AN INSPIRATION ISSUE 4 / 2013
IN THIS ISSUE > ➢WRITE FOR RIGHTS > NEW ZEALAND'S FAILURE AT CHOGM > US DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN
MASS SURVEILLANCE - IN OUR LINE OF WORK, IT’S A CHILLING THOUGHT. It's my first time in Berlin, so high on my list is a visit to the foreboding former Stasi headquarters. It's easy now to laugh at the surveillance equipment on display. But just 25 years ago this was pure James Bond.
They remind us of both the incredible technical abilities now available to keep a population under watch, and also the lengths to which even democratic governments can go to stop their people from knowing.
The Stasi – the Communist-era East German secret police – were infamous for the wholesale spying that they carried out. Reporting directly to the political elite, they put cameras into tie pins, built rubbish bins with recording equipment, and operated mass mail and phone interceptions.
Not many people know that privacy is enshrined as a basic human right, alongside better known rights like freedom of expression and freedom from torture. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy...”.
Were the Stasi still around, their job would be much easier, because pretty much all electronic communications can be easily gathered en masse. The laborious individual listening and watching that required an estimated 270,000 Stasi staff and informers to run could largely be replaced by data mining and scanning today.
The rhetoric coming from the White House since the Snowden leaks has been that there is a trade-off between privacy and security that we must accept. Or put another way, less privacy means more security.
So perhaps it's not a coincidence that Germany, a country that has such a recent and painful experience of the effects of state surveillance, has been one of the most outspoken critics following the Snowden revelations of mass surveillance by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and others – especially the tapping of their Chancellor’s phone. Meanwhile, two pieces of legislation passed in the past few months have raised serious questions about privacy protections right here in New Zealand. While Prime Minister John Key has been adamant that the Snowden revelations of mass spying by Western governments on their people don't relate to the GCSB or the Telecommunications Interception Capability & Security (TICS) legislation, in an important way they do.
CONTENTS 3 The real Afghanistan 4 Write 4 Rights: Out In The Open 6 New Zealand's failure at CHOGM 7 Drones: Will I Be Next? 8 Take Action 9 Good News 11 Amnesty Briefs
CONTACT DETAILS Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, PO Box 5300, Wellesley St, Auckland, 1141 0800 AMNESTY (0800 266 378)
FLAME ISSUE 4 / 2013
CHAIRPERSON: Helen Shorthouse EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Grant Bayldon EDITOR: Anita Harvey
Send all your comments and suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
ART DIRECTION + DESIGN: We Love Inc www.weloveinc.com
COVER IMAGE: Malala Yousafzai, painted as part of a mural by students at Auckland Girls’ Grammar
But working for Amnesty International, I see daily the often terrible consequences when state control gets out of control. As in the case of communist era East Germany, when privacy is taken away it’s often not security that’s given instead, but a more authoritarian state – leading to less security for its citizens. Since the time of the Stasi, strong human rights principles have been built up to guide us all on when governments are justified in secretly monitoring their people. The justification is not something to be plucked from the air; international law sets out guiding principles on applying human rights to surveillance. Governments must respect freedom of expression and privacy. They must consider the damaging effect that state surveillance can have on civil liberties. Government measures to increase their powers of surveillance must be demonstrated to be necessary, proportionate and pursue a legitimate goal. And once justified, surveillance powers must be subject to transparent, robust and independent judicial oversight and parliamentary scrutiny. The extent to which the surveillance programmes of the USA, the UK and other governments infringe on our privacy without clearly satisfying these tests is breathtaking. It’s easy to be complacent here in New Zealand, but as an Amnesty International supporter you will be all too well aware of how many governments treat dissent from their citizens. And we know that governments routinely share the information they collect with their allies. What if part of the conversation I had yesterday with a lawyer in another country is shared with her government, which is already looking for a reason to stop her advocating on behalf of human rights victims? Or maybe her government isn’t repressive today, but data can be kept indefinitely – what about 10 years from now? That might not make a difference to some of us. But in our line of work, it’s a chilling thought.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND
Making Oshack, a women's shelter in Kabul © Amnesty International
ABOVE TOP: 'Bolony', a
WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE REAL AFGHANISTAN
fried bread filled with chopped spinach and onion. © UNHCR / J. Tanner ABOVE: Afghan women
and girls forming a wedding procession in Mazar-sharif in Northern Afghanistan. © Amnesty International
By Maya Pastakia, Afghanistan Campaigner at Amnesty International It is one of the most dangerous places in the world, following more than three decades of war. Terrorist groups remain a force to be reckoned with, and its human rights record and abuses against women and girls are renowned. But the stories you’ve heard about Afghanistan won’t prepare you for what the country is really like. After years of tragedy, war and terrorism, it’s impossible for news headlines in New Zealand to capture the colour, culture, laughter and resilience that can be found in the homes, on the streets and inside town centres across Afghanistan. Here are four things you probably didn’t know about the people who inhabit Afghanistan. 1. AMAZING FOOD Family life is a big part of people’s lives in Afghanistan and they come together to socialise around food. Afghan cuisine is fabulous. There’s more to it than lamb kebabs and rice. There are a lot of influences from neighbouring countries. The flavours of the food are a mix between Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian and Chinese. 2. A CHEEKY SENSE OF HUMOUR What was incredibly surprising to me was the mental strength of women in Afghanistan despite the hardships they face. When I went we conducted training workshops in Kabul, and the sessions were peppered with laughter and jokes the women told. Some of them were quite rude but hilarious, it really was amazing to witness such humour and joy knowing the amount of adversity these women face.
