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    May 16, 2011

    Amnesty International has today condemned the conviction of four Belarusian prisoners of conscience, including former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, over their involvement in post-election protests.

    A court in Minsk sentenced Andrei Sannikau, who has complained of torture and other ill- treatment during his detention, to five years’ imprisonment on Saturday for his role in protests that followed presidential elections in December 2010.

    Andrei Sannikau’s wife, journalist Iryna Khalip, who also took part in the December protests, was given a two-year suspended sentence on Monday, charged with breaching public order.

    Pavel Sevarnyets and Syargei Martseleu were also sentenced to three years in a correctional facility and two years’ probation, respectively. Both were charged with breaching public order.

    “Andrei Sannikau and these other activists have been convicted solely for exercising their right to peaceful protest,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    May 13, 2011

    Amnesty International today called on the Iranian authorities to not carry out a sentence ordering a man to be blinded by having acid dropped in both eyes as part of a retribution punishment.

    Majid Movahedi was sentenced to “retribution in kind” (qesas) in 2008 after he poured a bucket of acid over Ameneh Bahrami, who had rejected his marriage proposal several times.

    A Tehran court ordered that five drops of acid be placed in each of his eyes and the sentence is reportedly due to be carried out on 14 May.

    “It is unbelievable that the Iranian authorities would consider implementing such a punishment,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Regardless of how horrific the crime suffered by Ameneh Bahrami, being blinded with acid is a cruel and inhuman punishment amounting to torture, and the Iranian authorities have a responsibility under international law to ensure it does not go ahead.”

    On 3 November 2004, Majid Movahedi poured a bucket of acid on Ameneh Bahrami's head as she was leaving work, after she had rejected his marriage proposal several times.

    May 13, 2011

    Amnesty International will on 19 May release a new report Egypt rises: Killings, detentions and torture in the '25 January Revolution'.
    The 123-page report will be released two days in advance of the trial of former Interior Minister Habib El Adly and six close aides, who are accused of ordering the shooting of protesters. The report covers human rights violations that took place between 25 January and 7 March, when the new interim cabinet was sworn into office.

    The report documents the cases of 93 individuals killed or injured by security forces using excessive force, focusing on casualties in Greater Cairo, Alexandria, Beni Suef governorate, Suez, Port Said and the industrial heartland of El Mahalla. It charts the waves of arrests in Cairo, particularly from 25 January to 3 February, and the many cases of torture of those detained. It describes the unlawful killings of prisoners in the context of the prison unrest.

    May 12, 2011

    The military trial today of a group of 21 Bahraini opposition activists charged over their involvement in anti-government protests has been adjourned until 16 May.

    In a brief proceeding, the 14 defendants in the court in the capital Manama on Thursday denied all the charges against them. Seven others are being tried in absentia.

    The mainly Shi’a activists have been charged with a series of alleged crimes related to weeks of protest, including running a terrorist organization with the aim of toppling the ruling Sunni-led government.

    Amnesty International has called on Bahraini authorities to grant the men a fair trial, citing abuses of their basic legal rights and fears that two, including prominent human rights defender ‘Abdelhadi al-Khawaja, have been tortured in detention.

    “Bahrain’s government has stacked the deck against the defendants and there is very little chance they can receive a fair trial in the current circumstances,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    May 12, 2011

     Growing demands for freedom and justice across the Middle East and North Africa and the rise of social media offer an unprecedented opportunity for human rights change – but this change stands on a knife-edge, said Amnesty International as it launched its global human rights report on the eve of its 50th anniversary.

    “Fifty years since the Amnesty candle began to shine a light on repression, the human rights revolution now stands on the threshold of historic change,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

    “People are rejecting fear. Courageous people, led largely by youth, are standing up and speaking out in the face of bullets, beatings, tear gas and tanks. This bravery – combined with new technology that is helping activists to outflank and expose government suppression of free speech and peaceful protest – is sending a signal to repressive governments that their days are numbered.

    “But there is a serious fight-back from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights.”

    May 10, 2011

    Israeli authorities should release or charge a Palestinian writer and academic held for almost three weeks in the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said today.

    The Israel Security Agency (ISA) say they want to keep  Ahmad Qatamesh in detention in connection with allegations of involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which he denies.

    “We fear that Ahmad Qatamesh may be behind bars for no reason other than the peaceful expression of his political views,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “If this is so, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

    Israeli security forces raided Ahmad Qatamesh’s family home in Ramallah at around 1am on 21 April. When they did not find him at home they arrested him at his brother’s house nearby. He was questioned for 10 minutes after his arrest, the only time he has been asked about the allegations.

    May 04, 2011

    Kyrgyzstan’s authorities must urgently investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations during unrest in June 2010, Amnesty International said today after an international commission of inquiry found that the violence amounted to crimes against humanity.

    Four days of violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the south of the country left around 470 people dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.  

    Despite having cooperated with the commission’s investigation, the Kyrgyzstani government has rejected the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission’s finding that crimes against humanity were committed.

    “This report is comprehensive and constructive, and the Kyrgyzstani authorities cannot afford to ignore its findings,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.  

    “They must ensure that the crimes that took place are properly investigated and prosecuted in accordance with their qualification under international law. The international community must both push and support the Kyrgyzstani authorities to do this.”

    May 03, 2011

     Amnesty International has received first-hand reports of torture and other ill-treatment from detainees held in Syria as a wave of arrests of anti-government protesters intensified over the weekend.

