Indonesian Prisoner Yusak Pakage Released!

Yusak PakageIndonesian prisoner of conscience Yusak Pakage has been released from prison! Along with fellow political prisoner Chosmos Yual, Pakage was released this morning from the Doyo Baru prison. Pakage was sentenced to a 10 year jail term for raising the Morning Star flag in December 2004. He, along with Filep Karma, was found guilty of “rebellion” for flying the outlawed symbol of Papuan independence as a sign of peaceful protest of Indonesian government policy.

Pakage has expressed his thanks to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for all the work put towards demanding his release. Amnesty supporters took action by petitioning the Indonesian government, holding vigils, and standing in solidarity on his behalf.

While we welcome this great news, fellow prisoner of conscience Filep Karma still remains in prison. We must continue to take action in demanding Karma’s release.  Call on your Members of Congress to support House Resolution 1355 calling for the release of Indonesian political prisoners. Additionally, you can stand in solidarity by contributing messages of hope and support and writing directly to the president of Indonesia.

Pakage’s release is a huge success, but we need your continued support to demand that Indonesia uphold international laws of free and peaceful expression!

The Gambia, Where Persecution Has Replaced Justice

The following comes to us from Essa Bokarr Sey, the former Ambassador of the Republic of The Gambia to France (1999-2001) and to the United States (2002-2003). We asked him to share with us his perspective on The Gambia today, in light of this week’s Day of Action for Ebrima Manneh. To learn more about Amnesty International’s concerns about human rights in The Gambia, click here.

President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia monopolizes power with excessive force. In The Gambia of today being an opposition or exercising one’s right towards freedom of expression is a considered social taboo. Fear is ruling our people without limits or respect for the rule of law.

In The Gambia three scary names are used to maintain the brutal Jammeh regime in power.

1) The NIA (National Intelligence Agency) is first on the list. It is known for abducting, torturing and killing Gambians who dare show their difference in political opinion before the regime’s modus operandi. The NIA was established as soon as the Jammeh regime came into existence based with reference to decrees that were promulgated by the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council. These special decrees empowered the NIA to arrest any Gambian upon suspicion and keep him or her for days without trial. They are still in full force. The latter contradicts the very essence of the Gambia constitution. Worst of all the NIA is directly answerable to the minister of defense who is President Jammeh, him being the hub of all abuses with the excessive use of power.

2) The state guard is a special squad composed of thugs and killers who run along the length and breadth of the country with unmarked vehicles. The latter can visit the residence of any Gambian at any time then abduct and incarcerate him or her while using harsh torture methods. Their callous and brutal methods started mushrooming from 1994 November 11 when officers of the Gambia National Army were summarily executed. Over the years many more were killed like former Lt Seye, former state guard commander Lt Almamo Manneh and others. Killings that are based on nothing other than speculation or whirling accusations which usually reflects suspicion from a paranoid leadership. These are crime scenes where clear indications have so far implicated the state guard beyond any reasonable doubt.

3) Third are the different locations where those abducted or kidnapped are kept incommunicado. The most dangerous are: Mile two central prisons, Jeshwang prisons, Jangjangbureh Prisons (an isolated island) where torture could include being exposed to mosquito bites and excessive heat in dark cells. Within the NIA premises also are dark dungeons like the Bambadinka–meaning the crocodile’s hole.

These three scary names are the pillars of President Jammeh’s regime of brutality. This is exactly why journalists like Ebrima Manneh are helpless and vulnerable. No single person can ever determine where detainees are kept with precision because the regime’s tactics includes transferring detainees from one undisclosed location to another only to escape inquiries from family members of the affected parties.

Refusing detainees access to legal representation and or visits from family members is definitely not uncommon in The Gambia today. The Jammeh regime exercises its strength by showing the detained and the family of the detained that absolute power lies in its hands but not within the hands of the judiciary. Court orders are not respected because re-arresting people who have been freed by a judge just outside the premises of the court house has been part of the regime’s merciless reactions during the past years. Indeed the above cannot be part of the modus operandi of a democratic regime. Therefore any regime which practices what is referenced here above is one that has no respect for the rule of law. That is why Gambians are scattered all over the world as asylees or refugees. Our country’s population is one of the smallest in Africa, however, the number of Gambians on exile is on top of the list in the continent. That certainly should be a cause for concern.

The recent report of Amnesty International entitled Gambia: Fear Rules speaks for itself. This same vein is the reason why six senators from the US senator on foreign relations signed a petition calling on the Gambian president to release Chief Ebrima Manneh. These are respected institutions who have no interest in staining the Jammeh regime for political reasons or any other one for that matter. Veterans like Senator Ted Kennedy are of course not into this for making names or controlling anything political. They are in it because what affects human life in The Gambia or any other part of the world attracts the attention of responsible leaders like the latter. President Jammeh’s legacy has already been stained like that of Idi Amin Dada and other former blood thirsty dictators. Along the way he will face his fate because international laws supersede the local Gambian laws he is manipulating to help maintain his ruthless regime.

2009 Summer Solidarity Action

© Private

© Private

So, we’re halfway through July, and most people who haven’t already taken a summer vacation are planning one, or at least expect to enjoy some time at the beach, the pool, or a neighbor’s barbecue. I myself just got back from a 6-day trip which involved a good amount of sun and sand. It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy, right?

For some people, maybe. But for prisoners of conscience or those who defend human rights in many countries, summer brings no relief from the potential danger and sense of isolation they may face. By simply sending a postcard, however, you can help support these women and men. Take part in our 2009 Summer Solidarity Action and let them know they’re not forgotten.

(And if you participated last year, you’ll want to see the update on the 2008 cases.)

Act Now for Iran!

Iran has not seen a public demonstration of this size in 3 decades. After the results of Friday’s contested election, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets in an act of defiance.

According to reports, as many as five students at Tehran University were shot dead over the weekend and another person was wounded when security agents opened fire on a demonstration. Motorcycle-mounted riot police have severely beaten large numbers of protesters with clubs and night sticks.

Authorities have done all they can to make sure this story doesn’t get out including blocking cell phones, text messaging, email and Web sites.

Let Iran know that the global community is monitoring their every move

Take action now!

Help Release Laura Ling and Euna Lee

On Tuesday, we heard from T. Kumar about what U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee face in their 12 year sentence in a North Korean labor camp. They got the maximum sentence of 10 years of hard labor for hostile acts and an additional two years for illegal entry, according to analysts. But exactly what hostile acts they committed remains unclear.

The two women, both of whom were investigating human rights abuses of North Korean women for the California-based Current TV media venture in San Francisco, were arrested on March 17 near North Korea’s border with China. They were held separately and in solitary confinement with limited access to either lawyers or their families. Their trial lasted five days in Pyongyang’s Central Court, the top court in North Korea. Outside observers were not permitted.

“The North Korean government seems to be using these two journalists as pawns in its dangerous game of escalating tensions with the international community,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director, in a statement. “This sentence was harsher than many observers expected, and completely out of line with any of the accusations that Pyongyang has levelled against them.” But this shouldn’t betoo surprising — the 2009 Freedom of the Press Index, published by Freedom House on May 1, gave North Korea the worst rating. North Korea acquired this rating because “independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, and citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited.” And appropriately, or perhaps ironically, their sentencing came just four days after the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Crackdown, an event journalists are still imprisoned for mentioning.

Take action now to help release Laura Ling and Euna Lee!