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Torture

    September 27, 2011

    The sentencing of a Saudi Arabian woman to 10 lashes after she drove a car demonstrates the scale of discrimination against women in the Kingdom, Amnesty International said today.

    “Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it defies belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Philip Luther.

    “Belatedly allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement then the King’s much-trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little.”

    “Saudi Arabia needs to go much further. The whole system of women’s subordination to men in Saudi Arabia needs to be dismantled.”

    The sentence was passed by a court in Jeddah today. Two other women are believed to be facing charges for driving, one in Jeddah and one in al-Khobar.

    September 27, 2011

    A military court in Manama is due to hand down its verdict on 28 September on an  appeal brought by a group of prominent opposition activists in Bahrain after they were jailed in one of the ongoing trials linked to pro-reform protests earlier this year.

    The military-run National Safety Court of Appeal is expected to confirm or overturn the conviction of 14 people jailed for their alleged roles in mass demonstrations at the capital’s GCC Roundabout (formerly Pearl Roundabout) in February and March 2011.

    Amnesty International has repeatedly criticized the unfair military trials at the National Safety Court of First Instance, which convicted and sentenced the 14 along with seven others who were tried in absentia. There has been no independent investigation into allegations by some of the defendants that they were tortured in pre-trial detention, when they were held incommunicado.

    “These opposition leaders were tried and sentenced by a court that is neither independent nor impartial,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    September 26, 2011

    The Bahraini authorities must urgently investigate reports that women were tortured in detention after being arrested in Manama during pro-reform protests, Amnesty International said today.

    Security forces arrested scores of people in the capital on Friday as protesters attempted to reach the city’s GCC Roundabout, formerly Pearl Roundabout.

    Among those detained are 38 women and seven girls who were arrested at a city centre shopping mall and accused of "illegal public gathering”, rioting, and attacking security forces. They were apprehended without arrest orders, interrogated without lawyers present and some of them reportedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated.

    “It appears that Bahrain’s authorities have patently denied these women and girls their rights after rounding them up at a Manama shopping centre,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “All detainees must be given access to lawyers and contact with their families.”

    September 23, 2011

    Fresh evidence of the extreme brutality being meted out to Syrian protesters and their families has been revealed today by Amnesty International.

    The mutilated body of 18-year-old Zainab al-Hosni of Homs, the first woman known to have died in custody during Syria’s recent unrest, was discovered by her family in horrific circumstances on 13 September.

    The family was visiting a morgue to identify the body of Zainab’s activist brother Mohammad, who was also arrested and apparently tortured and killed in detention. Zainab had been decapitated, her arms cut off, and skin removed.

    “If it is confirmed that Zainab was in custody when she died, this would be one of the most disturbing cases of a death in detention we have seen so far,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “We have documented other cases of protesters whose bodies were returned to their families in a mutilated state during recent months, but this is particularly shocking.”

    September 23, 2011

    A Ugandan court’s decision to order the release of a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a huge setback in delivering justice to victims of human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

    Ending the country’s first war crimes trial, a five-judge panel ruled that Thomas Kwoyelo was entitled to amnesty for any crimes he committed during the conflict, in which 30,000 people died and some two million were displaced. Thomas Kwoyelo had been charged with 53 counts of murder and other crimes.

    “The court’s decision is yet another nail in the coffin of the right to justice for the thousands who have suffered at the hands of the LRA,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    “What we are witnessing here is simply pervasive impunity for serious crimes and human rights violations. It is high time Uganda carried out an independent investigation into all crimes committed during the 20-year conflict. Neither Thomas Kwoyelo, nor others accused of committing war crimes should be granted amnesty,” she said.

    September 22, 2011

    Amnesty International today urged Haitian authorities to bring former President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to justice for the human rights abuses committed under his regime from 1971 and 1986.

    The call came as Amnesty international publishes a new report with evidence of arbitrary detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances during Jean-Claude Duvalier’s rule.

    “There’s sufficient evidence to prosecute Jean-Claude Duvalier for the widespread arbitrary detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances that took place during his regime, some of which amount to crimes against  humanity,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

    “What is needed is political will from Haiti’s new administration to comply with their international obligations and their duty to the survivors and victims of abuses.”

    Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011, after 25 years in exile in France.

    He was indicted by Haitian authorities for embezzlement, theft of public funds and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency.

    September 20, 2011

    The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of a 17-year old accused of killing an athlete known as “Iran’s strongest man”, Amnesty International said today.

    Alireza Molla-Soltani is to be hanged in public on Wednesday in the city of Karaj, near Tehran.

    “The fact that Iran has decided to execute a 17-year old shows how little respect the authorities have for international human rights standards,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

     “What’s more, executing juvenile offenders is strictly forbidden under international treaties that Iran has signed up to. The Iranian authorities must uphold their international obligations, overturn this death sentence and review Alireza Molla-Soltani’s case,” she said.

    The boy was arrested a day after Ruhollah Dadashi, a popular athlete was stabbed three times during a driving dispute on 17 July. Alireza Molla-Soltani says he panicked and stabbed Ruhollah Dadashi in self-defence after the athlete attacked him in the dark, according to local media reports.

    September 16, 2011

    The Chinese government should halt the imminent execution of a Pakistan national, Amnesty International said today.

    Syed Zahid Hussain Shah, a 36-year-old-Pakistani businessman, is due to be executed by lethal injection on 21 September.
     
