By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik, chair of the Eurasia Coordination Group at Amnesty International USA
Leyla Yunus, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders and former prisoner of conscience was freed on December 9. The Baku Court of Appeals changed her sentence with a conditional release due to her deteriorated health. The court placed her on probation for the next five years and maintained her guilty verdict, widely denounced as political retaliation for her work. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Harry Belafonte, artist and activist
All my life I have used my art to fight for social justice. So when I see freedom of expression under serious attack, I must act.
That is why I stand with Amnesty International today in demanding justice for courageous Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar “Zunar” Ulhaque, who is facing decades in prison for political Tweets he sent in February.
Join me. Urge the Malaysian government to immediately drop the charges against Zunar.
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By Max White, Country Specialist, Indonesia and Timor-Lesté, Amnesty International USA
Indonesian authorities this week released Filep Karma from prison more than 10 years after arresting him for simply raising a flag. Amnesty International USA celebrates this long-overdue release of prisoner of conscience Filep Karma from Abepura Prison in Papua, Indonesia.
On December 1, 2004, police violently beat and stomped on Filep Karma, after arresting him for leading a peaceful ceremony which included raising the Morning Star flag, a Papuan symbol. He was (and is) a prominent advocate for the rights of Indonesia’s Papuan population. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Lin Htet Naing, husband of activist & prisoner of conscience Phyoe Phyoe Aung
In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.
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On August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, Amnesty launched “Silent Shadows” – a poetry competition in Sri Lanka to mark the decades of enforced disappearances experienced there. That sentence raises at least four questions:
- Why enforced disappearances? Enforced disappearances are a particularly heinous form of human rights violation. Government agents detain a person and the government later denies any knowledge or responsibility for his or her whereabouts or status. The victims are often tortured and in fear for their lives, while their relatives live with the agony of uncertainty over their loved ones’ fate.
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By Gopika Bashi, @gopikabashi, Women’s Rights Researcher, Amnesty International India
On 24 August, Amnesty International India launched a petition regarding two Dalit sisters who had been ordered to be raped and paraded naked by a khap panchayat – an unelected village council – in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh in northern India, as ‘punishment’ because their brother had eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste.
Amnesty offices around the world circulated similar petitions, so that our supporters globally would have an opportunity to take action. Over 500,000 people have so far signed these petitions.
Some media organizations have subsequently released reports which have questioned the petition. Some have said that members of the gram panchayat – the elected village council – and members of the dominant caste have denied the allegations. Others have claimed that Amnesty did not investigate the case.
Unfortunately, these reports have taken the attention away from the situation of the sisters themselves, who along with their family still fear for their safety. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya
The wife of a disappeared journalist said of her husband’s disappearance, “I think it’s one of the worst crimes in the world, making people disappear. It is not just the one person who disappears…the whole family is psychologically killed.” Yet the crime of enforced disappearance continues unabated in all regions of the world. Governments or their agents are making people “disappear,” repressing suspected adversaries, human rights defenders, witnesses and relatives of victims. Families of the disappeared suffer the anguish of not knowing, sometimes for years, whether their loved ones are being ill-treated or are even still alive.
Today, August 30, is observed by the world as the International Day of the Disappeared. Today, Amnesty International is calling on dozens of governments who use this tactic against their opponents to stop using enforced disappearances once and for all. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear,” wife of disappeared Lao agriculture specialist tells audience.
How does one suddenly disappear from a busy city street?
In 2005, in recognition of his community leadership, Sombath Somphone won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s Nobel Prize. Sombath has played a key role in supporting the development of civil society in Laos. Sombath founded the Participatory Development Training Centre in 1996 to promote education, leadership skills and sustainable development in Laos.
In 2012, seven years after winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, Sombath disappeared. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Every year, thousands of men, women and children go missing in dozens of countries around the world. In 2012, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries. It’s a crime, all right, but these are not kidnappings for ransom or other criminal motives. These people were taken away by their own governments or agents acting for the government. The government then denies any knowledge of their whereabouts. Their relatives live in a torment of uncertainty – not knowing whether their loved ones are alive, being tortured or even dead. The missing have joined the ranks of the “disappeared.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA’s International Advocacy Director
Freedom of expression is under constant attack in China. But the recent sentence of prominent journalist, Gao Yu is not just another dissident being silenced. 71-year-old Gao Yu has been speaking out for nearly 30 years. She was detained without charge or trial for 15 months after the June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Upon release in 1990, she continued to work as a freelance journalist. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST