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    January 26, 2015

                                      New video spoofs “wheel of torture”

    One year ago this week, the revelation that Philippine police in Laguna had used a “wheel of torture” to decide how to torture detainees shocked the world. But despite the global headlines, one year later no one has been held to account – a sad indictment of the police’s casual attitude towards torture and the almost complete impunity that surrounds it.

    To mark the anniversary, Amnesty International has produced Torture: More fun in the Philippines, a short satirical film based on a popular TV game show. One contestant spins the “wheel of torture” to try to get a lawyer, but instead “wins” the prize of being punched for 30 seconds straight. The film’s title is used ironically – “More fun in the Philippines” is also the slogan of the country’s Tourism Board.

    January 09, 2015

    A witness has confirmed to Amnesty International that the flogging of Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi took place this morning after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.

    According to the witness after the prayers ended Raif Badawi was removed from a bus in shackles and brought to the public square in front of the mosque. Surrounded by a crowd made up of the public and a number of security officers, he received 50 consecutive lashes on his back. The whole ordeal lasted around 15 minutes. Afterwards he was put back in the bus and taken away.

    “The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. 

    January 08, 2015

    US President Barack Obama should call for and support a comprehensive United Nations arms embargo on the parties to South Sudan’s brutal conflict, 29 South Sudanese and international human rights, humanitarian, and other groups said today in a letter to President Obama. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict, which began just over a year ago, in many cases targeted for their ethnicity or perceived political allegiances. An estimated 1.9 million people have been displaced, and massive looting and burning by both government and opposition forces has left towns and rural areas destroyed and abandoned.

    “More weapons will mean more fuel to the fire, more attacks on civilians, arbitrary killings, rape, burnings and pillage,” said Geoffrey Duke, secretariat team leader at the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms. “President Obama should do everything he can to ensure that this year is not a repeat of the horrific last year for South Sudanese. Now is the time to take action.”

    January 08, 2015

    Media Advisory

    8 January 2015

    Human rights activists in Ottawa will be holding a demonstration outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy, 201 Sussex Drive at 4 p.m. today. 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, a Saudi citizen, was arrested in Saudi Arabia on 17 June 2012. They charged him with insulting Islam and creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website for social and political debate. The charges related to articles Raif wrote criticizing religious figures.

    After his arrest, his wife and three young children sought refuge in Canada; they now live in Quebec.

    Raif Badawi’s case bounced back and forth between courts until 7 May 2014. On that day, the Criminal Court pronounced a sentence of 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (about $290,000 CDN). After he serves a decade in jail, he is also forbidden to travel for the following decade and from participating in the media.

    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

    Two women who were arrested last week for driving their cars to Saudi Arabia have been detained for 25 further days signalling the Kingdom’s unwillingness to end discrimination against women. Amnesty International has consistently called for the ban to be overturned.

    Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested at al-Batha border crossing after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates on 30 November. Maysaa al-Amoudi was also arrested at the border the next day when she attempted to bring some basic supplies to Loujain al-Hathoul even though she told the authorities she did not intend to drive inside Saudi Arabia.

    “Jailing a woman simply for driving a car is preposterous. These women are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    December 02, 2014

    The major arms exporting governments should immediately tackle the alarming proliferation of surveillance technologies in repressive countries, Amnesty International, other leading international human rights and digital rights organizations urged today in an open letter.

    The letter has been sent to 41 of the largest arms exporters which are meeting behind closed doors as part of the so-called “Wassenaar Arrangement” on 2-3 December. It outlines how human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and others are increasingly being targeted when spyware, malware and other surveillance tools fall into the hands of governments that commit systematic human rights violations.

    “Surveillance technologies are not simply harmless tools. In the wrong hands they are often used as a tool of repression. Evidence is continuing to reveal the extent of this secretive trade that puts countless individuals at direct risk from human rights abusing governments,” the letter states.

    November 26, 2014

    Restrictions by the Moroccan authorities on human rights organizations including Amnesty International have continued unabated despite the upcoming World Human Rights Forum being organized in Marrakech on 27-30 November.

    In recent months, for the first time since 1993, the Moroccan authorities have sought to impose limitations on Amnesty International’s human rights activities in the country.

