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Human Rights Defenders

    August 22, 2017

    More than a dozen political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, have gone on hunger strike in protest at the cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions they have been forced to endure at a maximum-security prison in Karaj, Alborz province, Amnesty International said today.

    Political prisoners at Raja’i Shahr prison were recently transferred to a newly opened area where conditions have been described as suffocating. They are held in cells with windows covered by metal sheets, and deprived of access to clean drinking water, food and sufficient beds. They are also barred from having in-person family visits and denied access to telephones, which are usually available in other parts of the prison.

    “The fact that detention conditions have become so poor that desperate prisoners feel they are forced to go on hunger strike to demand the most basic standards of human dignity is disgraceful and highlights the urgent need for reforms to Iran’s cruel prison system,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International.

    August 18, 2017

    Yemen’s Huthi-Saleh forces must immediately and unconditionally release a leading political activist who has been arbitrarily detained in the capital Sana’a since 14 August without access to a lawyer or his family, Amnesty International has said.

    Hisham al-Omeisy, 38, was arbitrarily detained at approximately 2.45pm on 14 August in Jawlat al-Misbahi, south Sana’a, when approximately 15 armed security officers from the National Security Bureau (NSB) took him away. Four days after his arrest, the NSB are still holding him incommunicado in an undisclosed location.

    “Hisham al-Omeisy has been detained without charge or a court appearance in breach of Yemen’s constitution, which requires anybody arrested to be presented in court within 24 hours,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle-East.

    “This detention illustrates the lengths to which local Huthi-Saleh authorities’ are willing to go to silence peaceful activists. Hisham al-Omeisy is a prisoner of conscience, whose only ‘crime’ is peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and he must be released immediately.”

    August 15, 2017
      Amnesty International and 63 other organizations are demanding the release of the Cambodian human rights defender Tep Vanny today on the one-year anniversary of her arrest on trumped up charges.   “Tep Vanny has now languished in prison for one year for doing nothing but peacefully defending her community. The charges against her have always been spurious at best – she must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.  
    August 15, 2017
      Responding to attempts by Kenya’s NGO regulator to shut down two human rights organizations – the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the African Centre for Open Governance (AfriCoG) - Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:   “The NGO Coordination Board’s decision must be seen for what it really is - a cynical attempt to discredit human rights organizations. This is an unlawful and irresponsible move in this critical post-election period.   “This assault on human rights groups must be immediately halted. The Kenyan authorities must rein in the NGO Coordination Board and not allow such grotesque witch-hunts to take place.”   Background  
    August 09, 2017
      In response to Moscow City Court’s decision to suspend the deportation to Uzbekistan of openly gay journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov (better known by his journalist alias Ali Feruz) but to keep him in detention while his case is reviewed by the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheev, said:   “The suspension of Ali Feruz’s deportation to Uzbekistan - where he faces a real risk of persecution and torture and homosexuality is a crime - is a positive step. However, his continued detention despite his claims he has been beaten is disgraceful. He has committed absolutely no crime and it could take months or even years before a final decision by the European Court of Human Rights.”   “Ali Feruz complained that security officials beat him during transfer to the detention centre and showed bruises during today’s court hearing. The judge decided to ignore these shocking allegations.”

    August 08, 2017

    On his 17th birthday, Omar al-Qahtani writes about his dad, Mohammad al-Qahtani, a human rights defender and founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), one of Saudi Arabia’s few independent human rights organizations. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for peacefully calling for reforms in the country.

    My name is Omar Al-Qahtani and today I turn 17.

    I have two brothers and two sisters, oldest is Abdullah (20), then Norah (18), than me, then Othman (15), and Layla (4). Then there’s also Harley Davidson (24 weeks), our kitten.

    We are what you would call a regular family, except we are far away from our father, who’s been in prison in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. Thankfully though, we talk to him every day. My father is a really brave man who will never give up on his beliefs. We are all so proud of him.

    My father loves to have fun with us and to enjoy life but he is very serious when it comes to school and work. Before his arrest, life in Saudi Arabia was different: easier, simpler. 

    August 03, 2017

    Photo: Tarek Hussein with his brother Mahmoud (Twitter @HMahmoudmohmed)

     

    Human rights defender Tarek Hussein is free!

    After being arbitrarily detained for 40 days, the former prisoner of conscience has now joined his family. The Egyptian police released Tarek Mohamed Ahmed Hussein on 27 July after arbitrarily detaining him since 17 June. That day, police officers arrested him from his home in Cairo. The police kept him in detention despite AlKhanka Prosecutor's order to release him on bail on 18 June. They claimed that Tarek Hussein has been sentenced in 16 different cases. During his detention, the police held him incommunicado for 12 days and abused him. Tarek Hussein could still potentially be imprisoned as the Prosecutor has not formally closed the investigation.

