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International Justice

    June 14, 2012

    The High Criminal Court of Appeal in Manama has upheld the conviction of nine health professionals tried for their role in anti-government protests last year, prompting Amnesty International to call on the Bahraini authorities to quash the convictions.

    The court reduced the sentences against nine medics, on charges including “calling for the overthrow of the regime by force”, “illegal gathering” and “instigating hatred against another sect” to sentences ranging from one month to five years for their alleged role in the protests. Nine other doctors and nurses were cleared of charges.

    “This is a dark day for justice in Bahrain,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “These are politically motivated charges against medical professionals who were working to save lives amid very trying circumstances.”

    Another two doctors, who were originally sentenced to 15 years in prison, had their appeal rejected because they were not present during the whole appeal process. The sentences of 15 years in prison imposed against them by a military court still stand until they appeal.

    June 14, 2012

    A Palestinian footballer who is at risk of death after more than 90 days on hunger strike in protest against his detention by Israel should immediately be admitted to a civilian hospital or released so that he can receive life-saving medical care, Amnesty International said.

    Mahmoud al-Sarsak is from the Gaza Strip and has been detained by Israel since July 2009. He is the only detainee currently held under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows Israel to hold individuals without charge or trial based on secret information.

    Under the law, detainees can be held indefinitely unless they can prove they do not threaten Israeli security.

    “After almost three years in detention, the Israeli authorities have had ample opportunity to charge al-Sarsak with a recognizable criminal offence and bring him to trial,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “They have failed to do so, and instead repeatedly affirmed his detention order on the basis of secret information withheld from him and his lawyer.”

    June 13, 2012

    The appeal verdict on the case of 20 health professionals on trial in Bahrain is scheduled to be announced on 14 June 2012.
     

    The 20 are among 48 health professionals from the Salmaniya Medical Complex who were arrested in March and April 2011, and charged with offences ranging from the “illegal possession of firearms for a terrorist purpose", "attempting to occupy a public hospital using force" and to “attempting to topple the system of government by force" for which they were sentenced to prison terms of between five and 15 years on 29 September 2011 by a military court.
     

    Their appeal before the High Criminal Court of Appeal started on 23 October 2011.
     

    Many in the group of 20 health professionals allege they were tortured in detention.
     

    No independent investigation into their allegations of torture is known to have been made public and no officer responsible for their torture has been brought to justice.
     

    Amnesty International believes that if convicted and imprisoned, the 20 would be prisoners of conscience.
     

    June 13, 2012

    On the occasion of the 101st session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) - taking place in Geneva from 30 May to 15 June 2012 - Amnesty International renews its call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release trade unionists who have been imprisoned solely for their peaceful trade union activities in Iran.

    The Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of trade unionists in recent years, some of whom have been sentenced to long prison terms and have maintained a long standing prohibition on the establishment and recognition of independent trade unions and associations.

    Public May Day rallies in Iran continued to not be permitted by the Ministry of Interior who did not grant the required permission.  However, workers and others throughout Iran - including prisoners - commemorated International Workers Day on 1 May.

    June 13, 2012

    A wave of bombings and other attacks in several Iraqi provinces including a number of locations in Baghdad that reportedly killed at least 55 people and wounded dozens during a major Shi’a religious festival has been condemned by Amnesty International.

    At least 18 people were reportedly killed by several bombs across Baghdad as Shi’a pilgrims gathered to mark the anniversary of the death of the imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

    However, figures published by the Ministry of Interior point to a lower death toll, with at least 23 killed across the country.

    “Deliberate attacks  on members of the general population show a complete disregard for the right to life and can never be justified,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “There needs to be a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation. Those found responsible must be brought to justice in proceedings that meet international standards of fairness, and without the imposition of the death penalty.”

    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 13, 2012

    A 23-year-old video blogger, photojournalist and pro-democracy activist detained since last night in the capital Baku must be released immediately and without conditions, Amnesty International said.
     
    The organization believes that activist Mehman Huseynov has been targeted for highlighting abuses in the country during last month’s Eurovision Song Contest.

    June 13, 2012

     The Mexican authorities must immediately and unconditionally release two indigenous men imprisoned after an unfair trial in the central state of Puebla, Amnesty International said today.

    In a letter delivered on Tuesday to officials at Mexico’s Supreme Court – where their case has gone on appeal – the organization called for the case to be reviewed in line with international standards on fair trials and the Mexican Constitution.

    In 2010, José Ramón Aniceto Gómez and Pascual Agustín Cruz from the Nahua indigenous community of Atla were convicted to seven years in prison on a fabricated car-theft charge. Both men deny the charge and Amnesty International has named them prisoners of conscience after concluding that they were arrested and imprisoned as a reprisal for their work to improve their community’s access to water.

