clear.

    “This vicious mob killing is just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation – although religious minorities are disproportionately vulnerable. Those responsible must be brought to justice and the Pakistani authorities have to ensure at-risk communities are proactively given the protection they need,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    October 27, 2014

    Bahrain’s authorities must immediately release Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist who has been detained over tweets he posted that were deemed insulting to the Ministries of Interior and Defence said Amnesty International, ahead of a verdict in his case on Wednesday.

    “Convicting Nabeel Rajab would be a terrible injustice. It would only be further proof that respect for the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain is under attack,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Prosecuting anyone merely for peacefully expressing their political views is a clear form of repression and a brazen violation of their rights. Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience, he must be released immediately and the charges against him must be dropped.

    October 25, 2014

    Released 0900 GMT, 25 October 2014

    The Egyptian authorities must release a group of activists on trial for defying the country’s draconian protest law, Amnesty International said ahead of Sunday’s verdict in their trial for taking part in an unauthorized protest.

    Prominent human rights defender Yara Sallam and well-known activist Sanaa Seif are among 22 people charged with taking part in an unauthorized protest aimed at threatening “public peace”, among other spurious charges, despite the fact that Yara Sallam did not even participate in the protest. If convicted the activists could face up to five years in prison.

    “This show trial, based on highly questionable evidence, is the latest example of the Egyptian authorities’ determination to quash peaceful protest and stifle any form of dissent,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. 

    October 20, 2014

    A politically motivated ban imposed on a Pakistani TV channel critical of the government constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) today suspended transmissions of private network ARY TV for 15 days. It has been accused of ostensibly “maligning” the country’s judiciary after it aired an interview with a man currently the subject of a high-profile trial before the Lahore High Court.

    “ARY TV must be immediately allowed back on air. There is simply no justification for the Pakistani authorities to silence sections of the media solely because of their political leanings,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The ban on ARY is a sobering reminder of the threat of criminal prosecution on the basis of overly broad contempt of court or anti-state provisions. Journalists in Pakistan are under attack from all sides, facing harassment, even abduction and killings for carrying out their work.”

    October 15, 2014

    A human rights activist detained for “insulting” Bahrain’s King after she tore up a photograph of the monarch in court yesterday is a prisoner of conscience and must be released, Amnesty International said today.

    Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was appealing against two previous convictions for ripping up photos of Bahrain’s head of state, is now being held for seven days while authorities investigate the incident. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison.

    “The detention of Zainab illustrates the Bahraini authorities’ growing intolerance of any criticism and their harsh methods of dealing with dissent,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “They must immediately and unconditionally release Zainab and all others who are detained for peacefully expressing their views.”

    Zainab Al-Khawaja, who is more than eight months pregnant, was previously handed four-month jail sentences for destroying government property when she ripped photos of King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa on two occasions in May 2012.

    October 15, 2014

    A death sentence passed today against a dissident Shi’a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia for “disobeying the ruler”, “inciting sectarian strife” and “encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations” after a deeply flawed trial is appalling and must be immediately quashed, said Amnesty International.

    “The death sentence against Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr is part of a campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent, including those defending the rights of the Kingdom’s Shi’a Muslim community,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    Sheikh al-Nimr’s brother, Mohammad al-Nimr, was reportedly arrested after the sentence was passed at the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh.

    The reasons for Mohammad al-Nimr’s arrest and his whereabouts remain unknown – although it is believed he was detained after tweeting about his brother’s death sentence.

    October 09, 2014

    Posted at 0301 GMT 10 October 2014

    Peaceful human rights activists have been routinely harassed, rounded up like criminals and often ill-treated in detention as the Saudi Arabian authorities go to extreme lengths to hound critics into silent submission, said Amnesty International in a campaign briefing published today.

    Saudi Arabia’s ACPRA: How the Kingdom silences its human rights activists profiles 11 members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) - one of the country’s few independent human rights organizations - who have been jailed or are on trial facing imprisonment, in connection with their human rights work over the past three years.

    “The Saudi Arabian authorities have consolidated their iron grip on power through a systematic and ruthless campaign of persecution against peaceful activists in a bid to suppress any criticism of the state in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    October 09, 2014

    Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the world are joining together to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to repeal the “foreign agents” law and to guarantee that NGOs in Russia are able to work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatization or reprisals.

    Under the “foreign agents” law NGOs and their leaders are effectively labelled spies. After lengthy court hearings some have been forced to close, with prohibitive fines imposed on both the organizations and their leaders.

    “NGOs are essential to a healthy functioning society. They provide much needed services to the public and help keep officials accountable. NGOs are instrumental in lobbying and campaigning to improve government policies in the interests of the people. They are anything but ‘foreign agents’, said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow Office.

    More than a dozen leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry of Justice as “foreign agents”. Many more face the same fate. 

    October 09, 2014

    The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, Amnesty International said today after he was formally charged with publicly insulting official institutions on Twitter.

    Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty has written to the King of Bahrain expressing the organization’s grave concern over the detention of Nabeel Rajab and the charges brought against him.

    He urged the Bahraini authorities to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

    “The Bahraini authorities must stop locking up peaceful critics who express opinions they do not like,” said Said Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “The charges levelled against Nabeel Rajab violate Bahrain’s international obligation to respect freedom of expression. He should be released immediately and the charges against him dropped."

    Nabeel Rajab posted tweets on 28 September commenting on members of Bahrain’s security forces who had joined the armed group calling itself the Islamic State. 

    October 02, 2014

    Amnesty International is launching a Week of Action, from 6 to 12 October 2014, to show solidarity with independent voices in Russia who speak out against the pernicious creep of repression in the country.

    Under slogans of “Speak out for freedom!” and “Speak out for Russia!”, activists in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, UK, Ukraine and Russia itself will demonstrate through actions, flash mobs, letters and petitions against the ongoing clampdown on basic freedoms of people in Russia.

    “The right to protest peacefully; the right to speak freely on the Internet or in public; the right to disagree; the right to express who you are, all these are being smothered by the Russian authorities with the introduction of repressive legislation, smear campaigns and harassment,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    To mark the start of the Week of Action Amnesty International is publishing a new briefing, Violation of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Russia, which focuses on four main areas of concern:

    October 01, 2014
    By Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International in Hong Kong.

    The streets of Hong Kong are hard to recognize these days. The exhilarating energy filling the city’s main roads, crowded with hopeful protesters, is something I have not seen since I was a young student back in 1989, when we took to the streets in solidarity with the Tiananmen protesters.

    But not even then had so many people taken to the streets in Hong Kong – nor had the police’s response been so brutal.

    What started as a student protest around a week ago has now taken over large parts of Hong Kong, with citizens claiming nothing but to be allowed to have a say on how their city is run, and by whom.

    October 01, 2014

    The Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for peacefully showing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, said Amnesty International.

    At least 20 people have been detained by police in several cities in mainland China over the past two days for posting pictures online with messages of support for the protesters, shaving their heads in solidarity, or for planning to travel to Hong Kong to participate in the protests.

    A further 60 have been called in for questioning by the authorities, known as being 'invited for tea'.

    "The rounding up of activists in mainland China only underlines why so many people in Hong Kong fear the growing control Beijing has in their city's affairs," said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

    "The fundamental freedoms being exercised by hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong continue to be denied to those in mainland China."

    Police are known to have detained people in Beijing, Jiangsu, and the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which are close to Hong Kong.

    September 30, 2014

    Fiji authorities must urgently investigate allegations that a man was severely beaten by army officers after he had sent a series of angry text messages to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Amnesty International said.

    Amnesty International has received credible information that four army officers turned up at the home of the 60-year old teacher in town outside the capital Suva on 27 September, dragged him to a nearby alleyway and assaulted him. Earlier on the same day, the man had an angry exchange of text messages with Bainimarama alleging that his songs were used without permission during the recent election campaign.

    “It is shocking that someone should be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment by military officers just for sending text messages to the Prime Minister. This case must be urgently and independently investigated, and those responsible brought to justice,” said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher.

    “The investigation should cover not only the physical perpetrators but those, if any, who gave the orders to attack the man.”

    September 27, 2014

    The quick use of pepper spray and arrests by Hong Kong police during pro-democracy demonstrations last night and today has renewed fears the authorities will fail to uphold the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression at larger protests planned for next week, Amnesty International said.

    On Friday night, a week-long sit-in by thousands of students culminated in a group of protesters entering the fenced-off Civic Square in front of the local government’s headquarters, while thousands continued to demonstrate outside.

    The police reacted by using pepper spray inside and outside of the square and carrying out arrests. Around 70 people remained boxed-in by police in the square overnight and were arrested on Saturday afternoon.

    "The police response to events on Friday night is a disturbing sign that the Hong Kong authorities will take a tough stance against any peaceful protest blocking the financial district," said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

    September 23, 2014

    The Malaysian authorities’ sedition investigation into opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is blatantly politically motivated and the latest move in a widespread crackdown on dissent using the colonial-era Sedition Act, Amnesty International said today.

    Police in Malaysia this morning announced that they are re-opening a sedition investigation relating to a speech given by Anwar Ibrahim, criticizing the government, made during a political rally in March 2011. He will be questioned by police on Friday 26 September 2014 and is, according to one of his lawyers, likely to be charged under the Sedition Act.

    “This case is clearly political and smacks of persecution – the investigation should be dropped immediately. Anwar Ibrahim has been a favourite target of the authorities for more than a decade, and this appears to be the latest attempt to silence and harass a critical voice,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    September 18, 2014

    The Iranian authorities’ sentencing of seven people for making a homemade video of the Pharrell Williams’ song, “Happy”, reveals the authorities’ contempt for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    Six of those who appear in the video have been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment each and a seventh to one year, one of their lawyers said in a media interview. All six have also been sentenced to 91 lashes. The sentences are suspended for three years.

    “With these sentences, the absurd meets the unjust. If confirmed, it would be a ludicrous outcome; these individuals will have been convicted and branded criminals purely for making a music video celebrating happiness. The youths should never have been paraded before state TV to ‘confess’ nor brought to trial,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.

    September 18, 2014

    The conviction of four peaceful protesters by a Thai military court today is an affront to justice and another sign of repression under military rule, Amnesty International said.

    The Bangkok Military Court today sentenced four individuals to three months’ imprisonment and 5,000 Bhat (US$150) fines for violating the ban on public gatherings of more than five people, imposed by the military under Martial Law. As the four pleaded guilty, the jail terms are suspended by two years.

    “This is another attempt by the Thai authorities to silence dissent and make an example of those who voice opposition against military rule. These individuals have done nothing but peacefully express their opinions – they should never have had to face trials, and their convictions and sentences should be quashed immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “The four were convicted for acts that must never constitute offences in a court that must never try civilians.”

    September 18, 2014

    Released  08:00GMT 18 September 2014

    A controversial new cybercrimes law that criminalizes the spreading of “false news” on the internet poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in Qatar, said Amnesty International.

    Under the new law, the authorities may ban websites that they consider threatening to the “safety” of the country and punish anyone who posts or shares online content that “undermines” Qatar’s “social values” or “general order”, though the law fails to define the meaning of these terms.

    “The new cybercrimes law is a major setback for freedom of expression in Qatar,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “It contains broad and vaguely-worded provisions that fly in the face of international standards. They effectively grant the government extensive powers to punish anyone who posts or shares content that officials consider harmful to Qatar’s “social values” or national interests.

    September 09, 2014

    Opposition politicians, human rights activists, lawyers, students, academics and journalists are at risk of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment in Malaysia after an alarming rise in the use of the draconian Sedition Act in recent weeks. The law is being used to target individuals for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression

    Since the beginning of August, at least eight people have been charged and are at risk of imprisonment for making so-called “seditious” statements under Malaysia’s Sedition Act.  This includes five opposition politicians, a journalist and an academic who have been charged under Article 4 of the Sedition Act which criminalizes the use of seditious words and publications.  Amnesty International is aware of at least 15 people charged or placed under investigation under the Act.

    September 02, 2014

    Bangladeshi authorities must immediately tackle a disturbing rise in enforced disappearances over the past two years, stop the use of torture, and end their increasing crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today in a new briefing.

    The briefing sets out some of the key human rights issues facing Bangladesh following the January 2014 elections, and makes recommendations to the government on issues which demand urgent attention.

    “Bangladesh has made progress on reducing poverty and other development indicators, but this has not been matched when it comes to respecting human rights, such as torture or removing restrictions on freedom of expression,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.

    “We have also documented a disturbing trend that suggests the security forces are responsible for a continuing pattern of disappearances, even though they deny it. The government has to take a long, hard look at the conduct of its own security forces, and end the almost complete lack of accountability around these cases.”

    Enforced disappearances

    September 02, 2014

    The arrest and detention of a 25-year old man accused of sedition for allegedly disrespecting India’s national symbols is a reminder of how archaic laws continue to be used to curb free speech in India, Amnesty International India said today. 

    On 20 August 2014, police in Kerala arrested Salman M. for allegedly making catcalls and not standing up when India’s national anthem was being played at a cinema two days earlier. He was accused of sedition, insulting the Indian national flag and Constitution, and preventing the singing of the national anthem. 

    Salman M. was also accused under section 66A of India’s Information Technology Act for allegedly publishing abusive social media posts about Independence Day on 15 August. A Thiruvananthapuram court denied him bail on 25 August. He could face a life sentence if convicted. 

    “A criminal charge for such conduct, even if some might regard it as offensive, is completely unwarranted,” said Shailesh Rai, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India. “Nobody should have to go to prison merely because they are accused of causing offense.”

    September 02, 2014

    A new Youth Media award is being added to the annual Amnesty International Media Awards that have been presented for excellence in journalism about human rights since 1995. They honour the efforts of journalists to increase Canadians' awareness and understanding of these issues.

    They are awards for coverage of human rights issues that are printed, broadcast or posted online in Canada that are within the mission of Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

    In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International’s mission is to conduct research and take action to prevent and end grave abuses of all human rights – civil, political, social, cultural and economic. From freedom of expression and association to physical and mental integrity, from protection from discrimination to the right to housing- these rights are indivisible.

    September 01, 2014

    The Turkish government’s prosecution of Twitter critics is a deeply hypocritical stance for the host of the Internet Governance Forum, Amnesty International said today. The organization called on future hosts to set a better example while highlighting violations of Internet freedom by the US, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam.

    The event, which takes place in Istanbul between 2 and 5 September, brings together governments and civil society to share best practice on Internet regulation, security and human rights.

    Twenty-nine Twitter users are being tried in Izmir, Turkey, and face up to three years in jail for posting tweets during last year’s protests that the authorities claim “incite the public to break the law”. None of the tweets contained any incitement to violence.

    “It’s astounding to see Turkish authorities plough on with the prosecution of Twitter critics, even as they host a discussion on Internet governance where human rights are a key theme,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    August 30, 2014

    Egypt is tightening its chokehold on civil society, Amnesty International warned, as the country’s independent NGOs face the risk of being shut down if they fail to comply with a compulsory requirement to register by 2 September.

    All non-governmental organizations could face closure and possible prosecution if they do not register by that date under the existing draconian law on associations.

    “The looming deadline sounds very much like a death sentence for independent Egyptian NGOs. The authorities’ ultimatum is not about enabling NGOs to operate and instead paves the way for the closure of those that are critical of the government,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The Egyptian authorities must immediately withdraw the requirement for compulsory registration, which is contrary to international human rights standards.”

    The organization also urged the authorities to drop plans for a new law on NGOs which is set to be even more repressive than the current legislation.

    August 29, 2014

    Russia’s official branding of a civil society organization as a “foreign agent”, an expression akin to “spying”, for speaking out on Ukraine is a sign of the country’s determination to suppress any information about its military activities there, Amnesty International said.

    On 28 August, the Russian Ministry of Justice added the NGO “Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg” to its official list of “foreign agents” under the 2012 law.

    The decision came after its leader, Ella Polyakova, spoke publicly about the alleged death of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine against the Ukrainian forces.

    August 26, 2014

    The Vietnamese authorities must stop attacks on peaceful activists, Amnesty International said today after three human rights defenders were sentenced to jail and police beat and arrested their supporters.

    Women activists Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, along with their male co-defendant Nguyen Van Minh, were handed between two and three-year jail terms on charges of "disturbing public order" at Dong Thap Provincial People's Court in Viet Nam.

    Dozens of their supporters, including family members, bloggers and other civil society activists, were harassed, beaten and arrested to prevent them from attending the court hearing.

    “Today’s verdict appears to be another attempt to punish peaceful activism in Viet Nam”, said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    The three activists were attacked and arrested by police along with 18 others in February 2014 while trying to visit former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Bac Truyen at his fiance’s home.

    August 14, 2014

    The outrageous eight year prison sentence against a Shi’a cleric in Saudi Arabia for criticizing its leaders is the latest example of a disturbing pattern of harassment and discrimination against the country’s Shi’a community, said Amnesty International.

    Sheikh Tawfiq al-`Amr, a Shi’a cleric in the al-Ahsa governorate, was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, and barred from delivering religious sermons.

    He was yesterday convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court on charges of defaming Saudi Arabia’s ruling system, ridiculing the mentality of its religious leaders, inciting sectarianism, calling for change and disobeying the ruler. The charges are in connection to a number of public speeches he has delivered since 2011.

    “Sheikh Tawfiq al-`Amr is the latest Shi’a cleric to pay a very high price for refusing to be silenced,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.  

    August 01, 2014

    (Juba, South Sudan) – South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) should stop seizing and shutting down newspapers as well as harassing, intimidating and unlawfully detaining journalists, two leading human rights organizations said today in a joint report.

    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that against the backdrop of an internal armed conflict that has raged for seven months across much of the country, the moves are restricting freedom of expression and curtailing public debate about how to end the conflict. The groups called for an end to these abuses and for South Sudan’s parliament to ensure proper oversight of the NSS, in line with international human rights law and standards.

    July 31, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 1 August 2014

    A sharp rise in arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment of independent journalists in Iran signals the authorities’ utter determination to crush hopes for increased freedom heralded by the election of President Hassan Rouhani, said Amnesty International in a new briefing today.

    “The way journalists are being treated puts everything journalism should stand for at risk in Iran. Anyone deemed critical of the authorities has been at increased risk of arrest and prosecution in recent months, creating an intense climate of fear where voicing any criticism has become a direct road to prison,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International. 

    “The authorities’ zero tolerance for anything other than state-sanctioned ideas and voices means that merely reporting the news can put people at risk of incarceration.”

    July 28, 2014

    Burundi’s ruling party is perpetrating a relentless campaign of intimidation against government critics and its youth wing is carrying out crimes with impunity ahead of next year’s election, warns Amnesty International in a report published today.

    ‘Locked down: A shrinking of political space’ explores a crackdown on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and a sharp increase in politicized violence in Burundi linked to the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party.

    “The government’s clampdown on free expression and peaceful assembly has serious implications for human rights ahead of next year’s elections,” said Tom Gibson, Amnesty International’s Burundi researcher.

    Political tensions in Burundi have run high as President Nkurunziza looks to be pushing for a third presidential term, perceived by many as in violation of Burundi’s Constitution.

    July 22, 2014

    The Gambian government must abolish the laws and iron fisted practices that have resulted in two decades of widespread human rights violations, Amnesty International said as it joined forces with other human rights groups for a global day of action marking 20 years since President Jammeh’s seizure of power.

    Activists across the world will hold protests and public events today to raise awareness about the dire human rights situation in The Gambia, where many live in fear of arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearance. In The Gambia, the anniversary is historically celebrated by the authorities as “Freedom Day”.

    "Today marks 20 years of the rule of fear in The Gambia, where the list of victims of human rights violations grows ever longer,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    “The Gambian authorities must investigate complaints made by victims of human rights violations and bring the perpetrators to justice. They should also repeal the laws which make this repression possible.”

    July 21, 2014

    The Russian Ministry of Justice today registered four more Russian human rights organizations and one environmental group as “foreign agents”, a further sign of the authorities’ growing stranglehold on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to decimate independent civil society organizations remains steadfast,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for the Europe and Central Asia Program at Amnesty International.

    “This blow has been a long-time coming – but it still hits hard. The five NGOs now being branded as foreign agents include some of the biggest and most influential in the country. The question Russians should be asking themselves is: who will protect their rights when they are gone?”

    Human rights groups Public Verdict, Memorial, Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms (Jurix) and Agora, and environmental group Women’s Council (Ekozazchita! – Zhensovet) have been registered as “foreign NGOs” by the Ministry of Justice for supposedly conducting “political activities” while receiving some foreign funding.

    July 18, 2014

    Today's closure of a week-long hearing into allegations that the UK government has been illegally intercepting millions of communications, including those of Amnesty International, concludes an exercise that often descended into pure farce, the organization said.

    "This week's hearing descended at times into the realms of farce and fantasy - thanks to the government's insistence they would neither confirm nor deny any of their surveillance activities," said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International's Senior Director for Law and Policy, speaking at the close of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing.

    "Without being able to deal with concrete examples, discussing the lawfulness of mass surveillance became an exercise in absurdity. We were pursuing our challenge in a legal black hole."

    July 11, 2014
    By Milena Buyum, Amnesty’s Turkey Campaigner

    On 2 June last year, Özge Ünlütezcan, a 24-year-old drama student, grabbed her phone to send out a series of tweets. Shortly after, she was stunned to be called into a police station where she was questioned and detained for 18 hours. She says when I call her that she was simply using her right to pass on information about the protests that had begun in Gezi Park some days earlier, and which were rapidly sweeping the country.

    She was not alone in her response. During that summer of protests, Turkey’s 10 million-plus Twitter users lit up the internet with millions of tweets detailing what was happening. So why are Özge and 28 other young people now facing up to three years in prison?

    July 03, 2014

    Today’s guilty verdict in the case of a peaceful anti-coup protester in Thailand sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of assembly and contributes to the climate of fear under military rule, Amnesty International said.

    In the first protest-related verdict handed down since the military took power, Pathumwan Municipal Courtin Thailand’s capital Bangkok today convicted Weerayuth Kongkanathan for violating martial law and a ban on gatherings of more than five people. He was sentenced to one month in prison suspended for a year, and ordered to pay a 3,000 Baht fine (USD$93).

    “Weerayuth has done nothing but peacefully exercise his right to demonstrate – he should never have been charged in the first place, and his conviction and sentence should be expunged,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

    June 27, 2014

    The Fijian authorities must immediately end the harassment of journalists ahead of the parliamentary elections in September, said Amnesty International.

    On Wednesday 25 June, a government body – the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority – called for two journalism academics from Fiji’s University of the South Pacific to be investigated for commenting on an apparent admission by the military that they used torture.

    “This is the latest act of intimidation against journalists by the authorities. There is a worrying pattern in Fiji of the authorities trying to silence journalists ahead of the elections in September,” said Michael Hayworth, Crisis Response Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia.

    “Attacks against the media are one of the most serious violations of the right to freedom of expression, particularly in the lead up to elections. The media must be allowed to freely publish information concerning the elections, including criticisms of the government and candidates, without fear of retribution.”

    June 25, 2014

    The Sudanese government should immediately charge or release recently detained political activists, and investigate all allegations that they have  been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and REDRESS said today. 

    Against a general background of restrictions on free speech and political organizing, the Sudanese authorities have clamped down in recent months on political opposition figures for criticizing Sudan’s abuses in conflict zones. President Omar al-Bashir promised in April 2014 to release all “political detainees.”  But Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) continues to arbitrarily detain political activists and opposition party members, as recently as mid-June, the organizations said.

    June 23, 2014

    The conviction today of three Al Jazeera English journalists accused of “falsifying news” and belonging to or assisting the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt is a ferocious attack on media freedom, said Amnesty International.

    June 20, 2014

    The decision of the Moscow City Court to reject an appeal against the conviction of eight Bolotnaya protesters imprisoned after a politically motivated trial is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of assembly and expression in Russia, said Amnesty International.

    “This decision sends a ‘warning signal’ to anyone thinking about taking to the streets in Moscow. The trial was clearly politically motivated and carried out with the specific aim of deterring future protests. There’s no reason to keep them behind bars,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    “Freedom of assembly is fast becoming a crime in Russia with authorities barely hesitating to lock up those whose views or peaceful activism they see as a political threat. Whether for brief detentions or longer periods as in this case, this must stop.”

