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Human Rights Defenders

    March 03, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 4 March 2015

    Threats, physical violence and the imprisonment of government critics have become the hallmark of the Azerbaijan regime as the country prepares to host the first European Games, said Amnesty International in a new report released today, 100 days before the opening ceremony.

    Guilty of Defending Rights: Azerbaijan’s human rights defenders and activists behind bars highlights the mounting persecution of government critics, detained under false charges, beaten and threatened and deprived of urgent medical care and lawyers.

    “No-one should be fooled by the glitz and glamour of the international show Azerbaijan is putting on to portray a squeaky-clean international reputation and attract foreign business. Its authorities are among the most repressive in Europe and would certainly be on the medal winning podium if prizes were on offer for the number of activists and rights defenders behind bars,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.  

    January 15, 2015

    The Mauritanian authorities must release three activists - including a prominent opposition politician - jailed today for holding anti-slavery rallies, Amnesty International said.

    Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protestors in front of the court who were demonstrating against the judgment.

    The court in the southern town of Rosso handed down two-year sentences to three anti-slavery activists and human rights defenders, Brahim Bilal, Djiby Sow and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, a former presidential candidate. They have been convicted of membership of an unrecognized organization and of taking part in an unauthorized assembly. Seven other activists were acquitted.

    “The conviction of these activists for taking part in peaceful protests on charges which are vague and open to abuse violates their human rights to free expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,’’ said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa Researcher.

    December 14, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 15 December 2104

    Russian authorities should act to end a campaign of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders in Chechnya, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today after the office of a local human rights group was burned down. They should also offer genuine protection to all activists threatened for doing their work.

    In the evening of December 13 the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) ,a human rights organization that works with non-governmental organizations from other Russian regions, was destroyed in a fire in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in a suspected arson attack.

    “These acts of intimidation are part of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the region. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov appears to bewaging a personal campaign against the Joint Mobile Group and its leader Igor Kalyapin,” said Anna Neistat, senior director ofresearch at Amnesty International.

    December 09, 2014

    Campaigners, lawyers, journalists, community leaders and trade unionists, all human rights defenders who put their lives and liberty at risk in the fight for human rights, continue to suffer intimidation, harassment and violence across Latin America and the Caribbean according to a new Amnesty International report published today.

    Launching on International Human Rights Defenders Day, Defending Human Rights in the Americas: Necessary, Legitimate and Dangerous gives an overview on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas region. The report focuses primarily on over 200 cases of attacks and abuses on which Amnesty International took action during the last two years.
     
    “The tragic reality is that many human rights defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean are constantly persecuted and attacked in reprisal for their work. In various countries we have seen a worrying and shameful increase in the rate at which defenders suffer violence and repression just for standing up for human rights and justice,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    November 20, 2014

    Trials of two leading activists on Friday will lay bare the Chinese authorities’ duplicity over the rule of law, Amnesty International said. 

    Gao Yu, 70, a highly respected journalist, is accused of sharing state secrets and could face a life sentence if convicted at her trial in Beijing, which is being held behind closed doors.

    In a separate case on the other side of the country, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, prominent Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, 45, is due to learn the outcome of his appeal against a life sentence for “separatism”, handed down on 23 September. Both cases have been marked by serious legal failures including the use of torture and other ill-treatment.

    “If Gao Yu and Ilham Tohti were to receive genuinely fair hearings, the charges against them would be dismissed as blatant political persecution,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.  

    October 07, 2014

    Alejandra Ancheita has been selected by the International Human Rights Community as the 2014 Martin Ennals Award Laureate.

    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 7 October.

    Alejandra Ancheita (Mexico), Founder and Executive Director of ProDESC  For over 15 years she has worked with migrants, workers and indigenous communities to protect their land and labour rights vis a vis transnational mining and energy companies. These disputes have included violent attacks on those she is trying to protect. She is also one of the pioneers in seeking accountability for transnational companies in Mexican courts when local communities’ rights are not taken into account. In Mexico, there is a clear pattern of attacks, threats, criminalization and murders of human rights defenders. Ms Ancheita and ProDESC have been subjected to surveillance, a defamation campaign in the national media and a break in at their offices.

    September 12, 2014

    Today’s arrest of the suspects in the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai offers an important opportunity for the authorities to address their poor record in protecting human rights defenders in Pakistan, Amnesty International said.

    “By her words and deeds, the brave education rights activist Malala Yousafzai proved that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher.

    “But human rights defenders promoting the rights of women and girls in her native Swat and across Pakistan remain especially at risk of deadly attacks and other abuse from the Taliban and other groups, not least because of the authorities’ continued failure to hold the perpetrators to account.

    “Human rights defenders play a critical role in promoting the rights of everyone in Pakistan society. With the world watching, it is critical that Pakistan seizes this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, justice and rule of law.”

