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    March 18, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Moroccan authorities to allow mass peaceful demonstrations planned for this Sunday to go ahead peacefully, following a crackdown on similar protests last weekend.

    Thousands are expected to take to the streets across the country on Sunday to demand political and human rights reform but there are fears the authorities may resort to heavy-handed tactics to quell the protests.

    Last Sunday, scores were injured and at least 120 were briefly detained when security forces used unjustified force to break up a protest in central Casablanca.

    “The unnecessary acts of violence witnessed last weekend are a disturbing regression and make a mockery of the Moroccan King’s promise a few days earlier to undertake fundamental reform and uphold human rights,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Moroccans must be allowed to peacefully protest without fear, rather than face attacks by security forces just for demanding their rights.”

    March 17, 2011

    Amnesty International today revealed evidence of the Bahraini security forces’ systematic use of excessive force in cracking down against protesters, as fresh violence left as many as eight people dead.

    In a new report released today, Bloodied but Unbowed: Unwarranted State Violence against Bahraini Protesters, the organization documents how security forces used live ammunition and extreme force against protesters in February without warning and impeded and assaulted medical staff trying to help the wounded.

    The report, which is based on firsthand testimonies given to an Amnesty International team in Bahrain, comes as the country is gripped by further violence, after Saudi Arabian and UAE forces entered the small Gulf state three days ago and Bahrain's King declared a national state of emergency.

    "It is alarming to see the Bahraini authorities now again resorting to the same tactics that they used against protesters in February but on an even more intensive scale,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    March 17, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged several US states to abandon planned legislation that would drastically restrict workers' rights.

    States including Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee have proposed bills severely limiting the collective bargaining rights of trade union members. A similar bill was passed in Wisconsin on Friday.

    "State governors must withdraw support for these measures which, if adopted, would violate international law," said Shane Enright, Amnesty International’s trade union adviser.

    “The US has an obligation to uphold the rights of American workers - including the specific right to organize and bargain collectively."

    Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill on Friday that undermines the ability of unions in the public sector to protect workers. The legislation also takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public employees, limiting their negotiation rights only to wages.  

    March 16, 2011

    The Cuban authorities are continuing to stifle freedom of expression on the island in spite of the much-publicised recent wave of releases of prominent dissidents, Amnesty International warned today on the eighth anniversary of a crackdown on activists.

    Hundreds of pro-democracy activists have suffered harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest in recent weeks as the Cuban government employs new tactics to stamp out dissent.

    Of 75 activists arrested in a crackdown around 18 March 2003, only three remain in jail after 50 releases since last June, with most of the freed activists currently exiled in Spain. Amnesty International has called for the remaining prisoners to be released immediately and unconditionally.

    "The release of those detained in the 2003 crackdown is a hugely positive step but it tells only one side of the story facing Cuban human rights activists," said Gerardo Ducos, Cuba researcher at Amnesty International.

    "Those living on the island are still being targeted for their work, especially through short-term detentions, while repressive laws give the Cuban authorities a free rein to punish anyone who criticises them.”

    March 16, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the Syrian authorities’ crackdown on protests in the country amid a continuing wave of unrest throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

    A small demonstration gathered today outside the Ministry of the Interior to submit a petition for the release of political prisoners, led by relatives of the imprisoned. Shortly afterwards the group was violently dispersed by plain-clothed security officers wielding batons.

    Witnesses told Amnesty International that at least 30 people were arrested and taken to unknown locations.

    Several people were also arrested after protesting yesterday in Damascus and Aleppo during peaceful demonstrations calling for more freedoms. At least two have reportedly been released.

    “Like many of the political prisoners whose release they were calling for, protestors appear to have been arrested simply for the peaceful expression of their views,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  

    March 16, 2011

    Bahraini protesters today told Amnesty International of bloody scenes on the streets as government security forces stepped up their violent crackdown on demonstrations and blocked access to hospitals.

    At least six people were reportedly killed in the capital Manama amid continuing protests as the army used tanks to flatten the peaceful protest camps set up in recent weeks to demand reform in the Gulf state.

    Government forces also surrounded hospitals and attacked doctors trying to help the wounded.

    "The distressing reports and images coming out of Bahrain today provide further evidence that the authorities are using lethal and other excessive force to crush protests, with reckless disregard for human life," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

    "Wounded protesters have also been prevented from accessing medical attention by government forces.. The Bahraini authorities must immediately put a stop to this bloodshed."

    Security forces attacked the mainly Shi’a protest camp at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout camp early on Wednesday.

    March 15, 2011

    Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty has urged the UN to support human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, as protests calling for reform continued to erupt.

    In a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in New York yesterday, Shetty urged the UN to do more to help combat human rights violations in Libya, and to push for human rights to be put at the centre of political reform in Egypt and Tunisia.

    The UN Secretary-General is visiting Egypt and Tunisia later this week, and his Special Envoy Abdul Ilah Khatib has arrived in Libya.

    In their meeting Shetty asked Ban to make it clear to the Libyan authorities, and to Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi in particular, that further violations of human rights will not be tolerated.
     
    “Now more than ever, we need the United Nations to help put human rights at the heart of reform in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Salil Shetty.

    March 15, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to immediately restrain their security forces after an anti-government protester was shot dead in Bahrain today and many others sustained gunshot injuries.

    Eye-witnesses told Amnesty International that Bahraini riot police and plain-clothed security forces used shotguns, rubber bullets and teargas against demonstrators in Sitra and Ma’ameer. Several ambulance drivers were attacked by riot police with batons as they tried to reach the wounded.

    An eyewitness told Amnesty International that riot police blocked access to the Sitra Health Centre where many of the injured were taken, while leaving other injured people lying unassisted in the streets. The electricity supply to the centre was cut.

    “The Bahraini authorities must immediately rein in their security forces and end their use of excessive force, and the Saudi Arabian authorities should demand this too if they are not to appear complicit,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director. “All those involved must act with restraint to prevent further loss of life.”

    March 14, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Yemeni authorities to identify and prosecute members of the security forces responsible for the killings of at least eight anti-government demonstrators over the weekend.

    Two protesters were killed and over 1,000 injured in the capital Sana’a on Saturday when security forces opened fire on members of a protest camp during their early morning prayer, while pro-government “thugs” were reported to have attacked ambulances trying to attend to the wounded.

    At least six other protesters were killed on Saturday and Sunday after being shot in the cities of Aden and al-Mukalla, bringing the total death toll among protesters since calls for reform in the country began last month to at least 40.

    “It is disturbing that Yemeni security forces appear to be targeting protesters in a way that maximizes death and serious injury,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “To strike when protesters are most vulnerable, such as during prayer, and to then prevent medical staff from doing their work shows that the security forces are acting above the law.”

    March 13, 2011

    Amnesty International has today condemned the killing of Al Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassan Al Jaber in Libya and warned of a campaign of attacks and harassment on journalists.

    "It appears that the Al Jazeera team was brutally and deliberately targeted" said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

    "Coming so soon after the detention and torture by Colonel Gaddafi's forces of three BBC staff -- who were subjected to beatings and mock executions -- and the detention of other journalists, this killing is most disturbing."

    "It is essential that this killing and the other abuses against journalists are investigated as part of the UN Human Rights Council's investigation into the situation in Libya. Those responsible for the killing of Ali Hassan Al Jaber must be held accountable for their actions."

    Ali Hassan Al Jaber, a Qatari national born in 1955, was killed after being ambushed near Benghazi. A colleague travelling with him was also injured. An Al Jazeera reporter Benghazi said Ali Hassan Al Jaber was hit by three shots and was wounded through the heart.

    March 11, 2011

    As the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar presents his report to the 16th session of United Nations Human Rights Council, governments should speak with one voice on Myanmar’s long-standing failure to address widespread and systematic human rights violations in the country.

    While a new administration has been appointed following elections, not only has the human rights situation in Myanmar not improved, it shows no signs of changing in the foreseeable future.  Nearly 2,200 political prisoners remain behind bars, most of whom are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.  Censorship and other serious restrictions on freedom of expression remain, and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against ethnic minorities - including acts against the civilian population which constitute crimes against humanity - continue. 

    March 11, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure the safety of three human rights activists after text messages were yesterday circulated to many people in Bahrain calling for them to be killed.

    The messages contained personal details of the activists and labelled them "advocates of subversion". One of the three then received a series of anonymous threats from callers to his phone.

    "The Bahraini authorities must mount an immediate, thorough investigation to identify the source of these threats and bring to justice those responsible for inciting murder and issuing death threats," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "The government must also ensure the safety of the three activists who have been named in these threats and any others who may be targeted in the same way, and afford them all possible protection."

    March 11, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Cuban authorities to release an activist on hunger strike who was detained for his human rights work three months ago and is set to face trial at the end of March.

    Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, the president and co-founder of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, was arrested last December in relation to a meeting he organized at his home in August 2010 and anti-government banners he displayed outside his home.

    Néstor, his brother Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina and three other members of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy - Enyor Díaz Allen, Roberto González Pelegrín and Francisco Manzanet - have been charged with public order offences relating to an attack on his home by a mob opposed to the meeting.

    The five men were arrested in August 2010 but released the following month. Only Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina was rearrested.

    March 10, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Saudi Arabian authorities to reverse the ban on peaceful protest in the Kingdom, amid fears of a violent crackdown on mass demonstrations planned for Friday's “Day of Rage”.

    Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the country’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday that “reform cannot be achieved through protests”, while the protest ban, confirmed on Saturday, was backed by religious and security bodies.

    "Instead of banning peaceful protests the Saudi Arabian authorities should address the need for major human rights reform in the country," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “They must heed the growing calls for change within Saudi Arabia”.

    Saudi Arabia's "Day of Rage" was organized online using Facebook. One page has over 33,000 followers.

    Media reports over the weekend suggested that some 10,000 Saudi troops would be deployed to crack down on any protests.

    March 09, 2011

    The Yemeni authorities must end deadly night raids and other attacks on protests, Amnesty International said today, after one protester was killed and around 100 injured in the capital Sana’a late last night.

    According to media reports, security forces used live rounds and tear gas against protesters camped outside Sana’a University. Protesters are demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule.

    “This is the second time in three weeks that protesters have been killed in late night raids by the security forces in the capital,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “These disturbing heavy-handed tactics used with lethal effect against protesters must stop immediately. People must be allowed to assemble and protest in peace.”

    Some 30 people have reportedly now been killed in Yemen during ongoing unrest which began early last month. Protesters are demanding government reform and an end to corruption and unemployment.

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