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    January 24, 2017

    This week's Federal Court of Appeal decision leaves unanswered the critical question of whether the construction of the Site C hydro-electric dam in northeast British Columbia violates the Constitutionally-protected Treaty rights of the First Nations who live in and depend on the Peace River Valley.

    The court accepted the federal government’s argument that, because the Canadian Environmental Act doesn’t explicitly require consideration of Treaty rights, it was “reasonable” to approve the project without first determining whether it would cause unjustifiable harm to the exercise of these rights.

    If the decision stands, it has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for rights protection in Canada as it effectively allows the terms of an individual piece of legislation to trump wider Constitutional rights protections.

    January 10, 2017

    10 January 2017 AI Index: AMR 51/5441/2017

    On 1 January 2017, the USA took a three-year seat on the UN Human Rights Council, after being voted onto this key UN human rights body by the General Assembly late last year. In its election “manifesto” in support of its candidacy, the USA promised to champion the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to abide by its human rights treaty obligations, and to engage meaningfully with UN treaty monitoring bodies.

    Ten days later – 11 January 2017 – sees the 15th anniversary of detentions at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, detentions that are entirely antithetical to the Universal Declaration, and indeed the USA’s human rights obligations, and the recommendations of UN treaty monitoring bodies of those obligations. However, when it comes to its human rights obligations, the USA all too often takes a pick and choose approach, and at Guantánamo it chose to ignore them from the outset.

    January 10, 2017

    Amnesty International USA Release

    In anticipation of the Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees this week, Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA issued the following statement:

    “If they are confirmed, these nominees will make decisions that affect the human rights of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. Some of these nominees have expressed views on torture, discrimination, and oppressive governments that are troubling. They should be questioned vigorously, and they must commit to protecting human rights.

    “President-elect Trump’s campaign was marked with dangerous rhetoric, and these nominees could be tasked with making that rhetoric a reality. We cannot let that happen.”

    AIUSA has raised questions about several of the nominees, including:

    January 03, 2017

    Update January 3, 2017

    Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee an Iranian writer and human rights activist who was imprisoned for writing a short story about stoning was released on bail today. Her husband Arash Sadeghi who is also a human rights defender imprisoned in connection with his peaceful activism had been on hunger strike since 24 October in protest at her imprisonment  and has also ended his hunger strike today . More information on their case is available here:  https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/5414/2017/en/ 

    November 21, 2016

    New information released last week concerning police investigations into allegations of sexual violence and other abuses of Indigenous women and men in northern Quebec highlights the urgent need to ensure better police accountability, particularly for individuals and communities who have experienced a history of severe human rights violations in Canada.

    “Indigenous women and girls are rightly questioning whether they can trust police and government to take allegations of sexual assault and other abuses seriously,” said Beatrice Vaugrante, Directrice générale of the Francophone Branch of Amnesty International Canada. “We know that a swift and thorough investigation is the most likely way to meet the burden of proof in the prosecution of sexual assaults. Unfortunately, mistrust of authorities, fear of repercussions and gender discrimination means that assaults either generally go unreported, especially if the alleged perpetrators are police, or go reported but with obstacles to accessing justice. These concerns are magnified for Indigenous women and girls who have experienced so much racism and discrimination in Canadian society.”

    July 29, 2016

    A permit issued this week by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans violates the rights of Indigenous peoples by allowing continued construction of a destructive and unjustified hydro-electric megaproject that does not have their free, prior and informed consent.

    “The federal government had the opportunity to do the right thing and at least insist that First Nations legal challenges be given a fair hearing before construction of the Site C dam continues,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Instead, in taking this step the government has broken its promise to respect Canada’s Treaties with Indigenous peoples and uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

    September 12, 2016

    The authorities must take immediate and effective action to once and for all put an end to the spate of recent killings of human rights defenders and social and community activists, said Amnesty international today as yet another activist was killed yesterday.

    On 11 September, Néstor Iván Martínez, a member of the Afro-descendant Community Council (Consejo Comunitario) of La Sierra, El Cruce and La Estación, and a leader of the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos) social movement, was shot dead by unknown assailants in a rural part of Chiriguaná Municipality in the department of Cesar. Néstor Iván Martínez had been active in environmental and land rights campaigns in Cesar, and had also campaigned against mining activities in the region.

    On 29 August, three leaders of the NGO Integration Committee of the Colombian Massif (Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano, CIMA), Joel Meneses, Nereo Meneses Guzmán and Ariel Sotelo, were stopped in the vehicle they were travelling in and shot dead by a group of armed men in Almaguer municipality in the department of Cauca.

    January 06, 2015

    New requirements imposed by the Lebanese authorities which may restrict access for people desperate to flee Syria is yet another stark reminder that the international community must do much more to assist.

    To its considerable credit, Lebanon already hosts more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria – equal to about a quarter of its population before the Syrian crisis began. As the crisis nears its fifth year, Lebanon and other countries in the region which host the majority of Syria’s refugees are struggling to cope.

    Lebanon and Syria’s other neighbours are struggling to cope with the millions of refugees who have fled the increasingly dire situation since the crisis and conflict began. 

