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    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.

    August 08, 2011

    Two Bahraini MPs jailed during anti-government protests might still be facing criminal charges despite being released from prison this weekend, Amnesty International has warned.

    Matar Matar and Jawad Fairouz, who were reportedly tortured in detention, were among at least three opposition figures freed on 7 August.

    "The release of these government critics is welcome, if overdue, but the Bahraini authorities must ensure that all charges based on their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or other human rights are also dropped, so that the threat of re-imprisonment is not left hanging over Matar Matar, Jawad Fairouz and others," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    The third government critic confirmed released this weekend was human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer, who told Amnesty International today that his peaceful activities remain stifled.

    "As far as I am concerned the charges against me have not been dropped. The items confiscated from my office have not been returned and my bank account is frozen," said Mohammed al-Tajer.

    August 05, 2011

    Amnesty International today called on the Jordanian authorities to ensure that the next phase of the investigation into the reported use of excessive force against demonstrators and journalists during a protest in Amman on 15 July 2011 is carried out by a body that is fully independent and impartial and will be perceived as such.

    In a letter sent today to Minister of Interior Mazen Al Saket, Amnesty International welcomed the recent publication of the preliminary findings of an investigation panel set up by the Public Security Directorate (PSD) and a number of its recommendations, including an extended time frame for the investigation, but also expressed concern about the impartiality of the panel, which appears to be seriously undermined by the fact that two of its three members appear directly responsible for some of the police forces under investigation.

    August 04, 2011

    Amnesty International has today described the government's plans for an inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations as "secretive, unfair and deeply flawed".

    The statement came as Amnesty and nine other organisations wrote to inquiry officials to say that because the proposed inquiry “does not have the credibility or transparency” to ensure “the truth about allegations that UK authorities were involved in the mistreatment of detainees held abroad” is brought to light, the organisations have said they do not intend to submit any evidence or to attend any further meetings with the inquiry team.

    “This is a desperately-needed inquiry into extremely serious allegations but the arrangements for it are secretive, unfair and deeply flawed," said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International's Director for Europe.

    August 03, 2011

    A judge in Guatemala City yesterday sentenced four former soldiers from an elite army unit to more than 6,000 years in prison for their role in a 1982 massacre in Dos Erres village in the north of the country.

    “This landmark sentence sends a message that Guatemala might finally be moving closer to delivering justice to the hundreds of thousands of victims of grave human rights violations during the civil war,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The Dos Erres massacre in 1982 was a particularly brutal incident, but this is just the tip of the iceberg and numerous crimes against humanity and other grave violations have yet to be resolved in Guatemala, including some cases that have yet to be opened.”

    A Guatemalan elite army unit entered Dos Erres in the northern Petén region on 5 December 1982 and tortured and killed some 250 men, women and children over the course of three days before razing the village. Many of the women and girls were raped, and numerous villagers, including children, were thrown into the village well.

    August 03, 2011

    Two Bahraini women activists detained for their involvement in pro-reform protests have begun a hunger strike to demand their freedom.

    Roula al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, and Jalila al-Salman, vice-president of the Bahrain Teacher’s Association (BTA), have been held for several months near the capital Manama. Both women allege they were tortured in detention.

    "Jalila al-Salman and Roula al-Saffar’s decision to go on hunger strike is a desperate attempt to protest against their imprisonment and the way they have been treated," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    "Amnesty International is concerned that they are being held solely because they took part in protests, in which case they would both be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    August 02, 2011

    The Honourable Vic Toews , Minister of Public Safety 

     The Honourable Jason Kenney,  Minister of Citizenship and and  Immigration                                                                 

    August 2, 2011

    Dear Ministers,

    We are writing this open letter to express Amnesty International’s concern about the approach the government has adopted to dealing with the cases of thirty individuals who have been accused of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity and who are believed to be residing in Canada.   Their cases, including their names and photos, have been widely publicized on a government web-site, “Wanted by the CBSA”.  Five of the thirty men have since been arrested.  Amnesty International is concerned that the initiative does not conform to Canada’s obligations with respect to human rights and international justice. 

    August 02, 2011

    Bloodshed in Bab Qebli: portrait from Syria’s violent crackdown on Hama
    The Syrian authorities continue their violent crackdown on protests nationwide

    Shortly after breakfast, Khaled al-Hamedh left his home to buy medicine for his four-year-old brother, who had a fever.

    He never came home.

    Several hours later, family members laid him to rest in the garden of nearby al-Serjawi mosque, a bullet wound in his back and his body crushed by a tank.

