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Freedom of Expression

    February 04, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the imprisonment of two Rwandan journalists who criticized president Paul Kagame ahead of last year’s elections.

    Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, editor of the private Kinyarwanda tabloid newspaper, Umurabyo, and her deputy editor, Saidati Mukakibibi, were sentenced today to respectively 17 and 7 years imprisonment over opinion pieces they wrote ahead of the August 2010 presidential elections.

    “Today’s verdict marks yet another blow to freedom of expression and opinion in Rwanda”, said Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director, Erwin van der Borght.

    “Rwanda’s clampdown on critics shows no sign of abating after last year’s elections”.

    Agnes Nkusi Uwimana was found guilty of threatening state security, genocide ideology, divisionism and defamation and Saidati Mukakibibi was found guilty of threatening state security.

    February 03, 2011

    Amnesty international has called on the Egyptian Vice President, Omar Suleiman, to stop the violence unleashed by pro-government supporters in Cairo and across the country amid fresh reports of a renewed crackdown on journalists and activists.

    Journalists have reportedly been detained and activists harassed by security forces following violence yesterday that saw at least five killed and several hundred wounded in the fighting between pro- and anti-government supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

    "The Egyptian authorities must ensure that protesters, journalists and human rights activists are protected. The lack of police on the ground responding to the violence is a blatant sign of the complicity of the Egyptian government in the violence, or at best the total abdication of responsibility for law and order at a moment of national crisis," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    "Peaceful demonstrations must be allowed, whatever the views expressed, and peaceful demonstrators must be protected, and regardless of any political negotiations taking place."

    February 02, 2011

    "Security, Peace and Order"?: Violations in the wake of elections in Belarus highlights violations of the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression; ill-treatment and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary detention, fair trial concerns and medical care for the detained.

    The document presents the case of opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his wife who were severely beaten and injured by riot police and unlawfully arrested. His sister Irina Bogdanova told Amnesty International:  “Most of the information we are getting from the news. In what conditions they are held there we don’t know, how badly my brother is beaten up we don't know, whether they are getting any medical care or not, we don't know.”

    In its latest briefing, Amnesty International is reiterating its call to the Belarusian authorities to release all prisoners of conscience who are detained solely for the peaceful expression of their political views.

    February 01, 2011

    Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian military to respect the rights of protesters as Cairo demonstrators held their biggest protest yet amid ongoing nationwide unrest. 

    Media reports said hundreds of thousands of people had gathered for what organisers dubbed a ‘Million Man’ protest calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down and corruption, poverty and police abuses to end.

    Egypt’s military announced a day earlier that it would not fire on peaceful protesters and said the aims of the demonstrators were legitimate.

    “Protecting the right to demonstrate peacefully is a duty,” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

    “We welcome the army’s commitment not to fire on protesters, after we have repeatedly raised concerns about the excessive use of force by security forces during the demonstrations.”

    Protesters have accused plainclothes police agents and criminals in the pay of the police of carrying out looting in the past week in order to discredit the demonstrations.

    January 31, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Sudanese government to end its crackdown on freedom of expression following the arrest of at least 70 people at demonstrations inspired by those in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.

    One student is reported to have died, scores were injured and more than 70 were arrested after armed riot police and security services used batons and teargas to break up Sunday’s protests in Khartoum and Omdurman.

    "The government must immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances which led to the death of Mohammed Abdelrahman, a student who had taken part in the demonstration, and who died in Omdurman hospital as a result of his injuries,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    Agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and police are said to have beaten protesters while NISS agents were also said to searching for organizers of the demonstration the night before they began.

    A large number of people were arrested in the streets before they had reached the demonstration.

    January 31, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the Egyptian government’s continuing crackdown on freedom of expression after six Al Jazeera journalists were briefly detained by the military and their Cairo bureau was shut down by the authorities, disrupting its reporting of mass nationwide demonstrations.

    Al Jazeera English said that six journalists were detained at an army checkpoint outside Cairo’s Hilton hotel on Monday.  They were held only briefly but their cameras and other equipment was confiscated.

    Yesterday, the Cairo bureau of the Al Jazeera network was officially shut down by order of Egypt's Information Ministry, the network said.

    “This government action against Al Jazeera is just its latest attempt to close down reporting of the protests on the streets and the free flow of information," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "The authorities are clearly trying to intimidate the media and to prevent the truth coming out about abuses by its security forces, as they struggle to maintain their grip on power in the face of unprecedented protests and demands for fundamental change."

    January 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Yemeni authorities to protect a human rights activist and journalist who is alleged to have indirectly received a death threat from a high-ranking official for her role in organizing and taking part in the continuing mass protests in the country. Fears for Tawakkol Karman's safety arose after her brother received a phone call on Wednesday implying that his sister would be killed if he did not ensure she stayed at home.

    The threat came as tens of thousands of protesters in the capital Sana'a continued to call for economic reforms, an end to corruption and for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down.

    Tawakkol Karman, the president of Yemeni NGO Women Journalists without Chains, was arrested on 23 January for taking part in a student demonstration in Sana'a over the weekend.

    The demonstration expressed solidarity with ongoing protests in Tunisia and called for an end to the rule of the current president, who has been in power since 1978.

    January 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Egyptian authorities to rein in security forces to prevent further deaths of protesters, amid continuing nationwide protests. Thousands have joined demonstrations across Egypt in recent days against poverty, police abuse and corruption.

