Free Speech Should Be Worth More Than Diamonds in Angola

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry on May 5, 2014. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

How many attempts by your government to keep you quiet through harassment, arrests and trials would it take before you stopped trying to hold them to account? For Rafael Marques, nothing the Angolan government has thrown at him will keep him silent. Rafael goes on trial this month for writing a book accusing army generals in Angola of alleged human rights abuses. We are calling on the US State Department to raise our free speech concerns for Rafael and all citizens to the Angola government. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Saudi Arabia: 10 Brutal Facts Beyond Raif Badawi’s Case


Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

9 Eye-Opening Facts about the State of Human Rights Worldwide


In 2014, Amnesty International recorded and investigated human rights abuses in 160 countries and territories worldwide*.

While progress is being made in some areas, the frightening facts and figures below show that for many people the human rights situation is getting worse. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijan: Brutal Crackdown Against Journalists Continues

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

Saudi Arabia: The Question on Everybody’s Mind

The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. ©BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. ©BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.

The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.

“What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.

The answer is not simple. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Who will be silenced next?

MuradBy Alicia Koutsoulieris, Case Coordinator for Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian Authority

Freedom of speech has suffered a tragic start in 2015.

As the world calls for the release of Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, there is another person who also deserves our support.  While you read this, Palestinian Murad Shtewi sits in an Israeli prison.  His “crime?”  Daring to protest the Israeli military occupation that his village lives under. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Did the State of the Union Stack Up On Human Rights?

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun Laws

During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama touched on issues of national security, criminal justice reform, immigration policy and women’s health, all of which involve human rights.

It is important to promote awareness of these issues as part of the US national conversation. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. So how do President Obama’s words stack up against actions?


#DearObama: Freedom of Expression and the State of the Union – An Opportunity for the President



This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

By Adotei Akwei and Cindy Tsz-nga Ko

On Tuesday January 20, President Obama will have an opportunity to address the nation and underscore the priorities for his administration in 2015. Much of the speech is expected to focus on domestic economic issues but the White House has also indicated that issues such as policing in the United States, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo and violent extremism will also be addressed. Given that a key the underlying theme connecting these issues is human rights, the central question is whether the Obama administration will shape foreign policy that will help build a safer world where rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

The President’s framing of key human rights concerns in this evening’s State of the Union address may be an indication of whether or not the Obama administration will use 2015 to champion human rights, as so many hoped, or whether he will pursue misguided policies that sideline human rights in the name of security. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“He Was Silent but You Could Tell That He Was in Real Pain”


Raif Badawi, founder of a website for political and social debate, has been held in a Saudi Arabian prison since 17 June 2012. ©Private

An eyewitness account of the flogging today of Raif Badawi an activist in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate. The witness has not been identified for security reasons.

“When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today. They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew.

No one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST