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Freedom of Expression

    April 12, 2011

    The Iraqi authorities must stop attacks on peaceful protesters calling for an end to unemployment, poor services, and corruption and demanding political reforms, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    Days of Rage: Protests and Repression in Iraq documents how Iraqi and Kurdish forces have shot and killed protesters, including three teenage boys, threatened, detained and tortured political activists, as well as targeting journalists covering the protests.

    “The Iraqi authorities must end the use of intimidation and violence against those Iraqis peacefully calling for political and economic reforms,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Eight years on from the end of Saddam Hussain’s long and grossly oppressive rule, it is high time that Iraqis are allowed to exercise their rights to peaceful protest and expression free from violence at the hands of government security forces. The authorities in both Baghdad and the Kurdistan region must cease their violent crackdowns.”

    April 12, 2011

    Bahraini authorities must urgently reveal the whereabouts and legal status of more than 400 mostly Shi’a opposition activists detained in recent weeks, Amnesty International said today amid concerns about their safety after reports that at least three have died in custody.

    Security forces detained leading human rights defender ‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and his two sons in law in a raid on his daughter’s home, where they were staying, last Saturday. He was assaulted before being taken away barefoot and denied access to his medication.  Alkhawaja’s and his sons in law’s whereabouts remain unknown. One of Alkhawaja’s daughters has launched a hunger strike to demand her relatives’ release.

    “These further arrests are evidence of the mounting toll of opposition activists who have been thrown into jail because of their involvement in the protests that have rocked Bahrain since people came onto the streets in February to demand reform,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    April 11, 2011

    Amnesty International condemns the detention of several people, including two women wearing the full-face veil, who were protesting against the law banning the wearing of any form of clothing concealing one's face in public. Amnesty International understands that those taken in for questioning by police have subsequently been released.

    The law came into force today. Police said the people were detained for joining an unauthorised protest in central Paris.

    “Women in France have the right to freedom of religion and expression. They must also be free to protest when this right is violated,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “This law puts France to shame – a country that prides itself on the human rights it claims to promote and protect, freedom of expression included.”

    “The law preventing women in France from expressing their values, beliefs and identity should be scrapped.”

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332

    April 11, 2011

    The Ugandan authorities must drop all criminal charges against several leading opposition figures temporarily detained today for taking part in protests in the capital Kampala, Amnesty International said today.

    The opposition politicians, activists and their supporters were arrested during demonstrations calling for people to walk to work in protest at fuel price rises.

    Most of the politicians were later released on bail but still face criminal charges.

    “The stifling of this protest and the force used against the protesters is an outrageous affront to freedom of expression, made possible by Uganda's unjust ban on public rallies," said Amnesty’s researcher on Uganda, Dr. Godfrey Odongo.

    "The Ugandan government must not use criminal charges against people engaged in peaceful protests, and all those still in custody must be released."

    Among those arrested were Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao and four newly elected opposition members of parliament affiliated to the FDC party.

    April 11, 2011

    Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and nine human and labour rights organizations today expressed dismay at parliamentary proceedings in Iran which look set to pass into law a bill which appears intended to wipe out independent civil society in the country, in violation of international standards on freedom of association and assembly, which Iran is obliged to uphold.

    The nine - a mix of international and Iranian organizations - Amnesty International, Arseh Sevom, Education International (EI), Hivos, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, FIDH’s affiliate the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights, and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – along with Shirin Ebadi called on members of Iran’s parliament to reject the draft law.

    April 11, 2011

    Authorities in Swaziland must ensure the safety of four key activists who were detained last night in an apparent bid to disrupt planned protests marches, Amnesty International said today.

    The arrests of the activists, which took place at a roadblock near Mbabane last night according to eyewitnesses, follow the Swaziland government’s recent announcement that all protests from 12 to 14 April are illegal.

    “We are deeply concerned for the safety of these activists, who are held incommunicado and at risk of torture," said Amnesty International’s deputy Africa Program Director, Michelle Kagari.

    "The authorities must ensure that the detainees are given immediate access to legal counsel and that their families are told where they are.”

    “The fact that several of the arrested men have been previously unlawfully detained, ill-treated and had police raids on their homes increases the concerns about their well-being.”

    April 09, 2011

    Amnesty International today condemned the excessive use of force used by the Egyptian army when at least two protesters were reportedly killed when soldiers attempted to disperse those gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

    Protesters told Amnesty International the army used sticks, electric batons, shot in the air and drove armored vehicles into the protest causing a number of injuries.

    Some 15 people were also reportedly detained, as well as six army officers who joined the protest.

    “The Egyptian authorities have once again failed to respect the right to peaceful protest by using the same tactics of repression as those of the former government,” said Amnesty International.

    "All those arrested for merely exercising their right to protest peacefully must be released immediately and an independent investigation begun into these disturbing events."

    Thousands of protesters had gathered in Tahrir Square following Friday prayers to demand the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak and other officials suspected of corruption and human rights violations.

    April 08, 2011

    At least 171 people are believed to have been killed during three weeks of unrest in Syria, Amnesty International said today after at least eight more fatalities during protests.

    "The alarming reports coming from Syria today show that the authorities have not altered their violent methods for dealing with dissent," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    "The Syrian government needs to take urgent action to rein in its security forces and prevent the loss of further lives."

