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    January 23, 2015

     By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.

    The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.

    “What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.

    The answer is not simple.  

    Since taking the throne in 2005, King Abdullah initiated some positive reforms.

    Women, for example, have slowly been included in the Shura Council, a powerless consultative body to advise the King, and incorporated into the workforce – with some being allowed to work in courts as lawyers.

    The late King is credited for opening a dozen new universities and providing thousands of Saudi Arabian citizens with generous scholarships to study abroad. He also initiated seemingly ambitious judicial reforms that have not really gone anywhere.  

    He even decreed the founding of a formal National Human Rights Commission and allowed the establishment of a supposedly independent human rights organization.

    But that’s where the good news ends.

    January 19, 2015

    Guest writer: Verity Stevenson, in a special to the Globe and Mail
     

    Ensaf Haidar stood beside the kitchen table, urging her three children to eat. Newspapers featuring her husband’s face on the front were spread in the spaces between three pizza boxes, and a banner covering most of the wall showed him as well, with several dozen signatures of those who attended a #FreeRaif vigil in Montreal.
     

    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

    The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A2

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We are writing this Open Letter to urge that you intervene in the case of Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, who has been imprisoned for over one year in Egypt, with a direct request to the Egyptian government that he be released immediately and unconditionally and allowed to return to Canada.  We appreciate Minister Baird’s efforts to resolve the case during his visit to Cairo this week.  However, the fact that Mr. Fahmy remains imprisoned, with no clear commitment from Egyptian authorities to release him, points to the necessity of you now becoming involved.  We note that Mr. Fahmy himself made that request of you yesterday; and we very much agree with him that action from you personally is now urgently required.

    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 01, 2015

    An Egyptian court’s call for a retrial of three jailed Al Jazeera journalists acknowledges major flaws in the original convictions but leaves the men in unjust incarceration, Amnesty International said today.

    “By calling for a retrial the Egyptian courts are prolonging the injustice that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed have faced,” said Hassiba Hadjsahraoui,Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    “These men should never have been jailed in the first place and should not have to spend one more day in prison. Instead of prolonging their unjust detention pending a retrial, they must be freed immediately.”

    The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court of law, ruled that there had been procedural failings in the trial of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. The three are now set to face a retrial.

    The trio are serving sentences of between seven and 10 years for “falsifying news” and involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the authorities allege is involved in terrorism-related activity.

    December 05, 2014

    Today’s court order authorizing two months of pre-trial detention for the well-known Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is just the latest move to silence independent media voices in the country, Amnesty International said.

    “This move has all the hallmarks of another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan – Khadija Ismayilova is one of the last remaining independent voices in the country,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “Today’s detention order comes hot on the heels of a long series of attempts to silence her. The Azerbaijan authorities must stop this harassment of journalists just for doing their jobs.”

    Khadija Ismayilova, who reports for Radio Free Europe and other outlets, has been an outspoken government critic and has published several articles exposing corruption and human rights violations.

    She faces the unexplained charges of “inciting someone to attempt suicide”. If found guilty, she could face three to seven years of imprisonment.

    October 27, 2014

    Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his pen name Dieu Cay (“peasant’s pipe”), was released from prison, having served four years of a 12-year prison sentence.

    His reportedly deteriorating health and the harsh prison conditions in Vietnam makes his release even more welcome.

    Immediately after his release he was taken to the airport and put on a plane, bound for the USA. Nguyen Van Hai’s sudden release shows how the passion and persistence of Amnesty International members can help in the struggle for human rights in Vietnam.

    He was jailed for writing an online blog that called for an end to injustice and corruption in Vietnam.  Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and campaigned tirelessly for four years demanding his release.

    Thank you to Amnesty supporters who took action on his case and helped us win his freedom!

    Read press release

     

    Read more Amnesty International Good News Stories

    August 26, 2014
    James Foley once said he reported from the Middle East because, “We’re not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don’t try to get really close to what these guys – men, women, American [soldiers] … are experiencing, we don’t understand the world”
    Syria is a Dangerous Place for Journalists – But Here’s Why We Need Them There

    by Geoffrey Mock, Egypt country specialist and chair of the Middle East County Specialist, Amnesty USA.

