JUNE: 💫Greece changed the law to recognize that sex without consent is rape, in a long overdue move, and Denmark’s government committed to do the same. This development is testament to the persistence and bravery of survivors and campaigners, and creates real momentum across Europe following Amnesty’s report on the barriers to accessing justice for rape survivors. 💫Tom Ciotkowski, a British human rights defener charged with contempt and assault for documenting abusive police behaviour while helping refugees and migrants in the French town of Calais, was acquitted. 💫Climate change activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement of school-children were honoured with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2019. This is our highest honour, celebrating people who have shown unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights.
MAY: 👉In May, Tawian became the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. Together with LGBTI rights groups from Taiwan, Amnesty had campaigned for this outcome for many years. 👉Gambia’s President Adama Barrow commuted the death sentences of 22 prisoners to life imprisonment. This followed an Amnesty International mission to Gambia to present to the authorities a series of recommendations covering 10 areas of reform to protect and promote human rights. The recommendations include the abolition of the death penalty and commutation of all death sentences to terms of imprisonment. 👉And the World Health Organisation moved to end the categorisation of trans-related conditions as mental and behavioural disorders, which means that transgender people will no longer be considered mentally ill. Amnesty has campaigned for legal depathologisation and acceptance for those who identify as transgender or as gender diverse since 2014.
APRIL: 👏Two years ago, Esther Kiobel and three other women took on one of the world’s biggest oil companies, Shell, in a final fight for justice. Esther has pursued the company for more than 20 years over the role she says it played in the arbitrary execution of her husband in Nigeria. Amnesty shared over 30,000 solidarity messages with Esther Kiobel and in April, The District Court of The Hague issued an interim ruling in favour of the women. According to the ruling, the court does have jurisdiction to hear the case and the claim is not time barred. 👏Also, after the launch of Amnesty International’s annual global death penalty report, the President of Equatorial Guinea announced his government will introduce legislation to abolish the death penalty. 👏Mozambican journalist Amade Abubacar, arbitrarily arrested in January and held in incommunicado military detention and in pretrial detention for more than 90 days, was granted provisional release following a sustained campaign by Amnesty. He continues to fight trumped up charges and we continue to push for the government to drop all charges against him. 👏The Constitutional Court of South Korea issued a landmark ruling ordering the government to decriminalize abortion and reform the country’s highly restrictive abortion laws. By the end of 2020, South Korea’s law on abortion must be revised – a win for supporters of equality, women’s rights and bodily autonomy all over the world.
MARCH: 👊Just before the one-year anniversary of the killing of Marielle Franco, a prominent human rights defender from Brazil, police arrested two people in connection with her murder. It marks the first sign of real progress in the case, which Amnesty had been campaigning on for a year. 👊During the latest UN Human Rights Council session, a landmark resolution was adopted recognizing the important role of environmental human rights defenders. In an encouraging move, it also called for states to provide a safe and empowering environment for initiatives organized by young people, such as the school climate strikes. 👊After the publication of Amnesty’s investigation, AFRICOM admitted for the first time ever that its air strikes have killed or injured civilians in Somalia. This report opened an investigation and review on the air strikes, culminating with the publication of US military documents that confirm they knew of further civilian casualties resulting from many of their air strikes in Somalia.
FEBRUARY: Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese refugee activist detained on Manus Island since 2013, was awarded the 2019 Martin Ennals Award. Abdul featured as a Write for Rights case in 2018 which increased international recognition of him as a Human Rights Defender. 🙌 Earlier this year his asylum claim was recognized in Switzerland where he was given permanent residency. Australia finally passed a law facilitating the transfer to Australia of refugees detained on Manus Island and Nauru who require urgent healthcare. Amnesty, as part of a coalition of people and organizations, alongside the work and courage of the refugees themselves, helped achieve this tremendous step forward. 🙌
🙌 We're just over halfway through 2019, and there's already so much to celebrate. Thanks to a combination of fierce campaigning and people power, here are just some of the big human rights wins of 2019, one month at a time. JANUARY: 🙌As a tribute to Julián Carrillo, an environmental rights defender killed in October 2018, we launched Caught Between Bullets and Neglect, a digest on Mexico’s failure to protect environmental human rights defenders. Just a few hours after the launch, two suspects in Julián’s murder were arrested. 🙌 Also, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, an 18-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia, was granted protection and access to UNHCR in Thailand after fleeing violence, abuse and death threats from her family in Saudi Arabia. Our persistent work on her case contributed to a wonderful outcome with her being granted asylum in Canada, where she is safe. 🙌 And Angola became the first country in 2019 to criminalise discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜
Tear gas should not be used in confined spaces or where exits are blocked or restricted. Tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper ball projectiles can cause serious injury and is even potentially lethal. They should therefore never be fired directly at anyone and should not be fired at all when visibility is poor. When such weapons are deployed, it must be in strict compliance with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. We call on all governments to suspend transfers of less lethal “crowd control” equipment to Hong Kong until a full and independent investigation is carried out, and adequate safeguards are put in place. © Jimmy Lam @everydayaphoto
On Aug 11, rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets were fired. According to media reports, one protester suffered from a ruptured eye in Tsim Sha Tsui after being shot by what appeared to be a bean bag projectile from the police. Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and pepper ball projectiles were fired within a short range inside a train station in Kwai Fong and Taikoo against protesters, sometimes aiming at their heads and upper bodies. The Hong Kong police have once again demonstrated how not to police a protest. Law enforcement officials must be able to carry out their duty to protect the public. However, violence directed at police does not give officers a green light to operate outside of international policing standards. Any heavy-handed policing approach will only increase tension and provoke hostility, leading to the overall escalation of the situation. Jimmy Lam @everydayaphoto
Since April 2019, more than a million protesters in Hong Kong took to the streets to demand that the Hong Kong government withdraw proposed amendments to the extradition law, which will enable the handover of persons in the territory of Hong Kong to mainland China. The protests were largely peaceful at first but were faced with disproportionate police violence. As of 6 August, police said they have fired 1,800 rounds of tear gas, 300 rubber bullets and 170 sponge grenades since the protests began on 9 June. More than 600 people have been arrested, while 44 people have been charged with “rioting”, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Clashes between police and protesters have now become a frequent occurrence. © Jimmy Lam @everydayaphoto
Adélaïde Charlier, a youth leader from Belgium, decided she wanted action on climate change. “I’ve always had a connection with nature, but in Belgium, climate change was just something we talked about. As a young person, I knew I had the opportunity to make an impact. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, my friend and I joined forces and started striking for our future. The first time we staged a strike, there was 350 of us. At the second march there were 15,000 people and by the third 35,000 young people were striking,” said Adélaïde. “Climate change is real, and adults need to start taking responsibility. We took a risk by skipping school, but it’s what we have to do if we want to make change happen!”
Brayan Monsalve is a 20-year-old psychology student from Colombia. He is part of Human Rights Colombia, an NGO working to protect and defend human rights in his country. Brayan’s family was forced to flee their home due to the political unrest in the country and this experience has encouraged him to fight for the rights of others. “My father once said, ‘You have to fight for your dreams, and when you fight for your dreams they become a reality.’ That’s why I am a human rights defender. I know how it feels to be threatened and attacked and I would never want anyone to feel that way. Everyone one is able to make a difference and, together, we can change the history of Colombia.”
Youth leaders across the world, are rising up and challenging the status quo; their voices no longer drowned out by “strong men politics” and anti-human-rights rhetoric. They’re pushing back and reclaiming their space in the world. Lehlogonolo Muthevhuli is a youth activist in South Africa. “When it comes to accessing healthcare, young people are often left behind. If you can’t afford medical aid, you have to rely on derisory public healthcare facilities, where young people do not get the care they need,” said Lehlogonolo. “Young women are judged when they ask for contraception, while mental health is not a priority. Getting access to proper care is a long, arduous process. I want to change this, especially on my university campus, so I am petitioning my university to provide more access and services to students.”
“We were a beautiful green tide, one that will keep moving forward," says Noelia Garone, 31, human rights defender and lawyer.There was excitement in the air at the historic march on the Senate ahead of the abortion vote on 8 August 2018. Although the result wasn’t the one that thousands of women were hoping for, the truth is that it was a beautiful day of real connection. Even the last few tears we cried were not quite so sad, because there was this feeling that we were a beautiful green tide, one that will keep moving forward and will get abortion legalized. It’s going to happen, you just need the green tide by your side.
“Everyone is welcome to join the feminist movement,” says Sofía Novillo Funes, 32. "Being organized is what saves us. Feminism is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s allowed me to see that this democracy we live in can’t be a democracy if we’re not represented, if our voices can’t be heard because we don’t hold any positions of power.The debate on the legalization of abortion made feminist topics more commonplace, something that you’d find men chatting about in a café, for instance, and that for me was something that had never happened before. Everyone, one and all, is welcome to join the feminist movement."
Last year, hundreds of thousands of girls and women came together to urge Argentina’s lawmakers to decriminalize and ensure safe access to abortion. These women were part of a huge campaign. They came from different movements and organizations—united in their call for change. “The green bandana is a symbol,” says Paula Maffía, 35, singer, "This wasn’t a defeat. The law didn’t pass, but we fought and there will be other opportunities. Meanwhile, the green bandana has spread and become a symbol, a new badge of dissent. The demand for the legalization of abortion is inescapable – there’s no going back. There’s no going back. I want to learn from younger generations because I think it’s crucial that we finally start listening to young people."
My wife died 15 years ago, from cancer, and my daughter died last October, after contracting a virus. There have been times I’ve questioned why certain things are happening to me – things that have been emotionally painful, but now I understand that the experiences I’ve been through have taught me compassion and tolerance. You learn the most when you’ve been through it yourself. Everyone is built to handle what they can. I can’t teach another person how to think, feel or behave - we’re all different – that’s why we have to take our own journey and just try our best. We’re all different and some may move in another direction that us, but I’d like to think there’s still hope for the future. To every activist who wants to make a difference, learning to respect each other is much more important than trying to hurt one another. Read more of John’s story via the link in our bio.
"I was keen to pay my respects, so I took a bus to a mosque in Pakuranga. The mosque was closed, but there were flowers along the front of the wall. I had a feeling there’d be a gathering in the city centre, so I took three buses to reach Aotea Square, where a rally was taking place. A huge crowd of people had gathered out of sympathy. People wanted to show their compassion for those who had been hurt."
When 95 year old John Sato heard about the horrific attacks on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, he knew he could not keep silent. "Fifty-one people were killed and dozens more injured. The person who carried out these horrific attacks did so in the name of white supremacy and hate. The news was everywhere – on the radio and TV. It was a sad day for New Zealand."
Blanket and indefinite suspensions of telecommunications services in J&K are not in line with international human rights standards. These shutdowns affect the ability of people in Kashmir to seek, receive, and impart information, which is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. These blackouts also impede the ability of friends and relatives to reach out and inform about their safety further increasing tensions and feelings of insecurity. While the authorities have the right to maintain public order, they must respect the right of the people to protest peacefully. An end to the abuses in J&K cannot come without the involvement of its people.
Children should never be detained—whether unaccompanied or accompanied. If children are detained, they must only be detained as a last resort for the shortest possible time, in the least restrictive setting possible and in a facility that is appropriate to the child’s needs, complies with both international and US standards and “in a manner that takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.” Follow the link in bio for our full latest report.
The current US Administration under President Donald Trump has implemented a series of policies deliberately targeting children and families seeking safety in the USA. The purpose of these policies has been to deter and punish children and adults for seeking safety in the US—and the consequences have been devastating. Children have been held in cages, locked up in freezing cells, without adequate food or medicine; and most tragically, children are dying, as witnessed most recently of a Salvadoran father and child who drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande River into Texas.
Each year, thousands of children travel alone to the United States to flee violence and persecution in their home countries. These children are frequently in search of safety—seeking asylum or other protection under US and international law. But while these immigration claims are being resolved, thousands of children are being detained for months in conditions that violate their human rights. © Joe Skipper/ Getty Images
Several gay soldiers said they were sent to military mental health facilities or so-called ‘green camps’ or ‘healing camps’. The hospital tried to diagnose me as ‘unfit for service’, one soldier recalled. “I refused to be labelled in this way. I felt I had lived my life well prior to the military and knew that I was not the source of the problem. This whole experience led me to attempt suicide because I lost the will to live.” As a condition for his discharge, his mother was forced to sign a paper agreeing not to sue the military for ill-treatment.
TRIGGER WARNING: ‘U,’ a former soldier who served about a decade ago, said he was driven to attempt suicide because of the abuse he suffered. “One night, I saw a soldier being sexually abused. When he got angry, the person abusing him who was his seniors tarted to beat him fiercely and forced him to drink from the toilet bowl. A few days later, the abused soldier made up his mind to report the incident and approached me for my help. When the higher-ranking soldier heard about the possible report, he threatened to beat “U” so badly he would not recover. I was then subjected to physical violence and humiliation for three hours, which included being forced to have oral and anal sex with the original victim while the senior soldier made taunting remarks such as: ‘Don’t you want to have sex with a woman-like man?’”