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    October 17, 2011

    The international community must send a clear message that those responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances in Yemen will be brought to justice as part of any transition agreement, Amnesty International said today after at least 15 more people were reported killed by the security forces in the capital Sana’a since Saturday.

    A power-transfer deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) appears to offer blanket immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and some of those serving under him, and could prevent criminal investigations and prosecutions for hundreds of protester deaths in recent months, as well as a string of serious human rights violations in the past.

    Amnesty International urged the UN Security Council, expected to vote soon on a resolution on Yemen, to ensure that any power-transfer deal does not provide immunity to anyone, regardless of rank or affiliation.

    “President Saleh must not be rewarded with the grant of immunity for agreeing to leave power,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    October 12, 2011

    Amnesty International today urged Canadian authorities to arrest and either prosecute or extradite former US President George W. Bush for his role in torture, ahead of his expected visit to Canada on 20 October.

    “Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former President Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former President Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights.”

    Amnesty International submitted a memorandum to the Canadian authorities on 21 September 2011 that makes a substantial case for the former president’s legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

    The violations took place during the CIA's secret detention program between 2002 and 2009 – and include torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading-treatment and enforced disappearances.

    October 12, 2011

    The new authorities in Libya must stamp out arbitrary detention and widespread abuse of detainees, Amnesty International said today in a new briefing paper.

    In Detention Abuses Staining the New Libya the organization reveals a pattern of beatings and ill-treatment of captured al-Gaddafi soldiers, suspected loyalists and alleged mercenaries in western Libya. In some cases there is clear evidence of torture in order to extract confessions or as a punishment.

    "There is a real risk that without firm and immediate action, some patterns of the past might be repeated. Arbitrary arrest and torture were a hallmark of Colonel al-Gaddafi's rule," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    October 11, 2011

    The report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, released yesterday, documenting widespread torture in Afghan detention facilities, and the earlier NATO decision, announced on September 6th, to suspend transfers of prisoners into Afghan custody, both make it clear that Canada’s policy of handing prisoners over to Afghan officials over the course of more than five years violated international law and should have been reversed years ago.  Among many disturbing conclusions, the UNAMA report finds “a compelling pattern and practice of systematic torture and ill-treatment” in facilities where Canada handed over prisoners. In some cases, children in custody were also tortured and abused.  

    Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly stated that Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan was aimed at protecting fundamental Canadian values of “freedom, respect for human rights and the primacy of the rule of law.” It is critically important therefore that the Canadian public get a full and candid accounting of what the government has done and that the government ensure that ongoing responsibilities are met.

    October 10, 2011

    Siegfried Blunk, the International Co-Investigating Judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), resigned, citing statements by the Cambodian government that could be perceived as attempted interference with the court’s work. In reaction to this news, Amnesty International said:

    “There is a strong perception that the Cambodian government has tried to influence, and thus subvert, the work of the ECCC. In particular the government has sought to limit the number of cases brought before the tribunal, where only a handful of individuals are being prosecuted for the death of more than a million people and torture, displacement and persecution on a massive scale,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Any attempt by the Cambodian government to influence the work of the ECCC undermines the entire tribunal and therefore risks denying justice to the victims of the Khmer Rouge and to the Cambodian people as a whole. Political interference also jeopardises the unique opportunity for the ECCC to serve as a model of justice for the domestic courts in Cambodia,” said Sam Zarifi.

    October 07, 2011

    The government of Canada has an obligation to start an investigation into former US President George W. Bush’s alleged involvement in, and responsibility for crimes under international law, including torture, while he is visiting Canada on 20 October, says Amnesty International. A memorandum, that has been given to the government, will be made public at a press conference in the Charles Lynch Theatre, Centre Block, House of Commons on Wednesday 12 October at 10:30 a.m.

    Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English branch) and Beatrice Vaugrante, Director General of the Francophone branch of Amnesty International Canada, will present the details of the extensive submission outlining the responsibilities of the Canadian government. The submission asserts that Canada must investigate the role of the former US President in these crimes and secure his presence in Canada during that investigation.

    Speakers:    Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
                          Beatrice Vaugrante, Director General, Amnesty International Canada
                          (Francophone branch)

    October 06, 2011

    The decision by the Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor to order the re-trial of 20 doctors and other health workers before a civilian court is an important step towards justice, Amnesty International said today.

    The medics, who were on trial for their involvement in treating injured activists when security forces violently crushed mass pro-reform protests in February and March this year, received prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years in a military court in Manama last month. Their re-trial is set to take place in Bahrain’s High Criminal Court on 23 October.

    “This is certainly a welcome development if it means that the medics will now receive a fair trial and have the opportunity to clear their names,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for Middle East and North Africa.

    “Their previous trial before the military-dominated National Safety Court was nothing but a judicial charade, as the Public Prosecutor now seems to agree,” he added.

    October 05, 2011

    In September 2011, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements following the killing and mutilation by unknown persons of a woman believed to be Zaynab al-Hosni.

    Zaynab had vanished from her home in Homs in late July, and her family said that they had searched for her to no avail. Al-Hosni’s family had confirmed to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that they had identified her body at a military hospital in Homs. The head and arms had been cut off and parts of the body, including the face, were heavily burned. The family subsequently held a funeral and buried the body.

    On October 4, 2011, Syrian state television aired an interview with a woman who identified herself as Zaynab al-Hosni. In the interview, she says that she left her family’s house to escape ill-treatment by her brothers.

