What You Can Do NOW to Stop the Abuse of Protestors in Turkey

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister's office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister’s office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

In Turkey, a major human rights crisis looms.  Here is what an update on what you can do about it.

The Crisis

As protests continue to rock Turkish cities, Amnesty International has warned that injuries due to “police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.” Police excesses have been “disgraceful,” Amnesty says. The number of those injured by excessive police force is as yet unknown, but is believed to be in the thousands. Many of the injuries have been serious. There are as yet unconfirmed reports of deaths.

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WOZA Activists Beaten Today in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets of Zimbabwe over the last two days to commemorate International Day of Peace. As the flyer they handed out during their march explains,

“[I]t is a year after the global political agreement (GPA) was signed on 15 September 2008. This deal was supposed to bring peace to Zimbabwe. The United Nations theme this year is: Better than a thousand empty words is ONE WORD that brings peace. The GPA contains 6,567 words but we are yet to see if these words really stand for peace. Because we are still waiting for peace, WOZA members decided to choose a theme that shows the politicians how they can bring meaning to their words: Our theme: Social Justice will bring Peace of Mind.”

Over 1,000 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) took to the streets of Harare yesterday. Riot police responded but no arrests or violence occurred. Six simultaneous protests converged on the offices of the United Nations, where a petition asking the UN to help intervene in Zimbabwe to restore the health and education sectors was handed in to officials in the building. The petition also called on the UN to pressure the inclusive government to stop the harassment of vendors and ordinary Zimbabweans by police.

Today at noon in Bulawayo, 1300 human rights defenders came together to repeat yesterday’s march. Their songs were silenced however as riot police swooped, beating women and men alike, to disperse them from reaching their target at Mhlahlandlela Government complex. No arrests have been reported to date but WOZA leaders are still verifying whether everyone returned safely to their homes. One man had to be driven to the hospital as he was unable to walk after being beaten by four riot police at the same time; he has a fracture to his arm and doctors are still waiting to check his leg and lower back. Over twenty other members are also seeking medical treatment at this time for the brutal beatings they received at the hands of police.

A group of men watching the man being beaten tried to mobilise people to beat the police in retaliation. This action was quickly stopped by WOZA members who explained:

“We are non-violent activists and any history should write that the people who disturbed the peace with violence were Zimbabwe Republic Police officers, not peaceful human rights defenders.”

One of those who managed to side step the beatings was Jenni Williams, who proceeded to the government complex. They chanted slogans and left the placards and demands behind before walking peacefully away. A police vehicle was deployed to locate WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu after a police officer said they should stop beating just anyone and look for the leaders to beat.

Since the power-sharing deal was signed in September 2008, 40 WOZA activists have been arrested on seven separate occasions after peaceful protests, WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu spent three weeks in Mlondolozi Prison and hundreds of peaceful Zimbabweans citizens were brutally beaten by police for merely speaking out about the hardships in their lives.

I guess if you are beaten every other time you march you are still doing better than when you are beaten EVERY time you march…

The Media Hype May Be Over, But There Is Still A Crisis In Honduras

Amnesty International issued a report today about the ongoing crisis in Honduras following the coup d’etat which took place June 28. Many press outlets have covered the report and accompanying press release which comes at a crucial time as the crisis in Honduras must be kept in the attention of the mainstream media and general public.

AI’s main concerns with the crisis as cited in the report are:

Two of the ten students who took part in the peaceful march on 30 July 2009. The imprint of the police batons is clearly visible on both students. Amnesty International

Two of the ten students who took part in the peaceful march on 30 July 2009. The imprint of the police batons is clearly visible on both students. Amnesty International

  • Excessive use of force
  • Gender-based violence
  • Use of military in civilian law enforcement
  • Freedom of expression
  • Curfew measures
  • Safety of human rights defenders

I’ll let the words of Hondurans speak for themselves to end this post, as their words are much more powerful than mine:

“We were demonstrating peacefully. Suddenly, the
police came towards us, and I started running. They
grabbed me and shouted “why do you (all) support
Zelaya’s government? Whether it’s by choice or by
force, you have to be with this government”. They
beat me. I have not yet been informed as to why I
am here detained.”

[“Fernando”, 52 year-old teacher, at a police station in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 30 July 2009]

Four WOZA Members Arrested Today

Members of WOZA © AP

Members of WOZA © AP

Four members of the Zimbabwe group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were arrested and detained today after taking part in a peaceful demonstration outside of the Meikles hotel in Harare. The WOZA members are believed to have been seriously injured after they were allegedly beaten by police at the demonstration. The arrests and beatings of these human rights defenders occurred while the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, was in Harare on the final day of a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe. Amnesty International has been informed that police accused the WOZA members of demonstrating in front of International visitors in order to embarrass the government and understands that this is why they were arrested. The four WOZA members, who are currently detained at Harare Central police station, have allegedly been denied access to medical care by the Law and Order section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Another demonstration in Bulawayo was was violently broken up by police on Wednesday.

We hope to have ways for people to take action available soon. Meanwhile, read more about the WOZA case and take general action.

Crackdown After Disputed Elections?

Following disputed elections in Moldova, human rights defenders find themselves increasingly under threat. In addition to organizers of peaceful protests, several civil society organizations, including Amnesty International, are now being targeted in an intimidation campaign from the government.

These organizations have received letters from the Ministry of Justice, dated April 16, asking each to explain its position on the riots and any measures taken by them to prevent and stop the violence. Some of the organizations are claiming that this is a “call to statements of loyalty”. The majority of these organizations have also received subpoenas from their local tax inspectorates asking them to submit financial reports for 2008 and 2009, and identify their sources of income and expenditure.  Furthermore, on April 28, representatives from the local tax inspectorate visited the Amnesty International office in Moldova, requesting that the organization provide all consultants’ contracts for 2008 and 2009 as well as a copy of the list of paid members and all their passport details. This creates a grave concern for the protection of human rights and human rights defenders in Moldova, which should be guaranteed under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Nicola Duckworth, AI’s Europe and Central Asia program director, made the following statement:

The Moldovan authorities are failing in their duty to ensure that human rights activists are able to carry out their work unhindered and to protect them against any violations of their rights, as stated in the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

WOZA Activist Jenni Williams Faces Trial Thursday, March 5

 
Members of WOZA © AP

Members of WOZA © AP

Jenni Williams, founder and activist in the human rights organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) faces trial next week for her role in a protest on October 16, 2008. Jenni was arrested and detained for “disturbing the peace” even though the protest was a peaceful demonstration demanding that the government provide necessary food aid. Police used excessive force to break up the peaceful protest of over 200 people, and Jenni was arbitrarily arrested with Magodonga Mahlangu, another WOZA activist. After being granted bail and released on November 6, 2008, Jenni’s trial has been postponed three times, leaving her in a legal limbo for months. On Thursday, she goes to trial to determine whether she will be imprisoned again–a pattern for human rights defenders in Zimbabwe as the government tries to silence opposition to its authority. Support Jenni Williams and the WOZA activists in their fight for human rights in Zimbabwe!