The concept is simple: Take Action, Change a Life.
Urgent Actions ask our community of volunteers to flood the mailboxes, inboxes, phones and social media of authorities when someone is in imminent danger of human rights violations. Your letters, emails, phone calls, faxes and Tweets have helped to halt executions, support human rights defenders and free prisoners of conscience—people jailed solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs and identity.
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Urgent Action emails specify the case, local and international government officials to contact, their contact information and suggestions about what to write, say or Tweet. Learn more about writing effective letters and emails.
Are you an educator looking for ways to engage your students in human rights? Find out how your students can show their power through letter writing!
In many cases, your action on these cases leads to better conditions for prisoners and their eventual release. Those individuals at the center of these Urgent Actions often send their thanks to Amnesty International, citing that these messages serve as a source of hope.
“The reason we could resist the ban and move forward was the international support and solidarity by Amnesty International activists around the world. We could not have gone further without your support” – ODTÜ/Student Organized Pride March in Turkey (UA 83.18)
“My case once again showed how important solidarity and attention are in protecting the freedom of speech and human rights. I admire your noble work and boundless courage, dear activists” – Bobomurod Abdullayev, POC from Uzbekistan (UA 232.17)
“I am very grateful for all the support I received while I was in prison. Life in prison was very difficult and I was treated badly, but the support of those who believed in me made me strong.” – Munther Amira, Palestinian Human Rights Defender (UA 26.18)
On 17 January, prominent Russian anti-corruption and opposition activist Aleksei Navalny was arrested at the airport as he returned to Moscow. He has narrowly survived what has since been independently confirmed as poisoning by Novichok nerve agent in August 2020 and spent the last five months in Germany recovering. He is a prisoner of conscience, his detention arbitrary and politically motivated.
Three people, including one woman, were executed in the last week of the Trump administration, bringing the total number of federal executions carried out in the last six months to 13. The cases of those executed were tainted by arbitrariness, ineffective legal representation, racial bias, and involved people with severe mental and intellectual disabilities, in violation of international law and standards.
On 27 December 2020, the Jiangsu Provincial People’s High Court rejected Yu Wensheng’s appeal of his four-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”, passed down after a secret trial in June 2020. After almost three years without access to his family, Yu Wensheng was finally able to take part in a video call with his wife Xu Yan on 14 January 2021. Afterward, Xu expressed grave concerns about the apparent deterioration of Yu’s health. In addition to being unable to use his right arm due to nerve damage, Yu continues to show signs of malnutrition. He is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas State, is facing a health crisis due to a spike in COVID-19 infections coupled with what health workers, media outlets and state officials have labeled as a critical lack of oxygen to treat patients currently hospitalized. Other cities and states nearby could also be at risk of facing a similar situation. Despite an initial supply of oxygen by the federal government, authorities must ensure its continued supply and other equipment needed to guarantee the right to health of the people of Manaus.
On 12 January, Officers of the Directorate of Military Counterintelligence in Maracaibo (DGCIM) detained staff members from Azul Positivo, a medical and humanitarian NGO in Zulia (Western Venezuela). Johan León Reyes, Yordy Bermúdez, Layners Gutiérrez Díaz, Alejandro Gómez Di Maggio and Luis Ferrabuz, have been charged with financial crimes and ‘association to commit crimes’. Amnesty International considers their detention and prosecution to be solely based on the humanitarian work carried out by the NGO they work for, Azul Positivo. They are prisoners of conscience and they must be released immediately and unconditionally.
17 January marks two years that fifteen asylum seekers and refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and one refugee from Ethiopia, have been arbitrarily detained in Pemba, northeast Mozambique, in appalling conditions. They must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Ten of the 12 Hongkongers arrested in August 2020 by the Chinese coast guard were sentenced on 30 December 2020 without a fair trial. Having been detained for more than four months, the 10 individuals still have no access to their families or family-appointed lawyers.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a peaceful protest held at the Boğaziçi University on 4 January. At least 45 students were detained during raids between 5 to 7 January after their alleged participation in a protest at the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. Many among them have alleged torture or other ill-treatment, including being handcuffed on their backs, beaten, and some LGBTI+ students threatened with rape and subjected to insults. The prosecuting authorities must investigate these allegations and bring law enforcement officers found to be responsible to justice.
Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali has been held incommunicado in Tehran’s Evin prison since 24 November 2020, when he learned that his death sentence for “corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel-arz) was to be carried out imminently. In late December 2020, his family learned that Ahmadreza Djalali’s execution was halted for one month. He remains at risk of execution.
Retired Uyghur doctor Gulshan Abbas was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in a secret trial for “taking part in organized terrorism, aiding terrorist activities and seriously disrupting social order” in March 2019. Her family learned about this sentencing through a trusted source 21 months later in December 2020. They believe that Gulshan Abbas’s lengthy sentencing is linked to the activism for Uyghurs of Gulshan Abbas’ relatives in the US. Gulshan Abbas has multiple chronic diseases that require constant monitoring and regular medical treatment. The fact that Gulshan has had no access to her family members for more than two years raises serious concerns for her health and wellbeing.