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    May 21, 2013

    Guatemala's Constitutional Court on Monday overturned the recent conviction and sentencing of former military ruler Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity.

    "Monday's ruling is a devastating blow for the victims of the serious human rights violations committed during the conflict," said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International's researcher on Guatemala.

    "The legal basis for the ruling is unclear, and it is uncertain how the trial court can hit the reset button to get back to a point in mid-April.  What is clear is that the Constitutional Court has just thrown up formidable obstacles to justice and accountability for a harrowing period in Guatemala's recent history.  

    "With the sentence on 10 May, the trial court had sent a strong signal that crimes against thousands of Mayan victims would not be tolerated. The Constitutional Court has now questioned that message, putting the right to truth, justice and reparation at risk in Guatemala."

     

    May 10, 2013

    The conviction of Guatemala’sex-president General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity during his time in office is a historic step in the nation’s long struggle for justice, Amnesty International said today.

    Gen.Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted and sentenced to 80 years for his role as the intellectual author of the killings of 1,771 individuals and the forced displacement of tens of thousands more from the Ixil triangle region of southern Quiché department in 1982 and 1983 in the midst of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.

    Gen.José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, General Ríos Montt’s head of intelligence during his time in power, was found not guilty on the same charges.

    “With this conviction,Guatemala leads by example in a region where entrenched impunity for past crimes sadly remains the norm,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala Researcher at Amnesty International.

    May 10, 2013

    The verdict in the genocide trial against former Guatemalan military ruler Efraín Ríos Montt is expected later today on Friday, 10 May.

    He faces up to 75 years of imprisonment on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for a series of massacres committed by the Guatemalan military in March 1982 till August 1983 in the area known as Ixil triangle. It was one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s internal armed conflict, which lasted 36 years and resulted in the killings or disappearances of more than 200,000 people – many of them indigenous.

    Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International’s researcher on Guatemala will be available over the weekend to comment on the verdict of this historic trial, the first to hold a Central American  former head of state to account for gross human rights violations.

    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, 416-363-9933 ext 332
     

    Background Information:

    March 22, 2013

    Amnesty International called on all parties to the Syrian armed conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and end attacks which target or indiscriminately kill and injure civilians after dozens were killed and injured in an explosion in a Damascus mosque on 21 March 2013.

    Among those reported killed in the mosque was a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric Mohammad al-Bouti, a supporter of President Bashar al-Assad. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The official state news agency, SANA, stated that 49 people were killed when “a suicide terrorist…blew himself up while scholar Dr. Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti was giving a religious lesson at al-Iman Mosque in al-Mazraa area”.

    The head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Moaz al-Khatib, told the AFP news agency that “we categorically condemn the assassination”.

    Amnesty International condemned the bombing and reminded the parties to the conflict that targeting civilians and places of worship are war crimes.

    March 14, 2013

    Khmer Rouge Tribunal proceedings must continue without unnecessary delays, Amnesty International said following the death of former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary.

    Ieng Sary, 87, was standing trial for alleged crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes carried out during the period of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia in the 1970s.

    The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, known also as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, announced his death on Thursday morning. The two remaining accused in the case, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, are both over 77 years old.

    Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, said:

    “The news of Ieng Sary’s death will be difficult for the victims of the Khmer Rouge crimes who have waited so long for justice.

    “But Ieng Sary should not be presumed guilty of the crimes alleged, as the proceedings against him were not completed and there has been no verdict.

    “Amnesty International calls for an expeditious trial of the two remaining accused in this case, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, with fair trial rights respected.

    March 01, 2013

    The presence of former Haitian “president for life” Jean-Claude Duvalier in court yesterday on charges relating to human rights abuses brings a glimmer of hope for the families of those subjected to extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances and the survivors of torture during Duvalier’s years in power, said Amnesty International.

    The hearing was suspended after five hours and will be continued on Thursday 7 March.

    The Court of Appeal did not make a decision on whether to try Duvalier for serious human rights violations.

    “The fact that Duvalier was actually present this time gives some hope of the capacity of the Haitian justice system to deal with sensitive cases,” said Javier Zúñiga, special adviser for Amnesty International. “However, the road to justice is a long one.”

    On 21 February – when Duvalier failed to show up to court for the third time - the Court of Appeal asked the Public Prosecutor to bring the former leader in for the next hearing under the threat of being imprisoned if he failed to appear again.  

    February 26, 2013

    A repressive cycle of widespread human rights violations by the armed forces pursuing former President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters is making reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire ever more elusive, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

    The national army, set up by President Alassane Ouattara in order to integrate forces loyal to the former President in the wake of the 2010 post-election violence which led to nearly 3,000 deaths, was supposed to ensure “the safety of person and property without distinction” and “be a powerful instrument for national cohesion”.

    But the truth behind this public gloss is that this new national army, along with an armed militia of traditional hunters - the Dozos - are carrying out extra-judicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, politically motivated arrests and torture. They are acting with almost total impunity under the pretence of ensuring security and fighting against perpetrators of armed attacks.

    February 22, 2013

    Former President Jean-Claude Duvalier must either face a court hearing over charges of human rights abuses or be arrested, Amnesty International said amid fears he may flee the country using a newly-granted diplomatic passport.

