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StopTorture

    December 11, 2014

    On the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention against Torture, the man in charge of pushing states to stamp out the despicable practice, a torture survivor himself, looks back at his harrowing experience and the challenges facing the global fight against torture.

    December 09, 2014

    Alfreda Disbarro has shown enormous courage. She was tortured repeatedly by police in the Philippines following her arrest in October 2013. Alfreda was punched in her stomach and face, hit with a club, had fingers poked in her eyes, slapped, was forced to eat a mop and had her head banged against the wall. She was in such pain in the days that followed the beatings that she couldn’t eat, had difficulty breathing and kept vomiting.

    But Alfreda made the courageous decision to speak up, and her story has helped to lead to change.  Alfreda Disbarro has been the focus of massive campaigning by Amnesty International to stop torture.  She and her family have expressed their thanks for what Amnesty has done by highlighting her case.

    December 03, 2014

    Magdy el-Baghdady, a 30-year-old man from London, had a grand plan.

    In early 2011 he travelled to Sudan to open a small restaurant to help support his ailing father. He knew a few well-connected people in Khartoum with whom he had gone to school in north London. It all made sense at the time.

    But then, it went horribly wrong.

    Two weeks after his plane landed, he was languishing in a prison cell, bearing the marks and scars of torture.

    Despite his ordeal Magdy is lucky. He is now safely back in the UK, fighting a legal battle against the Sudanese state.

    He is arguing that Sudan violated the prohibition of torture under the African Charter and is using the Convention against Torture – adopted three decades ago this year – to do it.

    Madgy’s story illustrates why the Convention against Torture is crucial in the fight for justice for thousands like him. The document provides a clear definition of what torture is and sets out the obligations that state parties have to end it.

    November 26, 2014

    “I’ve been working for the drug cartels and helped place a car bomb that killed two police officers,” said Rogelio Amaya, looking straight at the camera lens. He appeared shaken, his body bruised.

    Within hours, a version of the video featuring Rogelio and four of his friends confessing to the crime plastered the TV screens of Ciudad Juárez, in northern Mexico along the border with the USA.

    The town is one of the most violent in the country, infamous for brutal clashes among competing drug cartels and law-enforcement officers.

    The local authorities congratulated themselves for having captured who they said were members of “La Línea”, a local drug cartel who had been terrorizing people in the area for years. They were also blamed for the recent explosion of a car bomb in downtown Juárez.

    Drug dealers behind bars. Problem solved.

    But a few years into the men’s prison term, the real story of how the video was made came to light – and exposed the shocking use of torture that pervades across Mexico.

    November 22, 2014

    Releasesd 0:01 GMT 23 November 2013

    The Philippine authorities are running out of time to ensure that their response to the Maguindanao massacre does not become a mockery of justice, Amnesty International said on the fifth anniversary of what is often called the world’s largest-ever single attack on journalists.

    On 23 November 2009, 58 people, including 32 journalists and other media workers, were killed when an election convoy came under attack by more than 100 armed men, allegedly including members of the police and the military. The convoy had been travelling in the southern province of Maguindanao, through the territory of the powerful Ampatuan clan.

    “Justice delayed is justice denied. Five years after the Maguindanao massacre, the cases are still inching through the Philippine court system and not a single person has been held to account,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Philippines Researcher.

    Almost half the 197 suspects for whom arrest warrants have been issued since the massacre remain at large. Meanwhile, no prosecution has been concluded, nor has any perpetrator been convicted.

    November 19, 2014

    The event was a legal milestone that sent a chilling message to human rights violators the world over.

    Eight years after being ousted from power, in October 1998, Augusto Pinochet, the ailing Chilean former leader and one of the world’s most notorious dictators, decided to travel to Europe to receive medical treatment.

    But as he arrived in London, members of the Chilean diaspora – many of them survivors of torture during Pinochet’s brutal regime – saw a golden opportunity for the former dictator to be investigated, after Chile had systematically refused to do so.

    Armed with the International Convention against Torture – a ground-breaking treaty under which governments had agreed that those suspected of committing or ordering torture could be tried by state parties all around the world – lawyers began a fierce battle.

    Never before had the Convention been successfully used to prosecute a former head of state suspected of having ordered or committed torture, and the results were astonishing.

    November 09, 2014

    By Noor Al-Bazzaz of Amnesty International’s Syria team

    Five months to the day after being abducted and held hostage by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), a group of 25 students from Kobani were unexpectedly set free on 29 October.

    They were the last remaining captives from a group of around 150 schoolchildren from the embattled Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria who were returning from their final year examinations in Aleppo in May when IS members stopped their school bus at a checkpoint and abducted them all. In the months that followed, they were sporadically released. Those we spoke to had horror stories to tell about life in IS captivity.

    In Suruç, a town in Turkey merely 10km from Kobani, refugees from the besieged city told me how the students’ harrowing experience was typical of the many abductions by IS in the year and a half since the armed group besieged their city.

    One of the released students, a 15-year-old boy who chose to remain unnamed, described the four months he spent in the hands of IS, detailing the armed group’s use of torture against students who broke the rigid rules, or attempted to escape.

    November 03, 2014

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, John Packer, Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa,and Roch Tassé, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

    A timely conference on Wednesday reminded us that as debate swirls about new national security measures in Canada, vital lessons have emerged over the past decade about protecting human rights.

