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Crimes Against Humanity

    August 22, 2012

    A Guatemalan court has sentenced an ex-police chief to 70 years in prison for the 1981 disappearance and torture of a university student, in what Amnesty International says is a strong message that even after three decades justice can be delivered.

    On Tuesday a court in Guatemala City found Pedro García Arredondo, former chief detective of the now-defunct National Police (Policía Nacional, PN), guilty of ordering the enforced disappearance of agronomy student Édgar Enrique Sáenz Calito during the country’s long-running internal armed conflict.

    The disappearance is a crime under international law, and the court found that the victim’s torture in detention amounted to a crime against humanity.

    “It has taken more than three decades for justice to catch up to Pedro García Arredondo, but this ruling sends another strong message that those responsible for past human rights violations in Guatemala will be held accountable,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Researcher on Central America at Amnesty International.

    August 22, 2012

    Civilians are enduring a horrific level of violence in the battle between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters for control of Aleppo - the country’s largest city and commercial capital, Amnesty International said in a new briefing on Syria.

    The 11-page briefing is based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty International during the first half of August.

    The briefing documents the Syrian government forces’ increasingly frequent air and artillery strikes against residential areas, resulting in often indiscriminate attacks which seriously endanger civilians. 

    “The use of imprecise weapons, such as unguided bombs, artillery shells and mortars by government forces has dramatically increased the danger for civilians”, said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently returned from Aleppo.

    August 15, 2012

     The Colombian authorities must do more to protect civilians increasingly caught up in the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia, Amnesty International said today after an Indigenous leader was killed in Cauca, south-western Colombia, at the weekend.

    Lisandro Tenorio, a traditional healer and spiritual leader for the Nasa Indigenous People, was shot dead by gunmen believed to be from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), outside his home in the López Adentro reservation (resguardo) in Cauca’s Caloto municipality on Sunday afternoon.

    The killing follows weeks of heavy fighting in several nearby communities between Colombian security forces and the FARC, which has resulted in the death of several civilians, with many more injured and thousands forcibly displaced.

    August 14, 2012

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must ensure that justice for the victims of human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occUupation of Timor-Leste is firmly on the agenda during his two-day visit to Timor-Leste this week, Amnesty International said.

    Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries were responsible for unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, torture and other ill-treatment as well as many other human rights violations during the occupation of then-East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and in the context of the 1999 independence referendum.

    A persistent culture of impunity means that the overwhelming majority of these crimes against humanity and other human rights violations have yet to be addressed.

    "Despite its involvement in Timor-Leste since June 1999, the UN has failed to meet its commitments to ensure justice for victims,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    August 07, 2012

    ‘Turning Syria’s most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians’ - Christoph Koettl

    Amnesty International has warned that both sides fighting in Aleppo may be held criminally accountable for their failures to protect the civilian population, as the organisation released new satellite images showing the extent of heavy weapon use in the city.
    The satellite images - from Aleppo and the surrounding area - show an increased use of heavy weaponry, including near residential areas. Amnesty said they raise urgent concerns over the assault on the beleaguered Syrian city. (The images can be downloaded from

    Some of the images reveal more than 600 probable artillery impact craters from heavy fighting between Syrian armed forces and armed opposition groups in the nearby town of Anadan. An image from 31 July shows probable artillery impact craters next to what appears to be a residential housing complex in Anadan.

    July 31, 2012

    The assault by government forces on the city of Aleppo is the culmination of months of a brutal crackdown against dissident voices, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    The new report All-Out Repression is based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty International in Aleppo city at the end of May.

    It documents how security forces and the notorious government-backed shabiha militias routinely used live fire against peaceful demonstrations, killing and injuring protesters and bystanders, including children, and how they hunted down the wounded, medics who treated them, and opposition activists.  

    “The current onslaught on the city of Aleppo – which puts civilians even more at grave risk– is a predictable development which follows the disturbing pattern of abuses by state forces across the country,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently spent several weeks investigating abuses in northern Syria, including in Aleppo.

    July 26, 2012

           Amnesty International experts available from the UN in New York to provide analysis

    Negotiations to reach agreement on a potentially historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), enter a critical final day on Friday 27 July, after nearly four weeks of talks at the United Nations in New York.

    The irresponsible and poorly regulated international arms trade fuels serious human rights abuses, armed violence, conflict, organized crime and poverty around the world.  If agreement on a comprehensive ATT is reached it will help end the devastation caused to millions of lives by the irresponsible arms trade.

    To request an interview or briefing with an Amnesty International spokesperson at the UN on the outcome, key countries involved and what any potential agreement will actually mean, please contact:
    Tom Mackey
    Amnesty International Press Office
    +1 646 3185 134

    July 25, 2012

    The US administration is the pivotal player in closing major loopholes and setting strong rules for international transfers of arms in the final days of negotiations to agree an Arms Trade Treaty [ATT], Amnesty International said today.

    After three weeks of talks to hammer out a deal at the UN in New York, a draft treaty text was published on Tuesday. Governments will now enter into three days of intense negotiations as they look to reach an agreement by Friday.

    Major loopholes in the draft text include ammunition not being subject to tight decision-making controls, an array of weapons, munitions and related equipment not being covered, as well as the treaty only applying to the international trade of conventional arms instead of all international transfers including gifts and aid.  

    Small arms and light weapons and rules to stop arms transfers from being used for crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of human rights are in the current proposal.

