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Crimes Against Humanity

    July 13, 2012

    Reports of mass killings in the Sunni town of al-Treimseh (or Tremseh) are further proof of the urgent need for UN monitors to be granted full and immediate access to all parts of the country to conduct independent investigations into human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today.

    According to Syrian opposition sources, scores of people were killed on Thursday morning when the Syrian army and security forces along with pro-government militia known as Shabiha, attacked al-Treimseh near the city of Hama. Syrian state-run media have blamed “terrorist groups” for the killings.

    UN mission chief Major General Robert Mood said today that UN observers are ready to go to Treimseh when a ceasefire is in place. He confirmed continuous fighting yesterday in the area of Treimseh, including the use of mechanized units, indirect fire and helicopters and said that observers were ready to go and seek verification of the facts if and when there was a credible ceasefire.

    July 12, 2012

    Amnesty International made a direct appeal on Wednesday to governments negotiating a potentially historic Arms Trade Treaty urging them to remember a strong agreement could save millions of lives.

    Seydi Gassama, Director of Amnesty International Senegal, addressed diplomats currently locked in crucial talks at the UN in New York about a potential deal that could end the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade.

    Gassama told the officials to show “the vision to ensure that this once in a lifetime opportunity is not squandered… to put an end to the body-bag approach to arms control, where embargoes are imposed only after the killing has already gone on far too long”.

    Millions of people are killed, injured, raped, repressed and forced to flee their homes every year as a result of the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade.

    Gassama spoke alongside partners in the Control Arms coalition, ensuring that the voice of millions of people calling for a strong treaty that protects human rights was heard directly by those responsible for reaching a deal by the end of the month.�

    July 11, 2012

    The UN Security Council must call on the Rwandan government to stop providing support for the M23 armed group in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, Amnesty International said as the UN redeployed peacekeepers to the main eastern city of Goma.

    The M23 have driven back the Congolese government army in a determined offensive over the last few days. The UN and authorities in eastern DR Congo say Rwanda has backed  the non-state armed group, M23,, a claim denied by Kigali.

    “While redeploying UN troops to Goma to protect civilians is a positive step, the situation in the North Kivu is so tense that it has the potential to turn into a regional conflict if the international community does not take urgent measures,” said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    Amnesty International has received reports from numerous sources that M23 is using heavy artillery and continue to forcibly recruit civilians. According to credible sources, two civilians were killed by the M23 in Bunagana on Sunday when they refused to join the group, while two other civilians were killed during the fighting.

    July 09, 2012

    Russia is continuing to fail the people of Syria despite reports that it will halt any new arms deals with the al-Assad government in the immediate future, Amnesty International said today.

    “If the remarks made by a Russian official are true, this is a feeble announcement.  It is not enough for the Russian government to halt new deals with the Syrian government, whilst continuing to honour existing arms contracts. They must immediately stop all arms transfers, including technical assistance, to the Syrian government,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa.

    “Whilst Russia continues to block international efforts to find an effective solution to the situation, the people of Syria continue to suffer a bloody cycle of repression and abuse. Many of the weapons previously supplied by Russia and other countries are being used in this assault.”

    July 02, 2012

    Four International Criminal Court (ICC) staff members are reportedly on their way back to The Hague in what Amnesty International has called a welcome end to their unacceptable detention by a Libyan militia for more than three weeks.

    Libyan authorities had held the four since 7 June in the remote western town of Zintan after they met Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi – the detained son of former ruler Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi.

    News of their release came as ICC President Sang-hyun Song visited Libya on Monday.

    “The release of these four ICC staff members is a very welcome development, but their detention by the Libyan authorities for more than three weeks was totally unacceptable,” said Marek Marczyński, International Justice Research, Policy and Campaign Manager at Amnesty International.

    “Not only has it denied them their liberty and stopped them from performing their functions, but it has also undermined Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi's right to an effective defence and delayed the ICC's decision on the Libyan authorities’ recent application to bring him to trial in Libyan courts.”

    June 29, 2012

    Amnesty International today called on Egypt’s new president to rise to the challenge of breaking the cycle of abuse perpetuated under Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The organization urged him to take decisive action in his first 100 days to put Egypt firmly on the path of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

    Amnesty International will be closely monitoring whether he is serious about delivering human rights change, and will take stock of his human rights achievements during this critical time for reform.

    Ahead of President Mohamed Morsi’s swearing-in ceremony, the organization has presented him with a memorandum detailing what it considers the key human rights priorities for Egypt.

    “Since the uprising in January  last year, Egyptians have heard many promises that their demands would be listened to and that things would change, but so far their hopes have largely been frustrated,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “We hope, as they do, that this stage of the transition might herald a turning of the corner.”

    June 29, 2012

    Foreign ministers gathering in Geneva for talks on Syria have a responsibility to ensure that as violence intensifies and civilian casualties continue to mount, the establishment of a dedicated human rights monitoring presence on the ground is among the top priorities of the international community, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization also called on the group not to pursue any policy of issuing amnesty or any other similar measure for crimes under international law as part of any peace plan.

    Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy, has invited the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - to tomorrow’s meeting in Geneva, as well as Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby are also scheduled to attend, along with Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security.