    “José Ramón Aniceto Gómez and Pascual Agustín Cruz are victims of a justice system that often discriminates against poor and indigenous people, and the case against them just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser to Amnesty International.  

    June 12, 2012

    Political leaders must act immediately and halt arms supplies to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they continue to fuel unlawful killings, rape, looting and abductions, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    The report, ‘If you resist, we’ll shoot you’, highlights how Congolese security forces and armed groups alike are able to commit serious human rights violations because of the ease of which weapons and ammunition are available.

    “The situation in the DRC demonstrates the urgent need for governments around the world to agree on a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty when final negotiations take place at the UN in July,” said Paule Rigaud, Deputy Programme Director for Africa at Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International’s report shows how fundamental flaws in the Congolese security apparatus allow the persistent misuse and diversion of weapons and ammunition which in turn pave the way to ongoing serious human rights and humanitarian law violations and abuses by the armed forces and armed groups.

    June 12, 2012

    World leaders have a once in a generation chance to create a meaningful link between sustainable development and human rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today in a joint statement targeting Environment and Foreign Affairs ministers gathering in Rio.

    Heads of state, government officials, and nongovernmental actors will meet on June 20 to 22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro for the 20 + UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

    They are there to take stock of progress towards commitments made at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development which resulted in the Rio Principles and ‘Agenda 21’, a blueprint for global, national, and local action on a wide range of environmental and development issues.

    Few countries have followed the Rio Principles, and progress on environmental issues has been limited.

    June 12, 2012

    Amnesty International welcomes the Canadian government’s recent indication that it is prepared to explicitly recognize the rights to water and sanitation. In an interview with Embassy Magazine on May 29th Environment Minister Peter Kent stated that “by the time we get to Rio, we will make it clear that Canada recognizes the right to safe drinking water and to basic sanitation.” The statement refers to the upcoming Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Brazil June 20-22, 2012.

    Canada has, for many years and through several different governments, refused to acknowledge the existence of the rights to water and sanitation under international law. That opposition has run counter to a growing number of authoritative pronouncements from various international bodies clearly recognizing the rights to water and sanitation. 

    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 11, 2012

    Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal has been trapped in a nightmare of human rights violations in an Ethiopian jail for more than five years.  He has been sentenced to a life prison term after a deeply unfair trial.  He has been held in grueling prison conditions, in Ethiopia, and has almost certainly experienced torture and other mistreatment.  His brother, imprisoned at the same time, became ill from what he suffered in prison and died as soon as he was released.  His sister and other family members have had to flee to a harsh refugee camp in Kenya. 

    The Canadian government says it believes in Bashir Makhtal and is working to protect his rights.  But after more than five years, there is very little to show for it.  The Ethiopian government refuses to listen to Canada’s pleas.

    June 09, 2012

    Pakistani authorities must place the highest priority on protecting a leading human rights lawyer whose life is in serious danger, Amnesty International said after it was revealed that the country’s security forces had allegedly drawn up plans to kill her.
    The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) alerted the organization to the plot against its founder, the internationally acclaimed lawyer Asma Jahangir.

    “While Asma Jahangir’s work as a human rights defender has sadly made her no stranger to death threats in the past, this seems to be the first time that the country's security forces intended to go ahead and kill her,” said Pollyanna Truscott, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

    “Any such attempts on the life of a human rights defender are an attack not only on that individual, but on Pakistan's entire human rights community.”

    “The Pakistani authorities must promptly launch a full, impartial investigation into this alleged death plot, leaving no stone unturned – all security agencies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence, must be investigated.”

    June 07, 2012

    Libyan authorities must review the charges faced by a neurosurgeon accused of neglect over the death of an anti-Gaddafi fighter, Amnesty International said today ahead of protests in support of the detained medic.

    Hisham Anour Ben Khayal categorically denies the accusation that he purposefully withheld medical treatment from Fathi Mohamed Abou Shanaf, who died on 26 May 2011 from a gunshot wound to the head.

    Hisham Anour Ben Khayal was abducted in the capital Tripoli on 1 April by a militia group that includes several relatives of Fathi Mohamed Abou Shanaf. The doctor is on trial in the dead fighter's hometown, Al-Zawiya, where there is a swell of public feeling against him.

    Protests are planned on Friday in the city of Derna in solidarity with Hisham Anour Ben Khayal, who says the militias tortured him in detention.

    "What we are witnessing here is revenge, not justice. It is extremely dangerous when relatives of the deceased are the ones deciding on the fate of the alleged perpetrator," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

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