Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty International’

Davos’ annual meeting starts on 22 May under human rights cloud

May 22, 2022
Agnès Callamard at a press conference

Agnès Callamard at a press conference © Amnesty International

Ahead of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos that starts today, Sunday 22 May 2022, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: 

This year’s Davos conference takes place amid a gathering storm of human rights crises. Russia’s mounting war crimes in Ukraine, the terrifying rollback on abortion rights in the US, the still-neglected climate emergency, the ongoing failure to secure universal vaccine access – these are just a few examples of what happens when human rights are sacrificed for power and profit.  

“Many of the political and business leaders attending Davos are directly responsible for these catastrophes, whether through their explicit pursuit of anti-human rights agendas or through their contemptible inaction and failure to implement solutions.  

“The Davos guestlist includes some of the richest and most powerful people in the world, and they have a moral obligation to put respect for human rights at the top of the agenda. They must use their vast wealth and influence to change the status quo and end the rampant inequality which has been the root cause of so much recent suffering.

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting will take place in Davos, Switzerland, between 22 and 26 May.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/global-rich-and-powerful-meet-davos-amid-gathering-storm-human-rights-crises

Major NGO offices in Russia now closed

April 9, 2022

On 8 April 2022, the Russian government closed the offices of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and several other NGOs such as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Friedrich Ebert Foundation. This decision has been taken “in connection with the discovered violations of the Russian legislation.

On 11 March, Russia’s media regulator had already blocked access to Amnesty International’s Russian-language website.

Human Rights Watch had maintained an office in Russia for 30 years. The action was announced just days after an appeals court upheld the liquidation of Russia’s human rights giant, Memorial. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/12/it-had-to-happen-russian-authorities-move-to-shut-down-memorial/]

Human Rights Watch has been working on and in Russia since the Soviet era, and we will continue to do so,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This new iron curtain will not stop our ongoing efforts to defend the rights of all Russians and to protect civilians in Ukraine.”

Reacting to the news, Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “Amnesty’s closing down in Russia is only the latest in a long list of organizations that have been punished for defending human rights and speaking the truth to the Russian authorities. In a country where scores of activists and dissidents have been imprisoned, killed or exiled, where independent media has been smeared, blocked or forced to self-censor, and where civil society organizations have been outlawed or liquidated, you must be doing something right if the Kremlin tries to shut you up.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/08/russia-government-shuts-down-human-rights-watch-office

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/04/08/moscow-shutting-down-amnesty-human-rights-watch-in-russia-a77290

Annual Report Amnesty 2021 is out

March 29, 2022

The human rights organisation looks back on 2021, “a year of dashed hopes“. According to Amnesty International, the digital sphere is increasingly becoming a space for activism — and repression.

Despite promises and pledges to the contrary, at almost every turn, leaders and corporations opted for a non-transformative path, choosing to entrench rather than overturn the systemic inequalities behind the pandemic. Yet, people the world over have made it abundantly clear that a more just world, grounded in human rights, is what they want

Agnès Callamard SG AI

Here is how Deutsche Welle summarized it:

Every year, Amnesty International looks at developments around the world and compiles an analysis of the most important global trends in human and civil rights. In its latest annual report, Amnesty Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director Philip Luth says: “2021 was a year of really quite significant promises. … The reality was completely otherwise.”

There had been hope that the world might emerge from the pandemic equitably, Luther told DW, but richer countries in particular have prevented the widespread manufacture and distribution of vaccines. The annual report cites the facts: Fewer than 8% of the 1.2 billion people in Africa were fully vaccinated at the end of 2021 — the lowest rate in the world and far from the WHO’s 40% vaccination target…..The study also found that many governments have used the pandemic to suppress opposition and civil society. “It’s across regions and that’s one of the reasons we highlighted it in our global analysis,” Luther said. “Some governments very specifically used the smoke screen of the pandemic to restrict freedom of expression.” Examples of countries where protests have been broken up and human rights defenders are at risk include Cambodia, Russia, China and others.

