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2017 Successes

    December 21, 2017

    DECEMBER 2016

    East Aleppo Evacuations

    Our digital campaigning action calling for safe evacuation from East Aleppo in December saw just under 300,000 people take action via, with 284,439 visits on one day (much over the average of around 19,000 per day). We rely on the dedication of amazing supporters worldwide to come together and take action on important issues like this so the world cannot ignore crises like these.

    Write for Rights

    Amnesty supporters around the world outdid themselves during Write for Rights 2016. Together, people worldwide wrote an amazing 4,660,774 letters, emails, tweets and much more. Among those messages were words of support that made all the difference to the many whose rights we were writing for. “It brought me to tears to see all the letters that Amnesty International had collected,” said Jewher Tohti, whose father Ilham remains in prison in China. “It makes me feel stronger when I know there are so many people who trust in me, my father, and my family.” US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who also featured in Write for Rights 2016, said: “I want to thank you, humbly and with a full heart, for your unwavering advocacy and support.”

    Salil Shetty held a long-awaited meeting with Edward Snowden later on in the year, in October, and used this opportunity to hand over in person some of the solidarity messages written by 710,024 Amnesty supporters from 110 countries as part of last year’s campaign.


    Gambia opposition leaders freed

    Amadou Sanneh

    On 30 January, opposition party members Amadou Sanneh, Malang Fatty and his brother Alhagie Sambou Fatty were finally freed in Gambia following more than three years of campaigning by Amnesty supporters. Within two days, Amadou Sanneh was sworn-in as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs in the new Gambian government. The government had been at a stalemate until the previous ruler, Yahya Jammeh, accepted the election results and ceded power in late January. “Amnesty’s work has an impact on people,” Amadou Sanneh later told us. “At the end they really didn’t care about us. Without Amnesty’s support it could have been worse. Amnesty’s effort reduced what they were doing. I am very grateful for that. All the people that were imprisoned we appreciate Amnesty’s work a lot.”


    Lives saved in Iran

    Hamid Ahmadi

    At least two people’s lives were saved in Iran, thanks to thousands of people tweeting and writing appeals to the Iranian authorities. On 15 February, Hamid Ahmadi’s impending execution was called off at the last minute because of the pressure supporters put on Iran’s authorities.

    Prisoner’s death sentence dropped in Malaysia

    Shahrul Izani bin Suparman's family

    Thousands of people across the world wrote letters and cards, urging Malaysia to spare the life of Shahrul Izani bin Suparman. And it worked. On 27 February, his death sentenced was replaced with a life sentence. According to the Malaysian authorities, the thousands of letters and cards from New Zealand to Nigeria helped persuade them to remove Shahrul from death row. They also returned him to the general prison population, after 11 years in solitary confinement. He is scheduled for release in 2030, but may be freed as soon as 2021 if his further plea for clemency is accepted. Thanks to the efforts of Amnesty supporters around the world, Shahrul’s family are hopeful that they will be reunited with him one day soon.

    Longest imprisoned journalist freed in Uzbekistan

    Muhammad Bekzhanov

    Muhammad Bekzhanov was freed on 22 February after spending 17 years in prison in Uzbekistan. He was one of the longest imprisoned journalists in the world. Tortured into confessing to “anti-state” offences, he was jailed in 1999. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide wrote for his freedom during Amnesty’s 2015 Write for Rights campaign and beyond. Thanks to this global pressure, Muhammad can finally be with his family again.

    Historic ruling on Dadaab

    The Kenya High Court blocked the government’s unilateral decision to shut Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest refugee camp. The ruling came in response to a petition by two Kenyan human rights organizations, which was supported by Amnesty. Dadaab’s closure would effectively have left more than 260,000 Somali refugees at risk of forced return to Somalia, a country still deeply affected by armed conflict.


    Doctor released in Bahrain

    Dr Ali al-‘Ekri was freed on 10 March after serving five years in prison. His so-called crime was treating injured protesters and criticizing the security forces for using excessive force during the 2011 uprising. He was arrested while operating on a child, detained and tortured. Dr Ali al-‘Ekri thanked the thousands around the world who wrote for his release.


