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    June 27, 2011

    The head of Egypt’s military intelligence has promised Amnesty International that the army will no longer carry out forced ‘virginity tests’ after defending their use, during a meeting with the organisation in Cairo on Sunday.

    Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), discussed the issue with Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty months after the organization publicized allegations of the forced ‘tests’.  

    Major General al-Sisi said that ‘virginity tests’ had been carried out on female detainees in March to "protect" the army against possible allegations of rape, but that such forced tests would not be carried out again. He also added that army would avoid detaining women in the future.  

    He noted that women seeking to work for the army are required to undertake ‘virginity tests’.
     

    "The Major General’s comments must translate into unequivocal instructions to army staff that women are never forced to undergo this treatment again in Egypt,” said Amnesty International.
     

    June 27, 2011

    Nigerian armed groups must stop attacking civilians, Amnesty International said today, after as many as 30 people were killed in a bomb attack blamed on the religious sect Boko Haram.

    Motorcyclists hurled bombs into a beer garden killing up to 30 people in Maiduguri, Borno State, in the northeast of the country on Sunday, before shooting into the crowd. Several people were injured in a fresh bombing on Monday, also believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram.

    The attacks are the latest in a series of bombings targeting civilians blamed on Boko Haram, an armed group which seeks to establish Sharia law in parts of Nigeria.

    “These killings are senseless and outrageous. Direct attacks on civilians are prohibited under international law and show a complete disregard for the right to life,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    June 25, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must earn the trust of the people by abolishing repressive laws and ending abusive practices, the Secretary General of Amnesty International said today in Cairo.

    Speaking after his week-long visit to Egypt, his first official trip to the Middle East and North Africa, Salil Shetty called on the Egyptian authorities, including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to use the post-Mubarak transition period to carry out urgent reforms and lift new repressive steps such as the law banning strikes and the use of military trials against civilians.

    “This is an incredible moment of opportunity for the Egyptian authorities to show they have made a clean break with past abuses,” said Salil Shetty. “And there have been some important encouraging steps, including the release of administrative detainees, the dissolution of the old State Security Investigation Services and the commitment for Egypt to become a party to the International Criminal Court.”

    June 20, 2011

    Guatemalan authorities must ensure that all those responsible for atrocities during the country’s internal armed conflict are identified and brought to justice, Amnesty International has said after a former military chief was arrested in Guatemala City.

    An investigation began today into retired general Héctor Mario López Fuentes, 81, who was arrested on Friday. He has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres in indigenous communities nearly three decades ago.

    “The arrest of Héctor Mario López Fuentes is a major step towards justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims of grave human rights abuses during Guatemala’s civil war,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “But most of those who planned and carried out the worst abuses are still at large and must be brought to justice.”

    Héctor Mario López Fuentes is accused of being the intellectual author of 12 massacres that took place from 1982-1983. At the time, he was Guatemala’s military Chief of Staff, the third-highest-ranking official in the country.
     

    June 17, 2011


    The Sri Lankan authorities must refrain from any ill-treatment of a group of rejected asylum seekers who arrived in Colombo on Friday after being forcibly returned from the UK, Amnesty International said.

    The 26 Sri Lankans, most of them Tamil, were reportedly taken for questioning on their arrival in the capital. Amnesty International believes that some of the returnees are at risk of torture.

    The deportations come after a UK documentary, ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, exposed shocking new evidence of war crimes committed during the closing days of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.

    “The government of Sri Lanka have a history of arresting and detaining rejected Sri Lankan asylum seekers upon their return and we are aware of cases of people being tortured”, said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher.

    “It is deeply alarming to hear that these people may already have been detained, minutes after stepping off the plane in Colombo. The Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that the rejected asylum seekers are not subjected to any form of ill-treatment or torture, “she added

    June 17, 2011

    The Mexican civilian authorities must urgently investigate the enforced disappearance of a man detained by members of the Mexican Navy in the state of Tamaulipas last week, Amnesty International has said.

    Navy authorities have denied involvement in the detention of José Fortino Martinez on 5 June but eyewitnesses present during the navy operation said they followed official vehicles carrying Martinez to the gates of a nearby military base.

    “The official denial of involvement in the detention of José Fortino Mártinez is not credible in the face of compelling evidence,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.  
     
    At least three other men -- Jose Cruz Dias Jaramillo, Joel Diaz Espinoza and Martin Rico Garcia -- are also missing after apparently being detained by naval officers in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, which borders the US, between 2 and 5 June.

    “These men are at huge risk of torture, ill-treatment and even death. The more time goes by, the greater the danger is,” said Javier Zuniga.

    June 16, 2011

    Amnesty International calls for the UK Authorities not to deport Sri Lankans at risk of torture, ahead of a planned deportation from Gatwick Airport in London to Colombo this afternoon.

    At least twenty Sri Lankans, mostly Tamil, face forcible return on the flight.

    “Nobody should be deported from the UK if they are at risk of torture. The end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009 has not diminished the risks faced by failed Sri Lankan asylum seekers, who continue to be subjected to arrest and detention upon their arrival in Sri Lanka. We are aware of cases of returned asylum seekers being tortured”, said Yolanda Foster, Sri Lanka Researcher at Amnesty International.

    Amnesty International understands that at least one of the failed asylum seekers due to be deported tried to commit suicide last night at an airport detention facility, following threats he reportedly received on the telephone to kill him once he returned to Sri Lanka. The death threat followed an interview given to the media.

    June 14, 2011

    UK broadcaster Channel 4 is airing ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, a harrowing documentary exposing shocking new evidence of war crimes committed during the closing days of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. 

    What new footage and new evidence of war crimes is in the Channel 4 documentary?
    •    Previously unaired mobile phone footage of point-blank extrajudicial executions of three people, including a woman. 
    •    Previously unaired mobile phone footage of dead Tamil Tigers, including women,,that suggests sexual abuse.
    •    First video testimony of a Tamil woman who says she and her daughter were gang-raped by Sri Lankan Army soldiers.
    •    Evidence and testimony that the Sri Lankan Army systematically and knowingly bombed hospitals and civilians, with the oversight of senior military and government officials. 

    How significant is it that a woman speaks out about allegations of rape?
    Such testimony is very rare, due to a fear of reprisal and the stigma attached to rape. 

    June 13, 2011

    The Malaysian government should immediately withdraw its invitation to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, and arrest him if he travels to Malaysia, Amnesty International said today.

    The Malaysian government announced yesterday that President al-Bashir will participate in the Langkawi International Dialogue, an economic forum being held in Malaysia from 19 to 21 June 2011.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

    “Malaysia should not turn itself into a port of call for fugitives from international justice” said Donna Guest, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International. “The Malaysian government should bar Bashir from its territory, and arrest him if he turns up.”

    Amnesty International welcomed Malaysia’s announcement on 21 March of its intention to become a state party to the Rome Statute and to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In his announcement, Malaysian Law Minister Nazri Aziz said, "This is a declaration that Malaysia rejects war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

    June 08, 2011

    Failure to deliver justice for the killing, rape and torture of civilians could lead to further clashes, Amnesty International warned ahead of the first anniversary of the violence that shook southern parts of Kyrgyzstan.

    Four days of violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the Osh and Jalal-Abad areas on June 10-14 2010 left about 470 people dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.

    According to local observers, 74 per cent of those killed were Uzbek and 25 per cent Kyrgyz.

    One year on, Amnesty International’s briefing, Still Waiting for Justice, calls on the Kyrgyzstani authorities to establish the truth about what happened and provide justice for the thousands of victims and their families.

    “The failure to bring to justice those behind the violence could provide fertile soil for the seeds of future turmoil and future human rights violations,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    June 08, 2011

    A Bahraini poet faces possible imprisonment for reading out a poem criticizing the country’s King when a military court rules on her case next Sunday.

    Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was arrested in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally in the capital Manama. She has been charged with "incitement to hatred of the regime" and has reportedly been tortured while in detention.

    "Ayat al-Qarmezi has been put on trial merely for expressing her opinion, peacefully and openly. Her case represents an appalling and sinister attack on free speech. The charge/s against her should be dropped and she should be released immediately," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    "If convicted, Ayat al-Qarmezi could face a long prison sentence. If she is imprisoned, she will be the first woman prisoner of conscience to be locked up in Bahrain for peacefully expressing her views," he added.

    While attending a pro-reform rally in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in February, Ayat al-Qarmezi read out a poem which she said was addressed to King Hamad bin 'Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's head of state.

    June 03, 2011


    The Myanmar authorities must stop forcing prisoners into cells designed for military dogs, Amnesty International said today, after it emerged that the practice is being used as punishment against hunger striking activists.

    Seven prisoners, including two Buddhist monks who went on hunger strike at Insein prison in the main city of Yangon, were placed in solitary confinement between 24 and 26 May, in the cells, Amnesty International has learned.

    “The shocking accounts of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prisoners in Insein prison are being subjected to is yet another example of the utter disregard for the most basic human rights by authorities in Myanmar,” said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher.

    “Authorities in Myanmar must immediately stop any ill-treatment of prisoners. Any official suspected of being responsible for such offences must be suspended and prosecuted”, he added.

    June 03, 2011

    Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into the death of a Moroccan protester, who has died after being beaten by security forces in the western town of Safi.

    Kamel Ammari, 30, was severely injured in clashes with security forces during a protest in the western town of Safi on 30 May, and died at the Mohamed V hospital on Thursday.

    "The Moroccan authorities must allow people to gather and protest peacefully as is their right under international law," Amnesty International said.

    "Security forces must be given clear instructions to stop using excessive force to suppress peaceful protests," the organisation said.

    The Moroccan authorities deny that Kamel Ammari’s death was related to the street protests but have initiated an investigation into his death.

    "This investigation must be thorough, independent and impartial - if Kamal Ammari is found to have died as a result of excessive force, those found responsible must be brought to justice."

    May 31, 2011

    The Egyptian authorities must bring those responsible for ordering or conducting forced ‘virginity tests’ to justice following a senior military figure’s admission that the army subjected female protesters to them, Amnesty International said today.

    A senior Egyptian general told CNN that women detained on 9 March at Cairo’s Tahrir Square had been forced to undergo ‘virginity tests’, which the government has previously denied.  

    The general, speaking on condition of anonymity, justified the abuse by saying that the women “were not like your daughter or mine.  These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters.”

    “This admission is an utterly perverse justification of a degrading form of abuse,” said Amnesty International.  “The women were subjected to nothing less than torture.”

    “The Egyptian authorities must condemn these discriminatory, abusive and insulting attitudes which have been used to justify torture of women protesters, and which are clearly present at the highest levels.  

    May 31, 2011

    Any investigation into the abduction and reported death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad must include the country’s feared security and intelligence agencies, especially the ISI, Amnesty International said today.

    The body of Saleem Shahzad, who went missing on Sunday 29th May, was found close to his abandoned car in the north-west of the country, Pakistani media reports say. Reports also suggest that evidence of torture was found on the body.

    “Pakistan’s intelligence agencies face serious allegations that they been involved the numerous killings of activists, lawyers and journalists,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    “Early indications from this case suggest an alarming expansion of the ‘kill and dump’ operations previously seen mostly in the Balochistan province.”

    “The Pakistan authorities must hold those responsible to account and protect journalists targeted merely for doing their jobs.”

    Saleem Shahzad had published an article on the 27th May reporting on a terrorist attack at a Pakistan Naval base, and alleging links between al-Qaida and Pakistan Naval officials.

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