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Enforced Disappearances

    September 24, 2018

    After four years of trying to hide the truth about the enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has one final chance to take appropriate action and stop obstructing the creation of a special investigative commission, Amnesty International said today.

    “The world is watching Mexico, waiting for the government to finally guarantee the victims’ rights by permitting the creation of an investigative commission that can uncover the truth of what happened and achieve justice for the 43 students of Ayotzinapa and their families,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    On 26 September 2014, 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teaching school were forcibly disappeared in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. Despite intense international and domestic pressure, including from the families of the disappeared students, their whereabouts are still unknown, as are the events that led to these grave human rights violations.

    August 30, 2018

    Kenyans will be able to share information about police extra-judicial killings and abductions in real time, using a new online portal designed to help human rights organizations hold the authorities to account, Amnesty International said as the world marks the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

    “Hundreds of people are arrested every year in what are termed as crime-busting police swoops, but many so-called suspects are never presented in court or charged with any crime. The next thing that usually happens is that they are found dead, their bodies callously dumped somewhere. Others are disappeared without a trace,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “It is unconscionable that scores of families have been made to live in agony at the hands of those meant to protect and defend them; not knowing where their loved ones are; whether they are alive or dead, and if dead, where their bodies are.”

    August 29, 2018

    In reaction to the video released today by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in relation to the enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in the southern state of Guerrero in 2014, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

    “It is negligent and apathetic for the president of Mexico to continue to publicly defend the alleged ‘historical truth’ of an investigation which has now been discredited by several different organizations and independent experts following a rigorous analysis. This is yet another example of the political decision of Peña Nieto’s government to dedicate all available resources to hiding the facts rather than to guaranteeing truth, justice and reparation for the victims and their families”.

    For more information please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bbberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

    Further information:

    Mexico: Government insists on hiding the truth about Ayotzinapa (News, 18 July 2018)

    July 31, 2018

    Mexico’s federal authorities continue to overlook key lines of investigation into the disappearances of 36 people in the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo, while failing to protect the victims’ families who have alleged the Navy’s involvement in the disappearances, Amnesty International said today.

    “The Federal Attorney General’s Office is losing crucial time in its investigations into these disappearances, which gives those suspected of criminal responsibility the chance to cover their tracks. The investigators must step up their efforts to find the victims while they’re still alive,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “The authorities must urgently activate effective protection measures for witnesses and victims’ family members, who often see little option but to risk their safety, jobs and livelihoods in the desperate search for their loved ones.”

    April 13, 2018

    In reaction to media reports about the existence of audio recordings featuring members of criminal organizations in Mexico and the United States potentially involved in the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in September 2014, Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

    The revelation that the attack on the students and other individuals could have been orchestrated from the United States by members of organized crime should compel the Mexican authorities to finally abandon their discredited theory on the case and commit to a serious and prompt investigation into the events, including into all authorities who could have been involved in this horrific crime. It is time that the Attorney General’s Office revise its investigation and collect all the evidence available”.

    March 15, 2018

    A damning new United Nations (UN) report on the Mexican government’s investigation into the enforced disappearance of 43 students in 2014, which reveals the arbitrary detention and torture of suspects and the tampering and concealment of evidence, highlights the urgent need to reform the way criminal investigations are conducted in Mexico, said Amnesty International today.

    “The UN’s findings confirm what activists and human rights organizations have exposed and denounced for years: the Mexican authorities’ widespread use of torture and the manipulation of evidence to cover up horrific human rights violations and ensure impunity for the perpetrators,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director.

    “The outrageously flawed investigation into one of the most appalling crimes in Mexico’s recent history exemplifies the authorities’ abuse of the justice system and their refusal to tackle human rights violations.”

    February 09, 2018

    Responding to last night’s raid by security forces at the house of Mohamed al-Kassas, the deputy head of Egyptian opposition party Misr al-Qawia, and the lack of information about his whereabouts, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director, Najia Bounaim, said:

    “Given the track record of the Egyptian authorities and their continued use of enforced disappearances to stifle dissent, we are deeply concerned that Mohamed al-Kassas might have been forcibly disappeared and subjected to torture. The authorities must disclose any information they have about the whereabouts of Mohamed al-Kassas and release him immediately if he is in state custody.”

    “This enforced disappearance of a senior member from a prominent opposition party is a brazen attack on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Egypt. Enforced disappearance has become a routine practice by the al-Sisi administration to silence activists and opposition groups.”

    August 16, 2017
      The number of police killings of suspected drug dealers has skyrocketed in Indonesia this year, an alarming rise which signals that authorities could be looking to emulate the murderous “war on drugs” in neighbouring Philippines, Amnesty International said today.   At least 60 suspected drug dealers have been killed by police – some of whom have been seconded to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) - since 1 January 2017, compared to 18 in all of 2016, according to data gathered by Amnesty International.   “This shocking escalation in unlawful killings by the police sounds serious alarm bells. While Indonesian authorities have a duty to respond to increasing rates of drug use in the country, shooting people on sight is never a solution. Not only is it unlawful, it will also do nothing to address the root causes that lead to drug use in the first place,” said Usman Hamid, Director of Amnesty International Indonesia.   “The authorities must remember that everyone, including people suspected of drug offences, have a right to life that must be respected at all times.”
    April 27, 2017

    A bill on enforced disappearances approved today by the Mexican Senate could represent a step forward in the fight to tackle the country’s human rights crisis. Now all that is needed for the bill to become law is the approval of the Chamber of Deputies.

