Edition 4, 2023


Campaign location

As 2023 draws to a close the continuing slaughter of innocents in the ongoing war on Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories remains a shameful failure on world leaders who have been unable to stop Israel from its continuous war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

At the time of writing the death toll since 7 October is reportedly more than 16,000 Palestinians of which just over 7000 were children. While 1,200 were reportedly killed in Israel during the Hamas attack on the fateful day. Through our television, cellphone and computer screens we witnessed the killings of journalists, doctors, healthcare workers, United Nations workers.  Entire generations of families have been murdered. We have, once again, seen critical international justice institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) fail to inspire confidence that they are capable of standing with the victims in favour of justice. The failure by the ICC to fulfil its obligations and the double standards have been glaring. The ICC did not hesitate to take action on Ukraine and issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin but despite reams of evidence before it on Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Palestinians the ICC has failed to take action. 

On the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the ICC last year, Amnesty International warned that the court’s legitimacy risks being eroded by an increasingly selective approach to justice. We highlighted a number of ICC decisions and practices which appeared to demonstrate double standards and a willingness to be influenced by powerful states. We expressed concern that the court and its principals have largely remained silent on the situation in Palestine and other investigations, in contrast to the publicity they have given to the Ukraine situation. We said: “Without exceptional caution and sufficient transparency, this approach risks allowing state parties to support only those situations which align with their interests. This exacerbates the risk of selective justice and leaves the court vulnerable to manipulation by powerful states.”

This year’s international Human Rights Day (10 December) marks the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In the decades since the adoption of the UDHR in 1948, human rights have become more recognised and more guaranteed across the globe. The UDHR has since served as the foundation for an expanding system of human rights protection that today focuses also on vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants. 

However, the promise of the UDHR, of dignity and equality in rights, has been under a sustained assault in recent years. As the world faces challenges new and ongoing – pandemics, conflicts, exploding inequalities, morally bankrupt global financial systems, racism, climate change – the values, and rights enshrined in the UDHR provide guideposts for our collective actions that do not leave anyone behind. 

What is clear is that now, more than ever, the world needs organisations like Amnesty International. We need to stand true to Amnesty International’s motto which states: “It is better to light a candle than curse in the darkness”. We need light and hope to shine in the world so that victims of human rights atrocities know that there is someone out there who will remain steadfast and relentless in fighting for their rights no matter who they are.

Domestically, we have come to the end of another busy year. We have had some human rights wins such as the NPA referring the case of Popi & Bongeka’s to a magistrate for an inquest which, hopefully, will be one step closer to justice for them and their families. Another win has been our  Digital Disruptors who influenced increased accountability of the local government in Orange Farm to implement GBV policies that promoted positive change. Added to the list was our participation in the court matter which saw the government agree that it would arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he came to South Africa.

Another achievement for us has been the inclusion of a South African case in the global Write for Rights campaign. We have been working with Thapelo Mohapi, General Secretary of the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, who is facing threats to his life for defending his community and demanding that they have access to their basic human rights. Entities across the Amnesty movement are mobilising their supporters to demand greater protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) like Thapelo, and an end to the intimidation, harassment and killings of AbM members. Thapelo has sacrificed a lot to fight for the rights to a better life for people and is prepared to put his life on the line for this as well – something that should not be necessary. You can read more about Thapelo’s case in this edition of Lesedi. HRDs in this country are provided with very little or no protection from the state, and we are passionate about helping to change this, so that people like Thapelo do not have to live in fear.

AISA’s senior programme officer Alicia Jooste attended the first week of COP28 in Dubai and you can read her reflections from this year’s conference in this edition of Lesedi. 

We have also been very vocal as a movement on the war between Israel and Hamas, calling for a sustained ceasefire.

Finally, we held a very successful AGM on 9 December. This was Amnesty International South Africa’s first AGM as a section, and we appointed a new board who will help move us forward over the next three years. Thapelo was our keynote speaker, delivering a powerful mesasge to our members.

In the meantime, on behalf of my team I would like to wish you all a happy, safe and peaceful holiday. Thank you to everyone for your commitment and passion, and for continuing to take injustice personally. 

We look forward to working with you in 2024 and, with your support, hope to continue to contribute towards ensuring that the promise of the UDHR, of dignity and equality in rights for all continues to become a global reality. We cannot drop the baton now. The struggle must continue.

Aluta Continua!

Shenilla Mohamed

 

Let’s not turn a blind eye: Ending the year in solidarity with those fighting for human rights

By Marike Keller, Amnesty International South Africa Researcher

Since 2001, Amnesty International has collected millions of signatures through our global Write for Rights campaign, in support of people who are unjustly detained or persecuted. The campaign has become the largest human rights event in the world.

This year, we are advocating for Thapelo Mohapi – the General Secretary of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) – who is in hiding and facing death threats because of his activism. He has dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of people living in informal settlements – for dignity and better living conditions, including access to adequate housing. 

On 21 October, we launched the national arm of the campaign in eThekwini, where AbM began. With AISA staff and activists, and more than 100 AbM members in attendance, the room was brimming with determination, passion, and support for Thapelo and AbM. 

The day started with AbM’s choir leading the room in beautiful song, followed by a powerful performance by AbM members highlighting the struggles of poor people living in South Africa, and the power of people coming together in solidarity to fight for their rights. 

Nonhlanhla Mkhize, chairperson of Amnesty’s Durban Chapter, thereafter officially opened the day welcoming everyone. She spoke about the importance of AbM fighting for peoples’ rights and working together with Amnesty International to amplify their cause on a global scale. 

The day culminated in a Q&A between Thapelo and Alicia Jooste, AISA’s Senior Programme Officer. During the Q&A, Thapelo described AbM as “an organisation of the impoverished”, which hopes “to build a just and equal society based on respect and dignity, [and] to improve the living conditions of people living in shacks and who are poor”. He spoke of this struggle being personal and highlighted the need to put international pressure on the South African government “to respect and pay attention to the issues of human rights defenders and whistleblowers who have been attacked in this country”. 

Each person in attendance took the time to sign a card of support and solidarity for Thapelo, and a petition calling for the police to thoroughly and effectively investigate the harassment and killings of AbM members. Thapelo’s final words and appeal to the world was “look we are here and subjected to this, and maybe it’s time to not turn a blind eye.”

To take action and add your voice calling for the threats to Thapelo and AbM to stop, and for justice for those killed, sign the petition. Together, we can change lives for the better.

STOP THREATS TO THAPELO

Thapelo Mohapi, a leader of grassroots movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), is living in hiding due to threats to his life, simply because he’s fighting for a better future for people in South Africa.

Who is Thapelo? 

Thapelo loves listening to jazz and supporting his favourite football teams but right now he can’t enjoy these things. In 2021 he was forced to go into hiding because his life was threatened.

As Secretary General of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), a dynamic and courageous grassroots movement, Thapelo dedicates his life to fight for the rights of people throughout South Africa, particularly in areas suffering poverty and inequality.

One such place is eKhenana, where most residents are economic migrants from rural South Africa who moved there in search of a better life. They cannot afford the high costs of living in the area and often end up making homes from tin, with little to no access to water or sanitation.

Determined to improve lives in the community, AbM members in eKhenana have spoken out against cases of local government corruption and worked hard to improve life in their community by starting a political school, farm, communal kitchen and shop. In return, they have encountered not only resistance, but also threats, harassment and intimidation. They are victims of attempted and actual murders, violence, harassment, and damage to their homes. In 2022 alone, three AbM members were killed in eKhenana.

What can you do to help?

Sign the petition. The more people that take action, the bigger the spotlight we can shine on Thapelo’s case to ensure his protection.

Take action and demand the police thoroughly and effectively investigate the harassment and killings of AbM members.

Amnesty International’s 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.

 

ON WHICH SIDE OF HISTORY WILL WE BE?

By Genevieve quintal, Amensty International South Africa Media & Comms Officer

It has been more than two months since violence broke out between Israel and Hamas, resulting in thousands of people being killed, including women, children and whole families, and there is no sustained ceasefire in sight. And who is paying the heaviest price? Civilians! People like you and me. 

There are continuous serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), including war crimes, committed by all parties to the conflict. Yet the international community as a whole has failed to uphold its obligation to ensure all parties in the conflict respect IHL and yet again is placing politics above the obligation to protect civilians. This isn’t only happening in Gaza, but since 7 October, when the war started, there has been an increase in gross violations of human rights in the West Bank.