Something that many people may not know is that Afghanistan is a country that is growing in leaps and bounds in sports.
scarves at market in Kabul © Amnesty International
People normally associate sport in Afghanistan with the national game of Buzkashi – a gruesome variant of polo where teams compete with a goat carcass instead of a ball. But Afghanistan is causing a storm in more conventional sports. In September, the country celebrated its football team’s first historic win in an international tournament at the Asian Football Federation Championship and its national cricket team recently qualified for the World Cup in 2015, not a bad effort considering the sport was banned during the Taliban’s rule. 4. POETS ARE TREATED LIKE ROCK STARS Poetry is a big part of the Afghan society and culture. Women, men and children will gather for poetry recitals and to listen to music, reciting old classics or pieces they’ve written themselves. Despite instability in the country, life continues, people run their businesses, shops are open and there’s a flourishing media industry. Speaking to people in Afghanistan and hearing their stories helps remind me of the improvements we’ve seen in Afghanistan over the past 10 years, especially for women’s rights. Knowing their strength first hand makes me want to make sure this progress continues. Unfortunately despite the positives, violence and lack of economic independence combine to make Afghanistan the most dangerous place in the world for women. Amnesty is working to end this – visit www.amnesty.org.nz/AfghanWomen for more information.
03 FLAME ISSUE 41 / 2013
3. AN OBSESSION WITH SPORT
ABOVE: Traditional Afghan
WRITE 4 RIGHTS
OUT IN THE OPEN
Ihar Tsikhanyuk is an openly gay man from Belarus who works as a drag performer. When he tried to set up a gay rights organisation, the police took him to the police station and beat him up. When he complained, they threatened to kill him. Ihar wants justice for what happened, and the freedom to be himself without worrying about the consequences. He shared his story with Amnesty International.
The many faces of Ihar Tsikhanyuk, who works as a drag artist. © Private
“When I see injustice, I start to fight it. I was raised like that – injustice equals horror for me. “I went to a clothes shop in Minsk [the capital of Belarus] in August, holding hands with a man. The manager kicked me out and they swore at us. I came back the next day and complained, and they apologised and said it wouldn’t happen again. I managed to convince them that they were wrong. That’s what standing up for your rights is. I didn’t steal anything and I didn’t kill anyone, I was just holding hands with my boyfriend."
Being gay in Belarus “The media here portrays gays and lesbians as sick and crazy people, fools and savages. The President says our country isn’t ready to accept people like us, and that he isn’t ashamed of that. People see the President’s attitude and think the same. “I am an openly gay man. I’m not embarrassed and I don’t hide it – I try to show that it’s normal. I dress like a woman when I perform as a drag artist in clubs. But it’s very difficult. You have to be prepared for negative situations all the time, attacks by young people, relatives, the political authorities.
FLAME ISSUE 4 / 2013
“The LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] community here used to be very united. But government policy has become very homophobic recently – gay clubs have been shut down, it’s impossible to organise events, meetings, parties – so people have started to lose touch with each other.”
