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War Crimes

    August 29, 2013

    In recent days, a number of governments have signalled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of 21 August. Scores of civilians, including many children, were apparently killed in the attacks on the outskirts of Syria’s capital, Damascus.

    Amnesty International neither condemns nor condones such an armed international intervention. It also takes no position on the legality or moral basis for any such action. In situations of armed conflict, Amnesty International focuses on ensuring that warring parties respect international humanitarian law and human rights.

    August 21, 2013

    In response to the publication of a series of videos apparently showing that chemical weapons have killed scores of civilians, including many children, on the outskirts of Syria’s capital Damascus, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

    “The allegations of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, which Amnesty International has not been able to verify independently, underscore the urgent need for the United Nations team currently in Syria to have a full mandate and unimpeded access to all locations to investigate these and any other incidents of alleged use of chemical weapons.”

    “What would be the point of having a UN team of experts in the country if they are not allowed to access the sites of the alleged attacks, collect samples and investigate?”

    “The Syrian authorities who claim no responsibility should immediately facilitate the visit of the UN team to Eastern Ghouta and other locations”.

    June 18, 2013

    Afghanistan’s security forces must do everything in their power to avoid and account for civilian casualties, Amnesty International said today as the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) handed over responsibility for maintaining security in the country.

    The organization also calls on the Afghan authorities to investigate allegations of civilian casualties amid operations carried out by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

    “The ANSF are obliged under international law to ensure accountability for their actions and to provide remedy for civilian casualties of military action,” said Polly Truscott, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Program.

    According to UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) civilian casualties from ANSF operations increased in 2012, however ANSF leadership has been reluctant to acknowledge let alone take for responsibility for civilian casualties when they occur. Numbers of civilian casualties by ANSF may therefore be under-reported.

    June 11, 2013

    New satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas in Sudan’s Blue Nile State show that Sudanese military forces have resorted to brutal scorched earth tactics to drive out the civilian population, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    “We had no time to bury them”: War crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State documents how bombings and ground attacks by Sudanese military forces have destroyed entire villages, left many dead and injured, and forced tens of thousands to flee — with many now facing starvation, disease and exhaustion.

    Evidence gathered by Amnesty International indicates that villages in the Ingessana Hills, an area held for a time by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N) — endured multiple scorched earth offensives in 2012. Witnesses also described bombing attacks as recent as April 2013 that killed children and other civilians.

    Satellite imagery of the Ingessana Hills, showing the destruction of several villages:

    June 04, 2013

    Today’s International Commission of Inquiry report on Syria’s grave human rights situation is yet further evidence to prompt the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said.

    The report, released at the UN in Geneva today, confirmed there are reasonable grounds to believe that “limited quantities of toxic chemicals” were used during four separate attacks last March and April, although it affirms it has not been possible to “determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrators.”

    It also calls on the Syrian authorities to allow full access to experts in order to reach conclusive findings on the issue.

    “How many more reports need to be published on Syria for the world to wake up and take action to stop the bloodshed of civilians?” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    May 30, 2013

    Attacks by armed groups on humanitarian organizations amount to war crimes and must end immediately, Amnesty International said following the brutal assault by unidentified armed men on an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in eastern Afghanistan.

    “Organizations like the ICRC must be able to carry out their crucial lifesaving work without the fear of violence hanging over them. This attack is an affront to humanity,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Those responsible for the assault in Jalalabad must be brought to justice and tried in accordance with international law and standards.”

    Unidentified gunmen and at least one suicide bomber attacked the ICRC office in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, on 29 May, killing one Afghan security guard and wounding another ICRC staff member.

    May 17, 2013

    Argentina’s former military leader, Jorge Rafael Videla, has died in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his time in office.

    “Argentina led the way in the prosecution of those responsible for the torture, killing and disappearance of thousands of people during the many military governments across Latin America,” said Mariela Belski, Director of Amnesty International in Argentina.

    “We urge Argentina and other countries in the region to continue with their efforts to bring all those responsible for the terrible crimes committed during the region’s darkest years to justice. There is still much work to be done."

    Former military president Jorge Rafael Videla, 87, died this morning in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires.

    Last year, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his part in the systematic kidnapping of children during the country’s military regime between 1976 and 1983.

    May 02, 2013

    The Israeli authorities must immediately remove a new outpost set up yesterday by Israeli settlers in the Nablus district of the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said today.

    The new outpost was set up following the killing of Evyatar Borovsky, a resident of the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, on Tuesday.

    Borovsky, a civilian who was carrying a gun at the time of the attack, was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian man who was wounded and later arrested by Israeli forces.

    Following the killing, settlers unleashed a wave of violence against Palestinian civilians and their property in the northern West Bank, stoning vehicles and burning hundreds of trees.

    “We deplore all deliberate attacks on civilians, including settlers. But this killing must not be used as an excuse for further violations of the human rights of Palestinians,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “The authorities in Israel must urgently remove the new settler outpost and prosecute all those responsible for the violence in the West Bank.”