    July 30, 2014

    The persecution of human rights activists continues unabated in Azerbaijan, in spite of the obligations the country committed to as a member of Council of Europe and currently a chair of its decision making body, the Committee of Ministers, Amnesty International said today.  

    The latest human rights defender to be targeted by the Azerbaijani authorities is Leyla Yunus who was detained today on her way to a press conference in the capital Baku. Her husband Arif Yunus was also briefly detained while visiting her in the Baku prosecutor’s office.
     
    “Leyla Yunus is yet another independent voice in Azerbaijan who, for a long time, the government has tried to silence through threats and intimidation. Failing to achieve this they have now resorted to trumped up charges and detention in order to punish her for criticising the government,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s researcher on Azerbaijan.

    July 22, 2014

    Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent human rights lawyer and a founding member of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is serving a 13-year imprisonment in Evin prison. The Iranian government forcibly shut down the CHRD in December 2008.

    He was arrested on 10 September 2011 on charges including “spreading propaganda against the system”, “setting up an illegal opposition group [the CHRD]”, and “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security.” This is not the first time Abdolfattah Soltani has faced charges for his work as a human rights defender.

    Abdolfattah Soltani and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, served as a lawyer for the family of slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in Evin prison from beatings sustained after her arrest in July 2003. He also served as a lawyer for leaders of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i community, trade unionists, and other political prisoners.

    June 27, 2014

    By upholding a draconian requirement for three more independent organizations to register as “foreign agents”, a Moscow court is rubber stamping the authorities’ witch hunt against peaceful human rights defenders, said Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities’ determination to silence any form of dissent or criticism is astonishing. This week’s decision will further cripple civil society in Russia and have a disastrous impact on thousands of Russians who will see their chances of having their human rights protected greatly diminished,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.  

    On 24, 26 and 27 June, the Zamoskvoretskiy district court in Moscow ruled against appeals by the NGOs Golos, Yurix and Public Verdict not to have to register as “foreign agents”. The registration is required under the repressive “Foreign Agents Law” enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012.

    June 26, 2014

    The Libyan authorities must ensure that yesterday’s killing of a leading human rights activist in Benghazi is properly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice, Amnesty International said.

    Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer who played a prominent role in organizing protests at the start of the uprising that overthrew Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, was shot dead at her home in Benghazi by unknown assailants on the day Libyans voted for a new parliament.

    “The shocking, ruthless killing of Salwa Bugaighis robs Libyan civil society of one it’s most courageous and esteemed figures. But sadly she is by no means the first activist struck down during the political violence that has plagued the country since the uprising and in its aftermath,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    June 25, 2014

    A prominent Saudi Arabian activist convicted today for speaking out on the human rights situation in his country should have his sentence quashed, Amnesty International said amid an ongoing crackdown on rights groups.

    Fowzan al-Harbi, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was sentenced to seven years in prison and a travel ban of equal duration by a court in the capital Riyadh after being convicted on a range of spurious charges related to his human rights work.

    “Fowzan al-Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “His sentence should be quashed immediately and he should walk free from the court. He should never have faced trial in the first place.”

    June 22, 2014
    Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger •First hours after arrest crucial window of opportunity to mobilize action •The press of a button sends an immediate SMS distress signal to activists’ own networks  Fast to activate and hard to detect Tried and tested with more than 100 users in 17 countries

    A new Panic Button app, to give human rights defenders urgent help from their own networks when facing attack, kidnapping, or torture is now available for public download on Google Playstore, announced Amnesty International today.

    The ‘Panic Button’ mobile app for Android, developed by Amnesty International in collaboration with iilab, activists, tech experts and volunteers from around the world, transforms a user’s smart phone into a secret alarm which can be activated rapidly in the event of an emergency, alerting fellow activists to the danger their colleague faces so that they can get help faster.

    June 19, 2014

    Three anti-corruption activists have been imprisoned today simply for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly and should be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said.

    Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping were sentenced to six and a half years’ imprisonment by the Yushui District Court in Xinyu City, Jiangxi Province, while Li Sihua was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

    All three of them were originally charged with “illegal assembly” – which was later changed to the more serious charge of “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance”. Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping were additionally charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement”.

    June 13, 2014

    The Chinese authorities must drop spurious charges against a prominent human rights lawyer and immediately release him, said Amnesty International.

    Pu Zhiqiang was formally arrested on 13 June for “picking quarrels” and “illegally obtaining personal information”. He was originally detained by police on 6 May after he attended a seminar in Beijing that called for an investigation into the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

    “These are trumped up charges against Pu Zhiqiang. The Chinese authorities must end the witch-hunt against those championing the rights of others and immediately release Pu," said William Nee, Amnesty International’s China Researcher.

    "It was a deeply disturbing sign when Pu was first detained. The past month has seen a widespread campaign of repression with the authorities going further than in previous years, both in terms of who has been targeted and the harsh measures being used.”

     

    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

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