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    May 31, 2011

    Any investigation into the abduction and reported death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad must include the country’s feared security and intelligence agencies, especially the ISI, Amnesty International said today.

    The body of Saleem Shahzad, who went missing on Sunday 29th May, was found close to his abandoned car in the north-west of the country, Pakistani media reports say. Reports also suggest that evidence of torture was found on the body.

    “Pakistan’s intelligence agencies face serious allegations that they been involved the numerous killings of activists, lawyers and journalists,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    “Early indications from this case suggest an alarming expansion of the ‘kill and dump’ operations previously seen mostly in the Balochistan province.”

    “The Pakistan authorities must hold those responsible to account and protect journalists targeted merely for doing their jobs.”

    Saleem Shahzad had published an article on the 27th May reporting on a terrorist attack at a Pakistan Naval base, and alleging links between al-Qaida and Pakistan Naval officials.

    May 26, 2011

    The release today of prominent newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev is a step in the right direction for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, Amnesty International said today.

    He was released shortly after a presidential pardon and is now at home with his family.
     
    The organization has led an international campaign for his release and named him a prisoner of conscience after his arrest and imprisonment in 2007 on trumped-up charges of terrorism and defamation

    “Eynulla Fatullayev’s pardon and release are cause for celebration, but we still urge the Azerbaijani authorities to quash his convictions,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “As we celebrate Eynulla’s release we must not forget that many others are still being held on trumped-up charges in Azerbaijani prisons for no other reason than that they have criticized the authorities. We are calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan and an end to the recent clampdown on dissenting voices, whether online or on the streets.”

    May 25, 2011

    Leaders of the G8 industrialized nations should take bold action to support human rights in the Middle East and North Africa following a wave of pro-reform protests across the region, Amnesty International said today.

    “The popular protests across the Arab world this year are a clarion call that people in the region are fed up with the status quo and want full recognition of their fundamental human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “G8 leaders should seize this historic opportunity to ensure that protecting and promoting human rights is at the core of their engagement with governments throughout the region.”

    The G8 is set to gather in France later this week, where they will discuss the promotion of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of this year’s protests

    The Prime Ministers of Tunisia and Egypt have been invited to participate in this year’s summit.

    May 25, 2011

    The Honourable John Baird
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G2

    May 25, 2011

    Dear Minister Baird,

    Today, around the world, Amnesty International will be delivering to Syrian Embassies copies of a recent petition, signed by more than 100,000 people, calling on the Syrian government to bring the current human rights crisis in the country to an end.  Most immediately and urgently the petition calls on the Syrian government to rein in the country’s security forces and end unlawful killings and other gross human rights violations including arbitrary arrest and torture.

    At the same time, we are turning to the international community and urging all governments to intensify pressure on Syrian authorities to end the abuses.  To that end, Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council to:

    May 24, 2011

    The Saudi Arabian authorities must release a woman detained for her involvement in campaigning against the ban on women driving in the Kingdom, Amnesty International said today.

    Manal al-Sharif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, was arrested on 22 May, the day after she was stopped by police while driving in al-Khobar city in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. She had previously uploaded a YouTube video of herself driving a car on 19 May in support of an online campaign, “Woman 2 Drive”, which calls for Saudi Arabian women to be permitted to drive.

    “Women face severe discrimination on account of their gender in Saudi Arabia and the ban on driving is one aspect of this that perpetuates the restrictions on their freedom of movement,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “The government has done nothing to remove the ban despite calls from women activists and as such these activists are left with little option other than to resort to challenging these restrictions through peaceful means.”

    May 23, 2011

    New European Union sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria should prompt the UN and Arab League to take tougher action against Syria over its violent crackdown against protesters, Amnesty International said today.  

    The European Union today imposed fresh sanctions on Syria, including personal asset freezes and travel bans on President al-Assad and other senior government figures.  

    “We welcome the measures that the EU and the US government have now taken against President al-Assad and those around him, but the danger is that this will prove to be too little too late,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The UN Security Council must now take more determined action on Syria and follow the precedent it set when Colonel al-Gaddafi’s government began attacking its own people in Libya.”

    “This is precisely what the Syrian government has been doing for weeks and it is high time that the Security Council also referred Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.”

    May 19, 2011

    The US President must use his speech on the Middle East to commit to the pursuit of a more even-handed approach to Arab states, one which has the protection and promotion of human rights at its heart, Amnesty International said today.

    Barack Obama is set to make the speech, his first major address following the wave of mass protests that has swept the Middle East and North Africa, later today.

    “The US President must make clear that the US has learnt from the mistakes of the past when it supported governments such as those in Egypt and Tunisia whose claim to provide ‘political stability’ was based on widescale repression and abuse of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director

    “The US administration has rightly condemned the gross abuses that have been committed by Colonel al-Gaddafi's forces in Libya and the Assad government in Syria, and continuing repression in Iran.”

    May 18, 2011

    Amnesty International is calling on the Moscow authorities to overturn their ban on the city’s gay pride event, which had been set to take place on 28 May.

    Moscow’s Deputy Mayor told the event organizer, Nikolai Alekseyev, and confirmed to Amnesty International, that his application to hold the event had been rejected due to the large number of objections it had received from members of the public.  

    “The Moscow City Authorities must overturn their decision to ban this year’s Moscow Gay Pride.  So-called public morality concerns can never be used to justify restrictions on the freedom of expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    “The right response to such objections is not to cave in to their demands, but to ensure that those seeking to exercise their rights lawfully are able to do so in safety and in dignity.”

