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    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.

    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.”

    February 04, 2020

    Vietnamese human rights defender Trần Thị Nga is free! Although she was sentenced in 2017 to serve nine years in prison, authorities released her on January 9 with one condition: Go into exile. Trần Thị Nga, her partner and two sons have arrived safety in the USA where they will start new lives.

    Following her release, Trần Thị Nga shared the following message: “I thank Amnesty International for your tireless effort in demanding for my freedom. I am happy that my family is now reunited and living in peace. However, there are still many prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. I sincerely hope that Amnesty International will continue to fight for their freedom.”

    Arrested in January 2017, Trần Thị Nga had been convicted of “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the 1999 penal code for participating in peaceful protests following the 2016 Formosa environmental disaster. In Vietnam, she was a fierce advocate for the rights of migrant workers and displaced persons and was often subjected to harassment, intimidation and physical assault for her involvement in environmental rights movements.

    January 24, 2020

     

    We are a collection of stories. As a writer, I try to capture narratives in a way that suspends time while still staying within its boundaries. Some have told me that it is difficult to create new stories, that the current ones have already been reused, and that they are tired of reading. But on a chilly December afternoon, I wove through the narrow streets of Toronto and joined a group of people who care, love, and treasure the numerous narratives still beating on this planet.

    I stumbled into the registration area, a few minutes shy of 1 pm. Strings of fairy lights and quiet bright lamps illuminated a set of posters on issues such as unjust sentences, unreasonable jail terms, and tragic deaths. Flash. A photo: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Flash. National Youth Organizers showing support for cases that resonate with them. Flash. Flash. Flash. These moments must be remembered. I vow to help people remember.  

    January 20, 2020

    This photo was taken in March of 2009 as the Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous communities marched to Paraguay’s Congress to deliver signatures of support from around the world. Amnesty International has worked alongside the communities for over a decade to try and restore their rights to life, to property and to judicial protection. They had been living in exile in dangerous and precarious conditions since being displaced from their ancestral territory.

    On December 10 -- International Human Rights Day, appropriately -- after approval from Congress, the president of Paraguay issued a law to expropriate a piece of land needed to construct a road. The road will finally allow the Yakye Axa community access to their lands.

    January 17, 2020

    B-r-e-a-t-h-e.  That was difficult for the residents of Lahore, Pakistan on 21 November 2019. The Air Quality Index hit 598, twice the ‘hazardous’ level which begins at 300. Within hours, Amnesty International issued its first Urgent Action focusing directly on climate change. The UA argued that the government’s failure to adequately protect people from exposure to the toxic air puts their human rights at risk, including their rights to health and life.

    The Urgent Action generated worldwide media – and success! On 30 November, Prime Minister Imran Khan convened a press conference to announce what steps the government would take to curb emissions. The Minister for Climate Change then sent a letter to Amnesty International: “I want to assure you that our Ministry is committed to play its role for shifting the landscape in Pakistan towards a cleaner, greener and sustainable future and particularly targeting the growing challenge of air pollution and climate change.”

    Learn more about the Urgent Action Network here! 

    January 10, 2020
    What do we do when members of the Río Blanco community in Honduras are threatened with death for seeking to stop construction of a dam that would destroy the environment on which all their rights depend? What do we do when community leader Rosalina Domínguez is attacked by armed men because she continues the campaign against the dam that was led by murdered Lenca water defender Berta Cáceres? What do we do when someone intentionally destroys the food crops that provide for the survival of 25 families who are part of the same struggle to stop the dam and protect Indigenous rights?

    We count on Urgent Action writers to ask the Honduran Minister of Human Rights to ensure the protection of these endangered people. (UA 64/19 of 10 May)

    In September, the minister convened a meeting with Rosalina and other members of COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organization) to determine what security measures they would like.

    Good news!  Protection requested by the community has now been granted to Rosalina and other Río Blanco community members.

    December 13, 2019

    “Justice for Berta” is a rallying cry that has echoed across Honduras and around the world since the murder of iconic Indigenous water defender Berta Cáceres. 

    The Lenca leader was recognized internationally with a prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to stop construction of the Agua Zarca dam on a river considered sacred and vital to the rights of her people. Back home, Berta got death threats. Then gunmen entered her home on March 2, 2016 and shot her to death.

    In a country where impunity for such crimes is the norm - and a green light for more deadly violence - at long last there has been a breakthrough.

    On December 2, seven men were sentenced to between 30 and 50 years in jail for their roles in the killing of Berta. 

    December 05, 2019

    The Slovak Parliament voted on December 5 against a bill that would have undermined women’s privacy and autonomy in decision-making about healthcare. It would also have subjected women to harmful stigma and degrading treatment.

    In a joint letter published on 18 November, more than 30 organizations - including Amnesty International - called on all Slovak MPs to reject the draft law. If passed, it would have required women seeking abortion care to fulfil several mandatory requirements, such as ultrasound scanning, that are not justified by medical reasons. The World Health Organization states that there is no medical reason for routine ultrasound prior to abortion. It emphasizes that women’s decisions to access abortion care should be respected and that safe abortion should be “delivered in a way that respects a woman’s dignity, guarantees her right to privacy and is sensitive to her needs and perspectives.”

    This outcome is a huge victory for women.

    November 23, 2019

    Transgender rights activists were able to hold a march on November 23 in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance. Police officers successfully protected the event, known as Trans March, allowing up to one hundred activists to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We believe that the actions taken by Amnesty activists as a result of an Amnesty Urgent Action as well as advocacy by Amnesty Ukraine contributed significantly towards ensuring the protection of the 2019 Trans March. Organizers of the Trans March have thanked activists for their support.

    The successful protection of the Trans March comes in striking contrast to a similar event in 2018, when police failed to protect participants, did not take action against members of violent groups who attacked the march, and instead forced transgender rights activists into a nearby metro station effectively terminating their peaceful assembly.

    October 24, 2019

    On October 24, 2019, we received wonderful news from Poland in the case of 14 brave human rights defenders who stood up to fascism with their banner “Fascism stop!” during the Independence Day march in 2017. A Polish court declared that the women, who had been charged with “interference with a lawful assembly”, were not guilty.

    During the annual Independence Day march in Warsaw in 2017, when many far-right protestors gathered calling for things like a “white Poland”, the 14 women refused to let it go unchallenged. They headed to the Poniatowski Bridge to peacefully confront the hatred.

    What they encountered there was deeply disturbing. Hundreds of people brandishing racist and fascist symbols, messages saying things like “Europe will be white or deserted”, and members of far-right groups and their sympathizers holding flares and throwing firecrackers. Undeterred by the aggression in the air, the women unfurled their own banner saying “Fascism stop!”.

    October 16, 2019

    On October 16, 2019, Hajar Raissouni, her fiancé, and her doctor were released from prison following a Royal Pardon granted by the king of Morocco. They had been arrested on August 31 in the capital, Rabat. On September 30, Hajar and her fiancé were sentenced to one year in prison (and the doctor to two years) after being convicted for unlawful abortion and sex outside of marriage. This was likely a politically motivated attack on Hajar for her journalistic work at newspaper Akhbar al-Yaoum. It was a blatant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and private life.

    Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action appeal on Hajar’s case. Amnesty activists wrote to the head of Morocco’s government calling for freedom for Hajar, her fiancé, and the doctor. Hajar’s case garnered the support of several human rights organizations in Morocco and abroad. The response of the international community to Amnesty’s Urgent Action helped release Hajar, and sparked a conversation around women’s rights and freedom of expression in Morocco.

    October 11, 2019

    Amnesty International is welcoming news that Maryam Mombeini has finally reunited with her two sons in Canada, more than 18 months after Iranian authorities separated the family at Tehran’s airport.

    In a heartfelt video posted to Twitter, Maryam is seen embracing her sons, Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami, at the Vancouver International Airport on October 10. It had been 582 days since they had last seen each other.

    “We are grateful to the Canadian government, and specifically Foreign Minister Freeland for their unwavering support from day one. We are also thankful to Iran for allowing our mother, Maryam Mombeini, to finally leave and join us in Vancouver,” said Ramin in a statement sent to media and shared with Amnesty International.

    “We have been overwhelmed with an amazing outpour of love and support from everyone. And we cannot be happier to have such an amazing network of friends and family, who’ve stood by our side through thick and thin.

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