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    May 12, 2011

     Growing demands for freedom and justice across the Middle East and North Africa and the rise of social media offer an unprecedented opportunity for human rights change – but this change stands on a knife-edge, said Amnesty International as it launched its global human rights report on the eve of its 50th anniversary.

    “Fifty years since the Amnesty candle began to shine a light on repression, the human rights revolution now stands on the threshold of historic change,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

    “People are rejecting fear. Courageous people, led largely by youth, are standing up and speaking out in the face of bullets, beatings, tear gas and tanks. This bravery – combined with new technology that is helping activists to outflank and expose government suppression of free speech and peaceful protest – is sending a signal to repressive governments that their days are numbered.

    “But there is a serious fight-back from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights.”

    May 11, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Yemeni authorities to stop using unnecessary deadly force against anti-government protesters, after security forces today opened fire on demonstrations in the capital Sana'a and the city of Ta’izz killing at least two people.

    The call came ahead of planned marches on the presidential palace from the protest camp near Sana’a University.

    According to Amnesty International’s latest figures, over 145 people have been killed in Yemen during months of demonstrations calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    "Security forces in Yemen must be immediately stopped from using live ammunition on unarmed protesters," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "The Yemeni government must allow its people to express their genuine grievances without fear of violence and killing. It must also ensure that justice is done for all those killed unlawfully while exercising their right to peaceful protest."

    May 11, 2011

    A military trial on Thursday for a group of 21 prominent Bahraini opposition activists must meet international fair trial standards, Amnesty International said today amid continuing reports of torture.

    The mainly Shi’a activists have been charged with alleged crimes in relation to weeks of pro-reform protest in Bahrain that began in February.

    “Bahraini authorities have already denied the defendants their basic legal rights and at least two have said they were tortured, raising fears about their chances for a fair trial in this military court,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Among the charges levelled against the defendants are that they set up “terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”, insulted the army, incited hatred, disseminated false information, and took part in rallies without notifying the authorities.

    Bahraini authorities also allege the men raised funds for and have “links to a foreign terrorist organization”, purportedly Hizbullah.

    May 10, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on Iranian authorities to release two US citizens apparently held for political reasons for nearly two years, as their flawed trial is set to resume on 11 May.

    Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested while they were hiking in the Iraq-Iran border area on 31 July 2009. The exact circumstances of their arrest remain unclear, but the Iranian authorities have charged them with espionage and illegal entry.

    A third US citizen arrested with the men, Sarah Shourd, was released in September 2010 on US$500,000 bail.

    “The facts surrounding the hikers’ arrest are disputed, and Iran’s justice system has systematically failed to observe international fair trial standards in this case, including giving the men adequate contact with their lawyer, families or consular assistance,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    May 10, 2011

    Authorities in El Salvador must take immediate action to protect journalists who fear for their lives after receiving a series of death threats, Amnesty International said today.

    From 30 April to 4 May, staff members at Radio Victoria, a community radio station committed to social and human rights reporting in Cabañas region north-east of the capital San Salvador, told Amnesty International they received repeated death threats claiming to come from a “death squad.”

    “It’s unacceptable for El Salvador to stand by while members of the media receive threats intended to silence them,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International's Americas Deputy Director.

    “The Salvadoran authorities must immediately provide protection to the staff and launch an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into these repeated threats and bring those responsible to justice.”

    May 10, 2011

    The Ugandan parliament should reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has  been the subject of public hearings in recent days before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. The Parliamentary Order Paper of 10 May indicates that the Bill could be debated by the Parliament and come up for a vote on  May 11.

    The bill would introduce the death penalty as a sanction for some consensual sex between members of the same sex, the same penalty provided for terrorism and treason. It would be an offense for a person who is aware of any violations of the bill’s provisions not to report them   to the relevant authorities within 24 hours.  The bill also would criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” which would jeopardize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working to defend and promote human rights in Uganda.

    May 09, 2011

    At least 48 people have been killed in Syria by the security forces in the last four days, local and international human rights activists have told Amnesty International, as the crackdown on the coastal city of Banias intensified.  

    More than 350 people – including 48 women and a 10-year-old child – are also said to have been arrested in the Banias area over the past three days with scores being detained at a local football pitch. Among those rounded up were at least three doctors and 11 injured people taken from a hospital.

    “Killings of protesters are spiralling out of control in Syria – President Bashar al-Assad must order his security forces to stop the carnage immediately,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Amnesty International has compiled the names of 28 people who were apparently shot dead by security forces on Friday and those of 12 others killed over the last three days.
     

    The organization now has the names of 580 protesters and others killed since mid-March, when protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began.

    May 06, 2011

    Human rights activists seen to be involved in pro-reform protests in Syria have been forced into hiding after receiving threats from Syrian authorities, Amnesty International said today as a “Day of Defiance” took place around the country.

    Syrian authorities heightened security measures ahead of today’s protests, leading to several protester deaths and the detention of a key opposition activist.

