Date: December 8, 2023 Type: Country:

Global: Amnesty International annual letter-writing campaign comes amid clampdown on human rights

Amnesty International is launching its annual letter-writing campaign globally ahead of Human Rights Day on 10 December, in a bid to transform the lives of people whose rights have been violated.

This year, Amnesty International is campaigning for justice with and for 11 people from around the world, whose human rights have been violated by states and corporations. This year’s campaign includes Thapelo Mohapi, General Secretary of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), who is in hiding and facing threats because of his activism. Thapelo has dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of people across South Africa, particularly in areas suffering economic hardship and living in informal settlements.

Amnesty International South Africa launched Thapelo’s case in October in Durban. Now the Write for Rights campaign is being launched globally.

Also included in this year’s Write for Rights campaign is a human rights lawyer killed for speaking out; a black man with an intellectual disability who was sentenced to death for murder, despite no evidence directly linking him to the crime; and a woman who was convicted for trying to help a woman in Poland access a safe abortion.

While the world grapples with record levels of conflict, political polarisation stoking division and fear, growing inequality, and the existential threat of the climate crisis, the human rights of people the world over are under grave threat. From Ukraine to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Ethiopia to Iran, Myanmar to Poland, and other corners of the world, people are suffering as their human rights are trampled on,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director. 

States are clamping down on activists and placing people’s rights under threat across the world. People who dare to speak out are putting their lives at risk and facing jail sentences, while women are struggling to access healthcare and governments are taking insufficient action to prevent damage from climate change.  

That’s why Amnesty International’s global campaign, Write for Rights, is more important than ever before. It provides a way to put the power in the hands of ordinary people, taking extraordinary action to right these wrongs.”

Taking just a little bit of time to take action, through writing letters, emails and tweets, and signing petitions really does make a world of difference to the people Amnesty International is supporting through the campaign. Since Write for Rights started in 2001, millions of people have changed the lives of those whose human rights had been stripped from them. More than 50 million actions have been taken and over 100 people featured in our campaign have seen a positive change in their situation.

This year’s Write for Rights also includes: 

  • Thulani Maseko, who was shot dead in his own home for speaking out about Eswatini’s repressive laws and excessive state violence. No one has been held accountable for his killing.
  • Brazilian activist Pedro Henrique was shot dead, aged 31. Four years later, the police officers suspected of his killing are still on duty and a trial has yet to begin. Pedro’s mother, Ana Maria is bravely fighting for justice for his death.
  • Rocky Myers, a Black man with an intellectual disability, is under sentence of death for murder in Alabama, USA, despite no evidence directly linking him to the crime scene and serious flaws in his legal case. The judge imposed a death sentence against the jury’s recommendation, a practice now outlawed in Alabama.
  • Indigenous leaders Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul are taking the Australian government to court to protect their homeland, their culture and their community from rising sea levels caused by climate change. They are fighting for the rights of First Nations communities in the Torres Strait.
  • Meta allowed anti-Rohingya hate to thrive on their Facebook platform, fuelling the Myanmar military’s violence against people from the Rohingya ethnic group. Sawyeddollah, who sought refuge in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, wants to become a lawyer and is seeking remedy from Meta for those around him who have suffered heinous rights violations.
  • Justyna Wydrzyńska was convicted for trying to help a woman in an abusive relationship access a safe abortion in Poland.
  • Rita Karasartova is currently under house arrest for peacefully protesting in support of the protection of a freshwater reservoir in Kyrgyzstan, as the government continues to attack human rights.
  • Ahmed Mansoor is a loving father and husband, a poet, blogger, and human rights defender. He is currently held in solitary confinement in prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for speaking out about human rights violations in the country.
  • Tunisian activist Chaima Issa is the daughter of a former political prisoner and has criticised the political situation in her country. She has been banned from travel and, if brought to trial, could face years in prison and a possible death sentence.

“Each and every person featured in our Write for Rights campaign has faced injustice, many for standing up for what they believe in. They have faced huge risks, imprisonment and, in some cases, they have been killed. We refuse to let their stories go untold. We are calling on people around the world to help us make a difference,” said Shenilla Mohamed. 

To mark Write for Rights 2023, a host of events will take place across all regions of the world, including a half marathon in Zimbabwe, a vigil outside the Polish embassy in the UK, and public letter-writing events in South Africa, Mongolia, Czech Republic, Canada, Iceland, Taiwan, Germany, Nigeria, Togo and others. During the letter-writing events, activists can write two types of letters – one to the person with the power to make change happen, and the other to the people Amnesty is working with, so they know people are behind them.

Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign continues to see huge success around the world. Every year, the campaign has positive impacts – helping to release activists, secure justice for those whose rights have been wronged and protect people — proving that words really can make a difference. 

Earlier this year, Joanah Mamombe and Cecillia Chimbiri were acquitted of one of the charges after they were arrested in 2020 for leading an anti-government protest. It is a significant step forward for the pair. As part of Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign 2022, our supporters took action while Amnesty International Zimbabwe supported them throughout their trials.  While reading the letters of support, Joanah said: “Thank you so much to our Amnesty International friends for writing all these letters. We are now beginning our journey to heal.”

In 2020, Amnesty International highlighted Popi and Bongeka’s case during Write for Rights, and the investigation into their murders was reopened, bringing their families one step closer to justice. Over 341,000 Amnesty supporters signed the petition to demand this. The matter was sent back to the NPA in 2021 for a decision on prosecution, and this year their case was referred to the magistrate at the Protea Court for an inquest to be held into their deaths. This is one step closer to justice for Popi and Bongeka and their families. 

Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign truly does transform the lives of people whose rights have been violated. 

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224; 

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Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196