Amnesty International has been calling for a ceasefire since 26 October and will continue to do so. A negotiated and comprehensive, sustained ceasefire would put a stop to unlawful attacks by all parties, halt the rapidly rising civilian death toll in Gaza and enable aid agencies to get life-saving humanitarian aid, water and medical supplies into Gaza in response to what have been staggering levels of human suffering.  

There has been a lot of noise around this war – there are those who are firmly standing with Israel, saying it has a right to defend themselves, and then there are those who stand with the Palestinians who for decades have been subjected to a system of oppression and domination by the Israeli state. What’s important is to rise above the noise and side with justice and human rights.

In recent years, Amnesty International has concluded that Israeli laws, policies and practices against Palestinians amount to a system of apartheid. In a report published last year, Amnesty detailed how Israel treats Palestinians as a separate and inferior racial group and enforces a system of oppression and domination over Palestinian people wherever it exercises effective control. Amnesty has called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and has been calling on states to exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators to justice.

But not everyone agrees with this and geopolitical tensions are high.

It took the UN Security Council (UNSC) more than 30 days after the escalation of violence started, to finally adopt a resolution calling for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and the need to address the situation of children in the occupied Gaza strip. This was after four failed resolutions before it finally exercised the role and leadership it is mandated to play – the maintenance of peace and security, and the protection of the international rule of law. While the resolution was not prescriptive in terms of the duration of the humanitarian pauses, it was a much-needed step in the midst of massive suffering and repeated violations of IHL.

On 8 December, the US again vetoed of a UNSC draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, displaying once again a callous disregard for civilian suffering in face of staggering death toll.

The question many ask is ‘will there ever be peace?’. This is a difficult question to answer and not one for Amnesty, however, what the movement has been saying is that the root causes of these repeated cycles of violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

In 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into the situation in the State of Palestine. Its mandate includes crimes under international law committed by all parties as well as the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians. Apartheid was defined as a crime against humanity in the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (“Apartheid Convention”), which requires states parties to prosecute persons accused of the crime. It was likewise recognised as a crime under the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (the Rome Statute).

Amnesty International has been calling on the Prosecutor of the ICC to expedite progress in his investigation, and to include the recent crimes committed by all parties, which prosecutor, Karim Khan, confirmed will be added to the investigation. 

We need to see international justice take its course. International mechanisms such as the ICC are essential for truth, justice, and reparations for victims of grave crimes everywhere, and this includes in Palestine. 

We need a sustained and permanent ceasefire NOW. Until this happens and those who are found guilty of war crimes are brought to book, we need to continue to speak up for those whose rights are being violated. 

When will enough be enough? How many more people have to die and on which side of history do you want to be? If you want to be on the “right side of history” sign Amnesty’s petition demanding a ceasefire by all parties to end civilian suffering.

On 27 October UN Secretary General António Guterres wrote on X:

“Everyone must assume their responsibilities. This is a moment of truth. History will judge us all.” 

 

Demand a ceasefire by all parties to end civilian suffering

The unparalleled escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other armed groups has taken a devastating toll on civilians. The level of casualties is unprecedented. Countless lives have been shattered, ripped apart, and upended. 

With each day that passes more lives are lost and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is getting worse. Sign our petition to call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties to end civilian bloodshed and ensure humanitarian aid access to Gaza. 

What is the problem?

Civilian deaths in Gaza continue to rise at a staggering rate amid relentless Israeli bombardment, in response to the horrific attacks in Israel by Hamas and other armed groups that resulted in 1,400 people killed and the abduction of civilians. More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Gaza including through indiscriminate and other unlawful attacks. More than a third of casualties in Gaza are children and countless bodies are still trapped beneath the rubble. Millions more face further displacement, dispossession and suffering. 

At least 200 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and other armed groups and held in Gaza remain in danger, and ongoing indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel places civilians at risk. 

Israel’s tightened siege of Gaza has blocked the entry of goods, including water, food and fuel leaving more than 2 million people in the Gaza Strip struggling to survive. The humanitarian catastrophe stemming from Israel’s 16-year-long illegal blockade on the occupied Gaza Strip will only get worse if the fighting doesn’t stop immediately. 

Serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, by all parties to the conflict continue unabated. 

In the face of such unfettered devastation and suffering, humanity must prevail. 

A ceasefire would put a stop to unlawful attacks by all parties, halt the mounting death toll in Gaza and enable aid agencies to get life-saving aid, water and medical supplies into the Strip to address the staggering levels of human suffering. It will also allow hospitals to receive life-saving medicines, fuel and equipment they desperately need and to repair damaged wards. 

A ceasefire would also provide opportunities to negotiate the release of hostages detained in Gaza and for independent international investigations to take place into the war crimes committed by all parties in order to end long-standing impunity, which will continue to breed further atrocities. Tackling the root causes of this conflict, by dismantling Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians is now more urgent than ever.

What can you do to help?

Sign our petition and urge world leaders to call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties and put an end to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. 

REFLECTIONS FROM COP28

By Alicia Jooste, Amnesty International South Africa senior programme officer 

The first week of COP saw some progress on one of Amnesty’s calls: the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund. The less than adequate form proposed by the L&D Fund Transitional Committee just before the start of COP, was adopted at the start of the week, with the World Bank as an interim host, subject to certain conditions to which it must agree before it can start work. These include direct access for affected communities, something which World Bank operating guidelines would not normally allow. 

The early part of the week also saw a disappointingly small set of pledges to fill the fund, totalling some $US700m. This is not the scale of finance that we need to adequately address the existing and future impacts of loss and damage, which requires new and additional finance in the hundreds of billions, not millions, of dollars. One other L&D related outcome was agreement on the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction as the host for the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD), a technical advisory body established in 2019 at COP25 to provide scientific and technical advice and support to countries being affected by loss and damage. 

The first week saw little positive outcomes beyond that. 

Negotiations on the Global Stocktake are inching forward, with three iterations of “building blocks” and have now moved to the ministerial level. The big thing to look for is whether the final text will include a reference to a full phase out of fossil fuels (currently an option but not considered likely to be agreed), or whether any reference will be watered down by fossil fuel producing countries (particularly Saudi Arabia and other Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) with words like “unabated” (for which read fossil fuel burning with carbon capture and storage) or “phase down of emissions” (also allowing for continued burning with removals).

On a national level, Cabinet has approved the Just Energy Transition Implementation Plan that will play a crucial role in the country transitioning to a low carbon economy and scaling up renewable energy sources. This is something being closely monitored by civil society to ensure it is a full, fair, fast and funded phase out of fossil fuels.

 

Global: Initial pledges at COP28 to finance the Loss & Damage Fund fall far short of what is needed

Reacting to initial pledges totalling about US$420 million made on the first day of COP28 to finance the Loss and Damage Fund, which is intended to assist communities in developing countries suffering from disastrous weather events and other harms caused by global warming, Amnesty International’s Climate Advisor Ann Harrison said:

“While agreement on operating the Loss and Damage Fund is a welcome step after years of negotiations to address the massive human rights harms already suffered by people and communities around the world as a result of global warming, the financing pledges made today by a few countries fall far short of what is really required.

“The amount pledged initially is barely enough to get the fund running, and little more. Billions of dollars are needed to make a substantive difference to communities in desperate need of help to rebuild homes after storms, or to support farmers when their crops are destroyed, or those permanently displaced by the climate crisis.

“Considering the vast and excess profits accrued by fossil fuel companies last year while they continue to trash the climate, and that some the donor states today were responsible for a large proportion of historical greenhouse gas emissions, this is a disappointingly small initial sum. It is dwarfed by the total US$7 trillion in subsidies that many states, including some of these donors, provide annually to support the fossil fuel industry.

The amount pledged initially is barely enough to get the fund running, and little more.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Climate Advisor

“We urge states, especially developed countries and others including high-income fossil fuel producing nations, to make new and additional commitments to the fund on a scale which reflects the global nature of climate crisis, and the threat it presents to billions of people.

“The lack of any mention of human rights in the management of the fund is also deeply concerning, especially as it is likely to be run initially by the World Bank, which has at best a mixed record on implementing human rights safeguards in its operations.

“Amnesty International would urge the World Bank to commit to make the fund as accessible as possible, and for it to provide grants rather than loans to prevent increasing the indebtedness of developing states.”  