    For the last six years, gay rights activists in Moscow have been denied permission to organize a pride event. Events that have taken place have been violently dispersed by law enforcement officials.

    May 18, 2011

    The Omani authorities must say where and why they are holding some six people arrested during a recent peaceful protest in the capital Muscat, Amnesty International said today, as more than two dozen others faced trial on protest-related charges.

    Fifteen people were arrested by Omani security forces on 14 May during a protest in Muscat calling for the release of others detained two days earlier in pro-reform protests.

    Prominent female lawyer Basma al-Kiyumi was released on 16 May, and on 17 May some eight other activists were released, among them Muhammad al-Habssi and Ibrahim Sa’id al-Hajri. It is not known where the remaining six – including Nabhan al-Hanashi – are, or if any charges have been brought against them

    “The authorities in Oman must immediately provide details on the whereabouts of all protesters being held and either charge them with a recognizable criminal offence or release them,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

    “If they are being detained solely for participating in a peaceful public protest they should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    May 18, 2011

     
    The trials of eight activists convicted over their involvement in pro-reform protests in Bahrain that began in February, were politically motivated and unfair, Amnesty International said today.

    A military court in Bahrain's capital city Manama has sentenced the eight activists, in two separate cases, to between one and four years imprisonment for "participating in illegal demonstrations and inciting hatred against the regime" during popular protests in February and March.

    One of the activists, Fadhila Mubarak Ahmad, is the first woman protester to be convicted as a result of the recent unrest in Bahrain. She was sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

    "These trials and convictions represent yet further evidence of the extent to which the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are now being denied in Bahrain," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for Middle East and North Africa.

    May 18, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must provide justice to all of the victims of violent repression that took place during mass anti-government protests earlier this year, Amnesty International said in a comprehensive report into abuses that led to at least 840 deaths.

    The release of Egypt rises: killings, detentions and torture in the '25 January Revolution' comes two days before former Interior Minister Habib El Adly goes on trial on charges arising from the killings of protesters.

    The organization said that while the Egyptian authorities have begun holding accountable some of those accused of responsibility for serious human rights violations, many victims of security forces' brutality are at risk of being excluded from efforts to deal with the legacy of the violence.

    "The trial of the senior figures suspected of being responsible for the outrageous use of excessive force against peaceful protesters is an essential first step," said Amnesty International. "But the authorities' response to victims must go much further than this."

    May 17, 2011

    The Myanmar government’s reduction of prison terms must be swiftly followed by the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International said today.

    The Myanmar government said on Monday it had reduced by one year the sentences of all current prisoners and commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment.

    “While the reductions are welcome news for political prisoners, they are astonishingly insufficient”, said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher. “These actions fall well short of the comprehensive release of all prisoners of conscience desperately needed in Myanmar”.

    Amnesty International also called upon Myanmar to go beyond commuting death sentences and join the worldwide trend towards the complete abolition of the death penalty. 

    While no death row prisoner in Myanmar is known to have been executed since 1988, the death penalty is still in the statute books and death sentences continue to be imposed.

    May 16, 2011

    A Moroccan journalist set to go on trial tomorrow, apparently for criticizing Morocco’s counter-terrorism law, must be released immediately and unconditionally if he is being held solely for his writing, Amnesty International said today.

    Rachid Nini, editor of the el-Massa daily newspaper, was detained on 28 April 2011 following the publication of several articles criticizing the counter-terrorism practices of the Moroccan security services, including prison sentences handed down after unfair trials against Islamists.

    He has also repeatedly called for increased political freedom and has written about corruption among government officials.

    “The detention of Rachid Nini runs completely counter to reform promises King Mohammed VI made earlier this year, where he promised to strengthen human rights. This is a severe attack on freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said.

    Rachid Nini has been charged with “undermining of a judicial decision, attempt to influence the judiciary, and reporting on untrue criminal offences”. He is currently being held in Okasha prison in Casablanca and his trial is set to begin on 17 May.

    May 16, 2011

    Amnesty International has today condemned the conviction of four Belarusian prisoners of conscience, including former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, over their involvement in post-election protests.

    A court in Minsk sentenced Andrei Sannikau, who has complained of torture and other ill- treatment during his detention, to five years’ imprisonment on Saturday for his role in protests that followed presidential elections in December 2010.

    Andrei Sannikau’s wife, journalist Iryna Khalip, who also took part in the December protests, was given a two-year suspended sentence on Monday, charged with breaching public order.

    Pavel Sevarnyets and Syargei Martseleu were also sentenced to three years in a correctional facility and two years’ probation, respectively. Both were charged with breaching public order.

    “Andrei Sannikau and these other activists have been convicted solely for exercising their right to peaceful protest,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    May 12, 2011

    The military trial today of a group of 21 Bahraini opposition activists charged over their involvement in anti-government protests has been adjourned until 16 May.

    In a brief proceeding, the 14 defendants in the court in the capital Manama on Thursday denied all the charges against them. Seven others are being tried in absentia.

    The mainly Shi’a activists have been charged with a series of alleged crimes related to weeks of protest, including running a terrorist organization with the aim of toppling the ruling Sunni-led government.

    Amnesty International has called on Bahraini authorities to grant the men a fair trial, citing abuses of their basic legal rights and fears that two, including prominent human rights defender ‘Abdelhadi al-Khawaja, have been tortured in detention.

    “Bahrain’s government has stacked the deck against the defendants and there is very little chance they can receive a fair trial in the current circumstances,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

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