About Bryna Subherwal

Bryna Subherwal is the Individuals at Risk Campaigner for the Americas. In this position she leads the development and implementation of campaign strategies for individual cases of human rights abuses throughout Latin America, the US, and Canada. Bryna worked with a number of programs, including New Media, Outreach and Training, and Government Relations. Prior to joining AIUSA, Bryna worked as a Program Coordinator at the United Nations Association in New York, and before that she worked with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the UN. Bryna speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and holds an M.A. from Yale University and a B.A. from Smith College.
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Top Ten Reasons to Write for Rights

Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.

In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to participate, but in case you need more, here are my top ten reasons to Write for Rights: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Tweet to Free Jabbar Savalan

Remember how everyone sent birthday cards to prisoner of conscience Jabbar Savalan when he turned 20 in September? We’ve continued campaigning for his release, and the cards were intended to remind him that although he is in prison serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on trumped-up charges to punish him for his peaceful anti-government activities (using Facebook to call for protests against the Azerbaijani government), he is not alone.

Well, tomorrow (October 18th) Azerbaijan celebrates its own 20th birthday, of independence from the former Soviet Union, so we’re stepping up with a new action to remind the authorities they can’t suppress peaceful protest through bogus charges and jail sentences. We know from our Twitter action for Eynulla Fatullayev that we can have an impact in Azerbaijan and our messages will be read.

So today we’re starting a global twitter action with several other Amnesty sections calling for Jabbar Savalan’s release. Send a message to the President of Azerbaijan – @presidentaz on Twitter. Here are some sample messages for you to use:

 I’m calling on @presidentaz to release #Jabbar Savalan, locked up in #Azerbaijan for a #facebook post!

@presidentaz, Please release 20-year-old #Jabbar Savalan, arrested for using #facebook to call for peaceful protest in #Azerbaijan!

Then please send this tweet to share our twitter action with your contacts:

Join @amnesty in calling for the release of 20-year-old #Jabbar Savalan, jailed in #Azerbaijan for a #facebook post!

Don’t have a Twitter account? Why not join Twitter and give our action a try? You’ll also find it’s a great way to keep up-to-date with our campaign work!

Alternatively, you could share the message above on President Aliyev’s public Facebook page. Copy the text from the sample tweets above and add it as a comment to his latest update.

For more detail on Jabbar’s case, and to keep up to date with new actions in the campaign for his freedom, visit www.amnestyusa.org/freejabbar or join the Free Jabbar Savalan page on Facebook.

Outrageous Prison Sentences for Bahraini Teachers

Scores of perceived political foes have faced trials in military courts © Amnesty International

We’ve had a lot to say over recent months about Bahrain’s treatment of protesters, and unfortunately, the most recent news doesn’t make the situation much brighter: a Bahrain military court decided to uphold the guilty verdicts against a group of prominent opposition activists, exposing yet again the inherent unfairness of the trial process.

The activists whose sentences were confirmed today (in proceedings lasting less than five minutes) are not the only civilians being tried in military courts. The ongoing struggle of teachers Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, former president and vice-president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), suffered another setback on Sunday: they have been sentenced to 10 and three years in prison respectively.

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Student Activist Spends Birthday Behind Bars in Azerbaijan

Jabbar Savalan

Jabbar Savalan behind bars after making a comment critical of the government on Facebook

Back in February, we told you about 19-year-old Jabbar Savalan, a student activist from Azerbaijan who had been arrested after he posted on Facebook calling for protests against the government.

In May, Jabbar Savalan was convicted on bogus charges and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

This Sunday, September 4th 2011 Jabbar will turn 20 years old in prison. On his birthday we want Jabbar to know that he has the support of people all over the world.

Send him birthday cards showing your solidarity or post a birthday greeting on our Facebook page that we’ll deliver to Jabbar.  Let Jabbar know that he’s not alone and that we’re taking action to ensure he won’t have to spend another birthday behind bars.

You can also send a message to the President of Azerbaijan urging him to immediately and unconditionally release Jabbar from prison.

Join the “Free Jabbar Savalan” Facebook page

Continued Impunity: Enforced Disappearances in Colombia

In the last two weeks, Francisco Pineda and Everto González, two members of the community council of Caracolí in north-west Colombia, were subjected to enforced disappearance by paramilitaries. They were both picked up by a group of paramilitaries, who took them away to “resolve some land issues.”

Pineda and González have not been heard from since, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Amnesty International fears their lives and the lives of other members of the Afro-descendant community may be at risk, and has issued an Urgent Action on their behalf.

