Responding to the news that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has voted to pass the UK’s resolution to create a mechanism to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks, Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research, said:
“Amnesty International welcomes the decision allowing the OPCW to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks as a crucial step towards bringing perpetrators of war crimes to account.
“Today’s decision signals to victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and elsewhere that the international community has not abandoned them, and to perpetrators that they will be brought to justice.
“It is absolutely vital that the OPCW’s findings and evidence can now be used in international, or national, investigations and prosecutions.”
The OPCW member states today voted, by an 82 to 24 margin, in favour of a UK-led proposal to grant new powers to an OPCW mechanism to attribute responsibility for attacks with banned toxic munitions.
Responding to the news that the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice has ruled for the release of imprisoned academic and writer Mehmet Altan, Amnesty International’s Europe Director Gauri van Gulik said:
“The release of Mehmet Altan was long overdue. His imprisonment was a travesty of justice that was emblematic of the deep flaws within the Turkish justice system.
“The country’s Constitutional Court twice ruled his imprisonment to be in violation of his right to freedom and security, yet unbelievably the trial court defied the ruling of Turkey’s highest court and condemned Mehmet to another six months of incarceration.
“Today’s welcome regional court ruling confirms the Constitutional Court’s decision as ‘final and binding’. The courts must now turn their attention to the thousands of others who remain unfairly detained in Turkey, including Amnesty international’s own Taner Kılıç.”
Mehmet Altan has been held in Silivri prison, Istanbul since 22 September 2016.
Responding to the resolution by the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court to provide guidance to lower courts hearing cases related to public assemblies, published today, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher Anastasia Kovalevskaya said:
“This long-awaited resolution will hopefully provide some much-needed protections to peaceful protesters in Russia – especially the provisions aimed at reducing their arrests and administrative detentions. Over the past year and a half we have documented numerous cases where people were denied their basic right to gather peacefully.”
“However, this resolution will mean nothing unless it is effectively implemented. And it’s only a half-measure, as comprehensive and meticulous work is needed to bring Russian legislation on public gatherings into compliance with international human rights law and standards.”
“We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to drop all restrictive policies on public gatherings and to stop treating freedom of assembly as a privilege they can either give or deny to the Russian people.”
The guilty verdicts and heavy sentences returned in the cases of 53 Hirak protesters in Casablanca must be overturned due to the unfair nature of their trials, Amnesty International said today.
Protest leaders Nasser Zefzafi and Nabil Ahamjik were last night sentenced to 20 years in prison, along with two other protesters, in connection with protests in the Rif region in 2017. Other protesters were given prison sentences ranging from one year to 15 years.
“These convictions are unsafe given the extremely unfair nature of the trials,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.
“Nasser Zefzafi and others who have been convicted and imprisoned for protesting peacefully for social justice or covering demonstrations online should never have been on trial in the first place. He must be released and his conviction overturned.”
The following can be attributed to Ryan Mace, Grassroots Advocacy & Refugee Specialist at Amnesty International USA:
“This hateful policy is a catastrophe all around – not only for those who simply want to travel, work, or study here in the States, but for those seeking safety from violence as well. While this decision doesn’t address the separate and equally harmful ban on refugees, it cruelly traps people in conflict-afflicted countries and prevents them from seeking safety in the U.S. or being reunited with family. Some of the people banned from this policy are fleeing conflicts that the United States has had a direct hand in creating or perpetuating, as is the case in Yemen and Syria. In those cases especially we are essentially lighting a house on fire and locking the escape door shut. This ban, and the anti-Muslim sentiment in which it originated, has no place in a country that claims to value human rights.”
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Today’s decision by a Sudanese court to quash Noura Hussein’s death sentence and replace it with a five-year prison term for killing her husband in self-defence during an attempted rape must be a catalyst for a legal review in Sudan, said Amnesty International.
Noura Hussein was sentenced to death on 10 May 2018. Her husband, Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad, suffered fatal knife wounds during a scuffle at their home after he had attempted to force himself on her with the help of three other men. The revised sentence means she will spend five years in jail from the date of her arrest and will have to make a dia (blood money) payment of 337,500 Sudanese pounds (around US$8,400).
“While the quashing of this death sentence is hugely welcome news, it must now lead to a legal review to ensure that Noura Hussein is the last person to go through this ordeal,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Noura Hussein was the victim of a brutal attack by her husband and five years’ imprisonment for acting in self-defence is a disproportionate punishment.
The Zambian authorities must immediately drop all criminal charges against six activists who took part in peaceful protests that questioned exorbitant levels of government spending, Amnesty International said ahead of their trial on 25 June.
