Northeast Special Focus Case
For over 50 years, Amnesty International groups have used various approaches to work to protect the rights of individuals. In the late 1990s, Amnesty International USA developed Special Focus Cases (SFC): Group 11 has joined with groups from across the northeastern United States on these cases.
Prisoners of Conscience: Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia
Our current SFC is the Chinese winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia. Dr. Liu is a prominent Chinese scholar of literature who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” after a two-hour trial on December 25, 2009. He was charged because he wrote six articles in which he criticized corruption, censorship, and one-party rule and advocated developing a democratic multi-party political system; and for his role in the writing and distribution of Charter 08 (Charter 08 is a proposal for legal and political reform in China to establish a democratic system that respects human rights initially signed by 303 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials). Liu Xiaobo has consistently maintained that he is innocent of any crime as he was simply exercising his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in China’s constitution. In the past, Liu Xiaobo had been a pro-democracy demonstrator and hunger striker in Tiananmen Square in 1989, after which he was imprisoned, placed under illegal “house arrest”, and sentenced to 3 years of “Re-education Through Labor.”
Following the announcement that Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace Prize, his wife Liu Xia, a poet and artist, was placed under illegal “house arrest.” She remains under house arrest and is not allowed visitors. In January, 2014 Liu Xia suffered a heart attack and was initially prevented from receiving the treatment that she needed. Her health condition has improved with access to more appropriate care. She is mainly suffering from psychological stress, anxiety, and depression.
Both Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia are human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience. We are working for the immediate and unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo from prison and the release of Liu Xia from illegal house arrest.
Past Special Focus Cases
“The Northeast Regional Focus Case” Action Guide for this case is available on the Amnesty International USA website.
- Eşber Yağmurdereli: A Turkish lawyer, writer, and human rights activist who was jailed most recently from June 1998 through January 2001 for making a speech criticizing the Turkish Government’s treatment of the Kurdish minority.
- Leyla Zana: A Kurdish political figure and winner of the Sakharov and Rafto prizes, Zana was arrested in late 1994 for swearing a small portion of a loyalty oath in Kurdish upon taking her seat in the Turkish parliament. She was freed for that offense in June 2004.
- Yury Bandazhevsky: A Belarusian scientist and physician imprisoned in 2001 for allegedly taking bribes from students, charges brought against him for his research into the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster.
- Gurbandurdy Durdikuliev: A Turkmenistani dissident who was forcibly confined to a mental hospital in retaliation for critiques of the government.
- Mesfin Wolde-mariam: An Ethiopian professor, peace activist, and founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council who was jailed from November 2005 to July 2007
- Aung San Suu Kyi: A Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader of the democracy movement in Myanmar who has spent almost 15 of the last 21 years in prison or under house arrest, most recently being unconditionally freed on November 13, 2010.
In Memoriam: Fathi el-Jahmi
Amnesty International USA Group 11 was deeply saddened by the death of Libyan prisoner of conscience and Group 11 Special Focus Case Fathi el-Jahmi on May 21, 2009 in an Amman, Jordon hospital following his transfer from detention at the Tripoli Medical Center in Libya.
A courageous, principled advocate for political reform, Mr. el-Jahmi had been detained for years by the Libyan government solely for his peaceful expression of freedom of speech in demanding justice and democracy in his country.
Group 11 championed his case and participated in efforts by Amnesty International for his release. We signed petitions and wrote letters to government officials on his behalf and sent messages of encouragement and solidarity directly to Mr. el-Jahmi.
We offer our sincere condolences to his family and hope that his example will inspire others to take up the cause for human rights.