    July 20, 2012

    Senegal must abide by today’s decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and prosecute the former president of Chad Hissène Habré on charges relating to large-scale human rights abuses during his time in power, Amnesty International said.

    “This is a victory for victims that’s long overdue, and now it’s high time the courts in Senegal delivered justice. They must immediately comply with this ruling,” said Michael Bochenek Amnesty International’s Law and Policy Programme Director.

    “The latest judgment of the International Court of Justice brings hope to the many who have been waiting more than a decade for Senegal to take action.”

    Habré was overthrown on 1 December 1990 after a brutal rule that spanned more than eight years from June 1982.

    He has been living in Dakar since being granted political asylum by Senegal soon after his ouster.

    On 3 February 2000, the Dakar Regional Court indicted the former Chadian leader for "crimes against humanity, acts of torture and barbarity," but a Court of Appeal later ruled that they did not have jurisdiction to try acts of torture committed by a foreigner outside of its territory.

    July 20, 2012

    Orders to clear the streets of Damascus issued by the Syrian authorities do not open the door to a legal bombardment of residential areas, Amnesty International said today.

    “A pattern is emerging of orders being issued to civilians to move out of urban areas, raising fears that the authorities intend to increase the intensity of assault on neighbourhoods they plan to attack,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

    “The fact that an order has been issued does not mean that the area has actually been cleared, which could result in  more and more people coming under attack.”

    The Syrian armed forces and members of armed opposition groups such as the Free Syria Army (FSA) may be held criminally responsible if they fail to protect the civilian population caught up in this conflict, with resultant unlawful killings.

    As members of the opposition become better equipped with weapons and armaments, more and more civilians are being exposed to danger as fighting intensifies in populated urban areas.

    July 19, 2012

    The failure today of the UN Security Council to deliver better human rights protection for Syrians will embolden those responsible for the crimes and violence wracking the country, Amnesty International said.

    Russia and China vetoed on Thursday a UN Security Council resolution that proposed that international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan be placed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the Security Council to authorize a range of diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Syrian government should they fail to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns and cities.

    It was the third time Russia and China have used their veto power to block Security Council resolutions on Syria.

    The veto comes a day after an attack that killed the Syrian Defence Minister, his deputy and the Assistant Vice-President in Damascus. There are also reports that a number of other senior officials have been critically injured, including the Interior Minister.

    July 18, 2012

    It’s crucial that the Court looks at the full scope of alleged crimes across the country, including those carried out by Malian security forces

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate killings, rapes and torture and other possible crimes recently carried out in Mali, Amnesty International said as the country’s government formally asked the Court to step in.

    Mali’s Minister of Justice Malick Coulibaly delivered a letter to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Wednesday, referring the situation in Mali since January 2012 on the basis that national authorities are unable to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

    “This is the fifth time an African state has either referred crimes committed on its own territory to the ICC or accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction, indicating that governments across the continent are now acknowledging the importance of the ICC in providing justice to victims,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.

    July 13, 2012

    Reports of mass killings in the Sunni town of al-Treimseh (or Tremseh) are further proof of the urgent need for UN monitors to be granted full and immediate access to all parts of the country to conduct independent investigations into human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today.

    According to Syrian opposition sources, scores of people were killed on Thursday morning when the Syrian army and security forces along with pro-government militia known as Shabiha, attacked al-Treimseh near the city of Hama. Syrian state-run media have blamed “terrorist groups” for the killings.

    UN mission chief Major General Robert Mood said today that UN observers are ready to go to Treimseh when a ceasefire is in place. He confirmed continuous fighting yesterday in the area of Treimseh, including the use of mechanized units, indirect fire and helicopters and said that observers were ready to go and seek verification of the facts if and when there was a credible ceasefire.

    July 12, 2012

    Amnesty International made a direct appeal on Wednesday to governments negotiating a potentially historic Arms Trade Treaty urging them to remember a strong agreement could save millions of lives.

    Seydi Gassama, Director of Amnesty International Senegal, addressed diplomats currently locked in crucial talks at the UN in New York about a potential deal that could end the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade.

    Gassama told the officials to show “the vision to ensure that this once in a lifetime opportunity is not squandered… to put an end to the body-bag approach to arms control, where embargoes are imposed only after the killing has already gone on far too long”.

    Millions of people are killed, injured, raped, repressed and forced to flee their homes every year as a result of the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade.

    Gassama spoke alongside partners in the Control Arms coalition, ensuring that the voice of millions of people calling for a strong treaty that protects human rights was heard directly by those responsible for reaching a deal by the end of the month.�

    July 11, 2012

    The UN Security Council must call on the Rwandan government to stop providing support for the M23 armed group in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, Amnesty International said as the UN redeployed peacekeepers to the main eastern city of Goma.

    The M23 have driven back the Congolese government army in a determined offensive over the last few days. The UN and authorities in eastern DR Congo say Rwanda has backed  the non-state armed group, M23,, a claim denied by Kigali.

    “While redeploying UN troops to Goma to protect civilians is a positive step, the situation in the North Kivu is so tense that it has the potential to turn into a regional conflict if the international community does not take urgent measures,” said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    Amnesty International has received reports from numerous sources that M23 is using heavy artillery and continue to forcibly recruit civilians. According to credible sources, two civilians were killed by the M23 in Bunagana on Sunday when they refused to join the group, while two other civilians were killed during the fighting.


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