People all around the world face human rights violations at the hands of their own government. Often it can be for simple, everyday actions that we take for granted – like voicing their opinions or belonging to a particular group.
In many countries, people who peacefully stand up for what they believe can find themselves in dark places. Places where the world can no longer see what is happening. Tragically, some of these people will be sentenced to death or left languishing on death row for decades.
Below are the key cases which the Individuals at risk program is focusing on right now. With your help, we can make a difference.
For each, please see the relevant activism materials available for you to download – including petitions and flyers.
Each case gives you the story about the individual, government targets for your petitions/letters and any solidarity actions you can take.
Narges Mohammadi, Iran
Human rights defender
Imprisoned for peacefully defending human rights in Iran.
Human rights lawyer, Narges Mohammadi, received a 16-year prison sentence following an unfair trial in April 2016, She was already serving a six-year prison sentence from a previous case. Her convictions were based solely on her peaceful human rights work, including campaigning for justice, gender equality, and against the death penalty.
Narges is an Iranian human rights activist and spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). Founded in 2001, the CHRD is a Tehran based NGO focused on:
• reporting on violations of human rights in Iran
• Providing pro-bono legal representation to political prisoners, and
• Supporting the families of prisoners.
Narges has repeatedly been targeted by authorities for her involvement in peaceful human rights activities. After previously receiving a travel ban and serving a six-year prison sentence, Narges received a further 16-year sentence in 2016 after an unjust trial. She remains in Evin Prison; a prison that has been described as “hell on earth”.
Narges has two young children, twins Ali and Kiana, and is married to fellow human rights activist Taghi Rahmani. She suffers from a serious neurological health condition. While imprisoned, her condition has exacerbated and she needs specialised medical treatment.
What you can do
People all over the world are standing side by side with Narges and the Centre for Human Rights Defenders. Join the movement today – here’s how:
- Find out more about Narges and her work via this case sheet.
- Download our action flyer which contains all ways you can support Narges – from community events to social media actions, you can make a real difference!
- Collect signatures on this petition and send them back to your local action centre ASAP so we can get them to Iran.
- You can also write messages to Narges on this solidarity card. We’ll make sure she knows that she has support in Australia.
Got a question or feedback?
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: 29/09/17: On 10 September, in a letter to the Associate Prosecutor of Evin prison, Narges Mohammadi announced that she will from hereon now refuse to receive medical treatment until prison officials improve and correct their attitude towards her and other prisoners.
This followed from verbally abusive treatment Narges says she received from prison officials on 1 August while being transferred to a clinic outside the prison to receive the medical care she requires. She believes that such verbally abusive behaviour affects the mental health of prisoners, only impeding medical treatment, and can also aggravate the illness or cause other illnesses as a consequence of stress. She also stated that prison officials were acting on orders coming from their superiors.
Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia
Freedom of expression, association and assembly
Blogger sentenced to 10 years prison and 1000 lashes for creating a website.
Raif Badawi was convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s cyber-security laws by creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals Network” website and of “insulting Islam”. The charges relate to articles he wrote criticising religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, as well as pieces written by others that were published on his website.
He was sentenced to 10 years prison and 1000 lashes followed by a 10-year travel ban, a ban on using media outlets, and a fine of 1 million Saudi Arabian riyals (about US$266,600) on 7 May 2014 by Jeddah’s Criminal Court, and his sentence was upheld on 1 September by the Court of Appeal. When Raif’s trial began in 2012, the prosecution unsuccessfully called for him to be tried for apostasy (when a person abandons their religion), which carries a death sentence in Saudi Arabia.
Although his case was referred to the Supreme Court in December 2014, his sentence of weekly public flogging in front of the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah began to be carried out on 9 January 2015, but was halted after that, initially on medical grounds, and has not resumed since. However, this is reassessed each week and every Friday Raif is again at risk of another 50 lashes.
In very disappointing news, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld Raif’s full sentence in June. This final decision is irreversible and could mean that his public flogging will start again any time now. Read more about his case here.
Raif is one of many activists in Saudi Arabia persecuted for expressing their views online. Social media is a popular outlet for expression in countries where people cannot freely voice their opinions in public. As a result, Saudi Arabian authorities are strictly monitoring social media sites.
Raif’s wife Ensaf and three children have since left Saudi Arabia and are living in Canada.
Mass protests have been organised by activists at Saudi Arabian embassies worldwide condemning the flogging and calling for his release.
Over 1 million actions have so far been taken by Amnesty supporters like you in support of Raif.
There have also been official appeals by the European Parliament and a number of European Union member states, as well as the governments of the USA and Canada. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the flogging “at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment… prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified”.
Raif has been awarded over a dozen international awards, including the Medal of Honor Strasbourg Award and the Franco-German Prize for Journalism.
Five ways you can help Raif
- Add your name to the Rapid Response Standing Group to receive real-time calls to action. You can choose your preferred method as text or email.
- Collect signatures on the Raif petition. Petition signatures are continuously being posted and faxed to Saudi Authorities. The more signatures we have coming in, the more constant the pressure.
- Get active on Twitter. Saudi Arabia is very sensitive about its public image and international standing. If we target officials publicly, they could be forced to respond and publicly shamed into stopping the flogging. Here are a few Twitter accounts to try: Ministry of Justice: @MojKsa, National Society for Human Rights: @NSHRSA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: @KSAMOFA, Crown Prince and Minister of Defence, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud: @HRHPSalman .
- Call the Saudi Embassy Dial the Saudi Embassy in Canberra on 02 6250 7000 between 9am and 3pm Monday- Friday.
- Light a candle in solidarity with Raif and his family. Take a picture of your candle and add it to facebook or Twitter with a message of support. On Twitter you can tag Raif@raif_badawi or his wife Ensaf @miss9afi and on facebook you can ‘friend’ and tag Raif here and Ensaf here. Some of your friends may see your post and want to help Raif too.
Girls forced into marriage, Burkina Faso
Gender and sexuality
Forced to marry as young as 11. Read Maria’s* story and take action.
More than half of all girls in Burkina Faso are married off before they turn 18. Some are as young as 11. They’re expected to have as many children as their husbands want, regardless of their own wishes or the threat that early pregnancy poses to their health and life. Once married, many are sent to cook, clean, fetch water and work in the fields, dawn to dusk.
Some girls are doing all they can to escape forced marriage, despite huge pressure from their families and wider society. Maria* was just 13 when her father forced her to marry a 70-year-old man who had five other wives. When she resisted, he told her: “If you don’t go to join your husband, I will kill you.” She walked nearly 170km over three days to seek refuge at a shelter for young girls.
Forced and early marriages are banned by Burkina Faso’s Constitution and international law, but the authorities keep turning a blind eye.
In December 2015, following sustained campaigning from Amnesty International, the Burkina Faso Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity adopted a national strategy and three year action plan to prevent and eliminate child marriage. Now we need to keep the pressure up to ensure that the strategy and action plan is properly adopted.
Urge Burkina Faso to protect girls and young women from forced marriages.
- Download this Burkina Faso petition to collect signatures at community events
- Here’s a Burkina Faso flyer to help tell the story.
* Name changed
Loghman Sawari, Papua New Guinea
Loghman Sawari fled his home looking to rebuild his life in safety. Instead of helping him, PNG authorities have charged him as a criminal for trying to seek protection.
Loghman escaped Iran as a child in 2013, only to be unlawfully detained by the Australian Government on Manus Island where he faced years of persecution and abuse.
Living conditions for refugees on the island are abhorrent. Their movement is restricted, there’s inadequate medical care and limited opportunities to make ends meet. Safety is also a huge problem. Violent assaults on refugees are regularly reported to the authorities, but action is rarely taken.
Loghman recounts being assaulted by a guard, being imprisoned without charge and was even forced to leave his work due to immense discrimination. Desperate to escape the hopelessness, he decided to flee yet again.
He flew to Fiji using false documents but was intercepted and deported back to PNG where he was held for 30 hours without any contact with his lawyer.
Let’s be clear, fleeing danger and seeking safety in another country is legal, even if false documents are used.
The Australian Government’s solution of trapping people on Manus and Nauru is no way to treat already vulnerable people. It’s clearly destroying their lives.
Loghman has suffered for so long that fears are rising for his safety as he awaits his sentence.
What you can do
Join our call to demand that the charges are dropped, and that Loghman is swiftly resettled here in Australia or another safe country.
- Loghman Sawari hardcopy petition – collect signatures on this petition and send them to your local action centre so they can be delivered to the appropriate PNG authorities.
- Here’s a poster to help you tell Loghman’s story in your community.
- Make sure to visit our main refugee campaign page for the latest updates and more resources to help you campaign to protect people seeking safety.
Máxima Acuña, Peru
Human rights defender
Standing up to one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines, Máxima Acuña won’t back down. Help her protect her land.
A peasant farmer in northern Peru, Máxima Acuña has braved violent attacks from local police for refusing to leave the land where she lives with her family. Máxima is in a legal battle with Yanacocha, one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines, over the ownership of the land. She believes the harassment is an attempt to drive her away from her home. But she’s not going anywhere.
Police have attacked her family, including beating her and her children, damaging her house and demolishing an extension she was building. On several occasions, Yanacocha’s own armed security guards even destroyed her crops. It’s a campaign of intimidation designed to make her life impossible – so she gives up her fight and leaves. But still Máxima will not give in.
Her bravery has won her the 2016 Goldman Prize, the world’s most respected environmental award. Community members look to her as a leader – and have banded together to protect her.
Together, we must make sure her family can live on the land in peace until the courts make a final decision.
Stand with Máxima
Tell Peru to protect her and her family from violence and intimidation. Collect signatures on the following petition and send them to your local action centre so they can be sent to the Peruvian authorities.
Host a film screening
Looking for ways to engage people about Máxima’s case? We have copies of the documentary “Hija de la Laguna” (Daughter of the Lake) which you can borrow for public screenings. While the documentary does not focus solely on Máxima, it explores the struggles that she and other human rights defenders working on issues of land and environmental rights in her community face. More information and a link to the trailer on YouTube are available here: http://www.daughterofthelake.
Contact your local action centre to discuss hosting a screening in your community.
A message of thanks
Máxima’s case featured in Amnesty’s global Write for Rights campaign 2016. Through that campaign we gathered more than 150,000 signatures in solidarity to tell the Peruvian government that ‘Máxima is not alone’.
Máxima was very much excited to see all the support she received from all over the world:
“I want to thank you with all my heart for the number of letters you have sent me, and give me courage to continue fighting…I ask you to continue helping me seek justice so that I can live in peace and tranquility” – Maxima Acuña
Let’s keep the pressure up and ensure that Máxima never feels alone.
13/04/2017: The Peruvian Supreme Court was due to issue a decision today on the spurious charges of land invasion against Máxima Acuña. The ruling was postponed until 3 May after the tribunal was informed that some of the judges had not had enough time to reach a decision. We will keep you updated on any developments.
Freedom of expression, association and assembly
Political cartoonist faces long prison sentence for tweets.
Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, also known as “Zunar”, is facing nine simultaneous charges over his tweets on 10 February 2015 criticizing the judiciary and condemning the jailing of the Malaysian opposition leader.
If Zunar is convicted of more than one charge, he is likely to face a long term custodial sentence.
He has been charged under the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law that clamps down on freedom of expression under the guise of protecting national security and deterring racial or religious unrest.
Zunar has already been detained twice under this law and five of his cartoon books have been banned by the Malaysian Government on the grounds that their content is “detrimental to public order”.
His office has been raided several times and three of his assistants were arrested in October 2014 and taken to the police station for selling his books. The online gateway that handled payments for Zunar’s books online was forced to disclose to the police the list of customers who had purchased books.
Since December 2015, Zunar’s case has been put on hold, pending the outcome of another constitutional challenge to the Sedition Act. His lawyer has filed an appeal in his case, claiming that the Sedition Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it is not required to prove intention.
This is unacceptable. Ask the Malaysian authorities to drop the charges against Zunar and to repeal the laws which restrict the right to freedom of expression.
What you can do
The Malaysian government is going to enormous lengths to silence dissent and debate, and lock up critics.
As a token of his gratitude, Zunar has drawn a brilliant cartoon to thank activists and supporters for campaigning on his behalf.
Now we need to keep it up. Take action today– call on the Malaysian government to drop the charges against Zunar and help stop Malaysia’s crackdown on free speech.
- Sign and share our Zunar petition and drop them back to your action centre as soon as you can.
- Show your solidarity. Zunar has told us that he would rather receive cartoons, drawings or doodles than traditional messages. Draw an image or cartoon to show support for Zunar, or to express what freedom of expression means to you. Please ask Take a photo of your creation and upload it to Instagram with the tag #Zunar. You can also add your age/country as a caption and a message to Zunar if you wish.
