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International Justice

    June 21, 2011

    Authorities in Côte d’Ivoire are holding at least 50 people without charge, including several high-profile Ivorian politicians, following the arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo two months ago, Amnesty International has discovered.

    At least 21 Gbagbo supporters, among them the former Prime Minister and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, are being held at the Pergola Hotel in Abidjan, the economic capital.

    A number of others are being held in the north of the country, including Laurent Gbagbo, his wife Simone Gbagbo and Pascal Affi N’guessan, the president of Laurent Gbagbo’s political party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

    "This is hardly a promising start to Alassane Ouattara’s presidency,” said Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    “Detaining people without charge is in direct breach of international human rights standards. The authorities in Côte d’Ivoire must promptly charge all detainees with a recognizable criminal offence, or else release them immediately."

    June 16, 2011

    A Brazilian court is due to hear an appeal early next week by a prominent human rights lawyer amid ongoing violence against land reform activists. 

    José Batista Gonçalves Afonso, a lawyer and activist in the northern state of Pará, could face a prison sentence of more than two years for his minor role in an incident during a protest by landless rural workers more than a decade ago. 

    His appeal comes after five land activists in Brazil’s Amazon region were gunned down in suspicious circumstances during the past month.

    “There are strong indications that José Batista’s trial is politically motivated and his imprisonment would have a potential chilling effect on human rights defenders in Brazil,” said Patrick Wilcken, Brazil Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The suggested sentence is extremely harsh, given the circumstances. It is no coincidence that José Batista is a high-profile human rights defender in a state renowned for violence and impunity.”

    June 16, 2011

    The Chinese government should immediately withdraw its invitation to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, and arrest him if he travels to Beijing, Amnesty International said today.

    Omar Al-Bashir is due to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao and other high-ranking officials as part of a visit from 27-30 June.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants for Omar Al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010, charge him with criminal responsibility on 10 counts, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer of population, torture and rape.

    “If China welcomes Omar Al-Bashir it will become a safe haven for alleged perpetrators of genocide”, said Catherine Baber, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International. “China should not allow Omar Al-Bashir to enter its territory, and must arrest him if he turns up.”

    Although China is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which decided in 2005 to refer the situation in Darfur – since 1 July 2002 – to the ICC Prosecutor.

    June 14, 2011

    A leading Russian human rights defender accused of slandering the Chechen president has been acquitted by a court in Moscow.

    Oleg Orlov, head of the NGO Human Rights Centre Memorial, was acquitted of slandering Ramzan Kadyrov during a hearing on Tuesday.  Orlov had said he believed Kadyrov was responsible for the murder of his colleague Natalia Estemirova, who was abducted and killed in Chechnya in July 2009.

    “Oleg Orlov should never have been criminally prosecuted for expressing his opinion,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern and Central Europe.

    “The decision is a small but welcome sign of respect for the rule of law and the right to freedom of expression, even as human rights defenders in Chechnya continue to suffer threats and intimidation.”

    The judge found that Oleg Orlov had only expressed his opinion, and had not knowingly made false claims about Ramzan Kadyrov. 

    It was revealed during the trial that that Natalia Estemirova had received numerous threats when she was working in Chechnya, which she had only revealed to her close friends. 

    June 14, 2011

    UK broadcaster Channel 4 is airing ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, a harrowing documentary exposing shocking new evidence of war crimes committed during the closing days of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. 

    What new footage and new evidence of war crimes is in the Channel 4 documentary?
    •    Previously unaired mobile phone footage of point-blank extrajudicial executions of three people, including a woman. 
    •    Previously unaired mobile phone footage of dead Tamil Tigers, including women,,that suggests sexual abuse.
    •    First video testimony of a Tamil woman who says she and her daughter were gang-raped by Sri Lankan Army soldiers.
    •    Evidence and testimony that the Sri Lankan Army systematically and knowingly bombed hospitals and civilians, with the oversight of senior military and government officials. 

    How significant is it that a woman speaks out about allegations of rape?
    Such testimony is very rare, due to a fear of reprisal and the stigma attached to rape. 

