Posts Tagged ‘prisoner of conscience’

New Shahnoush Award for women human rights defenders in prison

January 26, 2018

Ayşenur Parıldak, a 27-year-old reporter from Turkey’s now-closed Zaman newspaper who has been behind bars for 13 months, was named the recipient of the first Shahnoush Award by the Oslo-based Vigdis Freedom Foundation (VFF). [for more on this and other awards: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/shahnoush-award]

I was subjected to violence and sexual abuse. I was interrogated day and night for eight days. They [police officers] were questioning me while they were under the influence of alcohol […] I am afraid of being forgotten here,” Parıldak said in a letter to the Cumhuriyet newspaper in October 2016.

The Shahnoush Award will be given every year to a female prisoner of conscience whose courage has not been internationally acknowledged. By doing so, Vigdis brings attention to the suffering of women who languish behind bars for speaking out and whose human rights have been violated. They are not forgotten; they are not alone. Hope is sometimes the difference between life and death. May the [Shahnoush] Award give hope to those who need it most.” said Marina Nemat, a board member of VFF.

Parıldak, also a law student at Ankara University’s faculty of law, was detained while taking exams on Aug. 11, 2016. She was released by the court on May 2, 2017 but was later rearrested by the same court before being freed since a prosecutor objected to the initial ruling. During her trial, she told judges that she had thought of committing suicide several times while in prison. Behind bars since last year, Parıldak faces 15 years in jail under Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws based on her tweets and alleged use of the ByLock mobile app. Turkish authorities believe ByLock indicates links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding the abortive coup last year. The movement denies all involvement.

 

 

https://turkeypurge.com/jailed-journalist-aysenur-parildak-given-courage-award-by-norwegian-rights-group

Former prisoner of conscience from Bangladesh now President of Inter-Parliamentaty Union

October 20, 2014

On 16 October 2014 the Inter-Parliamentary Union [IPU] announced that a former “prisoner of conscience”, the Bangladeshi Saber Hossain Chowdhury, was  elected as new IPU president.

A former businessman with an education in law, politics and economics in the UK, President Chowdhury first became an MP in 1996 at the age of 35. He was also the youngest member of the government when he held two deputy ministerial posts in succession between 1999 and 2001. A political prisoner in the early 2000’s, he is described as a firm believer in the rule of law and human rights. He was involved in ground-breaking legislation to criminalize custodial torture in Bangladesh and to address domestic violence.

via Press Release 16 October 2014.

Pussy Riot freed in Russia but the bigger issue is blasphemy laws everywhere

December 24, 2013

Demonstrators wear "Free Pussy Riot" balaclavas as they protest at the security fence surrounding the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013

(Pussy Riot’s members with their distinctive coloured balaclavas)

The two remaining members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose incarceration sparked a global outcry, have been released under an amnesty law, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina dismissed the amnesty as a publicity stunt before the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.They both promised to continue their vocal opposition to the government. The women were jailed in August 2012 after performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral. Alyokhina’s first words and actions after being freed serve as a sign that this fight is likely to go on. The case divided Russia with many feeling the women were being too harshly treated and made examples of as part of attempts to clamp down on opposition to the government. But others felt their actions were a gross offence to the Orthodox faith. The act was seen as blasphemous by many others e.g. in Greece here and was condemned by several Orthodox Churches. However, their conviction for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” was criticised by rights groups [AI declared them prisoners of conscience], celebrities [such as Sting, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Madonna and Yoko Ono ], anti-Putin activists and foreign governments.

This should make us look again a the issue of blasphemy in general. The crime of criticizing a religion is not always called blasphemy; sometimes it is categorized as hate speech (even when it falls well below any sensible standard of actually inciting hatred or violence) because it supposedly insults the followers of a religion. These crimes—of expressing ‘blasphemy’ or offending religious feelings—are still a crime in 55 countries, can mean prison in 39 of those countries, and are punishable by death in six countries.

Recently, Ireland and the Netherlands started the process of removing some or part of their blasphemy laws. The arguments in these debates have universal validity.

Human Rights First and other NGOs have reported on human rights abuses caused by the use of blasphemy laws around the world.  These laws are often vague and can be subject to abuse, either by the authorities or citizens who can accuse a fellow citizen of blasphemy with a personal complaint to the prosecutor. The concept is inconsistent with universal human rights standards, which protect the rights of individuals rather than abstract ideas or religions. Those accused of blasphemy are frequently threatened or attacked even before any investigation. People take to the streets and violence stoked by religious extremists ensues. Blasphemy laws have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities. Blasphemy laws enable governments to restrict freedom of expression, thought, and religion. Application of the laws can result in devastating consequences for religious minorities. This has been the case for Christians in Pakistan and Egypt, Ahmadi followers in Indonesia, and non-believers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In many instances, officials fail to condemn abuses or to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable. And the police often fail to stop violence against religious minorities or to protect those endangered on account of such laws.

In the past few years, several bodies of the United Nations have examined the relationship between freedom of expression and hate speech, especially in relation to religious issues. After extensive consultation with governments and civil society, the Rabat Plan of Action was published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2012. This document outlines how blasphemy laws are problematic.  Since 2011, a new process dubbed the Istanbul Process was launched as a result of resolutions adopted at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The idea is to combat religious intolerance without restricting freedom of speech but whether that is possible is a big question.

Lessons of the Debate Over Ireland’s Blasphemy Law | Human Rights First

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/Blasphemy_Cases.pdf.

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/12/netherlands-scraps-blasphemy-law–but-seeks-a-way-to-replace-it

BBC News – Pussy Riot: Russia frees jailed punk band members.

The release of human rights defenders written up in a Lifestyle Magazine

November 29, 2013

Just as an example of how human rights defenders and the work to support them can appear in a Lifestyle Magazine:

Across Canada human rights supporters have recently been celebrating the releases of a number of prisoners of conscience—people jailed solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

In China, poet and journalist Shi Tao was released after more than eight years in prison. Supporters of the human rights organization Amnesty International (amnesty.ca) had long campaigned for his freedom by writing letters to the Chinese authorities and signing petitions calling for his release. Shi Tao was imprisoned in 2004 for sending an email using his Yahoo account. His email summarized a communiqué from the Chinese Central Propaganda Department telling journalists how they should handle the 15th anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement. The Chinese authorities accused him of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities”. Shi Tao expressed his thanks to supporters: “The support and encouragement of friends from around the world have helped my mother and me through the difficult and lonely times.” Other prisoners of conscience recently released in China this year included human rights defender Ni Yulan, and Falun Gong practitioners Wang Xiuqing and her daughter Qin Hailong, released after 18 months in a “re-education through labour” camp.


In Iran, the sudden release of prisoner of conscience Nasrin Sotoudeh in September further showed how the passion and persistence of individual people around the world taking action by putting pen to paper can help human rights. Sotoudeh is widely respected for her work as a lawyer. She has represented children facing the death penalty, prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, and has worked closely with Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. But in August 2010 Sotoudeh was locked up in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison though she had committed no crime. During her imprisonment, Nasrin was stopped from having regular visits with her husband, Reza Khandan, and two young children. Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience and quickly launched a global appeal demanding her release. Supporters tirelessly wrote letters to the Iranian authorities requesting them to free the human rights lawyer. Their efforts helped win a great victory. Sotoudeh sent a thank you for the support she had received from people around the world. “I have been aware of all your efforts on my behalf and I want to thank you!

Human rights supporters celebrate recent prisoner releases : The Canadian Lifestyle Magazine.

Amnesty International calls on Cuba to Release five prisoners of conscience

August 5, 2013

Today Amnesty International urges the Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release five men who have been named prisoners of conscience.Amnesty-Internationa

The cases of the five men Read the rest of this entry »

Amnesty International USA comments on Bradley Manning verdict

August 1, 2013

On 4 June this blog referred to the controversy surrounding the question whether Bradley Manning should be a recognized AI Prisoner of Conscience. So it is fair to report that on 30 July 2013 AI USA came out with a statement saying in essence: Read the rest of this entry »

Bradley Manning not a Prisoner of Conscience for Amnesty International ?

June 4, 2013


480px-bradley_manning_us_army_0

(Bradley Manning – (c) US Army)

With the trial of Bradley Manning coming up, there is a wide-ranging and not always educating discussion raging on LinkedIn and other fora about why he is not a ‘prisoner of conscience’ for AI. Two of the few more substantive but not very flattering statements – in the absence of a formal reply by AI of course – are reported here, but I should point out that the authors are even more scathing about HRW or other large NGOs: Read the rest of this entry »