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
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
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
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 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
I 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:
Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images
Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.