    August 02, 2017
      Responding to news of the execution of Syrian-Palestinian human rights activist Bassel Khartabil today, Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research said:   “We are deeply saddened and outraged at this awful news. Bassel Khartabil will always be remembered as a symbol of courage, who peacefully fought for freedom to the very end. Our thoughts are with his family.   “Bassel Khartabil’s death is a grim reminder of the horrors that take place in Syrian prisons every day. The tens of thousands of people currently locked away inside Syrian government detention facilities face torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial executions. These cruel acts undoubtedly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”  
    August 02, 2017

    Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack details how scores of human rights activists – often labelled “foreign agents” and “traitors” by state media – have been prosecuted and jailed on spurious “national security” charges, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of human rights reform raised during President Hassan Rouhani’s first election campaign. Some activists have been sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars for simple acts such as being in contact with the UN, EU or human rights organizations including Amnesty International.

    July 31, 2017
      Tanya O'Carroll is a technology and human rights adviser at Amnesty International. Follow Tanya on Twitter @TanyaOCarroll    When the colleagues of Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner heard that they had been detained in Turkey, along with representatives of six renowned Turkish NGOs, they assumed there had been a misunderstanding. Ali, a Swedish IT strategy consultant, and Peter, a German nonviolence and wellbeing trainer, had been in Istanbul delivering a routine workshop, as they had done many times before in countries as far afield as Mexico and Pakistan. This was the first time their work had landed them in a police station.   But the detention of the two trainers was no accident. After 12 days in police custody, both men were remanded in prison along with four others including İdil Eser, the director of Amnesty Turkey. They are facing absurd and baseless allegations of terror links, and lengthy pre-trial detentions.   
    July 28, 2017
      By Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific   There is nothing left of Boeung Kak lake in the centre of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. What used to be the largest body of water in the city has over the past years been completely filled with sand, as part of a development project to build new condominiums and office buildings. Since construction started in 2007 thousands of families have been illegally evicted, and the Boeung Kak area has become a focal point for human rights defenders in Cambodia.  
    July 28, 2017
      ‘The global outcry over Turkey’s human rights crackdown is growing louder by the day’ - Kate Allen   Amnesty International has welcomed a call from UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for the release of detained Turkish human rights activists - including Idil Eser, Amnesty’s Turkey Director, and TanerKiliç, Amnesty’s Turkey Chair.   Speaking at an event in Sydney, Australia, last night Mr Johnson said he ‘deplored’ the actions of the Turkish authorities in arresting human rights activists, including Amnesty campaigners. In a lecture at the Lowy Institute, the Foreign Secretary said:
    July 27, 2017

    By Kathy Price, AI Canada's Honduras campaigner. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KPriceAmnesty

    “Admirable, courageous, inspiring”: those were the words we heard over and over again from the Members of Parliament, government officials and Amnesty supporters who heard the testimony of Central American human rights defenders we brought to Ottawa in June.

    All have paid dearly for their efforts to defend the rights of vulnerable people seeking to protect the land and water on which their lives depend.

    Luis Fernando García Monroy (left) was shot by security guards of a Canadian-owned mine in Santa Rosa, Guatemala during a 2013 protest against its impacts on the environment so vital to the livelihoods and well-being of local inhabitants. Following surgery and reconstruction of his face, Luis Fernando went on to co-found Youth Organized in Defence of Life (known by its Spanish acronym JODVID), to carry on the creative, determined activism of Topacio Reynosa, another young human rights defender who was killed in 2014.

    July 25, 2017
      Responding to statements made by Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu at a press conference following his meeting with High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, John Dalhuisen said:   “Whilst we welcome the acknowledgement by the Foreign Minister that Amnesty International are regarded as “a credible global organization”, his assertion that we will be “able to conduct activities freely” is a bold claim in light of the fact that both the Director and the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey are languishing behind bars alongside seven other human rights activists.”   “The absurd case against Idil Eser is not based on any nefarious activities but instead rests entirely upon the legitimate work of Amnesty International. If this work is criminalised, it is hard to see how the organization – or indeed the wider human rights movement in Turkey – can continue to function.  
    July 25, 2017
      ·         Salil Shetty meets Mogherini ahead of her meeting with Turkey Ministers ·         Major public stunt demands end to human rights crackdown ·         “For me this is personal” - partner of jailed activist speaks out   Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, urged the European Commission’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, to urgently raise the issue of jailed human rights defenders at her meeting with the Turkish Foreign Affairs and EU Ministers later today. Amnesty International’s Turkey Director and Chair, Idil Eser and Taner Kılıç are currently in detention facing terrorism related charges.  

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