Kicked out of church “I am an Orthodox Christian. I used to like going to a monastery in Hrodna [in northwestern Belarus] and knew an abbess there. Then I went to gay pride in Moscow in 2009, I gave a lot of interviews. The next time I went to Hrodna, the abbess kicked me out of church during the service in front of the whole parish. She pointed at me and said that ‘this boy, Ihar, he's gay, he likes men’. She told the congregation to spit at people like me, and to expel me if I came again, because I spoiled the reputation of the church. “My mum is very conservative and religious, so when she saw me hugging and kissing a boy in my room one day she was shocked. She didn’t talk to me for about a month, and then she said she would take me to see a priest to confess, because I had a demon sitting inside me. “Then I finished school and left home, and it calmed down. Nowadays she supports me, and even asks about my personal life and tells me to be careful with my health.”
Dragged from hospital “We tried to set up Lambda, a human rights organisation that protects LGBTI people, in December 2012. The Government started to fight us after we applied to the Ministry of Justice with enough signatures to register it [as required by law]. The police called the founding members in for questioning, asking why we had signed the application and pressurised us to write letters denouncing it.
NEW ZEALAND’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD IN THE SPOTLIGHT January 2014 will see New Zealand under the international spotlight for its protection of human rights. The United Nations’ now fully fledged Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process has begun its second round, with countries having their human rights records assessed by fellow states.
© Sergey Yagelo
“I was having hospital treatment for a stomach ulcer at the time. The police came to the hospital and dragged me to their car. They asked what I had been doing in Minsk with other gays. I refused to talk to them, so they started to punch my head and chest. They told me not to go to Minsk anymore and to not get involved with the organisation.” ‘Everyone is equal in the Republic of Belarus’ "After the attack, my family became scared of being attacked. I told them I’d protect them. Some of my friends expressed support and understanding, but others said I shouldn’t complain or I’d have more problems and could be killed. “I wrote a complaint, and when I told the police officers they said: ‘Boy, aren’t you worried that you’ll end up with nine grams in your forehead [a bullet]?’. I couldn’t believe that they’d openly say that to me. “I still feel humiliated and empty, because there’s nothing I can do. We don’t have enough ways to fight, or good enough legislation to protect LGBTI people in Belarus. “It will mean a lot for us to get support from Amnesty International. LGBTI people will feel braver and more hopeful. It will show that everyone is equal in the Republic of Belarus.”
Ihar is part of our Write for Rights campaign; you can support him by sending a letter or a card to: Ihar Tsikhanyuk, c/o Belarus Team Amnesty International 1 Easton Street London WC1X 0DW United Kingdom Call on Belarus’ Prosecutor General to investigate police officers’ illtreatment and threats against Ihar Tsikhanyuk at the October District police station in Hrodna in February 2013, and to bring those responsible to justice. Write to: Alyaksandr Koniuk Generalnaya Prokuratura, ul. Internatsionalnaya 22 220030 Minsk Belarus EMAIL:
+375 17 226 42 52 (please say “fax” if someone answers) FAX:
Start your letter: Dear Prosecutor General
No country is exempt and the focus for the second round will be on how well states are following up on the commitments to improve they made in the first round. While New Zealand is often lauded on the international stage for having a principled approach to human rights, there were several, extremely important issues raised last time, including, violence against women, child abuse and discrimination, and new issues now coming to the fore include child poverty and refugees and asylum seekers. Amnesty International and others will be working to ensure these issues are recognised and that the full story is told about the state of New Zealand’s human rights. We will make sure the attention is on New Zealand for our review in Geneva, all you need to do is make sure you tune in on 27 January to put the Government in the spotlight. We will be keeping people posted on our Facebook page, but to find out what we have to say, as well as more about this interesting new process – check out Amnesty International’s submission to the UPR Working Group on our website at: www. amnesty.org.nz/our-work/universalperiodic-review
05 FLAME ISSUE 41 / 2013
Find out more about Write for Rights at http://www.amnesty.org.nz/ write4rights
The process – while seemingly dry and complex – has become an important way to call governments to account for poor performance on human rights. Not only are governments able to have their say, but UN bodies and non-governmental organisations are also able to report their take on how the last four years have played out for human rights in their country.
NEW ZEALAND’S FAILURE AT CHOGM
Amnesty's Executive Director, Grant Bayldon and Advocacy Manager Amanda Brydon.
