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International Justice

    October 24, 2013

    Reports that Guatemala may open the door to an amnesty for former President Effrain Ríos Montt would be a travesty of justice and send the country back more than a decade, said Amnesty International.

    Ríos Montt is facing a re-trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

    “This is an alarming new development that, if confirmed, would set the country back decades. Amnesties can never be applied to genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    “With such a decision, Guatemala’s authorities would destroy, with one signature, decades of progress when it comes to justice for the tens of thousands of people who died and were disappeared during the dark years of the conflict.”

    According to media reports, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has ordered that more details be provided as to why Ríos Montt’s request for amnesty was refused. This raises the possibility that amnesty is being seriously considered, closing the case against him and others facing similar charges.

    October 22, 2013

    The Mexican government’s fine words on human rights bear little resemblance to its actions on the ground, Amnesty International said one day before the country’s comes under the scrutiny of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    “While the Mexican government is unrivalled in its rhetorical commitment to human rights, it continues to fail to take the decisive measures it committed to,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s Mexico researcher.

    “The government’s claim that it ‘has secured momentous advances to guarantee the promotion, protection and defence of human rights’ is far from the truth.”

    According to Amnesty International the Mexican government has failed in its promise to comply with recommendations made by the Council to ensure the protection of human rights in 2009.

    October 13, 2013

    The African Union’s declaration that no senior government officials should appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their call for deferral of the cases against Kenya’s leaders is deplorable, said Amnesty International. The declaration was made at an Extraordinary Summit of the AU on the question of Africa’s relationship with the ICC in Addis Ababa on 11 and 12 October.

    “This declaration sends the wrong message, that politicians on the African continent will place their political interests above those of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Law and Policy.

    The summit called for the deferral of the ICC trials of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto by the UN Security Council, and set up a contact group of the AU Executive Council to take up the matter with the United Nations Security Council.

    October 03, 2013

    On November 4-5 2013, Amnesty International Canada will be intervening in a case at the Court of Appeal for Ontario:  Minister of Justice of Canada v Hassan Naim Diab. Our role is as “friend of the Court,” in which we present arguments about the legal test that should be applied to extradition decisions. Lorne Waldman is acting as our counsel.

    Mr. Diab is a Canadian citizen of Lebanese origin currently subject to extradition proceedings by the Republic of France, in connection with his alleged role in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue in which four people were killed and scores injured. The decision to surrender Mr. Diab to France is being challenged by Mr. Diab’s counsel on a number of grounds, including the risk that Mr. Diab will be denied the right to fundamental justice by reason of France’s alleged use of anonymous, unsourced and uncircumstanced evidence that may have been obtained by torture.

    September 26, 2013

     The decision of the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Appeal Chamber to uphold the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor sends a clear message to leaders across the world that no-one is immune from justice, Amnesty International said today.

    “The Court’s landmark ruling underlines that no-one is above the law. The conviction of those responsible for crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s conflict has brought some measure of justice for the tens of thousands of victims,” said Stephanie Barbour, head of Amnesty International's Centre for International Justice in The Hague.

    “The conviction of Charles Taylor must pave the way for further prosecutions.”

    Taylor's sentence of 50 years was upheld by the Appeal Chamber as fair and reasonable in the totality of the circumstances.

    The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was established through an agreement between the United Nations and the state in 2002. Its remit was to prosecute crimes under international law committed in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.

    September 25, 2013

    The acquittal and imminent release of two men wrongly convicted for the killing of a trade union leader is a major step towards justice in Cambodia, Amnesty International said.

    Following a grossly unfair trial, Born Samnang, 32, and Sok Sam Oeun, 45, were sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2005 after being convicted of the murder of trade union leader Chea Vichea the year before. They are due to be released on 26 September after a Supreme Court decision to acquit them of the charges.

    “Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were nothing but scapegoats, framed by the Cambodian authorities over the killing of trade union leader Chea Vichea. The question that remains now is: when will his real killers be brought to justice?” said Isabelle Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    The Supreme Court judge who issued the decision to release the men said there was a lack of clear evidence against them, that the accused had credible alibis for when the crime was committed and that one of them had allegedly been coerced by police into confessing to the crime, among other reasons.

    September 24, 2013

    Piracy charges against activists on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are would be manifestly unfounded, Amnesty International said after the Russian authorities released a statement on the case on Tuesday afternoon.

    “There’s very little question that unarmed Greenpeace activists are not pirates,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. 

    “Charges of piracy are manifestly unfounded in this case – having no basis in law or reality – and it’s profoundly damaging to level such serious charges so carelessly.

    “The Greenpeace activists must be released on a reasonable bail and given full access to defence lawyers, pending any possible trial.”