An agreement to establish the Loss and Damage Fund was reached at COP27 last year but disagreements about how it should be funded and managed have dragged on for most of 2023. Initial pledges to the fund today were made by the EU, which agreed to provide US$245 million including US$109 million from Germany, a further US$100 million came from the United Arab Emirates, with smaller contributions from the UK at about US$51 million, the US with about U$17.5 million and Japan with US$10 million. COP28 is being held in Dubai between 30 November and 12 December. An Amnesty International delegation is attending the meeting.

 

AGM 2023

Amnesty International South Africa held a successful 2023 Annual General Meetin (AGM). This was our first AGM as a section and the first time members got to vote for the board. The new board elected at the meeting will serve for three years. 

The incoming board members elected at the AGM are:

Alexander Ehlers

Duduzile Mabaso

Kayan Leung

Rabia Parker

Nwabisa Piki

( From left to right: Xander Ehlers, Duduzile Mabaso, Rabia Parker & Kayan Leung. Nwabisa Piki was travelling and unable to attend the AGM.)

 

2023 GROUP PHOTO

CHAPTERS

AI WITS AGM

In October AI Wits successfully held its 2023 AGM.

 

QUEER PROM

AI Wits held Queer Prom in October.

 

AI Wits Mental Health Initiative

AI Wits shon a light on mental health, breaking down stigmas and fostering a community of support.

 

GAMES NIGHT

AI Wits hosted a games night with other chapters, AI University of Pretoria (UP) and AI University of  Johannesburg.

 

AI UNIVERSITY OF FORT HARE (UFH)

AI UFH held a recruitment drive and interviews for new executive committee members.

 

Q4 CHAPTER MEETING

AISA chapters attended the quarter four chapters meeting where they reviewed their 2023 activism progress; got to know the incoming 2024 executives; as well as planned for the 2024-2026 strategy.

The meeting was attended by all university and community chapters.

 

Write for rights action

In November, AISA chapters took action for Thapelo Mohapi and Abahlali and committed to continue to call for justice in their respective constituencies as well as highlight the struggles faced by the movement and HRDs.

 

From student activists to board leadership: Alumni take on a new role

By Rejoyce Motaung (née Makhetha), Amnesty International South Africa’s Activism Coordinator: Organising

After having dedicated years of activism to Amnesty International South Africa (AISA), three of the Alumni Network members – Rabia Parker, Xander Ehlers, and Duduzile Mabaso – have been appointed to serve on the AISA board for a period of three years (2024 – 2026).

The three of them started out in leadership positions within their university chapters and went on to serve on the Alumni Network among other committed activists. Part of their success within the Alumni Network includes supporting AISA with streamlining membership from universities to national membership.

We are proud of these committed activists and would like to offer our congratulations  as they start this new exciting journey in their activism. This is proof that consistency and commitment pays off, and we wish them all the success as they take on leadership and governance roles at AISA.

 

 

AGM volunteers

Amnesty International South Africa would like to send a special thank you to our youth activists who volunteered their time to provide support at the 2023 AGM.

Bareng Dona – Elections Observer

Nelisiwe Makaringe – Elections Observer

Dorah Kgathi – Admin Support 

Basetsana Pitso – Admin Support

Andisiwe Dingalubala – Admin Support

Hlompho Sithole – Security 

Sinethemba Makau – Security

THANK YOU!

 

 

To stay up to date with future events, follow each chapter on social media or contact rejoyce.makhetha@amnesty.org.za  for more information.

 

 

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Amnesty International South Africa carried out  13 interviews on various topics.

On 9 October 2023, Amnesty International South Africa Media and Communications Officer Genevieve Quintal spoke to Newzroom Afrika about the war between Israel and Hamas and the heavy price civilians are paying.

Watch the interview here.

 

On 23 October 2023, Amnesty International South Africa Senior Programme Officer Alicia Jooste spoke to SAFM  about the annual Write for Rights campaign and the need for police to take the harassment and killings of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) activists seriously. 

Listen to the interview here.

 

On 3 November 2023, Amnesty International Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed spoke to PowerFM  about Amnesty International issuing an urgent call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties in the occupied Gaza Strip and Israel to prevent further loss of civilian life. 

