Ye Haiyan, one of China’s most prominent sex worker-rights activists, won’t be attending the major international conference on AIDS in Melbourne, Australia next week. Known by her online nickname “Hooligan Sparrow,” Chinese authorities have told Ye her passport has been “lost” after she attempted to apply for a visa, making it impossible to travel.
Ye’s efforts have invoked the authorities’ wrath before. In 2006, she began providing information and counseling to sex workers, eventually establishing organizations in two provinces to provide them with health and legal services. And she has been a forceful advocate for sex workers’ legal rights. For these efforts she has endured house arrest, harassment by local authorities, and police raids of her offices and home. In May 2013, the police detained Ye for several days after unidentified assailants assaulted her at her home in Guangxi province because she exposed abusive conditions in local brothels.
Why wouldn’t the Chinese government want all the help it can get in tackling HIV? The track record is clear in country after country: where sex workers are criminalized, where their human rights are violated and their access to HIV prevention and treatment are denied, HIV epidemics get worse. Where sex work is legal, and sex workers can organize and promote HIV programs and services, the epidemic wanes. The International AIDS Conference is the premier global event at which policymakers, academics, activists, and others come together to swap solutions and debate strategies. Sex workers had planned to have a session in advance of the formal conference, and Ye had intended to give a presentation on “Sex workers as human rights defenders.”
Iranian juvenile offender Rasoul Holoumi is at risk of execution for allegedly causing fatal injuries to a boy in a fight. He was 17 years old at the time. His death sentence has been sent to the Office of the Implementation of Sentences in Ahwaz, and could be carried out at the request of the family of the deceased victim at any time.
Rasoul Holoumi, now aged 22, was sentenced to death in October 2010 under qesas (retribution-in-kind) by Branch 17 of the Criminal Court of Khuzestan Province. The court convicted him of murder based on allegations that he threw a hard object at the head of Nasim Nouri Maleki during the course of a fight in September 2009. The allegations have been made by several of the people involved in the fight. The court documents indicate that Rasoul Holoumi initially admitted causing the fatal head injuries. He retracted his admission after several weeks with statements that raise doubts about the events, including the identity of the individual who struck the victim, the intentionality of the injuries caused, and even the presence of Rasoul Holoumi at the scene of the incident.
Despite his age at the time of the offence, the seriousness of the charge, and the risk of the imposition of the death penalty, Rasoul Haloumi was not given access to a lawyer during the investigative phase nor was he provided with adequate time and facilities to prepare effective defence through competent appointed counsel before and during trial. In spite of this the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in 2010 without justifying its decision.
The execution of Rasoul Holoumi was to be implemented on 4 May, but was stopped after the family of the deceased victim agreed to forgo their request forqesas if Rasoul Holoum’s family transferred the deeds of their house and farm to them and paid them 3.5 billion rials (135,323$) as diyah (blood money). Rasoul Haloumi is at imminent risk of execution as the amount of diyah asked appears to be beyond his family’s means. Sentences of qesas are not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader, in breach of international law, but they can be temporarily stayed by the head of the judiciary in order to allow the family time to raise the requested blood money.
Please write immediately in Persian, English, Spanish or your own language:
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 22 AUGUST 2014 TO: (Time difference = GMT + 3.5 hrs / BST + 2.5 hrs)
My throat, unable to speak, will die
For the sounds of my homeland.
My ancestors’ patter will vanish
Like water into sand.
I am a storyteller of immortality
In Semitic and Etruscan tongues;
I am the dust of Turkic dialects
Writing in Russian.
Many lives’ twisted fates
Are lost inside me, mourning,
And I myself am a naked tangle of nerves Pulsating with verses.
My Throat Will Die, by poet and journalist Aron Atabek, sentenced to two years’ solitary confinement in a maximum security jail – 1,600km away from his family – for writing The Heart of Eurasia, a book that fiercely criticised President Nursultan Nazarbayev. After international campaigns, he was moved out of solitary confinement, but his prison conditions remain harsh. Write a message of support to Aron Atabek!
The sentencing of three prisoners of conscience originally scheduled for 1 July has been postponed with no further information. They are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Twenty-two-year-old Alexeis Vargas Martín and his two 18-year-old twin brothers, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín, were tried on 13 June at the Provincial Court in Santiago de Cuba, south-eastern Cuba, under the charges of public disorder of a continuous nature (alteración del orden público de carácter continuado).
The sentencing was scheduled for 1 July but was postponed with no indication of a new date. The mother of the three brothers visited the Court on 1 July in order to collect the sentencing documents but they were not finalised. According to local activists the authorities may try to convince the three brothers to give up their activism and this could be the reason behind the postponement.
Amnesty International believes that their arrest and detention is in response to their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and that it is intended to send a message of intimidation to other government critics, particularly other members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU). The three brothers are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
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PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 26 AUGUST 2014 TO: (Time difference = GMT - 5 hrs / BST - 6 hrs)
Five media workers in Myanmar have been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour in connection with their journalistic activities. All five are prisoners of conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released.
On 10 July a court in Pakokku District, Magwe Region sentenced Unity journalists Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, Sithu Soe and the newspaper’s chief executive officer Tint San to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour under Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. They had been arrested between 31 January and 1 February 2014 after Unity published an article on 25 January about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory in Pauk Township, Pakokku District. According to state media, the five were charged with “disclosing State secrets, trespassing on the restricted area of the factory, taking photographs and the act of abetting” under Article 3(1) A/9 of Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. All five are reportedly planning to lodge an appeal against their conviction.
The five are currently detained at the Pakokku prison, however there are concerns they may be transferred to remote prisons, far away from their family members. The transfer of prisoners of conscience to remote prisons was a hallmark of the previous military government.
Lu Maw Naing has received some medical treatment after suffering from back and stomach pain. However, conditions in detention in Myanmar are poor, and all are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and a lack of access to adequate medical treatment.
Please write immediately in English or your own language:
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 26 AUGUST 2014 TO: (Time difference = GMT + 6.5 hrs / BST + 5.5 hrs)