Tech and Human Rights: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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As someone whose job it is to take advantage of technological progress for human rights research and advocacy, I am a strong proponent of using new tools and methods to advance Amnesty International’s goals. There is a proven track record of how technology can help human rights researchers and defenders in their daily work. However, any debate on this topic should not overlook the increasing challenges and threats that new technologies and digital networks pose for our profession. I am increasingly interested in exploring this undeniable tension, and I am fortunate enough to moderate a panel related to this topic Amnesty International USA’s Annual General Meeting in Brooklyn this weekend (full details below). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijan: Brutal Crackdown Against Journalists Continues

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By Nic Carter, Amnesty International USA

Over the last year, Azerbaijan has imprisoned dozens of journalists, human rights advocates, bloggers, lawyers, and academics who have criticized the regime. Ilham Aliev’s repressive petro-state has brazenly stepped up its harassment of journalists amidst international criticism. In December, the Aliev regime struck a terrible blow against the freedom of the press by arresting the country’s best-known investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova, on fabricated charges. Her pre-trial detention, due to expire on February 5, has been extended for a further two months. Recently, new charges have been brought against her, including embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of power, and tax evasion. She faces 12 years in prison if convicted. Her case has rightfully received a lot of attention. Yet she is only one of an estimated 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, of which around a dozen are journalists. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Russia: Defending LGBT Rights is not “Propaganda”

Meet Elena Klimova, the latest victim of Russia's new "gay  propaganda" law (Photo Credit: Private).

Meet Elena Klimova, the latest victim of Russia’s anti-LGBT “propaganda” law (Photo Credit: Private).

On January 23, journalist Elena Klimova, the founder of the online LGBT youth support group Children 404, was convicted of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” The judgment against Klimova marks the latest assault on Russia’s LGBT community and the continued crackdown on civil society and freedom throughout the Russian Federation.

For nearly a year and a half, the Russian government has sought to silence Klimova and shut down Children 404, an invaluable source of support for thousands of LGBT teenagers, including those at risk of self-harm and suicide. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What’s behind the arrests in Turkey?

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of Turkish president. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

A wave of arrests Sunday morning shook Turkey and made headline news throughout the world.  The arrests, which are part of a broad campaign against the Gülen Movement, were hardly a surprise.  A twitter user had leaked information about it some days in advance, it was preceded by some typically fire-breathing speeches by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office issued a press release before the arrests were made.  In total 27 people were arrested, including a number of journalists and media figures.

Along with other human rights organizations, Amnesty has called on Turkish authorities to release those arrested yesterday unless authorities can produce “credible evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offense.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Dear Baku: Stop beating activist. Release her. Drop treason charge!

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Arresting its loudest critic and charging her with “treason” doesn’t seem enough for Azerbaijani officials. Last week, peace activist and human rights defender

was beaten by Kurdakhany detention facility administration staff.

An April 2014 video shows Leyla Yunus confronting officials (in Russian) about not having been allowed to use the toilet during an unlawful detention for interrogation. Although officials eventually allowed her to use a toilet (with a male guard watching her), Leyla says she was not informed of charges against her.

Less than half a year later after the detention, Leyla (and soon her husband Arif Yunus) were arrested and given ridiculous charges of treason and tax evasion. Amnesty International considers both Prisoners of Conscience and calls on Baku to release them immediately and unconditionally (add your voice to our appeal).

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Declare Your Solidarity with Belgrade Pride 2014!

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(ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)


By Andy Graan, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Serbia, Macedonia, and Western Europe

LGBT activists and supporters in Serbia have been working tirelessly to prepare for Belgrade Pride, scheduled for September 28. Despite annual efforts to celebrate Belgrade Pride, the 2014 parade, if held successfully, will mark only the third time in more than a decade that the event has actually occurred.

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Amnesty Goes On the Ground as Repression Worsens in Turkey

A man protects a woman as they face a police officer dispersing protesters who gathered near Taksim square in Istanbul as the police blocked access to the square during the one year anniversary of the Gezi park and Taksim square demonstrations (Photo Credit: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images).

A man protects a woman as they face a police officer dispersing protesters who gathered near Taksim square in Istanbul as the police blocked access to the square during the one year anniversary of the Gezi park and Taksim square demonstrations (Photo Credit: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images).

On the first anniversary of the Gezi Protests and their brutal suppression in Turkey, central Istanbul resembled nothing so much as a city under occupation. Public transportation into the city center was cancelled. Ferry service from the Asian to the European side of the metropolis was ended by the late afternoon. You could leave, but you couldn’t come back.

This is the image of the new Turkey, where dissent is stifled with overwhelming force and massive police presence.

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Turkey’s Dreadful Response to the Soma Mining Disaster

Relatives of a miner mourn beside his grave following the Soma mining disaster, on May 17, 2014 in Soma, Turkey (Photo Credit: Halit Onur Sandal/Getty Images).

Relatives of a miner mourn beside his grave following the Soma mining disaster, on May 17, 2014 in Soma, Turkey (Photo Credit: Halit Onur Sandal/Getty Images).

Last week’s mining disaster in Turkey represented more than simply an industrial accident, but raised very real human rights concerns. The government’s response in the last week, however, have only heightened these concerns.

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3 Reasons Amnesty is Concerned About Turkey’s Mining Disaster

Relatives of the victims of the coal mine fire in Turkey check lists of the dead miners. An explosion and fire followed an electrical fault killed at least 232 miners and injured many others (Photo Credit: Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

Relatives of the victims of the coal mine fire in Turkey check lists of the dead miners. An explosion and fire followed an electrical fault killed at least 232 miners and injured many others (Photo Credit: Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

The mining disaster in Soma, a small town in Western Turkey, is, by any standards, a shocking tragedy. Amnesty International, in a statement issued today, makes clear, however, that this tragedy could have been averted.

Although the total number killed is unlikely to be determined for some time, at least two hundred are confirmed dead already.

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Introducing a Different Type of Social Media Campaign to Help Prisoners of Conscience in Belarus


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

By Viachaslau ‘Slava’ Bortnik, Amnesty USA’s Country Specialist for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine

On May 9, the opening day of the Ice Hockey World Championship, the U.S. will play with Belarus in Minsk.

It is very rarely that Belarus holds an event of such large scale, and one would think that it would be in the interest of a country with such a notorious human rights record to provide a safe and comfortable environment for foreign guests and native hockey fans.

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