    June 13, 2011

    The Malaysian government should immediately withdraw its invitation to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, and arrest him if he travels to Malaysia, Amnesty International said today.

    The Malaysian government announced yesterday that President al-Bashir will participate in the Langkawi International Dialogue, an economic forum being held in Malaysia from 19 to 21 June 2011.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

    “Malaysia should not turn itself into a port of call for fugitives from international justice” said Donna Guest, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International. “The Malaysian government should bar Bashir from its territory, and arrest him if he turns up.”

    Amnesty International welcomed Malaysia’s announcement on 21 March of its intention to become a state party to the Rome Statute and to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In his announcement, Malaysian Law Minister Nazri Aziz said, "This is a declaration that Malaysia rejects war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

    June 09, 2011

    Any Pakistani investigation into the killing of an unarmed student by paramilitary police forces must be thorough and impartial, and lead to a conviction of those guilty of the crime, Amnesty International said today.

    Sarfaraz Shah, 25, was shot dead in a Karachi park on Wednesday by Karachi Rangers, a paramilitary police force under the authority of the Interior Ministry.

    “Given Pakistan’s shockingly poor track record of prosecuting killings implicating Pakistani law enforcement officers, it is imperative that the authorities  follow through on this case and ensure that those guilty are brought to justice”, said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.


    "The Pakistani people are rapidly losing patience with the rampant lawlessness and impunity of the security forces that are ostensibly protecting them," he added.

    "At some point, the government has to show that it can and will provide justice to its citizens, even in cases involving its law enforcement agents,” he said.

    Footage broadcast on Pakistani television shows a Rangers officer shooting the 25-year-old twice at point-blank range.

    June 09, 2011

     Independent trade unionists in Iran are imprisoned for speaking out about labour rights while independent workers’ bodies face ongoing repression Amnesty International said today, as it called on the Tehran authorities to respect basic social and economic freedoms.

    An Amnesty International report released today, Determined to Live in Dignity: Iranian Trade Unionists Struggle for Rights, reveals the harsh treatment meted out to independent trade union activists who speak up for workers’ rights under Iran's pervasive climate of repression.

    “Independent trade unionists have been made to pay a heavy price by a government that has shown itself increasingly intolerant of dissent,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The harassment and persecution they face smacks of a desperate government attempt to stave off social unrest that could arise from new hikes in the costs of fuel and power to which Iranians are now being exposed.”

    June 08, 2011

    Failure to deliver justice for the killing, rape and torture of civilians could lead to further clashes, Amnesty International warned ahead of the first anniversary of the violence that shook southern parts of Kyrgyzstan.

    Four days of violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the Osh and Jalal-Abad areas on June 10-14 2010 left about 470 people dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.

    According to local observers, 74 per cent of those killed were Uzbek and 25 per cent Kyrgyz.

    One year on, Amnesty International’s briefing, Still Waiting for Justice, calls on the Kyrgyzstani authorities to establish the truth about what happened and provide justice for the thousands of victims and their families.

    “The failure to bring to justice those behind the violence could provide fertile soil for the seeds of future turmoil and future human rights violations,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    June 08, 2011

    Austria and Switzerland must ensure that former high-ranking Guatemalan officials face justice for serious allegations of involvement in extrajudicial executions, Amnesty International said today.

    Both countries have ongoing proceedings against Guatemalan former officials over cases of prisoners who died in custody from 2004 to 2007, with Austria poised to decide shortly whether one will be extradited.

    “This is an opportunity for Austria and Switzerland to prove their commitment to international human rights standards,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Researcher on Central America at Amnesty International.

    “Either by extraditing the accused to face trial in Guatemala or prosecuting in their own countries, European countries can help Guatemalan victims of human rights violations achieve justice.”

    Amnesty International called on Austrian authorities to either approve the extradition to Guatemala of Javier Figueroa Díaz, former chief of the criminal investigation division of Guatemala’s police force, or prosecute him in Austria. He is currently under house arrest in Austria pending a judge’s ruling on the extradition next week.

