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Five Years & Five Months

Five Years & Five Months

This film is a coproduction between Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the VOX POPULI studio for documentary theatre. Supported by Mono Collective, The Red House Center for Culture and Debate, Dream Team Productions, Concept Studio. The film is based on an interview with a woman who served her sentence at the Sliven prison.

Learn more about the conditions at the only women’s prison in Bulgaria at 
http://womenprisoners.bghelsinki.org.

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee a nongovernmental organization for the protection of human rights, founded in 1992 in Sofia, Bulgaria. For more than 20 years BHC has been carrying out independent and regular monitoring of prisons, juvenile homes, homes for children deprived of parental care and other closed institutions. Support our work by making a donation at http://www.bghelsinki.org/donate.

A Visit with Migrants at Hungary’s Southern Border

A Visit with Migrants at Hungary’s Southern Border

Hungary's Parliament passed a series of laws on September 7 to control the flow of refugees into Hungary, giving police more authority and setting out strict punishments, including prison terms for illegal border crossing. The law also declares Serbia a “safe country,” in theory making it impossible for refugees who arrive from Serbia to get asylum in Hungary.

Committing a criminal offense (for example, crossing the border illegally) also will be a reason to refuse any asylum claims. Potential effects of these changes are currently unclear.

According to the new laws, those who enter the country illegally from September 15 will be held in pretrial detention and quickly expelled. Government representatives stated recently that they are preparing for mass riot scenes in the coming weeks, hoping for "relative tranquility by Christmas."

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán repeatedly said that a "new time" will come in the handling of the migrant crisis , though potential effects of the changes are currently unclear.

Watch our video from the southern border of Hungary to find out what happens on the ground for the tens of thousands fleeing their homeland for a better life.

Video by Noemi Hatala


Sudan: Special Force Rampages in Darfur

Sudan: Special Force Rampages in Darfur

A Sudanese government special force has gone on two sprees of killings and mass rape of civilians in dozens of Darfur villages and towns since October 2014, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The government should end these Rapid Support Forces (RSF) attacks and prosecute those responsible. The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) should urgently improve its protection of civilians.

The report, “‘Men With No Mercy’: Rapid Support Forces Attacks against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan,” documents Rapid Support Forces atrocities against civilians during two counterinsurgency campaigns in Darfur. The abuses appear to be widespread and systematic attacks on civilian populations that may constitute crimes against humanity.

Nairobi, September 2, 2015

Human Rights Watch

No foul play Brazil!

No foul play Brazil!

The lead up to the World Cup has prompted large scale demonstrations and public protests to which the police have responded with use of force, and in some cases "less lethal" weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protests are likely to continue in coming weeks and the Brazilian Congress is considering new laws that could be used to crack down on protesters. Additionally, inadequate regulations and training for policing demonstrations pose a risk of more injuries to protesters due to excessive use of force by police.

Everyone has the right to peaceful protest -- to exercise their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly - and the Brazilian Government has a duty to ensure that they can. That's why we are giving the Brazilian Government a yellow card!
Together we can use our freedom of expression to send them a warning. 

Join us and take action here: 
https://www.aiyellowcard.org/

Humans of the Year

Humans of the Year

The refugees and "Friends of the Refugees" were awarded with the distinction “Human of the year” 2013 in the annual Bulgarian Helsinki Committee awards for the contribution to and protection of human rights. “Give” them their award by signing the petition here: http://www.bghelsinki.org/en/dejstvaj/ne-narushavaite-pravata-na-bezhancite/

On November 14, 2013 the Bulgarian Council of Ministers adopted the draft amendments to the Law on Asylum and Refugees (LAR). The amendments introduce the detention of asylum seekers in closed-type facilities, bail measures and denial of prompt access to their registration card.

The proposed amendments violate the rights of the most vulnerable group – children seeking asylum. Between January and December 2013 the children seeking asylum in Bulgaria are 2135. Some are unaccompanied by relatives or family. 

Why is the detention of children in closed-type centers dangerous?

The deprivation of liberty damages a child’s normal development. It is unconditionally prohibited by the Bulgarian Child Protection Act.

Bail is a measure of deterrence and is only applied against persons accused of having committed a crime. Detention in closed-type centers is a compulsory administrative measure for irregular migrants, who are to be deported from the country. Thus, under the proposed LAR amendments, children seeking asylum will be treated as criminals and irregular migrants to be deported. A child seeking asylum cannot be deemed irregular migrant before a procedure of granting or refusing of international asylum has taken place.

