Change is possible, especially when people come together and take action. From writing letters of support and campaigning outside corporate headquarters, to welcoming refugees into our homes and changing laws for the better, hope overcame fear time and time again in 2017 – and it was all thanks to you. Here are 30 incredible moments Amnesty International’s supporters made happen…
We campaigned for the release of prominent Gambian prisoners
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. “Amnesty’s work has an impact on people,” Amadou Sanneh said. “Without Amnesty’s support it could have been worse… I am very grateful for that. All the people that were imprisoned we appreciate Amnesty’s work a lot.”
Groundbreaking digital report exposes Syrian torture prison, Saydnaya
Based on the testimony of former detainees, Amnesty International’s interactive digital documentary about Saydnaya prison gave an unprecedented glimpse into the horror of this infamous military prison where hundreds have been taken, never to be seen again. We were determined to meticulously document the crimes that took place in the Syrian torture prison, to ensure justice is delivered. Off the back of our documentary, we were awarded the prestigious Peabody-Facebook award for excellence in digital reporting. It was also covered widely by media.
Longest imprisoned journalist finally freed in Uzbekistan
Muhammad Bekzhanov was freed after 17 years in prison in Uzbekistan. He was one of the longest imprisoned journalists in the world. Over 100,000 thousands of people worldwide wrote for his freedom during Amnesty’s 2015 Write for Rights campaign and beyond. Over 15,000 supporters in Canada alone signed petitions and sent letters and tweets calling for Muhammad’s freedom!
The closure of Dadaab refugee camp halted
When the Kenyan government announced its intention to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, Amnesty International supporters leapt into action, calling for Kenyan authorities to halt the dangerous forced returns of Somali refugees, and to look at alternative solutions. In February, Kenya’s High Court blocked the government’s attempt to shut the camp, following a court case brought by local NGOs and supported by Amnesty International. The judges even cited Amnesty International’s report in the ruling. Now, work continues to stop forced returns of Somali refugees and ensure Kenya and the international community find alternative solutions to accommodate them.
Argentina recognized miscarriage isn’t a crime
Twenty-seven year old Belén was sentenced to eight years in prison under draconian anti-abortion laws after she suffered a miscarriage in a public hospital in Argentina. She had already served two years in pre-trial detention. After an appeal process through the Supreme Court and intense campaigning from Amnesty International and its partners, Belén was acquitted. An important step forward for human rights in the country!
Your letters made a mark on Japanese peace activist
Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, was released on bail, one day after his first court hearing. Arrested last year for his role in protests against the construction of new U.S. Marine Corps facilities near Takae, Japan, Hiroji had been held in detention for five months under restrictive conditions and without access to his family. When he was released, he was able to read the 400+ letters of encouragement you sent him – so thank you!
Ireland moved closer to abortion reform
A committee set up to examine Ireland’s strict abortion regime voted for the constitutional rules to be changed allowing women and girls wider access to abortion. Two-thirds of the Citizen’s Assembly voted for access to abortion on request. Its recommendations will now go to Parliament. The vote echoes Amnesty Ireland’s poll, which found 80% of people in Ireland want women’s health to be at the heart of reforms to the country’s abortion laws. Amnesty International has documented the harrowing experiences endured by women and girls seeking abortion in Ireland, and concludes that the law restricting access to abortion causes multiple violations of their rights.
Quick supporter action saved lives in Iran and USA
At least two people’s lives were saved in Iran, thanks to thousands of people tweeting and writing appeals to the Iranian authorities. In February, Hamid Ahmadi’s impending execution was called off at the last minute, and in April Salar Shadizadi was also spared execution and released from prison. Both young men were sentenced to death for crimes they committed when they were just 17 and 15 years old respectively. The US authorities also succumbed to pressure from Amnesty supporters and others, and commuted the death sentence of Ukranian national Ivan Teleguz just five days before he was scheduled to be executed. His lawyer told us that Amnesty’s work “did get a huge number of people hearing about the case and speaking out”. Thank you!
Apple becomes the first company to publish a list of its cobalt smelters
Thanks to your letters, tweets and the public actions outside Apple stores to mark the World Day Against Child Labour last year, Apple became the first company to publish a list of all of its cobalt smelters in line with international standards on supply chain due diligence. Although, there is still more to do, this was a positive first step towards tackling human rights abuses in the cobalt supply chain and making it more transparent.
Chelsea Manning walked free
Chelsea Manning walked free on 17 May, after her 35-year prison sentence was reduced by outgoing US President Barack Obama in January. She had been jailed for exposing classified information, including evidence of possible war crimes committed by the US military. More than a quarter of a million people wrote demanding her release as part of our Write for Rights letter-writing campaign in 2015. In a letter she penned to Amnesty, she wrote: “I support the work you do in protecting people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.”
