15 Human Rights Success Stories of 2013

By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA

It’s rare Amnesty activists get a moment to stop and take a breath. But with the start of a new year comes the opportunity to take stock of the progress we’ve made and the successes we helped accomplish in 2013. There’s still much to be done, but we hope the list below will help inspire all of us in the year to come:

Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years' imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).

Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years’ imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).

1. In 52 years, Amnesty International activists have helped free tens of thousands of Prisoners of Conscience around the world. In 2013, we continued that trend. Human rights activists freed this year included Yorm Bopha in Cambodia, Kartam Joga in India, Filipino poet Ericson Acosta, Yemeni journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ and Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh.

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When Will Big Companies Really Take Responsibility for Industrial Disasters?

On December 2nd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

On December 2nd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

By Joe Westby, Corporate Campaigner at Amnesty International Online 

This week marked the 29th anniversary of one of the world’s worst-ever industrial disasters: the infamous gas leak from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that, on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killed thousands. Many more have been left to suffer since then, given the abject failure by both the Indian government and the companies involved to provide survivors and their families with an adequate remedy and justice.

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This Woman Has Been Denied Justice for 17 Years

Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).

Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).

By Rebecca Landy, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

You probably are aware of the news reports in the last twelve months regarding the horrific sweatshop fires and building collapses in Bangladesh that killed and injured over a thousand, mainly women, laborers.

Or maybe you read recently about U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling out Bangladesh for the injustice and violation of international law in the recent verdict of death sentences for 152 border guards accused of murder.

But chances are you have not heard of Kalpana Chakma and the 17-year miscarriage of justice in waiting for a proper investigation into her disappearance.

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Peace in the Home and Peace in the World: Help End Violence Against Women!

By Tarah Demant, Co-Chair of Amnesty International USA Women’s Rights Co-Group

A life free from violence is a fundamental human right, yet daily, women and girls are targeted specifically because of their sex or gender, and violence in communities often affects women disproportionately. Violence against women is a global epidemic; no country or community is immune.

Violence against women is used as a tool of discrimination, control, and intimidation, and it restricts women’s choices and increases their vulnerability to further injustices. 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, or abused in her lifetime, yet violence against women affects us all. Consider the following cases:

  • In Sudan, women can be can be stopped by the police, arrested, jailed, and even sentenced to public flogging for nothing more than wearing pants or leaving her hair uncovered.
  • In Egypt, women protesters have faced harassment and assault while Egypt’s political leaders have remained silence about the rampant sexual violence and discrimination.
  • In Syria, more than 2 million people have fled the armed crisis, and now tens of thousands of women and girl refugees in Jordan risk further violence simply because they have no safe access to a toilet.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, often ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman, women human rights defenders provide grassroots assistance to civilians, yet they themselves face intimidation, attack, rape, and sexual violence for their efforts.
  • In Bangladesh, women human rights defenders work for the rights of indigenous people throughout the country, yet 17 years after the disappearance of a high-profile Pahari activist, her family and community still waits for justice.
  • In Honduras, women human rights defenders are threatened with sexual violence for championing human rights throughout the country.
  • In Mexico, Miriam López Vargas and hundreds of other women wait for justice after torture and rape by Mexican soldiers.

What these cases have in common is a global culture of discrimination and violence against women as well as impunity for those who commit gender-based violence. And this year’s theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women highlights the relationship between heightened militarism and communal and interpersonal violence.

Despite a culture of violence and discrimination women around the world are raising their voices against violence and discrimination, demanding their basic human rights, and standing against intimidation and fear. Today, what unites women internationally is their vulnerability to the denial and violation of their fundamental human rights, and their dedicated efforts to claim those rights.

You can join them this 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence as we join activists worldwide from Nov. 25 – Dec. 10 to help end violence against women. This year, we’re highlighting the seven cases above – in each instance, you can learn more, take action, and stand with women demanding their rights!

Imagine a world without violence against women. Join us this 16 Days to make that vision a reality.

Hit and Run: Congress Must Not Let CIA Get Away with Murder

By Naureen Shah, Advocacy Advisor at Amnesty International USA

A year ago almost to the day, on October 24, 2012, a U.S. drone strike killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi. She was gathering vegetables in her family’s large, mostly vacant fields in north Waziristan, Pakistan. We don’t know whom the U.S. intended to target, but it is hard to imagine that a policy that allows the killing of this grandmother, who was blown to pieces before the eyes of her young grandchildren, is anything but a catastrophic failure on the part of the U.S. government.

The latest revelation from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, reported in the Washington Post, suggests the NSA cast a “surveillance blanket” over parts of northern Pakistan, feeding enormous amounts of data to the CIA’s secret lethal drone program. Even if the NSA didn’t pick up chatter after the killing of this grandmother, the U.S. government claims that it conducts post-strike assessments of who is killed. It knew, or should have known, that something went wrong.

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Time for the U.S. to End Its Drone Secrecy

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By Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan Research at Amnesty International

It was a sunny October afternoon last year when Mamana Bibi was blown to pieces before her grandchildren’s very eyes. The family matriarch, Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family fields in northwestern Pakistan when a remotely piloted aircraft – or “drone” – used by the United States fired a missile directly toward her, killing Mamana instantly. A second volley of missiles was fired a few minutes later, injuring some of the children who ventured out to where their grandmother had been struck.

Almost a year to the day, the Bibi family’s lives have been torn apart. In a number of in-depth interviews over the last eight months, the family recounted to me how they sold ancestral lands to pay for their injured relatives’ steep medical bills. Mamana’s grief-stricken elderly husband, a respected retired local headmaster, rarely leaves the house. Their grandchildren, including 8-year-old Nabeela, now live in constant fear of the drones, which seem ever present in the skies.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Real Afghanistan

Afghanistan has a thriving media and entertainment industry. Here, Tajik singer Farida performs during a 'Peace Concert' in Babur Garden in Kabul (Photo Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images).

Afghanistan has a thriving media and entertainment industry. Here, Tajik singer Farida performs during a ‘Peace Concert’ in Babur Garden in Kabul (Photo Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images).

By Maya Pastakia, Afghanistan Campaigner at Amnesty International

It is one of the most dangerous places in the world, following more than three decades of war.

Terrorist groups remain a force to be reckoned with, and its human rights record and abuses against women and girls are renowned.

But the stories you’ve heard about Afghanistan won’t prepare you for what the country is really like.

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