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Torture

    September 01, 2011

    Pro al-Gaddafi forces left 19 detainees to die of suffocation while locked inside metal containers in the sweltering June heat in north-western Libya, Amnesty International has discovered.

    Three survivors described how al-Gaddafi loyalists tortured them and then imprisoned them along with 26 others in two cramped cargo containers on 6 June at a construction site in al-Khums, 120 km east of Tripoli.

    The detainees endured temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and drank their own sweat and urine when the limited water supply ran out. Their captors shouted “rats, shut up," ignoring their cries for help.

    This is the first report of the June incident, because al-Khums was off-limits to independent reporting until it fell under the control of the National Transitional Council (NTC) on 21 August.

    “This is obviously appalling and inhumane treatment of a group of people who were mostly civilians,” said Diana Eltahawy, North Africa Researcher at Amnesty International, who is currently in Libya.  

    It is a war crime for any party to a conflict to kill or torture prisoners.

    August 31, 2011

    Two Ethiopian opposition leaders have been arrested after meeting an Amnesty International delegation, which was afterwards expelled from the country, the organization said today.

    One of the men was accused of terror-related offences, while the charges against the other man are not known.

    “We are extremely concerned that the arrests of the two men occurred within days of talking with our delegates. Although the Ethiopian government has denied it, we are worried that their arrests are not a coincidence, but because they spoke to Amnesty International,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Program Director for Africa.

    Bekele Gerba, deputy Chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and Olbana Lelisa of the Oromo People’s Congress party (OPC) were both arrested on 27 August.

    On the same day that the two men were arrested, the Amnesty International delegation was called to a government meeting, where they were ordered to leave the country.

    August 30, 2011

    The Mexican government’s strategy on migrants has so far failed to tackle the alarming numbers of Central American migrants being kidnapped regularly in the country, Amnesty International said a year after the plan was first launched.

    The strategy, announced in August 2010, promised a radical overhaul of the government’s approach to the epidemic of kidnappings and killings of irregular migrants in Mexico.

    It included commitments to ensure effective coordination between federal, state and municipal authorities to prevent further kidnappings, investigate and punish those responsible, and guarantee assistance to migrants who have suffered abuses.
      
    “Despite the government’s claims to be addressing the issue, there is no evidence that the implementation of the widely publicized policy has had any impact,” said Rupert Knox, Mexico researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The Mexican government should provide a detailed report on the impact of the strategy and information on the prosecution and conviction of all those responsible for abuses against migrants.”

    August 30, 2011

    People suspected of having fought for Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi, in particular black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans, are at high risk of abuse by anti-Gaddafi forces, Amnesty International said today after witnessing black Libyans being targeted in Tripoli on Monday.

    An Amnesty International delegation visiting the Central Tripoli Hospital witnessed three thuwwar revolutionaries, as the opposition fighters are commonly known, dragging a black patient from the western town of Tawargha from his bed and detaining him. The men were in civilian clothing.

    The thuwwar said the man would be taken to Misratah for questioning, arguing that interrogators in Tripoli “let killers free”.

    Two other black Libyans receiving treatment in the hospital for gunshot wounds were warned by the anti-Gaddafi forces that “their turn was coming”.

    The delegation also witnessed a group of thuuwar beating a man outside the hospital. The man, in distress, was shouting “I am not a fifth columnist”, as al-Gaddafi loyalists are known.

    August 30, 2011

    At least 88 people are believed to have died in detention in Syria during five months of bloody repression of pro-reform protests, a new Amnesty International report reveals today.

    Deadly detention: Deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria documents reported deaths in custody between April and mid-August in the wake of sweeping arrests.

    The 88 deaths represented a significant escalation in the number of deaths following arrest in Syria. In recent years Amnesty International has typically recorded around five deaths in custody per year in Syria.

    “These deaths behind bars are reaching massive proportions, and appear to be an extension of the same brutal disdain for life that we are seeing daily on the streets of Syria,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International’s researcher on Syria.

    “The accounts of torture we have received are horrific. We believe the Syrian government to be systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale.”

    August 26, 2011

    Amnesty International today urged the Brazilian authorities to revoke a law that prevents the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for hundreds of cases of human rights violations.

    The 1979 Amnesty Law, which came into effect on 28 August that year, prevents those responsible for the widespread practice of torture, extra-legal executions, enforced disappearances and rape committed during the 1964-1985 military government from being tried for those crimes.

    “This law is a scandal and doing nothing but preventing justice,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “By upholding a law that allows crimes such as torture and murder to go unpunished, Brazil is falling behind other countries in the region that have made serious efforts to deal with these issues.”

    “The fact that crimes including torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and rape committed in the past were allowed to go unpunished has denied victims and their families the right to truth, justice and reparation.”

    August 25, 2011

    Both sides to the ongoing conflict in Libya must ensure that detainees in their custody are not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, Amnesty International said today.

    The call followed reports from Amnesty International's delegation in Libya on Tuesday, which has gathered powerful testimonies from survivors of abuse at the hands of both pro-Gaddafi soldiers and rebel forces, in and around the town of Az-Zawiya.

