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    February 10, 2014
    Like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal

    By Khairunissa Dhala, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International

    When Khalil, 26, entered Lebanon having escaped the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, he thought his life would finally improve.

    But one night, he was lured into a meeting with two men. He says they raped him, stole money from his wallet and his mobile phone.

    Khalil never reported the alleged rape to the police. He is a refugee, and he is also gay. He feared he would be penalized, and that no one would care about what had happened to him.

    Since then, he has tried to commit suicide – a friend found him and took him to hospital.

    Although Lebanon is often perceived as more tolerant than most countries in the region, like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal. The country’s lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) community is growing in prominence but the issue is still a taboo.

    As one of the nearly one million refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Khalil claims to suffer daily discrimination on the basis of his nationality. But as a gay man he faces further hardship.

    January 21, 2014
    Thousands are held in Syria’s state-run detention centres ©APGraphicsBank

    Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, comments on a recent report on Syria by three former war crimes prosecutors

    Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe… but it is hardly surprising.

    The thousands of photographs, part of a report published today, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

    While we cannot authenticate the images, the allegations are consistent with aspects of Amnesty International’s own research into the widespread use of torture and enforced disappearance by the Syrian authorities, as well as deaths in custody.

    The extensive experience and reputation of the international lawyers and forensic experts in charge of the investigation also contribute to its credibility.

    January 21, 2014

    World leaders at the Geneva II peace conference on Syria must demand full access to investigate allegations that 11,000 people have been tortured and killed while in detention in the country and monitor conditions in detention, said Amnesty International.

    A report by former war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts is based on documents and thousands of still images of what appear to be the bodies of dead prisoners. The material was smuggled out of the country by a defected military police photographer. The photographs cover the period from the start of the uprising in 2011 until August 2013.

    “The Geneva II peace conference must treat this as an absolute priority. Concrete steps must be taken to respond to the scale of the horrific human rights situation in detention centres and the country in general,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “World leaders must demand that the Commission of Inquiry and other human rights bodies be granted immediate access to all places of detention – formal and informal – in Syria.

    January 16, 2014

    The Geneva II peace conference on Syria must aim to urgently end government sieges imposed on opposition-held towns where civilians are starving to death, said Amnesty International. 

    The organization is urging government and opposition groups to commit to granting unfettered access to humanitarian organizations operating throughout Syria during the UN-backed talks which begin on 22 January in Switzerland. 

    January 13, 2014

    The international community must act now to end the suffering of millions of Syrian civilians, many of whom are at risk of starvation and face severe shortages of medical care and adequate shelter, said Amnesty International ahead of a UN donor conference in Kuwait this week.

    “The world’s response to the Syria crisis so far has been woefully inadequate. At the end of 2013 the UN humanitarian appeal - the largest in the organization’s history - was just 70 per cent funded. This meant that vital aid was cut off to some of the most vulnerable victims of Syria’s brutal conflict who were left to face the bitter winter months with minimal resources,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
     
    Although some countries have made generous financial contributions, others including the United Arab Emirates, one of the wealthiest countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made promises on aid that failed to fully materialize. Russia, which has shown significant political interest in the Syrian crisis, has only made minimal contributions to the humanitarian effort.

    December 18, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 19 December 2013

    Torture, flogging, and summary killings are rife in secret prisons run by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed group that controls large areas of northern Syria, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

    ISIS, which claims to apply strict Shari’a (Islamic law) in areas it controls, has ruthlessly flouted the rights of local people. In the 18-page briefing, entitled Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria, Amnesty International identifies seven detention facilities that ISIS uses in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo.

    “Those abducted and detained by ISIS include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    December 12, 2013

    Released at 00:01 GMT Friday 13 December 2013

    European leaders should hang their heads in shame over the pitifully low numbers of refugees from Syria they are prepared to resettle, said Amnesty International.

    December 11, 2013

    Amnesty International has issued a statement along with 16 other human rights organizations calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the Syrian human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh and three other activists.

    Razan Zaitouneh, was abducted on 9 December 2013 along with her husband, Wa’el Hammada, and two colleagues, Nazem Hamdi and Samira Khalil in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations                  (613)744-7667#236jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

     

    The Joint Public Statement:  Abducted human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh and her three colleagues must be released unharmed

    November 21, 2013

    “[S]exual violence has played a prominent role in the conflict…It occurs during raids, at checkpoints, and in detention centres and prisons across the country. The threat of rape is used as a tool to terrorize and punish women, men and children perceived as being associated with the opposition.”
    Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria

    Since the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, some 100,000 people have died. More than 2 million people have fled across Syria’s borders to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. A further 4.25 million are displaced from their homes and communities within Syria. The conflict has been marked by a wide range of abuses by all parties, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    September 27, 2013

    Today’s UN Security Council vote on a new Syria resolution must not be another wasted opportunity that lets down the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Amnesty International urged.

    The draft resolution focuses on the international response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August. But the organization said Security Council members must take effective measures towards ending the mass violations being committed in Syria, ensure accountability and justice for victims, and improve access to humanitarian assistance.

    “This resolution must not be another missed opportunity. More than two years into the Syrian conflict, the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity have yet to see serious engagement from international players to ensure justice and accountability,” said José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.

    September 17, 2013

    The UN Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic investigating the 21 August attacks on the outskirts of Damascus on Monday reported that it had found convincing evidence that chemical weapons were used on a large scale.

    Amnesty International condemns the use of chemical weapons in the strongest possible terms. They are internationally banned and their use is a war crime.

    Crimes under international law are being perpetrated on a daily basis in Syria. Accountability for the 21 August attacks and other violations are long overdue.

    We reiterate our call for the UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Syria to be given immediate and unfettered access to Syria to seek to uncover further evidence about who was responsible for these attacks. It should also be allowed to investigate the other crimes under international law being committed by all parties to the conflict.

    September 14, 2013

    Amnesty International welcomes steps announced today which would pave the way for Syria’s chemical weapons to be placed under international control and destroyed. It follows the Syrian government’s decision earlier this week to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    “Any move that could lead to the removal and eventual destruction of internationally banned weapons is undoubtedly a positive step, even if there are major challenges with doing so in the context of the ongoing conflict in Syria,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “However, it does not remove the need for accountability for both the alleged chemical weapons attacks on 21 August and the other crimes against humanity and war crimes being perpetrated with conventional weapons on a daily basis in Syria.

    “The attacks were a shocking wake-up call, if one was really needed, that the persistent failure to address impunity in Syria has had increasingly more alarming consequences.”

    September 13, 2013

    By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Researcher

    As the threat of military intervention looms over an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, in a far flung corner of Syria the town of Deir Ezzour offers an insight into the suffering of ordinary Syrians.

    September 10, 2013

    By Refugee and Migrants Campaigner Gloria Nafziger and Secretary General Alex Neve

    With over 2 million Syrian refugees having fled to neighbouring countries and well over 4 million Syrians internally displaced within the country, the crisis of displacement that has resulted from the massive human rights violations in Syria over the past 2 ½ years has been termed the gravest humanitarian emergency the world has faced in years. In the face of such a massive crisis, it is vital that Canada play a leadership role in ensuring a strong and effective global response to the pressing needs of displaced Syrians.

    September 06, 2013

    By Maha Abu Shama, Syria campaigner at Amnesty's International Secretariat

    “We have no women for marriage” is Khawlah’s usual response when Jordanian or other foreign men ask about marrying her 14-year-old daughter when they come looking for a bride.

    Like other Syrian women refugees I met during a recent visit to Jordan, Khawlah – who lives in the Jordanian capital Amman – complained how Jordanian men constantly bombard her with marriage proposals or requests to arrange marriages with refugee girls. 

    “I do not have work for you, but could marry you if you like,” is what ‘Aisha was told when she went looking for work. A 22-year-old student of English Literature, she complained that one of the reasons her job search in Amman has been futile so far is that she often receives marriage proposals instead of paid work.

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