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International Justice

    August 17, 2011

    Amnesty International today called on Philippine Senators to vote in favour of ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), helping the fight against impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes worldwide.

    If the bill is approved by the Senate on 22 August, the Philippines will join almost two-thirds of countries in the world which have ratified the Rome Statute.

    “By ratifying this treaty, the Philippines will strengthen its commitment to protecting human rights on the international stage,” said Marek Marczynski, Amnesty International’s Campaign Manager on International Justice.

    “Senators should seize this moment, and vote to ratify the Rome Statute,” he said.

    At present, the only ASEAN countries to have ratified the Rome Statue are Cambodia and Timor-Leste. In March 2011, Malaysia announced its intention to join the ICC.

    “A vote for ratification will ensure that the Philippines becomes the first founding member of ASEAN to join the ICC,” Marek Marczynski said.

    August 16, 2011

    Malawians participating in nationwide protests planned for 17 August risk being killed or injured unless the authorities halt the use of live ammunition against anti-government demonstrators, Amnesty International said today.

    The protests come amid increased harassment and intimidation of activists and other dissenting voices in Malawi. In July, at least eighteen people were killed and scores of others injured when police opened fire on protesters in a number of Malawian cities.

    “The Malawian authorities must allow people to express their opinions without fear of violent reprisals or arbitrary arrests,“ said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Programme Director.

    “The police must refrain from using excessive force. Under UN policing standards, firearms should only be used when there is no other means of defending against threats of death or serious injury”.

    While some of the July demonstrations had turned violent, most protesters were unarmed.

    Around 500 people, including human rights defenders, were arrested.

    August 16, 2011

    The killing of a judge by gunmen near Rio de Janeiro highlights the city’s profound problems with police corruption and organized crime, Amnesty International said today.

    Judge Patrícia Acioli was in her car outside her home in Niterói, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro on the night of Thursday, 11 August, when hooded gunmen approached in several vehicles and shot her 21 times at close range, according to initial forensic reports.

    An investigation is under way to determine who was behind the attack, but Acioli had received threats from police officers and criminal gangs, and her name had been on a list of 12 people, including other judges and prosecutors, marked for death by a local militia group run by former police officers. Because of previous threats, she had been placed under police protection for a time, but this was withdrawn in 2007.

    “Patrícia Acioli’s brutal killing exposes a deeply troubling situation where corruption and organized crime are controlling large areas of life in parts of Rio de Janeiro today,” said Patrick Wilcken, Brazil Researcher at Amnesty International.

    August 15, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must immediately drop charges against a woman blogger and activist accused of defaming the military on Twitter, Amnesty International said today.

    Asmaa Mahfouz, 26, was summoned by military prosecutors on Sunday and later released on a bail of 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,356) after posting messages on the social media network expressing concerns about the Egyptian justice system and the actions of the military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

    “Asmaa Mahfouz is facing a military trial merely for posting comments which criticize the Egyptian military justice system and do not at all appear to represent a call to violence,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for Middle East and North Africa.

    “The Egyptian authorities’ decision to refer Asmaa Mahfouz to a military court seems intended to send a message to those critical of the authorities that dissent will not be tolerated. The charges against her must be dropped immediately,” he said.

    August 15, 2011

    The Indonesian authorities must act to halt attacks on the country’s Ahmadi minority, Amnesty International said today, after a radical Islamist group led an attack on the Ahmadiyya in Makassar, South Sulawesi.  

    Hundreds of members of the group the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) attacked some ten Ahmadiyya in their place of worship on Sunday.

    Armed with machetes and bamboo sticks, the FPI members stormed the building at around 1am and attacked worshippers, inflicting serious head injuries on at least one Ahmadiyya member.  

    Three local human rights defenders, two from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (LBH) in Makassar and one from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) were beaten by the mob while trying to stop the attacks. According to them, police officers who were present did nothing to stop the violence or protect the victims.

    “The Indonesian authorities must immediately investigate and punish these attacks on the Ahmadiyya and human rights defenders in South Sulawesi,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    August 12, 2011

    Four staff members of a forensic anthropology team in Guatemala have received death threats after testifying at a recent high-profile trial over a 1982 army massacre that left 250 villagers dead.

    Freddy Peccerelli, the founder of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, received a hand-written death threat in Guatemala City on 8 August. The note also mentioned his colleagues José Samuel Suasnavar, Leonel Estuardo Paiz and Omar Bertoni, all of whom gave testimony at the trial.

    The threat came after a judge in Guatemala City sentenced four former soldiers from an elite army unit to 6,060 years in prison on 2 August for their role in a 1982 massacre in Dos Erres village in Guatemala’s northern Petén region.

    “It is unacceptable for expert witnesses to be intimidated like this, and Guatemalan authorities must order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into these threats and bring those responsible to justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International’s Central America Researcher.

    August 11, 2011

    Four men arrested following clashes with security forces in northern Tunisia are set to face trial before a Tunis military court.

    The four men – Ayman Gharib, Anis el-Krifi, Walid Boujbali and Haitham el-Mejri –were arrested on 19 July during raids in the northern town of Menzel Bourguiba. Three days earlier, a protest in the town ended in violent clashes with security forces.

    The men have been charged with creating or leading armed groups, inciting violence, and “assault with the intention of changing the government,” offences punishable by the death penalty under Tunisian law.

    Eight other men believed to be on the run have also been referred to Tunis Military Court in the same case in connection to the events of 16 July and will be tried in absentia.

