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Surveillance, Security and Human Rights

    July 29, 2014
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

    Marvin is a 27-year-old accountant. His life and that of his family were turned upside down last week, when members of the Islamic State (ISIS) turned up at their home in Mosul, northern Iraq.

    The ISIS militants who now control the city gave Marvin, his elderly parents and his brother and sister four stark choices: convert to Islam, pay jizya (a tax for non-Muslims), leave the city … or have their heads cut off. The militants then painted the Arabic letter “N” (for nasrani or Christian) on the house.

    For Marvin’s family, like many other Christian residents of Mosul, there was no choice. They took a few belongings and left the city early the following morning. “On our way out of Mosul, ISIS took our money and jewellery. Now we have no means to get out of Iraq and nothing to go back to in Mosul because our lives there have been destroyed,” Marvin told Amnesty International.

    In recent weeks, Marvin’s story has become tragically common among Christians and other civilians in Mosul.

    July 28, 2014

    Interview with a human rights fieldworker in Gaza

    This morning as I brushed my teeth I could hear the familiar buzzing of a drone circling above our building. I ignored the sound. Drones circle overhead all the time; you never know whether it’s just for surveillance or an impending missile launch. The uncertainty makes you feel helpless. What can anyone do?

    Five minutes later, a missile fired from what sounded like an F-16 fighter jet struck nearby. The loud boom sent the children running to me. They crowded in the bathroom, for comfort and safety. They looked so frightened and pale; their eyes red from lack of sleep. I am known for keeping a cool head, people say I have nerves of steel, so, typically, I just smiled at them – still clutching my toothbrush. The relief of seeing me smile made them break down in giggles; it’s one of those absurd reactions you have under extreme stress.

    July 10, 2014

    Amnesty International spokespeople available for interview

    As US Edward Snowden seeks to extend his stay in Russia, Amnesty International called for effective international protection for whistleblowers.

    “Edward Snowden has been effectively punished to live in exile with no long-term security only for exposing serious abuses of power,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director for International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “It is high time for governments across the world to stop persecuting people whose only ‘crime’ is to bring to light information that is in the public interest.”

    The former National Security Agency contractor’s one-year permit to stay in Russia is due to expire at the end of July.

    Possible talking points:
    ·        Persecution of whistleblowers globally, particularly in the USA.
    ·        Right to privacy.
    ·        NSA surveillance programme.

     

    June 10, 2014

    Bill C-24, the federal government’s proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act, has serious human rights flaws, says Amnesty International. The proposed legislation would give the federal government new powers to revoke Canadian citizenship in some cases when individuals are convicted of specified crimes related to terrorism and similar offences. The new provisions fall short of a range of international human rights obligations, including non-discrimination and fair hearing guarantees.  Consequently, Amnesty International is calling on the government to withdraw these new revocation provisions from the Bill. 

    April 11, 2014

    The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year.

    In a report to the Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for independent, impartial and sustained human rights monitoring in the territory and Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria.

    “Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York.

    “In the absence of an independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained human rights monitoring, parties are allowed to trade accusations of rights abuses which fuel the tension as violations go unaddressed.

    February 19, 2014

    The High Court of England and Wales struck a blow against freedom of expression today when it ruled that the nine-hour detention of David Michael Miranda, partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, under anti-terrorism legislation was lawful and proportionate.

    Brazilian national David Miranda was detained in August 2013 while in transit in London’s Heathrow airport. He was held for nearly nine hours under Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 – the limit allowed without seeking further authority to continue the detention.

    “This ruling underscores our long-standing concerns about the over-broad nature of the UK’s anti-terror laws, which are wide open to abuse and misuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is clearly deeply troubling if laws designed to combat terrorism can be used against those involved in reporting stories of fundamental public interest. There is no question the ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the future.”

    February 11, 2014

    The Pakistani authorities must immediately determine the whereabouts of an anti-drone activist who disappeared days before he was due to travel to Europe to give testimony before the European Parliament, Amnesty International said.

    According to witnesses, over a dozen men, some in police uniforms, others in plain clothes, burst into Kareem Khan’s home and whisked him away in the early hours of the morning on 5 February.

    “We are concerned that prominent human rights activist Kareem Khan may have been disappeared to prevent him from giving testimony overseas about US drone strikes in Pakistan,” said Isabelle Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Kareem Khan’s brother and son were killed in a US drone attack in December 2009.

    Khan has brought a case to the Pakistan courts calling for members of the US Central Intelligence Agency to be prosecuted for the killings. He is also suing the Pakistani government because of their alleged failure to effectively investigate the deaths of his son and brother.

    February 11, 2014

    Amnesty International is launching a global campaign against police impunity in Ukraine.

    Hundreds of people have been wounded by police, some very seriously, during the EuroMaydan anti-government protests in Kyiv as well as in other cities in Ukraine since 21 November 2013. There have been at least four fatalities. Some protestors have been abducted by unknown assailants and tortured – one was found dead.  

    Amnesty International members and their supporters will bring pressure to bear on the Ukrainian government through letter writing, petitions, public actions and lobbying.

    The campaign is calling for the Ukrainian authorities to take decisive action to demonstrate that arbitrary and abusive use of force and other human rights violations will not be tolerated, and will be dealt with by disciplinary and criminal measures as appropriate.

    January 03, 2014

    Cambodian authorities must hold security forces to account for today’s killing of at least four people at a protest by garment workers that turned violent in the capital Phnom Penh, Amnesty International said.

    “Today’s tragic violence must be investigated and those responsible for deaths and injuries held to account,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Cambodia Researcher.

    “The Cambodian government has to rein in its security forces. Today’s events sadly echo other recent incidents – on at least four occasions in the past few months, security forces have used unnecessary or excessive force, including live ammunition, against protesters and bystanders.”

    “As with so many human rights violations in Cambodia, the lack of accountability for these incidents is a reminder of the pervasive culture of impunity in the country. There must be root and branch change to ensure the perpetrators of violations are brought to book.”

    December 13, 2013

    The confusion over who was responsible for an airstrike that killed 15 men on their way to a wedding in Yemen on Thursday exposes a serious lack of accountability for scores of civilian deaths in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Local security officials reportedly said the wedding convoy had been mistaken for al-Qa’ida operatives, but did not identify the type of aircraft used in the attack. Local media and tribal officials allege that a drone was used – if true, this would point to US involvement in the attack.

    “Even if it turns out that this was a case of killings based on mistaken identity or dodgy intelligence, whoever was responsible needs to own up to the error and come clean about what happened in this incident,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    The appalling lack of transparency over civilian deaths in Yemen means that when violations occur, the victims and their families have no effective access to redress or reparations. The utter lack of accountability for these killings must end.”

    November 29, 2013

    Yemen must ensure security forces refrain from using excessive force during protests planned this Saturday or risk further bloodshed, Amnesty International said.

    Protests are planned in the southern sea-port city of Aden on 30 November to mark the 46th anniversary of South Yemen’s independence from British occupation. Tensions in Yemen have escalated in recent years as large numbers of southerners continue to demand independence from the north.

    “Protests in Yemen have always been dangerous for activists, with police routinely shooting and killing peaceful demonstrators. However, given the disagreements over the future of the south of Yemen and the charged symbolism of the date, we are particularly worried about what could happen on Saturday.” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    November 20, 2013
    Grant clemency to Chelsea Manning and release her

    By Justin Mazzola, attorney and researcher with Amnesty International USA

    Let’s all take a trip down memory lane to our Sesame Street days and engage in the following exercise of “Which One Doesn’t Belong”:

    October 22, 2013

    In October 2012, 8-year-old Nabeela ventured out with her 68-year-old grandmother Mamana Bibi to do daily chores in their family's large, open field. Moments later, Mamana was blasted into pieces by a US drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Amnesty International did not find any evidence she was endangering anyone, let alone posing an imminent threat to the US. Yet a year has passed and the US government has not acknowledged Mamana Bibi's death, let alone provided justice or compensation for it.

    "Will I be next?," a new report from Amnesty International, finds that this killing, and several other so-called targeted killings from US drone strikes in Pakistan, may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes. Based on interviews with 60 survivors and eyewitnesses to these strikes, "Will I be next?" documents potentially unlawful killings and abuses, and makes recommendations to the US government for how to uphold the right to life and ensure accountability for any unlawful killings.

     

    October 02, 2013

    The “piracy” charge levelled against activists from the global environmental group Greenpeace today in Russia is absurd and damaging to the rule of law and must be dropped immediately, Amnesty International said.

    “These absurd piracy charges are completely unfounded against activists who appear to have been engaged in peaceful protest. They make a mockery of the Russian justice system and should be dropped immediately,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The Russian authorities have clearly decided to make an example of the Greenpeace activists in order to discourage future protests of this kind. Sadly this is consistent with the Russian authorities’ attitude to protest more broadly.

    September 27, 2013

    Today’s UN Security Council vote on a new Syria resolution must not be another wasted opportunity that lets down the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Amnesty International urged.

    The draft resolution focuses on the international response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August. But the organization said Security Council members must take effective measures towards ending the mass violations being committed in Syria, ensure accountability and justice for victims, and improve access to humanitarian assistance.

    “This resolution must not be another missed opportunity. More than two years into the Syrian conflict, the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity have yet to see serious engagement from international players to ensure justice and accountability,” said José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.

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