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    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.”

    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. 

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