In 2021 the Amnesty International campaign "Write for rights" comes with 10 cases of people who have defended their rights and that of others and are now having a hard time. Take action for them and use the hashtag #W4R2021
When we all act together, we have the power to change lives.
Write for Rights is the world’s biggest human rights event, where millions of people around the world come together to protect the rights of others.
It began when a group of activists in Poland held a 24-hour letter-writing marathon, writing letters day and night on behalf of people whose rights had been wronged. 20 years later, and it has turned into our biggest campaign where we all come together to protect the human rights of people at risk.
From 2,326 letters in 2001 to 4.5 million letters, tweets and petition signatures today, Write for Rights supporters have used the power of their voice to help others. Together, they’ve helped transform the lives of more than 100 people, freeing them from torture, harassment, or unjust imprisonment.
According to Mikita’s dad, it all began in August 2020, when Mikita was waiting for a friend in the main square of Homel city, south-eastern Belarus. Nearby, people had been largely peacefully protesting the recent presidential election results when police moved in. According to Mikita’s father, as the crowd began running, someone told Mikita to run, too – so he did.
The next day police officers came to Mikita’s door. They beat the 16-year-old, accusing him of throwing a Molotov cocktail towards two officers the night before. After they arrested Mikita, they beat him in custody with an electric shock truncheon. Officers interrogated him without a lawyer or responsible adult present, and locked him up for six months before putting him on trial.
Mikita was convicted of mass disorder and using illegal explosives without sufficient evidence. Video evidence did not show him taking part in violence. The judge sentenced Mikita to five years in a child educational prison colony. Since then, Mikita has been held in solitary confinement and reportedly has been tortured. He is not getting the medical treatment he needs for his epilepsy.
His parents are calling for their son’s release. Help protect Mikita’s future. Tell Belarus to release Mikita and give him a fair trial.
Janna Jihad risks everything to speak out against Israel’s oppressive system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. When she was seven years old, the death of her uncle at the hands of the Israeli military drove her to speak out about the brutal military occupation. Janna filmed her uncle’s killing on her mother’s phone and shared it with the world. By the time she was 13, Janna was recognized as one of the youngest journalists in the world, documenting the Israeli army’s oppressive and often deadly treatment of Palestinians. Janna Jihad faces death threats and intimidation because of her work.
Palestinian children and their communities are denied their rights and face discrimination on a daily basis. Between January and June 2021, Israeli forces killed at least 73 children in the OPT. Each year Israel prosecutes between 500 and 700 Palestinian children in military courts. These courts do not meet international fair trial standards. Even though Israel has signed up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has excluded Palestinian children in the West Bank from those protections. Israeli children living in the illegal settlements near Janna are protected, but she is not.
Janna Jihad just wants a normal childhood. She should be given the same rights as any child and should not have them taken away because she is Palestinian.
Wendy Galarza is a dedicated childcare worker who speaks out against sexism and violence in her home country, Mexico, where women are often degraded, attacked and killed.
On 9 November 2020, Wendy attended a march organised by feminist collectives in Cancún to demand justice for the murder of another woman. After the protest escalated, Wendy tried to flee but police caught her. They brutally beat her, and she was shot twice. She was lucky to survive.
Wendy lodged a complaint against the police, and it took months for the State Prosecutor to accept her evidence. Today, the suspects for her shooting have still not been brought to justice. But Wendy has not given up; she set up a collective with other women who were assaulted during the protest.
In Mexico, as in many other countries in Latin America and around the world, women are killed at an alarming rate. Because of people like Wendy who speak out, women everywhere have a better chance of living without fear. The authorities should protect people like Wendy, but instead they attack them. Take action now and demand justice.
Bernardo and other members of the Maya Q’eqchi’ Indigenous community in north central Guatemala risk everything to protect their land against destruction. In 2015, the Q´eqchi´s communities became aware of ongoing constructions of two hydroelectric power plants in the Q’eqchi’s Cahabón river. The river is one of the longest in Guatemala, and is sacred to the Maya Q’eqchi’. Construction of the power plants had already stripped their forests and they were losing the precious water they needed to survive. Bernardo and other members of the community decided to speak out, and risked everything to do it.
In response to his protests, Bernardo was publicly smeared with repeated and baseless accusations. In 2018, a judge sentenced him to over seven years in prison – without any evidence.
Indigenous Peoples make up 40% of Guatemala’s population. They often live on land that is rich in resource. They are frequently labeled as standing in the way of commercial interests, and are threatened, harassed, and even killed in the drive to exploit natural resources from their land.
People like Bernardo protect the land for their communities and for future generations to come. Like many others around the world, Bernardo is being punished for protecting the environment by the very people who are destroying it. He must be released immediately.
Zhang Zhan risked everything to report on Covid-19 when it first appeared in Wuhan, China. In February 2020, she decided to travel to Wuhan as a citizen journalist in order to provide on-the-ground information about what was happening there. The former lawyer took to social media, reporting how government officials had detained independent reporters and harassed families of Covid-19 patients.
Zhang Zhan went missing in Wuhan in May 2020. She had been taken by the Chinese authorities and detained in Shanghai. The judge sentenced her to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. The authorities refuse to let her see her family.
In June 2020, she began a hunger strike to protest her detention. In December, Zhang Zhan’s body was so weak she had to attend her trial in a wheelchair. She continued her protest as a partial hunger strike in the same month to avoid punishment and force-feeding.
