24 of your biggest moments in 2014

By Sabine Vandame London,

It’s been an incredible year for human rights. Here are just a few of our biggest moments – none of them would have been possible without the tireless work of Amnesty campaigners like you.

1. Together, we changed the rape law in Morocco

The family of Amina El-Filali in Morocco. © REUTERS

The Moroccan parliament voted unanimously to change its rape law, so that rapists can no longer escape punishment by forcing their victims to marry them. It followed tireless campaigning for the family of Amina Filali (pictured), who killed herself in March 2012 after being forced by law to marry a man she said had raped her. Similar laws still exist in Tunisia and Algeria, and we continue our fight to change them through our My Body My Rights campaign.

2. We defended human rights before the Sochi Winter Olympics

A ballerina in Moscow dances in protest against the repression of free speech in Russia. © Denis Bochkarev & Genia Rakina

In the lead-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi on 7 February, more than 336,000 Amnesty supporters from 112 countries stood up for human rights in Russia. Together, we called on President Vladimir Putin to stop the crackdown on freedom of speech and expression in the country

3. We said ‘No’ to Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill

Campaigners hand over 86,169 signatures to the Ugandan High Commission in London, calling for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be scrapped. Credit: Azmina Dhrodia/Amnesty International

Amnesty supporters took part in a global day of action to protest Uganda’s discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Over 86,000 people signed a petition calling on President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill. It was declared null and void in August – a significant victory for activists. We hope this step forward translates into real improvements for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda. For too long, they have been trapped in a vicious circle of discrimination, threats, abuse and injustice.

4. We were all #WithSyria

‘The girl with the red balloon’. Moscow, March 2014. © Ivan Proskuryakov

Thousands of activists gathered in more than 40 countries to mark the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria. We lit candles, released red balloons (pictured) and demanded aid for all Syrians in need. In April, Amnesty presented UN Security Council members with over 140,000 petition signatures calling for an immediate end to the suffering of besieged people in Syria.

5. We got closer to the truth in Sri Lanka

 

Delivering Amnesty’s Tell the Truth petition to the Sri Lankan government at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Credit: Amnesty International

The UN voted for an independent investigation into crimes committed by state forces and armed groups at the end of the war in Sri Lanka. It followed years of campaigning by Amnesty supporters, including through our #TellTheTruth campaign. The UN investigation brings new hope to thousands of survivors of torture, abduction and other abuses.

6. Hakamada Iwao was released after 45 years in prison

East Japan Boxing Association awarded an honorary belt to Hakamada when he was released. Credit: Amnesty International

Hakamada Iwao, 78, was released from prison in Japan following intense campaigning by Amnesty International and other organizations. He had spent most of his life waiting to be executed after being convicted of murder in 1968. In March, the court revoked his death sentence and ordered a retrial, suggesting that evidence against Iwao had been falsified. His case is a vivid reminder of the urgent need for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

7. We all said “it’s My Body My Rights”

An Amnesty campaigner in Belgium. Credit: Eva Joos

In April, an incredible 280,000 people worldwide called on their governments to protect young people’s sexual and reproductive rights, as part of our new My Body My Rights campaign. Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty handed your signatures to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, ahead of a UN session in New York.

8. We gave Brazil a yellow card 

Credit: Amnesty International

More than 100,000 Amnesty supporters gave Brazil a yellow card ahead of the football World Cup in July, to remind its government that protest is not a crime. It followed huge public demonstrations against the cost of hosting the tournament, which had been met by police with excessive force, tear gas and rubber bullets.

9. We kept up the pressure in the Central African Republic

The father of Constant Yaonomo, 24, showing a photo of his dead son and of a younger son who was injured by a grenade in the same attack in the Central African Republic. Credit: Amnesty International

More than 67,000 people signed our petition to protect civilians in the Central African Republic. We were standing up for the family of Constant Yaonomo (pictured in a photo held by his father), who was killed in a grenade attack. We delivered all your signatures to the US authorities in May, urging them to support a strong UN peacekeeping mission. Throughout the year, we focused on the country’s human rights crisis, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

10. Activist Ales Bialiatski was released in Belarus

Ales Bialiatski. © RFE/RL

Ales Bialiatski, a Belarusian human rights activist featured in our 2013 Write for Rights campaign, was released in June after almost three years in prison. Ales said the support of Amnesty campaigners led to his release: “The thing that made a real difference were the letters I got from ordinary people, and I want to say a special thank you to your activists for that.”

11. We started Stop Torture

Amnesty campaigners take part in a day of action to stop torture. Credit: Amnesty International

Amnesty supporters across the world took to the streets on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in June. It was all part of our Stop Torture campaign, which launched with the revelation that 44% of people worldwide still fear they will be tortured if they’re taken into custody. To kick off, nearly 350,000 people from 117 countries signed a petition demanding justice for torture survivor Claudia Medina from Mexico.

