Human rights WIP: Refugee families resettled, Prisoner of conscience Ahmed is free, #BLM facial recognition lawsuit win, and more

When ordinary people stand up for freedom, equality and justice, we move closer to a world where human rights are enjoyed by all — it’s a work in progress.

Thanks to our supporters, Amnesty International has helped to free the wrongfully imprisoned, rewrite unjust laws and hold the powerful to account.

Whether you help provide lifesaving relief, raise awareness, or put pressure on the governments in charge, every action you take is helping drive our nationwide advocacy campaigns. Small actions from compassionate people like you, really do have big impacts.

Here are just a handful from the past few months:

In Australia

In August 2022, the charges against a volunteer Legal Observer were dropped. Under New South Wales’ new and dangerous anti-protest laws, she faced a maximum sentence of 2 years in jail and a $22,000 fine after being arrested alongside 34 protesters.

In recent years, NSW police have cracked down on peaceful protests, restricting everyone’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“Legal Observers play a vital role in monitoring police & providing legal support to protesters. Thanks to the relentless advocacy from Amnesty International, Legal Observers NSW and Sydney City Crime, my charges have been recently dropped.”

Chloe SiInclair*, Legal Observer

Amnesty made representations to the NSW police, calling on them to respect the right to protest, as well as the human rights of the Legal Observer. Over 30,000 supporters continue to call on the NSW police to protect our right to protest.

What’s next?

  • Pledge your support to protect the protest. Without the right to raise our voices in protest, the world would be a very different place. Together, we must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted, whenever it is at risk.
  • Learn more about our Right to Protest campaign work campaign work.

The first families arrived in Australia under the new Community Sponsorship pilot

In August 2022, the first families from Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar arrived in Australia to begin to build their new lives in safety under the government’s pilot Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Program (CRISP).

As well as the Community Sponsorship pilot – the government also finally agreed to dramatically reduce the cost of Australia’s existing program, making it more accessible for everyday Australians to participate and welcome refugees into their communities.

After years of relentless advocacy, this is proof that our collective voices can pressure our leaders to make meaningful change. 40,000 compassionate people signed our petition calling on the government to improve and expand Australia’s Community Sponsorship Program for refugees.

What’s next?

  • Join the call to raise Australia’s refugee and humanitarian intake to at least 30,000 places – ensuring Community Sponsorship efforts are additional in the upcoming October budget.
  • Learn more about our Refugee Rights campaign work.

Biloela family finally receive permanent visas

In August 2022, the Nadesalingam family affectionately referred to as the ‘Biloela family’ were granted permanent visas, a long overdue outcome after more than four long years of senseless suffering in detention. They were issued bridging visas in June this year, which allowed them to return to Biloela.

“People power brought this family home, plain and simple. This campaign started as a small group of ordinary people fighting for their friends. And then it became something much, much bigger,” said Angela Fredericks, a young Biloela resident.

Amnesty’s latest research reveals that the majority of Australians support community sponsorship of refugees.

What’s next?

Spit hoods banned from watch houses in QLD

In September 2022, the Queensland Police Service announced that spit hoods, which Amnesty recognises as tools of torture, have been operationally banned from all watch houses.

Queensland must follow South Australia’s example in banning spit hoods in legislation, everywhere and for everyone. In doing so, they must consult with local organisations, families, and survivors of spit hoods.

“It is thanks to the advocacy of [the coalitions] and those who have experienced the use of the tools, and their families who continue to advocate for the ban on spit hoods everywhere. Solidarity.”

Maggie Munn, Indigenous Rights Campaigner for Amnesty International

Amnesty is a member of Change the Record and the National Ban Spit Hoods coalitions calling for a legislated ban on spit hoods in every Australian state and territory. We will continue to add our voice to their calls.

Learn more about our Indigenous justice campaign work.

In the world

LGBTQIA+ liberation soared across the globe

In July 2022, with LGBTQIA+ people and their allies at the forefront, Switzerland’s same-sex marriage laws finally came into effect after overwhelming support of its legalisation in a national referendum last year.

In August 2022, the government of Singapore passed historic legislation to end LGBTQIA+ criminalisation.

Shortly after, Vietnamese authorities said that being LGBTQIA+ should not be treated as an illness. The Vietnamese Ministry of Health called on medical professionals to ensure LGBTQIA+ people are not discriminated against, calling for an end to dangerous conversion practices – something over 40,000 supporters in Australia stand in solidarity with and continue to campaign against.

Learn more about our LGBTQIA+ rights campaign work.

Ramiro Gonzalez’ execution in the US was stayed

In July 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) stayed the execution for Ramiro Gonzales – just 48 hours before it was due to be carried out in Texas.

He was sentenced to death for a murder committed in January 2001, when he was 18-years-old and emerging from a childhood of abuse and neglect. Experts concluded that Ramiro does not pose a threat of future danger to society, due to the passage of time and his significant maturity.

As of April 2021, 108 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and 144 countries have abolished it in law or practice – all thanks to the power of ordinary people, continuing to stand up for what’s right.

Learn more about our campaign work to end the death penalty.

Scotland is first in the world to make period products free

In August 2022, Scotland made history by becoming the first country in the world to make period products free. This move provides and restores accessibility, dignity and justice for those who menstruate. It’s time for Australia and the world to follow this leadership, and end period poverty for all.

People power freed Ahmed Samir Santawy from prison in Egypt

In August 2022, women’s rights and reproductive rights researcher and prisoner of conscience Ahmed Samir Santawy was finally released from prison after being given a presidential pardon.

Ahmed was arrested in February 2021 for spreading “false news” and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He was convicted based solely on social media posts criticising human rights violations in Egypt, and subjected to enforced disappearance for five days.

Over 10,000 people in Australia signed the petition demanding Ahmed’s release, and almost 5,000 people called the Egyptian embassy to put further pressure on authorities – and it worked.

Learn more about our campaign work for individuals at risk.

We sued the NYPD for surveillance of BLM protesters – and won

In August 2022, the New York Police Department were ordered to disclose thousands of records of how they procured and used facial recognition technology against Black Lives Matter protesters, after the New York Supreme Court ruled in favour of Amnesty International and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.) on their joint Article 78 lawsuit.

This ruling is a significant step in holding the NYPD accountable for its use of discriminatory surveillance.

“A ban on facial recognition for mass surveillance is a much-needed first step towards dismantling racist policing in New York. We all have a right to peacefully protest without fear of surveillance.”

Matt Mahmoudi, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights

In New York, facial recognition technology has been used to target people of colour in protests. Back in 2020, we asked the NYPD to publish their data on facial recognition – and they refused. So we mapped their surveillance cameras with the help of 7,000 supporters, filed a lawsuit against them, and won.

Amnesty International is a global movement of 10 million people standing up for justice, freedom and equality. Together, our voices challenge injustice and are powerful enough to change the world.

Find out more about what we do, our impact and our current campaign cases.

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