    April 18, 2013

    Victims and family members are still waiting for the Indonesian authorities to provide them with truth, justice and full reparation almost eight years after the end to the devastating Aceh conflict, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

    The report, “Time to Face the Past”, documents the failure of local and central authorities to establish the truth of what happened during the years of violence which left between 10,000 and 30,000 people dead, many of them civilians. Many of those who had their lives torn apart by the conflict are still suffering immensely.

    “The Indonesian government’s failure to provide genuine truth, justice and reparation for victims and their families is causing immense suffering for people in Aceh today,” Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director, said.

    “Family members still do not know what has happened to disappeared loved ones and are struggling to get by, while those responsible walk free. The situation is breeding resentment that could sow the seeds of a future return to violence.”

    April 17, 2013

    The decision by Israel's military not to launch criminal investigations into some 65 cases of  "alleged misconduct" by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during Operation "Pillar of Defense", last year's eight-day armed conflict in the Gaza Strip, is another step which strengthens impunity, said Amnesty International, as some of the cases closed could amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law and potentially war crimes.

    In its update of 11 April, Israel's Military Advocate General Corps said it had decided to close inquiries into about 65 of the incidents it had examined from the conflict, which lasted from 14 to 21 November. At least 15 further incidents are still being examined. The update did not give details on most of the cases closed, making it impossible to fully assess the implications of these decisions.

    April 16, 2013

    Posted at 0001hrs (GMT) 17 April 2013

    The UN Security Council and African Union (AU) must take immediate action to halt indiscriminate attacks in Southern Kordofan, Amnesty International said in a new report that highlights the urgent need for humanitarian access to the conflict-affected areas.  

    Indiscriminate bombings, lack of humanitarian assistance and massive displacement which has severely disrupted agricultural production, have all conspired to place civilians in the areas controlled by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) in Southern Kordofan, in an extremely precarious situation.

    This will only get worse in the next few months as food supplies are dwindling and the impending rainy season makes roads impassable.

    “The international community continues to watch this catastrophe unfold as the humanitarian situation worsens in conflict-affected areas of Southern Kordofan. It’s time for some concerted action,” said Khairunissa Dhala, Amnesty International’s South Sudan researcher.

    April 09, 2013

    A recent spike in civilian deaths in Afghanistan highlights the urgent need for all parties to the conflict to take greater precautions to avoid civilian casualties, Amnesty International said today.

    On Monday, at least nine civilians were killed and 20 injured after a bus hit a roadside bomb in Wardak province, in the east of the country. It is believed the Taliban are responsible for the attack.

    A day earlier at least 12 civilians, including 10 children, were reportedly killed in the eastern province of Kunar in NATO airstrikes launched during a drawn-out fire fight between international (ISAF) and Afghan forces and the Taliban.

    “It is imperative that NATO/ISAF fully investigate all allegations of civilian casualties resulting from their operations and deliver remedies, including prosecuting those suspected of violations. They must also provide compensation before troops withdraw next year, to avoid a legacy of unresolved claims,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director

    February 01, 2013

    The Malian army has committed serious human rights breaches plus violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) during the ongoing conflict against armed groups in the country, including extrajudicial executions of civilians, according to evidence gathered by Amnesty International during a 10-day mission to the West African state.

    A new briefing based on the mission also outlines concerns that Islamist armed groups have committed of serious human rights abuses and violations of IHL, including unlawful killings and the recruitment of child soldiers.

    Additionally, there is evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike carried out as part of a joint operation by the French and the Malian armies in order to stop the offensive of the Islamist armed groups.

    “As fighting is continuing in Mali, all parties to the conflict must ensure that they respect international humanitarian law – and in particular to ensure the humane treatment of captives while taking all necessary precautions to minimize harm to civilians,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s Mali Researcher.

    January 18, 2013

    Until the full truth is uncovered about the Katyn massacre the Russian authorities have an on-going obligation under international law to investigate this war crime that has gone unpunished since the Second World War, Amnesty International said today.  

    As the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is considering the case brought against Russia by some of the relatives of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war who were killed during the 1940 Katyn massacre, Amnesty International submitted its legal opinion on the case this week.  

    “For nearly 50 years, first Soviet and then the Russian authorities denied their responsibility for the murder of tens of thousands of Polish prisoners of war,” said Marek Marczynski, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “They dragged their feet with the investigation into the mass murder for nearly 15 years after that until finally in 2004 they decided to close it in secret proceedings, quoting national security interest for doing so.”

    January 15, 2013

    Myanmar must take all possible steps to avoid civilian casualties in Kachin state, Amnesty International said after three people were killed in air strikes which were reportedly carried out by the armed forces in the region.

    The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) equally must ensure that they do not position potential military targets near civilian areas, and that they fully respect international humanitarian law.

    On 14 January, three civilians including one young teenager were killed in an air strike which was reportedly carried out by the Myanmar armed forces in the Kachin town of Laiza. Four others, two children and two women, were injured in the same attack.

    Laiza, a town on the border with China, is used as the de facto headquarters of the KIA.

    “Both the army and the KIA must ensure that civilians caught in the conflict area are protected. The three tragic deaths in Laiza shows that there are real concerns that civilian lives might be at risk if indiscriminate fire is used,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.


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