    Arrested in Shanghai in 2008 on drug trafficking charges, he was sentenced to death in 2010. That sentence was subsequently upheld by an appeal court and approved by China’s Supreme Court.  Four other Pakistanis arrested with Shah were sentenced to life imprisonment.

    “Executing someone for drug related offences violates internationally accepted standards for imposing the death penalty,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director. “The Chinese government should grant clemency in this case, particularly in light of its ‘special relationship’ with Pakistan.

    "The Pakistani government should provide Shah with urgent additional consular assistance.”
     
    Members of Shah’s family told Amnesty International that they believe he is innocent. They said he had been falsely implicated by his business partners.

    September 15, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged authorities in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province to thoroughly investigate reports that a women’s rights activist was tortured in custody amid mass arrests following environmental protests about a saltwater lake.

    Activist and journalist Faranak Farid, aged 50, was reportedly beaten severely after her arrest on 3 September in the north-western city of Tabriz.  She was arrested after several demonstrations in towns and cities across the region called for government action to stop nearby Lake Oroumieh from drying up. 

    Farid, who is a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority, has reportedly been accused of “insulting the Supreme Leader”, “propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security”.

    “If Faranak Farid is being held solely for her peaceful activism or her writings, then she is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    September 13, 2011

    The National Transitional Council (NTC) must get a grip on armed anti-Gaddafi groups to stop reprisal attacks and arbitrary arrests, Amnesty International warned as it released a major report into human rights violations during the Libyan conflict.

    The 107-page report The Battle for Libya: Killings, Disappearances and Torture reveals that while al-Gaddafi forces committed widespread crimes under international law during the conflict, forces loyal to the NTC have also committed abuses that in some cases amounted to war crimes.

    “The new authorities must make a complete break with the abuses of the past four decades and set new standards by putting human rights at the centre of their agenda” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

    “The onus now is on the NTC to do things differently, end abuses and initiate the human rights reforms that are urgently needed."

    “A top priority must be to assess the state of the justice sector and start its reform, to ensure due process and deliver access to justice and reparation for victims.”

    September 13, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Syrian authorities to reveal the whereabouts of four activists arrested last week near Damascus after the dead body of their friend was returned to his family over the weekend.

    The four, who include the brothers Yahya and Ma’an Shurbaji, have not been seen since they were detained in Daraya, a Damascus suburb, on 6 September at the same time as Ghayath Mattar, the dead activist. There are growing fears for their safety.

    An Amnesty International report last month listed 88 deaths in custody since April, but seven others, including Ghayath Mattar, have died behind bars in recent weeks, bringing the total to 95.

    “It is clear that these human rights activists from Daraya are in grave danger given the very suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of their friend and fellow activist Ghayath Mattar,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    September 09, 2011

    A Chinese activist jailed in connection with her support for bloggers must be released, Amnesty International said today after she was sentenced to nine months in prison.

    Wang Lihong, 56, was detained  in March and later charged  with “creating a disturbance”  amid a government crackdown on online calls for a “Jasmine Revolution”  inspired by  protests in the Middle East and North Africa.

    She had pleaded not guilty in court in Beijing and has told her lawyer that she plans to appeal.

    "This unjust verdict is the latest example of China's zeal for persecuting anyone who dares to defy the tight controls in China and to publicly support human rights activists," said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    "Wang Lihong's arrest, trial and sentencing were a farce. She has worked peacefully for a more fair and just China and has consistently spoken out against human rights abuses in her country. For this, she should be commended, not jailed."

    Wang Lihong was taken from her home by nine police officers on 21 March 2011.

    September 08, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the UK authorities to bring to justice all those responsible for the death Baha Mousa, after an inquiry into the death of the Iraqi hotel receptionist found that UK soldiers violently assaulted him while in custody in Basra in 2003.

    Baha Mousa suffered 93 separate injuries before he died, said the inquiry’s report, which was released today. Nine other Iraqis held with Mousa were also subjected to human rights violations that constituted war crimes during their detention.

    Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International said:

    “What happened to Baha Mousa and the other men detained with him at the hands of British soldiers must never be allowed to happen again. Whatever the pressures the soldiers may have faced in Iraq during that time, torture can never be justified in any circumstances.”

    “Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions and brought swiftly to justice, including in criminal proceedings – nothing less will do”.

    September 08, 2011

    Thirteen Bahraini health workers facing trial before a military court apparently over treating some of those injured during a government crackdown on pro-reform protests  were released on bail yesterday.

    All 13 are part of an original group of 48 health workers, mostly from al-Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, arrested in March and April 2011 during the protests.

    The trial will resume on 26 September at the National Safety Court of First Instance, a military court established under the state of emergency in force from March to June 2011.

    Days before the trial session all detained health workers started a hunger strike in protest at their detention. Two were too weak to attend the trial. Many have complained of torture and other ill-treatment during their detention.

    Charges against some of the health workers include hiding weapons and explosives in the hospital, as well as attempting to overthrow the regime by force. However, the court has failed to provide any evidence of that.

    September 07, 2011

    NATO’s decision to suspend transferring detainees to Afghan forces due to reports of systematic torture highlights the international community’s failure to provide for basic rule of law in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said today. 

    The decision was announced on Tuesday after a leaked UN report detailed systematic torture at some government-run detention centres.

    Amnesty International has consistently called on the NATO-led ISAF forces to end transfers to facilities run by the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), where torture and other ill-treatment have long been reported.

      “Amnesty International warned ISAF of these problems years ago, but instead of fixing the problem, ISAF allowed things deteriorate until the situation became intolerable. ISAF governments should explain how they allowed the situation to get completely out of hand, ,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. 

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