Human Rights Defenders
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.
Responding to news that the Turkish authorities have issued detention orders against four human rights defenders released on bail on Tuesday, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe said:
“With this cruel and retrograde step, Turkey has underlined its growing reputation as an indiscriminate jailer of civil society activists and a stranger to the rule of law.”
One of the four, Nalan Erkem was detained from her house in Istanbul last night. A second, İlknur Üstün was detained from her home in Ankara today.
“These four people should never have been detained in the first place. Having already endured twelve days behind bars, they are forced to relive the ordeal yet again. Instead of dropping the baseless investigation, the Turkish authorities have raised their absurdity to fresh heights,” said John Dalhuisen.
The four human rights defenders will now join their six co-suspects behind bars, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey.
By Alex Neve, Amnesty Canada Secretary General. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty.
As a human rights advocate you know you will not make everyone happy. Government officials, military leaders, armed groups and businesses all attract your scrutiny, criticism and suggestions for improvement. Some act on the advice. Others ignore it. Some strenuously disagree.
Public debate can get heated. The recent exchanges around Omar Khadr’s case are a striking reminder of that. Even in Canada, leading Amnesty International, I’ve felt that heat. I’ve been insulted and called names. I’ve been rebuffed. I’ve been threatened.
But no matter how inflamed things have become, I’ve never been jailed for standing up for human rights.
My close colleague Idil Eser, who does my job in Turkey, heading up our national section there, has been jailed for doing just that. She has been behind bars for the past two weeks because she passionately defends human rights; in Turkey and around the world.
The Malaysian authorities must immediately release a distinguished Bangladeshi human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience and allow him to speak at and participate in a conference on the death penalty, Amnesty International said today.
The Malaysian authorities at Kuala Lumpur airport detained Adilur Rahman Khan, the Secretary of Odhikar, a leading Bangladeshi human rights organization, this morning as he arrived in the country to speak at a conference on the death penalty.
“The Malaysian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Adilur Rahman Khan and allow him to participate in and speak at the conference,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“There is no justification for detaining him whatsoever. It is an outrage that a human rights activist cannot even travel freely to speak on a key human rights issue. Moreover, we understand that he still has not been given access to legal advice and is at risk of being deported.”
Police have detained two leaders of Amnesty International within the space of a month. These arrests are just the latest in an escalating human rights crisis.Thousands, including political activists, lawyers, journalists and others critical of government policy in Turkey are facing criminal prosecutions on trumped up terrorism charges. Take action now!
· Press conference and analysis of absurd charges - 1pm London
The remanding of six human rights defenders in pre-trial custody is an appalling affront to justice and a new low in Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, said Amnesty International.
Amnesty International Turkey’s Director, Idil Eser who was among those remanded in custody, was detained alongside nine other human rights defenders on 5 July whilst attending a routine workshop. Four of them were released on bail in the early hours of this morning but are still under investigation. All ten are suspected of ‘committing crime in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member'. The six who were remanded in custody join Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kiliç, behind bars.
“Turkish prosecutors have had 12 days to establish the obvious: that these ten activists are innocent. The decision to proceed shows that truth and justice have become total strangers in Turkey,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty.
By Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada’s Latin America campaigner
It is a story of immeasurable courage and the lengths to which shadowy and not-so-shadowy forces will go in brazen attempts to extinguish it.
The place is Honduras, a country of staggering poverty and a tiny minority with enormous wealth, who will go to extraordinary lengths to protect it.
It was just eight years ago that a military coup was executed in order to remove a democratically-elected president seeking to make changes that threatened the rich and powerful. What followed was a wave of repression against opponents of the coup and those speaking up for the rule of law.
Deadly violence and injustice has only continued in the years since.
Among the targets are the women and men of COPINH, acronym of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Its co-founder Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was gunned down in her home in March 2016.
Chinese authorities must end their callous assault against human rights activists and free all those still imprisoned for solely exercising their right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International, ahead of the expected release of prominent social activist Xu Zhiyong.
Xu Zhiyong is due to be released from prison on Saturday, 15 July after completing a four year jail sentence. In January 2014, he was convicted of “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place” following more than six months in pre-trial detention.
“Xu Zhiyong’s release is long overdue. His conviction was a sham and he should never have spent a single day in jail for simply exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International.
In recent years, activists have been released from prison, or on bail, only to find themselves under intense surveillance and round-the-clock monitoring by unidentified security personnel or thugs.
“The authorities must not continue to harass or intimidate Xu Zhiyong or his family, and instead let him again enjoy the freedom that was unjustly taken from him.”
We are dismayed and appalled by the arrest and detention of ten human rights defenders by the Turkish government, now facing investigation for membership of an “armed terrorist organisation” on account of their peaceful human rights work.
As an attack on six of the most prominent human rights NGOs in the country, the arrests are a hammer blow to Turkey's besieged civil society and an ominous indicator of the direction Turkey is heading in.
The “Istanbul 10” are Veli Acu, Özlem Dalkıran, İdil Eser, Nalan Erkem, Günal Kurşun, Şeymus Özbekli, Nejat Taştan, İlknur Üstün (Turkish nationals), Ali Gharavi (Swedish national) and Peter Steudtner (German national). The arrest of İdil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey, follows that of the organisation’s chair Taner Kılıç a month ago – the first time that a director and chair of Amnesty International have been detained in the same country at the same time. We call on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all of them.