    Detainees who were recently released told the organization of beatings and harsh conditions in detention, raising fears for the safety of hundreds of others being held, including at least 499 people who were arrested on Sunday in house-to-house raids in the southern town of Dera’a.

    “These disturbing new accounts of detainees being tortured further underscore the need for President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to his security forces’ violent onslaught against his own people,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The use of unwarranted lethal force, arbitrary detention and torture appear to be the desperate actions of a government that is intolerant of dissent and must be halted immediately. Syrians must be allowed to voice their calls for change peacefully.”

    May 03, 2011

    Amnesty International has published satellite imagery and new testimony that shed light on the horrific conditions in North Korea’s network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 200,000 people.

    The images reveal the location, size and conditions inside the camps. Amnesty International spoke to a number of people, including former inmates from the political prison camp at Yodok as well as guards in other political prison camps, to obtain information about life in the camps.

    According to former detainees at the political prison camp at Yodok, prisoners are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. All the detainees at Yodok have witnessed public executions.

    “North Korea can no longer deny the undeniable. For decades the authorities have refused to admit to the existence of mass political prison camps,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director.

    April 27, 2011

    The Yemeni president and his political allies must not be given immunity from prosecution as the price for ending the country’s spiralling human rights crisis, Amnesty International said today.

    Following months of protests against his 33-year rule, President Ali Abdallah Saleh is expected to agree a deal to transfer power to opposition leaders and step down 30 days later.

    The deal appears to provide blanket immunity to the President and those who served under him, and could prevent prosecutions of senior officials for the deaths of more than 120 protesters and other violations committed during recent protests and in earlier years.

    “President Ali Abdullah Saleh must not be allowed to evade accountability for the long catalogue of human rights crimes committed under his rule,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “President Saleh and those around him must be held accountable for the arbitrary arrests, torture and unlawful killings that have been committed on their watch if the rule of law is to have any meaning in Yemen.”

    April 26, 2011

    A United Nations report on war crimes committed during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war underscores the need for international accountability for those responsible, Amnesty International said today.

    The report, which was made public today, concluded that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in northern Sri Lanka from January to May 2009 and that the Sri Lankan Government knowingly shelled areas where it had encouraged civilians to gather.

    The report gives credibility to allegations that both the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

    “Almost two years after the end of the conflict, this UN report finally exposes the Sri Lankan government’s whitewash in its efforts to deny justice to the war’s victims,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    April 26, 2011

    Amnesty International today renewed its call on US authorities to release or give fair trials to remaining Guantánamo Bay detainees, after leaked files revealed fresh details about those held at the detention centre.

    "The files confirm what we have been saying all along about Guantanamo Bay - that many were detained for spurious reasons and held for years without access to the US legal system,” said Susan Lee,  Americas director at Amnesty International.

    "The authorities must either try those that remain there - in US civilian courts rather than military commissions - or set them free."

    A dossier of classified files, containing case information of men held at the camp, was published in the media over the weekend.

    The vast majority of the nearly 800 men who have been held at Guantánamo have been released without charge. To date only five have been convicted by the military commission system and one has been tried by civilian court.

    None of those released without charge are known to have been provided with compensation or any other form of remedy by the US authorities.

    April 20, 2011

    Members of the security forces that have for decades brutally repressed Egyptians must be held to account, Amnesty International said today as it released a damning report into the use of emergency powers under former President Hosni Mubarak.

    In Time for Justice: Egypt's Corrosive System of Detention, Amnesty International calls for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into human rights abuses committed by the much-feared State Security Investigations Service (SSI).

    "Under the cover of the state of emergency, President Mubarak’s state security forces were for years allowed to commit gross violations without fear of scrutiny or punishment," said Amnesty International.

    “This is a moment for fundamental change,” said Amnesty International. “It demands immediate concrete steps from the authorities so that those responsible for serious human rights violations are held to account.”

    “Egyptians must see justice done for the human rights abuses of the past.”

    The organization said it was prepared to make its archive of human rights reports available to the Egyptian authorities to assist with an investigation.

    April 14, 2011

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must rein in his security forces and prevent further unlawful killings, Amnesty International said today, as the coastal city of Banias remained under virtual lockdown and the army was reported to have detained all males over 15 in the nearby village of al-Baydah.

    “The human rights crisis in Syria is growing by the day, almost by the hour,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The government appears intent on trying to crush all dissent using the most repressive means – shooting peaceful protesters, carrying out mass arrests and locking down areas where people have dared to call for reform. This has to stop. Syria’s President must make it stop.”

    Amnesty International has received lists naming at least 200 people who have been killed since protests began in Syria on 18 March, but the true number may be much higher. Most of the dead were shot by the security forces or men in plain clothes acting alongside them using live ammunition, though the government claims that opposition “armed gangs” are the chief culprits.

    April 12, 2011

    A UN report on accountability for war crimes committed in the Sri Lankan armed conflict must be made public, Amnesty International said today as a panel of experts submits their findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

    “Sri Lankans must be allowed to see the panel’s findings. The report concerns a critical period in their recent history and they deserve to read it in full,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. 

    “Ban Ki-moon said that ‘accountability is an essential foundation for durable peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka’. He must stick to his word - accounting for violations committed in the recent conflict is the first step to future reconciliation”.

    The UN Panel of Experts was appointed in June 2010 to advise the Secretary General on accountability issues relating to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law alleged in the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which ended in May 2009.


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