Listen to the interview here.

 

South Africa: Authorities must take immediate steps to protect persons with albinism against discrimination and advocacy of hatred constituting incitement

Amnesty International and the National Albinism Task Force are calling on the South African government to protect persons with albinism in the country against discrimination, hostility and violence.

Traditional healer Bongolethu “Dr Khehlelezi” Mzozo, appeared in court in October because of a video shared on YouTube in April 2023 spreading misinformation about persons with albinism. 

Following the release of the video, in line with Section 20 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 2000 (PEPUDA) (No 4, 2000), the Thembisilemadlala Albinism Foundation supported by The National Albinism Task Force lodged a case with the Equality Court against Khehlelezi, arguing that the video was discriminatory and amounts to “hate speech” against persons with albinism.

Read the full statement here.

 

Mozambique: Authorities must investigate lethal use of force against protesters

Mozambican police used excessive and lethal force against peaceful protesters and bystanders, including firing live ammunition and teargas, following disputed local elections in October.

The Police of the Republic of Mozambique’s (PRM) response to widespread unrest that broke out on 12 October left at least 5 civilians dead, including three children, and a further 27 injured so far.

“The use of excessive force by the PRM, which resulted in deaths, serious injuries and the arbitrary detention of protesters and bystanders, amounts to clear violations of the country’s Constitution and international human rights obligations,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Mozambican authorities must comply with international standards governing the conduct of law enforcement officials and the use of force and firearms… Victims must be provided with access to justice and effective remedies.”

Read the full statement here.

Sudan: Civilians suffering ‘unimaginable horror’ amid ethnically motivated violence in Darfur

Survivors and witnesses of a series of ethnically motivated attacks by Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militias in Ardamata, West Darfur earlier this month that killed and injured hundreds of civilians, have described the harrowing scenes to Amnesty International.

The attacks begun around 1 November when RSF started attacking the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) military base in Ardamata town, and then intensified when they took over the camp on 4 November. Men, women, and children belonging predominantly to the Masalit community were targeted, along with some members of other non-Arab tribes. Witnesses described how civilians were executed in their homes, on the streets and while attempting to flee.

“Civilians in West Darfur are suffering unimaginable horror every single day, paying the price yet again in this latest escalation of extreme violence. Civilians are caught in unending cycles of pain, as ethnically targeted attacks continue to take place, raising the spectre of the scorched earth campaign and war crimes of previous decades,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

Read the full statement here.

 

Zimbabwe: Continued detention of former opposition MP Job Sikhala a travesty of justice

Responding to a High Court ruling overturning former member of parliament Job Sikhala’s guilty verdict on charges of obstruction of justice, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Khanyo Farise, said:

“We welcome the High Court’s ruling. However, it has come only after Job Sikhala has lost more than 500 days of his life in pretrial detention based on trumped up charges of obstruction of justice. Job Sikhala should never have been detained in the first place.

“That he will remain in prison on other baseless charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct is a travesty of justice and a violation of his human rights.

“This is yet another example of the Zimbabwean authorities’ ongoing weaponization of the law to target activists and opposition figures to silence dissent. Authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Job Sikhala  and all charges against him should be dropped as he is detained solely for peacefully exercising his human rights.” 

Read the full statement here

 

Ethiopia: Meta’s failures contributed to abuses against Tigrayan community during conflict in northern Ethiopia

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, contributed to serious human rights abuses against Ethiopia’s Tigrayan community, Amnesty International said in a new report published on 31 October.

A death sentence for my father: Meta’s contribution to human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia, shows how Meta has once again failed to adequately curb the spread of content advocating hatred and violence, this time targeting Tigrayans during the November 2020 to November 2022 armed conflict in northern Ethiopia.

mnesty International has previously highlighted Meta’s contribution to human rights violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar and warned against the recurrence of these harms if Meta’s business model and content-shaping algorithms were not fundamentally reformed.

“Three years after its staggering failures in Myanmar, Meta has once again – through its content-shaping algorithms and data-hungry business model – contributed to serious human rights abuses. Even before the outbreak of the conflict in northern Ethiopia, civil society organizations and human rights experts repeatedly warned that Meta risked contributing to violence in the country, and pleaded with the company to take meaningful action,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Read the full statement and report here.