    Thousands of unarmed Syrians gathering today across the country to call for greater freedoms were reportedly attacked by security forces firing live ammunition.

    Amnesty International has confirmed that eight people were killed today in protests - six in the southern city of Dera'a and two in Homs in the west.

    The death toll from today's clashes could rise significantly, according to reports from human rights activists in the country.

    April 06, 2011

     The Iranian parliament must scrap a draft law which will seriously undermine independent non-governmental organizations in Iran, Amnesty International said today.

    The bill, which has been extensively analyzed by the Netherlands-based NGO Arseh Sevom, requires all NGOs in Iran to register with a new and unaccountable body linked to the Intelligence Ministry and to the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force, which will also be able to revoke registration.

    "This bill will set back civil society in Iran and represents yet another nail in the coffin of the right to freedom to association in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of its Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    Key parts of the bill have already been passed in the Iranian parliament. Further details of the draft law are to be considered by parliamentarians shortly.

    Should the bill be passed, the Supreme Committee Supervising NGO Activities would make key decisions on the operations of all NGOS in the country.

    April 05, 2011

    The Chinese government is waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation of lawyers, to stop them defending the dozens of activists and political critics rounded up by the authorities in the last two months.

    Since an anonymous online call on 17 February to stage a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China, a group of high profile human rights lawyers have been detained, and at least a dozen more lawyers say they have been briefly detained, pressured by the authorities, and even told by police to stop tweeting about detained people.

    “China is abandoning the rule of law,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific. “The government is trying to systematically break the will of the country’s lawyers.” 

    “It is giving its security forces free rein to pervert the course of justice and deny activists and critics the right to a legal defense. The most disturbing thing is that there is no sign of the government relaxing its grip this time around.  We fear that this is just a taste of things to come.”

    April 05, 2011

    The international community must play a more active role if Yemenis are to get accountability for the bloody killings of recent weeks, Amnesty International said as it released a new report into human rights violations in Yemen over the last year.

    Moment of Truth for Yemen documents the brutal repression of a wave of protests against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh which has left 94 dead according to the organization’s latest figures. The protests have been fuelled by frustration at corruption, unemployment and repression of freedoms.

    “The Yemeni government has an abysmal record of failing to investigate or prosecute those responsible for unlawful killings and torture or other ill-treatment,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa."

    “The international community has provided development and security assistance to the Yemeni authorities when asked. It is now time for it to step in and help deliver justice for the families of those who have lost their lives during this turbulent period.”

    April 04, 2011

    The detention of China’s most famous artist and political critic Ai Weiwei is a troubling development in a widening crackdown on dissent which has seen dozens of activists detained over the last few months, Amnesty International said today.

    Police detained Ai Weiwei at Beijing airport on 3 April. His wife and several members of his studio staff were also briefly detained on the weekend.

    “Ai Weiwei was not even involved in any call for ‘Jasmine’ protests. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for his detention, other than that the authorities are trying to broadcast the message that China’s time for open dissent has come to an end” said Sam Zarifi,

    Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific. Since online calls for Chinese ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests inspired by people’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa began circulating in late February, the Chinese authorities have rounded up dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers.

    April 01, 2011

    The reimposition of 20-year jail terms on seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i religious minority is “outrageous”, Amnesty International said today as it made a renewed call for their immediate release..

    The seven had previously had their sentences cut from 20 to10 years by an Iranian appeal court, only for the authorities to reverse the decision.

    "Yet again, the Iranian authorities are manipulating their own justice system to persecute members of a religious minority,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Instead of doubling their sentences, the authorities should be setting the Baha’i leaders free, right now, and guaranteeing their freedom to practice their religion free from threat or persecution.

    “Such arbitrary and vindictive acts are a salutary reminder of why the UN Human Rights Council voted recently to create a Special Rapporteur on Iran. The Council’s decision came not a moment too soon.”

    The seven Baha’i leaders, two women and five men, are held in harsh conditions at Reja'i Shahr (also known as Gohardasht) prison in Karaj, near Tehran.

    April 01, 2011

    The Zimbabwean police authorities must end the systematic harassment and intimidation of human rights groups, Amnesty International said today after an NGO leader became the latest activist targeted with politically motivated charges.

    Abel Chikomo, director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, was on Wednesday charged with running an illegal organization.

    “The charges against Abel Chikomo appear to be part of an orchestrated strategy by the Zimbabwean police and other state security organizations to silence critics of their human rights record," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.

    "The charges against him must be dropped immediately."

    Since the beginning of February, Chikomo has been under police investigation and subject to regular interrogation, mainly on his organization’s work on transitional justice.

    The police have alleged that he has been managing and controlling the operations of an illegal Private and Voluntary Organisations (PVO) - charges he denies.

    April 01, 2011

    Nigerian political candidates must rein in their supporters to put a stop to continuing violence on the eve of national polls, Amnesty International said today.

    “Words alone are not enough. Politicians must demonstrate that they are serious about putting an end to the clashes between supporters.” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa, Tawanda Hondora.  
    “The violence is causing immense damage to the country and its institutions.  Politicians need to immediately take responsibility for their actions and rein in their supporters before the elections dissolve into chaos.”

    “We receive consistent reports that politicians, both candidates and those in office, instigate political violence, despite their statements to the contrary.”

    In the past two weeks at least 20 people have died in political attacks and clashes throughout the country. Many others have been injured and scores of cars and buildings burned.


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