fo r p e o p l e pa s sion at e abo u t h u m a n r i g h t s MARCH/APRIL 2014 VOLUME 44 ISSUE 002
who controls your body?
inside this wire who controls your body?
Your government controls more of your private life than you might imagine. Discover what you can do about it on page 6.
You have the right to live free from rape and sexual violence: Body art by Choo San, a Japanbased artist, created exclusively for Amnesty's My Body My Rights campaign. Win her artwork and find out more on page 4.
remoVing an unnecessary burden Denied control over their bodies, health and lives, women and girls in Nepal are ready for change. Read Kopila’s story on page 8.
who decides? That’s the question posed by this thought-provoking photo essay from Argentina, where most abortions are illegal. page 10.
changing hearts and minds in india The death penalty is popular in India, but local Amnesty activists have found powerful ways to turn the tide. page 14.
s.o.s. europe: don’t let people die at your door EU governments should protect people’s lives before protecting their borders. Join our campaign: together, we can change this.
wire is available online at www.livewire.amnesty.org you can subscribe to receive six printed copies of wire for £15/us$24/€17 a year (or £35/us$54/€41 for institutions). amnesty international sections and structures can buy discounted copies. email email@example.com or call +44 (0)20 7413 5814/5507. to join amnesty international visit www.amnesty.org/en/join
hope is stronger than fear Refugees are drowning at sea while the EU fails to respond to the worst humanitarian disaster of our time: Syria. page 18.
Bulgaria has become Fortress Europe’s latest battleground. Faiz’ story shows how EU migration and asylum policies are just pushing people around without solving anything. page 20.
also in wire The Central African Republic’s unfolding human rights crisis (page 3); Inspiring Mongolia’s future activists (page 12); How to get released from prison using an Amnesty manual (page 13); Write a letter, change a life (page 22); A huge thank you for making Write for Rights 2013 our most successful letter-writing campaign ever! (page 24).
all rights reserved. no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publishers. wire, editorial studio, global content programme, amnesty international, international secretariat, peter benenson house, 1 easton street london wc1X 0dw, united kingdom Cover image: © amnesty international (artist: hikaru cho / photo: Jim marks)
stuck in the system
first published in 2014 by amnesty international publications www.amnesty.org © amnesty international ltd index: nws 21/002/2014 Volume 44, issue 002 issn: 1472-443X printed by banbury litho, banbury, united kingdom, on 100gsm cocoon preprint 100% recycled paper.
editorial: two ways we can change the world real opportunities to change the world don’t come around very often. then suddenly, two come along at once. in april, government ofﬁcials will meet to discuss our private lives. their distant decisions could translate into harsh realities, as the articles about women in nepal and abortion in argentina show (pages 8-11). bringing these deeply personal stories into the open means starting new, important conversations. Join our my body my rights campaign: you’ll be one of millions pushing for positive changes worldwide (pages 4-7). right now, we also have a unique chance to support migrants and refugees risking everything to reach europe. people shouldn’t have to die at sea, be locked up for years or violently turned back. our s.o.s. europe campaign asks eu governments to treat people fairly and with dignity (pages 16-21). their voices aren’t always heard, but they still have human rights. we’ll stand with them to make sure that fact is never forgotten. read wire online and our liVewire blog at www.livewire.amnesty.org
Handcuffed Russian ballerina Alexandra Portyannikova braves Moscow’s freezing weather on 30 January 2014. Alongside her, Amnesty activists delivered over 330,000 signatures from people in 112 countries to President Vladimir Putin. Through our global campaign, leading up to Russia’s Winter Olympic Games in February, we protested against the country’s crackdown on freedom of speech and expression.
News about Amnesty International’s work and campaigns
in memoriam: Jean-claude roger mbede People worldwide were shocked when news came that former Amnesty prisoner of conscience Jean-Claude Roger Mbede had died on 10 January in his hometown, Ngoumou, Cameroon. He was 34. Jean-Claude was arrested in March 2011 after texting a man saying that he was in love with him. He was later convicted of “homosexuality and attempted homosexuality” and sentenced to three years in prison, where he suffered from malnutrition and regular beatings. He will be remembered as a brave activist with a broad smile, whose only “crime” was expressing his love. Read our blog about Jean-Claude and Africa’s growing tide of homophobia: http://bit.ly/LivingForLove
A new article co-written by Amnesty’s Danna Ingleton and James Savage argues that more collaborative research could help protect human rights defenders worldwide. Its publication marks the 15th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Available to download free in different languages, the article suggests new thinking and approaches on issues including perceptions of risk, security and protection; culture, gender and diversity; legal and administrative mechanisms being used for repression; strategies and tactics for protecting people and their rights; and technology and digital security. Read it here: http://bit.ly/HRDefs
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thank you for coming back! When an Amnesty team visited rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa last year, we saw how treacherous roads threaten pregnant women and their newborn babies’ lives. People implored us to return in January’s rainy season, when the roads become impassable. We did – and took with us award-winning camerawoman Annalet Steenkamp. We’ll screen the resulting film in South Africa in May, and globally in August along with a major report. We will follow up soon with more details. Follow Amnesty South Africa on Facebook: http://bit.ly.amnesty-southafrica
honouring amina A historic move by Moroccan lawmakers honoured Amina Filali’s memory just weeks before the second anniversary of her tragic suicide. It followed tireless campaigning surrounding her case. Amina Filali was just 16 when, in March 2012, she killed herself by swallowing rat poison after being forced to marry a man she said had raped her. Article 475 of Morocco’s Penal Code allowed this to happen. But on 23 January, Morocco’s parliament unanimously voted to abolish it – a victory for women's rights campaigners in the country. But similar laws still exist in Tunisia and Algeria. Through our My Body My Rights campaign we will push to change them throughout 2014-15.
© Amnesty International/Rachel Banfield
defending the defenders
agenda Property belonging to Muslims and a mosque being looted and burned north of the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, 23 January 2014. Elsewhere, Amnesty’s researchers uncovered evidence of more than 50 Muslims being killed in two attacks around the same time. The youngest was an 18-month-old girl, and the oldest a man aged 70. “International peacekeeping forces are failing the Muslim community,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser. Read her Up front column (right) and our latest report on the ongoing crisis: http://bit.ly/CAR-Killings
we say no to uganda’s antihomoseXuality bill
Protecting people in a human rights crisis Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, Joanne Mariner, gives a snapshot from her recent work in the Central African Republic
Amnesty members worldwide took part in a Global Day of Action called by Ugandan activists in February. Together, we protested against Uganda's deeply discriminatory new Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Over 86,000 people signed our petition and took action on social media. We called on President Yoweri Museveni to veto the Bill and honour Uganda’s human rights obligations. The new law includes harsh penalties for anyone engaging in same-sex sexual activity or “promoting homosexuality”. http://bit.ly/UgandaAHB
© Karen Hatch Photography
“The solidarity cards were amazing. I cried for a while when I received them. Personal messages provide us as individuals with strength to keep going. The timing couldn't have been better. Thank you. Really, thank you.” © Amnesty International
Message to Amnesty’s supporters from an activist in Uganda, just after the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed in December 2013.
malala inspires kiwi students Students in New Zealand created this masterpiece (left) during their school holidays. Their inspiration was Pakistani education rights campaigner and Amnesty Ambassador of Conscience, Malala Yousafzai. Its main creator, Nardos Tilahun, said: “The mural represents the empowerment of young women and their capacity to lead and drive change.” Her school’s mural competition tied in with Amnesty New Zealand’s campaign using street art to highlight women's rights. Other New Zealand artists are celebrating freedom of expression by auctioning art created on tiny matchboxes. Find out more about Strike – this is the match that lights the candle: www.amnesty.org.nz/strike
email us We always welcome your feedback and ideas! Write to us at thewire@ amnesty.org
Driving south in a crowded 4x4, trying to reach the capital, Bangui, before the 6pm curfew, we ran across militia forces dressed for combat. They were a raggedy bunch, holding awkward, home-made firearms, old hunting rifles, knives, spears, and machetes. But their numbers made up for their poor equipment. And their unsophisticated weapons were still lethal. The Central African Republic (CAR), a desperately poor, badly governed country, is now facing its worst human rights crisis ever. The men we met belong to one of its main players – a largely Christian group known as the anti-balaka. They sprang up against a viciously abusive, predominantly Muslim government. But the anti-balaka have targeted civilians as much – or more – than the better-armed government forces. Since the government fell on 10 January 2014, they have launched a full-scale attack on Muslim communities. Countless Muslims have fled. The former government forces did not step down quietly. Known as the ex-Seleka, they too have been roaming the country, killing and looting indiscriminately. When my colleague Donatella Rovera and I came to the CAR to investigate and document these violations, we found ourselves in a volatile and rapidly worsening crisis. It was captured in a nutshell by what we saw on the road to Bangui. The anti-balaka largely controlled the road: mounting checkpoints and stopping vehicles. They saw no reason to hide their objectives. Their faces were smeared with black paint and their bodies decorated with talismans – charms some believe make them invulnerable to bullets. They had just attacked a nearby Muslim village. Crisis work can be quite different from regular human rights investigation. Instead of doing research first and then using it as a springboard for advocacy and campaigning, we often spend significant time pressing hard for an immediate preventive response. In this case, knowing that the anti-balaka forces would attack again, we alerted international peacekeeping troops in the country and the media. And as the crisis continues, we remain in daily contact with villages at risk, doing everything we can to document the situation, warn of pressing dangers, and keep people safe. Follow Joanne on Twitter @jgmariner and read more about the CAR crisis on our blog: http://livewire.amnesty.org
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my body my rights
my body my rights my future Japan-based artist choo san’s exclusive artwork kicks off my body my rights, amnesty’s new global campaign on sexual and reproductive rights. it launches on 8 march, international women’s day. We all have the right to make decisions about our own health, sexuality, and whether we want to have children – without fear, pressure, violence or discrimination. Yet all over the world, people’s freedom to make these choices is controlled by the state, medical professionals, even our families. My Body My Rights is our campaign to stop this control and criminalization of sexuality and reproduction. Over the next two years, we will work for tangible change in the lives of people in Nepal, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Algeria, Morocco-Western Sahara, Tunisia and Ireland – challenging stigma and breaking the silence that can often surround these issues. To launch the campaign, we are working with up-and-coming Japan-based artist, Choo San. She has created a set of provocative images exclusively for us to kick-start a conversation online about the right we all have to make decisions about our bodies and our lives. Join the conversation. You could win one of five signed copies of her artwork.
Tell us what “My Body My Rights” means to you by creating your own art. Draw on your arm, take a selfie, paint a picture on canvas. Then take a photo of it and upload it to http://mb-mr.tumblr.com/ or post your image on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #MyBodyMyRights attached to it. We will post our favourites on our Facebook page and reveal the winners later in March. To find out how you could influence political decisions that will affect your own sexual and reproductive life – read on.
Right: Choo San’s body art images, illustrating our sexual and reproductive rights. Clockwise from top left: You have the right to choose your partner; You have the right to make decisions about your own body and health; You have the right to know and learn about your body, sexual health and relationships.
Terms and conditions: 1. The promoter of this competition is Amnesty International International Secretariat, Peter Benenson House, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, UK. 2. One entry per person. The prize is not transferable. There is no cash alternative. 3. Five winners will be selected by a panel of Amnesty International judges, based on their assessment of the most striking and innovative images. 4. The winner will be notified within 28 days of the selection being made. 5. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. 6. It is a condition of entry that the rules of this competition are accepted as final and that entrants agree to abide by the rules. 7. No purchase necessary. 8. The names of the winners will be made available on request by post to: Amnesty International International Secretariat, Peter Benenson House, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, UK.
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my body my rights
© Amnesty International (Artist: Hikaru Cho / Photo: Jim Marks)
© Amnesty International (Artist: Hikaru Cho / Photo: Jim Marks)
© Amnesty International (Artist: Hikaru Cho / Photo: Jim Marks)
wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
my body my rights
who controls your body? your government has more to do with your private life than you might think.
ÂŠ REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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my body my rights
right now, people you don’t even know are discussing everything from young people’s right to sex education, and women’s rights to make free choices about their bodies, to the legitimacy of same-sex relationships. and we have a unique opportunity to influence their decisions. © UN Photo
Why is this relevant to me?
That all sounds quite positive?
So what happens next?
Because this UN meeting is about your human rights, your body, and your future. By getting involved, you can help stop our sexual and reproductive rights being rolled back – it is already happening worldwide (see box on right). And many voices demanding change are difficult to ignore.
Yes – the two-year review of the agreement leading up to April has already seen some amazing successes. Together, thousands of young activists from 180 countries created a Youth Declaration at a forum in Bali in 2012. It reaffirms young people’s sexual and reproductive rights and makes clear recommendations for how governments can factor these rights into their development policies.
The next key stage of the ICPD+20 review is the UN session in April. The decisions made there will shape your government’s future policies and programmes. It will also influence the new international goals for development being agreed over the next two years. All over the world, people are calling for sex education and health services to be properly resourced and available to more of us, especially young people. This will be much more likely if governments commit to maintaining and improving standards at the talks in April.
And what is this meeting about? It’s called the International Commission on Population and Development, and it takes place at the UN in April. The short name is ICPD+20, because it is a review of a historic document agreed by 179 governments 20 years ago.
Why does this agreement matter? It’s just some words on a page. But they’re important words: they have the power to define the priorities for future sexual and reproductive health policies and funding programmes. Activists and women’s groups are using these words as tools to influence governments and push for progress.
What are my sexual and reproductive rights, exactly? You have the right to: n Make decisions about your own health n Ask for and get information about health services n Decide if and when to have children n Choose whether or not to marry n Access sexual and reproductive health care n Live free from sexual violence. The first ICPD agreement reaffirmed these rights, already set out in various international human rights treaties, and sets standards for how to implement them. Above right: Delegates at the first UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, 1994. They will meet again this April. Their decisions will impact directly on us all, including these women (left) bringing their children to a health centre for a check-up in Manila, Philippines.
