Civil Society and Human Rights Continue to Disintegrate Under Russia’s Heavy Handed ‘Rule of Law’

Yekaterina VologzheninovaBy Courtney Dobson, Country Specialist for Russia at Amnesty International USA.

There is a clear juxtaposition between Putin’s ambition for Russia to be a superpower in the global arena and the disintegration of human rights and civil society at home. In recent months, Putin may have gained diplomatic points in the global arena for commanding the world’s attention to its aggressive activities both in eastern Ukraine and its military action in Syria. However this grandstanding on the world stage should not be cause for distraction; the attack on Russian civil society continues, as a single mom and shop assistant from the Sverdlovsk region of Russia has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred for sharing links on social media.

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Dying for Freedom: Activist on Hunger Strike in Angola

luaty

They gathered to read a book. They met because of a hope, dream, desire of speaking freely in the press and on the streets about the need for change; to live a life without fear of violent repression of protest marches; to see an end to corruption. Instead they were arrested, tortured, held in solitary confinement, denied access to their families, legal counsel and medical attention. They are the #Angola15. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Angola: Where Peaceful Protest is a Crime

Rafael Marques de Morais

Police and security forces in Angola use the courts, dogs, batons, torture, and murder to attack citizens exercising rights guaranteed in their constitution and under international law. Journalist Rafael Marques is witness to nearly all these tactics as he documents corruption and rights violations in the country he calls home. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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

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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

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

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

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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

Syrian Human Rights Activist Mazen Darwish Released

Abd al-Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mazen Darwish, Hani al-Zitani and Mansour al-Omari

Abd al-Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mazen Darwish, Hani al-Zitani and Mansour al-Omari

From a country where there is little reason to celebrate, here is some good news: Amnesty International learned Monday that Syrian human rights activist Mazen Darwish, who had been jailed by the Assad government on trumped-up terrorism charges, has been released. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Beginner’s Guide to Human Rights Jargon

Still from 'Waiting For The Guards ' showing simulated torture. 'Waiting For The Guards ' is a film produced for AIUK as part of a campaign against the CIA's detention and interrogation programme which AI believes amounts to torture and degrading treatment contravening  Article 3 of the Third Geneva Convention – which prohibits the humiliating or degrading treatment of prisoners of war. Jiva Parthipan, a Sri Lankan performance artist assumes a stress position from one of the interrogation techniques.

Baffled by technical human rights terms and precise legal definitions? You’re not alone. Here’s a quick glossary of some of the most troublesome words and phrases.

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Morocco Continues to Muzzle Criticism of its Human Rights Record: Kicks Out Two Amnesty Investigators

Some photos of some of AI Morocco actions on Stop Torture. Stop sign

Some photos of some of AI Morocco actions on Stop Torture.
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By Jihane Bergaoui, Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

A few days ago, the U.S. State Department published its annual human rights report, which analyzes the human rights situation of nearly every country and territory across the globe. The Morocco and the Western Sahara human rights reports describe numerous abuses that have occurred in both areas over the past year, including infringements on freedom of speech and of the press, a failure to protect survivors of sexual and gender-based-violence, and a culture of impunity regarding the prevalent and illegal use of torture by members of the police and security forces. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“The America I Believe In”: 3 Hopes for this July 4th

Amnesty International posterI see this poster every day in the main hallway of our Amnesty International office: it depicts the Statue of Liberty and reads: “The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.

It’s aspirational. And in too many ways, it’s proven the opposite of true. The United States is leading the world in perversely innovative human rights abuses, such as unlawful drone strikes and mass surveillance tapping into the Internet’s backbone.

And when it’s the US rather than another country committing human right abuses, there are additional consequences: the U.S. sets dangerous precedents for other nations to follow, while providing abusive regimes a ready-made excuse to flout their human rights obligations.

Still, I think there’s hope. July 4th is a celebration not just of U.S. nationhood, but of the country’s ideals and the best parts of its history. It’s those that I think of, when I hope for this:

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