    TESTIMONIES OF ABUSE COMMITTED BY REBEL FORCES:

    August 24, 2011

    The Bangladesh authorities must honour their pledge to stop extrajudicial executions by a special police force accused of involvement in hundreds of killings, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    Crimes unseen: Extrajudicial executions in Bangladesh also documents how the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) justify these killings as accidental or as a result of officers acting in self-defence, although in reality many victims are killed following their arrest.

    “Hardly a week goes by in Bangladesh without someone being shot by RAB with the authorities saying they were killed or injured in ‘crossfire’ or a ‘gun-fight’. However the authorities choose to describe such incidents, the fact remains that they are suspected unlawful killings,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.

    August 24, 2011

    Journalists and activists in Syria who pass on information about the country's unrest to the media face torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International said today, as one journalist started his second week in incommunicado detention.

    'Adel Walid Kharsa was arrested by security forces in his hometown of Hama on 17 August, seemingly in connection with his news reports on the protests.

    Amnesty International has information indicating that other detainees have been tortured to find out whether they have given news about events in Syria to regional and international media.

    "‘Adel Walid Kharsa appears to have been arrested for his work reporting on the popular protests and the government’s brutal security crackdown in Hama,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “If this is the case then he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.

    August 17, 2011

    Amnesty International welcomes the historic decision of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in the complaint regarding Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil (Communication No. 17/2008).

    Alyne da Silva Pimentel, a 28-year-old woman of African descent and resident of one of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest districts, was six months pregnant with her second child, when she died of complications resulting from pregnancy after her local health center misdiagnosed her symptoms and delayed providing her with emergency care.

    The case was brought by Alyne’s mother who was represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Brazilian NGO Advocacia Cidadã pelos Direitos Humanos. Amnesty International and others provided amicus curiae briefs to the Committee.

    August 17, 2011

    For more than nine years, two Indigenous women in Mexico have taken on the military and the authorities to demand justice after they were raped by soldiers in the southern state of Guerrero in 2002.

    Despite a lengthy investigation and Inter-American Court rulings in favour of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú last August, their attackers have remained at large, seemingly shielded by Mexico’s military justice system. Meanwhile the women and their families have faced threats as the legal battle continued.

    But on 12 August, Fernández and Rosendo were given some hope that the soldiers who raped them might finally be brought to justice.

    The investigations into their cases have now been moved to civilian courts, after Mexico’s Military Prosecutor’s office recognized it lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute cases where members of the armed forces are accused of committing human rights violations.

    August 16, 2011

    Amnesty International today urged Guatemalan presidential candidates to prioritise tackling human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands in the country.

    In an open letter sent to all presidential candidates, Amnesty International said the new government should improve investigations into past human rights abuses, tackle the alarming rates of violent crime and killings of women, provide long term solutions to land conflicts and protect the work of human rights activists.

    “Human rights abuses are a common problem in Guatemala today. Those particularly affected tend to be the most vulnerable, the ones who are most discriminated against: women, indigenous peoples and those living in poverty,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The political will of the future President will be crucial in ensuring human rights are protected in Guatemala. This is why it is so crucial that candidates commit to addressing the human rights challenges ahead.”

    August 15, 2011

    At least three young human rights activists who helped to organize peaceful protests in and near Damascus are being held incommunicado in unknown locations after their recent arrest, while fears are growing for a fourth who has gone missing.

    The news of the activists’ plight comes amid reports that some 25 people have been killed since yesterday in the port city of Latakia, where Syrian tanks and ships reportedly continue to shell residential areas in an attempt to quell protests.

    Across Syria, more than 1,700 people have been killed since mass protests began in mid-March, according to a list of names compiled by Amnesty International.  

    “The Syrian authorities must immediately reveal the whereabouts of any activists arrested in connection with the ongoing pro-reform protests and give them access to their families and lawyers,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    August 12, 2011

    Four staff members of a forensic anthropology team in Guatemala have received death threats after testifying at a recent high-profile trial over a 1982 army massacre that left 250 villagers dead.

    Freddy Peccerelli, the founder of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, received a hand-written death threat in Guatemala City on 8 August. The note also mentioned his colleagues José Samuel Suasnavar, Leonel Estuardo Paiz and Omar Bertoni, all of whom gave testimony at the trial.

    The threat came after a judge in Guatemala City sentenced four former soldiers from an elite army unit to 6,060 years in prison on 2 August for their role in a 1982 massacre in Dos Erres village in Guatemala’s northern Petén region.

    “It is unacceptable for expert witnesses to be intimidated like this, and Guatemalan authorities must order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into these threats and bring those responsible to justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International’s Central America Researcher.

    August 11, 2011

    The Saudi Arabian authorities must release or charge with an internationally recognizable offence a Shi’a cleric reportedly held for "inciting public opinion", Amnesty International said today.

    Sheikh Tawfiq Jaber Ibrahim al-'Amr was arrested on 3 August, reportedly over statements he had made in sermons during Friday prayers although no formal charges are known to have been made.

    The cleric was previously arrested in February following a sermon he gave calling for reforms in Saudi Arabia including a constitutional monarchy, fair distribution of jobs, and an end to discrimination against religious minorities.

    "It would appear that this cleric has been arrested in connection to his continuing calls for reform," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "If so, he would be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and should be released immediately and unconditionally."

    Sheikh Tawfiq Jaber Ibrahim al-‘Amr was arrested on 3 August while on his way home from a mosque in the city of al-Hafouf, al-Ahsa governorate.

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