    June 07, 2011

    The US state of Louisiana must immediately remove two inmates from the solitary confinement they were placed in almost 40 years ago, Amnesty International said today.
     
    Albert Woodfox, 64, and Herman Wallace, 69, were placed in "Closed Cell Restriction (CCR)" in Louisiana State Penitentiary - known as Angola Prison - since they were convicted of the murder of a prison guard in 1972. Apart from very brief periods, they have been held in isolation ever since.
     
    "The treatment to which Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been subjected for the past four decades is cruel and inhumane and a violation of the US’s obligations under international law," said Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    "We are not aware of any other case in the USA where individuals have been subjected to such restricted human contact for such a prolonged period of time."

    Over the course of decades there has been no meaningful review of the men’s designation to CCR. The only reason given for maintaining the men under these conditions has been due to the "nature of the original reason for lockdown."

    June 06, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned Syrian authorities’ brutal treatment of protesters following one of the bloodiest weekends in months of pro-reform demonstrations, with more than 120 people reportedly shot dead.

    The call came ahead of a key UN Security Council vote expected this week on the violent repression in Syria.

    "As the death toll in Syria reaches staggering new heights, it is imperative that the UN Security Council - which has so far been silent on this issue - votes to condemn the killings," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "It must also take decisive action and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Those responsible for the brutal crackdown of pro-reform protesters must no longer be allowed to get away with murder," he added.

    Amnesty International has the names of 54 people reported to have been shot dead by the security forces on Saturday and Sunday. In the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughur, 43 people were killed on Saturday, including some attending a funeral procession.

    June 03, 2011

    The Qatari government’s deportation to Libya of Eman al-Obeidi, who publicly accused Libyan soldiers of rape, is a violation of international law, Amnesty International said today. 

    Eman al-Obeidi was deported by Qatari officials on Thursday to Benghazi in eastern Libya, stronghold of the opposition to Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi.

    “It is outrageous that Eman al-Obeidi has again been taken away against her will,” said Amnesty International. “She is a recognized refugee and this deportation is a serious breach by Qatar of its international obligations.”

    Law graduate Iman al-Obeidi was dragged out of a Tripoli hotel on 26 March by security forces and detained, after announcing to international journalists that she had been raped by Libyan soldiers loyal to Colonel Mu'ammar Gaddafi.

    After periods in detention, she was reportedly smuggled across the Tunisian border by defecting Libyan military officers.  From there she made her way to Qatar.
     
    Al-Obeidi had been recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR, which considered that she would face a real risk of persecution in Libya. 

    May 31, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Bahrain authorities not to again use excessive force against protesters, as activists called for mass anti-government demonstrations across the country on Wednesday.

    The call for demonstrations comes as a repressive state of emergency imposed following previous protests, the State of National Safety, is set to be lifted by Bahrain’s King on Wednesday.

    “The Bahraini authorities must not make the same mistakes as in February and March, when largely peaceful protests were violently suppressed by government security forces,“ said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “As the state of emergency is lifted, the authorities must allow people to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association,” he added.

    The protesters are calling on the government to end human rights abuses, and have been instigated by the February 14 youth coalition, the group which called for the first protests earlier this year to demand political reform.

    May 31, 2011

    The Yemeni authorities must immediately stop killings of protesters and other human rights violations by their security forces if the country is not to descend into further chaos and possible civil war, Amnesty International said today. 

    Yemeni security forces have reportedly killed dozens of people since Sunday in the southern city of Ta’izz.  Security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and at a makeshift field hospital set up to assist the wounded. They also reportedly arrested scores of protestors and bulldozed or burned down tents at a protest camp they had established.

    “The political and human rights crisis in Yemen is rapidly going from bad to worse as President Saleh’s security forces seek to crush all opposition,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.   

    “Right now, Yemen is on a knife-edge. There is growing risk of civil war between President Saleh’s forces and those now demanding change and an end to the repression and violence that have become such a striking hallmark of his efforts to hold on to power.”

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