On the afternoon of June 9th, 14 men, including six armed municipal policemen and a state court official, arrived at a shelter that works to protect women and children at grave risk due to extreme violence in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, northern Mexico. They demanded entry into the shelter, claiming they were searching for a girl who had been kidnapped. They carried with them official court documents, none of which referred to the women’s shelter. The men were denied entry because the shelter’s protocol strictly prohibits men on the premises in an effort to ensure the protection and confidentiality of the women who have sought refuge.
The men repeatedly issued violent threats against the staff at the shelter. One police officer pointed his gun at the coordinator and said, “You’re going to regret this, you’ll get yourself into trouble, it’s better if you cooperate or we will push down the doors and break the locks.” Following repeated threats and fearing for their lives, the staff eventually allowed the men to enter the shelter. They ransacked the shelter, overturning furniture and searching under beds. Once they were satisfied the girl was not there, they left.
This violent breach of the rights of the women seeking protection at this shelter is especially dangerous because many of them have fled violent partners, including various municipal policemen. The forced entry of these policemen has jeopardized the women’s safety by revealing their location and exposing them to potential future reprisals.
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Authorities have arrested two leading members of a trade union in Iran that is not recognized by Iranian authorities. Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are currently detained at unknown locations, where they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. It is speculated that these two men’s arrests are connected to the June 12th anniversary of the disputed 2009 presidential election. Both men were arrested, while authorities searched their homes and confiscated their computers and cell phones.
Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are both members of the The Union (or Syndicate) of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed), which was banned after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The union activities resumed in 2004, although the union itself is not legally recognized.
Despite the fact that the union is not recognized by Iranian authorities, the arrests of Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are unlawful. Iran is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political, Article 22 (1) of which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests,” and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 8 of which guarantees the “right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his choice”.
An enforced disappearance facilitates the use of torture and other ill-treatment, and Amnesty International is concerned about the conditions of these two men. Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are believed to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful trade union activities.
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While we live in a country where there is a holiday that honors the American flag, it’s hard to imagine that in other countries it is considered a crime to raise a flag! Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the American flag, is celebrated in the United States on June 14th.
© MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images
It may seem silly that we have an entire day devoted to a rectangular piece of material, but the meaning of the flag runs deeper than that. The American flag is a representation of not only the freedom our country possesses as a whole, but also the freedom bestowed to each individual – a kind of freedom that is often denied in other parts of the world.
In December of 2004, Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were arrested for raising the West Papuan flag, known as the “Morning Star” flag during a peaceful ceremony outside Abepura in Papua, Indonesia. The flag is a symbol of Papuan independence. Filep and Yusak were subsequently charged with rebellion for allegedly leading the flag-raising event, and were later sentenced to prison for 10 and 15 years respectively in May 2005 for charges of treason for “betraying” Indonesia by flying the outlawed flag. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, detained purely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
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Aterciopelados at UN concert ©AI
The Colombian rock group Aterciopelados performed last week at the UN Day Concert: A Tribute to Peacekeeping, as they performed their hit song ‘The Price of Silence’ at the ceremony in New York this past Friday, October 23rd. The UN Day Concert event was put together by the non-profit organization, Culture Project to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations charter, focusing on its most crucial purpose of peacekeeping. The event featured live music performances and documentary clips, appearances by the Aterciopelados, CNN’s Isha Sesay, Roberta Flack, Lang Lang, Harry Belafonte, , Angelique Kidjo, former child soldier Emmanuel Jal, and Sister Fa. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made an introductory statement at the event and then stayed for the show.
Aterciopelados were invited because of their contribution and participation with Amnesty International campaigns, since late 2008. They participated in a collaborative performance with singers from all over the world for a human rights anthem ‘The price of silence’, inspired by an Aterciopelados song called “Protest Song” from their album Oye, Latin Grammy winner.
The U2 360 Degrees concert this past Tuesday September 29th, at FedEx Field in Washington DC, was truly spectacular. These guys really do know how to put on a show! The band performed all their acclaimed classics, and surprised the crowd with unbelievable stage props, lighting effects, stage expansions, and new medleys. U2 has tirelessly fought for human rights around the world and they did not fail to include this in their show.
I attended the event as a volunteer for Amnesty International spreading the word for Demand Dignity in the fight for justice against poverty, as well as signing up new members and explaining to people how they can take action. The bonus: going on stage with U2 and the other 85 volunteers in the name of Aung San Suu Kyi (prisoner of conscience in Myanmar) during the song “Walk On.” To call this moment amazing is an understatement. Walking on stage and helping to communicate a message of strength and hope to 84,000 people was simply powerful.
Amnesty International is still travelling on tour with the band. Look for us at the show and demand “Justice Against Poverty!”
Its official: Amnesty International USA is touring with U2. U2’s “360 Degrees” US tour kicked off this past Saturday, September 12th in Chicago, but Amnesty has been a part of the tour since the first date in Barcelona over the summer. Amnesty International’s focus will be the new campaign Demand Dignity that works to end the human rights abuses that are a cause and a consequence of poverty. Volunteers will be taking photos of fans holding placard signs that say “Justice Against Poverty”, as well as signing up new members and explaining to people how they can take action on important issues around the demand dignity campaign.
U2 has been involved in many campaigns with Amnesty International and has tirelessly fought for human rights around the world. On the “360 Degrees” European tour during a July concert in their hometown of Dublin, U2 and Amnesty International announced that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (prisoners of conscience in Myanmar) had been recognized with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009. This award recognizes her exceptional leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights.
Amnesty International is proud to have U2 as a companion on the Human Right’s stage. Look for us at the show!
As always, it is those with no resources that lose out first. Despite of the acute international pressure, protests, threats of violence and the possibility of a civil war, the arrogant power struggle the Honduran Government has been playing at, has led to a critical consequence: the European Union has officially suspended millions in aid to Honduras, as Washington suspends 18 million in military and development assistance, warning the facto Government of more “consequences” to come.
The European Union’s decision to suspend 65.5 million Euros in aid comes after failed attempts to negotiate talks for the resolution of the political crisis in the country, the worst political crisis in Central America in two decades. Recently negotiation talks were mediated by the Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace prize winner Oscar Arias, who proposed a six-point plan that first and foremost requests the reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya to finish his term until late January. Delegates speaking on behalf of the interim government said that Zelaya will be arrested if he returns to his country, a statement that ignores the claims of the United Nations and the international community. Among the other proposals put forth by President Arias is: to form a coalition government, to declare amnesty for political crimes, push for advancing elections and the resignation of Zelaya to a referendum, among other things.
It is a devastating problem for a country like Honduras to lose humanitarian aid and support of entities like the Organization of American States, the United Nations, the European Union and United States. For the members of the Honduran Congress who opted for not only an illegal, but a rebellious solution to resolve an issue in their administration, the loss of millions of Euros, may not be much. Though, the loss of foreign aid has a direct and instantaneous effect for the millions of Hondurans in need living in this impoverished nation. The Honduran government should react as soon as possible before we see more violations of human rights, or more acts of violence and attacks on democracy in Central America that already hangs by a thread.
Deposed President Zelaya took a few steps into Honduran territory on Friday, immediately turning back without being confronted. As of Sunday night, Manuel Zelaya remains on the Nicaraguan border with Honduras, where he has vowed to stay until allowed to enter the country.