Now, Zhang Zhan remains on a partial hunger strike despite the grave risk to her health. which continues to deteriorate at a dramatic rate. She was admitted to hospital due to severe malnutrition on 31 July this year and now weighs less than 40kg.
Citizen journalists were the only source of uncensored, first-hand information about the Covid-19 outbreak in China. Because they work independently of state-controlled media, citizen journalists face constant harassment for exposing information the government would rather keep quiet. Zhang Zhan must be released immediately.
22-year-old Rung is a voice for young people in Thailand. She is one of many young people calling for equality, freedom of expression and systemic change in Thailand. She’s a leading voice in Thailand’s youth democracy movement.
Rung, which means ‘Rainbow’ in Thai, became politically active while studying sociology and anthropology at university in the capital, Bangkok. She bravely took part in protests for social and political change throughout 2020. By August, she had become a protest leader and was watched by thousands, calling for equality, freedom of expression and – what is a highly sensitive topic in Thailand – the reform of the monarchy. This unprecedented act propelled her onto the national stage.
But the authorities branded her a troublemaker, and in March 2020, she was detained by the Thai authorities. She was accused of provoking unrest and was arrested under sedition and lèse-majesté laws that make illegal the criticism of the monarchy. She now faces up to life in prison just for speaking out for freedom in her country.
Rung was detained for 60 days during which she was diagnosed with Covid-19. The authorities denied her bail six times. In defiance, she went on a 38-day hunger strike and was released on 30 April 2021. She must be acquitted of all charges immediately.
Imoleayo was taken from his home in the middle of the night. 20 armed men raided his home in Abuja, Nigeria while his family were locked in a room. He was taken by the authorities two weeks after attending an #EndSARs protest in October 2020 which saw young people across Nigeria marching against violence, extortion and killings by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, popularly known as SARS. Imoleayo, a young computer programmer, promoted the protests online using the viral hashtag #EndSARS.
Officers shattered his bedroom window and pointed a gun at him, forcing him to open his front door. They then seized his phone and computer, and locked his wife, elderly mother and seven-month-old son in a room and disconnected the power supply to the streetlights around his house.
After they took him away from his family, the Nigerian authorities brought Imoleayo to state security service headquarters where they held him in an underground cell for 41 days without access to a lawyer or his family. While there, he was cuffed, blindfolded and chained to a steel cabinet. He was also forced to sleep on a bare floor. All he had to eat was some porridge mixed with stones. Security officers interrogated him a total of five times.
Imoleayo suffered pneumonia and was eventually released on bail in December 2020. He is now facing trumped-up charges of ‘conspiracy with others to disturb public peace’ and ‘disturbing public peace’. Imoleayo is one of many people at risk of punishment for speaking out in Nigeria. The trumped-up charges against him must be dropped immediately.
Anna Sharyhina and Vira Chernygina started Sphere NGO to provide a safe space for women and LGBTI people in a country where often people are attacked and harassed for their identity. They organised the first Pride event in their city of Kharkiv in 2019, managing to mobilize over 3,000 people.
But Sphere NGO have suffered numerous discriminatory attacks because of their work. Since 2017, the organisation has been attacked almost 30 times by homophobic groups – they smashed windows, doused the building with urine and smeared faeces on the walls. They broke up events and intimidated staff members who are just trying to support the LGBTI community in Ukraine. Anna and Vira report them to the police, but no one is held accountable.
During the pride event in 2019, the police failed to protect marchers from violence, instead joining in by hurling homophobic abuse. Anna and Vira say that police inaction in the face of constant attacks has left Sphere and their supporters in a permanent state of fear.
In Ukraine, groups targeting LGBTI people have proliferated across the country, and the authorities are still failing to protect LGBTI people from hate and abuse. The authorities must protect LGBTI people, they must do more.
Mohamed Baker is a brave human rights lawyer who defends people whose human rights were violated. In September 2019, he went to the Supreme State Security Prosecution’s (SSSP) office to defend his friend – prominent activist unjustly arrested, Alaa Abdel Fattah. But in a cruel twist of fate, he was arrested by the authorities.
Baker has spent over two years in detention without being charged or put on trial. The authorities made false, terrorism-related accusations against him but it is clear that he was detained because of his human rights work. He is a human rights lawyer and director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedom focusing on abuses in the criminal justice system, the right to education and students’ rights.
Baker is being held in a maximum-security prison in cruel and inhuman conditions, denied access to adequate healthcare and deprived of a bed or mattress, hot water, outdoor exercise and even family photos. His detention comes amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders in Egypt. The authorities are seeking to severely constrain independent human rights work through the imposition of draconian legislation, and the persecution of independent human rights workers.
Despite everything he has gone through, Baker is hopeful.
Baker has risked everything to protect the human rights of others, now he needs our help. With enough support we can get him released.
On 8th December 2012, Ciham was arrested at the border to Sudan as she tried to flee Eritrea. Her father Ali Abdu, then a Minister of Information in Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki’s government, defected and fled to exile not long before Ciham herself tried to leave.
Ciham has been secretly detained for over 8 years. Her family have not seen or heard from her at all during this time. They don’t even know where she is or whether she is OK. Her secret detention amounts to an enforced disappearance – a crime under international law.
Ciham is both an Eritrean and US national but, despite this, the US government has not intervened in her case. We believe that the complete silence and failure from the US government to protect its own citizen is part of the reason why Ciham has still not been released.
Tags: WRITE FOR RIGHTS, Escribe por los derechos, Maratón de Cartas, W4R2021.