In October, Amnesty applauded the announcement that the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to three world-changing women—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman. In addition to celebrating the work of these women, we’re also very happy that they’re all free to attend the award ceremony tomorrow.
While this year’s winners travel to Oslo to accept their awards, this freedom of movement is not the reality for many activists around the world, including past prize recipients. Today, we remember five past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize who have been unable to attend the award ceremony due to persecution:
As I gather with my family this Thanksgiving holiday to reflect upon the blessings we’ve been fortunate to experience, I know I’ll be thinking of Oh Kil-nam and his wife and daughters.
Dr. Oh visited Amnesty’s offices last week to talk about the nightmare of injustice faced by his family and so many others in North Korea. Oh Kil-nam has not seen his wife and two daughters for more than 20 years. His family was sent to a secret political prison camp in North Korea after Dr. Oh sought political asylum abroad.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s what Lord Acton, an English baron and historian, said back in the 19th century. A century earlier, and on this side of the pond, Thomas Painefamously wrote: “An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws.”
One of the most absolute powers the state can have is the power to kill its prisoners. There are two death penalty cases featured in this years’ Write for Rights that illustrate how enthusiasm for this ultimate punishment can corrupt the application of otherwise good laws.
Murder is a terrible crime, and making it illegal is a good law. But in the cases of Reggie Clemons in Missouri, and Fatima Hussein Badi in Yemen, police brutality during the investigations, and over-aggressive prosecutions and inadequate defense during court proceedings have thoroughly derailed any legitimate quest of justice.
When you log onto Facebook, you might expect to hear from long-lost friends or to see pictures from the latest family reunion. Maybe you follow Amnesty on Facebook or Twitter, read and comment on this blog, or keep a blog yourself.
But when you log off at the end of the day, you probably don’t expect the police to come knocking on your door. For people in some countries, that’s exactly what can happen. A 2011 study by Freedom House examining 37 countries found that 23 of them had arrested a blogger or internet user for their online posts. These encroachments on internet freedom – regardless of laws – come at a time of explosive growth in the number of internet users worldwide. Governments are clearly terrified because they know that information is power.
Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.
Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.
Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.
In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.