“We have seen and felt that we are not alone,” said one of the Youth Forum participants, Sabrina Frydman from Argentina. “And fighting a great battle, having such wonderful allies, is one of the best incentives an everyday human rights activist can ask for.”
So why the urgency from Amnesty? Because not all states agree on the way forward. Ever since the first ICPD agreement, some governments and interest groups have consistently opposed young people’s right to education about sex and relationships, women’s rights to make free choices about their bodies, and the legitimacy of same-sex relationships. Our sexual and reproductive rights are being rolled back globally (see box on right). For example, after a misleading campaign by conservative groups, the European Parliament refused to agree on a strong common position on sexual and reproductive rights last December. Instead, it adopted a resolution stating that such policies are at the discretion of each EU member state. A progressive common position could have supported a better future for millions of young people across the globe. We want to take this opportunity to turn back negative trends like this, and support the basic human rights of millions of people worldwide.
rights being rolled back n
In Nigeria a deeply oppressive new law – the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act – has seen many people arrested, simply for being gay. n In India, the Supreme Court overturned a High Court ruling that said criminalizing same-sex relations was unconstitutional. n Spain’s Minister for Justice recently put forward a new draft bill that would severely restrict women’s and girls’ access to abortion. n Other countries – including Lithuania, Macedonia, Turkey and the USA – also tried to restrict access to abortion last year.
take action >>> Around 1.8 billion young people worldwide are at risk of having their sexual and reproductive rights ignored. Tell world leaders to protect these rights now and for the next generation. Sign our petition and find out more about our My Body My Rights campaign at www.amnesty.org/mybodymyrights #mybodymyrights
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my body my rights nepal
remoVing an unnecessary burden denied control over their bodies, health and lives, women and girls in nepal are ready for change.
a common story Carrying heavy loads during or just after pregnancy, having children at a very young age, having several children in quick succession and giving birth without the aid of a skilled health worker are some of the common causes of uterine prolapse.
Kopila’s story is all too common in Nepal. Many women told Amnesty that they had little control over decisions about their own bodies. And some of those who developed uterine prolapse said that they faced even more abuse. Many women are too embarrassed to tell anyone about the condition or they think it is something that happens to every woman who has a baby. So they live with it for years before finally seeking help. At the root of these experiences is widespread discrimination that many women and girls face in Nepal simply because of their gender. It affects everything – from when a woman has children to whether she can see a doctor – fuelled by the idea that women and girls are worth less than men and boys.
remoVing the load Uterine prolapse is a human rights issue. The government has a legal responsibility to end the underlying gender discrimination and ensure that women and girls in Nepal can make their own choices about their bodies and their lives. This means women and girls making decisions about sex, marriage, contraception and health care, without interference from their parents, husband or in-laws. It means women being empowered to decide how much rest to take during and after pregnancy and whether to carry heavy loads. It means removing the stigma associated with the condition so that women can talk about it with others, without fear of being humiliated. It also means men and boys understanding and supporting these rights.
© Bikas Rauniar/DFID
Kopila was 24 and had just had her fourth child when her already tough life got worse. “Twelve days after the birth, I was cutting wood with an axe,” she told Amnesty when we met her in April 2013. “My husband asked for water and we had an argument. He beat me hard. I don’t know whether my uterus came out when I was cutting wood or after I was beaten. After that I started feeling back and stomach pain and I couldn’t stand straight or sit or do work. When I sneeze, my uterus comes out.” Kopila has uterine prolapse, a painful and debilitating condition in which the pelvic muscles weaken and the uterus starts to descend into the vagina. Now aged 30, she continues her strenuous workload – looking after her four children, working the family fields, tending the cattle and doing all the household chores – despite being in constant pain. She did this work throughout her pregnancies, routinely carrying heavy loads of wood, grass and cow dung. Kopila has little control over her body or her health. In her family, she is the last person to eat – after her children and husband. When she is ill, her husband decides whether she can see a doctor. According to Kopila, she has little control over her sex life, too. She said her husband forces her to have sex when she does not want to.
The rights of women and girls to live free from discrimination, and to control their sexuality and make informed choices without coercion about reproductive health, are protected under numerous international treaties that Nepal has signed up to. They are also protected by Nepal’s Interim Constitution.
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my body my rights nepal
Women in Nepal often have to carry loads – sometimes up to 50kg – during and soon after pregnancy, putting them at greater risk of developing uterine prolapse.
So far, the government of Nepal has mainly focused on a surgical solution to uterine prolapse – rather than preventing it by addressing discrimination. Amnesty is supporting the Nepali women’s movement, which is fighting for change. With your help we can convince Nepal’s leaders that uterine prolapse is an urgent human rights issue –
and demand that they act to eliminate the gender discrimination that underlies this deeply painful condition. Join our campaign and help remove this unnecessary burden.
take action >>> Sign our petition at www.amnesty.org/unnecessaryburden Nepal is the first of five areas we are focusing on as part of our My Body My Rights campaign. Find out more at www.amnesty.org/mybodymyrights
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my body my rights argentina
who decides? this is the compelling question posed by guadalupe gómez Verdi from argentina. alongside fellow photographers léa meurice and lisa franz, she created an exhibition about abortion, supported by amnesty. There are millions of reasons why people have abortions, Guadalupe says. “Reasons and motives that nobody should judge.” “But who decides for us?” she asks, and concludes: “Others.” This is certainly true in Argentina, where abortion is illegal in most cases. Here is a selection of photos taken from Amnesty Argentina’s thought-provoking exhibition
11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes (the last point at which most women are permitted to have a termination), launched in August 2013 in the capital, Buenos Aires. As the women and men featured here show, they chose to have a clandestine, or secret, abortion rather than have the state decide for them. Their portraits reveal them as they are – human beings liberated by their right to make free choices about their bodies, their lives, their futures.
“My biggest fear was that it wouldn’t work,” says Eluney, who had a voluntary termination in 2012 aged 21. Abortion is illegal in Argentina, except when the pregnancy is the result of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk. Even then, it can be difficult for women to access an abortion.
find out more >>> Find out more at http://bit.ly/argbooklet Watch a film about the exhibition at http://bit.ly/argfilm (in Spanish)
1 © Amnesty International
Gisela and Nicolas: “I knew I was pregnant again one day after my daughter turned 10 years old,” says Gisela. “Being able to have an abortion at home, with pills, made me feel like the absolute owner of my body – a sense of freedom very similar to the one I felt when I decided to become a mother.”
Pedro assisted a clandestine abortion in 2012, aged 24: “I was able to talk about it with people I trust… friends who could provide me with information about abortion,” he says. “The point was to get access to more information. If you want to have an abortion, you are seen as a criminal. Without the manual, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.” He found the manual, which tells you how to abort using pills, online.
