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    July 14, 2011

    A Chilean judge is turning the historic case of a priest tortured on board a Pinochet-era 'torture ship' into a travesty of justice, Amnesty International said today, after the dropping of charges against most of those implicated in his death.

    Tomorrow is the hearing of a fresh appeal launched by the family of Father Michael Woodward against the presiding judge’s recent decisions, including the absolving of 19 out of 29 former naval and police officials initially indicted.

    The Catholic priest and dual British-Chilean national is believed to have died following torture aboard the naval vessel Esmeralda in 1973, which served as an interrogation centre for scores of prisoners that year.

    The boat still serves as a naval training vessel and a ‘roving ambassador’ for the Chilean government. 

    “This judge is turning Michael Woodward’s case into a travesty of justice,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Americas.

    “The throwing out and watering down of charges for crimes under international law, even after reported admissions of guilt by some of those under investigation, is an utter disgrace.”

    July 14, 2011

    The Sudanese authorities must immediately release a journalist who faces fresh charges despite completing a year's prison sentence.

    Abuzar Al Amin, deputy editor-in-chief of Rai Al Shaab newspaper, was convicted on 14 July 2010 for undermining the Constitution and publishing false news after he published articles critical of the government.

    He has alleged that he was tortured while in prison.

    Abuzar Al Amin was due to be freed on 3 July 2011, but two weeks before his release two new claims were brought against him by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

    Based on these claims, numerous charges under the 1991 Criminal Act have been made against him, including criminal conspiracy and undermining the constitution. If convicted he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

    "Abuzar Al Amin is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for expressing his opinions and this is a blatant attempt by the authorities to prolong his detention using what appear to be politically motivated charges," said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Director for Africa.

    July 07, 2011

    The Tajikistani authorities must immediately release a BBC journalist, apparently held solely for his writing work, who is alleged to have been tortured or ill-treated while in detention, said Amnesty International.

    Urunboy Usmonov was arrested on 13 June and has been charged with participation in the banned Islamic movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

    State security officials said on Wednesday that, despite earlier allegations made by the Interior Ministry, Urunboy Usmonov was not accused of being a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir but that their investigation was still focusing on his involvement in the organization.

    He is being held in pre-trial detention in the northern city of Khujand.

    Family members reported that Urunboy Usmonov appeared to have been tortured or ill-treated while in detention. A BBC colleague who was allowed to visit him in detention said that he appeared "frail mentally and psychologically".

    July 05, 2011

    The brutal methods used in a devastating Syrian security operation in the western town of Tell Kalakh may constitute crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    Crackdown in Syria: Terror in Tell Kalakh documents deaths in custody, torture and arbitrary detention that took place in May when Syrian army and security forces mounted a broad security sweep, lasting less than a week, against residents of the town near the Lebanese border.

    “The accounts we have heard from witnesses to events in Tell Kalakh paint a deeply disturbing picture of systematic, targeted abuses to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    “Most of the crimes described in this report would fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. But the UN Security Council must first refer the situation in Syria to the Court’s Prosecutor.”

    The paper’s findings are based on interviews carried out in Lebanon and by phone with more than 50 people in May and June. Amnesty International has not been allowed to enter Syria.

    July 04, 2011

    Two women remain in detention after being arrested in Riyadh on Sunday during a protest to demand fair trials for their relatives, sources told Amnesty International.

    Some 15 women and five children were arrested yesterday outside the Ministry of Interior. They had been calling for fair trials for their male relatives, who are being detained without charge – in some cases for up to 10 years.

    All but two women were released after they were believed to have signed pledges not to protest again.

    “If these women were arrested solely for peacefully demonstrating in public, we would consider them to be prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “The Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment while in detention, and they must be given regular access to family and lawyers, as well as any medical treatment they may need.”

    July 01, 2011

    The US Attorney General must immediately reconsider his decision to close inquiries into some 100 cases of alleged torture of detainees held in CIA custody, Amnesty International said today.

    Eric Holder announced  on Thursday that he is opening a criminal probe into the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody, but is closing investigations into the treatment of any other cases since 2001.

    "Closing these cases is a complete travesty of justice. The scores of closed cases include ones that raise serious and credible allegations of torture,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. 

    “We welcome the decision to conduct a criminal investigation into the two deaths, but investigations must not end there. The Attorney General should immediately review these cases and act to bring the United States in line with international law," he said.

    Among the closed cases, Amnesty International is aware of three that involved torture. Guantanamo detainees Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, ‘Abd al Rahim al Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah were all subjected to waterboarding during their detention – a fact confirmed by US authorities.

    June 30, 2011

    President should establish a Presidential Accountability Commission on political killings, enforced disappearances and torture, Amnesty International said today.

    Nearly one year after Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III became President of the Philippines, his administration has shown little progress in addressing serious human rights problems affecting Filipinos.

    Amnesty International today released Progress, Stagnation, Regression? The State of Human Rights in the Philippines under Aquino. The 18-page briefing examines the Aquino administration’s progress on 26 key human rights recommendations, which the organization put forward to candidates in the presidential election in February 2010 and again to newly-elected President Aquino in June 2010.

    “Aquino has shown that human rights are still not a priority for his administration,” said Aurora Parong, Director of Amnesty International Philippines. “For the past year Aquino has been saying that he inherited these human rights problems from his predecessor. But after a full year in charge, it is time for him to take responsibility for protecting the human rights of Filipinos.”

    June 29, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the Egyptian authorities to ensure that justice is done in the case of Khaled Said, an Egyptian allegedly beaten to death by two police officers one year ago.

    A verdict in the case of the two police officers accused of killing Khaled Said last June in Alexandria is expected on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old was allegedly dragged out of an internet cafe by police officers in June last year and beaten to death.

