15 Human Rights Success Stories of 2013

By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA

It’s rare Amnesty activists get a moment to stop and take a breath. But with the start of a new year comes the opportunity to take stock of the progress we’ve made and the successes we helped accomplish in 2013. There’s still much to be done, but we hope the list below will help inspire all of us in the year to come:

Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years' imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).

Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years’ imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).

1. In 52 years, Amnesty International activists have helped free tens of thousands of Prisoners of Conscience around the world. In 2013, we continued that trend. Human rights activists freed this year included Yorm Bopha in Cambodia, Kartam Joga in India, Filipino poet Ericson Acosta, Yemeni journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ and Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh.

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Little Known Link Between Militarism and Violence Against Women

Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).

Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).

By Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA Co-Chair, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her after she was tortured and raped by Mexican soldiers. On February 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children at school in the city of Ensenada, in northern Mexico, when two men wearing balaclavas forced her into a white van and took her away.

“They tortured me. They repeatedly put wet cloth over my face and poured water over it so I couldn’t breathe. They gave me electric shocks,” she explained.

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When Will Big Companies Really Take Responsibility for Industrial Disasters?

On December 2nd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

On December 2nd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure (Photo Credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images).

By Joe Westby, Corporate Campaigner at Amnesty International Online 

This week marked the 29th anniversary of one of the world’s worst-ever industrial disasters: the infamous gas leak from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that, on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killed thousands. Many more have been left to suffer since then, given the abject failure by both the Indian government and the companies involved to provide survivors and their families with an adequate remedy and justice.

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This Woman Has Been Denied Justice for 17 Years

Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).

Indigenous Bangladeshi women during a demonstration demanding an end to encroaching development on their lands, still asking for the rights Kalpana Chakma fought for before her disappearance (Photo Credit: Shawkat Khan/AFP/Getty Images).

By Rebecca Landy, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

You probably are aware of the news reports in the last twelve months regarding the horrific sweatshop fires and building collapses in Bangladesh that killed and injured over a thousand, mainly women, laborers.

Or maybe you read recently about U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling out Bangladesh for the injustice and violation of international law in the recent verdict of death sentences for 152 border guards accused of murder.

But chances are you have not heard of Kalpana Chakma and the 17-year miscarriage of justice in waiting for a proper investigation into her disappearance.

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What Everyone Should Know About Rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A ten-year-old girl who was raped twice in  ten days surrounded by other raped victims and a counselor (Photo Credit:  ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

A ten-year-old girl who was raped twice in ten days surrounded by other raped victims and a counselor (Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images).

By Rebecca Landy, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group with the Democratic Republic of Congo Country Specialists

For almost two decades, armed conflict has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During this time, civilians have faced persistent human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, rape, and sexual violence.

An October 2013 report by the Ministry of Gender stressed the high rates of sexual violence in areas of armed conflict – citing approximately 7,000 cases of sexual violence in North Kivu province in 2011 alone. As sexual violence is usually largely under-reported, the actual number is likely even higher.

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The Quick Way You Can Take Action for Syrian Women Facing Gender Violence

16_days_logo_englishTo get to the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian women and girls had to face a gauntlet of deadly violence including extortion, trafficking and abuse. Once in the camps, they expected to find safety.

What they found, according to Amnesty International researchers, was more danger and the threat of gender violence.

A majority of the 2.9 million Syrian refugees are women and children. Having fled violence, and often surviving a treacherous journey across the Syrian desert, these refugees sought safety and shelter in the camps. More than 120,000 of them made their way to the Za’atri camp, making it the largest refugee camp in Jordan.

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