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Good News

    September 04, 2020

    Although it didn’t come soon enough, Amnesty supporters can welcome the release of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, Cuban lawyer, independent journalist and now former prisoner of conscience. He returned home on 4 September 2020, after serving his one-year sentence.

    To mark World Press Freedom Day in May, over 4000 Amnesty supporters from across Canada spoke out for Roberto’s freedom, highlighting to authorities that his underlying health conditions put him at particular risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. During his detention since September 2019, Roberto Quiñones Haces regularly reported the prison conditions in which he was held. On 31 March, he wrote in Cubanet that even though prison authorities implemented certain measures regarding COVID-19, “the quality of the food is still deplorable. Despite reports of the vulnerability of older adults (prisoners over 60) to COVID-19, many of them are kept in cubicles where they live in overcrowded conditions with almost two dozen people.” 

    September 02, 2020
    Nasu Abdulaziz and Moses Akatugba at an Amnesty Nigeria Write for Rights event, December 10, 2019

    Last December during Write for Rights, the world's biggest human rights event, Amnesty supporters took more than 6.6 million actions in solidarity with young people facing injustices head on — to support them, give them strength and make it possible for them to continue to dare where adults in authority are failing. 

    So how have your words changed lives since then? Read on for updates from last year's cases, and watch for news about Write for Rights 2020 in the coming weeks!

    Grassy Narrows Youth, Canada 

    August 31, 2020
    "Thank you so much. I have no words. You have no idea how my heart is filled with happiness." - Magai Matiop Ngong 

    We campaign. We write. We advocate. And news like this is what we work for: 18-year-old Magai Matiop Ngong has been removed from South Sudan’s death row! 

    Before his life changed forever, Magai was a 15-year-old high school student. He loved running and singing, and had ambitions to be the president of South Sudan so that he could help people when he grew up.  

    But his dreams came to a sudden end in 2017 when he was convicted of murder. Magai's cousin had argued with a neighbour. When the neighbour got a gun, Magai did too. Magai fired warning shots into the ground, but one of the shots ricocheted and injured Magai's cousin who later died. Magai faced trial without a lawyer and told the judge that he was only 15 and tried to explain that the killing was an accident. But the judge sentenced him to death by hanging. "The feeling is not good at all," said Magai. "To be informed that you are going to die, I am not happy for that..." 

    July 24, 2020

    Good News comes from New Zealand, after Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish journalist from Iran who fled persecution and attempted to seek safety in Australia, has finally been granted asylum after six agonizing years in Australia’s offshore detention centres on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea), beginning in 2013.

    His detention was the result of the Australian government’s cruel and unlawful asylum policies, which involved sending thousands of asylum seekers to Pacific Island nations of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru. Amnesty International’s research found that the conditions for people trapped in these centres amounts to torture under international law.

    Behrouz gained a reputation as a journalist and human rights defender by talking about violations in the press and social media throughout his ordeal. He published over 100 news articles from detention, including his autobiographical book, No Friend But The Mountains, published in July 2018 while he remained detained.

    July 16, 2020

    Kelly is a 24-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras. She fled the country when she was just 12 due to violence against her based on her transgender identity. After arriving in the U.S., immigration authorities detained her in August 2017 and locked her up while she waited for the results of her asylum claim. The campaign for humanitarian parole by Amnesty activists and her many local supporters stretched back many months. Calls for her release ramped up recently when Kelly feared becoming infected by COVID-19 because of the inadequate measures taken by authorities to protect detainees and staff from the virus. Her lawyer credits this campaign for her release; there was no judicial reason for freeing her.


    Here is Kelly right after her release from the detention centre in Colorado where supporters had set up a protest camp.  


    June 26, 2020

    Prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is finally free!

    If that name is familiar to you, it’s because the prisoner of conscience and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was repeatedly targeted for his human rights work and peaceful criticism over the past two decades. Before his release from this latest four-year detention, Nabeel Rajab was repeatedly imprisoned and released in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

    Some of the activism for which he was persecuted include giving television interviews and tweeting about the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and allegations of torture in Jaw prison. In addition to imprisonment, he endured nine months in solitary confinement.

    Responding to his release, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said: 

    June 18, 2020
    No-one could have predicted the disruptive start to 2020 brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As our world experiences its most profound societal changes for a generation, and life is put on hold for many, fighting for human rights must continue if we are to ensure a stable, just and secure future. Here we take a look at the human rights successes, against all odds, won in late 2019 and the first months of 2020…   December 2019

    A group of girls who had been forced to leave school when they became pregnant, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2016

    June 12, 2020

    On 30 March, Public Security officials in Mexico replaced two police escorts protecting Clemencia Adelaida Salas Salazar with one officer who had limited functions. They cited pandemic restrictions as the reason but that made Adelaida considerably more vulnerable to further attacks for the work she was doing to defend women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

    Amnesty launched UA 58/20 on April 20. Urgent Action writers responded by sending messages to the Governor of Yucatán state and received replies from three different authorities. The threats and attacks stopped and in May, the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders restored full safety measures for Adelaida. There’s power in those pens and keyboards! 