    Shocking pictures of his barely recognizable face taken in the morgue were widely circulated online and his case became a rallying cry for pro-reform protesters in Egypt earlier this year.

    “A year after his death, Khaled Said’s family still wait for justice. His case highlights the widely shared belief that the Egyptian authorities are still not doing enough to deliver justice  - not only for Khaled Said but for all those unlawfully killed and injured by the security forces during mass protests earlier this year,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    June 27, 2011

    Nigerian armed groups must stop attacking civilians, Amnesty International said today, after as many as 30 people were killed in a bomb attack blamed on the religious sect Boko Haram.

    Motorcyclists hurled bombs into a beer garden killing up to 30 people in Maiduguri, Borno State, in the northeast of the country on Sunday, before shooting into the crowd. Several people were injured in a fresh bombing on Monday, also believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram.

    The attacks are the latest in a series of bombings targeting civilians blamed on Boko Haram, an armed group which seeks to establish Sharia law in parts of Nigeria.

    “These killings are senseless and outrageous. Direct attacks on civilians are prohibited under international law and show a complete disregard for the right to life,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    June 27, 2011

    The head of Egypt’s military intelligence has promised Amnesty International that the army will no longer carry out forced ‘virginity tests’ after defending their use, during a meeting with the organisation in Cairo on Sunday.

    Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), discussed the issue with Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty months after the organization publicized allegations of the forced ‘tests’.  

    Major General al-Sisi said that ‘virginity tests’ had been carried out on female detainees in March to "protect" the army against possible allegations of rape, but that such forced tests would not be carried out again. He also added that army would avoid detaining women in the future.  

    He noted that women seeking to work for the army are required to undertake ‘virginity tests’.

    "The Major General’s comments must translate into unequivocal instructions to army staff that women are never forced to undergo this treatment again in Egypt,” said Amnesty International.

    June 25, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must earn the trust of the people by abolishing repressive laws and ending abusive practices, the Secretary General of Amnesty International said today in Cairo.

    Speaking after his week-long visit to Egypt, his first official trip to the Middle East and North Africa, Salil Shetty called on the Egyptian authorities, including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to use the post-Mubarak transition period to carry out urgent reforms and lift new repressive steps such as the law banning strikes and the use of military trials against civilians.

    “This is an incredible moment of opportunity for the Egyptian authorities to show they have made a clean break with past abuses,” said Salil Shetty. “And there have been some important encouraging steps, including the release of administrative detainees, the dissolution of the old State Security Investigation Services and the commitment for Egypt to become a party to the International Criminal Court.”

    June 20, 2011

    Guatemalan authorities must ensure that all those responsible for atrocities during the country’s internal armed conflict are identified and brought to justice, Amnesty International has said after a former military chief was arrested in Guatemala City.

    An investigation began today into retired general Héctor Mario López Fuentes, 81, who was arrested on Friday. He has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres in indigenous communities nearly three decades ago.

    “The arrest of Héctor Mario López Fuentes is a major step towards justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims of grave human rights abuses during Guatemala’s civil war,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “But most of those who planned and carried out the worst abuses are still at large and must be brought to justice.”

    Héctor Mario López Fuentes is accused of being the intellectual author of 12 massacres that took place from 1982-1983. At the time, he was Guatemala’s military Chief of Staff, the third-highest-ranking official in the country.

    June 17, 2011

    The Sri Lankan authorities must refrain from any ill-treatment of a group of rejected asylum seekers who arrived in Colombo on Friday after being forcibly returned from the UK, Amnesty International said.

    The 26 Sri Lankans, most of them Tamil, were reportedly taken for questioning on their arrival in the capital. Amnesty International believes that some of the returnees are at risk of torture.

    The deportations come after a UK documentary, ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, exposed shocking new evidence of war crimes committed during the closing days of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.

    “The government of Sri Lanka have a history of arresting and detaining rejected Sri Lankan asylum seekers upon their return and we are aware of cases of people being tortured”, said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher.

    “It is deeply alarming to hear that these people may already have been detained, minutes after stepping off the plane in Colombo. The Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that the rejected asylum seekers are not subjected to any form of ill-treatment or torture, “she added

    June 17, 2011

    The Mexican civilian authorities must urgently investigate the enforced disappearance of a man detained by members of the Mexican Navy in the state of Tamaulipas last week, Amnesty International has said.

    Navy authorities have denied involvement in the detention of José Fortino Martinez on 5 June but eyewitnesses present during the navy operation said they followed official vehicles carrying Martinez to the gates of a nearby military base.

    “The official denial of involvement in the detention of José Fortino Mártinez is not credible in the face of compelling evidence,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.  
    At least three other men -- Jose Cruz Dias Jaramillo, Joel Diaz Espinoza and Martin Rico Garcia -- are also missing after apparently being detained by naval officers in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, which borders the US, between 2 and 5 June.

    “These men are at huge risk of torture, ill-treatment and even death. The more time goes by, the greater the danger is,” said Javier Zuniga.

    June 16, 2011

    Amnesty International calls for the UK Authorities not to deport Sri Lankans at risk of torture, ahead of a planned deportation from Gatwick Airport in London to Colombo this afternoon.

    At least twenty Sri Lankans, mostly Tamil, face forcible return on the flight.

    “Nobody should be deported from the UK if they are at risk of torture. The end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009 has not diminished the risks faced by failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers, who continue to be subjected to arrest and detention upon their arrival in Sri Lanka. We are aware of cases of returned asylum seekers being tortured”, said Yolanda Foster, Sri Lanka Researcher at Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International understands that at least one of the failed asylum seekers due to be deported tried to commit suicide last night at an airport detention facility, following threats he reportedly received on the telephone to kill him once he returned to Sri Lanka. The death threat followed an interview given to the media.


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