There were at least 607 executions in 2014. So what?

By Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty Researcher at Amnesty International

The numbers behind our latest overview of the global use of the death penalty, released today, tell a chilling story: 607 people were executed in 22 countries and at least 2,466 men and women were sentenced to death in 55 countries in 2014 alone.

But, alarming as they are, the figures paint a partial picture of the true extent to which people are hanged, shot or given the lethal injection across the world.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Arrested and Beaten for Wearing Trousers: Stop the Public Flogging of Women in Sudan!

Three Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers, walk on a main street in central Khartoum on September 8, 2009. The thousands of women who wear trousers every day all run the risk of a flogging if police decide their clothes are provocative. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

Three Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers, walk on a main street in central Khartoum on September 8, 2009. The thousands of women who wear trousers every day all run the risk of a flogging if police decide their clothes are provocative. ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

By Amal Habani, Winner of Amnesty International USA’s 2015 Ginetta Sagan Award

In July 2009 when my colleague was arrested and tried for wearing trousers in Khartoum, I could no longer stay silent.

Women and girls in Sudan are constantly confronted with obstacles imposed by the public order regime that hinder their freedom of movement, their freedom of association, and their ability to make personal choices on a daily basis.  As a Sudanese woman, I had always encountered these problems and as such, aspired to become a journalist to speak out for social change.

The public order regime in Sudan consists of laws and practices that allow the imposition of corporal punishment for what is seen as immoral behavior.  Notably, Sudan’s Criminal Penal Code of 1991, article 152, which was renamed and incorporated into the Society Safety Code (2009), calls for the punishment of people who perform in public, an “indecent act or an act contrary to public morals or wears an obscene outfit or contrary to public morals or causing an annoyance to public feelings.”[1]  Those who violate this law may be subject to flogging not exceeding forty lashes and/or fined. Because the standard for contradicting public morality is subjective and not defined, this article is frequently applied arbitrarily to the detriment of women and girls.

This system disproportionately affects women and girls due to deeply entrenched gender-based discrimination where women and girls can be stopped by police, sent before a judge, and sentenced to a public flogging for nothing more than wearing pants or leaving their hair uncovered.

There are also issues of due process including the right to a lawyer and a fair trial. Defendants in most cases are tried immediately or within a few days by public order courts which do not meet Sudanese or international fair trial standards.  Amnesty International has documented cases where defendants are lashed within hours of their arrest.

I estimate that 40,000 to 50,000 females in Khartoum alone are detained, tried, and punished each year under the public order regime.  Many are traumatized and afraid to speak out due to a fear of stigmatization.

Amnesty International and other international organizations, including the United Nations, have condemned the flogging of women, calling for the abolition of this punishment.  In accordance with international and domestic law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Sudan’s 2005 Interim Constitution, Sudan should put an end to flogging, as it constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

In response to the subjugation of my colleague and countless others, I co-founded the No to Oppressing Women Initiative (NOW) in 2009 to campaign against the Public Order Laws.  As part of NOW, I along with other activists submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Justice calling to repeal these laws, and in response we were beaten and arrested by the police.  In July 2012, I was arrested again, detained for four days, and subjected to psychological torture while campaigning for the release of NOW women activists.

Women activists in Sudan are working fearlessly and tirelessly to advocate against flogging women for violations of the public order laws.  But this has not been enough.

No one should have to be afraid of being arrested and beaten for wearing pants in public.

Join me and other women activists and tell the government of Sudan to:

  • Repeal Article 152 of the Criminal Code 1991 because the article is vague and discriminatory, and fails to adhere to Sudan’s human rights obligations;
  • Remove the penalty of flogging for crimes against public order because it is cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment; and
  • Fulfill their obligations under human rights treaties, including Article 7 of the ICCPR, and Article 5 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights

TAKE ACTION NOW!

