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    August 11, 2016

    The Syrian city of Aleppo has been hit by a suspected chlorine attack, which would amount to a war crime if confirmed, and constitutes an alarming sign that Syrian government forces are intensifying their use of chemical weapons against civilians, Amnesty International said Thursday.

    The attack on a residential neighbourhood in a part of Aleppo controlled by armed groups is the third reported use of chemical weapons in northern Syria in just two weeks and has reportedly killed at least four people. Amnesty International has confirmed at least 60 others, mostly children, sought medical care after showing symptoms characteristic of a chlorine attack.

    “This attack in Aleppo is yet another flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and signals a distressing pattern in the use of chemical weapons by regime forces,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    The latest attack comes as Russia announced a three-hour daily ceasefire on the city, as humanitarian aid is desperately needed in some areas.

    August 11, 2016

    Responding to today’s High Court ruling that Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and two others were subject to enforced disappearance and later executed by police, Victor Odero, Amnesty International’s East Africa Campaigner said:

    “The court’s determination is a watershed moment in the history of justice in Kenya as it sheds the spotlight on the common but under-reported scourge of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.”

    “The ruling is a fitting tribute to Willie Kimani, Josphat Mwendwa and Joseph Muiruri, as well as hundreds of other Kenyans who have been executed or disappeared at the hands of the police, and a victory for everyone who protested and demanded justice for them.”

    The court also ruled that Willie Kimani should be recognised as a champion of justice.

    August 09, 2016

    Iranian authorities have intensified their repression of women’s rights activists in the country in the first half of this year, carrying out a series of harsh interrogations and increasingly likening any collective initiative relating to women’s rights to criminal activity, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization’s research reveals that since January 2016 more than a dozen women’s rights activists in Tehran have been summoned for long, intensive interrogations by the Revolutionary Guards, and threatened with imprisonment on national security-related charges. Many had been involved in a campaign launched in October 2015, which advocated for increased representation of women in Iran’s February 2016 parliamentary election.

    August 09, 2016

    Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Irom Chanu Sharmila ended her 16-year-long hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) today. Amnesty International India calls on authorities to drop all charges against her, and take steps to repeal the AFSPA.

    At a hearing in a local court, Irom Sharmila said, “I have been fasting for the last 16 years. I haven’t got anything from it yet. I am ending my fast today. I want to try a different agitation now. I will contest against the Chief Minister of Manipur in the upcoming state elections.” The activist signed a bail bond and is likely to be released on bail soon.

    “Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike over the last 16 years has been a testament to her passion for human rights, and her belief that a draconian law like the AFSPA has no place in any society.  The government arrested her, confined her to a hospital room and force fed her for 16 years, seemingly to break her will.  There was zero dialogue. A peaceful protest was criminalized,” said Abhirr VP, Senior Campaigner with Amnesty International India.

    August 09, 2016

    A massive hydro-electric dam now under construction in the Canadian province of British Columbia violates Canada’s commitments to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples, says a new brief by Amnesty International released on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. 

    The release of the brief marks the beginning of a global campaign by the organization to halt the construction of the Site C dam, which will deprive Indigenous peoples in the Peace River Valley region of access to lands and waters vital to their culture and livelihoods.

    “Construction of the Site C dam illustrates the persistent gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.  “Rights protected under an historic treaty, the Canadian Constitution and international human rights standards have been pushed aside in the name of a development project that has no clear purpose or rationale and does not have the consent of the Indigenous people who will suffer the consequences of its construction.”

    August 08, 2016

    Reacting to threats by Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo that he will suppress the activities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights activists and “rehabilitate” LGBTI people, Amnesty International said:

    “The minister’s remarks coming only a few days after police assaulted peaceful attendees at a private LGBTI Pride event in Kampala are hugely irresponsible and are tantamount to advocacy of hatred and incitement to discrimination,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “The Ugandan government should be working to bring to account those responsible for the criminal attack that left one person hospitalised with serious injuries, and dozens more injured, instead of condoning these attacks and inciting further hostility against LGBTI people.”

    Background

    In his remarks today in Kampala, Lokodo publicly backed the police raid on 4 August on a nightclub last Thursday in which LGBTI people were beaten and undressed.

    August 08, 2016

    In response to remarks by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova that the International Paralympic Committee’s ban of Russia’s Paralympic team over doping concerns was a “betrayal of [international] human rights standards,” Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Programme Director Europe & Central Asia at Amnesty International said: 

    “The Foreign Ministry spokesperson is right that human rights should never be betrayed. But human rights begin at home, and on this front her government is a top contender for the Gold Medal for Hypocrisy.

    “With a government that bombs Syrian hospitals, locks people up for criticizing the authorities, tortures detainees, silences the LGBT-community through the ‘propaganda’ law, and smears independent organizations as ‘foreign agents’, who is really betraying human rights in Russia?” 

     

    **********

    For media inquiries, please contact Jacob Kuehn // 613-744-7667, ext 236 // email: jkuehn@amnesty.ca 

    August 08, 2016

    An apparently pre-planned suicide attack, which killed at least 63 people and wounded more than 50 others in a hospital in Quetta, south-western Pakistan, today is the latest in a series of horrific attacks by armed groups targeting ordinary people in Pakistan, said Amnesty International.

    “This is an absolutely senseless targeting of dozens of people, including patients and mourners. It has led to a devastating loss of life, and is an example of the string of attacks in recent years in Pakistan on schools, hospitals and other ‘soft targets’, which must cease immediately,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for South Asia, South East Asia and Pacific Regional Offices.

    “A full, independent and transparent investigation must be carried out into how and why this bombing took place, and whoever is responsible should be brought to justice as soon as possible in fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty.”

    August 08, 2016

    At least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara over the weekend, according to credible sources who spoke to Amnesty International.

    Thousands of protesters turned out in Oromia and Amhara calling for political reform, justice and the rule of law. The worst bloodshed - which may amount to extrajudicial killings - took place in the northern city of Bahir Dar where at least 30 people were killed in one day.

    “The security forces’ response was heavy-handed, but unsurprising. Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “These crimes must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated and all those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts without recourse to death penalty.”

    August 08, 2016

    Responding to a speech yesterday by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in which he said that “most of the world” has the death penalty and he would approve a decision of the Turkish parliament to reintroduce the death penalty in Turkey, Fotis Filippou Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director said:

    “Amnesty International is alarmed by statements that the death penalty could be reinstated retrospectively as a punishment for those responsible for the coup attempt. Such a move would violate international human rights treaties to which Turkey is a party, as well as Turkey’s own constitution.

    “The appalling violence committed by those behind the 15 July failed coup led to the tragic loss of more than 200 lives and the Turkish government must bring all those responsible for these crimes to justice. However, this should be done through fair trials not subject to the death penalty.

    “Turkey abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 2004 and is one of 103 countries to have done so. Reintroducing this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment would be a major setback for human rights.”

    August 06, 2016

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—In response to today’s release of the Presidential Policy Guidance—a document setting out U.S. standards that appears to apply to some drone and other air strikes overseas— Amnesty International USA’s Security & Human Rights Program Director Naureen Shah issued the following statement:

    “While this policy guidance appears to set an important precedent for protecting civilians and limiting killings, it is impossible to assess whether and how it’s been followed. The Obama Administration has still never provided basic information needed to assess the drone program, including the names and identities of people killed in the strikes.

    “The Obama administration’s disclosures are welcome but they only tell part of the story, and obscure disturbing practices. We still know extremely little about the standards that would govern signature strikes and so-called rescuer strikes, which have involved potentially unlawful killings.

    August 05, 2016

    Thailand’s referendum on a draft constitution takes place this Sunday against a backdrop of pervasive human rights violations that have created a chilling climate, Amnesty International said today.

    In the context of the referendum, the authorities have arbitrarily arrested scores of people, have cancelled or disrupted peaceful assemblies and took off the air a television station in recent weeks, marking just the most recent undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

    “If people cannot speak their minds freely or take part in political activities without fear, how can they meaningfully engage in this referendum?” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

    “What we are seeing are not temporary measures that create peace and order as the authorities have argued, but a constant criminalisation of peaceful dissent designed to silence views that the authorities do not like. Immediate and long overdue steps must be taken to lift restrictions and guarantee rights.”

    August 04, 2016

    The Chinese authorities must end their relentless suppression of human rights lawyers and activists, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent lawyer became the latest to be convicted after an unfair trial.

    On Thursday, Zhou Shifeng was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of “subverting state power”, following a trial that lasted less than a day at Tianjin No.2 People’s Court in north east China.

    On Wednesday this week, democracy activist Hu Shigen was sentenced to seven-and-a half-years for “subverting state power”, and on Tuesday activist Zhai Yanmin was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, after being convicted of the same charge.

    “This wave of trials against lawyers and activists are a political charade. Their fate was sealed before they stepped into the courtroom and there was no chance that they would ever receive a fair trial,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    August 04, 2016

    Open Letter from Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada to Tony Loparco, Director of the Special Investigations Unit and Charles Bordeleau, Chief of Ottawa Police Service, regarding the case of Abdirahman Abdi.

     

    August 2, 2016

    Dear Mr. Loparco and Chief Bordeleau,

    Amnesty International is writing this Open Letter to you regarding the case of Abdirahman Abdi.  Mr. Abdi is a 37 year-old Somali-Canadian man who died on July 24th following an altercation and alleged beating at the hands of two Ottawa Police officers.  It has been widely reported that Mr. Abdi was well known to suffer from serious mental health problems.

    We recognize that the case is being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit and the Ottawa Police Service’s Professional Standards Section.  It is vital that those investigations be thorough, transparent and impartial.

    August 03, 2016

    World leaders have wasted a critical opportunity to tackle the global refugee crisis, said Amnesty International today after talks for a new UN refugee deal ended falling far short of expectations.

    Late last night, the United Nations (UN) member states meeting in New York finalized a watered-down outcome document for adoption at a UN Summit meant to tackle the refugee crisis on 19 September. The Global Compact on Refugees proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is not included and will now not be agreed before 2018.

    “Faced with the worst refugee crisis in 70 years, world leaders have failed to the bear the weight of responsibility,” said Charlotte Phillips, advisor on Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International.

    “The Refugee Summit was a historic opportunity to find a desperately-needed global solution to the refugee crisis. Instead, world leaders delayed any chance of a deal until 2018, procrastinating over crucial decisions even as refugees drown at sea and languish in camps with no hope for the future.

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