The children seeking asylum in Bulgaria are not criminals. They are not irregular migrants either. The children seeking asylum are vulnerable. Let us protect them, not prosecute them.

Watch the video to learn how you can help the children seeking asylum.

A Bulgarian Helsinki Committee production. 

Nelson Mandela, A Human Rights Legend

Nelson Mandela, A Human Rights Legend

It's impossible to imagine a world without Mandela. His death will leave a massive hole, not just in South Africa but around the world.

He was a truly global leader who repeatedly rejected every injustice in the cause of human rights. He simply refused to accept injustice -- and his courage helped change our entire world.

Mandela's life of political struggle and self-sacrifice became and remains an example to millions around the globe.

In November 2006, Amnesty International declared Nelson Mandela an 'Ambassador of Conscience' in recognition of his work over many years of speaking out against human rights abuses not just in South Africa but around the world.
Accepting the award Mandela said: "Like Amnesty International, I have been struggling for justice and human rights, for long years. I have retired from public life now. But as long as injustice and inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. We must become stronger still.

What does Nelson Mandela mean to you? Post your thoughts and read other people's here: http://www.mandelamemorial.com/

Eritrea's Forgotten Prisons Exposed

Eritrea's Forgotten Prisons Exposed

On 24 May 1993, Eritrea was formally recognised as an independent nation after a UN-supervised referendum that confirmed the country's separation from Ethiopia, against whom it had fought a 30-year war. Twenty years on from the euphoric celebrations and promise of independence, thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners languish in Eritrea's prisons without charge or trial, for expressing their opinion, practising their religion or attempting to flee the repression in their country. 
Throughout the 20 years of Eritrea's independence, the government of President Isaias Afewerki has systematically used arbitrary arrest and detention to crush all opposition, to silence all dissent, and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the repressive system. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have disappeared into secret and incommunicado arbitrary detention -- without charge or trial, and with no contact with the outside world.

Amnesty International video

Escape to Freedom

Escape to Freedom

There are more than 15 million refugees all around the world. They flee  from war, violence and oppression. Pregnant women, children and sick people are many among them.  

Annually Bulgaria is addressed with less than 1000 refugee applications. Notwithstanding, conditions for registration, admission and accommodation of asylum seekers in Bulgaria are completely inadequate. Instead of being accommodated in reception centers, refugees are confined in detention centers for illegal immigrants with Ministry of Interior.  

Bulgarian law does not provide any deadline when they have to be released.

A Bulgarian Helsinki Committee production

China Activists Breach Liu Xia's House Arrest

China Activists Breach Liu Xia's House Arrest

Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo has been illegally held under house arrest for over 26 months. She has not been able to communicate with others or leave her apartment freely.

On the 28 December 2012 a group of activists attracted Liu Xia's attention outside her apartment beneath her window. They discussed how to get around the security guards through the side door. Liu Xia welcomed them with hugs and tears... (Amnesty International video)

War Crimes in Mali

War Crimes in Mali

United Nations human rights chief has condemned the ongoing human rights violations in northern Mali, including cruel punishments such as amputations, and called on the Government and the international community to urgently address the crisis.

"According to credible reports that my office has received, the various armed groups currently occupying northern Mali have been committing serious human rights violations and possibly war crimes," High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the UN Human Rights Council.
Mali's Justice minister Malick Coulibaly addressing the Council appealed to the International Community to support Mali in its efforts to promote peace in the country.

 Torture and Rendition to Gaddafi's Libya

Torture and Rendition to Gaddafi's Libya

The Unites States government during the Bush administration tortured opponents of Muammar Gaddafi, then transferred them to mistreatment in Libya, according to accounts by former detainees and recently uncovered CIA and UK Secret Service documents, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on September 6, 2012. One former detainee alleged he was waterboarded and another described a similar form of water torture, contradicting claims by Bush administration officials that only three men in US custody had been waterboarded - http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/09/05/us-torture-and-rendition-gaddafi-s-libya.

