Human Rights Abuses
Every effort must be made to protect civilians from the onslaught of war and potential revenge attacks in Mosul, said Amnesty International today as the operation to recapture the city from the armed group calling itself the Islamic State gets under way.
Tomorrow, 18 October 2016, Amnesty International will launch a major new report ‘Punished for Daesh’s crimes’: Displaced Iraqis abused by militias and government forces which documents serious human rights violations - including war crimes committed by Iraqi militias and government forces against displaced civilians during past military operations. The report warns against a repeat of such violations on an even greater scale in the Mosul offensive.
“Iraqi authorities must take concrete steps to ensure there is no repeat of the gross violations witnessed in Falluja and other parts of Iraq during confrontations between government forces and the Islamic State armed group,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
Continued fighting in South Sudan must not derail justice for crimes committed during the deadly conflict that began in December 2013, said Amnesty International and FIDH in a joint briefing published today.
The organizations are calling on the African Union (AU) Commission and the South Sudan government to urgently establish the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS).
“Thousands have been killed, women raped, entire villages destroyed, and humanitarian personnel attacked. But as world attention has focused on ending the fighting, accountability for violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity has been put on the back burner,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.
“Justice must not be delayed any further. Fresh violations should give added impetus to efforts to form the Hybrid Court.”
Member states of the international body responsible for monitoring the use of chemical weapons must trigger an investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur, revealed by Amnesty International last month.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Executive Council will start a three-day meeting at the organisation’s headquarters in the Hague today. Many of the members who will be present at the meeting, including France and other EU member states, have expressed their alarm over the chemical weapons allegations.
“Expressing concern and consternation will not suffice, we need to see concrete steps towards an independent investigation. We have credible evidence of horrific injuries, and estimates of up to 250 deaths, caused by dozens of suspected chemical weapons attacks against civilian populations over the past nine months,” said Tirana Hassan, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.
Reports about the resumption of humanitarian aid to 75,000 refugees stranded in a remote, arid area along the Jordanian-Syrian border called “the berm” are a long-awaited glimmer of hope that should be followed by a sustainable, long-term solution, Amnesty International said today.
The news comes as the UN and the Jordanian authorities continue negotiations to open a humanitarian lifeline to the Syrians who have been stranded there since the Jordanian authorities sealed the border following an armed attack in June. Since then the refugees have endured hellish conditions with no aid except one delivery, made by crane in August.
100 days after Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines, a wave of unlawful killings has already claimed more than 3,000 lives, shattering progress on human rights in the country, Amnesty International said today.
“Rodrigo Duterte’s first 100 days as president have been marked by state-sanctioned violence on a truly shocking scale. His brutal crackdown on those allegedly involved in drug crimes has led to carnage on the streets and the obliteration of key human rights, including the right to life and to due process,” said Rafendi Djamin, Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International.
“Since he was elected President Duterte has actively created a climate where anyone can kill, or be killed, in the name of the ‘war on drugs’. This mass killing must end immediately and all those responsible, at all levels of command, must be brought to justice.”
The Afghan government and Taliban forces should urgently facilitate swift and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief into Kunduz, where thousands of civilians are trapped in increasingly dire conditions, Amnesty International said today.
The organization has interviewed medical workers and civilians stuck in Kunduz amid fighting after the Taliban launched an assault on 3 October. Kunduz residents have described grim scenes as food and water supplies have been exhausted and electricity was cut. The city’s civilian hospital has run out of medical supplies and sustained rocket and gunfire attacks on 5 October.
“Civilians in Kunduz are once again at a precipice, and time is running out. Unless all parties to the conflict permit a humanitarian corridor to allow vital aid in and people to flee, we could soon be looking at a devastating humanitarian crisis,” said Champa Patel, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
“International humanitarian law clearly prohibits launching attacks against, or from, civilian areas – those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials.”
Syria should immediately release the Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq and his assistant, Mohamed Thatha, 31 human rights organizations said today, on the fourth anniversary of their enforced disappearance.