    On Thursday Duvalier- also known as “Baby Doc”- refused for the third time, to face court. The judge of the Court of Appeal has rescheduled for 28 February and instructed the Public Prosecutor to bring him to that hearing.

    Yesterday’s hearing was due to examine an appeal brought by victims of human rights violations against the January 2012 decision by an investigative judge not to put Duvalier on trial for violations of human rights so serious they amount to crimes against humanity– including torture, killings and disappearances committed during his time in office.

    “Jean-Claude Duvalier cannot be beyond the reach of justice,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, an Amnesty International delegate who was present at the hearing.

    February 19, 2013

    An Amnesty International expert will be observing the hearing in the case against Haitian former President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier on Thursday 21 February.

    The hearing is to assess an appeal brought by victims of human rights violations against the decision of an investigative judge in January 2011 not to try Duvalier for crimes against humanity.

    The court will hear evidence of Duvalier’s alleged responsibility for the widespread human rights violations that took place during his time in office, between 1971 and 1986 – including torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

    Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011 after 25 years in exile in France.

    Béatrice Vaugrante is the director Amnesty International’s office in Canada (francophone branch) and has been closely following the proceedings surrounding Duvalier’s prosecution.

    Vaugrante is available for interviews in French and English on: +1 514 814-2800.

     

    February 18, 2013

    The Pakistan authorities must do more to protect the persecuted Shi’a Hazara minority community, Amnesty International said following a devastating attack in Quetta that killed scores.

    On Saturday 17 February, at least 84 people, mostly Shi’a Hazaras, were killed when a bomb exploded in a vegetable market in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

    The bombing was claimed by the anti-Shi’a armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). LeJ also claimed responsibility for a series of bombings targeting Hazaras in Quetta on 10 January 2013 that claimed more than 90 lives.

    “These attacks demonstrate Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s utter disregard for human rights and basic principles of humanity,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Also shocking is the continued failure of the authorities to bring to justice any of those responsible for committing these killings, or inciting others to carry them out.”

    To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no one has been prosecuted for the January 2013 attacks or other targeted killings of Hazaras in recent years.

    January 29, 2013

    Yesterday’s ruling that General Efraín Ríos Montt and his former head of military intelligence, General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, should stand trial for the massacre of almost two thousand people in the 1980s is a crucial step towards justice, truth and reparation, Amnesty International said today.

    Ríos Montt, who held power from March 1982 to August 1983, and Rodríguez Sánchez will be tried for their alleged responsibility over the deaths of the mainly Mayan villagers in a series of massacres during that period.

    “This decision strengthens justice in Guatemala, as accountability for past crimes begins to emerge,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International researcher on Central America.

    “What is important is to ensure justice, truth and reparation for the families and victims of thousands of other human rights violations.

    A 1999 UN-backed truth commission found that during Guatemala’s 36-year internal armed conflict (1960-1996) some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared.

    January 17, 2013

    Protests against alleged killings by Pakistan’s armed forces have taken place across the Tribal Areas, as Amnesty International called on the authorities to investigate and bring anyone identified as responsible for unlawful killings to justice in fair trials.

    Yesterday protesters gathered outside the residence of the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Peshawar Press Club after 18 bodies were found dumped across Barra district of Khyber Tribal Agency the previous day, 15 January.

    Relatives claim the 18 people were shot dead by soldiers of the Frontier Corp, part of the Pakistan armed forces, either during or after raids on their homes. The victims include seven members of the same family.

    November 27, 2012

    By Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme

    Damage to an apartment building in Rishon LeZion, outside Tel Aviv, from rockets fired from Gaza © Amnesty International.

     

    It was dawn when we arrived in Israel to begin our investigation into rocket attacks from Gaza which by the end of the latest flare in violence had left six Israelis, including four civilians, dead, at least 40 injured and 300 more treated for shock.

    Up in the sky oddly shaped vapour trails made us wonder if these were the remnants of the “Iron Dome” missiles – used to intercept the rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups which this time reached as far north as Tel Aviv.

    November 20, 2012

     

    Madagascar’s rampaging security forces must be brought under control in the south of the country, Amnesty International said after widespread state killings of civilians over cattle theft, and a failure to protect hundreds from mass communal murder.

    Official sources have claimed that ongoing ‘Operation Tandroka’, which started in September, has seen 40 cattle thieves (dahalos) killed and 76 arrested in the southern region of Anosy. Cattle-rustling gangs reportedly killed 14 state security officers earlier in the year. 

    However, witnesses have told Amnesty International that elderly people, the physically disabled, children, and others unable to flee their homes were burned alive when security forces indiscriminately set fire to villages as part of the military operation.

    “We are hearing of punishment and persecution of individuals and communities in the south which could amount to human rights abuses on an appalling scale,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Researcher, who has just returned from Madagascar.

    November 14, 2012

    The UN failed to protect civilians during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict according its own report, released today, prompting Amnesty International to renew its call for an independent investigation into alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

    The Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka, submitted to Ban Ki-moon and made public today, offers a strong indictment of the UN’s response to Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.

    It deals with a period of conflict in Sri Lanka when very grave violations of international law are alleged and where effective UN action might have averted some of the worst of the violations.

    Instead the text describes a scenario where UN officials repeatedly failed civilians they were entrusted protect, while ignoring or downplaying mounting evidence of war crimes compiled by their own staff as they struggled to appease Sri Lankan authorities intent on restricting humanitarian space.  

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