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    April 08, 2011

    At least 171 people are believed to have been killed during three weeks of unrest in Syria, Amnesty International said today after at least eight more fatalities during protests.

    "The alarming reports coming from Syria today show that the authorities have not altered their violent methods for dealing with dissent," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    "The Syrian government needs to take urgent action to rein in its security forces and prevent the loss of further lives."

    Thousands of unarmed Syrians gathering today across the country to call for greater freedoms were reportedly attacked by security forces firing live ammunition.

    Amnesty International has confirmed that eight people were killed today in protests - six in the southern city of Dera'a and two in Homs in the west.

    The death toll from today's clashes could rise significantly, according to reports from human rights activists in the country.

    April 06, 2011

     The Iranian parliament must scrap a draft law which will seriously undermine independent non-governmental organizations in Iran, Amnesty International said today.

    The bill, which has been extensively analyzed by the Netherlands-based NGO Arseh Sevom, requires all NGOs in Iran to register with a new and unaccountable body linked to the Intelligence Ministry and to the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force, which will also be able to revoke registration.

    "This bill will set back civil society in Iran and represents yet another nail in the coffin of the right to freedom to association in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of its Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    Key parts of the bill have already been passed in the Iranian parliament. Further details of the draft law are to be considered by parliamentarians shortly.

    Should the bill be passed, the Supreme Committee Supervising NGO Activities would make key decisions on the operations of all NGOS in the country.

    April 05, 2011

    The Chinese government is waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation of lawyers, to stop them defending the dozens of activists and political critics rounded up by the authorities in the last two months.

    Since an anonymous online call on 17 February to stage a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China, a group of high profile human rights lawyers have been detained, and at least a dozen more lawyers say they have been briefly detained, pressured by the authorities, and even told by police to stop tweeting about detained people.

    “China is abandoning the rule of law,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific. “The government is trying to systematically break the will of the country’s lawyers.” 

    “It is giving its security forces free rein to pervert the course of justice and deny activists and critics the right to a legal defense. The most disturbing thing is that there is no sign of the government relaxing its grip this time around.  We fear that this is just a taste of things to come.”

    April 05, 2011

    The international community must play a more active role if Yemenis are to get accountability for the bloody killings of recent weeks, Amnesty International said as it released a new report into human rights violations in Yemen over the last year.

    Moment of Truth for Yemen documents the brutal repression of a wave of protests against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh which has left 94 dead according to the organization’s latest figures. The protests have been fuelled by frustration at corruption, unemployment and repression of freedoms.

    “The Yemeni government has an abysmal record of failing to investigate or prosecute those responsible for unlawful killings and torture or other ill-treatment,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa."

    “The international community has provided development and security assistance to the Yemeni authorities when asked. It is now time for it to step in and help deliver justice for the families of those who have lost their lives during this turbulent period.”

    April 04, 2011

    The detention of China’s most famous artist and political critic Ai Weiwei is a troubling development in a widening crackdown on dissent which has seen dozens of activists detained over the last few months, Amnesty International said today.

    Police detained Ai Weiwei at Beijing airport on 3 April. His wife and several members of his studio staff were also briefly detained on the weekend.

    “Ai Weiwei was not even involved in any call for ‘Jasmine’ protests. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for his detention, other than that the authorities are trying to broadcast the message that China’s time for open dissent has come to an end” said Sam Zarifi,

    Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific. Since online calls for Chinese ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests inspired by people’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa began circulating in late February, the Chinese authorities have rounded up dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers.

    April 01, 2011

    The reimposition of 20-year jail terms on seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i religious minority is “outrageous”, Amnesty International said today as it made a renewed call for their immediate release..

    The seven had previously had their sentences cut from 20 to10 years by an Iranian appeal court, only for the authorities to reverse the decision.

    "Yet again, the Iranian authorities are manipulating their own justice system to persecute members of a religious minority,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Instead of doubling their sentences, the authorities should be setting the Baha’i leaders free, right now, and guaranteeing their freedom to practice their religion free from threat or persecution.

    “Such arbitrary and vindictive acts are a salutary reminder of why the UN Human Rights Council voted recently to create a Special Rapporteur on Iran. The Council’s decision came not a moment too soon.”

    The seven Baha’i leaders, two women and five men, are held in harsh conditions at Reja'i Shahr (also known as Gohardasht) prison in Karaj, near Tehran.

    April 01, 2011

    The Zimbabwean police authorities must end the systematic harassment and intimidation of human rights groups, Amnesty International said today after an NGO leader became the latest activist targeted with politically motivated charges.

    Abel Chikomo, director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, was on Wednesday charged with running an illegal organization.

    “The charges against Abel Chikomo appear to be part of an orchestrated strategy by the Zimbabwean police and other state security organizations to silence critics of their human rights record," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.

    "The charges against him must be dropped immediately."

    Since the beginning of February, Chikomo has been under police investigation and subject to regular interrogation, mainly on his organization’s work on transitional justice.

    The police have alleged that he has been managing and controlling the operations of an illegal Private and Voluntary Organisations (PVO) - charges he denies.

    April 01, 2011

    Nigerian political candidates must rein in their supporters to put a stop to continuing violence on the eve of national polls, Amnesty International said today.

    “Words alone are not enough. Politicians must demonstrate that they are serious about putting an end to the clashes between supporters.” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa, Tawanda Hondora.  
     
    “The violence is causing immense damage to the country and its institutions.  Politicians need to immediately take responsibility for their actions and rein in their supporters before the elections dissolve into chaos.”

    “We receive consistent reports that politicians, both candidates and those in office, instigate political violence, despite their statements to the contrary.”

