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    August 28, 2012

    Amnesty International condemns the brutal killing of some 17 people who took part in a music party in Musa Qala district of Helmand province on Sunday night 26 August. According to reports there were two or three women among the dead; some of the victims were shot dead and others were beheaded.

    The Afghan government accused the Taleban of the act and stated that the area where the incident happened was under the control of the Taleban. However, the Taleban has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

    Amnesty International has so far been unable to verify independently the government’s claim or the circumstances surrounding the incident. However, it appears from the reports that none of the victims were actively engaged in fighting, which makes their killing a war crime - if carried out by a party to the armed conflict in Afghanistan.

    August 23, 2012

    The prosecution of an editor for publishing criticism of Egypt’s President and the Muslim Brotherhood should be halted and freedom of expression protected, Amnesty International said.

    Al-Dostor editor Islam Afifi is set to stand trial on Thursday before the Giza Criminal Court in Cairo, reportedly on charges of publishing “false information” insulting to Egypt’s President Morsi.

    “Both the authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood must accept public criticism of their positions and actions without trying to hide behind Mubarak-era laws criminalizing the exercise of the right to freedom of expression,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “Egypt should uphold its international obligations and ensure people are not subject to criminal prosecution for peaceful criticism, even if what they say is perceived to be offensive.”

    August 22, 2012

    1982 was a dangerous time in El Salvador.

    The civil war had begun two years earlier, and in rebel-held areas, the national army saw everyone - peasant farmers, babies, women and the elderly - as legitimate military targets.

    By 1982 the armed forces had already committed a string of massacres across the country.

    In August that year, the Salvadoran armed forces launched a major offensive across the northern San Vicente region – an area considered by the military as a guerrilla stronghold. As news of the offensive spread, communities in San Vicente began to flee in fear for their lives. Many of those who stayed on to tend the crops were the elderly, women and young children.

    They had stayed thinking they would be safe at home.

    No-one could imagine what was about to come.

    August 22, 2012

    The historic decision by Mexico’s National Supreme Court (SCJN) to refer a case involving human rights violations by military personnel against Bonfilio Rubio Villegas to a civilian not a military court, must become a binding precedent for other such cases, Amnesty International said.

    The SCJN yesterday ruled against the application of military justice in the case of Villegas, an indigenous man shot and killed by military personnel at a road block in Guerrero in June 2009.

    The decision confirmed as unconstitutional Article 57 II (a) of the military penal code which has previously justified the transfer of all cases of alleged human rights violations by military personal to the military justice system.

    “Amnesty International calls on Mexico’s National Supreme Court to ensure the historic decision to refer cases of human rights violations to civilian jurisdiction, not military, becomes a binding legal precedent on all courts in Mexico,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s Mexico Researcher.

    August 22, 2012

    Civilians are enduring a horrific level of violence in the battle between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters for control of Aleppo - the country’s largest city and commercial capital, Amnesty International said in a new briefing on Syria.

    The 11-page briefing is based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty International during the first half of August.

    The briefing documents the Syrian government forces’ increasingly frequent air and artillery strikes against residential areas, resulting in often indiscriminate attacks which seriously endanger civilians. 

    “The use of imprecise weapons, such as unguided bombs, artillery shells and mortars by government forces has dramatically increased the danger for civilians”, said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently returned from Aleppo.

    August 21, 2012

    French cabinet members must take action to halt forced evictions of Roma communities and set a housing policy that respects and protects their rights, Amnesty International said ahead of a high-level ministerial meeting.

    The 22 August meeting called by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is the first of its kind since a new government came to power in France in May.

    At a similar ministerial meeting two years ago, former President Nicolas Sarkozy referred to irregular camps inhabited by Roma as “sources of criminality”. Roma in France have been facing continuous forced evictions ever since.  

    In recent weeks, some French cabinet members have spoken out on the issue in the media amid a spate of recent police operations in different parts of France to dismantle unauthorized Roma camps and forcibly evict their residents.

    August 21, 2012

    The Pakistan government must urgently reform its blasphemy laws and ensure the safety of Ramsha Masih, a Christian girl arrested by police for allegedly committing an act of blasphemy, Amnesty International said today.

    “This case illustrates the erosion of the rule of law and the dangers faced by those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s South Asia director.

    On Wednesday 17 August, Ramsha Masih and her mother were arrested by police in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. The police reacted under pressure from people who were demonstrating after a local preacher accused Ramsha of burning pages of a religious text. This is an offence that may be punishable with death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

    “Amnesty International is extremely concerned for Ramsha’s safety. In the recent past individuals accused of blasphemy have been killed by members of the public,” Truscott said.

    On hearing the accusations, some residents of the neighbourhood attacked Ramsha Masih’s mother and other members of the local Christian community. Up to 300 Christian residents fled the area and the Masih family remains in hiding.

