50 Ways You Changed Lives in 2015

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In 2015, millions of Amnesty supporters like you pushed decision-makers to make change happen worldwide.

You helped to release journalists and activists. Change discriminatory laws. Compensate victims of corporate crime. Pardon survivors of torture. And so much more. As governments continued to crack down on dissent and free speech, your pressure was critical to protect people’s human rights.

The list below is just a snapshot of some of the many success stories and bits of good news that you made happen in 2015. Thank you for all your support – together, we are standing up for people risking everything to speak out. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women are more than victims: they are peacemakers

Members of a support group for survivors of sexual violence create a circle with their hands, Bogotá, Colombia, March 2011. The letters on the hands of the women in a circle form the words "No al abuso sexual" (No to sexual abuse). They are a group of women who have been victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict in Colombia who meet regularly.

Members of a support group for survivors of sexual violence create a circle with their hands, Bogotá, Colombia, March 2011.
The letters on the hands of the women in a circle form the words “No al abuso sexual” (No to sexual abuse). They are a group of women who have been victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict in Colombia who meet regularly.

By: Janine Aguilera, Identity and Discrimination Unit Intern

Rape and sexual violence against women have been used as a tactic of war in Colombia since the beginnings of the armed conflict, more than 50 years.

Colombian women have been systematically raped or sexually assaulted for variety of purposes, including intimidation, humiliation, forced-displacement, extracting information, and rewarding soldiers. Rape and sexual violence have been also used as a strategy to assert social control, and a weapon against women’s rights defenders who raise their voices in support of land restitution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

18 Cases YOU Helped Change in 2015

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Amnesty International campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience – people who have been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status, provided that they have neither used nor advocated violence.

In 2015, YOU helped put the pressure on 18 cases to ensure the release of many journalists and activists. The list below is reflective of how we can work together to create positive change in the lives of others. Thank you for all your support – together, we are standing up for people risking everything to speak out. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Art Can be a Catalyst for Change

On December 12th, 2015, New Orleans was the site of a special, one-day exhibit, Art for Rights, bringing together more than a dozen artists from around the world to highlight 12 of the most troubling human rights cases we face today. In honor of International Human Rights Day, and in conjunction with Amnesty’s annual Write for Rights campaign, each canvas told a bold story about injustice, persecution, and also courage. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

2015 Has Seen the Worst Refugee Crisis Since WWII

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2015 has seen the worst refugee crisis in recent history with over 19.5 million refugees across the globe. Unprecedented numbers of refugees have arrived on Europe’s shores, while countries in the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa continue to host the majority of the world’s refugees. Amnesty is calling for a dramatic shift in the way the international community deals with the global refugee crisis from 2016.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Case of Richard Glossip

We have ended the death penalty in two thirds of the countries around the world and in 18 states in the United States. On Wednesday, New Hampshire may make it 19 (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

By Zack Michaelson, Former AIUSA Board member, 2009 – 2013.

Richard Glossip was sentenced to death in 1997 following a murder-for-hire conviction in the homicide case of motel owner Barry Van Treese in Oklahoma City. However, the only evidence used to prosecute Glossip was a questionable story told by the murderer, a former co-worker of Glossip, Justin Sneed. Sneed was spared the death penalty, receiving a sentence of life without parole, in exchange for his implicating story against Glossip. There is no evidence for Glossip’s role in the murder beyond this implicating story offered in a bargain with prosecutors. Even Justin Sneed’s daughter has filed petitions for clemency, declaring, “[she] strongly believe[s] he is an innocent man sitting on death row.” Richard Glossip has consistently maintained his innocence for nearly twenty years now. So what is the problem? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Nicki Minaj, Here’s Why Angola Should Not Have Your Heart

Ruins, Soba Kapassa, Luanda.

Ruins, Soba Kapassa, Luanda.

Dear Ms. Minaj-

Following your December 19th concert in Luanda, Angola, you tweeted “Angola has my heart.” More importantly, however, you also tweeted a picture of yourself with Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the president of Angola. You refer to Isabel in a comment using the phrase “girl power.”

IMG_2215[1] SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

On Your Birthday, You Are Not Forgotten

Azam Farmonov is a member of the unregistered independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) from Sirdaria region, he was arbitrarily detained in the city of Gulistan. Azam Farmonov is the head of the HRSU Sirdaria regional branch. Alisher Karamatov is the head of the HRSU Mirzaabad district branch, he had been defending the rights of local farmers who had accused some district farming officials of malpractice, extortion and corruption. For further information see: EUR 04/001/2007

This week, Azam Farmonov, a prisoner of conscience in Uzbekistan, is spending his 37th birthday in prison. Azam has spent the last ten years jailed for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Please join Amnesty International in wishing Azam a happy birthday and declaring your support and solidarity with him. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Executions of Juvenile Offenders in Iran Are an Affront to the World’s Conscience

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In a very rare piece of good news in an otherwise bleak landscape, Iranian authorities recently postponed the scheduled execution of juvenile offender Salar Shadizadi at the eleventh hour. He was to be hanged on November 28 for a killing that occurred when Mr. Shadizadi was just 15 years old.

Iran is one of the very few countries in the world that continues to execute juveniles. At least four juvenile offenders — including one female — have been executed already in Iran in 2015. This is a blatant violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has ratified; Article 37 of the Convention states: “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijan: Leyla Yunus Released, but 18 Other Prisoners of Conscience are Still Behind the Bars

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By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik, chair of the Eurasia Coordination Group at Amnesty International USA

Leyla Yunus, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders and former prisoner of conscience was freed on December 9. The Baku Court of Appeals changed her sentence with a conditional release due to her deteriorated health. The court placed her on probation for the next five years and maintained her guilty verdict, widely denounced as political retaliation for her work. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST