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Freedom of Expression

    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 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.
     

    February 18, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Yemeni authorities to stop using excessive force to control anti-government demonstrations as continued violence against protesters across the country reportedly left several wounded.

    At least six Yemeni protesters taking part in what appears to have been a peaceful sit-in were reportedly seriously injured in the city of Ta’izz today when security forces attacked them with what eyewitnesses described as a hand grenade, with dozens more also injured.

    Meanwhile, activists in the capital Sana’a told Amnesty International today that they had been surrounded by security forces, aided by men described as “thugs”, who were firing at them and issuing beatings.

    “The Yemeni authorities seem to be stepping up their crackdown on protesters and we are gravely concerned that if that continues, the death toll will inevitably rise,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    “Yemen’s government must allow people to peacefully assemble and protest.”

    February 18, 2011

    Amnesty International has accused the Libyan authorities of recklessly shooting at anti-government protesters after the organization learned that at least 46 people had been shot dead by security forces in the last 72 hours.

    Sources at al-Jala hospital in Benghazi today told Amnesty International that patients' most common injuries were bullet wounds to the head, chest and neck.

    "This alarming rise in the death toll, and the reported nature of the victims' injuries, strongly suggests that security forces are permitted use lethal force against unarmed  protesters calling for political change” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa

    "The Libyan authorities must immediately, rein in their security forces. Those responsible for unlawful killings and excessive force – both the direct perpetrators and those who gave the orders – must be identified and brought to justice."

    Sources at al-Jala hospital have reported 28 fatalities from yesterday’s protests in Benghazi with more than 110 people injured, and at least three further deaths in today’s protests.

    February 17, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on Yemen to stop its security forces using excessive force after protesters and journalists were today reportedly attacked at peaceful demonstrations around the country.

    “Today is the sixth day in a row on which the Yemeni authorities have attacked protesters peacefully calling for political reform,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, on Thursday.

    “Yemenis have a legitimate right to freedom of expression and assaults against both them and journalists covering their protests are totally unacceptable.”

    At least 10 demonstrators in Sana’a were injured, several of them in the head reportedly after security forces in plain-clothes opened fire on them with live bullets as they called for the president to stand down, sources in Yemen told Amnesty International.

    Plain-clothes security officers and attackers described by protesters as “thugs” also openly beat demonstrators, witnesses said.

    Activists told Amnesty International that cameramen for Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya were beaten by unidentified attackers who reportedly broke their cameras.

    February 17, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Libyan authorities to cease using excessive force to suppress anti-government protests after at least another person was shot and killed today by police.
     
    Nacer Miftah Gout'ani was shot dead when government security forces opened fire on demonstrators taking part in a social network-led "Day of Rage" in the city of Al Bayda, 100 km east of Benghazi. Dozens more were injured in the protests.
     
    At least two people were killed in clashes yesterday and more than 30 were reported to have been injured, 11 critically, while many more were arrested in the crackdown.
     
    "The Libyan authorities tried to smother this protest before it even got off the ground but that, clearly, did not work. Now they are resorting to brutal means to punish and deter the protestors,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.
     
    "The police in Libya, as elsewhere, have a responsibility to ensure public safety but this does not extend to using lethal or excessive force against peaceful protesters.
     

    February 16, 2011

    Amnesty International is calling on the Libyan government to end its clampdown on peaceful political activists after violence erupted at demonstrations in the city of Benghazi following the arrest of activists ahead of a protest planned for Thursday.

    Hundreds of people took part in demonstrations on Wednesday following the arrests of Fathi Terbel and Fraj Esharani, both members of the Abu Salim families’ organising committee set up by relatives of victims of a prison massacre in 1996, and three other activists.

    They were leading calls for a major demonstration on 17 February in support of calls for far-reaching political reforms, inspired by similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

    “The Libyan authorities must allow peaceful protests, not try to stifle them with heavy-handed repression,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Libyans have the same rights as Egyptians and Tunisians to express discontent and call for reform in their own country, and it is high time the Libyan government recognized that and respected it.”

    February 15, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the heavy-handed tactics used by Bahrain’s riot police earlier today after the second death in two days of protests calling for political reform in the tiny Gulf state.

    Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook was among a crowd of people mourning the death yesterday of ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’, killed in clashes between protesters and police, when he was shot dead by police earlier today in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. Riot police are said to have opened fire on the crowd without warning during the funeral.

    “This second killing within two days is both tragic and a very worrying development,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

     “The Bahrain authorities must thoroughly investigate what occurred, stand down the police involved in these shootings and make clear to the police that the use of excessive force will not be tolerated.”

    “An independent investigation is also urgently required to establish the facts, particularly whether the level of force used by the police, both yesterday and today, can possibly be justified.”

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