Colombia: Mass death threat to human rights defenders

At least 80 human rights defenders received death threats by email on or just prior to Colombia’s Human Rights Day on 9 September. Paramilitaries declared them a military target.

On 8 September at least 80 human rights defenders throughout Colombia received an email in which they were told “we are going to finish you off one by one” (los vamos a acabar uno a uno) and “we know where each one of you and your families are, prepare to die” (sabemos donde [sic] estan [sic] cada uno de Ustedes y sus familias preparense [sic] para morir). On 9 September, Colombia’s Human Rights Day, two further emails threatening dozens of human rights defenders were sent, signed by the paramilitary group Black Eagles Capital Bloc (Águilas Negras Bloque Capital). In one of these threats, the defenders were given an ultimatum to stop their work within 15 days and told: “stop bothering with your fake politics, stop fucking about with your story of human rights defenders” (no jodan más con sus políticas chimbas, dejen de mariquiar [sic] con su cuento de defensores de derechos humanos). The other threat sent on 9 September included “invitations to the funeral” of three Afro-descendant human rights defenders, which would take place on 18 September. In all three death threats the human rights defenders were accused of being guerrilla fighters.

Those threatened include a wide spectrum of well-known human rights defenders, trade unionists, staff working for parliamentarians who have campaigned on human rights issues, and community leaders. They also included representatives of victims of human rights abuses who have travelled to Havana, Cuba, where the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) are negotiating a peace agreement. According to newspaper reports, thirty members of staff at the Office of the High Counsellor for Human Rights at the Bogotá Mayor’s Office (Alta Consejeria para las Víctimas de la Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá) also received a separate threat “inviting them to their own funeral”, also on 18 September.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

  • Expressing concern for the safety of those threatened and urging the authorities to immediately provide effective protection for them in accordance with their wishes and needs;
  • Calling on the authorities to order a full and impartial investigation into the death threats, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice;
  • Reminding them to fulfil their obligation to protect human rights defenders, as set out in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
  • Urging the authorities to take action against paramilitary forces and break any links between them and the security forces, in line with repeated UN recommendations.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 23 OCTOBER 2014 TO:  (Time difference = GMT - 5 hrs / BST - 6 hrs)

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Consider this: Lebanon is hosting 1.14 million refugees from Syria, the equivalent of 83 million refugees in the United States — or the combined population of California, Texas, and New York. And what has the United States done to relieve the human burden on Lebanon and Syria’s other neighbors? In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2014, the US admitted a grand total of 63 Syrian refugees.

GOOD NEWS: Qatar: UK nationals released

UK nationals Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev have been released. They are not known to have been charged with any offence.

UK nationals Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev were released on 9 September. They had been held incommunicado from 31 August until 6 September, when UK consular officials met them and took messages to their families. The Qatari government only acknowledged that day that it had detained the men, and are not known to have charged them.

Following their release, the two men returned to the hotel where they were staying and were expected to spend part of 9 September with the police, seeking to recover the equipment they used during their research, including mobile phones and recording equipment. They are expected to return to the UK in the next few days.

Krishna Upadhyana’s wife told Amnesty International on 9 September that her husband was well, but tired.

In a statement on its website, their employer, the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), expressed relief at their release (see: http://gnrd.net/seemore.php?id=876). The organization also thanked the rapidly assembled, informal coalition that emerged to campaign for the speedy resolution of the case, including Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch and Walk Free along with the 50,000 people who supported a petition.

No further action is requested by the UA Network. Amnesty International will remain in contact with GNRD and Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev’s families. Many thanks to all who sent appeals.

China: Health fears for detained activist Liu Ping

Prisoner of conscience Liu Ping is being denied access to the medical treatment she needs in detention, and there are serious concerns for her health. She is also at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Liu Ping’s daughter was able to visit her at Jiangxi Nanchang Women’s Prison, in the southeast of the country, on 18 August. She was not allowed to ask Liu Ping about her health during the visit, and said she looked pale and thin. During a previous visit, Liu Ping said that she was suffering from chronic diarrhoea and stomach upset but was not given a medical examination or treatment.

Activist Liu Ping was sentenced to six and a half years imprisonment on 19 June 2014, after she organized a demonstration demanding that high-ranking officials disclose their wealth as a way of tackling corruption in April 2013. She was convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place”, and “using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement”. She is one of many activists in China who have been persecuted and detained for their links with the New Citizen’s Movement, a loose network of activists which aims to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

During her hearing in December 2013, Liu Ping stated that she was tortured while in pre-trial detention, and she remains at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.  

Please write immediately in Chinese, English or your own language:

  • Calling on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Liu Ping;
  • Demanding that Liu Ping is given immediate access to an independent medical examination and any treatment she needs;
  • Urging them to ensure she is protected from torture and other ill-treatment.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 15 OCTOBER 2014 TO:  (Time difference = GMT + 8 hrs / BST + 7 hrs)

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GOOD NEWS: Tajikistani academic returns to Canada

Tajikistani PhD student Alexander Sodiqov has safely returned to Toronto, Canada, where he will continue his studies.

On 10 September, Alexander Sodiqov flew to Toronto from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. His wife and daughter joined him on 12 September. The Tajikistani authorities responded positively to a request from Alexander Sodiqov to allow him to return to Canada and continue his university studies. The investigation into the criminal case against Alexander Sodiqov is still ongoing in Tajikistan.

Alexander Sodiqov is a PhD student at the University of Toronto and was detained on 16 June while conducting a research interview. He was held in connection with investigations into a charge of “high treason” under Article 305 of the Criminal Code (punishable by 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment). Alexander Sodiqov was considered by Amnesty International a prisoner of conscience who was detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as he had been undertaking legitimate academic research intended for publication.

No further action is requested from the UA network. Many thanks to all who sent appeals. Amnesty International will continue to monitor this case and take further action as necessary.

Azerbaijan: Journalist attacked and family threatened

Independent Azerbaijani journalist, Ilgar Nasibov, and his family continue receiving threats after he was brutally attacked by unidentified people on 21 August.

Azerbaijani journalist and human rights defender Ilgar Nasibov was severely beaten by unidentified people on 21 August as they stormed the office of the Democracy and NGO Development Resource Centre in the Nakhichevan exclave of Azerbaijan. Ilgar Nasibov was found unconscious in the ransacked office with severe head trauma and broken bones in his face.

Ilgar Nasibov’s family link the attack to his journalism and human rights activism. Ilgar Nasibov and his wife, Malahat Nasibova, have been outspoken journalists in Nakhichevan and have worked for the Democracy and NGO Development Resource Centre supporting victims of human rights violations.

Following the attack, Ilgar Nasibov and his wife have been receiving phone calls threatening to kill their children if they continue their journalistic work. Ilgar Nasibov and Malahat Nasibova are also followed by unidentified persons whenever they leave their house, including during Ilgar Nasibov’s hospital visits for treatment.  

Threats and harassment toward the couple are not new. On 6 July, Ilgar Nasibov was hit by a car. The couple believe this accident was deliberate and part of the authorities’ attempt to intimidate them. As Malahat Nasibova told Amnesty International, they have always been under regular intimidation because government officials want them to leave the region, as they are “the only remaining independent voices there”. Ilgar Nasibov was also arrested and sentenced to 90 days in prison on 7 December 2007 on charges of “slandering police officers” after he had sent a complaint to the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, about police harassment of journalists. Malahat Nasibova was also briefly detained that day and interrogated regarding Ilgar Nasibov and their journalistic work.

Even though the authorities reportedly detained one of the assailants of Ilgar Nasibov, they have not initiated a criminal investigation, and the victim has not been given any official information regarding his case.

Please write immediately in Azeri, English or your own language:

  • Calling on the authorities to immediately, impartially and effectively investigate the attack on Ilgar Nasibov, as well as the ongoing threats and harassment against him and his family and bring those responsible to justice;
  • Insisting on full respect for, and protection of, the right to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 16 OCTOBER 2014 TO:  (Time difference = GMT + 5 hrs / BST + 4 hrs)

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Honduras: Campesino leader shot dead in Honduras

Prominent campesino (peasant farmer) leader Margarita Murillo was shot dead in the community of El Planón, north-western Honduras, on 27 August. The safety of other members of her organization and family could be at risk.

In the morning of 27 August Margarita Murillo (56) was working on a piece of land in the community of El Planón, near the municipality of Villanueva in the department of Cortés, when she was shot dead. Margarita Murillo’s dead body was found over her mattock with shots to her face and chest. The fatal attack occurred after she had reported being under surveillance and receiving threats in recent days. Over the weekend of 30 August, police officers wanted to force their way into Margarita’s daughters’ home, arguing it was part of the investigations into her death.

Margarita Murillo was the president of the campesino organization of Las Ventanas (Empresa Asociativa Campesina de Producción Las Ventanas), which is part of the National Federation of Campesinos of Honduras.  She was also an active member of the Social Forum of the Sula Valley (Foro Social del Valle de Sula). On 19 August, as president of the campesino organization of Las Ventanas, she attended a very tense a meeting in the National Agrarian Institute (Instituto Nacional Agrario, INA) about issues related to land disputes in Las Ventanas. In April 2014 another member of Las Ventanas campesino group was killed in circumstances that are yet to be clarified.

Margarita Murillo worked for over 40 years defending the rights and better living standards of campesinos and women campesinos in Honduras. She was a founding member of the national campesino trade union (Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo) and of the Liberty and Refoundation party (Libertad y Refundación, LIBRE) which was created after the June 2009 coup d’état. In the 1980s Margarita Murillo suffered torture and persecution in reprisal for her activism. In the violent context of the 2009 coup d’état, Margarita’s 23-year-old son was disappeared and was found a few weeks later. Since the time of the coup d’état, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had ordered Honduras to protect her safety, but these measures were never implemented.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

  • Calling on the authorities to carry out an immediate and independent investigation into the killing of Margarita Murillo, to make the results public and bring those found responsible to justice;
  • Urging them to protect Margarita Murillo’s colleagues and family members in accordance with their wishes;
  • Calling on the authorities to adopt and fully implement a mechanism to protect those who are at risk of reprisal for their work in defence of human rights, and reminding them of their responsibilities as established in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 14 OCTOBER 2014 TO:  (Time difference = GMT - 6 hrs / BST - 7 hrs)

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Qatar: UK nationals disappear in Qatar, risk torture

UK nationals Krishna Prasad Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev have disappeared in Qatar while researching the conditions of migrant workers. They are believed to have been detained by the Qatari authorities and may be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Human rights researcher Krishna Prasad Upadhyaya, 52, and photographer Ghimire Gundev, 36, both UK nationals, arrived in Qatar on 27 August for work focused on the conditions of Nepalese workers. Krishna Upadhyaya told a friend in Norway three days later that Qatari police were following and harassing both men. Their employer, The Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), contacted a foreign diplomat on 31 August who confirmed that he had been with the men the previous evening and that they were being followed.

On 31 August, Krishna Upadhyaya checked-out of his hotel in the capital, Doha, but remained in the reception area. He told his friend in Norway he felt it unsafe to travel to the airport for his flight. While he is reported to have checked-in for his return flight to Norway, the airline KLM confirmed to GNRD that he never boarded the plane.

Amnesty International has written to the Minister of the Interior, the Director of the Human Rights Bureau and the ambassador in London in connection with the men. GNRD has contacted the UK embassy in Doha and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The men’s families are understood to have made complaints to the UK police in connection with their disappearance.

Please write immediately in English, Arabic or your own language:

  • Urging the Qatari authorities to publicly clarify the whereabouts of Krishna Upadhyaya and Gundev Ghimire and  ensure that both men have access to their families and employer, lawyers of their choice, any medical attention they may require, and diplomatic representation;
  • Urging them to release the men if they are not to be charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence and brought to trial promptly in proceedings fully meeting international fair trial standards;
  • Calling on them to ensure that neither man is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment in custody:

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 16 OCTOBER 2014 TO:  (Time difference = GMT + 3 hrs / BST + 2 hrs)

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Bahrain: Opposition Activist On Hunger Strike

Prisoner of conscience Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, one of the 13 jailed prominent Bahraini opposition activists, went on hunger strike on 25 August in protest at his arbitrary arrest and detention. His health might deteriorate rapidly.  

Prisoner of conscience Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a dual Bahraini-Danish national, started a hunger strike on 25 August. He had told his family the previous day when they visited him in prison that he go on a full hunger strike, and would refuse to be taken to either hospital or the prison clinic. His family fear that his health will deteriorate so rapidly that he will die.

The Public Prosecution visited Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on 27 August. He demanded to be released. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja also phoned his family. His voice was weak and he told them that he was losing weight rapidly, his blood sugar levels and his blood pressure had dropped, and that he had started drinking water with added salts and glucose to gain energy. He also said he was being checked by a doctor and a nurse every two hours and being videoed.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had found Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s detention arbitrary in May 2012 and called for his immediate release.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

  • Calling on the Bahraini authorities to release Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja immediately and unconditionally;
  • Calling on them to order an impartial investigation into Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 10 OCTOBER 2014 TO:  (Time difference = GMT + 3 hrs / BST + 2 hrs)

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