“I should be seen as the person I am on the inside”: John Jeanette’s story

John Jeanette. Credit: Juan Osborne for Amnesty International

John Jeanette. Credit: Juan Osborne for Amnesty International

By Veronica Scognamiglio, Campaign Coordinator of Amnesty’s Fight Discrimination in Europe campaign.

John Jeanette is a transgender woman in Norway who wants to change her legal gender from ‘male’ to ‘female’. But the government says she can’t – unless she has compulsory medical treatment, including surgery which will leave her sterile.

I met John Jeanette last year in Oslo. A gentle person, yet with a firm personality, she has had to hide and suppress her gender identity for many years. She’s now comfortable being a woman, but her right to a private life is violated on a daily basis.

John Jeanette’s identity documents indicate that she is male, while her appearance is female. When she tries to do simple, everyday things, such as borrowing a book at the library or getting a prescription from the pharmacy, she is asked intrusive questions about her gender and her life. She’s often embarrassed or anxious. It’s a constant reminder that the state does not recognize her for who she is. Continue reading

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‘My hopes evaporate and the bitter reality remains’ – Abducted in Syria

Human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, her husband and two colleagues have been missing since their abduction by unknown armed men in December 2013 ©Private.

Human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, her husband and two colleagues have been missing since their abduction by unknown armed men in December 2013 ©Private.

Munira al-Hamwi writes about her daughter Razan Zaitouneh, an award-winning Syrian human rights defender and writer, who was abducted along with her husband and two friends in Duma, on 9 December 2013.

Duma is one of several towns in the Eastern Ghouta region, to the east of Damascus, in which armed opposition groups are present. Government forces tightened their siege of the area in July 2013. According to the United Nations, 150,000 people live in the area and last received food supplies in May 2014.

“They asked me to write about my daughter, Razan Zaitouneh. I am not a journalist or a writer but I will write what is on my mind. I will not talk about Razan’s work or her achievements as so many others have done so already. Continue reading

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The Philippines has a dark, open secret

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, blogs from Manila, as we launch new research revealing that in the Philippines, police torture is routine. President Aquino – whose father was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in the 1970s and himself a victim of torture – has declared that nobody is above the law. But as Salil reports, in the Philippines the police are indeed above the law.

Manila: the traffic jams are as appalling as ever. But even stuck at a crawl, it’s impossible not to feel buoyed by the vibrancy of the place – positive energy abounds.  The Philippines is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and is set to grow by seven per cent this year. Parliamentary and media debates are worthy of a flourishing democracy, proudly upheld by a people whose courage impressed the world when they stood up to tanks during the 1986 revolution, and peacefully ushered in a democratic era. And in 2009, the country proved itself a true regional leader by passing a landmark Anti-Torture Law, which Amnesty proudly supported and worked on.

A police truncheon like the one used to beat Alfreda

All of which made the reason for my visit this week particularly depressing.  For despite the country’s good Anti-Torture Law, the reality is dismal. We were in Manila to launch a new report revealing police torture – which includes electric shocks, rape, waterboarding and mock executions – and the complete failure to hold torturers to account.  In the five years since the law was passed, not a single police officer has been convicted.

The Philippines is featured in our global Stop Torture campaign, and a key focus for the work of Amnesty International.

Continue reading

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Impunity despite Philippines’ landmark Anti-Torture Act

Anyone arrested on suspicion of criminal activity in the Philippines risks being tortured or ill-treated in police custody ©Amnesty International.

Anyone arrested on suspicion of criminal activity in the Philippines risks being tortured or ill-treated in police custody ©Amnesty International.

By Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

When a man’s severed head turns up in Manila Bay with three gunshots through the cranium, one would reasonably expect the authorities to fast-track the investigation of such a grisly crime. But justice for the victim and the family, who identified the remains as Darius Evangelista in 2010, is now more than four years overdue.

The reason – the killers appear to have been police officers themselves, shooting him in the head after they had tortured him. The victim was last seen alive in police custody, and fellow detainees have testified hearing a police officer order another to “finish him off”. Police torture is commonplace in the Philippines and impunity for it the norm. Amnesty International’s latest report, Above the Law, released today, examines more than 50 allegations – including waterboarding, rape, mock executions, asphyxiating, electric shocks, shooting and beating – made in the past five years. There are hundreds more. Continue reading

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Jabeur Mejri, Tunisia: how your words change lives

Jabeur Mejri with Amnesty campaigner Aurelia Dondo, in Tunisia recently. Credit: Amnesty International

Jabeur Mejri with Amnesty campaigner Aurelia Dondo, in Tunisia recently. Credit: Amnesty International

As Amnesty supporters take part in this year’s Write for Rights, we talk to Jabeur Mejri in Tunisia, who was featured in last year’s campaign. By the Amnesty International Tunisia Team

“I have two of them now!” Jabeur Mejri is smiling and pointing at a flick book containing hundreds of photos of support taken by Amnesty International members. They were passed to Jabeur and his family while he was in prison in Tunisia over the last two years.

Jabeur was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in March 2012, for Facebook posts deemed offensive to Islam and the prophet Mohamed. “Prison was difficult,” he tells us. “The other prisoners used to harass me and beat me because of my views and none of the prison guards did anything to protect me.”

Messages of support
After Jabeur was jailed, Amnesty supporters worldwide came together to push for his release. Thousands signed petitions and hundreds more sent messages of support to him and his family. Campaigners took to the streets in Tunisia and across the world. And many wrote letters to authorities as part of Write for Rights 2013, Amnesty’s global letter writing marathon. All the time, our team stayed in touch with Jabeur’s family and lawyers, checking that Jabeur was OK and looking for any developments in his case. Continue reading

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