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Freedom of Expression

    May 03, 2019
    Nasrin and her 2 children
    Iranian lawyer and women’s rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh’s heartbreaking letters from prison reveal the trauma inflicted on families by the government that claims to protect them.

    Nasrin Sotoudeh is a lawyer who has never shied away from doing what’s right in Iran. In her long and impressive career, she has exposed the injustices of the death penalty and campaigned for children’s rights. Most recently, she defied degrading laws that force girls as young as nine to wear a hijab or face prison, flogging or a fine. Nasrin has been sentenced to a total of 38 years and 148 lashes after two unfair trials because she demanded choice for women and girls. She will have to serve 17 years of this sentence.

    April 09, 2019

    Responding to the guilty verdicts for “public nuisance” against nine leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong, Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong said:

    “Today’s guilty verdicts are a crushing blow for freedom of expression and peaceful protest in Hong Kong. The government has used vague charges in their relentless persecution of the Umbrella Nine.

    “The government is increasingly using prosecutions as a political tool to target peaceful activists, abusing the law to silence debate about sensitive issues such as Hong Kong democracy and autonomy. We urge the government to cease this chilling assault against people legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

    Background

    Among the nine activists convicted at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts are the co-founders of the “Occupy Central” campaign – legal scholar Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, sociologist Professor Chan Kin-man and retired pastor Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. 

    April 01, 2019

    To see a loved one wrongfully detained is a painful ordeal. But to not know where they are detained, or if they are even alive at all, is even harder.

    This is the situation faced by hundreds of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic Muslim people living overseas while their relatives languish in Chinese political detention camps.

    To make matters worse, their desperate search for information is being hindered by their own family members still in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). This is not because those relatives don’t want to help; instead, it’s because they fear cooperating could mean they are the next ones sent to the notorious camps.

    “Transformation-through-education centres” is the euphemistic term the Chinese government prefers to use for these facilities. It claims the individuals held there receive “vocational training” to help them with their “radical thoughts”.

    Terrified to talk

    March 20, 2019
    Amnesty International delegation to attend trial of organization’s Turkey honorary chair, Taner Kılıç, and the Istanbul 10, including former Amnesty Turkey director Idil Eser 

    Almost two years after they were first arrested, two prominent figures from Amnesty International Turkey and nine other human rights defenders must be acquitted of the absurd charges they still face, said Amnesty International ahead of their trial which resumes tomorrow in Istanbul. 

    Taner Kılıç, Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair, and İdil Eser, the organization’s former Turkey Director, are being tried alongside nine other activists on baseless allegations of “membership of a terrorist organisation”.  

    February 27, 2019

     Leading NGOs in Turkey have come together to call for the dropping of absurd allegations levelled against Osman Kavala and 15 other prominent figures and an end to the escalating crackdown and criminalization of civil society.

    The open letter, signed by the organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and eight other NGOs, calls for an end to the orchestrated campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment of civil society activists in Turkey.

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

    FULL TEXT OF LETTER

    We stand united against efforts to destroy civil society

    February 21, 2019

    Governments across the world are increasingly attacking non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by creating laws that subject them and their staff to surveillance, nightmarish bureaucratic hurdles and the ever-present threat of imprisonment, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

    Laws Designed to Silence: The Global Crackdown on Civil Society Organizations reveals the startling number of countries that are using bullying techniques and repressive regulations to prevent NGOs from doing their vital work. The report lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline.

    “We documented how an increasing number of governments are placing unreasonable restrictions and barriers on NGOs, preventing them from carrying out crucial work,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    February 20, 2019

    In response to news that an indictment has been sent to the court setting out the case against Osman Kavala and 15 civil society figures for “attempting to overthrow the government”, Amnesty International’s Andrew Gardner said:

    “These outlandish allegations are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence some of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures who now face the prospect of being tried by Turkey’s deeply flawed justice system.”

    “Almost six years after the Gezi Park protests saw tens of thousands of people peacefully protesting against state repression, this indictment - if accepted by the court - could see the accused facing a lifetime behind bars without the possibility of parole.”

    “The Gezi protests were overwhelmingly peaceful with people simply exercising their rights. They were met by arbitrary and abusive force by police. It should be the authorities’ denial of these rights and the police violence against peaceful protestors that should be examined by the courts, not these 16 civil society figures who have not committed any crime.

    January 02, 2019

    Responding to news that Netflix have removed an episode from a comedy show in Saudi Arabia, after officials from the Kingdom complained that it violated cyber-crime laws,

    Samah Hadid, Middle East Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International, said:

    “Saudi Arabia’s censorship of Netflix using a cyber-crime law comes as no surprise, and is further proof of a relentless crackdown on freedom of expression in the Kingdom.

    “Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power in June 2017, many outspoken human rights defenders, activists and critics have been arbitrarily detained, or unjustly sentenced to lengthy prison terms simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    “The authorities have previously used anti cyber-crime laws to silence dissidents, creating an environment of fear for those who dare to speak up in Saudi Arabia.