    Death row inmate released in Iran

    Salar Shadizadi

    On 25 April, Salar Shadizadi, sentenced to death when he was just 15 years old, was freed from prison. Quick action by supporters worldwide ensured that Salar’s life was spared on numerous occasions before his release in April, after spending 10 years behind bars.


    Chelsea Manning freed

    Chelsea Manning

    Chelsea Manning walked free on 17 May, after her 35-year prison sentence was cut short by outgoing US President Barack Obama in January. She had been jailed for exposing classified information, including of possible war crimes committed by the US military. More than a quarter of a million people wrote for her release as part of Amnesty’s flagship Write for Rights letter-writing campaign in 2015. In a letter she penned to Amnesty at the time, she wrote: “I support the work you do in protecting people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. It seems to me that transparency in government is a fundamental prerequisite to ensuring and protecting the freedom and dignity of all people.”


    Taiwan makes progress towards marriage equality

    Taiwan looks set to be the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, following a decision by its highest court in May endorsing marriage equality. Amnesty supporters from 40 countries around the world sent messages of support in the form of a marriage proposal, urging Taiwan to “say yes”. These messages were screened during a huge rally, organized by Amnesty Taiwan and our local partners – demonstrating global support for what could be a historic step for the country. Taiwan’s government has two years to make the ruling law. We will be stepping up our campaign to make sure it doesn’t take that long.

    Woman and cat holding "Say Yes" sign

    Young people rally for marriage equality in Taiwan, May 2017

    Activists in Russia released

    In Russia, the criminal case against human rights defender Valentina Cherevatenko for violation of the notorious foreign agents’ law was finally closed and she asked us to pass a great big “thank you” to everyone who has been working on her case over the past 27 months. She saw this as our common victory and said reliable sources had informed her that international support played a huge role in her case.

    Paraguay brings its national law in line with the ICC

    Paraguay amended its national laws to make genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes criminal acts, in line with its obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Amnesty and local civil society groups, had campaigned for more than a decade to make this happen.


    Man stands over contaminated soil in the Niger Delta

    Our latest Amnesty Decoders project, launched in early June, is now complete. In total, 3,545 digital volunteers helped us analyse 2,985 documents and images relating to oil spills in the oil-producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria from 2011-17. The volunteers, who came from 142 countries, completed more than 160,000 separate questions and spent a total of 1,300 hours helping us – the equivalent of someone working full-time for eight months.


    Kurdish activists released after urgent action

    July saw the release of three out of four leading Syrian Kurdish opposition activists who were arbitrarily detained in northern Syria. Their release came after an urgent action and some advocacy work.

    Gay men released in Bangladesh

    Twenty-eight men who were arrested in May 2017 during a gathering known to be frequented by gay men near Dhaka, Bangladesh are now free. Police had arrested men they suspected of being gay and charged them with 'drug possession', which can carry a penalty of life imprisonment or a death sentence. Since their release, they do not appear to be facing imminent danger any longer.


    Erkin Musaev released

    Erkin Musaev, who was tortured and wrongly imprisoned for 11 years by the Uzbekistan government, was finally freed in August. He sent a letter to thank Amnesty activists for all their support.

    Abortion is decriminalized in Chile

    In an important breakthrough for women’s rights in Chile, a historic ruling by the constitutional court decriminalized abortion in cases when the woman’s life is at risk, the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the fetus is not expected to survive outside the uterus. The law was approved by Congress recently, after two years’ debate and a massive campaign by a wide range of Chilean organizations including our section. As Amnesty, we had intervened by filing a brief, detailing how international human rights law applied to the case and how it required the law to be declared constitutional.

    Lim Hyeon-soo released in North Korea

    In North Korea, Lim Hyeon-soo, a Christian pastor and humanitarian worker of Canadian nationality, was released after two and a half years of detention with hard labour in North Korea – we had campaigned for his release.

    Dr Mudawi released in Sudan

    We welcomed the release of Sudanese prisoner of conscience Dr Mudawi after eight months of unjust imprisonment.

    Palestinian clown released

    Palestinian circus performer Mohammad Faisal Abu was also released who had been held for almost two years without charge or trial.

    USA – Berks kids released

    No child should grow up behind bars. But thanks to supporters, courageous lawyers and activists on the ground, four children and their mothers were finally free after nearly 700 days in an immigration detention center in the United States.

