Human Rights Defenders
In response to today’s presidential decision to drop all charges against civil society leaders and several others arrested in connection with the unrest in recent months in the Anglophone region in Cameroon, Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa said:
“Today’s decision to drop all charges and release of Anglophone civil society leaders, including Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, and several others who spent over six months in jail is an enormous relief and welcome news for everyone who has been campaigning for this outcome. They should never have been arrested and prosecuted in the first place for simply helping to organize peaceful, non-violent protests.
“However, we should not forget that the Cameroonian authorities are detaining many other individuals on spurious charges related to national security.
Reacting to news that Sudanese human rights defender Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam has been released from prison and all charges against him dropped, Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“It is a great relief that this awful chapter has drawn to a close. Dr Mudawi, a prisoner of conscience, has been reunited with his family and is once again a free man.
“Dr Mudawi’s eight months in prison represent a grave miscarriage of justice and his release must serve as a first step towards ending the criminalization of human rights work in Sudan. The authorities’ relentless assault on any form of criticism endangers anyone who dares to speak out, and it must stop.”
Mudawi was released, along with five other human rights defenders, late on 29 August. He faced six trumped-up charges, including 'undermining the constitutional system’ and ‘waging war against the state', both of which carry either the death penalty or life imprisonment. All charges against him have been dropped.
For more on Amnesty International’s campaigning for Dr Mudawi, please click on the links below:
By Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research, Amnesty International
Winter is coming.
Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know the iconic, sinister saying. In the TV show, it is muttered meaningfully as a warning not only that after a long summer a harsh winter is ahead, but that winter brings with it an existential threat to the world—an army of the dead. This threat makes all the vicious scheming, treachery and feuding look insignificant and petty.
As a human rights defender watching leaders around the world scapegoating and dividing to score political points, I can’t help thinking that winter may be coming for all of us—a dark future where protection of human rights won’t mean much anymore.
The “summer” was long and fruitful. Seventy years ago the world came together in 1948 and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated for the first time that human rights must be protected across “all peoples and all nations.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.