Europe Newsletter May 2024

As part of our Right to Protest campaign Amnesty has scheduled an online event for  6pm 28th May. Register here:

We are also organising a vigil outside the Embassy of Greece for 14th June 6pm comemorating the over 600 people who died when a small fishing boat packed with 750 refugees sank off the coast of Greece. Please find attached the report by Amnesty International . Please join us at the vigil if you can. Finally the Amnesty annual report is out : Amnesty Annual Report 2024


by Jovana Bosnjak

Ensure Muslim women and girls can play sports


In April we joined Watford Local Amnesty Group in their Human Rights Iftar to talk about the issues that professional athletes who wear the hijab in France are facing. This was in support of the ’’Basket pour toutes’’ campaign, a grass root organisation formed by hijabi basketball players and allies in France, and in support of their Open Public Letter to FFBB and FIBA with a clear call to overturn the hijab ban in French basketball.

General Sports Regulations in Basketball in France, are rules which prohibits the wearing of “any equipment with a religious or political connotation” at all levels and for all categories. Since then, groups in France such as Basket pour Toutes (Basketball for All), formed by Muslim women players, coaches, and allies, have been relentlessly campaigning to overturn the discriminatory ban.

Amnesty International has called on the French Basketball Federation and the French Ministry of Sport, Olympic and Paralympic Games to ensure that rules regarding the wearing of sports head coverings in competitions comply with international human rights law and do not discriminate against and violate the rights of Muslim women players who wear headgear in France.

Right to protest in Europe. State of play, solidarity and resistance

Events with Amnesty partners, 28th of May

To raise awareness and continue demanding the protection of our rights to protest in Europe, we invite you to a webinar hosted by Amnesty International, Global Climate Legal Defense and The Movement Hub :; Register here:


by Ulrike Schmidt

On 14th June 2023, the “Adriana” packed with an estimated 750 refugees sank off the coast of Pylos, Greece. Over 600 people including many children drowned. Amnesty’s investigation points to the actions of the Greek coastguard contributing to the sinking of the boat and the huge loss of life.

The policies of deterrence by terrorizing refugees, employed by our governments Rwanda policy as well as violent pushbacks in the Mediterranean sea are cruel, barbaric and inhumane. We are calling for safe and legal routes for all refugees.

Join the vigil at the Embassy of Greece on Friday 14th June 2024 at 6pm

Embassy of Greece, 1a Holland Park London W11 3TP

More information and link to on-line action : shipwreck-victims/ responsibilities-for-pylos-shipwreck-at-eu-hearing/

Please watch the video with statements by survivors from our Facebook page

Here is the full Amnesty report into this horrendous loss of life. So far the investigation by the Greek authorities into the actions of the Greek coastguard has been very slow. Instead nine of the survivors were brought to court and charged. Last week though the Kalamata Criminal Court in Greece dismissed the charges:

Please see below a good news thread about today’s decision to dismiss the Pylos 9 criminal case. The defendants were acquitted. We will now await the progress of the Greek naval court investigation into the actions of the Greek authorities and coast guard.

  1. GOOD NEWS🎉 The case against 9 survivors of the #Pylos shipwreck in #Greece has been dismissed!

[Graphic / image tag HRW]

  1. The Kalamata Criminal Court concluded, among others, that it does not have jurisdiction, as the incident occurred in international waters. The Court found the Pylos 9 not guilty


  1. @Amnesty and @HRW had raised concerns about the trial. The dismissal of the case against the Pylos 9 is a step in the direction towards establishing the truth & bringing justice to families of the over 600 people who died in this

incident. shipwreck-survivors-must-not-be-a-shield-in-the-investigation-of-the-alleged- responsibilities-of-the-greek-authorities/


  1. From the very beginning, survivors’ testimonies indicated that the Hellenic Coast Guard’s attempt to tow the boat contributed to its capsizing. This was confirmed in @Amnesty International and @HRW’s shipwreck/

  1. We call on the #Greek authorities to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the Hellenic Coast Guard’s actions, & demand justice for the victims, survivors and their Sign our petition

We have to continue to press for a full investigation into the the actions of the coastguard to stop this happening again. And we have to call for safe and legal routes for all refugees and the right to claim asylum. Please see as well a video produced by Amnesty with statements by survivors, uploaded on our Facebook page.

