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Human Rights Defenders

    May 01, 2017

    By Ta*, an LGBT activist in Bangladesh

     

    “I might not come any longer. I’m afraid. You had to flee from one place to another out of fear of being slaughtered by the extremists. If something like that happens again, I don’t have the strength or ability to do things like you.” I have received many messages like this from fellow LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) activists in Bangladesh over the past year. On 25 April 2016, Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were killed mercilessly by extremists for promoting LGBT rights in Bangladesh – nothing has been the same since.

    April 27, 2017
    The arrest of nine Hong Kong pro-democracy activists is the latest sign the authorities are intent on punishing dissenting voices about the future political status of the city, Amnesty International said. Police arrested the nine people involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement on Thursday morning. They are reported to face charges of public disorder and unlawful assembly for their involvement in a largely peaceful protest last November against a central government ruling on Hong Kong’s Basic Law.   "The repeated use of vague charges against prominent figures in Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement reeks of an orchestrated and retaliatory campaign by the authorities to punish those that advocate for democracy in Hong Kong,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.   “The Hong Kong government should be protecting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly but instead it appears intent on intimidating people who are challenging the authorities. Arrests and prosecutions aimed at shutting down participation in peaceful protests must stop.”  
    April 03, 2017

    The King of Bahrain ratified a constitutional amendment today that paves the way for military trials of civilians, in yet another example of Bahrain’s efforts to dismantle access to justice and fair trial, said Amnesty International.

    “This constitutional amendment is a disaster for the future of fair trials and justice in Bahrain. It is part of a broader pattern where the government uses the courts to crackdown on all forms of opposition at the expense of human rights,” said Lynn Maalouf, head of research at Amnesty International’s regional office in Beirut.

    “Instead of moving to correct its shameful history of unfair trials and impunity for violations, authorities in Bahrain have decided to further undermine faith in the independence and fairness of the courts and of the justice system as a whole.”   

    Amnesty International is alarmed by the vaguely worded amendment which could be used to try, before a military court, any critic deemed to be a threat to Bahrain’s national security or its “independence, sovereignty or integrity”, including – as has been the case in the past – peaceful activists prosecuted on trumped-up charges.

    March 21, 2017

    By Ahmed Elzobier, Sudan Researcher at Amnesty International

    Three Sudanese human rights defenders were released from jail on 6 March after paying a fine of 50,000 Sudanese Pounds (about 7,700 US dollars) each.

    Khalafalla Al-Afif Mukhtar, Midhat A. Hamdan and Mustafa Adam had been sentenced to one year in jail and a fine, but were released after nine months on time served after paying the exorbitant fines.  The crimes they were found guilty of? Two of them were convicted of dissemination of false information and one for espionage.

    All three are members of TRACKS, a human rights organization that provides training on a range of themes including human rights and information technology to civil society in Sudan.

    Over the last two years, TRACKS’ offices have been raided twice, on 26 March 2015 and 29 February 2016. On 22 May 2016, NISS officials detained several of its staff and members and charged them with a number of offences including crimes against the state.

    February 08, 2017

    The Zimbabwean authorities must drop all politically motivated charges against human rights activist Pastor Evan Mawarire and stop using the criminal justice system to harass and intimidate him for his activism, Amnesty International and Civicus said today after the Harare High Court granted him bail and ordered his release on 9 February.

    Upon his return to Zimbabwe last week, he was arrested and charged with subversion and “insulting the national Flag of Zimbabwe” in connection with protests he led in 2016 over corruption and economic decline.

    “Pastor Evan Mawarire is being subjected to political persecution through the courts for exercising his freedom of expression. His continued persecution has a chilling effect on peaceful activism in Zimbabwe,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “The release of Pastor Evan Mawarire on bail is not enough, the politically motivated charges against him must be completely withdrawn. The state cannot continue to harass and intimidate him simply for standing up for human rights.”

    January 26, 2017

    Nigel Rodley’s outstanding achievement, earning him a place in history, was to be an architect of the process leading to the international treaty which establishes acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as crimes under international law. He was also a kind and modest man who cared intensely about individuals’ human rights and whose commitment, humanity and sincerity inspired the deep respect and lasting affection of his colleagues.

    In his position as Amnesty International’s legal adviser, Nigel developed the long-range plan for Amnesty’s continuing campaign against torture, beginning with its submission to a 1975 UN Congress in Geneva on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, where representatives of more than a hundred states took part. That Congress formulated a Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1975.

    December 08, 2016

    The arrest of award-winning Sudanese human rights activist Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is further proof of the government’s intolerance of independent voices, said Amnesty International after his employer confirmed today that state agents arrested him in Khartoum on 7 December.

    He was arrested by National Intelligence Security Service agents at the University of Khartoum, where he works as an engineering professor, and taken to an undisclosed location, where he is at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

    He has not been informed of the reasons for his arrest or charged with any offence.

    “Mudawi’s arbitrary arrest underscores the government’s desperate attempts to extinguish the last embers of dissent in the country. This wanton repression and disregard for human rights must come to an end,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    November 27, 2016

    “The arrest of Zunar is an outrage. The charge of sedition against him must be dropped immediately and he must be unconditionally released from detention. What we are seeing is the choking of dissent in Malaysia, where repressive laws are being used to silence and punish peaceful voices under the guise of national security,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “Zunar’s arrest comes as Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of the Bersih movement, unjustifiably remains in solitary confinement. She was arrested under repressive national security laws on 18 November, a day before thousands of activists took to the streets to peacefully demand electoral reforms and an end to corruption. Maria Chin Abdullah and all other prisoners of conscience should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    Background

    October 11, 2016

    Ilham Tohti was selected by a jury of 10 global Human Rights organizations (See list below). The Award is given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk. The aim of the award is to provide protection through international recognition. Strongly supported by the City of Geneva, the Award will be presented on Oct. 11th.

    Ilham Tohti (China)

    A renowned Uyghur intellectual in China, Ilham Tohti has worked for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has rejected separatism and violence, and sought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture, which has been subject to religious, cultural and political repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

    September 21, 2016

    Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez has been detained a second time, after a court ordered his release from administrative detention on Tuesday.

    “Detaining a person right after he is released, without any intention to charge him or bring him to trial, amounts to using a revolving door of persecution,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.

    “This kind of arbitrary use of the law suggests that the Jammu and Kashmir police are determined to lock up Khurram Parvez at any cost.”

    The activist was first arrested on 16 September and placed in administrative detention in a jail in Kupwara, over 100 kilometres from his home in Srinagar, for allegedly posing an imminent threat of ‘breach of peace’. The detention order was based on a police report which claimed that policemen had seen Khurram Parvez on 15 September standing outside a mosque inciting people to shout slogans and march towards a government building. His wife has denied the claim, saying that they were at her parents’ house in another part of the city at the time.

    September 17, 2016

    The Zeinhom Criminal Court’s decision today to freeze the personal and organizational bank accounts of a group of leading and award-winning human rights
    lawyers and campaigners over politically motivated accusations that they are using foreign funds for illegal purposes is a reprehensible blow to Egypt’s human rights movement,
    Amnesty International said today. These individuals may subsequently face prosecution and prison terms of up to life, equivalent to 25 years in Egypt.

    “The Egyptian authorities are using this case as a way to crush the country’s human rights movement. Meanwhile, the government’s brutal crackdown
    on dissent shows no sign of stopping, with enforced disappearances and torture becoming a matter of state policy. Egypt needs these critical voices more than ever,”
    said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    August 30, 2016

    The release of four Congolese pro-democracy activists, including Amnesty International Prisoners of Conscience Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, is cause for celebration but they remain at risk of re-arrest unless the charges are dropped, warned Amnesty International today.

    “The release of Fred, Yves and others is a rare positive step in what has been a very difficult year for freedom of expression in the DRC. The charges against them were politically motivated and must be dropped to ensure that their ordeal is over once and for all,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes.

    Until their release, Fred and Yves were awaiting a trial that could have seen them face the death penalty. The pair were arrested along with 26 other activists in March 2015 and charged with various offences including “plotting a conspiracy against the head of state”.

    The two were released along with Christopher Ngoyi. Jean Marie Kalonji was also released and walked out of jail on 27 August. They were all being held at Kinshasa’s Makala Prison.

    August 09, 2016

    Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Irom Chanu Sharmila ended her 16-year-long hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) today. Amnesty International India calls on authorities to drop all charges against her, and take steps to repeal the AFSPA.

    At a hearing in a local court, Irom Sharmila said, “I have been fasting for the last 16 years. I haven’t got anything from it yet. I am ending my fast today. I want to try a different agitation now. I will contest against the Chief Minister of Manipur in the upcoming state elections.” The activist signed a bail bond and is likely to be released on bail soon.

    “Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike over the last 16 years has been a testament to her passion for human rights, and her belief that a draconian law like the AFSPA has no place in any society.  The government arrested her, confined her to a hospital room and force fed her for 16 years, seemingly to break her will.  There was zero dialogue. A peaceful protest was criminalized,” said Abhirr VP, Senior Campaigner with Amnesty International India.

    August 04, 2016

    The Chinese authorities must end their relentless suppression of human rights lawyers and activists, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent lawyer became the latest to be convicted after an unfair trial.

    On Thursday, Zhou Shifeng was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of “subverting state power”, following a trial that lasted less than a day at Tianjin No.2 People’s Court in north east China.

    On Wednesday this week, democracy activist Hu Shigen was sentenced to seven-and-a half-years for “subverting state power”, and on Tuesday activist Zhai Yanmin was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, after being convicted of the same charge.

    “This wave of trials against lawyers and activists are a political charade. Their fate was sealed before they stepped into the courtroom and there was no chance that they would ever receive a fair trial,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    August 01, 2016

    Authorities in Mauritania must drop all charges and immediately and unconditionally release 13 anti-slavery activists arbitrarily detained in an attempt to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, Amnesty International and 16 other civil society organisations said today. 

    The activists will appear before a court on 3 August in the capital Nouakchott accused of rebellion, use of violence, attack against public authority, armed assembly and membership of an unrecognised organization. If convicted, they face a fine and a jail term of up to two years.

    “These activists are prisoners of conscience who have been falsely accused and are behind bars in order to impede their legitimate work. They have been targeted persistently for their views and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Kiné Fatim Diop Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner.  

    “The long-time persecution has no legal justification. The authorities must end their rule of fear and repression on anti-slavery activists.”

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