U.S. Must Stop Obstructing Edward Snowden’s Ability to Claim Asylum

By Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Amnesty International

Let’s face it: the reason Edward Snowden is stuck in limbo in Moscow is because he has revealed the unlawful behavior of the U.S. and other governments. They are trying to turn the tables and say he is the criminal when in fact it is the governments’ behavior that is unlawful.

“We think that Snowden will be in danger if he is given over to the authorities of the United States,” Amnesty International representative Sergei Nikitin said after he met with Snowden at the Moscow airport.

Indeed, the U.S. government is not only pursuing him, wanting to arrest him and charge him in the United States but they’re also obstructing his ability to claim asylum elsewhere. The Russian president has said if Snowden stays in Russia he has to shut up – but you cannot give somebody asylum and say that it is conditional on your relinquishing your right.

So what we need to do is keep heavy pressure on the U.S. government and others who are actively obstructing his right to seek asylum. We need to keep bringing the focus back to the unlawful activity of the U.S. government and other governments that he revealed.

One Year Later, Raising Our Voices for Pussy Riot

Amnesty campaigner Jasmine Heiss

On the evening of February 20, 2013 I stood with a small, but colorful group of activists outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC. Thousands of miles away in remote regions of the Russian Federation it was already February 21st and Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alyokhina were hours from waking to serve another day of their two-year sentences.

But the 21st was not simply another day – it was the one-year anniversary of Nadya and Masha’s performance with feminist punk group Pussy Riot in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One Year Before Olympics in Sochi, Russia Continues its “Assault on Freedom”

Putin in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin tours Olympic venues in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2013. SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images

With only a year left before the start of the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia has little time to reverse its increasing crackdown on freedom of expression.

In the last fifteen months, there has been a continuing assault on basic rights, including increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, a rise in forced evictions, human rights violations during security operations in the North Caucasus and the passage of several bills which negatively impact NGOs within Russia.

While hosting the Olympics is an incredible honor and an opportunity for the world to come together peacefully in the mutual enjoyment of universal sport, it’s also the perfect opportunity for the Russian government to do some serious soul-searching and correct its human rights record.
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Last-Minute Halloween Costume Idea: Don a Balaclava for Pussy Riot

Dress up for Pussy Riot this HalloweenStill looking for a Halloween costume? Why not don a balaclava for Pussy Riot and stand up for human rights!

Three members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot were arrested in February for performing a protest song at a Cathedral in Moscow. Russian prosecutors charged the three members with “hooliganism” and a court eventually handed two of them jail sentences. While we were thrilled to hear that the third detained member was conditionally released, one simple truth remains – none of these women should have been arrested in the first place. Demand that Russia release Pussy Riot now!

The women of Pussy Riot wear balaclava masks not only to protect their identities, but also to let the world know that anyone can fight for the right to free expression. This Halloween you can stand united with thousands of activists all over the country and wear a balaclava in support of Pussy Riot. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Bitter Blow to Free Speech in Russia: Pussy Riot Convicted

members of pussy riot convicted

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Maria Alyokhina (C) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (R), were given 2 year sentences for a performance. (Photo AFP/Getty)

A Russian court’s decision today to sentence members of the punk rock protest band Pussy Riot to 2 years imprisonment in a penal colony is a bitter blow for freedom of expression in Russia – and it sends a dangerous message throughout the world (take action here).

Three members of the all-female group were outrageously charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they gave a politically charged and impromptu performance – a peaceful performance – poking fun at President Putin at a cathedral in February.

Say what you will about Pussy Riot: this may not be your kind of music. Some people find their shows offensive.

But it doesn’t change the facts: freedom of speech is a human right, and it’s vital to a free and just society.

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Pussy Riot Faces Moscow Court as Amnesty Rallies in DC

Amnesty Rallies to Free Pussy Riot in Washington, DC

Amnesty activists protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC on July 27, 2012. Photo by Michael Fairchild.

Yesterday, the trial of three members of the Russian feminist rock group “Pussy Riot” began in Moscow. Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested in March, accused of “hooliganism on the grounds of religious hate” for performing a protest song entitled ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

The young women face charges that could result in up to seven years imprisonment.

Yet in the words of John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, “this trial should never have taken place” and it is “clearly politically motivated.” The women “dared to attack the two pillars of modern Russian establishment – the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church. While many may have found their act offensive, the sentence of up to seven years in prison they may expect on the charges of hooliganism is wildly out of all proportion.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Belarusian President: "Better to Be a Dictator Than Gay"

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko © STR/AFP/Getty Images

It sounds like a line from Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming comedy The Dictator, but it actually came from a real dictator.

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of ex-Soviet Belarus, said “better to be a dictator than gay” when responding to European criticism of the country’s democratic record. He was alluding to the sexual orientation of some European Foreign Ministers.

President Alexander Lukashenko has been ruling Belarus with an iron fist for almost 18 years. The country’s population is under 10 million and has faced sanctions. Belarus is one of the least democratic in Europe, and is Europe’s only country to have the death penalty. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Calling for Justice Does Not Make Us "Whores"

By Tzili Mor, Amnesty USA Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

Every day around the world, women challenge the status quo of poverty, exploitation, impunity, and war; they question oppressive customs and harmful traditions; they fight tirelessly for human rights.

And while they may not label themselves as women human rights defenders, their beliefs and activism often subject them to marginalization, prejudice, violence, and threats to their safety and wellbeing.

They are sidelined, abducted, made to “disappear,” and killed as a consequence of their work. They face gender-specific repercussions and risks, such as sexual harassment and rape, often with no recourse for personal justice.  Their aggressors may be state actors, police, military, politicians, corporations, their community, and even family members.

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Anna Politkovskaya's Killer Finally Behind Bars

Anna Politkovskaya in Helsinki in December 2002.

Rustom Makhmudov was detained on 31 May 2011 in Chechnya and charged two days later for the murder of journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya. This news comes almost 5 years after she was brutally shot at point-blank range while entering the elevator of her apartment building in the centre of Moscow where she lived in October 2006.

Anna was known for her fearless coverage of the conflict and human rights situation in Chechnya, and had thus been detained, threatened and even poisoned previously on a number of occasions. She was a journalist for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and had written extensively on abuses such as violence in the army, corruption in state structures, and police brutality.

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