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Human Rights Defenders

    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.

    March 06, 2019

    An investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that dozens of Egyptian human rights defenders have been targeted by phishing attacks since the beginning of this year, putting them in grave danger amid Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s government’s intensifying crackdown on dissent.

    Since January 2019 Amnesty Tech has analyzed dozens of suspicious emails sent to Egyptian human rights defenders, journalists and NGOs. The organization found that the emails used a technique known as OAuth Phishing to gain access to private accounts, and that attacks spiked during key political moments such as the anniversary of Egypt’s uprising on 25 January. 

    “These digital attacks appear to be part of a sustained campaign to intimidate and silence critics of the Egyptian government. Over the past year Egyptian human rights defenders have faced an unprecedented assault from the authorities, risking arrest and imprisonment whenever they speak out, and these chilling attempts to target them online pose yet another threat to their vital work,” said Ramy Raoof, Tactical Technologist at Amnesty Tech.

    February 28, 2019

    Three years after the murder of Berta Cáceres, the Honduran defender of environmental and Indigenous rights, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “Although there has been an initial judgment in the case and in the last few days the Prosecutor has announced that a businessman suspected of being behind the killing of Berta Cáceres will be charged, the Honduran justice system still has a responsibility to pursue a thorough investigation into her death. It must identify all those responsible for this crime – not just those directly involved – and ensure that it does not go unpunished.”

    “Bringing to justice in a fair and impartial process all those directly responsible as well as those behind the killing would send a clear message to Honduran society and the entire world that there will be no impunity for this type of crime against defenders of the land and the environment.” 

    February 15, 2019

    Responding to the conviction of four people in connection with the assassination of prominent lawyer Ko Ni in Myanmar, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response, Tirana Hassan, said: 

    “Despite today’s verdict, serious questions remain about whether all those responsible have been brought to justice. Myanmar’s authorities have shown time and again that they are unable to conduct credible investigations or ensure accountability, and this has perpetuated a climate of impunity in the country. This long and tortuous trial has done little to bring light to the assassination of one of the country’s most prominent lawyers. 

    “Although no-one sentenced to capital punishment has been executed since 1988, we are disturbed that two of the defendants have been sentenced to death. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and without exception.”  

    Background 

    February 06, 2019

    Responding to the announcement by Radio Free Asia that one of their contributors, Truong Duy Nhat, was reportedly abducted in Bangkok (Thailand), Amnesty’s Senior Director for Global Operations, Minar Pimple, said:

    “Truong Duy Nhat’s disappearance is deeply alarming. He is a former prisoner of conscience who was repeatedly targeted by the Vietnamese authorities. We know from several sources that he travelled to Bangkok to claim asylum. No-one has seen or heard from him since 26 January.

    “Thai authorities must immediately investigate these multiple reliable reports of abduction from members of the Vietnamese exile community, corroborated by Nhat’s colleagues at Radio Free Asia, who have now raised the alarm. Viet Nam security forces have abducted exiles and refugees from Thailand and elsewhere in the past. Truong Duy Nhat is at a clear risk of torture or other ill-treatment if his abduction is confirmed.

    “Vietnamese authorities have been silent over Truong Duy Nhat’s disappearance. They must come forward with any information about his whereabouts and ensure his safety and freedom of movement.”

    January 31, 2019

    The Russian authorities must stop their vicious campaign against opposition movement Otkrytaya Rossia (Open Russia), Amnesty International said today after an activist from the organization was charged for posting solidarity messages about a recently detained colleague.

    Roman Zaitsev was indicted last night under Russia’s repressive “undesirable organizations” law for sharing Open Russia’s articles about activist Anastasia Shevchenko and an Amnesty statement calling for her release. In a further tragic twist this morning, Shevchenko’s 17-year-old daughter died in hospital. The authorities refused Shevchenko permission to visit her until hours before she passed away.

    “The government’s crackdown on Open Russia is not only absurd and vicious; it has also reached a new level of cruelty. The persecution of Roman Zaitsev for supporting Anastasia Shevchenko, just at the time of her profound personal tragedy, says a lot about Russia’s heartless ‘justice’ system,” said Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    January 29, 2019

    Responding to the five-year prison sentence imposed by a Chinese court against Liu Feiyue, founder of human rights website “Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, for “inciting subversion of state power”, Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International, commented:

    “Today’s deplorable verdict against Liu Feiyue has nothing to do with justice. He is the latest victim of the Chinese government’s sustained assault against those defending human rights. He is a Prisoner of Conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released.

