Imagine you're facing state surveillance and physical attacks by the Chinese authorities because you're trying to protect Beijing residents from forced evictions. Or you're detained in an immigration removal centre in the UK, with absolutely no idea how long you'll be held there. Or you're facing 15 years in prison simply because of your work defending human rights in Turkey.
There is one very clear point that needs to be made again and again. It's one Theresa May herself made in the wake of the London attack at the weekend. She said the UK's commitment to human rights is one of the cherished values that terrorist seek to destroy. And she affirmed that "our society should continue to function in accordance with our values". She was right then, wrong now. Let's not do the terrorist's bidding. Let's stand behind our principles and freedoms.
Manning will be free at last, closing one painful chapter on what has been an extraordinary and thoroughly disturbing saga. This brave, principled - but also vulnerable - person has been put through the ringer.
Saydnaya is a place of unimaginable terror. Even when you know about the numerous horrors that have already unfolded in Syria in the past half-decade, it chills you to the bone to hear survivors telling you what it was like to be in Saydnaya. The 30 or so former detainees we spoke to have been to hell and back.
There was always a starkly political quality to Chelsea Manning's case. Her unprecedented 35-year jail sentence was obviously designed to deter anyone from following her example. A crushing "pour encourager les autres" jail term that would have seen her left to languish in a maximum-security military prison until 2045. It was an exercise in political retribution, not justice.
For all of the thousands of news stories on Donald Trump's presidential win, it's fair to say there's very little clarity on what his presidency is likely to mean for human rights. Either within the USA, or around the world. We're all working with scant evidence and a lot of speculation... Essentially, though, the problem is two-fold. First, the USA's human rights record is already poor in manifold ways and urgently needs improvement. And second, Trump's turbo-charged rhetoric suggests an impatience with the rule of law and international standards.
The last century has taught us just how achievable change is, especially when it comes at both a national and individual local level - from people's perceptions about the morality of drink-driving, to the drastic reduction in the ubiquitous habit of smoking everywhere, and of course racism. But it takes a huge coming together of determined people. It takes showing that this is not what we are prepared for the United Kingdom to head towards, that this is not the new normal.
One hundred and fifty-six people have been exonerated from various death row facilities in the USA in the past four decades. And these are just the ones we know about. How many other victims of miscarriages went to their deaths? Serious crimes deserve serious sentences, but the premeditated cruelty of the death penalty is not the answer. Capital punishment has no proven deterrence value, it's prone to terrible error, it's often applied following shoddy trials and sometimes in blatantly political ways, it's irreversible if implemented, and it inflicts mental torment on the condemned...
Clearly, Irish law is massively out of step with majority opinion. So, what if the Irish government offered the chance to vote on this in the same way they did with same sex marriage? If these poll results are anything to go by, then the current Irish abortion laws would be torn up and thrown into the rubbish bin, where they belong. At the root of all of this is the basic human right to control and make decisions about one's own body. Whichever party, or coalition, governs Ireland following recent elections, one thing is clear: amending the abortion laws in that country must be the absolute first priority.
Mr Obama's rhetoric over US torture is one of condemning the actions and adjuring us to "leave" them "where they belong - in the past". As if that answers to the seriousness of what took place. Few people would be content with a political arrangement which went no further than the condemning-and-leaving tactic if we were considering the everyday crimes of theft, fraud, assault or rape. I don't see why an official US programme of organised kidnap, illegal imprisonment and serial assault should be any different.
Amnesty is concerned that if we allow this to become the norm, we could have countries all over the world conducting aerial executions of perceived enemies on the basis of secret, unchallengeable evidence. Would we honestly be so relaxed if this was an announcement from Moscow, or Beijing, or Pyongyang or Oceania?
Whether or not David Cameron and Prince Charles needed to make the geo-political pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia is probably not for me to say, but there's no question that the backdrop to their visit is striking.
So take that Riyadh: <em>we're going to continue having a close dialogue with you</em>. Messrs Cameron and Ellwood have only spoken on Badawi's plight when asked. There have been no big ministerial statements, no press releases, no primetime media interviews, and no carpeting for the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UK, Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Once again, it seems that ministers are content to wear the Saudi muzzle... As the UK government knows full well (not least because Amnesty International regularly tells it so), Saudi Arabia's human rights record is a roll-call of shame.
It directly addresses the assumption bordering on cliché that women are more emotional - weaker - than men. Yet the contributions are all written by successful, influential men (some with very tough images) who admit to crying. Many share deeply personal insights and experiences, all provoked by poetry.
Claudia, for example, a woman in her late 20s, was made to live in a small room with her husband, her three sons, her parents and her brother's family - all 11 of them, sharing a bathroom with 30 others. After more than three years of this mistreatment, no alternatives have been offered to their ghastly inadequate living conditions. Imagine if something similar was happening here in Britain. There would be outrage if a local council behaved this way. So it is not surprising that 23 senior religious leaders in the UK... have chosen to make a stand to defend the rights of these families who have been subject of discrimination in Romania.
Imagine you woke up tomorrow and heard on the news that a prominent woman MP here in Britain had been kidnapped along with her two daughters. It would be utterly shocking. Now imagine it's a few weeks later and you hear that another female parliamentarian, a member of the House of Lords for example, has narrowly escaped an attack in which her daughter was killed. But this is exactly what's happened in Afghanistan this summer.
22/09/2013 22:32 BST
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