Peru reached landmark decision for environmental defenders
The legal case against human rights defender Máxima Acuña Atalaya was quashed in a landmark win for environmental activists in Peru! After almost five years of proceedings in relation to unfounded criminal charges of land invasion, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the accusations were baseless. Ahead of the decision, more than 150,000 messages of support and solidarity from Amnesty supporters were collected. Our staff delivered the boxes of letters to Maxima in-person at her home in the mountains in Peru.
Taiwan’s highest court ruled 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 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 support from across the world. Taiwan’s government has two years to make the ruling law. We will be stepping up our campaign to make sure it doesn’t take that long.
Three Chinese labour activists were released on bail!
Hua Haifeng, Li Zhao, and Su Heng were released on bail after being arrested while investigating labour conditions at Huajian shoe factories. Their release is of course a great relief but, under Chinese law, defendants released on “bail” often remain under close police surveillance. Amnesty International continues to monitor the situation. Hua Haifeng expressed his heartfelt thanks to “each respected colleague at Amnesty International, for voicing support while I was detained. It was your support that allowed my family to be more determined! Thank you!”
Imprisoned activist received life-saving treatment
Syrian Kurdish opposition activist Suleiman Abdulmajid Oussou was released from Allaya prison in Qamishli on 24 June. He was detained by the Asayish forces in May and held in poor conditions. Suleiman was suffering a critical heart condition and he was released for treatment. Thanks to your support, he received the medical care his condition required.
Environmental activist released from prison
Environmental activist Clovis Razafimalala is well-known for denouncing the illegal trafficking of Madagascan rosewood and other natural resources. He was arrested last September and accused of organizing and participating in a protest he did not attend. He spent the next 10 months behind bars. In July, Clovis was released from prison, and acquitted of the rebellion charge. But he was found guilty of two other charges and given a five-year suspended sentence. Amnesty believes it is a deliberate attempt to intimidate him, and send a warning to other environmental activists in Madagascar. Clovis has featured in Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign, and we will continue to call for the charges against him to be dropped. Clovis said: ‘Thank you to Amnesty International. I would not be out of jail without you.’
Our report forced companies to respond to palm oil abuses
Workers on Wilmar’s plantations in Indonesia reported that they have started to see improvements to the working conditions and terms of employment for some workers, following our report, The Great Palm Oil Scandal. The workers are now being paid a daily wage not linked to targets, they have had an increase in wages by around 25% and most of the women workers have been made permanent. These improvements came after a week action and campaigning targeting five of Wilmar’s palm oil buyers; Colgate-Palmolive, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
Huge win for women’s rights in Chile
The decision to support the decriminalization of abortion under certain circumstances was a win for human rights – and for the protection of women and girls across Chile! The ruling confirms that Chile’s constitution provides for access to safe abortion when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk, and in cases of fatal foetal impairment. “This victory is testament to the work of millions of women across the Americas,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
Campaigning work leads to release of human rights defenders
In August, a number of human rights defenders were released from prison after their cases were taken up by Amnesty supporters. They include founder of the Sudan Social Development Organization, Dr Mudawi, former Uzbekistani government official and UN employee Erkin Musaev and Palestinian circus performer, Mohammad Abu Sakha.
DRC Government committed to eradicating child labour by 2025
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo committed to eradicating child labour by 2025 and implementing recommendations from our 2016 report This is What We Die For. The report exposed the dangerous and hazardous working conditions in the artisanal cobalt mines of southern DRC where thousands of adults and children work. This is the first time the DRC government has acknowledged the issue of child labour in artisanal mining – and it’s thanks to our campaigning and advocacy efforts.
Our #Giveahome campaign went global!
In response to the global refugee crisis, over 1,000 artists took part in 300+ gigs across 60 countries, sharing one powerful message: #GiveaHome. We teamed up with Sofar Sounds to bring this incredible initiative to life with the aim of uniting people in building support for the world’s refugees. Performers included established and emerging artists, such as Ed Sheeran, Gregory Porter, Hot Chip, Jessie Ware and Mashrou’ Leila!
We refused to let the abuses of Myanmar’s military go unchecked
Our investigations combining satellite imagery with testimony, photos and videos found clear evidence of a scorched earth campaign by the Myanmar military, and a litany of grave abuses including ethnic cleansing, unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests. We were the first to confirm the use of anti-personnel landmines along the border with Bangladesh. We have been tirelessly using media, campaigning and advocacy meetings to call for an end to the violence, for a comprehensive arms embargo, and access for humanitarian actors and the UN Fact-Finding Mission. With your support, we will make sure that those responsible are held to account.
Amnesty International’s Turkey Director was released
We welcomed the release of İdil Eser, Director of Amnesty Turkey, along with nine other human rights defenders. Idil was arrested in July on ludicrous terror-related charges amid a sweeping crackdown on human rights defenders in the country. It was a long ordeal for her and (in a different way) for her colleagues at Amnesty Turkey. The strength and perseverance they showed was an inspiration.