On October 2, 2012, the two men are believed to have been arrested at a government-operated checkpoint on their way from Ma’touq’s home in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya to his office in Damascus. Despite repeated requests for information to the public prosecutor’s office in Damascus in 2012 and 2013 by family and colleagues, Syrian authorities have denied that they arrested the men.
Despite these denials, individuals released from the government’s custody in 2015 have informed Ma’touq’s family that while in detention they spotted him in various government-operated detention facilities, including State Security Branch 285 and Military Intelligence Branch 235 in Damascus. Since then, the family has not received any information on his whereabouts.
Responding to the news that Taliban fighters have launched a coordinated attack on the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan, Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, said:
“Civilians in Kunduz have woken up this morning to find themselves once again caught up in a storm of appalling violence. It is extremely worrying that Taliban fighters are exposing residents to attacks and sweeping them into a raging war, which has already cost them so much. Needlessly endangering civilians by launching attacks from their midst is prohibited under international law, and demonstrates the Taliban’s utter disregard for civilian safety and right to life.
“All parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect civilians, including media and humanitarian workers, and ensure they are protected amid this renewed violence in Kunduz. Civilians must never be used as human shields.”
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The rejection of the peace agreement in today’s plebiscite in Colombia is a missed opportunity for the country to finally move away from its tragic 50-year-long war, said Amnesty International.
“Today will go down in history as the day Colombia turned its back to what could have been an end to a 50-year long conflict that devastated millions of lives,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“Although imperfect, the agreement represented a concrete way forward for peace and justice. The uncertainly this vote brings could place millions of Colombians, particularly those from vulnerable groups such as Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities at greater risk of suffering human rights violations.”
“It’s imperative that Colombia does not walk away from this project and that the country continues to move towards the long awaited peace millions are longing for.”
Colombia: Historic peace deal must ensure justice and an end to human rights abuses (News, 26 September 2016)
Fears are growing for hundreds of civilians who are trapped in a Benghazi neighbourhood which faces intensified fighting after several months under military blockade, Amnesty International said today.
The organization has gathered testimony from some of the 130 Libyan families and hundreds of foreign nationals who have been trapped for months in the residential district of Ganfouda, in south-west Benghazi. All entry roads are blocked by the fighting or Libyan National Army forces, and food, water and electricity supplies have been cut off.
“Time is running out for civilians in Ganfouda, who are being left to die trapped by the fighting. While bombs and shells continue to rain down on them, civilians are struggling to survive on rotten food and dirty water. And the sick and wounded must make due with dwindling supplies of expired medicines,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
The UN Security Council must take action over the conflict in Darfur, Amnesty International, after the Sudanese government rejected evidence presented by the organization implicating their forces in the apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians.
The Amnesty International investigation, Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air, points to the repeated use of chemical weapons in the remote Jebel Marra region of Darfur this year. Between 200 and 250 people may have died as a result of the attacks, many of them very young children.
“Images of children suffering from horrific blisters and burns, reports of bombs emitting plumes of coloured smoke, and of people vomiting and struggling to breathe – these are the macabre hallmarks of chemical warfare, gathered in our report and crying out for an international inquiry,” said Tirana Hassan.
An Amnesty International investigation has gathered horrific evidence of the repeated use of what are believed to be chemical weapons against civilians, including very young children, by Sudanese government forces in one of the most remote regions of Darfur over the past eight months.
Using satellite imagery, more than 200 in-depth interviews with survivors and expert analysis of dozens of appalling images showing babies and young children with terrible injuries, the investigation indicates that at least 30 likely chemical attacks have taken place in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur since January 2016. The most recent was on 9 September 2016.
Nearly a year on from a bloody spike in violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) Israeli forces continue to display an appalling disregard for human life by using reckless and unlawful lethal force against Palestinians, Amnesty International said today.
In a memorandum sent to the Israeli authorities on 14 September, the organization has detailed 20 cases of apparently unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces seeking clarification about the status of investigations. In at least 15 of the cases, Palestinians were deliberately shot dead, despite posing no imminent threat to life, in what appear to be extrajudicial executions. The Israeli authorities have not responded to Amnesty International’s concerns.
“Since the escalation of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories last year, there has been a worrying rise in unlawful killings by Israeli forces, fostered by a culture of impunity,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.