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Planning for Write for Rights on 8 December, 11am to 4pm at Seven Shores Café.
Write for Rights is the world’s largest grassroots event!! Activists in more than 140 countries around the world come together to write letters calling for the protection and promotion of human rights. Last year there were 5.5 million actions taken worldwide on 11 cases.
This year there are 12 cases planned. We will prepare letters for the cases and send them out before the event for members to sign and share.
We have included publicity for the event at our recent tablings and will have a poster to share as soon as the template is available from Amnesty.
The list of cases and a short description of each is attached. Please have a look and see if you can identify any local groups that are working on the issues – and their contact information, if possible, so that we can target our publicity and maybe decide on a feature case.
Contact the Kitchener/Waterloo chapter, Group Nine of Amnesty International at email@example.com
2018 Case Selection
CANADIAN CASE: Mount Polley
The people who live near a Canadian copper mine that burst its tailings dam in 2014 are calling out for justice. But their calls are falling on deaf ears. The Mount Polley copper mine continues to operate and since the tailings dam breach, has been allowed to dump filtered mine waste water right into the lake. People used to fish and drink water from the lake and take their kids swimming there. But now they are afraid to, for fear of toxic pollution. The company has not been charged or fined by the government. The government responsible for the mine, Canada, has been told by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that it must provide food security, clean water, remedy and reparations to the people who were harmed. Organisations like Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake and First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining are working hard to prevent further pollution of the lake, which is considered one of the most important birthplaces of wild salmon in the country and sacred to Indigenous peoples in the area. These groups and other community activists have been subjected to smear tactics and bullying but they are not giving up their fight for justice. Canada must provide justice for people in Canada who are harmed by Canadian mining operations.
CANADIAN CASE: End Gender-Based Violence in Canada
At least one-third of women and gender diverse people in Canada will experience violence at some point in their lives, and actions taken to date have failed to stem the violence. Under international law, every country has an obligation to address gender- based violence. And every person has a right to live free from discrimination and violence. The Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence enacted in June2017 is a step in the right direction, but is limited to areas under federal jurisdiction, and fails to address the gender discrimination that is at the root of gender-based violence. A national action plan involving the federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments and governance, which addresses root causes, is needed to end gender-based violence in Canada.
GLOBAL CASE: Sengwer Indigenous people, Kenya
Families in Embobut forest, in the North Rift Valley of Kenya, are losing their homes, livelihoods, and access to cultural practices. They belong to the Sengwer Indigenous People and Embobut is their ancestral home. The Kenya Forest Service has been carrying out forced evictions in the forest since the 1980s; however on Christmas Day 2017 it began a new campaign, burning 341 houses and leading to the killing of one Sengwer man and the hospitalisation with gunshot wounds of another. The government of Kenya claims that the Sengwer were consulted, agreed to leave the forest, and were given cash compensation. But the process was opposed by community representatives who went to court to stop it; the government nevertheless went ahead and burned an estimated 800 – 1500 houses in January 2014. The compensation process, marred by allegations of corruption, excluded many legitimate forest residents. Many Sengwer who are now living outside the forest, are living in appalling poverty. The eviction has dispersed the community, separating them from their spiritual and cultural practices in the forest; many fear that it will lead to the disappearance of the unique culture and identity of the Sengwer.
GLOBAL CASE: Nonhle Mbuthuma, South Africa
Nonhle Mbuthuma is a woman human rights defender and a leader of the Amadiba Crisis Committee. For 10 years she and her fellow activists have been campaigning against companies who want to mine titanium in the area of the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape called Xolobeni and her live is at risk. She is at risk of attacks and faces intimidation and harassment due to her human rights actions. Nonhle Mbuthuma is from Pondoland and is a farmer of her ancestral land where she lives with her four sisters, mother, father and grandmother. She has lived in Amadiba all her life. Nonhle’s main concern is that the mining activity is going to destroy the environment and take their ancestral land. In March 2016, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and Nonhle’s colleagues, was shot dead by two men claiming to be police officers in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Hours before his death, Bazooka learned he was at the top of a “hit list”, which included other ACC leaders Mzamo Dlamini and Nonhle. For decades, “Bazooka” had opposed the opencast mining of titanium and other minerals on communal land in nearby Xolobeni by a subsidiary of theAustralia-based company Mineral Commodities Ltd. Due to their opposition to the mine, some members of the ACC have been threatened and attacked, including by community members who support the mining initiative. Nobody has been brought to justice for Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe’s murder, increasing the risks for the other leaders of the ACC.
GLOBAL CASE: Pavitri Manjhi, India
Pavitri Manjhi and other activists set up the Adivasi Dalit Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh in 2017, a community group that supported individuals to file formal complaints in line with the provisions of India’s Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act a special law to protect Dalit and Adivasi rights that criminalizes the dispossession of Adivasi land without their consent. In June 2017, scores of Adivasi villagers filed complaints to the state police alleging unlawful dispossession of their land. However, the police have refused to register First Information Reports (the first step of a criminal investigation). For her resistance to illegal land dispossession, she has faced serious threats and intimidation from various quarters. However, she continues to be part of the movement fighting for the right to land of indigenous communities in India. She has been honoured with the Chingari award (https://bhopal.org/chingari-award-30th- november-2016/) for fighting against corporate crimes and protecting the environment.
GLOBAL CASE: Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom)
Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, better known by her pen name Mẹ Nấm (Mother Mushroom), is a prominent Vietnamese blogger and human rights defender. She was arrested in 2016 and sentenced her to 10 years in prison in 2017 for “conducting propaganda” against the State. She is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for her peaceful activities promoting and defending human rights. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh co-founded the independent Vietnamese Bloggers Network in December 2013. She is a single mother with two children, who has on numerous occasions faced harassment, arrest and interrogation for her peaceful activities, and has been prevented from travelling overseas. She has advocated for human rights and justice for more than 10 years and is a popular and well-known blogger. Issues that she is known to have campaigned on include government transparency, State accountability for human rights violations, environmental protection, and promotion of the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
GLOBAL CASE: Marielle Franco, Brazil
In the night of 14 March 2018, Marielle Franco, a 38 years old human rights defender and councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro, was shot to death in Rio de Janeiro while she was returning from a debate with a group of young black women. Anderson Pedro Gomes, 39, her driver, was also killed in the attack. Marielle was a tireless human rightsdefender in Rio de Janeiro and metropolitan area. She was born in Maré, a favela in northern Rio de Janeiro where she lived for most of her life. In 2016, Marielle ran for councillor of the Municipal Chamber of Rio de Janeiro the first time and was elected with the fifth-highest votes. Her popularity was rooted in her life experience as a black bisexual woman, single mother who came from the favelas. Marielle stood out for denouncing human rights violations, especially against black youth, women and LGBTI people. She also worked against abuses committed by the security forces, including extrajudicial executions. Marielle ́s case embodies the intersectional nature of human rights violations and highlights the high risk faced by those who dare to fight for human rights. For many years, before she was elected a council woman, she coordinated the human rights commission in the state assembly of Rio de Janeiro State. Brazil is one of the countries with highest number of killings of human defenders in the world. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders in Brazil are pervasive. Because of the high visibility of her work and the official position she occupied, Marielle ́s killing represents an unprecedent attack against all those who defend human rights, specially the rights of women, LGBTI, black people and Rio de Janeiro ́s favelas.
GLOBAL CASE: Geraldine Chacon, Venezuela
Youth Human Rights Defender and Amnesty International member Geraldine Chacón, 24, was arrested on 1 February 2018 by seven armed officials of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Servicio Boliviariano de Inteligencia Nacional, SEBIN) at her home in Caracas, Venezuela. Geraldine was detained days after her colleague Gregory Hinds, from the same organisation. They were accused of instigation of hatred and criminal association charges and held in the El Helicoide detention center. They were declared prisoners of conscience. Geraldine works with the Community Ambassadors Foundation (Fundación de Embajadores Comunitarios, FEC) a community base organization that empowers youth from impoverished areas providing Human Rights Education and running UN Model activities with them. Geraldine remained in detention until her conditional release on 1 June, despite the fact there was a release order in her favour since 2 April. She reported dire detention conditions, including lack of regular access to drinking water. Gregory was also released on 1 June. The judicial case against them is not likely to be closed, keeping an open window to arbitrary detention at any time. Since Gregory and Geraldine’s arrest, the Fundación Embajadores Comunitarios have stopped all their activities equipping young people with further knowledges and tools to know and defend human rights. Human Rights Defenders and activists are being harassed, stigmatized or submitted to criminal prosecution for their brave work standing up for human rights in Venezuela and this case is emblematic of the systematic persecution of social movements in the country.
GLOBAL CASE: Gulzar Diushenova, Kyrgyzstan
Gulzar Dushenova, a widow and mother of two, lost mobility after a car accident involving a drunk driver in 2002. In 2006, when she met people with similar problems in Bishkek, she became an active and very vocal member of civil society in Kyrgyzstan campaigning for equal access to health services, employment and infrastructure for women with disabilities. Women with disabilities face great challenges and high levels of discrimination in Kyrgyzstan’s society: because of their gender and because of their real or perceived disability. Gulzar is very brave in speaking out on issues that are not comfortable for many; such as accessible hygiene products or the right to health and independence for women with disabilities.
GLOBAL CASE: Vitalina Koval, Ukraine
Vitalina Koval, 28, has been actively defending LGBTI rights and women’s rights in her hometown of Uzhgorod since 2016. After becoming an activist, she helped establish an LGBTI community centre, which held regular weekly meetings to discuss relevant issues and offer peer to peer support for LGBTI people. During the 2018 International Women’s Day (IWD) march in Uzhgorod, six members of a right-wing group attacked participants and doused them in red paint. Vitalina Koval, who was one of the event organizers, was among those attacked. She sustained chemical burns to her eye. The attackers were arrested but later released. This is not the first time IWD in Ukraine has been marred by violence. Vitalina was also a participant in the 2017 IWD march in Uzhgorod which was disrupted by a dozen young men who charged at the protesters, teared their posters, and shouted threats. Again, no one was held to account. Vitalina and other fellow activists have observed the rise of threatening rhetoric by right wing groups, like “Karpatska Sich”, who took responsibility for the 2018 attack. The group threatened Koval and other activists with further violence on its social media pages. On 12 March, two of the reported that they had been followed to their homes and beaten up by members of “Karpatska Sich”. Fearing for her safety, Koval decided to leave Uzhgorod for a few days.
GLOBAL CASE: Atena Daemi, Iran
Woman Human Rights Defender and anti-death penalty campaigner Atena Daemi, 30, is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison for her peaceful human rights activities. She was convicted of criminal and national security-related charges for her activism, including her involvement in Iran’s growing movement against the death penalty, which has seen anti-death penalty activists often accused by the authorities of “threatening national security” or “defying Islam”. Her conviction rested on her posts on Facebook and Twitter criticizing the authorities’ execution record as well as herparticipation in gatherings outside prison in solidarity with families of death row prisoners. Atena Daemi has been targeted by the Iranian authorities in reprisal for her outspoken activism and human rights work even from behind bars. From 24 January to 9 May 2018 she was held in Shahr-e Rey prison, a former industrial chicken farm in Varamin, a town on the outskirts of Tehran, in appalling conditions and was subjected to ill-treatment. She is now back in the women’s ward of Evin prison.
GLOBAL CASE: Nawal Ben Aissa, Morocco
Nawal Benaissa, 36 years-old, is a mother of 4 who joined the Hirak Rif movement early on and became one of its main female leading voices. She took part in several protests with her husband and children and has been very active on social media. Her Facebook profile gained more than 80,000 followers, before the authorities requested her to shut it down during one of occasions they held her in detention. Nawal has been facing harassment for her defence of human rights and minority rights and she was arrested and held in custody for few hours four times between June and September 2017. The last time she was sued and in-February 2018, she was handed a 10 month suspended sentence and a fine of 500 dirhams for inciting to commit an offence. Her lawyer has appealed the sentence, the Court of Appeal has yet to rule. Nawal responded to the court’s decision on her Facebook page by expressing her continued support for the Rif protests. “”I am proud to take part in the protests in the region and I denounce the imprisonment of Hirak activists. I demand their immediate release,”” she wrote. She recently moved from the northern city of Al Hoceima to another Moroccan city to flee harassment from the authorities.