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    May 03, 2011

     Amnesty International has received first-hand reports of torture and other ill-treatment from detainees held in Syria as a wave of arrests of anti-government protesters intensified over the weekend.

    Detainees who were recently released told the organization of beatings and harsh conditions in detention, raising fears for the safety of hundreds of others being held, including at least 499 people who were arrested on Sunday in house-to-house raids in the southern town of Dera’a.

    “These disturbing new accounts of detainees being tortured further underscore the need for President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to his security forces’ violent onslaught against his own people,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The use of unwarranted lethal force, arbitrary detention and torture appear to be the desperate actions of a government that is intolerant of dissent and must be halted immediately. Syrians must be allowed to voice their calls for change peacefully.”

    May 03, 2011

    Amnesty International has published satellite imagery and new testimony that shed light on the horrific conditions in North Korea’s network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 200,000 people.

    The images reveal the location, size and conditions inside the camps. Amnesty International spoke to a number of people, including former inmates from the political prison camp at Yodok as well as guards in other political prison camps, to obtain information about life in the camps.

    According to former detainees at the political prison camp at Yodok, prisoners are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. All the detainees at Yodok have witnessed public executions.

    “North Korea can no longer deny the undeniable. For decades the authorities have refused to admit to the existence of mass political prison camps,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director.

    April 30, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must abolish a recent law criminalizing peaceful protests and strikes, Amnesty International said ahead of tomorrow’s planned protests for International Workers’ Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.


    The organization called for workers’ rights to be protected, as protesters gather to demand the lifting of restrictions on forming trade unions, the introduction of an adequate minimum wage and the reinstatement of co-workers dismissed for their trade union activities.

     

    April 28, 2011

    The arrest of six civil society activists and the government’s takeover of a rights organization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are part of a worrying clampdown on dissent in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    Five of the activists were among more than 100 signatories of a recent petition calling for democratic reforms in the UAE, according to local media reports.

    At the same time, a lawyer for three of the detainees has said that he has received anonymous threats via Facebook and by way of text messages.

    The UAE authorities also dissolved the board of the Jurists Association, a leading civil rights organization after it joined a call for greater democracy alongside three other civil society organizations. Board members have been replaced with state-appointees for a six-month period.

    “These recent arrests and the government’s takeover of the Jurists Association fly in the face of international standards on freedom of expression, assembly and association,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

    April 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has called for an urgent independent investigation into an attack yesterday by armed men believed to be affiliated to security forces which left at least 12 protesters dead in the capital, Sana'a.

    Men in plainclothes reportedly fired at protesters as they marched past the May 22 Stadium in the capital Sana'a. Men described as ‘thugs’ also attacked protesters with batons.

    A 14-year-old boy, Abdulrahman Muhammad al-Okairi, was among those killed. Scores of other protestors were injured.

    "If real reform is to take place in Yemen, the current spiral of violence must be brought to an end and those responsible for killings such as those committed yesterday must be brought to justice," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "Disturbingly, this is one of the deadliest attacks seen in Yemen in over a month and may have been intended to undermine plans to strike a political deal that will see President Saleh stand down and bring an end to the killings on the streets."

    April 26, 2011

    The UN Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said today, amid escalating government violence against protesters calling for reform.

    The call comes as the Security Council considers its response to the brutal crackdown that has left some 400 people dead since mid-March.

    “The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “The Syrian government and its security forces have long felt able to operate with total impunity, and we are now seeing the result of that in the kinds of bloody acts that they have been committing on the streets of Syria in recent days.”

    “President al-Assad and those around him have to understand that their actions will have consequences, namely that if they gun down their own citizens the international community will hold them individually criminally responsible before the ICC or national courts of states exercising universal jurisdiction.”

    April 25, 2011

    The Syrian government's brutal reaction to its people's demand for change has reached a new and outrageous low, Amnesty International said today, as army tanks continued to shell residential areas in the southern city of Dera'a.

    After the Syrian army deployed in Dera'a early on Monday, tanks were used to shell civilian buildings, sources told Amnesty International.

    "By resorting to the use of artillery against its own people today, the Syrian government has shown its determination to crush the peaceful protests at virtually any cost, whatever the price in Syrians' lives," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

    "President Bashar al-Assad must call a stop to this now. He must pull back his army from Dera'a immediately and ensure that basic services to the city are restored. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the victims of this latest totally unacceptable onslaught."

    All water and electricity services have been cut off to the town, which has been at the centre of protests that have swept the country since mid-March and was where the first protesters were killed by security forces.

    April 22, 2011

    At least 75 people have been killed today in Syria during mass protests, local human rights activists told Amnesty International, as the government launched its deadliest crackdown yet on demonstrators calling for political reform.

    Security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators who had gathered across the country following Friday prayers.

    Thirty were killed in the southern town of Izzra’, 22 in Damascus, 18 in the Homs area and the rest in other towns and villages, activists said, in what is the deadliest day so far during weeks of protest.

    Two boys aged 7 and 10 years old were among those killed in Izzra’ as was a 70-year-old man.

    “The Syrian authorities have again responded to peaceful calls for change with bullets and batons. They must immediately halt their attacks on peaceful protesters and instead allow Syrians to gather freely as international law demands,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

    April 21, 2011


    The Syrian authorities must not respond with violence to mass demonstrations planned across the country tomorrow, Amnesty International urged on the eve of a Facebook-promoted "Great Friday" protest.

