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    December 23, 2010

    Amnesty International has welcomed the sentence handed to a former Argentine president responsible for crimes against humanity in the 1970s and '80s. Jorge Videla, a former military general, was found guilty of killing dissidents during the country's "Dirty War" - a period of military rule between 1976 and 1983.

    The 85-year-old, who was the de facto president of Argentina between 1976 and 1981 after becoming the first leader of the military junta, was ruled "criminally responsible" for the torture and deaths of 31 prisoners in Córdoba.

    Twenty-nine other military officers were also found guilty for the murders by a court in the city of Córdoba on Wednesday. Among them was General Luciano Benjamín Menendez, who was also sentenced to life in prison.

    "This judgement represents another important step in the fight against impunity. Finally those responsible for the grave human rights abuses committed under past military regimes are being brought to justice," said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International's Americas Deputy Director.

    Videla was already serving a life jail term for abuses committed during the "Dirty War".

    December 20, 2010

    Amnesty International renews its call on the Chinese authorities to release an ethnic Uighur prisoner of conscience jailed on separatism charges after his family reported that he is being tortured in a Xinjiang prison. Ablikim Abdiriyim, the son of prominent Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, told relatives visiting him last week that he has been held in solitary confinement since 3 November after witnessing an incident that prison authorities wanted to keep quiet. His health has since deteriorated sharply.

    The news comes exactly a year after 20 Uighur asylum-seekers were forcibly deported to China from Cambodia. China has not made public the whereabouts of the group, which included two children, since they were seized on 19 December 2009.

    "The alleged torture of Ablikim Abdiriyim is the latest example of systematic human rights abuses suffered by China's Uighur population at the hands of the Chinese authorities," said Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific deputy director at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2010

    Amnesty International has condemned the Spanish authorities’ decision to forcibly return a man accused of terrorism-related offences to Morocco where he faces the risk of torture, incommunicado detention and unfair trial. Ali Aarrass was extradited from Spain to Morocco last Tuesday. The dual Belgian-Moroccan national had been held in Spain since his arrest in April 2008.

    The Moroccan authorities accuse him of belonging to a terrorist network headed by Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian-Moroccan national who was sentenced to life imprisonment last year in Morocco after he and others were convicted of planning terrorist acts.

    "By forcibly returning Ali Aarrass to Morocco, the Spanish authorities have exposed him to a serious risk of torture and other human rights violations amid persistent reports of abuses by Moroccan security forces committed in the name of countering terrorism," said Andrea Huber, Deputy Programme Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2010

    Amnesty International has welcomed a Zimbabwe court's decision to acquit a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist charged with possession of pornographic materials. Ellen Chademana, an administrative assistant at the prominent NGO Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), was acquitted by a magistrate's court in Harare on Thursday.

    The charges followed an armed police raid on the GALZ offices in Milton Park Harare in May. Ellen Chademana was arrested and detained for six days in Harare Central Prison with a colleague, Ignatius Mhambi. Both were released on bail while the police investigation continued. Ignatius Mhambi was acquitted of his charges in July.

    "Ellen Chademana and other staff members of GALZ have faced repeated harassment for carrying out legitimate work to protect the rights of Zimbabwe's LGBT community," said Michelle Kagari of Amnesty International

    "Though delighted with her acquittal we continue to urge the unity government and police to end the persistent harassment of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe."

    December 14, 2010

    Amnesty International has urged the Ghanaian authorities to halt the imminent eviction of thousands of people living next to railway lines in the capital, Accra. Known as the Railway Dwellers, the men, women and children who live and work next to the lines in the Agbogbloshie area of Accra face homelessness after local authorities gave them two weeks to leave the area on 1 December.

    “The government of Ghana has not provided alternative accommodation for the railway dwellers, and nothing suggests that they have plans to do so after completing the evictions. The Ghanaian authorities must not evict people and leave them homeless and destitute.” said Tawanda Hondora, Africa Program Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    “The authorities must not evict the railway dwellers until there are plans in place to provide them with alternative accommodation, or with compensation. The authorities must not take measures that deepen poverty, or that make vulnerable people - the young, frail, the elderly – homeless and exposed to worse human rights violations.”

    December 10, 2010

    Amnesty International has welcomed the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, after attending the ceremony in Oslo today. "It was a fitting and dignified tribute and an inspiration to human rights defenders in China and worldwide," said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty after the ceremony.

    Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" for his part as the leading author behind "Charter 08", a manifesto calling for the recognition of fundamental human rights in China.

    Throughout the awards ceremony, Liu Xiaobo was represented by an empty chair.

    Nobel rules require the winner or his or her immediate family to personally accept the prize. Liu Xiaobo’s enforced absence meant that for the first time since 1936, the peace prize was not awarded at the ceremony.

