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Human Rights Defenders

    March 31, 2021

    Since the widely disputed presidential election in August 2020, the Belarusian regime has engaged in a brutal crackdown on all forms of dissent, real or imaginary.

    Police have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, chemical irritants, water cannons and other less lethal weapons against peaceful protesters, resulting in at least four deaths and countless serious injuries. More than 30,000 demonstrators have been detained and scores of have been subjected to torture and other ill treatment. At least one person is known to have died in detention. Many journalists and human rights defenders involved on documenting police crackdowns in Belarus have been imprisoned. Opposition leaders have either fled the country or been detained.

    You don’t have to be out in the streets protesting to be at risk. Passers-by, flower sellers and even people wearing red or white clothes -- the colours of the flag of Belarus first adopted in 1918 during a brief period of independence -- eating red and white candy or even hanging the red and white Japanese or Canadian flag in their apartments have also been targeted.

    December 10, 2020

    A regional appeals court in Turkey ruled to uphold the baseless convictions of Taner Kılıç, İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun, four of the 11 human rights defenders in the Büyükada case. 

    In many cases these appeals decisions can take up to a year. The Büyükada first appeal decision took less than four months. This is unusually fast. 

    The decision does not contain the detailed reasoning expected from appeals courts and reads as a rubber stamp of the trial verdict. With this appeal court ruling, a crucial first opportunity to correct the wrong done in the trial verdict was sadly lost. 

    Now, all four will take their appeals to the Court of Cassation, the highest appeal court in Turkey. We will continue to urge for their convictions to be overturned. 

    December 03, 2020
    L-R: Mohamed Basheer, Gasser Abdel-Razek, and Karim Ennarah.

    BREAKING NEWS: On the evening of December 3, EIPR staff Mohamed Basheer, Karim Ennarah and Gasser Abdel-Razek were released from prison. We are awaiting further details and will update this page and actions on December 7.

    On November 3, 2020, members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)—one of a handful of independent human rights organizations continuing to operate in Egypt—hosted a meeting at their office with 13 Western diplomats, including representatives from Canada. Such meetings aren’t uncommon as human rights defenders around the world seek support and protection for their vital work.  

    One month later, however, the EIPR is struggling to continue operations in the face of arrests, office eviction, and an asset freeze.  

    July 09, 2020
    The verdict

    On 3 July 2020 the first instance court issued its verdict on the Büyükada case. It convicted Taner Kılıç of ‘membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)’ under Article 314/2 of the Penal Code, sentencing him to six years and three months’ imprisonment. The court convicted İdil Eser, Günal Kursun and Özlem Dalkıran for ‘knowingly and willingly supporting FETÖ’ under Article 220/7 of the Penal Code, sentencing each of them to 25 months’ imprisonment. The remaining seven human rights defenders were acquitted.

    May 11, 2020

    Top row (left to right): Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Veli Acu, Peter Steudtner

    Middle row (left to right): Idil Eser, Ali Gharavi, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmus Özbekli,

    Bottom row (left to right): Günal Kurşun, Özlem Dalkıran, Taner Kılıç

    Nalan Erkem is a lawyer. She was a member of the board of directors of the İzmir Bar Association from 2002-2004 when she supported “The Role of Lawyers in the Prevention of Torture” project. As a member of the Citizens’ Assembly she has been undertaking key consultancy roles and served as member of its Board of Directors. She has also been a member of Amnesty International Turkey since its early days in 2001. She undertook many significant human rights projects and has written and published several reports based on her work.

    May 06, 2020

    On 3 July 2020 - three years after they were first detained - 11 human rights activists will hear a court’s verdict on charges which could result in jail terms of up to 15 years. One fundamental truth is beyond any doubt: they have done nothing wrong.

    What have they done?

    They have done nothing wrong. They stood up for human rights in Turkey. 

    The 11 - that includes the former chair, ex-director and several members of Amnesty Turkey as well as women’s and equality advocates – face absurd ‘terrorism’ charges without any credible evidence being presented over the course of ten hearings.

    Since their detention in 2017, more than two million people around the world – from Ai Wei Wei to Whoopi Goldberg - have spoken out for justice for the 11 rights defenders. Now as this unfair trial is coming to a close, we are asking you to join us in adding your voice and send a message of solidarity to the 11 activists ahead of the verdict.

    After all, when people who defend our rights are silenced, we are all at risk.

    When were they arrested and what are they accused of?

    June 03, 2019

    Amnesty International today called on the international community to consider all forms of peaceful pressure, including targeted sanctions, on those members of the Sudanese transitional authorities responsible for this morning’s violent attack on sleeping protestors.

    The organization also called for an immediate end to the violent attacks by the Rapid Support Forces and other security forces against protestors and for those responsible for the brutal attacks, which left at least 13 people dead, to be held accountable.

    At around 4:30 am on 3 June, armed forces under the command of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) attacked peaceful protestors in Khartoum State, firing live bullets and tear gas, setting tents on fire and beating protestors.

    May 28, 2019

    The Chinese authorities must end a wave of persecution targeting those seeking to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, Amnesty International said ahead of the 30th anniversary of the bloodshed. 

    Over recent weeks, police have detained, placed under house arrest or threatened dozens of activists who are seeking to mark the June 4 anniversary, as well as relatives of those killed.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters and civilians were killed when soldiers opened fire in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 3–4 June 1989, as they sought to crush widespread protests calling for political reform.

    “Thirty years on from the Tiananmen bloodshed the very least the victims and their families deserve is justice. However, President Xi continues to read from the same tired political playbook, cruelly persecuting those seeking the truth about the tragedy in a concerted effort to wipe the June 4 crackdown from memory,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director of Amnesty International.

    May 27, 2019

    Zimbabwean authorities have this afternoon arrested two more human rights defenders at the Harare airport in a mounting onslaught on the rights to freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International said today.

    The two, Stabile Dewah (35) and Rita Nyamupinga (61), bring to seven the number of human rights defenders arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport in the past seven days as they returned from a capacity-building workshop on non-violent protest tactics in the Maldives.

    “The first five human rights defenders arrested are facing trumped up charges for exercising their human rights. They should be released immediately and unconditionally. The charges against them fit into a much wider pattern of repression we have documented in Zimbabwe,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    May 27, 2019

    The Pakistani government should immediately order an independent and effective investigation into the reported killing of at least three activists on Sunday, Amnesty International said today.

    Two parliamentarians affiliated to the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) were leading a procession of activists to the Khar Kamar area of North Waziristan, along the Afghan border, when firing broke out, leading to the deaths.

    One of the parliamentarians, Ali Wazir, is currently in custody of the Pakistani military. There are conflicting accounts of the incident, with the military claiming that PTM activists assaulted a checkpoint and PTM activists insisting that no shots were fired from their side. Phone and internet services were shut down after this incident, adding to the confusion.

    May 22, 2019

    The U.S. Department of Justice should immediately drop all criminal charges against humanitarian volunteer Dr. Scott Warren, and stop criminalizing humanitarian aid, Amnesty International said today.

    “The U.S. government is legally required to prevent the arbitrary deaths of migrants and asylum seekers in border areas. Yet instead, authorities have willfully destroyed humanitarian aid provisions in deadly desert terrain and are criminally prosecuting humanitarian volunteers in order to deter them from saving lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. 

    The U.S. government is prosecuting Dr. Warren for allegedly “harbouring” two undocumented migrants by providing them with humanitarian aid in the form of food, water, and clean clothing, in the desert town of Ajo, Arizona, where he lives. If convicted on all three criminal charges against him, Dr. Warren could face up to 20 years in prison. His felony trial is scheduled to begin on 29 May.

    May 22, 2019

    In response to a decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court to reject an application by civil society leader Osman Kavala to end his continued pre-trial detention on the grounds that it is in violation of his human rights, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner Milena Buyum said:

    “Today’s inexplicable decision by Turkey’s highest court rubs salt into the wound of injustice. Osman Kavala’s rights have been abused. He should not have spent a single day behind bars, let alone nearly 600 days. The charges against him must be dropped and he must be immediately released.”

    “The outlandish allegations against Osman Kavala are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence one of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures.

    “Yet again, following a decision earlier this month to reject the applications of jailed journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, the Constitutional Court’s decision has prolonged the detention of someone who should never have been imprisoned in the first place.

    March 27, 2019

    The prosecution of Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian human rights defender, over a social media post critical of the Palestinian authorities is another devastating blow for freedom of expression in Palestine, said Amnesty International ahead of his first court hearing on 28 March.

    Issa Amro, a founding member of the Youth Against Settlements group, was arrested by Palestinian security forces on 4 September 2017 after  criticizing the Palestinian authorities on Facebook for arresting a journalist in Hebron who had been critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.

    March 15, 2019

    Responding to news that a court in Rostov-on-Don, Southern Russia, has extended until 17 June the house arrest of Anastasia Shevchenko, prisoner of conscience and former coordinator with Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia), a pro-democracy and human rights movement, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, Marie Struthers, said:

    “The criminal case against Anastasia Shevchenko is profoundly flawed, and by forging ahead with it regardless, the Russian authorities are creating an abhorrent precedent. Anastasia has lost her freedom and yet she has not committed any recognizable criminal offence. The authorities are casting their net ever more widely, with another former Otkrytaya Rossiya’s employee, Maksim Vernikov, now also facing criminal proceedings. We call on Russia to stop this increasingly ugly persecution.

    “The Russian authorities must drop all charges against Anastasia Shevchenko and Maksim Vernikov, and repeal the ludicrous ‘undesirable organizations’ law which is blatantly being used to target human rights defenders.”

    Background

    March 14, 2019

    Speaking to Amnesty is not a crime

    The prosecution of 11 women activists before a Criminal Court in Riyadh for their human rights work and contact with international organizations is an appalling escalation of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown on peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

    Some of the women were charged with promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system. The women were also charged with contacting international organizations, foreign media and other activists, including their contact with Amnesty International

    “The charges against the activists are the latest example of the Saudi authorities abusing legislation and the justice system to silence peaceful activists and deter them from working on the human rights situation in the country. This trial is yet another stain on the Saudi authorities’ appalling human rights record, and shows how empty the government’s claims of reform really are,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director.

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