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International Justice

    July 01, 2014

    The decision by the Assembly of the African Union (AU) to grant sitting African leaders immunity from prosecution for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is a backward step in the fight against impunity and a let down for victims of serious violations of human rights, Amnesty International said.

    An official communiqué released yesterday confirmed that African heads of state and government meeting at the AU Summit in Equatorial Guinea on 26 and 27 June had voted to adopt an amendment granting incumbent government leaders and other senior officials immunity from prosecution in the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

    “At a time when the African continent is struggling to ensure that there is accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses, it is impossible justify this decision which  undermines the integrity of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, even before it becomes operational,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.

    June 19, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 20 June 2014

    Proposals to grant sitting African leaders immunity from prosecution for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will completely undermine the integrity of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, even before it becomes operational, Amnesty International said.

    In an open letter Amnesty International called on African Union (AU) heads of state and government meeting in Equatorial Guinea this week not to adopt a proposed amendment which would grant immunity from prosecution to sitting government leaders and senior officials in the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

    “After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the world committed itself to ensuring that such an atrocity could never happen again. This commitment rings hollow in the face of efforts to shield from prosecution senior African politicians who are and may be responsible for serious atrocities including mass murder, torture, rape, or the displacement of entire communities,” said Netsanet Belay Amnesty International’s Africa Director.

    June 18, 2014

    The US government must ensure that Ahmed Abu Khattalah, who is being held in secret and incommunicado detention, gets immediate and unrestricted access to a lawyer amid fears that he may be being held or interrogated in inhumane conditions, said Amnesty International today.

    Ahmed Abu Khattalah has been allegedly charged with participation in an attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi in 2012 in which four US nationals were killed. He was seized by US forces in Libya on 15 June and is currently being held at an undisclosed location, possibly a US naval vessel.

    “While Ahmed Abu Khattalah is suspected of a serious crime, that does not mean his has forfeited his right to humane treatment and due process,” said Erika Guevara Rosa, Director of Amnesty International’s Americas Program.

    “In addition to the absence of accountability for torture carried out under the Bush administration, there is still cause for concern about the USA’s treatment today of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

    May 14, 2014

    Amnesty International is deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment in Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v. Harkat. This decision, which fundamentally engages Canada’s binding international obligations, contained no reference to any relevant international legal sources, and the court ruled that Canada’s security certificate regime is both constitutional and fair.

    The security certificate system is a process that allows non-citizens to be detained without charge, potentially indefinitely, based on evidence that they might never see and which would otherwise be inadmissible in a court of law – such as intelligence from foreign countries, which could be derived from torture. A person who is subject to a security certificate might eventually face deportation to a country where he or she will be at risk of torture or death.

    April 30, 2014

    Brunei Darussalam’s shocking new Penal Code will take the country back to the dark ages when it comes to human rights, Amnesty International said.

    The new Penal Code, which is due to come into force on 1 May, allows for cruel and inhuman punishments including stoning to death, whipping and amputation.

    “Brunei Darussalam’s new Penal Code legalizes cruel and inhuman punishments. It makes a mockery of the country’s international human rights commitments and must be revoked immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    The law imposes the death penalty for a range of offences which do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” under international law, including robbery. Defendants who were under 18 years of age when crimes were committed can also be sentenced to death.

    “The new code even permits stoning to death for acts which should not be considered ‘crimes’ in the first place, such as extramarital sexual relations and consensual sex between adults of the same gender,” said Rupert Abbott.

    April 17, 2014

    Nepali legislators should reject problematic provisions of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) bill introduced in parliament on April 9, 2014, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said today. Despite a January 2 directive from the Nepali Supreme Court that the law must meet international legal standards, the bill contains provisions for amnesty that violate international law.

    In particular, the bill retains language from a 2012 executive ordinance that permitted amnesty for crimes under international law committed during Nepal’s civil war. A landmark Supreme Court ruling rejected the ordinance, and explicitly directed the government to introduce a new bill in compliance with Nepal’s obligations under international law. Amnesty for gross human rights violations, such as those enumerated in the bill, is prohibited by international law.

    April 14, 2014

    The trial of former Libyan officials, including Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, risks descending into a farce after the court ordered today that he and six other defendants be tried via video link, said Amnesty International.

    On 23 March, a day before the last hearing in this case, two amendments were made to Libya’s Code of Criminal Procedure to allow hearings via video link. 

    The trials by video link will infringe all the seven defendants’ rights to a fair trial. The impact on Saif al-Islam’s case is of particular concern as he remains held in a secret location in Zintan by a militia that has repeatedly refused to hand him over to state custody in Tripoli. The other six defendants are held in Misratah in prisons under the control of the Ministries of Justice and Defence. 

    April 09, 2014

    A new resource to arm lawyers, defendants and the judiciary with the tools to fight against unfair trials and injustice is published by Amnesty International today.

    A practical guide on the internationally agreed standards for fair criminal proceedings, the second edition of the Fair Trial Manual is the first update in more than 15 years.