    June 26, 2012

    As the international community continues to vacillate over meaningful action to stop the crisis in Syria and to provide justice for victims of human rights violations, new information concerning methods used by the authorities to crush any form of dissent continues to emerge.

    Not only are protestors shot at, villages attacked and houses of activists burned, but other repressive, if less visible, tools are used to discourage anyone from showing opposition to the government.

    More than 20 followers of a Damascus imam, Saria al-Refa’i - who publicly criticised violations by the government in his Friday prayer sermons - have reportedly been detained, some for more than ten months.  

    Among them is a Damascus doctor, Mohamed Hamzeh, a face and jaw surgeon who was arrested on 21 August last year in front of the Zaid bin Thabit al-Ansari mosque, where Saria al-Refa’i had criticised the leadership of the country in his sermons .

    Earlier that month, Saria al-Refa’i had warned the Syrian leadership “that all of Syria will rise up unless the army withdraws, unless they release all the prisoners and cease hostilities”.

    June 26, 2012

    The discovery of the charred and mutilated bodies of three young medical workers a week after their arrest in Aleppo city is yet further evidence of the Syrian government forces’ appalling disregard for the sanctity of the role of medical workers, Amnesty International said today.

    All three men were students at Aleppo University – Basel Aslan and Mus’ab Barad were fourth-year medical students and Hazem Batikh was a second-year English literature student and a first-aid medic.

    They were part of a team of doctors, nurses and first-aiders who have been providing life-saving medical treatment in makeshift “field hospitals” set up to treat demonstrators shot by security forces and who could not therefore go to state-run hospitals for fear of being arrested, tortured or even killed.

    They had been detained by Air Force Intelligence since their arrest in the city on 17 June.

    June 19, 2012

    The increased use of helicopters by the Syrian army is putting civilians at even greater risk and further strengthens the case for an international arms embargo, Amnesty International said today amid reports that a Russian ship carrying strike helicopters to Syria had been stopped in the North Sea.

    The UK Foreign Office said on Tuesday that it was “aware of a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters heading to Syria”. The ship is now reported to be returning to Russia after its insurance was revoked.

    June 15, 2012

    The inauguration of Fatou Bensouda as the second ever International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor signals a new era in international justice and the potential for a more robust approach to their prosecution strategy, Amnesty International said as she began her nine-year term.

    Gambian Bensouda takes over from Luis Moreno Ocampo after serving as the ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004.

    “Prosecutor Ocampo has achieved a great deal in establishing the Office of the Prosecutor over the last nine years and hands over a large workload of seven investigations and a number on-going cases,” said Marek Marczyñski, Amnesty International's Head of International Justice.

    Ahead of taking office, Fatou Bensouda set out a number of priorities that she will pursue during her term, including reviewing the quality and efficiency of investigations and prosecutions, developing a strong gender policy and clarifying the process through which the office selects where it will conduct investigations.

    “These are very welcome commitments,” Marczyñski said.

    June 13, 2012

    The shocking escalation in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention and the wanton destruction of homes in Syria demonstrates just how urgent the need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks on civilians by government forces and militias which act with utter impunity, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

    The 70-page report Deadly Reprisals, provides fresh evidence of widespread as well as systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission.

    June 11, 2012

    For decades the irresponsible and poorly regulated international arms trade has contributed to death, injuries, torture and other serious human rights abuses – including sexual violence – affecting a million or more people every year.

    In July, all the world’s governments will meet at the United Nations in New York, for a month of negotiations to agree a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) – the first of its kind.

    Provided world leaders get the text right, this new treaty will establish strict controls on international transfers of weapons and munitions and a “Golden Rule” to prevent arms transfers where they are likely to contribute to serious human rights abuses.
    Ahead of these talks, Amnesty International campaigners around the world are urging governments to support the strongest possible agreement.

    June 02, 2012

    News that ex-president Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of protesters during the "25 January revolution" last year is a significant step towards combating long-standing impunity in Egypt, Amnesty International said.

    Mubarak's then Minister of Interior Habib Adly was also sentenced to life imprisonment on the same charges.

    However, the acquittal of all the other defendants, including senior security officials, leaves many still waiting for full justice.

    “We have from the start welcomed the trial of Mubarak and others for their role in the killing of protesters which began in January 2011. However, the trial and verdict have today left the families of those killed, as well as those injured in the protests, in the dark about the full truth of what happened to their loved ones and it failed to deliver full justice,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The Egyptian authorities must now establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry to fill the gap that the court left open.”

    June 01, 2012

    The end of Egypt’s 31-year state of emergency must signal a return to the rule of law, Amnesty International said after the measure timed out on Thursday, two years after it was last renewed by the government of Hosni Mubarak.

    “The Egyptian authorities must make a clean break with state of emergency practices by combating the systemic abuses it facilitated and which still continue today under military rule,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “These include serious human rights violations such as brutal crackdowns on peaceful protesters, arbitrary arrests, torture and unfair trials of civilians under military law.”

    While Egypt’s parliament has allowed the state of emergency to lapse, it has not been able to end unfair trials for civilians before military courts.

    Amendments to the Code of Military Justice, a law which in practice allows for civilians to be tried before military courts, were passed by parliament in May.


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