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    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: 


    March 31, 2020

    Following today’s ministerial statement to overturn with immediate effect the ban on pregnant girls attending schools, Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa said:

    “Today we have cause to celebrate as thousands of pregnant girls across Sierra Leone will be allowed back into classes nationwide when schools reopen after COVID-19.

    “This inherently discriminatory ban which was formalized for almost five years now has already deprived too many young women of their right to education, and the choice as to what future they want for themselves. It has now rightly been consigned to the history books.

    March 26, 2020

    On 26 March, journalist Mamane Kaka Touda was released after being detained for three weeks in Niamey Prison, Niger, for publishing a post on social media regarding a suspected case of COVID-19 infection in Niamey Reference Hospital. He was given a three-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay one franc as symbolic compensation. His lawyer has appealed the sentence.

    He sends this message to Amnesty International and all those that took action on his behalf: “I want to thank and encourage those who were mobilized for my release. Arbitrary arrests and detentions will not stop us doing our work. We will keep fighting. I am grateful, thank you!”

    Learn more about how you can get involved in the Urgent Network here. 

    February 24, 2020

    On 21 February 2020, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was released from Insein prison in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, after having completed his prison sentence. Arrested on 12 April 2019 for social media posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics, he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment on 29 August 2019 under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code.

    He was released after just over ten months behind bars, after receiving routine sentence reductions. During trial he was denied bail on several occasions, despite major health concerns.   

    While we celebrate that Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is free, the fact remains he should have never been arrested or imprisoned in the first place. His conviction should be quashed.  

    Amnesty International remains deeply concerned about the ongoing prosecution and imprisonment of activists and human rights defenders in Myanmar. We will continue to campaign for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, and all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

    February 24, 2020

    Written by longtime group member John Prescott, of Group 6 


    Since 1984, AI Group 6 has had a regular spot in the Guelph weekly Saturday market for Amnesty Urgent Action petitions. About 20 members share the work. They sign up every 2 or 3 months for a first or second shift at the market, which runs from 7 am to noon. The group has never missed a shift in more than 35 years! If we were to miss one, we would lose our highly competitive market vendor place.  The market charges $16 a week, mostly paid for by donations from group members and by some signers.

    Each petition, usually a main one with a copy to the country’s ambassador, attracts about 70 signatures every week, suggesting that there have been a quarter of a million signatures since the project started. Most petitions come from the UA Network, since one of our members distributes these in Guelph to many of the market participants, but some petitions are taken from the AI Canada website.

    February 12, 2020

    Hồ Duy Hải says the authorities tortured him into signing a confession for theft and murder. The trial also had serious errors, including ignoring his alibis and other vital evidence. Twice he came close to execution.

    The stress of his pending death sentence took a huge toll on his family. His mother, Nguyễn Thị Loan, told Amnesty International: “It has been 11 years since he was arrested, and our family was torn apart. I can no longer bear this pain. Just thinking about my son suffering behind bars hurts me so much.”