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    May 18, 2011

    The trials of eight activists convicted over their involvement in pro-reform protests in Bahrain that began in February, were politically motivated and unfair, Amnesty International said today.

    A military court in Bahrain's capital city Manama has sentenced the eight activists, in two separate cases, to between one and four years imprisonment for "participating in illegal demonstrations and inciting hatred against the regime" during popular protests in February and March.

    One of the activists, Fadhila Mubarak Ahmad, is the first woman protester to be convicted as a result of the recent unrest in Bahrain. She was sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

    "These trials and convictions represent yet further evidence of the extent to which the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are now being denied in Bahrain," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for Middle East and North Africa.

    May 18, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must provide justice to all of the victims of violent repression that took place during mass anti-government protests earlier this year, Amnesty International said in a comprehensive report into abuses that led to at least 840 deaths.

    The release of Egypt rises: killings, detentions and torture in the '25 January Revolution' comes two days before former Interior Minister Habib El Adly goes on trial on charges arising from the killings of protesters.

    The organization said that while the Egyptian authorities have begun holding accountable some of those accused of responsibility for serious human rights violations, many victims of security forces' brutality are at risk of being excluded from efforts to deal with the legacy of the violence.

    "The trial of the senior figures suspected of being responsible for the outrageous use of excessive force against peaceful protesters is an essential first step," said Amnesty International. "But the authorities' response to victims must go much further than this."

    May 17, 2011

    The Myanmar government’s reduction of prison terms must be swiftly followed by the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International said today.

    The Myanmar government said on Monday it had reduced by one year the sentences of all current prisoners and commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment.

    “While the reductions are welcome news for political prisoners, they are astonishingly insufficient”, said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher. “These actions fall well short of the comprehensive release of all prisoners of conscience desperately needed in Myanmar”.

    Amnesty International also called upon Myanmar to go beyond commuting death sentences and join the worldwide trend towards the complete abolition of the death penalty. 

    While no death row prisoner in Myanmar is known to have been executed since 1988, the death penalty is still in the statute books and death sentences continue to be imposed.

    May 16, 2011

    A Moroccan journalist set to go on trial tomorrow, apparently for criticizing Morocco’s counter-terrorism law, must be released immediately and unconditionally if he is being held solely for his writing, Amnesty International said today.

    Rachid Nini, editor of the el-Massa daily newspaper, was detained on 28 April 2011 following the publication of several articles criticizing the counter-terrorism practices of the Moroccan security services, including prison sentences handed down after unfair trials against Islamists.

    He has also repeatedly called for increased political freedom and has written about corruption among government officials.

    “The detention of Rachid Nini runs completely counter to reform promises King Mohammed VI made earlier this year, where he promised to strengthen human rights. This is a severe attack on freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said.

    Rachid Nini has been charged with “undermining of a judicial decision, attempt to influence the judiciary, and reporting on untrue criminal offences”. He is currently being held in Okasha prison in Casablanca and his trial is set to begin on 17 May.

    May 16, 2011

    Amnesty International has today condemned the conviction of four Belarusian prisoners of conscience, including former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, over their involvement in post-election protests.

    A court in Minsk sentenced Andrei Sannikau, who has complained of torture and other ill- treatment during his detention, to five years’ imprisonment on Saturday for his role in protests that followed presidential elections in December 2010.

    Andrei Sannikau’s wife, journalist Iryna Khalip, who also took part in the December protests, was given a two-year suspended sentence on Monday, charged with breaching public order.

    Pavel Sevarnyets and Syargei Martseleu were also sentenced to three years in a correctional facility and two years’ probation, respectively. Both were charged with breaching public order.

    “Andrei Sannikau and these other activists have been convicted solely for exercising their right to peaceful protest,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    May 12, 2011

    The military trial today of a group of 21 Bahraini opposition activists charged over their involvement in anti-government protests has been adjourned until 16 May.

    In a brief proceeding, the 14 defendants in the court in the capital Manama on Thursday denied all the charges against them. Seven others are being tried in absentia.

    The mainly Shi’a activists have been charged with a series of alleged crimes related to weeks of protest, including running a terrorist organization with the aim of toppling the ruling Sunni-led government.

    Amnesty International has called on Bahraini authorities to grant the men a fair trial, citing abuses of their basic legal rights and fears that two, including prominent human rights defender ‘Abdelhadi al-Khawaja, have been tortured in detention.

    “Bahrain’s government has stacked the deck against the defendants and there is very little chance they can receive a fair trial in the current circumstances,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    May 12, 2011

     Growing demands for freedom and justice across the Middle East and North Africa and the rise of social media offer an unprecedented opportunity for human rights change – but this change stands on a knife-edge, said Amnesty International as it launched its global human rights report on the eve of its 50th anniversary.

    “Fifty years since the Amnesty candle began to shine a light on repression, the human rights revolution now stands on the threshold of historic change,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

    “People are rejecting fear. Courageous people, led largely by youth, are standing up and speaking out in the face of bullets, beatings, tear gas and tanks. This bravery – combined with new technology that is helping activists to outflank and expose government suppression of free speech and peaceful protest – is sending a signal to repressive governments that their days are numbered.

    “But there is a serious fight-back from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights.”