    After three years of the Syrian uprising, it often appears like the world is tuning out. Deaths continue on a daily basis, some 9 million Syrians are listed by the U.N. as either refugees or internally displaced people, but the situation is sliding out of attention on news broadcasts, in newspaper headlines and popular attention.

    This is why the beheading of reporter James Foley is so important to anyone concerned about human rights in the region. It’s important not just because, as Amnesty International says, it is “a war crime,” but because Syria right now by most standards is now the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

    July 25, 2014

    The sentencing of a newspaper editor and a human rights lawyer to two years in prison on charges of contempt of court after a grossly unfair trial in Swaziland is an outrageous attempt to silence dissenting voices, said Amnesty International.

    “With this sentence, Swaziland is sending the message that raising any concerns about judicial independence is out of bounds. It is a deplorable attack on freedom of expression in the country,” said Deprose Muchena, Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    Bhekithemba Makhubu, editor of Swaziland’s monthly news magazine, The Nation, and human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, were today sentenced to two years in prison without the possibility of paying a fine instead.

    May 29, 2014

    Pakistani authorities should immediately investigate the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military’s premier spy agency, over its alleged involvement in journalist attacks, said Amnesty International on the third anniversary of the abduction and killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad.

    “Failure to investigate such incidents thoroughly, impartially and transparently and to hold perpetrators accountable fosters a culture of impunity for attacks against independent media in Pakistan,” said David Griffiths, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    In an open letter, Amnesty International and 10 other human rights organizations called on the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to fulfil his promise to end the impunity enjoyed by individuals and groups who attack journalists.

    May 21, 2014

    The conviction of five men for the murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya marks only a small step towards justice. The process has left too many questions unanswered and full justice will not be served until those who ordered the crime are identified and face the courts, Amnesty International said.

    “The tragic murder of Anna Politkovskaya uncovered the incredible dangers faced by those trying to expose human rights abuses and corruption in Russia. Until justice is delivered on her case, all journalists and activists will be at risk,” said Sergei Nikitin, Head of Amnesty International’s office in Russia.

    “Authorities in Russia must demonstrate with concrete actions that they are trying to establish who wanted Anna Politkovskaya dead. Those who ordered her killing must be identified and face justice.”

    Late on Tuesday, a court in Moscow convicted five men for carrying out the 2006 murder of the journalist outside her apartment in the capital. It is still not known who ordered her killing.

    May 08, 2014

    The Chinese authorities are using trumped-up charges to target a prominent journalist who has been detained for disclosing state secrets, said Amnesty International.

    Gao Yu, 70, is accused of sharing a ‘secret’ document with editors of a foreign website in August last year, Chinese state media reported on Thursday.

    “Gao is the latest victim of China’s vaguely worded and arbitrary state secret laws which the authorities repeatedly use as a smokescreen to target activists,” said Anu Kultalahti, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    Gao is an outspoken campaigner for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. The past week has seen several prominent activists arrested ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on 4 June.

    “The timing of Gao’s detention is highly dubious and raises serious questions as to the authorities’ true motives,” said Kultalahti.
    Gao’s friends became concerned for her whereabouts when she failed to turn up to an event to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown. State media have since confirmed that she was detained on 24 April.

    May 07, 2014

    Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia’s authorities to quash the outrageous sentencing today of Raif Badawi in connection with an online forum for public debate he set up and accusations that he insulted Islam.

    Raif Badawi, co-founder of the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (about US$266,631) by Jeddah’s Criminal Court.

    “The decision to sentence Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is outrageous. He is a prisoner of conscience who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression. The authorities must overturn his conviction and release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    May 02, 2014

    At least six media workers have been detained since the turn of the year as Myanmar authorities are stepping up a disturbing crackdown on freedom of expression and jailing new prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International said ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

    “The crackdown on free media in Myanmar is a deeply worrying attempt to silence dissenting views. It casts doubt on the government’s promises to improve respect for human rights,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “We are seeing a continuation of the practice of arresting and detaining human rights defenders and peaceful political activists – a hallmark of the country’s previous military government.”

    “Myanmar must immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience including the six media workers who have been detained this year. The authorities should scrap or amend draconian legislation that restricts the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

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