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Human Rights Defenders

    December 26, 2017
    Reacting to the news that human rights activist Wu Gan received his verdict and was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment on 26 December in Tianjin, while human rights lawyer Xie Yang had his trial reconvened and was found guilty but exempt from punishment in Changsha on the same day, Amnesty International’s China Researcher Patrick Poon said:   “It is disgraceful that the Chinese authorities have chosen the day after Christmas to deal with two of the remaining people left in legal limbo from the unprecedented July 2015 crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. Carrying out unfair trials and politicized sentencing of human rights defenders at the very time when diplomats, journalists, international observers and the general public are less likely to be able to respond reeks of a cynical political calculation”.   “By trying to avoid scrutiny from the press and the international community, the Chinese government betrays the fact it knows well these sham trials cannot withstand scrutiny”.  
    November 22, 2017

    Edward Snowden, Catherine Deneuve, Sting, Ai Weiwei, Angélique Kidjo, Anish Kapoor, Francois Morel and MPs sign open letter

    More than 70 renowned cultural and political figures have come together to demand that Turkish authorities drop trumped-up terrorism charges against 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey Director and Chair.

    The call made by more than 30 politicians and scores of artists - including Edward Snowden, Sting, Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, Catherine Deneuve, Angélique Kidjo - comes as the trial of the 11 resumes in Istanbul on charges which carry jail terms of up to 15 years.

    “We are proud to add our voices to the global demand to end this gross injustice and to immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kılıç from jail,” they write in the letter.

    “When human rights defenders are silenced, all our rights are put at risk. They are the ones that stand up for us. Now we must stand up for them.”

    November 08, 2017

    The passing of Chinese writer and government critic Yang Tongyan underlines an alarming lack of accountability for the pattern of deaths of activists released on medical parole, Amnesty International said.

    Yang Tongyan, 56, passed away on Tuesday, according to his close friends. The prominent activist spent nearly half his life in detention and was released in August on medical parole. He underwent an operation to remove a brain tumour on 23 August.

    “Yang Tongyan was a peaceful champion of human rights and democracy, who made a huge personal sacrifice to stay true to his principles. The authorities feared the power of his writing and did all they could to silence him. He should never have spent a single day in jail let alone nearly half his life,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    October 12, 2017
    Human Rights Defenders from Turkey who are in prison

    Today marks 100 days since Turkish security forces stormed a routine training workshop and bundled away 10 prominent human rights activists. Most of the group - dubbed the Istanbul 10 - have been locked-up in Turkey’s highest security prison.

    This week the prosecutor filed an indictment calling for the group, which includes a German and Swedish trainer and the director of Amnesty International Turkey, to be sentenced for up to 15 years on terrorism charges.

    The absurdity of the charges against them and the reasons they are being held in prison will leave you incredulous.

    So much for a “secret meeting”

    Turkish prosecutors have attempted to depict the meeting as a shadowy gathering of conspirators seeking to create “chaos in society”, BUT…

    1. This was not a secret meeting ... Many people from lots of organisations had been openly invited.

    October 03, 2017

    Peter Steudtner was detained along with nine others in July during a workshop in Istanbul, where he and Ali Gharavi were training human rights defenders on wellbeing and digital security. Among the attendees was Amnesty Turkey’s Director İdil Eser. Currently eight of them remain in prison and two are on bail, all facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. They have done nothing wrong.

    Peter has written a message from his cell about coping with life in prison:



    "To all who accompany me in thought and deed!

    A wholehearted thankyou to all who support us, especially to my family and friends (and all who support them), to the German government, Ministries, Embassy, Consulate; to my legal team, and to my holistic security team, HIVOS + KURVE Wustrow, to all political campaigns that demand our release!

    As I do not have any contact anymore with Ali and the other human rights defenders, I am writing this letter on my behalf only.

    October 03, 2017

    In July 2017, our friend and colleague İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, was detained along with nine other human rights defenders in Istanbul. Currently eight of them are in prison and two are on bail, all are facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. Yet they have done nothing wrong.