    May 11, 2011

    A military trial on Thursday for a group of 21 prominent Bahraini opposition activists must meet international fair trial standards, Amnesty International said today amid continuing reports of torture.

    The mainly Shi’a activists have been charged with alleged crimes in relation to weeks of pro-reform protest in Bahrain that began in February.

    “Bahraini authorities have already denied the defendants their basic legal rights and at least two have said they were tortured, raising fears about their chances for a fair trial in this military court,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Among the charges levelled against the defendants are that they set up “terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”, insulted the army, incited hatred, disseminated false information, and took part in rallies without notifying the authorities.

    Bahraini authorities also allege the men raised funds for and have “links to a foreign terrorist organization”, purportedly Hizbullah.

    May 11, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Yemeni authorities to stop using unnecessary deadly force against anti-government protesters, after security forces today opened fire on demonstrations in the capital Sana'a and the city of Ta’izz killing at least two people.

    The call came ahead of planned marches on the presidential palace from the protest camp near Sana’a University.

    According to Amnesty International’s latest figures, over 145 people have been killed in Yemen during months of demonstrations calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    "Security forces in Yemen must be immediately stopped from using live ammunition on unarmed protesters," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "The Yemeni government must allow its people to express their genuine grievances without fear of violence and killing. It must also ensure that justice is done for all those killed unlawfully while exercising their right to peaceful protest."

    May 10, 2011

    The Ugandan parliament should reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has  been the subject of public hearings in recent days before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The Parliamentary Order Paper of 10 May indicates that the Bill could be debated by the Parliament and come up for a vote on  May 11.

    The bill would introduce the death penalty as a sanction for some consensual sex between members of the same sex, the same penalty provided for terrorism and treason. It would be an offense for a person who is aware of any violations of the bill’s provisions not to report them   to the relevant authorities within 24 hours.  The bill also would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” which would jeopardize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working to defend and promote human rights in Uganda.

    May 10, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on Iranian authorities to release two US citizens apparently held for political reasons for nearly two years, as their flawed trial is set to resume on 11 May.

    Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested while they were hiking in the Iraq-Iran border area on 31 July 2009. The exact circumstances of their arrest remain unclear, but the Iranian authorities have charged them with espionage and illegal entry.

    A third US citizen arrested with the men, Sarah Shourd, was released in September 2010 on US$500,000 bail.

    “The facts surrounding the hikers’ arrest are disputed, and Iran’s justice system has systematically failed to observe international fair trial standards in this case, including giving the men adequate contact with their lawyer, families or consular assistance,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    May 10, 2011

    Authorities in El Salvador must take immediate action to protect journalists who fear for their lives after receiving a series of death threats, Amnesty International said today.

    From 30 April to 4 May, staff members at Radio Victoria, a community radio station committed to social and human rights reporting in Cabañas region north-east of the capital San Salvador, told Amnesty International they received repeated death threats claiming to come from a “death squad.”

    “It’s unacceptable for El Salvador to stand by while members of the media receive threats intended to silence them,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International's Americas Deputy Director.

    “The Salvadoran authorities must immediately provide protection to the staff and launch an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into these repeated threats and bring those responsible to justice.”

    May 09, 2011

    At least 48 people have been killed in Syria by the security forces in the last four days, local and international human rights activists have told Amnesty International, as the crackdown on the coastal city of Banias intensified.  

    More than 350 people – including 48 women and a 10-year-old child – are also said to have been arrested in the Banias area over the past three days with scores being detained at a local football pitch. Among those rounded up were at least three doctors and 11 injured people taken from a hospital.

    “Killings of protesters are spiralling out of control in Syria – President Bashar al-Assad must order his security forces to stop the carnage immediately,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Amnesty International has compiled the names of 28 people who were apparently shot dead by security forces on Friday and those of 12 others killed over the last three days.

    The organization now has the names of 580 protesters and others killed since mid-March, when protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began.

    May 06, 2011

    Human rights activists seen to be involved in pro-reform protests in Syria have been forced into hiding after receiving threats from Syrian authorities, Amnesty International said today as a “Day of Defiance” took place around the country.

    Syrian authorities heightened security measures ahead of today’s protests, leading to several protester deaths and the detention of a key opposition activist.

    “Given recent events, Syrian human rights and political activists have cause to fear for their lives and liberty, and a number have gone into hiding after receiving threats,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Syrian security forces have killed hundreds and arrested many more during and after protests. This campaign of violence and intimidation must cease and human rights defenders must be allowed to carry on their work without fear for their personal safety.”

    Amnesty International has learned of several prominent human rights and political activists who have recently been forced into hiding.

    May 05, 2011

    Authorities in China must clarify the current status and reveal the whereabouts of a lawyer and a journalist who have gone missing in the past week, Amnesty International said today as a clampdown on activists appeared to be widening.

    Li Xiongbing, a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer known for taking on politically sensitive cases, has been missing since yesterday after he was telephoned by police.

    Zhang Jialong, 23, a former Caijing magazine journalist who has covered the detention of acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei, went missing on 28 April after reportedly being approached by a person claiming to represent Beijing police.

    “The sudden disappearance of these activists is alarming; the authorities must immediately provide clarification as to Li Xiongbing and Zhang Jialong’s whereabouts. If they have been detained for their legitimate human rights work, they must be released,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.


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