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    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

    January 17, 2011

    Amnesty International has reiterated its call on the Tunisian authorities to respect human rights amid a renewed wave of anti-government protests across the country today. Police in the capital Tunis reportedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators calling for the party of ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to relinquish power, ahead of the expected formation of a new coalition government.

    A state of emergency was imposed in Tunisia as Ben Ali fled the country on Friday.

    "Amid political uncertainty in Tunisia, the government must do all it can to protect Tunisians from further violence," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International.

    "After 23 years of abuses, human rights must be a top priority for any new unity government. It means first and foremost that the security forces that have been used as a tool of repression in Tunisia must be reined in."

    On Friday, security forces were granted permission to "shoot on sight", with anyone breaking the current 5pm curfew at risk. All gatherings of more than three people were also banned.

    January 14, 2011

    The Tunisian authorities must either release or promptly charge two men arrested after one of them gave media interviews about ongoing protests, Amnesty International said today. Hamma Hammami, spokesperson for the banned Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (Parti Communiste des Ouvriers Tunisiens, PCOT) was arrested at his home in Tunis on 12 January. Around 20 members of the Presidential Security unit are reported to have detained him together with his colleague, Mohamed Mzem, a lawyer, and Mounia Obaid, a friend who was later released.

    Hamma Hammami’s family believe he was arrested for speaking to journalists about the protests.

    “The Tunisian authorities must release Hamma Hammami and Mohamed Mzem unless they are to be promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences, and guaranteed fair trials,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Amnesty International’s call comes amid continued disturbances throughout Tunisia that have left scores killed and injured.

    January 14, 2011

    Amnesty International is today calling on the Tunisian authorities to rescind permissions to "shoot on sight", after a wave of protests led to the reported departure from the country of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and a state of emergency imposed. Amnesty International’s investigative team in Tunisia has reported media broadcasts warning that gatherings of more than three people will not be tolerated, and that anyone breaking the curfew exposes themselves to the risk of being shot. After the announcement, the team reported hearing shots.

    “It is simply irresponsible to grant the power to ‘shoot on sight',” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, “It is not by continuing to shoot demonstrators that public order will be restored. The bloody crackdown must end."

    This power appears to grant official sanction to the Tunisian security forces to commit extrajudicial executions – in violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to life and prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life.

    January 11, 2011

    Amnesty International today called for the unconditional release of 16 Belarusian activists and journalists charged with ‘organizing mass disorder’ following a post-election demonstration in December, and declared them prisoners of conscience.

    Twenty-five opposition activists and journalists, including six presidential candidates, have been detained and charged for their participation in a 19 December demonstration in Minsk following the presidential elections. They are expected to face trial in two to three months.

    The detainees are currently being denied adequate access to lawyers and doctors despite some having been severely injured by riot police on the day of the demonstration.

    “Sixteen of these detainees are prisoners of conscience, facing trumped up charges purely because of the peaceful expression of their political opinions. They should be immediately and unconditionally released, and all charges against them should be dropped” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    January 06, 2011

    Amnesty International today condemned an ongoing crackdown by Tunisian authorities on a wave of protests sparked by the attempted suicide of a young fruit seller who later died of his injuries. At least two protesters have been killed during demonstrations following the attempted suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate who set himself on fire in front of a government building in the town of Sidi Bouzid in early December after police confiscated his fruit cart for selling without a permit. He died from his injuries in hospital on 4 January.

    Mohamed Bouazizi’s attempted suicide on 17 December sparked protests over rising prices, unemployment and corruption in Tunisia that have sometimes turned violent as they continue to spread.

    “Tunisians must be allowed to express their grievances and freely protest. The authorities made empty promises of work opportunities which were followed by a crackdown on protestors,” said Amnesty International.

    January 04, 2011

    Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of three Russian opposition activists detained in Moscow after a peaceful and sanctioned rally calling for freedom of assembly and later sentenced to administrative detention. Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and opposition activists, Ilia Iashin and Konstantin Kosiakin were among about 70 arrested at the rally in Central Moscow on 31 December 2010, the latest in a regular series of rallies in the Russian capital demanding to uphold the right to freedom of assembly.

    They were sentenced on 2 January 2011 to 15, five and 10 days of administrative detention respectively for allegedly failing to follow police instruction, despite eyewitnesses reporting that they had not obstructed police officers.

    “Yet again, the Russian authorities have failed in their obligations to protect the rights to freedom of assembly, a right guaranteed by the Russian Constitution” said Andrea Huber, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director.

    December 23, 2010

    Amnesty International is calling on the Turkmenistani authorities to immediately lift the suspension of the operation of the country’s largest mobile phone service provider until arrangements can be made to provide an alternative service enabling them to access independent news sites. Earlier this week, the authorities suspended the operation of the privately-owned and Moscow-based service provider, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), leaving around 2.5 million people, half of the country’s population and 80 per cent of the mobile phone-users, suddenly unable to use their mobile phones or access the internet.

    “With their arbitrary actions the Turkmenistan authorities are severely restricting communications within the country and with the outside world,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    “This measure will unlawfully interfere with correspondence and violate the right of many people in Turkmenistan to receive and impart information in breach of international human rights standards.”

    December 23, 2010

    Hungary’s newly adopted media law will impose potentially wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of expression, Amnesty International warned today. In a move unprecedented within the European Union, the Law on Media and the Freedom of Press, coming into force on 1 January 2011, imposes the same restrictions on all media content, whether broadcast, print or web-based, whether public or privately owned. It also grants broad powers to a new media authority to enforce ill-defined standards.

    “The breadth of the restrictions on media content, the lack of clear guidelines for journalists and editors, and the strong powers of the new regulatory body all risk having a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hungary,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

    A newly created National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) will have the power to impose heavy fines, ranging from up to 35,000 Euros for periodicals to up to 730,000 Euros for broadcast media, for content it considers to run counter to the “public interest”, “common morality” and “national order”. Fines can also be imposed for “unbalanced” news reporting.

    December 21, 2010

    Eyewitnesses have told Amnesty International that abductions, disappearances and physical abuse are increasing as post-election violence escalates in Côte d’Ivoire. Amnesty International has received a growing number of reports of people being arrested or abducted at home or on the streets, often by unidentified armed attackers accompanied by elements of the Defence and Security Forces and militia groups.

    Gendarmes and police officials are accused of attacking a mosque in Grand-Bassam, using live ammunition on crowds and of beating and groping female protestors.

    “It is clear that more and more people are being illegally detained by security forces or armed militiamen and we fear that many of them may have been killed or have disappeared,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.

    December 20, 2010

    Amnesty International has condemned the violent dispersal of a mainly peaceful demonstration in the aftermath of Sunday’s presidential election in Belarus which was marred by irregularities. In what appears to be a clampdown on opposition activities, seven of the nine opposition presidential candidates have been detained along with as many as 500 peaceful demonstrators, opposition activists, human rights defenders and journalists, many of whom were beaten by riot police.

    Earlier today the Belarusian Minister of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Kuleshov, said that the activists were charged with organizing an unsanctioned meeting and could face up to 15 years’ imprisonment. According a local non-governmental organization, 14 people, including five former presidential candidates, have been charged with this offence.

    “The events of the last 24 hours obliterate the fragile signs of openness in the run-up to the presidential election,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s expert on Belarus.

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