    Zaynab al-Hosni’s family subsequently confirmed that the woman who appeared on Syrian television is indeed Zaynab al-Hosni. The family has not been able to speak to her to verify her current situation.

    September 29, 2011

    Lithuania must immediately reinstate the criminal investigation into its involvement in the US-led rendition and secret detention programs, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    Unlock the Truth in Lithuania: Investigate Secret Prisons Now documents developments since the authorities admitted that Lithuania hosted two secret CIA detention facilities between 2002 and 2006. It also provides information on Lithuanian involvement in rendition operations and suggests new critical lines of inquiry that must be pursued, including allegations that Abu Zubaydah, currently detained at Guantanamo Bay, had been held in a CIA black site in Lithuania.

    The organization is also calling for Lithuania to investigate links to Poland and Romania, where other secret CIA prisons are alleged to have been established.

    Citing the need to protect state secrets, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General closed the criminal investigation into secret CIA detention sites on Lithuanian territory in January 2011 without making any information regarding the investigation public.

    September 27, 2011

    The sentencing of a Saudi Arabian woman to 10 lashes after she drove a car demonstrates the scale of discrimination against women in the Kingdom, Amnesty International said today.

    “Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it defies belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Philip Luther.

    “Belatedly allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement then the King’s much-trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little.”

    “Saudi Arabia needs to go much further. The whole system of women’s subordination to men in Saudi Arabia needs to be dismantled.”

    The sentence was passed by a court in Jeddah today. Two other women are believed to be facing charges for driving, one in Jeddah and one in al-Khobar.

    September 27, 2011

    A military court in Manama is due to hand down its verdict on 28 September on an  appeal brought by a group of prominent opposition activists in Bahrain after they were jailed in one of the ongoing trials linked to pro-reform protests earlier this year.

    The military-run National Safety Court of Appeal is expected to confirm or overturn the conviction of 14 people jailed for their alleged roles in mass demonstrations at the capital’s GCC Roundabout (formerly Pearl Roundabout) in February and March 2011.

    Amnesty International has repeatedly criticized the unfair military trials at the National Safety Court of First Instance, which convicted and sentenced the 14 along with seven others who were tried in absentia. There has been no independent investigation into allegations by some of the defendants that they were tortured in pre-trial detention, when they were held incommunicado.

    “These opposition leaders were tried and sentenced by a court that is neither independent nor impartial,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    September 26, 2011

    The Bahraini authorities must urgently investigate reports that women were tortured in detention after being arrested in Manama during pro-reform protests, Amnesty International said today.

    Security forces arrested scores of people in the capital on Friday as protesters attempted to reach the city’s GCC Roundabout, formerly Pearl Roundabout.

    Among those detained are 38 women and seven girls who were arrested at a city centre shopping mall and accused of "illegal public gathering”, rioting, and attacking security forces. They were apprehended without arrest orders, interrogated without lawyers present and some of them reportedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated.

    “It appears that Bahrain’s authorities have patently denied these women and girls their rights after rounding them up at a Manama shopping centre,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “All detainees must be given access to lawyers and contact with their families.”

    September 23, 2011

    Fresh evidence of the extreme brutality being meted out to Syrian protesters and their families has been revealed today by Amnesty International.

    The mutilated body of 18-year-old Zainab al-Hosni of Homs, the first woman known to have died in custody during Syria’s recent unrest, was discovered by her family in horrific circumstances on 13 September.

    The family was visiting a morgue to identify the body of Zainab’s activist brother Mohammad, who was also arrested and apparently tortured and killed in detention. Zainab had been decapitated, her arms cut off, and skin removed.

    “If it is confirmed that Zainab was in custody when she died, this would be one of the most disturbing cases of a death in detention we have seen so far,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “We have documented other cases of protesters whose bodies were returned to their families in a mutilated state during recent months, but this is particularly shocking.”

    September 23, 2011

    A Ugandan court’s decision to order the release of a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a huge setback in delivering justice to victims of human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.

    Ending the country’s first war crimes trial, a five-judge panel ruled that Thomas Kwoyelo was entitled to amnesty for any crimes he committed during the conflict, in which 30,000 people died and some two million were displaced. Thomas Kwoyelo had been charged with 53 counts of murder and other crimes.

    “The court’s decision is yet another nail in the coffin of the right to justice for the thousands who have suffered at the hands of the LRA,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    “What we are witnessing here is simply pervasive impunity for serious crimes and human rights violations. It is high time Uganda carried out an independent investigation into all crimes committed during the 20-year conflict. Neither Thomas Kwoyelo, nor others accused of committing war crimes should be granted amnesty,” she said.

    September 22, 2011

    Amnesty International today urged Haitian authorities to bring former President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to justice for the human rights abuses committed under his regime from 1971 and 1986.

    The call came as Amnesty international publishes a new report with evidence of arbitrary detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances during Jean-Claude Duvalier’s rule.

    “There’s sufficient evidence to prosecute Jean-Claude Duvalier for the widespread arbitrary detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances that took place during his regime, some of which amount to crimes against  humanity,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

    “What is needed is political will from Haiti’s new administration to comply with their international obligations and their duty to the survivors and victims of abuses.”

    Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011, after 25 years in exile in France.

    He was indicted by Haitian authorities for embezzlement, theft of public funds and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency.


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