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Syria

    September 04, 2015

    By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International. Follow Gauri on Twitter @GaurivanGulik.

    A solemn moment of silence. The world over, this is the traditional response when lives are cut short by tragedy.

    It has also been a common response to tragedies in Europe and off its shores which have ended the lives of thousands of refugees and migrants. Not killed by bombs in Syria, but killed while making terrifying journeys in search of safety and better lives in Europe.

    But the scale and rapid succession of these tragedies calls for breaking the silence.

    In the space of a week, along with people across the world, I recoiled in horror as four new tragedies added to a growing list of events that have already brought a record number of refugees and migrants to untimely deaths this year. According to UNHCR, 2,500 have already perished en route to Europe since 1 January 2015.

    On 26 August, 52 bodies were found inside the hull of a ship about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya.

    September 02, 2015

    Work on Maher Arar’s case has been one of our most intensive campaigns for justice spanning well over a decade. Here are some of the highlights:

    September 01, 2015

    The following statement was read by Monia Mazigh, Maher Arar's wife, as a press conference earlier today.

    I welcome today's announcement by the RCMP to lay criminal charges against Colonel George Salloum who was directly responsible for my torture while I was detained at the Palestinian Branch of the Syrian Military Intelligence.

    Since I launched my complaint in 2005, I gave the RCMP investigating team, during the many interviews I had with them, the information they needed to advance their investigation. This lengthy international investigation took the officers overseas to gather evidence. As a result, they were able to better understand the nature of interrogations in Syrian detention centers. Upon their return, the investigators were able to pass on their knowledge to other RCMP staff. 

    I believe this is vital for the RCMP to grasp given the increased urge to share information even with regimes who don't respect our understanding of basic human rights.

    August 31, 2015

    By Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece 

    The view was staggering upon my arrival in the village of Idomeni, near Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia).

    Up to 4,000 refugees, many of them from Syria including many families with children, were trapped after Macedonia’s government designated the southern border just outside the town of Gevgelija a “crisis area”, closing the border crossing and bringing in military backup. The refugees were all trying to pass through Macedonia on their way to northern European countries.

    August 14, 2015

    Sixteen international organizations have joined the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in welcoming the release of its president Mazen Darwish and in calling for all charges against him and his colleagues to be dropped, as well as for the release of all other prisoners of conscience who remain detained by the Syrian authorities.

    Whilst welcoming this week’s release of Mazen Darwish and of his SCM colleagues Hani al-Zitani and Hussein Gharir last month we are extremely concerned that they continue to face charges of ‘publicizing terrorist acts’ and are due to face trial later this month. We continue to call for all charges against them to be dropped immediately and unconditionally, and for an end to the persecution and judicial harassment of the three men for their legitimate human rights work. The authorities in Syria must further guarantee that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

    August 11, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST   12 August 2015

    Relentless aerial bombardment and shelling by Syrian government forces is magnifying the suffering of civilians trapped under siege and facing an escalating humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ghouta, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    ‘Left to die under siege’: War crimes and human rights abuses in Eastern Ghouta, Syria reveals damning evidence of war crimes and describes the Syrian government’s siege on Eastern Ghouta and unlawful killing of its besieged civilians, occurring as part of a widespread as well as systematic attack on the civilian population, as amounting to crimes against humanity. The report also highlights the agonizing struggle to survive of more than 163,000 people living under siege in Eastern Ghouta, as well as exposing abuses by non-state armed groups in the area.

    August 10, 2015

    Today’s conditional release of Mazen Darwish, a human rights activist who had been jailed on trumped-up terrorism-related charges, ends the worst of a painful ordeal for him and his family over the past three and a half years, said Amnesty International.

    Mazen Darwish, Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), spent over three years in arbitrary detention after being arrested alongside a number of other colleagues during a raid on the office of the SCM by Air Force Intelligence personnel in Damascus in February 2012. Mazen Darwish is the last of the group to be released, two of his colleagues Hani al-Zitani and Hussein Gharir were conditionally released last month.

