Put simply, without the support of people like you, we couldn’t achieve the many things we do year in and year out. It’s thanks to your action, your determination and your continuous support that Amnesty can transform the lives of people and communities worldwide. Here’s what so many of you have helped us do so far this year.
WORKING FOR INDIVIDUALS
1. Opposition leaders freed in Gambia
On 30 January, opposition party members Amadou Sanneh, Malang Fatty and his brother Alhagie Sambou Fatty were finally freed in Gambia following more than three years of campaigning by Amnesty supporters. Within two days, Amadou Sanneh was sworn-in as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs in the new Gambian government. The government had been at a stalemate until the previous ruler, Yahya Jammeh, accepted the election results and ceded power in late January. “Amnesty’s work has an impact on people,” Amadou Sanneh later told us. “At the end they really didn’t care about us. Without Amnesty’s support it could have been worse. Amnesty’s effort reduced what they were doing. I am very grateful for that. All the people that were imprisoned we appreciate Amnesty’s work a lot.”
2. Lives saved in Iran
At least two people’s lives were saved in Iran, thanks to thousands of people tweeting and writing appeals to the Iranian authorities. On 15 February, Hamid Ahmadi’s impending execution was called off at the last minute because of the pressure supporters put on Iran’s authorities. On 25 April, Salar Shadizadi, sentenced to death when he was just 15 years old, was freed from prison. Quick action by supporters worldwide ensured that Salar’s life was spared on numerous occasions before his release in April, after spending 10 years behind bars.
3. Longest imprisoned journalist freed in Uzbekistan
Muhammad Bekzhanov was freed on 22 February after spending 17 years in prison in Uzbekistan. He was one of the longest imprisoned journalists in the world. Tortured into confessing to “anti-state” offences, he was jailed in 1999. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide wrote for his freedom during Amnesty’s 2015 Write for Rights campaign and beyond. Thanks to this global pressure, Muhammad can finally be with his family again.
4. Prisoner’s death sentence dropped in Malaysia
Thousands of people across the world wrote letters and cards, urging Malaysia to spare the life of Shahrul Izani bin Suparman. And it worked. On 27 February, his death sentenced was replaced with a life sentence. According to the Malaysian authorities, the thousands of letters and cards from New Zealand to Nigeria helped persuade them to remove Shahrul from death row. They also returned him to the general prison population, after 11 years in solitary confinement. He is scheduled for release in 2030, but may be freed as soon as 2021 if his further plea for clemency is accepted. Thanks to the efforts of Amnesty supporters around the world, Shahrul’s family are hopeful that they will be reunited with him one day soon.
5. Chelsea Manning freed
Chelsea Manning walked free on 17 May, after her 35-year prison sentence was cut short by outgoing US President Barack Obama in January. She had been jailed for exposing classified information, including of possible war crimes committed by the US military. More than a quarter of a million people wrote for her release as part of Amnesty’s flagship Write for Rights letter-writing campaign in 2015. In a letter she penned to Amnesty at the time, she wrote: “I support the work you do in protecting people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. It seems to me that transparency in government is a fundamental prerequisite to ensuring and protecting the freedom and dignity of all people.”
6. Your words changed lives
Amnesty supporters around the world outdid themselves during Write for Rights 2016. Together, you wrote an amazing 4,660,774 letters, emails, tweets and much more. Among those messages were words of support that made all the difference to the many whose rights we were writing for. “It brought me to tears to see all the letters that Amnesty International had collected,” said Jewher Tohti, whose father Ilham remains in prison in China. “It makes me feel stronger when I know there are so many people who trust in me, my father, and my family.” US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who also featured in Write for Rights 2016, said: “I want to thank you, humbly and with a full heart, for your unwavering advocacy and support.”
BREAKING: We delivered more than 1 million signatures asking @POTUS to #PardonSnowden! cc: @ACLU @hrw @amnesty @demandprogress @CREDOmobile pic.twitter.com/RS9Kxy07DS
— Stand With Snowden (@StandSnowden) January 13, 2017
HOLDING BUSINESSES TO ACCOUNT
7. Companies respond to palm oil abuses
Following our report on abuses on palm oil plantations in Indonesia, Wilmar, the world’s biggest palm oil trader, shared their 12-month action plan to address the abuses we exposed in our report. Companies buying from Wilmar, such as Unilever and P&G, are acting more transparently than before. They report they are taking action and raising our concerns directly with Wilmar. Your tweets to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, who buy from Wilmar, resulted in them removing palm oil from their products, confirming that companies are often unable to prove that the palm oil they buy is free of exploitation.
8. Tech giants listen to cobalt complaints
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including children in Belgium and supporters across Canada, France, Spain and Sweden, demanded that tech giants check whether their phones contained child labour. They wrote letters, tweeted, signed petitions and took part in public protests, urging Apple, Samsung, Huawei and others to check their cobalt supply chains for abuse. Apple was the first company to publish a list of all its cobalt smelters in line with international standards. Sony followed suit, publishing for the first time details of its cobalt supply chain. Rattled by the deluge of messages they were receiving, Samsung and Huawei replied individually to each person who wrote to them; Samsung promised to investigate Amnesty’s allegations and publish a report on its findings.
DOING GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH
9. Digital analysis exposes lies in Egypt
In April, Amnesty’s research revealed that members of Egypt’s military had unlawfully killed at least seven unarmed people in their custody. Among those killed was a 17-year-old boy. Our researchers discovered this after analysing leaked video footage, comparing it with photographs and a Youtube video published by the Egyptian military, and interviewing experts based in Sinai, Egypt. These revelations contradicted statements by the military claiming that those killed had been “terrorists” who had fired at them.
10. Award-winning digital reporting
In January, Amnesty was awarded the prestigious Peabody-Facebook award for excellence in digital reporting for our interactive digital documentary on Syrian torture prison Saydnaya. Based on the testimony of former detainees, the site gives an unprecedented glimpse into the horror of this infamous military prison where hundreds have been taken, and never seen again.
CAMPAIGNING FOR SYSTEMIC CHANGE
11. Ireland moves closer to abortion reform
April saw a landmark outcome in Ireland which moved the country closer to wider access to abortion. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide took part in our 2015 She is #notacriminal campaign, which further globalised grassroots calls for an end to the criminalization of those seeking or providing abortions in Ireland. And in April, some two-thirds of the Citizen’s Assembly, a government-established forum of 99 randomly selected citizens, voted for access to abortion on request. Its recommendations on abortion reform will go to Parliament. The vote echoes Amnesty Ireland’s recently commissioned poll which found that 80% of people in Ireland want women’s health to be at the heart of any reforms to the country’s abortion laws.
12. Taiwan’s highest court rules in favour of marriage equality
Taiwan looks set to be the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, following a decision by its highest court in May endorsing marriage equality. Amnesty supporters from 40 countries around the world sent messages of support in the form of a marriage proposal, urging Taiwan to “say yes”. These messages were screened during a huge rally, organized by Amnesty Taiwan and our local partners – demonstrating global support for what could be a historic step for the country. Taiwan’s government has two years to make the ruling law. We will be stepping up our campaign this summer to make sure it doesn’t take that long.