Good news: releases in China, Zimbabwe, Oman and more
We’ve had a busy first few months of 2013, including our celebrations of the 40 year anniversary of the first ever Urgent Action being issued at Amnesty. We have also sent out over 100 Urgent Action cases already this year, which is a stark reminder that these actions are still very much needed to prevent and stop human rights abuses from taking place around the world.
Now for the good news - these actions are still working! I’d like to share with you a small selection of the good news stories we have seen since the start of the year
China: Female rights activist allowed home
Women’s human rights activist and prisoner of conscience Mao Hengfeng has been allowed home from prison. On 8 February, Mao’s family were able to bring her home from Yangpu police detention centre were she’s been held since her arrest in September last year. Mao was sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘disturbing public order” after participating in peaceful rally. It was the latest in a series of detentions dating back to 2004 because of her work standing up for human rights in China.
Mao Hengfeng is currently resting at home, and expressed her thanks to Amnesty International for campaigning for her release. Her husband, Wu Xuewei, also said he believes her release is due to the international pressure.
Zimbabwe: Human rights lawyer released on bail
Prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was released on bail by a High Court Judge on 25 March just five days after we sent out our Urgent Action. She was arrested as she visited one of her clients when the police were conducting a search. When Beatrice asked to see the search warrant they arrested her for "obstructing the course of justice".
Beatrice’s arbitrary arrest and detention is part of an intensified crack-down, particularly against those who help human rights defenders, in the run up to Zimbabwe’s 2013 presidential elections.
Oman: Activists pardoned and released
On 21 March the Sultan of Oman pardoned activists who were convicted last year for ‘insulting the ruler’, ‘IT crimes’ and ‘taking part in unauthorised protests’. They were released the following day.
Dozens of activists and bloggers were sentenced or were waiting to be tried for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, convicted on charges as wide-ranging as ‘insulting the Sultan’, ‘using the internet to publish offensive material’, ‘unlawful gathering’ and ‘publishing harmful and provocative material’. We’ve issued many calls for urgent action on their behalf since May last year, and it’s great to see the Sultan has finally pardoned them.
Serbia: EU mission shares Amnesty International’s concern for Roma
In December 2012 the Serbian authorities were finalising plans to resettle two evicted Roma communities after they had been forcibly evicted from the capital, Belgrade. Many of the locations proposed by Serbian authorities didn’t comply with international standards and were isolated, with poor public transport and no access to employment. The communities weren’t consulted or given the opportunity to suggest alternative sites.
Very soon after we sent out the Urgent Action on this case, the EU Mission in Serbia made a public statement outlining their opposition to the resettlement of these Roma communities into racially segregated settlements. They said that that they agreed with Amnesty’s position on this human rights violation.
Cuba: Cuban Prisoner of Conscience freed
Independent journalist and prisoner of conscience Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias was released on 9 April after spending almost seven months in prison without charge in Cuba and many of you took action when he was first imprisoned, and again when he went on hunger strike to protest against his detention. He has thanked Amnesty International and believes international action on his case led to his release.
Uzbekistan: Uzbekistani writer free after 14 years
Writer Mamadali Makhmudov was released on 19 April after serving 14 years in prison in terrible conditions in Uzbekistan. On the day of his release Marmadali returned to his home in Taskent, the Uzbekistani capital, where he met his grandchildren for the first time.
Amnesty and other human rights organisations had raised our concerns about his deteriorating health with the Uzbekistani authorities as well as international governmental organizations, such as the EU and the UN. Human rights defenders believe that Mamadali Makhmudov's early release was the result of this increased international pressure on the Uzbekistani authorities.
Thank you for taking action over the past few months. Your letters, emails and faxes have once again made a difference.
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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.