El Hiblu 3

The promised Action circular by the International Secretariat has still not arrived. The only action we can take is writing solidarity messages and solidarity actions on social media. Please the latest instructions from the IS.

People can write letters or cards of solidarity. They can send them at this address:

aditus foundation,

Rhea Building, 1A,

Triq is-Santissima Trinitá,

Ħamrun MRS 2280, Malta

Aditus foundation is a Maltese NGO whose lawyers are part of the legal team of the El Hiblu 3.

Perhaps a good idea if the envelopes clearly signal that the letter is for the El Hiblu 3, maybe adding something on the envelope like “message of solidarity for the El Hiblu 3”, just so the letters can be easily sorted from the rest of the mail of the organization.

Not sure what you have in mind as a solidarity action, but something like holding a banner and taking a photo to post on social media would be fine.

It is important that activists appreciate that we cannot lobby the court or direct messages to the court, so the messages need to be, as you suggest, about solidarity or general, along the lines of “Justice for the El Hiblu 3”.


by Lucja Jastrzebska

Since the Law and Order party’s Constitutional Tribunal banned nearly all access to abortion in 2021 by removing grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life”, the new political climate in Poland brings an array of hope.

Poland’s Governmental Changes After October 2023 Vote:

In October 2024, 74% of the Polish population voted, including voters from abroad (25% of Poles living in the UK) and the highest percentage of recorded female voters, which was the largest on-record voting percentage in Polish election history. This shows the incredible significance of Poles wanting to change the political climate in their country.

The new government voted in Poland in October 2023, is a significant step towards providing access to safe and legal abortion. In April 2024, Polish lawmakers approved four amendments to Poland’s abortion laws in a first reading in parliament and are in the right step towards saving lives, improving health services and complying to international and European human rights obligations.

Amnesty International’s Miko Czerwiński, Head of Campaigns, Amnesty International Poland said that decriminalising abortion is essential to ensuring all people who need abortion services, as well as abortion providers, activists and advocates, are not threatened with criminal consequences for accessing, assisting someone to access or delivering abortion services’.

Donald Tusk, leader of the Centrist Civic Coalition, was elected Prime Minster by the Polish parliament on December 11th 2023. Tusk was previously Prime Minister from 2007 to 2014 and President of the European Council from 2014 to 2019.

The previous PiS government promoted traditional conservative positions on social and family issues. It implemented a near-total ban on abortion and employed anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric. Critics of the government complained that it adopted illiberal and authoritarian practices, including control of the judiciary and the media. PiS also portrayed Tusk as a ‘subservient’ to Germany and to Russia and a ‘traitor’ to Polish interests.

Tusk has described PiS as ‘poison’ and presented the election as a referendum on the future of democracy in Poland along with pledging to repair Poland’s relations with the EU.

PiS was the leading party at the election with 35.4% of the vote. It was followed by Tusk’s Civic Coalition with 30.7% of the vote and two smaller alliances, the centre/centre-right Third Way on 14.4%, and the Left on 8.6%. The three opposition blocs together won a majority of seats and signed an agreement on forming a coalition government in November 2023.

On election day, four referendums were held by the government, including one asking voters if they supported the ‘admission of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa under the forced relocation mechanism imposed by the European bureaucracy’, failed to reach the 50% voter turnout threshold required for legal validity.

Opposition candidates such as Tusk discouraged voters from accepting the referendum card, which discredited the referendum.

Donald Tusk

Tusk’s government has pledged to unblock EU funding by reversing the judicial reforms of the PiS Government. Tusk visited Brussels within days of taking office and said that Poland would take the rule of law ‘very seriously’.