    “The Fair Trial Manual is essential reading for anyone having to battle against injustice,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “It provides practical guidance on which corners prosecutors must never try to cut. In extreme cases, it can also help to expose politically motivated show trials for what they really are. Even in the most oppressive states, where the judiciary is little more than a puppet for political masters, highlighting abuses can and does achieve results.”

    April 03, 2014

    Palestine’s application this week to join the Geneva Conventions and key international human rights treaties is a significant advance for human rights protection, Amnesty International said today, urging it to sign up as well to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

    On 2 April 2014 it was announced that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had the day before signed letters of accession to some 20 multilateral treaties.

    Amnesty International believes the move should spur the Palestinian Authority into bolstering its commitment to upholding the rights of all people within areas under its control. This must mean, among other actions, conducting independent and effective investigations into all alleged violations by Palestinian Authority security forces, and prosecuting those responsible in fair trials when there is sufficient evidence.

    Amnesty International has been calling on Palestine to become a state party to all relevant international human rights and international humanitarian law treaties, without reservations or declarations amounting to reservations, since it achieved UN non-member observer state status in November 2012.

    March 20, 2014

    The decision taken today by Côte d’Ivoire to send former militia leader Charles Blé Goudé, accused of crimes against humanity, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a key step towards justice for the victims of serious crimes following elections three years ago, said Amnesty International.

    “This is a case we have been concerned about for over a year. The Ivorian authorities should promptly turn over Charles Blé Goudé to the ICC as they have pledged, bringing hope to some of the victims of the violence that plagued Cote d’Ivoire for a six month period in 2010 and 2011,” Said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director, Law and Policy, Amnesty International

    However, the delay in surrendering Charles Blé Goudé to the ICC is of concern. He was held in an unlawful place of detention without access for a lawyer for over a year since his extradition from Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire.”

    February 13, 2014

    As many as a quarter of a million civilians in areas under siege around Syria need the UN Security Council to push for unfettered humanitarian access to alleviate their suffering, Amnesty International said today, as the world body considers a draft resolution submitted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan.

    In one location alone – the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees south of Damascus, in which Syrian nationals also live – the organization has received the names of more than 100 men, women and children who have died during a siege imposed by the Syrian armed forces last July following clashes with armed opposition groups. Starvation, lack of adequate medical care and sniper fire have been the main causes of death.

    “The situation for civilians trapped and under siege in a number of locations around Syria is truly dire, with vital food and medical supplies either in short supply or completely lacking,” said José Luis Díaz, Head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.

    November 13, 2013

    The UN Security Council must not give in to political pressure to defer Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial at the International Criminal Court for a year, Amnesty International said ahead of a scheduled vote on Friday.

    Earlier this month, Rwanda, a Security Council member, circulated a draft resolution seeking the deferral. It is due to be put to a vote on Friday.

    “The victims of the post-election violence in Kenya have waited long enough for justice,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “It would be a shame if Security Council members prioritized the personal interests of political leaders over those of victims of crimes against humanity.”

    “Deferring the trial sets a dangerous precedent for international justice – paving the way for future trials to be derailed for political interests.”

    November 12, 2013

    The Sudanese authorities must drop ‘indecent behaviour’ charges against two activists who risk being sentenced to flogging in a trial that opens tomorrow, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization is calling for the charges to be immediately and unconditionally dropped.

    “Yet again the Sudanese authorities are exploiting their legal system to harass and intimidate activists,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director. 

    “The public order laws being used in this case do not specify what is meant by ‘indecent behaviour’ so the security forces are using their discretion to arrest and punish whoever they want to.”

    On 21 October Najlaa Mohammed Ali , a lawyer and a human rights activist, and Amin Senada, an activist, were travelling by car to Port Sudan, when two armed men stopped the car, claiming to be from Sudan’s Public Order Police.

    November 06, 2013

    Reports that the retrial of former Guatemalan President General Efraín Ríos Montt will not begin until January 2015 amount to a disappointing deferral of justice for genocide victims and their relatives, Amnesty International said today.

    “This decision to further delay is a letdown for genocide victims and their families who have already waited over three decades, and fought hard to ensure Ríos Montt was held to account in the courts,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity on 10 May this year by a criminal court in Guatemala City. The conviction was effectively annulled 10 days later by the Constitutional Court, Guatemala’s highest court, on a technicality.

    “It was hoped that the retrial, made necessary by the Constitutional Court’s decision, would take place much earlier given the huge delay victims have already suffered and the importance of this landmark case,” said Elgueta.

    October 30, 2013

    The United Nations Security Council must not lose sight of the victims’ right to obtain justice for the horrific crimes that took place in Kenya’s post-election period nearly six years ago, Amnesty International warned ahead of talks on Thursday.

    The UN Security Council is due to host an informal dialogue on the issue with representatives of Kenya and the African Union (AU). It comes after the AU’s request earlier this month for a deferral of the ICC trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for their alleged role in crimes against humanity during the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

    “A deferral of the ongoing International Criminal Court trials of Kenya’s leaders would send a dangerous message that the international community does not support justice for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.


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