    "The Egyptian authorities must rein in the security forces to prevent bloodshed," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "The authorities cannot continue to rely on the 30-year-old State of Emergency to enforce a blanket prohibition on public demonstrations and grant sweeping powers of search and arrest."

    The organization said protesters must have the right to organize protests and demonstrate free from intimidation, violence, and the threat of detention and prosecution.

    Late last night communication lines to much of Egypt were severely disrupted, with internet connections and mobile phone services being cut off.

    This followed disruption to SMS services, Twitter and Bambuser earlier in the week. Prominent human rights activists had also had their mobile phone accounts deactivated.

    January 27, 2011

    Amnesty International has today revealed disturbing new evidence of the brutal methods used by Tunisian security forces to try to quell anti-Government protests in recent weeks. An Amnesty International research team which has just returned from Tunisia found that security forces used disproportionate force to disperse protesters and in some cases fired on fleeing protesters and bystanders.

    Doctors’ testimonies seen by the Amnesty International research team show that some protesters in Kasserine and Thala were shot from behind, indicating that they were fleeing. Others in Kasserine, Thala, Tunis and Regueb were killed by single shots to the chest or head, suggesting deliberate intent to kill.

    “This shocking evidence confirms that the Tunisian security forces were using lethal methods to quell discontent and to deter protesters,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East North Africa Program.

    January 26, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the eight-year prison sentence handed down to a Vietnamese pro-democracy activist and former Communist Party official for posting articles on the internet calling for democracy. Vi Duc Hoi was convicted of "spreading anti-government propaganda" by a court in northern Lang Son province on Wednesday. He was also sentenced to five years of house arrest after his prison term.

    Hoi, a member of the Bloc 8406 network of pro-democracy and human rights activists, had written extensively about corruption and injustice in Viet Nam.

    He was arrested on 27 October 2010. Before his arrest, public security officials had raided his home on 7 October.

    "This verdict and sentence is a shocking testament to how the Vietnamese authorities show complete disregard for freedom of expression when it comes to people who peacefully challenge government policies," said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Region.

    Vi Duc Hoi joins at least 30 other peaceful dissidents currently serving long prison terms; others are awaiting trial. Amnesty International considers all of them prisoners of conscience.

    January 26, 2011

    Amnesty International today condemned a crackdown on demonstrations in Egypt amid continuing protests against poverty, police abuse and corruption. Reports of ongoing demonstrations in Egypt today follow a day of protest in Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities that saw at least three deaths, rubber bullets and tear gas employed against crowds, beatings of detainees and at least 500 protesters arrested.

    Amnesty International repeated its call on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators, and criticised the actions of security forces yesterday.

    “We witnessed reckless policing yesterday with the security forces relying on tear gas and using rubber bullet as a first resort,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Security forces must be held in check.”

    Demonstrations yesterday started peacefully but stone throwing and scuffles broke out when the security forces started forcibly dispersing demonstrators.

    Three demonstrators were reportedly killed as well as one policeman in the largest demonstrations that Egypt has seen in decades.

    January 24, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the US authorities to alleviate the harsh pre-trial detention conditions of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking information to Wikileaks. The US army private, 23, has been held for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished solitary cell and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010.

    Amnesty International last week wrote to the US Defence secretary, Robert Gates, calling for the restrictions on Bradley Manning to be reviewed. In the same week, the soldier suffered several days of increased restrictions by being temporarily categorised as a 'suicide risk'.

    "We are concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities," said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Programme Director for the Americas.

    "Manning has not been convicted of any offence, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention. This undermines the United States’ commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence."

    January 24, 2011

    Yemeni activists detained in anti-government protests this weekend have told Amnesty International they fear the authorities' crackdown on freedom of expression will worsen amid growing calls for reform. Dozens of activists were arrested and some were reportedly beaten by police during two protests in the capital Sana'a over the weekend. The first, a student demonstration in solidarity with the Tunisian public, called on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down.

    Many of those detained were charged with taking part in an unlicensed protest and released today.

    One of the protesters arrested, ‘Ali al-Dailami, Executive Director of the Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms, expects the climate of repression to intensify.

    "We fear that 2011 will witness many human rights violations. We are only in the beginning of it but we are already seeing arrests of human rights activists and civil activists such as university students," al-Dailami told Amnesty International today.

    January 21, 2011

    On 24 January 2011, the spokesperson and the specialist on anti-semitism of the non-governmental organization Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and four members of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) will be tried before the 6th Misdemeanors Court of Athens for charges of false accusations and aggravated defamation against the author of the book “Jews – The Whole Truth”, Kostantinos Plevris, following a complaint he filed on 4 January 2007. Panayote Dimitras, the Greek Helsinki Monitor spokesperson is also charged with perjury. Each of the offences for which the individuals concerned have been charged attracts a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

    According to the indictment, the content of the testimonies and/or statements made by the GHM representatives and the KIS officers in the case against Konstantinos Plevris in 2006 was false and defamatory.

    January 21, 2011

    Amnesty International has today urged the authorities to investigate the reported deaths of three men during anti-government protests in the Albanian capital Tirana. Protesters calling for the resignation of the government were reported to have thrown sticks and stones at government buildings, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and truncheons.

    “The police have a right to maintain order and protect the public, but they must not use excessive force against those carrying out their legitimate right to protest,” said Andrea Huber, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    Demonstrators also reported the sound of gunfire. Albanian officals said three men died in the demonstrations, reportedly from shots fired at close range from small-calibre weapons; 17 police officers and 21 civilians were injured.

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332

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