Enforced disappearances persist in many countries all over the world, and violate a wide range of human rights. In Colombia, especially, there is tremendous impunity for enforced disappearances, and violators continue to evade justice.

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Lydia Cacho Threatened Again

Lydia Cacho, a journalist and human rights defender based in Cancún, Mexico, received new death threats last month by email and telephone.

On June 14, Cacho received a death threat by email, which was sent to the Lydia Cacho Foundation (Fundación Lydia Cacho) based in Spain. Three days later on June 17, she received another death threat by telephone from an unknown man. Both threats referred to her work as a journalist and warned her to shut her mouth or she would be killed.

As complaints were filed with the Police both in Mexico and in Spain, Amnesty International released an Urgent Action asking members to write to the Mexican authorities to provide adequate protection to Lydia Cacho. Take online action for Lydia right now.

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Anna Politkovskaya's Killer Finally Behind Bars

Anna Politkovskaya in Helsinki in December 2002.

Rustom Makhmudov was detained on 31 May 2011 in Chechnya and charged two days later for the murder of journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya. This news comes almost 5 years after she was brutally shot at point-blank range while entering the elevator of her apartment building in the centre of Moscow where she lived in October 2006.

Anna was known for her fearless coverage of the conflict and human rights situation in Chechnya, and had thus been detained, threatened and even poisoned previously on a number of occasions. She was a journalist for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and had written extensively on abuses such as violence in the army, corruption in state structures, and police brutality.

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Urgent Action Network: Saving Lives Through Fast Action

“Please act as quickly as possible. This may be crucial in locating Professor Rossi, or even in helping to save his life.  Others have disappeared in this manner, and never been found again…We must do all we can to prevent another similar case.”

Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi

Those were the closing words of a brief but urgent message received by Amnesty International supporters on March 19, 1973. It was the first-ever Urgent Action, issued on behalf of Professor Luiz Basilio Rossi, who had disappeared after his arrest on February 15th, 1973 in São Paulo, Brazil.

A prisoner of conscience in Brazil under the military regime, then a human rights activist – his story has set a powerful model for the tens of thousands of Urgent Actions that have followed. It was not until the letters started to pour in that Rossi’s relatives were allowed to visit him. Although many people taken into police custody were never seen again, Rossi was eventually freed in October 1973.

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Rally to Free Filep Karma in Washington DC

Filep KarmaFilep Karma has spent the last 6 years in prison for raising a flag. Join us in Washington, DC on May 19th for a rally at the Indonesian embassy demanding his release!

On December 1 2004, Filep Karma committed an act of simple courage. In commemoration of the 1962 declaration of Papuan independence, the prominent rights activist participated in a peaceful ceremony with hundreds of other members of Indonesia’s Papuan population. Exercising his right to freedom of expression, Karma raised the Morning Star Flag – a banned symbol of Papuan independence. The Indonesian police responded to the ceremony with crushing repression, beating and firing shots at the crowd. Karma was arrested and, on May 26, 2005, sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment on charges of treason.

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Relief Tempered By Sadness: The World Is Still A Dangerous Place To Be LGBT

© Getty Images

It’s been a week of incredible ups and downs for LGBT people around the world. We hardly had time to feel joy for the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Brazil, when we learned that the Ugandan parliament was getting ready to vote on a law that would have outlawed homosexuality and imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

Amnesty International and many others called on the Ugandan parliament to reject the bill, and we all felt great relief today when the parliament dissolved without debating or voting on the bill. It’s entirely possible that the bill could be reintroduced when new members of parliament are sworn in next week, but at least it wasn’t passed today, as had been feared.

But the feeling of relief is mixed with sadness, because LGBT people continue to be killed because of who they are in many countries, regardless of what the laws say. On May 4th, Quetzalcoatl Leija Herrera, an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights in Mexico, was attacked and killed when he was walking home in the evening, in what appears to have been a homophobic attack. Police are investigating, but as so often happens in these kinds of cases, their inquiries are strangely focused almost exclusively on Herrera’s friends in the LGBT community.

This isn’t the first instance of police being less than sympathetic toward LGBT people that Amnesty International has documented: in 2009 we issued an Urgent Action on three transgender women in Honduras, two of whom were killed, and one of whom was beaten by police.

So while it’s great that we can celebrate progress like the legalization of same-sex unions in Brazil, it’s clear there’s a long way to go, and a lot more action needed, before the world will truly be a safe place to be LGBT.