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Iran: Defender beaten and denied health care

Iran Map
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Alireza Farshi DizajYekan was arbitrarily arrested on 21 July 2020 to serve a two years’ imprisonment sentence following his 2017 conviction related to his peaceful human rights activities, upheld upon appeal in 2020. Alireza Farshi DizajYekan stated that during the arrest, a ministry of intelligence agent threw him flat on the asphalt, pressed down on his neck with his boot impeding his ability to breathe, and then later repeatedly slapped and punched him in the face while he was bleeding and handcuffed. Ministry of intelligence agents also confiscated and wiped clean his external hard drives, where he stored his writing, and computer coding applications he developed. He says that when he arrived to prison, despite being bloodied and in great pain, he was denied medical care for his left eye, on which he previously had surgery for an eye-condition, and other injuries sustained during the beating. After his arrest, he was taken to Tehran’s Evin prison where he repeatedly requested for the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran, a state forensic institute, to examine him and document his torture-related injuries, but his requests were dismissed. He also filed complaints with various officials to investigate his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, but he has not been provided with any information about the status of his complaints. 

In February 2017, a Revolutionary Court in Baharestan, Tehran province, sentenced Alireza Farshi DizajYekan to 15 years’ imprisonment after convicting him of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “founding groups with the purpose of disrupting national security” for his peaceful human rights activities in support of the rights of the Azerbaijani Turkic community, including his role in submitting a letter to the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Tehran in February 2015 seeking assistance in obtaining official permission to hold a commemorative event on International Mother Language Day in Tehran. In the verdict reviewed by Amnesty International, the court cited as “evidence” of Alireza Farshi DizajYekan’s involvement in “criminal” activity his participation in meetings in 2014 in which civil society activists discussed how to best campaign on issues related to their mother language. The court also sentenced him to two years of internal exile. In January 2020, on appeal, this sentence was reduced to two-years’ imprisonment and two-years’ internal exile. See Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack for more about this 2017 case. 

While serving this unjust two-year prison sentence, Iranian authorities pursued new criminal charges against Alireza Farshi DizajYekan. Informed sources were told that the reduction of Alireza Farshi DizajYekan’s prison sentence on appeal contributed to intelligence agents pursuing a new case against him. During the grossly unfair trial in March 2021, which he said lasted five minutes, the presiding judge denied Alireza Farshi DizajYekan’s request to defend himself and his requests for handcuffs and leg shackles to be removed in court were summarily ignored, undermining his right to the presumption of innocence. Alireza Farshi DizajYekan reports that the day the verdict was issued, the judge cited as evidence of “national security offences” acts that fall within the scope of the peaceful exercise of human rights including distributing books written in Turkish, supporting the right of minorities to use their mother tongue and posting on his Instagram account about others jailed in Iran, including Azerbaijani Turkic activist Abbas Lesani. See for more information.

Ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen face entrenched discrimination in Iran which curtails their access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office. Despite ongoing calls for linguistic diversity, Persian is the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education. Members of minority groups who speak out against human rights violations or demand a degree of regional self-government have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment. In 2020, several Azerbaijani Turkic activists were sentenced to imprisonment and flogging in connection with the November 2019 protests and other peaceful activism on behalf of the Azerbaijani Turkic minority. Two activists had their flogging sentences carried out. See Trampling humanity: mass arrests, disappearances and torture since Iran’s November 2019 protests for more information. 

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Covid-19: One year since call for vaccine tech to be shared

On 2 October 2020 South Africa and India called for life-saving vaccines to be patent-free UK, Norway, Switzerland and EU continue to block the move At the current rate, it could take poorest countries another 50 years to vaccinate their populations ‘Greed is triumphing over human life and human rights’ - Agnès Callamard Ahead of the one-year anniversary of South Africa and India’s call for a TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines on 2 October, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, said: “Since India and South Africa called for a TRIPS waiver one year ago, a staggering 3.5

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Covid-19: Big Pharma fuelling unprecedented human rights crisis - New Report

Female scientist in laboratory researches Covid vaccine, using a pipette and test tube
Amnesty is calling upon countries to urgently redistribute hundreds of millions of excess vaccine doses currently sitting idle

AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer refuse to participate in initiatives to boost global vaccine supply Fewer than 1% of people in low-income countries fully vaccinated, compared to 55% in rich countries With 100 days until end of 2021, new campaign - ‘The 100 Day Countdown’ - calls for 2bn vaccines to be delivered to low and lower-middle income countries by year end Call on new Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup to ‘scale up support’ for global vaccine sharing ‘Profits should never come before lives’ - Agnès Callamard Six companies at the helm of the global

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UK: Government must end Covid vaccine hoarding as booster programme announced

The UK has ordered enough doses to vaccinate its whole population three times over If current trends continue, it will take the world’s poorest countries until 2078 to vaccinate their populations ‘Booster jabs are welcome, but Boris Johnson must truly understand that nobody is safe until everyone is safe’ - Steve Cockburn Responding to news that the UK government plans to roll out Covid vaccine boosters for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable, Steve Cockburn, Head of Economic and Social Justice at Amnesty International, said “As the UK prepares to provide booster jabs to higher risk adults

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Egypt: Human Rights Defender Released

Esraa Abdelfattah
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Urgent Action Outcome: Human rights defender released

On 17 July, the Egyptian authorities provisionally released journalist and human rights defender Esraa Abdelfattah.

1st update on UA 145/20


Guinea: Activist sentenced to 3 years imprisonment

Oumar Sylla
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On 17 April 2020, Oumar Sylla was arrested in front of his house in Conakry, Guinea’s capital. Prior to his arrest, Oumar Sylla participated by phone in the show "Grande Gueule" on Espace FM radio station. During his interview, he called on members of the FNDC to prepare for the resumption of demonstrations against the government’s plans for constitutional change, which would change presidential term limits and allow President Alpha Condé to run for a third term in office. He also denounced the killings, torture, arbitrary detention and harassment of FNDC members.
During the first day of trial, on 6 August 2020, the Prosecutor warned of the ‘‘serious risk for public order to release Oumar Sylla’’. On 27 August 2020, he was released after the judged dismissed all charges against him.

Oumar Sylla was re-arrested on 29 September 2020 while mobilizing against President Alpha Condé's candidacy for the October 2020 presidential election. Following the presidential election, protests - some of which were violent - erupted to contest the results. Security forces responded to the protests by using excessive force when carrying out operations in some neighbourhoods which resulted in deaths. According to Amnesty International, at least 16 people were shot dead between 18 and 24 October 2020.

On 31 October 2020, the General prosecutor of Conakry’s Court of Appeal announced that 325 people had been arrested during the post-election protests where violence ensued. On 10 November 2020, the Dixinn district prosecutor announced that 78 people had been brought before a judge and several others were wanted.

On 25 December 2020, Oumar Sylla started a hunger strike as protest of his case not having been scheduled for trial even though the investigation was completed two months before. He ended his strike on 8 January 2021, after his trial was scheduled.

Between December 2020 and January 2021, Amnesty International documented and reported on the deaths of four people while in pretrial detention in Conakry central prison. 

On 7 May 2021, the government spokesperson announced the release of 40 detainees following the dismissal of all charges against them. 57 people are still detained and charged for "attacking the institutions of the republic", "disturbing the state through devastation and looting", "participation in an insurrectionary movement", "threat of violence or death through an information system" , and “production, dissemination and other provision of data likely to disturb public order or public security”. Among them, there are four leaders of the opposition party, Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea: Ousmane "Gaoual" Diallo, Mamadou Cellou Balde, Ibrahima Chérif Bah, Amadou Djoulé Diallo, and the leader of the political movement “Nos valeurs communes”, Etienne Soropogui.

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Nepal: Lack of a second dose endangers over 1.4 million

Nepal Map
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Over 1.4 million people in Nepal, most of them over 65 years of age and considered to be in high-risk groups took their 1st dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine between 7 and 15 March. They were initially due have their 2nd dose 8-12 weeks later. However, with no supply to administer the doses by 6 June, Nepal extended the timeline from 12 to 16 weeks therefore, the 1.4 million people must have their second dose between 27 June and 5 July. 

Still facing acute shortages of supply, Nepal will not meet this commitment without international support. Not only is the right to health and life of these people at risk, due to a deadly wave of Covid-19 sweeping the country, but these first doses administered could have to be repeated to achieve full immunization if they wait too long. 

Amnesty International’s briefing ‘Struggling to Breathe- The Second Wave of Covid-19 in Nepal’, documents the public health crisis faced by Nepal since April 2021 as the second wave of Covid-19 in the country wreaked havoc on its fragile health system. Immediate action is needed from both the government of Nepal and the international community to support the health care system, which is teetering on the edge of collapse. Nepal, like other countries across South Asia, is also facing a drastic shortage of vaccines. To date, Nepal has only vaccinated less than three percent of its population with second doses, while other countries that could potentially donate the needed vaccines enjoy high-vaccination coverage. For example, 60% of the UK population and 53% of people in the USA have received at least one dose to date. COVAX, a global initiative to help low- and middle-income countries access vaccines is falling short of its commitments to provide vaccines.

Many people have lost lives due to the unavailability of medical oxygen, or from being turned away from overwhelmed hospitals that were already struggling with shortages of hospital beds, human resources, and essential medical supply. While public health experts believe that the number of deaths is being underestimated, as of 16 June, 8,558 Covid-19 deaths had been registered in Nepal according to government figures, with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projecting a total of 34,887 deaths by 1 September 2021. 

The international community must fulfil their obligation to ensure international cooperation by joining and adequately supporting global mechanisms such as COVAX thereby enabling all countries, including low-income ones such as Nepal, to have adequate supplies of vaccines to protect their entire populations in a timely manner. States must cooperate globally and remove any potential barriers to ensure that vaccines are developed, manufactured insufficient supply, and then distributed in a timely and inclusive manner around the globe.

States must ensure that intellectual property rights do not prevent any countries from upholding the right to health. This includes agreeing to a ‘waiver’ on certain aspects of the TRIPS agreement for the production of COVID-19 health products, supporting the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), and placing conditions on public funding to ensure pharmaceutical companies share their innovations, technology and data with other manufacturers. States also must assess and make any necessary adjustments to their intellectual property laws, policies and practices to ensure that these do not form a barrier to Covid-19 health products for all people globally including in countries facing a surge in cases like Nepal.  

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Morocco/Western Sahara: Sahrawi activist detained incommunicado

Morocco map
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Mohamed Lamine Haddi is a Sahrawi activist who participated in the 2010 Gdeim Izik camp protesting Sahrawis’ social and economic conditions. In November 2010, he was arrested in the violent clashes following the dismantling of the camp. In 2013, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of participation in and aiding a “criminal organisation,” and participation in violence against public forces which caused intended death under Articles 293, 129 and 267 of the Moroccan Penal Code. The military court which tried him and other Sahrawis did not investigate the defendants’ claims that they had been forced to sign confessions under torture. A civilian court confirmed his sentence in 2017, using the statements that he said had been made under torture.

According to Mohamed Lamine Haddi’s lawyer, during his first year in Tiflet II prison, he was only permitted to leave his cell for 15 minutes once per day, alone. Since then, he has been allowed out of his cell for maximum 1 hour per day, alone. During the winter, he is not allowed hot showers like other prisoners and on 14 December 2020, the prison director ordered all his private belongings be confiscated. Since being in Tiflet II, Mohamed Lamine Haddi has been banned from visits by his lawyer and family visits were banned in March 2020. The context of COVID-19 does not justify family visits being banned for such a prolonged period of time. On 16 January 2021, Mohamed Lamine Haddi’s lawyer wrote to the King's prosecutor and the Director of Tiflet II prison asking for an investigation into his prison conditions. Neither replied. Before starting his hunger strike, Mohamed Lamine Haddi told his lawyer that he would rather die than be kept in the conditions of Tiflet II, which is 1227km from his familiy in El-Ayoun, Western Sahara.

Mohamed Lamine Haddi started a hunger strike on 17 January 2021. His weekly 15 minute calls to his family were banned from 22 February 2021. His family issued a statement on 13 March 2021 declaring that his fate was unknown to them. Mohamed Lamine Haddi was allowed to call his mother for one and a half minutes on 23 March to tell her that the prison authorities force-fed him. His mother told Amnesty International that he sounded very weak and he could barely speak. He told her that he was suffering a partial paralysis on his left side. On 25 March, Mohamed Lamine Haddi was permitted to call his mother to tell her that he had been temporarily transferred to Kenitra prison to sit university exams. This transfer was made without any prior notification to Mohamed Lamine Haddi or his family. Mohamed Lamine Haddi told his family that he is still experiencing partial paralysis, as well as memory loss and pain in his left hand. Prison authorities continue to deny him access to a doctor. Authorities followed this same procedure with detained Sahrawi activist Abdeljalil Laaroussi in 2017. His lawyer told Amnesty International that, in order to hide his health status, authorities transferred Laaroussi to Bouzarkene prison to take university exams and forced him to be photographed.

Two other Gdeim Izik prisoners, Sidi Abdallah Abbahah and Bachir Khadda, are also held in solitary confinement in Tiflet II, 1227km from their families who all live in El-Ayoun. According to their lawyer, they are all victims of psychological torture, harassment and ill treatment. They are held in cells of around 5m² for at least 23 hours a day. Sidi Abdallah Abbahah told their lawyer that the prison guards and prison director frequently insult them and threaten them with torture, death and taking away their right to have showers. Since 2017 they have held several hunger strikes against the prolonged isolation and ill-treatment.

Human rights international standards, such as the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, define solitary confinement as spending 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact. They provide that prolonged solitary confinement – over 15 consecutive days – is considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Under the Moroccan Prison Law, solitary confinement is an exceptional measure imposed only as a security or protective measure for prisoners. Morocco’s Penal Code also criminalizes torture.

Western Sahara is the subject of a territorial dispute between Morocco, which annexed the territory in 1975 and claims sovereignty over it, and the Polisario Front, which calls for an independent state in the territory. In recent years, access to Western Sahara has grown increasingly difficult for external monitors as the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate. The UN Security Council has ignored calls by Amnesty International and others to add a human rights component to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which would allow for monitoring and reporting on human rights abuses.

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Belarus: medics paying 'heavy-price' in Lukashenko's crackdown - new briefing

Protests after Belarusian presidential election
Protests after Belarusian presidential election © Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Health professionals at centre of human rights crisis in Belarus Dozens dismissed, with many barred from medical employment ‘I saw all these mutilated people with broken bones, faces ripped to pieces, swollen heads the size of a balloon’ - Halina, medical nurse Health workers in Belarus who provided emergency medical care during anti-government demonstrations or spoke out against protesters’ deaths and injuries are facing brutal reprisals from the authorities, Amnesty International said today in a new 10-page briefing. Despite chronic staff shortages, dozens of health workers have been

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