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International Justice

    October 25, 2012

    All peaceful activists and other prisoners of conscience detained in Syria must be set free, Amnesty International said today after a mass amnesty was granted ahead of the Eid al-Adha religious festival. 

    On Tuesday, President Bashar al-Assad announced a general amnesty, reducing or eliminating prison terms for most crimes.

    But as the amnesty did not cover anyone who had not yet been charged, it excluded many people currently held merely for exercising their basic rights such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, or for providing medical treatment or humanitarian assistance. It also excluded anyone who had been charged or convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2 July, which has in some cases has been used to imprison peaceful activists.

    “This is the sixth amnesty decree to be issued since last year. Yet hundreds of peaceful activists, aid workers, lawyers, doctors and journalists will again be excluded – ironically in part because in many cases they are being held for prolonged periods without charge,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    October 25, 2012

    A pro-independence protest in Papua has been met with a violent response by the Indonesian security forces as four demonstrators were shot by the police, prompting Amnesty International to call on the authorities to halt the excessive use of force.

    On 23 October 2012, police in Manokwari, Papua opened indiscriminate fire at a gathering of some 300 protesters outside the local university in response to stones thrown by a few of the protesters. At least 11 people were injured, four of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Some protesters reported being beaten by the police. At least five police officers also suffered injuries.

    “It is unacceptable that people who have gathered for a protest should have to fear for their lives. The indiscriminate use of firearms and excessive force against protesters by the security forces has to stop – it is a violation of international law.” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. “This incident warrants an immediate investigation and a thorough review of police tactics during policing of demonstrations” .

    October 24, 2012

    Claims that a Russian opposition MP’s assistant was abducted in Ukraine and forced to return to Russia where he has alleged he was tortured or otherwise ill-treated must be investigated, Amnesty International said in a letter to the Russian Federation Prosecutor General.

    Leonid Razvozzhayev, was reportedly interrogated by the Investigations Committee of the Russian Federation on 22 October 2012, three days after his abduction from Ukraine, which followed his approach to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees Office in Kyiv to seek asylum.

    His abduction took place on the same day he was put on a “wanted list” in the Russian Federation in connection to a criminal case against him and two others, including the leftist front activist, Sergey Udaltsov and his assistant, Konstantin Lebedev, on charges of plotting mass disturbances.

    October 24, 2012

    Trumped-up charges against a group of human rights defenders in Kenya including Amnesty International staff and volunteers must be dropped, the organisation said ahead of a court appearance in Nairobi on Thursday.

    Amnesty International is also calling for an investigation into the ill-treatment of the activists at the hands of the police. 

    “The government must send a clear message to the police that ill-treatment and wrongful arrest are unacceptable,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director. 

    The seven human rights defenders and community activists face charges of incitement to violence and disorderly conduct. 

    The incitement to violence charges relate to a protest on 14 October 2012 at which two of the accused – Gakii Kiogora and Minica Otieno Hamisi – were not even present. 

    The police fired rubber bullets on the 200 – 250 demonstrators who had gathered at Humura Police station in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi to protest about growing insecurity over recent months in Mathare slum. 

    October 22, 2012

    Two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) received prison sentences on Sunday when an appeal court upheld a guilty verdict in what Amnesty International called another injustice.

    Family members called the ruling a “nightmare”. Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman – who was not present in the courtroom – was handed a six-month sentence. The new ruling reduces their sentences from 10 years’ and three years’ imprisonment, respectively.

    Following his arrest after calling for a teachers’ strike early in 2011, Abu Dheeb has already spent some 18 months in prison, while al-Salman spent five and a half months in prison before being released on bail. Amnesty International considers Abu Dheeb to be a prisoner of conscience and will grant the same status to al-Salman if she is returned to jail.

    October 22, 2012

    A car bomb in a residential neighbourhood of the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday morning reportedly killed at least 13 people and injured 29 more, including civilians.  

    The attack was in front of a police station, which may have been the target, located in the heavily-populated residential district of Bab Touma in the capital’s historic Christian quarter, which includes numerous churches and hotels.

    Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International, said:

    “Detonating a car bomb in such a heavily populated area is an indiscriminate tactic likely to cause civilian deaths and injuries. The fact the car bomb reportedly exploded as people were leaving a nearby church following a Sunday service serves to heighten the risk of civilian casualties. All sides in Syria’s armed conflict must abide by international humanitarian law and avoid attacks which indiscriminately kill and injure civilians.”

    So far nobody has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack and the victims have yet to be identified.

    October 22, 2012

    Progress on human rights in Tunisia that followed the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is being rolled back by the current Tunisian Government, casting doubt on their commitment to reforms, Amnesty International warned as the country marked the first anniversary of National Constituent Assembly (NCA) elections.

    In a new briefing, One step forward, two steps back?,  the organization examines the challenges facing human rights in Tunisia since the October 2011 elections and identifies worrying trends, making a series of detailed recommendations.

    In the months following the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the caretaker government made important progress on the road to reform including the ratification of key international human rights treaties.

    The authorities also ordered the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience held before the uprising, enacted new laws on the freedom of the press and lifted restrictions on the creation of associations.  

    However, the new government has failed to maintain these initiatives and a number of setbacks now cast a shadow on Tunisia’s genuine commitment to human rights.

    October 22, 2012

    You may be forgiven for not having heard of the Copenhagen ‘Principles’.

    They have after all been reached in quasi-secrecy during a five-year process behind closed doors.

    Yet they refer to something of international importance – the handling of detainees in international military operations.

