Former Prisoner of Conscience Releases Film, Tibet in Song

Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan entho-musicologist and Fulbright Scholar, set out to make a film about traditional Tibetan music and dance. A year later, he was wrongly convicted of “espionage and counter-revolutionary activities.”  China announced that he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. The trial was closed, and no evidence has ever been made public.

Ngawang Choephel was held in Powo Tramo prison and was reported to be in poor health, suffering from ”bronchitis, hepatitis and respiratory infections”.

Choephel’s conviction and imprisonment spurred an outcry from human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International. Many wrote letters pleading for his release as Amnesty considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.

These efforts paid off at last in January 2002, when Choephel was granted his freedom, after serving more than six years in Chinese prisons. “You just can’t believe he got out,” said Kate Lazarus, Amnesty’s Tibet specialist, who met Choephel soon after his arrival. “You dream and you hope that these people will be released, but you never know.”

At the time of his detention he had been gathering material for the production of a documentary film about traditional Tibetan performing arts.

Tibet in Song opens September 24, 2010

The documentary he was working on prior to his arrest in China is finally being released in the U.S. on September 24thTibet in Song is a feature length documentary that celebrates traditional Tibetan folk music and encompasses a harrowing journey into the past fifty years of cultural repression inside Chinese controlled Tibet.

Director and former Tibetan political prisoner, Ngawang Choephel, weaves a story of beauty, pain, brutality and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film.  Ngawang Choephel sets the stage for a unique exploration of the Chinese impact on Tibetans inside Tibet.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Amnesty Activists Detained at U2 Concert

Five Amnesty International activists were detained by police yesterday before U2′s first ever Russian show in Moscow.

The detained activists had been holding placards inside the concert venue and collecting signatures for the ‘Demand Dignity’ campaign, which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. They were trying to raise awareness about human rights and collecting signatures to a petition.  The Amnesty International official concert stall was also shut down.

Amnesty is present while U2 performs the European leg of their 360 tour.

And while Amnesty International’s activists were invited by U2 to join their European leg of their 360° tour, police officers ignored the activists’ protestations that they were there invited and forced them to close their stalls.

Although no-one resisted the police’s demands to close down the Amnesty International stall, Amnesty’s Moscow office staff member and four volunteers were taken to a local police station. They were ordered to provide a written explanation for their actions, issued with an official warning for organizing a public action for which no prior official permission had been obtained, and released over an hour later.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident; rather, it reflects the continuing difficult climate in Russia today for people seeking to express views that the authorities regard as difficult, dissenting or sensitive. Amnesty International is concerned that the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are restricted in Russia for members of the political opposition and human rights activists; we are also concerned that Russian authorities such disallow such activities unless they take place with their explicit sanction, and crack down hard on those whom they regard as violators.

Tweet Chat with Tom Parker Today at 2:00 PM EST!

Today Amnesty International USA will be hosting a Tweet Chat with Tom Parker, our Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights.

Today also marks the beginning of the Military Commission proceedings for Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr, who has been in U.S. custody since the age of 15.  While the U.S. ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2002, which Khadr should be protected by, the military commission trial completely fails this international obligation.  What’s more is that some of Khadr’s statements may have been made while he was being tortured. Just yesterday,  his statements have been ruled admissible  as the prosecution has maintained in its legal filings that “the accused was not tortured; nor subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Now’s your chance to get your questions answered on the Obama administration’s plans to close Guantánamo,  or, even more generally, U.S. policy on torture, terrorism or detainment.

Join Amnesty International today for a Tweet Chat to discuss Khadr’s case and that of other detainees at Guantanamo.

WHEN: Today Tuesday, August 10th from 2:00 – 3:00 pm EST

WHERE: Follow Tom on Twitter @TomAtAmnesty

HOW: Submit questions on Twitter any time from now through August 10th using hashtag #AskAI.  Example: How else should the U.S. gain intelligence re: terrorism plots w/o using torture? #askai

Omar Khadr: The Injustice Continues

By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.  Neve is currently at Guantánamo to observe the military commission trial against detainee Omar Khadr. This is his first post in series from the field.

 

Alex Neve stands in front of the building housing the courtroom in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

 

It  seems difficult to believe that after being held here at Guantánamo Bay for close to eight years and having been put through an astonishing array of legal twists and turns – including charges being thrown out at one point and then reinstated – Omar Khadr is about to face trial by military commission, possibly this week if pre-trial proceedings are completed.

I’m here to observe these proceedings on behalf of Amnesty International. And quite honestly at this stage I find it very difficult to predict just what I will observe.  All that seems certain is that it will be another phase in the systematic injustice to which Omar Khadr has been subjected.

First, today there will be more legal arguments as to whether all or at least some of the statements Omar Khadr made in the course of over 100 interrogation sessions between 2002 and 2004 – first at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then here at Guantánamo – will be excluded from the trial.  He has laid out detailed and credible allegations as to the many forms of physical and psychological torture and other abuse he says he was subject to at that time, including during many of the interrogation sessions.  The prosecution has maintained in its legal filings that “the accused was not tortured; nor subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”. Yet at a hearing in May, one of Omar Khadr’s interrogators at Bagram admitted to using a rape scenario as a fear tactic against the teenager. And it is clear that at Guantánamo, Omar Khadr was one of the detainees subjected to the sleep disruption/deprivation technique known as the “frequent flyer” program.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST