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Amensty Int’l Success 2007

The past year was filled with important victories and heart-breaking setbacks in the struggle for human rights. But one thing is clear — working with you, Amnesty International will never relent in the face of cruel human rights abuses. Let’s build the movement into the New Year!Watch a video of Amnesty’s memorable moments of 2007.


Here’s where all of your hard work writing letters and sending emails pays off! Listed below are some more of our most recent victories in the cause of human rights. Enjoy!

Latvia Pride

LATVIA: Gay Pride events in Riga, Latvia over the past two years have been interrupted by violent protests and bans by the authorities. In 2007 Amnesty supporters sent over a thousand appeals to the Latvian authorities urging safety for participants in the Riga Pride event. Over 70 Amnesty activists took part in the event. Watch the video and read Amnesty’s blog.


Dr. Haleh Esfandiari allowed to leave Iran!


Haleh Esfandiari
Haleh being interviewed on IRINN TV after her release. © AFP

Iran: Haleh Esfandiari is the Head of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., and is a well-known advocate of dialogue between the U.S. and Iranian governments. She had travelled to visit her elderly mother. While on her way to the airport to return to the USA, her taxi was stopped by armed, masked me, who took both her passports and her belongings. In May Amnesty International activists began a letter-writing action and in June held a rally calling for her release. Many thanks to all who participated on Haleh’s behalf.

Clemency granted for Kenneth Foster

USA: The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-1 to recommend clemency for Kenneth Foster, and Texas Governor Rick Perry complied, commuting Foster’s death sentence to life. Gov. Perry went even further, calling for changes in Texas death penalty law. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death in Texas under the controversial “Law of Parties” which allows an accomplice who does not kill anyone to be held as responsible for murder as the actual killer. He was scheduled to be executed for the murder of Michael LaHood. The murder was committed by Mauriceo Brown, who was executed in 2006. Thank you to all who sent appeals and took action on behalf of Kenneth Foster. You have helped save a life!

Environmental Activist Released!

Sudan: It is with great joy that we announce the release of Dr Mohamed Jalal Ahmed Hashim, a prominent opponent of the construction of the Kajbar Dam in Sudan, who was arrested on June 16th. He was released from detention on August 25th. He expressed his sincere thanks to Amnesty International, explaining that so many faxes arrived that the security services holding him suspected that he was a very important person with many contacts worldwide. Since several of the faxes mentioned his diabetes, prison medical staff started to check his diabetes every day.

38 Ethiopian political prisoners freed!


Mesfin Woldemariam
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam © AI

Ethiopia: Amnesty International welcomes the release of Mesfin Woldemariam, one of 38 Ethiopian opposition party officials, prominent human rights defenders and journalists who were freed on July 20. Professor Woldemariam is Ethiopia’s most prominent human rights defender and one of AIUSA’s five special focus cases. Many thanks to all who took action on his behalf.

US Policy toward Colombia is finally changing and you helped make that happen

Colombia, USA: Last week the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a new aid package to Colombia through its version of the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Act increasing support for critical social, economic and humanitarian needs and decreasing funding to a military implicated in serious human rights violations.

For over a decade, AIUSA has advocated for a different approach to US policy toward Colombia. We have highlighted the role of the Colombian Armed Forces in serious human rights violations, the killing of thousands of civilians by the military, paramilitary and guerrilla?s, the attacks against human rights defenders, the internal displacement of millions of Colombians and have communicated our concerns over cases of human rights violations to the US government.

Because of the emails you sent, letters you wrote, and phone calls you made, the new aid package went from 76% military and 24% social and economic aid (what the Bush Administration asked for) to 55% military and 45% social and economic aid, including support for victims of the conflict.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to all AIUSA activists who contacted their congressional representatives asking the New Congress to create a New Policy Toward Colombia! There is much more work to be done and we must continue to insist on change in our foreign policy, but this is the beginning of a more humane and balanced approach to supporting Colombia and we thank you all for having been a part of shaping it.

Stay tuned for the Senate version of the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. We will need your help to ensure that the Senate also passes more balanced aid package for Colombia.

Stay of execution granted!


Cathy Henderson
Cathy Henderson and Sister Helen Prejean © AI

USA: Good News! The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a stay of execution for Cathy Henderson who had been scheduled to be executed June 13 in Texas for the 1994 murder of a three-and-a-half-month-old baby, Brandon Baugh. Serious doubt has been raised about the prosecutions claim that Brandon’s death was not the result of an accidental fall.
» Read Amnesty’s press release

NGO workers released without charge


  • Osman Al Magdum (m), 71 years old, Deputy Head of the Manasir
  • Association Executive Committee (MAEC)
  • Abdel Rahman Zaidan (m), Deputy Head of the MAEC
  • Abdel Aatti Abdel Khair (m), member of the MAEC
  • Hassan Sidiq Atolabi (m), Member of the MAEC
  • Haitham Aldusogi (m), Member of the MAEC
  • Ahmed Abdel Fatah Gabriel (m)

The men named above, most of whom are members of the Manasir Association Executive Committee, were released without charge in late May after reportedly being held incommunicado without charge in Kober prison in the capital, Khartoum. The men were at risk of torture and ill-treatment. The Manasir Association was formed by members of the Manasir ethnic community to campaign on behalf of community members threatened with displacement during and after construction of the Merowe High Dam in northern Sudan.

Many thanks to all those who sent appeals!

House of Representatives Passes Resolution Condemning Killings of Women in Guatemala

Guatemala, USA:On Wednesday May 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 100, urging the U.S. government to work with Guatemala in addressing violence against women in Guatemala and the unsolved murders of more than 2,500 women and girls since 2001. H. Res. 100 was sponsored by Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-California) and cosponsored by Representatives Engel, Lantos, Lee and Burton.
» See Representative Solis’ floor speech on the Resolution, and her acknowledgement of Amnesty International.

In her words to the House, Rep. Solis thanks Amnesty International for supporting the bill, along with the Washington Office on Latin America, Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Human Rights First, and the Central American Resource Center. Action during recent weeks by Amnesty International staff and activists was key in helping Rep. Solis garner strong bipartisan support for the Resolution, which passed with 100 co-sponsors. Rep. Solis stressed that few of the killings of women have ever been investigated, and even fewer have resulted in convictions, but that the Resolution will “increase the international pressure needed to stop violence against women” in Guatemala.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who contacted their Congressional representatives to ask them to cosponsor the resolution.
» See the resolution.

Your efforts are making a difference in Darfur


Your efforts are making a difference in Darfur
Activists rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Sudan:Amnesty International USA welcomes news of the passage of Security Council Resolution 1769 which, when implemented, will bring the goal of protection of civilians and displaced in Darfur within reach. The resolution, passed unanimously, sends a strong and clear message to the perpetrators of abuses in Darfur that the international community is united behind the people suffering in the region. The resolution provides for over 19,500 troops and 6,000 police to combine with the struggling African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Most notably, the Government of China, which you have helped pressure over the past many months, supported 1769, and continues to take positive steps to use its close relationship with Khartoum to find an effective security arrangement for the people of Darfur.

To everyone who has taken the time to take action to help bring an end to this conflict, thank you. Your work and the work of individuals like you is making a difference for people in Darfur. There is clearly more that needs to be done, and we hope you’ll continue to work with us as we strive to end the violence threatening innocent civilians targeted in this conflict.

AIUSA continues to encourage actors to:

  1. implement the provisions of 1769 as soon as possible;
  2. sufficiently fund the AU and UN peacekeepers and humanitarian operations in Darfur and eastern Chad, and;
  3. press the governments of Sudan and Chad and all armed groups in the region to allow unhindered access for desperately needed humanitarian operations.


House Committee Approves Resolution Condemning the Killings of Women in Guatemala

Guatemala, USA: On March 27, 2007 the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously approved House Resolution 100 (H. Res. 100), condemning the over 2,500 killings of women in Guatemala sponsored by Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA). The resolution passed with 84 cosponsors. Consideration of the resolution by the full House is expected in the coming months. Thanks to all who took action to make this possible! We will keep you updated on the progress of this resolution.

Please write to thank your representative for cosponsoring this resolution. » Find which representatives cosponsored this resolution.

Six Major Metropolitan Police Departments Take the Pledge


Former AIUSA Executive Director Bill Schulz with Washington D.C. Police Officer Sgt. Brett Parson and the “Pledge for Police Depts.”

USA: As part of the campaign following the release of AIUSA’s Stonewalled report, activists asked police departments to sign a pledge to take concrete steps to end targeting of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals for police abuse and misconduct.

Police Departments that have signed the pledge so far:


  • DC Metropolitan Police Department
  • San Antonio Police Department
  • Fargo Police Department (ND)
  • Lexington Police Department (KY)
  • Memphis Police Department (TN)
  • Atlanta Police Department

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Stonewalled campaign!

Environmental Defender Freed!


Andrei Zatoka
© Private

“We won! Andrei is free!”
– Yevgenia Zatoka (Andrei’s wife)

Turkmenistan: Amnesty International is happy to report that Andrei Zatoka was released from jail on January 31. Andrei had been detained on December 17 by local police at the airport in his home city of Dashoguz. There were allegations that he was targeted to punish him for his peaceful work as an environmental activist. He and his supporters are grateful for the appeals sent by AI’s Urgent Action network on his behalf.

New Mexico House Passes Abolition Bill

USA: On Monday, February 12, 2007, the New Mexico House of Representative passed a death penalty abolition bill by a 41-28 vote. House Bill 190, which now heads for the New Mexico Senate, would abolish the death penalty in New Mexico and replace it with life in prison without parole. The 41-28 margin by which the bill passed represents progress from the 38-31 vote a similar bill received in the New Mexico House in 2005. The New Mexico Legislature’s current session ends on March 17, 2007. If House Bill 190 passed both houses of the New Mexico Legislature and is signed into law, if would take effect on July 1, 2007. Many thanks to all of our New Mexico allies who have been working so hard to make abolition a legislative reality!

Update on New Jersey Death Penalty Moratorium/Study Bill

“There is no compelling evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent.”
— New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission

USA: The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission – set up by the state legislature in 2006 to study all aspects of capital punishment in New Jersey – released its final report. Its report recommends abolition of the death penalty and its replacement with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It further recommends that any cost savings resulting from abolition be used to assist the families of murder victims. Many thanks to the AIUSA activists in New Jersey for encouraging their representatives to pass this important legislation.
Read the statement by AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox »

LGBT NGO’s granted consultative status at the UN

USA: In January 2006 three LGBT groups were denied the right to a fair hearing on their application for consultative status to the UN’s Economic and Social Council. The US aligned itself with severely oppressive regimes including Iran, China, Sudan and Zimbabwe prompting an Amnesty International campaign pressuring Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to change the US position and grant LGBT rights groups a voice at the United Nations. The US reversed its stance and on December 11, 2006 the applications were approved allowing the groups to be able to directly raise human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations. Read the ECOSOC press release »

Initiative Partnership Activists


Initiative Partnership Activists
Mikalay Astreyka (upper right), Tsimafey Dranchuk (upper left), Enira Branizkaya (lower left), Alyaksandr Shalayka (lower right) © Private

Belarus: Mikalay Astreyka was conditionally released from prison in November before the end of his sentence. He and 3 other political activists, featured in AIUSA’s Summer postcard and Freedom Writer’s actions, were arrested in February as they prepared to monitor elections in Belarus. Enira Branizkaya and Alyaksandr Shalayka were freed from prison in August, following completion of their sentences. Amnesty is calling for Astreyka’s release to be made unconditional and for Tsimafey Dranchuk to be released as well. Many thanks to all who took action on their behalf.

Claude Yabanda


Claude Yabanda
© Private

Central African Republic: Claude Yabanda, a senior member of an opposition political party called the Patriotic Front for Progress, was released from prison on November 11. He had been detained since April 2006 on account of his peaceful political activities. Claude was featured in AIUSA’s Holiday Card action. Many thanks to all who send letters of support. Read more »

Helen Berhane


Helen Berhane
© Private

Eritrea: Helen Berhane, a well-known Christian evangelical singer, was released from captivity in Eritrea. She had been detained incommunicado without charge or trial for two and a half years. Most of her detention was spent in inhuman and degrading conditions inside a metal shipping container which was used as a prison cell. The authorities reportedly tortured her many times to make her recant her faith. Helen was hospitalized as a result of beatings and is said to be confined to a wheelchair. She refused to abandon her faith despite the threats and ill-treatment.

AIUSA activists sent cards of support and appeals for her release as part of AIUSA’s Holiday Card and Easter Actions. We’d also like to thank Music for Human Rights supporters and their fans, including Gwen Stefani, Duran Duran, Coldplay, Sting, Anti-Flag, Incubus, Bright Eyes, Astralwerks Records and Axis of Justice who helped make Helen’s release a reality. Read more »

Charges Dropped Against Border Aid Workers


Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz

Mexico, USA: On September 1, U.S. District Judge Raner Collins dismissed the case against humanitarian aid workers Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss. Sellz and Strauss had been charged with transporting undocumented migrants after providing assistance to three men found in apparently life-threatening condition in the Arizona desert last July. Thanks to all who took action on their behalf!
Download the interview with Daniel and Shanti as featured on Law and Disorder radio. MP3 format 15MB.

Guantánamo detainee, Murat Kurnaz has been released!


Murat Kurnaz
Murat Kurnaz © Private

“He is now again in the circle of his family. Their joy at embracing their lost son again is indescribable” — statement from Murat’s lawyer

Germany, Turkey, USA: Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish national born in Germany and featured in AIUSA’s Holiday Card action, was released on August 24, 2006 from Guantánamo. He had been held for four years and eight months without charge or trial. In January 2005, a U.S. federal judge cited his case as illustrative of the inherent unfairness and fundamental flaws of the administrative review process in Guantánamo.

Marcelino Miranda, Leonardo Miranda, and Feliciano Pineda Freed


Marcelino Miranda, Leonardo Miranda, and Feliciano Pineda
Marcelino Miranda (top left), Leonardo Miranda (lower left), and Feliciano Pineda (right). © Private

Honduras: Leonardo Miranda, the last of three Honduran prisoners of conscience on whose behalf AIUSA has campaigned for the past year through its Special Focus Case project, was freed on August 15, 2006. Leonardo’s brother Marcelino was freed on July 12, 2006, following a decision by the Honduran Supreme Court in June that acquitted Marcelino and Leonardo of a 2001 murder for which they were wrongfully imprisoned. On August 15, a lower court commuted Leonardo’s sentence on another charge, resulting in his release. Amnesty believed the two brothers and another indigenous rights activist, Feliciano Pineda, were jailed in connection with their efforts to secure communal land titles for their communities in Montaña Verde. Pineda was released from detention in February 2006.

The Casework Office extends its thanks and congratulations to all AIUSA activists, especially those in the Western Region, who took action on behalf of these three indigenous leaders.

Israel / Hizbullah Ceasefire Vigils


Ceasefire vigil in Blufton, OH
Israel, Lebanon, USA: On August 7th Amnesty International held ceasefire vigils around the world to show solidarity with victims and survivors on both sides of the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. Over 50 vigils were held in the U.S. alone! See the photos »

Vermont Passes Law to Protect Women in Prison from Custodial Sexual Misconduct

USA: Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) applauded lawmakers in Vermont for passing legislation that protects women in prison from custodial sexual misconduct (CSM) — the sexual abuse of inmates at the hands of corrections staff. Vermont was the last of the 50 states to pass a law directly addressing such abuse, though many of those states’ laws are severely inadequate. Read more. »

115 Members of Congress Sign Letter Condemning Violence against Women in Guatemala


AIUSA activists visit the Guatemalan Embassy before Mother’s Day to deliver 400 flowers and a petition with over 20,000 signatures urging action on behalf of the 1,900 women and girls brutally murdered in Guatemala. © AI.

Guatemala: On Wednesday May 10, 2006 the Congressional Dear Colleague letter initiated by California Representatives Barbara Lee, Tom Lantos and Hilda Solis addressing Violence Against Women in Guatemala was closed with 115 co-signers. Thanks to all of you who took action to make this possible!

The Dear Colleague letter was sent to Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas A. Shannon urging his public support for the protection of women and human rights defenders. According to the letter, the Guatemalan National Civilian Police have reported that the number of women who were murdered in 2005 represented a 110 percent increase from the number reported in 2002. In comparison the number of men who were murdered in the same period of time rose by 41 percent.

The letter also called for the Assistant Secretary of State to support the implementation of the National Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Domestic and Intrafamilial Violence, provide assistance for data collection on crimes against women, and bring assailants to justice. Read more. »

U.S. Legislation Condemns Murders of Women in Chihuahua, Mexico


AIUSA activists march in Washington, DC, in solidarity with the women of Juarez and Chihuahua. © AI

“The United States Congress rarely passes free-standing resolutions expressing concern about human rights conditions in a friendly country such as Mexico. The situation in Juarez and Chihuahua is so bad, however, that the U.S. Congress could no longer ignore it. Congress has now unanimously called on the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to Mexico to take specific steps to ensure that addressing these horrendous murders becomes a part of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral agenda.”
Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA)

Mexico, USA: Amnesty International USA welcomes the congressional passage of legislation calling on the United States and Mexico to work together to find an end to the violence against women in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where more than 400 women and girls have been murdered since 1993. Read more. »

Prisoner of Conscience “Very Grateful” to Urgent Action


Hojjatoleslam Ezimi Qedimi
Hojjatoleslam Ezimi Qedimi. (c) Private

“I am very grateful for the campaign which Amnesty started for my sake. I heard about the action while I was imprisoned. After I was released I saw letters while I was being interrogated by the security service. Your letters meant very much to me.”

Iran: Hojjatoleslam Ezimi Qedimi was returned to prison on March 26, 2006 after an appeal against a one-year prison sentence was rejected on February 20, 2006 by Branch 2 of the Special Court for the Clergy. If charged, Hojjatoleslam Ezimi Qedimi could be a prisoner of conscience, held solely on account of his peaceful beliefs and activities on behalf of the Azeri Turk community in Iran.

Civil society leaders released amid political transition

Peace and human rights must be the priority now. The politics of violence must end. (Krishna Pahadi)

Nepal:Prisoners of conscience Krishna Pahadi, Dr Devendra Raj Panday, Dr Mathura Prasad Shrestha and Shyam Shrestha were among hundreds of civil society and political party activists who were released on 25 April amid a historic political transition in Nepal.

On April 24, following nearly three weeks of massive nationwide public protests against palace rule, King Gyanendra announced the reinstatement of Parliament. Since King Gyanendra seized direct control of the government on 1 February 2005, he has used the security forces to spearhead a massive crackdown on dissent. Members of the non-violent political opposition have been arbitrarily detained, beaten, and even shot. In his latest announcement, the King conceded that “Sovereignty of the Kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal” and recognized “the spirit of the ongoing people’s movement.”

Krishna Pahadi, a former chair of Amnesty International Nepal and founder of the Human Rights and Peace Society; Dr Devendra Raj Panday, former president of the anti-corruption organization Transparency International-Nepal; Dr Mathura Prasad Shrestha, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Nepal; and Shyam Shrestha, editor of the political journal Mulyankan,are all leaders of the Citizens’ Movement for Democracy and Peace (CMDP). The CMDP has played a key role in organizing pro-democracy demonstrations over the past year.

Speaking to Amnesty International by phone, Krishna Pahadi thanked all those who sent appeals on behalf of prisoners of conscience in Nepal. He also gave special thanks to members of the AI delegation that visited him and Shyam Shrestha in custody in March 2006.

“Peace and human rights must be the priority now,” Krishna Pahadi said. “The politics of violence must end.”

Prisoner of Conscience Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev has been released!


Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev
© Private

Turkmenistan: Amnesty International welcomes the release of Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev, a 64 year-old prisoner of conscience from Turkmenistan, who was forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital in 2004, after asking President Niyazov for authorization to hold a peaceful political protest.

Durdykuliev was one of Amnesty International USA’s five Special Focus Cases in 2006. AIUSA activists from across the country worked on his behalf. More than 400 AIUSA student groups in the Northeast United States “adopted” Durdykuliev, sending hundreds of letters and petitions to Turkmen authorities calling for his immediate release.

AIUSA also worked with Congress to draw more attention to Durdykuliev’s case, both by writing letters and meeting with officials. On April 4, 2006 – partly due to AIUSA’s efforts – 54 members of Congress sent a letter to the President of Turkmenistan calling for Durdykuliev’s release and condemning the use of forced psychiatric confinement of political dissidents.

Hu Jia, Prominent HIV/AIDS Activist, has been released!


Hu Jia

China: Hu Jia, a noted AIDS activist in China, was released last week after spending 41 days in captivity. He was one of at least ten prominent activists who had been detained or gone missing after showing their solidarity with Gao Zhisheng, a defense lawyer who was on a hunger strike protesting the recent beatings and detentions of human rights activists.

Hu Jia is the co-founder of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and an outspoken advocate for people with HIV/AIDS. He has publicly criticized the authorities over their treatment of people with AIDS and other issues, and has been detained on numerous occasions in the past in connection with his peaceful human rights activities.

Thanks to everyone who kept the pressure on the Chinese government by taking action on Hu’s behalf! Learn more about the policy of mass detention of activists by the Chinese government.

5 Human Rights Defenders Released without Charge by Sudanese Security Forces

The head of the Sudan Development Organization (SUDO), Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, thanked Amnesty International for its action on behalf of the five men, saying, “The Governor received the first faxes sent by Amnesty International – very soon thereafter the five were released. They asked me when they were released, ‘Why were we released so quickly?’ The pressure exerted by you has really worked, thanks for your solidarity.”


  • Alrayah Ibrahim Eldaw (m), staff member of SUDO
  • Sayed Abu Bakr (m), SUDO volunteer
  • Alfaris Ibrahim (m), SUDO staff member
  • Dawalbeit Kabbur (m), SUDO staff member, and
  • Osman Ali Ismael (m), SUDO staff member

At 5:30 pm on February 13, the five human rights defenders named above were released without charge by security forces.

The five had been arrested on the morning of February 13 at Ed Dain University in South Darfur as they conducted a training session on human rights monitoring.

Prisoner of Conscience Cheam Channy Released in Cambodia


Cheam Channy

Cambodia: Cambodian prisoner of conscience and opposition parliamentarian Cheam Channy was released from Phnom Penh’s military prison following a pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni. Amnesty International had been campaigning for his unconditional and immediate release. Read more. »

Prisoner of Conscience Gérard Jean-Juste has been released!


Gérard Jean-Juste
Photo by Evens Sanon for AP

I am very grateful to Amnesty International and to all of you for helping fight for the human rights of all political prisoners, here in Haiti and across the world. Let’s keep the momentum on for justice, peace, love, and sharing to prevail all over the world as God wants it.

Haiti: Gérard Jean Juste, who is reportedly suffering from leukemia, was granted a provisional release from detention on health grounds on January 29. The interim government in Haiti apparently granted his release to allow him to seek treatment abroad, as there are no medical facilities in Haiti able to offer treatment for leukaemia. Father Jean Juste has been allowed to travel to Miami, USA, where he will be treated. Gérard Jean Juste was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2005 by two US doctors, though doctors at the National Penitentiary Annex in Port-au-Prince where he was detained refuted this diagnosis. His health deteriorated recently after he suffered a bout of pneumonia, which apparently was brought on by the conditions in the prison where he was held.

Mamun al-Humsi has been released!


Mamun al-Humsi

Syria: Mamun Al-Humsi and Riad Seif, two former members of Syria’s parliament, were freed on January 18 by the Syrian government after spending five years in prison. Mamun al-Humsi was one of Amnesty International’s Special Focus Cases. Many thanks to all who took action on his behalf! <!– Read more. » –>

Aminatou Haidar


Aminatou Haidar
© Martin Wikstrom

Morocco and Western Sahara: Human rights defender Aminatou Haidar, featured in our 2005 Holiday Card Action, was released from prison in January 2006. Her colleagues Mohamed El Moutaouakil, Houssein Lidri, Brahim Noumria, Larbi Messaoud, Ali Salem Tamek, and H’mad Hammad were freed two months later. Many thanks to all who took action on their behalf.


Cote d’Ivoire, Czech Republic: Mientras la población de Uganda se dispone a acudir a las urnas en las elecciones presidenciales y parlamentarias del 23 de febrero, Amnistía Internacional ha pedido hoy, 21 de febrero, a todos los partidos políticos y candidatos, así como al gobierno, que se comprometan públicamente a respetar los derechos humanos durante el proceso electoral y a evitar que los simpatizantes de unos y otros partidos cometan abusos.

Robin Lovitt’s death sentence commuted in Virginia

USA: Gov. Mark R. Warner commuted the death sentence of Robin Lovitt to life in prison. Mr. Lovitt was scheduled to be executed in Virginia on November 30, 2005. “I believe clemency should only be exercised in the most extraordinary circumstances,” Mr. Warner said. “Among these are circumstances in which the normal and honored processes of our judicial system do not provide adequate relief – circumstances that, in fact, require executive intervention to reaffirm public confidence in our justice system.” AIUSA would like to thank the thousands of people in the U.S. and worldwide that wrote appeals on Mr. Lovitt’s behalf.

Death Penalty Moratorium/Study Bill Passes in New Jersey

“We congratulate all AIUSA activists in New Jersey, especially our co-State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinators, Lorry Post and Celeste Fitzgerald, who have worked tirelessly to ensure this result,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Director of AIUSA’s Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. “We believe that the moratorium will provide public officials and citizens in New Jersey with the necessary space to reflect on the death penalty and to engage in constructive dialogue on this highly charged issue. We are confident that a close examination of this fatally flawed system will lead to its ultimate rejection by the people of New Jersey.”

: On January 9, 2006, the New Jersey Assembly passed S-709, a bill that would establish a moratorium on executions while a legislative commission conducts an in-depth study of the death penalty. New Jersey becomes the first state to legislatively mandate a moratorium on executions.

President Bush Signs into Law the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act


Violence Against Women Act
President Bush signs into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, in the Oval Office of the White House. © AFP

: On January 5, 2006, President Bush signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This extension will provide approximately $3.9 billion over the next five years to help combat domestic violence in the United States. More than 92,000 Amnesty activists signed a petition calling for renewal of the law.

Violence Against Women Act is Renewed



“This second renewal of the Violence Against Women Act is proof positive of lawmakers’ commitment to protect women in the U.S.,” said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA. “While this country has made considerable strides toward combating abuse in the last decade, four women still die at the hands of their partners and 700 are raped or sexually assaulted each day. It is particularly gratifying to note the current legislative emphasis on early intervention, a critical component of saving lives.”

: Amnesty International USA welcomed Congressional renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), an extension that will provide approximately $3.9 billion over the next five years to help combat domestic violence in this country. Read more. »

19 Year Old Yuldash Kasymov’s Death Sentence Commuted


Yuldash Kasymov
Yuldash Kasymov. (c) Private

“When his brother Mansur visited him shortly afterwards Yuldash was overjoyed and was making plans for his future… He said he wanted to finish his studies in the medical institute.” – Tamara Chikunova, director of Mothers Against the Death Penalty, on Yuldash Kasymov’s release.

Uzbekistan: Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court commuted 19-year old Yuldash Kasymov’s death sentence to 20 years in prison in November 2005. Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision, guards led Yuldash Kasymov out of his death row cell in Tashkent prison. “They read out the Court’s ruling to him. Yuldash Kasymov was in a state of shock; he could not believe what they were telling him. He thought they were joking and he was about to be executed,” said Tamara Chikunova, director of the human rights group Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture. Yuldash Kasymov was moved to the prison in Andizhan.

Businesswoman Released in Iraq

Iraq: Huda Hafez Ahmad al-‘Azawi, a businesswoman accused of “financing the insurgency,” was arrested by US soldiers and Iraqi security forces on February 17, 2005 at her home in Baghdad and held by US forces at Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport. On November 16, 2005 the High Criminal Court in Baghdad found her not guilty and ordered her release. In a telephone message on January 17, 2006, Huda Hafez Ahmad al-‘Azawi thanked Amnesty International for taking action on her behalf. She believes this action led to her release. Many thanks to all who sent appeals!

Two Fifteen-Year Old Girls Released in Nepal

Nepal: Radha Bhusal and Geeta Nepali, subjects of a recent AI Urgent Action, were freed on October 24, 2005 following a Supreme Court order that their detention was illegal. The two girls had been re-arrested by police on September 5th shortly after they were released on the order of the district court in Kapilvastu, in southern Nepal. The Supreme Court ordered their release on October 23rd. Thanks to all who sent appeals!

Xiaodong Li – Sought asylum from religious persecution

China: Xiaodong Li, who was jailed and beaten in China for breaking a law against private worship, fled to the United States. He was nearly sent back to China after a U.S. court ruled, mistakenly, that he had been punished not for his religion but merely for his “religious activities.” Amnesty and other organizations wrote briefs to persuade the court it had erred – and succeeded. Mr. Li is now safe. Read more »

Environmental Activist and Prisoner of Conscience Felipe Arreaga Released


Felipe Arreaga
Felipe Arreaga. © AI

In a letter dated September 21, 2005, Felipe Arreaga wrote to those who worked on obtaining his freedom: ”. . I want to tell you that during the long time of my detention, I always felt accompanied because of the expressions of support that never ceased. . I always said that I can die for the cause I believe and that I will not cease in a clean, legal and unselfish struggle that encourages me. . . Rest assured that my struggle will not cease and that you can count on me even if it is to do an errand. I will continue to walk in the mountains and advocating for human rights and a healthy environment. I will work very hard with my wife, caring for the forests and planting trees. . .”

Mexico: Amnesty International has received with pleasure the news of the acquittal of Felipe Arreaga Sánchez, environmental activist, founder of the Peasant Environmentalist Organization of the Sierra de Petatlán (OCESP) and prisoner of conscience. He was released on September 15. However, he, his family and other environmental activists in the region remain in grave danger. After considering his case, Amnesty International believed that the arrest and prosecution of Felipe Arreaga was in retaliation for his peaceful struggle to prevent excessive logging of the region’s forests. Read more. »

Five Prisoners of Conscience Released from Libyan Jails

Libya: Ramadan Shaglouf, Tariq al-Dernawi, Tawfiq al-Jehani, Ali Be’aou and Musa al-Ziwi were released on September 10 and 11 after seven years imprisonment. They were serving prison terms up to life after being convicted of belonging to the Islamic Alliance Movement, a banned political group, but were considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Read more. »

Former Guantanamo Prisoners Freed in Russia!


Airat Vakhitov and Rustam Akhmiarov
Airat Vakhitov © Private

Airat Vakhitov told Amnesty International: ”I can’t express enough thanks to your members, we’re simply in shock, thank you for your understanding of our situaiton.” Rustam Akhmiarov told Amnesty International: ”A very big thank you, thank you for caring and not being indifferent.”

Russian Federation: Airat Vakhitov and Rustam Akhmiarov, who were originally held in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, and then sent to Moscow where they later ”disappeared” before being located in detention, were released several days later on September 2, 2005.

‘Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri

Syria: ‘Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri was released on August 31, 2005, one week after the end of his sentence. He has returned home to his family and is said to be in good health. Amnesty International USA championed ‘Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri’s case through the Holiday Action in 2004.

Arthur Baird’s death sentence has been commuted

USA: Arthur P. Baird described by various courts and mental health professionals as “insane at the time of the murders,” “legally insane,” and as suffering from a “delusional disorder” was scheduled to be executed on August 31. On Monday afternoon, August 29, Governor Mitch Daniels commuted Mr. Baird’s death sentence. Thanks to everyone who took action on his behalf!

Néstor Rodríguez, Prisoner of Conscience, Relased


Nestor Rodriguez
Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina. (c) Private

“I would like to give my deepest thanks to Amnesty International [members] for all the work that they have done to help in my release from prison… I am deeply grateful for all of this, and want to tell this prestigious organization that it has here a volunteer, an activist always at its service as well as my modest efforts to work and cooperate alongside it in this altruistic and humanitarian work.”

Cuba: Prisoner of conscience Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina was released in July 2005, after five years and four months in prison. He had been detained in March 2000 and sentenced to a six year prison term for “disrespect,” “public disorder,” and “damage.”

Student Leader, Gagan Thapa, Thanks Urgent Action


Gagan Thapa
Gagan Thapa at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London. (c) AI

“After I was arrested I was held in a cell in Hanuman Dhoka police station in Kathmandu along with sixteen others. We slept eight at a time as the cell was so cramped. As soon as the Urgent Actions began to arrive the authorities immediately offered to transfer me to a cell where I would be held alone.”

Nepal: Gagan Thapa appeared before the Special Court in Kathmandu in August 2005, where he was charged with sedition before being released pending trial. He told trial observers that such international attention had been instrumental in ensuring his safety. “If the international community had not been present at the right moment, the action taken against me would have been even more serious… As soon as the international pressure started, the police changed their tone.” Gagan Thapa, a student leader and former Secretary General of the Nepal Students Union (NSU), was detained by police in Kathmandu on July 27, 2005. He chose to stay with the other prisoners so as not to appear privileged.

Prisoner of Conscience Professor Yury Bandazhevsky Is Free!


Yury Bandazhevsky
Yury Bandazhevsky. © IREX/ProMedia.

“I would like to send a huge thank you to all Amnesty International members across the world whose support I could feel. The work of Amnesty International is very useful.” Yury Bandazhevsky, August 10, 2005

Belarus: Amnesty International USA welcomes the good news that Yury Bandazhevsky, a prisoner of conscience and one of AIUSA’s Special Focus Cases, was conditionally released on August 5, 2005. A well-respected scientist, Professor Bandazhevsky had clashed with the Belarusian government over his work on the health impact of the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 on the people of Belarus. He served four years of an eight-year sentence on fabricated criminal charges before his release.

Amnesty International activists around the world had called for Prof. Bandazhevsky’s release, and AIUSA had campaigned intensively on his behalf through its Special Focus Case project. Since 2004, more than 400 Amnesty student groups in the Northeast have championed his case, and people from across the U.S have sent more than 6,300 actions on his behalf via AIUSA’s Online Action Center. Prof. Bandazhevsky’s case was featured in AIUSA’s annual Holiday Card Action, in its Urgent Action Network, and its Freedom Writers Network. Through AIUSA’s Music for Human Rights program, the rock band The Cure promoted action on behalf of Prof. Bandazhevsky during their concerts and via their website. Read more. »

Human Rights Defenders Receive Protection, Thank Urgent Action Activists


Eren Keskin
Dogan Genc, Eren Keskin and Saban Dayanan (front row, l-r) with other IHD members at a press conference about the threats they received (c. Private)

Saban Dayanan sent a message to members of the UA network: “We are indebted to all those who thought of us and sent urgent action appeals. We need such solidarity. The reactions to these appeals will prevent these attacks. We believe this from our hearts. We send warm greetings to all those who showed concern for our security.”

Turkey: Three members of the Insan Haklari Dernegi (IHD), Human Rights Association, Eren Keskin, Saban Dayanan and Dogan Genc have not received any further death threats following the threatening letters sent to their home and work addresses on April 19, 2005, by an ultra-nationalist group. The Turkish authorities have informed Amnesty International that the Ministry of the Interior is investigating the threats against three human rights defenders and that they have warned all the provincial governors in Turkey to take “the necessary security precautions” to protect the branches of IHD and other non-governmental organizations in case of possible attacks.

Released Guantanamo Bay detainee thanks AI


Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg c. Marie-Anne Ventoura

Moazzam Begg told delegates to Amnesty International’s 2005 Annual General Meeting in the United Kingdom that when it came to campaigning, “I think you’re the best people to do it.”

: A dual citizen of the UK and Pakistan, Moazzam Begg was one of the first foeign nationals to be detained by the US after September 11, 2001. He was held without charge or trial until his release in January of 2005. Urgent Action # UA 199/03 was issued on his (and other’s) behalf on July 8, 2003 and re-issued several times.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Amnesty Internaitonal . . “


Abdullah Webster
Abdullah Webster with his baby in 2004 c. AI 2004

“I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Amnesty International for their prayers and support. Your support really helped me during my time at Mannheim and Fort Lewis. I received many letters from all around the world – To those whose letters were returned without my knowledge, I offer my thanks and I am touched that you took the time to encourage me throughout the past 11 months. We are taught to train soldiers to be Mentally, Physically, and Spiritually prepared for war – I was not mentally or spiritually prepared to partake in an unjust war. My faith forbids me from participating in an unjust war which will result in the taking of innocent life, non-Muslim or Muslim. I truly believe that I would have been held accountable before Allah (God) if I had gone, knowing the war to be unjust. It was not an easy decision, nor one taken lightly, to refuse to go to Iraq.”

: Conscientious objector Abdullah Webster was released from prison on April 30, 2005, after serving 11 months of a 14-month sentence for refusing to participate in the war in Iraq on the basis of his religious and moral beliefs.

Human Rights Defender Thanks Activists


Saleh Mahmud Osman
Saleh Mahmud Osman with UA

“I would like to express my gratitude that the support you extended to me was the reason for my release from detention. I think they [the authorities] are now very much aware that there are people like you who care about us, human rights lawyers and activists who are… victims of violations in Darfur. I think in itself it is a deterrent to further harassment. It is very important to tell you that all these reports are read by the government and by the authorities there. Maybe it takes some time but at the end I’m sure the government will never turn a deaf ear or blind eye to your reports.”

Sudan: Sudan: Lawyer and human rights defender Saleh Mahmud Osman visited AI UK in London in April 2005. He discussed his work for the Amal Center in Nyala, in the Darfur region, where he provides legal aid for the victims of human rights abuses. The center also provides medical treatment and rehabilitation for survivors of torture. Saleh Mahmud Osman was detained in connection with his work on February 1, 2004, and spent seven months in detention before being released on September 4, 2004.

Ignatius Mahendra Wardhana and Yoyok Eko Widodo

Indonesia: Ignatius Mahendra Wardhana and Yoyok Eko Widodo were released on August 17 and July 26, 2005, respectively. Both young men had been sentenced for insulting the President and Vice-President in 2003 for their role in a demonstration protesting government policies. Ignatius Mahendra Wardhana and Yoyok Eko Widodo’s case featured in AIUSA’s Holiday Action special focus cases in 2004.

Grassroots events held around the country

USA: Denounce Torture activists from around the United States held more than 50 events in commemoration of June 26th, the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. From Miami, FL to Olympia, WA, from Tuscan, AZ to Owensboro, KY the day was truly inspiring. Actions ranged from flashlight vigils, to concerts against torture and demonstrations in community plazas. Thousands of signatures were collected on Amnesty International’s “Statement Against Torture” and the media covered many events. Congratulations to all who helped make June 26th activities a success. Lets keep the momentum up!

U.S. Military Assistance to Nepal Halted


Military Assitance to Nepal
A Nepalese woman leads her child past riot police on stand-by in Kathmandu.
(© AFP)

Nepal: With over 10,000 emails to Secretary of State Rice and a very successful rally at the State Department, Amnesty International USA activists have succeeded in halting lethal military assistance to the government of Nepal! The U.S. decision was confirmed when it became public last week that the U.S. had suspended a scheduled shipment of M-16 rifles to Nepal, where over 12,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 1996.

Former Chair of Amnesty International Nepal Released from Prison


Krishna Pahadi
Krishna Pahadi.

“I want to give special thanks to everyone at Amnesty International,” he said in a phone call to AI staff. “I wrote many letters for prisoners of conscience [in the past], but now I realize how important it is.” In an email on July 17 he wrote: ” . . . Later I heard that Ai USA alone sent 37400 letters to different authorities of Nepal. Such pressure created [a] different environment and the present regime of Nepal could not [be]sustained , thats why I am taking fresh breath out side prison now.”

Nepal: Five months of intense action by Amnesty International activists paid off on July 4 when veteran human rights defender Krishna Pahadi, founding chairman of Nepal’s Human Rights and Peace Society, and former chair of AI Nepal, was set free from the Nepali prison where he had been held since February 9. As he was released, a police official gave him a box of more than 200 letters and postcards sent by AI supporters around the world, and told him that hundreds more had been received at the detention center. AIUSA activists alone sent over 37,400 appeals on his behalf! Krisha Pahadi’s case has been a major focus of AIUSA’s work and is a great victory!

Lim Taehoon has been released!


Lim Taehoon
Lim Taehoon at a demonstration. He applied make-up and wore a women’s dress as a form of protest.
© Private

South Korea: Lim Taehoon (28), a South Korean gay rights activist was arrested on February 26, 2004 for refusing to serve mandatory military service. Lim refused conscription because of his beliefs in non-violence and peace, and on grounds that the South Korean military discriminates against gay, bisexual and transgender people.

International Arms Trade Treaty



“I support the… launch of an international treaty on arms transfers, especially on small arms and light weapons. Because their circulation increases violence and ferments conflicts on continents.”
– French President Jacques Chirac

France, Germany, Ghana, Norway, Senegal: French President Jacques Chirac issued his government’s support for an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) during a speech on 20 June. This is an important victory for the campaign as France is a major arms exporter. Following the French announcement, the governments of Norway and Germany also issued strong support for the ATT. This followed similar statements from Ghana and Senegal issued over the last few weeks. Learn more about international arms trade.

Congress blocks the outsourcing of torture

USA: In June, Congress banned the government from using any money in a newly passed State Department and Defense Department spending bills to render someone to a country where they will likely be tortured or to subject any person in US custody to torture. The amendments to HR 2863, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, and HR 2862, Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, were proposed by Congressman Markey (MA) and passed the House with overwhelming majority support. The inclusion of these provisions would not have been possible without thousands of Amnesty International activists and others advocating for the US government to end any acts of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and hold those accountable in the military and civilian chains of command who have had involvement in the formulation or carrying out of such policies. Read more. »

New York State legislative committee defeats death penalty


© AI

: AIUSA was among the activist groups working to prevent Governor Pataki and the State Senate from “fixing” a fundamentally and constitutionally flawed statute. With the vote in the Assembly Codes Committee, the death penalty has, at least for now, been eliminated in New York State. Read the statement by William F. Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA.

Rebiya Kadeer – Special Focus Case


Rebiya Kadeer
Rebiya greeted with flowers (© AI)

“We are beyond happy. We have waited for this moment for five and a half years and want to thank everyone who worked toward this joyful day.”
– Akida Rouzi, one of Rebiya Kadeer’s daughters

China: Amnesty International is happy to report that Rebiya Kadeer was released from prison on March 17. Rebiya Kadeer is a successful businesswoman who was jailed for her efforts to publicize discrimination and human rights violations against China’s Uighur minority. Read more »

Bangladeshi journalist appreciates AI’s support.


Sumi Khan
Sumi Khan c. AI

“The support of AI is a big support to us to carry on this job . . to establish what criminals are doing. The peaceful way is the only way we can stop them. What we are doing is too tough without the cooperation of Amnesty International”. She thanked all those who wrote letters on her behalf for inspiring her and other human rights defenders to carry on, saying, “Please carry on and don’t give up. All over the world you have friends in people like us! ”

Bangladesh: On March 8, 2005, Bangladeshi journalist Sumi Khan visited AI’s United Kingdom section to talk about her experiences as a campaigning journalist and human rights defender. Soon after her return to Bangladesh, she received a written death threat, purportedly from local Islamist groups, saying that her home and office would be attacked with grenades if she reported on their activities again. Sumi Khan has worked to expose those responsible for crimes such as child- and arms-trafficking in her role as a reporter for the magazine Weekly 2000 in the port city of Chittagong in southern Bangladesh. April 2004, as she was on the way to the courier office to send a report to her editor, a three-wheeled taxi pulled up and three men got out and began to beat her and stab her hands and face. Though Sumi fought back, she was beaten unconscious. Her attackers shouted at her that she would be killed if she continued writing. They deliberately harmed her hands so that she would not be able to write.

Wangari Maathai, previous Urgent Action case, is awarded Nobel Peace Prize!


Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai (c. AFP)

She recently stated to Amnesty International members: “I count the number of times you have saved my life and made our work possible.”

Kenya: A leader of Kenya’s Greenbelt Movement, Wangari Maathai was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Urgent Action Network members took action on her behalf on five separate occasions.

Supreme Court Outlaws Juvenile Executions


© AI

“Today, the Court repudiated the misguided idea that the United States can pledge to leave no child behind while simultaneously exiling children to the death chamber. Now, the US can proudly remove its name from the embarrassing list of human rights violators that includes China, Iran, and Pakistan — nations that still execute juvenile offenders. It can take pride in knowing that it is now in the company of the honorable nations that abandoned this antiquated practice years ago.”
– Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

USA: With its March 1st decision in Roper v. Simmons, the U.S. Supreme Court removed the U.S. from the list of nations that execute juvenile offenders and ensured that evolving standards of decency are recognized, allowing the United States to join the rest of the international community.

Conscientious Objector Freed


Camilo Mejia Castillo
Camilo Mejia Castillo

“I want to thank all the people and all the organizations who have supported my family and me throughout this most difficult time in our lives. I am now free from prison, but it was because of all of you that I remained a free man during my incarceration. I was not able to read all the mail that was sent, in part because prison rules did not allow it, and in part because I received thousands upon thousands of letters from all over the world. In time I will read all of them, and I will answer as many as I can. From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of my family, my attorneys, and myself, thank you all”.
– Camilo Mejia

: Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia Castillo, who had been imprisoned on charges of ‘desertion’ from the US Army, was released from prison on 15 February, three months before the end of his one-year sentence. He is a conscientious objector who cited his moral objections to the conduct of US troops towards Iraqi civilians and prisoners and questioned the legality of the war in his conscientious objector application.

Prisoner of Conscience, Camilo Mejía Castillo, released!

“I want to thank all the people and all the organizations who have supported my family and me throughout this most difficult time in our lives. I am now free from prison, but it was because of all of you that I remained a free man during my incarceration. I was not able to read all the mail that was sent, in part because prison rules did not allow it, and in part because I received thousands upon thousands of letters from all over the world. In time I will read all of them, and I will answer as many as I can. From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of my family, my attorneys, and myself, thank you all.”

USA: Camilo Mejía Castillo, a U.S. National Guardsman jailed for refusing to return to service in Iraq for reasons of conscience, was released from prison on February 15, 2005, before the completion of his one-year sentence. Castillo’s case formed part of AIUSA’s holiday action focus cases in 2004.

Father Ly – Special Focus Case


Father Ly
© Private

Viet Nam: Amnesty International is happy to report that Father Ly was released from prison on February 1, 2005, as part of a general amnesty to mark Tet, the Lunar New Year. More than 8,000 prisoners were reportedly included in the amnesty, although few political prisoners benefited from it. In addition to Father Ly, Amnesty International has confirmed the release of three other prisoners of conscience — Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Thich Thien Minh, and Nguyen Dinh Huy. Each of these men had been the subject of action by AIUSA.

Illinois passes anti-discrimination Law


USA: On January 11, 2005, Illinois became the 15th US state to amend its state human rights statute to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. Thanks to all OUTfront supporters who took part in this action.

ZIMBABWE – Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA)

“I am alive today because the international community, through Amnesty International, through the media, have heard about our work. Amnesty International helped us to amplify our voice, and they gave us incredible protection. When we’re there in the police cells, and we know that someone has got the message saying we’re arrested, we know that something is happening.”

Zimbabwe: Jenni Williams’ case was one of the focus cases for Amnesty International 2004 Holiday Action.

Rehab Abdel Bagi Mohamed Ali


Rehab Abdel Bagi Mohamed Ali
Rehab holding an Urgent Action appeal letter (© Private)

Sudan: Amnesty International has learned that Rehab Abdel Bagi Mohamed Ali, aged 30, was released from prison in Sudan on 24 September. Appeals sent by Amnesty International members are said to have been instrumental in securing her release.

“I can tell you that these letters work”.


Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar Ibrahim told Amnesty International staff that he first knew about the appeals sent on his behalf by the Urgent Action network from his wife and children: they were not allowed to bring any notes or writing materials to their monthly meetings, but each memorised different sections of the UA. Speaking about the appeals’ effect on the authorities, he said, “Write more and you’ll affect them more. From my experience in government and in prison I can tell you that these letters work”.

Malaysia: Thanks to all who joined AI in calling for the release of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. He was freed on September 2, 2004. Ibrahim had been arrested after policy disagreements with then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. He was charged with “abuse of power” and sodomy.
Learn More »

The Blue Diamond Society


Nepalese transgender community protests the arrest of 39 members of the Blue Diamond Society
(© AFP)

Nepal: The 39 metis (male transvestites) arrested in Kathmandu on 9 August were released on bail on 20 August. The Blue Diamond Society, a local organization which campaigns for the rights of sexual minorities, has sent its “sincere and grateful thanks” for the work done on behalf of the 39, all of whom are members of the Society. They were arrested on the street and in bars and nightclubs. All were apparently told that they were being taken to a meeting, and to an identity parade to pick out the man who had attacked another meti on 7 August. All 39 were reportedly kept together in a very small and overcrowded cell. Police are alleged to have beaten two of the men severely, and verbally abused all of them, saying that acid should be thrown in their faces and they did not deserve to live. Many of the 39 are illiterate, and were reportedly forced to sign statements they could not read, while others, who could read, were not allowed to see the documents they signed.

“We will win in a prosperous world.”


Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam
Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam

“Thanks for the support you gave me and all the needy people. I have been inspired by the support you and all human rights defenders gave. It is your support and solidarity that kept my high spirit and determination to keep on the struggle for the freedom and rights of my people … Your Solidarity and support explicitly strengthened my belonging to the community of good spirited people. Thanks again and I will remain honest, faithful and determined as an impartial human rights defender as long as I exist in this life. Keep up and cheer up, we will win a prosperous world.” – Dr. Mudawi in an email to Amnesty International the day following his release.

Sudan: All charges against human rights activist Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, director of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), were dropped on August 7, 2004, and he was released. Dr. Mudawi was arrested in December 2003 after he visited Darfur in the course of his work for SUDO and charged with crimes against the state that carried the death penalty.

Activist Imran Ezhiev Continues Work, Even After Multiple Arrests and Torture


Imran Ezhiev
Imran Ezhiev with a copy of AI’s ‘Fair Trials Manual’. (c) AI

“They tortured me with electric shocks, they pulled out my teeth and fingernails, but they did not dare to kill me. Without Amnesty International’s Urgent Actions I would not be alive today.”

Russian Federation: Imran Ezhiev, head of the regional department of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society for Ingushetia and Chechnya and a regional coordinator of the Moscow Helsinki Group, has been detained more than a dozen times in the course of the last five years. But he has not stopped his human rights work. In September 2000, he was detained by police for a week, and has stated he was tortured and threatened with “disappearance.”

Vietnamese Buddhist monk takes a breath of freedom


Thich Tri Luc
Thich Tri Luc heads a procession of monks as they set off for a demonstration and hunger strike preceding Thich Don Hau’s funeral in April 1992. (c. IBB)

“For the first time in over a decade, I have taken my first sweet breaths of freedom and democracy.”
– Thich Tri Luc, Buddhist dissident and former prisoner of conscience

Cambodia, Viet Nam: Prisoner of conscience Thich Tri Luc has been resettled in Sweden. He has expressed thanks “from the bottom of my heart… to [those to] whom I owe my freedom.”

Thich Tri Luc, a former Buddhist monk and member of the non state-sanctioned Unified Buddhist Church of Viet Nam (UBCV), fled from Viet Nam to Cambodia to seek asylum after suffering years of persecution by the Vietnamese authorities. He was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International on two previous occasions before he left Viet Nam in early 2002, and in between periods spent in prison was subjected to house arrest, harassment, short term detention, and deprivation of basic rights by the authorities because of his membership of the UBCV and his peaceful religious activities.

Thich Tri Luc’s case was considered of vital importance and emblematic for AI campaigning and advocacy because of its focus on serious human rights violations in both Viet Nam and Cambodia: religious persecution in Viet Nam and Cambodia’s failure to honor its commitments under the Refugee Convention.

Khalmurad Gylychdurdyev returned to his family.

“I think they released me because you got involved in the case and, maybe, because they just couldn’t find anything criminal in what I have done.” – Khalmurad Gylychdurdyev told Amnesty International on July 1, 2004.

Turkmenistan: Khalmurad Gylychdurdyev was returned to his family by officers of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) on June 26, 2004. He said that Amnesty International’s involvement had helped secure his release. Mr Gylychdurdyev had been taken away by three men in a car on the morning of June 23 during a visit to the eye hospital in the capital, Ashgabat. During interrogation, while in detention, he was pressured to stop giving interviews on Radio Liberty – a US station that frequently broadcasts programs critical of Turkmenistan’s government policies.

Environmental activists more determined now to continue work.


Isidro Baldenegro
Isidro Baldenegro

Mexico: Isidro Baldenegro and Hermenegildo Domingo Rivas, two environmental activists and human rights defenders, were released on June 23, 2004 after all charges against them were dropped. Both men are members of the indigenous Raramuris community of Coloradas de la Virgen, in Chihuahua State, where they had been among the leaders of their community’s struggle against unregulated logging in the region. In retaliation for their work, officers of the state judicial police detained them in March 2003, and charged them with illegal possession of firearms. Isidro Baldenegro was also charged with possession of marijuana. National and international pressure was vital in securing this action by the authorities. Isidro Baldenegro told the newspaper La Jornada that he was “now even more determined [to carry on his work in defense of the environment], because this experience has shown us that there are people who are prepared to help us.”

Ingushetia relatives grateful to Urgent Action letter-writers

Russian Federation: All 36 Chechen men detained in Altievo, Ingushetia during a police and army raid on June 23, 2004, were released, according to the human rights organization, Memorial. A representative from Memorial said that they very much appreciated the work of the Urgent Action Network, which is thought to have contributed to the men’s release. Many female relatives of the detainees asked Memorial to convey their thanks to those who campaigned for the release of their loved ones.

Tiananmen Square activist thanks UA activists


Wang Dan
Wang Dan (c. AI)

“It Works!” – Wang Dan, when asked about the Urgent Action Network.

China: Student leader Wang Dan, jailed for his part in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, spoke at Amnesty International’s headquarters on June 18, 2004. Because of Urgent Action appeals, he said, he was treated much better than other prisoners. He asked AI staff members to thank the Urgent Action Network, and encourage them in their work on behalf of those in prison now.

Journalist Ruslan Sharipov has been moved from prison to house arrest


Ruslan Sharipov
© Private

Uzbekistan: On 13 March he was reportedly transferred to a detention centre in Tashkent region best described as an “open” prison (koloniya-poseleniye, a “penal colony settlement”). He has reportedly been allowed to live with a relative, who lives close by, so he is effectively under house arrest. He has to report daily to the prison authorities and must not undertake any public activities such as attending meetings or writing articles for publication. If he breaks these conditions he could be sent back to a stricter regime penal colony to serve the remainder of his sentence. Under a December 2003 presidential amnesty his sentence was reduced to three years, one month and 17 days. According to at least one official statement from the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs he could qualify for early release after he has served a third of his sentence, which would be on 11 June 2004.

Leyla Zana – Special Focus Case


Leyla Zana
© Private

Turkey: Leyla Zana and three other parliamentarians were released from prison on June 9, 2004 by order of a Turkish appeals court. Amnesty International USA championed Leyla Zana’s case through the Casework Program’s Special Focus Case project. More than 400 AIUSA groups in the Northeast Region, and many others around the country, have campaigned intensively for the release of Zana and her colleagues. » Read more

The Threat of an Urgent Action

Russian Federation: This message is from a member of the Urgent Action Team at Amnesty’s International Secretariat in London:

“I wanted to share the success story of an Urgent Action that was drafted and edited today, but was not issued. The Russia Team sent us a draft Urgent Action about a prisoner, Stanislav Ryabchikov, who was being held in a punishment cell in poor conditions at a detention facility in Moscow, where he was being denied medical treatment for tuberculosis. The team had heard about the case from a Russian NGO, and was concerned for the man’s health and well-being. Just as we were about to send out a Urgent Action on his behalf, the Russia Team heard that he had been released from the punishment cell, and was back in a specialist wing of the prison for tuberculosis sufferers.

“The team told us that they felt the Urgent Action may have been a factor in his release, as both the team at the IS and the NGO in Russia had telephoned the detention facility a number of times to check the fax numbers we were including in the Urgent Action. They think that this made the authorities aware that the international spotlight was about to be turned upon them, so they took action before this happened!

“There is no news on the state of Stanislav Ryabchikov’s health, and further action by Amnesty International may be needed on his case in the future, but it’s great to be reminded of the power of Urgent Actions!”

“I Will Carry On…”


Dr. Elma Novais
Dr. Elma Novais (© AI)

“Thank you from my heart, I received your letters, a gesture of comfort and humanity, uniting strength to try and save our lives. The struggle has been difficult since I denounced the murderers of my son. We have suffered a lot of hardship and aggression, and have all been the target of much violence and threats. But thanks to the support of each one of you, I will carry on, in order that justice may be done, and that other children will not be killed and that such crimes will not go unpunished.”

– Dr. Elma Novais, to members of AI’s Urgent Action Network.

Brazil: In January 2003, Urgent Action letter-writers sent thousands of appeals to Brazilian officials on behalf of Dr. Elma Novais and her children Jefferson and Roxana, following a campaign of threats and intimidation against them. This campaign appeared to be designed to intimidate Dr. Novais, who had been working tirelessly to bring to justice those responsible for killing her son, Josenildo Joao de Freitas Junior. He was shot dead in Caruaru, Pernambuco, in 1999 by a group of men who witnesses described as military policemen, and who were believed to be members of a death squad. After the Urgent Action was issued, Dr. Novais’ protection was switched from 12- to 24-hour.

Sister thanks Urgent Action activists for helping brother.


Dilobar Khudoberganova
Dilobar Khudoberganova
(c. AI)

“I am convinced that it is entirely due to the Urgent Action that my brother is still alive.” – Dilobar Khudoberganova, who visited the Urgent Action staff at Amnesty’s International Secretariat in 2004.

Uzbekistan: Dilobar Khudoberganova is the sister of Iskander Khudoberganov, a man who has been the subject of numerous Urgent Actions. In 2002, Iskandar Khudoberganov was sentenced to death on charges that included religious extremism and serious anti-state crimes. Iskander Khudoberganov’s mother, Matlyuba Khudoberganova, told AI that when she saw her son for the first time in the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB), he told her: “They tortured me to force me to confess to all the charges they have come up with. If I hadn’t signed the confession in the end, I wouldn’t be alive anymore. Everything inside me feels smashed.”

Cambodian refugee expresses gratitude to letter-writers


Sok Yoeun
Sok Yoeun

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Amnesty International for its constant efforts for my release from prison and to send my respect and the expression of my highest consideration to all your collaborators devoted in their difficult tasks of helping the whole world.” – Sok Yoeun addressing the Annual General Meeting of AI Finland in Helsinki on 27 March 2004.

Thailand: Cambodian authorities accused Sok Yoeun, a member of a Cambodian opposition party, of being responsible for a 1999 rocket attack, which Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed was aimed at him. This allegation was widely believed to be unfounded but he was kepting in detention for five years in Thailand (where he had escaped to) and Amnesty International found Sok Yoeun to be a prisoner of conscience, campaigning for him several ways including several different Urgent Actions issued during 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. Sok Yoeun, a Cambodian national, was finally reunited with his family in Helsinki, Finland on 27 February 2004, one day after being released from a Thai prison in Bangkok.

Letters Help Prevent Amputation of 16 Year Old

Sudan: The sentence of cross amputation passed on 16-year-old Mohamed Hassan Hamdan, member of the Ja’afra ethnic group (an Arab group in South Darfur), was quashed in December 2003 by the Appeal Court in Nyala, South Darfur State, on the grounds that the accused was a child. The sentence was commuted to a year of imprisonment in a reformatory. Mohamed Hassan Hamdan has now been sent to a reformatory in Khartoum. External pressure from the UA Network was reportedly one factor that led authorities to reconsider the sentence.

Wissam Tawfiq Abyad


Wissam Tawfiq Abyad
© David Rendell

Egypt: Wissam Tawfiq Abyad, a Prisoner of Conscience, was released on January 15, 2004. Wissam was arrested, detained and charged with “habitual debauchery” after he went to meet a contact he made at a gay website. Wissam’s private conversations with the man over the Internet were used as evidence against him.

Tunisian Prisoner of Conscience Released


Zouheir Yahiaoui
Former prisoner of conscience Zouheir Yahiaoui

“I thank everybody for what they have done for me. I like what Amnesty International does. There are so many prisoners who suffer in Tunisian prisons. The work of Amnesty International’s members is good and it is important.”

Tunisia: Following a relentless national and international campaign, Tunisian prisoner of conscience Zouheir Yahiaoui was conditionally released from prison on November 18, 2003. When he returned home, he found out from his family and through the internet that he had received immense international support.

Prisoner of conscience Zouheir Yahiaoui had been on hunger strike in protest at his continued detention. He is the former operator of TUNeZINE, an independent Internet website. He was arrested on June 4, 2002 in Ben Arous in the outskirts of Tunis and taken to the Ministry of the Interior, where he was allegedly tortured by security officers. He was convicted on charges of “spreading false information” and “misuse of telecommunication lines” and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in July 2002.

Sanar Yurdatapan


Sanar Yurdatapan
© Private

Dear AI members, dear ‘Urgent Actors and Actresses’: It was your beautiful letters and cards that caused [my release]… I want to thank you one by one for your great support and solidarity. I received almost 150 letters or cards from many places, from Austria to Australia, from New York to Hong Kong. Your beautiful words brought the sunshine into the prison hall and brightened the hearts of all the prisoners, not just mine… I hope that hearing this feedback will give you strength to carry on your efforts, which have such great value for prisoners, who need hope more than anything else.

Turkey: Sanar Yurdatapan, a leading composer and performer of contemporary music, had been the subject of an Urgent Action when he was arrested and held incommunicado for a time in Metris Prison in Istanbul.

“Amnesty International has helped me so many times.”


Hassan Bility
Hasan Bility c. AI

“I must thank Amnesty International for all the efforts they exerted to secure my release. I feel really indebted to Amnesty International, and words are inadequate for me to express my gratitude. But I know that Amnesty International has [helped me] so many, many times. You are indeed a great rights advocacy group. Thank you so much.”

Liberia: Hassan Bility, a journalist with The Analyst newspaper in Liberia, was held incommunicado and without charge or trial following his arrest on June 24, 2002. He was accused of supporting the armed opposition Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The authorities initially threatened to try him under military jurisdiction. He was tortured, denied access to defense lawyers and not brought before any court, despite several writs of habeas corpus submitted on his behalf.

Following months of national and international pressure, Hassan Bility was finally released by the Liberian government and handed over to the United States embassy officials on December 7. He was flown out of the country to Ghana and then on to the United States.

Zaki Sayid Zaki ‘Abd al-Malak has been released!


Zaki Sayid Zaki 'Abd al-Malak
© Private

Egypt: We have learnt that the release of Zaki Sayid Zaki ‘Abd al-Malak (featured in Worldwide Appeal – The Wire, April 2003) has been ordered after he completed three-quarters of his sentence in April. As you may remember, Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience on the basis that he was imprisoned solely on the grounds of his actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Algerian Medical Doctor is Acquitted and Released

Algeria: Doctor and human rights defender Salaheddine Sidhoum was acquitted on October 16, 2003, in a retrial of his earlier conviction in absentia. His original conviction had resulted in a sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment. He went home and celebrated his acquittal and release with family and friends. An Amnesty International staff member who works on the Algeria team at the IS was able to speak with Salaheddine on the day he left Serkadji prison. He warmly thanked Amnesty International for the campaign that was launched in his support, which he said had given him a lot of strength. He also expressed his determination to continue his work for human rights in Algeria in order to contribute to establishing the truth about all the crimes that have been committed in his country.

Five Political Leaders in Gabon Thank AI Members

Gabon: Hughes Bessacque, Brice Obanda, Gervais Amogo, Abdul Allogo Mintsa, and Pascal Nkoulou, five members of the Gabonese opposition party Bongo Doit Partir (BDP), Bongo Must Go (or BDP-Gabon Nouveau), were released on October 1, 2003, after three months of detention. They have been reunited with their families and are generally in good health, although they did suffer some health problems during their imprisonment. They had been charged with threatening state security and insulting the head of state. Most, if not all, of them were released without charge. In a press release BDP-Gabon Nouveau’s leader thanked members of Amnesty International and others for having put pressure on the government, as this was a factor in their release.

Turkish human rights defender thanks activists for effective work


Sevim Yetkiner
Sevim Yetkiner, human rights defender

Turkey: Sevim Yetkiner, chair of the Mus branch of the Human Rights Association was released from Erzurum prison in eastern Turkey on August 6, 2003. Sevim Yetkiner was imprisoned in Mus province, southeast Turkey, on July 17, 2003 after attending the funeral of a member of the illegal armed group the Kurdistan Worker?s Party. She told Amnesty International, “The 21 days that I spent in prison reinforced my commitment in the struggle for human rights. This is a struggle that everyone in society should join”. She is convinced that appeals from UA network had a huge impact on her treatment in the prison; she noticed a positive difference in her conditions and the attitude of the prison administration towards her. She also attributes her swift release to the pressure of the Amnesty International?s campaigning. She thanked the organization warmly and said, “The appeals sent by AI members are effective and important — I have seen first-hand how important they are”.

Letters offer support and protection to family of murdered daughter


Natalia Melman
Natalia Melman was murdered in Argentina in February 2001.

May 8, 2003 From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank you for the network of solidarity that you created for Nati, our daughter. It has been very important for us. When our spirits weaken, when the pain of the passing of time pierces us, where our daughter does not come back, when her cries for help sound most strongly in our minds, when we seem to see the torture carried out on her, when the authorities of our country try to forget the punishment for all those who took part in the murder of our child…, the arrival of your LETTERS put us back on our feet again. We ask you to accompany us with your action until all these evil people are prosecuted and sentenced. We would like to send you a big hug and emphasize that with you and other organizations which fight for human rights we will achieve that dreamed-of world of JUSTICE AND PEACE, of equal opportunities for all. THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH. WITH ALL OUR LOVE. -THE MELMANN FAMILY

Argentina: Gustavo Melmann, members of his family and family friends were subjected to harassment and intimidation following the conviction of three policemen for the murder of Gustavo and Laura Melmann’s daughter Natalia. They are continuing their legal struggle for justice, but have not received any new death threats. Gustavo Melmann has sent this message of thanks to all those who sent appeals.

Letters bring release and happiness to Congolese prisoner of conscience


N'sii Luanda Shandwe
N’sii Luanda Shandwe

“Perhaps they can’t quite imagine how much courage, moral comfort, protection and happiness their actions gave me,” he wrote. “I will remain forever grateful…”. – portions of a letter written after his release, in which N’sii Luanda Shandwe thanked Amnesty International members throughout the world for the support they had given him during his detention.

Congo (Dem. Rep. of): N’sii Luanda Shandwe was released January 26, 2003, having spent nine months in prison. He was detained as a result of his human rights activism, but was never formally charged with a criminal offence. His release appears to have been a measure of presidential grace, announced on the second anniversary of President Joseph Kabila’s accession to power.

N’sii Luanda Shandwe


N'sii Luanda Shandwe
© Private

“Perhaps they can’t quite imagine how much courage, moral comfort, protection and happiness their actions gave me… I will remain forever grateful.”

Congo (Dem. Rep. of): N’sii Luanda Shandwe was detained as a result of his human rights activism, but was never formally charged with a criminal offence. He was released January 26, 2003, having spent nine months in prison.

Hassan Bility


Hassan Bility
© Private

“It is with joy that I send you this first message after about six months in jail under the repressive Taylor regime in Monrovia. I must thank Amnesty International for all the efforts they exerted to secure my release. I feel really indebted to Amnesty International, and words are inadequate for me to express my gratitude. But I know that Amnesty International has [helped me] so many, many times. You are indeed a great rights advocacy group. Thank you so much.”

Liberia: Hassan Bility, a journalist with The Analyst newspaper, was held incommunicado and without charge or trial following his arrest on June 24, 2002. He was accused of supporting the armed opposition Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The authorities initially threatened to try him under military jurisdiction. He was tortured, denied access to defense lawyers and not brought before any court, despite several writs of habeas corpus submitted on his behalf. Following months of national and international pressure, Hassan Bility was finally released by the Liberian government and handed over to the United States embassy officials on December 7. He was flown out of the country to Ghana and then on to the United States.

Zouhayer Makhlouf


Zouhayer Makhlouf
Zouhayer Makhlouf holding copies of the Urgent Actions issued on his behalf. (© Private)

Tunisia: The authorities arrested Zouhayer Makhlouf on September 4, 2002. He was detained at the Ministry of Interior in the capital Tunis and questioned by the State Security Department after being arrested without warrant and held in incommunicado detention for four days. Both men were released without charge on 8 February; two days after the initial UA had been issued.

Urgent Action letters save lives!

“I have boxes and boxes of appeals sent on our behalf by Urgent Action letter-writers. I have no doubt those letters saved our lives.” Yolima Quintero added, “Urgent Actions are a powerful way to hold our government accountable. Your support is the oxygen that keeps us going.”

Colombia: Urgent Action appeals helped to protect Colombian human rights defenders Astrid Manrique and Yolima Quintero after they received death threats.

Honduran human rights defender thanks Urgent Action activists.


Coronado Avila
Coronado Avila M.

“Dear friends of Amnesty International who work side by side with those men and women fighting for justice and human rights all around the world:

Let me tell you from the bottom of my heart how grateful I am to all of you who work in such a prestigious organization as Amnesty International which fights for the respect of life and of the universal rights of societies around the world. I would also like to take this opportunity to tell … everyone at Amnesty International that thanks to your support on March 3 2000, when I was being persecuted and my life was under threat, I am still alive today. I will never forget the people who supported me and my organization, Coordinating Body of Popular Organizations of the Aguan…

Finally, I would like to urge you not to become discouraged in your work to help men and women who raise their voices in protest to support their people. Friends, it is people like you who are the most beautiful thing in this world, and I ask God to give you a long life, more wisdom and a heart full of love and solidarity towards the world. . .” Coronado Avila M.

Honduras: Along with two other grassroots leaders in Honduras, Coronado Avila had been receiving death threats – allegedly from armed groups with links to the authorities – for his work defending the land rights of peasant farmers, protecting the environment, and promoting participation in elections. An Urgent Action was issued on their behalf.

Turkish Prisoner of Conscience thanks Urgent Action Activists


Eren Keskin
Eren Keskin

“I got letters from various parts of the world, many different places. They not only sent me messages of support, but also copies of the letters they had written to the government here in Turkey. I felt very strongly the support of Amnesty International during my months in prison. Wherever there are women suffering around the world I now feel closer to them after my prison experiences.” – Eren Keskin

Turkey: Eren Keskin, a human rights activist and lawyer, was arrested on June 1, 1995 and sentenced to serve a prison sentence for writing and publishing “separatist propaganda”. Amnesty International considered her a prisoner of conscience and issued Urgent Actions on her behalf.

The authorities now recognize the problem.


Valdênia Aparecida Paulino
The mother of Jose Nunes da Silva, holding the letters sent to her family by UA network members c.AI

“From the moment that Amnesty got involved through an Urgent Action campaign, the authorities realized the problem actually existed, and a case which was on the verge of being closed went to trial. When the Urgent Action letters began to arrive, it was the first time the postal services had entered our favela. Generally speaking, they don’t come in – but because these were letters from other countries, and because there were so many, the postal service went into the favela where the families lived… There are so many positive aspects – because the local people realize that someone knows they exist, there is a spirit of solidarity. The public authorities, which had always ignored them, now recognize their existence.”

Brazil: In May 2000, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on behalf of Valdenia Aparecida Paulino, a Brazilian lawyer who was facing threats and intimidation in her attempts to uncover the truth behind the suspected extrajudicial execution of two men by military police. In the Urgent Action, we also asked for copies of appeals to be sent to the family of one of the men, Jose Nunes da Silva, who lived in one of the favelas (shanty-towns) which surround Sao Paulo. Earlier this year, Valdenia Aparecida Paulino spoke to AI about the impact of the UA.

Death sentences commuted for members of Uzbek pop group


Arsen Arutyunyan and Danis Sirazhev
Danis, left and Arsen, right

The families of the two men thank Urgent Action letter-writers for all their work. Arsen Arutyunyan’s sister writes: “Had it not been for the work of your organization, your approaches to the media, your persistent work, we couldn’t have hoped for a good outcome. When I first turned to you, my whole family and I were desperate and, to tell the truth, didn’t think that anything or anybody could help. But the miracle came true, a miracle worked not by God but by people. My brother Arsen learned of the decision through his lawyer and couldn’t believe it. It took 15 minutes for him to realize that he would stay alive. He kept repeating ‘I’ll live,’ and ‘I’m going to write new songs.'”

Uzbekistan: Two lead singers of Al-Vakil, a well-known Uzbek pop group, Danis Vladimirovich Sirazhev and Arsen Albertovich Arutyunyan, had been in danger of imminent executions, charged with the killing of another singer in Uzbekistan. Both death sentences were later commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Grigory Pasko


Grigory Pasko
Pasko after his release (© Bellona)

Russian Federation: Grigory Pasko, military reporter for Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch), the newspaper of the Russian Pacific Fleet, was released by the Russian Pacific Fleet military court on 20 July 1999, but was not fully acquitted. The military court found that the prosecution had been unable to produce evidence to support the charges of espionage and revealing state secrets (Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code), and dropped these charges against him.

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que


Dr. Nguyen Dan Que
© Private

: Dr Nguyen Dan Que, a medical doctor, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced in 1991 to 20 years’ imprisonment. He was a founding member of the Cao Trao Nhan Ban (High Tide of Humanism Movement), and wrote the organization’s manifesto, which called for democratic change in Viet Nam. On the release from his first imprisonment he became a member of Amnesty International. When he was re-arrested in 1990, one of the charges against him was his membership in the organization. He had previously been detained without trial for 12 years between 1976 and 1988.

“The release of Nguyen Dan Que is a cause for celebration,” Amnesty International said. ?We are hopeful that this is a turning point for human rights in Viet Nam, and invite the Vietnamese authorities to open a dialogue with independent human rights monitors, in order to help bring an end to the detention of prisoners of conscience in the country.?

“I knew I was not alone”


Christine Anyanwu
Christine Anyanwu

“. . . I knew that I was not alone, and held on to the thought till the end. . . I thank the staff and members of Amnesty International worldwide. My special thanks to USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Bermuda, Holland and Italy branches for their overwhelming responses. Thank you Amnesty for going that extra mile to obtain a true picture of what brought about our ordeal, and for your strenuous efforts in sensitizing the world community to our case. . .

I thank all those thousands of people of the world who gave me strength and encouragement through cards and notes. I shall never forget your kindness. Thank you with all my heart.” Chris Anyanwu

Nigeria: Christine Anyanwu, publisher of the Sunday Magazine in Nigeria was detained without charge apparently for publishing articles critical of the govenrment. After an Urgent Action was issued on behalf of her and other jounralists, she was released in June, 1998. After her release, she wrote to thank all those who supported her during her imprisonment

Tunisian human rights lawyer explains importance of Urgent Actions


Radhia Nasraoui
Radhia Nasraoui and her 16 yr old daughter, Nadia Hammami

“When I first got in contact with Amnesty I was a young lawyer at the beginning of my career. It was 1978, the time of the riots . . . I discovered the seriousness with which Amnesty representatives treated the cases they were working on, their quest for truth, . . . I was struck by their independence towards everyone. . . “

“When my husband, Hamma Hammami, was arrested, tortured and sentenced to jail in 1994, I myself experienced the effectiveness of AI’s actions. AI and other NGO’s played a very important role in the improvement of his harsh detention conditions . . . and in his release. I will always remember the moral support AI gave me. . . “In the end I too became the victim of constant harassment. My conviction of AI’s role has been confirmed: it is an absolutely necessary action for the defense of human rights at the international level. Through my own experience, I have come to understand that AI’s intervention on behalf of a victim reminds the authorities that this person is not “forgotten”, that hundreds or even thousands of people worldwide are concerned about the fate of this person. . . . I want to warmly thank all AI members. The pursuit of AI action is vital so that one day all human rights abuses will end.” – Rahia Nasraoui

Tunisia: On the night of February 11, Tunisian security forces ransacked the office of Radhia Nasraoui, a human rights lawyer and mother of two. All the files relating to her clients, legal codes, books and a computer were stolen. Nothing was taken from colleagues sharing the same office. An Urgent Action was issued and updated on her behalf three times in 1998 expressing concern for pattern of harrassment and intimidation against her.

Leith Shubeilat


Leith Shubeilat
© Private

Jordan: Leith Shubeilat had been arrested on 9 December 1995 and been charged with lèse majesté against King Hussein bin Talal after criticizing the King Leith Shubeilat was brought to trial before the State Security Court and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in March 1996. Leith Shubeilat was freed under a special amnesty on 8 November 1996. Amnesty International welcomes his release.

Tibetan tourist guide thanks activists for his release


Gedun Rinchen
Gendun Rinchen, holding his Urgent Action.

“My case is insignificant compared to most people who have been arrested. They have suffered in ways which are unimaginable. I was not tortured and I was released after only a very short time in prison compared to others. I feel that my release was due to international pressure brought about by you and others. Without the support that you gave on my behalf, I think I would not be here today. Please accept my deepest thanks. . .”

Tibet: On May 13, 1993, Tibetan tourist guide, Gedun Rinchen was arrested after security forces raided his home and found documents describing the state of human rights in Tibet. He was held in solitary confinement in Llasa until his surprise release eight months later.

Urgent Action appeals help Palestinian professor


Fathi Subuh
Dr Fathi Subuh

Palestinian Authority: Fathi Subuh, a university professor, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority’s Preventative Security Service (PSS)on July 2, 1997, for what Amnesty International concluded was for setting examination questions seen as critcal of al-Azhar University and the Palestinian Authority. He was released late in 1997 after serious health problems.

AI delegates visited Fathi Subuh and his family in their home in February 1998. He said that sometimes, during his interrogation, he was asked how he knew so-and-so from Sweden or Germany – the writers of the Urgent Action appeal letters. He expressed his deep gratitude to AI members for all their work on his behalf.

3 Responses

  1. its really great to see that! and really a appreciable duties and its suceess by AI.
    The Human rights killers and dictators are bowed down somehow by the people’s power and even they need to be surrended in total.
    its a good message to the people.
    The world’s Veteran Human right defenders and all who remains as a back bone to their contries for the people should be more responsible to make their countries presperous and peaceful.
    and of course we people are on this side.
    New life with new duties Mr. krishna Pahadi !!!!
    keep it up !

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