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    October 27, 2011

    A Buenos Aires court’s conviction of 16 former military officials for crimes against humanity committed decades ago is a powerful victory for justice in the fight against impunity, Amnesty International said today.

    Former Navy captain Alfredo Astiz and 15 others were yesterday given prison sentences for their role in crimes against humanity committed during military rule between 1976 and 1983. These included the arbitrary detention, torture and unlawful killing of dozens of people at a secret detention centre set up in a military school in Buenos Aires. 

    Among those killed were French nuns Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon, human rights activists Azucena Villaflor, María Bianco and Esther Careaga, co-founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and writer and journalist Rodolfo Walsh.

    “This verdict is the latest to bring former military officials to account for egregious human rights violations committed during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ in the 70s and 80s,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    October 27, 2011

    Lithuania’s failure to investigate its role in the US-led rendition program has forced an alleged victim of secret detention to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International said today.

    The case - filed today – centres on Abu Zubaydah’s allegations that he was transferred to Lithuania in 2005, where he was tortured at a secret detention facility.

    A Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry conducted in 2009 concluded that two secret CIA detention facilities had been prepared between 2002 and 2004 to receive detainees. However, a national investigation into those facilities, started in January 2010, was closed a year later on highly dubious grounds.

     “The Lithuanian authorities have an obligation to investigate and they have the capacity to do so. But apparently they also have a fear of what the truth may reveal about Lithuania’s role in these appalling abuses” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

    October 26, 2011

    The Honourable Diane Ablonczy
    Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario

    October 26, 2011

    Dear Minister of State Ablonczy,

    URGENT: Naser Bader Al-Raas Sentenced in Bahrain

    I am writing this open letter to you further to our letters of October 3 and 25, 2011 regarding the case of Canadian citizen Naser Bader Al-Raas, who faces a five year prison term in Bahrain.Amnesty International has now had an opportunity to review his case fully, including the verdict delivered yesterday. Our concerns have only mounted.

    October 25, 2011

    Authorities in the Dominican Republic must urgently reform their police force to tackle alarming levels of killings and torture, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    ‘Shut up if you don’t want to be killed’: Human Rights violations by the police in the Dominican Republic, documents scores of cases of killings, torture and ill-treatment at the hands of police, gathered during three research missions in the country and the lack of effective investigations

    “Authorities must ensure those responsible for the killings and torture face justice and that steps are taken to change the policies and practices that allow these abuses to take place,” said Javier Zúñiga, Head of Amnesty International’s delegation in the Dominican Republic.

    “The official view continues to be that human rights violations are committed by a few corrupt or unprofessional officers who are swiftly dealt with and held accountable but the reality paints a very different picture.”

    October 24, 2011

    The Syrian government has turned hospitals into instruments of repression in its efforts to crush opposition, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    The 39-page report Health Crisis: Syrian Government Targets the Wounded and Health Workers documents how wounded patients in at least four government-run hospitals have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including by medical workers.

    Hospital workers suspected of treating protesters and others injured in unrest-related incidents have themselves faced arrest and torture.

    "It is deeply alarming that the Syrian authorities seem to have given the security forces a free rein in hospitals, and that in many cases hospital staff appear to have taken part in torture and ill treatment of the very people they are supposed to care for," said Cilina Nasser, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa researcher.

    "Given the scale and seriousness of the injuries being sustained by people across the country, it is disturbing to find that many consider it safer to risk not having major wounds treated rather than going to proper medical facilities."

    October 20, 2011

    The reported death of Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi would bring to a close a chapter of Libya's history marked by repression and abuse but does not end the story, Amnesty International said today.

    “The legacy of repression and abuse from Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi's rule will not end until there is a full accounting for the past and human rights are embedded in Libya's new institutions,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for North Africa and the Middle East at Amnesty International.

    "Colonel al-Gaddafi’s death must not stop his victims in Libya from seeing justice being done. The many Libyan officials suspected of serious human rights violations committed during and before this year's uprising, including the infamous Abu Salim prison massacre in 1996, must answer for their crimes."

    "The new authorities must make a complete break from the culture of abuse that Colonel al-Gaddafi’s regime perpetuated and initiate the human rights reforms that are urgently needed in the country."

    October 19, 2011

    Local and foreign armed groups in the CAR are still killing, abducting, torturing and raping civilians, as well as burning houses and looting property, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

    The report Central African Republic - Action needed to end decades of abuse describes how CAR’s population has been terrorized for decades by armed groups who have been able to operate with virtual impunity.

    Despite peace agreements and a fledgling Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration process, armed conflict continues to ravage the country resulting in civilian deaths and mass internal displacement.

    “The CAR covers an enormous territory and most of it is a black hole in terms of human rights. At least 14 armed groups are currently operating in the country yet the government has consistently shown itself to be incapable or unwilling to take action to protect its citizens,” said Godfrey Byaruhanga, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher.

    October 17, 2011

    The Iranian authorities will make a farce of a UN Committee hearing into Iran’s human rights record unless they acknowledge current and past abuses, Amnesty International warned today.

    The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors how states comply with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, begins meeting today to consider Iran. The Iranian authorities’ report to the Committee, the first submitted since 1993; is more than a decade late.

    “The Iranian authorities have already shown contempt for the Committee by submitting this report so late” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “They must now provide truthful answers to its questions and commit to providing a remedy to the many Iranians and their families who have suffered human rights violations”.

    The Committee’s task is to consider how far Iran has upheld key rights enshrined in the Convention, including the right to life; freedom of expression, non- discrimination, and the prohibition of torture and arbitrary detention.

    October 17, 2011

    The international community must send a clear message that those responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances in Yemen will be brought to justice as part of any transition agreement, Amnesty International said today after at least 15 more people were reported killed by the security forces in the capital Sana’a since Saturday.

    A power-transfer deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) appears to offer blanket immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and some of those serving under him, and could prevent criminal investigations and prosecutions for hundreds of protester deaths in recent months, as well as a string of serious human rights violations in the past.

    Amnesty International urged the UN Security Council, expected to vote soon on a resolution on Yemen, to ensure that any power-transfer deal does not provide immunity to anyone, regardless of rank or affiliation.

    “President Saleh must not be rewarded with the grant of immunity for agreeing to leave power,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    October 12, 2011

    Amnesty International today urged Canadian authorities to arrest and either prosecute or extradite former US President George W. Bush for his role in torture, ahead of his expected visit to Canada on 20 October.

    “Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former President Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former President Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights.”

    Amnesty International submitted a memorandum to the Canadian authorities on 21 September 2011 that makes a substantial case for the former president’s legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

    The violations took place during the CIA's secret detention program between 2002 and 2009 – and include torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading-treatment and enforced disappearances.

    October 12, 2011

    The new authorities in Libya must stamp out arbitrary detention and widespread abuse of detainees, Amnesty International said today in a new briefing paper.

    In Detention Abuses Staining the New Libya the organization reveals a pattern of beatings and ill-treatment of captured al-Gaddafi soldiers, suspected loyalists and alleged mercenaries in western Libya. In some cases there is clear evidence of torture in order to extract confessions or as a punishment.

    "There is a real risk that without firm and immediate action, some patterns of the past might be repeated. Arbitrary arrest and torture were a hallmark of Colonel al-Gaddafi's rule," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    October 11, 2011

    The report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, released yesterday, documenting widespread torture in Afghan detention facilities, and the earlier NATO decision, announced on September 6th, to suspend transfers of prisoners into Afghan custody, both make it clear that Canada’s policy of handing prisoners over to Afghan officials over the course of more than five years violated international law and should have been reversed years ago.  Among many disturbing conclusions, the UNAMA report finds “a compelling pattern and practice of systematic torture and ill-treatment” in facilities where Canada handed over prisoners. In some cases, children in custody were also tortured and abused.  

    Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly stated that Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan was aimed at protecting fundamental Canadian values of “freedom, respect for human rights and the primacy of the rule of law.” It is critically important therefore that the Canadian public get a full and candid accounting of what the government has done and that the government ensure that ongoing responsibilities are met.

    October 10, 2011

    Siegfried Blunk, the International Co-Investigating Judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), resigned, citing statements by the Cambodian government that could be perceived as attempted interference with the court’s work. In reaction to this news, Amnesty International said:

    “There is a strong perception that the Cambodian government has tried to influence, and thus subvert, the work of the ECCC. In particular the government has sought to limit the number of cases brought before the tribunal, where only a handful of individuals are being prosecuted for the death of more than a million people and torture, displacement and persecution on a massive scale,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Any attempt by the Cambodian government to influence the work of the ECCC undermines the entire tribunal and therefore risks denying justice to the victims of the Khmer Rouge and to the Cambodian people as a whole. Political interference also jeopardises the unique opportunity for the ECCC to serve as a model of justice for the domestic courts in Cambodia,” said Sam Zarifi.

    October 07, 2011

    The government of Canada has an obligation to start an investigation into former US President George W. Bush’s alleged involvement in, and responsibility for crimes under international law, including torture, while he is visiting Canada on 20 October, says Amnesty International. A memorandum, that has been given to the government, will be made public at a press conference in the Charles Lynch Theatre, Centre Block, House of Commons on Wednesday 12 October at 10:30 a.m.

    Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English branch) and Beatrice Vaugrante, Director General of the Francophone branch of Amnesty International Canada, will present the details of the extensive submission outlining the responsibilities of the Canadian government. The submission asserts that Canada must investigate the role of the former US President in these crimes and secure his presence in Canada during that investigation.

    Speakers:    Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
                          Beatrice Vaugrante, Director General, Amnesty International Canada
                          (Francophone branch)

    October 06, 2011

    The decision by the Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor to order the re-trial of 20 doctors and other health workers before a civilian court is an important step towards justice, Amnesty International said today.

    The medics, who were on trial for their involvement in treating injured activists when security forces violently crushed mass pro-reform protests in February and March this year, received prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years in a military court in Manama last month. Their re-trial is set to take place in Bahrain’s High Criminal Court on 23 October.

    “This is certainly a welcome development if it means that the medics will now receive a fair trial and have the opportunity to clear their names,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for Middle East and North Africa.

    “Their previous trial before the military-dominated National Safety Court was nothing but a judicial charade, as the Public Prosecutor now seems to agree,” he added.


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