Tusk has promised continuing Polish support for Ukraine but has said that this would not come at the cost of Polish entrepreneurs and farmers. He visited Ukraine in January and reaffirmed Polish support for Ukraine’s accession to the EU.

The government has also pledged to overturn the ban on abortion, make anti-LGBT+ hate speech a crime and depoliticise the media. Shortly after taking office, the government removed the board of state TV, radio and press organisations.

Refugees In Polish Forests

Migrants and refugees, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, are trying to cross the Belarus- Polish border through the Bialowieza Forest, the last primeval forest in Europe. Dubbed ‘The Jungle’ by some migrants, this nature reserve is very difficult to cross and, for those trapped there with no support to survive in, not least for those not accustomed to the climate and harsh winters of north-eastern Europe. Having

to hide from border guards, many find themselves trapped in the forest for a very long time. The alarming absence of refugee camps and humanitarian organisations on this border makes professional medical assistance difficult to access as many humanitarian aid has been criminalised by Belarus. The conditions are extreme. The refugees often develop ailments related to the lack of clean drinking water, diarrhoea, and fungal infections and risk dehydration in summer and hypothermia in winter. Added to these problems are the new ones created by the 5.5-metre-high wall, topped with concertina wire, built by Poland to prevent the entry of migrants.

Watch the space as we will be campaigning on this during this year’s Refugee Week in June (16-23rd).

Human Rights Win!

The case against Ela, Joanna and Anna accused of ‘offending religious beliefs’ for using the image of the Virgin Mary with the LGBTQIA+ coloured rainbow halo finally came to an end after five years!

We want to thank you all for your support. Over 28,000 people worldwide acted in solidarity. We can definitely attribute the pressure generated by advocacy done by colleagues in AI Poland and the pressure of the online action worldwide to this positive outcome.

We hope today’s outcome hopefully marks a new start and the beginning of the end and a turn away from what has been a longstanding climate of hostility and homophobia.

Read more: towards-providing-access-to-safe-and-legal-abortion/ 2023.pdf opposition-have-majority/


by Chris Ramsey

Saturday Mothers: Progress at last

Global day of action Saturday 25 May

As anticipated in the March newsletter the global day of action to draw attention to the 1000th  vigil of the Saturday Mothers of Istanbul took place on 25 May. As well as our CEO Sacha Deshmukh recording an excellent video message of support 13 local groups contributed 70 solidarity photographs as a contribution to the International Secretariat’s target of 1000 images to send to the Saturday Mothers to show them the scale of global support for their courageous fight to find out what happened to their loved ones in the political violence in the 1980s and 90s. There were so many brilliant photographs; here is a small selection:-

In the build up to the 25 May more and more posts began to appear on social media and the scale of international support for the Saturday Mothers became clearer and clearer. Whether it was because of this, or for other internal domestic political reasons, the government of Türkiye let it be known last week, through an AKP spokesperson in the national parliament, that the Saturday Mothers vigil would be allowed to go ahead completely unhindered for the first time since 2018. Accordingly, all of the barriers erected in Galatasary Square were dismantled and the event went ahead as shown in the photograph below.

What is not yet clear is whether this is a permanent relaxation or whether restrictions will be re-imposed now that the 1000th anniversary with all the attendant publicity has passed.

I will be keeping in close touch with the International Secretariat about this and let everyone know about any follow up action required.

Thank you to everyone who has been campaigning on behalf of the Saturday Mothers (in some cases for many years). Whilst it will be a huge step forward if the group are allowed to continue with their vigils we must not forget that the ultimate purpose of their campaign is to find out what happened to their loved ones 30 years ago and I’m afraid that goal still feels along way off.

AIUK Europe Country Coordinators

Jovana Bosnjak Western and Northern Europe

Lucja Jastrzebska Central Europe

Chris Ramsey Türkiye

Ulrike Schmidt Balkans including Greece