Russia Needs to Stop Arresting Human Rights Activists

Bolotnaya 3 RussiaThe 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are just around the corner. Although the country has made headlines for its treatment of the LGBT community, Russia also hasn’t been kind to those who actively oppose the government. Pussy Riot is a prime example, but the Bolotnaya 3 is another example of Russia arresting people solely for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression.

The Bolotnaya 3 – Vladimir Akimenkov, Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko – were three men among tens of thousands that protested the reelection of Vladimir Putin in Moscow’ Bolotnaya Square. The protest started peacefully, but then broke out into localized violence. Over 650 people were detained and 47 others were hospitalized. The three men were among those who were detained.

Akimenkov, Saviolov and Kosenko were released, only to be rearrested a month later for “participating in mass riots.” Police allege that Kosenko and Saviolov used force against them, but eyewitness accounts and video footage contradict these allegations. Despite this, all three men are held without bail and were committed to a psychiatric unit in 2013. Amnesty International considers the three men prisoners of conscience, and need to be released immediately and unconditionally.

Sample Letter

Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Prosecutor General’s Office
Ul. B. Dmitrovka, d. 15a
125993 Moscow GSP-3

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Dear Prosecutor General,

I am writing to call for the release of Vladimir Akimenkov, Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko. These three men are prisoners of conscience, unjustly detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly while participating in the Bolotnaya Square protest on May 6, 2012. Video evidence >supports their claims of innocence, and police statements against Akimenkov and Saviolov have changed substantially since the protests.

Furthermore, Mikhail Kosenko has been sentenced to forcible psychiatric treatment and may be deprived of his freedom indefinitely. There is no evidence that he poses a risk to himself or society, nor was he given an independent medical exam to assess his mental health.

I am also concerned that the health of Akimenkov and Saviolov is reportedly deteriorating in detention. Akimenkov, Saviolov and Kosenko all should be immediately and unconditionally released, but while they are detained, I respectfully urge you to guarantee that they receive appropriate medical care.

While I recognize that a considerable amount of violence broke out in Moscow on May 6, it is imperative that Russian authorities uphold all Bolotnaya detainees’ right to a prompt and fair trial, as well as their right to freedom of expression and association. Please drop all charges against those who were peacefully protesting at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and release all Bolotnaya Square protestors who present no risk of endangering public security for the duration of their trials.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

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Updates in Syria, and Other Human Rights News

SyriaThe biggest human rights story of the past few days is the chemical attack in Syria, and this month’s human rights news roundup includes a few recent developments. However, it’s not the only thing from the past month, and we have those issues covered as well. Here is our roundup of the most important human rights news stories:

Two Protests Against US Intervention in Syria

This isn’t human rights news from the past month, but news of an upcoming event. If you are in the St. Louis area, and are against a U.S invasion into Syria, then Tuesday is the chance to voice your opinion. There will be a protest on Tuesday fro 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in front of Claire McCaskill’s office on 5850 Delmar. This is a protest against U.S military intervention and it is hosted by the St. Louis Instead of War Coalition. Make it out there if you can!

If you can’t make this one on Tuesday, then there is a Syria intervention march starting at 11 a.m. on Art Hill (if you can’t make it that early, then you can meet everyone at 2 p.m. at Kiener Plaza). August 31 is the chosen day for global rallies against war in Syria, so this one is projected to be the bigger of the two events and is part of an international movement. This one’s hosted by Veterans for Peace. Keep in mind that this one is a six mile march through St. Louis, while the first one is just a rally/protest. If marching six miles isn’t your style, then try and make it to the one on Tuesday.

Obama Administration Refused to Provide Gas Masks to Syrian Opposition

It turns out that there wasn’t just one request, and it was just requests before this most recent attack near Damascus. The Syrian opposition has been requesting gas masks and other chemical-weapons gear for over a year, with no reply from the Obama Administration or the State Department. On top of that, chemical weapons were actually used in an attack earlier this year, an attack that was not only projected to happen but one that Syrian rebels suspected would include chemical weapons. The administration has yet to answer for this problem and this lack of U.S assistance.

Today is International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

An enforced disappearance is detention by state authorities for no apparent reason, with no knowledge of the person’s status and/or whereabouts. In 2012, enforced disappearances were documented in 30 countries, 11 of them in sub-Saharan Africa: Angola, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and South Sudan. In Sri Lanka, it’s suspected that over 30,000 people have been forcibly disappeared since 1994.

Things are Getting More Draconian for the 2014 Winter Olympics

As most of us are well aware, the anti-gay sentiment is controversial as Russia’s “gay propaganda” law has become a cause for concern. Wentworth Miller, the star of Prison Break, came out while declining an invitation to the St Petersburg international film festival, saying he could not “participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.” International athletes have done what they could to protest the laws, but have been scolded by the International Olympic Committee for making political gestures. Most recently, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning all meetings, protests, demonstrations, and free assembly during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Related Links:

8 Current Urgent Actions You Should Do Right Now

Syria: UN Must Get Full Access to Investigate ‘Chemical Weapons’ Claim

14 MORE Human Rights Violations Happening Right Now

14 MORE Human Rights Violations Happening Now

human rights violations 2As the United States takes a huge step forward in human rights, many other countries still have their own leaps to take. This also means that there is much human rights work to be done, even here in our own country. Here are 14 more human rights violations happening around the world today:

Russian Federation

In February 2012, members of Pussy Riot performed mere seconds of a protest song that was critical of authorities in Russia in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. Two of the band members were found guilty of “hooliganism” and are serving sentences in notoriously brutal penal colonies, while the third faces restrictions on her freedom of movement and speech.

Mexico

Forty-seven women were detained during a protest by a peasant organization in San Salvador Atenco in 2006. Dozens of these women were subjected to physical, psychological, and sexual violence by the police officers while being transferred to prison. These women are still waiting for justice.

Syria

Peaceful protests in Syria in March 2011 were quickly met by government authorities responding with deadly force, leading to systematic and widespread human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. The citizens of Syria are currently under attack by their own government. Government forces are indiscriminately bombing entire residential neighborhoods and killing entire families.

Guatemala

Throughout Guatemala, women and girls are being victimized with little action by the government. In 2012 alone, around 560 women were murdered across the Central American country, many after being sexually assaulted. Among the most recent victims were two young girls around age six and 12 who were found strangled to death in the street in Guatemala City.

China

Human rights defender Mao Hengfeng was sentenced to 18 months in “Re-education Through Labor (RTL)” last fall because of her work standing up for human rights. Her health has worsened while in detention. In February, she was allowed to serve the rest of her RTL term at home.

Nicaragua

Rape and sexual abuse are widespread in Nicaragua as the majority of victims are under 17 years old. Nicaragua’s “Law Against Violence Against Women” (passed in 2012) was a positive step. However, some areas of the law fall short of recognizing that gender violence has its roots in the unequal relations of power between men and women.

Nepal

Sanjiv Kumar Karna and four other students in Nepal were last seen in October 2003 when they were arrested by security force personnel. They students were reportedly beaten and have not been heard from since.

Peru

In Peru and across the Americas, Indigenous Peoples continue to fight to have their rights respected.

Sudan and Chad

Civilians displaced in Darfur and in the refugee camps of Eastern Chad continue to face attacks by government forces, pro-government militias, and armed opposition groups. In recent months 500 people were reportedly killed and roughly 100,000 displaced in attacks against civilians.

Bolivia

In Bolivia, survivors of human rights violations – including torture and enforced disappearances  committed during the military and authoritarian regimes 1964-1982) and their family members are still waiting for reparations for the abuses they or their loved ones suffered.

Iran

Iran is second only to China as the world’s leading executioner. Death row inmates can be executed at short notice, and the authorities are not required to inform families prior to executions.

Colombia

In Colombia, two women are raped every hour. The country’s 45-year-old internal conflict has created a dire human rights situation in which all parties to the conflict continue to subject women to rate and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.

Afghanistan

A recent spike in civilian deaths in Afghanistan highlights the urgent need for all parties to the conflict to take greater precautions to avoid civilian casualties. In 2012, 2,754 Afghan civilians including children, were killed in conflict.

United States

The United States is conducting a secret drone killing program that appears to violate international human rights law. Reportedly, thousands of people, including children, have been killed to date.

Related Links:

15 Human Rights Violations Happening Right Now

Drones and Lethal Force: The Issue and the Action

4 Human Rights Issues that Need Attention in 2013

June Letter Writing Meeting Tomorrow

letter writing meeting

Photo by Markus Reinhardt

Tomorrow is our usual monthly letter writing meeting. We will be working on cases in seven different countries: Zambia, Venezuela, Colombia, Russia, Bangladesh, Equatorial Guinea, and Syria. Please come if you can! The summer is typically a slow time for us, so we need people to attend and to take action! We’ll also catch up those who our last business meeting and/or letter writing meeting, as we did settle on a few details for our upcoming events.

Letter Writing Meeting Details

When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company

Who: Amnesty International members, or anyone else is interested in human rights

What: Writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world. Paper, pens, and case information will be provided.

Why: Writing letters makes a difference, and it makes more of a difference than doing than doing nothing or talking about doing something.

Related Links:

No News is Good News

8 Human Rights Books to Read this Summer

7 MORE Awesome TED Talks about Human Rights

Write for Rights – Pussy Riot

Pussy RiotTwelve (or so) days of writing for rights continues, and today’s case is a case that Amnesty International has been working on for a few months now. Three members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot were found guilty of “hooliganism” after performing a 41-second song at the Moscow Cathedral that accused the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of being too closely tied to Putin’s return to power. One member was let go after immense pressure from activists like you, but the other two have been sent to penal colonies to serve their sentences. Amnesty International is working to get the other two out of prison.

Please send your letters to:

Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Russian Prosecutor General
Ul. Bolshaia Dmitrovka d 15a
Moscow, GSP-3, 107048
Russian Federation

Start your letter: Dear Prosecutor General

I would first like to thank you for releasing EKATERINA SAMUTSEVICH, although it is a conditional release, as the three members of Pussy Riot should not have been prosecuted in the first place. I urge you and the authorities to release NADEZHDA TOLOKONNIKOVA and MARIA ALEKHINA immediately and unconditionally, as they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views.

I also call on the authorities to ensure that while NADEZHDA TOLOKONNIKOVA and MARIA ALEKHINA remain in the penal colonies, they are not ill-treated by prison staff or inmates and have regular contact with their families and legal team. Please also respect the right to freedom of expression in the Russian Federation.

Sincerely,

Your Name