    The international community must do much more to resettle refugees and share the burden in the face of one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history. According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, approximately 10% of refugees in the main host countries need resettlement. However, to date less than 2% have been offered resettlement places. 

    February 12, 2015

    The Free Syrian Voices (www.free-syrian-voices.org) coalition today announced its “Hearts in Our Hands” Campaign to call for the release of peaceful Syrian activists held both by the Syrian government and armed groups. The coalition was formed to coordinate the efforts of six international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Frontline Defenders detained Syrian human rights defenders and activists.

    The campaign’s timing, over the Valentine’s Day weekend and through 17 February 2015, marks the 3rd anniversary, on 16 February, of the arrest and detention of Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and two staff members, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani. They remain in Syrian government jails solely for their human rights work, along with hundreds of other human rights, media, legal and humanitarian workers detained since the peaceful protest movement in Syria started in 2011.

    October 22, 2014

    Update
    On 23 October 2014 the Federal government tabled, Bill C-43, an omnibus budget bill which contains the same provisions as those found in Bill C-585.  Amnesty International believes these provisions must be withdrawn from Bill C-43.

    Amnesty International is calling for Bill C-585, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence), to be withdrawn.  The Private Member’s Bill, proposed by Corneliu Chisu, M.P, would allow provinces to reduce access to social assistance for refugee claimants and other people without permanent status in Canada. 

    Bill C-585 violates Canada’s binding obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention).

    November 24, 2015

    Amnesty International recognizes that the federal government will identify all 25,000 selected refugees by Dec. 31, 2015, but only 10,000 will arrive by year's end. Now the government is extending its deadline to bring 15,000 more Syrian refugees to Canada by two months, setting the end of February 2016 as its new target date.

    "We welcome the Canadian government’s resettlement goal to seek to identify the most vulnerable refugees, whatever religion, ethnic background, or gender,” said Gloria Nafziger, Refugee Campaigner.

    Amnesty International also welcomes the following procedures will be taken to ensure the health and well-being of refugees:

    September 24, 2015

    There is nothing game-changing in what EU leaders agreed to early this morning said Amnesty International today following the EU leaders’ summit on migration.

    “What was needed was a bold, ambitious new approach. But what we got was the continuation of a failed strategy,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director of Europe.

    “The proposed €1 billion for refugee hosting countries is positive but beyond this, the commitments disappoint. EU leaders should have been agreeing on how to ensure safe and legal routes for refugees into Europe and fixing Europe’s failing asylum system.”

    “Instead, the focus of the proposals on keeping refugees out ignores the realities of a global refugee crisis and states’ obligations to provide protection to those unable to find it elsewhere.

    “The relocation figures agreed on Tuesday won’t significantly relieve the pressure on frontline states and without much more concrete and immediate assistance to these countries, the chaotic tragic scenes we have witnessed in recent weeks, will only continue and likely worsen. 

    March 13, 2012

    Provisions that would make it legal for police to secretly detain certain groups of criminal suspects would violate China’s obligations under international law and should be dropped from the latest revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law, Amnesty International said today.

    The latest draft of the law removed a clause that would allow authorities to “disappear” suspects for up to six months. However, in a set-back for China’s criminal justice system, the latest revisions presented to the legislature on 8 March and expected to be passed on 14 March would, for the first time, make it legal for police to secretly detain suspects outside the formal detention system for up to six months if they have been accused of “endangering state security,” “terrorism” or certain types of “bribery.”

    Already, many thousands of people in China are being held in secret and are at great risk of being tortured. These thousands include petitioners seeking justice, members of underground churches, and political activists.

    July 24, 2012

    The death last week of Omar Suleiman, former chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence, must lead to the Egyptian authorities pursuing accountability for human rights violations committed during renditions to Egypt in the 2000s, not to turning the page on this episode, Amnesty International said today.

    Omar Suleiman, who also served for 14 days as vice-president during the last days of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, was the alleged mastermind of renditions to Egypt. He is reported to have died in the USA on 19 July after routine medical tests.

    Between 2000 and 2006, an unknown number of individuals suspected of links to terrorism were arrested or abducted in various countries around the world, forcibly transferred to Egypt in secret or otherwise without due process, and interrogated, held incommunicado for long periods and tortured while in the custody of the Egyptian General Intelligence and the now-defunct State Security Investigations (SSI) services.

    July 24, 2012

    Two years after an international outcry erupted over her sentence of stoning to death, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani remains imprisoned in north-west Iran apparently still facing a stoning sentence.  Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, arrested on account of his advocacy for her, remains held as a prisoner of conscience, and is reported to have been sentenced to a lengthy prison term.  He is believed to have been tortured during his detention.  

    Recent but unconfirmed reports suggested that the Iranian authorities no longer intend to implement the stoning sentence handed down to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in 2006. These reports highlight the need for clarity concerning her fate.

    According to a 25 June 2012 article in The Times [of London] newspaper, Mohammad Mostafaie, one of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s previous lawyers, said that he had heard that the stoning sentence had been “lifted” and that “she could be released” before completing her sentence.

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