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Public statements

    March 18, 2015

    On the fourth anniversary of the arrests of 13 leading opposition activists and other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release and urges the authorities to ensure that the rights of all prisoners, including those held in Jaw prison, are fully respected.

    Four years ago, starting on 17 March 2011, security officers in Bahrain raided the houses of several opposition activists, took them to unknown locations and detained them incommunicado for several weeks. Amongst them were 13 opposition activists, ‘Ali al-‘Ekri, a medical doctor, and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the head of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association.

    March 17, 2015

    The Angolan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release two human rights defenders who were detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country’s Cabinda region, five organizations including Amnesty International said today.

    Jose Marcos Mavungo was arrested on 14 March 2015 – the day of the planned protest - and charged with sedition on 16 March 2015. Another human rights defender, Arao Bula Tempo, was also arrested and detained on unknown charges.

    “These arbitrary detentions are the latest disturbing example of growing repression of dissenting voices, peaceful protest and freedom of expression in Angola, particularly in the province of Cabinda,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “We believe there is no basis for the arrest of the human rights defenders or the sedition charges brought against one of the activists. This makes a mockery of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.”

    March 13, 2015

    Inuit hunters and other community members from the Hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut have challenged a decision by the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to allow a group of multinational corporations to carry out seismic exploration off Baffin Island.

    “Fundamental human rights protections are at stake in this case,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Canadian and international law both require rigorous precautions to ensure that resource development decisions don’t lead to further marginalization and dispossession of Indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, the regulatory bodies that Canada relies on to uphold the public interest, all too often look at consultation with Indigenous peoples as a mere formality and fail to meet the underlying goal of protecting Indigenous peoples’ human rights.”

    The Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization allege that the NEB failed to adequately consider the harmful effects of seismic testing on marine mammals and on Inuit food, economy and culture, and that the decision violated the constitutional rights of the Inuit.

    March 12, 2015

    Amnesty International is urging Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to ensure that a proposed regional Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples properly reflects the views and experiences of those whose rights are at stake. Legitimacy cannot be achieved if text is brought forward without the support of Indigenous Peoples.

    On Wednesday 11 March, the OAS concluded the second of at least four meetings planned this year in an attempt to finalize a proposed regional declaration that has been under development for almost two decades. The document provides an opportunity to strengthen regional compliance with a similar United Nations declaration adopted in 2007 and can also support the strengthening of the international human rights system in relation to the specific needs of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas.

    March 11, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 12 March 2015

    Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organizations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.

    Analyzing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.

    February 26, 2015

    Rights groups across Canada reacted with alarm and deep concern to the news that the government has brought forward a motion limiting study of Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to only four sessions of two hours each.  With the first session devoted to government witnesses, including the Minister of Public Safety, this would leave only six hours for all other potential experts.

    Amnesty International Canada, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, La Ligue des Droits et Libertés and the National Council of Canadian Muslims all called on the government to withdraw the motion and agree to a schedule of extensive hearings that will ensure that all relevant expertise and perspectives across the country is available to the Committee during the course of its study of Bill C-51.

    February 26, 2015

    An alarming study released today shows that governments in Canada have repeatedly ignored expert recommendations to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls.

    Researchers with the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women reviewed 58 reports dealing with aspects of violence and discrimination against Indigenous women and girls, including government studies, reports by international human rights bodies, and published research of Indigenous women’s organizations. The reports cover a period of two decades. Shockingly, researchers found that only a few of more than 700 recommendations in these reports have ever been fully implemented.

    February 25, 2015

    Today, Amnesty International has published its global level Annual Report, providing an overview of the state of human rights in the world.  As has been the case for the past ten years, the report includes an entry highlighting a range of human rights concerns in Canada which draws attention to the alarmingly high levels of violence and discrimination against Indigenous women and girls in the country, and the failure of the federal government to launch comprehensive and effective action to address this crisis.  A copy of the entry on Canada is attached.

    This year’s report notes that:

    In May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported that at least 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980 and 2012, four and a half times the homicide rate for all other women. Despite mounting demands, including by provincial and territorial governments, the federal government refused to initiate a national action plan or public inquiry.

    Ten years ago Amnesty International’s Annual Report noted the following:

    February 19, 2015

    Today, a group of 22 eminent Canadians, comprised of former Prime Ministers, Ministers of Justice, Ministers of Public Safety, Solicitors General, Supreme Court of Canada Justices, and members of national security, law enforcement and privacy review bodies, published a statement in The Globe and Mail and La Presse calling urgently for an enhanced approach to national security review and oversight in the country.  The group includes men and women whose public service, in areas where they have been responsible for addressing wide-ranging national security challenges, stretches from 1968 to 2014.

    This important statement comes at a time when Canada is considering a radical expansion of national security powers across government, but has made no equivalent proposals for strengthened review and oversight of the agencies and departments responsible for national security.

    February 18, 2015

    On 16 and 17 of February, Amnesty International intervened in an important case before the Supreme Court of Canada involving the rights of refugees seeking Canada’s protection. At issue in the case was whether refugees who mutually assist each other in fleeing persecution should be considered people smugglers and as a result inadmissible to Canada and permanently barred from accessing protection under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). The Court was also asked to determine whether Good Samaritans or humanitarian organizations that assist refugees in reaching safety should also be considered to be people smugglers, and prosecuted for their acts.

    February 16, 2015

    The horrific execution-style killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by the group calling itself the Tripoli Province of Islamic State is a war crime and an attack on the fundamental principles of humanity, Amnesty International said today.  

    A video published online by the media wing of the armed group purports to show the beheadings of 21 Copts, mostly Egyptians, on a beach in an unknown location in the province of Tripoli. The atrocity was carried out in retaliation for the alleged abduction of Camilia Shehata, an Egyptian woman, formerly a Christian, whose conversion to Islam sparked a wave of protests in 2010.

    Nothing could justify the cold-blooded murder of the men who appear to have been targeted solely on account of their faith, Amnesty International has said.
    The video titled “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” shows a group of men dressed in orange jumpsuits who are paraded on the beach by masked men, then forced to kneel, and then beheaded.

    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.

    February 06, 2015

    Amnesty International fears that most prisoners of conscience will likely be excluded from the royal pardon announced by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on 29 January, according to the Ministry of Interior’s pardon conditions.

    The royal pardon which referred to the conditions of the pardon stipulated in the Ministry of Interior’s official communication dated 27 January, a copy of which Amnesty International has seen, excludes “crimes related to state security” from the pardon. “Crimes related to state security” does not refer to clearly defined or codified articles in Saudi Arabian laws but to vaguely worded list of charges commonly faced by human rights activists and prisoners of conscience both in the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), the country’s infamous security and counter-terror court, and in other criminal courts.

    February 06, 2015

    The worldwide movement of Amnesty International stands behind the growing calls for the immediate release of Native American activist Leonard Peltier.

    As of this month, Leonard Peltier has spent 39 years behind bars. Peltier was convicted in connection with the 1975 murder of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, who were killed during a confrontation involving members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  Peltier has always maintained that although he was present during the confrontation, he did not kill the two agents. 

    Amnesty International has never taken a position on whether Peltier is innocent or guilty of this very serious crime. We have however consistently spoken out against the injustices on which his continued imprisonment rest.

    January 12, 2015

    A report released today by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adds further weight to calls for a comprehensive national response to violence against Indigenous women and girls, including an independent public inquiry.

    The 125 page report on missing and murdered Indigenous women in British Columbia was released today at Commission headquarters in Washington, DC.
    Amnesty International strongly supports the recommendations in the Commission’s report and urges the government of Canada and the province of British Columbia to live up to the international human rights obligations that it highlights.

    While acknowledging a number of initiatives already taken by the federal government and the province of British Columbia, the Commission states that such measures will not end the violence “unless the underlying factors of discrimination that originate and exacerbate the violence are also comprehensively addressed.”

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