    September 17, 2013

    In November 2012, at least 100 Palestinian civilians and four Israeli civilians were killed after the Israeli army launched Operation “Pillar of Defence”. During the conflict that followed, unlawful attacks were carried out by both sides. Israeli forces hit over 1,500 targets throughout the Gaza Strip. Palestinian armed groups fired over 1,500 indiscriminate rockets at Israel.  Three years earlier, hundreds of Palestinian civilians and three Israeli civilians were killed in the context of Operation “Cast Lead”. Neither side has taken adequate steps to ensure that anyone was held accountable for crimes under international law. Unless they do, civilians will continue to be caught in the cross-fire and pay with their lives.

    September 14, 2013

    Amnesty International welcomes steps announced today which would pave the way for Syria’s chemical weapons to be placed under international control and destroyed. It follows the Syrian government’s decision earlier this week to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    “Any move that could lead to the removal and eventual destruction of internationally banned weapons is undoubtedly a positive step, even if there are major challenges with doing so in the context of the ongoing conflict in Syria,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “However, it does not remove the need for accountability for both the alleged chemical weapons attacks on 21 August and the other crimes against humanity and war crimes being perpetrated with conventional weapons on a daily basis in Syria.

    “The attacks were a shocking wake-up call, if one was really needed, that the persistent failure to address impunity in Syria has had increasingly more alarming consequences.”

    September 04, 2013

    The Kenyan government’s proposal to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute is an affront to the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who lost their lives or were driven from their homes during the post-election violence that rocked the country in 2007-8.

    “This move is just the latest in a series of disturbing initiatives to undermine the work of the ICC in Kenya and across the continent,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa programme director.

    The proposal, which will be debated in an emergency parliamentary session on Thursday, comes just days before Kenya’s vice president William Ruto will stand trial in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also faces serious charges; his trial is due to start on November 12.

    “Amnesty International calls on each and every parliamentarian to stand against impunity and reject this proposal.”

    May 14, 2013

    By Val Croft, an Amnesty activist from Toronto with a passionate commitment to human rights in Guatemala.

     

    Photo: An Ixil woman is sworn in before giving her testimony in the genocide case against former de facto president Efrain Rios Montt, who listens via headphones in the background. On May 10, Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years for genocide and crimes against humanity. By Roderico Y Díaz  

    I’m still reeling from being in the courtroom last Friday when supporters of justice burst into applause as Guatemalan ex de facto president Efrain Rios Montt became the first former head of state in Latin America to be convicted on charges of genocide.  

    May 08, 2013
    The trial against former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt for genocide during his time in office has restarted. Here are 10 facts that show why the Central American country’s dark past is still relevant today.

    1. Guatemala is located in Central America, bordering Mexico. Around half of its population is indigenous, including many Maya peoples. The country is one of the most unequal in the region – with high rates of illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition, particularly in the countryside. Organized crime and violence are also widespread.

    2. Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was immersed in a bloody internal armed conflict that pitted the army against guerrilla groups. More than 200,000 men, women and children were murdered or disappeared during this 36-year-long war, most of them were indigenous.

    May 02, 2013

    Pakistani authorities must protect Indian prisoners from violence in the country's jails, Amnesty International said today after an Indian death row inmate died following an attack in a Lahore jail.

    Sarabjit Singh was reportedly beaten with bricks and iron bars by other inmates while walking in the grounds of Kot Lakhpat prison on Friday. Singh's lawyer said the jail authorities had been warned that he had recently received death threats.

    Singh was sentenced to death in 1991 for involvement in bombings that killed 14 people, although his family maintain he is innocent. He is the second Indian national to die in a Pakistani jail this year.

    "Pakistani prison authorities have seemingly failed in their duty to protect Sarabjit Singh, despite him apparently receiving death threats," said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    May 02, 2013

    North Korea’s Supreme Court in Pyongyang has reportedly sentenced a US national of Korean origin to 15 years of hard labour in the country’s infamous prison camps today after finding him guilty of various unspecified crimes against the nation.

    Pae Jun-Ho (also known as Kenneth Bae), 44, was arrested in November 2012 in the north-eastern port city of Rason, a special economic zone near North Korea's border with China. He had been operating as a tour guide for a group of five European nationals, who were immediately deported. Since his arrest, he had been held in solitary confinement and had limited consular support.

    Rajiv Narayan, Amnesty International’s North Korea Researcher, said:

    “The North Korean justice system makes a mockery of international fair trial standards – this case appears to be no exception. Kenneth Bae had no access to a lawyer. It is not even known what he was charged with.”

    “Kenneth Bae should be released, unless he is charged with an internationally recognisable criminal offence and retried by a competent, independent and impartial court”.

    April 25, 2013

    The UN Security Council’s failure to add human rights monitoring to the mandate of its Western Sahara peacekeeping force – despite ongoing reports of abuses in the region – is a “missed opportunity”, Amnesty International said today.

    The mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) – one of the few UN peacekeeping missions in the world without a human rights mandate – was renewed today.

    A US move to include a human rights component in the draft resolution under consideration by the Security Council was quashed after protests from the Moroccan government.

    “The Security Council has failed the people of Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps by missing a unique opportunity to subject persistent human rights concerns there to sorely needed international scrutiny,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, Philip Luther.

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