From Ferguson to Hong Kong: Youth on the front lines

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By Rafi Hoq, Amnesty International USA Student Activist Coordinator for Georgia

This week, I’ve been reading the latest updates from student-led “umbrella movement” in Hong Kong with a deepened diligence, and continuing to follow the ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri with newfound excitement. Youth are leading the fight for human rights around the world, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’ve spent just a few of my 20 years as an activist, but having recently returned to Atlanta after Ferguson’s Weekend of Resistance, solidarity means something entirely new to me. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hong Kong: I have not seen anything like this in decades

Pro-democracy protesters put their hands up in the air in front of the police in Hong Kong on September 28, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. (Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)

Pro-democracy protesters put their hands up in the air in front of the police in Hong Kong on September 28, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. (Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)

By Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International in Hong Kong.

The streets of Hong Kong are hard to recognize these days. The exhilarating energy filling the city’s main roads, crowded with hopeful protesters, is something I have not seen since I was a young student back in 1989, when we took to the streets in solidarity with the Tiananmen protesters.

But not even then had so many people taken to the streets in Hong Kong – nor had the police’s response been so brutal. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

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In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.

MYTH #1
The death penalty deters violent crime and makes society safer.

FACT
There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect.

More than three decades after abolishing the death penalty, Canada’s murder rate remains over one third lower than it was in 1976.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Five ‘Crimes’ That Can Get You Killed

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In some countries having consensual sexual relations outside marriage, offending religion and even drinking alcohol is punishable by death © Michael Matuzak

Even though most of the world has turned its back on the death penalty, some countries continue to impose capital punishment for acts like having consensual sexual relations outside marriage, opposing the government, offending religion and even drinking alcohol.

This is despite international law barring states from handing out death sentences for any of these crimes.

Here’s a list of some “crimes” that, in some parts of the world, can get you killed.

Iran's Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery (Photo Credit: Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images).

Iran’s Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery (Photo Credit: Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images).

1.        Consensual Sexual Relations Outside Marriage
In Sudan, two women, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul, were sentenced to death by stoning on charges of “adultery while married” in separate cases in May and July 2012. In both cases, the women were sentenced after unfair trials involving forced “confessions.” The sentences were subsequently overturned on appeal, and both women were released.

In Iran at least 10 individuals, mainly women, remain on death row having been sentenced to stoning for the crime of “adultery while married.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Did You Write for Rights?

Write for Rights event in France

A Write for Rights event in France

It has been fantastic to hear about the Write for Rights activities that have taken place around the world! In coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, bookstores, theaters, markets, streets, schools, and homes, we came together, side-by-side, throughout the U.S. and the world to collectively take action to defend human rights. It is this action that will continue to lead to human rights victories, like that of the release of Femi Peters in Gambia.

We want to share with you some of what happened during the 2010 Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon:

  • In Austria, AI members and activists sent over 17,400 letters, doubling the total number from last year, and making this the most successful Write-a-thon in their history.
  • In France, at least 200 cities hosted public events throughout the week. This included in Villetaneuse, a suburb of Paris, where students at a university organized a one-day event for the 10 December, which included a concert by a well-known hip-hop band. Despite the heavy snow, over 700 signatures were collected.
  • In Germany, over 50 AI local groups participated, sending over 17,000 letters.
  • In Hong Kong, Write for Rights was taken to the Human Rights Day Fair – an annual fair attended by over 25 NGOs.
  • In Mali, the youth network had a target of writing 1,800 letters. Students from ten schools took part, and they already have reported 2,366 letters written with still more to count.
  • In Nigeria, three volunteers organized events in Abuja and Imo State, generating 3,000 actions.
  • In Poland, 14,967 letters were written in just one location – a school in Bircza, a small municipality in south-eastern Poland, which only has 1000 inhabitants.
Spreading the word about Write for Rights in Nigeria

Spreading the word about Write for Rights in Nigeria

That’s not all!  Right here at home there were nearly 1,300 events, in every state across the U.S. Before we can confirm how many letters were sent from the U.S., we need to hear from you.  If you participated in the 2010 Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon, please tell us how many letters you sent.  No number is too small, and every letter counts.  Knowing how many letters you sent is essential to help us gauge the pressure we are putting on human rights abusers.  In acknowledgment of your meaningful contributions to human rights, once you confirm how many letters you sent, you will receive a 35% discount on our limited edition 2010 Write for Rights T-Shirt.

Last month you gave Femi Peters Junior the best holiday present anyone could ever ask for: you helped get his father back. In Femi Peters Junior’s own words, “On behalf of my family, the Peters family, on behalf of myself, I want to thank Amnesty International from the bottom of my heart…  It’s good to have my dad back.  Thank you very much.”

Your letters made and will continue to make a difference.

Feeling inspired?  You can also sign up for the 2011 Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon!

(Trying Not to) Remember Tiananmen

© 1989 Hei Han Khiang

© 1989 Hei Han Khiang

It seems Chinese authorities were busy today. While people around the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of the pro-democracy demonstrations and ensuing massacre at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, police reportedly swarmed into the sqaure, in order to nip any potential protest in the bud. Numerous websites were blocked, including Twitter, Hotmail, and Flickr, along with many Chinese blogs and other sites. A former Tiananmen protester was sent on a government-sponsored “vacation” to keep him from carrying out a hunger strike.

Although the Chinese government seems to be doing all it can to help people forget about the people who died in the massacre, that didn’t stop 150,000 people from attending a vigil in Hong Kong, and it didn’t stop supporters in Washington, DC, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, from speaking out about human rights in China.

Regardless of what one thinks of the demands the protesters were making 20 years ago today, no one can deny that there was a massacre, and nothing can justify killing peaceful protesters. The country may have come a long way economically since 1989, but China’s human rights record still leaves a lot to be desired.