    Hundreds of peaceful anti-government protesters were arrested after police brutally dispersed a protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012.

    June 20, 2014

    There appears to be no end in sight to violations of a range of human rights one month after martial law was declared in Thailand, Amnesty International warned today.

    Since the military declared martial law on 20 May 2014, the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been harshly restricted and extended powers of detention have resulted in some 511 individuals including political activists being arbitrarily detained, though most were held for a few days.

    “Sacrificing human rights for political expediency is never a price worth paying – Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are protected. They must stop arbitrary detentions and prosecutions of peaceful critics,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is high time Thailand’s military rolls back the repressive and vaguely worded orders it has put in place, many of which violate Thailand's obligations under international human rights law.”

    June 17, 2014

    Britain’s top counter-terrorism official has been forced to reveal a secret government policy justifying the mass surveillance of every Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google user in the UK, a group of rights organizations announced today.

    The organizations published the policy, described in a written statement by Charles Farr, Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, after they brought a legal challenge against the UK government.

    The document reveals that UK intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) believes it is entitled to indiscriminately intercept web searches by British residents or communications between British residents.

    “British citizens will be alarmed to see their government justifying industrial-scale intrusion into their communications,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Law and Policy.

    “The public should demand an end to this wholesale violation of their right to privacy.” 

    June 12, 2014

    The Brazilian authorities’ promises that the opening of the World Cup would be a global celebration ring hollow as police brutally repressed peaceful protesters in Sao Paulo, injuring at least two journalists, Amnesty International said.

    “We are issuing military police in Sao Paulo with a yellow card for attacking peaceful protesters instead of guaranteeing the right to protest and the safety of the participants,” said Atila Roque, Director of Amnesty International Brazil.

    June 12, 2014

    Turkey must abandon a politically motivated show trial of a group of peaceful activists charged with organizing “unlawful” protests that swept the country a year ago, said Amnesty International.

    Members of the Taksim Solidarity group, whose trial in Istanbul begins today, face up to 15 and a half years in jail.

    “This is a vindictive, politically motivated show trial without a shred of evidence of actual crimes. It should be stopped at the first hearing,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

    “The prosecution has concocted a case simply to send a strong message to the rest of Turkey that the authorities will ruthlessly pursue anyone who dissents and organizes protests against government policies.”

    Taksim Solidarity is a coalition of more than 100 organizations including architects, engineers, doctors, trade unionists and others. It was established in 2012, to contest plans for the Taksim Square and Gezi Park urban development project in Istanbul.

    June 10, 2014

    * The repression of peaceful protest and the use of abusive force by police continues unabated one year after the Gezi Park protests;
    * Across Turkey, more than 5,500 people have been prosecuted in connection with the Gezi Park protests;
    * Only five prosecutions have been brought against nine police officers, despite hundreds of complaints of police abuses;
    * Medical associations, doctors and other civil servants have faced sanction for their alleged support for the protests;
    * Social media users are on trial for sharing information about the protests;
    * New laws restrict access to social media and criminalize the provision of emergency medical care during protests.

    One year on from the Gezi Park protests, the government’s approach to demonstrations is as abusive as ever while impunity for police violence is rampant, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    June 06, 2014
    By Atila Roque, Director at Amnesty International Brazil

    Brazil is about to host the biggest football frenzy on the planet, where teams from around the world fight for the Cup every fan wants to hold.

    But as Messi, Neymar and Rooney come face to face, outside Brazil’s shiny new stadiums another more serious standoff is taking place – one in which the ‘rules’ are being openly flouted.

    Since June 2013, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers of cities and towns across Brazil demanding better public services, including transport, among other rights. Many of them complain that authorities are paying too much attention to FIFA’s demands and too little to the needs of their own people.

    The response of the authorities has been nothing short of disgraceful.

    Military police units sent to keep the protests “under control” have not hesitated for a second before shooting tear gas at peaceful protesters – in one case even inside a hospital. They have fired rubber bullets and beat men and women with batons despite them posing no threat.

    June 06, 2014

    The arrest of a high-profile anti-coup protest leader and military court summons of seven peaceful protesters are the latest moves in a systematic and widening crackdown on key human rights by Thailand’s military, Amnesty International said.

    Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent social activist, was arrested last night in Chonburi. He had publicly refused to observe orders for him to report to the military, and from hiding issued online calls for peaceful protests.

    “Sombat Boonngamanong should be released immediately, unless he is charged with a recognizable criminal offense and remanded by an independent, civilian court. This is the latest in a disturbing wave of arrests of people purely voicing disquiet about the military regime. The army’s course of action is looking increasingly like a purge,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Director.

    June 06, 2014

    North Korean authorities must release all those detained solely for their religious beliefs, said Amnesty International, following reports that an American tourist has been arrested after he left a Bible at a hotel.

    The state news agency KCNA said the man had entered North Korea on 29 April and was detained when he tried to leave the country.
    “Leaving behind a Bible in a hotel room, whether by accident or by design, should never amount to a criminal offence,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “There is also close to zero chance there would be a fair trial as North Korea’s court system makes a mockery of justice.”

    Reports of the latest arrest comes days after a South Korean missionary was sentenced to hard labour for life. Kim Jong-uk was convicted of spying and setting up an underground church, KCNA reported on Saturday.

    According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, countless numbers of nationals and foreigners have been severely punished as a result of their attempt to practice their religious beliefs.

    June 04, 2014
    Photo: Edward Snowden’s revelations shocked the world and proved, beyond a doubt, that governments have systematically violated their citizens’ rights to privacy.© Barton Gellman/Getty Images

    Posted at 0001hrs (BST) 5 June 2014

    There is an urgent need for international protection for whistleblowers and major reform to protect the right to privacy, said Amnesty International on the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations on the extent of government spy networks in various countries across the world.

    “The persecution Edward Snowden has faced for his vital contribution to our knowledge of governmental abuses of power is despicable,” said Michael Bochenek, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International.

    June 04, 2014
    Photo: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as mobile phone applications would be systematically monitored under the proposed plans.© Ed Ou/Getty Images

    A call for tenders to introduce a new system to carry out indiscriminate mass surveillance of social media in Egypt would deal a devastating blow to the rights to privacy and freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International. 

    Under the proposed plans, disclosed in a leaked tender by the Ministry of Interior this week, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and possibly mobile phone applications such as WhatsApp, Viber and Instagram would be systematically monitored.

    June 04, 2014

    Originally published by Amnesty International UK

    It is our duty to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen protests and crackdown, as Amnesty and as ordinary people outside china. We should do it because we can.

    The opening phrase of a book, The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist and writer who survived the holocaust, has always stuck with me; it quotes a letter from a Nazi soldier who said that the victims of the holocaust would not get to write the history of the holocaust, because they would not exist. History belongs to the victor.

    In a recent poll of students in China, only 1 in 10 was able to identify an image which, for the rest of the world, is iconic. There are few global events with which an image is as entrenched as the Tiananmen protests is with ‘Tank Man’.

    June 01, 2014

     Posted at 0001 BST 2 June 2014

    •        Student activists, reformists and academics perceived as secular hounded by authorities
    •        “Islamicization” of university curriculums to banish “Western” influences
    •        Women barred from studying certain subjects, quotas imposed to limit number of female students
    •        Access to higher education for minorities denied or curtailed

    The Iranian authorities have waged a ruthless campaign of repression over the past three decades against students and academics who are routinely harassed, detained or barred from studying or teaching because of their peaceful activism, views or beliefs, said Amnesty International in a report released today.

    Silenced, Expelled, Imprisoned: Repression of students and academics in Iran also highlights widespread discrimination, particularly against women and religious minorities, in the country’s higher education system.

    May 23, 2014

    The new Thai military regime has imposed harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly that should be repealed immediately, Amnesty International said as the army dispersed a peaceful protest today and reportedly arrested at least three people.

    The organization also urges the military regime to immediately clarify the whereabouts of scores of political leaders reported to be detained in unknown locations, and allow them access to lawyers.

    Hundreds of people gathered in central Bangkok today to demand a return to civilian rule, before soldiers dispersed the protest in the evening local time after it had carried on for several hours. At least three demonstrators were reportedly arrested.

    “If soldiers are arresting peaceful protesters then this is a dangerous precedent – people simply expressing opinions must not be penalized. The need for the military to exercise restraint is particularly crucial given that demonstrations calling for civilian rule could intensify,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

    May 15, 2014

    The Thai authorities must bring to justice those responsible for killing at least three people in this morning’s grenade and gunfire attack on an anti-government protest camp in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, Amnesty International said.

    “Today’s appalling attack is the latest escalation of political violence. Authorities must launch a thorough investigation, in accordance with Thailand’s international human rights obligations,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “A failure to investigate the attack and hold those responsible accountable would signal that impunity rules in Thailand and risk an increasingly vicious cycle of retaliatory violence. It would also fly in the face of victims’ and their families’ right to justice.”

    This morning’s attack, when unidentified gunmen stormed an anti-government protest camp nearby Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, has left at least three people dead and more than 20 injured.

    May 08, 2014

    Amnesty International launches global campaign warning against restrictions to freedom of expression and police abuses ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

    As Brazil comes to the spotlight ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Amnesty International is launching a new global campaign urging authorities to ensure security forces “play by the rules” during demonstrations expected to take place ahead and during the tournament.

    The campaign “No foul play, Brazil” asks individuals across the world to send yellow cards to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and president of Congress, Renan Calheiros, urging them to respect everybody’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly during the World Cup.

    Large scale demonstrations have taken place in Brazil since June 2013, showing greater discontent with the poor quality of public services and its impact on thousands of people living in urban areas, among other concerns. Police have often responded using excessive and unnecessary force, including tear gas and rubber bullets.

    May 02, 2014

    There are increasing fears for the safety of the local population in Slovyansk as the Ukrainian forces are trying to re-assert control over the eastern Ukrainian town, Amnesty International said today.

    “As the operation intensifies there is an ever present risk of bystanders being caught in the cross fire. We are calling on all sides to refrain from committing human rights abuses,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International researcher on Ukraine.

    “The Ukrainian armed forces and armed groups alike must do everything within their power to safeguard the right to life during this tumultuous period.”

    On 30 April the acting president of Ukraine stated that the situation in Donetsk and in parts of Donetsk region, including Slovyansk, was extremely dangerous because the Ukrainian authorities were no longer able to exert any control.

    May 01, 2014

    The use of tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters today by police in Istanbul is a reprehensible move to crack down on free expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said.

    Riot police sealed off the whole of central Istanbul near Taksim Square to ensure that no protesters made it to a peaceful demonstration planned there to mark May Day.

    “A peaceful march this morning was cut off by a human wall of riot police blocking the main access road from Şişli into Taksim Square, the epicentre of last year’s Gezi Park protests,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey expert, who witnessed the events first-hand.

    “In a repeat of the abusive tactics that have sadly become the Turkish authorities’ stock response to peaceful protests, tear gas and water cannon were fired to disperse the crowd assembled there.

    April 29, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 30 April 2014

    Journalists in Pakistan live under the constant threat of killings, harassment and other violence from all sides, including intelligence services, political parties and armed groups like the Taliban, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    ‘A bullet has been chosen for you’: Attacks on journalists in Pakistan, describes how the Pakistani authorities have almost completely failed to stem human rights abuses against media workers or to bring those responsible to account.

    Amnesty International has documented 34 cases of journalists being killed in Pakistan in response to their work since the restoration of democratic rule in 2008, but only in one case have the perpetrators been brought to justice.

    But these killings are just the most brutal statistic – many more journalists have been threatened, harassed, abducted, tortured or escaped assassination attempts in the same period.

    April 26, 2014

    The Ethiopian government is tightening its suffocating grip on freedom of expression in a major crackdown which has seen the arrest of numerous independent, critical and opposition voices over the last two days, said Amnesty International.

    Six members of an independent blogger and activist group and a freelance journalist were arrested yesterday 25 April. Another journalist was arrested this morning. Meanwhile 20 members of the political opposition Semayawi (Blue) party have been arrested since Thursday.

    "These arrests appear to be yet another alarming round up of opposition or independent voices" said Claire Beston, Ethiopiaresearcher at Amnesty International. "This is part of a long trend of arrests and harassment of human rights defenders, activists, journalists and political opponents in Ethiopia."

    April 24, 2014
    An armed man in military fatigues stands guard outside a regional administration building seized by the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk on April 23, 2014.© KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

    Journalists and officials being unlawfully detained and used as “bargaining chips” by a separatist armed group in eastern Ukraine must be released immediately, Amnesty International said, noting they could be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

    The Kyiv Post has reported that at least 16 people have been abducted since last week in Slovyansk and Horlivka, both in the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk region, where a pro-Russian armed group has seized control. Three foreign journalists have been released, but several other journalists and officials remain in detention or unaccounted for. Two previously abducted men were found dead on Tuesday, their corpses reportedly bearing signs of torture.

    April 24, 2014

    The excessive use of force by Spanish police and plans to strengthen repressive legislation are a damning indictment of the Spanish government’s determination to crush peaceful protest, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    “The Spanish government is using the full force of the law to suffocate legitimate peaceful protest,” said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “The police have repeatedly used batons and rubber bullets against demonstrators, injuring and maiming protestors and by-standers alike. The police act with complete impunity, while peaceful demonstrators and leaders of social movements are continually harassed, stigmatized, beaten, sometimes arrested to face criminal charges, imprisonment and fines.”

    Amnesty International’s report, Spain: The right to protest under threat, exposes violations by police against demonstrators, the lack of accountability for these violations and the determination of the Spanish authorities to strengthen repressive legislation.

    April 23, 2014
     Abdukiram Abduveli was due to be released in 2002 but has repeatedly had his jail term increased  Muslim religious leader is critically ill as hunger strike continues

    The relentless persecution of an ethnic Uighur religious leader must stop, said Amnesty International, as it called on the Chinese authorities to disclose why Abdukiram Abduveli’s prison term has been increased for a fifth time.

    Abdukiram Abduveli, 59, has now served double his original 12-year sentence. According to his family, he has been on hunger strike since mid-February in protest against an additional five-year jail term.

    “The Chinese authorities appear to be singling out Abdukiram Abduveli for his refusal to stop practicing his religion. The authorities must immediately explain on what grounds they are continuing to imprison him,” said Anu Kultalahti, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “This seems to be another extreme case of persecution against ethnic Uighurs at the hands of the Chinese authorities.”

    April 13, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 14 April 2014

    •        Freedom of expression, association and assembly under threat with restrictions on protests, private TV station taken off air and NGOs in legal limbo
    •        International human rights groups and UN human rights experts barred
    •        Independent trade unions harassed amid social tensions and employment protests
    •        Laws fail to protect women from gender-based violence and criminal suspects from torture
    •        Failure to tackle pervasive impunity

    Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

    April 09, 2014

    Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive”, Amnesty International said ahead of the trio’s latest trial hearing.

    Al Jazeera English staff Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with five Egyptian students, stand accused of belonging to or assisting a banned terrorist organization -in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial resumes on 10 April.

    “What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

    “So far, the Prosecution has failed to produce any convincing evidence and the journalists appear to be pawns in the hands of the authorities in their ongoing dispute with Qatar. The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    April 08, 2014

    Former US intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden’s latest allegations point to a very real risk that human rights defenders, including Amnesty International staff, have been the targets of mass surveillance by the US and British spy agencies.

    Snowden, who is living in exile in Moscow, made the remarks this afternoon via videoconference to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France.

    When asked if the US National Security Agency (NSA) or its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) were actively spying on human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, he said: “Without question, yes, absolutely …The NSA has in fact specifically targeted the communications of either leaders or staff members in a number of purely civil or human rights organizations of the kind described”.

    April 08, 2014

    Today’s decision by the St Petersburg City Court to deny the appeal of a prominent Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) against a previous court order to register as a “foreign agent” is a legal assault on the whole of civil society in Russia, Amnesty International said.

    Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial, an important human rights NGO working on behalf of victims of racism and xenophobia in Russia, decided to close down its activities in Russia rather than wear the label of a “foreign agent” or risk the criminal prosecution of its leader for failing to register. 

    “The court had two options, and its choice was not in favour of justice and human rights. Its disheartening decision is in line with the prevailing tendency promoted by the Russian government to stamp its authority on any civil society activity. It sets a dangerous precedent which could be used against other NGOs,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.

    April 03, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 4 April 2014

    World leaders must commit to keeping invasive surveillance systems and technologies out of the hands of dictators and oppressive regimes, said a new global coalition of human rights organizations as it launched today in Brussels.

    April 01, 2014

    Mourners at the funeral of 20-year-old Fadel Abbas Musalem, allegedly tortured to death © MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

    As the eyes of the sporting world turn to Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Amnesty International urges the country’s authorities not to quash peaceful protests surrounding the event.

    The Formula One racing tournament is due to take place in Bahrain from 4-6 April. In previous years, the authorities have taken severe repressive measures against pro-reform demonstrators, activists opposed to the Royal family and human rights campaigners during the event. 

    “Bahrain’s authorities must not repeat past mistakes by restricting freedom of movement or crushing protests. The rights of people in Bahrain to peacefully to express their opposition to government policies and voice human rights concerns are legitimate and must be respected,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    March 27, 2014

    The Turkish authorities’ move today to block access to YouTube on the eve of Sunday’s elections, and not long after they restricted access to Twitter, smacks of a wider pre-meditated crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    According to media reports, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited national security concerns when it sought an administrative order to block the video-sharing platform – allegedly to prevent further circulation of a taped recording of discussions between senior Turkish officials on Syria.

    “The Turkish government appears to be itching for pretexts to close down websites because of their capacity to mobilize dissenting opinion and broadcast embarrassing material,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey.

    “Coming just days before Turkey goes to the polls and in the wake of Prime Minister Erdoðan’s strident criticism of YouTube, this is clearly nothing more than a crude attempt at government censorship that will only generate deeper distrust and frustration.

    March 21, 2014

    The first ever tweet was sent eight years ago today. No-one will be celebrating this landmark on the social media site in Turkey, however: the government has just shut it down. Amnesty International calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately reverse the decision to block the social media site.

    “The decision to block Twitter is an unprecedented attack on internet freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey. The draconian measure, brought under Turkey’s restrictive internet law, shows the lengths the government is prepared to go to prevent anti-government criticism,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

    The blocking order came into force on Thursday, shortly before midnight, following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s pledge earlier in the day at an election rally to “wipe out” Twitter. Social media users in Turkey condemned the move and more than a million tweets were reportedly sent in the hours following the blocking order as users found ways to get around it.

    March 20, 2014

    The arrest of a Venezuelan mayor for his alleged involvement in anti-government protests is a signal of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, said Amnesty International.

    “With the arrest of Daniel Ceballos on suspicion of rebellion and conspiracy to commit a crime, authorities in Venezuela seem to be setting the scene for a witch hunt against opposition leaders,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Daniel Ceballos, mayor of San Cristóbal, west of Venezuela, and member of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, was arrested by the Venezuelan Intelligence Security Services (SEBIN) on 19 March.

    The Minister of Justice and Interior, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, announced on TV that Ceballos had been detained on charges of “civil rebellion” and “conspiracy”.

    Torres also tweeted: “The arrest of Daniel Ceballos is an act of justice! This Mayor facilitated and supported the irrational violence that erupted in San Cristóbal. A mayor has an obligation to enforce the Constitution and laws, not to promote violence, anarchy and civil rebellion!”

    March 19, 2014

            Ukraine: Nationalist MP launches brutal attack against TV executive

    A violent attack by a nationalist member of parliament against the head of one of Ukraine’s leading TV channels yesterday must be urgently investigated, and those responsible brought to justice, said Amnesty International.

    Oleksandr Panteleymonov, head of the First National TV Channel, was visited in his offices by Igor Miroshnichenko from the Svoboda (Freedom) Party and at least five thugs who beat him and forced him to write a resignation letter.

    Igor Miroshnichenko is a member of the parliamentary Committee on freedom of speech.

    “It is astonishing that a member of the parliamentary committee on freedom of speech was involved in this attack. The acting authorities must send a signal that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated in Ukraine,” said Heather McGill, Ukraine researcher at Amnesty International.

    The attackers accused Panteleymonov of working for the Russian authorities after a live broadcast of the signing of the agreement between President Putin, and the de facto Crimean authorities.  

    March 17, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 18 March 2014

    Yemen’s authorities have manifestly failed to hold a thorough and independent investigation into the deaths of at least 50 peaceful demonstrators and bystanders killed in Sana’a during one of the bloodiest incidents of the 2011 uprising, said Amnesty International.

    On the third anniversary of the “Friday of Dignity” killings, the organization is calling for the creation of an internationally assisted, independent commission of inquiry to investigate this incident and all other human rights violations committed during 2011.

    “Three years have passed since the ‘Friday of Dignity’ killings and the Yemeni authorities have yet to carry out a credible investigation or deliver justice. Promises that an independent commission of inquiry would be set up by President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi remain unfulfilled,” said Philip Luther, director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    March 14, 2014

    The Russian authorities have launched a full-scale onslaught on the few remaining independent media in Russia, blocking a number of internet sites in the Russian Federation, Amnesty International said today.

    "The blocking of these sites is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression. It is an unashamed attack on those who still dare to question the Kremlin-dictated narrative by providing independent, impartial information and offer a platform for free debate,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “In the past months and weeks the Russian authorities have embarked on a campaign to stifle free media. It started with unofficial censorship and self-censorship, and quickly evolved into open gagging of independent media outlets. This is reminiscent of the Soviet-era jamming of radio stations.”  

    The Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation ordered the blocking of several high profile sites for purportedly making “appeals for illegal activity and participation in mass events, organized in violation of the established order”.

    March 12, 2014

    Amnesty International is monitoring events at the funeral old 15-year-old Berkin Elvan in Istanbul as thousands gather in cities across Turkey to protest ongoing police impunity.

    Berkin Elvan, died in hospital yesterday following a protracted coma. He was hit on the head on 16 June 2013 at the scene of a Gezi park demonstration close to his home in Istanbul. His father told Amnesty International that he had left the house to buy bread.

    Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey Andrew Gardner is monitoring events at the funeral.

    “The death of Berkin Elvan must be a wake-up call for the Turkish authorities who have condoned abusive force by the police for too long,” said Andrew Gardner.

    “Berkin is the fourth person to die as a direct result of abusive use of force by police officers during last year’s Gezi Park protests. The lack of effective investigations into the use of such force which also left thousands injured has touched a nerve and resulted in a wave of anti-government demonstrations which are sweeping Turkey again.”

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    March 07, 2014

    On 5 March, 100 men who identified themselves as the Crimean Self Defence League forced some 40 women to end their peaceful protest in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol.© VOLODYMYR PETROV/AFP/Getty Images

    With journalists, activists and peaceful protestors facing increasing harassment and intimidation in Crimea, there is an urgent need for a strong international monitoring mission in Ukraine, said Amnesty International.

    It is calling for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to urgently establish a strong international monitoring mission in the country.

    “Attempting to monitor the human rights situation in Crimea has become a near impossible task. Self-styled Crimean self-defence groups are harassing pro-Ukrainian protestors, journalists and human rights monitors with complete impunity,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    March 07, 2014

    The conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of ‘sodomy’ should be quashed, Amnesty International said.

    A court in Malaysia today overturned the acquittal of Anwar Ibrahim on politically motivated ‘sodomy’ charges. The court upheld a government appeal against a 2012 High Court decision that cleared Ibrahim of all charges, citing a lack of evidence.

    “This is a bleak day for justice in Malaysia. Anwar Ibrahim has been consistently harassed by the authorities for years in a blatant attempt to silence one of the opposition’s most important voices and bar him from participating in elections,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher.

    “Unfortunately this fits a broader pattern of severe restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in Malaysia. Opposition politicians, human rights defenders and civil society organizations are among those that have been targeted over the past year.”

    March 06, 2014

    Saudi Arabia must immediately and unconditionally release two founders of a local human rights organization who have spent nearly a year behind bars, after being convicted on the basis of their peaceful activism and criticism of the authorities, said Amnesty International.

    Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid were sentenced to 10 and 11 years in jail respectively on 9 March 2013. Both are co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), one of the few organizations in the country recording human rights violations and assisting families of detainees held without charge.

    “Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid are guilty of nothing more than daring to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s dire human rights record. The reality is that the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is abysmal and anyone who risks highlighting flaws in the system is branded a criminal and tossed in a jail cell,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    March 06, 2014

    The Russian authorities must promptly launch an independent and impartial investigation into an apparently unprovoked and premeditated attack in Nizhny Novgorod this morning on human rights activists, including former Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, Amnesty International said.

    “By all accounts, this violent attack appears to have been premeditated by an organized group. The unidentified assailants chanted slogans, held aloft a banner and filmed the entire incident,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow office.

    “The Russian authorities must not tolerate such attacks on peaceful activists. They must launch a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into this and all such incidents, and bring those responsible to justice.”

    March 03, 2014

    Iran’s authorities must quash the conviction of a 27-year-old student who received a seven year prison sentence because of her peaceful political activities, said Amnesty International.

    Maryam Shafi’ Pour had been a member of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi’s presidential campaign during the 2009 elections.

    “That a student could be jailed for seven years merely for peacefully expressing her views or supporting an opposition politician defies belief. Maryam Shafi’ Pour should be immediately and unconditionally released and allowed to continue her studies. She should not spend the next seven years languishing in Evin Prison,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    Earlier the student had been barred by the authorities from completing her university education because of her political activism at university. Many other students are still denied the right to pursue their education because of their peaceful human rights or political activism.

    March 03, 2014

    The detention of hundreds of anti-war protesters over the weekend is another manifestation of the increasing crackdown on the freedom of expression and assembly in Russia, Amnesty International said.  

    Today a Moscow court also ordered the detention of two protesters for five days on administrative charges.

    “The government’s crackdown of the anti-war protestors is highly alarming. In a number of cities people have been targeted for taking part in demonstrations. This is state-sanctioned harassment and intimidation,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow Office.

    “The Russian authorities are obliged to respect the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. They must immediately and unconditionally release the two imprisoned protesters whom Amnesty International considers to be prisoners of conscience.”

    Hundreds of demonstrators protesting against Russian military intervention in Ukraine were detained in front of the Ministry of Defence on Manezhnaya square. Dozens were kept at police stations overnight.

    February 27, 2014

    Two politicians could be sentenced to death over a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam when a verdict is issued in their case on Sunday 2 March, said Amnesty International.

    The organization is calling for the charges against them to be dropped immediately.

    The cartoon, which depicts a group of men discussing the role of women in society, appeared on a Libyan National Party electoral campaign poster in the main streets of Libyan cities ahead of parliamentary elections in 2012.

    “It is shocking that two political figures may face a firing squad over a cartoon that was published on an electoral campaign poster. No one should be prosecuted for freely expressing his or her views in public – however offensive they may seem to others,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “Libyans must be free to speak their minds, regardless of whether those views are expressed verbally, or appear on a poster, in a poem or a newspaper article. It is ludicrous that doing so could be considered a crime punishable by death.”

    February 24, 2014

    The apparently arbitrary arrest and detention of a further 234 peaceful protesters outside a Moscow court building today shows how the Russian authorities’ rampant violation of freedom of expression and assembly shows no sign of letting up, Amnesty International said.

    The new arrests came as eight protesters were sentenced in the landmark Bolotnaya Square protest trial. They follow the arbitrary detention of nearly 200 protesters and journalists outside the same court on Friday, when the Bolotnaya defendants were convicted. Meanwhile, in Sochi, another two activists were re-arrested on Sunday and face up to 15 days of administrative detention.

    “Just a day after Russia was feted on the world stage at the closing ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian authorities have laid bare the reality of life in the country today. Those who dare to express dissenting views face serious consequences,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    February 21, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 22 February 2014

    The legacy of the Sochi Olympics will be tainted by the numerous human rights violations in the run-up and during the Games, as well as the failure of the International Olympic Committee to confront the Russian authorities over the arrests and beatings that marred this prestigious sporting event, Amnesty International said on the eve of the closing ceremony.
     
    “The Olympic Games are meant to contribute to a peaceful and better world. This goal was not achieved in Sochi. The reason is simple: Russia’s repression continued unabated throughout the Games, and the Olympic movement failed to challenge the host country on its pledge to promote human rights,” Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.  

    “The harassment, detentions, arrests, fabricated charges and unfair trials meted out to activists under the blazing lights of the world’s cameras were a blight on the games. It does not bode well for when the Games are over and world media leaves Russia.”

    February 21, 2014

    The Myanmar parliament has reportedly only made token and insignificant changes to a draconian anti-protest law, raising serious questions about the authorities’ commitment to human rights reforms, Amnesty International said.

    The contentious Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law places far-reaching restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and is often used to target activists and human rights defenders.

    The amendments reportedly passed in parliament on 19 February still leave peaceful protesters at risk of arrest and imprisonment while allowing authorities to prohibit demonstrations they do not agree with.
           
    “These amendments do not go nearly far enough. It is positive that authorities have shown a willingness to reform the law, but the reform is meaningless if the same people are still at risk of being locked up and harassed for speaking out peacefully,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    February 21, 2014

    Today’s guilty verdict against defendants in the Bolotnaya Square protest trial is a hideous injustice, said Amnesty International.

    In what was clearly a show trial, a Moscow court found guilty eight defendants in the Bolotnaya case. The sentences are expected to be announced on Monday.

    During the trial nearly 200 of the peaceful supporters and journalists gathered around the Moscow court were reportedly detained by police, including Vladimir Akimenkov, himself a former Bolotnaya defendant and prisoner of conscience. Some of those detained have been released but are expected to face fines of up to RUB 30,000 (around USD 800)  for participating in an “unauthorised gathering”.

    “What happened on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 was not the quelling of a riot, but the crushing of a protest. The Bolotnaya trial has not exposed orchestrated violence, but rather a criminal justice system that is entirely malleable to the dictates of its political masters,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    February 19, 2014

    The charges brought against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country, said Amnesty International.

    “Venezuelan authorities must either present solid evidence to substantiate the charges against López or release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International Americas Programme Deputy Director.  

    “These charges appear to be politically motivated because of his leadership in the recent anti-government protests. Currently, Amnesty International has not seen evidence to substantiate these charges. This is an affront to justice and free assembly.”

    It is understood that Leopoldo López, the leader of opposition party Voluntad Popular (Political Will), has been charged with homicide, grievous bodily harm and other crimes in relation to the deaths of three people in the last few days during mass demonstrations.

    February 19, 2014

    The Egyptian authorities must immediately drop the charges against three journalists from Al Jazeera English who were referred to trial today for allegedly providing assistance or belonging to a banned group engaged in terrorist activities, said Amnesty International.

    “Today’s decision by Egypt’s chief prosecutor to refer a number of journalists to trial on alleged terrorism related charges is a major setback for media freedom in Egypt,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    “The move sends the chilling message that only one narrative is acceptable in Egypt today - that which is sanctioned by the Egyptian authorities.”

    The three journalists -- Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed -- have been detained since 29 December 2013. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.

    If convicted, the journalists could face between three years to life in prison.

    February 13, 2014

    There are fears that the Bahraini authorities may use violence to quash planned demonstrations on 14 February, said Amnesty International, when thousands are expected to take to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising. 

    “The authorities’ relentless repression of dissent continues unabated – with security forces repeatedly using excessive force to quash anti-government protests,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Scores of people, including dozens of children have been detained for participating in peaceful protests over the last year. Many of them alleged that they were tortured in detention. Protesters must be allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations without the fear of reprisal or attack”.

    In July 2013 Bahrain’s King issued a draconian decree banning demonstrations, sit-ins and public gatherings in the capital, Manama, indefinitely.

    February 10, 2014

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) must not ignore the serious human rights violations associated with the preparation for and staging of the Sochi Olympic Games, Amnesty International said today.

    In a letter to IOC’s President Thomas Bach the organization urges him to raise with the Russian authorities the harassment of environmentalists as well as the denial of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in the context of the Sochi Olympics.

    “The Olympic torch sheds light on human rights violations in Russia. It also sheds light on IOC actions regarding human rights violations in the context of Olympic Games. Its failure to admonish the Russian authorities for their ongoing discrimination and harassment is to a failure to live up to the very principles that form the core of the Olympic Charter,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    February 04, 2014

    The re-arrest today of yet another environmental activist in Russia’s Krasnodar region where the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will open on 7 February, as well as his brief detention along with five colleagues last night, are more evidence of growing efforts to clamp down on civil society ahead of the Games, Amnesty International said.

    Igor Kharchenko of the Russian NGO Environmental Watch for North Caucasus (Ecologicheskaya Vakhta po Severnomu Kavkazu) is currently being held by police in Krasnodar, the regional capital, where they had arrived ahead of the Olympic torch relay. He was arrested today under the pretext that his car had been “involved in a crime”, shortly after three masked men had smashed in the front and back windows of the vehicle.

    “Just days away from the official opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian authorities are using every trick in the book to muzzle freedom of expression and silence dissenting voices,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International’s Moscow Office.

    February 03, 2014

    A new counter-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia will entrench existing patterns of human rights violations and serve as a further tool to suppress peaceful political dissent, Amnesty International said after analyzing the legislation.

    The Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which took effect on 1 February, uses an overly vague definition of terrorism, gives the Ministry of Interior broad new powers and legalizes a range of ongoing human rights violations against detainees.

    “This disturbing new law confirms our worst fears – that the Saudi Arabian authorities are seeking legal cover to entrench their ability to crack down on peaceful dissent and silence human rights defenders,” said Said Boumedouha, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International’s fears about this law are not recent. In 2011, the organization detailed its concerns about a leaked draft of the legislation, which highlighted the negative human rights impact such a law would have.

    February 03, 2014

    As the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics comes closer, harassment against civil society activists has intensified, Amnesty International said today after the arrest of an environmentalist for allegedly swearing in public.

    Evgeny Vitishko was arrested today in Tuapse, part of the Sochi area where the Games will take place. He has been reportedly charged with “petty hooliganism”, allegedly for swearing previously at a bus stop.

    At a court hearing today he was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

    “Vitishko's name has now become synonymous with harassment of civil society activists in the run-up to Sochi Games. Vitishko and his friends have been trying to expose environmental violations during the preparation of the Sochi Olympics. For this they are being punished. By trying to lock him up as a "petty hooligan" the authorities are trying to gag him,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “The concern is what will happen to civil society after the closure of the Olympics after the international focus moves away.”

    January 29, 2014

     The Egyptian authorities must immediately drop the charges against three journalists from Al Jazeera English who were referred to trial today for allegedly providing assistance or belonging to a banned group engaged in terrorist activities, said Amnesty International.

    “Today’s decision by Egypt’s chief prosecutor to refer a number of journalists to trial on alleged terrorism related charges is a major setback for media freedom in Egypt,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    "The move sends the chilling message that only one narrative is acceptable in Egypt today - that which is sanctioned by the Egyptian authorities.”

    The three journalists -- Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed -- have been detained since 29 December 2013. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.

    If convicted, the journalists could face between three years to life in prison.

    January 25, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 26 January 2014

    The jailing of prominent Chinese legal scholar and activist Xu Zhiyong is a travesty and he should be released immediately, said Amnesty International.

    A court in Beijing sentenced Xu Zhiyong to four years in prison on Sunday for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”

    Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International, commented:

    “This is a shameful but sadly predictable verdict. The Chinese authorities have once again opted for the rule of fear over the rule of law.

    “At best the injustice of prosecuting Xu Zhiyong is hypocrisy of the highest order. On the surface his calls to expose corruption coincide with President Xi Jinping’s own much heralded clampdown.

    “But the message sent from the courtroom today runs far deeper: In Xi Jinping’s China the Communist Party maintains a monopoly on the political process and anyone that speaks out will be severely dealt with.

    January 22, 2014

    New arrests of peaceful protesters in Myanmar seriously undermine the credibility of the far-reaching Presidential pardon issued at the end of 2013, Amnesty International said today.

    At least three people have been charged in January under a draconian anti-protest law for acts of peaceful protest. These include two land rights activists and a Buddhist monk on hunger strike. These are the first protest-related charges since a government pardon on 30 December 2013 of all those convicted under several repressive laws.

    “The Myanmar government has done much to try to convince the world that it is turning a corner on human rights. But these charges clearly show how the same repressive tactics are continuing,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    “The new charges seriously call into question the government’s commitment to human rights. Last year’s amnesties and pardons will have been meaningless if the authorities simply continue to harass those peacefully exercising their rights.”

    January 22, 2014

    A writer and political commentator who was a prisoner of conscience under Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule, has now fallen foul of Libya’s transitional authorities after making statements deemed offensive to prominent political figures during a television appearance, said Amnesty International.

    Jamal al-Hajji was convicted of defamation on 31 December 2013 and sentenced to eight months in prison and a fine of 400,000 Libyan Dinar [approximately 318,650 USD].  During an interview in February 2013 on al-Wataniya, a local Libyan television channel, he accused the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Abulaziz and five other politicians and public figures of conspiring against Libya and the “17 February Revolution”. Four of them lodged a complaint against Jamal al-Hajji. His appeal hearing is scheduled for Thursday 23 January.

    “No one should be sent to prison for expressing their views. Free expression is one of the rights Libyans took to the streets to reclaim during the 2011 uprising against Muammar al-Gaddafi,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    January 20, 2014

    Twenty Egyptians and 10 nationals from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) charged with setting up an “international” branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE, are at risk of being wrongfully convicted following a grossly unfair trial marred by a catalogue of human rights violations, said Amnesty International. All 10 UAE nationals were already tried and convicted in July 2013 following an unfair trial in a separate case.

    A verdict in the case against the men is expected to be delivered on Tuesday 21 January. They are also accused of other vague national security charges including stealing and distributing secret information from the security services or failing to notify the authorities about the theft.

    January 16, 2014

    The Ukrainian authorities must lift a temporary ban on demonstrations in the centre of the capital Kyiv and guarantee the rights to freedom of assembly and expression, Amnesty International said.

    “Instead of trying to gag peaceful protesters, the authorities should engage in a dialogue and hear them out. This is legitimate criticism of the government that must be heard,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s researcher on Ukraine.

    “The fact that this ban specifically applies to peaceful demonstrations is a particularly blatant violation of the right to freedom of assembly and undermines the rights of all Ukrainians.”

    In a 6 January decision that has just been made public, the Kyiv administrative court imposed a two-month ban on demonstrations by opposition activists in the city centre. The authorities have yet to enact the ban, which comes after weeks of sustained protests around the city’s central Independence Square (Maydan).

    The ban specifically targets all peaceful assemblies organized by the main opposition political parties.

    January 10, 2014

    Thai authorities must protect and respect human rights during mass protests planned to be held in Bangkok next week, Amnesty International said. The organization has also urged all protest leaders to call on their followers not to commit human rights abuses.

    Protesters have announced plans to stage mass demonstrations and shut down government offices until the current government steps down. The government has deployed some 15,000 military and police to the capital.

    “The situation in Thailand is tense, volatile and unpredictable. There is a real risk of loss of life and injury unless human rights are fully respected,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    “Security forces should ensure that the right to peaceful protest is upheld - however, they also have a duty to protect the safety of the public. When carrying out their work, law enforcement officials should apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force, and always exercise restraint in its use.” 

    January 08, 2014

    Today’s attempt by Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs to ban the country’s leading coalition of human rights NGOs is a disturbing assault on the rights to freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International said.

    The Ministry alleged that the majority of the 54 groups that make up the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (COMANGO) are “un-Islamic”, lack official registration, and are therefore prohibited.

    “Outlawing COMANGO is a deeply disturbing action aimed at silencing important critical voices that have advocated on the world stage for Malaysia to uphold international human rights law and standards,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia researcher at Amnesty International.

    COMANGO responded to the move by saying that, as a coalition of different NGOs rather than a single organization, it is not bound by the requirement to register under Malaysia’s Societies Act, which dates back to 1966.

    December 23, 2013

    It's great news that the two remaining member of Pussy Riot behind bars, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have been freed by Russian authorities. They spent nearly two years in prison, and throughout that time tens of thousands of you have taken action. 

    See more Good News stories

    But more still needs to be done, and Russia’s Amnesty Law, under which they and others were released, is no substitute for an effective, independent justice system.

    For more information on how Amnesty International is working in Russia, follow this link to our 2014 Sochi Olympic Campaign.

    December 17, 2013

    Brazil's government should give full consideration to Edward Snowden's claim for asylum in the country, Amnesty International said today after the US whistleblower offered to help a Brazilian spying probe and requested asylum.

    Snowden said today in an "open letter to the Brazilian people", published on Facebook and in a Brazilian newspaper,that he wished to assist a government investigation into intelligence monitoring by his former employer the National Security Agency.

    The former NSA agent, whose temporary asylum in Russia is due to expire in August, added that he would not be able to help without "permanent political asylum".

    Snowden's request for asylum in Brazil, made in July, has not yet been answered.

    "Edward Snowden has every right to seek permanent asylum and the Brazilian authorities should respond to his initial asylum claim seriously," said Atila Roque, Brazil Director of Amnesty International.

    December 12, 2013

    A Court in St Petersburg dealt a further blow to human rights in Russia by ordering the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial to register as a “foreign agent”, Amnesty International said today.

    “This is a slap on the face of human rights, and it comes on the 20th anniversary of the country’s Constitution which is supposed to uphold human rights and the rule of law,” Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “By forcing ADC Memorial to register as a ‘foreign agent’ the authorities are effectively pressuring this important human rights organization into closure and discrediting its work on behalf of victims of racism and xenophobia in Russia.”

    This is the second time that a court in Russia has directly ordered an NGO to register as a “foreign agent” on the behest of the Prosecutor’s Office. It has ruled that all activities of the organization are “political”.

    December 09, 2013

    Amnesty International has today announced it has issued a claim against the UK over concerns that the organisation’s communications have been unlawfully accessed by the UK intelligence services.

    In June disclosures made by the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the US was routinely accessing the communications of millions of people through a previously secret programme, PRISM, run by the National Security Agency (NSA) which the UK authorities had access to. It later emerged that the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ may have also subjected people to blanket surveillance through its own secret programme called Tempora.

    These revelations starkly exposed the huge gaps in the ability of the existing UK legal framework to keep pace with technological developments and therefore protect the human rights of those affected

    Amnesty believes that given the global and often highly sensitive nature of its work, it is highly likely that the organisation’s communications have been intercepted unlawfully by intelligence services both in the UK and US, as the content would be of interest to those agencies.

    November 28, 2013

     A Russian court has for the first time ordered a non-governmental organization to register as a "foreign agent" under a sinister law that is being used to crush independent civil society in the country, Amnesty International said.

    On 27 November, following an application by the prosecutor, the court in the city of Saratov ordered that the Centre for Social Policy and Gender Studies should register as "an organization performing the functions of a foreign agent".

    "The Russian authorities are using this sinister new tactic to impose the draconian 'foreign agents law' on independent civil society organizations nationwide," said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia program at Amnesty International.

    "The law hearkens back to the repression of the Soviet era and its sole purpose is to smear and muzzle independent civil society voices in Russia, making their work impossible."

    November 28, 2013

    Two prominent activists in Saudi Arabia have been questioned today on as yet unspecified charges as the continuing crackdown on independent human rights work in the country intensifies, said Amnesty International.

    The hearing came a day after a special security court raised an additional charge against a prominent human rights activist in a trial that has been ongoing for 20 months.

    “The crackdown on freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia is widening with at least a dozen human rights activists sentenced in 2013 alone,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director

    “It is high time for the authorities to allow people to peacefully voice their opinions and stop punishing activists for their legitimate work.”

    Issa al-Hamid and Abdulaziz al-Shubaily from the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA) were interrogated today by the General Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.

    November 25, 2013

    A new law placing broad restrictions on protests in Egypt is a serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators, Amnesty International said today.

    The law, signed yesterday by Egyptian President Adly Mansour, grants the Ministry of Interior wide discretionary powers over protests and lays out broad circumstances in which demonstrators can be found to violate the law. 

    “It is a dangerous sign that the first piece of legislation regulating rights and freedoms passed since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi curtails freedom of assembly and treats peaceful protesters like criminals. Not only does it allow the police to disperse peaceful demonstrations, but gives them the power to shoot protesters who pose no threat to the lives or safety of others”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    November 21, 2013

    The Libyan authorities must actively protect protesters from attacks by armed militia during ongoing demonstrations this week or risk further bloodshed, Amnesty International said today.

    The Head of the Tripoli Local Council has called on Tripoli’s residents to pursue a general strike until all armed groups leave the city. Large demonstrations are planned for this Friday in Tripoli’s Al Quds Square. Activists have also called for demonstrations outside militia compounds.

    The calls follow the deaths of 43 individuals and hundreds of injured, including children as young as 11 at a peaceful demonstration and subsequent clashes in Gharghour area of Tripoli on 15 November.

    “The Libyan authorities must guarantee that protesters taking to the streets on Friday will be protected from violence by militias. Anything short of that could result in a new tragedy,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    November 19, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 20 November 2013

    A restrictive “foreign agents law” adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said today.

    “One year after it came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    The “foreign agents law” is at the centre of a raft of repressive legislation that has been brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.

    Enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012, it requires any NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in what it defines very loosely as “political activity” to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”.

    November 13, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must halt their crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International urged today as a journalist and a writer who criticized the government were jailed on trumped-up charges.

    "Azerbaijan's ruthless and relentless attack on any dissenting voices in the media continues apace with these shameful convictions and jail sentences, which appear to be based on offences fabricated by the prosecution," said John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International.

    Rashad Ramazanov, a writer and blogger who spoke out against the authorities in his posts on Facebook and YouTube, was sentenced to nine years in prison on dubious drug charges.

    Also today, pro-opposition newspaper editor Sardar Alibeyli was handed a four-year prison sentence on charges of "hooliganism".

    "Rashad Ramazanov and Sardar Alibeyli are prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and they must be immediately and unconditionally released," said John Dalhuisen.

    November 13, 2013

    A series of amendments to a bill regulating the work of non-governmental organizations in Kenya will, if passed, dramatically undermine freedom of expression and human rights in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    “The level of control Kenyan authorities are trying to impose on NGOs is shameful. These organizations play a critical role in helping communities realise basic human rights through provision of services such as health and education,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director.

    “A cap on the external funding they can receive would have a devastating impact on their capacity to help those in most need,”

    Proposed amendments to the Public Benefits Organizations (PBO) Act would, include limits on the level of external funds an organization can receive and give the Regulatory Authority broader powers over registering NGOs and granting them permits.

    They would also increase government control over NGOs. The amendments are expected to be tabled in Parliament in the coming weeks.

    November 13, 2013

    Commonwealth leaders must use their summit in Colombo this week to pressure the Sri Lankan authorities to end their alarming crackdown on civil society, Amnesty International said.

    Sri Lankan military this morning blocked scores of family members of disappeared people from attending a human rights vigil in Colombo, the latest move to stifle freedom of expression and assembly ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on 15-17 November.

    “It may be astonishing to some that even on the eve of CHOGM, the Sri Lankan government feels free to abuse rights at the heart of the Commonwealth charter. But such government repression of civil society was expected. Commonwealth leaders must not just turn a blind eye,” said Steve Crawshaw, Director of the Office of the Secretary General who is in Colombo representing Amnesty International around CHOGM.

    “Sri Lanka is trying to use CHOGM to whitewash its despicable human rights record and hide ongoing abuses under the carpet. The government must not be allowed yet again to get away with this.”

    November 06, 2013

    The continuing refusal to disclose the whereabouts of a member of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, who is rumoured to be in transfer to a prison colony in Siberia, shows the authorities’ efforts to silence her, Amnesty International said.

    “Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has publicly complained of threats she received from prison officials. We are concerned that she now may be being punished for this and for speaking out about deplorable prison conditions,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “Russian authorities must immediately tell her family where she is and allow her access to a lawyer. She is a prisoner of conscience who should have never been taken to jail in the first place. Refusing to say where she is simply fuels rumours of the worst case scenario.”

    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s whereabouts have been unknown since 22 October when she was reportedly taken from the penal colony where she was serving a two-year prison sentence. It is believed she is being transferred to another place, but the destination has not been revealed.

    November 04, 2013

    Any potential trial of whistleblower Edward Snowden would amount to political persecution if it covers his revelations about the US government’s human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

    Over the weekend top US officials, including the White House and leading lawmakers, went on the record saying the former intelligence agency contractor – who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia – should not receive clemency for leaking information about the USA’s wide-reaching surveillance programs. 

    “Edward Snowden is a whistleblower who has disclosed an unlawful global digital surveillance program that has violated the right to privacy of millions of people. As such, he has grounds to seek asylum abroad out of well-founded fears the USA would persecute him for his actions,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Program Director at Amnesty International.

    October 31, 2013

    Today’s arrest of 19 people involved in a peaceful protest against the demolition of a historical village in Malaysia shows once again how the country’s authorities are taking a hard line against human rights defenders, Amnesty International said.

    “If any more evidence was needed that the Malaysian authorities are restricting the space for human rights defenders to operate, today’s arrests show plain and simple where their priorities lie,” said Isabelle Arradon at Amnesty International.

    In its August 2013 report submitted to the Human Rights Council, Malaysia pledged that development of civil and political rights in the country would “keep pace” with progress made on economic social and cultural rights. However, earlier this week Amnesty International and SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia), a leading Malaysian NGO, observed that this has so far been an empty promise.

    “Arbitrary arrests like this infringe on the right of protesters to peacefully exercise freedom of expression and assembly, and have a chilling impact on anyone engaged in defending human rights,” said Arradon.

    October 30, 2013

    Greenpeace Canada and Amnesty International Canada

    30 October 2013 (Ottawa) – At a news conference on Parliament Hill today the families of two Canadian Greenpeace activists jailed in Murmansk, Russia, joined Greenpeace and Amnesty International in urging Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to step up his efforts to secure their release by speaking out publicly and using all available political channels.

    “Last month, my brother took peaceful action to protest Arctic oil drilling,” said Patti Stirling of Port Colborne native Paul Ruzycki. “He wasn’t fighting against Russia; he was fighting to avert an environmental catastrophe. He helped call global attention to a threat to our present and the future generations, and is a hero deserving of all the help this government can give him.”

    October 29, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Jeddah criminal court to imprison a prominent human rights lawyer for having signed a pro-reform statement two years ago is yet another sign of the arbitrary nature of Saudi Arabia’s justice system, Amnesty International said.

    Human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair has been sentenced to three months in prison for offending the Saudi Arabian judiciary. The charges stem mainly from his signing a petition in 2011 that criticized the heavy-handedness of the Saudi Arabian authorities in dealing with 16 reformists.

    “This trial is a yet another example of how the authorities abuse the justice system to silence peaceful dissent in Saudi Arabia,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “This conviction and prison sentence should be quashed. And the pending charges should be dropped. Amnesty International considers anybody put behind bars merely for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression to be a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    October 29, 2013

    The Sierra Leone parliament’s passage of a freedom of information law is a major step to ensure greater government transparency, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Sierra Leone’s Freedom of Information Coalition said today. The new legislation, enacted today, is crucial for effective, transparent, and accountable governance.

    The Right to Access Information Act establishes a right to access government information and requires all parts of government to adopt and widely disseminate a plan for making records publicly available. The legislation also imposes a penalty for willful obstruction of its provisions.

    The law was first proposed in 2003 but has languished in Sierra Leone’s parliament since 2010. President Ernest Bai Koroma must now sign the act for it to enter into force.

    October 24, 2013

    The Sierra Leonean authorities must drop all charges against editors for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    On Wednesday, Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay, both editors at the Independent Observer newspaper, were charged with criminal defamation for publishing an article critical of the Sierra Leonean President, Ernest Bai Koroma. They have already been in detention for six days and have been denied bail pending the resumption of their trial on 29 October.

    “Criminal defamation charges against media workers highlight the incredibly worrying climate for freedom of expression in the West African country,” said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Sierra Leone.

    “All charges must be dropped and these two men released immediately and unconditionally. Their detention and criminal charges appear to stem from them peacefully carrying out journalistic work.

    “The Sierra Leonean authorities must respect the right to freedom of expression. Legitimate criticism of public officials should never be grounds for curtailing free speech.”

    October 24, 2013

    Killings, enforced disappearances, illegal detention and arbitrary arrests of critics of the government are far too frequent in Chad and must come to an end, says Amnesty International in a report released today.

    “People are dying in detention, held incommunicado and arbitrarily arrested left, right and centre, all in the name of ‘protecting national security’,” says Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Chad researcher. “The government is doing everything it can to silence anyone who dares to criticize them.”

    The report, Chad: In the name of security? released today, provides evidence about how the government  brutally represses any form of criticism and restricts the freedom of expression in the country. 

    Hundreds of people - including opposition MPs, journalists and academics – are illegally detained in Chad, many held without charge in deplorable conditions.

    October 21, 2013

    A 15-year prison sentence upheld today by Qatar’s highest court against a man who wrote a poem considered critical of the ruling family must be overturned immediately, said Amnesty International.

    Mohammed Rashid al-Ajami, who is also known as Mohamed Ibn Al-Dheeb, was first arrested in November 2011 and charged with incitement to overthrow the ruling system and insulting the Amir of Qatar.

    “Sentencing someone to a lengthy prison term because of the content of poetry that the authorities see as critical of them but does not advocate violence is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Amnesty International considers Mohammed al-Ajami a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He should be released immediately and unconditionally and his verdict quashed.

    October 15, 2013

    The Algerian authorities must immediately release a blogger detained on terrorism and defamation charges after he shared photos and caricatures of the President and the Prime Minister on his Facebook account, Amnesty International said.

    The lawyer of 24-year-old blogger Abdelghani Aloui filed, on 13 October, a request for his release pending trial. A decision is expected this week.

    “The Algerian authorities appear to be trying to stifle criticism at a time of uncertainty ahead of presidential elections due next year. Abdelghani Aloui must be immediately released and all charges against him dropped,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “The authorities are vastly overreacting to what is nothing more than legitimate expression. Using terrorism-related charges to detain someone for sharing images on social media sites sets a very dangerous precedent.”

    Abdelghani Aloui was arrested on 15 September and held in pre-arraignment detention for 10 days under Algerian criminal procedures, which allow terrorism suspects to be held for up to 12 days before seeing a magistrate.

    October 10, 2013

    Sri Lanka’s reported decision to ban all protests in its capital Colombo and other locations around a key Commonwealth summit would be a blatant attempt to sweep human rights abuses under the carpet, said Amnesty International.

    According to [delete: a] Sri Lankan news reports, the government today announced that protests, marches and the display of banners and black flags will be banned in the city of Colombo and other locations where delegates are expected to visit during the first three weeks of November. This coincides with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on 15-17 November.  

    “This sounds like another blatant attempt to stifle civil society activism as Commonwealth heads of state meet. Sadly, it fits very well with the government’s aggressive and heavy handed efforts to silence any dissent over the past years,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    October 10, 2013

    OpenMedia.ca is joining with more than 30 major organizations and over a dozen leading experts to launch the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history. With Parliament set to resume, the Protect Our Privacy Coalition has banded together to ensure Canadians get effective legal measures to protect their privacy against government intrusion.

    The broad-based coalition includes organizations and individuals from a wide range of political perspectives, including citizen-based groups, civil liberties groups, privacy advocates, right-leaning organizations, First Nations groups, labour groups, small businesses. LGBT groups and academic experts, all of whom have signed onto the statement:

    “More than ever, Canadians need strong, genuinely transparent, and properly enforced safeguards to secure privacy rights. We call on Government to put in place effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.”

    October 09, 2013

    A detailed report into the attacks targeting Coptic Christian communities in August reveals the extent of the failure of the security services to protect the minority group, said Amnesty International.

    The new report published today examines events during the unprecedented wave of sectarian attacks in the wake of the dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo on 14 August.

    It details how security forces failed to prevent angry mobs attacks on Christian churches, schools and charity buildings, setting them ablaze and razing some to the ground. At least four people were killed.

    “It is deeply disturbing that the Christian community across Egypt was singled out for revenge attacks over the events in Cairo by some supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “In light of previous attacks, particularly since Morsi’s outsing on 3 July, a backlash against Coptic Christians should have been anticipated, yet security forces failed to prevent attacks or intervene to put an end to the violence.”

    October 08, 2013

    Today’s decision of a Moscow court to send Mikhail Kosenko to forcible treatment in a psychiatric institution is an abhorrent return to the Soviet-era practices used to silence dissent, Amnesty International said.

    “To forcibly incarcerate Mikhail Kosenko in a psychiatric unit smacks of the worst excesses of the now defunct Soviet era when dissidents were languishing in mental institutions, treated as mental patients only because they dared to speak their mind,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    “Mikhail Kosenko is a prisoner of conscience put behind bars for peacefully exercising his right to protest and should be released immediately.”

    Mikhail Kosenko was arrested after he took part in a Bolotnaya Square protest in May 2012 which turned violent. He was charged with taking part in a riot and using violence against police officers.

    The court decision was announced as dozens of people gathered in a peaceful protest outside the court shouting Kosenko's name and "Freedom". It is reported that at least eight people have been arbitrarily arrested.

    October 08, 2013

    Harassment, intimidation, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, fabricated charges and unfair trials are all part of the arsenal the Azerbaijani authorities are employing in a downward spiral of oppression in the run up to the 9 October 2013 presidential elections, said Amnesty International.

    “With new arrests of civil society activists reported almost daily, it’s hard to keep up with the sheer number and the speed at which dissenters are being persecuted at the moment,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director. “The persecution is so widespread and frequent it’s difficult to assess just how bad the current situation really is.”

    “We have already adopted no fewer than 14 people as prisoners of conscience. These people are currently behind bars solely for expressing their views or taking peaceful action.”

    October 07, 2013

    As the Olympic torch arrives in Moscow ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Amnesty International is launching a worldwide campaign to highlight Russia’s increasingly deplorable human rights record.

    “The Olympic flame can throw light on the human rights violations that the authorities would prefer to hide behind the celebratory decorations. It is important that all those with a stake in the Games are aware of restrictions placed by the Russian authorities on civil society and ordinary citizens, and use their influence to oppose them,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    With the arrival of the Olympic flame in Moscow and the start of its journey to Sochi on 7 October, hundreds of thousands of Amnesty International members will stage a series of events and protests worldwide.

    Supporters from Ottawa through to Puerto Rico, Warsaw, Paris, Brussels and Moscow are organizing vigils, flash mobs and pickets in public places and in front of Russian embassies to raise awareness about the range of violations to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Russia.

    October 04, 2013

    The Moscow authorities’ refusal to sanction a small Amnesty International event to highlight Russia’s appalling human rights record ahead of the Sochi Olympics highlights the lack of tolerance for freedom of expression in Russia today.

    On 7 October, as the Olympic torch arrives in Moscow, Amnesty International is launching a worldwide campaign to highlight problems with freedom of expression in Russia which are in direct conflict with the Olympic spirit.

    A small event was proposed in Moscow’s Pushkin Square, in solidarity with other Amnesty International events and, as required by Russian law the authorities were notified of plans to hold the 15-strong picket. Three alternative locations were also proposed by the human rights organization.

    The Moscow authorities’ written reply stated that Pushkin Square is “unsuitable for a public event” because “it would be impossible … to provide safety” for the event. They failed to explain why the safety of 15 people could not be ensured. They also failed to consider the three alternative locations for Amnesty International’s picket.

    October 02, 2013

    Viet Nam must immediately release a prominent lawyer and human rights activist who was jailed on politically motivated charges today, Amnesty International said.

    A court in Viet Nam’s capital Ha Noi today sentenced Le Quoc Quan, one of the country’s best known dissidents, to 30 months in prison on trumped up tax evasion charges.

    “This is a ludicrous sentence, and just another clear example of the Vietnamese authorities harassing and imprisoning those who are peaceful critics with opposing views,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “It is very difficult to not conclude that Le Quoc Quan has simply been targeted for his human rights activism – as he has been many times before. He should be released immediately and all charges against him dropped.”

    Le Quoc Quan has been a prominent campaigner for democracy and human rights issues in Viet Nam for years. He wrote a popular blog exposing corruption and human rights abuses not covered by the state-controlled media.

    October 02, 2013

    Turkish authorities committed human rights violations on a massive scale in the government’s attempts to crush the Gezi Park protests this summer said Amnesty International.

    In a report published today the organization details the worst excesses of police violence, during the protests, the failure to bring these abuses to justice and the subsequent prosecution and harassment of those that took part.

    “The attempt to smash the Gezi Park protest movement involved a string of human rights violations on a huge scale. They include the wholesale denial of the right to peaceful assembly and violations of the rights to life, liberty and the freedom from torture and ill-treatment,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey.

    A “democratization package” announced by the Prime Minister on Monday fails to address these violations or to take any serious steps to ensure that they will not occur in the future.

    September 28, 2013

     The Serbian authorities’ decision to ban the 2013 Belgrade Pride for the third year in a row is a clear breach of the country’s own law and constitution, said Amnesty International. The decision was announced only hours before the march was due to take place.

    “By once again banning the 2013 Belgrade Pride, Serbia’s government is effectively going against its international obligations to guarantee basic rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Serbia,” said Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty International’s deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme. "The Serbian LGBTI community has been let down once again by their government.”

    The Security Coordination Bureau announced the ban late on Friday.  Prime Minister  Ivica  Dacic – who is also minister of the interior - cited alleged serious security concerns, including the safety of citizens and participants, and preservation of public peace as reasons for cancelling the parade.

    September 20, 2013

    The Quebec government is preparing to table a bill based on a “Charter of Quebec Values” and is proposing, among other measures, to prohibit government employees from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

    Amnesty International salutes the Quebec government for its plans to strengthen the fulfillment of its obligation to respect the right of women to be free from discrimination and the right to equality for all. But  Amnesty International questions the means by which the Quebec government is attempting to strengthen these rights. Prohibiting all government employees from wearing conspicuous religious symbols not only limits the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but also fails to promote equality between the sexes.

    September 12, 2013

    Scores of detainees arrested following the dispersal of two large pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo last month have been deprived of their basic legal rights, Amnesty International said.  

    The organization has documented several cases of protesters who were denied prompt access to their lawyers and relatives, or an opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of their detention after their arrest.

    “The failure of the Egyptian authorities to respect due process for people who have been arrested is a worrying sign. Everyone must be equal before the law. It is unacceptable for supporters of Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood to be singled out for unfair treatment based on their political affiliations,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.  

    “All of those detained by the authorities must immediately be given access to their lawyers and families.”

    Security forces have arrested at least 3,000 people, mostly supporters or members of the Muslim Brotherhood, since 3 July, according to lawyers representing them. Around 600 have since been released.

    August 30, 2013

    An Iranian prisoner of conscience and blogger on hunger strike to protest his unfair detention must be released immediately and unconditionally to receive treatment as his health deteriorates, Amnesty International said.

    Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, 28, is serving a 15-year prison sentence for “membership of the [illegal] internet group ‘Iran Proxy’”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the Leader and the President”, among other charges.

    “Hossein Ronaghi Maleki’s worsening health is extremely worrying and despite repeated requests by his parents, the Iranian authorities are refusing to release him or even grant him temporary leave,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
    .
    “Not only have the authorities unfairly put him behind bars simply for expressing his views on his blog but they are now also jeopardizing his health and ultimately his life by not allowing him to receive the medical care he urgently needs”

    August 30, 2013

    A day ahead of planned country-wide protests in Baghdad and across Iraq, Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi authorities to respect and protect protesters’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

    The Iraqi authorities have appeared determined to stop large demonstrations taking place in central Baghdad since anti-government protests erupted across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.

    “People in Iraq have the right to express their views freely and to protest peacefully without the threat of violence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “Rather than preventing peaceful assemblies, the government should be taking steps to ensure people can exercise their right to protest in safety and security.”

    August 22, 2013

    The Armenian authorities must respect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and non-discrimination for all, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    “The ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression, even when the views expressed may be deemed controversial, and the ability to gather and demonstrate peacefully are essential for the defence of human rights and for a functioning civil society,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s researcher on Armenia.

    Armenia: No space for difference exposes the harassment and intimidation suffered by civil society activists and journalists who question the mainstream view of the country’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh as well as expose abuses in the army, whose reputation as a backbone of nation remains current due to unresolved conflict.

    Through national and international obligations the Armenian authorities have committed to ensure that activists can carry out their work without interference, obstacles, discrimination or fear of retaliation.

    August 21, 2013

    President Obama should commute US Army Private Bradley Manning’s sentence to time already served to allow his immediate release, Amnesty International said today.

    Military judge Col Denise Lind today sentenced the Wikileaks source to 35 years in military prison – out of a possible 90 – for leaking reams of classified information. He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

    “Bradley Manning acted on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in US helicopter attacks, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.  

    August 20, 2013

    The trial of five peaceful activists in Syria on “terrorism” charges tomorrow is further evidence of the increasing and systematic repression against anyone speaking out against human rights violations in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir, Hani al-Zitani, Mansour al-Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), are scheduled to appear before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Damascus tomorrow.

    “The Syrian government should not use its overbroad terrorism law to punish peaceful human rights activists for their legitimate work. The authorities must drop all charges against these five activists and release Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani immediately and unconditionally,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani are still in detention while Mansour al-Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada were conditionally released in February this year but continue to be on trial.

    August 20, 2013

    Pressure placed on the Guardian newspaper by UK authorities to destroy documents represent a threat to freedom of expression, the right to information and protecting the independence of the media in the UK, Amnesty International said today.

    The Guardian has reported that the UK authorities repeatedly threatened the newspaper’s management with legal action and led to it being forced to destroy information it had received from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden. This information is about unlawful surveillance by the US and the UK governments which violates their citizens’ and other people’s right to privacy.

    “Insisting that the Guardian destroy information received from a whistleblower is a sinister turn of events,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “This is an example of the government trying to undermine press freedoms. It also seriously undermines the right of the public to know what governments do with their personal and private information. If confirmed, these actions expose the UK’s hypocrisy as it pushes for freedom of expression overseas.

    August 18, 2013

    A Guardian newspaper employee detained today while in transit at a London airport is clearly a victim of unwarranted revenge tactics, targeted for no more than who he is married to, Amnesty International said today.  

    David Michael Miranda is married to Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who analyzed and published information on documents disclosing sweeping, systematic and unlawful surveillance by the US government. These documents were released by Edward Snowden.

    Miranda was detained while in transit in Heathrow and was held in detention for nearly nine hours – the point at which the government would have had to seek further authority to continue the detention.

    “It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his husband has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    August 13, 2013

    The Bahraini authorities must not crack down on mass anti-government protests scheduled for tomorrow said Amnesty International. The organization fears that new legislation introduced last week will be used to legitimize the use of force to quash peaceful protests.

    “The people of Bahrain have the right to express their views freely and to protest peacefully without the threat of violence,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “For years the authorities in Bahrain have shamelessly sought to stifle freedom of expression, taking increasingly drastic steps to stamp out dissent with complete disregard for international law.”

    Demonstrators plan to hold major rallies across Bahrain on Wednesday calling for an end to repression and for genuine political reforms.

    On Monday, Bahrain’s Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, warned that any attempts to destabilize the country will be dealt with harshly. He accused anti-government protesters of seeking to topple the government.

    August 12, 2013

    The arrest of a prominent Bangladeshi human rights defender over the weekend is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The organization has adopted Adilur Rahman Khan as a prisoner of conscience following his arrest without a warrant on 10 August. He is being detained solely for peacefully challenging alleged human rights violations by Bangladesh security forces.

    “Adilur Rahman Khan’s arrest sends a chilling message to government critics – if you raise concerns about human rights, there will be serious consequences. He must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Abbas Faiz, Bangladesh researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Instead of punishing human rights defenders, the Bangladeshi authorities must address alleged violations by carrying out investigations and holding accountable those responsible.”

    Adilur Rahman Khan is the secretary of Dhaka-based human rights organization Odhikar. Yesterday detectives searched Odhikar’s office, seizing computers and other equipment.

    August 08, 2013

    The Ethiopian government must end its use of repressive tactics against demonstrators, following initial reports of widespread arrests of Muslim protestors during this morning’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations, said Amnesty International today.

    “We are extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia this morning of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters. The Ethiopian government’s  ongoing repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

    Last week, another incident related to the protests reportedly ended in the deaths of an unconfirmed number of people in the town of Kofele in Oromia region.

    August 07, 2013

    The Malaysian authorities’ are targeting a prominent human rights organization in what appears to be politically motivated harassment, Amnesty International said.

    On 5 August Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) announced that one of its volunteers, a prominent human rights defender, is being investigated for sedition following a fundraising dinner held on 19 July this year.

    “The authorities’ harassment and attempts to silence human rights organizations like SUARAM  run contrary to their duty to protect and promote human rights. It sends a chilling message to human rights defenders in the country, and must end,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “The authorities should immediately clarify exactly why SUARAM is being investigated.”

    While the authorities have refused to comment on the specifics of the investigation, the dinner was held to raise funds for a court case pursued by SUARAM in France that relates to a corruption case involving the Malaysian government.

    August 07, 2013

    Two new emergency decrees issued by the King of Bahrain last night, which include the banning of all protests, are a further shameful attempt to completely ban any form of dissent and freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    “Banning sit-ins, public gatherings and demonstrations in Bahrain’s capital and stipulating that parents could be jailed if their children repeatedly participate in demonstrations is outrageous, and violates international law,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “Authorities in Bahrain have, for years, abused existing legislation to suppress any form of dissent, but these new measures are taking their disregard for human rights to a completely new level. We fear that these draconian measures will be used in an attempt to legitimize state violence as new protests are being planned for 14 August.”

    One of the decrees makes new amendments to the 1973 Law on public gatherings and demonstrations, which include the banning of demonstrations, sit-ins, marches and public gatherings in the capital Manama.

    August 06, 2013

    Women political activists in rural Zimbabwe told Amnesty International they have been threatened with violence and forced to flee with their children for refusing to reveal their vote to supporters of Robert Mugabe's party during harmonized elections.

    The women said they resisted instructions from Zanu-PF supporters to feign illiteracy, blindness or physical injury, which would have meant someone else marking the ballot on their behalf,

    At least six women said they left home with their 12 young children after facing intimidation from village heads in Mukumbura district, Mashonaland Central Province soon after the 31 July poll.

    "It appears the ZANU-PF supporters wanted to ensure that these women did not vote for the other parties and tried to compromise the secrecy of the ballot," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    "The Zimbabwean police must guarantee the safety of political activists in rural areas following these reports of politically motivated displacement. The authorities have a duty to investigate any threats of violence and ensure those responsible are brought to justice."

    August 05, 2013

    The Public Order Management Bill which is likely to be passed by Uganda’s parliament tomorrow represents a serious blow to open political debate in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The Bill imposes wide ranging restrictions on public meetings and gives the police unprecedented powers to prohibit and disperse public gatherings of a political nature.

    In its current form, for example, the Bill gives the police discretionary powers to prevent a gathering of as few as three people in a public place to discuss political issues.

    “This Bill represents a serious blow to open political debate in a country where publicly criticizing the government is already fraught with risk,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director.

    “The Ugandan government must stop trying to crush the rights to free speech and peaceful demonstration as enshrined in its own constitution as well as international law.”

    August 01, 2013

    Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum is a positive development and should allow governments and civil society to focus on the sweeping nature and unlawfulness of the US government’s surveillance programs.

    “The drama of the five weeks since Snowden’s arrival in Russia has distracted attention from the key issue: how the ever-burgeoning security apparatus in the US has used secret courts to undertake massive, sweeping and systematic invasions into the right to privacy of people living in the USA,” said Widney Brown, senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “Let’s not lose sight of why Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia. Once he disclosed the full scope of the US government’s actions, they cancelled his passport and called him a criminal.

    “Freedom of expression – a fundamental human right – protects speech that reveals credible evidence of unlawful government action. Under both international law and the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, the US government’s actions are unlawful.”

    July 31, 2013

    US authorities have failed to deliver justice for serious human rights violations committed in the context of counter-terror operations dating back more than a decade, Amnesty International said as the sentencing phase opened today in the military trial of Army Private Bradley Manning.

    Manning, who exposed potential breaches of international humanitarian law and other violations by US forces, could face up to 136 years in prison after being convicted of 20 separate charges – including theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act.

    “There’s a stunning contrast between the extraordinarily severe sentence Bradley Manning could receive and the leniency or complete impunity enjoyed by those responsible for the types of grave human rights violations he exposed,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    July 30, 2013

    Despite the acquittal of Private Bradley Manning of the most serious “aiding the enemy” charge against him, today's verdict reveals the US government's misplaced priorities on national security by finding him guilty today of a range of other charges, Amnesty International said.  

    “The government’s pursuit of the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge was a serious overreach of the law, not least because there was no credible evidence of Manning’s intent to harm the USA by releasing classified information to Wikileaks,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.

    July 29, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Tunisian court to dismiss a defamation case against the 18-year-old FEMEN activist Amina Sboui is only a partial victory, Amnesty International said as it called for her release.

    Amina was arrested on 19 May after writing the word “Femen” – the name of an international network of feminist activists famous for staging topless protests – on a cemetery wall in Kairouan in central Tunisia.  Held since then, she has faced an array of charges including defamation, insulting a civil servant and desecrating a cemetery.

    “Imprisoning anyone for expressing themselves is inherently disproportionate. The fact that Amina has already spent two months in prison is an indictment of the state of free expression in Tunisia,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “We believe the case against her constitutes a politically motivated attack on her right to freedom of expression and that she should be released.”

    July 26, 2013

    A Russian appeal court’s decision to keep a second Pussy Riot punk band member behind bars for singing a protest song is further confirmation of the country’s dangerous slide towards greater suppression of free speech, Amnesty International said.

    “In the space of days two young artists have once again been denied freedom when they should never have been arrested in the first place,” said Natalia Prilutskaya of Amnesty International’s Russia team.

    Today the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia turned down 23-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s parole appeal because she refuses to admit guilt for “hooliganism” and has twice been reprimanded at the penal colony where she has been imprisoned since last year.

    Tolokonnikova maintains her innocence and said she will continue to appeal her sentence all the way to Russia’s Supreme Court.

    On 24 July the Perm Regional Court upheld a previous decision to refuse to grant parole to Tolokonnikova’s bandmate, 25-year-old Maria Alekhina.

    July 24, 2013

    The Yemeni authorities must respond to allegations that an investigative journalist was ill-treated and arbitrarily imprisoned based on his work to reveal the US military’s role in a deadly 2009 attack, Amnesty International said following his release on Tuesday. 

    Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ was finally set free following international pressure, but the Yemeni authorities have kept in place a two-year travel ban on the journalist.

    “Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ appeared to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his legitimate work as a journalist. Having released him, the Yemeni authorities must now conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the 2009 attack which he helped expose,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Both the Yemeni and US authorities have some serious questions to answer regarding this case. His allegations of ill-treatment must also be investigated.”

    July 24, 2013

    A Russian appeal court decision to refuse parole to Maria Alekhina, one of the Pussy Riot punk group singers jailed for singing a protest song in an Orthodox cathedral is a further travesty of justice, Amnesty International said today.

    "This decision is a further confirmation that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression," said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    Today the Perm Regional Court upheld a previous decision to refuse to grant parole to 24-year-old Alekhina. She together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, three of the members of the all-female group Pussy Riot, were charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. All three were subsequently sentenced to two years imprisonment in a penal colony but later Ekaterina Samutsevich was given a suspended sentence on appeal.

    July 24, 2013

    The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    Office of the Prime Minister
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A2

    July 24, 2013

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We are writing to you on behalf of Voices-Voix, a coalition of more than 200 national and local civil society organizations across the country.  We are seriously concerned about recent reports that your office had instructed government officials to compile “friend and enemy stakeholder” lists as part of the process of preparing briefing materials for new members of Cabinet. 

    July 22, 2013

    More than 100 internationally renowned musicians have joined a worldwide call for the release of the two jailed members of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot ahead of their parole appeal hearings this week.  

    Dear Masha and Nadia,

    As the one-year anniversary of your trial approaches, we are writing to assure you that, around the world, people are both still thinking of you and working for your release. Although you were the most visible of the protesters, we know that there were many other young people who have suffered in the protests, about whom we are also very concerned. But, in many ways, through your imprisonment, you have come to represent them.

    Many artists voiced their concern when these charges were first brought against you, we had every hope that the authorities, in dealing with you, would show some understanding, a sense of proportion, even some of the wonderful Russian sense of humour, but none of the above were forthcoming.

    July 18, 2013

    The decision by the US military judge not to drop the charge accusing Private Bradley Manning of “aiding the enemy” is a travesty of justice, Amnesty International said today. If he is found guilty of the charge, he faces a possible life sentence in military custody with no chance of parole.

    “The charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ is ludicrous. What’s surprising is that the prosecutors in this case, who have a duty to act in the interest of justice, have pushed a theory that making information available on the internet – whether through Wikileaks, in a personal blog posting, or on the website of The New York Times – can amount to ‘aiding the enemy’,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    To prove the charge that Manning has “aided the enemy,” the US government has to establish that he gave potentially damaging intelligence information to an enemy, and that he did so knowingly, with “general evil intent”.

    July 18, 2013

    Aleksei Navalny, a popular informal opposition leader, was sentenced today to five years in a Russian prison colony after a politically motivated trial on highly questionable charges of embezzlement, Amnesty International said.

    His alleged accomplice and co-defendant, businessman Petr Ofitserov, received a four-year sentence.

    The organization calls for their immediate release. Any retrial must be on charges consistent with the economic facts of the case in proceedings that provide for the proper scrutiny of independent expert evidence.

    “From the start there were clear indications that the criminal prosecution of Aleksei Navalny was politically motivated. The very nature of charges against him was highly questionable, and the way his guilt was supposedly proven raises serious doubts,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “This was a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial. The case was twice closed for lack of evidence of a crime, before being reopened on the personal instruction of Russia’s top investigator.”

    July 12, 2013

    Amnesty International met with US whistleblower Edward Snowden at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Friday. Sergei Nikitin, Head of Amnesty International's Moscow office, who was at the meeting said:

    “Amnesty International was pleased to reiterate our support for Edward Snowden in person.  We will continue to pressure governments to ensure his rights are respected - this includes the unassailable right to claim asylum wherever he may choose.

    “What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified. He has exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programmes that unquestionably interfere with an individual’s right to privacy.

    “States that attempt to stop a person from revealing such unlawful behaviour are flouting international law. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right.

    “Instead of addressing or even owning up to these blatant breaches, the US government is more intent on persecuting him. Attempts to pressure governments to block his efforts to seek asylum are deplorable.”

    July 05, 2013

    A new bill in the Gambia which could impose lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines for criticising government officials on the internet is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    “By attempting to repress dissent even on the internet, the new bill takes the restriction of freedom of expression in the Gambia to a shocking new level.” said Lucy Freeman, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    The Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013, means that a simple cartoon or satirical comedy could carry up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to of three million Dalasis (approx £54,500).

    While the bill imposes penalties for “Instigating violence against the government or public officials”, it also targets individuals who “caricature or make derogatory statements against officials” or “impersonate public officials”.

    July 02, 2013

    The conviction today of 68 government critics in the United Arab Emirates shows the authorities’ determination to crush any form dissent, said Amnesty International.

    “Not only do the defendants appear to have been targeted simply because of their views, but they have been convicted on bogus charges and denied the basic right to a fair trial. The only thing this trial shows is the fundamental flaws in the UAE justice system,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    The trial was marred by allegations of torture which were blatantly ignored, the rights of defence were flauted, and independent observers were banned from the court room.

    While the UAE authorities have trumpeted that all the defendants have had a fair trial, Amnesty International points out that there is no right of appeal.

    “The slick PR of the UAE is enough to hide the fact that the trial was grossly unfair and that fundamental rights have been recklessly disregarded,” said Hadj Sahraoui.

    July 02, 2013

    The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights Amnesty International said today.

    “The US attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are deplorable,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.”

    The organization also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the USA.

    “No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment,” said Bochenek.

    “We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.”

    June 28, 2013

    The Egyptian authorities must uphold the right to peaceful assembly and protect protesters and bystanders from violence, Amnesty International said today ahead of planned nationwide demonstrations this weekend.

    Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi are expected to take to the streets en masse in cities across Egypt to mark his first year in office on 30 June, with his supporters holding counter-rallies.

    "Given the appalling track record in policing demonstrations, it is absolutely imperative that the Egyptian authorities issue very clear instructions to security forces to uphold protesters’ right to freedom of assembly and refrain from unnecessary or excessive force," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    “They should make clear that anyone responsible for arbitrary and abusive force will be brought to justice.”

    June 26, 2013

    The Syrian authorities must drop charges against five human rights activists whose "patently unfair" terror trial was today put on hold for another two months, said Amnesty International.

    The five men from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), all of whom have been allegedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated in custody, were due to appear at the Anti-Terrorism Court in Damascus today.

    The trial has been postponed until 21 August, meaning the three activists still detained will remain in custody.

    “This trial is patently unfair. The only ‘crime’ committed by these activists was to carry out their legitimate human rights work. The Syrian authorities must drop the spurious charges against them,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    "The three activists who remain behind bars are prisoners of conscience - jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression - and they must be released immediately."

    June 24, 2013

    The US authorities must not prosecute anyone for disclosing information about the government’s human rights violations, Amnesty International said after Edward Snowden was charged under the Espionage Act. 

    The organization also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the USA.

    "No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations by the US government. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International. 

    "It appears he is being charged by the US government primarily for revealing its and other governments’ unlawful actions that violate human rights.”

    June 21, 2013

    Russian police and agents of a private security firm are currently attempting to evict the prominent Russian civil society group “For Human Rights” from their premises in Moscow The activists are refusing to leave the office.

    ”For Human Rights” has been involved in discussions with Moscow City authorities – its landlord – about the extension of the lease for some months, but maintains that it had not received any notice of the termination of their contract prior to eviction order presented today by the private security firm contracted by the municipal authorities.

    Amnesty International’s observer, who is currently witnessing the eviction, said: “In Russia, we have witnessed how authorities are using every trick in the box to stop human rights activists criticising their policies. The attempt to evict ‘For Human Rights’ from publicly owned offices seems to be yet another attempt to block their important human rights work.”

    June 17, 2013

    A recent one-year prison sentence handed down against a prominent opposition activist in Egypt is the latest attempt by the government to silence criticism, Amnesty International said today while calling for the conviction to be quashed and for him to be released.

    On 15 June, an Alexandria appeals court upheld the conviction against Hassan Mostafa for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor but lowered his sentence from two years in prison to one year with labour.

    Mostafa, who denies the accusations against him, was not brought to the hearing on Saturday.

    “The conviction against Hassan Mostafa is the latest blow to freedom of expression in Egypt, where we see case after case of opposition activists, bloggers, comedians and protesters facing trial for criticizing the authorities or ‘defaming religion’,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    June 14, 2013

    Brazilian police must avoid excessive use of force, Amnesty International said after scores of people have been injured and detained during several demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo over a transportation fare hike.

    Protests began on Monday night, after the price of a single bus ticket in São Paulo was raised on 2 June from 3 reals (US$1.40) to 3.20 reals (US$1.50) and in Rio de Janeiro from 2,75 reals to 2,95 reals

    Since then, some protesters and police have both reportedly engaged in violence – on Thursday alone, 55 people were injured and 250 detained in São Paulo. Riot police have made wide use of tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators, some of whom have attacked public property.

    “The increasing level of violence amid these protests is deeply troubling”, said Atila Roque, director of the organization’s Brazil Office.

    The police reaction against protests has resulted in widespread reports of indiscriminate use of force against protesters.

    June 14, 2013

    The Libyan authorities must drop charges against two politicians who published a cartoon on women’s rights deemed to be offensive to Islam, Amnesty International said today.

    Libyan National Party policy manager Ali Tekbali and Fathi Sager, the party’s secretary general, are due to appear in court this Sunday, 16 June at the Criminal Court in Tripoli .They are facing the death penalty over a cartoon calling for gender equality and women’s rights that was circulated on an electoral campaign poster last June.

    The cartoon features a group of men discussing the role of women in Libyan society, including a bearded character. That same character appeared as the Prophet Muhammad three months later in a controversial anti-Islamic comic published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last September. The cartoon, however, did not make any reference to the Prophet Muhammad or to Islam. 

    June 13, 2013

    Zimbabwe’s government must focus on protecting human rights in the run-up to elections, Amnesty International said today as the country’s leaders publicly disputed the date the vote should be held.

    “Whatever date is decided for the election, the government’s absolute priority must be making sure the violence that erupted during the 2008 vote is not repeated,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director.

    “All the rights enshrined in Zimbabwe’s new constitution must be respected by the security forces. This is especially important in view of the role they played in organizing violence against perceived political opponents of the then government in 2008.

    “The rights to freedom of assembly for all must be respected. Police must not arbitrarily apply provisions of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to stop meetings of civil society groups and other political parties as has happened previously.

    June 13, 2013

    Yesterday’s prison sentences against three activists from FEMEN, an international women’s movement known for staging topless protests, in Tunisia are an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today. 

    The women, two French nationals, Marguerite Stern and Pauline Hillier, and one German, Josephine Markmann, were arrested on 29 May as they protested bare-chested in front of the Tunis Court building, demanding the release of a Tunisian FEMEN activist arrested days earlier.

    They were convicted of public indecency, undermining public morals, and making noise disturbing peace, and sentenced to four months and one day in prison. The three women intend to appeal their conviction.

    "Imprisoning people for expression is inherently disproportionate,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    International human rights law allows limitations to the right to freedom of expression, but only for a legitimate aim and through the least restrictive means possible.

    June 12, 2013

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today said that “We have not responded to punches with punches. From now on security forces will respond differently.”
     
    He also warned the country’s security forces would end demonstrations that have shaken the country for two weeks within the next 24 hours.  

    Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International who is currently in Istanbul, responded: “Prime Minister’s Erdogan’s outrageous statement is nothing short of a provocation, only likely to lead to more violence and more injured protesters, particularly as fresh demonstrations are planned this evening in Taksim Square and elsewhere.”

    “It is high time for the international community, and in particular EU countries, to intervene by urging the Turkish government to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the protesters in order to de-escalate the situation and bring and end to the appalling levels of violence we have witnessed in the last two weeks.”

     

    June 12, 2013

     A group of organizations focused on civil liberties, pro-democracy, privacy rights, and open access to the Internet have joined to together to demand answers and immediate action from the government after it was revealed that a secretive government agency has been spying on the telephone and Internet activities of individuals, including law-abiding Canadians.

    The organizations speaking out today include Amnesty International Canada, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (BCFIPA), Council of Canadians, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Leadnow, OpenMedia.ca, Privacy & Access Council of Canada, the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC). OpenMedia.ca worked with many of these same organizations to host the StopSpying.ca campaign that successfully defeated the government’s online spying bill C-30.

    June 11, 2013

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced, in a televised speech, that he would show no more tolerance for protests that have shaken the country for nearly two weeks.

    Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International who is currently in Istanbul, responded: “The Turkish Prime Minister has sought to declare the recent wave of protest over by personal diktat - this is not how the freedom of assembly works. Prime Minister Erdogan now bears personal responsibility for the violence that immediately followed his words. Peaceful protest must be respected and the international community must urge him to change tack to prevent further unnecessary bloodshed.”

    Following the Prime Minister’s speech, Amnesty International observers reported at least 30 tear gas canisters thrown into Gezi Park on Tuesday evening, despite the Istanbul Governor’s pledge earlier in the day to halt the police intervention there.

    Activists have now been protesting for nearly two weeks against the construction of a shopping centre in Gezi Park adjacent to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, one of the last green spaces in the city.

    June 11, 2013

    Criminal “defamation of religion” charges must be dropped in a number of cases across Egypt, Amnesty International said today after a teacher was convicted for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad in the classroom.

    A Luxor court on Tuesday fined Coptic Christian teacher Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour 100,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$14,000) for allegedly insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during one of her classes. It also referred compensation claims to civil court.

    Her criminal conviction bodes ill for others in Egypt who have been facing trial on similar charges which the organization said are aimed at criminalizing criticism of or insult to religious beliefs.

    “Slapping criminal charges with steep fines and, in most cases, prison sentences against people for simply speaking their mind or holding different religious beliefs is simply outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    June 11, 2013

    The space for free expression in Russia shrank further today after the State Duma in Moscow passed two new bills aimed at stamping out minority views, Amnesty International said.

    Within hours of each other, the country’s lower house of Parliament passed bills to criminalize blasphemy and outlaw activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and their supporters.

    The measures are expected to be approved in the near future by the upper house of Parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

    “In the space of mere hours, the Duma succeeded in adopting two pieces of legislation that testify to the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Russia. They represent a sorry attempt by the government to bolster its popularity by pandering to the most reactionary elements of Russian society – at the expense of fundamental rights and the expression of individual identities,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    June 11, 2013

    Protests in Turkey are likely to continue to escalate unless authorities engage in meaningful discussions with activists, Amnesty International said after riot police this morning once again used tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

    The further police action against demonstrators contradicted statements by the Governor of Istanbul this morning that they would not intervene in the park.

    Activists have been protesting against the construction of a shopping centre in Gezi Park adjacent to the square, which is one of downtown Istanbul’s last green spaces.

    In a statement to media, Istanbul’s Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said the intervention in Taksim Square was being carried out to remove banners from the Atatürk statue and the Atatürk Culture Centre on the square and that the police would not intervene in Gezi Park.

    June 06, 2013

    The hefty fine imposed on a civil society organization in Russia today is further evidence of the Russian government’s determination to curtail the freedom of association and free speech in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The St Petersburg-based film festival “Bok o Bok” (“Side by Side”), which seeks to create a space where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people can openly express their identity, was issued with an unprecedentedly heavy combined fine of RUB 500,000 (over USD 15,500).

    The fine was based on two purported separate offences: its failure to register as a “foreign agent” and the failure to indicate that it is a “foreign agent” in a publication it has recently produced, as is required by the relevant law dictates. An administrative case against its leader is ongoing, and may also result in a high fine too.

    This is the fourth non-governmental organization (NGO) to be fined since April this year, after a repressive new “foreign agents’ law” came into effect, placing broad new restrictions on the work of civil society organizations.

    June 05, 2013

    Egypt’s authorities must overturn the conviction of 43 people for working at unregistered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt and receiving illegal foreign funding, Amnesty International said.

    The NGO workers were sentenced to between one and five years in prison by the Cairo Criminal Court on Tuesday.

    Amnesty International urges the Egyptian authorities to respect freedom of association and enable NGOs to carry out work in the country without hindrance.

    “The verdict appears to be intended to deal a deadly blow to civil society in Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “The Egyptian authorities must act now to protect independent civil society in Egypt and respect their commitment to human rights. This ruling sends a message that the Egyptian authorities continue to view NGOs with suspicion because of their work addressing and exposing human rights violations.”

    Five of the 43 NGO workers were sentenced to two years in jail and fined 1,000 Egyptian pounds (US$143).

    June 03, 2013

    The number of activists injured across Turkey as a result of police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards, Amnesty International said today.

    Demonstrations in cities including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir continued for a third day amid unprecedented levels of police violence against protesters.

    The authorities have not confirmed the number of people injured, which is believed to be in the thousands, some of whom remain in hospital in critical state.

    “Three days after the start of an unprecedented wave of police repression against protesters, the Turkish authorities have shown little remorse and no indication of a change in police tactics,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is essential that the Turkish authorities take action to stop police violence and learn the lessons for policing demonstrations in the future. They must also publish a full list of those injured after the protests, the nature of their injuries and ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

    June 03, 2013

    Bradley Manning must be allowed to argue that he acted in the public interest when he distributed information to Wikileaks, Amnesty International said today as the trial against the US soldier begins in the US state of Maryland.

    Manning faces multiple charges in relation to obtaining and distributing thousands of classified documents to unauthorized parties, including “aiding the enemy”.  

    The charge of aiding the enemy carries a potential death sentence, although the prosecution has said it would not seek this in his case. Instead, Manning faces a possible life sentence or decades in prison.  

    “The court must allow Manning to explain in full his motives for releasing the information to Wikileaks. It disturbing that he was not permitted to offer the ‘public interest’ defence as he has said he reasonably believed he was exposing human rights and humanitarian law violations,” said Anne FitzGerald, Director of Research and Crisis Response at Amnesty International.

    May 29, 2013

    A new law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt, currently with the Shura Council, would effectively be a death blow to independent civil society in Egypt, said Amnesty International.

    If it passes in its current form, the Egyptian authorities would have wide-ranging powers over the registration, activities and funding of civil society organizations. It would also allow for the creation of a new Co-ordinating Committee, which is likely to include representatives of security and intelligence agencies.

    Those found in violation of the law would face hefty fines and potential prison sentences.

    President Morsi announced today that he had referred the law to the Shura Council, Egypt’s nominal upper house of parliament. While the lower house remains dissolved, the Council has the authority to pass new legislation until elections are held to elect a lower house.

    May 28, 2013

    Today’s court appeal by two members of a prominent Saudi Arabian human rights organization is a bid for justice amid a broader crackdown on activism in the Gulf kingdom, said Amnesty International.

    On 9 March the Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah al-Hamid to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment, respectively. The conviction related to their role as co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Organization (ACPRA), for which they faced charges such as disobeying the ruler, founding an unlicensed organization, inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations, and harming the image of the state by disseminating false information to foreign groups.

    Besides the lengthy prison terms, their sentences included travel bans of equivalent length following their release. In April, they were given only a month to appeal the convictions after receiving a more than 200-page combined written verdict dated the previous month,.

    May 25, 2013

    The failure of Moscow police to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) protesters from physical attacks on Saturday reinforces an impression of state sanctioned violence and discrimination, Amnesty International said. 

    In events monitored by Amnesty International, at least 30 LGBTI protesters were detained by police in three locations in the centre of Moscow: in front of the Parliament, the Mayor's Office and Gorky Park.

    The activists were attempting to hold pickets to protest against homophobic laws, including a draft federal law banning the so-called "propaganda of homosexuality" and to attract attention to the persisting discrimination and violence against LGBTI people in the country.

    "Instead of detaining peaceful LGBTI demonstrators, the Russian authorities should protect them from extremist attacks based on discriminatory attitudes held by some," said David Diaz-Jogeix,Amnesty International’s Deputy Program Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    May 24, 2013

    The Ugandan authorities must end an attack on freedom of expression that has left several media outlets shut by security forces for a fifth day, Amnesty International said today after several activists were arrested for protesting against the crackdown.

    Armed police closed two newspapers and two radio stations on 20 May, after they reported on an alleged government plot to assassinate politicians opposed to President Yoweri Museveni’s son taking over when his father steps down.

    Riot police arrested five human rights activists yesterday for protesting against the closure of the Daily Monitor, the Kampala-based newspaper that first published the story earlier in May.

    "The Ugandan authorities' desperation to control an uncomfortable political story has exposed their disregard for freedom of expression and violated the right of Ugandans to receive information," said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International's Deputy Africa Director.

    "The police must immediately withdraw from the offices of all media outlets targeted in this disturbing crackdown, and allow them to go about their journalistic work."

    May 23, 2013

    Malaysia must end its post-election crackdown and release a member of parliament and other opposition political activists arrested under the repressive Sedition Act, Amnesty International urged today.

    Opposition activists Tian Chua MP, Ibrahim Harris and Tamrin Ghafar were arrested in Kuala Lumpur today under the Sedition Act, which the government last year promised to repeal.

    Meanwhile, student activist Adam Adli was charged under the Sedition Act for calling for street protests against alleged electoral fraud during the 5 May poll.

    Eighteen youth activists were also detained last night in Penang while holding a candlelit vigil for Adli, who was arrested last week.  

    "The Malaysian government must stop using the country's outdated Sedition Act and repressive provisions of the Penal Code to stifle the right to free expression and peaceful assembly," said Amnesty International's Asia Pacific deputy director Isabelle Arradon.

    "The authorities must release all  those who have been arrested solely for peacefully expressing their political beliefs, including dissenting opinions."

    May 24, 2013

     South Sudan state authorities have failed to carry out adequate investigations into the killing of eight peaceful protesters in December 2012 by government security forces, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

    On December 9, security forces opened fire on a peaceful protest, killing six people on the spot. Two more protesters died later in a hospital. The protest had been triggered by the killing of two men during an outbreak of violence between youth and security forces the evening before.

    “Eight peaceful protesters are dead in South Sudan at the hands of security forces and apparently no one has been charged or prosecuted five months later,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. “This sets a bad precedent for a new country and undermines freedom of expression and peaceful assembly across South Sudan.”

    The December 9 protest and the killing of the two men during an outbreak of violence the evening before took place during civil unrest in Wau, capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal state, over a decision to move a county administrative headquarters outside of the town.

    May 17, 2013

    There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.

    On 12 March, the activist Hassan Mostafa was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor in Alexandria – accusations he vehemently denies. The case was marred by procedural irregularities and the refusal of the trial court to hear all defence witnesses. Hassan Mostafa is currently being held at the Borg al-Arab Prison and will attend his next hearing on Saturday.

    “We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The appeals court must review all the evidence in this case.”

    May 16, 2013

    The Bahraini authorities must immediately release five men sentenced to a year imprisonment for allegedly insulting the King of Bahrain in messages posted on Twitter, Amnesty International said.

    Lawyer Mahdi al-Basri, 25, was arrested following a police raid on his home in Karrana, northern Bahrain.

    Mahmood ‘Abdul-Majeed ‘Abdullah Al-Jamri, 34, Hassan ‘Abdali ‘Issa, 33, Mohsen ‘Abdali ‘Issa, 26, and ‘Ammar Makki Mohammad Al-Aali, 36, were detained a day later.

    The five were tried in separate cases on charges of insulting the King in messages posted on Twitter.

    Mahdi al-Basri was accused of posting twitter messages in June 2012 that were traced to his IP address. He has denied the charges, stating that his personal Twitter account was not the one used to post these messages and that he had no connection to the account that used his IP address.

    The men were sentenced to one year imprisonment on 15 May under Article 214 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, which criminalizes “offending the emir of the country [the King], the national flag or emblem”.

    May 15, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must not use the upcoming presidential election as a pretext to silence critical voices and meaningful debate, Amnesty International said following a move to extend criminal defamation laws to the internet.

    On 14 May, the Azerbaijani Parliament approved an amendment to the country’s defamation law to impose hefty fines and prison sentences for anyone convicted of online slander or insults. The new legislation constitutes a further attack of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

    According to the state news agency APA, those found guilty of slander face a fine of up to 500 Azeri manat (US$637), corrective labour of up to one year or jail time of up to six months. The punishment for an online “insult” is even harsher – fines of up to 1,000 Azeri manat, one year of corrective labour or imprisonment of up to six months.

    This is just the latest in ever-more restrictive measures – including actions to muzzle mainstream media outlets and the introduction of harsher punishment for peaceful protesters – ahead of October’s election.

    May 15, 2013

    The arrest of at least nine activists who were trying to organize a peaceful demonstration in Equatorial Guinea is further evidence of the authorities’ determination to clamp down on free speech ahead of up-coming elections, Amnesty International said.

    Two of those arrested were Clara Nsegue Eyi and Natalia Angue Edjodjomo, the founders of the newly created party Partido Democrático de la Justicia Social (Democratic Party for Social Justice) and coordinators of the Movimiento de Protesta Popular ( People’s Protest Movement). They were detained on 13 May and are reportedly being held incommunicado at Malabo Central Police Station.  

    They were planning to host a peaceful protest on 15 May to demand the registration of their political party, which the authorities had previously refused to allow.  

    Jerónimo Ndong, Secretary General of the opposition party Unión Popular (People’s Union), who was also involved in the organization of the protest, was arrested this morning. He too is being held at the Central Police Station.

    May 14, 2013

    A Gambian activist detained by the authorities after peacefully expressing his views has been released – but there is still no news about a journalist missing for seven years, Amnesty International says.

    Imam Baba Leigh, a prominent Muslim cleric and activist, was freed after being held for more than five months at an unknown location after he publicly condemned the execution of nine inmates at Mile II prison in August 2012.

    He was arrested on 3 December 2012 by two National Intelligence Agency officers and told he was being taken to their headquarters for questioning.

    Imam Baba Leigh was effectively disappeared. He was never charged with a crime, was not brought before a court and during his time in detention and was not allowed contact with a lawyer or his family. Amnesty International adopted him as a Prisoner of Conscience.

    The reason for his release is unknown, but media reports indicate he was pardoned by the President.

    May 10, 2013

    A Coptic Christian teacher detained in Egypt on charges of “defamation of religion” must be immediately released and the criminal case against her dropped, said Amnesty International today, ahead of her appearance in court on Saturday.

    Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour, 24, has been in custody since 8 May, when she went to the public prosecution’s office in Luxor to respond to charges of “defamation of religion”. The case against her is based on a complaint lodged by the parents of three of her students alleging that she insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during a class.

    The alleged incident took place at the Sheikh Sultan primary school in Tout, Luxor Governorate, on 8 April during a lesson on “religious life”. Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour has been teaching at three schools in Luxor since the beginning of this year.

    May 09, 2013

    Scores of parliamentarians, journalists, army officers and civilians arrested since the beginning of the month by the Chadian authorities must either be charged with recognizable crimes or immediately released, Amnesty International said today.

    Since an alleged coup attempt on 1 May in which eight people were reportedly killed in unclear circumstances, activists and journalists have been targeted in a wave of arrests, detentions, harassment and intimidation across the capital N’Djamena.  

    Most of those detained have been refused visits from family members, lawyers or doctors. Some are believed to be held incommunicado.

    “The growing wave of arrests and detentions in N’Djamena is extremely troubling, particularly given that we still don't know the identities and whereabouts of all those held,” said Christian Mukosa, Chad researcher at Amnesty International.

    May 09, 2013

    The death of an activist after she participated in a peaceful protest in Papua, Indonesia, is a tragic reminder of the precarious state of freedom of expression and assembly in the region, Amnesty International said.

    Salomina Kalaibin died in hospital on 6 May due to gunshot wounds she received six days earlier at a peaceful commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the handover of Papua to the Indonesian government by the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority.

    Two other people were killed and at least seven other protesters were wounded during the event. At least 22 individuals are currently detained for having participated in the peaceful activities. Many allege the security forces were responsible for the violence.

    “The death of the three political activists is a stark reminder that in Papua, speaking out comes with a high price,” said Isabelle Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    May 07, 2013

    The conviction of an activist in Algeria after he distributed leaflets about unemployment in the country is a worrying sign that a new law regulating associations is being used to restrict civil society groups’ activities, Amnesty International said.

    On 6 May, Abdelkader Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) was sentenced to a two-month suspended prison term and a fine of 20,000 Algerian dinars (about USD 250) for distributing leaflets on unemployment in Algeria in June 2011.

    He had been previously harassed by the authorities because of his work on behalf of unemployed people or in support of trade-unionists.

    “The latest court case against Abdelkader Kherba is yet another example of how the authorities in Algeria are misusing the law and the judicial system to intimidate those who advocate for social and economic rights,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    May 03, 2013

    “It’s ironic that May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day and I’m facing trial the next day just for posting a video.” Egyptian blogger Ahmed Anwar

    In Egypt, making fun of the authorities is no laughing matter. It’s a criminal offence.

    When blogger Ahmed Anwar posted a video of belly-dancing policemen on-line, he expected to get some laughs. Instead, he’s on trial for “criticizing” the Interior Ministry and “misusing” the Internet.

    In March 2012, Ahmed Anwar posted a video on-line which made fun of police officers giving an award to an actress, calling them “the ministry of belly dancers”.  The video, showing police officers dancing, criticizes police brutality and impunity for human rights abuses. The Tanta Public Prosecution bought a case against him after the Ministry of Interior complained about the video. Ahmed Anwar was arrested by police at his house on March 17, 2013 and referred for trial ten days later. His trial started on May 4. The next hearing is scheduled for June 1.

    May 03, 2013

    Governments and other organizations across the world are perfecting techniques to prevent journalists from shining a light on corruption and human rights abuses. From trumped-up charges, removing work licences to murder, here are 10 ways journalists are repressed and prevented from reporting freely and fairly.

    Physical attacks

    In some countries such as Syria, Turkmenistan and Somalia, governments, military forces and armed groups attack and even kill journalists who are seen to be critical of their policies and practices.

    Take Action Online Stop the targeting of journalists in the Syrian conflict!

    Read Amnesty's report Shooting the Messenger: Journalists targeted in Syria

    May 02, 2013

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 3 May 2013

    Scores of journalists reporting on human rights abuses in Syria have been killed, arbitrarily arrested, detained, subjected to enforced disappearances and tortured over the last two years, Amnesty International said in a report released today, World Press Freedom Day.

    These abuses have been carried out by the Syrian authorities and armed opposition groups, turning Syria into a highly dangerous country for journalists to work in.

    The Amnesty International report, entitled Shooting the Messenger: Journalists targeted by all sides in Syria, details dozens of cases of journalists and media workers attacked or held since the 2011 uprising began, in an attempt to prevent them from reporting on the situation in Syria, including human rights abuses.

    It also details the crucial role played by citizen journalists, many of whom risk their lives to make sure information about what’s going on inside the country is released to the outside world. Like their professional colleagues, this group has faced reprisals to prevent them carrying out their work.

    May 01, 2013

    Four founding members of a nascent human rights group in Saudi Arabia have been interrogated and intimidated in their attempt to get their organization off the ground, Amnesty International said.

    In recent days, the four men who founded the independent Union for Human Rights in late March have been called in for questioning by the Saudi Arabian authorities and threatened with further interrogation. They remain at risk of being detained at any time. 

    Abdullah Modhi al-Attawi, Mohammad Aeid al-Otaibi, Abdullah Faisal al-Harbi and Mohammad Abdullah al-Otaibi have been charged with founding and publicizing an unlicensed organization as well as launching websites without authorization.

    “None of the charges against these four men relates to an internationally recognizable crime, and the irony is that it was precisely because of their attempt to formally register the organization that the authorities clamped down on them,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    April 30, 2013

    The conviction this month of Fazıl Say, a Turkish pianist for “insulting religious values” is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the Turkish authorities could implement a new reform package that has the potential to limit freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The “Fourth judicial package” – a reform bill confirmed yesterday by Turkey’s President and passed into law today, fails to meet the government’s stated aim of bringing Turkish laws into line with international human rights standards, including European Court of Human Rights case law on the right to freedom of expression.

    “This legal reform will go down in the history books as yet another missed opportunity for the government to deliver genuine human rights reform,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

    “It is a small step in the right direction, but still a long way short of Turkey’s international human rights obligations as well as what the people of Turkey demand from their lawmakers.”

    April 30, 2013

    A new press law that would severely limit the activities of journalists in Burundi poses a grave threat to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    The draft law, which includes new press-related crimes and exorbitant fines for journalists who violate them, looks set to be signed off by Burundi's President after it was adopted by the country's Senate earlier this month.

    The proposal restricts the right to report on anything relating to state and public security, as well as information that threatens the economy or "insults the President".

    "Freedom of expression in Burundi is gravely under threat from this repressive law, which has great potential to be abused and places journalists at the mercy of the authorities," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Africa Director.

    "President Pierre Nkurunziza must reject the draft, and ensure that journalists are able to carry out their legitimate work freely and without the threat of legal action."

    April 29, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 30 April 2013

    The Sri Lankan government is intensifying its crackdown on critics through threats, harassment, imprisonment and violent attacks, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

    The document, Assault on Dissent, reveals how the government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is promoting an official attitude that equates criticism with “treason” in a bid to tighten its grip on power.

    Journalists, the judiciary, human rights activists and opposition politicians are among those who have been targeted in a disturbing pattern of government-sanctioned abuse, often involving the security forces or their proxies.

    “Violent repression of dissent and the consolidation of political power go hand in hand in Sri Lanka,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “Over the past few years we have seen space for criticism decrease. There is a real climate of fear in Sri Lanka, with those brave enough to speak out against the government often having to suffer badly for it.”

    April 26, 2013

     

    The upholding of a sentence against a blogger jailed for “insulting Islam” is yet another blow to freedom of expression in Tunisia, Amnesty International said.

    Jabeur Mejri's conviction was today upheld by the Court of Cassation.

    The blogger was sentenced in March 2012 to seven and a half years in prison and a fine of 1,200 Tunisian Dinars – US$757 - after a court in Mahdia, eastern Tunisia, deemed posts he made online insulting to Islam and Muslims.

    “There’s no reason for the Tunisian authorities to keep Jabeur Mejri imprisoned,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “He must be immediately and unconditionally released and the authorities must urgently reform articles of the Penal Code that restrict freedom of expression."

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

    April 25, 2013

    An arbitrary court order to detain a university professor for four months after he co-founded a human rights organization is the latest blow to freedom of expression and assembly in the Gulf kingdom, Amnesty International said today.

    On Thursday a criminal court in Buraydah – 350km north of the capital Riyadh – ordered the detention of Dr Abdulkareem Yousef al-Khoder. The 48-year-old is a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Organization (ACPRA) and a professor of comparative jurisprudence at the Faculty of Islamic Jurisprudence at Qassim University.

    No reasons were given for the detention order against al-Khoder, which came after a judge arbitrarily blocked a group of around 10 women from accessing the court to observe his trial. Following his ruling, the judge refused to meet with al-Khoder or his lawyer, and the professor has since been held in Buraydah prison.

    He had been on trial since January 2013 on charges including disobeying the ruler, inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations, disseminating false information to foreign groups, and taking part in founding an unlicensed organization.

    April 25, 2013

    (Moscow) The decision of a Moscow court on April 25, 2013 to fine an independent non-governmental organization and its leader is an alarming indicator for the future of civil society in Russia, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

    The Association in Defence of Voters’ Rights Golos (Voice) became the first Russian nongovernmental organizations to fall afoul of the “foreign agents” law. It was fined 300,000  rubles (almost US$10,000).

    Golos played a prominent role in organizing election monitoring and reporting allegations of electoral fraud in the 2011 parliament and 2012 presidential elections.

    “The case against Golos should never have been brought let alone succeeded,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme. “The foreign agents law is a bad law that was introduced for political reasons.  It is sadly not surprising that it has resulted in politically motivated decisions. The foreign agents law is a stick to beat watchdogs with and needs to be repealed.”

    April 24, 2013

    The Chinese authorities must release the sister-in-law of a prominent human rights activist and end the ongoing harassment of his relatives living in Shandong Province, Amnesty International said.

    On Wednesday afternoon Linyi city authorities detained Ren Zongju – sister-in-law of Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng. She was accused of “harbouring” her son, Chen Kegui, last year after he allegedly assaulted security officials. The officers had been searching for his uncle, Chen Guangcheng, after he escaped illegal house arrest.

    Before her latest detention, Ren Zongju was previously held and then released on bail.

    “This new detention – a full year after Chen Guangcheng’s escape – seems aimed at punishing him and his family for his continued outspoken criticism of the Chinese government since leaving China,” said Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “Ren Zongju must be either charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence or released immediately.”

    String of harassment

    April 24, 2013

    The systematic undermining and violation of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association have been the hallmark of Vladimir Putin’s human rights record during the first year of his third mandate as Russian president, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    The wave of protest sparked by the Duma elections in December 2011 and the May 2012 Putin-Medvedev switch prompted a raft of restrictions on these rights. Two new laws have been introduced and 11 amended as part of a broad clampdown on dissent, criticism and protest.

    April 18, 2013

    Violent incidents around Venezuela following last Sunday’s presidential elections are only likely to increase unless the authorities carry out prompt, effective investigations and bring those responsible to justice, Amnesty International said.

    According to Venezuela’s Attorney General, at least seven people have died, 61 have been injured and 135 detained after the published election results indicated a narrow victory for standing Vice-President Nicolás Maduro.

    Amnesty International has also received reports of attacks on media workers, political and social activists, human rights defenders and people involved in political events or protests, both in the lead-up to and after the elections.

    “The violent incidents Venezuela has seen in the last two weeks are very worrying – the authorities have a duty to guarantee everyone the right to political participation and peaceful protest, as well as to ensure the security forces comply with international standards to maintain public order and contain potential violent acts,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Program Director at Amnesty International.

    April 18, 2013

    Civil society is being suppressed in Belarus by a repressive government that will not tolerate any form of criticism, Amnesty International said today.  
     
    The report, What is not permitted is prohibited: Silencing civil society in Belarus, shows how the authorities in Belarus regularly deny the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, preventing people from speaking out in public, holding demonstrations or setting up civil organizations. Peaceful demonstrators frequently face fines or even prison sentences.
     
    “Over the past 20 years, the government of Belarus has increasingly suffocated all aspects of civil society, depriving its people of the opportunity to express their opinions, to contribute to public debate and ultimately to act as a check on the authorities,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s researcher on Belarus.
     

    April 17, 2013

    As Bahrain steps into the global spotlight with the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix, there is a high risk that last year’s repressive tactics – when a protester was killed by the security forces – will be repeated or even increased by the authorities, Amnesty International said today.

    The intensity of protests is expected to top last year’s demonstrations around the Grand Prix during a week of planned protests organized by political groups. Clashes between protesters and security forces have been reported in the past two weeks and human rights activists claim dozens of protesters have already been arrested ahead of this year’s event.

    “Instead of responding to the uprising of February 2011, the last two years have seen continued killings, arbitrary arrests and alleged torture in Bahrain. The authorities are trying to use the Grand Prix as a platform to show progress, with claims that the human rights situation has improved, whilst stepping up repression in order to ensure nothing disturbs their public image,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

    April 15, 2013

    A move by Bahrain’s government to jail anyone found guilty of insulting the Gulf nation’s King for up to five years is a new attempt to crush dissent before the country hosts the Formula One Grand Prix later this week, Amnesty International said.

    According to state media, Bahrain’s cabinet – chaired by the Prime Minister and the newly appointed deputy Prime Minister, the Crown Prince – on Sunday endorsed an amendment to Article 214 of the Penal Code, increasing the penalty for offending King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah or the country’s flag and other national symbols.

    The amendment, which has now been referred to the National Assembly, would make such offences punishable by up to five years in prison in addition to steep fines.

    “Increasing the punishment for criticism of Bahrain’s King is a further attempt to muzzle activists ahead of the upcoming Grand Prix,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    April 15, 2013

    The conviction of a renowned Turkish pianist for 'denigrating Islam' on Twitter sends a "chilling" message to social media users in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    Fazil Say, who has played in some of the world's leading orchestras, was today given a 10-month suspended sentence for posting tweets mocking religious individuals and Islamic conceptions of heaven in April 2012.

    "The conviction of Fazil Say is a flagrant violation of his freedom of expression, made possible by one of Turkey's most draconian laws," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey.

    "This case sends a chilling warning to anyone using Twitter or other social media in Turkey. Namely, that if you express an opinion the authorities don't like, you could be next."

    Charges against Say cited nine tweets on his account, including a re-tweet saying: "I am not sure if you have noticed, but where there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, they are all Islamists. Is this a paradox?"

    April 10, 2013

    The wife of a hunger-striking Libyan journalist has told Amnesty International of her disbelief that her husband has been imprisoned and denied bail for ‘offending’ the judiciary under an al-Gaddafi-era law.

    Amara al-Khattabi, the editor-in-chief of al-Umma newspaper, was arrested last December and has been on hunger strike since 28 February in protest at his detention. He was arrested a month after his newspaper published a list of 84 judges allegedly involved in corruption.

    His wife Masara al-Ghussain declared a hunger strike in his support on Sunday, after al-Khattabi was transferred to a hospital on 4 April due to his deteriorating health. 

    “All he did was to publish a list of judges,” his wife told Amnesty International.

    “Has the act of copying and pasting now become so dangerous in Libya that it requires people being sent to prison?”

    April 03, 2013

    Today’s charges against yet another comedian for ‘defaming religion’ are part of an alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests, Amnesty International has said.

    In a mounting crackdown on freedom of expression, up to 33 people have been targeted within the last two weeks, with arrests and charges.

    Some have been charged with what seem to be politically motivated or trumped-up criminal charges. Others are charged with ‘insulting the President’ or ‘defamation’ of religion for actions that should not be criminalized as they merely amount to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.  

    “We are seeing arrests and charges for literally nothing more than cracking a few jokes. This is a truly alarming sign of the government’s increasing intolerance of any criticism whatsoever,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  

    April 02, 2013

    Sudan’s prisoner amnesty announced yesterday does not go far enough, according to Amnesty International.

    “This prisoner amnesty barely scratches the surface,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Program Director. 

    “Only seven political prisoners have been released. Meanwhile, dozens of people remain in arbitrary detention, some of them prisoners of conscience.”

    Seven political prisoners were released overnight.  Six were prominent members of political parties, namely Abdulaziz Khaled, Entisar al-Agali, Hisham al-Mufti, Abdulrahim Abdallah, Mohammed Zain Alabidein and Youssef al-Kauda.  Hatim Ali, a youth activist, was also released.  Amnesty International had been calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

    Over 118 people are reportedly in arbitrary detention in the context of the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan conflicts, including women detained without charges with their infant children.

    In addition, a number of individuals remain on the death row for their involvement in armed opposition. None of their sentences were commuted.

    March 27, 2013

    A package of reforms before Turkey’s Parliament risks being a missed opportunity to bring the country in line with international human rights standards and leaves people vulnerable to a range of abuses including jail just for expressing an opinion, Amnesty International said in a new report out today.

    “The right to freedom of expression is under attack in Turkey. Hundreds of abusive prosecutions are brought against activists, journalists, writers and lawyers. It is one of Turkey’s most entrenched human rights problems,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    Amnesty International’s report, Decriminalize dissent: Time to deliver on the right to freedom of expression, analyses the current law and practice related to the ten most problematic articles threatening freedom of expression under the Turkish legal system.

    The reforms – called the “Fourth Judicial Package” – fail to make the necessary legislative amendments to bring national law in line with international human rights standards.  

    March 26, 2013

    The Algerian authorities have prevented a delegation of 96 trade unionists and civil society activists from crossing the border into Tunisia to attend the World Social Forum this week, violating their right to freedom of movement, Amnesty International said today.

    The 96 have not been given any reason for the travel ban. Border police near the north-eastern city of Annaba told the delegates today that they were on a list of people banned from leaving Algeria because of “unrest”.
     
    “Placing travel restrictions on civil society activists is a blatant attempt to prevent them from meeting and discussing with fellow groups from all over the world, and in so doing to isolate them," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    March 25, 2013

    Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors – part of the wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks. Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. The stated version of the inspections was to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

    Amnesty International, along with other NGOs, has repeatedly condemned the new legislation imposing increasing restrictions on NGOs and expressed its fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting abuses and critical of the government.

    Amnesty International is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the public.

    Amnesty International is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation. The organization expresses regret that its time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

     

    Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors – part of the wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks. Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. The stated version of the inspections was to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

    Amnesty International, along with other NGOs, has repeatedly condemned the new legislation imposing increasing restrictions on NGOs and expressed its fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting abuses and critical of the government.

    Amnesty International is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the public.

    Amnesty International is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation. The organization expresses regret that its time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

    March 22, 2013

    The Bahraini authorities must respect freedom of expression and assembly during a week of demonstrations planned to protest against the imprisonment of human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, said Amnesty International.

    The human rights defender was imprisoned in August 2012 for three years for calling for and participating in ‘illegal gatherings’. His sentence was reduced to two years in December - Amnesty International has adopted him as a prisoner of conscience.

    Organizers of the ‘don’t forget Nabeel Rajab’ campaign sought official permission to demonstrate on 23 March but had their application flatly rejected by the authorities. Despite fears of excessive use of force by the security forces to disperse the protest, organizers still plan to go ahead.

    “The government of Bahrain has demonstrated time and again its disregard for basic human rights. Not only is Nabeel Rajab unfairly imprisoned, the authorities are now trying to silence his supporters and family,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    March 22, 2013

    The Sultan of Oman's decision to pardon all activists and writers convicted last year for insulting the ruler, IT crimes and taking part in unauthorized protests should be just the first step in addressing the issue of freedom of expression in Oman, said Amnesty International.

    His Majesty Sultan Qaboos issued the pardon on Thursday and ordered that the prisoners be released today. Amnesty International received information that all those held on such charges were released this morning.

    "While the Sultan's pardon is a very welcome step, it should be the first of many taken to address freedom of expression as a whole in Oman and to lift restrictions on freedom of expression by repressive laws," said Philip Luther of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme.

    "Individuals peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression should never have been put in prison in the first place, nor tried on charges that criminalize freedom of expression."

    March 22, 2013

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, FRONTLINE DEFENDERS, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
    PUBLIC STATEMENT

    Moscow - A wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations in Russia is intensifying pressure on civil society since the adoption of a series of restrictive laws in 2012, Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, and Human Rights Watch said today. Teams of officials from a variety of government agencies have inspected at least 30 groups in the past two weeks in Moscow, and many more in at least 13 other regions of Russia.

    The inspections appear to target groups that accept foreign funding and that engage in advocacy work, and are part of a broader crackdown on civil society that began in 2012, the organizations said. The Russian prosecutor’s office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 nongovernmental organizations in each of Russia’s regions, which could amount to thousands of groups throughout the country. According to media reports, the prosecutor’s office in St. Petersburg alone plans to inspect about 100 groups.

    March 13, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must ensure a prompt and fair retrial after a new, impartial, investigation of independent journalist Avaz Zeynali, Amnesty International said after a Baku court sentenced him to nine years in prison in an unfair trial on charges that appear to have been politically motivated.

    The court should also strongly consider his release pending the retrial. Under international law anyone held on a criminal charge is entitled to a fair trial within a reasonable time or conditional release. Avaz Zeynalli has already spent 16 months in detention while his trial was ongoing.

    “The trial against Avaz Zeynalli was deeply flawed. There are good reasons to believe that Zeynalli’s prosecution and conviction were politically motivated,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International.

    On 12 March a Baku court for grave crimes found the editor of the Khural newspaper guilty of bribery, extortion by threats, failure to implement a court decision and tax evasion. He was arrested on charges of blackmail and extortion on 28 October 2011 and has remained in detention ever since.

    March 14, 2013

    A Cambodian court’s decision to overturn anti-state convictions and a two-decade prison sentence against a prominent journalist is a positive step for freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Mam Sonando, 72, the owner of one of Cambodia’s few independent radio stations, was first convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in October 2012 on charges of “insurrection”. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    But today the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh overturned the more serious convictions against Mam Sonando. Instead, he was given a five-year prison sentence for offences including “instigating illegal clearing and occupation of forest.” He has already been in prison for eight months and the rest of his sentence is suspended. He will be released this week.

    March 13, 2013

    All charges must be dropped against two Timorese journalists facing prison sentences for exposing alleged corruption in their country’s judicial system, Amnesty International said.

    A court in Timor-Leste’s capital Dili is tomorrow set to deliver its verdict against Oscar Maria Salsinha of the Suara Timor Lorosa’e newspaper and Raimundo Oki of the Independente newspaper. The two reporters are accused of “slanderous denunciations”, which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment or a fine.

    The charges stem from separate articles Salsinha and Oki wrote on 31 December 2011 and 2 January 2012, both on the suspected involvement of a District Prosecutor in receiving a bribe in a traffic accident case which occurred on 18 October 2011.

    “These two journalists have done nothing but their job and exercised their right to freedom of expression by reporting on possible corruption in the judicial system,” Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director said.

    March 13, 2013

    Tunisia should mark its national day of internet freedom on 13 March by releasing immediately and unconditionally 28-year-old blogger Jabeur Meiri, who has been in prison for more than a year, Amnesty International said.

    “It’s ironic that on 13 March last year, President Moncef Marzouki was giving a speech honouring bloggers while, at the same time, a court was trying Jabeur Mejri for his online posts,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    Mejri was arrested on 5 March 2012 and sentenced on 28 March to seven and a half years in prison and a fine of 1200 Tunisian Dinars – US$757 - after a court in Mahdia, eastern Tunisia, deemed posts he made online insulting to Islam and Muslims.

    On 23 June 2012 the Monastir Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and his sentence. His lawyers then took the case to the Court of Cassation, which is still due to rule on the case.

    March 12, 2013

    A Libyan newspaper editor detained since 19 December for publishing a list of judges allegedly involved in corruption in the country must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today.

    Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi, 67, is currently detained in Hudba Prison in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, charged with defamation in relation to a list of 84 judges his newspaper published saying they were involved in corruption.

    He has been on hunger strike since 28 February in protest against his arrest and continued detention. There are risks that his health will deteriorate rapidly as he suffers from a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.

    “We are extremely worried about Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi’s health. Detaining a journalist because he ran a piece on corruption is reminiscent of al-Gaddafi-era practices. Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi should be released immediately and without any conditions,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    March 11, 2013

    The disappearance of one of the organizers of a peaceful protest against the deaths of several young conscripts allegedly as a result of hazing – a violent initiation ceremony - by the Azerbaijani military is the latest in a string of actions by the authorities to crackdown on dissent, Amnesty International said today.

    Ilkin Rustamzade was detained on 9 March and has not been seen since. Three of the other organizers were arrested before the demonstration in a sting operation on 8 March. Police claim to have found drugs and incendiary devices in the homes of Mahammad Azizov, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Shahin Novruzlu.

    All three were forced to appear on state television reading pre-prepared confessions, prompting fears that they have been tortured. They face long prison sentences if convicted.

    The peaceful demonstration, which took place on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, was broken up by police with rubber bullets and water cannon.

    March 11, 2013

    Saudi Arabia punishes two activists for voicing opinion.The sentencing of two human rights activists to five and 10 years’ imprisonment in Saudi Arabia is yet another stain on the country’s record when it comes to attacking free expression, Amnesty International said today as it named the activists “prisoners of conscience”.

    Dr Abdullah bin Hamid bin Ali al-Hamid, 66, and Mohammad bin Fahad bin Muflih al-Qahtani, 47, co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), a human rights organization that helps many families of detainees held without charge or trial, were sentenced to five and 10 years in prison respectively.

    Travel bans equal in length to their terms of imprisonment will also be applied to them after they finish serving their prison sentences.

    The court also ordered the disbanding of the organization, confiscation of its property and the shutting down of its social media accounts.

    March 06, 2013

    Two laws that would severely restrict the work of independent civil society organizations and limit freedom of assembly in Egypt should be significantly amended or dropped, Amnesty International said today as the country’s Upper House of parliament prepared to debate the proposed legislation.

    A draft law proposed by the Ministry of Local Development tabled for discussion tomorrow would further tighten restrictions imposed on non-governmental organizations working in Egypt, including on registration, activities and obtaining foreign funding.

    Under this plus another proposal by the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs (MISA), authorities would retain powers to reject or block registration of NGOs and would have wide grounds for dissolving organizations.

    The draft law developed by MISA allows government officials to enter the headquarters of NGOs to monitor their records and activities. It also bans activities on the grounds of “threatening national unity, violating public order or morals”, as well as “field research” and opinion polling unless prior permission is obtained from relevant authorities.

    March 06, 2013

    A representative from Amnesty International has visited Viet Nam to open up channels for dialogue with the government on the human rights situation in the country.

    The visit was the first by the organization since the late 1970s.

    “We were pleased to accept the invitation from Viet Nam’s authorities to visit the country to discuss Amnesty International’s work and approaches, which includes engaging with governments all over the world,” said Frank Jannuzi, Amnesty International USA’s Deputy Executive Director, who spent six days in the South East Asian country.

    "We also used the opportunity to raise our concerns about the human rights situation in Viet Nam, including the severe restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.”

    Over the past two years the Vietnamese authorities have locked up dozens of human rights defenders, including bloggers, songwriters, lawyers, labour activists, members of religious groups, democracy activists and others, even as they bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in 2014-2016.

    March 03, 2013

    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities have denied an Amnesty International delegate entry into the country ahead of a trial of 94 UAE citizens, highlighting serious questions about its transparency and fairness, Amnesty International said.

    The defendants, including at least three prisoners of conscience and many other peaceful activists, are due to be tried with “plotting to overthrow the state” in the UAE tomorrow, 4 March.

    This morning, Ahmad Nashmi al-Dhafeeri, a Kuwaiti lawyer and human rights activist who was meant to observe the trial on behalf of Amnesty International, was denied access to the UAE. The authorities offered no explanation for refusing him entry.

    “By denying access to observers from human rights groups, the UAE authorities are blatantly trying to manage what information is made available about the trial to the outside world,” said Drewery Dyke, Amnesty International’s UAE Researcher.

    Noémie Crottaz, a Swiss national representing the Geneva-based NGO Alkarama Foundation, was denied entry into the UAE on Saturday 2 March. Other international observers will seek to attend the trial.

    March 01, 2013

    Hundreds of people detained in Saudi Arabia in the wake of a protest against the incarceration without charge or trial of their relatives must be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said today.

    At least 176 men and women were arrested in the early hours of this morning after staging a peaceful protest outside the Bureau for Investigation and Public Prosecution in Buraida, a city north of the capital Riyadh, in Qassim province.

    They were calling for the release of more than 50 women and children, themselves detained since 27 February for their participation in another peaceful demonstration complaining about the incarceration of their relatives.

    According to reports, those arrested this morning have been transferred to a prison in Tarfiyah, east of Buraida, while those detained since 27 February continue to be held at the central prison in Buraida. No one has had access to the outside world.

    “This cat and mouse game authorities in Saudi Arabia are playing is, simply, outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    February 25, 2013

    A Moroccan editor is facing imprisonment on charges of disseminating false information after he ran a story alleging that a senior government official spent public money on a champagne dinner, Amnesty International said.

    If found guilty Youssef Jajili faces a possible one-year prison sentence after he published the article in Al-Aan magazine in June 2012 reporting that the minister of industry, trade and new technologies spent 10,000 Moroccan Dirhams (around 1,180 USD) of public money on a private dinner during an official trip to Burkina Faso.

    “The charges against Jajili must be dropped immediately by Court of First Instance in Ain Sebaa in Casablanca. If imprisoned on these charges Youssef Jajili would be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression,” said Amnesty International.

    “This is a stark reminder that despite their promised reforms and pledged commitment to upholding freedom of expression, the Moroccan authorities continue to stifle criticism.”

    February 21, 2013

    A move by Egyptian authorities to prohibit national NGOs’ contact with foreign organizations without prior permission from security bodies represents a new low for freedom of association, said Amnesty International.
     
    In a letter to the NGO the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Egypt’s Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs stated that no “local entity” is permitted to engage with “international entities” in any way without the permission of the “security bodies”, referring to instructions issued by the Prime Minister.
     
    Amnesty International has obtained a copy of the letter. The vague language on “international entities” is likely to include both international human rights organizations and UN bodies.

    “NGOs in Egypt already face staggering restrictions, but this instruction is a new low,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  “It is a disturbing indicator of what may lie ahead for human rights groups in the government’s new law.”

    February 21, 2013

    Yemeni security forces have acted in contravention of international human rights standards by opening fire on peaceful pro-secession protesters today in the south, resulting in four deaths and dozens of injured, said Amnesty International today.

    Security forces used firearms and tear gas killing two and injuring at least 25, as thousands of supporters of the Southern Movement, which demands peaceful secession from the rest of Yemen, gathered in a non-violent sit-in at Al-‘Aroudh Square in Khormaksar, Aden.

    “In utter disregard for international standards, the Yemeni authorities have attempted to quash peaceful protests with shocking use of lethal force. This is yet another bloody stain on the government’s bleak human rights record”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa

    In addition to the two killed in the protest, a man from al-Dhal’i was killed and another seriously injured as security forces opened fire to prevent them from entering Aden to join the demonstration.

    February 20, 2013

    A year after the punk band Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, the situation for freedom of expression has only worsened in Russia, Amnesty International said.

    Last year’s arrest and criminal conviction of Pussy Riot members under the dubious charge of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred" signalled a fresh and severe clampdown on human rights in the country.

    Since then Russia’s Parliament has adopted several new laws targeting activists and those critical of the authorities.

    "New laws introduced since the Pussy Riot protest have given the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on NGOs, human rights and political activists in Russia and go against the country's international human rights obligations," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Meanwhile, two Pussy Riot band members are still languishing in a prison colony far from their families, including small children – and our call for their immediate release continues.

    February 20, 2013

    A string of recent violent attacks against journalists and media workers, including the murder of a blogger, shows the urgent need to better protect individuals commenting on Bangladesh’s ongoing war crimes tribunal, Amnesty International said.

    The latest attack on Wednesday morning left a journalist from an online news site seriously injured.

    Those targeted include journalists and bloggers calling on the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) to impose death sentences on people accused of mass scale human rights abuses during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war.

    “The government must do their utmost to ensure that individuals at risk of retaliation for commenting on or interacting with the ICT  are given the protection they need. People must be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.

    On Friday 15 February, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haidar was brutally beaten and stabbed to death in his home in the capital Dhaka.

    February 20, 2013

    The Yemeni authorities must end the routine violent repression of freedom of assembly by its security forces, Amnesty International said ahead of mass demonstrations planned tomorrow in the south of the country.

    Protest marches organized by the Southern Movement, which demands a peaceful secession from the rest of Yemen, are due to converge in the city of Aden on Thursday.

    The protest, which marks the first anniversary of the election of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, comes 10 days after security forces opened fire at a similar peaceful demonstration in Aden, killing two.

    "The Southern Movement and its followers have a right to protest peacefully, and the Yemeni authorities must allow them this right," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa program.

    "That means that security forces deployed to police these demonstrations must refrain from using excessive, lethal force against peaceful protesters, something they have failed to do in the recent past."

    February 14, 2013

    Attacks by the police on Zimbabwean human rights defenders cast doubt on the country’s ability to hold a credible constitutional referendum and election this year, Amnesty International said today after peaceful protestors were arrested and beaten.  

    Eight members of Zimbabwean women’s social justice movement, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were arrested outside the Zimbabwean parliament in Harare yesterday after they handed out roses and teddy bears during their annual Valentines Day demonstration.

    The arrests coincided with the announcement by the goverment  that 16 March had been set as a tentative date for the constitutional referendum and that elections could be held some time in July.

    The women, who included, WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested after police fired tear gas at the peaceful demonstration and beat protestors with baton sticks. A man who took a picture of the women being arrested was also arrested. They were later released without charge.

    February 14, 2013

    Prisoners of conscience remain behind bars and activists continue to be jailed just for expressing their views whether via social media or on peaceful marches, two years on from 2011 protests, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

    Victims of state repression say justice remains elusive and restrictions are still in place despite recent institutional reforms.

    “The government of Bahrain cannot carry on imprisoning people simply because it can’t take criticism. It’s time that people detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression be released and for the harassment of other activists to desist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

    “Bahrain risks creating nothing more than a bureaucracy of human rights if changes are not matched by a genuine political will to reform - Bahrainis need to see their rights respected in everyday life.”

    February 13, 2013

    (Beirut, London, Paris, 13 February 2013) - The Iranian authorities should immediately release from arbitrary house arrest two former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, author and political activist, and cease harassing or detaining without cause the couple’s two daughters and Mehdi Karroubi’s son, said the Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and six leading human rights bodies.

    Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, International Federation for Human Rights, League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran, and Reporters Without Borders co-signed today’s appeal.

    February 12, 2013

    A temporary ban on YouTube imposed in Egypt over a video deemed offensive to Islam is a setback for freedom of expression , Amnesty International has said.

    A court in Cairo this weekend ordered a 30-day block on the video-sharing website in the wake of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which sparked protests across Muslim countries in September.

    Saturday's court ruling said that "freedom of opinion [should] not attack the beliefs of others".

    "This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in the country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "Criticism of religions and beliefs are a vital part of freedom of expression – regardless of how offensive or intolerant the opinion might be."

    Cairo's Administrative Court said there must be a balance between freedom of expression and “the interests and goals of society, and the protection of its values and traditions".

    February 01, 2013

    A Philippine poet and activist who has been detained on trumped up charges for almost two years must be released immediately, Amnesty International said after the Philippine Department of Justice (DoJ) dropped all charges against him.

    Ericson Acosta was first arrested in Samar province on 13 February 2011 by the military.  He was eventually charged with the illegal possession of explosives.

    But the Philippine government has said Acosta will now be released after the DoJ ordered the Samar provincial prosecutor to drop all charges against him on 31 January 2013, citing “serious irregularities” in the military’s handling of his arrest and detention.

    “This is great news, not just for Ericson Acosta himself, but also for accountability and justice in the Philippines. He must now be released immediately,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “But he should never have been detained in the first place – the charges against him were spurious at best, and an example of the authorities trying to silence a peaceful activist.”

    January 31, 2013

    A Russian court's decision to uphold a ban on 'extremist' videos of Pussy Riot's protest performance in a Moscow cathedral last year, highlights the escalating clampdown on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The Moscow City Court on Wednesday rejected the appeal by band member Ekaterina Samutsevich and upheld the ruling of a lower court in November, banning the videos under vaguely defined counter-extremist legislation.

    "The increasing use of loosely-worded counter-extremist laws to crack down on dissent shows the Russian authorities' absolute lack of respect for the right to freedom of expression as one of the foundations of a democratic society," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    "The ban on Pussy Riot's videos must be lifted and all such attacks on the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression must be stopped along with the narrow application of counter-extremist legislation."

    January 30, 2013

    The Iranian authorities must release journalists arrested in the past three days and accused of cooperating with "anti-revolutionary" Persian-language media organizations outside Iran, Amnesty International said.

    The organization believes further waves of arrests are planned. Underpinning this fear is today’s arrest of Bahar Newspaper Economics Editor, Ali Dehghan.

    A statement attributed to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence declares: “The investigation will be continued until the last individual linked to this network is arrested and the propaganda of the foreign media and so-called human rights organizations and the statements… no longer have influence on the strong will of the soldiers of Emam e-Zaman [Ministry of Intelligence officials].”

    “Today’s statement by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence is intended to intimidate Iranian journalists who have contact with non-government sources,” said Drewery Dyke, Amnesty International’s Iran researcher.

    January 10, 2013

    An Adivasi (Indigenous) rights activist in central India’s Chhattisgarh state has been released after spending 29 months in prison on what Amnesty International has always maintained were politically motivated charges.

    On Monday evening a trial court acquitted activist Kartam Joga of the last four charges against him, and he was released from Jagdalpur jail on Tuesday.

    Amnesty International had named him a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully expressing his views, and campaigned extensively for his release.

    After his release, Joga said messages of support sent by the organization’s members were “one of the key factors” which kept up his hopes for release.

    He urged the release of seven of his fellow activists from the Communist Party of India (CPI) who he says have been targeted and jailed on false charges for peacefully defending the rights of Adivasi communities.

    December 10, 2012

    A Turkish court has acquitted four men on trial for their participation in a protest in support of a conscientious objector, prompting Amnesty International to call the ruling a victory for freedom of expression.

    On Thursday the court in the north-western city of Eskişehir cleared human rights defender Halil Savda and three others of the charge of “alienating the public from military service”, a criminal offence under Turkey’s Penal Code.

    The case against them began in 2011 after they protested outside the hearing of fellow conscientious objector Enver Aydemir a year earlier in what became known as the “everyone is born a baby” case – a twist on the Turkish military slogan “every Turk is born a soldier”.

    “This acquittal should prove that every Turk is born with rights, including the right to freedom of expression,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    January 28, 2013

    Iran must release all journalists being held solely for carrying out their legitimate work, Amnesty International urged after at least 14 reporters were arrested in the past three days amid police raids on newspaper offices.

    The journalists are reportedly accused of cooperating with "anti-revolutionary" Persian-language media organizations outside Iran.

    "This latest example of locking-up Iran's journalists is a result of draconian restrictions on reporting which violate the right to freedom of expression and must be relaxed," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    "All journalists who are imprisoned in Iran merely for peacefully doing their job should be released immediately and unconditionally."

    The latest to be arrested – Keyvan Mehrgan, formerly of the newspaper Shargh, and Hossein Taghchi – were reportedly arrested today.

    January 23, 2013

    The sentencing of a human rights defender to ten years in prison for publishing two articles allegedly insulting the monarchy is a serious setback for freedom of expression in Thailand, Amnesty International said.

    The Criminal Court today found Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a magazine editor and labour rights activist, guilty under Thailand’s so-called lèse majesté law for allegedly publishing two articles defaming the royal family.

    Somyot has been detained since 30 April 2011, and the authorities have repeatedly turned down his request for bail.

    “This is a regressive decision – Somyot has been found guilty simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and should be released immediately,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    January 22, 2013

    Two activists in Tunisia, who face charges in relation to their drawing of graffiti last November, must not be jailed for exercising their freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    Oussama Bouajila, aged 25, and Chahine Berrich, 23, from the anti-poverty street art group Zwewla (“the poor”) are charged with “spreading false information with the aim of disrupting the public order”, “defying the state of emergency” and “writing on a public building without permission”.

    They were charged in November after they were caught writing slogans in support of the poor on a university wall in the city of Gabes, in the south east of Tunisia.

    “These men should not be penalized for what their graffiti said. It is unjustifiable to threaten them with prison terms simply for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Both men could face up to five years each in prison if convicted. Their trial, which was postponed in December, resumes on Wednesday 23 January.

    January 17, 2013

    The remaining charges against Sudanese teacher and activist Jalila Khamis Koko must be dropped and she must be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said ahead of her court appearance tomorrow.

    Khamis Koko, a member of the Nuba ethnic group from Southern Kordofan, has been in detention for nine months during which time her health has deteriorated. She is currently suffering from high blood pressure due to stress.

    “The charges that the Sudanese National Security Service (NSS) has brought against Jalila are completely unfounded. They are typical of the systematic harassment and intimidation of human rights activists that characterise security service operations,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa program director.

    “Jalila, a teacher and the mother of six children, has already endured months of detention and must now be freed to return to her work and family.”

    January 16, 2013

    A leading human rights activist in Zimbabwe was denied bail today following his arrest earlier this week as part of what Amnesty International said is an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the country ahead of this year's presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

    Okay Machisa, who was remanded in custody until 30 January, is the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). He was arrested on Monday in the capital city Harare and charged with publishing falsehoods, fraud and forgery after allegedly conducting illegal voter registration.

    Another ZimRights official, Leo Chamahwinya, was arrested on 13 December 2012, and remains in detention. He faces the same charges.

    "This case appears to have the hallmarks of politically motivated prosecutions calculated to instill fear among human rights defenders as the country prepares for elections some time in the year," said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    July 19, 2013
    Young women sentenced to two years in a penal colony for singing a protest song in a cathedral.

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    Learn more: "Pussy Riot Freed"

    “Many people have realized that something is wrong here…Next time they see someone doing something publicly or posting media work online, they will recognize it as art and not hooliganism.”
    Pussy Riot member Ekaterina “Katia” Samutsevich during an interview with Amnesty International

    In February 2012, members of Pussy Riot played mere seconds of a protest song ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral.  The band had staged previous protests against restriction on free speech and political oppression in Russia.

    January 16, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Russian court not to allow Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina to defer serving her sentence to a later date compounds the injustice already meted out to the imprisoned punk singer, Amnesty International said today.

    “Today’s court ruling is a further travesty of justice. The three Pussy Riot singers should not have been prosecuted in the first place. Today's decision has proven again that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova should be released, immediately and unconditionally, while the suspended sentence of Ekaterina Samutsevich should be overturned.”

    Maria Alekhina together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, three of the members of the all-female group Pussy Riot,  were charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012.

    January 15, 2013

    Six jailed reformists in Saudi Arabia must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International reiterated after they and 10 others convicted with them were offered a royal “pardon” on the condition they sign pledges renouncing their public activism.

    On Saturday, activists, including a lawyer for one of the reformists, circulated information about the pardon for the 16 men, who had been found guilty in November 2011 on a range of serious charges related to their peaceful human rights activism.

    Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has reportedly told the 16 men that for the pardon to be carried out, they must first sign pledges to not repeat their offences or engage in public activism, and to thank the King.

    “Placing such ludicrous conditions on a pardon defeats the very purpose of issuing one in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    January 15, 2013

    Today’s European Court of Human Rights ruling that British Airways discriminated against an employee over her religious beliefs firmly upholds the rights to freedom of religion and expression, Amnesty International said.

    Nadia Eweida, a Coptic Christian, took her case to the European Court after the airline stopped her from wearing a visible crucifix at work.

    "Wearing religious symbols is an important part of the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. This welcome decision will hopefully reduce discrimination in the workplace against religious believers of all faiths," said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.

    Amnesty International has documented many cases similar to Ms Eweida’s where Muslim individuals have been dismissed or not hired by private employers just because they were wearing visible religious or cultural symbols or dress.

