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Crimes Against Humanity

    June 01, 2012

    On the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the Chinese military’s violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Amnesty International again calls on the government to hold an open and independent inquiry into the events of 1989.

    Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed or injured on the night of 3 and 4 June when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) opened fire on unarmed civilians. To this day, the government bans public discussion of those events. Still, many brave Chinese have exercised their right to peacefully call on the government to re-investigate the events surrounding the bloodshed and to hold those responsible accountable.

    May 30, 2012

    Ongoing deadly clashes in Syria have become so common that news of yet another blast or attack on protesters by security forces often fails to make it to the front pages of international media.

    But for Omar Assil, a leading member of the Syrian Non Violence Movement (SNVM) currently studying in the UK. each report of violence means one of his friends or loved ones could be at risk.

    “Every week I get news of the arrest of another of my friends. Last month the body of one of them was returned to his family in Homs,” he told Amnesty International.

    “Every week there is another bombing in Damascus and my parents are living in a constant state of stress and fear. It’s hard to concentrate on my studies. I am always distracted with the news.”

    Before arriving in the UK in September last year, he took part in several demonstrations in Damascus. He always managed to avoid arrest, but witnessed first-hand the brutal treatment protesters were subjected to at the hands of police.

    May 30, 2012

    Former Liberian president Charles Taylor has been given a 50-year prison sentence in the Hague by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for aiding and abetting war crimes.

    The prison term is for crimes committed in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002.

    Amnesty International looks at key dates in the organisation’s campaigning work on his crimes and alleged crimes in Sierra Leone and Liberia prior to his arrest.

    Charles Taylor, who also led the armed opposition group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), was found guilty last month by international judges of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone internal armed conflict.  He is yet to be prosecuted for crimes allegedly committed in his native country, Liberia.

    While this historic judgment affirms that former heads of state cannot consider themselves immune from international justice, Amnesty International remains concerned that tens of thousands of people who suffered atrocities in Liberia and Sierra Leone are yet to see other perpetrators brought to justice.


    May 29, 2012

    The expulsion of Syrian diplomats by a series of Western countries goes some way to expressing global outrage at the Houla killings but concrete action is needed by the UN Security Council and China and Russia must cease shielding Syria’s authorities, Amnesty International said.

    “We can only hope that events in Syria will ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian authorities and lead to concrete action by the UN Security Council,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “This horrific event is yet one more reason why Russia and China should stop shielding the Syrian authorities.”

    "Instead, Russia, China and the other Security Council members should urgently refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and demand that the Syrian authorities allow in the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, calls which Amnesty International has been making for months.”

    “In addition, all states should seek to exercise universal jurisdiction before their national courts over crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria.”

    May 28, 2012

    The United Nations Security Council must move beyond condemnation of Friday’s attack that killed scores of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla and immediately refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Amnesty International said.

    The Syrian military’s barrage of shells, mortars and rockets and raids on the residential area of Teldo on Friday left at least 108 dead, including 34 women and 50 children, according to sources Amnesty International has talked to, among them an eyewitness to the attack’s aftermath.

    “The high civilian death toll – including scores of women and children – in Houla must spur the Security Council to act in unison and immediately refer the situation in Syria to the ICC,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

    “As the killings escalate, the UN observer mission to Syria must have its scale and mandate enhanced, and the Syrian government must allow the Independent International Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council to enter the country to investigate allegations of abuse by both sides to the conflict.”

    May 23, 2012

    The courage shown by protesters in the past 12 months has been matched by a failure of leadership that makes the UN Security Council seem tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose, Amnesty International said as it launched its 50th global human rights report with a call for a strong global Arms Trade Treaty later this year.

    “Failed leadership has gone global in the last year, with politicians responding to protests with brutality or indifference. Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

    The vocal and enthusiastic support for the protest movements shown by many global and regional powers in the early months of 2011, has not translated into action. As Egyptians go to the polls to vote for a new president, it looks increasingly as if the opportunities for change created by the protestors are being squandered.

    May 16, 2012

    Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in northern Mali and dozens have been subjected to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial executions or sexual violence including rape, Amnesty International said today.

    In a report, Mali: Five months of crisis, armed rebellion and military coup, Amnesty International catalogues a litany of human rights violations committed against the backdrop of a food shortage affecting 15 million people in the Sahel region.

    “After two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher who has just returned from a three week research mission to the country.

    “The entire north of the country has been taken over by armed groups who are running riot. Ten of thousands of people have fled the region, creating a humanitarian crisis in southern Mali and in neighbouring countries.”

    During the research mission Amnesty International delegates visited the Malian capital Bamako and four refugee sites in Niger, about 200 kilometres north of the capital Niamey.

    May 08, 2012

    The FARC should release a French journalist held captive since 28 April immediately and unconditionally, said Amnesty International today.

    Roméo Langlois was seized by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during a confrontation between the armed group and the military in Caqueta, a department in South Colombia. The journalist was travelling with the Colombian army.

    In a statement released on Monday, a spokesperson for the FARC outlined a series of conditions for his release including a demand for a public debate on the way media outlets cover the conflict in the South American country.

    "While a debate on freedom of expression and the manner in which the media cover the conflict in Colombia could be positive, it should not be used as a pretext to hold a journalist captive,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Langlois must be released immediately without any conditions and measures should be taken to ensure that all journalists in Colombia can carry out their work freely.”

    May 02, 2012

    Warring parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must take measures to ensure civilians are protected, Amnesty International urged as fighting between the army and armed groups intensified in the country’s eastern province of North Kivu.

    Violent clashes which flared up over the weekend between the Congolese army, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), and FARDC deserters reportedly loyal to General Bosco Ntaganda have put the civilian population of North Kivu region at risk, prompting thousands to flee.

    At least three women were killed amid fighting between FARDC and FARDC deserters on Monday in the town of Ngungu in Masisi territory but the number of civilian casualties may well be higher, Amnesty International has learnt.

    "The escalating violence in the DRC is deeply alarming and all parties to the conflict must ensure that civilians are not caught in the crossfire," said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International's Deputy Program Director for Africa.

    "All sides should abide by international humanitarian law, in particular the prohibitions of indiscriminate attacks and the recruitment of child soldiers."

    April 26, 2012

    The conviction of Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sends out a clear message to leaders the world over that no-one is immune from justice but while the verdict brings some satisfaction for his victims more must now be done, said Amnesty International.

    "There is no doubt that today's verdict sends an important message to high-ranking state officials; no matter who you are or what position you hold, you will be brought to justice for crimes," said Brima Abdulai Sheriff, Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone.

    “This verdict can also be seen as a reminder for Taylor’s home country Liberia that those responsible for the crimes committed during Liberia’s conflict must be brought to justice.”

    Sheriff was speaking after he attended the televised pronouncement of the verdict at the seat of the court in Freetown with hundreds of Sierra Leoneans.

    The Trial Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague because of security concerns, found Taylor guilty of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the West African country between 1996 and 2002.

    April 19, 2012

    Amnesty International’s efforts to ensure the arrest of Bosco Ntaganda

    By Yuna Han of Amnesty International’s Campaign for International Justice
    It is nearly six years since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant naming Bosco Ntaganda on charges of enlisting and conscripting under 15s to take part in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Ituri province in 2002/3.

    The charges relate to his time as a commander of the armed group Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération due Congo (FPLC), regarding the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and are expected to be expanded to include the crimes against humanity of murder and rape.

    Like Joseph Kony, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) leader, whose notoriety has been dramatically boosted by the Kony 2012 campaign, Ntaganda remains at large.

    Reportedly living openly in the city of Goma he serves as a general in the national army after being integrated along with part of a new armed group he formed – Congrés National pour la Défense du People (CNDP) – into the DRC armed forces. He is known in the country as ‘the terminator’.

    April 14, 2012

    The resolution voted today by the UN Security Council endorsing the implementation of Kofi Annan’s plan to end the violence in Syria is a positive but belated development that must be followed up with vigorous monitoring in order to ensure the human rights of Syrians are protected, Amnesty International said.  

    The resolution calls for the full implementation of a six-point plan by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan – which calls for a cessation of violence, the initiation of a political process and the respect for a range of human rights.

    “The adoption of Kofi Annan’s plan could lead to a marked improvement in the human rights situation in Syria. However, the Syrian government has shown it cannot be trusted to respect its commitments so a credible, vigorous monitoring operation will be essential to keep all parties to their obligations,” said José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International’s Representative at the United Nations.  

    The resolution also approved the immediate deployment of 30 unarmed observers to Syria.

    April 13, 2012

    The Iranian authorities must quash a court ruling sentencing a Tehran woman to four and a half years in prison based on her peaceful human rights activities, Amnesty International said today.

    On 4 April, the Revolutionary Court notified Mansoureh Behkish’s lawyers that she had been sentenced on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security” for her work with the group the Mothers of Laleh Park – formerly known as the “Mourning Mothers”.

    Mansoureh Behkish, 54, has said she intends to appeal the decision.

    Amnesty International believes that she has also been targeted for supporting the families of political prisoners summarily executed in 1988-1989.

    “If Mansoureh Behkish’s jail sentence is carried out, she would be a prisoner of conscience, held solely for her peaceful human rights activities,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The Iranian authorities must immediately quash the sentences against her and other members of the Mothers of Laleh Park.”

    April 13, 2012

    A military takeover in Guinea-Bissau underscores the country’s serious unresolved human rights concerns, Amnesty International said today.

    Ongoing tensions within Guinea-Bissau’s military bubbled over on Thursday night and today when members of the armed forces placed parts of the capital Bissau under lockdown, arresting former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior as well as the interim President Raimundo Pereira and his wife.

    Stalled investigations into killings of political and military figures since 2009, an urgent need for reform of the security forces, and suspicions that several military officers and other officials are involved in international drug trafficking are just some of the concerns that threaten peace, security and stability in the West African country.

    “The reports from Bissau are unsettling, but instability has sadly been on the cards for some time, with rampant impunity and a lack of progress in the investigations into the killings of political and military figures since 2009,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    April 05, 2012

    Wednesday’s decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordering Libya to surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi immediately is a step forward for justice and accountability, Amnesty International said today.

    "This clear ruling by the ICC judges should effectively bring an end to the long-running saga over the fate of Saif al-Islam,” said Marek Marczyński, Head of Amnesty International’s International Justice Team.

    "Libya must act on the ICC’s decision and surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi without further delay. An unfair trial before a Libyan court where the accused could face the death penalty is no way to guarantee justice and accountability.”

    “The ICC has indicated that it could refer any failure of the Libyan government to comply with the Court’s ruling to the UN Security Council."

    "In the absence of a functioning Libyan court system and for as long as the Libyan justice system remains weak and unable to conduct effective investigations, the ICC will be crucial in delivering accountability in Libya."


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