    •        In September 2014, Amnesty International’s annual youth camp in Bouznika near the capital Rabat was banned by the authorities, in spite of the organization taking all the required steps to notify the authorities.
    •        In October 2014, the authorities denied entry to Morocco to an Amnesty International delegation seeking to document the situation of migrants and refugees.
    •        In November 2014, a fact-finding visit by the organization was cancelled after the authorities requested prior meetings in Rabat to agree on the parameters of the trip.

    November 24, 2014

     
    On 25 November 2014, Amnesty International will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by launching a briefing on sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in Algeria.

    The Algerian authorities took long overdue steps to address sexual and gender-based violence earlier this year when they adopted a decree to provide financial compensation for victims of sexual violence by armed groups in the 1990s internal conflict, during which hundreds – if not thousands – of women were abducted and raped. They have also proposed draft laws, which, if adopted, would make violence against a spouse and sexual harassment in public places criminal offences.

    However, Amnesty International believes the new measures do not go far enough and are symptomatic of a fragmented approach to sexual and gender-based violence.

    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 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. 

    August 19, 2014

    The resumption of Israeli air strikes and rocket fire from Gaza underscores the imperative need to grant human rights groups immediate access to monitor the situation, said Amnesty International today.

    Since the beginning of Israel’s military operation on 8 July 2014 in Gaza, Israeli authorities have denied repeated requests by Amnesty International to enter Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing. The organization also requested access from Egyptian authorities, who so far have not granted it.

    “The apparent resumption of Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire today is another reminder that our access to the Gaza Strip cannot wait. Valuable time has already been lost and it is essential that human rights organizations are now able to begin the vital job of examining allegations of war crimes,” said Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International’s Director of Research and Crisis Response.

    “The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll in the region has risen.”

    July 29, 2014

    Longstanding impunity for crimes against humanity in Kosovo will be challenged after today’s announcement that former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) will be indicted for the abduction, inhumane treatment and killing of Kosovo Serbs and ethnic Albanians believed to oppose the KLA in 1999, Amnesty International said today.

    In a statement for the Special Investigative Task Force, established by the EU, Chief Prosecutor Clint Williamson outlined charges to be brought against senior KLA officials.

    “This is hopefully a step towards justice for the families of up to 400 Kosovo Serbs believed to have been abducted by the KLA, and subsequently transferred to Albania, where they are alleged to have been killed,” said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s researcher on Kosovo.

    In a welcome move, the Chief Prosecutor recognized the wide-spread and systematic nature of the abductions and murders, and assured that former senior KLA officials will be indicted for crimes against humanity.

    July 10, 2014

    Amnesty International spokespeople available for interview

    As US Edward Snowden seeks to extend his stay in Russia, Amnesty International called for effective international protection for whistleblowers.

    “Edward Snowden has been effectively punished to live in exile with no long-term security only for exposing serious abuses of power,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director for International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

    “It is high time for governments across the world to stop persecuting people whose only ‘crime’ is to bring to light information that is in the public interest.”

    The former National Security Agency contractor’s one-year permit to stay in Russia is due to expire at the end of July.

    Possible talking points:
    ·        Persecution of whistleblowers globally, particularly in the USA.
    ·        Right to privacy.
    ·        NSA surveillance programme.

     

    May 30, 2014

    Tuesday June 3, 2014, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

    10:00 am – Press Conference, Charles Lynch Room, Centre Block
    10:30 am – Commemoration Reception, Room 505 Victoria Building, 140 Wellington Street

    On the 25th anniversary of the brutal crackdown of student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, three Canadians will present their first-hand accounts of the events in the square that night at a 10:00 am press conference at Charles Lynch hosted by David Sweet, MP on Parliament Hill.  They will be introduced by Cheuk Kwan, Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China and will bear witness to a massacre that the Chinese government is anxious to erase from our memory.

    Ms. Liane Lee 李蘭菊, representative of the Hong Kong Federation of Students in 1989
    Mr. Yuguo Chen 陳育國, lecturer in political science at Beijing University in 1989
    The Hon. Jim Munson, CTV Beijing Bureau Chief in 1989

    The press conference will be followed by a 10:30 am commemoration reception hosted by the Hon. Consiglio Di Nino at 505 Victoria Building. They will be joined by:

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