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my body my rights argentina
© Amnesty International
“I am a woman of a generation with three characteristics: sexual abuse, abortion and domestic violence,” says Mabel Bellucci. She had three clandestine abortions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. About 80 women die every year in Argentina as a result of clandestine abortions. Some 60,000 more are admitted to hospital due to complications associated with the procedure.
“Every abortion is different, because each of these women has a life, a personal experience, thus it is very difficult to reduce the experiences of an abortion, which is tremendously complex,” say members of the feminist group La Revuelta. “ We try to empower women.” All photos © Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice
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human rights education mongolia
© Amnesty International
‘it showed me how to be loud’ an extraordinary learning method is inspiring the human rights activists of tomorrow.
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© Amnesty International
Amnesty’s Human Rights Friendly Schools project is no ordinary learning method, where lessons are taught while children quietly listen. Instead of simply studying them, schools are empowering their students and staff to live and breathe human rights in everyday school life. Right now, 84,000 students and 5,000 teachers around the globe are transforming their schools into communities where everyone understands, values and protects human rights. Together, they are creating dynamic and vibrant places to learn and grow: “At the beginning I had no knowledge about human rights or Amnesty International,” said Tim, a former secondary school student from Mongolia. “With the project, students in my class became extremely involved and concerned about human rights issues in the world. It changed my way of looking at things and showed me how to be loud against human right violations.” “I think we are generally happier and friendlier with each other,” said Auygarb, a pupil at another Mongolian school. “Students used to be bullied a lot and the teachers didn’t pay much attention. Now our teachers are more concerned about students’ well-being. “It’s really important for students to have a connection with their teachers,” she added. “Each of us should be able to rely on adults, and not everyone can do that outside of school.” The project currently runs in three schools in Mongolia, and will expand to another eight in 2014. Worldwide, it has grown to include 92 schools in 20 countries in just five years. Its success is probably due to its simplicity and ability to adapt to different local contexts.
Because each school is unique, each school develops its own human rights friendly action plan, tailored to its specific needs and goals. Amnesty staff can also offer support and mentoring for how to best integrate human rights into all areas of school life.
“Students in my class became extremely involved and concerned about human rights issues in the world.” Based around the core values of equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination, inclusion and participation, schools aim to improve four areas of school life: how the school is run; how people interact with each other; how to create opportunities for learning about human rights; and how to physically transform the school into a human rights friendly place. The project has empowered young people to develop their leadership skills. Many have also joined Amnesty’s campaigns, including our global Write for Rights letter-writing event in December. Teachers are inspired too: “My teaching methodology has completely changed,” said Gantigmaa, an English teacher in Mongolia. “I used to only focus on grammar and textbook exercises. Now I try to link social issues to my classes, and focus more on life experiences in my teaching.”
Top: Students celebrate their Human Rights Friendly Schools project in Erdenet Bayan-Undur School, Mongolia. Above: Hand-crafted logo for Amnesty's Human Rights Friendly Schools project, made by students in Mongolia.
find out more >>> Visit http://bit.ly/rightsfriendly
fair trials kosoVo
© Lëvizja VETËVENDOSJE!
the power of insistence
political prisoner albin kurti represented himself before a un tribunal in kosovo using amnesty’s Fair Trial Manual – and was released.
Activists, lawyers, judges, trial observers and the UN itself have used Amnesty’s Fair Trial Manual to defend human rights worldwide. Political prisoners, including Albin Kurti from Kosovo, have also used the book to represent themselves in court. Albin is the leader of Kosovo’s Lëvizja VETËVENDOSJE! (Movement for Self-Determination!). He was arrested during a peaceful protest in 2007 and tried by the UN interim authorities in Kosovo (UNMIK). He told us his story. “Lëvizja VETËVENDOSJE! demonstrated peacefully against the so-called Ahtisaari Plan for Kosovo’s future in 2007,” he told us. “We believed it would be damaging and increase social misery.” “UNMIK police began shooting at us with rubber bullets. Some people were shot in the face. Two protesters died and more than 80 were injured. I and other activists were beaten, kicked and sprayed with pepper spray, and one woman was knocked unconscious. In total, 16 of us were arrested and imprisoned. “I was targeted as the movement’s leader. I spent five months in prison and another five under house arrest. I was interrogated only once, for 30 minutes. Isolation was a greater priority than investigation. My detention conditions were not good; I was labelled a ‘Category A’, prisoner and held with people serving sentences of 25-30 years. “When my trial began, a friend gave me the Amnesty International Fair Trial Manual. I read it thoroughly and started to see myself not only as a political activist suffering the injustice of the system, but also as a human being with rights and liberties. This equipped me for my struggle. “My trial had many irregularities, including the fact that all my defence lawyers were appointed by
UNMIK. So UNMIK was prosecuting, judging and defending me at the same time. I therefore didn’t accept my defence counsel, and ended up representing myself.
“Organise, act and never underestimate the power of insistence.” “The Fair Trial Manual made me aware of the multitude of cases similar to mine from all over the world. I drew many important lessons. I also became aware of the human rights laws and mechanisms that I had been denied. It taught me to prepare myself much better for questioning prosecution witnesses and following court sessions. “Eventually, seven different lawyers resigned from defending me when they saw that it was a show trial. Their civil disobedience set me free. “The media organization Top Media voted me ‘Personality of the Year’ in 2011. The same year, VETËVENDOSJE! won 14 seats in Kosovo’s
parliamentary elections, showing the success of our movement. “My detention and trial made me understand Kosovo’s international system much better and helped me fight more effectively. To other activists I say: Organise, act and never underestimate the power of insistence.”
Above: Albin Kurti speaks at a conference in 2013. A former political prisoner, he represented himself using Amnesty’s Fair Trial Manual – and was released.
find out more >>> The new, updated edition of Amnesty’s Fair Trial Manual, first published in 1998, will be released in April. Find out more and download a free copy at www.amnesty.org/fairtrials
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death penalty india
changing hearts and
“A murder for murder cannot be justice,” Mani told me as we walked down the corridor of the school he went to with his friend Simon some four decades ago. Mani still lives in the same village, while Simon has been on death row for nearly 10 years. Mani is a quiet person, but some things – like the death penalty – move him to rare, long conversations. Marthalli in Chamrajnagar district has had more than one ugly battle to fight against the death penalty. In 2002, four men from this district in the south Indian state of Karnataka were sentenced to death – Simon, Bilavendran, Madaiah and Gnanapragasam.
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The men were convicted and sentenced to life in 2001 for their involvement in a landmine blast in 1993. It killed 22 people, including police personnel on their way to arrest the notorious sandalwood smuggler, Veerappan. Unusually, their life sentences were raised to death sentences by the Supreme Court in 2004. The four have spent 20 years in jail, nearly 10 of those on death row. For the past few years, Mani has been campaigning alongside local churches to urge the Indian government not to execute Simon and the three others.
© Amnesty International/Kadambari Gladding 2013
© Amnesty International/Kadambari Gladding 2013
indian public opinion increasingly favours the death penalty. independent film-maker kadambari gladding, who campaigns with amnesty india, explains how they are starting to change hearts and minds.
closer to home I visited Mani’s villages in late 2013 to shoot video portraits for Amnesty India’s campaign against the death penalty. The four men have been in jail many years now, but they're an indelible part of society here. Their sentences have brought the reality of the death penalty very close to home.
“When a person is hanged, while he may die in five minutes, his family continues to feel the pain of his death." Amnesty India has been campaigning against the death penalty for years. Going against the tide of vocal support for this punishment from some quarters in the wake of widely covered incidents of violence against women, has been challenging. Yet, 65,000 people in 2013 supported our call to end the death penalty. The fact that there was demonstrable support for abolition on the ground had never been established earlier in this way.
death penalty india
minds in india © Amnesty International/Kadambari Gladding 2013
Having moved from Amnesty New Zealand to Amnesty India, I realized from the outset that this campaign would be contentious. Meeting activists who share my passion and beliefs inspires me every day. But until you interact with the human being behind these human rights campaigns, the penny doesn't quite drop. The simple act of listening to a first-hand story of human rights abuse has power. It moves you to act. We shot three short films about three families in Chamrajnagar, interviewing the sisters, mothers and children of the men on death row. There’s always respect and empathy for the feelings and rights of families of victims of crime. But when you hear from the prisoners' families themselves, the futile nature of the death penalty becomes immediately clear. “No one should be given the death sentence,” said Aruldas, Gnanapragasam’s son. “My father has been imprisoned for nearly 21 years. That in itself is as if he has died.” Selvamary, Gnanapragasam’s wife, added: “Because we're poor, we couldn't afford expensive legal help. But for the poor, it's the same life as it is for the rich. And to take that life is painfully cruel.”
supreme court Verdict On the morning of 21 January 2014, we all waited at Amnesty’s offices in India and London for the Supreme Court verdict on the sentences of 15 prisoners, including the Marthalli four. With India resuming executions in 2012 – after eight years of effectively suspending them – the outlook was bleak. But then, Simon, Bilavendran, Madaiah and Gnanapragasam all had their sentences commuted to life. In this historic and momentous judgement, the Indian Supreme Court reaffirmed our faith in the Indian judiciary. The verdict rekindled hope that India is slowly moving towards completely abolishing the death penalty. Although these commutations are a positive step, our struggle does not end here. Many are still on death row in India. Until the impetus of this recent verdict leads to a moratorium, and until the death penalty is abolished in India, our campaign continues.
From left to right: Amnesty staff in India speak to the family of Gnanapragasam, one of four men sentenced to death in 2002 in Karnataka, south India. All four had their sentences commuted to life on 21 January 2014. Mani at Simon's sister's farm in Martalli village, Karnataka. Like Gnanapragasam, Simon's 2002 death sentence was commuted in January 2014. Jeyamary, Simon's younger sister, holds a family photo from 30 years ago during the filming of a video by Amnesty International in India.
take action >>> Death sentences and executions 2013, Amnesty’s annual report on the death penalty, is published at the end of March. See www.amnesty.org/death-penalty Watch the films at: http://bit.ly/dpﬁlmindia and http://bit.ly/dpﬁlmindia2 Sign our petition against the death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados at http://bit.ly/stopdpcarib
15 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
new and dangerous routes into fortress europe
don’t let people die at your door
I T A L Y © REUTERS/Gianni Mania
Europe has been a traveller’s dream destination for centuries: a land of opportunity, a safe haven in wartime. People’s different paths into Europe have created a rich tapestry of cultures and languages, and an excitingly diverse continent. But crossing Europe’s borders is increasingly becoming an impossible dream. Quietly but surely, as the global economic crisis has deepened, the EU has become a fortress. Governments are building walls – real or invisible – to keep out anyone from the hopeful to the completely desperate. Today, migrants and refugees are left with almost no safe and legal ways to enter Fortress Europe. But that doesn’t stop people from coming. Human beings will still do anything to escape war and poverty. They will keep searching for a quiet place to live in peace. Most of the world’s migrants and refugees go nowhere near Europe. For example, over 90% of Syria’s 2.4 million refugees still live in the region. At the end of 2013, fewer than 80,000 had applied for asylum in Europe. Kenya hosts the world’s largest refugee camp – Dadaab, with over half a million people. Those who do reach the EU’s borders face shocking human rights violations. People are being beaten and robbed, pushed back the way they came and left in the open sea. Many are
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denied the chance to explain their circumstances, or to claim asylum. Some even drown while countries argue about who is responsible for rescuing them. Those who reach EU soil are often detained, some in conditions so terrible many people simply wouldn’t imagine it possible in a European country. Meanwhile, EU governments are spending an increasing amount of money on policing their borders (see page 20). We think Fortress Europe’s approach to migration and refugees is wrong and inhumane. And it solves nothing – it just pushes people around like pawns on a chessboard (see map on right). Instead, EU governments should protect people before their borders, by treating migrants and refugees with fairness and dignity. They can do this by increasing search and rescue operations to stop people dying at sea. They should also provide safe and legal routes into the EU for refugees. And they should not outsource migration control to countries with bad human rights records. Centuries of welcoming strangers helped make Europe a great continent. People shouldn’t have to suffer and die to get there.
T U N I S I A
L I B Y A
A L G E
find out more >>> Above: Rescue workers stand next to the bodies of drowned migrants, Sicily, Italy, September 2013.
Help us shape the future of migration and asylum in the EU: join our S.O.S. Europe campaign (see page 19).
people apprehended in 2012.
length of new border fence, forcing people further north or south to the sea. NORTH AFRICA-EU BORDER
people apprehended in 2013. (Source: Bulgarian Ministry of Interior).
A new border fence is expected to be completed by March 2014.
new border guards deployed since 2012.
2,600 people have died
crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2011. GREECE-TURKEY BORDER
overall decrease in migration.
decrease in migrants and refugees stopped by land.
increase in migrants stopped at sea.
(Time period: Nov. 2012-Nov 2013. Source: Official Greek Police website.)
T U R K E Y AEGEAN SEA
S Y R I A
181 people dead or missing
between August 2012-January 2014.
E R I A
(Source: News reports)
E G Y P T L I B Y A
This map is not exhaustive and is intended to illustrate the articles on the following pages. 17 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
s.o.s. europe syria
hope is stronger than fear refugees are drowning in the mediterranean while eu governments fail to respond to the worst humanitarian disaster of our time: syria.
By Charlotte Phillips, Amnesty’s Campaigner on Refugees and Migrants’ Rights. Syria’s neighbouring countries are sheltering over 90% of its 2.4 million refugees, at a huge financial cost. But many Syrians no longer feel they can survive in the region. They are exhausted by their grinding existence in flimsy tents, the discrimination, the inability to work. They’ve realized that the conflict isn’t going to end soon. And they’ve already lost everything. People want stability: a school for their children, a job, a home where they can live in peace.
beacons of hope Many people believe that EU countries will help them. Sweden, for example, recently offered Syrians permanent residency – if they make it. This has turned Europe into a beacon of hope, and hope is stronger than fear for many people. In the first 10 months of 2013, more than 10,000 Syrian refugees – including many families – reportedly arrived in Italy by boat, mainly from Egypt or Libya. In the space of just nine days in October 2013, at least 395 − possibly over 650 − refugees and migrants died when three boats sank in the
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Mediterranean. People described being in the water for hours. Few who get on the boats are under any illusion. They tell us: “We never expected to survive.” But there are no safe legal avenues to get to Europe. The only other route is via Turkey to Greece or Bulgaria, where border police are increasingly pushing people back or detaining them in terrible conditions (see Faiz’s story on page 20 and the map on page 17).
Milan is a hub for trains to northern Europe. In October, around 150-200 people were sleeping rough in its main train station. The municipality and local NGOs quickly opened two refugee centres, giving people three hot meals a day, a bed and somewhere to rest. They told us some people were so traumatised that even seeing a man sweeping, wearing remotely official-looking clothes, made them panic.
the end of the road
Some people were so traumatised that even seeing a man sweeping, wearing remotely official-looking clothes, made them panic.
People pay large amounts of money to smugglers – often over US$1,000 – to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They travel for days with very little water or food, often without life jackets. They are very lucky if they make it, squeezing through a tiny crack in Fortress Europe’s walls. Once the coast guards reach people, they’re usually taken to southern Italy for fingerprinting, before they are free to leave. Many single men we met in Italy said they were under huge pressure from their families – still under siege in places like Homs – to apply for asylum, get refugee status and apply for family reunification. So most people push on north, towards countries they believe will treat them well.
But for many, this is the end of the road. They are often caught by the police travelling through northern Europe and pushed back to Italy. Many lose all their money to smugglers in the process.
europe’s shame It is shameful that people who have lost their homes, livelihoods, jobs and family members have no safe, legal avenues to get to Europe. The deaths at sea are a consequence of giving people no other option.
protect people before borders eu politicians don’t seem to feel under much pressure to improve their record on migration and asylum. © UNHCR/S. Baldwin
Some European countries have donated substantial amounts to the UN’s humanitarian appeal. But money alone isn’t enough. Resettlement is one of the UN’s three durable solutions for the world’s most vulnerable refugees. But so far Europe has failed shamefully on this issue too. EU countries have only agreed to resettle 0.54% of Syrian refugees. Many EU countries have yet to offer any resettlement places at all. That’s why we need to call on European leaders, in a loud unified voice, to help refugees through resettlement. It’s a lifesaving solution. And it’s the human thing to do.
Above: Mahmoud, a refugee from Syria, in the underground shelter where he lives with his family in El Akbiya, Lebanon, September 2013. He shares a tiny room measuring 2.5m x 3.5m with his parents and eight siblings.
syria: number crunching 6.5 million: people displaced inside Syria 4.1 million: Syrian refugees who will need assistance by the end of 2014 over 90%: Percentage of Syrian refugees hosted by Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt 1.5 million: Predicted numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon by the end of 2014 30,000: UN goal for resettling the most vulnerable Syrian refugees by the end of 2014 10,000: places offered by Germany 17: EU countries that have not pledged any resettlement or humanitarian admissions from Syria at all 0.6%: The percentage of Syrian refugees that the EU as a whole has offered to resettle. (Source: UN)
we want to change that.
2014 presents a huge opportunity for improving the European Union’s asylum and migration policies. Right now, member states are discussing the future of migration and asylum across Europe until 2019. Their joint strategy will be decided in June. Under the slogan S.O.S. Europe, Amnesty is campaigning to end the silent crisis of migrants and refugees risking everything – even their lives – to reach safety in Europe. We do our research and listen to people’s stories in remote border areas, refugee camps and detention centres. And on 20 March, we will create a beach outside an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium. We want to remind governments that the Mediterranean Sea is more than a holiday destination. Its sandy beaches are also scenes of suffering and death. We’ll stage similar events across the EU, targeting national governments.
take action >>> Please send an S.O.S. to Europe’s political elite by joining our campaign. Together, we can take this crucial opportunity to save lives and shape Europe’s future. To find out more, join us on Facebook http://bit.ly/WhenYouDontExist and follow @dontexisteurope on Twitter
19 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
s.o.s. europe bulgaria
stuck in the system faiz has spent the last 10 years searching for a new life inside “fortress europe”. his story shows how the eu’s battle to keep migrants out is simply shifting to new frontiers, without solving anything.
By Giorgos Kosmopoulous, Amnesty’s EU Campaigner. One sunny winter morning I visited the border police station in Elhovo, a small village close to Bulgaria’s border with Turkey. It was simply a dirty gym hall, overcrowded with recently arrived migrants and refugees waiting for their papers to be processed. The number of people arriving here increased sharply in 2013. When Greece intensified its policing of the border with Turkey, people wanting to cross were pushed north (see map on page 17). Most come from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. I noticed a young man standing on his own in the small, crowded yard. Bizarrely, he was holding a book in Greek – my mother tongue. Soon after greeting him I sent my interpreter away. Because Faiz [not his real name], a 33-year-old Afghani born in Iran, spoke Greek fluently.
lost childhood We sat down together, Fiaz lit a cigarette and started telling me about his life. “There was nothing for us [Afghani] in Iran,’’ he said. “We’re treated like secondclass people. I can’t even remember my childhood – I had to work through it. I lost my childhood.’’ Faiz eventually fled Iran in 2004 and made the long and difficult journey to Greece. But then he said he got stuck in its ineffective and unfair asylum system. Almost eight years later, he still hadn’t received a final decision about his claim. His life was on hold, and racist attacks increased as Greece became gripped by a deep financial crisis. Faiz decided to leave in early 2012, once again searching for a place to build a life. It didn’t work out, and he tried to re-enter Greece from Turkey in October 2013. Soon after Faiz and his group crossed the border the Greek police stopped them and sent them back. “They asked no questions,’’ Faiz told me. “They simply forced us to cross the river in the opposite direction. They beat someone who tried to resist.’’
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liVes in danger I have heard many similar stories. The Greek police and coastguard are routinely pushing desperate people back across its Turkish borders, ill-treating them and denying them their fundamental right to seek asylum. This is a flagrant violation of international and European law. The pushbacks themselves also put people’s lives in even more danger, for example, by leaving them in the open sea without an engine. Faiz was still determined to find a way into Fortress Europe: “There must be something for me,’’ he told me. This time he went north to Turkey’s border with Bulgaria, where we met.
s.o.s. europe bulgaria
© Jodi Hilton/NurPhoto
Left: Waiting for the future to begin: An Afghan man and his grandson detained at the Border Police distribution centre in Elhovo, Bulgaria in October 2013.
reach Greece by boat from Turkey in 11 separate incidents since August 2012. We know that many hundreds simply disappear every year in the Mediterranean. Yet others are risking their lives trying to reach Italy in ramshackle boats from Egypt or Libya (see article on page 18).
“All I need is a place to stand and someone to think of us for once’’.
The police soon apprehended him and brought him to Elhovo. Bulgaria is an unprepared and unwilling host. It offers little hope for people like Faiz. Like Greece, its authorities are quickly sealing off its borders, spending millions of euros with EU support. Like Greece, Bulgaria has started building a fence along its borders with Turkey. Racist attacks are increasingly striking terror into foreigners’ hearts. And a new law now threatens to detain refugees until their claims have been examined. That could take months.
fortress europe’s latest battleground Bulgaria has become Fortress Europe’s latest battleground. Across the EU, the same policies and practices are being used to keep people out. This makes it almost impossible for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers to enter Europe lawfully. The recent shift from Greece to Bulgaria is just more proof that this approach isn’t working. It is just pushing the problem around the map, without ever solving it. And it is forcing people to try increasingly dangerous routes. More than 130 refugees, mostly Syrians and Afghanis, have lost their lives trying to
Back in Elhovo, Faiz knew he’d be on the run again soon to escape Bulgaria’s broken asylum system. “Everywhere I go I’m chased,” he told me. “Sometimes I wonder where I am from.” I’ve come across many stories of courage like his while researching migration in the region. People who have lost everything in wars, who are being very badly treated, yet never bending because of hardship. Bulgaria could help them, simply by improving the way it receives and processes people’s claims. Greece should immediately end its dangerous and illegal pushback operations. And the EU as a whole should share the responsibility more equally between its members and provide lawful routes into Europe for desperate people fleeing war. As I bade Faiz farewell, I noticed that the book he was reading was The Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho. A quote from the book reads: “A warrior cannot lower his head – otherwise he loses sight of the horizon of his dreams.” I think of Faiz as one of many who never lower their heads as they keep fighting for a life and a future, and for their human rights. I asked Faiz if he needed anything: “All I need is a place to stand,” he replied, “and someone to think of us for once.”
take action >>>
Join our S.O.S. Europe campaign – find out more on page 19.
21 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
A letter from you could help free a prisoner, stop an execution or help a bereaved family recieve justice.
torture surViVor in 14 prisoners forcibly 13th year without trial disappeared
health fears for poet
name: Mohamed al-Qahtani location: USA
name: Liu Xia location: China
Saudi Arabian national Mohamed al-Qahtani has been in US military custody without trial for more than 12 years. In December 2001, after 11 days in Pakistani custody, he was handed over to US forces in Afghanistan. He has been held at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba since 13 February 2002. In 2002, US authorities started to suspect Mohamed al-Qahtani of prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. He was put into isolation for six months, confined to a cold, permanently-lit cell without sunlight for 24 hours a day. He was subjected to interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, loud music, bright lights, stress positions, the use of dogs to instil fear, sexual humiliation and forced nudity. Mohamed al-Qahtani was charged for capital trial by military commission in 2008, but the charges were soon dismissed. “We tortured Qahtani,” the official responsible explained in 2009. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture”. No one has been brought to justice for this. The Obama administration labelled Mohamed alQahtani as “referred for prosecution” in January 2010, but he has not been re-charged. There has been no ruling on the legal challenge to his detention, first filed in 2005. In December 2013, a US federal judge put a hold on court proceedings because Mohamed al-Qahtani “still appears to be incompetent and unable to assist effectively in this case”.
>> 22 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
WRITE A LETTER CHANGE A LIFE
© Amnesty International
© US DoD
your letter can help protect him: Please call for Mohamed al-Qahtani to be released immediately, unless he is promptly charged and brought to fair trial in federal court. Also call for those responsible for torturing and otherwise ill-treating him to be brought to justice. start your letter ‘dear president obama’ and send it to: President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500 USA
names: El Khadim Ould Semane, Sidi Ould Sidna, Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, Maarouf Ould Haiba, Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Ahmednah Ould Mohamed Salem, Mohamed Ould Abdou, Abderrahmane Ould Areda, Mohamed Ould Chbih, Amar Ould Mohamed Saleh, Taghi Ould Youssouf, Salem Ould Hemmod, Tiyeb Ould Saleck, Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Sebty dit Dahoud Sebty and Mohamed Khaled. location: Mauritania Fourteen men convicted on terrorism-related charges and imprisoned in Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott were subjected to enforced disappearance on 23 May 2011 (two of their relatives are pictured above). At least six of them had previously told Amnesty that they had been tortured and denied access to a lawyer, their families, or a doctor. At 3am, policemen with their faces hidden reportedly came to the prison with a list of names: “They called out names and asked the detainees to come with them. Nobody knew what was going on,” a fellow prisoner told Amnesty. Military police then took the 14 men away. A month later, the prisoners’ personal belongings, including mattresses, books and clothes, were returned to their families without explanation. While the families recently received letters from the detainees after two years of silence the authorities keep refusing to say where the men are and why they were taken. Amnesty’s Researcher Gatean Mootoo recently met the families: “We could see their devastation. Many had difficulty even speaking, they were so upset.”
your letter could help protect the 14 men: Please urge the President to disclose where the 14 prisoners are, to give them access to their families, lawyers and medical treatment if they need it. start your letter ‘dear president’ and send it to: General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania Secretary of the President, Ely Kyakh Presidency, BP 184 Nouakchott, Mauritania
Poet and artist Liu Xia (above, right) had a heart attack in January and has been diagnosed with a heart condition. She has been prevented from receiving the treatment she needs in hospital and we are increasingly worried about her physical and mental health. In addition to her heart condition, we believe she is also suffering from severe depression. Liu Xia has been under illegal house arrest since 8 October 2010. On the same day, her imprisoned husband Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights work. Hours after the announcement, police confiscated Liu Xia’s phone. They took her to Liaoning province to visit her husband in prison. Afterwards, Liu Xia tweeted that Liu Xiaobo had broken down in tears. Security officers returned Liu Xia to Beijing the same day. Since then she has been a prisoner in her own home. She cannot go out and is not allowed visitors.
your message could make a difference: Liu Xia turns 53 on 1 April. Please send her supportive birthday messages via http://messagesforliuxia.tumblr.com/ Please also call on the Chinese authorities to ensure that Liu Xia has immediate access to any medical treatment she requires, and to lift all restrictions on her freedom of movement and expression. start your letter ‘your excellency’ and send it to: President Xi Jinping The State Council General Office 2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu Beijingshi 100017 People's Republic of China
© RFE/RL (Svaboda.org)
teenage protesters sentenced to 10 years
politician in prison on fabricated charges
youth actiVists arrested and beaten
names: Jehad Sadeq Aziz Salman and Ebrahim Ahmed Radi al-Moqdad location: Bahrain
name: Mykalau Statkevich location: Belarus
names: Bakhtiyar Guliyev, Mahammad Azizov and Shahin Novruzlu location: Azerbaijan
Jehad (pictured right) and Ebrahim (left), both aged 15, were arrested during an antigovernment protest in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on 23 July 2012. They weren’t allowed to speak to their families or lawyers for almost 48 hours afterwards, and were interrogated without a lawyer present. Jehad later told his family that he was beaten with a gun during the drive to the police station. Ebrahim also said he was beaten. Both reported being forced to sign “confessions” without a lawyer or a family member present. They were held in a prison for adults from 24 July. Their trial – also alongside adults – began in October 2012. Both boys were sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2013. Their families weren’t allowed into the courtroom to hear the verdict. The boys were transferred to another adult prison the same evening, and their sentences upheld on appeal in September 2013. A fight broke out in Jehad and Ebrahim’s cell on 14 May 2013. Fellow prisoner Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, said he saw prison guards beating several young men. Jehad and 13 others were then put in solitary confinement and denied family visits. Jehad later told his father that he and the others had been moved back to their normal cells.