 

Human rights defenders and health workers who face widespread abuse and criminalization for defending the right to abortion must be better protected

People who are defending the right to abortion and providing essential services are being stigmatised, intimidated, attacked and subjected to unjust prosecutions, making their work increasingly difficult and dangerous to carry out, said Amnesty International in a new report.

The report, An Unstoppable Movement: A global call to recognise and protect those who defend the right to safe abortions, reveals how many healthcare workers, activists, advocates and accompaniers around the world face abuse, arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for supporting the right of women, girls and people to access abortions. Such an environment is prevalent including in countries where abortion is partially allowed by law. It is having a chilling, silencing and stigmatising effect on all those defending access to abortion, as they live in constant fear of being attacked and prosecuted for providing abortion care, whether it is legal or not. It is also creating major barriers for women, girls and people who need abortion care – particularly those who are most marginalised.

Amnesty International calls on states to recognise the legitimate and essential role of all defenders working on the right to abortion, to respect and protect them, and to fulfil their obligations to protect the right to safe and legal abortion for all.

Read the full statement here

Global: ‘Predator Files’ spyware scandal reveals brazen targeting of civil society, politicians and officials 

Shocking spyware attacks have been attempted against civil society, journalists, politicians and academics in the European Union (EU), USA and Asia, according to a major new investigation by Amnesty International. 

Among the targets of Predator spyware are United Nations (UN) officials, a Senator and Congressman in the USA and even the Presidents of the European Parliament and Taiwan. The investigation is part of the ‘Predator Files’ project, in partnership with the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) and backed by additional in-depth reporting by Mediapart and Der Spiegel. 

 Between February and June 2023, social media platforms X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook were used to publicly target at least 50 accounts belonging to 27 individuals and 23 institutions. The cyber-surveillance weapon used for targeting was an invasive spyware tool called Predator, which was developed and sold by the Intellexa alliance. This alliance, which has advertised itself as “EU based and regulated”, is a complex and often changing group of companies that develops and sells surveillance products, including Predator spyware.  

Read more here

 

Global/India: Apple notifications highlight the unabated threat of unlawful targeted surveillance

Responding to the reports of Apple sending a new round of threat notifications globally, including to Indian opposition leaders and journalists, noting that their iPhones may have been targeted by “state-sponsored attackers”, Likhita Banerji, Amnesty International’s Researcher and Advisor on technology and human rights, said:

“This latest round of Apple threat notifications confirm that the abuse of highly invasive spyware by state-actors around the world continues unabated, targeting human rights defenders, journalists, and politicians. Despite repeated scandals and revelations, a shameful lack of accountability and transparency has contributed to an atmosphere of impunity, leading to what appears to be yet another surveillance scandal.

“In India, civil society organizations, journalists, and activists have previously faced unchecked and unlawful surveillance. Spyware technology has been used to clamp down on human rights and stifle freedom of assembly and expression. In this atmosphere, the multiple reports of prominent journalists and opposition leaders receiving the Apple notifications are particularly concerning in the months leading up to state and national general elections. Unlawful surveillance cannot be allowed to continue.

Read more here.

 

Global: FIFA should secure human rights protections for 2030 and 2034 World Cups as bidding deadline passes

FIFA needs to secure clear and binding commitments to improve human rights in countries likely to host the 2030 and 2034 men’s football World Cup tournaments to prevent serious potential abuses linked to its flagship event, the Sport & Rights Alliance said. 

The warning from the Alliance comes as Saudi Arabia is the sole bidder to host the 2034 event shortly before deadline closes at midnight tonight, and a joint bid from Morocco, Portugal and Spain is the only one being considered for 2030. The coalition of human rights and anti-corruption organizations, trade unions, fans representatives, athlete survivors groups, and players unions believes the lack of competition to host the tournaments risks undermining FIFA’s leverage, and means it is crucial that football’s world governing body takes the lead and secures binding human rights guarantees from the bidders.

“With only a single bid for each tournament on the table, FIFA may have scored an own goal. FIFA must now make clear how it expects hosts to comply with its human rights policies. It must also be prepared to halt the bidding process if serious human rights risks are not credibly addressed,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice.  

Read the full statement here.

 

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