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Human Rights Abuses

    March 21, 2013

    A new UN resolution does a good job of highlighting past and ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka, but regrettably fails to establish an independent and international investigation into alleged crimes under international law, Amnesty International said.

    The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva this morning passed a resolution on the need to promote reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka following the country’s armed conflict, which ended in 2009.

    Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka expert, said:

    “This is a positive development. UN Member States have sent a clear signal to the Sri Lankan government that crimes of the past cannot simply be ignored, but need to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

    “The text also crucially highlights the still very worrying human rights situation in Sri Lanka today, and calls for regular UN reporting on the implementation of the resolution, including of ongoing human rights violations.

    March 20, 2013

    Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa must be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said after she was denied bail in a court appearance on Wednesday.

    Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday 17 March when she responded to a client whose home was being searched by police in Harare. She remained in custody despite a High Court order for her immediate release being issued at around 1am Monday morning.

    “Beatrice Mtetwa is the unfortunate victim of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention and must be released immediately,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “It’s staggering that while Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution which provides a stronger bill of human rights, lawyers in the course of their lawful duty are being so blatantly harassed and intimidated.”

    Beatrice Mtetwa responded to the call of a client, Thabani Mpofu, who is a staff member in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office, on Sunday morning during a police search of his home. When she arrived at the premises police were already conducting the search.

    March 15, 2013

    As Zimbabwe heads to the polls this weekend to vote on a proposed new constitution, Amnesty International urges the authorities to allow eligible civil society organizations to observe the process without harassment and intimidation.

    Recent months have seen a clampdown on dissent as a number of civil society organizations have been raided by police and charged with spurious offences ranging from ‘causing malicious damage to property’ and ‘smuggling’ radios into the country.

    An announcement last week by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission stated that organizations facing police investigations would be prevented from monitoring the referendum.

    “The Zimbabwean authorities must stop this game playing and allow the referendum to take place in a context that ensures the internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “Previous polls in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence and human rights abuses. Saturday offers the country a chance to prove it can make a break with the past.”

    March 14, 2013

    Two years after Syrians rose in peaceful protest against their government, the country is mired in a bloody conflict with both sides responsible for war crimes, Amnesty International found in two briefings released today.

    Research carried out inside Syria in the last fortnight confirms that government forces continue to bomb civilians indiscriminately often with internationally banned weapons, flattening entire neighbourhoods. Detainees held by these forces are routinely subjected to torture, enforced disappearances or extra-judicial executions.

    Armed opposition groups have increasingly resorted to hostage taking, and to the torture and summary killing of soldiers, pro-government militias and civilians they have captured or abducted.

    “While the vast majority of war crimes and other gross violations continue to be committed by government forces, our research also points to an escalation in abuses by armed opposition groups,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.  

    March 11, 2013

    Ten years after the US-led invasion that toppled the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains enmeshed in a grim cycle of human rights abuses, including attacks on civilians, torture of detainees and unfair trials, said Amnesty International in a new report out today.

    A decade of abuses exposes a chronology of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees committed by Iraqi security forces and by foreign troops in the wake of the 2003 invasion. 

    It highlights the Iraqi authorities’ continuing failure to observe their obligations to uphold human rights and respect the rule of law in the face of persistent deadly attacks by armed groups, who show callous disregard for civilian life.

    “Ten years after the end of Saddam Hussein’s repressive rule, many Iraqis today enjoy greater freedoms than they did under his Ba’athist regime, but the fundamental human rights gains that should have been achieved during the past decade have signally failed to materialize,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    March 07, 2013

    Analysis of new satellite images shows the North Korean government is blurring the lines between its political prison camps and the surrounding population, Amnesty International said on Thursday, as it reiterated its call for UN Member States to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry into grave, systematic and widespread human rights violations in North Korea—including crimes against humanity. 

    Responding to reports of the possible construction of a new political prison camp, Kwan-li-so, adjacent to Camp No. 14 in Kaechon, South Pyongan Province, Amnesty International USA’s (AIUSA) Science for Human Rights program commissioned satellite imagery and analysis of the area from the commercial provider DigitalGlobe. 

    Analysts found that from 2006 to February 2013, North Korea constructed 20km of perimeter around the Ch’oma-Bong valley -- located 70km north-northeast of Pyongyang -- and its inhabitants, new controlled access points and a number of probable guard towers.  Analysts also found construction of new buildings that appear to house workers, likely associated with an expansion of mining activity in the region.

    March 06, 2013

    A wave of violent attacks against Bangladesh’s minority Hindu community shows the urgent need for authorities to provide them with better protection, Amnesty International said.

    Over the past week, individuals taking part in strikes called for by Islamic parties have vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples across Bangladesh.

    Scores of shops and houses belonging to the Hindu community have also been burned down, leaving hundreds of people homeless.

    The attacks come in the context of large scale violent protests that have been raging across Bangladesh for weeks over the country’s ongoing war crimes tribunal, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

    “The Hindu community in Bangladesh is at extreme risk, in particular at such a tense time in the country. It is shocking that they appear to be targeted simply for their religion. The authorities must ensure that they receive the protection they need,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.

    March 05, 2013

    The arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed is an example of selective justice from the Maldives authorities and highlights their failure to investigate other serious human rights abuses in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Nasheed, who resigned as President in February 2012 under disputed circumstances, was arrested in the Maldivian capital Male today.

    He is accused of illegally ordering the arrest of a judge while in office, and on Wednesday will face trial for “unlawfully arresting an innocent person” under Maldivian law.

