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    January 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Yemeni authorities to protect a human rights activist and journalist who is alleged to have indirectly received a death threat from a high-ranking official for her role in organizing and taking part in the continuing mass protests in the country. Fears for Tawakkol Karman's safety arose after her brother received a phone call on Wednesday implying that his sister would be killed if he did not ensure she stayed at home.

    The threat came as tens of thousands of protesters in the capital Sana'a continued to call for economic reforms, an end to corruption and for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down.

    Tawakkol Karman, the president of Yemeni NGO Women Journalists without Chains, was arrested on 23 January for taking part in a student demonstration in Sana'a over the weekend.

    The demonstration expressed solidarity with ongoing protests in Tunisia and called for an end to the rule of the current president, who has been in power since 1978.

    January 27, 2011

    Amnesty International has today revealed disturbing new evidence of the brutal methods used by Tunisian security forces to try to quell anti-Government protests in recent weeks. An Amnesty International research team which has just returned from Tunisia found that security forces used disproportionate force to disperse protesters and in some cases fired on fleeing protesters and bystanders.

    Doctors’ testimonies seen by the Amnesty International research team show that some protesters in Kasserine and Thala were shot from behind, indicating that they were fleeing. Others in Kasserine, Thala, Tunis and Regueb were killed by single shots to the chest or head, suggesting deliberate intent to kill.

    “This shocking evidence confirms that the Tunisian security forces were using lethal methods to quell discontent and to deter protesters,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East North Africa Program.

    January 26, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the eight-year prison sentence handed down to a Vietnamese pro-democracy activist and former Communist Party official for posting articles on the internet calling for democracy. Vi Duc Hoi was convicted of "spreading anti-government propaganda" by a court in northern Lang Son province on Wednesday. He was also sentenced to five years of house arrest after his prison term.

    Hoi, a member of the Bloc 8406 network of pro-democracy and human rights activists, had written extensively about corruption and injustice in Viet Nam.

    He was arrested on 27 October 2010. Before his arrest, public security officials had raided his home on 7 October.

    "This verdict and sentence is a shocking testament to how the Vietnamese authorities show complete disregard for freedom of expression when it comes to people who peacefully challenge government policies," said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Region.

    Vi Duc Hoi joins at least 30 other peaceful dissidents currently serving long prison terms; others are awaiting trial. Amnesty International considers all of them prisoners of conscience.

    January 26, 2011

    Amnesty International today condemned a crackdown on demonstrations in Egypt amid continuing protests against poverty, police abuse and corruption. Reports of ongoing demonstrations in Egypt today follow a day of protest in Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities that saw at least three deaths, rubber bullets and tear gas employed against crowds, beatings of detainees and at least 500 protesters arrested.

    Amnesty International repeated its call on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators, and criticised the actions of security forces yesterday.

    “We witnessed reckless policing yesterday with the security forces relying on tear gas and using rubber bullet as a first resort,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Security forces must be held in check.”

    Demonstrations yesterday started peacefully but stone throwing and scuffles broke out when the security forces started forcibly dispersing demonstrators.

    Three demonstrators were reportedly killed as well as one policeman in the largest demonstrations that Egypt has seen in decades.

    January 24, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the US authorities to alleviate the harsh pre-trial detention conditions of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking information to Wikileaks. The US army private, 23, has been held for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished solitary cell and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010.

    Amnesty International last week wrote to the US Defence secretary, Robert Gates, calling for the restrictions on Bradley Manning to be reviewed. In the same week, the soldier suffered several days of increased restrictions by being temporarily categorised as a 'suicide risk'.

    "We are concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities," said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Programme Director for the Americas.

    "Manning has not been convicted of any offence, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention. This undermines the United States’ commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence."

    January 24, 2011

    Yemeni activists detained in anti-government protests this weekend have told Amnesty International they fear the authorities' crackdown on freedom of expression will worsen amid growing calls for reform. Dozens of activists were arrested and some were reportedly beaten by police during two protests in the capital Sana'a over the weekend. The first, a student demonstration in solidarity with the Tunisian public, called on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down.

    Many of those detained were charged with taking part in an unlicensed protest and released today.

    One of the protesters arrested, ‘Ali al-Dailami, Executive Director of the Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms, expects the climate of repression to intensify.

    "We fear that 2011 will witness many human rights violations. We are only in the beginning of it but we are already seeing arrests of human rights activists and civil activists such as university students," al-Dailami told Amnesty International today.

    January 21, 2011

    On 24 January 2011, the spokesperson and the specialist on anti-semitism of the non-governmental organization Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and four members of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) will be tried before the 6th Misdemeanors Court of Athens for charges of false accusations and aggravated defamation against the author of the book “Jews – The Whole Truth”, Kostantinos Plevris, following a complaint he filed on 4 January 2007. Panayote Dimitras, the Greek Helsinki Monitor spokesperson is also charged with perjury. Each of the offences for which the individuals concerned have been charged attracts a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

    According to the indictment, the content of the testimonies and/or statements made by the GHM representatives and the KIS officers in the case against Konstantinos Plevris in 2006 was false and defamatory.

