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    March 04, 2011

    Amnesty International has warned of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Côte d'Ivoire after electricity and water supplies were cut to large parts of the country earlier this week.

    Central, northern and western areas of the country are now suffering from poor sanitation and disrupted medical facilities, according to information and eyewitness accounts gathered by Amnesty International.

    On 3 March 2011, the Ivorian electricity company has denied any responsibility for the power cuts, which began on 28 February. The company said officials loyal to outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo had made the cuts "for national security reasons".

    The areas affected are mostly controlled by forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the November 2010 presidential elections.

    "Outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo must immediately order the reestablishment of water and electricity supplies in these areas," said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International's West Africa researcher.

    March 04, 2011

    Libyan medical teams have told Amnesty International how they came under fire from pro-Gaddafi security forces yesterday while carrying out their medical work.

    Two medics from the Libyan Red Crescent trying to retrieve a body near the town of Misratah were injured by shooting from a nearby military installation belonging to the Hamza Brigade, a military force loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi.

    "This was a deliberate attack on medical professionals, who were wearing full medical uniform and arrived in two clearly marked Red Crescent ambulances," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.

    "This disturbing assault indicates that pro-Gaddafi forces are prepared to use lethal force indiscriminately even against those whose role it is to care for the wounded and pick up the dead."

    A convoy including two ambulances travelled from Misratah to collect the corpse of a man who had been shot on Monday in unclear circumstances close to the Hamza Brigade base, and had been killed or left to die in his car.

    March 04, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the execution of five men in Taiwan on 4 March 2011.

    The five men – Wang Chih-huang, Wang Kuo-hua, Chuang Tien-chu, Guang Chung-yen and Chung Teh-shu – were all executed by shooting. They had been separately sentenced to death for crimes committed between 1988 and 2005.

    “The Taiwanese authorities have repeatedly stated their intention to abolish the death penalty,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director. “But they have – yet again – acted contrary to their own commitments and against the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty.”

    The executions come four weeks after President Ma Ying-jeou formally apologised for the execution of an innocent man in 1997.

    “Only last month, President Ma had to apologize for the execution of an innocent man. Following that so closely with today’s executions, however, shows a blatant disregard for the fallibility and irreversibility of the death penalty,” said Sam Zarifi.

    The Taiwanese authorities resumed executions for the first time since 2005 last year, when four people were executed on 30 April 2010.

    March 03, 2011

    China’s recent crackdown on foreign journalists covering potential protests inspired by events in the Middle East and North Africa signals the government’s fear of popular protests, Amnesty International said today.

    “The authorities must honour the commitments they made before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to allow the foreign press to conduct interviews in China without official interference,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

    “These new restrictions on foreign journalists are part of the overall crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion that has also seen arrests and detentions of Chinese activists and lawyers.”  

    The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said more than a dozen reporters, including from the BBC, CNN, and Bloomberg, were beaten or detained by security officers as they went to cover possible protests in the city's Wanfujing shopping district on Saturday.

    Plain clothes officers beat and kicked a video journalist, who required hospital treatment.

    March 02, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on Pakistan’s government to ensure the killers of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s minister for minorities, are brought to justice.

    Bhatti, the only Christian member of the cabinet and one of the country’s few leading politicians calling for changes to the country's controversial blasphemy laws, died today after three armed men opened fire on his car as he travelled to work in the capital, Islamabad.

    “The Pakistani government must act immediately to bring the assassins to justice in a trial that meets international standards. Continued lack of accountability for perpetrators of abuse has severely eroded the rule of law in Pakistan,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    Bhatti had previously received threats from groups opposed to reforms of the blasphemy laws.

    The assassination follows the January killing of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, and another outspoken critic of the laws.

    March 02, 2011

    Amnesty International has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis as thousands of migrants flee Libya during continuing unrest.

    The UNHCR warned on Tuesday that Tunisia would need help to deal with up to 75,000 people who had fled Libya since February 20. It said many thousands remained stuck at the border between the two countries in freezing conditions.

    The UN refugee agency said 69,000 people had also crossed into Egypt from Libya since 19 February.

    “All Libya’s neighbouring states must keep their borders open and provide assistance to all those fleeing violence. They are obliged to do this under international law,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International's Director of Law and Policy.

    “The international community must also do all it can to offer urgent support and assistance to the Tunisian authorities and other states accepting those fleeing the violence, and help migrants return safely to their home countries as quickly as possible if they desire,”

    March 02, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities to release a man sentenced by a military court to five years in prison on Tuesday, apparently for exercising his right to peaceful protest.

    Amr Abdallah Al Beheiry was convicted by the Supreme Military Court of assaulting a public official on duty and for breaking curfew.

    He, his cousin and other protesters were reportedly beaten with sticks and then arrested as military police and the army used excessive force to disperse a protest outside the Parliament of Egypt in Cairo early in the morning of Saturday 26 February. Some protesters were also reportedly beaten with electric shock batons.

    Amr Abdallah Al Beheiry was initially released by the military police but was rearrested shortly after, apparently because other protesters had filmed his injuries.

    While in detention, Amr Abdallah Al Beheiry and his cousin were allegedly beaten and tortured by electric shocks.

    His cousin and the other protesters were released later Saturday morning.

    March 01, 2011

    Amnesty International has today called for immediate independent investigations as it released a report detailing unlawful killings and acts of brutality by Tunisian security forces during the protests in December and January that led to the departure of former President Ben Ali.

    The 46-page report Tunisia in Revolt: State Violence during Anti Government Protests reveals that security forces shot bystanders and fleeing protesters and fired live ammunition at protesters who did not pose a threat to their lives, nor that of others.

