When will there be good news?
I’m often asked if we have any good news updates, or success stories. Quite rightly, we are constantly looking for proof that what we are doing works, and that ‘good’ will come of our letter writing. Over the years, my reply has tended more and more to be along the lines of, “well, it depends what you mean by ‘good’...”
Unfortunately, there are the updates that are never good, whichever way you look at it, like the execution in the Palestinian Authority on 2 October of Hani Abu Alian, who was under 18 at the time of his alleged crimes. Or Mikhail Kosenko in Russia, who was found guilty on 8 October, and sent for forcible psychiatric treatment.
But sometimes, just sometimes, we really know we’ve made a difference and that ‘good’ is ‘really good’!
Like in the case of Abdumavlon Abdurakhmonov, who was released from prison in Uzbekistan safely on 5 October.
The reasons for his detention remain unclear, but the NGO involved in his case thanked all at Amnesty International who wrote appeals. They are sure that without your letters, Abdumavlon Abdurakhmonov would still be in detention.
In the Ukraine, Raisa Radchenko, a 70 year-old human rights activist, was released from psychiatric hospital on 26 July. Hundreds of you wrote letters, and thousands of you responded via Pocket Protest to co-sign a faxed letter. Her daughter, Daryna Radchenko, thanked us for the support, saying that following Amnesty’s Urgent Actions, Raisa’s situation started to improve.
When Mansour al-Omari, a human rights activist from Syria, was released from prison he said:
“I am out, I am alive again, I am free and I will keep on what I was doing before I got detained. Thanks for all the wonderful work you did for us and still doing for all people around the world...”
However, sometimes, the ‘good’ in a situation is less clear.
Take for example, Ni Yulan, a Chinese housing rights activist, who was released from prison on 5 October. She was detained, tortured, imprisoned over many years, and is in a wheel chair and suffers from respiratory, heart and digestive problems as a result of being denied medical care while in prison. But, she is out of prison, and reunited with her husband and family.
Or the case of Bahraini blogger, Mohammad Hassan Sudayf, who was released on bail on October 4. He claims he was tortured while in detention, and he has yet to be tried and possibly convicted. But – for the moment at least, he is released from prison, and no longer at risk of torture. He, of course, may have to return there at any point.
The suffering that Ni Yulan or Mohammad Hassan Sudayf have seen might make the term ‘good news’ feel a bit glib. There are hundreds of cases where we see developments - executions being commuted to life sentences, individuals released on bail, prisoners allowed access to lawyers, temporary protection from threats – but overall, their situation remains appalling, and our, and your, campaigning continues on their behalf.
But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve helped to make a difference, however small. Sometimes ‘good news’ might mean ‘slightly less at risk’ or ‘slightly better’, but the alternatives if we do nothing can be far worse.
We’re ready to help if the news gets bad again, but for the moment, we should celebrate every small improvement.
Good news doesn’t have to be monumental to have made a difference to someone at risk.
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.