    To learn how you can join the Urgent Action Network, check out our website here. 

    May 19, 2020

    If there is one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it is the power of ingenuity in the face of adversity, and the current work Amnesty International activists are doing is nothing short of powerful!

    First online letter writing meeting for Winnipeg's Group 19

    Our volunteers have had to think outside the box to continue the essential work of human rights activism from their homes rather than in the usual community-based events and as excellently put by Nazila Nik, AI Canada Iran Country Coordinator, it is the nature of the work that must keep us inspired. She writes:

    May 06, 2020

    Nay Zar Tun benefited from good behaviour to secure early release on April 9. Myint Zaw and Khin Cho Naing were released on April 17 and May 4 respectively following a presidential amnesty on Myanmar New Year (April 17).

    They had been held only for exercising their human right to freedom of expression after peacefully protesting politically motivated charges against Nay Zar Tun’s brother, former child soldier Aung Ko Htwe. They should have never been imprisoned in the first place. 

    Expressing gratitude for the appeals Urgent Action writers sent to Myanmar authorities, Khin Cho Naing’s mother, Lay Lay, wrote: “Thank you so much to Amnesty International supporters and members for your support for my family and for campaigning for their release. I hope to be able to say thank you in person.”

    Learn more on how you too can get involved in the Urgent Action Network here. 

    April 30, 2020

    Wang Quanzhang was the last lawyer awaiting a verdict in connection with the Chinese government’s mass crackdown in 2015, which targeted nearly 250 human rights lawyers and activists. “In the three years leading up to his sham of a trial, the authorities disappeared Wang Quanzhang into a black hole, where he was likely tortured”, said Doriane Lau, China Researcher at Amnesty International, in January 2019. “Wang’s family, who continue to be harassed by the authorities, didn’t even know if he was alive until recently. His continued imprisonment only prolongs their suffering.”

    At the end of January 2019, a Chinese court found human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang guilty of “subverting state power” and handed him a prison sentence of four and a half years. Amnesty International described the verdict as a gross injustice.

    April 29, 2020

    Activists across the country are looking at creative new ways to take action for human rights, whilst we practice social distancing. Long-time member Kim tells us how she is continuing her human rights activism, from home.

    Here is what she wrote:

    This weekend my kids and I created a virtual protest in front of a virtual legislature, with LEGO! My son dug deep in his LEGO collection, finding figures; my daughter used her talent for exceedingly TINY printing to make up the protest signs. I cut up cotton swabs for handles and glued them to the tiny signs. We printed an old photo of the Alberta legislature I had on the computer. This is a pretty basic kids’ diorama, but we had so much fun putting it together! My oldest was even helpful with looking around on the internet for good slogans to use! What an educational opportunity for discussion of human rights and using our voices of dissent for change!

    April 27, 2020

    Saudi Arabia executed a record number of people in 2019 – 184 – but there may be fewer this year. Saudi Arabia announced today that it plans to end the use of the death penalty against people below the age of 18 at the time of the crime (although the Royal Decree excludes crimes under the counter-terror law). The death penalty will be replaced with a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

    If implemented, this will be a significant step towards respecting the rights to life, to security of person and to freedom from cruel treatment. Does it go far enough? Absolutely not. So Amnesty International is taking this moment to call on Saudi Arabia to take a big step: temporarily halt all executions while a roadmap to total abolition is created.

    In another positive move, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court issued a directive in mid April for courts to end discretionary flogging punishments. Humane replacements could include jail time, fines or community service. It is still unclear whether this applies to mandatory flogging punishments for other offences under Shari’a law, including for alcohol use and sexual offences.

    April 06, 2020

    The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishnabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation) are now one step closer to justice. More than 50 years after untreated mercury was dumped into the English and Wabigoon Rivers, causing widespread mercury poisoning and loss of cultural traditions, the community has finally signed a deal with the federal government for a mercury care home.  

    In 2017, the federal government committed to building a mercury care home for community members suffering from the impacts of mercury poisoning. After years of delay, a $19.5 million dollar agreement to build a care facility was finally signed on April 2nd. This agreement is an important step forward for justice, but long-term funding for the operation and services of the facility still needs to be secured.  




    April 01, 2020

    “I will not get tired of expressing my gratitude…” 

    Those are the words of Cuba’s well-known opposition leader and prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer following his transfer from prison to house arrest in early April. 

    Enjoy this short but heartfelt message of thanks to individuals and organizations around the world for their solidarity or this longer one in which his passion is visibly undiminished. Both were translated to English by Amnesty International’s Urgent Action participant, Michael Lima Cuadra (Twitter: @ngotranslations. IG @ngoresearcher) who spoke with José Daniel Ferrer recently. 

    Here is Michael's background on José Daniel Ferrer and his account of their conversation: