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    September 22, 2016

    In response to a Bahraini court’s decision today to uphold the dissolution of the country’s main opposition political group, Al-Wefaq, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther said:

    “The decision to uphold the dissolution of Al-Wefaq is a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association and a brazen attempt to suppress criticism of the government in Bahrain.

    “The Bahraini authorities have not presented any credible evidence that Al-Wefaq is anything but a peaceful opposition movement which has been seeking reform in the country in the face of increasing government repression.

    “In the absence of independent institutions to scrutinize the government and hold authorities to account, peaceful opposition movements are particularly important. Silencing critical voices encourages further human rights violations and abuse of power.”

    Background

    September 16, 2016

    Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez must be immediately released from administrative detention unless he is charged with recognizable criminal offences, Amnesty International India said today.

    The 39-year-old, who is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society Organisation (JKCCS), a prominent human rights organization, was arrested from his Srinagar residence and detained by the state police on Thursday evening, a day after he was prevented from traveling to the ongoing UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    “Preventing a well-known activist from traveling abroad for human rights advocacy, and then locking him up on spurious grounds, is a shameful attempt to suppress a peaceful dissenting voice from Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India.

    “The JKCCS has been consistently working on several human rights issues including mass graves, torture and extrajudicial executions. Khurram Parvez has a right to raise these important human rights concerns abroad, but his attempt to exercise this right is now being painted as an imminent crime.”

    September 15, 2016

    The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have overseen a systematic crackdown on opponents of President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to stay in power beyond the constitutionally mandated second term, Amnesty International said today.

    In a new report, ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays’ Amnesty International says the DRC government is using state institutions to prevent people who oppose a prolongation of President Kabila’s term in office to organize and express themselves.

    “The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organizations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    September 09, 2016

    Responding to the violent attack last night by masked men on activists from Greenpeace Russia and Environmental Watch for the North Caucasus camp in Krasnodar Region (Southern Russia), Amnesty International said:

    “The violent attack on Greenpeace and Environmental Watch activists who came to Krasnodar Region to help extinguish forest fires takes a step further the ongoing assault on the right to freedom of association in Russia. Whoever is behind this vicious act, it clearly happens in the context of reprisals and smear campaigns against independent civil society organizations which have been orchestrated by the authorities. Failure to investigate this incident promptly and effectively, and to protect the activists from further violence would be akin to official acquiescence in this attack,” said Sergei Nikitin, Head of Amnesty International’s office in Russia.

    Background

    September 09, 2016

    Reacting to the conviction earlier today of Kem Sokha, the acting head of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, on charges under Article 538 of refusing to appear as a witness, Amnesty International said:

    “Cambodia is in crisis with the government engaging in a campaign of intimidation against peaceful political and civil society activists, using frivolous prosecutions designed to punish, isolate and marginalise any peaceful dissent,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    “Today’s conviction of acting opposition leader Kem Sokha for refusing to appear as a witness is yet another transparent act of political intimidation and the latest development in the ongoing campaign. The government’s appears to believe that violating human rights is a legitimate tool of government, as is compromising the independence of the country’s judiciary and the government’s standing in the international community.”

    September 07, 2016

    The government of Zimbabwe must respect a court ruling overturning the ban on protests in the country, Amnesty International said today, as the High Court issued its verdict allowing public demonstrations.

    “Today’s High court decision is a victory for Zimbabwe’s constitutional principles. It sends a clear message to the authorities that the right to protest, as enshrined in the country’s constitution, cannot just be stripped away by the state on a whim,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “Zimbabwe’s authorities must respect and obey today’s ruling and allow people to assemble and raise their grievances, as long as they are doing it within the confines of the laws that govern public protests.”

    Today’s ruling comes after President Robert Mugabe publicly threatened the country’s judges on 3 September accusing them of being reckless by allowing demonstrations in the country.

    Background

    September 06, 2016

    The Lao authorities should lift all restrictions on journalists and allow them to do their job and move  freely, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization’s call comes as foreign journalists arriving in Laos to cover USA President Barack Obama’s participation in the US-ASEAN Summit from 6-8 September have been told that their articles and broadcasts will have to be approved by a censor before publication.

    Foreign journalists may also be assigned a minder who will trail them for the duration of their stay in Laos.

    “The restrictions imposed on journalists covering the ASEAN summit in Laos amounts to a violation of their right freedom of expression, and the right of the public, both in Lao and globally, to receive information. Journalists should be able to do their job without fear, interference or harassment,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    Journalists travelling to Laos have told Amnesty International that they may not be allowed to raise questions on certain human rights issues by the authorities.

    September 05, 2016
    The detention of Ruslan Sokolovsky, a Russian blogger from Yekaterinburg (Urals region) who was sentenced to administrative arrest for two months after posting a video of himself   playing Pokémon Go in a church is a farcical attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.   “The absurdity of the case of the Russian blogger jailed for playing Pokémon Go in a church highlights what happens when authorities hold the freedom of expression in such low regard. Even if Sokolovsky’s behaviour may have been regarded as disrespectful by some, states should not be jailing people simply for offending religious sensibilities,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.   Ruslan Sokolovsky was arrested under charges of “preventing the realisation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion and incitement of hatred” on 3 September.   Background
    September 03, 2016
    The Bangladeshi authorities must immediately release a 22-year-old student activist detained for two Facebook posts criticising the country’s Prime Minister, Amnesty International said today.   Dilip Roy, a student activist at Rajshahi University in western Bangladesh, will be appearing at a bail hearing on 4 September.   “Bangladesh’s authorities should immediately drop this case. By invoking draconian laws to hound critics for Facebook posts, they are not just cracking down on peaceful dissent but courting embarrassment,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for South Asia.   Dilip Roy could face up to 14 years in prison after a student body linked to the government filed a case against him under the country’s Information and Communications Technology Act (ICT) for allegedly making “derogatory remarks” about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid and her ruling Awami League.   Since his arrest on 28 August, Dilip Roy has been detained and was denied bail by the Rajashahi Magistrate Court this week.
    August 29, 2016

    By Gloria Nafziger: Refugee and Migrant Rights Coodinator

    On August 21, as Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa finished a marathon at the Rio Olympics, he crossed his arms above his head in a gesture of solidarity with the Oromo people in Ethiopia. He is reported as saying, “The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”

    He did not return to Ethiopia, and is reported to be seeking asylum in either Brazil or the United States.

    Feyisa Lilesa is right to be concerned about human rights violations targeting the Oromo in Ethiopia.

    Early in August of this year, at least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara. A disproportionate violent police response to protests has resulted in over 500 protestors’ deaths recorded in Oromia region since November 2015 and over 100 others in the Amhara and Oromia region in the month of August.

    August 26, 2016

    Responding to the decision of France’s highest administrative court to overturn the ban on the burkini on a French beach, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director said:

    “By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand.”

    “French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women. Rather, invasive and discriminatory measures such as these restrict women’s choices and are an assault on their freedoms of expression, religion and right to non-discrimination.”

    “These bans do nothing to increase public safety, but do a lot to promote public humiliation. Not only are they in themselves discriminatory, but as we have seen, the enforcement of these bans leads to abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls,” 

    August 25, 2016

    Failure to overturn the ban on the burkini would be a missed opportunity to end an assault on women’s freedoms of expression and religion as well as the right to non-discrimination, said Amnesty International as France’s highest administrative court considers a challenge to the ban.

    “The case being considered today offers an opportunity for the French justice system to overturn a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

    “French authorities should drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women. Rather, invasive and discriminatory measures such as these restrict women’s choices, violate their rights and lead to abuse.”

    August 16, 2016

    Singapore’s Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill is a broad and vaguely worded law that will impose yet another undue restriction on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    “Under the guise of protecting the judicial system, the new law threatens to criminalise people for criticising the courts or the administration of justice in Singapore,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    The new law, which was passed by Singapore’s parliament yesterday, includes punishments of up to three years in jail and $100,000 (US) in fines.

    Several sections in the new law grant the authorities far-reaching powers to crack down on any discussion, debate and criticism of cases under review by the judiciary.

    Section 11 of the Act, for example, widens the scope of already stifling restrictions on what can be said or written on the internet. All material that can be accessed by people in Singapore, regardless of whether it originated from there, can be subjected to the new legislation.

    August 14, 2016

    Bangladeshi authorities should immediately end the illegal detentions of Mir Qasem Ali and Humman Qader Chowdhury, arrested respectively on 9 August and 4 August, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.

    Both men were arrested without warrants or charges, have not been produced before a magistrate, and have not been allowed access to family or lawyers.

    “There is no question that Qasem Ali and Chowdhury are subject to an enforced disappearance in the custody of the security forces. Yet the government continues to deny having them. Both men have been refused access to lawyers and their families, and production before a magistrate,” said Champa Patel, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    “This is a practice which has unfortunately become completely routine in Bangladesh, and has to end.”

    July 22, 2016
    By Katy Pownall, Press Officer

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