Taking torture personally

How do you support someone who has been tortured? That’s what this issue of WIRE explores, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June.

We speak to Farida Aarrass about why she will never give up fighting for her brother, Ali. We discover how the psychotherapeutic legacy of Amnesty legend Helen Bamber lives on in a quiet London garden. We meet two very different women who regularly protest on behalf of people they’ve never met. And we learn how our new Panic Button app could help protect people.

Meeting these inspiring people answered our question. We can support torture survivors by taking what happened to them personally. By never giving up on them, and giving them room to rebuild their lives. By sticking with people until they get justice. And by making sure torture doesn’t happen to somebody else.

Join us: Together, we can stop torture.

Posted in Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Censorship and Free Speech, Germany, Greece, Human Rights Defenders and Activists, Individuals at Risk, Maternal Health and Reproductive Rights, Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Rights, Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Rights, Migrants, Morocco, Prisoners of Conscience, Refugees, South Africa, Torture and Ill-treatment, UAE, UK | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Qatar’s migrant workers have been abandoned

Migrant workers face dire conditions in Qatar. © EPA

By James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on migrants’ rights in the Gulf

Late last year, when I met a group of men employed by Lee Trading and Contracting, their situation had all the hallmarks of a crisis. Unpaid for months and abandoned by their employer, they were struggling to buy food and unable to send money back home. The fact that they had been working on one of Qatar’s most prestigious towers, home to its main football bodies, added to the sense of injustice.

This should have been a simple case for the authorities to resolve. To my knowledge, no one involved in the case has denied that these men are owed months of unpaid salaries. And yet nine months later, cases languish in the courts and wages remain unpaid. Many of the men have returned home after giving up hope. Between the government, the courts and the companies involved, it appears the people who needed protection have largely been left to fend for themselves. Continue reading

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‘Nowhere in Gaza is safe’ – A snapshot of life under the bombs

Ambulances are among the civilian objects that have frequently been hit in Israel’s bombing campaign, showing nowhere is safe in Gaza © Private

Interview with a human rights fieldworker in Gaza

This morning as I brushed my teeth I could hear the familiar buzzing of a drone circling above our building. I ignored the sound. Drones circle overhead all the time; you never know whether it’s just for surveillance or an impending missile launch. The uncertainty makes you feel helpless. What can anyone do?

Five minutes later, a missile fired from what sounded like an F-16 fighter jet struck nearby. The loud boom sent the children running to me. They crowded in the bathroom, for comfort and safety. They looked so frightened and pale; their eyes red from lack of sleep. I am known for keeping a cool head, people say I have nerves of steel, so, typically, I just smiled at them – still clutching my toothbrush. The relief of seeing me smile made them break down in giggles; it’s one of those absurd reactions you have under extreme stress. Continue reading

Posted in Armed Conflict, Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The flight from Mosul: “We left everything behind to save our lives”

Islamic State of Iraq and Sham flag in Mosul ©EPA/MOHAMMED AL-MOSULI.

Islamic State of Iraq and Sham flag in Mosul ©EPA/MOHAMMED AL-MOSULI.

By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

Marvin is a 27-year-old accountant. His life and that of his family were turned upside down last week, when members of the Islamic State (ISIS) turned up at their home in Mosul, northern Iraq.

The ISIS militants who now control the city gave Marvin, his elderly parents and his brother and sister four stark choices: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a tax for non-Muslims), leave the city … or have their heads cut off. The militants then painted the Arabic letter “N” (for nasrani or Christian) on the house. Continue reading

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‘My life is in constant danger’ – campaigning on human rights in the Gambia

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, whose actions “seem to totally disregard the rule of law”, marks 20 years in power on 22 July 2014. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

By Francois Patuel, Amnesty International’s campaigner for West Africa.

I’ve just spoken to a human rights activist working in the Gambia. Just publishing his name would be enough to get him arrested. His powerful testimony shows just why we urgently need to act to stop the intimidation of people working to uphold human rights in the country. This is what he told me:

“Right now, the situation in the Gambia is alarming. All the President’s actions seem to totally disregard the rule of law. Arrests, detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and killings are all too common, and affect all types of people.
Continue reading

Posted in Gambia, Human Rights Defenders and Activists, Killings and Disappearances, Press Freedom, Prisoners of Conscience, Unlawful Detention | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Push-backs across the border? – The ‘dirty work’ of keeping refugees out of Bulgaria

By Barbora Černušáková, Amnesty International‘s Researcher on Bulgaria

We met Hassan on a rainy day in a reception centre for refugees and asylum-seekers in Harmanli, Bulgaria, about an hour’s drive from the Turkish border. He shares a room with seven other Syrians who made their way to Europe to flee the armed conflict.

He told us how he finally made it to Bulgaria in March 2014 – on his ninth attempt. Continue reading

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