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International Justice

    May 13, 2011

    Bahraini authorities must release or charge a former Bahrain Defence Force officer who was detained after speaking out against government repression during recent pro-reform protests, Amnesty International said today.

    Bahraini security forces arrested Mohamed Albuflasa, who worked in the office of the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, after he took the podium during protests in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout on 15 February.

    On 15 April, a military prosecutor extended his detention for 45 days after he served a two-month prison sentence handed down by a military court in March, although the charges against him remain unclear.

    “The Bahraini authorities must release Mohamed Albuflasa or immediately disclose on what basis they are holding him and charge him with a recognizable offence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “He has already been jailed merely for voicing his political concerns in public, which is not a crime, and the authorities’ refusal to release him now smacks of retaliation aimed at silencing his criticism.”

    May 13, 2011

    Amnesty International will on 19 May release a new report Egypt rises: Killings, detentions and torture in the '25 January Revolution'.
    The 123-page report will be released two days in advance of the trial of former Interior Minister Habib El Adly and six close aides, who are accused of ordering the shooting of protesters. The report covers human rights violations that took place between 25 January and 7 March, when the new interim cabinet was sworn into office.

    The report documents the cases of 93 individuals killed or injured by security forces using excessive force, focusing on casualties in Greater Cairo, Alexandria, Beni Suef governorate, Suez, Port Said and the industrial heartland of El Mahalla. It charts the waves of arrests in Cairo, particularly from 25 January to 3 February, and the many cases of torture of those detained. It describes the unlawful killings of prisoners in the context of the prison unrest.

    May 10, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on Iranian authorities to release two US citizens apparently held for political reasons for nearly two years, as their flawed trial is set to resume on 11 May.

    Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested while they were hiking in the Iraq-Iran border area on 31 July 2009. The exact circumstances of their arrest remain unclear, but the Iranian authorities have charged them with espionage and illegal entry.

    A third US citizen arrested with the men, Sarah Shourd, was released in September 2010 on US$500,000 bail.

    “The facts surrounding the hikers’ arrest are disputed, and Iran’s justice system has systematically failed to observe international fair trial standards in this case, including giving the men adequate contact with their lawyer, families or consular assistance,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    May 10, 2011

    Israeli authorities should release or charge a Palestinian writer and academic held for almost three weeks in the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said today.

    The Israel Security Agency (ISA) say they want to keep  Ahmad Qatamesh in detention in connection with allegations of involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which he denies.

    “We fear that Ahmad Qatamesh may be behind bars for no reason other than the peaceful expression of his political views,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “If this is so, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

    Israeli security forces raided Ahmad Qatamesh’s family home in Ramallah at around 1am on 21 April. When they did not find him at home they arrested him at his brother’s house nearby. He was questioned for 10 minutes after his arrest, the only time he has been asked about the allegations.

    May 03, 2011

     Amnesty International has received first-hand reports of torture and other ill-treatment from detainees held in Syria as a wave of arrests of anti-government protesters intensified over the weekend.

    Detainees who were recently released told the organization of beatings and harsh conditions in detention, raising fears for the safety of hundreds of others being held, including at least 499 people who were arrested on Sunday in house-to-house raids in the southern town of Dera’a.

    “These disturbing new accounts of detainees being tortured further underscore the need for President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to his security forces’ violent onslaught against his own people,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The use of unwarranted lethal force, arbitrary detention and torture appear to be the desperate actions of a government that is intolerant of dissent and must be halted immediately. Syrians must be allowed to voice their calls for change peacefully.”

    April 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has submitted the following statement to the sixteenth special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic.

    For six weeks the Syrian government has been violently repressing pro-democracy protests that have been taking place throughout the country. This follows a long history of repression which has seen the arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment of peaceful government critics and advocates of reform, including for Kurdish minority rights, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners on a widespread and systematic scale, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. All these human rights violations are being committed with impunity.

    April 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has called for an urgent independent investigation into an attack yesterday by armed men believed to be affiliated to security forces which left at least 12 protesters dead in the capital, Sana'a.

    Men in plainclothes reportedly fired at protesters as they marched past the May 22 Stadium in the capital Sana'a. Men described as ‘thugs’ also attacked protesters with batons.

    A 14-year-old boy, Abdulrahman Muhammad al-Okairi, was among those killed. Scores of other protestors were injured.

    "If real reform is to take place in Yemen, the current spiral of violence must be brought to an end and those responsible for killings such as those committed yesterday must be brought to justice," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "Disturbingly, this is one of the deadliest attacks seen in Yemen in over a month and may have been intended to undermine plans to strike a political deal that will see President Saleh stand down and bring an end to the killings on the streets."

    April 27, 2011

    The Yemeni president and his political allies must not be given immunity from prosecution as the price for ending the country’s spiralling human rights crisis, Amnesty International said today.

    Following months of protests against his 33-year rule, President Ali Abdallah Saleh is expected to agree a deal to transfer power to opposition leaders and step down 30 days later.

    The deal appears to provide blanket immunity to the President and those who served under him, and could prevent prosecutions of senior officials for the deaths of more than 120 protesters and other violations committed during recent protests and in earlier years.

    “President Ali Abdullah Saleh must not be allowed to evade accountability for the long catalogue of human rights crimes committed under his rule,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “President Saleh and those around him must be held accountable for the arbitrary arrests, torture and unlawful killings that have been committed on their watch if the rule of law is to have any meaning in Yemen.”

    April 26, 2011

    Amnesty International today renewed its call on US authorities to release or give fair trials to remaining Guantánamo Bay detainees, after leaked files revealed fresh details about those held at the detention centre.

    "The files confirm what we have been saying all along about Guantanamo Bay - that many were detained for spurious reasons and held for years without access to the US legal system,” said Susan Lee,  Americas director at Amnesty International.

    "The authorities must either try those that remain there - in US civilian courts rather than military commissions - or set them free."

    A dossier of classified files, containing case information of men held at the camp, was published in the media over the weekend.

    The vast majority of the nearly 800 men who have been held at Guantánamo have been released without charge. To date only five have been convicted by the military commission system and one has been tried by civilian court.

    None of those released without charge are known to have been provided with compensation or any other form of remedy by the US authorities.

    April 26, 2011

    The UN Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said today, amid escalating government violence against protesters calling for reform.

    The call comes as the Security Council considers its response to the brutal crackdown that has left some 400 people dead since mid-March.

    “The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “The Syrian government and its security forces have long felt able to operate with total impunity, and we are now seeing the result of that in the kinds of bloody acts that they have been committing on the streets of Syria in recent days.”

    “President al-Assad and those around him have to understand that their actions will have consequences, namely that if they gun down their own citizens the international community will hold them individually criminally responsible before the ICC or national courts of states exercising universal jurisdiction.”

    April 19, 2011

    Syria’s President must back up his pledge to introduce reforms with immediate, concrete action to end the continuing wave of killings of protesters by his security forces, Amnesty International said today. 

    “We welcome reports that the government has agreed to lift the national state of emergency that has been in force continuously for the past 48 years, and abolish the notoriously unfair Supreme State Security Court that it spawned,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “These have been two key demands of the thousands of largely peaceful protesters that have braved the authorities’ bullets on Syria’s streets.”

    According to reports, at least 26 more protesters have died in recent days, bringing the total to some 220 over the past month. On Sunday, security forces reportedly killed 17 protesters in Homs and three mourners at a funeral in nearby Talbisah, with five more protesters reported killed in Latakia on Monday.

    A tribal leader, Muhammad al-‘Aliwi, also died in custody on Monday, possibly as a result of torture.

    April 15, 2011

    Authorities in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state must immediately end the administrative detention of a child who has been held by police since January, Amnesty International said today.

    Police arrested 17-year-old Murtaza Manzoor on 21 January 2011 in the state capital Srinagar, and accused him of attempted murder, assault and rioting, based on allegations that he led a June 2010 protest.

    On 8 February, fearing that Manzoor would be released on bail, police placed him in administrative detention under the controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for up to two years’ detention without charge or trial. He was transferred nearly 300 km to Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu, where he is being held.

    “The Jammu and Kashmir government must immediately end the PSA detention of Murtaza Manzoor,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International.

    “If the police want to pursue charges against him, he must be held in special facilities for children and proceeded against in conformity with international law.”

    April 14, 2011

    Canadian Council for Refugees,  Amnesty International Canada, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic
    Harvard International Human Rights Clinic, Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates 

    Decision by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Finds that Canada Violated American Declaration on Human Rights by Summarily Returning Refugee Claimants to US

    A group of organizations today welcomed the final decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights upholding a complaint made concerning the forced return of three refugee claimants to the United States in 2003.
     
    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that Canada violated its human rights obligations when it returned the three refugee claimants to the US without first providing individualized review of their asylum claims. The claimants were returned to the US under Canada’s ‘direct back’ policy.

    April 14, 2011

    The Azerbaijani authorities have initiated a new wave of arrests and criminal charges in an attempt to stifle the latest opposition rally, “Great Unity Day” planned for 17 April. On 9 April a further five opposition activists were charged with “organising mass disorder” for their participation in the violently dispersed 2 April “Day of Wrath” protest in Baku.

    The new charges bring the total number of activists facing long prison terms for their involvement in the 2 April protest to 10, seven of whom Amnesty International considers to be prisoners of conscience.

    The treatment of these 10 activists highlights the range of human rights abuses currently occurring in Azerbaijan. Local rights groups report that the activists have been beaten by police and remanded in custody after closed hearings on the basis of no or very little evidence, without having been granted access to a lawyer of their choice.

    April 13, 2011

    The UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) must protect the tens of thousands of civilians displaced by the conflict who wish to return to their home villages but are afraid to do so, Amnesty International said today.

    “Thousands of people are hiding in the bush in life threatening conditions and without any proper food or sanitation. They need to be reassured and to be allowed to return to their homes,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty’s Côte d’Ivoire researcher who is currently in the west of the country.

    Scores of villages between the towns of Guiglo and Blolequin, 600 km west of Abidjan, have been burnt or looted and almost all local inhabitants have fled following the fighting that took place in the area at the end of March, an Amnesty International delegation on the ground reports.

    “We have seen ghost villages with nearly no civilians. Nearly all the 30,000 civilians have fled from Blolequin after intense fighting and massacres took place there” said Gaëtan Mootoo.

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