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    January 23, 2015

     By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.

    The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.

    “What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.

    The answer is not simple.  

    Since taking the throne in 2005, King Abdullah initiated some positive reforms.

    Women, for example, have slowly been included in the Shura Council, a powerless consultative body to advise the King, and incorporated into the workforce – with some being allowed to work in courts as lawyers.

    The late King is credited for opening a dozen new universities and providing thousands of Saudi Arabian citizens with generous scholarships to study abroad. He also initiated seemingly ambitious judicial reforms that have not really gone anywhere.  

    He even decreed the founding of a formal National Human Rights Commission and allowed the establishment of a supposedly independent human rights organization.

    But that’s where the good news ends.

    January 22, 2015

    The planned flogging of Raif Badawi is likely to be suspended this Friday after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds. The committee, comprised of around eight doctors, carried out a series of tests on Raif Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah yesterday and recommended that the flogging should not be carried out.

    "Instead of continuing to torment Raif Badawi by dragging out his ordeal with repeated assessments the authorities should publicly announce an end to his flogging and release him immediately and unconditionally," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    "Raif Badawi is still at risk, there is no way of knowing whether the Saudi Arabian authorities will disregard the medical advice and allow the flogging to go ahead."
     

    January 19, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 20 January 2015

    European governments that cooperated with the CIA’s secret detention, interrogation, and torture operations as part of the USA’s global “war on terror” must act urgently to bring those responsible to justice following a US Senate report containing new details said Amnesty International in a new briefing paper today.

    “Breaking the conspiracy of silence: USA's European 'partners in crime’ must act after Senate torture report” links details in the Senate report to open source information regarding allegations that secret sites existed in Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. Other governments that are alleged in open sources to have facilitated these operations include Germany, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the UK. In some cases, these governments colluded with the CIA in exchange for millions of US dollars.

    This briefing also highlights the inadequate responses of the respective governments to carry out full and effective investigations.

    January 17, 2015

    Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnistie Internationale Canada francophone, gives a snapshot of some of the widespread global campaigning for Raif Badawi. Raif has been sentenced to ten years and 1,000 lashes after starting a website for public debate in Saudi Arabia.

    When the vigil in Montreal ended, we were all frozen to the bone. It was a gorgeous day, but to motivate activists and supporters to stay outdoors for over an hour in -20 degree temperatures, you have to be creative.

    Motivating them to come in the first place wasn’t that hard – I could see the energy and the anger in their faces. They were outraged at what was happening to Raif Badawi, and they wanted to act. Another reason to attend: standing beside me, upright, silent and proud, small in stature but great in spirit, was Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who has taken refuge in Quebec along with their three children. Together, we our determined to reunite this family.

    January 16, 2015

    Amnesty International has received information indicating that the flogging of Raif Badawi has not been carried out today on medical grounds.

    January 15, 2015

    The Honourable John Baird
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G2

    January 15, 2015

    Dear Minister Baird,

    Tomorrow, in front of the al-Jafali Mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Raif Badawi will be lashed publicly fifty times for the second time in a week.  In Sherbrooke, Quebec his wife Ensah Haidar and their three children, who have been welcomed to Canada as refugees, await in fear and agony at the prospect of the torture their husband and father faces yet again.  And across Canada and around the world a growing chorus of hundreds of thousands of voices call on the Saudi government to end this terrible injustice and free Raif Badawi from prison rather than continue with his cruel and inhuman sentence of 1,000 lashes.

    January 14, 2015

    By Sister Maria Vida Cordero, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Amnesty International Philippines

    This week, people across the Philippines are incredibly excited about the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis.

    Not only is this the first papal visit to our country in two decades, but Pope Francis has already inspired millions of people across the globe – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – with his message of hope, mercy and compassion for the world’s poorest people.

    One of the issues that Pope Francis has spoken out about strongly and clearly continues to blight the Philippines – torture. Last year he condemned torture as a “very grave sin”.

    His Holiness has repeatedly urged governments around the world to stamp out this abhorrent practice and “invite[s] Christians to commit themselves to work together for its abolition and to support victims and their families.”

    January 14, 2015

    Human rights activists in Ottawa will be holding a demonstration outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy, 201 Sussex Drive at 4 p.m. Thursday 15 January in advance of the flogging of Raif Badawi set to resume on Friday 16 January.

