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Freedom of Expression

    September 04, 2017

    The arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender today who criticized the Palestinian authorities on Facebook is a shameless attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    Issa Amro, a Hebron-based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained at around midday local time today by Palestinian Preventive Security

    Forces, after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticizing the arrest of a local radio journalist yesterday by the same Palestinian security forces.

    “It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence

    that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    August 17, 2017
    The Hong Kong authorities’ relentless pursuit of jail terms for three leaders of the pro-democracy movement is a vindictive attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said.   On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal handed Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law between six and eight months in prison for their roles in a demonstration that helped spark the city’s 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. Prosecutors pursued harsher punishments for the trio, after they were originally given non-custodial sentences at their first trial a year ago.   “The relentless and vindictive pursuit of student leaders using vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.   “The real danger to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong is the authorities’ continued persecution of prominent democracy activists. Prosecutions aimed at deterring participation in peaceful protests must be dropped.”  
    August 15, 2017
      Reacting to the guilty verdict against pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (“Pai Dao Din”), who was today sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law after sharing a BBC article on Facebook, Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:   “This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook. It is outrageous that Pai Dao Din is now facing more than two years behind bars just for sharing a news article.   “Pai Dao Din should never have had to face trial in the first place. His guilty plea should not be considered as an admission of criminal responsibility as the courts regularly halve sentences for defendants who have pleaded guilty in such cases. Pai Dao Din must be released immediately and unconditionally.  
    August 11, 2017

    The arrest of four officials from the opposition in Venezuela, the removal from office of a further 11 and the issuing of arrest warrants against another five, demonstrates the Maduro administration’s tightening stranglehold on any form of dissent, taking repression to a frightening new level, said Amnesty International.

    “By removing opposition officials from their posts for no legitimate reason, the Maduro administration is crossing a very delicate line,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “The justice system should never be abused to silence the opposition, particularly those who have been elected to office.”

    “First they came for those taking to the streets, then for those who represent them in office. How much further is the Venezuelan government willing to go in order to silence those who think differently? The answer is terrifying,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

    August 10, 2017

    Responding to the arrest of Medha Patkar, of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India said:

    "The right to protest peacefully and without arms is a fundamental right in India. The Madhya Pradesh government must immediately release Medha Patkar and 11 others who were arrested on 9 August when they were on their way to meet people protesting against their displacement by the Sardar Sarovar Project".

    Medha Patkar, a former commissioner on the World Commission of Dams, along with others, joined the evictees from the Sardar Sarovar dam, to stage an indefinite fast demanding the satisfactory rehabilitation of the evictees. According to Patkar, there are no basic amenities, including water, for evictees in the rehabilitation sites. Patkar, along with 11 others, were forcibly removed from the protest site on 7 August and then admitted in different hospitals. After being discharged from hospital, they were arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police on charges of kidnapping, criminal intimidation, rioting and assaulting a public servant.

    August 10, 2017

    Amnesty International welcomes the release of Lim Hyeon-soo to receive urgent medical treatment. The Canadian pastor and humanitarian worker has been detained in North Korea for the past two and a half years.

    He was convicted of “plotting to overthrow the government” and sentenced to life in prison with hard labour in December 2015 after spending almost one year in detention. The Canadian government has confirmed that Lim Hyeon-soo will be soon be reunited with his family in Canada. According to North Korean state media, Lim Hyeon-soo was released “on sick bail” for “humanitarian reasons”.

    He had developed a host of health problems including malnutrition, high blood pressure, arthritis, and stomach problems as a side effect of medicine that was not properly administered prior to his release. International civil society and governments have been pressuring North Korea to release Lim Hyeon-soo and to allow him to return to Canada. His release took place amid high military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and after the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was previously imprisoned in North Korea and returned to the United States in a coma.

    August 09, 2017

    Kenyan police must not use unnecessary force in their handling of any election-related protests, said Amnesty International today amid fear and uncertainty in the country after the opposition rejected the initial publicly announced results.

    In a live press briefing this morning, opposition candidate Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, alleged the electoral commission’s website had been hacked and the results manipulated in favour of the ruling Jubilee Party. He claimed the system had been hacked using the log-in details of Chris Msando, the top election body official who was found murdered on 31 July.

    Initial publicly announced results showed the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta leading in the votes.

    July 31, 2017
      A new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin banning anonymizers and virtual private networks (VPNs) is a major blow to internet freedom in Russia, Amnesty International said today.   “With the Russian authorities increasingly intolerant of dissent, technologies that help internet users evade censorship and protect their privacy are crucial for freedom of expression online. Today the authorities have given themselves an instrument to ban the use of VPNs and other technologies that help people to freely access information online,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.   “This is the latest blow in an assault on online freedom which has seen critical sites blocked and social media users prosecuted solely for what they post online, under vaguely written anti-extremism legislation. The ban on VPNs takes this shameful campaign a whole step further.
    July 21, 2017
      Responding to the Ugandan police’s announcement that they have arrested 56 people for allegedly holding illegal meetings under the deeply-flawed Public Order Management Act (POMA), Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:   “The Ugandan police are no strangers to making arrests in utter disregard for constitutionally-guaranteed rights, but this most recent case is patently absurd. These 56 individuals are guilty of nothing more than attending a peaceful meeting. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.   “The Public Order Management Act is deeply flawed and has previously been used by the police to crack down on the opposition and civil society. This latest mass arrest is no exception.”  
    July 19, 2017
    The Sudanese authorities must end the continued discrimination of Darfuri students at universities, said Amnesty International today as more than 1,000 Darfuri students of Bakht al-Rida University in White Nile State descended on the capital Khartoum to demand the release of 10 of their colleagues accused of killing two police officers.   The students are now blockaded on the southern edge of the capital Khartoum after they were stopped by National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) agents from delivering a statement listing their demands to the government. They also want 14 other colleagues who were expelled from the university readmitted.   “These students only want to present a petition to their leaders, but instead of helping and protecting them, the NISS have chosen to block them, in callous disregard of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “Instead of stopping them, the authorities should protect them and ensure that their grievances are heard.”
    July 14, 2017
    Joint Statement by 68 organisations   We, the undersigned civil society organizations, condemn the arrest, detention and prosecution of six people, including three journalists, under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act in Myanmar. We demand that the charges against them are dropped and that the three journalists are immediately and unconditionally released, as they have been detained solely in connection with their peaceful journalistic activities.   The three journalists, Thein Zaw (also known as Lawi Weng) from the Irrawaddy magazine, Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Aung from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), as well as those with them at the time, Mai Tun Aye, Mai San Nyunt, and Mai Aung Kham, were detained by the military on 26 June, 2017 in northern Shan State. They were detained after attending a ceremony in an area controlled by the ethnic armed organization, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).  
    July 14, 2017
    Joint Statement by 68 organisations   We, the undersigned civil society organizations, condemn the arrest, detention and prosecution of six people, including three journalists, under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act in Myanmar. We demand that the charges against them are dropped and that the three journalists are immediately and unconditionally released, as they have been detained solely in connection with their peaceful journalistic activities.   The three journalists, Thein Zaw (also known as Lawi Weng) from the Irrawaddy magazine, Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Aung from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), as well as those with them at the time, Mai Tun Aye, Mai San Nyunt, and Mai Aung Kham, were detained by the military on 26 June, 2017 in northern Shan State. They were detained after attending a ceremony in an area controlled by the ethnic armed organization, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).  
    July 14, 2017
      Responding to a Hong Kong court decision today to disqualify four pro-democracy lawmakers for failing to sincerely take the oath of office, Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, commented:   “Today’s decision confirms the Hong Kong government’s agenda to silence and effectively punish any speech critical of the present political system, wherever it may occur, even within the legislature. It is the latest damaging sign that expressing political opinions that challenge the status quo are no longer tolerated. By bringing these cases, the Hong Kong government only reinforces the impression that they are mere puppets of Beijing.”
    July 13, 2017


    Nobel Prize Winner leaves a lasting legacy for China

    Chinese authorities announced today that Liu Xiaobo, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has passed away.

    Information on Liu Xiaobo’s ill health, who was suffering from terminal liver cancer, was released only after he became too ill to recover. Several Western countries have previously asked that Mr. Liu be allowed to seek treatment abroad. The request was refused. Worse yet, he was kept under guard in a hospital and kept silenced.

    Because of his demand for greater human rights in China, he was branded as a criminal by the Chinese government. 

    Liu Xiaobo developed a conviction for the cause of democracy and human rights after witnessing the brutal government crackdown of the peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He once said, “as a survivor of the Tiananmen Square Democracy movement, I feel that I have a duty to uphold justice for those who died in the event.”

    July 13, 2017
      In response to the news that the European Commission is to begin infringement proceedings to hold Hungary to account for its law stigmatising non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receiving funding from abroad, Iverna McGowan, Director of the Amnesty International, European Institutions Office said:   “Hungary’s NGO law was designed to stigmatize and vilify NGOs. Today’s action from the European Commission sends a strong signal that such onslaughts against civil society are not acceptable in the European Union.” “Amnesty International will not comply with the law unless compelled to do so by a court. It is in flagrant violation of EU law and the fundamental right to freedom of association. Hungary must drop the law before it causes further damage to civil society and the valuable services they provide to Hungarian society.”   The deadline for “foreign funded” NGOs registration was 12 July 2017. Amnesty International Hungary’s membership has decided not to comply with the registration requirement; instead the organization is submitting a constitutional appeal.

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