    “Civilians should never face trial before a military court. If these men have committed a recognizable criminal offence, the Tunisian authorities must ensure they are referred to a civilian court to be tried in line with international fair trial standards,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    August 10, 2011

    The Vietnamese authorities must immediately release a French-Vietnamese blogger who has been sentenced to three years in prison on national security charges, Amnesty International said today.

    Professor Pham Minh Hoang, a maths lecturer who holds dual nationality, was accused of writing articles that “blackened the image of the country” by the judge at the trial in Ho Chi Minh City.

    He told the court his writings were not aimed at overthrowing anyone, and that Vietnam needs to be more democratic, reports said.

    “To imprison a blogger for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression is outrageous. The authorities should immediately release Professor Hoang, and stop their harsh crackdown on peaceful government critics and activists” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.

    “Tuesday’s sentence, and the continuing arrests of activists and bloggers paint an increasingly bleak picture of freedom of expression and association in Viet Nam,” she said.

    August 10, 2011

    Dear Minister Kenney,
     

    The Open Letter that you wrote on 9 August and posted on your personal website, in response to the Open Letter we wrote and sent to you and Minister Toews on 2 August, has been brought to our attention by journalists.  We are writing to respond and clarify to some of the points you raise.
     

    You begin by chastising Amnesty International for raising these concerns when we should instead be focusing on human rights concerns in countries like Iran and North Korea.  Minister, we most certainly do.  A casual review of our most recent reports, actions and news releases covers such countries as Iran, Syria, Bahrain, China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Georgia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.  We do regularly point to areas where we believe Canada’s own human rights laws, policy and practice are in need of reform.  Universal human rights principles apply as equally to Canada as they do to other countries.  Furthermore, the stronger Canada’s domestic human rights record is; the greater our leadership on the world stage. 
     

    August 09, 2011

    Crimes under international law, including rape and murder, continue to be committed by the Congolese army and armed groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo following decades of similar crimes across the country, Amnesty International said today.

    A new Amnesty International report The time for justice is now; new strategy needed in the Democratic Republic of Congo calls for the reform and strengthening of the country’s national justice system to combat impunity that has been fostering a cycle of violence and human rights violations for decades.

    “The people of the DRC have suffered war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers, on an enormous scale and yet only a handful of perpetrators have ever been brought to justice,” said Veronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director.

    “All suspected perpetrators of such crimes under international law must be prosecuted according to international fair trial standards without the use of the death penalty”.  

    August 04, 2011

    The UN Security Council’s response to the recent bloodshed in Syria is deeply inadequate, Amnesty International said today, after the council released a statement condemning the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.

    The UN statement called for an end to violence and said it “condemned the widespread violation of human rights by the Syrian authorities”, but fell short of taking decisive action. The call was issued as a presidential statement, which is not legally binding.

    “The UN’s response is completely inadequate. After more than four months of violent crackdown on predominantly peaceful dissent in Syria, it is deeply disappointing that the best the Security Council can come up with is a limp statement that is not legally binding and does not refer the situation to the International Criminal Court”, said Jose Luis Diaz, Amnesty International’s representative to the UN.

    August 04, 2011

    Amnesty International has today described the government's plans for an inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations as "secretive, unfair and deeply flawed".

    The statement came as Amnesty and nine other organisations wrote to inquiry officials to say that because the proposed inquiry “does not have the credibility or transparency” to ensure “the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad” is brought to light, the organisations have said they do not intend to submit any evidence or to attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.
     

    “This is a desperately-needed inquiry into extremely serious allegations but the arrangements for it are secretive, unfair and deeply flawed," said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International's Director for Europe.

    August 02, 2011

    The Honourable Vic Toews , Minister of Public Safety 

     The Honourable Jason Kenney,  Minister of Citizenship and and  Immigration                                                                 
                   

    August 2, 2011

    Dear Ministers,

    We are writing this open letter to express Amnesty International’s concern about the approach the government has adopted to dealing with the cases of thirty individuals who have been accused of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity and who are believed to be residing in Canada.   Their cases, including their names and photos, have been widely publicized on a government web-site, “Wanted by the CBSA”.  Five of the thirty men have since been arrested.  Amnesty International is concerned that the initiative does not conform to Canada’s obligations with respect to human rights and international justice. 

    August 02, 2011

     The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must be fair, transparent and reveal the full truth about unlawful killings of anti-government protesters during this year’s mass protests, Amnesty International said today.

    Former President Mubarak, former Interior Minister Habib Ibrahim El Adly and six other former senior officials are due to go on trial on Wednesday in Cairo.

    They face charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder, arising from the shootings of demonstrators by security forces in January this year before Mubarak was ousted from power. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

    “This trial presents a historic opportunity for Egypt to hold a former leader and his inner circle to account for crimes committed during their rule,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “But if the trial is going to be a meaningful break with Egypt’s record of impunity, it must be both fair and transparent – justice demands no less.  Not only must the trial be fair but it must be seen to be fair, not least by the families of those who died during the protests.”

    August 01, 2011

    The UN Security Council must urgently respond to the ongoing crackdown in Syria by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said today, amid reports that security forces continued to shell the city of Hama, where dozens of people have now been killed.

    The Security Council is expected to meet today to discuss the ongoing violence across Syria which saw two people reportedly killed in fresh violence in Hama today, while at least 52 people, including four children, were believed to have been killed there yesterday.

    Elsewhere across Syria, people took to the streets today in massive protests against the latest killings.

    “The Syrian authorities have unleashed their deadliest assault yet on mainly peaceful protesters calling for reform,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “It’s clear that President Bashar al-Assad is unwilling to halt his security forces, so the UN must take decisive action to stem this violent campaign of repression.”

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