    The Saudi Arabian authorities have an opportunity to improve their appalling human rights record by heeding the international outcry about the public flogging of Raif Badawi and halting it immediately, said Amnesty International.

    January 12, 2015

    An inquiry into police torture in the Philippine Senate this week is a welcome opportunity to put a stop to torture by members of the national police and to end the pervasive culture of impunity that reinforces it, Amnesty International said.

    The joint hearing between the Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Committee on Public Order, which will take place on Wednesday 14 January, was announced as a direct result of Amnesty International’s report on police torture in the Philippines, Above the law, launched in December 2014.

    “This hearing could be a first step towards tackling the endemic torture that we are seeing in the Philippines. Practically no one in police detention is safe from this abhorrent practice, and officers continue to get away with it without consequences,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, who will be testifying at the hearing.

    January 09, 2015

    We will never stop speaking out for the human rights of all individuals at home and abroad. It is part of who we are as a people and what we stand for as a Nation
    President Barack Obama, 9 December 2014.

    Thirteen months of detentions at Guantánamo was already far too long. By then, February 2003, the Secretary of Defense had authorized interrogation techniques that violated the international ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

    Thirteen years is a human rights outrage. Detainees held for year after year without charge or trial. Torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, excessive force, force feeding, a handful of prosecutions under a  military commission system that does not meet international fair trial standards.

    There were 245 detainees still held at the base at the end of President President Barack Obama committed his administration to closing the Guantánamo detention facility “promptly” and at the latest by 22 January 2010.

    January 08, 2015

    Amnesty International has learned that the imprisoned Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi will be flogged in public after Friday prayers tomorrow in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.

    Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi Arabian riyals (about US$266,600) last year for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam. According to information obtained by Amnesty International, Raif Badawi will receive up to 50 lashes tomorrow, while the rest of the full sentence of 1,000 lashes will be carried out over a period of 20 weeks.

    December 23, 2014

    The guilty verdicts and harsh sentences against 57 defendants accused of participating in an armed attack in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in 2005 are a huge miscarriage of justice, said Amnesty International today. The defendants were detained for nine years in deplorable conditions with testimonies extracted under torture and admitted as evidence.

    Five of the defendants received life sentences and the others received sentences of between four and 23 years in prison.

    “This is a textbook case of criminal injustice, where the authorities manifestly refused to investigate allegations of torture, despite overwhelming evidence, and the defendants languished for nine years in pre-trial detention, all in violation of international law,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director. “This trial should never have been allowed to continue until the allegations of torture were fully and effectively investigated.”

    December 22, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  23 December 2014

    Torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffered by women and girls from Iraq’s Yezidi minority who were abducted by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS), highlights the savagery of IS rule, said Amnesty International in a new briefing today.

    December 10, 2014

    Today on International Human Rights Day civil society groups have joined together in an open letter calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put Canada back in the global effort to end torture and ill-treatment around the world.

    On the day that marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture Canada should take the final step and ratify the instrument that establishes national and international systems for inspecting detention centres. In 2006 and 2009 Canada told the UN Human Rights Council that it would consider ratifying this Optional Protocol that was adopted by the UN in 2002.

    The organizations that signed the open letter are united in calling for Canada to take this step without delay. Under the systems established by the Optional Protocol, inspections can identify and expose conditions that permit and encourage torture to take place. It seeks to pierce the shroud of secrecy that allows torture to continue in the 141 countries where it has been documented by Amnesty International in the last five years.

    December 09, 2014

    Alfreda Disbarro has shown enormous courage. She was tortured repeatedly by police in the Philippines following her arrest in October 2013. Alfreda was punched in her stomach and face, hit with a club, had fingers poked in her eyes, slapped, was forced to eat a mop and had her head banged against the wall. She was in such pain in the days that followed the beatings that she couldn’t eat, had difficulty breathing and kept vomiting.

    But Alfreda made the courageous decision to speak up, and her story has helped to lead to change.  Alfreda Disbarro has been the focus of massive campaigning by Amnesty International to stop torture.  She and her family have expressed their thanks for what Amnesty has done by highlighting her case.

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