    “By bowing to the Saudi Arabian authorities’ demands, Netflix is in danger of facilitating the Kingdom’s zero-tolerance policy on freedom of expression and assisting the authorities in denying people’s right to freely access information.”

    December 19, 2018

    Police in Viet Nam’s capital, Hanoi, shut down a major annual meeting of grassroots groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) this morning in an alarming step-up of the authorities’ repression of civil society, said Amnesty International.

    “This is an absurd and shocking crackdown on a well-established, peaceful event. To use an arcane wartime decree about holding events in public spaces to stop a private gathering at a hotel is clearly unjustified and cynical,” said Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Global Operations.

    A coalition of local groups were holding their third annual workshop today at the Hanoi Club Hotel. As in previous years, the meeting aimed to discuss approaches to social issues including public service access, health and gender equality.

    Once the workshop was underway, local police entered the premises and ordered organizers to shut it down. Police accused organizers of violating a wartime law from 1957, Decree 257-TTg, which provides that public authorities must be informed of events at least 24 hours in advance.

    December 17, 2018
    Amnesty International will be monitoring the protests

    The police must rein in unnecessary and excessive force, including the use of tear gas, against peaceful protesters, Amnesty International said today ahead of further demonstrations planned tonight in Budapest.

    “Demonstrators are expected to descend onto Budapest’s streets tonight for a sixth night of anti-government protests. Last night we witnessed displays of unnecessary and excessive force against peaceful protesters that included the use of tear gas. This must not be repeated again. The police must use force only when strictly necessary and only when all other means to contain the violence have failed," said Massimo Moratti, Deputy Director for Europe at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2018

     “Going ahead with Project Dragonfly would represent a massive capitulation on human rights by one of the world’s most powerful companies” – Kumi Naidoo

    Responding to media reports that Google is planning to shut down Project Dragonfly, its controversial censored search app for China, Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

    “Media reports that Google is shelving Dragonfly follow intense criticism of the project from human rights groups and Google’s own staff. 

    “We would welcome a decision by Google to drop Dragonfly and abandon its plans to cooperate in large-scale censorship and surveillance by the Chinese government.

    “Going ahead with Project Dragonfly would represent a massive capitulation on human rights by one of the world’s most powerful companies.

    “It’s worrying that these reports suggest that Project Dragonfly has been shelved due to discrepancies over internal process, rather than over human rights concerns.

    December 10, 2018
    ‘This whole case will send a shiver down the spine of anyone who cares about the right to protest in our country’ - Kate Allen

    Following guilty verdicts today in the case of 15 people tried in relation to their attempt to prevent what they believed was the unlawful deportation of a group of people at Stansted Airport last year, Amnesty International has reiterated its strong concern over the decision to charge the human rights defenders with a terrorism-related offence.

    The 15 people - known as the “Stansted 15” - took non-violent direct action at Stansted in March 2017 to prevent the deportation of 60 people on a charter flight bound for Ghana and Nigeria.

    The Stansted 15’s actions prevented the flight from leaving. Of the 60 individuals due to have been deported, ten are currently pursuing asylum claims in the UK, and at least one has since been granted permission to remain in the UK.

    November 27, 2018

    Amnesty launches global day of action against secretive “Project Dragonfly”

    Google’s plans to launch a censored search app in China could irreparably damage internet users’ trust in the tech company, Amnesty International said today, warning that going ahead with the app would set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.

    The organization has launched a global petition calling on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to drop the app, which is codenamed Project Dragonfly and would blacklist search terms like “human rights” and “Tiananmen Crackdown”. Following a public outcry from Google’s own workforce, Amnesty International is reaching out to the company’s staff through protests outside Google offices and targeted messages on LinkedIn calling on them to sign the petition. A spoof promotional video offering Google staff the chance to participate in Project Dragonfly ends with a twist on Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil – unless it’s profitable”. 

    November 16, 2018

    Responding to today’s detention of 13 civil society figures in Turkey in connection with the investigation into jailed civil society leader Osman Kavala, Amnesty International’s Turkey Strategy and Research Manager, Andrew Gardner said:

    “This latest wave of detentions of academics and activists, on the basis of absurd allegations, shows that the authorities are intent on continuing their brutal crackdown of independent civil society, and shatters any illusion that Turkey is normalizing following the lifting of the state of emergency.

    “The fact that they have been detained in relation to innocuous activities alleged around the overwhelmingly peaceful ‘Gezi Park’ protests in 2013 shows how desperate Turkish authorities are to crack down on any form of dissent.

    November 16, 2018
    Trial of nine Umbrella Movement leaders due to start on Monday

    The Hong Kong government must drop the politically motivated prosecution of nine leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests, as it amounts to an attack on free speech and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said ahead of the start of their trial on Monday.

    Among the nine activists facing trial at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts are the co-founders of the “Occupy Central” campaign – legal scholar Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, sociologist Professor Chan Kin-man and retired pastor Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – who each face a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment if convicted. Six other defendants in the case include student leaders, lawmakers and political party leaders.

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