10 of your biggest moments in 2014

22 December 2014, 01:00 UTC |
‘The girl with the red balloon’. Moscow, March 2014. © Ivan Proskuryakov
By Sabine Vandame

1. Together, we changed the rape law in Morocco

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 said ‘No’ to Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill

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.

3. We got closer to the truth in Sri Lanka

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.

4. Hakamada Iwao was released after 45 years in prison

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.

5. We gave Brazil a yellow card

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.

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

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.

7. Activist Ales Bialiatski was released in Belarus

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.”

8. We started Stop Torture

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.

9. Meriam Ibrahim was saved from execution

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.

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

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.

11. Torture survivor Ángel Colón was released

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."