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    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 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.

    March 07, 2011

    An ethnic Uighur website manager who was sentenced to seven years in jail in China after a secret trial is the latest in a series of Uighur writers imprisoned for peaceful expression of cultural or political views, Amnesty International said today.

    Tursunjan Hezim, a 38-year-old former history teacher, was reportedly detained shortly after the 5 July, 2009 protests in Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which turned violent after police cracked down on initially peaceful protesters.

    His family was never informed of the charges against him and his whereabouts remain unknown. The government has not publicly stated the grounds for his detention.

    "This trial is typical of the way the Chinese government has worked in secrecy to persecute Uighurs in China for peaceful expression of their views," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.

    “If Hezim faces recognizably criminal charges, the Chinese government should put him on trial with due process. Otherwise, he should be released immediately.”

    March 07, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Saudi Arabian government to allow peaceful protests after the authorities confirmed a ban on all demonstrations in the Kingdom.

    On Saturday, The Ministry of Interior said that security forces would take “all necessary steps against those who attempt to disrupt order.”

    Confirmation of the ban, which was first referred to in 2008, comes amid growing calls for reform in the country. Further protests are planned for Friday 11 March.

    “The Saudi Arabian authorities have a duty to ensure freedom of assembly and are obliged under international law to allow peaceful protests to take place,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “They must act immediately to end this outrageous restriction on the right to legitimate protest.”
    Some 24 people were detained on 3 and 4 March following protests in the city of al-Qatif, denouncing the prolonged detention of Shi’a prisoners.

    March 07, 2011

    Amnesty International is calling on Azerbaijan’s authorities to immediately end their crackdown on activists preparing for a March 11 protest inspired by recent events in the Middle East and North Africa.

    Activists say they have been detained, tortured and refused access to legal advice as part of a clampdown on the protest, which has been organized using social networking websites including Facebook.

    “The Azerbaijani authorities must stop this crackdown immediately and allow activists to organize peaceful protests,” said John Dalhuisen, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.

    Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, 29, was detained on 4 March for allegedly breaching a court order not to leave his native town of Ganja and was questioned by police about his views posted on Facebook.

    He was remanded in custody for two months by a court in Ganja later the same day, pending a trial for evading military service. He could face two years in prison if convicted.

    March 03, 2011

    China’s recent crackdown on foreign journalists covering potential protests inspired by events in the Middle East and North Africa signals the government’s fear of popular protests, Amnesty International said today.

    “The authorities must honour the commitments they made before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to allow the foreign press to conduct interviews in China without official interference,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

    “These new restrictions on foreign journalists are part of the overall crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion that has also seen arrests and detentions of Chinese activists and lawyers.”  

    The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said more than a dozen reporters, including from the BBC, CNN, and Bloomberg, were beaten or detained by security officers as they went to cover possible protests in the city's Wanfujing shopping district on Saturday.

    Plain clothes officers beat and kicked a video journalist, who required hospital treatment.

    March 02, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities to release a man sentenced by a military court to five years in prison on Tuesday, apparently for exercising his right to peaceful protest.

    Amr Abdallah Al Beheiry was convicted by the Supreme Military Court of assaulting a public official on duty and for breaking curfew.

    He, his cousin and other protesters were reportedly beaten with sticks and then arrested as military police and the army used excessive force to disperse a protest outside the Parliament of Egypt in Cairo early in the morning of Saturday 26 February. Some protesters were also reportedly beaten with electric shock batons.

    Amr Abdallah Al Beheiry was initially released by the military police but was rearrested shortly after, apparently because other protesters had filmed his injuries.

    While in detention, Amr Abdallah Al Beheiry and his cousin were allegedly beaten and tortured by electric shocks.

    His cousin and the other protesters were released later Saturday morning.

    March 01, 2011

    Amnesty International has today called for immediate independent investigations as it released a report detailing unlawful killings and acts of brutality by Tunisian security forces during the protests in December and January that led to the departure of former President Ben Ali.

    The 46-page report Tunisia in Revolt: State Violence during Anti Government Protests reveals that security forces shot bystanders and fleeing protesters and fired live ammunition at protesters who did not pose a threat to their lives, nor that of others.

    “The security forces acted with reckless disregard for human life in all too many cases,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.  

    “The new government must ensure that killings and serious allegations of abuse by the security forces are fully and independently investigated without delay, and that those responsible are held to account.”

    “This is an essential first step in turning the page on the long years of abuses under the former president,” said Malcolm Smart.

    February 28, 2011

    On Saturday, 26 February 2011, the Ho Chi Minh City Police Investigation Agency arrested Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, an endocrinologist and political and human rights activist. In an official media report, the Vietnamese authorities described him as being caught "red-handed keeping and distributing documents" calling for the overthrow of the government. The police seized documents and a computer from his home. Article 79 in the national security section of the 1999 Penal Code provides for between five years and life imprisonment, or the death penalty for "overthrowing" the state.

    "Amnesty International is shocked to learn that Nguyen Dan Que has been arrested yet again,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. “Dr Que is a staunch and peaceful defender of human rights and free speech, for which he has paid a heavy price, including spending almost 20 years in prison.”

    February 24, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of eight members of the Socialist Workers League (SWL), a small association that espouses socialism. All eight men were found guilty under Article 7.1 of the National Security Law (NSL) for “propagating or instigating a rebellion against the State.”

    Among the eight is Oh Se-chul, a professor emeritus and founding member of the SWL, who was convicted for one-and-a-half years, suspended for three years. The other seven all received sentences ranging from one to one-and-a-half years, suspended from two to three years. All of them intend to appeal the decision.

    The SWL was founded in 2008 and calls on the working class to build a ‘socialist state’. The SWL has about 70 members and has been seeking to register as a political party. The organization sought to promote itself and socialism by attending various demonstrations and distributing pamphlets.

    February 24, 2011

    Amnesty International today expressed shock that at least 45 Zimbabwean activists have been charged with treason and could face the death penalty following their arrest at a lecture on the protests in North Africa .
     
    Mr Munyaradzi Gwisai, a former opposition parliamentarian, and 44 social justice, trade union and human rights activists were arrested by police on Saturday as they were attending a lecture entitled Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia. What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa.
     
    “This is a clear over-reaction by the state to an event in which the participants were exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression which the government of Zimbabwe must guarantee under national and international law,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.
     
    Amnesty International is also alarmed by reports that at least seven of the activists, including Munyaradzi Gwisai, were beaten by security agents while in custody and called on the government to investigate the allegations.
     

    February 23, 2011

    Amnesty International has today urged the Yemeni authorities to end its crackdown on anti-government demonstrations after two protesters were reported to have been killed in Sana’a.

    They would be the first fatalities in the capital since the outbreak of unrest earlier this month and bring the total killed to 16, including 13 in the southern city of Aden.

    The two protesters reportedly died after being shot on Tuesday night, when security forces, aided by men described by witnesses as “thugs”, stormed a group of people who had set up a protest camp outside Sana’a University.

    “This disturbing development indicates that the heavy-handed tactics which we have seen the security forces using with lethal effect against protesters in the south of Yemen are increasingly being employed elsewhere,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “If the authorities continue in this manner, more demonstrators will inevitably be killed, particularly as more protests are due to take place in cities across Yemen in the coming days. People must be allowed to assemble and protest in peace.”

    February 20, 2011

    Amnesty International today called on Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi to immediately rein in his security forces amid reports of machine guns and other weapons being used against protestors and a spiralling death toll in Benghazi, Misratah and other cities.
     
    “Forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi are using unwarranted lethal force against protestors calling for change and the result is a wholly predictable one,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Large numbers of people are being killed and the situation is escalating alarmingly. More than one hundred have been killed so far.”
     
    “It looks like Libya’s leader may have ordered his forces to put down the protests virtually at any cost, and that cost is being paid in the lives of Libyans.”
     
    Amnesty International researchers have been told by eyewitnesses, lawyers and medical staff in Benghazi that at least 34 people were shot with live ammunition last Friday, mostly with bullet wounds to the head, chest and neck. Dozens more people were injured.
     

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