Zimbabwe: Where Freedom Isn’t Free

Activists, such as Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) can be imprisoned in Zimbabwe for peaceful demonstrations (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Activists, such as Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) can be imprisoned in Zimbabwe for peaceful demonstrations (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International Zimbabwe Researcher

On Friday, April 18, 2014, Zimbabwe commemorates 34 years of independence. As usual, there will be the official gatherings and speeches to remind us of the journey to independence.

Amid all the pomp and ceremony, I dare remind people that Zimbabwe remains a country where organizing a peaceful protest can land you behind bars.

Two things happened this week reminding us of the many human rights challenges facing the country today.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 Reasons President Obama Should Speak Out For Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, flashes the sign for victory in solidarity with Saudi women campaigning for women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia (Photo Credit: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images).

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, flashes the sign for victory in solidarity with Saudi women campaigning for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia (Photo Credit: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images).

President Barack Obama has an opportunity this month to lead from behind on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia – behind, that is, a woman driver.

The president is visiting the repressive Gulf kingdom this month. In a letter delivered to the White House, Amnesty International is calling on him to take a stand on women’s rights by meeting with the female leaders of a campaign to end the ban against women driving. We are also calling on him to have a woman Secret Service driver himself during his visit.

Take action to demand the president support women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

UPDATE: Brother of Slain Honduran Journalist Threatened After Demanding Justice

Witnesses stand by the car of television journalist Antonio 'Tony' Quintero in Honduras. Quinteros was attacked in his car by gunmen and was seriously wounded, whilst a friend who accompanied him died in the attack. In the last four years, some 33 journalist have been murdered in Honduras (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).

Witnesses stand by the car of television journalist Antonio ‘Tony’ Quintero in Honduras. Quinteros was attacked in his car by gunmen and was seriously wounded, whilst a friend who accompanied him died in the attack. In the last four years, some 33 journalist have been murdered in Honduras (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).

Back in December, Amnesty activists responded to an Urgent Action on the murder of Honduran journalist Juan Carlos Argeña. Not only has there not been any progress in this case, Amnesty has had to issue a new Urgent Action on behalf of Mario Argeñal, Juan Carlos’ brother.

Unidentified men have threatened and intimidated Mario in response to his public statements about the killing of his brother and his calls for justice in the case.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will Sunday’s Presidential Elections Be a Victory for Human Rights in Honduras?

“The human rights situation in Honduras seems to deteriorate every day. It looks like no one is safe from the widespread violence and insecurity. Those defending human rights are particularly exposed to abuses and attacks.
-Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Americas Deputy Program Director.

On Sunday, November 24, Hondurans will vote for their next president. Amnesty International recognizes this as an historic opportunity to improve human rights in the Central American nation. AI has sent an open letter to all of the candidates outlining specific actions that the next president must take in the areas of

  • Human Rights Defenders
  • Public Security
  • Impunity
  • Individuals & Communities at Risk (Indigenous, Garífuna, Campesinos, Women, & LGBTI)

Amnesty is very concerned about the safety of human rights defenders and journalists during and immediately after the elections. Please send a message to President Lobo that he must guarantee the protection of these individuals before, during, and after Sunday’s elections. We suggest you also send President the following tweets in English and Spanish:

  • .@PEPE_LOBO Will you publicly commit to zero tolerance of attacks against #humanrights defenders & journalists during #Honduras elections?
  •  .@PEPE_LOBO ¿Se comprometerá a cero tolerancia de ataques contra periodistas y defensoras/es de #DDHH durante #EleccionesHonduras?

Please also tweet the presidential candidates to tell them to protect human rights:

  • .@andrespavon_ @VilledaMauricio Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders & journalists? #EleccionesHonduras
  • .@JuanOrlandoH @XiomaraCastroZ Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders & journalists? #EleccionesHonduras
  • .@SalvadorNasrala @RomeoVasquezV @OrleSols @Pinusd_HN Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders and journalists? #EleccionesHonduras

Honduran Government Moves to Silence Indigenous Activists

'Thank you for your solidarity' from the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) (Photo Credit: COPINH).

‘Thank you for your solidarity’ from the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) (Photo Credit: COPINH).

Last week, Amnesty issued an urgent action ahead of the September 12 hearing in Honduras against three indigenous leaders working on environmental issues: Bertha Cáceres, Tomás Gómez and Aureliano Molina.

They are all members of the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Cáceres is the general coordinator of COPINH, and both Gómez and Molina work at a community radio station, Lencas’ Voice (La Voz Lenca). Amnesty has called the government’s charges of usurpation, coercion and continued damages against these Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)“unfounded.” These accusations are connected to COPINH’s opposition to a hydro-electric project on indigenous land.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

4 Quick Ways to Take Further Action on Turkish Abuses

A riot police fires tear gas at demonstrators during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo Credit: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

A riot police fires tear gas at demonstrators during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo Credit: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

In Turkey, police violence against peaceful protestors continues. It is time for the world community to make its condemnation clear, not only through words, but through action. In this, Turkey’s most important ally, the United States, should take the lead.

In June and July, the world was galvanized by scenes of police violence against peaceful protestors in Turkey. Turkish police rained more than a hundred thousand tear gas canisters on its own citizens as they exercised their basic rights of freedom of expression and assembly. Hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals across the globe raised their voices against the abuses.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How U.S. Representatives Are Defending Prisoners of Conscience

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

The Dalai Lama and Annette Lantos in front of a projection of the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) was one of the creators of the Defending Freedoms Project (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images).

Last week, the Defending Freedoms project launched a Week of Action in which U.S. Representatives nationwide spoke out to highlight and give voice to political prisoners being held or detained around the world for expressing their views.

Members of Congress “adopted” prisoners of conscience and stood in solidarity with them with a commitment to highlight their cases and push for their release, as well as for an end to the human rights abuses they had been subjected to.

These individuals have been imprisoned because of who they are, what they believe, and how they have chosen to express their convictions. As a result, they are prevented from enjoying the most fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The Defending Freedoms project was kick-started by Representatives Wolf and McGovern adopting the initiative’s first two prisoners of conscience – Gao Zhisheng of China and Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab. In late 2012, Congress’ nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International USA to create the Defending Freedoms initiative as a way to raise awareness and support for human rights and religious freedom by focusing on human rights defenders, political prisoners, and those who have been unjustly imprisoned around the world.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Future of Human Rights in Iran Under President-Elect Hassan Rouhani

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

People hold campaign posters of Iranian presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani in the streets during a presidential election rally on June 11, 2013 in Tehran, Iran (Photo Credit: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images).

Iran’s challenges are not few, from job creation and stopping inflation to improving foreign relations. Most presidential candidates in 2013 ran on such platforms. However, there was a key issue that was not directly addressed in their political vernacular: human rights.

While many jubilant Iranians and a hopeful international community are touting president-elect Hassan Rouhani as a reformist because of his promise to ease restrictions at home, free political prisoners, and to offer more transparency for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, it should not be ignored that he remains, nevertheless, among those select few candidates approved to run by Iran’s Guardian Council.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST