Since he joined Amnesty International’s Jerusalem regional office in 2017, our friend and colleague Laith has taken enormous risks to protect the rights of others.
In 2019, we discovered that Israel banned Laith from travelling abroad for unknown ‘security reasons’. We believe that Israel is punishing him for his human rights work. Laith’s case reflects the wider pattern of attacks against human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and it is another chilling signal of Israel’s growing intolerance of critical voices.
For Palestinians living in the OPT, a travel ban means being completely trapped indefinitely, with no way to leave.
Laith is a brave human rights defender who has dedicated his time and effort to support those in need, now we need to help him. With enough pressure, we hope that we can get the Israeli authorities to lift the arbitrary ban before a court hearing on 31 May. We don’t have a lot of time, and every single action counts.
Governments and communities across the world are grappling with the immediate and longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everyone in the United States is impacted by this and many are experiencing hardship, sacrifice, illness or devastating loss as a result of this virus. Yet some of us are affected much more deeply as our country’s long-standing inequalities—including by gender, by race and by class—shape everything from who performs the “essential” functions of the economy to which communities suffer the greatest loss of life. Our inequalities, which dictate so much of the fabric of everyday life, are magnified during this crisis. We need a people-centered response to COVID-19 that protects us all, and at the same time, also explicitly addresses our nation’s long-standing inequalities.
How we respond now to COVID-19 will determine not only our ability to survive—but whether or not we all can finally all thrive. The U.S. government’s response to COVID-19 must center human rights at all stages of the crisis—prevention, preparedness, containment, treatment and recovery—in order to best protect public health and support people who are most at risk.
Ekpar Asat, a Uyghur entrepreneur and philanthropist, was convicted in a secret trial on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination” and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He went missing in April 2016, after returning to Xinjiang from attending a US State Department leadership training program. No contact has been made with him for more than four years and, without official information about his whereabouts, there are grave concerns for Ekpar Asat’s condition and wellbeing.
Iranian university student Ali Younesi has been arbitrarily detained since 10 April 2020. His family believes he is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, where he has been denied access to a lawyer and permitted only two brief telephone calls to his family.
The Iranian authorities have not provided clear reasons for his arrest. He is a prisoner of conscience targeted solely for his family ties and is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
Walter Barton’s execution is scheduled for 19 May 2020. He is on death row in Missouri, USA since 2006 in connection with the 1991 murder of a woman, for which he maintains his innocence.
He faced five trials over 15 years before being convicted and sentenced to death. Expert opinion and evidence, never heard by a trial jury, counter key elements of the prosecution’s theory which led to Barton’s conviction. The 19 May execution would be the first in the USA since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Governor Parson can grant Barton’s request for clemency, halting the execution.
Held incommunicado for three years, prominent Uyghur historian and publisher Iminjan Seydin has suddenly reappeared in a video published by state-run English newspaper China Daily on 4 May 2020. In what appear to be scripted remarks, Iminjan Seydin states that he had not been “illegally detained” and that his daughter was deceived by “anti-China forces”.
His daughter, who was able to have a brief video chat with him two days later, is concerned that Iminjan Seydin is looking very thin and fears she will not be able to communicate with him again as he remains under close surveillance.
Relatives of human rights lawyer and activist, Mahienour el-Masry, who is unlawfully detained at Al-Qanater women’s prison, are concerned about her safety amid fears of a potential outbreak of COVID-19 in Egyptian prisons. Family members last had news about Mahiebour from a former detainee released on 20 March 2020.
The whereabouts of Muhammad Idris Khattak, a Pakistani human rights defender and independent researcher, remain unknown since he was forcibly disappeared on 13 November 2019.
A patient of diabetes requiring daily medication, the health of Khattak is at even greater risk during the COVID-19 outbreak as the conditions of his detention remain unknown. With no information about his fate for six months, Amnesty International fears that Khattak is at real risk of torture or ill-treatment, as is often suffered by other victims of enforced disappearance in Pakistan.