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Prisoner of Conscience

    July 11, 2016

    A new report published by Amnesty International today casts a rare light on the torture and other harrowing treatment of prisoners of conscience locked up in Viet Nam’s secretive network of prisons and detention centres.

    Prisons within Prisons: Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam details the ordeals endured by prisoners of conscience in one of the most closed countries in Asia, including prolonged periods of incommunicado detention and solitary confinement, enforced disappearances, the denial of medical treatment, and punitive prison transfers.

    “Viet Nam is a prolific jailer of prisoners of conscience; this report offers a rare glimpse at the horror that those prisoners face in detention,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    “Viet Nam ratified the UN Convention against Torture in 2015. This in itself is not enough. In order to meet its human rights obligations, the authorities must introduce reforms in line with international law and ensure accountability for torture and ill treatment.”

    July 04, 2016

    Jim Joyce: AICS(ES) Coordinator for Israel, OPT, Palestine

    “This state, this country, this society, are too important for me to be silent. I wish my refusal, even if I pay a personal price for it, will help bring the occupation to the Israel public discourse.”

    These are the words of 19 year old Conscientious objector (CO), Tair Kaminer, an Israeli from Tel Aviv who was given her sixth and longest prison sentence [forty-five days] on 19 June 2016 for refusing to serve in the Israeli army. She objects to her military service call-up because she does not wish to participate in the commission of human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    Israel’s practice is to sentence a conscientious objector to a short period of detention usually twenty or -twenty five days. Upon its end, the call up is renewed, and if refused, another period of detention is ordered by the military judge. Israel has never granted a CO a hearing on the grounds for the objection to military service.

    June 21, 2016

    The Eritrean foreign minister’s confirmation that all politicians and journalists arbitrarily arrested in 2001 are alive is welcome news but they must now be immediately and unconditionally released, said Amnesty International.

    In a Radio France Internationale (RFI) interview broadcast on 20 June, Foreign Minister Osman Saleh referred to the detainees as political prisoners and said “all of them are alive” and will be tried “when the government decides”. The detainees, who were arrested in September 2001, included 11 politicians and 10 journalists. Until now the Eritrean authorities have refused to disclose their whereabouts or their health status to their families.

    “Amnesty International considers all 21 prisoners of conscience and has campaigned for their release since they were arrested 15 years ago. It is a travesty of justice that they have been held incommunicado for so long without charge or trial,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    June 17, 2016

    Angolan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the 17 activists arrested on trumped up charges, said Amnesty International today as demonstrations take place in several cities around the world to mark the first anniversary of their arrest.

    The 17 were charged with “preparatory acts of rebellion” (actos preparatórios de rebelião) and “criminal conspiracy” and handed down conviction and sentences ranging from two and eight-and-a-half years after being arrested for attending a meeting where they discussed politics and governance concerns.

    “One year on, it is completely unacceptable that these 17 activists are still in prison when there was no basis for their arrest in the first place,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Arica.

    “By keeping these young innocent activists behind bars for a year now, Angolan authorities have grossly violated their rights. Their sentences must be overturned and they must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience.

    May 25, 2016

    The release of Khadija Ismayilova by Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court is a welcome step but she will not have obtained justice until her conviction is quashed, said Amnesty International.

    Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years imprisonment at a trial in September 2015 under trumped-up charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of office.
    The Supreme Court today reduced her sentence to a suspended term of three and a half years, after it reversed two of the initial four charges against her.

    “Khadija Ismayilova must be fully acquitted if she is ever to obtain justice for her wrongful imprisonment,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “Numerous other prisoners of conscience are still in jail for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and must also be freed to break this dangerous pattern of fear and repression.”

    May 04, 2016

    The Kyrgyzstani authorities should without delay release and compensate prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov as ruled by the UN Human Rights Committee.  The Committee also ruled that his conviction should be quashed.

    Human rights defender Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2010 following a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. Azimjan Askarov also reported that he was tortured while in police custody.

    Azimjan Askarov was accused of being an accomplice to the murder of a police officer during several days of violence that took place in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Amnesty International believes that the charges against him were fabricated and politically motivated in an attempt to stop his legitimate human rights work. Azimjan Askarov is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    May 04, 2016

    The release of Iranian artist and activist Atena Farghadani yesterday is a long-overdue step towards righting the injustice against her and must be followed by the immediate and unconditional release of other peaceful artists and activists who remain behind bars, Amnesty International said today.

    “Atena Farghadani’s release represents a legal and moral victory for her and encourages the efforts of activists worldwide to campaign for the release of other prisoners of conscience in Iran, as well as for reforms to the unjust laws used to put them behind bars in the first place,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    “While this is a time for celebration, it is vital that the world doesn’t forget that Atena Farghadani should never have been imprisoned in the first place and that many others like her continue to languish in cells or have the threat of prison hanging over their head for peacefully exercising their rights.”

    April 14, 2016

    The conviction of prominent lawyer and human rights activist Haris Ibrahim of sedition highlights Malaysia's increasing determination to crush any form of dissent in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    “Today’s conviction of human rights activist Haris Ibrahim is the latest travesty in a series of politically motivated actions to silence dissent in Malaysia. The Malaysian government must halt its prosecution of human rights defenders who have called for peaceful protests and electoral reforms. If imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider Ibrahim a Prisoner of Conscience,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Director of Campaigns for South-East Asia.

    March 29, 2016

     The guilty verdict and sentences of jail term handed down to 17 activists on 28 March 2016 by the Luanda Provincial Tribunal are an affront to justice that must be reversed, said Amnesty International as it called for their immediate and unconditional release as Prisoners of Conscience.

    The activists were condemned to jail terms ranging from two years to eight years and six months.

    The organisation also believes that the court’s decision for each of the 17 activists to cover legal costs of approximately 315 US Dollars is a mockery of justice.

    “Today’s unjustifiable conviction and draconian sentences against these peaceful activists who should never have been detained at all demonstrate how Angolan authorities use the criminal justice system to silence dissenting views. This ruling flies in the face of justice,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “The activists have been wrongly convicted in a deeply politicized trial. They are the victims of a government determined to intimidate anyone who dares to question its repressive policies.”

    March 28, 2016

    The Azerbaijani authorities today released prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev in what Amnesty International billed an overdue step towards righting the injustice against him and all remaining prisoners of conscience.

    Intigam Aliyev, head of the NGO Legal Education Society and a vocal government critic, was arrested in August 2014. In April 2015 he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges of tax avoidance, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power, amid a crackdown on dissident voices in Azerbaijan. Authorities also raided and closed his NGO that helped victims of politically motivated persecution and represented them at the European Court of Human Rights.

    “Prisoner of conscience Intigam Aliyev has paid dearly for his frontline human rights work – the only ‘crime’ he committed was to defend his fellow citizens’ freedoms,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    March 22, 2016

    Egypt’s authorities must expedite the release of a 20-year-old prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years in pre-trial detention in a case of outrageous injustice, said Amnesty International after a court ordered his release on bail today.

    Mahmoud Hussein was arrested on 25 January 2014 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” T-shirt, and a scarf with a logo of the “25 January Revolution”. He was accused of belonging to a banned group and attending an unauthorised protest, amongst other things.

    “While the court’s decision comes as a huge relief for Mahmoud Hussein and his family, it should not overshadow the outrageous injustice he has suffered. He is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place. The Egyptian authorities must now drop all charges against him,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    March 17, 2016

    Azerbaijan’s embattled civil society received a rare glimmer of hope today as President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree ordering the release of 148 prisoners, including 10 prisoners of conscience, said Amnesty International.

    The move came just hours after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Azerbaijan’s detention of one of those released – human rights defender Rasul Jafarov – violated international law.

    “The release of 10 prisoners of conscience is always good news, but celebrations should be muted by the fact that at least eight still remain behind bars. While this is a welcome development, praise for the Azerbaijani authorities should be reserved for when all those unjustly imprisoned are released and the squeeze on civil society ends,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    March 14, 2016

    Bahraini authorities must immediately release human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested and taken into custody today along with her baby son Hadi, Amnesty International said.

    “Zainab Al-Khawaja and her family have been relentlessly targeted by Bahraini authorities for speaking out against human rights violations,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Her convictions are for nothing more than tearing up photos and seeking to visit her father in prison. If this arrest means the start of her prison sentence, she will be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

    15 police jeeps arrived at Zainab Al-Khawaja’s home this afternoon to arrest her, closing down the entire street, according to her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja.

    January 26, 2016

    The continued detention of Mahmoud Hussein, a 20-year-old student who has spent more than two years in jail without charge or trial as of today, is yet another appalling example of the ruthless and repressive tactics Egypt is resorting to in a bid to crush dissent, said Amnesty International.

    Under Egyptian law, the maximum time a person can be detained without being tried or sentenced is an already excessively long period of two years, for those facing accusations that could lead to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Mahmoud Hussein was arrested at the age of 18 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” t-shirt and a scarf with the logo of “25 January Revolution”. He has also been tortured in detention and forced to sign a “confession” by the National Security Agency.

    December 09, 2015

    Today’s conditional release of Leyla Yunus, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders, should be followed by immediately and unconditionally setting all prisoners of conscience free, Amnesty International said.  

    “This is a step in the right direction that will send a crucial message of hope on the eve of International Human Rights Day. It should open the door to unconditional freedom, not just for Leyla Yunus, but all prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Azerbaijani authorities must now quash all charges against Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif and remove any conditions attached to her release.”

    Leyla and Arif Yunus were convicted on 13 August 2015 for “fraud” and other purported crimes related to their NGO work. They faced prison sentences of eight and seven-and-a-half years, respectively. Arif Yunus was released on medical grounds on 12 November.

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