    “Of course political leaders, including Nasheed, should be held to account - but the targeting of Nasheed is an example of selective justice,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.

    “Amnesty International, and many others, have documented a wide range of human rights violations committed by security forces following Nasheed’s resignation. These include police violence against peaceful protesters and the deliberate targeting of Nasheed’s supporters.

    March 05, 2013

    As President Enrique Peña Nieto completes 100 days in office, the few measures his government has taken on human rights simply do not match the gravity of the situation that Mexico is experiencing.

    “There are worrying signs that this government is failing to give sufficient priority to the protection of human rights. It must make a clear break with the previous administration’s empty human rights promises and deliver on ending impunity for abuses,” said Javier Zúñiga, Amnesty International special adviser.

    In December, Amnesty International’s Secretary General wrote to the new president to ask for immediate action on a range of serious issues - to date there has not been a substantive response.

    The organization called for a radical change to public security policy to ensure the end of grave abuses such as torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearances and for perpetrators to face justice.

    Peña Nieto made commitments to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on Torture in November 2012, but so far there is little evidence of the actions needed.

    March 01, 2013

    Footage of South African police tying a Mozambican man to the back of a police vehicle and dragging him down the road has been making headlines across the world.

    The man is reported to have died later in a police cell from head injuries.

    “This footage is shocking,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director.

    “This appalling incident involving excessive force is the latest in an increasingly disturbing pattern of brutal police conduct in South Africa.”

    Amnesty international has been documenting an increasing trend by police to resort to excessive force in response to social protests and ordinary crime for nearly ten years. Torture and other ill-treatment, primarily in context of criminal investigations, have become habitual practices. 

    The killing by heavily armed police of 34 striking mine workers at Marikana last August, and the alleged ill-treatment of some injured and arrested miners in the aftermath, is one extremely concerning example of this trend.

    February 14, 2013

    The deaths of two men while in police custody in the Bahamas last weekend highlights the urgent need for greater accountability for police abuses, Amnesty International said today.

    33-year-old Jamie Smith and 20-year-old Aaron Rolle died while detained at two different police stations in the capital, Nassau, last Friday and Saturday respectively.

    The circumstances of the men’s deaths and the reasons for their original detention are still unclear. Authorities said the incident would be investigated by the Coroner’s Court, a judicial body which suffers from serious backlogs due to lack of resources

    Their deaths are the latest examples of alleged human rights abuses by police – including similar fatalities in police custody or alleged unlawful fatal shootings -- have occurred in recent years.

    In the vast majority of the cases, those responsible did not face justice.

    February 08, 2013

    Authorities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) must take urgent action to prevent 'sorcery'-related killings, Amnesty International said after the brutal murder of a woman accused of using witchcraft to kill a young boy.

    Twenty-year-old Kepari Leniata was stripped, tied up, doused in petrol and burned alive by relatives of the dead boy in the city of Mount Hagen, local media reported.

    "Those responsible for the shocking torture and killing of this woman must be brought to justice," said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International's Pacific researcher.

    "But there is far more to be done to tackle this endemic problem in Papua New Guinea, where 'sorcery' is still considered a criminal offence."

    There have been several reports in recent years of people accused of 'sorcery', in most cases women, being murdered.

    In July 2012, police reportedly arrested 29 members of a witch-hunting gang who were allegedly murdering and cannibalizing people they suspected of 'sorcery'.

    February 01, 2013

    The Haitian authorities must urgently move to prevent illegal and violent evictions of people living in make shift camps and take meaningful steps to provide them with appropriate housing, said Amnesty International today, after a new wave of evictions affected hundreds of families across Port-au-Prince.

    Many of the 350,000 people still living in makeshift camps following the 2012 earthquake are also at risk.

    On 22 January, police officers violently evicted 84 families from camp Fanm Koperativ, in the municipality of Port-au-Prince.

    According to information gathered by Amnesty International, families were not given any notice of the eviction and were forced out of their make-shift tents by the police accompanied by a group of men armed with machetes and hammers.

    Suze Mondesir, a member of the camp committee, recounted their ordeal: "Around 10am a group of police officers accompanied by men armed with machetes and knives arrived at the camp. They insulted us and began to demolish our tents. The men pushed us around and the police waved their guns at us to prevent us from reacting."

    January 25, 2013

    Iraq must immediately investigate the killings of protestors in accordance with international standards, Amnesty International said today after several people died when troops in the city of Fallujah fired on anti-government demonstrators who had reportedly thrown stones at them.


    Several others were said to be seriously injured during Friday's protest, the latest in an ongoing and largely peaceful campaign protesting against the government and its abusive treatment of detainees.

    
"The Iraqi authorities must ensure that the investigation they have announced into these killings is independent, impartial and that the methods and findings are made public.  Anyone found responsible for abuses – including anyone found to have used excessive force against protestors – must be brought to justice,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    January 24, 2013

    People in Cameroon are being subjected to a raft of abuses including unlawful killings and torture as the authorities seek to use the criminal justice system to clamp down on political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists and as a weapon to attack lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, Amnesty International said in a new report.

    “It’s time to put an end to such blatant violations of human rights,” says Godfrey Byaruhanga, Amnesty International’s central Africa researcher who has recently returned from the country.

    “The government needs to make it clear to security forces that human rights violations will not be tolerated – that the perpetrators will be brought to justice and reparations paid to victims.”

    In the report, Amnesty International documents a series of cases where fear, intimidation and imprisonment have been used to clamp down on political opposition to President Paul Biya.

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