    It came only a month after Amnesty Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç was detained, also unfairly. He remains in prison.

    On 14 October 2017, Amnesty will hold a global day of action demanding their release to coincide with Idil’s birthday.

    So why is this happening to them?

    What happened on 5 July 2017?

    It should have been an ordinary day for İdil Eser, director of Amnesty Turkey. She was attending a workshop on wellbeing and digital security with colleagues from other human rights organisations in Istanbul – the kind of gathering that takes place around the world every week. It included open discussions about the stresses they encounter and practical ways of dealing with these.

    But during the workshop police raided the building and detained them all, including the two workshop trainers.

    September 25, 2017

    Today’s conviction of Khalid Ali, a former presidential candidate and prominent human rights lawyer who is widely viewed as President Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s top contender for the 2018 presidential elections, is politically motivated, said Amnesty International.

    Khaled Ali was sentenced to three months in prison which would prevent him from standing in the 2018 presidential elections if the verdict is confirmed on appeal. The court found him guilty of “violating public decency” in relation to a photograph showing him celebrating a court victory after successfully reversing a controversial Egyptian government decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. He was released on a bail of 1000 Egyptian pounds pending appeal.

    “Khaled Ali’s politically motivated conviction today is a clear signal that the Egyptian authorities are intent on eliminating any rival who could stand in the way of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory in next year’s elections. It also illustrates the government’s ruthless determination to crush dissent to consolidate its power,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s Head of North Africa Campaigns.

    September 14, 2017
    65 associations refused authorization for peaceful protests in two years 13 ministerial decrees banning protests in 2016 alone Over 10 critical websites blocked

    Human rights defenders, citizens’ movements, unionists and journalists critical of the government are facing growing danger as the government increasingly uses

    repressive laws and intelligence service to muzzle critics and hamper their work, Amnesty International reveals in a new report published today.

    ‘Between recession and repression. The rising cost of dissent in Chad’ documents how the authorities have over the recent years responded to growing public

    discontent, with ever greater restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

    September 11, 2017

    The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a human rights defender arrested from her home last night, who has previously been targeted by the authorities for her peaceful activism, said Amnesty International.

    Raheleh Rahemipour has spent years trying to uncover the truth about what happened to her brother and baby niece who were forcibly disappeared while in custody during the early 1980s. She was sentenced to a year in prison earlier this year in connection with these efforts and has been awaiting the outcome of her appeal.

    “Raheleh Rahemipour has already been forced to endure the anguish and distress of having her loved ones forcibly disappeared and faces an unjust prison sentence for her efforts to learn their fate. Her arrest provides further evidence of the Iranian authorities’ ruthless determination to intimidate her into silence and prolong her suffering,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “Instead of lashing out against aggrieved families searching for their loved ones, the Iranian authorities must meet their legitimate demands for truth and justice.”

    September 05, 2017

    Photo Credit: via Amnesty Germany

    The criminal case against prominent Russian human rights defender Valentina Cherevatenko for “violation of ‘foreign agents’ law” was closed on June 19 due to an “absence of the elements of the crime”. She was not informed of the decision and only learnt of it by accident over a month later.

    Valentina was the first Russian activist to face criminal prosecution under the "foreign agents" law. Therefore, news of the case against her being dropped is also a victory for Russian civil society as a whole, bringing hope that there may be space for positive change.

    September 05, 2017

    Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, prominent Sudanese human rights defender has been released with all charges against him dropped - along with five other human rights defenders, late on August 29.

    Reacting to the good news, 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.

    September 05, 2017
      The arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender today who criticized the Palestinian authorities on Facebook is a shameless attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.   Issa Amro, a Hebron-based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained at around midday local time today by Palestinian Preventive Security Forces, after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticizing the arrest of a local radio journalist yesterday by the same Palestinian security forces.   “It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.  
    August 30, 2017

    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.

    August 30, 2017

    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:

    August 28, 2017

    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.”  

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