    January 15, 2013

    The threatened forced relocation of a Shi'a community living in temporary shelter in East Java is yet more evidence of the continuing discrimination against religious minorities in Indonesia, said Amnesty International.

    An estimated 165 Shi'as, including 48 children, have been living in inadequate conditions at a sports complex in Sampang district on Madura Island since August 2012 when they were displaced after their village was attacked by a mob.

    Credible local sources told Amnesty International that the authorities have given the villagers until March to convert to Indonesia’s majority religion Sunni Islam if they wish to return to their homes.

    "The Indonesian authorities must guarantee the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the Shi’a community to their homes, according to their wishes, and help them to rebuild the homes that were damaged or destroyed," said Isabelle Arradon of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific Programme.

    January 14, 2013

    A thorough, independent investigation is needed into what appears to have been an orchestrated attack on Azerbaijani opposition presidential candidate Isa Gambar on the campaign trail, Amnesty International said.

    According to Gambar’s Musavat Party, he was on his way to campaign in the southern coastal city of Lenkoran on Sunday when 10 vehicles attempted to block his convoy at the city’s entrance.

    A Musavat spokesperson told Amnesty International that a crowd of more than 100 people then pelted the candidate’s convoy with rocks and eggs taken from nearby trucks, smashing the car windows. Nine people in Gambar’s entourage were injured including several who were punched and kicked and Musavat Party deputy leader Gulagha Aslanli, who had his foot run over by a car.

    During the ambush, a Musavat Party photographer, Mehman Karimov, was briefly detained for questioning by men in plainclothes who appeared to be directing the crowd. He was released after they returned his camera.

    January 09, 2013

    The conviction and heavy sentencing of 13 peaceful Catholic activists in Viet Nam today flies in the face of justice and is part of an escalating government crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    A court in Nghe An province today sentenced the 13 activists to between three and 13 years’ imprisonment on charges of undertaking “activities aimed at overthrowing” the government. One other activist was given a suspended sentence.  

    “We urge the Vietnamese authorities to release the activists immediately and unconditionally,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Viet Nam.

    “To misconstrue the activities of the activists as trying to overthrow the government is baseless – they have been imprisoned only for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

    The 14 activists who stood trial – 12 men and two women – were first arrested in mid-2011 on suspicion of ties to the US-based political party Viet Tan, a group calling for peaceful political reform in Viet Nam, which the Vietnamese government has labelled as terrorist.

    January 08, 2013

    The Bangladeshi authorities must refrain from harassing and prosecuting newspaper editor Mahmudur Rahman, Amnesty International said today.

    Mahmudur Rahman has been threatened with prosecution for publishing a Skype conversation between the then chairman of the Bangladeshi court, the International Crimes Tribunal and a Bangladeshi legal expert.

    After being warned that he could be arrested anytime he has not left his newspaper’s offices since 13 December 2012 except for a brief trip to the court on 8 January to seek anticipatory bail. The court has not yet granted this.

    “Everyone, including Mahmudur Rahman, has the right to freedom of opinion and to seek, receive and impart information through any media,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh researcher. “He has been previously detained and tortured for publishing articles in the public’s interest.”

    He added: “A full report on the Skype conversation had already been published by the UK magazine The Economist and also posted on the YouTube website.”

    January 07, 2013

    A military appeal court in Tunisia has upheld the conviction on defamation charges of a former presidential adviser and handed him an even harsher punishment, in what Amnesty International called a "new low" for freedom of expression in the country since the ousting of President Ben Ali. 

    On 4 January, the court in the capital Tunis extended Ayoub Massoudi’s original suspended sentence from four months to one year’s imprisonment, based on a September 2012 conviction for "undermining the reputation of the army" and "defaming a civil servant".

    He was also stripped of certain civic rights, including serving in the army, being employed in the civil service, or being able to receive honours or distinctions from the state.

    The charges stem from Massoudi’s public criticism of the extradition of former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi from Tunisia to Libya in June 2012.

    January 07, 2013

    A former Saudi Arabian diplomat is at grave risk of being detained and tortured or otherwise ill-treated if Qatari authorities follow through with plans to return him forcibly to Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said.

    In the past week Qatari police have twice summoned Mishal bin Zaar Hamad al-Mutiry – a 50-year-old who formerly worked at the Saudi Arabian embassy in the Netherlands and who has been in Qatar since August 2011 after he fled Saudi Arabia.

    On Sunday, police reportedly asked al-Mutiry why he did not comply with a 2 January order from Qatar’s Ministry of Interior to leave the country within 48 hours or face being forcibly returned to his native Saudi Arabia.

    The former diplomat has alleged that he was previously imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia after he accused the country’s embassy in the Netherlands of being involved in funding terrorism.

    He has told Amnesty International he was previously forced to return to his country in 2006 after being seized by individuals he believed to be armed Saudi agents in The Hague.

    January 07, 2013

    An Egyptian freelance journalist facing an unfair military trial after he was arrested while covering a story in the North Sinai region must be released, Amnesty International has urged.

    Mohamed Sabry, who is also a blogger, was detained on Friday by members of the armed forces in the Rafah border area with Gaza. He has been charged with trespassing and filming in a prohibited military zone.

    “Military trials for civilians are fundamentally unfair and it is time for the Egyptian authorities to end them," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    "It is particularly worrying that a journalist seems to be facing an unfair trial by military court simply for carrying out his work. The charges against Mohamed Sabry must be dropped immediately.”

    Article 198 of Egypt's new constitution, approved by a popular referendum last month, allows for the trial of civilians in military courts.

    The article was added to the new constitution’s draft at the insistence of the army representative in the Constituent Assembly, as it was finalizing the document.

    January 07, 2013

    A decision by the Court of Cassation in Bahrain rejecting an appeal by 13 opposition activists and upholding prison sentences ranging from five years to life is further proof of how the country’s justice system simply cannot be relied on, Amnesty International said.

    “This unjust decision will confirm the view of many that the judiciary is more concerned about toeing the government's line than upholding the rule of law and the rights of all Bahrainis,”  said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director at the  Middle East and North Africa program.

    “In order to maintain any credibility at all the Bahraini authorities must release these 13 people who have been imprisoned simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

     

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

    January 04, 2013

    A campaigner on behalf of unemployed people has been arrested and detained in Algeria, amid continuing repression of social and economic rights activists, Amnesty International said today.

    Taher Belabès was arrested in the southern town of Ouargla on 2 January, after police dispersed a reportedly peaceful protest that demanded jobs and the departure of local officials in charge of tackling unemployment.

    While protesters in Algeria are often detained for a few hours and then released, Belabès is still being held two days after his arrest. Officials have said Belabès will be charged with “obstructing the flow of traffic” and “inciting a gathering”, an offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

    The authorities are increasingly using such charges against people who exercise their legitimate right to peaceful assembly.

    January 04, 2013

    Abuzar Al Amin: Respected journalist jailed, silenced for criticizing the government

     

    Abuzar's Story

    Abuzar Al Amin, former deputy editor-in-chief of Rai Al Shaab, was arrested in May 2010. He was tried and sentenced under articles 50 and 66 of the 1991 criminal Act to five years’ imprisonment for “undermining the constitutional system” and “the publication of false news”.

    In May 2011, the Supreme court reduced Abuzar Al Amin’s sentence to one year.Before his release, however, the Sudanese authorities brought a further two charges against him, one related to an alleged assault of a police agent, and the second to an article he had written for Rai Al Shaab. Both the alleged assault and the article predate the original trial.

    January 02, 2013

    The reported death of a celebrated Uighur writer in a Chinese prison is an indictment of freedom of expression, and exposes harsh prison conditions in China, Amnesty International said today.

    Although author Nurmemet Yasin’s death was reported only a few days ago, he apparently died sometime in 2011 in Shaya prison in western China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

    “Nurmemet Yasin should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and if confirmed, the death of this young writer in prison is a shameful indictment of the Chinese government’s notion of justice,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific.  

    Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese authorities to confirm or deny the reports of Yasin’s death.

    Yasin was imprisoned for “inciting splittism” on the basis of his story, ‘Wild Pigeon’.  The story is a first-person narrative of a young pigeon, the son of a pigeon king, who becomes trapped by humans and commits suicide rather than live in captivity.

    December 24, 2012

    A court in Saudi Arabia has decided to proceed with the prosecution of an online activist for apostasy, a charge which carries the death penalty, in what Amnesty International said is a new bid to stifle political and social debate.

    On 22 December the General Court in Jeddah had Raif Badawi, 25, sign documents to enable his trial on apostasy charges to go ahead, after his case was passed to it by a District Court on 17 December.

    Badawi – who founded “Saudi Arabian Liberals”, a website for political and social debate – has been in detention since June 2012 on charges including “setting up a website that undermines general security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures.

    Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    “Even in Saudi Arabia where state repression is rife, it is beyond the pale to seek the death penalty for an activist whose only ‘crime’ was to enable social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty Internationals Middle East and North Africa Program.

    December 21, 2012

    Three Vietnamese bloggers given harsh prison sentences for alleged anti-state propaganda must be freed immediately, Amnesty International said ahead of their appeal hearing on 28 December 2012.

    The bloggers were sentenced on 24 September 2012 after a trial lasting only a few hours.

    Nguyen Van Hai, known as Dieu Cay (“the peasant’s pipe”) was sentenced to 12 years in prison; former policewoman Ta Phong Tan to 10 years; and Phan Thanh Hai, known as AnhBaSaiGon, to four years.

    Their appeal hearing will take place at the Supreme People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City.

    “The bloggers’ sentences are a blatant attempt by the Vietnamese authorities to silence dissenting views,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Viet Nam.

    “We consider the bloggers to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression through their online writings. They must be released immediately and without conditions.”

    December 17, 2012

    On 19 December 2010, following a presidential poll during which Alyaksandr Lukashenka was elected for a fourth term as President of Belarus, 30,000 protestors gathered in central Minsk to demand a second round of elections.

    The demonstration, the biggest ever witnessed in Belarus, was peaceful until at about 10pm, a group of masked young men, who many believed to be provocateurs, called on the crowd to storm Government House and started to break windows.

    Shortly afterwards, riot police moved in and violently cleared the demonstrators from the square. Many protestors and bystanders were beaten.

    More than 700 people, most of them peaceful participants and bystanders, were detained.

    Most of them were charged with violating the regulations for public gatherings and were sentenced to 10 – 15 days’ imprisonment.

    However, six of the seven opposition presidential candidates, many leading journalists and opposition activists were charged with criminal offences including “organizing mass disorder” and “grossly violating public order” and were sentenced to prison terms of up to 6 years.

    December 13, 2012

    The mother of an Iranian blogger who died in custody was among those attacked by security forces today at her son’s graveside, prompting Amnesty International to call once more for a thorough and impartial investigation into the 35-year-old’s death.

    Sattar Beheshti, from Robat Karim south-west of Tehran, was buried on 7 November.  According to officials he died in the Cyber Police detention facility on 3 November. 

    Security forces and men in plainclothes reportedly attacked mourners on Thursday as they marked 40 days since his death – which in Iran closes the traditional mourning period for the deceased.

    It appears that Beheshti’s mother was injured in the assault and there are reports that one person was arrested.

    The attack came amid ongoing harassment of the blogger’s family members and concerns about the independence of investigations into his death.

    December 12, 2012

    Sudan must end its violent repression of demonstrations, Amnesty International said in the wake of a week of unrest that saw many protesters arrested or injured.

    Nationwide protests were sparked by the death of four Darfuri students in Jazeera state following a peaceful student sit-in at their university on 3 December. The four had been arrested by National Security Service (NSS) officers and were later found dead in a canal near the university. 

    Police continued to use excessive force this week in Khartoum during protests denouncing the death of the students and calling for the government to be replaced. Protesters were beaten and dispersed with tear gas, while scores were arrested.

    "Sudanese security services have clearly used excessive force since the first peaceful murmurings of dissent at last week's student sit-in," said Amnesty International's Audrey Gaughran.

    "The authorities must stop the repression of those participating in peaceful demonstrations, and respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression."

    December 12, 2012

    An Egyptian activist has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of “defamation of religion”, a conviction Amnesty International called an outrageous assault on freedom of expression.

    The court in Cairo found Alber Saber Ayad, a 27-year-old computer science graduate and activist, guilty of disseminating material on the internet that defamed religions.

    He is expected to be released on a bail of EG£1,000 (US$160) on Thursday 13 December pending his appeal. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and had called for his immediate and unconditional release.

    “This is an outrageous verdict and sentence for a person whose only ‘crime’ was to post his opinions online,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    December 11, 2012

    The king of Jordan’s decision to release 116 people detained for protesting about the cut in fuel subsidies announced on 13 November is “too little, too late”, Amnesty International said.

    “There’s a danger King Abdullah’s announcement will be seen as nothing more than a PR exercise because the reality is that dozens of people in 2012 have been detained solely for peacefully calling for economic and political reforms,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “This stifling of political dissent is entirely unacceptable and though we’re pleased 116 people are to be set free, unless this means there are wider human rights reforms planned then it really is too little, too late.

    “At the same time we urge the government to take all steps to ensure that following this announcement the 116 are released without delay particularly those like ‘Adnan al-Howeish who are in urgent need of specialized medical care.”

    December 11, 2012

    Bahrain must release a prominent human rights defender whose conviction for involvement in anti-government protests has been upheld by an appeal court, Amnesty International said today.

    Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, had his three-year jail sentence for participating in and calling for “illegal gatherings” reduced to two years by the court.

    His lawyers will launch an appeal before a higher court against the conviction, which relates to protests in Bahrain between February and March 2012.

    “The appeal court’s gesture to reduce Nabeel Rajab’s sentence by one year is completely hollow given that he shouldn’t be serving any time in prison in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    December 10, 2012

    A march to commemorate International Human Rights Day in Republika Srpska has been banned by police, prompting Amnesty International to urge the authorities to uphold the right to freedom of expression and assembly.

    The event in the city of Prijedor was forbidden without any legal reason being given. Republika Srpska is one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    "The unacceptable decision to ban this peaceful march is the latest worrying example of the authorities' attempts to silence dissenting voices in Republika Srpska," said Lejla Hadzimesic, Amnesty International's Balkans researcher.

    "The fact the police have not even given a valid reason for forbidding the peaceful march makes this appear even more sinister."

    The march was supposed to bring attention to discrimination and numerous violations of human rights in Prijedor.

    It was organised by a local Commemoration Committee, which is calling on authorities to investigate abuses of power and human rights violations committed in the area of and around Prijedor.

    December 10, 2012

    A new law issued by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi giving military officers policing powers is a dangerous loophole which may well lead to the military trial of civilians, Amnesty International warned

    A decree issued on 9 December states all military officers will have the right to exercise judicial powers until the results of a referendum on a draft constitution are announced. That vote is due to be held on 15 December.

    “Considering the track record of the army while they were in charge, with more than 120 protesters killed and in excess of 12,000 civilians unfairly tried before military courts, this sets a dangerous precedent,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    In addition, a new law to “protect the revolution”, which allows prosecutors to detain people for up to six months in preventive detention without trial while they are investigated for press and media offences, organizing protests, striking and “thuggery”, has not been repealed.

    December 06, 2012
    Demonstrators and security forces outside the presidential palace ©Amnesty International

    From the Amnesty International Egypt team.

    When he took office just a few months ago Mohamed Morsi promised to be the president of all Egyptians.

    But hopes that he would take steps to resolve the current situation and give up the wide-ranging powers that triggered this latest crisis have been dashed after a bitter and bloody night of clashes between the president’s opponents and supporters.

    The clashes followed an attack by the president’s supporters – believed to be largely made up of members of the Muslim Brotherhood – on a sit-in staged by his opponents outside the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis.

    December 06, 2012

    A court of appeals in Oman has upheld convictions and prison sentences against five men and a woman in what Amnesty International said is part of an ongoing assault on freedom of expression in the Gulf nation.

    On 5 December the appeals court in the capital Muscat upheld earlier convictions against the six for insulting the Sultan and using the internet to publish defamatory material – the five men received sentences of a year in prison and a fine of 1,000 riyals (around US$2,600) each, while the woman received a lesser sentence.

    “This appeals ruling proves that the Omani authorities have no intention of letting up in their ongoing crackdown on free speech,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Any dissidents put behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression would be prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International would call on the Omani authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally and to quash their convictions.”

    December 05, 2012

    ADVOCACY COUNCIL FOR THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION * AMNESTY INERNATIONAL * JUSTICE FOR IRAN * SHIRIN EBADI

    In advance of Iran’s National Student Day on 6 December, Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and three human rights groups, Advocacy Council for the Right to Education (Council to Defend the Right to Education), Amnesty International and Justice for Iran join together to call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, including students imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their conscientiously held beliefs.

    The organizations urge the authorities to put an end to the campaign of repression against students’ peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    The Iranian authorities are urged to review all policies and practices relating to restrictions on individuals’ access to all forms of higher education to ensure that everyone has equal access to higher education, on the basis of capacity, without any form of discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, political opinion or other grounds.

    July 17, 2012

    Indigenous and campesino communities have taken to the streets in Ecuador to protest at the lack of consultation on proposed laws and policies which directly affect them. This report examines the response of Ecuadorian authorities to protests that took place in 2009 and 2010. Through individual cases, it demonstrates that Indigenous and campesino leaders have been subjected to unfounded investigations and judicial proceedings. This raises questions about whether there is a deliberate attempt by the state to discourage legitimate protest and silence claims by communities to the right to consultation.

    November 29, 2012

    News that communications are being targeted by the Syrian authorities raises the alarming prospect that they are seeking to prevent the world from learning what is happening amid increasingly intense fighting in Damascus, Amnesty International said.

    "As fighting intensifies, particularly around Damascus, we are extremely worried that the news that internet and mobile phone services appear to have been cut throughout Syria may herald the intention of the Syrian authorities to shield the truth of what is happening in the country from the outside world," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Program Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

    "Once again, we call on all sides to the conflict to make the protection of civilians their top priority, and to respect international humanitarian law.

    “It is time to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity, not to commit them behind a wall of silence. Anyone committing such acts should know that they will be held accountable in the future."

    November 28, 2012

    South Korea has seen a dramatic increase in the abuse of national security laws in a politically motivated attempt to silence debate, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

    A new report shows a 95.6% increase over the past four years (2008 to 2011) in the number of people questioned on suspicion of violating the National Security Law [NSL].

    Figures released by the National Prosecutors Office show the number of new cases under the NSL rose from 46 in 2008 to 90 in 2011.  The majority were accused of posting pro North Korean content online. Eighteen websites were closed for such content in 2009, rising to 178 by October 2011.

    The report highlights a new trend in the authorities using the NSL to encroach into more and more aspects of public and private life without justification.

    Vaguely worded clauses in the law are being used to target arbitrarily individuals and groups perceived to be critical of the government and especially their policies on North Korea.

    Individuals that use social media as a platform for discussion on issues like North Korea are increasingly at risk of criminal investigation and prosecution.

    November 28, 2012

    Some 15 Saudi Arabian men detained on Tuesday must be released unless they are charged with a recognizable criminal offence, Amnesty International said following their arrest during a peaceful protest at the continued detention and ill-treatment of relatives.

    Police arrested the men outside the offices of the Human Rights Commission in the capital Riyadh.

    According to eyewitness accounts, 22 women and eight children were also detained for taking part in the protest. They were later released.

    "The Saudi Arabian authorities must release all those detained on Tuesday’s protest or charge them with recognizable criminal offences if there are legitimate reasons for doing so," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "Participating in a peaceful protest or appearing to criticize state authorities for the treatment of detained relatives would never be a legitimate reason for arrest and detention."

    November 26, 2012

    A leading Belarusian human rights NGO had its office confiscated in the capital Minsk on Monday, in what Amnesty International called a blatant violation of Belarus’ international human rights obligations.

    Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, police and a city gas company arrived at the Minsk office of Human Rights Centre Viasna on Monday morning to close it down and seal off the premises.

    The eviction – which comes shortly after Belarus denied an Amnesty International representative access to the country – was part of a sentence imposed on Viasna’s chair Ales Bialiatski a year ago.

    “The confiscation of Viasna’s office is a blatant violation of Belarus’ international human rights obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of association,” said David Díaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    November 22, 2012

    The killing of at least 25 people during religious processions yesterday highlights the continued failure of Pakistani authorities to protect the Shi’a community, Amnesty International said.

    The Pakistan Taleban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombings in the cities of Rawalpindi and Karachi, which came as the Shi’a community marked the holy month of Muharram.

    “These attacks demonstrate the Taleban’s utter disregard for human rights and basic principles of humanity,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Unfortunately the Taleban are just one of the groups implicated in attacks on Shi’a Muslims resulting in hundreds killed or injured in Pakistan this year.”

    Amnesty International has recorded at least 39 attacks on Shi’a Muslims since the start of 2012.

    But despite the frequency of such violence, the Pakistani government has a poor track record of bringing the perpetrators - and those who incite them - to justice.

    November 22, 2012

    The Kazakhstani authorities must not use “extremism” as a pretext to muzzle freedom of the press, Amnesty International said today after an attempt by the General Prosecutor’s Office to close down some 40 opposition media outlets and websites.

    On Wednesday the Almaty city Prosecutor filed a court complaint seeking to close down almost all remaining independent and opposition media – accusing them of being “extremist”, inciting social discord and threatening national security.

    Amnesty International echoes the concerns of 15 Kazakhstan-based human rights organizations who blasted the move, saying it appears to be the culmination of efforts by the authorities to curtail independent media outlets in the Central Asian country.

    “Kazakhstan’s remaining independent voices are at serious risk of being silenced forever if the courts follow through on this complaint,” said David Díaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    November 21, 2012

    Bahrain is facing a stark choice between the rule of law, or sliding into a downward spiral of repression and instability, Amnesty International warned in a new briefing today.

    The briefing Bahrain: reform shelved, repression unleashed comes days before the first anniversary of a landmark report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which was established by the country’s authorities to investigate abuses during the 2011 anti-government protests.

    The BICI report found the Bahraini government responsible for gross human rights violations and documented widespread abuses. It made a series of recommendations including calling on the authorities to bring to account those responsible for human rights abuses and to carry out independent investigations into allegations of torture and other violations.

    After BICI published its report in November 2011, the government committed itself to implementing the recommendations.

    AI Canada and PEN Canada, for freedom of expression, are co-hosting the film screening of Silenced Voices: Tales of Sri Lankan Journalists in exile, at the Robert Gill Theatre, located on the north-west corner of College and St. George Streets, on the 3rd floor of the Koffler Student Services Centre of U of T, the entrance being on St. George St.

    The one hour film will be followed by a discussion between the film's director Beate Arnestad and Frances Harrison, as well as Questions & Answers with participants. John Argue, AI Canada's Sri Lanka co-ordinator, will moderate the discussion.

    From 7-9pm

    November 23, 2012

    November 19, 2012

    News that more than 50 political prisoners including prisoners of conscience U Myint Aye and Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min were released today is a further step in the right direction towards addressing arbitrary detention in Myanmar, Amnesty International said.

    “While this is a positive development, we urge the Myanmar authorities to release all prisoners of conscience still behind bars immediately and without conditions,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    Co-founder of the Human Right Defenders and Promoters network, U Myint Aye, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 as a result of his peaceful political activities.

    Lawyer and human rights defender Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min had his licence to practice law revoked for alleged contempt of court in 2008, and was subsequently sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on 29 August 2012.

    “Neither U Myint Aye nor Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min should have been detained in the first place. They should be granted an unconditional release, and Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min’s licence to practice law must be immediately reinstated.”

    November 08, 2012

     The Iranian authorities must investigate the circumstances that led to the death of a blogger in detention in the capital Tehran, Amnesty International urged amid reports he was tortured in custody.

    Sattar Beheshti, 35, was arrested by men believed to be from Iran’s Cyber Police on 30 October at his home in Robat Karim, southwest of Tehran.

    On Tuesday 6 November his family members were told to collect his body from Tehran’s Kahrizak detention facility, and he was buried the following day. The exact time and cause of his death are still unknown, but a complaint he apparently lodged with prison authorities before his death stated that he had been beaten, lending credence to reports that he died as a result of torture in detention last week.

    “Fears that Sattar Beheshti died as a result of torture in an Iranian detention facility, after apparently lodging a complaint about torture are very plausible, given Iran’s track record when it comes to death