    “Through his website, Liu Feiyue shone a light on the human rights violations faced by many people in China. But instead of addressing these abuses when they are exposed, the authorities have instead decided to unjustly silence Liu Feiyue.  He should not have been prosecuted nor spent a single day in prison for solely exercising his right to freedom of expression.” 

    Background

    January 28, 2019

    Responding to the 4 and a half years prison sentence handed down by a Chinese court to human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was found guilty of “subverting state power”, Doriane Lau, China Researcher at Amnesty International, commented:

    “Today’s verdict is a gross injustice. It’s outrageous that Wang Quanzhang is being punished for peacefully standing up for human rights in China. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.

    “In the three years leading up to his sham of a trial, the authorities disappeared Wang Quanzhang into a black hole, where he was likely tortured. Wang’s family, who continue to be harassed by the authorities, didn’t even know if he was alive until recently. His continued imprisonment only prolongs their suffering.”

    Background

    Wang Quanzhang was the last lawyer awaiting a verdict in connection with the Chinese government’s mass crackdown in 2015, which targeted nearly 250 human rights lawyers and activists.

    January 24, 2019

    Amnesty International has obtained new reports of torture and abuse inflicted on a group of Saudi Arabian human rights activists who have been in arbitrary detention since May 2018. These reports follow similar testimonies from November 2018 into the torture of a number of the activists, and highlight the urgent need to allow independent monitors access to those in detention, the organization said today.

    According to the testimonies, a total of ten human rights defenders were tortured, sexually abused, and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment during their first three months of detention, when they were held in an informal detention facility in an unknown location.

    One woman activist was wrongly told by an interrogator that her family members had died, and was made to believe this for an entire month. According to another account, two activists were forced to kiss each other while interrogators watched. One activist reported that interrogators had forced water into her mouth as she was shouting while being tortured. Others reported being tortured with electric shocks.

    January 24, 2019

    Responding to the Chinese authorities’ confirmation that Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun has been detained on suspicion of “endangering national security”, Joshua Rosenzweig, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International commented:

    “The Chinese authorities have serious questions to answer over the detention of Yang Hengjun, but it could be months before we find out anything more about his condition or what they’re accusing him of doing.

    “If it’s true that Yang is being held under ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, then there is cause for serious concern over his wellbeing. Facing up to six months in incommunicado detention at an unknown location with no contact with the outside world, Yang Hengjun is at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

    “These conditions are simply unacceptable. We urge Chinese officials to be transparent, disclose where he is held and grant Yang Hengjun immediate access to both a lawyer of his choosing and Australian consular officials. There are no excuses for the Chinese authorities to deny Yang these rights.”

    January 15, 2019
    Justice for Bill Kayong

    Bill Kayong, a vocal advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Malaysia, was gunned down in broad daylight in June 2016. His relatives believe the murder could have been prevented if police had acted on reports of threats and harassment leading up the killing. Furthermore, although one person was prosecuted for the crime, the person or persons who ordered the killing have escaped justice.

    Unfortunately, this tragic story is far from unique.

    A new report by Amnesty International documents a widespread pattern of violence against Indigenous leaders and communities in Malaysia. This violence is taking place in the context of a longstanding failure by federal and state authorities in Malaysia to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples when their lands are targeted for resource development.

    This is a critical time in Malaysia.

    December 31, 2018

    Responding to today’s decision by the Federal Supreme Court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to uphold the conviction and 10-year prison term of prominent Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf said:

    “Today’s court decision to uphold Ahmed Mansoor’s conviction and 10-year prison sentence confirms there is no space for free expression in the United Arab Emirates.”

    “Ahmed Mansoor’s only ‘crime’ was to express his peaceful opinions on social media, and it is outrageous that he is being punished with such a heavy prison sentence. This is a final verdict and cannot be appealed. Instead of punishing Ahmed Mansoor for daring to express his opinions, the authorities must ensure his conviction and sentence are quashed and release him immediately and unconditionally.”

    December 31, 2018

    Responding to the news that Bahrain’s Court of Cassation has upheld the conviction of Nabeel Rajab, one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, based on views he expressed on Twitter, Lynn Maalouf Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

    “Today’s shameful verdict is a travesty of justice. The decision to uphold Nabeel Rajab’s conviction and five-year sentence simply for posting tweets expressing his opinions, exposes Bahrain’s justice system as a complete farce. His treatment by the Bahraini authorities is completely unacceptable. 

    “Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience. It is utterly outrageous that he has already spent two years behind bars – including nine agonizing months in solitary confinement, amounting to torture. Instead of prolonging his suffering and condemning him to several more years in prison the Bahraini authorities should quash his conviction and sentence and release him immediately and unconditionally.”

    Background:

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