    “The security forces acted with reckless disregard for human life in all too many cases,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.  

    “The new government must ensure that killings and serious allegations of abuse by the security forces are fully and independently investigated without delay, and that those responsible are held to account.”

    “This is an essential first step in turning the page on the long years of abuses under the former president,” said Malcolm Smart.

    March 01, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged authorities in Côte d'Ivoire to protect the population as tens of thousands of people were forced to flee heavy gunfire amid intensified fighting across the country.

    Clashes between armed commandos and members of the security forces loyal to outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo have persisted for several days in the city of Abidjan, leaving many dead.

    “The humanitarian crisis in Côte d'Ivoire is being exacerbated by the tens of thousands of people fleeing Abidjan who need immediate protection and assistance,” said Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Africa deputy director.

    "Many of those displaced by the fighting, including women and children, are having difficulty finding shelter and some are sleeping in the open air.”

    Much of the fighting in Abidjan has been between security forces and an armed group calling themselves the "Invisible Commandos", who claim to be fighting independently.

    Residents living in the Abobo neighbourhood of the city told Amnesty International that the clashes have left them without water or electricity.

    February 28, 2011

    On Saturday, 26 February 2011, the Ho Chi Minh City Police Investigation Agency arrested Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, an endocrinologist and political and human rights activist. In an official media report, the Vietnamese authorities described him as being caught "red-handed keeping and distributing documents" calling for the overthrow of the government. The police seized documents and a computer from his home. Article 79 in the national security section of the 1999 Penal Code provides for between five years and life imprisonment, or the death penalty for "overthrowing" the state.

    "Amnesty International is shocked to learn that Nguyen Dan Que has been arrested yet again,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. “Dr Que is a staunch and peaceful defender of human rights and free speech, for which he has paid a heavy price, including spending almost 20 years in prison.”

    February 28, 2011

    Campaigners today called on governments meeting at the United Nations to ensure no weapons or munitions are sold to human rights abusers. The call came as delegates meet this week to resume negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a legally-binding treaty to regulate the global arms trade.

    “The killings and injuring of peaceful demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa show the urgent need for stringent controls on a wide range of arms that are likely to harm innocent citizens. Governments of arms producing countries need to understand that people will no longer accept the free-for-all in selling their weapons to leaders who have no shame in using them against their own citizens,” said Salah Abdellaoui of Amnesty International.
       
    Top of the agenda will be discussions around the criteria against which transfers of arms should either be authorized or denied. Campaigners stress that if there is a substantial risk that weapons, munitions or related equipment will be used for serious human rights violations, the sale of arms should not be authorized.

    February 28, 2011

    About 2,000 Indian farmers could lose their livelihoods in the next month if a proposed US$12 billion steel plant operation involving South Korean steel giant POSCO goes ahead, Amnesty International warned today.

    The Indian authorities have given POSCO conditional clearance to establish a steel plant and port operation on about 4,000 hectares of land in the coastal Jagatsinghpur district of the eastern state of Orissa.

    The area includes land on which local farmers are dependent for their livelihoods, and to which they may have rights under Indian law.

    The farmers’ claims to the land have not been properly settled, despite the fact that official investigations have raised serious concerns about the failures of Orissa State to protect land rights in the context of the steel project.

    State police could take over the land during March if the authorities fail to recognize the farmers’ right to use it.

    February 28, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Omani authorities to rein in their security forces after at least two people were reported to have been killed when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters over the weekend.

    The call came as demonstrators began another protest in the northern city of Sohar on Monday calling for more jobs, an end to corruption and for government officials to be sacked.

    Demonstrations also took place in the southern town of Salalah.

    Student Abdullah al-Ghamalasi was killed on Sunday when police opened fire with rubber bullets on about 2,000 protesters gathered at a roundabout outside a police station in Sohar.

    Another man is said to have died while undergoing surgery for injuries sustained during the same protest.

    Oman’s Minister of Health is reported to have acknowledged that one person had been killed by a rubber bullet but denied reports of other killings.

    Unconfirmed press reports have suggested that as many as six people may have been killed in Sohar.

    February 27, 2011

    Saturday's Security Council referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court marks a historic moment in accountability for crimes under international law, Amnesty International said today.

    The Security Council's vote came after a plea for action from Libya's own UN delegation, which had announced that it no longer represented Col al-Gaddafi.

    "This is a welcome and historic precedent," said Steve Crawshaw, director of international advocacy at Amnesty International. "Libyan leaders and all others who may commit crimes under international law must now take heed that they will be called to account."

    "For the people of Libya, this decision is a signal that the international community will not avert its eyes from the human rights abuses that they continue to suffer."

    Amnesty International urged the UN Human Rights Council, the Arab League and the African Union, all of which have announced investigative missions to Libya, to urgently proceed with their missions and to hand over their findings to the ICC prosecutor as soon as possible.

    The organization also called on the Security Council to consider similar action elsewhere.

    February 26, 2011

    Amnesty International has received reports that security forces in Yemen refused to allow residents to take the injured to hospital after Central Security forces fired on anti-government protesters and bystanders yesterday when at least 11 people were killed.

    Security forces fired on protesters from armoured vehicles, as well as attacking houses where protesters were believed to have been seeking shelter. Two men were said to have been killed in their houses during a period of intensive gunfire, both of them shot in the head.

    “Events in Yemen are taking a serious turn for the worse and the Yemeni security forces are showing reckless disregard for human life,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The Yemeni authorities have a duty to ensure that those injured receive medical treatment. They must on no account block access to urgently needed medical assistance, particularly when people’s lives may be at risk.”

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