    In the past two weeks at least 20 people have died in political attacks and clashes throughout the country. Many others have been injured and scores of cars and buildings burned.

    March 31, 2011

    Canada’s standing as an international human rights champion has dropped. In the days leading to the election all parties must make concrete commitments to help to restore its leadership role, says Amnesty International. As Canadians go to the polls they have a crucial opportunity to reflect on these fundamental issues.

    “Deep at the core of the well-being, safety and prosperity of a country, and its place in world, is the approach a country takes to human rights issues,” says Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Canada must reclaim its leading role in human rights.”

    In a report released today Getting Back On The “Rights” Track , Amnesty International outlines a human rights agenda for Canada. It provides a blueprint for leadership at home and a consistent and principled stand for Canada abroad that should be adopted by all politicians during the election campaign. And it must be implemented by those who win the election.

    March 31, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities should scrap a draft law aimed at criminalizing strikes and protests, Amnesty International said ahead of demonstrations against the law set for Friday.

    “Any move to curb freedom of assembly and the right to strike in Egypt would be an alarming step backwards and an insult to those who risked - and lost - their lives calling for change over the past two months," said Amnesty International.

    "It is vital in this transitional period that the Egyptian authorities guarantee basic human rights such as the right to carry out peaceful protests and strikes."

    Activists are set to gather in Tahrir Square on Friday to demand that Egypt's interim military government scrap the proposed ban and push through human rights reforms.

    The Egyptian cabinet last week proposed the new law, which would make participating in protests and strikes that "hinder the work of public institutions or authorities during a state of emergency" illegal.

    Under the proposed law, protesters and anyone deemed to be inciting protest could face jail or a hefty fine.

    March 31, 2011


    The Azerbaijani authorities must end their clampdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today after 11 more political activists were arrested ahead of Saturday's planned "Day of Wrath" protest.

    Activists' recent attempts to hold protests inspired by popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have been violently suppressed.

    "The Azerbaijani government's pre-emptive crackdown on those seeking reform has been wide-reaching and ruthless," said John Dalhuisen, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    "As the environment inside Azerbaijan becomes ever more hostile towards all dissenting opinion, new cases of harassment of Azerbaijani journalists and activists have sent chilling messages to those seeking to exercise their right to freedom of expression."

    The 11 activists detained today ahead of Saturday's Facebook-organized protest include Ilham Huseynli, Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), APFP member Karim Mehdiyev, Classical Popular Front Party member Yagub Babanli and youth activists Khalid Amanli, Rovshan Nasili and Tabriz Qasimov.

    March 29, 2011

    The Chinese authorities must reveal the whereabouts of a political blogger and commentator who has not been seen since Sunday and is believed to be detained, Amnesty International said today.

    Chinese-born former diplomat Yang Hengjun, an Australian national, informed his blog administrator in a phone call on Sunday that he was at Guangzhou Airport in southern China

    Since then, those close to him have told Amnesty International that he has been detained by the Chinese authorities, although his whereabouts are unknown.  

    “Yang Hengjun’s disappearance is extremely worrying, especially as it comes during one of the biggest round-ups of activists and critics for years,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific.  

    “He joins a long list of peaceful reformists who have gone missing or been arrested in China in the last month.”
     
    Chinese government spokespeople have so far denied knowledge of Yang’s whereabouts in response to requests from the Australian government.  

    March 25, 2011

    The Chinese authorities should immediately release prominent pro-democracy activist Liu Xianbin, Amnesty International said today, after the dissident was jailed for 10 years for writing articles critical of the government.

    “Ten years imprisonment for writing articles is an appalling sentence, and a travesty of justice,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.  “Liu Xianbin is not guilty of any crime. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately.”

    “The Chinese authorities are shooting the messenger rather than heeding the message, when even Premier Wen Jiabao has acknowledged the need for political reform,” said Catherine Baber.

    Liu Xianbin was convicted by a court in Sichuan province of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ in a trial that lasted only a few hours.

    This is the third time Liu Xianbin has been imprisoned for his political beliefs and activism.

    After his last release from prison in late 2008, Liu became a public signatory to the ‘Charter 08’, a proposal for legal and political reform that was co-authored by Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.  

    March 25, 2011

    At least 55 people are believed to have been killed during a week of unrest in and around the Syrian town of Dera’a, Amnesty International said today as protests spread across the country.

    Security forces again opened fire on protesters in al-Sanamayn and carried out arrests in Damascus, according to reports on Friday, a day after the authorities pledged to investigate the violence.

    "The excessive force apparently again being used by security forces is the latest example of the Syrian authorities' appalling and brutal response to recent dissent, and make their pledge to investigate the violence sound rather hollow " said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy director for Middle East and North Africa.

    “If the words we heard from the Syrian government yesterday are to mean anything, they must immediately issue clear orders to restrain the security forces to prevent further loss of life."

    The names of 55 people who were killed in the Dera’a area before Friday’s protests have been passed to Amnesty International by credible organizations and contacts.

    March 24, 2011

    China should release a veteran democracy activist instead of putting him on trial tomorrow, Amnesty International has said. 

    Liu Xianbin is being tried in Sichuan province for “incitement to subvert state power” over articles he wrote in 2009 that urged democratic reforms. 

    “Liu Xianbin is not guilty of any crime, and should never have been arrested for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific

    "He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately.”

    The 43-year-old became an activist during the 1989 student-led democracy movement, and was a founder of a local branch of the banned China Democracy Party (CDP).

    Liu has been denied access to lawyers for months. The charge of ‘inciting subversion’ could see him facing up to five years imprisonment, or longer if the court considers his crime to have been especially grave. 

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