16 Years of Silence: Enforced Disappearances in Belarus Must Be Investigated


By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik, Belarus Country Specialist, Amnesty International USA

The legal term may be clunky – “enforced disappearance” – but the human story is simple: People literally disappear, from their loved ones and their community, when state officials (or someone acting with state consent) grab them from the street or from their homes and then deny it, or refuse to say where they are. It is a crime under international law.

September 16 marked the 16 anniversary of enforced disappearance of prominent Belarusian opposition politician Viktar Hanchar and his business associate Anatol Krasouski. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Poland: It’s Time to Take Hate Crimes Seriously


In January 2014, a 24-year-old Polish gay man was murdered shortly after leaving a club in Szczecin. His body was found on a nearby construction site, his face covered in bruises and his pants pulled down. Medical examiners found that he had drowned, as his face had been pushed into a puddle repeatedly. Authorities ignored the possibility that homophobia motivated the murder, and the court treated this attack as a common crime when it convicted the two men responsible.

Poland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community faces widespread and ingrained discrimination. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What Can Europe Do to Welcome Refugees?


By Kristin Hulaas Sunde

Now is the time to put pressure on Europe’s leaders to give refugees the welcome and support they’re entitled to. Here’s what Amnesty is asking for, and how you can help.

Right now, EU leaders are gearing up for emergency talks about how to deal with Europe’s refugee crisis. They are responding to a global groundswell of protests and outpouring of compassion after three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s little body was pictured so tragically on a Turkish beach.

So far this year, more than 350,000 people – mostly refugees – have tried to reach safety in Europe. Almost 2,800 have died. Others have been beaten, abused, forced to walk for days in the searing heat, and given little or no help – even a bottle of water – if they do make it to the EU. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Syria’s Refugee Crisis in Numbers



More than 4 million refugees from Syria (95%) are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:

  • Lebanon hosts approximately 1.2 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country

  • Jordan hosts about 650,000 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population

  • Turkey hosts 1.9 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide

  • Iraq where 3 million people have been internally displaced in the last 18 months hosts 249,463 refugees from Syria

  • Egypt hosts 132,375 refugees from Syria


In Turkey, Journalists Targeted Once Again

OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

In Turkey, the crackdown on independent journalism continues. Mehmet Baransu remains in jail, apparently a victim of the government’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement.  Other journalists in Turkey have been charged under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Meanwhile, a pattern of media outlets sacking voices deemed critical of the government continues, with the newspaper, Milliyet, firing seven journalists this past month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Time to End the Refugee Shame


By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International

A solemn moment of silence. The world over, this is the traditional response when lives are cut short by tragedy.

It has also been a common response to tragedies in Europe and off its shores which have ended the lives of thousands of refugees and migrants. Not killed by bombs in Syria, but killed while making terrifying journeys in search of safety and better lives in Europe.

But the scale and rapid succession of these tragedies calls for breaking the silence.

In the space of a week, along with people across the world, I recoiled in horror as four new tragedies added to a growing list of events that have already brought a record number of refugees and migrants to untimely deaths this year. According to UNHCR, 2,500 have already perished en route to Europe since 1 January 2015. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Belarus: Political Prisoners Released, but Authorities Need to Do More for Human Rights


By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik

On August 22, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka issued an order “based on the principle of humanism” to release six political prisoners, including Mikalai Statkevich and Yury Rubtsov, recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Mikalai Statkevich was one of six opposition presidential candidates who were imprisoned in connection with a largely peaceful demonstration that took place on December 19, 2010. Tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk to protest against unfair elections. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but when a violent incident broke out at the doors of Government House, riot police moved in to disperse the crowds. Over 700 people were detained, the overwhelming majority of whom had been peaceful participants and bystanders. Most of the detained were charged with administrative offences and sentenced to 10 to 15 days in prison. Many who were sentenced for participating in the demonstrations were released after they agreed to sign a confession for organizing or taking part in “mass disorder.” Mikalai was sentenced to six years. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Chilling Reminders of Syria for Refugees Trapped on Macedonia’s Border

Refugees and migrants cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, 24 August 2015.

By Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece

The view was staggering upon my arrival in the village of Idomeni, near Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia).

Up to 4,000 refugees, many of them from Syria including many families with children, were trapped after Macedonia’s government designated the southern border just outside the town of Gevgelija a “crisis area”, closing the border crossing and bringing in military backup. The refugees were all trying to pass through Macedonia on their way to northern European countries. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Marriage Equality But Not Reproductive Rights: Ireland’s Inconsistency on Human Rights

By Kaitlyn Denzler, Amnesty International USA Interim Women’s Rights Campaigner

It was only two decades ago that Ireland decriminalized homosexuality. Yet on May 22, people took to the polls and made Ireland the first country in the world to adopt marriage equality by a popular vote. The people of Ireland did not just make history with their vote to legalize same-sex marriage; they sent a resounding message of support for human rights by voting “yes” by a margin of two to one! When the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Enda Kenny, announced the date of the referendum, he stated that it would illustrate Ireland’s reputation as a tolerant and inclusive nation, and after the vote, he proudly pronounced that Ireland was a “small country with a big message for equality.”

Taoiseach Kenny should speak about the referendum with great pride, as it represents an enormous success for equality and LGBT human rights. But hidden in the shadows of Ireland’s most recent human rights accomplishment is the fact that it still has one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws and that women in Ireland do not enjoy equal access to their full human rights.


Edward Snowden: “Two Years On, The Difference Is Profound”

By Edward Snowden, director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and former Central Intelligence Agency officer and National Security Agency contractor

TWO years ago today, three journalists and I worked nervously in a Hong Kong hotel room, waiting to see how the world would react to the revelation that the National Security Agency had been making records of nearly every phone call in the United States. In the days that followed, those journalists and others published documents revealing that democratic governments had been monitoring the private activities of ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong.

Within days, the United States government responded by bringing charges against me under World War I-era espionage laws. The journalists were advised by lawyers that they risked arrest or subpoena if they returned to the United States. Politicians raced to condemn our efforts as un-American, even treasonous.