    January 21, 2011

    Amnesty International has today urged the authorities to investigate the reported deaths of three men during anti-government protests in the Albanian capital Tirana. Protesters calling for the resignation of the government were reported to have thrown sticks and stones at government buildings, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and truncheons.

    “The police have a right to maintain order and protect the public, but they must not use excessive force against those carrying out their legitimate right to protest,” said Andrea Huber, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    Demonstrators also reported the sound of gunfire. Albanian officals said three men died in the demonstrations, reportedly from shots fired at close range from small-calibre weapons; 17 police officers and 21 civilians were injured.

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

    January 17, 2011

    Amnesty International has reiterated its call on the Tunisian authorities to respect human rights amid a renewed wave of anti-government protests across the country today. Police in the capital Tunis reportedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators calling for the party of ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to relinquish power, ahead of the expected formation of a new coalition government.

    A state of emergency was imposed in Tunisia as Ben Ali fled the country on Friday.

    "Amid political uncertainty in Tunisia, the government must do all it can to protect Tunisians from further violence," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International.

    "After 23 years of abuses, human rights must be a top priority for any new unity government. It means first and foremost that the security forces that have been used as a tool of repression in Tunisia must be reined in."

    On Friday, security forces were granted permission to "shoot on sight", with anyone breaking the current 5pm curfew at risk. All gatherings of more than three people were also banned.

    January 14, 2011

    The Tunisian authorities must either release or promptly charge two men arrested after one of them gave media interviews about ongoing protests, Amnesty International said today. Hamma Hammami, spokesperson for the banned Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (Parti Communiste des Ouvriers Tunisiens, PCOT) was arrested at his home in Tunis on 12 January. Around 20 members of the Presidential Security unit are reported to have detained him together with his colleague, Mohamed Mzem, a lawyer, and Mounia Obaid, a friend who was later released.

    Hamma Hammami’s family believe he was arrested for speaking to journalists about the protests.

    “The Tunisian authorities must release Hamma Hammami and Mohamed Mzem unless they are to be promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences, and guaranteed fair trials,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Amnesty International’s call comes amid continued disturbances throughout Tunisia that have left scores killed and injured.

    January 14, 2011

    Amnesty International is today calling on the Tunisian authorities to rescind permissions to "shoot on sight", after a wave of protests led to the reported departure from the country of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and a state of emergency imposed. Amnesty International’s investigative team in Tunisia has reported media broadcasts warning that gatherings of more than three people will not be tolerated, and that anyone breaking the curfew exposes themselves to the risk of being shot. After the announcement, the team reported hearing shots.

    “It is simply irresponsible to grant the power to ‘shoot on sight',” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, “It is not by continuing to shoot demonstrators that public order will be restored. The bloody crackdown must end."

    This power appears to grant official sanction to the Tunisian security forces to commit extrajudicial executions – in violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to life and prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life.

    January 11, 2011

    Amnesty International today called for the unconditional release of 16 Belarusian activists and journalists charged with ‘organizing mass disorder’ following a post-election demonstration in December, and declared them prisoners of conscience.

    Twenty-five opposition activists and journalists, including six presidential candidates, have been detained and charged for their participation in a 19 December demonstration in Minsk following the presidential elections. They are expected to face trial in two to three months.

    The detainees are currently being denied adequate access to lawyers and doctors despite some having been severely injured by riot police on the day of the demonstration.

    “Sixteen of these detainees are prisoners of conscience, facing trumped up charges purely because of the peaceful expression of their political opinions. They should be immediately and unconditionally released, and all charges against them should be dropped” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    January 06, 2011

    Amnesty International today condemned an ongoing crackdown by Tunisian authorities on a wave of protests sparked by the attempted suicide of a young fruit seller who later died of his injuries. At least two protesters have been killed during demonstrations following the attempted suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate who set himself on fire in front of a government building in the town of Sidi Bouzid in early December after police confiscated his fruit cart for selling without a permit. He died from his injuries in hospital on 4 January.

    Mohamed Bouazizi’s attempted suicide on 17 December sparked protests over rising prices, unemployment and corruption in Tunisia that have sometimes turned violent as they continue to spread.

    “Tunisians must be allowed to express their grievances and freely protest. The authorities made empty promises of work opportunities which were followed by a crackdown on protestors,” said Amnesty International.

    January 04, 2011

    Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of three Russian opposition activists detained in Moscow after a peaceful and sanctioned rally calling for freedom of assembly and later sentenced to administrative detention. Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and opposition activists, Ilia Iashin and Konstantin Kosiakin were among about 70 arrested at the rally in Central Moscow on 31 December 2010, the latest in a regular series of rallies in the Russian capital demanding to uphold the right to freedom of assembly.

    They were sentenced on 2 January 2011 to 15, five and 10 days of administrative detention respectively for allegedly failing to follow police instruction, despite eyewitnesses reporting that they had not obstructed police officers.

    “Yet again, the Russian authorities have failed in their obligations to protect the rights to freedom of assembly, a right guaranteed by the Russian Constitution” said Andrea Huber, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director.

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