    As the 21-year-old construction worker walked out into Hama’s Bab Qebli neighbourhood on Sunday morning, Syrian security forces were encroaching on the city with tanks, firing into residential areas.

    The scene was by now all-too-familiar in cities across Syria, as the authorities continued to try to put down months of mainly peaceful protests calling for government reform.

    Khaled had himself finished military service in January, a few months before he was faced with tanks on the streets of his hometown.

    July 26, 2011

    Two months ago, when prominent Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni finally stepped onto the streets of Damascus after completing a five year jail sentence, he walked out into a changed world.

    On a personal level, the nightmare of his prison existence- a prisoner of conscience surrounded by convicted criminals and living in fear of attack by both inmates and guards - was finally over. But, more broadly, the popular protests that had erupted two months earlier meant that Syria itself had been transformed. He and other human rights defenders no longer felt alone.

    “In the past, only a few of us dared to call for freedom and human rights.”  he told Amnesty International. “We used to feel isolated, as the majority of people avoided us out of fear of retribution from the authorities. After my release, I have realised that my demands became the demands of all the Syrian people.”

    July 25, 2011

    Access to Amnesty International’s website has been blocked in Saudi Arabia today following the organization’s criticism of a draft anti-terror law that would stifle peaceful protest in the kingdom.

    Amnesty International published its analysis of a leaked copy of the draft law on Friday. The organization condemned the proposed law’s treatment of peaceful dissent as “terrorist crimes”, as well as the wide-ranging powers the Minister of Interior would hold, free from judicial authorization or oversight.  

    Several journalists and human rights activists based in Saudi Arabia independently confirmed that they were unable to access the website today.  

    “Instead of attacking those raising concerns and attempting to block debate, the Saudi Arabian government should amend the draft law to ensure that it does not muzzle dissent and deny basic rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    July 22, 2011

    A draft Saudi Arabian anti-terrorism law obtained by Amnesty International would allow the authorities to prosecute peaceful dissent as a terrorist crime.

    The organization has obtained copies of the Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism, which would also allow extended detention without charge or trial. Questioning the integrity of the King or the Crown Prince would carry a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.

    The leak of the draft comes as ongoing peaceful protests across the Middle East and North Africa are being met with government repression.

    “This draft law poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in the Kingdom in the name of preventing terrorism,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations.”

    A Saudi Arabian government security committee reviewed the draft law in June but it is not known when or if it might be passed.

    ‘Terrorist crimes’

    July 22, 2011

    Gambia must act to improve the deteriorating human rights situation across the country, Amnesty International said in a campaign document released today.

    Climate of Fear Continues: Enforced disappearances, killings and torture in Gambia details how cases of enforced disappearances are yet to be resolved after several years, those involved in unlawful killings have not been identified and brought to justice, and torture is still widely used by the security forces.

    “President Jammeh marks July 22 each year as ‘Freedom Day’ and yet Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by a government that ruthlessly quashes all forms of dissent,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director.

    “Instead of celebrating ‘Freedom Day’, the Gambian authorities must act to end human rights abuses and the culture of fear.”

    July 19, 2011

    Dozens of men are being held incommunicado at unknown locations and are at risk of torture after the Syrian security forces conducted mass arrests in a Damascus suburb over the weekend, Amnesty International said today.

    Tanks and armed men moved into Qatana, south-west of the capital, on Saturday, opening fire on unarmed residents and carrying out raids randomly arresting dozens of men between the ages of 18 and 40. Amnesty International is particularly concerned for their given reports of rampant torture across Syria.

    Journalist and political activist ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah, aged 61, is among those being held incommunicado at an unknown location after his arrest on Sunday.

    “Syrian authorities must reveal the whereabouts of ‘Ali al-‘Abdullah and the other Qatana detainees and ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment while held,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

    July 19, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged Sudanese authorities to ensure that a UN worker being held in South Darfur is not subjected to torture and is given immediate access to his family and any needed medical care.

    Idris Yousef Abdelrahman, a civil affairs officer from the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) based in Nyala, was charged on 12 July with “undermining the constitutional system” and “waging war against the state”. Both crimes are punishable by death under Sudanese law.

    He had gone missing in late April after being called to a meeting with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), which on 10 May confirmed his detention. NISS detainees have frequently reported being tortured and ill-treated.

    “For more than two months, the Sudanese intelligence agency has held Idris Yousef Abdelrahman without giving him access to his family or medical treatment, and there is a legitimate concern he is at risk of torture,” said Erwin Van Der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.


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