Amnesty International today launches the world’s biggest human rights campaign, calling on governments to put right injustices against individuals who are detained or persecuted in countries across the globe. Every December people around the world write millions of letters, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and postcards for those whose human rights are under attack, in what has become the world’s biggest human rights event.
The 2020 edition of the campaign features the ‘El Hiblu 3’ – three youths from Ivory Coast and Guinea who are awaiting trial in Malta on baseless but grave criminal charges. They acted as interpreters for the captain and crew of an oil tanker which, in March 2019, came to rescue them – and more than 100 other people – from their sinking rubber boat.
“These three boys fled Libya. Now they find themselves in the dock just for opposing the unlawful attempt of a ship captain to take them back there to face the violence and abuse they were trying to leave behind. International law prohibits the return of people to places where they their lives and safety would be at risk. Amnesty International is proud to be supporting their fight for justice and calls on the Maltese Attorney General to drop the baseless charges against them. No one should be punished for standing up for their lives and the lives of others.” said Elisa De Pieri, Researcher at Amnesty International.
Initially, the captain of the oil tanker promised the rescued people – approximately 114, including 20 women and at least 15 children- that they would be taken to safety in Europe. But as time passed, they realised they were being taken back to Libya instead. They began to panic, horrified at the prospect of returning to a country from which they were trying to escape. They knew that in Libya they would have to face again a multitude of abuses, including arbitrary detention in inhumane conditions, extortion, torture and rape. Their pleas became desperate, some said they’d rather die than return to Libya. The ship captain was decided to turn around and set off for Malta instead.
These three boys fled Libya. Now they find themselves in the dock just for opposing the unlawful attempt of a ship captain to take them back there to face the violence and abuse they were trying to leave behind. Amnesty International is proud to be supporting their fight for justice and calls on the Maltese Attorney General to drop the baseless charges against them. No one should be punished for standing up for their lives and the lives of othersElisa De Pieri, Researcher at Amnesty International
But before arriving in Malta, the Maltese Armed Forces stormed the ship. The three, who were teenagers at the time and had helped the ship captain to as translators to calm the situation aboard, were arrested for allegedly hijacking the boat and forcing the captain to take them to Malta. Despite no one being harmed and the fact that there was no damage to the vessel, they were accused of very serious offences that could carry life sentences, just for opposing an unlawful return to torture. Amnesty International is demanding justice for the “El Hiblu 3” and calling for the baseless charges against the youths (now aged 21, 18 and 16) to be dropped.
Building a more just world, post COVID-19
The ten cases selected for Write for Rights 2020 include human rights defenders and individuals in Algeria, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Malta, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey.
“We are at a crossroads – we can all choose to build a future which puts kindness, solidarity, tolerance and human rights at its core. Governments must use this moment to show that they can put right injustices by releasing prisoners of conscience, ending the persecution of human rights defenders, and upholding every person’s right to freedom of expression.” said Julie Verhaar, Acting Secretary General of Amnesty International.
As seen in previous years, writing letters really does bring about change for the individuals whose cases are highlighted in Write for Rights, and also offers enormous emotional support and encouragement to them and their families.
Nigerian teenager Moses Akatugba was arrested and sentenced to death when he was 15 years old, after being accused of stealing three phones. In 2019, he was released, after 800,000 Amnesty International supporters showed their support.
“I was on death row because the police claimed I stole three phones,” says Moses. “But now I’m free, because people like you wrote letters to support me. After eight years in jail, and 800,000 letters from Amnesty International supporters all over the world, I was released. Those letters kept my fire burning. I am alive today because of these letters. So your letters can save a life.”
“The power of individual action to save lives and hold governments to account must never be underestimated. Year on year we see the powerful impact that simply writing a letter or email can deliver,” said Julie Verhaar.
Write for Rights mobilizes hundreds of thousands of people around the world to change the lives of individuals at risk through taking action. Last year over six and half million actions were taken – an annual increase for the 18th consecutive year.
The Write for Rights campaign will run from 20 November to 31 December 2020. For more information see here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/write-for-rights/
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Amnesty International press office on [email protected] +32 2 548 27 73 or +32 483 680 812
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