Civil Society and Human Rights Continue to Disintegrate Under Russia’s Heavy Handed ‘Rule of Law’

Yekaterina VologzheninovaBy Courtney Dobson, Country Specialist for Russia at Amnesty International USA.

There is a clear juxtaposition between Putin’s ambition for Russia to be a superpower in the global arena and the disintegration of human rights and civil society at home. In recent months, Putin may have gained diplomatic points in the global arena for commanding the world’s attention to its aggressive activities both in eastern Ukraine and its military action in Syria. However this grandstanding on the world stage should not be cause for distraction; the attack on Russian civil society continues, as a single mom and shop assistant from the Sverdlovsk region of Russia has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred for sharing links on social media.


“Simple, honest, kind”: My Wife, the Jailed Student Activist


By Lin Htet Naing, husband of activist & prisoner of conscience Phyoe Phyoe Aung

In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.

A Father’s Urgent Plea to See His Son Freed From Death Row in Saudi Arabia


By Mohammed al-Nimr

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in 2012 when he was only 17 years old. He was sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial based on forced “confessions” allegedly after being tortured, and has recently been moved into solitary confinement. His uncle, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a Shi’a cleric and vocal critic of the authorities was also sentenced to death last year. In a piece written for Amnesty International, Ali’s father recalls his young son and brother, who are both at imminent risk of execution. Please take action now to help stop Ali Mohammed al-Nimr’s execution.

Every time I enter and leave my house through our garage, a bicycle in the corner catches my eye, shining brightly.

Looking at that bicycle brings back painful memories of my young son Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to death and is facing imminent execution in my homeland, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

USA: It’s Time for Real Criminal Justice Reform

US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world.  (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. (Photo credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Last week, President Obama put a much-needed spotlight on the vicious cycle of mass incarceration. In the past three decades, the prison population in the U.S. has ballooned due to a number of factors that have created a system rife with discrimination and other abuses. And the burden falls disproportionately on low-income people and people of color.

The President made a historic visit on July 16 to a federal prison — the first sitting president to do so. His visit spotlighted the massive overcrowding problem — he was shown one 9-by-10-foot cell that sometimes holds three prisoners — that is the result of a broken criminal justice system.


From Animal Cartoons to Opposition to the Death Penalty: Just About Anything Can Land You in Prison in Iran

Artist Atena Farghadani

Artist Atena Farghadani

It seems that not one single thing escapes the attention of hardliners in Iran, bent on using the extraordinary powers they hold to suppress every effort by Iranians to exercise their right to freedom of expression. They have even decreed that men should refrain from sporting various hairdos and—yes I am not kidding—from plucking their eyebrows, because those are considered to be indications of “devil worshipping” and homosexuality.

Although such preoccupations may seem risible to some, the people who are caught up in this dragnet are suffering very real and harsh consequences. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women Get the Short End of the Stick in Iran and Can’t Even Protest


As if it weren’t bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The First Day of Spring Should Not Be Spent Behind Bars in Iran

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Friends from Scholars at Risk taking the Nowruz action

Former Iranian prisoner of conscience Maziar Bahari said “the prisoner’s worst nightmare is the thought of being forgotten.”   The first day of spring is a particularly painful time for those incarcerated in Iran because it is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, an ancient holiday that is the occasion for joyous celebration with family and friends. That is why it is so important to remind prisoners of conscience that they are NOT forgotten at Nowruz time. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Meet Jasmine at the AGM: Campaigner for Individuals at Risk

Photo by Yue Wu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Leading up to our 2015 human rights conference in Brooklyn, NY, March 20-22, we are highlighting six Amnesty International USA staff members and moments in their life that have helped build their career in the human rights movement! Read all six in our “Meet me at the AGM” blog series.

NAME: ­­­­­­Jasmine Heiss

I WORK FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA AS: Senior Campaigner, Individuals at Risk Program


  • Strategize, power-map, and creatively deconstruct injustice
  • Build project-plans, relationships and coalitions
  • Influence private and public actors to defend and uphold human rights
  • Work directly with my human rights heroes

I grew up in Northern Michigan in a house run off of solar and wind with gravity-fed (COLD!) water, and intensely idealistic parents. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Timely New Book and the Precarious Situation of Journalists in Iran

former New York Times Iran correspondent Nazila  Fathi

former New York Times Iran correspondent Nazila

Journalists working in Iran face daunting challenges. They are constantly under threat of being suddenly arrested and detained for long periods of time, in inhumane conditions and without knowing the nature of the charges against them.

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has just earned the dubious distinction of being the longest-held foreign journalist in Iran. Detained in Evin Prison since his arrest in July, it was just announced that Jason Rezaian’s detention was extended another two months in November. This despite the fact that Iran’s top “human rights” official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said in early November that he anticipated that Mr. Rezaian would be released within one month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ghoncheh Ghavami released but Iran must drop all charges against her

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami

When Ghoncheh Ghavami decided to take a stand this past June to protest Iran’s ban on women attending volleyball games, she likely did not figure she’d spend the rest of the summer and fall sitting in a miserable prison cell. Ms. Ghavami, who just turned 26, surely also did not predict that her call for equality would generate hundreds of thousands of supportive voices from around the world. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST