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Freedom of Expression

    January 15, 2018

    Reacting to the news that the Philippines authorities have ordered the closure of the independent media outlet Rappler, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

    “The moves by the Philippines authorities to shut down Rappler is an alarming attempt to silence independent journalism. The government must immediately reverse this decision and end all efforts to stifle free press in the country.

    “This is a politically motivated decision, pure and simple, and just the latest attempt to go after anyone who dares to criticise the government. Rappler has been fearless in holding those in power to account, including by consistently criticising the government’s murderous ‘war on drugs’. It has faced persistent harassment by government supporters and even the President himself.

    “The Philippines government should focus on ending and investigating violations, mostly against poor communities, in the ‘war on drugs’, not trying to silence the messenger.”

    Background

    January 04, 2018
    Iranian authorities must ensure the right to peaceful protest, investigate reports that security forces have unlawfully used firearms against unarmed protesters and protect hundreds of detainees from torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International said today amid concerns that the crackdown against demonstrations that have spread across Iran in the past week is intensifying.   Official statements have confirmed that at least 22 people, including two security officers, have been killed since 28 December, when thousands of Iranians began flocking to the streets to speak out against poverty, corruption, political repression and authoritarianism.   “Law enforcement officials have the right to defend themselves, and a duty to protect the safety of the public. However, reports of the use of firearms against unarmed protesters by security forces are deeply troubling and would contravene Iran’s human rights obligations under international law,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  
    January 04, 2018

    The trial today of a Tibetan language education activist, who could face up to 15 years in jail for “inciting separatism”, has exposed how ludicrously unjust the case against him is, Amnesty International said.

    December 07, 2017

    Following the decision today by the Bangkok Military Court to postpone a decision on whether to indict Sulak Sivaraksa, on charges of lèse majesté for comments he made about a battle in 1593, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

    “To prosecute a scholar for comments he made about a battle that took place more than four centuries ago would be patently absurd. This case is an ugly reminder of the Thai authorities’ increasing use of the lèse majesté law as a tool of suppression.

    “Aside from being an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and academic freedom, Sulak Sivaraksa’s case appears to be based on a wilful misinterpretation of the existing repressive law on lèse majesté. While it should doubtless be abandoned in its entirety, the law as it currently stands does not apply to historical members of the monarchy.

    “The Thai authorities must end their gross misuse of this law and immediately drop these ridiculous charges.”

    Background

    December 04, 2017

    States around the world are failing in their duty to effectively protect people who defend human rights, leading to an escalation in preventable killings and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization’s new report, Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights, highlights the growing risks faced by human rights defenders – people from all walks of life who work to promote and defend human rights.

    The report includes testimonies from friends, relatives and colleagues of human rights defenders, including environmentalists, LGBTIQ and women’s rights activists, journalists and lawyers, who have been killed or disappeared. Many described how victims’ pleas for protection had been repeatedly ignored by the authorities and how the attackers had evaded justice, fuelling a deadly cycle of impunity.

    October 31, 2017

    Israel’s decision to deny an Amnesty International USA staff member entry to the occupied West Bank, apparently as retaliation against the organization’s human rights work, is a dangerous indication of the Israeli authorities’ growing intolerance of critical voices, the organization said today.

    October 24, 2017
    Trumped up terror charges against the Istanbul 10 exposed Forensic analysis shows Amnesty Chair did not download Bylock Spokespeople available on the ground for trials on October 25 & 26

    Click here to follow the trial on Twitter

    Trumped up terror charges against 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director and chair, do not stand up to the slightest scrutiny, said Amnesty International as court proceedings begin in Istanbul and Izmir.

    The charges against them - carrying jail terms of up to 15 years and set out in two indictments to be heard in two separate trials – are entirely baseless.

    “From the moment of their detentions, it has been clear that these are politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

    October 17, 2017

    Baseless allegations against 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director and chair, should have been rejected in their entirety, said Amnesty International after an Istanbul court accepted the indictment today.

    “This indictment fails to provide a shred of incriminating evidence to substantiate the trumped up terrorism charges it contains. In accepting this indictment the Istanbul Court has missed a golden opportunity to bring this grotesque miscarriage of justice to a halt,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

    “This is politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing the work of some of Turkey’s most prominent human rights defenders. It beggars belief that anyone who has read the fantastical allegations laid out in the indictment could see it in any other way.”

    For more information or to arrange an interview contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

    October 17, 2017

    Ottawa -- Days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to Mexico, nine leading Mexican human rights experts are in Ottawa to seek strengthened Canadian support for their efforts to address an acute and worsening human rights crisis in Mexico.