    “Given recent events, Syrian human rights and political activists have cause to fear for their lives and liberty, and a number have gone into hiding after receiving threats,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Syrian security forces have killed hundreds and arrested many more during and after protests. This campaign of violence and intimidation must cease and human rights defenders must be allowed to carry on their work without fear for their personal safety.”

    Amnesty International has learned of several prominent human rights and political activists who have recently been forced into hiding.

    May 05, 2011

    Authorities in China must clarify the current status and reveal the whereabouts of a lawyer and a journalist who have gone missing in the past week, Amnesty International said today as a clampdown on activists appeared to be widening.

    Li Xiongbing, a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer known for taking on politically sensitive cases, has been missing since yesterday after he was telephoned by police.

    Zhang Jialong, 23, a former Caijing magazine journalist who has covered the detention of acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei, went missing on 28 April after reportedly being approached by a person claiming to represent Beijing police.

    “The sudden disappearance of these activists is alarming; the authorities must immediately provide clarification as to Li Xiongbing and Zhang Jialong’s whereabouts. If they have been detained for their legitimate human rights work, they must be released,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    May 04, 2011

     The Bahraini government must end its relentless crackdown on human rights, Amnesty International said today after the country's parliament voted to extend a repressive state of emergency amid continued arrests of dissidents.

    "The Bahraini authorities must stop detaining anyone who opposes them and release protesters who have been locked up for peacefully demanding reform," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "Even since the protests on the streets were violently crushed in mid-March the government's persecution of dissidents has not abated, while the renewal of the so-called 'State of National Safety' will only exacerbate this human rights crisis."

    Bahraini media reported that members of parliament yesterday voted overwhelmingly to extend the “State of National Safety” for another three months, even though it is not due to expire for another six weeks.

    Emergency law had been used to arrest without judicial warrant and detain incommunicado protesters and political activists, as well as to try civilians before military courts.

    May 04, 2011

    Kyrgyzstan’s authorities must urgently investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights violations during unrest in June 2010, Amnesty International said today after an international commission of inquiry found that the violence amounted to crimes against humanity.

    Four days of violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the south of the country left around 470 people dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.  

    Despite having cooperated with the commission’s investigation, the Kyrgyzstani government has rejected the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission’s finding that crimes against humanity were committed.

    “This report is comprehensive and constructive, and the Kyrgyzstani authorities cannot afford to ignore its findings,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.  

    “They must ensure that the crimes that took place are properly investigated and prosecuted in accordance with their qualification under international law. The international community must both push and support the Kyrgyzstani authorities to do this.”

    May 03, 2011

     Amnesty International has received first-hand reports of torture and other ill-treatment from detainees held in Syria as a wave of arrests of anti-government protesters intensified over the weekend.

    Detainees who were recently released told the organization of beatings and harsh conditions in detention, raising fears for the safety of hundreds of others being held, including at least 499 people who were arrested on Sunday in house-to-house raids in the southern town of Dera’a.

    “These disturbing new accounts of detainees being tortured further underscore the need for President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to his security forces’ violent onslaught against his own people,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The use of unwarranted lethal force, arbitrary detention and torture appear to be the desperate actions of a government that is intolerant of dissent and must be halted immediately. Syrians must be allowed to voice their calls for change peacefully.”

    May 03, 2011

    Amnesty International has published satellite imagery and new testimony that shed light on the horrific conditions in North Korea’s network of political prison camps, which hold an estimated 200,000 people.

    The images reveal the location, size and conditions inside the camps. Amnesty International spoke to a number of people, including former inmates from the political prison camp at Yodok as well as guards in other political prison camps, to obtain information about life in the camps.

    According to former detainees at the political prison camp at Yodok, prisoners are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. All the detainees at Yodok have witnessed public executions.

    “North Korea can no longer deny the undeniable. For decades the authorities have refused to admit to the existence of mass political prison camps,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director.

    April 30, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must abolish a recent law criminalizing peaceful protests and strikes, Amnesty International said ahead of tomorrow’s planned protests for International Workers’ Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.


    The organization called for workers’ rights to be protected, as protesters gather to demand the lifting of restrictions on forming trade unions, the introduction of an adequate minimum wage and the reinstatement of co-workers dismissed for their trade union activities.

     

    April 28, 2011

    The arrest of six civil society activists and the government’s takeover of a rights organization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are part of a worrying clampdown on dissent in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    Five of the activists were among more than 100 signatories of a recent petition calling for democratic reforms in the UAE, according to local media reports.

    At the same time, a lawyer for three of the detainees has said that he has received anonymous threats via Facebook and by way of text messages.

    The UAE authorities also dissolved the board of the Jurists Association, a leading civil rights organization after it joined a call for greater democracy alongside three other civil society organizations. Board members have been replaced with state-appointees for a six-month period.

    “These recent arrests and the government’s takeover of the Jurists Association fly in the face of international standards on freedom of expression, assembly and association,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

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