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Crimes Against Humanity

    June 29, 2012

    Amnesty International today called on Egypt’s new president to rise to the challenge of breaking the cycle of abuse perpetuated under Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The organization urged him to take decisive action in his first 100 days to put Egypt firmly on the path of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

    Amnesty International will be closely monitoring whether he is serious about delivering human rights change, and will take stock of his human rights achievements during this critical time for reform.

    Ahead of President Mohamed Morsi’s swearing-in ceremony, the organization has presented him with a memorandum detailing what it considers the key human rights priorities for Egypt.

    “Since the uprising in January  last year, Egyptians have heard many promises that their demands would be listened to and that things would change, but so far their hopes have largely been frustrated,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “We hope, as they do, that this stage of the transition might herald a turning of the corner.”

    June 29, 2012

    Foreign ministers gathering in Geneva for talks on Syria have a responsibility to ensure that as violence intensifies and civilian casualties continue to mount, the establishment of a dedicated human rights monitoring presence on the ground is among the top priorities of the international community, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization also called on the group not to pursue any policy of issuing amnesty or any other similar measure for crimes under international law as part of any peace plan.

    Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy, has invited the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - to tomorrow’s meeting in Geneva, as well as Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby are also scheduled to attend, along with Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security.

    June 26, 2012

    As the international community continues to vacillate over meaningful action to stop the crisis in Syria and to provide justice for victims of human rights violations, new information concerning methods used by the authorities to crush any form of dissent continues to emerge.

    Not only are protestors shot at, villages attacked and houses of activists burned, but other repressive, if less visible, tools are used to discourage anyone from showing opposition to the government.

    More than 20 followers of a Damascus imam, Saria al-Refa’i - who publicly criticised violations by the government in his Friday prayer sermons - have reportedly been detained, some for more than ten months.  

    Among them is a Damascus doctor, Mohamed Hamzeh, a face and jaw surgeon who was arrested on 21 August last year in front of the Zaid bin Thabit al-Ansari mosque, where Saria al-Refa’i had criticised the leadership of the country in his sermons .

    Earlier that month, Saria al-Refa’i had warned the Syrian leadership “that all of Syria will rise up unless the army withdraws, unless they release all the prisoners and cease hostilities”.

    June 26, 2012

    The discovery of the charred and mutilated bodies of three young medical workers a week after their arrest in Aleppo city is yet further evidence of the Syrian government forces’ appalling disregard for the sanctity of the role of medical workers, Amnesty International said today.

    All three men were students at Aleppo University – Basel Aslan and Mus’ab Barad were fourth-year medical students and Hazem Batikh was a second-year English literature student and a first-aid medic.

    They were part of a team of doctors, nurses and first-aiders who have been providing life-saving medical treatment in makeshift “field hospitals” set up to treat demonstrators shot by security forces and who could not therefore go to state-run hospitals for fear of being arrested, tortured or even killed.

    They had been detained by Air Force Intelligence since their arrest in the city on 17 June.

    June 19, 2012

    The increased use of helicopters by the Syrian army is putting civilians at even greater risk and further strengthens the case for an international arms embargo, Amnesty International said today amid reports that a Russian ship carrying strike helicopters to Syria had been stopped in the North Sea.

    The UK Foreign Office said on Tuesday that it was “aware of a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters heading to Syria”. The ship is now reported to be returning to Russia after its insurance was revoked.

    June 15, 2012

    The inauguration of Fatou Bensouda as the second ever International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor signals a new era in international justice and the potential for a more robust approach to their prosecution strategy, Amnesty International said as she began her nine-year term.

    Gambian Bensouda takes over from Luis Moreno Ocampo after serving as the ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004.

    “Prosecutor Ocampo has achieved a great deal in establishing the Office of the Prosecutor over the last nine years and hands over a large workload of seven investigations and a number on-going cases,” said Marek Marczyñski, Amnesty International's Head of International Justice.

    Ahead of taking office, Fatou Bensouda set out a number of priorities that she will pursue during her term, including reviewing the quality and efficiency of investigations and prosecutions, developing a strong gender policy and clarifying the process through which the office selects where it will conduct investigations.

    “These are very welcome commitments,” Marczyñski said.

    June 13, 2012

    The shocking escalation in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention and the wanton destruction of homes in Syria demonstrates just how urgent the need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks on civilians by government forces and militias which act with utter impunity, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    The 70-page report Deadly Reprisals, provides fresh evidence of widespread as well as systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission.

    June 11, 2012

    For decades the irresponsible and poorly regulated international arms trade has contributed to death, injuries, torture and other serious human rights abuses – including sexual violence – affecting a million or more people every year.

    In July, all the world’s governments will meet at the United Nations in New York, for a month of negotiations to agree a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) – the first of its kind.

    Provided world leaders get the text right, this new treaty will establish strict controls on international transfers of weapons and munitions and a “Golden Rule” to prevent arms transfers where they are likely to contribute to serious human rights abuses.
    Ahead of these talks, Amnesty International campaigners around the world are urging governments to support the strongest possible agreement.