"Olympic Dreams" - Zimbabwean Human Rights Defender - Magogonga Mahlangu

"Olympic Dreams" - Zimbabwean Human Rights Defender - Magogonga Mahlangu

Animation of Zimbabwean human rights defender Magodonga Mahlangu for the Front Line Defenders Olympics 2012 Campaign - www.sportshrd.org. Magodongo Mahlunga is a leading woman human rights defender in Zimbabwe and in Africa. Despite countless nights spent in jail and non-stop efforts to silence her, she continues to act to secure political, social and economic rights for the people of Zimbabwe. To learn more, go to www.frontlinedefenders.org/MagodongaMahlangu

Yemen Must Investigate Sniper Killings of Protesters

Yemen Must Investigate Sniper Killings of Protesters

The Yemeni authorities must launch an immediate independent investigation after Central Security Forces and snipers opened fire on a peaceful demonstration and march in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday killing at least three people, and leaving another on a life-support machine. On 07 July 2012, snipers were seen firing from rooftops as hundreds gathered to mark the 18th anniversary of the day in 1994 that government forces from Sana'a captured Aden from secessionist forces at the end of the civil war. Dina El-Mamoun of Amnesty International reports from the city of Amen after injured protestors were brought to a local hospital for treatment.

Libyan Militias Are Spiralling Out of Control

Libyan Militias Are Spiralling Out of Control

During a visit to Libya in May and June, Amnesty International found that hundreds of armed militias continue to act above the law, many refusing to disarm or join the national army or police force. The Ministry of Interior told the organization that it has been able to dismantle four militias in Tripoli, a tiny proportion of the total number. In a new report 'Libya: rule of law or rule of militias?', the organization says that nearly a year after Tripoli fell to the revolutionary fighters (thuwwar), ongoing violations -- including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture including to death, impunity for unlawful killings and forcible displacement -- are casting a shadow over the country's first national elections since the fall of al-Gaddafi's regime.

Voices for Freedom

Voices for Freedom

This Amnesty International animated video illustrates the case of Dhondup Wangchen, who is serving a prison sentence in China for "subversion of state power" - simply because he dared to speak out about Tibetan human rights through his filmmaking. Dhondup Wangchen, a self-taught filmmaker from eastern Tibet, together with Golog Jigme secretly filmed over 35 hours of interviews with everyday Tibetans. These interviews were made into a 25-minute documentary film 'Leaving Fear Behind'. Free Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen at http://amnestyusa.org/freedhondup

Protests in Bahrain

Protests in Bahrain

With preparations well underway for Sunday's Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, a leading human rights group has said torture and ill-treatment are continuing in the Gulf kingdom. Amnesty International says it has evidence of people being kept in prison for participating in peaceful anti-government protests, and that security forces are using excessive and unnecessary force against demonstrators. Bahrain's Government has rejected many of the claims. BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says demonstrations against the authorities are a daily event.

Syrian First Lady Silent on Syria's Human Rights Record

Syrian First Lady Silent on Syria's Human Rights Record

Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad has portrayed herself as a defender of women and children's rights in her country. But she has been silent through much of the escalating violence, and has appeared publicly in support of her husband, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Call on Syria's First Lady to use her influence to defend the rights of women activists, and release those who are in detention. (http://www.amnestyusa.org/syriawomen)

Arab League demands Assad give up power

Arab League demands Assad give up power

The Arab League announced on Sunday that it had agreed to a new plan whereby Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would give up power, allowing a unity government to form and put an end to 10 months of bloody uprising. The resolution came after Saudi Arabia announced that it would withdraw its observers from the League's monitoring mission, which was dispatched in December to observe the fighting between the government and the armed opposition. The League said it would ask the United Nations Security Council to support its new resolution. (Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna reports from Cairo)

Guantánamo Bay: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights

Guantánamo Bay: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights

On 11 January 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the first detainees were transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Since then, the detention facility there has made the world's news headlines for the shocking human rights concerns associated with it - including arbitrary detention, secret detention, torture and other ill-treatment, renditions, and unfair trials. Ten years on more than 150 detainees remain at Guantánamo Bay. The majority are in indefinite detention without charge or trial. Those who have been charged face unfair trial by military commission and some can face the death penalty if convicted. The government claims that even those found not guilty can be returned to indefinite detention. There has been essentially no accountability or redress for the human rights violations to which they and other detainees have been subjected. Human rights concerns in Guantánamo Bay remain an unfinished story. How long before the US government closes the book on Guantánamo and meets its human rights obligations? Amnesty International will deliver a petition to President Obama before his 2012 State of the Union address on 24 January. Sign the petition here: http://bit.ly/endguantanamo!