Activists are at risk during the increasing clampdown on freedom of expression © Adham Omar/Demotix

5 February 2011

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the detention of some 35 human rights activists and journalists, including two Amnesty International staff members, who were freed after spending almost two days in military custody.

The Egyptian and international human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were arrested Thursday when military police raided the offices of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.

“We welcome the news that these activists have been freed, but we are outraged that they were detained in the first place and by the manner in which they have been treated,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“We remain very concerned about activists belonging to groups such as the 6 April Movement,  the Youth of Justice and Liberty and the National Association for Change, who were detained in separate incidents on 3 February and whose whereabouts we are still trying to establish.

“The Egyptian authorities must now carry out an urgent independent investigation into why human rights activists monitoring protests in Cairo were targeted in this way, and who gave the orders for it.”

The international human rights activists, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch staff, were released on Friday. The Egyptian activists detained with them were released on Saturday.

Taken from http://www.amnesty.org.

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As mass anti-government protests flare across several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International is urging all state authorities in the region to respect human rights, including the rights of those now demanding change.

Repressive governments across the Middle East and North Africa are under pressure and face surging demands for political, economic and social reform. Already, protesters have been killed on the streets by police and thousands have been arrested or beaten as state security forces try to quell the unrest. New curbs on freedom of expression have been imposed with online social media, a vital organization tool for activists, being targeted.

You can follow this unfolding human rights crisis here with news, videos, actions and analysis from Amnesty International’s special microsite: http://amnesty.org/en/middle-east-crisis.

See Amnesty’s new video on the power of change through social media

Show your solidarity with the people of Egypt and across the region by joining Amnesty’s Facebook event.
Take action to demand Justice for victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel

Read more recent Amnesty International reports:

Egypt continues crackdown on media

Sudan urged to end protest crackdown

Yemeni rights activist threatened after organizing protests

Tunisia: Human rights agenda for change

Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of two South Korean human rights defenders for peacefully protesting in support of families whose loved ones died while demonstrating against forced evictions.

Park Rae-gun and Lee Jong-hoe were convicted for their roles in a campaign seeking justice and reparations for the families of victims who died in a January 2009 fire while protesting evictions from their homes and businesses in Seoul’s central Yongsan district.

Park received just over 3 years sentence suspended for 4 and Lee received 2 years sentence suspended for 3 years for their role in organizing a demonstration that did not have police permission.

“Park and Lee have been convicted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Their convictions must be overturned,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director.

Park and Lee had joined with other human rights activists to organize protests calling for justice and reparations for the families of those who died in what became known as the Yongsan Fire Incident.

On 19 January 2009, protestors fighting the evictions barricaded themselves inside a watchtower they had erected on the roof of a building earmarked for demolition. They gathered paint thinner and other flammable materials to deter police in the event of an attack.

Early the next morning, police commandos mounted a raid on the watchtower. As police landed on the roof to arrest the protesters, a fire broke out that claimed the lives of five protesters and a police officer.

Park, Lee and the other activists demanded an official apology, adequate compensation and a thorough and impartial investigation into events leading to the deaths. They submitted the necessary police notification for protests but were turned down five times by police who said the protests could become violent.

When the protests went ahead without police permission, Park and Lee were accused of “hosting an illegal protest” and “blocking traffic” even though the duration of any traffic obstruction was not substantial during the demonstrations, in some cases just half an hour.

“The broad discretion police have to issue prohibition notices effectively means that protests can only take place with police permission,” said Catherine Baber. “This discretion has been used to silence dissenting voices.”

Detention orders for Park and Lee were issued in March 2009 and January 2010 respectively. In 2009 Park wrote to the Seoul Central District Court, saying he would only hand himself in to the authorities after the government had met the demands of the families for an official apology and compensation.

On 30 December 2009 the Prime Minister issued an apology and compensation was awarded to the families of those who had died. Park and Lee turned themselves in to the police on 11 January 2010.

In March 2010, the Constitutional Court of South Korea noted that the traffic disruptions that inevitably result from peaceful assemblies and protests should not be punished as “blocking traffic” under the Criminal Code.

“The South Korean government needs to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed in law and practice” said Catherine Baber.

Kwon Young-kuk, the lawyer working on behalf of victims and bereaved family members of the Yongsan tragedy, is arrested by police for participating in a demonstration to criticize prosecutors held in front of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office in the Seocho neighborhood of Seoul, May 14, 2009. Image taken from http://blog.jinbo.net/CINA/archive/20090515

Park Rae-gun

Park Rae-gun, a human rights activist, is facing ten years in prison for campaigning on behalf of people who had been forcibly evicted from their homes.

In January 2009 police attempted to forcibly evict protestors from a building earmarked for demolition in Seoul. During the stand off a fire started which killed five protestors and a police officer. Park Rae-gun together with fellow activists organised protests to demand reparations for the families of the dead protestors. As a result he was arrested and charged with ‘organising an illegal assembly after sunset’ and ‘blocking traffic’. His trial is ongoing.

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Taken in full from the Asia Pacific Youth Network website: http://www.apyouth.net/2010/12/youth-in-burma/

Find out how to register your interest in joining the Burma Campaign Team HERE.

“I would very much like the young people of Burma to be able to communicate with young people abroad so we can find new ways of helping to bring our struggle to a victorious end.” Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Every country has a success story to tell. Some like to boast about a citizen with no hands who can still write, or another with no legs who can still run. But there is no other country like Burma. Here we have generals able to rule a country for 40 years with no brains!” Zargana, imprisoned Burmese comedian.

I was recently fortunate enough to travel to Thailand to spend some time with some Burmese youth in exile there. Some told me their stories, of how they had survived imprisonment and the customary torture and abuse that accompanies it. Others spoke of how much they missed the families they had left behind and not seen in ten years and perhaps would not get to see ever again. They also spoke of wanting change for their country and how they’d like to return one day.

Meeting these young people I realized that in many ways they represent the future of their country. If change is going to come, it will most likely be through the efforts of youth like these who have already had to suffer the most. But it will also need the help of other young people around the region who can offer this without sacrificing anything of our own lives.

Image taken from Generation Wave’s Facebook group.

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When: 7:30pm, Thursday, December 16
Where: Room 902, 9th Floor, International Education Building (IEB), The Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans University, 11-1 Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea (see maps at end of post). 

In association with the Ewha University GSIS Student Council to mark 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence as well as Human Rights Day, Amnesty G48 presents “Heaven on Earth”. The film explores the theme of domestic violence, faced by many women around the world, head on.
From the film’s website: “When Chand arrives in Brampton, Ontario to meet her new husband, she leaves behind a loving family and supportive community. Now, in a new country, she finds herself living in a modest suburban home with seven other people and two part-time tenants. Inside the home, she is at the mercy of her husband’s temper, and her mother-in-law’s controlling behaviour.” 

The screening will be followed by an open discussion about gender-based violence and about ways we can recognise and prevent all forms of violence and discrimination against women in our daily lives. Lights snacks and refreshments will be kindly provided by the Ewha University GSIS Student Council. Everyone is welcome!

More about the film: http://films.nfb.ca/heaven-on-earth/

Visit our website for a list of previous and upcoming screenings check out Meetings and Actions.

Happy Human Rights Day 2010!

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

December 10 is International Human Rights Day. This year this day has been set aside to recognize the work of human rights defenders around the globe acting to end discrimination.

What is Human Rights Day?

This year Human Rights Day marks 62 years since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. It is also the day when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. In general, it is a day when everyone should stop to reflect on the achievements the world has made so far in promoting and defending human rights, and also to look at the many ways we can still improve on these things.

Want to read more? Click here and here!

Who are human rights defenders (HRDs)?

Human rights defenders are often at the forefront of change with their hands on the pulse of human rights, challenging discriminatory norms and practices, often putting themselves at great risk. A human rights defender could be  someone working in the community to improve the quality of life for those with less access to public resources, someone confronting oppression, someone standing up for their neighbour, someone defending their traditional way of living. In other words, human rights defenders are you and me.

But because the work of human rights defenders often leads to change and challenges systems of oppression and discrimination, these people are often the targets of repression and violence, including, in many countries, that of the very government whose job it is to protect them.

View the live webcast from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva here.

So, like the group of students in Portugal who declared a toast to freedom in 1961, let’s declare a toast to human rights defenders around the world!

Take action on Human Rights Day

Act now for Saber Ragoubi, Tunisia

Saber Ragoubi was sentenced to death in Tunisia after being convicted of national security and terrorism-related charges, which he denies. His trial was unfair and he was convicted on the basis of a “confession” he said he was forced to make under torture.

Living outside their lands, the communities are not able to carry out their traditional activities, such as fishing, hunting and gathering honey, which are essential to their way of life. Their survival is at risk.

Lithuanian parliament must reject homophobic law

On 16 December, the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) will vote on a draft law that would punish the “promotion of homosexual relations” with a fine of between 580 and 2,900 Euros.

Authorities must ensure access to reparation for survivors of war rapes in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fifteen years on thousands of women who survived war crimes of sexual violence committed during the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina are still suffering in silence.

Protect indigenous rights in Brazil

Thirty-five Guarani-Kaiowá Indigenous families of the Laranjeira Ñanderu community, including around 85 children, are living in makeshift shacks by the side of the busy B-163 highway in Mato Grosso do Sul.

End enforced disappearances, torture and political killings in the Philippines

Hundreds of activists and political dissidents have been forcibly disappeared over the last 10 years in the Philippines.

The rape and sexual abuse of girls in Nicaragua is widespread, yet the government is failing to address this hidden human rights emergency.

Last week Amnesty International youth from around the region were fortunate enough to listen-in on a Skype call between Nora Murat – the Director of Amnesty International Malaysia – and Burma’s pre-democracy leader and recently released prisoner of conscience Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/gs9OgpCdQgI%5D

We stand for Freedom!

Posted: November 21, 2010 in Uncategorized
A film by actor and director Gael García Bernal, director Marc Silver and Amnesty International.

Every year, thousands of migrants face kidnap, rape and murder in Mexico. Driven by grinding poverty and insecurity back home, they travel through Mexico in hope of reaching the USA with its promise of a better life. But all too often their dreams are turned to nightmares.

Told over four parts, The Invisibles exposes the truth behind one of the most dangerous journeys in the world and reveals the untold stories of the people who make the journey north through Mexico.

A HIDDEN JOURNEY ACROSS MEXICO

Every year tens of thousands of people leave their homes in Central and South America and journey north through Mexico, seeking a better life in the United States. As irregular migrants they do not have legal permission to enter or remain in the country.

In April 2010, Amnesty International released a report exposing the truth about what is happening in Mexico. Human rights abuses against Mexican migrants in the USA attract a great deal of public concern, and rightly so. Yet public outrage over the crisis facing migrants in Mexico has been much more muted.

In 2009, nearly 10,000 migrants were abducted in just six months with almost half of the interviewed victims asserting that public officials were involved to some degree in their kidnapping.

Inspired by the stories of the people who make the journey through Mexico, actor and director Gael García Bernal and director Marc Silver joined forces with Amnesty International to shine a light on the abuses migrants suffer. Told over four parts, the film they made is a shocking look at a world many people would rather you didn’t know about.

 

WATCH IT NOW