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Human Rights Defenders

    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:

    December 26, 2018

    The trial of Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is a cruel charade and he should be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said.

    Wang is one of the few lawyers still held in detention after the Chinese government’s mass crackdown in 2015, which targeted nearly 250 lawyers and activists. He is on trial at the Tianjin Municipal No.2 Intermediate People’s Court accused of “subverting state power,” which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

    “This is a sham trial in which Wang Quanzhang is being persecuted only for peacefully defending human rights,” said Doriane Lau, China researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Wang Quanzhang has already been unjustly held for more than three years, during which his family suffered the anguish of not knowing whether he was alive until recently. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    Wang was taken away by police on 3 August 2015. It was only in July 2018 that his family learnt from a trusted lawyer that Wang Quanzhang was alive and being held in Tianjin.

    December 18, 2018

    It’s a big question, but someone’s got to ask it. At this year’s Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris, France, Amnesty asked 11 prominent activists about the essence of human rights. Here’s what they said…

    December 09, 2018
    Amnesty publishes review of human rights in 2018

    Women activists around the world have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights in 2018, Amnesty International said today as it launched its review on the state of human rights over the past year.

    The human rights group also warns that the actions of “tough guy” world leaders pushing misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic policies has placed freedoms and rights that were won long ago in fresh jeopardy.

    “In 2018, we witnessed many of these self-proclaimed ‘tough guy’ leaders trying to undermine the very principle of equality – the bedrock of human rights law. They think their policies make them tough, but they amount to little more than bully tactics trying to demonize and persecute already marginalized and vulnerable communities,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    “But it is women activists who have offered the most powerful vision this year of how to fight back against these repressive leaders.”

    December 07, 2018

    An escalating crackdown on freedoms across the Gulf states has brought renewed international attention to the human rights situation in the region, Amnesty International said today, ahead of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit which takes place in Riyadh on Sunday.

    “2018 has been a particularly brutal year for peaceful human rights activists, journalists and dissidents in the Gulf states. The abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi in October shone a global spotlight on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at home and in Yemen. All of the Gulf states gathering on Sunday have continued their suppression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly over the past year,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

    “Gulf leaders can no longer operate on the assumption that they have a carte blanche to treat their citizens like criminals whenever they express dissent without fear of any international repercussions.”

    December 07, 2018

    Responding to the guilty verdict and six-month prison sentences handed to three activists today for their role in a peaceful protest in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response, Tirana Hassan, said:

    “Today’s appalling verdict against three peaceful activists shows the government’s determination to silence any criticism of their actions in this deadly conflict – and repress any peaceful opposition to the military whatsoever.

    “These jail sentences reflect a pattern of continued attacks, intimidation, threats and prosecutions against human rights defenders, journalists and community leaders who peacefully speak out in defence of civilian victims of military operations. It sends a chilling warning to any humanitarian actor or activist who wants to tell the truth about the Myanmar military’s brutality in Kachin and northern Shan states and beyond.

    December 06, 2018

    Responding to the news that Crimean lawyer Emil Kurbedinov was detained by the de-facto authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea and is now facing charges for a Facebook post he made five years ago, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia said:

    “Following yesterday’s arrest of prominent human rights defender Lev Ponomarev in Moscow, the detention of Emil Kurbedinov is the second time in two days that a human rights defender has been thrown behind bars over a Facebook post.

    “The similarities of these two cases are obvious, even if they are not directly related. Both men are prominent members of the human rights community and both have been deliberately targeted by Russian authorities for this very reason.

    “The authorities’ abuse of social media to target and harass activists is a cause of growing concern in Crimea. These politically-motivated charges must be dropped and he should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    Background

    December 06, 2018

    Following a statement from the Regional Public Prosecutor for Puebla state, Jaime Huerta, in relation to the arrest of an individual allegedly connected to the killing of the environmental defender Manuel Gaspar Rodríguez, and the claim that the crime could be attributed to personal problems, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “It is essential that the authorities carry out a comprehensive, independent and impartial investigation, including into those who could have ordered or planned the killing of Manuel Gaspar Rodríguez. If it fails to do so, the Public Prosecutor’s Office would be sending a message of impunity and encouraging further attacks against defenders of the land, territory and environment.”

    “Amnesty International urges the Mexican authorities to include within the line of investigation the possibility that the attack could be related to Manuel Gaspar’s work to defend the environment, before hastily speaking out about possible motives for his killing.”

    November 30, 2018

    The irregularities in the investigation and court proceedings relating to the murder of prominent human rights defender Berta Cáceres, combined with the fact all those who masterminded the crime have still not been identified, lead to the conclusion that neither the right to justice, the right to the truth, nor the right to reparation have been guaranteed in this emblematic case, Amnesty International said today.

    “By excluding the victims from the murder trial of human rights defender Berta Cáceres and by having the Public Prosecutor’s Office – an institution that has repeatedly been reported for violating their rights – act as their representative, the path to justice and truth has been blocked for the defender’s family” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. 

    “Despite the ruling delivered today in this emblematic case, the Honduran justice system must demonstrate its commitment to the truth and identify all those who planned and ordered the murder of Berta Cáceres”

    November 26, 2018

    Responding to the news that a court in Chechnya has refused to release human rights defender Oyub Titiev on bail, Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, said:

    “The decision not to grant bail to Oyub Titiev once again demonstrates the political motivation of the case against him. He has committed no crime, having been jailed on completely fabricated drug charges, and must be released immediately and unconditionally.

    “In today’s hearing, all the defence’s arguments were dismissed without any proper consideration while the court accepted every one of the prosecution’s objections to the bail request.

    “This case is an affront to justice which highlights the Chechen government’s intolerance of opposing views and is further evidence that human rights defenders jailed in Chechnya cannot rely on the tools of justice to help them.”

    Background

    The Shali City Court today rejected Oyub Titiev’s bail request. The judge stated that the defence did not present enough evidence to mitigate the previous grounds for his arrest.

    November 07, 2018

    Amnesty International Philippines Release

    Responding to news of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos gunned down by still unidentified men on 6 November, Amnesty International Philippines chairperson Ritz Lee Santos III said:

    “The killing of a human rights lawyer is a new low in the worsening culture of impunity in the Philippines, and yet another blow to the government’s already dismal human rights record.

    Ramos’s murder is all the more alarming, in the midst of the bloody ‘war on drugs’ by the government that has already claimed the lives of thousands of people. When human rights defenders are silenced for good, who else will come to the defense of the growing number of victims of human rights abuses?

    October 31, 2018

    Human rights defenders from across all corners of the world gathered this week in Paris for the Human Rights Defenders World Summit, to develop a plan of action for how to protect and promote the work of activists fighting for rights, 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

    After three days of discussions and strategy development spanning regional and global issues, environmental rights and women human rights defenders and the increasing attacks on human rights defenders everywhere, the momentum culminated in the presentation of a landmark action plan which will be presented to the UN in December.

    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who spoke at the opening ceremony said: "What human rights defenders teach us is that all of us can stand up for our rights and for the rights of others, in our neighbourhoods, in our countries and all over the world. We can change the world.”

    October 26, 2018

    The killing of the Rarámuri Indigenous human rights defender Julián Carrillo in the state of Chihuahua yesterday highlights yet again the lack of protection and inefficiency of the protective measures provided by the Mexican authorities to the Indigenous communities of the Sierra Tarahumara, Amnesty International said today.

    “Once again we have seen how, without changes which take into account the structural causes of the violence against human rights defenders, providing a police escort or a telephone is not enough to stop the wave of violence facing those who dare to speak out to defend their territory”, said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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