    In the wake of last week’s attack in Ottawa the government is rolling out proposed changes to Canada’s security laws and practices. We don’t yet know the full extent.

    On Wednesday, a remarkable group of judges, lawyers, journalists, activists, former diplomats, academics and community leaders came together in Ottawa. We were joined by individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by human rights violations associated with national security investigations, charges, arrest and imprisonment.

    October 31, 2014
    Valentina Rosendo Cantú (middle) meets with Amnesty activists Kathy Price and Dolores Soto

    By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    How often do you get the chance to sit down with a hero whose courageous actions make change happen where it is least expected? I got just that opportunity when I travelled to a small town in Mexico (unnamed for security reasons) to meet up with Valentina Rosendo Cantú.

    Like other Me’phaa Indigenous women from beautiful Guerrero State, Valentina is small in stature. But I can tell you that she has the courage of a giant.

    In 2002, Valentina was washing clothes in a stream when an army patrol arrived. They demanded information about people they accused of subversion. Valentina knew nothing about what they were asking. She barely understood the Spanish they spoke. She was just 17 years old. The soldiers proceeded to torture and rape her.

    October 17, 2014

    Ángel Amílcar Colón, tortured into "confessing" to crimes he did not commit and unjustly imprisoned for 5 years, has been released from jail!

    Thanks to the efforts of his legal team at Centro Prodh and activists in Mexico, Canada and around the world who raised their voices for justice, a man can now return to his family and his community. Never doubt that raising our voices for rights and justice can make a difference! Ángel Amílcar is free!

    Upon his release, Ángel said:

    "My message to all those who are showing me their solidarity, and are against torture and discrimination, is don't drop your guard. A new horizon is dawning. I feel happy about what is happening."

    A delegation from Amnesty International met Ángel in prison during a human rights research mission to Mexico in September 2014. His story was captured on film and shared with Amnesty supporters around the world, leading to thousands to respond and urge Mexican authorities for his release. 

    His story

    October 16, 2014

    When 71-year-old Herman Wallace died shortly after being released from more than four decades in isolation in a Louisiana prison, a year ago today, the extent of the system’s inhumanity was brought to light once again. But despite the international outcry, on any given day 80,000 people are locked in stark cells in inhumane conditions across the USA.

    When the thick solid metal door shut behind him, Steven was faced with his worst nightmare. He knew he would be forced to spend the following four years locked in a room only large enough to take two steps to either side. He would spend his every minute surrounded by nothing but three walls, a thin mattress, a concrete block for a table and a small sink.

    He knew the only human interaction he would have in the next 48 months would be a few words with his guards, who were not allowed to make conversation with him.

    Phone calls were banned – the mere fact of picking up a receiver to speak to a relative was considered too dangerous. Hugging another person was also out of the question – any visits from relatives would have to be conducted through a glass screen by phone. But nobody came to visit.

    October 14, 2014

    By Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.

    The breathlessness was overwhelming. Standing in that small, dark cell, surrounded by nothing but three concrete walls, a dank toilet, a small sink, a thin mattress, a concrete slab and a perforated metal door that barely let any air in, the oppressive claustrophobia was hard to control.

    This was not the first time I had set foot in a US prison, but it was the first time I had experienced what an isolation cell can do to you.

    Everything about that room – the lack of windows, or natural light, or fresh air, the very thought of not being allowed any human interaction – seems to be designed to dehumanise. The basic penal concept of reform and social rehabilitation is excluded inside those three walls.

    In solitary, punishment is king. The mere thought of spending more than a few minutes in that place was almost unbearable.

    And then, a prisoner told me and my colleague that we were the first outsiders he had seen in 22 years.

    October 09, 2014
    Justice for Ayotzinapa protest in Mexico City, 8 October 2014

    By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner

    The photos arrived in a steady stream on my Facebook feed, a flood of images too numerous to include here - impossible to ignore. From the wide boulevards of Mexico’s capital to the streets of small towns across the country, women and men, young and old, thousands and thousands of them, marched in protest, united in their outrage about what was done in Guerrero State.

    September 22, 2014
    A guard passes by an exhibition board during the China International Exhibition on Police Equipment Anti-Terrorism Technology (CIPATE) in Beijing May 2009© Feng Li/Getty AFP

    Originally issued 00:01 BST  23 September 2014

    The flourishing trade, manufacture and export of tools of torture by Chinese companies is fuelling human rights violations across Africa and Asia, new research by Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation reveals.

    The new report - China’s Trade in Tools of Torture and Repression - shows there are now more than 130 Chinese companies involved in the production and trade of potentially dangerous law enforcement equipment – compared to only 28 Chinese companies a decade ago.

    Some of the devices openly marketed by these companies – including electric shock stun batons, metal spiked batons, and weighted leg cuffs – are intrinsically cruel and inhumane and therefore should immediately be banned.

    September 18, 2014

    By Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner

    The disappearance of more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls in April 2014 led to a worldwide social media campaign to #BringBackOurGirls. Tens of thousands of Amnesty International supporters signed our petition targeted at the Nigerian authorities. The world watched, and waited. Then the social media campaign faded and the issue disappeared from the headlines. Five months later the girls are still missing. And in the intervening months many more girls, boys, women, and men have been kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters.

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