UPDATE 07/02/17: Zunar’s application to challenge the constitutionality of his sedition charges at the Sessions Court that was set to be heard on 24 January has been postponed and no new date set for the hearing. He is also still subjected to a travel ban, restricting his freedom to travel overseas. Please keep taking action.
Matsumoto Kenji, Japan
Sentenced to death despite intellectual disabilities.
In 1993 Matsumoto Kenji – along with his older brother – was arrested and charged with a double murder in Japan. Kenji has an IQ of between 60 and 70, allegedly caused by mercury poisoning. This has seriously hampered his cognitive function. Nevertheless he was sentenced to death and could be executed at any time.
Amnesty has serious concerns about Kenji’s treatment at the hands of the police. His interrogation has been described as coercive, as officers offered him food if he talked and told him to “be a man” during the interrogation.
Upon learning of a warrant being issued for his arrest, his brother killed himself and Kenji was left to face trial alone. During his trial it was accepted by the court that he was totally dependent upon his brother and was unable to stand up to him. Following his conviction he was sentenced to death, a sentence which has been repeatedly upheld in subsequent appeals.
The death penalty in Japan
In Japan, death row prisoners are held in solitary confinement and are not allowed to speak to other inmates, only receiving occasional visits from family or lawyers. When they are in their cells they are forbidden from moving, being punished severely if they do. They are also given no prior warning before they are executed, leaving prisoners suspended in an endless state of anxiety. Some may be given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.
Mental health and the death penalty
The death penalty is always inhumane, and we oppose its use in all cases as it’s a violation of the right to life and to be free from torture. Executing people with mental or intellectual disabilities is particularly cruel, and is illegal under international law.
Unfortunately, Kenji’s mental health has deteriorated significantly on death row, to the point that he has developed a delusional disorder. His lawyers have argued that he is currently unable to communicate or understand information pertinent to his case and they believe that his isolation has contributed significantly to his deteriorating mental health. He is also unable to understand the nature and purpose of the punishment imposed on him.
This case clearly illustrates the vulnerability of people with serious learning difficulties who face major criminal charges, and the difficulty they face in ensuring their right to fair treatment at the hands of authorities in the criminal justice system. Read more about mental health and the death penalty in Japan in this report.
As a major trade partner, Japan pays attention to Australia, so we need to amplify our voice in opposition to this injustice.
Make sure to send petitions/letters to your local action centre so they can be sent to the targets in batches. We also need the names and email addresses of everyone who took action so we can keep them updated about the campaign and future development. Send us an email at email@example.com.
Target 1: Minister of Justice
The Japanese Minister of Justice Katsutoshi Kaneda is the primary decision-maker. We are calling on him to:
- Not execute Matsumoto Kenji and to introduce a moratorium on executions in Japan;
- Commute Matsumoto Kenji and all other prisoners’ death sentences;
- Improve the treatment of death row inmates, including an end to solitary confinement;
- Promote debate on the abolition of the death penalty in Japan.
Collect signatures on this petition or write to the Minister directly at:
Ministry of Justice
Target 2: Minister of Health
We are also calling on the Minister of Health Yasuhisa Shiozaki to ensure that Matsumoto Kenji’s physical and mental health are regularly assessed, and that he is provided with any necessary treatment. He can be contacted at:
Minister of Health
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Target 3: The Japanese embassy
We also encourage you to contact Japan’s Ambassador in Australia at the following address:
Ambassador Kimio Suga
Embassy of Japan
112 Empire Circuit
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Fax: +61 (02) 6273 1848
Don’t forget to tell us about your activism at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show your solidarity
Solidarity messages can also be sent to Matsumoto Kenji in prison, at the following address:
1-2-5 Tomobuchi Miyakojimaku Osakashi
Here is a suggested message in both Japanese and English – feel free to copy and paste into your own messages.
(rentai to shien no kimochi wo ookurishimasu)
Thinking of you in solidarity and support
|Please note that he is unlikely to be able to receive any messages that are sent, but letters arriving for him could improve his treatment in detention. Let us know at email@example.com if you do send any solidarity messages.|
Key dates to keep in mind
|10-Oct||World Day Against the Death Penalty|
|03-Feb||Birthday of Matsumoto Kenji|
Since September 2004 seven unsuccessful requests for pardon and for retrial have been filed. We’ll keep you updated with any developments.
Thanks for your time and compassion. Make sure to visit our End the Death Penalty campaign page for the latest updates and more resources to help you campaign effectively for global abolition of this inhumane practice.