As foreign leaders and international media emptied out of Sri Lanka as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) came to an end, Amnesty International repeated calls for the world not to abandon Sri Lanka’s victims. "Does anyone specifically have a question that's not on Sri Lanka or human rights?" This was how an exasperated Commonwealth spokesperson unwittingly summed up CHOGM at a press conference in Sri Lanka on 17 November. The Sri Lankan Government may regret ever having hosted the meeting which quickly turned into a PR disaster as the country’s appalling human rights record became the only story in town. Our Prime Minister, John Key, arrived in Sri Lanka in the middle of a New Zealand campaign for election to the United Nations Security Council – a campaign that lays down the message that New Zealand offers an independent and principled voice. And CHOGM gave Key his next campaign moment. By the time the meeting started it already had leader boycotts by Canada, India, and by next CHOGM host Mauritius. Others, especially the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, had made it clear they would go but take a strong stand on human rights in Sri Lanka. So when John Key stepped off the plane in Colombo, he couldn’t have had a better opportunity to show the world exactly what sort of Security Council member New Zealand would be. So how did he do? Well, a few of John Key’s comments over the CHOGM weekend say it all. In response to David Cameron’s call for an independent inquiry into war crimes: “I don’t know what that would achieve.” “People do now feel safe.” "The rights and wrongs on all those issues are not for us to really dwell into." And in probably the most ill-advised moment, if not downright insulting to the victims, John Key even quoted back Rajapaksa’s assertions that all disappearances are actively investigated and that many of the disappeared left the country on boats. Perhaps it was better that he didn’t meet with the mothers of the disappeared as Cameron had.
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For John Key to imply that in the face of such outrageous Sri Lankan Government abuses he’s not in a position to lecture or judge unfortunately leaves only one conclusion: unlike the UK, India and Canada, the New Zealand Government has not had the courage to take a principled position. “Those responsible for past violations, including war crimes, must be held accountable and ongoing human rights violations stopped irrespective of rank - victims and survivors must see justice done,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director at Amnesty International.
Over 80 people joined Amnesty International on the steps of Parliament on 5 November as we handed over a global petition of almost 200,000 signatures calling on Commonwealth leaders to stop Sri Lanka from becoming Chair of the Commonwealth. The signatures were accepted by Labour representatives David Shearer, Maryan Street and Phil Goff, Green Party MPs Jan Logie and Mojo Mathers and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also accepted the petition at a meeting later that afternoon. Thank you to everyone who signed our petition and joined our campaign. "Unfortunately by choosing self interest over a principled stance and effectively giving his seal of approval to a country whose Government stands accused of war crimes, John Key missed that opportunity and in doing so has let New Zealand down." At the end of the meeting the Commonwealth also confirmed that Sri Lanka will serve as the organisation’s Chair for the next two years, as well as on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the body charged with monitoring human rights in member states – a move which simply defies belief. While the meeting is now over, Amnesty International will continue to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to address its human rights crisis by establishing an international investigation into evidence of war crimes. We will be calling on our Government here in New Zealand to take a principled stand and show the world it is deserving of a spot on the Security Council by backing the calls for an international inquiry. The Government wants us to believe that we are a small country prepared to speak from principle. It’s a voice that we’ve had before, and we can have it again but only if New Zealand has the courage to stand up. Keep up to date at www.amnesty.org.nz/srilanka
WILL I BE NEXT? “The explosion was very close to us. It was very strong, it took me into the air and pushed me onto the ground.”
Nabeela, 8, recounts in painful detail to Amnesty International, the moment when her grandmother was killed right before her very eyes.
In October 2012, 68-year old grandmother Mamana Bibi was killed in a double strike, apparently by a Hellfire missile, as she picked vegetables in the family’s fields while surrounded by a handful of her grandchildren. Why did the US Government kill Nabeela's grandmother? At age 8, Nabeela Bibi witnessed the unimaginable horror of a US drone blowing her grandmother, Mamana Bibi, to pieces. A year later, the US Government has not even acknowledged Mamana's death. Young Nabeela, now terrified of these killer robots in the sky, wonders whether she’ll be next. In late October, Nabeela and her brother and father travelled over 7,000 miles to tell their painful story to Congress, in the US. Nabeela had to relive that terrifying day all over again. Adding insult to injury, the Washington Post reported that only five members of Congress bothered to show up. No one is alleging Mamana did anything wrong. Her fatal "mistake" was living in North Waziristan, a region in Pakistan pummelled by US drone strikes. Mamana Bibi and her grandchildren are just some of the human faces that are part of new evidence that indicates that the US has carried out unlawful killings in Pakistan through drone strikes, some of which could even amount to war crimes. In an area half the size of Taranaki, Amnesty has reviewed all 45 known drone strikes that took place in North Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan between January 2012 and August 2013. The region has seen more strikes than any other part of the country – on average one every 1-2 weeks. These strikes form the basis of the report, “Will I be next?’ US drone strikes in Pakistan", which was released in October. The report is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the US drone programme and documents recent killings in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas and the almost complete absence of transparency around the US drone programme. Amnesty’s researchers interviewed 60 survivors and eyewitnesses, who describe a daily life of inescapable violence - death from above, and attacks on the ground by Pakistani forces, Taliban and Al-Qa-ida-linked groups.
No new information about drone policy. No legal framework for when and why the US would use this deadly force. No acknowledgment of responsibility. No investigations into cases like Mamana's. Drone strikes have destroyed families and stirred up hate against the US. Mamana's grandchildren deserve better than this. They deserve answers. They deserve justice. “Secrecy surrounding the drones programme gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law. It’s time for the US to come clean about the drones programme and hold those responsible for these violations to account,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher. “What hope for redress can there be for victims of drone attacks and their families when the US won’t even acknowledge its responsibility for particular strikes?” Contrary to official claims that those killed were “terrorists”, Amnesty International’s research indicates that the victims of many of these attacks were not involved in fighting and posed no threat to life. “We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the US and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances. But it is hard to believe that a group of labourers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States,” said Qadri. Amnesty International also documented cases of so-called “rescuer attacks” in which those who ran to the aid of the victims of an initial drone strike were themselves targeted in a rapid follow-on attack. “The tragedy is that drone aircraft deployed by the US over Pakistan now instil the same kind of fear in the people of the tribal areas that was once associated only with al-Qa’ida and the Taliban,” said Qadri. “The Pakistani authorities must disclose information on all US drone strikes they have documented and what measures they have taken or will take to assist victims of these strikes.” Amnesty International is calling on the US Congress to fully investigate the cases documented and other potentially unlawful deaths, and to disclose any evidence of human rights violations to the public. Read more - http://amn.st/HDVwKA
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In May of this year US President Obama pledged to increase transparency about drone strikes. Five months later, nothing has changed.
Nabeela, granddaughter of Mamana Bibi © Amnesty International
HOUSING RIGHTS ACTIVIST IMPRISONED IN CAMBODIA
BACKGROUND Yorm Bopha is a wife, a mother and a passionate campaigner for housing rights in her Phnom Penh community in Cambodia. She is also a Prisoner of Conscience. Since 2007 the people of the Boeung Kak Lake community have been forced to leave their homes to make way for development. The lake was filled and homes and communities were flooded and destroyed.
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Yorm Bopha has been imprisoned since 4 September 2012, accused of planning an assault on two men. The trial was unfair and no evidence was provided linking Yorm Bopha with the crime. While in prison she is separated from her 10-year-old son and her husband, who is in poor health.
As Flame was about to hit the printers we heard the fantastic news that Yorm Bopha had been released on bail and reunited with her young son and family. But her struggle is not over, the charges against her have not yet been dropped. For the latest updates and information on how to take further action please visit www.amnesty.org.nz/write4rights
WHAT CAN YOU DO
FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN CONTINUE TO TAKE ACTION FOR YORM BOPHA WWW.AMNESTY.ORG.NZ/WRITE4RIGHTS
#2 #3 WHO
NABI SALEH VILLAGERS FACING VILLAGE VIOLENCE IN ISRAEL/ OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES BACKGROUND Since 2009, the villagers of Nabi Saleh have faced frequent violent repression from the Israeli army. The illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish has taken over most of their farmland and turned the village water spring into a tourist attraction, which Nabi Saleh residents are prevented from using. The Israeli army responds to the villagers’ peaceful protests with excessive and unnecessary violence, including killing two people, carrying out night raids, arresting children and arbitrarily using tear gas.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Show solidarity with the people of Nabi Saleh
Send a letter or a card
via Naji Tamimi, co-ordinator of the Nabi Saleh Popular Resistance Committee:
Naji Tamimi Nabi Saleh Birzeit/Ramallah Palestine Leave a message of support on the village Facebook page: bit.ly/nabi-saleh
Write to the Minister of Defence
Urge him to stop the Israeli security forces using excessive and unnecessary force against demonstrators in Nabi Saleh, and ensure that security officers responsible for the killings and the injury of others in the village are brought to justice.