“I believe organizations such as Amnesty International are becoming more important in a world where division and xenophobia are on the rise,” wrote Idil, from prison. “I think that our cause has further strengthened the solidarity between rights organisations, and I rejoice.” Thank you to everyone across the movement whose hard work and persistence contributed to this outcome. We will continue campaigning until Taner Kılıç, Amnesty’s Turkey chair who was also arrested, is freed, along with the many others who are unjustly held in prison.
Resounding victory as Ibrahim Halawa released
The release of Irish citizen and prisoner of conscience Ibrahim Halawa was a resounding victory for those who campaigned on his behalf, bringing to an end his painful four-year ordeal behind bars in an Egyptian prison. Our analysis of the case concluded that he was arrested and arbitrarily detained just for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly. Thanks to the intensive campaigning of his family and friends and Amnesty International supporters, Ibrahim has been reunited with his loved ones in Ireland. The Halawa family said: “Many amazing individuals continued to believe in Ibrahim’s innocence and campaigned on his behalf and supported the family.”
Mauritanian blogger’s death sentence quashed
Blogger Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mkhaïtir has been released after the Appeal Court of Nouadhibou quashed his death sentence for writing a ‘blasphemous’ post on Facebook. The decision comes after an Amnesty International delegation, led by Secretary General Salil Shetty, went to Mauritania last year to shed light on the human rights situation in the country.
Our explosive report held Shell to account
We released a new report, “A Criminal Enterprise?”, exploring Shell’s role in grave human rights violations in Ogoniland in Nigeria in the Nineties. Evidence used in the report comes from thousands of pages of internal company documents, witness depositions, Amnesty’s own archive as well as other sources. The report called for authorities in Nigeria, the UK and the Netherlands to launch investigations into whether Shell should be held criminally liable. It had immediate impact, with the public prosecutor announcing they would look into the file. Amnesty International actively supported human rights defender Esther Kiobel in her struggle to hold Shell to account. In June, Esther brought a landmark legal action against Shell in the Netherlands, accusing the company of complicity in the unlawful killing of her husband and eight other Ogoni men in Nigeria in 1995. We will not stop until Esther gets the answers she deserves!
Major industry players launched investigation into child labour reports
We launched a new progress report, which was an update to last year’s report, linking several major brands to human rights abuses in artisanal cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Companies named in the report – including Huayou Cobalt from China and BMW from Germany – flew in to participate in the launch event, an important indication of their concern about how our work impacts on their brands. Off the back of the report, the London Metal Exchange, one of the organisations responsible for determining global metal prices, launched an investigation into whether cobalt mined by children is being traded in London, and has requested that members provide details of their responsible sourcing practices.
Norwegian teenagers stood in solidarity with Taibeh
Thousands of teenagers joined a huge torch-lit demo to stand in solidarity with 18-year-old Taibeh Abbasi, who is living in fear of being deported to a country she has never even visited – Afghanistan. Their message to the government was clear: keep Afghan teens like Taibeh safe – don’t force them to leave once they turn 18! We asked you to sign our petition calling on the Norway to stop returning people to Afghanistan until the country is stable enough to ensure their safety and dignity and we gained over 100,000 signatures. Thank you!
We exposed gruesome illegal torture equipment for sale in Paris
Amnesty International’s researchers discovered illegal torture equipment including spiked batons, spiked electric shock riot forks, electric shock vests and heavy leg irons for sale by Chinese companies at Milipol, a military and police trade fair taking place Paris. The import and export of torture equipment has been banned in the EU since 2006. In 2016, the EU also banned the promotion and display of this equipment at trade fairs. We reacted quickly, issuing our findings. The stall where the material was being promoted was shut down, authorities launched an investigation, and global media covered the story.
Your words changed lives
December marks our annual Writes for Rights campaign – and every year, the support from all of you is nothing short of incredible. For example, last year, you wrote a whopping 4,660,774 letters, emails, tweets and much more. Among those messages were words of support that made all the difference to the many people whose rights we were writing for. US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who featured in Write for Rights 2016, said: “I want to thank you, humbly and with a full heart, for your unwavering advocacy and support.” Edward alone received messages from 710,024 Amnesty supporters from 110 countries!
Australia passed marriage equality law
The Australian Parliament passed into law the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. Amnesty International Australia’s NSW LGBTQI Network Convenor Lizzi Price said: “This is a historic and long-overdue moment for Australia. This outcome is due to the hard work, determination, and courage of so many people. LGBTQI Australians, community groups, activists and allies stood up, spoke out and built an unstoppable movement for equality. For that alone, there is such a lot to celebrate here.”
None of the work that Amnesty International does would be possible without your concern and commitment. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Amnesty today.