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Human Rights Defenders

    July 14, 2017

    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.”

    July 14, 2017

    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.

    July 14, 2017
    Demonstration outside Turkish Embassy in London, UK.

    At Amnesty International, #WeDefend the rights of human rights defenders. Join us.

    By Guadalupe Marengo, Head of Global Human Rights Defenders Programme, Amnesty International

    During the last few weeks, we have seen how attacks on human rights defenders continue to escalate all over the world as those in power increasingly become more averse to criticism and resort to a wide array of tactics to silence them.

    July 13, 2017

    Nobel Prize Winner leaves a lasting legacy for China

    Chinese authorities announced today that Liu Xiaobo, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has passed away.

    Information on Liu Xiaobo’s ill health, who was suffering from terminal liver cancer, was released only after he became too ill to recover. Several Western countries have previously asked that Mr. Liu be allowed to seek treatment abroad. The request was refused. Worse yet, he was kept under guard in a hospital and kept silenced.

    Because of his demand for greater human rights in China, he was branded as a criminal by the Chinese government. 

    Liu Xiaobo developed a conviction for the cause of democracy and human rights after witnessing the brutal government crackdown of the peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He once said, “as a survivor of the Tiananmen Square Democracy movement, I feel that I have a duty to uphold justice for those who died in the event.”

    July 13, 2017

    By Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    “Do you think the Chinese government will release him now?” In the piercing cold of a December night in Oslo, the same question kept coming. I had just attended the ceremony to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned human rights advocate, literary critic, and thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

    Vehemently denounced by the Chinese government as “a farce”, the ceremony had movingly paid tribute to that simple truth: that words are not crimes. Freedom of expression, as Liu Xiaobo had himself told the court a year earlier, was “the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth.” The court sentenced him to 11 years behind bars.

    While I was buoyed by the homage the world was paying to his courage, I also knew that the real battle was only beginning: would the international community exert enough pressure on the Chinese authorities to sway them to release Liu Xiaobo?

    July 13, 2017

    Responding to the news that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo has passed away, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International commented:

    “Today we grieve the loss of a giant of human rights. Liu Xiaobo was a man of fierce intellect, principle, wit and above all humanity.

    “For decades, he fought tirelessly to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. He did so in the face of the most relentless and often brutal opposition from the Chinese government. Time and again they tried to silence him, and time and again they failed. Despite enduring years of persecution, suppression and imprisonment, Liu Xiaobo continued to fight for his convictions.

    “Although he has passed, everything he stood for still endures. The greatest tribute we can now pay him is to continue the struggle for human rights in China and recognize the powerful legacy he leaves behind. Thanks to Liu Xiaobo, millions of people in China and across the world have been inspired to stand up for freedom and justice in the face of oppression.

    July 11, 2017
      Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release 10 human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today after their week-long police detention was extended by up to a further seven days. Amnesty International Turkey’s Director, Idil Eser, is among the 10 detained on 5 July whilst attending a routine workshop. They are being investigated on the unfounded suspicion of membership of an 'armed terrorist organization'.    “With this news we renew our emphatic call for the immediate and unconditional release of our Turkey director and the other nine human rights defenders detained alongside her,” said Amnesty International’s Europe Director, John Dalhuisen.   “It is truly absurd that they are under investigation for membership of an armed terrorist organization. They should not have spent a moment behind bars. For them to be entering a second week in police cells is a shocking indictment of the ruthless treatment of those who attempt to stand up for human rights in Turkey.”  
    July 07, 2017
    Defensoras meet with MP Elizabeth May in June 2016 Credit: K Price/Amnesty International Canada

    By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner at Amnesty International Canada

    It was a year ago that Amnesty International Canada organized a visit to Ottawa by courageous Mexican human rights defenders. Among them was Pilar Arrese (above right), of the highly respected Miguel Augustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, an organization known as Centro Prodh with three decades of exemplary work with victims of horrendous abuses in their quest for truth, justice and reforms to protect human rights.

    At meetings with Canada's then Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion (left), officials in the Prime Minister's Office and MPs that included Elizabeth May (above), Pilar provided powerful evidence of a dire human rights crisis in Mexico and the involvement of the country's security forces.

    July 07, 2017
      The Chinese authorities must end their ruthless campaign of detention and torture of human rights lawyers and activists, said Amnesty International, ahead of the second anniversary of the start of an unprecedented crackdown launched under President Xi Jinping. Nearly 250 human rights lawyers and activists have been targeted during the nationwide sweep which began on 9 July 2015. Six have since been convicted for “subverting state power” or “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Three others are still awaiting trials or verdicts. “For two years the Chinese government has been methodically decimating the ranks of human rights lawyers and activists. This vicious crackdown marked by arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, torture and ill-treatment and fake confessions must end now,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director at Amnesty International. “Lawyers and rights advocates play a crucial role in protecting human rights and the rule of law. The torment that they and their families continue to be subjected to flies in the face of the Chinese government claim that it upholds the rule of law.”  
    July 06, 2017

    Responding to news that Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, seven other human rights activists and two IT trainers, are being investigated for membership of an armed terrorist organization, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

    “The absurdity of these accusations against Idil Eser and the nine others cannot disguise the very grave nature of this attack on some of the most prominent civil society organizations in Turkey.

    “Their spurious detention while attending a routine workshop was bad enough: that they are now being investigated for membership of an armed terrorist organization beggars belief.

    “If anyone was still in doubt of the endgame of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, they should not be now. There is to be no civil society, no criticism and no accountability in Erdoğan’s Turkey.”

    “If world leaders meeting at the G20 fail to stand up for Turkey’s beleaguered civil society now, there may be nothing left of it by the time the next summit comes around.

    July 06, 2017
    Lenca indigenous women protest against the murder of Honduran environmentalist Berta Caceres, in front of the Public Ministry in Tegucigalpa on April 5, 2016.

    Lenca indigenous women protest against the murder of Honduran environmentalist Berta Caceres, in front of the Public Ministry in Tegucigalpa on April 5, 2016. Photo credit: ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images


    July 05, 2017
    Responding to the Cambodian government’s decision to ban the NGO coalition called the Situation Room from monitoring next year’s elections, Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Josef Benedict, said:   “The ban on the Situation Room is a blatant attempt to silence the work of civil society in Cambodia, and must be reversed immediately. It is chilling that the government is moving to limit public debate and unduly restrict the rights to freedom of expression and association ahead of next year’s general election.   “Instead of trying to repress civil society, Cambodia must ensure that NGOs can operate without fear of reprisal. The first steps should be to repeal the restrictive law on NGOs enacted in 2015, and stop using the courts to harass and silence human rights defenders. These tactics have left civil society extremely vulnerable, where many NGO workers live under the daily threat of being arbitrarily detained or subjected to other forms of retaliation for the work they do.”  
    July 04, 2017

    Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested and detained in Swaziland after writing an article raising concerns about judicial independence and integrity in the country. He and his wife Tanele sit down with us after his release from prison to tell their story and share their sincere thanks to Amnesty supporters.

    Amnesty: So Thulani tell us what happened to you. What was your story? What happened to you in Swaziland in 2014 and 2015?

    Thulani: March 2014. Maybe the best way to answer the question is to say perhaps most of my life I have been involved in the struggle to create a better society in Swaziland. A society that respects the rule of law, human rights and dignity of the Swazi citizen so that includes me writing for a magazine called The Nation. I’m a monthly contributor.

    June 27, 2017
    Rosmit Mantilla

    “I often woke up believing my strength was running out, believing I couldn’t keep going, and then I received photographs of Amnesty International human rights activists from all over the world requesting my freedom, respect for justice and for life. Infinite thanks, friends—without you I wouldn’t be here!”

    These personal words of thanks for your support came from Rosmit Mantilla during his struggle to be freed from a Venezuelan jail. Rosmit is a prominent Member of Parliament, human rights defender and former prisoner of conscience. He is an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and a member of the opposition party Voluntad Popular. He was freed in November following two years in prison.

    June 14, 2017

    The Sudanese authorities must immediately release prominent human rights defender Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and his colleague Hafiz Idris Eldoma, and halt its misguided assault on dissenting voices in the country, said Amnesty International as their trial begins in the capital Khartoum today.

    Dr Mudawi and Hafiz are facing 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.

    “Dr Mudawi has continuously been harassed by the Sudanese government for his human rights work in Darfur and across Sudan for more than a decade. Unfortunately, this latest round sees the harassment take a more sinister turn as both he and his colleague Hafiz potentially face the death penalty,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “Human rights work is not a crime, so Dr Mudawi and Hafiz must be immediately and unconditionally released. Their arrest and continued incarceration is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.”


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