Canadian landmarks light up, Amnesty International supporters write thousands of letters in celebration of Human Rights Day on Dec. 10

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Ottawa, Ont., Dec. 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — This weekend, thousands of human rights supporters across Canada will write letters – and some of the country’s most recognizable landmarks will be lit up – in honour of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alongside hundreds of thousands of people across 200 countries and territories, participants in Amnesty International Canada’s Write for Rights campaign will gather to write letters, sign petitions, and share messages of solidarity on social media in support of individuals and groups whose rights are at risk. This year’s global Write for Rights campaign includes a Black man with an intellectual disability who was sentenced to death for murder, despite no evidence directly linking him to the crime; a woman who was convicted for trying to help a woman in Poland access a safe abortion; and two Indigenous leaders who are taking the Australian government to court to protect their community from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Participants in Canada will sign petitions and write letters in support of Indigenous land defenders from the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have been unfairly criminalized for opposing the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their unceded traditional territory. In addition, Amnesty International Canada supporters will amplify global calls for a ceasefire by all parties in Gaza, where more than 15,000 civilians, including 6,000 children, have been killed in fighting between the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas. Amnesty International is also calling for the release of all the hostages abducted in Hamas’s horrific attacks in southern Israel on October 7.

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“Gathering together and raising our collective voice is the most powerful tool we have to counter injustice and ward off despair,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English-speaking section. “By raising a strong voice for human rights, we uplift each other, raise the spirits of people whose rights are at risk, and send a clear and unmistakable message to those in power: that people-powered resistance to oppression will never be extinguished.”

This year’s Write for Rights – known as the largest human rights event in the world – will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, the declaration recognizes the “inherent dignity and… the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” and sets out a framework of fundamental human rights to be universally protected. According to Guinness World Records, it is the most translated document in the world, having been published in more than 500 languages.

To mark the occasion, several major landmarks in Canada will be lit up after dark – many in Amnesty yellow – on the evening of December 10 (International Human Rights Day), including:

  • Calgary: Olympic Plaza, 228 8 Ave. SE
  • Mississauga, Ont.: Clock tower at Mississauga Civic Centre, 300 City Centre Dr.
  • Toronto: CN Tower, 290 Bremner Blvd., (requested by Human Rights Watch with support from Amnesty International Canada)
  • Ottawa: Ottawa sign in ByWard Market, York St. near Sussex Dr.
  • Montreal: Montreal Tower/La tour de Montréal, 3200 Rue Viau
  • Montreal: Olympic Stadium/Stade olympique, 4545 Ave. Pierre-De Coubertin
  • Halifax: Province House, 1726 Hollis St.
  • Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Tower at Charlottetown City Hall, 199 Queen St.
  • St. John’s, Nfld.: St. John’s City Hall, 10 New Gower St.

Writing letters, sending emails and tweets, and signing petitions can make a world of difference to the people Amnesty International is supporting through this campaign. Since Write for Rights started in 2001, millions of people have changed the lives of those whose human rights had been targeted and stripped from them. More than 50 million actions have been taken and more than 100 people featured in our letter-writing campaigns have seen a positive change in their situation.

This year, Amnesty International’s global letter-writing campaign is focused on about 10 people and communities, including: 

  • 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.
  • Thapelo Mohapi, a leader of the grassroots movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), is living in hiding due to threats to his life, simply because he is fighting for a better future for people in South Africa.
  • Brazilian activist Pedro Henrique was shot dead, aged 31. Four years later, the police officers suspected in his killing are still on duty and a trial has yet to begin. Pedro’s mother, Ana Maria, is bravely fighting for justice in 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.
  • Meta allowed anti-Rohingya hate to thrive on their Facebook platform, fuelling the Myanmar military’s violence against people from the Rohingya ethnic group. Maung 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 being 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 criticized 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 Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s global Secretary General.

“States are clamping down on activists and placing people’s rights under threat across the world. People who dare to speak out are 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.”

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 they faced 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.”

CONTACT: Cory Ruf, Media Officer Amnesty International Canada (English-speaking section) [email protected] 

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