    While Canada has been vocal in its support for the victims of two severe earthquakes that hit Mexico in September, the visiting Mexican human rights experts want Canada to respond with even greater attention to the hundreds of thousands of victims of an acute human rights emergency that worsens with each day.

    October 12, 2017
    Stars of stage and screen have added their voices to the global demand for the immediate and unconditional release of a group of prominent human rights defenders in Turkey, one hundred days after they were detained.   More than 20 artists and celebrities, including Zoë Kravitz, Ben Stiller, Mark Ruffalo, Whoopi Goldberg and Zach Galifianakis, signed a letter sent by Amnesty International USA to the Turkish ambassador. They join a host of other celebrities including Annie Lennox, Bono, Peter Gabriel, Juliette Binoche, Jane Birkin, Angélique Kidjo, and Patrick Stewart, who have called for the release of the activists that include Amnesty International’s Turkey Director, İdil Eser, and Chair, Taner Kiliç.   Ten activists were arrested on 5 July whilst Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd and trumped up terrorism charges.  
    October 03, 2017

    The sentencing of opposition leaders Aleksei Navalny and Leonid Volkov to 20 days in administrative detention is yet further evidence of the Russian authorities’ relentless stranglehold on civil society, said Amnesty International. The organization is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both men.

    “The arrest of Aleksei Navalny and Leonid Volkov comes as no surprise. It is a blatant attempt by the Russian authorities to suppress and suffocate any dissenting voices and intimidate people trying to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    “Peaceful protest is a right, not a crime nor a privilege which the authorities can bestow on a whim to people in Russia. The activists’ imprisonment embodies the everyday harassment of civil society across the country, including many of Navalny’s supporters. Over the last few months, scores of activists across Russia have been subjected to arbitrary detention, over-the-top fines, beatings and intimidation.”

    October 03, 2017

    AI observers confirm the dangerous and inappropriate use of riot control equipment, including beating of defenceless people offering no resistance, and calls for a swift, thorough and impartial investigation into the events

    Amnesty International has directly confirmed on the ground that members of the National Police force's Police Intervention Unit (UIP) and Civil Guard officers used excessive and disproportionate force against demonstrators who were passively resisting in the streets and at the entrances to polling stations. The security forces were acting on the ruling of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC), which ordered them to prevent the holding of a referendum. The Ministry of the Interior reports that the security forces intervened and shut down 92 polling stations. According to information from the Generalitat (the government of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia), there were a total of 2,315 polling stations, 400 of which were shut down by court order.

    September 26, 2017

    The Hong Kong government must drop prosecutions aimed at having a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the city, Amnesty International said ahead of the third anniversary of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

    Three years on from the start of the unprecedented 79-day protest in late 2014, scores of protesters, who were arrested for their involvement in the largely peaceful protests, remain in legal limbo, uncertain if they will face charges.

    “Three years since the Umbrella Movement protests, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over Hong Kong. The government’s stance is having a chilling effect on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

    “The government must drop prosecutions which have the effect of deterring people from participating in peaceful protests, particularly on sensitive issues such as Hong Kong’s autonomy and democracy. The authorities’ continued obfuscation has left protesters in legal limbo and is detrimental to human rights in Hong Kong.”

    Chilling effect

    September 15, 2017

    In the last week Saudi Arabian authorities have intensified their crackdown on freedom of expression, detaining more than 20 prominent religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and activists, said Amnesty International.

    “In recent years we cannot recall a week in which so many prominent Saudi Arabian figures have been targeted in such a short space of time,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle East.

    “It is clear that the new leadership under Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman is sending a chilling message: freedom of expression will not be tolerated, we are coming after you.”

    Those arrested include prominent Islamic clerics such as Sheikh Salman al-Awda, an influential religious figure who has over 14 million followers on social media, detained on 9 September. He is known for his calls for reforms and as an advocate for greater respect of human rights within the Islamic Shari’a.

    September 07, 2017

    A new report published by Amnesty International today sheds light on the repressive tactics used by the Bahraini government over the past year to crush civil society and violently crack down on protests, leading to the deaths of six people, including one child.

    ‘No one can protect you’: Bahrain’s year of crushing dissent documents how, between June 2016 and June 2017, at least 169 government critics or their relatives were arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel by the authorities.

    “Using an array of tools of repression, including harassment, arbitrary detention and torture, the government of Bahrain has managed to crush a formerly thriving civil society and reduced it to a few lone voices who still dare to speak out,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The majority of peaceful critics, whether they are human rights defenders or political activists, now feel the risks of expressing their views have become too high in Bahrain.”

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