    August 07, 2015

    A UN Security Council resolution passed today, paving the way for establishing an independent team of experts to identify the perpetrators of chlorine and other chemical weapon attacks, offers hope for accountability for war crimes in Syria, said Amnesty International.

    “Chlorine and other chemical weapon attacks have brought death, anguish and terror to the civilian population in Syria. This resolution offers a much needed ray of hope in the darkness that presides over this conflict. If properly implemented, it could offer an opportunity to break the cycle of impunity for the countless war crimes being committed on a daily basis there,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    Hundreds of civilians have been killed in chemical weapons attacks since the crisis in Syria began more than four years ago. The use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international humanitarian law.  

    August 07, 2015

    Around 230 people are reported to have been abducted in central Syria by the armed group that calls itself Islamic State (IS) after heavy fighting in the town of Al-Qaryatain last night.

    “The abhorrent abduction in Syria of more than 200 people by Islamic State highlights the dreadful plight of civilians caught up in the conflict in the country,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher.  

    “Every effort must be made to identify the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. The group must respect the rules of war and immediately release these civilians unharmed.”

    A separate group of around 250 Syrian Christians were taken by IS in the Khabour river area in February. Nineteen have since been released whilst the fate of the rest remains unknown.

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations
    (613)744-7667 #236   jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

    June 25, 2015

    Security Council members should use a meeting with NGOs at the United Nations on 26 June to agree upon steps they will take to enforce Security Council resolution 2139, which calls for an end to indiscriminate and direct attacks against civilians in Syria, said Amnesty International.  

    The organization is urging the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government and targeted sanctions against individuals on all sides responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Such measures could help end barrel bomb and hell-canon attacks against civilians as well as any use of chlorine and other toxic chemicals as weapons.

    “A year and a half ago the Security Council made a commitment to take further steps if resolution 2139 was violated by parties to the conflict. The fact that indiscriminate attacks and other violations have continued unabated across Syria since then shows that it has been consistently and flagrantly flouted,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

    May 04, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 5 May 2015

    Sheer terror and unbearable suffering has forced many civilians in Aleppo to eke out an existence underground to escape the relentless aerial bombardment of opposition-held areas by government forces, according to a new report published by Amnesty International today.

    April 08, 2015

    At least 18 civilians, including a 12-year-old girl and a humanitarian worker, have been killed in Yarmouk since the armed group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS) attacked and mostly seized the Palestinian refugee camp over the past week, said Amnesty International.

    Thousands more are at risk as Syrian government forces have intensified the shelling and aerial bombardment of the camp in response to the IS takeover of the area, including by dropping barrel bombs. Civilians have also come under sniper fire and been caught up in clashes between armed groups, notably IS and the mostly Palestinian Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

    “For civilians still trapped in Yarmouk life is an agonizing struggle for survival. After enduring a crippling two-year-long government-imposed siege, now they are pinned down by sniper fire fearing for their lives as shelling and aerial attacks escalate,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

    March 17, 2015

    Eyewitnesses to an alleged chlorine gas attack last night in Idlib, northern Syria, have told Amnesty International about the horrific death of an entire family, including three children younger than three years of age.

    Scores of other civilians were exposed to toxic chlorine gas in two apparent chemical weapons attacks allegedly carried out by government forces in and around the town of Sermine, Idlib, last night, eyewitnesses said.

    “These horrific attacks that resulted in civilians, including small children, suffering excruciating deaths, are yet more evidence that the Syrian government forces are committing war crimes with impunity. The situation in Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court as a matter of urgency,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    March 16, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 17 March 2015

    A new report by Amnesty International provides damning evidence that Syrian government forces unlawfully killed scores of civilians in a series of aerial attacks on the city of al-Raqqa in November 2014 which violated international humanitarian law. Some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.

    Al-Raqqa under attack: Syrian air force strikes against civilians documents a series of airstrikes between 11 and 29 November that led to the deaths of up to 115 civilians, among them 14 children. They included attacks on a mosque and a busy market crammed full of civilians and other buildings not being used for military purposes.

    “Syrian government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war in these ruthless airstrikes. Some of these attacks give every indication of being war crimes,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    March 11, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 12 March 2015

    Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organizations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.

    Analyzing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.

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