[1] Sudan Criminal Penal Code of 1991, art. 152 “Obscene and Indecent Acts,” accessed 14 November 2014: <http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1329_1202725629_sb106-sud-criminalact1991.pdf>

(Contributions by Cindy Ko)

Cesar Chavez: A Birthday Gift

A man holds a portrait of Cesar Chavez at a mass in Los Angeles. Chavez was born on March 31, 1927. (c) David McNew/Getty Images)

A man holds a portrait of Cesar Chavez at a mass in Los Angeles. Chavez was born on March 31, 1927. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

By Jesús Canchola Sánchez

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona. My grandmother is a year younger than him. She was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. Cesar Chavez and my abuela (grandmother), Beatriz Soto, are a part of me. Their experiences, successes, and faults have constructed my identity in the United States. Without their stories, I wouldn’t have my voice. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women Get the Short End of the Stick in Iran and Can’t Even Protest

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As if it weren’t bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Journalist and Activist Disappeared in Zimbabwe

tai Dzamara (left) and fellow activists of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest, have vowed to continue with their sit in until their demands are met by President Robert Mugabe. (Picture by Daily News)

tai Dzamara (left) and fellow activists of the Occupy Africa Unity Square protest, have vowed to continue with their sit in until their demands are met by President Robert Mugabe. (Picture by Daily News)

On the morning of March 9, in front of a Harare neighborhood barbershop, five men in civilian clothes abducted journalist and activist Itai Dzamara. He was handcuffed, bundled into a white truck with no visible license plates, and has not been seen since. He has disappeared, leaving a wife and two young children behind to grieve and demand he be brought home. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Where can Human Rights Defenders turn to in Honduras?

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White crosses in memory of those victims of violence are seen around Tegucigalpa after being placed by members of human rights organizations, on July 9, 2014. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Victims of abuses in Honduras rely upon the work of human rights defenders in their country for help. But what happens when the defenders themselves become the target of threats and violence?

Amnesty International’s recent report, Defending Human Rights in the Americas: Necessary, Legitimate and Dangerous, features several examples of abuses directed against human rights defenders in Honduras: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Victory in Paraguay is a Big Step Forward for Domestic Violence Survivors

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By Debbie Sharnak, Argentina-Paraguay country specialist

On August 27, 2014, Paraguay took a huge step forward in promoting the rights of domestic violence survivors when they released Lucia Sandoval from prison. Sandoval had been in jail for over three years on the charge of homicide after she defended herself against an abusive husband. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Tech and Human Rights: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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As someone whose job it is to take advantage of technological progress for human rights research and advocacy, I am a strong proponent of using new tools and methods to advance Amnesty International’s goals. There is a proven track record of how technology can help human rights researchers and defenders in their daily work. However, any debate on this topic should not overlook the increasing challenges and threats that new technologies and digital networks pose for our profession. I am increasingly interested in exploring this undeniable tension, and I am fortunate enough to moderate a panel related to this topic Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting in Brooklyn this weekend (full details below). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The First Day of Spring Should Not Be Spent Behind Bars in Iran

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Former Iranian prisoner of conscience Maziar Bahari said “the prisoner’s worst nightmare is the thought of being forgotten.”   The first day of spring is a particularly painful time for those incarcerated in Iran because it is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, an ancient holiday that is the occasion for joyous celebration with family and friends. That is why it is so important to remind prisoners of conscience that they are NOT forgotten at Nowruz time. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#UnfollowMe: 5 Reasons We Should All Be Concerned About Government Surveillance

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By Erin Herro, Volunteer Fellow at AIUSA’s Security With Human Rights Program

Today Amnesty International launched #UnfollowMe – a campaign demanding an end to mass surveillance. And we released the results of a global poll of more than 13,000 people across every continent.

What’d we find? More than 70% of respondents worldwide are strongly opposed to the U.S. government monitoring their internet use. And in the United States, less than a quarter of U.S. citizens approve of their government spying on them. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST