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Torture

    November 19, 2014

    By Kathy Price, Mexico campaigner

    You may have noticed an Amnesty International campaign "Think Winter is Torture,Think Mexico" that reaches out to potential Canadian travellers to Mexico.

    There's a compelling reason why Amnesty is reaching out this way and it starts with an alarming human rights situation in Mexico. What has been revealed in the last couple of months in Mexico is a horror story that is simply unacceptable. Yet it's one that has largely escaped attention in Canada and the condemnation that could help make it stop.

    November 12, 2014

    Posted at 0001 CAT 13 November 2014

    The government of President José Eduardo dos Santos must stop the extrajudicial killing, forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and torture by security forces of those who stand up against the president’s 35-years-rule, said Amnesty International as it published a new report documenting human rights violations since 2011.

    “Punishing dissent – Suppression of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Angola,” assesses how Angolans who dare challenge President José Eduardo dos Santos’ rule by demanding accountability have been targeted by the state over the past four years.

    “In Angola, we are seeing a state that has turned against its own people, a government that cannot take criticism from its own citizens,  where the genuine cries of its people are met with unlawful  arrests, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    The report also documents the mistreatment and violence meted out on demonstrators in custody.

    November 12, 2014

    Today the US government finally acknowledged that the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) applies at its Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

    The announcement came during the UN Committee against Torture’s review of the USA, which is taking place in Geneva this week. It means the USA finally recognizes that the obligation it undertook to denounce and refrain from torture and other ill-treatment apply to the government’s actions in the camp.

    Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program, who is attending the Geneva hearing, issued the following statement:

    "Acknowledging at last the long established reality that UNCAT applies at Guantánamo is certainly a welcome move, however late in the day. That said, the USA has a long way to go before meeting its obligations under the anti-torture Convention. We have seen what happens when a government fails in this regard – as with the USA’s resort to torture and enforced disappearance at ‘black sites’ under the previous administration.

    November 12, 2014

    The USA should use its appearance before the UN Committee against Torture to commit itself to justice for the grave human rights violations—including torture and enforced disappearances—committed by US personnel in recent years, said Amnesty International.

    This week in Geneva, the Committee against Torture will review the USA’s record under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

    “The USA proclaimed itself to be a global leader against torture even when torture and enforced disappearance were being authorized at the highest levels of government under the Bush administration. Today the USA asserts that it is committed to the principles of UNCAT even as it fails to bring those responsible for past torture to justice,” said Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program who will attend the hearing in Geneva.

    Amnesty International has submitted evidence to the Committee on the US government’s failure to end impunity and lack of redress for human rights violations, including:

    November 10, 2014

    Philippine authorities are failing to tackle torture as not a single perpetrator has been convicted under a landmark anti-torture law that came into effect five years ago today, despite evidence that the practice is prevalent, Amnesty International said.

    The Anti-Torture Act, passed on 10 November 2009,recognized torture as a separate crime and provided a number of important guarantees to aid torture survivors seeking redress. But no one has been convicted under the Act and very few cases have reached the prosecution stage.

    “Five years without a single torture survivorobtaining justice shows that this law, which could make a genuine difference towards ending torture in the Philippines, risks becoming nothing but a piece of paper. The government must step up to its commitment to stamp out torture once and for all,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    November 09, 2014

    By Noor Al-Bazzaz of Amnesty International’s Syria team

    Five months to the day after being abducted and held hostage by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), a group of 25 students from Kobani were unexpectedly set free on 29 October.

    They were the last remaining captives from a group of around 150 schoolchildren from the embattled Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria who were returning from their final year examinations in Aleppo in May when IS members stopped their school bus at a checkpoint and abducted them all. In the months that followed, they were sporadically released. Those we spoke to had horror stories to tell about life in IS captivity.

    In Suruç, a town in Turkey merely 10km from Kobani, refugees from the besieged city told me how the students’ harrowing experience was typical of the many abductions by IS in the year and a half since the armed group besieged their city.

    One of the released students, a 15-year-old boy who chose to remain unnamed, described the four months he spent in the hands of IS, detailing the armed group’s use of torture against students who broke the rigid rules, or attempted to escape.

    November 07, 2014

    Gambia has again demonstrated its blatant disregard for human rights by stopping a UN team from investigating allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, were denied access to detention centres where prisoners are believed to be at high risk of torture.

    “The UN's human rights monitors have confirmed what we have long been saying, describing torture as a ‘consistent practice’ in Gambia, with authorities repressing perceived dissent with brutal force. Denying monitors access to the country's prisons can only suggest that the authorities have something to hide," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    The blocked visit comes just weeks after Gambia was heavily criticized for its human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN).

    November 05, 2014

    Venezuelan law enforcement officials have engaged in the torture and other ill-treatment of dozens of protestors over recent months, Amnesty International will tell the United Nations Committee Against Torture later today.

    Amnesty International and other NGOs will present evidence before the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva. In a joint public statement the organizations have documented cases of authorities enacting torture and ill-treatment, with examples stretching back over the past decade.

    “This is a serious wake-up call for Venezuela. The evidence Amnesty International and other organizations have gathered paints a grim picture of the violence and abuse meted out to protestors in recent months, but also reveals a serious problem that has been going on for years,” said Nuria Garcia, Venezuela Researcher, Amnesty International. 

    This is the first time in 10 years that the country has come before the United Nations Committee. 

    October 24, 2014

    The decision to authorize the extradition to Russia of Kazakhstani banker and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov by the Lyon Court of Appeal (France) has set in motion a procedure that may eventually see him forcibly returned to Kazakhstan, where he is wanted on fraud charges, Amnesty International said today.

    “If extradited, Mukhtar Ablyazov will face serious human rights violations. Not only do we have fears that Ablyazov would not get a fair trial in Russia, there is the real danger that he will eventually end up in Kazakhstan, where he will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

    “Russian security services collaborate routinely with the security apparatus in Kazakhstan. The French authorities must not send Ablyazov to any country where he could be threatened with onward transfer to Kazakhstan."

    October 17, 2014

    Ángel Amílcar Colón, tortured into "confessing" to crimes he did not commit and unjustly imprisoned for 5 years, has been released from jail!

    Thanks to the efforts of his legal team at Centro Prodh and activists in Mexico, Canada and around the world who raised their voices for justice, a man can now return to his family and his community. Never doubt that raising our voices for rights and justice can make a difference! Ángel Amílcar is free!

    Upon his release, Ángel said:

    "My message to all those who are showing me their solidarity, and are against torture and discrimination, is don't drop your guard. A new horizon is dawning. I feel happy about what is happening."

    A delegation from Amnesty International met Ángel in prison during a human rights research mission to Mexico in September 2014. His story was captured on film and shared with Amnesty supporters around the world, leading to thousands to respond and urge Mexican authorities for his release. 

    His story

    October 17, 2014

    Prisoner of conscience and torture victim Ángel Amílcar Colón Quevedo has been released from prison after five years in pre-trial detention, in a move that is welcome but long overdue, said Amnesty International.

    Ángel Colón was arrested by police in Tijuana, northern Mexico, while travelling from his home in Honduras to the United States in March 2009. He was then tortured by police and soldiers: beaten, asphyxiated and racially abused. He was forced to sign a false statement which was used to implicate him in criminal activity. He retracted the statement when brought before a judge and reported his torture to the authorities who failed to take any action.

    The Mexican Federal Attorney General has now agreed to drop charges against Ángel Colón and he has been released unconditionally.

    “Ángel Colón suffered torture at the hands of the Mexican authorities and has had years of his life wasted in pre-trial detention. This is an outrage,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    October 16, 2014

    When 71-year-old Herman Wallace died shortly after being released from more than four decades in isolation in a Louisiana prison, a year ago today, the extent of the system’s inhumanity was brought to light once again. But despite the international outcry, on any given day 80,000 people are locked in stark cells in inhumane conditions across the USA.

    When the thick solid metal door shut behind him, Steven was faced with his worst nightmare. He knew he would be forced to spend the following four years locked in a room only large enough to take two steps to either side. He would spend his every minute surrounded by nothing but three walls, a thin mattress, a concrete block for a table and a small sink.

    He knew the only human interaction he would have in the next 48 months would be a few words with his guards, who were not allowed to make conversation with him.

    Phone calls were banned – the mere fact of picking up a receiver to speak to a relative was considered too dangerous. Hugging another person was also out of the question – any visits from relatives would have to be conducted through a glass screen by phone. But nobody came to visit.

    October 14, 2014

    By Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.

    The breathlessness was overwhelming. Standing in that small, dark cell, surrounded by nothing but three concrete walls, a dank toilet, a small sink, a thin mattress, a concrete slab and a perforated metal door that barely let any air in, the oppressive claustrophobia was hard to control.

    This was not the first time I had set foot in a US prison, but it was the first time I had experienced what an isolation cell can do to you.

    Everything about that room – the lack of windows, or natural light, or fresh air, the very thought of not being allowed any human interaction – seems to be designed to dehumanise. The basic penal concept of reform and social rehabilitation is excluded inside those three walls.

    In solitary, punishment is king. The mere thought of spending more than a few minutes in that place was almost unbearable.

    And then, a prisoner told me and my colleague that we were the first outsiders he had seen in 22 years.

    October 10, 2014

    “Today’s Supreme Court decision dismissing claims for redress by torture survivors and their families’ against foreign governments in Canadian courts benefits no-one except government officials who torture,” said Amnesty International.

    In the case of the Kazemi Estate v. Islamic Republic of Iran, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Stephan Hashemi, whose mother was tortured in Iran and later died of her injuries, could not sue the government officials who tortured her or the government of Iran.

    “The Canadian government must amend the State Immunity Act and permit victims of torture and their families to sue States and government officials who torture,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s Francophone Branch. “Instead of protecting the rights of victims of torture and their families, this decision provides succour to those who torture, and it sends a signal that they may continue to do so with impunity.”

    October 07, 2014

    Thailand must ensure an independent and thorough investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by police and respect fair trial rights during their probe into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao, Amnesty International said today.

    Following the arrest of two Myanmar nationals for the murders of Hannah Witheridge and Andrew Miller last month, a lawyer on the Myanmar Embassy’s legal team, who met the two, said that one of the men alleged police beat and threatened him with electrocution.  

    Numerous sources have reported further acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of other migrant workers from Myanmar arrested by police in connection with the investigation.

    “The Thai authorities must initiate an independent, effective and transparent investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by police,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Program director.

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