12. We helped indigenous communities get justice in Paraguay

Credit: Julio Callizo for Amnesty International Paraguay

On 11 June, Paraguay’s President Cartes signed into law a bill that returned more than 14,000 hectares of traditional land to the Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community. It marked a huge victory for families (pictured) who have been fighting for their rights for more than 20 years.

13. Meriam Ibrahim was saved from execution

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian who had been sentenced to death in Sudan, was finally released in June and landed in Europe in July. More than a million people worldwide supported Amnesty’s call for her release. Meriam had been charged with ‘apostasy’ for saying she was Christian while her father was Muslim, and with ‘adultery’ after marrying a Christian man. She was eight months pregnant when she was charged, and was forced to give birth in chains.

14. We stood up for democracy protestors in Hong Kong

Hong Kong pro-democracy march, 1 July 2014. Credit: Amnesty International

An estimated 510,000 people took part in a protest march on 1 July marking the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China. Hundreds were arrested and 25 protesters involved in organising the ‘sit in’ were investigated. Amnesty supporters across the world put pressure on the Hong Kong government to stop pursuing charges against peaceful protesters.

15. Bolotnaya Square protestor was released in Russia

Credit: Amnesty International

Mikhail Kosenko was released from a closed psychiatric unit, two years after being jailed for his role in largely peaceful anti-government protests in Moscow, Russia. It followed intense campaigning by Amnesty supporters. But because Mikhail’s conviction was not overturned, he could be locked up again for any transgression, real or fabricated.

16. Li Yan’s death sentence was overturned in China

A protestor outside Sichuan Provincial Higher People’s Court, China, with a sign saying “I do not want to be the next Li Yan”. © Gender Equality Advocacy and Action Network

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court in China overturned the death sentence of Li Yan for the murder of her violent husband after enduring months of domestic abuse. The decision followed intense pressure from campaigners across the world.

17. We demanded an arms embargo on Israel and Gaza

Campaigners in Iceland demand the US government stops the transfer of weapons to Israel. Credit: Amnesty International

People in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories suffered terribly during the 50-day conflict in Gaza. Many of the weapons fuelling the violence and destruction were from foreign suppliers. That’s why we called on the UN to immediately impose an arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. In 2015, we’re focusing on making both sides accountable for any violations of international law.

18. We fought to end El Salvador’s anti-abortion law

A still from an Amnesty animation to raise awareness of the impact of El Salvador’s anti-abortion law. © Amnesty International

Women and girls from rural El Salvador joined Amnesty campaigners worldwide to demand an end to the country’s total ban on abortion. Local youth groups staged theatre events, made impassioned speeches and played music dedicated to 17 women jailed for pregnancy-related issues.

19. Torture survivor Ángel Colón was released

Credit: Amnesty International

Ángel Colón was released in October, nearly six years after he was tortured and wrongly imprisoned in Mexico. Thousands of Amnesty supporters demanded his release as part of our Stop Torture campaign. “My message to all those who are showing me their solidarity, and are against torture and discrimination, is don’t drop your guard,” he said. “A new horizon is dawning. I feel happy about what is happening."

20. Malala Yousafzai is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Credit: Amnesty International

Education rights campaigner and Amnesty ambassador of conscience Malala Yousafzai and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “The work of Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai represents the struggle of millions of children around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “This is an award for human rights defenders who are willing to dedicate themselves entirely to promoting education and the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children.”

21. We made a giant leap for arms control

Amnesty campaigners in Switzerland demand an Arms Trade Treaty, June 2012. © Valérie Chételat

By mid December, 60 countries had ratified a global Arms Trade Treaty. These life-saving rules on the international sale of weapons will now come into force on 24 December 2014. It followed more than two decades of tireless campaigning from Amnesty supporters like you.

22. We demanded justice for victims of the Bhopal factory disaster

Campaigners in Bhopal, November 2014. © Giles Clarke / Reportage by Getty

December marked 30 years since nearly 10,000 people died within three days of a toxic gas leak at a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. Amnesty supporters around the world stood in solidarity with the communities of Bhopal, who marched for justice on the day of the anniversary. We still need the Indian government to clean up the site and make sure the companies responsible are held to account.

23. Our words changed lives

© AI Netherlands

Amnesty supporters young and old wrote more than two million messages, emails and letters as part of Write for Rights, our global letter writing marathon. Campaigners in more than 100 countries organised all kinds of activities, including letter writing in the Netherlands (pictured), a 24-hour pyjama party in Chile, an all-night human rights event in Burkina Faso, and a live interview with Edward Snowden in France. Together, these actions will build pressure for human rights change across the world.

24. We took a first step to stop torture in the Philippines

© Jepie Papa / Amnesty International