    June 02, 2012

    News that ex-president Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of protesters during the "25 January revolution" last year is a significant step towards combating long-standing impunity in Egypt, Amnesty International said.

    Mubarak's then Minister of Interior Habib Adly was also sentenced to life imprisonment on the same charges.

    However, the acquittal of all the other defendants, including senior security officials, leaves many still waiting for full justice.

    “We have from the start welcomed the trial of Mubarak and others for their role in the killing of protesters which began in January 2011. However, the trial and verdict have today left the families of those killed, as well as those injured in the protests, in the dark about the full truth of what happened to their loved ones and it failed to deliver full justice,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The Egyptian authorities must now establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry to fill the gap that the court left open.”

    June 01, 2012

    The end of Egypt’s 31-year state of emergency must signal a return to the rule of law, Amnesty International said after the measure timed out on Thursday, two years after it was last renewed by the government of Hosni Mubarak.

    “The Egyptian authorities must make a clean break with state of emergency practices by combating the systemic abuses it facilitated and which still continue today under military rule,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “These include serious human rights violations such as brutal crackdowns on peaceful protesters, arbitrary arrests, torture and unfair trials of civilians under military law.”

    While Egypt’s parliament has allowed the state of emergency to lapse, it has not been able to end unfair trials for civilians before military courts.

    Amendments to the Code of Military Justice, a law which in practice allows for civilians to be tried before military courts, were passed by parliament in May.

    June 01, 2012

    On the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the Chinese military’s violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Amnesty International again calls on the government to hold an open and independent inquiry into the events of 1989.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed or injured on the night of 3 and 4 June when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) opened fire on unarmed civilians. To this day, the government bans public discussion of those events. Still, many brave Chinese have exercised their right to peacefully call on the government to re-investigate the events surrounding the bloodshed and to hold those responsible accountable.

    May 30, 2012

    Former Liberian president Charles Taylor has been given a 50-year prison sentence in the Hague by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for aiding and abetting war crimes.

    The prison term is for crimes committed in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002.

    Amnesty International looks at key dates in the organisation’s campaigning work on his crimes and alleged crimes in Sierra Leone and Liberia prior to his arrest.

    Charles Taylor, who also led the armed opposition group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), was found guilty last month by international judges of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone internal armed conflict.  He is yet to be prosecuted for crimes allegedly committed in his native country, Liberia.

    While this historic judgment affirms that former heads of state cannot consider themselves immune from international justice, Amnesty International remains concerned that tens of thousands of people who suffered atrocities in Liberia and Sierra Leone are yet to see other perpetrators brought to justice.


    May 30, 2012

    Ongoing deadly clashes in Syria have become so common that news of yet another blast or attack on protesters by security forces often fails to make it to the front pages of international media.

    But for Omar Assil, a leading member of the Syrian Non Violence Movement (SNVM) currently studying in the UK. each report of violence means one of his friends or loved ones could be at risk.

    “Every week I get news of the arrest of another of my friends. Last month the body of one of them was returned to his family in Homs,” he told Amnesty International.

    “Every week there is another bombing in Damascus and my parents are living in a constant state of stress and fear. It’s hard to concentrate on my studies. I am always distracted with the news.”

    Before arriving in the UK in September last year, he took part in several demonstrations in Damascus. He always managed to avoid arrest, but witnessed first-hand the brutal treatment protesters were subjected to at the hands of police.

    May 29, 2012

    The expulsion of Syrian diplomats by a series of Western countries goes some way to expressing global outrage at the Houla killings but concrete action is needed by the UN Security Council and China and Russia must cease shielding Syria’s authorities, Amnesty International said.

    “We can only hope that events in Syria will ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian authorities and lead to concrete action by the UN Security Council,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “This horrific event is yet one more reason why Russia and China should stop shielding the Syrian authorities.”

    "Instead, Russia, China and the other Security Council members should urgently refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and demand that the Syrian authorities allow in the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, calls which Amnesty International has been making for months.”

    “In addition, all states should seek to exercise universal jurisdiction before their national courts over crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria.”

    May 28, 2012

    The United Nations Security Council must move beyond condemnation of Friday’s attack that killed scores of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla and immediately refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Amnesty International said.

    The Syrian military’s barrage of shells, mortars and rockets and raids on the residential area of Teldo on Friday left at least 108 dead, including 34 women and 50 children, according to sources Amnesty International has talked to, among them an eyewitness to the attack’s aftermath.

    “The high civilian death toll – including scores of women and children – in Houla must spur the Security Council to act in unison and immediately refer the situation in Syria to the ICC,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

    “As the killings escalate, the UN observer mission to Syria must have its scale and mandate enhanced, and the Syrian government must allow the Independent International Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council to enter the country to investigate allegations of abuse by both sides to the conflict.”


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