    On August 17, Carlos (4), Michael (16) and their mothers, Lorena and Maribel were ordered released. This follows the releases of Diego (3) and Joshua (7) and their mothers, Wendy and Maria. Each family is seeking asylum after fleeing traumatic and life-threatening events in Honduras and El Salvador.

    Tarek Hussein released in Egypt

    Human rights defender and former prisoner of conscience Tarek Hussein was freed and reunited with his family. Tarek is a lawyer who works at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR). He is also a member of the Freedom for the Brave campaign, a civil society organization working to advance the rights of detainees.


    100s of gigs across 60 countries in aid of refugees

    On September 20, more than1000 artists took part in #GiveaHome; a global day of welcome with 300+ gigs across 60 countries, with a powerful message that we all should welcome refugees. It brought together musicians, refugees and music fans in the aim of uniting people to welcome refugees – because we all deserve a home, not just the memory of one. Among the big names involved were Ed Sheeran, Gregory Porter, Hot Chip, Jessie Ware, Kate Tempest, The Naked and Famous, The National, Oh Wonder, POLIÇA and Zero 7.

    Ibrahim Halawa released

    On 18 September 2017, Ibrahim Halawa, a young Irish citizen, was finally acquitted of all charges. The verdict came after more than 30 adjournments and delays. Ibrahim was just 17 years old when he was first arrested while taking sanctuary in the Al Fath mosque. His sisters Omaima, Somaia and Fatima were also arrested and released on bail. They have also been acquitted of all charges. Ibrahim, the youngest of the family, on the day of his acquittal, he spent 1,472 precious days of his young life languishing in an Egyptian prison.

    Rohingya response

    Amnesty’s swift investigations combining satellite imagery with testimony, photos and videos found clear evidence of a scorched earth campaign by the Myanmar military, and a litany of grave abuses including unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests. We were the first to confirm the use of anti-personnel landmines along the border with Bangladesh. We have been responding strongly through media, campaigning and advocacy to call for an end to the violence, an arms embargo, accountability, and access for humanitarian actors and the UN Fact-Finding Mission.

    South Korean police accept important reforms on policing assemblies

    The Korean National Police Agency agreed to adopt comprehensive measures to better guarantee the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, including stricter controls over the dispersal of assemblies, and the use of water cannons and bus barricades. While there still some shortcomings, and the measures need to be firmly enshrined in law, the reforms accepted are consistent with many of the recommendations Amnesty International has made over the past years [including in the published briefing Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in South Korea].


    40 years on, 105 countries have abolished the death penalty

    This month’s World Day against the Death Penalty had special significance as we marked 40 years of highly successful campaigning towards its abolition. Also this month, the scheduled execution of 17-year-old Amirhossein Pourjafar in Iran was halted after rapid advocacy, campaigning and media work across the movement. Our work on the death penalty in the country, including promoting our materials in Persian language on the messaging app Telegram, has contributed to an important domestic debate on juvenile executions. When Amnesty began its global campaign against the death penalty in 1977, only 16 states had fully abolished the death penalty. Today that number stands at 105, more than half the world’s countries..

    Ten friends and colleagues released on bail in Tukey

    Idil Eser embraces a friend after being released from prison

    Following a decision by a court in Istanbul to conditionally release eight human rights defenders while their trial continues, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General said:

    “Today, finally, we celebrate that our friends and colleagues can go back with their loved ones and can sleep in their own beds for the first time in almost four months.

    Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested on 5 July, whilst Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. They are accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” even though there was no evidence presented to support such a claim.

    Trans people in Greece gain legal recognition

    Following a campaign by Amnesty and others in Greece, the Greek Parliament passed a law updating the procedure for legal gender recognition. Trans people in Greece will now be able to have their gender identity legally recognised in official documents without having to undergo medical treatment or psychiatric assessments.


    Mauritania : Death penalty for Facebook blogger quashed

    In response to today’s Appeal Court ruling in Mauritania releasing a blogger who had been sentenced to death for writing a ‘blasphemous’ post on Facebook, Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director said: “This really is a day of triumph for him and his family, as well as all those who campaigned on his behalf since 2014.”

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