    On 20 October 2012, the Denmark’s Foreign Ministry of Denmark announced that a group of two dozen states meeting in private in Copenhagen had adopted the “principles and guidelines”.

    They come after Denmark deliberately convened discussions outside of any established international organisation in order to retain the ability to exclude certain states and civil society including organisations such as Amnesty International.

    The content of discussions was only revealed when Amnesty International and a handful of other civil society organisations were invited to a brief meeting with Danish authorities on the morning of 16 October, less than 48 hours before the final (and once again confidential) meeting of states was to begin.

    October 19, 2012

    Urgent steps are needed if Afghanistan is to avoid a repeat of the deaths among children and adults in the country’s displacement camps that occurred during last year’s bitterly cold winter conditions, a coalition of 30 NGOs including Amnesty International said.

    The 2011/12 winter was unusually cold in Afghanistan, and more than a 100 people, mostly children, died in refugee camps from the cold or illness.

    In an open letter to the UN, the Afghan government and international donors, Amnesty International, the Norwegian Refugee Council and 28 other NGOs, called for the immediate launch of a winter assistance campaign to safeguard the lives of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP).

    “What happened last year was a preventable tragedy, and should act as a sharp reminder that emergency assistance must be provided immediately before the winter arrives,” said Polly Truscott, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme, who is currently in Kabul to discuss the IDP situation with the Afghan government and the donor community.

    October 18, 2012

    A year on from the capture and killing of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, Amnesty International is calling on the Libyan authorities to hand over immediately the former ruler’s military intelligence chief to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of crimes against humanity.

    Despite an ICC arrest warrant for Abdullah al-Senussi being active since June 2011, he was extradited back to Libya on 5 September after being arrested in Mauritania in March of this year.

    Amnesty International is concerned that since his incarceration in Libya, it appears no independent organizations, relatives or his lawyers have had access to him.

    Al-Senussi’s case is symptomatic of a wider situation in Libya of a justice system in disarray.

    “A year after the end of hostilities, victims of serious human rights abuses – by the former government as well as its opponents – have yet to see justice. What we witness today in Libya is revenge and not justice,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    October 16, 2012

     Amnesty International has urged Ukrainian parliamentarians ahead of parliamentary elections on 28 October to commit publicly to addressing police abuse in the country.

    One year since Amnesty International launched its report “No Evidence of a Crime: Paying the Price for Police Impunity in Ukraine”, a review of the manifestos of all major parties contesting the elections shows that none of the parties have put forward a concrete proposal for investigating and punishing endemic police criminality in Ukraine.

    In a number of recent surveys, between 63.9 and 84 percent of Ukrainians have said that they don’t trust their police force. Amnesty International is therefore concerned by politicians’ failure to put concrete proposals on how to address police abuse to the electorate.

    October 15, 2012

    The United Kingdom government’s plans for a substantial extension of the use of secret evidence in the justice system have been heavily criticized in a new Amnesty International report published today.

    The proposals would allow the government to rely on secret evidence in civil cases, including cases of alleged government responsibility for human rights violations such as torture and enforced disappearance.

    The measures, contained in the Justice and Security Bill due to be debated in the House of Lords in the coming weeks, would allow the government to use so-called “closed material procedures” to prevent individuals and their lawyers from seeing documents even when they show the involvement of UK officials in wrongdoing, no matter how grave. If such disclosures are deemed to harm “national security”, then the material can be withheld, potentially indefinitely, even if there is an overwhelming public interest in disclosure.

    October 11, 2012

    Iran must release Majid Sedeghi, who was arrested this morning shortly before his brother Saeed Sedeghi had been expected to be executed in Tehran’s Evin Prison, unless he is to be charged with an internationally recognizable offence, Amnesty International said.

    Majid Sedeghi was arrested at his home by two plain-clothed security officers in the early hours of Thursday, a day after giving interviews to BBC Persian – the BBC's Persian language news service - and Voice of America about his brother Saeed Sedeghi, a shop worker who was sentenced to death for drug-trafficking in June after an unfair trial.

    He has so far not been able to contact his family, who were not told the reasons for his arrest, nor where he was taken.

    “If Majid Sedeghi is being held solely for peacefully advocating on behalf of his brother – as he is entitled to do under international law - by giving interviews about Saeed Sedeghi's case, then he should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    October 10, 2012

    The decision by a Moscow court to give Ekaterina Samutsevich a suspended sentence and release her while upholding jail sentences against Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is only a half-measure in achieving justice for the three members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot, Amnesty International said.

    “Any decision that shortens the wrongful detention of the three women is welcome. But no-one should be fooled – justice has not been done today. The government has introduced numerous new restrictions to freedom of expression in recent months. As this decision demonstrates, Russia’s judiciary is unlikely to offer much protection to those who fall foul of them”, said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director.

    “The three women should not have been prosecuted in the first place.  Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova should also be released immediately and unconditionally”, said David Diaz-Jogeix.  

    October 09, 2012

    The Congolese government must take urgent steps to stop the violence in the east of the country and hold to account all who have committed human rights abuses, Amnesty International said, as the DRC prepares to host a major gathering of Francophone leaders.
    The Francophonie Summit – a biennial gathering of French speaking nations - will be hosted from the 12 -14 October in Kinshasa, as violence in the east is escalating, resulting in widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

    “Human rights abuses continue unabated and with total impunity,” says Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa Director.

    An Amnesty International delegation has recently returned from eastern DRC, where delegates documented cases of rape, summary killings, forced recruitment of civilians including children, looting and illegal taxation by different armed groups.


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