    December 09, 2010

    There is going to be one empty place at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony. Amongst the pomp and circumstance, before a packed house of a thousand invited guests and dignitaries gathered for the century-old event, the chair of this year’s recipient, Liu Xiaobo, will be vacant. Liu Xiaobo would have sat on the podium alongside the members of the Nobel Committee in Oslo’s cavernous City Hall as he was honoured for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. He would have given a speech, accepted his medal and diploma and continued his call for peaceful legal and political reform in China. He would have posed for pictures, given interviews, briefly enjoyed the glow of international recognition and then he would have gone home.

    December 09, 2010

    International controversy over the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables continues to rage. In recent days, Paypal, Visa and Mastercard have barred their users from donating to Wikileaks, alleging that the site may be engaged in illegal conduct. Amnesty International examines some of the human rights issues at stake.

    Would prosecution of Julian Assange for releasing US government documents be a violation of the right to freedom of expression?

    The US government has indicated since July 2010 that it is conducting a legal investigation into the actions of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange for distributing secret documents. A range of US political figures have called for a criminal prosecution of Assange.

    According to Amnesty International, criminal proceedings aimed at punishing a private person for communicating evidence about human rights violations can never be justified. The same is true with respect to information on a wide range of other matters of public interest.

    December 01, 2010

    Amnesty International today called for the release of an ailing Chinese AIDS activist facing minor criminal charges who is at risk of being detained indefinitely due to a legal loophole. Tian Xi was detained in August for a minor property damage offense, and his verdict was expected several weeks ago. However, the trial has now been suspended, potentially indefinitely, through use of a legal loophole which provides no right to appeal for a resumption of the trial, or clear ability to seek bail.

    “Tian Xi should never have been jailed in the first place. We fear that the authorities are exploring every excuse and loophole they can to stop Tian Xi’s campaigning for the rights of people with HIV and AIDS,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.

    Tian Xi contracted HIV, Hepatitis B and C, via hospital blood transfusion as a child. He was imprisoned in August, after he swept items off a desk while confronting the director of the hospital that infected him.

    Tian Xi’s lawyer Liang Xiaojun has written on her blog that her client is detained in “limbo waiting for a judgement that may never come”.

    Tens of thousands of residents of one of Rio de Janeiro’s biggest favelas are being targeted by Amnesty International and NGO partners to ensure they know their human rights ahead of a police operation to retake the area from armed criminal gangs. 

    Beginning on 6 November, Amnesty International and local NGOs Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré and Observatório de Favelas will distribute some 50,000 information packs to people living in slums in the Maré area of the Brazilian city.

    The campaign – “We are from Maré and we have rights” – is aimed at avoiding the kinds of human rights violations that have taken place during similar recent operations when Police Pacification Units (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, UPP) moved into Rio’s favelas.

    “We want to break with the notion that anything goes because there’s a ‘war’ against organized crime – this includes putting an end to violating the rights of residents of the communities where the UPPs move in,” said Átila Roque, Amnesty International’s Brazil Director.

    Five men on death row in Iran have been transferred from Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj near Tehran to the capital’s Evin Prison, sparking fears about their imminent execution, Amnesty International said.

    At least one of the men, Hamid Gholamy, is due to be executed tomorrow morning, 7 November, after conviction of a drugs-related offence in June 2011, which may be the same alleged offence for which he was acquitted three months earlier due to a lack of evidence.

    Gholamy was reportedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated while in detention and was awaiting a decision on his clemency request when he was suddenly transferred to Evin Prison.

    “These men’s lives must be spared by the Iranian authorities, who regrettably seem bent on continuing their state killing spree,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.

    “Of the more than 380 people we believe were put to death in Iranian prisons so far this year, the vast majority were convicted of drugs-related offences – which fall far short of the ‘most serious crimes’ threshold set by international human rights law.”

     

    The Iranian authorities must release journalists arrested in the past three days and accused of cooperating with "anti-revolutionary" Persian-language media organizations outside Iran, Amnesty International said.

    The organization believes further waves of arrests are planned. Underpinning this fear is today’s arrest of Bahar Newspaper Economics Editor, Ali Dehghan.

    A statement attributed to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence declares: “The investigation will be continued until the last individual linked to this network is arrested and the propaganda of the foreign media and so-called human rights organizations and the statements… no longer have influence on the strong will of the soldiers of Emam e-Zaman [Ministry of Intelligence officials].”

    “Today’s statement by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence is intended to intimidate Iranian journalists who have contact with non-government sources,” said Drewery Dyke, Amnesty International’s Iran researcher.

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