    August 21, 2012

    Gambian president Yahya Jammeh’s reported comments that people sentenced to death in Gambia will be executed by September must not be acted on, and must be retracted, Amnesty International said today.

    President Jammeh made the comments in a televised address broadcast on Sunday evening and again on Monday to mark the Muslim feast of Eid-al-Fitrt.

    If executions are carried out in Gambia, it will mark an end of a 27-year period without executions. The last execution in the country took place in 1985.

    Amnesty International presently classifies Gambia as abolitionist in practice, and therefore as one of the 141 countries (more than two thirds of states) worldwide which have abolished the death penalty either in law or practice.
     
    "President Jammeh’s comments are deeply troubling and will undoubtedly cause severe anguish to those on death row and their families,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa director. “Any attempt to carry out this threat would be both deeply shocking and a major set-back for human rights in Gambia.”

    August 17, 2012

    A Russian court's decision today to find guilty members of the punk rock protest band Pussy Riot is a bitter blow for freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    Three members of the all-female group were charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February.

    The judge sentenced them to two years imprisonment in a penal colony. The lawyers for the three said they were planning to appeal the decision.

    Amnesty International said it believed that the trial of the Pussy Riot defendants – Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – was politically motivated, and that they were wrongfully prosecuted for what was a legitimate – if potentially offensive – protest action.

    The organization considers all three activists to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

    August 17, 2012

    A judge must oversee any investigation into the deaths of 34 people after South African police opened fire on protesting miners at the Marikana mine complex, Amnesty International said today. 

    The organization also called for an urgent resolution to the ongoing disputes and conflict between the rival unions and management at the mine north of Johannesburg, which resulted in 10 other deaths earlier this week.

    The calls come amid concern that the new National Commissioner of Police, Rhiah Phiyega, appeared to have already reached the conclusion that the police were justified in using lethal force after she told a press conference today that "…the militant group stormed toward the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons ... police were forced to use maximum force to defend themselves".

    “The high number of deaths and injuries after police opened fire on protesting mine workers is shocking and shows an appalling disregard for human life,” said Noel Kukutwa, Southern Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    August 17, 2012

    Anyone held in Iran solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights should immediately and unconditionally be released, Amnesty International has said, following the pardoning by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of at least 130 political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, from Tehran’s Evin Prison.

    The call came after Tehran’s Prosecutor General Abbas Ja’fari Dowlatabadi announced the prisoners, of whom 90 were imprisoned at the time, had been pardoned ahead of Eid al-Fitr celebrations at the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan.

    Three prisoners who Amnesty International has campaigned on behalf of were among those who were pardoned.

    Other prisoners are also believed to have been released from prisons across Iran or had their sentences reduced.

    August 16, 2012

    Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was today sentenced to  three years in prison after being found guilty of  taking part in an “illegal gathering” among other charges in relation to a protest in the capital Manama on 6 February 2012.

    Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International, said: "The court's decision is a dark day for justice in Bahrain that further questions the independence of the judiciary."

    "Like many others in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly. He should be released immediately and his convictions and sentences quashed. The authorities must also act to ensure that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal."

    August 15, 2012

     The Colombian authorities must do more to protect civilians increasingly caught up in the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia, Amnesty International said today after an Indigenous leader was killed in Cauca, south-western Colombia, at the weekend.

    Lisandro Tenorio, a traditional healer and spiritual leader for the Nasa Indigenous People, was shot dead by gunmen believed to be from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), outside his home in the López Adentro reservation (resguardo) in Cauca’s Caloto municipality on Sunday afternoon.

    The killing follows weeks of heavy fighting in several nearby communities between Colombian security forces and the FARC, which has resulted in the death of several civilians, with many more injured and thousands forcibly displaced.

    August 14, 2012

    The High Criminal Court of Appeal in Bahrain has postponed to 4 September the final verdict on the appeal of 13 opposition activists and prisoners of conscience convicted on charges related to pro-reform protests last year.  

    Dr Ghanim Alnajjar, an internationally recognized human rights expert, who observed the court proceedings on behalf of Amnesty International, said: “The decision to postpone the final verdict is unjustified, and is tantamount to a denial of justice.”

    Amnesty International considers the 13 opposition activists to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and has repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to quash their convictions and release them immediately and unconditionally.

    August 14, 2012

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must ensure that justice for the victims of human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occUupation of Timor-Leste is firmly on the agenda during his two-day visit to Timor-Leste this week, Amnesty International said.

    Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries were responsible for unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, torture and other ill-treatment as well as many other human rights violations during the occupation of then-East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and in the context of the 1999 independence referendum.

    A persistent culture of impunity means that the overwhelming majority of these crimes against humanity and other human rights violations have yet to be addressed.

    "Despite its involvement in Timor-Leste since June 1999, the UN has failed to meet its commitments to ensure justice for victims,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

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