    “The definitive approval of the bill on enforced disappearances is crucial in order to begin to seriously address the nightmare which thousands of families face, searching for their loved ones in the face of serious risks and carrying out work which is the responsibility of the authorities”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “This bill is a welcome advance, although there is room for improvement. It will come into existence within the context of a deficient search system and its implementation will require serious political commitment to grant justice, truth and reparation to the many families who have dedicated years to searching for their relatives”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

    August 30, 2016

    “Thank you [Amnesty International] for the work that you are doing. I didn't believe I can get justice in this country. I thought I'll never be free and that one day they will just lead me out and shoot me. It is so great to see my family again.” Dmytro Koroliov 

    Former inmates of a secret detention facility in Kharkiv, Ukraine, have been released – thanks to pressure from Amnesty and its supporters.

    The release of Dmytro (pictured above with his mother Iryna Koroliova) and 12 others recently followed concerted pressure from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 

    In July, our teams flew to Kyiv to meet the Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios as we published a joint report, “You Don’t Exist. Arbitrary Detentions, Enforced Disappearances and Torture in Eastern Ukraine”. 

    February 02, 2016

    By Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada’s campaigner on Mexico

    Stéphane Dion has an important opportunity to set a new course for hemispheric diplomacy when he hosts his counterparts from Mexico and the United States at the North American Foreign Ministers meeting on Friday.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already promised a leaders’ summit to reinvigorate the Three Amigos partnership. As the foreign ministers meet to lay the groundwork, a worsening human rights crisis in Mexico must figure prominently on the agenda.

    The dimensions of the crisis were made glaringly visible in September 2014, when police in the town of Iguala opened fire on buses carrying students from a rural teacher-training college. Three were killed and 43 other students were taken away, ‘disappearing’ into thin air. Their relatives and classmates have spent 16 agonizing months trying unsuccessfully to find the 43 amidst an official investigation so flawed as to provoke widespread allegations of a cover-up aimed at hiding the truth about what happened — and who was involved.

    December 17, 2015

    Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice yesterday overturned the conviction of retired colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega for his role in crimes under international law. In 2010, Plazas Vega had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of enforced disappearance.

    Twelve people were forcibly disappeared following an assault by the security forces on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in November 1985 after the M-19 guerrilla group had taken hostage those inside. Some 100 people died in the assault, including 11 Supreme Court judges.

    The Colombian authorities must now redouble efforts to ensure that the whole truth about what happened during the assault on the Palace of Justice comes out and that all those responsible are identified and brought to justice before the ordinary civilian courts.

    November 12, 2015

    By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada

    My heart is aching for an unforgettable mother and sister who shared their story with me during an Amnesty Canada delegation to Mexico.

    I can well imagine the wrenching emotions they are feeling at this time of such traumatic importance for their family.

    It was this week, six years ago - on November 10, to be precise - when the unimaginable happened. Their loved one, a young man named Héctor Rangel Ortiz started the day with laughter, teasing his mother over breakfast. Later he phoned from a business trip to say he'd been stopped by police in the city of Monclova. His family would never see him again.

    “How I wish it was all a nightmare, a bad dream from which I could wake up,” Héctor’s sister Brenda posted on Facebook. “It's so painful not to know ... There are no words to describe it. Wherever you are Héctor, we send you love, light and hope.”

    October 08, 2015

    Amnesty International recently launched “Silenced Shadows”, a poetry competition on disappearances in Sri Lanka. Poet R Cheran, one of our competition judges, explains how literature can be a force for change.

    More than 80,000 people disappeared in Sri Lanka. Many people there, including me, have relatives or friends who have disappeared in the past 30 years during the war. It is still an open wound. When a friend or relative is killed, painful as that is, at least you know their fate and you can have some closure. But if someone you love disappears, it is more cruel. You will be like a small bird trapped in a dark cage, searching for a corner where none exists. This pain is unbearable.

    The major issue in Sri Lanka is the state’s brutality over the past 30 years. It is not just an ethnic chauvinist state, but one that is very willing to kill thousands of people or "disappear" them without hesitation. The state is the source of human rights violations. And when it comes to literature and fine arts, like many states in the world, it is illiterate.

    August 27, 2015

    The use of enforced disappearance by governments to silence its critics and instil fear into targeted groups continues unabated in every region of the world, said Amnesty International as the world marks the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August.

    Over the past five decades the organization has worked on the cases of more than 500 individuals who have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and is continuing to pressure governments to determine the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been disappeared.

    “Governments in every region of the world, from Syria to Mexico and from Sri Lanka to Gambia may be holding hundreds or even thousands in secret detention. In many countries, the authorities continue harassing and intimidating those who are looking for their relatives. The struggle for justice must not cease,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

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