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Human Rights

    September 21, 2018

    The next government of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) must bring an end to the long record of human rights violations that have blighted the country for more than four decades, Amnesty International said today, as people in Africa’s last absolute monarchy head to the polls.

    The Southern African kingdom – which is under the near total control of King Mswati – has a longstanding record of human rights violations, including the routine suppression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as widespread forced evictions. Swazis will today elect new members of parliament that will form the new government for the next five years.

    “This election represents a golden opportunity for an incoming government to comprehensively address longstanding human rights issues,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    On 8 August 2017, King Mswati approved the Public Order Act, imposing far-reaching restrictions on organizers of public gatherings.

    September 20, 2018

    A coalition of women’s rights organizations is calling on women foreign ministers participating in a precedent-setting meeting in Montreal this week to make concrete and accountable commitments during the UN General Assembly to recognize, protect and support increasingly persecuted women human rights defenders around the world.

    In a statement released today, more than 160 women’s rights and civil society organizations warn that women who defend human rights are confronting a global and increasingly “heightened risk of experiencing human rights violations, including forms of gender-based and sexual violence, threats, harassment, and defamation campaigns linked to their status as women.”  In response, and in recognition of the vital contributions made by women human rights defenders in struggles of global significance, the coalition is calling on attendees at the Montreal Summit to commit before the UN General Assembly to:

    September 19, 2018

    The Zimbabwean authorities must bolster the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry into the country’s post-election killings if victims’ families have any hope of obtaining truth, justice and reparations, Amnesty International said today after the swearing in of the commissioners.

    The organization is also concerned about the independence and impartiality of the Commission, which includes a presidential candidate in the 30 July elections, who has criticized opposition parties challenging the results of the vote, and an academic, who has publicly expressed her support for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Commissioners with strong ties or support of ZANU-PF may compromise the independence and impartiality of the investigation and expose it to external interference. 

    September 19, 2018

    The staggering brutality of a recent military offensive in South Sudan – including murder of civilians, systematic rape of women and girls and massive looting and destruction – was fuelled by the authorities’ failure to prosecute or remove suspected war criminals, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    'Anything that was breathing was killed': War crimes in Leer and Mayendit, South Sudan is based on the testimonies of around 100 civilians who fled an offensive by government forces and allied youth militias in southern Unity State between late April and early July this year. 

    “A key factor in this brutal offensive was the failure to bring to justice those responsible for previous waves of violence targeting civilians in the region,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Regional Director for East Africa at Amnesty International.

    September 19, 2018

    Ahead of tomorrow’s appeal court decision in the case against Ahmed H, a Syrian man sentenced to seven years in prison following clashes with Hungarian border police in 2015, Amnesty International delivered a petition demanding his release and signed by more than 100,000 people, to the Ministry of Justice.

    Marking the third anniversary of Ahmed’s detention on charges of being “complicit in an act of terror”, a 15-metre high animation was also beamed onto the side of the Ministry in the historic centre of Budapest.

    “The trial of Ahmed H is a test case for Hungary’s so-called ‘illiberal democracy’ and exposes the way in which migrants and refugees are vilified, counter-terrorism laws are misused and the authorities ride roughshod over human rights,” said Eda Seyhan, Amnesty International’s Counter-Terrorism Campaigner.

    “Just days after the European Parliament voted to take action against the Orbán government for its flagrant abuses of human rights, this case provides Hungary with an opportunity to demonstrate its willingness to change its path.”

    September 18, 2018

    More than one year after the United Nations' top anti-racism body raised serious concerns in its review of Canada’s track record, the Trudeau government has missed a key reporting deadline and has failed entirely to make any progress in implementing most of the recommendations that the Committee had prioritized for urgent action, warns Amnesty International Canada.

    “It is deeply concerning that not only has Canada missed a key deadline to report back on four urgent recommendations prioritized by the Committee, but little or nothing has been done to address these glaringly discriminatory areas of Canadian policy and practice highlighted by the Committee over a year ago. This includes continued construction of the Site C dam despite brazen violations of Indigenous rights; failure to ensure justice and accountability for the Mount Polley mining disaster; and continued refusal to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, jeopardizing the rights of refugees,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.     

    September 18, 2018

    Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the adjournment of Abousfian Abdelrazik’s civil case against the federal government in which he is seeking remedy for Canada’s role in grave human rights abuses he endured while detained in Sudan from 2003-2006 and for obstruction of his return to Canada until 2009. The adjournment was granted following an indication, on the eve of the opening of the long-anticipated 8-week trial, that the government is making an application under Section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act, for documents which the government itself has already released to be reviewed for national security concerns.  

    Notably Federal Court Justice St. Louis agrees to grant the adjournment “reluctantly” and orders the government to immediately pay the costs of Mr. Abdelrazik’s legal team in preparing for trial, costs that she concludes have been “thrown away as a result of the adjournment”.

    September 17, 2018

    Amnesty International will observe the trial of eight people accused of the 2016 murder of Honduran human rights defender Berta Cáceres, beginning next Monday, 17 September at the Supreme Court of Justice in Tegucigalpa.

    “It’s crucial that the Honduran authorities ensure that this trial meets international standards of fairness and that justice prevails in one of the most emblematic crimes in the nation’s recent history,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “In a country plagued by threats and attacks against land and environmental human rights defenders, Honduras’ justice system can set an important precedent by upholding Berta’s family’s rights to truth, justice and reparation, and by showing that the killing of human rights defenders will not go unpunished.”

    A representative of Amnesty International, Kathy Price, will attend the trial from 17 to 19 September, while other members of the organization will monitor the proceedings remotely and in person throughout the remainder of the trial. Price will be available for interviews in person, on Skype or by phone.

    September 13, 2018

    Responding to comments by Myanmar's State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi today defending the conviction of Reuters journalists Wa Lone, and Kyaw Soe Oo, Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations, said:

    “This is a disgraceful attempt by Aung San Suu Kyi to defend the indefensible. To say that this case had ‘nothing to do with freedom of expression’ and that Wa Lone, and Kyaw Soe Oo ‘were not jailed for being journalists’ is a deluded misrepresentation of the facts.

    “These two men were convicted under a draconian, colonial-era law that was deliberately misused to halt their investigations into the appalling atrocities that took place in Rakhine State. From start to finish, the case was nothing more than a brazen attack on freedom of expression and independent journalism in Myanmar

    September 13, 2018

    The Zimbabwean authorities must urgently take measures to stop and address the cholera epidemic that has so far claimed 20 lives, Amnesty International said after the government today declared the outbreak a national disaster. 

    Initial cases of cholera were reported in Gweru and Harare last month and the capital is now the worst affected area, with more than 15 people confirmed to have died of the infectious disease. The country’s 2008 cholera outbreak, which claimed the lives of more than 4,300 people, was the largest ever recorded in Zimbabwe. Unless urgent action is taken the death toll of this current epidemic is also likely to be significant.

    “The current cholera epidemic is a terrible consequence of Zimbabwe’s failure to invest in and manage both its basic water and sanitation infrastructure and its health care system. It is appalling that in 2018, people are still dying of such a preventable disease,” said Jessica Pwiti, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe.

    September 12, 2018

    Amnesty International today condemned the Ontario government’s tabling of legislation, Bill 31, The Efficient Local Government Act, which invokes the “notwithstanding clause” in section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    “No government in Canada should take the contemptuous step of disregard for the Charter of Rights that the notwithstanding clause offers them,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “To do so in a case involving the fundamental freedom of expression in a context in which core principles around elections and the underpinnings of our democracy are at stake is particularly disgraceful. This invocation of section 33 by Premier Ford’s government should be withdrawn immediately. Questions about the interpretation and application of the Charter should be pursued through appeals and left to judges to determine.”

    September 12, 2018

    Reacting to the decision of the European Parliament to trigger Article 7 proceedings for Hungary, Berber Biala-Hettinga, Amnesty International’s expert on human rights in the EU, said:

    “In today’s historic vote, the European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU. They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation.

    “A resounding majority of MEPs today rejected and condemned the retrograde policies of the Hungarian government, which are taking Hungary away from the path of shared EU values. Hungary firmly belongs in the EU, but xenophobia and disrespect for fundamental freedoms and rights most certainly do not.”

    “Today, European Parliamentarians stood up for what is right. European Member States must now follow suit and take urgent action before Hungary slides towards arbitrary rule beyond the point of no return.”

    For more information please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

    August 10, 2018

    In a memorandum delivered to President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador yesterday, Amnesty International presented findings and concerns regarding the human rights situation in Mexico, together with a series of specific recommendations, with the aim of contributing to the new government’s plans and actions to resolve the human rights crisis facing the country.

    “Mexico and the world are waiting to see whether this new government will take on the challenge of ending the severe human rights crisis in the country,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “The change that Mexico needs requires the president-elect and his team to prioritise the human rights agenda in government decisions and to review the public policies and legislation that today pose a threat to the rights of all individuals.”

    August 09, 2018

    Responding to the nomination of Michelle Bachelet as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Isha Dyfan, Director of International Advocacy at Amnesty International, said:

    “Michelle Bachelet’s nomination comes at a tumultuous time for the human rights community. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the freedoms enshrined within it are under sustained threat around the world. 

    “Brutal and protracted conflicts are raging in many countries, while a rising tide of authoritarianism is undermining the human rights standards many have long taken for granted. It will take a strong and principled leader, willing to speak truth to power and ready to mobilize resources and political will, to defend our rights in this challenging climate.

    “We look forward to cooperating with Michelle Bachelet to advance the broad human rights agenda of her office, including strengthening the OHCHR itself upon the General Assembly confirmation.

    June 22, 2018

    In response to a letter sent by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to human rights groups, accusing them of blocking reform at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

    “Following the USA’s showy departure from the Human Rights Council, Nikki Haley’s letter is another sign that the Trump administration prefers confrontation to compromise.

    “This letter expresses open hostility towards human rights organizations with different opinions to the United States. As civil society, our job is to hold those in power to account, and refusing to engage with anyone who disagrees with it will leave the Trump administration in a very lonely place.

    “Blaming human rights groups for the USA’s regrettable decision ignores the tireless campaigning done by Amnesty International and others to reform the Human Rights Council, including calling for higher membership standards. Glossing over the facts will not help the USA’s standing on the international stage.

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