Video of Today's 'Million Man' Protest

Today in Egypt, hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered for what is being called the ‘Million Man’ protest, calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down and corruption, poverty and police abuses to end.

Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian military to respect the rights of protesters as Cairo demonstrators held their biggest protest yet.

If you haven’t already, take action by calling the Egyptian Embassy.

Thailand’s Political Transformation

This blog was originally posted on Open Democracy.

The weeks of popular protests by thousands of red-shirted demonstrators in the center of Bangkok reached a critical stage on the late Saturday evening of April 10, 2010. At that point, Thailand’s state-security forces began a crackdown against those who had gathered under the banner of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). A longstanding political crisis that has divided Thais into bitterly opposed camps has now become a national tragedy.

Protestors and military police clash in the streets of Bangkok on April 12, 2010.

Protesters and military police clash in the streets of Bangkok on April 12, 2010.

The immediate crisis had been escalating since mid-March 2010, when tens of thousands of members of the increasingly heterogeneous UDD began their takeover of the streets of Bangkok. The red-bedecked activists from all over Thailand carried their tents, sleeping-mats and food supplies into the area around the high-rent shopping-district of the Rajprasong intersection. The red-shirts‘ political representatives held intermittent talks with the government of Thailand’s prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva; but these broke down in the first days of April, and the protestors then vowed to stay in place until the parliament was dissolved and new elections announced.

The crackdown was launched three days after Abhisit declared a state of emergency, which provided the government with broad powers of arrest, censorship, and suspension of civil liberties. Among the first measures taken was the blocking or closure of independent media, including thirty-six websites; the popular bilingual news-site Prachatai was one of those affected. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

College students read last words of the executed

A couple of days ago, we revealed staggering statistics about countries utilizing capital punishment. Our newest report Death Sentences and Executions shows that the U.S. ranks 7th in the world. Texas leads with the number of executions performed in 2009. Without wasting any time, college students in San Antonio, TX raised their voices in protest against the death penalty.


Check out this video from the event:

Visit www.amnestyusa.org/abolish or email dpac@aiusa.org to get involved.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise March for Education, Member Jailed

Women of Zimbabwe Arise take to the streets in Zimbabwe.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise take to the streets in Zimbabwe.

UPDATE January 25th: Today a delegation of 200 women and men marched again in Bulawayo to deliver the WOZA report regarding the collapse of the education system in the country. Once the ministry of education official had attended and received the report, members began to disperse. As they dispersed, seven riot police officers ran out of the police drill hall and started to beat the peacefully dispersing activists, innocent bystanders and vendors. One member who tried to avoid arrest by walking into the passport office was followed and beaten, after being beaten she was then told to ‘run’ to the drill hall whilst being beaten all the way there. It was finally determined that a total of eleven WOZA members were arrested, however they were released within hours without charge or explanation.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) took to the streets recently demanding education reform in Zimbabwe. In a report published by the organization, WOZA calls for teachers to quit demanding extra money from parents to supplement their income, the Education Ministry must improve the quality of the curriculum including the addition of human rights education, the examination system must be re-vamped and no increase in school fees in 2010.

Over 800 WOZA members marched in Bulawayo on January 13th, singing and chanting the WOZA MOYA! slogan. The demonstration proceeded without violence or arrests but they were not able to deliver their report at the government complex as police dispersed the demonstrators upon arrival. On January 18th-MLK Day, the members of WOZA marched to the Education Ministry offices in Harare and were dispersed, this time by riot police. One WOZA member, a journalist and a bystander were arrested. The demonstration was broken up before WOZA members were able to deliver the report to education minister David Coltart.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Stop Harassing Gandhian Activists!

The peace activists, belonging to the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA), a group that professes a Gandhian ideology of non-violence, have been campaigning for adivasi rights in the state for the past four years.  It’s been necessary because they are caught in the middle of an increasingly vicious conflict between the Maoist guerillas (aka the Naxalites) and basically pro-government vigilantes called the Salwa Judum.

On December 10, 2009 (Human Rights Day, no less), the Chhattisgarh state police arbitrarily arrested Kopa Kunjam (a member of the VCA) and Alban Toppo, a lawyer working with the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network (NRLN) at Dantewada in the southern part of the state. They were taken first to the Dantewada police station and then to the Bhairamgarh police station in the neighboring Bijapur district.

Alban Toppo reported that the police tortured him and Kopa Kunjam that night at the Bhairamgarh police station. They were beaten with thick bamboo sticks and rubber canes for 30 minutes. Toppo was forced to sign a letter stating that they had come to Bhairamgarh police station of their own accord. As a result of the torture, Toppo sustained injuries on his right elbow, biceps and back, causing severe pain and swelling. He could not move his hands and back because of the pain. Kopa Kunjam sustained serious injuries on his chest, back and leg, which left him unable to walk.

Although Toppo was released that night, he remained at the police station, as he had no means of returning home. Accompanied by police personnel, he was able to return the next morning. On December 12, 2009, Kopa Kunjam appeared before a local court where he was charged, under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, with the murder of Punem Honga, a local leader and member of the Salwa Judum, who had been abducted by the Maoists on June 2, 2009.

The arbitrary detention of the VCA activists clearly violates India’s Supreme Court guidelines issued in the D. K. Basu vs State of West Bengal case and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party. Article 9 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to liberty, which includes freedom from arbitrary detention.

The Government of Chhattisgarh needs to do the following:

  1. drop the politically motivated charges against Kopa Kunjam;
  2. investigate the allegations of ill-treatment again Mr. Kunjam and Mr. Toppo;
  3. ensure that human rights defenders are able to their work without fear of harassment, arbitrary arrest and torture.

Given that the state was formed in 2000 to address the aspirations of adivasis, it is disappointing that the state government continues to use the heavy hand of the police to harm those practicing their constitutionally guaranteed rights of free expression.

A message from Sting

We sent this moving message from Sting earlier today to our email list.  In light of the recent startling developments in Iran, we’re also sharing it with you here on our blog:

Dear Supporter,

I was shocked to hear reports that Iranian security forces arrested 29 mothers and their supporters who were silently mourning children killed in post-election violence this summer.

These Mourning Mothers gather peacefully each week to call for an end to widespread human rights abuses and justice for their dead children.

The disturbing news of their arrest brought to mind profound memories of the Mothers of the Disappeared in Chile and Argentina. Like the courageous mothers in Iran, the Mothers of the Disappeared faced threats and harassment for seeking justice for their children kidnapped during the Dirty Wars in Chile and Argentina.

My song “They Dance Alone” is dedicated to the Mothers of the Disappeared. I had the honor of performing it with them in 1988 during Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! Tour.

Sting dances 3

Sting dances with the Mothers of the Disappeared during Amnesty's 1988 Human Rights Now! Tour.

Dancing on stage with the Mothers of the Disappeared in Chile and Argentina was one of the most moving moments of my career.

I am heartbroken to see that once again others have to face the anguish that the Mothers of the Disappeared endured. I am compelled to speak out again. I hope you will too.

What gives me hope is knowing that Amnesty International is fighting on behalf of the Mourning Mothers and others threatened with abuse in Iran and around the world.

As you read this, Amnesty International is investigating and reporting on the human rights situation in Iran. It’s publishing the names of prisoners of conscience and documenting the use of brutal force to crush dissent — even as it continues to respond to human rights emergencies across the globe.

The people of Iran deserve to speak peacefully without fear. Show them they are not alone. Donate to Amnesty International today.

Sincerely,

Sting

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]

Update: Iran Releases 140 Prisoners

The Iranian authorities have announced they have released 140 prisoners from Evin Prison in northern Tehran, reports Reuters. Parliament official Kazem Jalali says that 150 prisoners, arrested during the uprising after the June 12th Presidential election, still remain behind bars.

Ayatollah Khamenei has also ordered the closure of a detainment center in Kahrizak after it failed to “preserve the rights of detainees”. Whether the prisoners in that prison were released or transferred elsewhere remains to be seen.

Iran Global Day of Action a Resounding Success

Protests in more than 80 countries, with numbers ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand, took to the streets on Saturday to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against the government’s brutal crackdown this summer. Among the 1,000 people in Amsterdam was Iran’s Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who led the crowd in chanting: “We want to live in peace. Long live peace”.

The event will hopefully force the Iranian authorities to display greater transparency regarding election results and provide those imprisoned with their human rights.

“Our message is very simple,” [Aaron Rhodes, an event organizer] said. “We’re supporting civil and human rights in Iran and we’re calling upon the government in Iran to cease their abuse of power, cease the imprisonment of innocent people and the torture of detainees and stop the violence against people who are simply trying to exercise their internationally protected human right to peacefully protest.”

Back in Tehran, opposition leaders Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Khatami urged the country’s clerics to intervene to help stop the spread of “oppression” by the authorities. They accused the government of “savagery” and that its “interrogation methods are a reminder of the dark era of the Shah”, who ruled until 1979.

Below are some videos from the various rallies across the world:


Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Peru Update: Steps Taken Toward Dialogue After Clashes

International pressure on the Peruvian authorities has brought some progress for Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon. An Amnesty International delegation will visit the country to assess the situation.

Since the violent incidents which took place in Bagua, in the Peruvian Amazon, on 5-6 June, the authorities have taken some steps to establish a dialogue with Indigenous Peoples and open investigations into the events which led to the death of at least 14 police officers and 10 demonstrators. However, concerns remain about allegations of excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment of detainees and insufficient legal assistance.

An Amnesty International delegation will visit Peru between 12 and 25 July in order to evaluate recent developments and the current situation. After the mission, new information and strategies for action will be circulated.

Many thanks to those who took action!