Saudi Arabia: 10 Brutal Facts Beyond Raif Badawi’s Case

FreeRaif

Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

#DearObama: Freedom of Expression and the State of the Union – An Opportunity for the President

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

By Adotei Akwei and Cindy Tsz-nga Ko

On Tuesday January 20, President Obama will have an opportunity to address the nation and underscore the priorities for his administration in 2015. Much of the speech is expected to focus on domestic economic issues but the White House has also indicated that issues such as policing in the United States, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo and violent extremism will also be addressed. Given that a key the underlying theme connecting these issues is human rights, the central question is whether the Obama administration will shape foreign policy that will help build a safer world where rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

The President’s framing of key human rights concerns in this evening’s State of the Union address may be an indication of whether or not the Obama administration will use 2015 to champion human rights, as so many hoped, or whether he will pursue misguided policies that sideline human rights in the name of security. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Russian Court Decides to Not Release Pussy Riot’s Alyokhina

members of pussy riot

A file picture taken on July 20, 2012 shows members of the all-girl punk band “Pussy Riot” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (C), Maria Alyokhina (R) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (L), sitting behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow. (Photo credit: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages)

Nearly a year after punk rock protest group Pussy Riot’s performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral, a Russian prison court has ruled not to release jailed Pussy Riot member. The punk rocker’s attorneys had petitioned the Russian court to defer her sentence until her young son turned fourteen as she is a single parent.

Unfortunately, Maria will spend the remainder of her two year sentence far away from her five year old.

The ruling is yet another example of injustice compounded in the Pussy Riot case. From the initial unjustified arrests, to the questionable trial, to an outrageous verdict, each step in the case has been an affront to human rights and freedom of expression.

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Time is Running Out for Pussy Riot

members of pussy riot

Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina could face three years in prison after they called for Vladimir Putin’s ouster in a song. (Photo AFP/GettyImages)

We thought we had more time. Sadly, the latest reports are saying that we may only have less than a week to stop Russian prosecutors from pursuing the outrageous charges against feminist punk band, Pussy Riot.

These young women are in serious danger of being shipped off to a labor camp, where they risk both physical and sexual abuse as prosecutors seek a 3-year sentence against them. There is no time to lose (take action here now).

Why? Because their punk rock band gave a politically charged and impromptu performance poking fun at President Putin at a cathedral.

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Pussy Riot Faces Moscow Court as Amnesty Rallies in DC

Amnesty Rallies to Free Pussy Riot in Washington, DC

Amnesty activists protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC on July 27, 2012. Photo by Michael Fairchild.

Yesterday, the trial of three members of the Russian feminist rock group “Pussy Riot” began in Moscow. Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested in March, accused of “hooliganism on the grounds of religious hate” for performing a protest song entitled ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

The young women face charges that could result in up to seven years imprisonment.

Yet in the words of John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, “this trial should never have taken place” and it is “clearly politically motivated.” The women “dared to attack the two pillars of modern Russian establishment – the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church. While many may have found their act offensive, the sentence of up to seven years in prison they may expect on the charges of hooliganism is wildly out of all proportion.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Zimbabwe's Continuing Struggle for Freedom

zimbabwe flagApril 18th is Zimbabwe National Day. This year, Zimbabwe will commemorate 32 years of independence from colonial rule. While today is a day to celebrate, freedom has its limits in Zimbabwe.

Specifically, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are sharply curtailed by the government. In March, six people were convicted of “conspiracy to commit public violence.” Just how did they conspire? They gathered with others last year to watch video footage of the Arab Spring events in Egypt and Tunisia.

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Look Who's Coming to the Secret Policeman's Ball! And Watch it Live!

Hint: They’re funny. Another hint: They’re talented. Last hint: They’re going to make this SUNDAY, March 4th at 7PM ET/4PM PT/6PM CT an hilariously amazing night.

Jon Stewart, Kristen Wiig and Coldplay are just around the corner warming up for this Sunday’s Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York City. For just one night at Radio City Music Hall, a star-studded lineup of musicians and comedy favorites will pay hilarious tribute to free speech and Amnesty International’s human rights work.

Who else will be around to ruffle some dictator feathers? Here’s the full star-studded line up:

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Win Tickets to Amnesty's Star-Studded Secret Policeman's Ball!

The Secret Policeman's Ball

It’s no joke.

Jon Stewart
, Stephen Colbert, Coldplay and more, all in one room on Sunday, March 4th performing at Amnesty’s Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York City.

It promises to be an irreverently hilarious salute to free speech and Amnesty International’s life-saving human rights work, sure to ruffle the feathers of dictators everywhere.

New York City is far away, you say? You don’t even need to leave your comfortable couch. Watch it live online, streaming at EpixHD.com on March 4th, 7PM ET/4PM PT.

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Repressive Regimes Rejoice, Twitter to Censor Content

twitter bird censoredTwitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove Tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. …. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.

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Where's my Wiki? SOPA, PIPA, and Balancing Rights

google censored

Sites across the Web are "blacking out" to protest SOPA

Following a previous post on this blog which makes the case that internet access is inseparable from the enjoyment of many or most rights, I wanted to address the imperiled Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill from a human rights lens.

In that previous post, I referenced Art 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Actually, I only referenced section 1 of Art 27. Section TWO can be interpreted as guaranteeing human beings the right to intellectual property (IP), and states the following:
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