Fax: +972 3 691 6940 Email: email@example.com Salutation: Dear Minister
DR TUN AUNG
IMPRISONED FOR TRYING TO HELP IN MYANMAR
BACKGROUND Dr Tun Aung, a community leader, doctor and family man, has been sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment after an unfair trial. He was arrested following riots which broke out between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar in June 2012. Independent eyewitnesses confirm that Dr Tun Aung actively tried to calm the crowd during the rioting and did not play any role in the violence. Nevertheless, he was convicted of inciting riots and of various other criminal offences
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Show solidarity with Dr Tun Aung. Post a video or photo with your message of support on Dr Tun Aung’s tumblr page, which his family will be able to view. You can also add short descriptions of any events you are organising to show your solidarity.
Dr Tun Aung’s tumblr address is: myanmar-w4r.tumblr.com
Write to President Thein Sein
Urge him to ensure the release of prisoner of conscience Dr Tun Aung immediately and unconditionally. President Thein Sein President’s Office Nay Pyi Taw Myanmar Email via online contact form: www.president-office.gov.mm/contact Salutation: Your Excellency
09 FLAME ISSUE 41 / 2013
Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of Defence Ministry of Defence 37 Kaplan Street Hakirya Tel Aviv 61909 Israel
GOOD NEWS Nasrin Sotoudeh with her family © Private
Shi Tao © ICPC
Students at Nelson College for Girls send a message to Egypt
IRAN: Nasrin Sotoudeh is home with her family
NEW ZEALAND: Youth actions for the women of Egypt
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer sentenced to six years in prison on charges of "spreading propaganda against the system", was released in September, along with 11 other political activists.
This year’s Freedom Challenge – Amnesty’s student activism month – saw events taking place from Southland to Orewa and everywhere in between. Students came up with really creative ideas which they used to make a stand for women’s rights in Egypt. The 2013 Freedom Challenge was one of the most successful in terms of participating schools and media coverage. The Youth Teams collected over 5201 signatures.
Now reunited with her husband and two children, Nasrin has thanked Amnesty for our work on her behalf. "I have been aware of all your efforts on my behalf and I want to thank you and all your colleagues for your work” – Nasrin Nasrin Sotoudeh is well-known for defending children facing the death penalty. She was arrested in 2010 and jailed for six years on charges of "acting against national security" and “spreading propaganda against the system”. Amnesty International adopted her as a Prisoner of Conscience and has campaigned for her immediate and unconditional release since her arrest.
CHINA: Journalist Shi Tao released early from prison Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist who won the Golden Pen of Freedom Award was released from prison, 15 months ahead of schedule on 23 August. Tao told Amnesty International that his life was getting back to normal. He was recovering and resting. A lot of friends have visited him and he has not faced any restrictions on his movements since his release.
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“I am sincerely grateful to your [Amnesty International’s] sustained support and attention to my mother and me over these years. The support and encouragement of friends from around the world have helped my mother and me through the difficult and lonely times. I received your letters and postcards but haven’t read them all. I will read them one by one. Thank you all.” Tao was one of two writers who our Youth Network campaigned on behalf of during 2007’s Freedom Challenge campaign “Shut down repression - reboot human rights”.
SIERRA LEONE: Charles Taylor's 50 years sentence upheld The first man to be convicted for conscripting child soldiers has had his 50-year sentence upheld. The Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Appeal Chamber upheld the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, on 26 September, sending a clear message to leaders across the world that no-one is immune from justice. “The Court’s landmark ruling underlines that no-one is above the law. The conviction of those responsible for crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s conflict has brought some measure of justice for the tens of thousands of victims,” said Stephanie Barbour, head of Amnesty International's Centre for International Justice in The Hague. During the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia our Youth Network consistently campaigned against the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to bring Taylor and other war criminals to justice.
SUDAN: Lawyer freed Human rights lawyer and activist Asma Ahmed, who was detained without charge by the National Security Service for over a month, was freed in June following an Amnesty Urgent Action.
BELARUS: ‘Teddy bear’ case dropped A criminal case against journalism student Anton Suryapin and estate agent Syarhei Basharimau for their alleged role in a stunt that involved teddy bears with pro freedom of expression messages has been dropped.
RWANDA: Journalist released Saidati Mukakibibi, was released from prison in June after completing a threeyear sentence for publishing articles critical of the Government. Her colleague Agnes Uwimana Nkusi, is due to be freed in 2014.
INDIA: Bhopal court order An Indian court has ordered Dow Chemical Company to ensure its subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), faces ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ charges relating to the Bhopal disaster. Almost three decades on, victims (commemorated in a graffiti painting) have yet to receive adequate compensation from UCC, which has repeatedly ignored court summons, in the ongoing criminal case against it.
Auckland’s North Shore do the Timewarp
Malala celebrated by Auckland Girls' Grammar A picture may speak a thousand words but that would be a conservative estimate for an impressive project spearheaded by Nardos Tilahun (pictured above) of Auckland Girls’ Grammar School. Her larger than life mural, featuring 2013 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, Malala Yousafzai, is the result of 12 dedicated students’ efforts, countless hours over the school holidays and a boundless amount of creativity and skill. Nardos explains that the inspiration behind the thoughtfully symbolic mural was “first and foremost, women’s rights for equality in all aspects of society. But I was also very drawn to the quote 'A state that does not educate and train women is like a man who only trains his right arm' by Jostein Gaarder, and how that related to us young women at school.” The image of Malala, a Pakistani schoolgirl and education rights campaigner, was a natural fit given that she is “at the forefront of the movement for the rights to adequate education for girls and children worldwide.” The powerful message that the mural emanates is that people should “see that today’s global issues are genderless, and they cannot be resolved with half of humanity lagging behind. Education is the key to change and fight against suppression. The mural is also meant to represent the empowerment of young women and their capacity to lead and drive change in the issues that we face.” The future looks promising indeed knowing that it will be in the hands of engaged leaders such as Nardos. She eloquently sums up the importance of youth engaging in human rights issues, “Despite our little life experience, the fact that we are able to recognise injustice and demand change is in part a reflection of those older than us who should know better... Being aware of human rights issues is also a way of knowing what you as an individual are also capable of achieving and contributing to society.”
Columbia (aka Mo Farrell) and Dr Frank-N-Furter
A sell‐out screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show – attended by writer and creator Richard O’Brien and with a surprise guest appearance by the original Brad (Barry Bostwick) raised over $3,000 for Amnesty International. This ambitious fundraiser organised by Amnesty’s North Shore Group delivered... bucket‐loads of fun and media attention in an event that just keeps on giving. Brad has donated his trademark signed Y‐fronts for future fundraising purposes by Amnesty, keep an eye out on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AmnestyNZ
New Amnesty Group in Whanganui A big welcome to our new group members in Whanganui! Human rights enthusiasts met on 19 October to discuss aspirations for the team and Amnesty’s recent work and campaigns. Activism support manager, Margaret Taylor, made the trip from Auckland to get the group re-started. The group has already planned a concert which will take place on 7 December at the Majestic Square, Victoria Avenue. Are you from the area? Want to get involved? Contact Peter Healey at firstname.lastname@example.org
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11 011 FLAME FLAME ISSUE 41 / 2013
Malala Yousafzai and American singer, human rights and social justice activist Harry Belafonte were jointly announced as the recipients of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2013. The Ambassador of Conscience award is given annually to individuals who show exceptional leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights.
Dr Frank-N-Furter (aka Pat Cronin) and Columbia (aka Sarah Abbot)
WAKE UP. WALK THE DOG. TAKE A SHOWER. GET DRESSED. EAT BREAKFAST. BRUSH TEETH. BUY A PAPER. CATCH THE BUS. ARRIVE AT WORK. CHECK EMAILS. GRAB A COFFEE. CHAT TO WORK MATES. SAVE A LIFE. LUNCH WITH A FRIEND. MAKE PHONE CALLS. AFTERNOON MEETING. LEAVE WORK. GO TO THE GYM. DRINKS AT THE PUB. WALK HOME. COOK DINNER. WATCH TELEVISION. WASH DISHES. READ A BOOK. BRUSH TEETH. GO TO BED.