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International Justice

    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 12, 2012

    United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Fifth Session, 9-13 July 2012

    Joint submission by Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Treaty Four First Nations, Haudenosaunee of Kanehsatake, Indigenous World Association, First Peoples Human Rights Coalition, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

    Our organizations welcome the Expert Mechanism’s consideration of the Follow up report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making, with a focus on extractives. This is an important opportunity for the United Nations human rights system to more deeply engage with one of the most pressing concerns facing Indigenous peoples around the world.

    July 12, 2012

    The Bahraini authorities must allow people to exercise peacefully their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, Amnesty International said after the country's Chief of Public Security announced the ban on a gathering organized by an opposition group planned for Thursday.

    The Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society was denied permission to hold the gathering called "Our Demands are Legitimate" in the northern town of Jablat Hibshi this evening.

    In the past few weeks the Bahrain government has banned all other rallies and gatherings organized by the opposition groups.
    Previous rallies organized by opposition groups and not authorized by the government have been met with the excessive use of force against protesters by security forces.

    "Despite recent promises of reform and the guarantee of basic human rights, the authorities continue to violate the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and have publicly announced that any gathering today would be illegal," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director.

    July 10, 2012

    The release of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud al-Sarsak from Israeli detention today highlights the secretive and arbitrary nature of administrative detention of Palestinians by the Israeli authorities, Amnesty International said.

    “While the long overdue release of Mahmoud al-Sarsak is a huge relief to his family and friends, it doesn’t reflect any fundamental change in the use of administrative detention as state policy by the Israeli authorities,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director. “In fact it further underscores just how unjust, arbitrary and secretive this measure is.”  

    “Israel must immediately end the use of administrative detention, and release all Palestinians held under any legal provisions allowing its use, or charge and try them fairly in a court of law consistent with international standards. In particular, the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law should be repealed.”

    July 10, 2012

    The first ever sentence handed down by the International Criminal Court saw Thomas Lubanga Dyilo given 14 years for recruiting and using child soldiers in armed conflict.  This is a historic moment for international justice, Amnesty International said.

    The sentence takes into account that Lubanga has been in custody since his 2006 arrest.  Prosecutors had originally asked for a 30-year sentence.

    “This first sentence is a historic moment.  It puts the whole world on notice:  anyone who recruits or uses children as soldiers faces trial and imprisonment,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International’s director of law and policy.  

    “Today’s verdict demonstrates that the International Criminal Court is up and running.”

    The prosecution’s decision to limit the charges to conscription, enlistment, and use of child soldiers meant that the court could not consider allegations of other crimes committed by the FPLC under Lubanga Dyilo – including crimes of sexual violence – potentially denying justice and reparation to many more victims.  

    July 09, 2012

    The Yemeni authorities must launch an immediate independent investigation after Central Security Forces and snipers opened fire on a peaceful demonstration and march in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday killing at least three people, and leaving another clinically dead, Amnesty International said.

    Snipers were seen firing from rooftops as hundreds gathered to mark the 18th anniversary of the day in 1994 that government forces from Sana'a captured Aden from secessionist forces at the end of the civil war.

    Media reports suggested that up to 18 were injured during Saturday's protest.

    Eyewitnesses have today told Amnesty International delegates in Aden that security forces tried to enter Naqib hospital on Sunday evening apparently in an attempt to arrest injured protesters as they received treatment.

    "The authorities must act immediately to investigate these killings and bring to justice those who ordered and carried out this deplorable apparently co-ordinated attack," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    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 05, 2012

    Libya risks repeating the very violations that led to the “17 February revolution” unless the winners of elections scheduled for this week make the establishment of the rule of law and respect for human rights their top priority, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    In Libya: Rule of law or rule of militias?, the organization says that nearly a year after Tripoli fell to the revolutionary fighters ( thuwwar ), ongoing violations – including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture including to death, impunity for unlawful killings and forcible displacement – are casting a shadow over the country’s first national elections since the fall of al-Gaddafi’s regime.

    During a visit to Libya in May and June, Amnesty International found that hundreds of armed militias continue to act above the law, many refusing to disarm or join the national army or police force. The Ministry of Interior told the organization that it has been able to dismantle four militias in Tripoli, a tiny proportion of the total number.

    July 04, 2012

    Money earmarked for Afghanistan can make a lasting difference to Afghan people only if it tackles women’s rights, delivers human rights-based security and helps the hundreds of thousands of displaced people left in misery by years of conflict, Amnesty International said.

    The second Tokyo International Donors Conference on 8 July will see 70 international organizations and donors come together to pledge funding and support to Afghanistan beyond 2014.

    The meeting comes a decade on from the first such gathering in the Japanese capital.

    “This is a critical moment – money is being pledged, now we need confirmation it will be directed to human rights improvements that make a difference to Afghan lives,” said Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher.

    “As the international military plan their withdrawal, we need guarantees to ensure the needs of half a million Afghans displaced by conflict are addressed, improvements to women’s rights continue, and that Afghan forces have the resources to investigate and compensate for civilian casualties.

    July 03, 2012

    Police in Greece routinely use excessive force including chemical sprays against largely peaceful demonstrators. Despite numerous accounts of people being brutalized during arrest or detention the authorities are refusing to acknowledge the extent of the problem creating a climate of impunity, Amnesty International warned in a new report published today. l

    “The newly established Greek government has an opportunity to acknowledge the extent of the police violence and take the necessary steps to ensure police exercises restraint and identify themselves clearly during demonstrations, address the frequent failure by police, prosecutors and judges to conduct prompt impartial and effective investigations and bring police officers perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, including by establishing a truly independent police complaints mechanisms. Failure to do this will lead to yet more violations going unpunished” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    The Greek authorities have for far too long brushed off such violations as ‘isolated incidents’.

    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 27, 2012

    More Ethiopian government opponents have been convicted on trumped up terrorism and treason charges in what Amnesty International called "a dark day" for freedom of expression.

    Iconic dissident journalist Eskinder Nega and leading members of the political opposition, Andualem Arage and Nathnael Mekonnen, along with five other men, were found guilty on charges of ‘Terrorist Acts,’ ‘Encouragement of Terrorism,’ and ‘High Treason’ and several other charges.

    A further 16 men were found guilty in absentia, including several journalists and one human rights activist. The verdict follows the conviction of five dissidents on similar charges in January.

    “This is a dark day for justice in Ethiopia, where freedom of expression is being systematically destroyed by a government targeting any dissenting voice,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

    "We believe that Eskinder, Andualem and Nathnael are prisoners of conscience - convicted because of their legitimate and peaceful activities, and particularly for advocating peaceful protest against the government. They should be immediately and unconditionally released."

    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”.


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