“The Zambian authorities must quash these charges which are clearly being used to silence any voice that dares to criticize the government or expose wrongdoing,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“These activists are being put in the dock solely for exercising their right to peaceful assembly. They have committed no crime, they have only demanded accountability from their leaders.”
The activists, including musician Fumba Chama who is known as Pilato, Lewis Mwape, Laura Miti, Sean Enock Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi have pleaded not guilty to charges of disobeying a lawful order after marching on parliament last September against what they said was the corrupt procurement of 42 fire trucks for US$42 million.
Despite an escalating crackdown on peaceful protest, people in Poland continue to take to the streets and courageously demonstrate against abuse of their rights and threats to the rule of law, Amnesty International said in a new report.
The Power of ‘the street’: Protecting the right to peaceful protest in Poland, documents how people are taking to the street in an environment where restrictive legislation combined with heavy-handed policing, surveillance, harassment and prosecution threaten to strangle the right to peaceful protest.
“Protestors’ refusal to stay silent is a testament to their resilience. Polish authorities are threatening peaceful protestors with detention and prosecution, while in some cases police officers have even beaten and mistreated them. Many protestors are also put under surveillance as peaceful protest is increasingly criminalized,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
Algerian prosecutors should drop all charges against six activists facing prison sentences on charges stemming from their support of an embattled human rights lawyer, Amnesty International said today. The First Instance Tribunal in the central Algerian city of Ghardaia is expected to issue a verdict in their trial tomorrow.
Fethi Ghares, a candidate in the 2019 presidential election for Socialist Democratic Movement (MDS) party; MDS member Hamid Ferhi; Abdelkader Kherba, Kaddour Chouicha and Ahmed Nanseri, all members of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH); and Nadir Dabouz, the nephew of human rights lawyer Salah Dabouz, are being tried on charges of incitement to a gathering of an unarmed nature, insulting a public official, and refusal to abide by a law. Prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence the six defendants to one year in prison and fine them 100,000 Algerian dinars (853 US dollars).
Responding to the news that the Jordanian government has said it will not accept any more refugees fleeing a new offensive in southern Syria, Mouna Elkekhia, Amnesty International’s Advisor on Refugee and Migrant Rights, said:
“People fleeing war in Syria are in a desperate life-or-death situation, and the Jordanian government cannot simply abandon them.
“Jordan has a duty to protect refugees from Syria fleeing conflict and persecution, and to allow them to enter the country. Closing the border to people in need of protection violates Jordan’s international obligations.
“In 2016, Jordan officially closed its border to people leaving Syria with dire consequences. Tens of thousands of people are still stranded at the border in deplorable conditions and left to suffer because the Jordanian authorities have effectively blocked access for aid, medical treatment and a meaningful humanitarian response.
There is an urgent need for a new asylum system that is fair, efficient and compassionate said Amnesty International ahead of a mini-Summit of European leaders this Sunday and the European Council meeting next week.
EU heads of state and government are expected to use the events to discuss measures to strengthen further control of the EU external borders and the reform of the Dublin Regulation.
“Instead of concentrating on striking an agreement on Dublin reform, some EU leaders have come up with a last-minute pitch of having docking platforms for refugees and asylum-seekers – a notion as irresponsible as it is dangerous,” said Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
The sickening images of children cruelly separated from their parents and held in cages as a result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy of ‘zero-tolerance’ will leave an indelible stain on the reputation of the USA, said Amnesty International today.
“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centres, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director.
The European Court of Human Rights has found that Romania and Lithuania violated the human rights of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah, with their complicity in the ill-treatment of the pair while they were held in US secret detention facilities in the two countries.
The judgments are a key milestone in holding European governments accountable for their involvement in illegal CIA activities in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks.
“The US could not have operated the rendition and secret detention programme without its European allies. Today’s landmark rulings break the conspiracy of silence that has surrounded the presence of these secret sites in Lithuania and Romania, and publicly underlines European governments’ widespread complicity,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.
“The rulings are an important milestone of accountability for victims of these flagrantly illegal practices.”
A Rohingya armed group brandishing guns and swords is responsible for at least one, and potentially a second, massacre of up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children as well as additional unlawful killings and abductions of Hindu villagers in August 2017, Amnesty International revealed today after carrying out a detailed investigation inside Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Based on dozens of interviews conducted there and across the border in Bangladesh, as well as photographic evidence analyzed by forensic pathologists, the organization revealed how Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) fighters sowed fear among Hindus and other ethnic communities with these brutal attacks.