your message could help protect them: Please ask the Bahraini authorities to quash the boys’ convictions, as they were tried as adults despite being aged under 18. Demand that they are moved to a juvenile prison until they are retried in a juvenile court, and protected from torture and other ill-treatment. start your message ‘your excellency’ and send it to: Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Shaikh Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa, P.O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain fax: +973 1753 1284 or +973 1753 6343 twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mykalau Statkevich stood up against the current regime in Belarus by running for president in 2010. In May 2011, he was sentenced to six years’ hard labour for “organizing mass disorder”. He is still in prison. After working in a saw mill in Penal Colony No. 17, Mykalau was transferred to the stricter regime in Prison No. 4 in January 2012, allegedly for violating the rules. Within a month, the head of the prison stated that Mykalau had developed suicidal tendencies. No evidence exists to support this claim. Both Mykalau and his family fear that the prison authorities are preparing to use this as an excuse if something happens to him in prison. His wife, Marina Adamovich, is only allowed to visit him for four hours a year, and to speak to him on the phone once a month. “Even though I’m constantly waiting, these calls are always unexpected,” she told us. “He tries to say that he’s fine or to pass on information that’s important for other prisoners. It’s a sea of emotion and enormous joy.”
send mykalau a solidarity message in belarusian, russian or your own language. You could say something like: Keep your spirits up! We are thinking of you. send your letters and cards to: Mykalau Statkevich Prison No.4 99a Krupskaya Street Mahiliou 212011 Belarus fax: +375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Two men, Bakhtiyar Guliyev (pictured right), Mahammad Azizov (left), and Shahin Novruzlu, a boy aged 17, were arrested in March 2013 after actively organizing anti-government protests. They were detained by police officers and charged with illegally possessing drugs and weapons. Police later searched their homes and claimed they found illegal drugs and Molotov cocktails. But the men’s relatives insist that police planted these items. Bakhtiyar, Mahammad, Shanin and five other members of NIDA – a youth organisation campaigning for political and social reform - were charged in September 2013. Their charges included planning to organise acts of public disorder and intending to use Molotov cocktails during a protest on 10 March 2013. However, that march went ahead peacefully until police used overwhelming force to break it up. Local human rights groups say over 90 of the around 1,000 protesters were arrested and mistreated afterwards. Shahin, Bakhtiyar and Mahammad say they were beaten during their initial questioning, and their testimony extracted using physical abuse and psychological pressure. Shahin – a juvenile at the time of his arrest – named his abuser and said: “When I was interrogated my parents weren’t with me. I was beaten and four of my teeth were broken.”
your message can give them freedom and justice: Please call on the authorities to release the eight youth activists immediately and unconditionally. They are prisoners of conscience, detained only for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The authorities should order a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, and bring those responsible to justice. start your message ‘dear president’ and send it to: President Ilham Aliyev, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 18 Istiqlaliyyat Street, Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan 23 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
write for rights 2013
human rights superheroes With two prisoners already released and 2.3 million messages sent across 80 countries, Write for Rights 2013 was our most successful global letter-writing campaign ever. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people transformed into human rights superheroes in December 2013. Together, we interrupted wintry Russian streets with flashmobs, and collected signatures while running actual marathons in Guinea. We sang our hearts out at concerts in Brazil and spoke out in government meetings. We did public stunts in Israel, and created stunning light projections in Istanbul, Paris and Amsterdam. We also achieved an incredible 2.3 million letters, SMS messages, faxes, tweets and petition signatures.
And when the joyful news came that two people featured in our campaign had been released – Cambodian housing rights activist Yorm Bopha, and Russian prisoner of conscience Vladimir Akimenkov – we celebrated. The people and communities featured in our campaign are the true superheroes of this yearly event, standing at the forefront of the human rights struggle. Together, we showed the world once again that pens and keyboards are mightier than the sword. We’ll do it all again this December. Until then, please stick with us and keep up the fight for human rights.
uniting our energies Grégoire Kauli Moket is a lawyer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He is one of Amnesty’s most active international members (see box on right). The Write for Rights events he organized resulted in an impressive 1,800 letters and signatures.
24 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
© Amnesty International
“I wanted others in the DRC to take part in Write for Rights to defend people at risk through the power of a letter and put pressure on governments,” he told us. “I also want to grow the number of Amnesty members in our country. The more we are, the better we can defend human rights.” “I organized five debates at university faculties and high schools in Lubumbashi, Katanga, in December 2013. I spoke about Amnesty’s work, its mandate, its history, Write for Rights and the results it has achieved. “i felt happy because i had been given an opportunity to call out to others to combine our energies in favour of people whom we don’t know. this is why being part of amnesty international means so much to me.
“The most successful event took place at the Information Technology High School Salama in Lubumbashi, with 244 students taking part. We asked everyone to write solidarity messages to four people at risk in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tunisia and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The atmosphere was friendly. Although I was far away, I felt close to the victims.” “Many people didn’t know Amnesty very well, and our awareness-raising work through human rights education needs to continue. I’m certain that in days to come, there will be more enthusiasm for protecting human rights.” “What attracted me to Amnesty was its reputation and the opportunity to join a movement of hundreds of thousands of activists. Amnesty unites the energies of men and women from many backgrounds. Human rights should be protected at an international level – it can’t be done in a vacuum.”
© Christian Ouedraogo
© Amnesty International
pens and keyboards are mightier than the sword!
write for rights 2013
© Pierre Huault © Amnesty International
© Amnesty International
© AF Rodrigues/Amnesty International
Clockwise from top left: Write for Rights 2013 events in Taiwan, Burkina Faso, France, Guinea, Algeria, Mongolia; a letter from Thailand to Miriam López in Mexico; dancing in Brazil and lighting lanterns in Chile.
© Amnesty International
© Amnesty International
© Amnesty International
People from countries without an Amnesty office can still join our fast-growing movement by becoming an international member. We currently have 70,000 international members in over 120 countries worldwide. They take part in our global campaigns, learn about human rights, and volunteer to lead Amnesty campaigning in their own communities (read Grégoire’s story on left). Join us! Find your national Amnesty office or become an international member at www.amnesty.org/en/join
25 wire [ mar/apr 2014 ]
itâ€™s your body your rights your life #mybodymyrights