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Torture

    December 03, 2014

    Magdy el-Baghdady, a 30-year-old man from London, had a grand plan.

    In early 2011 he travelled to Sudan to open a small restaurant to help support his ailing father. He knew a few well-connected people in Khartoum with whom he had gone to school in north London. It all made sense at the time.

    But then, it went horribly wrong.

    Two weeks after his plane landed, he was languishing in a prison cell, bearing the marks and scars of torture.

    Despite his ordeal Magdy is lucky. He is now safely back in the UK, fighting a legal battle against the Sudanese state.

    He is arguing that Sudan violated the prohibition of torture under the African Charter and is using the Convention against Torture – adopted three decades ago this year – to do it.

    Madgy’s story illustrates why the Convention against Torture is crucial in the fight for justice for thousands like him. The document provides a clear definition of what torture is and sets out the obligations that state parties have to end it.

    December 02, 2014

    The Irish Government’s request to reopen the landmark 1978 European Court of Human Rights judgment in Ireland v UK is a triumph of justice, after more than 40 years of waiting, said Amnesty International today. It follows revelations in a television program, The Torture Files, broadcast on an Irish national channel in June that the UK withheld vital information from the European Court at the time.

    In 1978 the European Court ruled that the treatment of 14 so-called ‘hooded men’, who were interned in Northern Ireland in 1971, constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.  Amnesty International – and clearly Ireland – now considers that the withheld evidence could possibly have led to a finding that the men were tortured.

    Today the Irish High Court was to have heard the men’s application seeking to compel the Irish Government to decide on requesting the European Court to reopen the 1978 judgement. However, Counsel for the state told the Court the Government had already decided to seek a reopening of Ireland v UK.  

    November 26, 2014

    “I’ve been working for the drug cartels and helped place a car bomb that killed two police officers,” said Rogelio Amaya, looking straight at the camera lens. He appeared shaken, his body bruised.

    Within hours, a version of the video featuring Rogelio and four of his friends confessing to the crime plastered the TV screens of Ciudad Juárez, in northern Mexico along the border with the USA.

    The town is one of the most violent in the country, infamous for brutal clashes among competing drug cartels and law-enforcement officers.

    The local authorities congratulated themselves for having captured who they said were members of “La Línea”, a local drug cartel who had been terrorizing people in the area for years. They were also blamed for the recent explosion of a car bomb in downtown Juárez.

    Drug dealers behind bars. Problem solved.

    But a few years into the men’s prison term, the real story of how the video was made came to light – and exposed the shocking use of torture that pervades across Mexico.

    November 25, 2014

    The UAE authorities have again shown their intolerance for dissent by handing down a three-year prison sentence and hefty fine today to a 25-year-old man whose only “offence” was taking to social media to call for the release of his imprisoned father, Amnesty International said.

    “With this vindictive conviction following a charade of a trial, the UAE authorities have again made crystal clear that when they don’t like the message, their first line of defence is to smear and silence the messenger,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    In what national media has called a “terror trial” before the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court, Osama al-Najjar was convicted of charges including “instigating hatred against” the state, “designing and running a website [with] satirical and defaming ideas and information” deemed harmful to UAE institutions, and “contacting foreign organizations and presenting inaccurate information”. The conviction cannot be appealed.

    November 24, 2014

    ‘A request to the European Court must be lodged within the next two weeks. The clock is ticking’ - Colm O’Gorman

    Allegations that the UK government sanctioned the use of torture and ill-treatment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s should be re-examined by the European Court of Human Rights and subject to a new independent investigation. 

    That is the call from Amnesty International, which is urging the Irish government to request a re-opening of the landmark 1978 Ireland v UK judgment involving the torture and ill-treatment of the 14 so-called ‘hooded men’, who were interned in Northern Ireland in 1971.

    The call was supported by the ‘hooded men’ at an Amnesty International press conference in Dublin this morning.

    November 22, 2014

    Releasesd 0:01 GMT 23 November 2013

    The Philippine authorities are running out of time to ensure that their response to the Maguindanao massacre does not become a mockery of justice, Amnesty International said on the fifth anniversary of what is often called the world’s largest-ever single attack on journalists.

    On 23 November 2009, 58 people, including 32 journalists and other media workers, were killed when an election convoy came under attack by more than 100 armed men, allegedly including members of the police and the military. The convoy had been travelling in the southern province of Maguindanao, through the territory of the powerful Ampatuan clan.

    “Justice delayed is justice denied. Five years after the Maguindanao massacre, the cases are still inching through the Philippine court system and not a single person has been held to account,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Philippines Researcher.

    Almost half the 197 suspects for whom arrest warrants have been issued since the massacre remain at large. Meanwhile, no prosecution has been concluded, nor has any perpetrator been convicted.

    November 19, 2014

    The event was a legal milestone that sent a chilling message to human rights violators the world over.

    Eight years after being ousted from power, in October 1998, Augusto Pinochet, the ailing Chilean former leader and one of the world’s most notorious dictators, decided to travel to Europe to receive medical treatment.

    But as he arrived in London, members of the Chilean diaspora – many of them survivors of torture during Pinochet’s brutal regime – saw a golden opportunity for the former dictator to be investigated, after Chile had systematically refused to do so.

    Armed with the International Convention against Torture – a ground-breaking treaty under which governments had agreed that those suspected of committing or ordering torture could be tried by state parties all around the world – lawyers began a fierce battle.