    "It is imperative that these demonstrations are policed sensibly, sensitively and in accordance with international law to avoid further bloodshed on Syria’s streets," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "These ‘Great Friday’ protests could be the largest yet. If government security forces resort to the same extremely violent tactics they have used over the past month, the consequences could be exceedingly grave."

    Peaceful protests calling for freedom are expected to take place in cities and towns across the country including Damascus, Dera'a, Homs and Banias, in all of which demonstrators have been killed by security forces in recent weeks.

    The death toll has already exceeded 228 as a result of the crackdown on the protests, which began on 15 March and have since mushroomed as people have taken to the streets to express their grievances.

    April 21, 2011

    The Ugandan government must immediately end the excessive use of force against protestors, Amnesty International said today, after police fired live rounds at crowds of protesters in different parts of the country reportedly killing a child.

    Five people have been killed in Uganda since the protests, sparked by a rise in fuel prices and the cost of living, began on 11 April.

    “The police have a duty to protect themselves and uphold the law, but it is completely unacceptable to fire live ammunition at peaceful protesters,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director.

    “They must now investigate these deaths immediately in a thorough, independent and effective manner.”

    One child was killed and two protesters injured by bullets during protests in the town of Masaka today, a local journalist told Amnesty International. Two police officers were reportedly badly beaten by protesters during the disturbances.

    April 20, 2011

    Members of the security forces that have for decades brutally repressed Egyptians must be held to account, Amnesty International said today as it released a damning report into the use of emergency powers under former President Hosni Mubarak.

    In Time for Justice: Egypt's Corrosive System of Detention, Amnesty International calls for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into human rights abuses committed by the much-feared State Security Investigations Service (SSI).

    "Under the cover of the state of emergency, President Mubarak’s state security forces were for years allowed to commit gross violations without fear of scrutiny or punishment," said Amnesty International.

    “This is a moment for fundamental change,” said Amnesty International. “It demands immediate concrete steps from the authorities so that those responsible for serious human rights violations are held to account.”

    “Egyptians must see justice done for the human rights abuses of the past.”

    The organization said it was prepared to make its archive of human rights reports available to the Egyptian authorities to assist with an investigation.

    April 20, 2011

    The US soldier accused of leaking documents to the Wikileaks organisation is being moved to a new detention centre following concerns over his treatment.

    Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing documents to Wikileaks, is being moved from a maximum security military brig at the Quantico Marine Corps Base to a pre-trial facility in a new, medium-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.  

    While at Quantico he has been detained for 23 hours a day in a small cell, sometimes naked, and forbidden from exercising.  

    “We believe sustained public pressure for the US government to uphold human rights in Bradley Manning’s case has contributed to this move” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas.  

    “We hope Bradley Manning’s conditions will significantly improve at Fort Leavenworth, but we will be watching how he is treated very closely.  His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner.”  

    April 20, 2011

    Amnesty International has today urged the Yemeni authorities to ensure the safety of a prominent human rights activist after she was warned anonymously for allegedly passing information to the UN Security Council.

    Amal Basha, chairperson of the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), received a telephone warning via her office this morning telling her not to leave her home and to take extra precautions.

    The anonymous caller said Yemeni security forces believe that she briefed the UN Security Council about the current situation in Yemen, thereby “internationalizing” the country’s problems. Amal Basha says she has not provided any such briefing to the UN.
     
    “The Yemeni authorities must urgently investigate this threat against a leading human rights activist and take steps to ensure that those responsible for planning any action against Amal Basha’s life are quickly identified and brought to justice” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

    “Human rights activists must be able to go about their lawful work without threat or intimidation.”

    April 18, 2011

    As Zimbabwe’s celebrates 31 years of independence, Amnesty International today expressed concern about the lack of effort by the government to address the legacy of human rights violations and respect for human rights guaranteed in the country’s own constitution as well as international treaties.

    Despite the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009, human rights violations have continued unabated. Unjustifiable restrictions of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are undermining the stability brought about by the setting up of the GNU.

    For example, six activists, Munyaradzi Gwisai, Hopewell Gumbo, Antonater Choto, Welcome Zimuto, Eddson Chakuma and Tatenda Mombeyarara, are facing treason charges after organizing a public lecture to discuss events in Egypt and the Middle East. If convicted they face the death penalty. The six were part of a group of 45 activist arrested on 19 February 2011. The other 39 were acquitted after a magistrate in Harare dismissed the charges against them.

    April 18, 2011


    The Nigerian military must not use excessive force to quell riots and demonstrations taking place around the imminent announcement of presidential election results, Amnesty International said today.  

    “We are extremely concerned about the escalation of violence in northern and central Nigeria by protestors and urge the Nigerian authorities to ensure that excessive force is not used against protesters,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.

    “Political leaders on all sides must act responsibly and tell their supporters to stop all acts of violence and human rights abuses.”

    Rioting and violent attacks have been reported in the north and centre of the country, including Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Adamawa, Bauchi and Plateau states and the Federal Capital Territory.

    “The security forces' response to this unrest must not lead to further human rights violations. The police and military must respect human life and use proportionate means to police demonstrations,” said Tawanda Hondora.

    Presidential poll results show incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan is set to win.

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