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

belarus3

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

Mexico’s Journey of Death: ‘I opened the coffin and I knew it was not my daughter’

© AFP PHOTO/ JOSE Cabezas

© AFP PHOTO/ JOSE Cabezas

By Josefina Salomón, News Writer at Amnesty International in Mexico @josefinasalomon

It was the most difficult day of her life.

On the morning of 5 September 2010, Mirna Solórzano stood in front of a cargo plane in San Salvador’s airport, watching as soldiers unloaded a coffin. They said it contained the remains of her daughter, Glenda.

The 23 year old had been murdered alongside another 71 men and women in the Mexican town of San Fernando, in Tamaulipas, near the border with Texas, a few weeks earlier on 22 August.

Most were attempting to cross Mexico hoping to reach the USA and find jobs that would help them support their relatives back home. But the journey is known to be one of the most dangerous in the world, with those traveling routinely facing abductions, torture and death. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

El Salvador Must Do More to Protect LGBT Rights

EL SALVADOR-GAY-RIGHTS-MARCH

Following a wave of violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly has passed a law establishing increased penalties for hate crimes. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas, emphasized that this law “should be a catalyst for a series of concrete measures to stop the alarming and growing wave of attacks against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transexual community, who suffer grave threats and abuses on a daily basis.”

Some recent examples of violence against the LGBT community include: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ordered Rape of Dalit Sisters Highlights Severe Caste and Gender Discrimination in India

IndiaRapeCase

By Gopika Bashi, @gopikabashi, Women’s Rights Researcher, Amnesty International India

On 24 August, Amnesty International India launched a petition regarding two Dalit sisters who had been ordered to be raped and paraded naked by a khap panchayat – an unelected village council – in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh in northern India, as ‘punishment’ because their brother had eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste.

Amnesty offices around the world circulated similar petitions, so that our supporters globally would have an opportunity to take action. Over 500,000 people have so far signed these petitions.

Some media organizations have subsequently released reports which have questioned the petition. Some have said that members of the gram panchayat – the elected village council – and members of the dominant caste have denied the allegations. Others have claimed that Amnesty did not investigate the case.

Unfortunately, these reports have taken the attention away from the situation of the sisters themselves, who along with their family still fear for their safety. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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

statkevich2

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

How You Can Fight Against “the Worst Crime in the World”

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya

The wife of a disappeared journalist said of her husband’s disappearance, “I think it’s one of the worst crimes in the world, making people disappear. It is not just the one person who disappears…the whole family is psychologically killed.” Yet the crime of enforced disappearance continues unabated in all regions of the world. Governments or their agents are making people “disappear,” repressing suspected adversaries, human rights defenders, witnesses and relatives of victims. Families of the disappeared suffer the anguish of not knowing, sometimes for years, whether their loved ones are being ill-treated or are even still alive.

Today, August 30, is observed by the world as the International Day of the Disappeared. Today, Amnesty International is calling on dozens of governments who use this tactic against their opponents to stop using enforced disappearances once and for all. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear.”

Sombath Somphone

“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear,” wife of disappeared Lao agriculture specialist tells audience.

How does one suddenly disappear from a busy city street?

In 2005, in recognition of his community leadership, Sombath Somphone won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s Nobel Prize.  Sombath has played a key role in supporting the development of civil society in Laos.  Sombath founded the Participatory Development Training Centre in 1996 to promote education, leadership skills and sustainable development in Laos.

In 2012, seven years after winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, Sombath disappeared. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Do You Want to Know the Secret Behind Enforced Disappearances?

Amina Masood at AI demonstration outside Pakistan High Commission

Every year, thousands of men, women and children go missing in dozens of countries around the world. In 2012, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries. It’s a crime, all right, but these are not kidnappings for ransom or other criminal motives. These people were taken away by their own governments or agents acting for the government. The government then denies any knowledge of their whereabouts. Their relatives live in a torment of uncertainty – not knowing whether their loved ones are alive, being tortured or even dead. The missing have joined the ranks of the “disappeared.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Chelsea Manning: “Why Speaking Out Is Worth the Risk”

ChelseaManning

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. From her prison cell in Kansas, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Join Amnesty International and tell President Barack Obama to #FreeManning NOW!

Why did you decide to leak documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

These documents were important because they relate to two connected counter-insurgency conflicts in real-time from the ground. Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realize that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live; that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives – with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them – then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST