AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS LAUNCHED its annual letter-writing campaign, Write for Rights, to support 10 individuals around the world who have been attacked or jailed for standing up for their rights.
Amnesty is calling on members of the public to join the global action which takes place across November and December. People around the world will send millions of cards, emails and tweets of solidarity to individuals or groups of people whose freedoms are being denied, and will write letters putting pressure on those in power to stop the abuses being committed against them.
This year, Write for Rights – which is funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery – will support 10 individuals who are suffering abuses, including:
- Aleksandra ‘Sasha’ Skochilenko, an artist from Russia, was arrested for protesting the invasion of Ukraine. In March she replaced price tags at a supermarket with paper labels that contained information censored by Russian state-run media. She was charged with “dissemination of knowingly false information about Russian Armed Forces”. Sasha has been held in pre-trial detention ever since. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty has declared her a prisoner of conscience.
- Dorgelesse Nguessan from Cameroonis a single mother and hairdresser. In 2020 she attended her first protest after becoming increasingly concerned about the state of the economy and her country as a whole. When peaceful demonstrations went ahead, security forces fired rubber bullets, teargas and water cannons to disperse protestors and arrested over 500 people – mainly opposition party members and supporters. Dorgelesse was one of those arrested and charged with “insurrection, assembly, meetings and public demonstrations” and tried by a military court which found her guilty and sentenced her to five years in prison. She remains in Douala central prison.
- Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤) from Hong Kong is a human rights lawyer and China labour rights advocate. She is currently imprisoned on charges of “unauthorised assembly” after encouraging people on social media to light candles to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, after the vigil was banned by the authorities. At the time she was charged, Chow was the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Chow is also awaiting trial on additional charges of “inciting subversion” under the new National Security Law and could face an additional 10 years’ imprisonment.
- Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is an artist from Cuba and, like many others, he was charged, detained, and imprisoned during the July 2021 protests, when thousands of people took to the streets to protest the Government’s mismanagement of the country – from food and medicine shortages to the restrictive measures taken to control Covid-19 transmission. Luis Manuel was detained on 11 July soon after posting a video expressing his mere intention to join the protests. Amnesty has declared him a prisoner of conscience.
Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive of Amnesty International UK, said: “The activists we have focused on this year have been arrested or thrown behind bars simply for exercising their right to protest. By getting involved with this campaign, people in the UK – and indeed around the world – have the power to boost their chances of protection or release.
“Sending a letter or email might seem like a small act, but when sent in their thousands they can change lives: Those in power are forced to take notice.
“Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign – which has been made possible with funding from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery – helps to protect the lives of persecuted people every year. We hope to see people across the country getting involved to make as big a noise as possible about the injustices these human rights defenders are facing.”
Write for Rights goes back to the very roots of Amnesty International, which was founded in 1961, with Amnesty’s early campaigners writing letters of support to those affected by human rights abuses, as well as letters of concern to governments around the world.
Successes from previous campaigns:
- More than half a million actions were taken for Bernardo Caal Xol, an environmental activist, who was sentenced to seven years in 2018 for defending communities affected by hydroelectric projects in northern Guatemala. In March this year he was released.
- More than 700,000 actions were taken for Magai Matiop Ngong, a 15-year-old schoolboy in South Sudan, who was sentenced to death for accidentally killing a person. Magai faced trial for capital murder without any access to a lawyer. In March this year the High Court agreed that given his age at the time of the conviction, he should be released. Magai is now safely out of the country and determined to help other people who have been in similar circumstances.
- Burundian human rights defender Germain Rukuki was released from prison four years into a 32-year sentence in 2021. He had been found guilty of a number of sham charges relating to his human rights work and his family were forced to flee the country for fear of reprisals. Initially unable to leave Burundi following his release, Germain was finally reunited with his family in Belgium in February this year. Supporters from around the world took more than 436,000 actions calling for Germain’s release.
* Join the Write for Rights campaign here.
* Source: Amnesty International