According to Amnesty and other international organizations, the pandemic is also having an effect on civil society. “There are various strategies that are making it increasingly difficult for civil society to operate in different regions of the world,” Silke Pfeiffer, head of the department for human rights and peace at the Christian-affiliated aid organization Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), told DW. “This is quite specifically directed at individual activists, who are discriminated against, threatened, persecuted and in some cases murdered.” In many countries, Pfeiffer said, governments cultivate a hostile environment. “It becomes increasingly difficult for civil society organizations to work,” she said. “That goes as far as the closure of NGOs; we see that again and again.” To cite just one example: In late March, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had 25 nongovernmental organizations closed. One of them is the Nicaraguan partner organization to Brot für die Welt.

Governments and NGOs are increasingly doing their work online. Luther describes the development as a “double-edged sword.” Authorities clandestinely use technology in ways that have a negative impact on people’s human rights, he said: “Governments in many cases were also then trying to shut down and disrupt tools that enable civil society to better communicate with each other and spread information.”

Amnesty International’s annual report cites multiple examples of this: the internet shutdown from August 4, 2019, to February 5, 2021, in the India-controlled regions of Jammu and Kashmir; the use of facial recognition technology at protests in Moscow; and the use of Israel’s Pegasus spyware against journalists, opposition figures and human rights activists. Pfeiffer said the internet was an important way for civil society to organize and mobilize. But she added that, around the world, “governments and other actors have completely upgraded digitally and are now also taking very strong action against freedom on the internet — through censorship, by shutting down internet services, through mass surveillance.”

Across the world, Amnesty noted, people took to the streets to fight for their rights and the rights of others in 2021 — in Russia, India, Colombia, Sudan, Lebanon and at least 75 other countries. in the words of AI Secretary General: “The palpable and persistent resistance offered by people’s movements the world over is a beacon of hope. Uncowed and undaunted, theirs is a clarion call for a more equal world. If governments won’t build back better – if they seemingly are intent on building back broken – then we are left with little option. We must fight their every attempt to muzzle our voices and we must stand up to their every betrayal. It is why, in the coming weeks, we are launching a global campaign of solidarity with people’s movements, a campaign demanding respect for the right to protest. We must build and harness global solidarity, even if our leaders won’t.”

She also said:

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

https://www.dw.com/en/amnesty-international-2021-was-the-year-of-broken-promises/a-61285728

100 NGOs join Amnesty International’s call for Biden to pardon Steven Donziger

March 16, 2022
Amnesty International Logotype

For more than two years, human rights lawyer Steven Donziger – currently serving the remainder of a six month sentence on house arrest – has been arbitrarily detained in apparent retaliation for his work to hold Chevron accountable for its deliberate dumping of more than 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the Amazon rainforest. Despite repeated calls from human rights advocates and governmental authorities for Donziger’s release, the Department of Justice has refused to respond or take any action to remedy this human rights violation. Today, over 100 human rights and environmental organizations from around the world joined Amnesty International, Greenpeace USA, Amazon Watch, Global Witness, Rainforest Action Network, HEDA Resource Center, ReCommon, and the Pachamama Alliance to call on President Biden to exercise his clemency powers to pardon Steven Donziger as a way to ensure his immediate release.

In a letter to President Biden, the organizations state: “More than four months since a discerning opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that found Steven Donziger’s detention to be arbitrary, U.S. judicial authorities have thus far failed to take any action to remedy the situation and implement the Working Group’s call to ensure Mr. Donziger’s  immediate release.”  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/17/steven-donziger-speaks-out-himself-about-being-targetted-by-chevron

In a statement in October 2021, President Biden promised the U.S. would “stand in solidarity with, and continue to work tirelessly in support of, the activists, human rights defenders, and peaceful protestors on the front lines of the struggle between freedom and tyranny.”All the while, the administration has failed to side with the brave human rights defenders within the United States and respond to the demand of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Congress, and the international community to free Steven Donziger. 

Steven Donziger is a human rights defender that bravely stood up against one of the most powerful corporations in the world,” said Daniel Joloy of Amnesty International. “In response, he has endured years of harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns and more than two years in arbitrary detention. President Biden must now listen to the over 100 human rights and environmental organizations calling to pardon Steven Donziger and ensure he is released immediately and unconditionally. Allowing this ordeal to continue only sends a chilling message that corporations around the world can continue attacking human rights defenders without consequences.”

Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch said “Instead of supporting the people of Ecuador who were poisoned by Chevron’s admitted deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste, Biden has turned a blind eye to the persecution of a key lawyer who worked to win a historic judgment against Chevron. The U.S. government’s responsibility should be to make Chevron clean up its waste and support efforts to hold the fossil fuel company accountable, not allow the appointment of a private prosecutor with ties to the very same oil company to imprison human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. This travesty has gone on for over two years, and Biden has ignored members of the E.U. parliament, members of the House and Senate, and even the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Well over 100 organizations are now demanding action, and Biden’s lack of action continues to be a dark stain on his alleged claims to respect human rights. Oil companies do not prosecute and imprison people in the U.S. This must end now.”

Chevron’s legal attack on Donziger is not the first, nor will it be the last case of its kind. Right now, the right to dissent is being repressed by both our government and corporations

Annie Leonard, co-Executive Director Greenpeace USA

Simon Taylor, Co-Founder & Director, Global Witness said “I have spent much of the past 25 years seeking accountability of the fossil fuel industry for its gross human rights abuses and other crimes. Amongst the judicial authorities we have liaised with during this time, the Southern District of New York has stood as a beacon in this fight against criminality. Shockingly, just as Biden gears up this struggle, New York’s judicial authorities seem instead intent on destroying their reputation, thanks to their apparent complicity in the unprecedented corporate prosecution and judicial harassment of Steven Donziger. These acts, in my experience, are more what I would expect from one of the ‘Banana Republics’ we have investigated around the world. These are shameful acts. If Biden is serious about tackling the climate crisis, he cannot allow the fossil fuel industry to weaponise the US judicial system to go after its detractors – Biden must act now and release Steven Donziger.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/03/15/100-groups-urge-biden-pardon-human-rights-lawyer-steven-donziger

Saudi human rights defender Raif Badawi freed after 10 years!

March 12, 2022

On Friday 11 March 2022, AFP reported that Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia after serving a 10-year sentence for advocating an end to religious influence on public life.

Raif called me. He is free,” his wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their three children and had been advocating for his release, told AFP. Badawi’s release was also confirmed by a Saudi security official who said on condition of anonymity that Badawi “was released today”. “I jumped when I found out. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t wait to see my dad, I’m so excited,” one of his daughters, Nawja Badawi, 18, told AFP. Badawi’s son Terad Raif Badawi tweeted: “After 10 years my father is free!

Badawi won 5 international awards according to THF’s digest: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/33454B83-61A6-180A-27D6-7FFDEC25D330

Raif Badawi, human rights defender in Saudi Arabia, has finally been released!” Amnesty International tweeted. “Thousands of you have mobilized alongside us in the defense of Raif Badawi for 10 years. A big thank you to all of you for your tireless support.

Every Friday for almost seven years, Haidar – who fled to Canada after Badawi’s arrest and has since become a Canadian citizen – had held a public vigil for him. Quebec has paved the way for Raif Badawi to come to the country if he chooses by placing him on a priority list of possible immigrants for humanitarian reasons.

No details of his release conditions were immediately available. But Amnesty noted that the Saudi blogger could still face a 10-year ban on all travel outside Saudi Arabia following his release.

Raif Badawi’s sister, Samar Badawi, as well as activist Nassima al-Sadah, released in 2021, remain stranded in the kingdom. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/saudi-arabia-arrest-of-human-rights-defender-samar-badawi/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/11/raif-badawi-saudi-blogger-freed

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hrf-welcomes-release-of-saudi-writer-and-activist-raif-badawi?e=f80cec329e

Amnesty Nairobi seeks urgently short-term consultant

March 10, 2022

The Nairobi Office of Amnesty International’s Regional Office for East and Southern Africa (ESARO) is seeking an enthusiastic, and strategic campaigner with substantial experience in developing and implementing campaigns for a short-term consultancy. Under the supervision of, the Deputy Regional Director – Campaigns, the consultant will provide support to ongoing campaigns in Tanzania and Uganda whose thematic focus include freedom of expression, association and assembly, gender justice, right to health, right to housing among others and will do this using an intersectional
approach.

This is a four-month contract (March to June 2022) and the consultant could be based in Nairobi or remotely in Tanzania or Uganda.
Consultant profile includes:
– Very good knowledge of the human rights and the political context in East Africa with specific knowledge of Tanzania and/or Uganda.
– Knowledge of and experience working with the UN mechanisms, African Union institutions, sub-regional and national authorities is also essential.
– Excellent oral and written communication skills and ability to understand and express ideas in English. Ability to communicate in Swahili is also desirable.

To apply for the role, please provide your CV (three pages maximum) and a cover letter outlining how your skills and profile are aligned to the role as described above. Please send applications to amnesty.earo@amnesty.org 2022.

The deadline has been extended to Thursday 17 March 2022.

International Women’s Day 2022

March 8, 2022

International Women’s Day is today 8 March and celebratory events are being held around the world. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, aimed at imagining “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.” While this special day offers hope for gender equity, it is also a reminder of the omnipresent phenomenon of violence against women, which exists regardless of the day, and needs to be addressed in a fundamental way.

See also: https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/why-international-womens-day-is-important/

There is too much to choose from (as usual); for last year’s see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/03/08/celebrating-international-womens-day-in-2021/]

Still, here some concrete samples:

Upasana Rana reports Global Voices of 7 March on Nepal [https://globalvoices.org/2022/03/07/this-international-womens-day-lets-come-together-against-violence/]

On the same site Njeri Wangari tells us about how Feminist music icons from around Africa to celebrate this International Women’s Day. See her Spotify playlist with hits from artists like Fatoumata Diawara, Cesária Évora, Shishani Vranckx, Thandiswa Mazwai, and more.

Amnesty International issued a statement “International Women’s Day: Dramatic deterioration in respect for women’s rights and gender equality must be decisively reversed

  • Alarming assaults on women’s rights around the world in 2021/22. 
  • Legal protections dismantled, and women human rights defenders now at unprecedented risk.
  • Protection and promotion of women’s and girls’ rights and support for women human rights defenders crucial, including for Covid-19 recovery. 
  • Governments must act decisively to reverse regressions and uphold human rights for women and girls. 

Catastrophic attacks on human rights and gender equality over the past twelve months have lowered protection for and upped threats against women and girls across the globe.  On International Women’s Day, the organization called for bold action to reverse erosions of human rights for women and girls.   

 “Events in 2021 and in the early months of 2022 have conspired to crush the rights and dignity of millions of women and girls.  The world’s crises do not impact equally, let alone fairly. The disproportionate impacts on women’s and girls’ rights are well-documented yet still neglected, when not ignored outright.  But the facts are clear. The Covid-19 pandemic, the overwhelming rollback on women’s rights in Afghanistan, the widespread sexual violence characterizing the conflict in Ethiopia, attacks on abortion access in the US and Turkey’s withdrawal from the landmark Istanbul Convention on Gender Based Violence: each is a grave erosion of rights in its own terms but taken together? We must stand up to and stare down this global assault on women’s and girls’ dignity,” said Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard. [see https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/03/international-womens-day-dramatic-deterioration-in-respect-for-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-must-be-decisively-reversed/]

Human Rights Watch focuses on Afghanistan: On International Women’s Day, we should remember Afghanistan, and consider what the state of women’s rights there means for the struggle for gender equality worldwide. The Taliban were notorious for violating women’s rights when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. So, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan again on August 15 last year, Afghan women’s rights defenders were deeply skeptical that the new rulers would be any different from the Taliban that controlled the country before, despite their pledges to respect women’s rights. They were right.

In less than seven months since taking over, the Taliban have:

  • closed most girls’ secondary schools;
  • created barriers to women and girls pursuing higher education;
  • banned women from most paid employment;
  • abolished the Ministry of Women’s Affairs;
  • restricted women’s movement including blocking them from leaving the country alone;
  • dismantled Afghanistan’s system that provided protection from gender-based violence;
  • created barriers to women and girls accessing health care;
  • beaten and abducted women’s rights protesters;
  • silenced female journalists;
  • banned women’s sports; and
  • appointed a men-only administration.

Afghanistan is not the only country where women’s rights are under attack this International Women’s Day. But the speed and extent of the obliteration of women’s rights in Afghanistan is a warning to women around the world about the fragility of progress toward equality, how quickly it can vanish, and how few will defend it. We should all be in solidarity with Afghan women; their fight is a fight for women’s rights everywhere. [See: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/08/standing-afghan-women-and-girls-international-womens-day]

Caitlin Fitzsimmons in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 March argues that “International Women’s Day highlights climate justice as a feminist issue”. Women are on the front lines of the global climate crisis, making up 80 per cent of the 21.5 million people displaced every year by climate-related events. [See: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/international-women-s-day-highlights-climate-justice-as-a-feminist-issue-20220303-p5a1ba.html]

On International Women’s Day, UN Human Rights stands with women and girls human rights defenders of all ages, backgrounds & identities leading our collective struggle to protect our climate and environment. See.g.:

Meet Brianna Frueran, a Pacific climate change activist fighting for her native Samoan islands’ survival.

Meet Mya Pol, a content creator from the United States who advocates for disability rights and educates people about environmentalism on her social media platform.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1113872

Amnesty joins debate on Apartheid versus Palestinians but reactions debase struggle against real antisemitism

February 4, 2022

In Newsweek of 3 February 2022 Omar Baddar, Director of the Arab American Institute, published an opinion piece entitled “Amnesty Settles It: It’s Time for U.S. Accountability on Israel”.

Amnesty International, issued on 1 February 2022 an extensive report titled “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity.” As the report documents, “Israel has imposed a system of oppression and domination over Palestinians wherever it exercises control over the enjoyment of their right.” The report further found that Israel’s policies are part of a “systematic as well as widespread attack directed against the Palestinian population, and that the inhuman or inhumane acts committed within the context of this attack have been committed with the intention to maintain this system and amount to the crime against humanity of apartheid.

In recent years, some leading Israeli human rights organizations have started using the word apartheid to describe their government’s systems of oppression. Last year, Human Rights Watch, one of the best-known American human rights organization, similarly accused Israel of apartheid. Amnesty International following suit this week has solidified the human rights community’s emerging consensus on Israeli apartheid. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/israel-and-apartheid-israeli-human-rights-group-stirs-debate/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/07/09/israel-and-the-international-crime-of-apartheid-a-response-by-human-rights-watch-worth-studying-in-full/

Omar Baddar, states: The most important consequence of this consensus is that it lays to rest the false but popular notion of an “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” between two equal sides. The new consensus instead frames the issue more accurately as a struggle between an oppressor and an oppressed people. In the same way that Apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the American South denied people the ability to live in freedom with their full rights simply because of who they are, Israel also denies freedom to Palestinians and many basic rights to Palestinians just because they are Palestinians.

Like the Human Rights Watch report before it, what’s remarkable about the new Amnesty report is how extensive and detailed it is. Amnesty did its due diligence and made sure that its central claims are backed by a mountain of evidence, meticulously documenting unlawful killings, forced displacement and systemic discrimination on a massive scale. Unsurprisingly, the devastating and irreproachable nature of this report triggered a meltdown among Israel’s apologists. See for this also: https://yubanet.com/world/human-rights-organizations-from-israel-condemn-vicious-attacks-on-amnesty-international/

Unable to argue with the substance of the Amnesty report, pro-Israel groups have resorted either to blindly asserting—as AIPAC did—that Amnesty was lying, or baselessly claiming—as the ADL did—that the report would spark antisemitic attacks. The latter is nothing short of a cynical weaponization of antisemitism—which, in fact, is a serious and rising scourge in America and across the world—unscrupulously exploited in order to silence criticism of Israeli government policy.

We cannot have the open debate we need in a free society if speaking honestly about Israeli policy results in smears of bigotry. By misusing the charge of antisemitism in this fashion, Israel’s apologists aren’t just harming the human rights defenders being smeared by it; they’re also harming the real effort to eliminate antisemitism—a goal that we all have a moral obligation to come together and accomplish.

What this Amnesty report should have done is serve as a wake-up call to an American political establishment that prioritizes pandering over sensible policy, and that has turned a blind eye to a grave injustice for far too long. After all, it is U.S. military funding, to the unrivaled tune of $3.8 billion per year, which enables the Israeli military to maintain its suffocating grip on the occupied Palestinian population, and it is U.S. diplomatic protection, through more than 40 vetoes at the UN Security Council and beyond, that shields Israel from accountability for its crimes.

And yet, despite repeatedly claiming to prioritize human rights in its foreign policy, the Biden administration’s reaction to this report was utterly disappointing. The administration rejected it out of hand.

The Amnesty report bemoans the fact that, “for over seven decades, the international community has stood by as Israel has been given free rein to dispossess, segregate, control, oppress and dominate Palestinians.” It criticizes countries like ours that have “actively supported Israel’s violations by supplying it with arms, equipment and other tools to perpetrate crimes under international law and by providing diplomatic cover, including at the UN Security Council, to shield it from accountability.” The report also reiterated its call for “states to immediately suspend the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons, munitions and other military and security equipment.”

https://www.newsweek.com/amnesty-settles-it-its-time-us-accountability-israel-opinion-1675876

https://www.juancole.com/2022/02/prolonged-occupation-palestinians.html

https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/6/21449/Why-Is-Israel-Fearful-of-Amnestys-Apartheid-Report

Rights Arcade – a game to help human rights education

January 24, 2022

This International Day of Education, Amnesty International has launched Rights Arcade, a free human rights game app which aims to educate the next generation of human rights defenders about rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Rights Arcade is designed to strengthen the human rights movement through action-oriented education. The games will boost players’ knowledge about human rights and encourage people to take action on human rights issues.  

One of Rights Arcade’s key features is a self-paced approach that allows players to learn, reflect and take action at their own pace while navigating through the game’s stories.

This game has been designed to empower and encourage people everywhere, but especially younger audiences, to learn about human rights in an engaging manner,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Young people are pivotal in setting the human rights agenda, today and for the future. Reaching them in the spaces they inhabit, or with which they engage regularly, is key to enabling new generations of activists and empowering them to fight for, and protect, human rights – now and in the future.”

The players take a human rights journey through the experiences of three real-life people: Ahmed Kabir Kishor, a cartoonist unjustly charged under the Digital Security Act in Bangladesh [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/16/30-information-heroes-honored-by-reporters-without-borders/] Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist sentenced to four years in prison for reporting about Covid-19 in China [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/06/chinese-journalist-zhang-zhan-at-imminent-risk-of-death/]; and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a student activist facing more than 25 charges for protesting in Thailand [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/04/new-year-new-charges-against-thai-protesters-the-lese-majesty-law-in-thailand/].

The game’s stories, which are fictionalized experiences inspired by real world events, are driven by a player’s choices.

The player gets to play the role and navigate the experiences of the three central characters, making decisions based on their own understanding of human rights and unpacking how human rights concepts apply in daily life.

People around the world will be able to access a collection of three games currently available in four languages: English, Simplified Chinese, Thai and Korean.

Rights Arcade can be downloaded on iOS and Android devices, ensuring its accessibility in regions with poor internet connectivity.

Rights Arcade will be regularly updated to accommodate learning in more languages, and with new game offerings in the months and years to come.

Greece’s mistaken deterrence: migrants and aid workers facing heavy prison sentences

November 17, 2021
An abandoned life jacket in the Aegean Sea in 2016 | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/L.Pitarakis
An abandoned life jacket in the Aegean Sea in 2016 | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/L.Pitarakis

A post by Marion MacGregor published on 15 November 2021in ‘Infomigrants’ brings out an awful truth which I have to face up to even though Greece is my adopted country. In the face of Turkey ‘weaponsing’ migrants, it is trying its hands at deterrence in the hope that it will diminish the pressure of inflows

Greece and other European countries are increasingly using the threat of criminal proceedings against aid workers and those migrants who ended up being marked as migrant smugglers.

Hanad Abdi Mohammad is in prison, he says, because of something he was forced to do. The Somali is serving an impossibly long sentence of 142 years (!) after he was convicted last December for driving an inflatable dinghy carrying migrants to Greece. He says that he didn’t have a choice, because the smuggler hit him in the face and threatened him with a gun before abandoning the boat in rough seas. As 28-year-old Mohammad told journalists and members of the European Parliament who visited the prison last week, he “didn’t think saving people is a crime.”

In the same prison on the Greek island of Chios two men from Afghanistan, Amir Zaheri and Akif Rasouli, both in their 20s, are also serving sentences of 50 years for similar criminal offences. The men’s convictions and staggering prison terms show how far Greece is ready to go in order to stop migrants in their tracks.

On the day the smuggler abandoned them at sea between Turkey and Greece, Mohammad and nearly three dozen other migrants were only concerned about their lives. Mohammad says that he called the Turkish coast guard repeatedly, begging to be rescued. But when it arrived, the Turkish patrol boat circled the migrants’ dinghy sending water into the boat and gradually pushing it toward Greece. In the chaos, two women fell overboard and drowned, AP reports.