    Never before had the Convention been successfully used to prosecute a former head of state suspected of having ordered or committed torture, and the results were astonishing.

    November 19, 2014

    By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner

    You may have noticed an Amnesty International campaign "Think Winter is Torture,Think Mexico" that reaches out to potential Canadian travellers to Mexico.

    There's a compelling reason why Amnesty is reaching out this way and it starts with an alarming human rights situation in Mexico. What has been revealed in the last couple of months in Mexico is a horror story that is simply unacceptable. Yet it's one that has largely escaped attention in Canada and the condemnation that could help make it stop.

    November 12, 2014

    Posted at 0001 CAT 13 November 2014

    The government of President José Eduardo dos Santos must stop the extrajudicial killing, forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and torture by security forces of those who stand up against the president’s 35-years-rule, said Amnesty International as it published a new report documenting human rights violations since 2011.

    “Punishing dissent – Suppression of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Angola,” assesses how Angolans who dare challenge President José Eduardo dos Santos’ rule by demanding accountability have been targeted by the state over the past four years.

    “In Angola, we are seeing a state that has turned against its own people, a government that cannot take criticism from its own citizens,  where the genuine cries of its people are met with unlawful  arrests, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    The report also documents the mistreatment and violence meted out on demonstrators in custody.

    November 12, 2014

    Today the US government finally acknowledged that the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) applies at its Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

    The announcement came during the UN Committee against Torture’s review of the USA, which is taking place in Geneva this week. It means the USA finally recognizes that the obligation it undertook to denounce and refrain from torture and other ill-treatment apply to the government’s actions in the camp.

    Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program, who is attending the Geneva hearing, issued the following statement:

    "Acknowledging at last the long established reality that UNCAT applies at Guantánamo is certainly a welcome move, however late in the day. That said, the USA has a long way to go before meeting its obligations under the anti-torture Convention. We have seen what happens when a government fails in this regard – as with the USA’s resort to torture and enforced disappearance at ‘black sites’ under the previous administration.

    November 12, 2014

    The USA should use its appearance before the UN Committee against Torture to commit itself to justice for the grave human rights violations—including torture and enforced disappearances—committed by US personnel in recent years, said Amnesty International.

    This week in Geneva, the Committee against Torture will review the USA’s record under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

    “The USA proclaimed itself to be a global leader against torture even when torture and enforced disappearance were being authorized at the highest levels of government under the Bush administration. Today the USA asserts that it is committed to the principles of UNCAT even as it fails to bring those responsible for past torture to justice,” said Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program who will attend the hearing in Geneva.

    Amnesty International has submitted evidence to the Committee on the US government’s failure to end impunity and lack of redress for human rights violations, including:

    November 10, 2014

    Philippine authorities are failing to tackle torture as not a single perpetrator has been convicted under a landmark anti-torture law that came into effect five years ago today, despite evidence that the practice is prevalent, Amnesty International said.

    The Anti-Torture Act, passed on 10 November 2009,recognized torture as a separate crime and provided a number of important guarantees to aid torture survivors seeking redress. But no one has been convicted under the Act and very few cases have reached the prosecution stage.

    “Five years without a single torture survivorobtaining justice shows that this law, which could make a genuine difference towards ending torture in the Philippines, risks becoming nothing but a piece of paper. The government must step up to its commitment to stamp out torture once and for all,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    November 09, 2014

    By Noor Al-Bazzaz of Amnesty International’s Syria team

    Five months to the day after being abducted and held hostage by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), a group of 25 students from Kobani were unexpectedly set free on 29 October.

    They were the last remaining captives from a group of around 150 schoolchildren from the embattled Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria who were returning from their final year examinations in Aleppo in May when IS members stopped their school bus at a checkpoint and abducted them all. In the months that followed, they were sporadically released. Those we spoke to had horror stories to tell about life in IS captivity.

    In Suruç, a town in Turkey merely 10km from Kobani, refugees from the besieged city told me how the students’ harrowing experience was typical of the many abductions by IS in the year and a half since the armed group besieged their city.

    One of the released students, a 15-year-old boy who chose to remain unnamed, described the four months he spent in the hands of IS, detailing the armed group’s use of torture against students who broke the rigid rules, or attempted to escape.

    November 07, 2014

    Gambia has again demonstrated its blatant disregard for human rights by stopping a UN team from investigating allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, were denied access to detention centres where prisoners are believed to be at high risk of torture.

    “The UN's human rights monitors have confirmed what we have long been saying, describing torture as a ‘consistent practice’ in Gambia, with authorities repressing perceived dissent with brutal force. Denying monitors access to the country's prisons can only suggest that the authorities have something to hide," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    The blocked visit comes just weeks after Gambia was heavily criticized for its human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN).

    November 05, 2014

    Venezuelan law enforcement officials have engaged in the torture and other ill-treatment of dozens of protestors over recent months, Amnesty International will tell the United Nations Committee Against Torture later today.

    Amnesty International and other NGOs will present evidence before the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva. In a joint public statement the organizations have documented cases of authorities enacting torture and ill-treatment, with examples stretching back over the past decade.

    “This is a serious wake-up call for Venezuela. The evidence Amnesty International and other organizations have gathered paints a grim picture of the violence and abuse meted out to protestors in recent months, but also reveals a serious problem that has been going on for years,” said Nuria Garcia, Venezuela Researcher, Amnesty International. 

    This is the first time in 10 years that the country has come before the United Nations Committee. 

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