The survivors were finally rescued by the Greek coast guard, and Mohammad helped others onto the rescue boat. He admitted to having driven the boat after the smuggler left. It didn’t cross his mind that would lead to him being prosecuted as a smuggler.

It’s not possible that someone who comes to claim asylum in Greece is threatened with such heavy sentences simply because they were forced, by circumstances or pressure, to take over handling a boat,” one of the lawyers representing the three imprisoned in Chios, Alexandros Georgoulis, told AP. Greek authorities, he said, “are essentially baptizing the smuggled as the smuggler.”

From file: Sara Mardini and Seán Binder | Screenshot from Amnesty International Ireland
From file: Sara Mardini and Seán Binder | Screenshot from Amnesty International Ireland

Greek authorities have also accused aid workers and volunteers helping migrants in Greece of serious crimes. In one widely publicized case, the Syrian human rights worker Sara Mardini, a refugee herself, and an Irish volunteer Sean Binder were arrested and detained for months in 2018 on suspicion of espionage, money laundering, human trafficking and other offenses. Due to face trial on the island of Lesbos alongside 22 other civil society activists later this week, Binder says he is “terrified.”

I’ve had a taste of life in prison on Chios. It was all scabies and bed bugs with 17 of us packed in a cell,” Binder told The Guardian. “The police holding cells were even worse, the most awful place on earth; squalid, windowless rooms full of asylum seekers just there because authorities had nowhere else to put them.”

Giorgos Kosmopoulos, a campaigner with an Amnesty International group which plans to monitor the trial in Greece, says that this is not only happening there. “Human rights defenders across Europe are being criminalized … for helping refugees and migrants,” he told The Guardian. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/mary-lawlor-condemns-criminalization-of-those-saving-lives-in-the-mediterranean/

AP reports that, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece have initiated 58 investigations and legal proceedings since 2016 against private entities involved in search and rescue.

I think it’s important to challenge these in the courts, to not at all sit back and accept that we should be cast as smugglers or spies because I offered CPR, (or) more often than not just a smile, to someone in distress,” Binder told the news agency. “It is preposterous that we should be cast as criminals. I don’t accept it….It doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t deserve to drown in the sea.

Binder told The Guardian that he has not bought a return ticket to the UK, where he has been studying. He and Mardini face a maximum eight-year sentence, convertible into a fine. They are still under investigation for offences which could carry 25-year sentences if they are convicted.

In my view, the problem can only be tackled in a European context [see e.g. https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/legal-migration-and-integration_en%5D but it seems most member states cling to outdated notion of sovereignty.

Not directly related but possibly relevant is recent legislation in Greece, adopted on November 11, 2021, that makes it a criminal offence to spread “fake news.” Human Rights Watch said that the Greek government should immediately move to revoke the provision, which is incompatible with freedom of expression and media freedom. “In Greece, you now risk jail for speaking out on important issues of public interest, if the government claims it’s false,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The criminal sanctions risk making journalists and virtually anyone else afraid to report on or to debate important issues such as the handling of Covid-19 or migration or government economic policy.

While the trial began Thursday, it was almost immediately suspended. The court’s decision to adjourn, said 27-year-old Binder, a diver and German national, “is further proof of the absurdity of this case.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/11/18/drop-charges-greece-delays-trial-humanitarians-who-aided-refugees-sea

https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/36487/greece-migrants-and-aid-workers-facing-decades-in-prison

https://www.independent.ie/regionals/kerryman/news/kerry-aid-worker-faces-trial-in-greece-41058865.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/17/greece-alleged-fake-news-made-crime

https://reliefweb.int/report/greece/greece-guilty-verdict-migrant-rights-defenders-could-mean-more-deaths-sea-un-expert

https://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/politics/2021/11/19/trial-of-aid-workers-in-greece-is-adjourned-amid-protests_5de29280-fde8-4c77-b7c2-ef878c497157.html

See also in March 2022: https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/17/ray-hope-fight-against-greeces-border-abuses,

and on 12 April: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/04/un-committee-enforced-disappearances-publishes-findings-greece-and-niger