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    January 27, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Ugandan authorities to ensure a credible investigation into the death of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights activist who successfully sued a national newspaper which named him as being homosexual. David Kato, the advocacy officer for the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda, died on his way to hospital on Wednesday afternoon, after he was hit on the head by an unknown attacker at his home in the Mukono district, outside Kampala.

    "Amnesty International is appalled by the shocking murder of David Kato. The Ugandan government must immediately ensure a credible and impartial investigation into his murder," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Africa.

    "It is deeply worrying that the Ugandan government has been so conspicuously silent about discriminatory rhetoric against LGBT people in Uganda. Now more than ever is the time for the authorities to reassure Ugandans that it will protect them against threats and violence regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

    January 27, 2011

    Amnesty International has today revealed disturbing new evidence of the brutal methods used by Tunisian security forces to try to quell anti-Government protests in recent weeks. An Amnesty International research team which has just returned from Tunisia found that security forces used disproportionate force to disperse protesters and in some cases fired on fleeing protesters and bystanders.

    Doctors’ testimonies seen by the Amnesty International research team show that some protesters in Kasserine and Thala were shot from behind, indicating that they were fleeing. Others in Kasserine, Thala, Tunis and Regueb were killed by single shots to the chest or head, suggesting deliberate intent to kill.

    “This shocking evidence confirms that the Tunisian security forces were using lethal methods to quell discontent and to deter protesters,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East North Africa Program.

    January 26, 2011

    Amnesty International has condemned the eight-year prison sentence handed down to a Vietnamese pro-democracy activist and former Communist Party official for posting articles on the internet calling for democracy. Vi Duc Hoi was convicted of "spreading anti-government propaganda" by a court in northern Lang Son province on Wednesday. He was also sentenced to five years of house arrest after his prison term.

    Hoi, a member of the Bloc 8406 network of pro-democracy and human rights activists, had written extensively about corruption and injustice in Viet Nam.

    He was arrested on 27 October 2010. Before his arrest, public security officials had raided his home on 7 October.

    "This verdict and sentence is a shocking testament to how the Vietnamese authorities show complete disregard for freedom of expression when it comes to people who peacefully challenge government policies," said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Region.

    Vi Duc Hoi joins at least 30 other peaceful dissidents currently serving long prison terms; others are awaiting trial. Amnesty International considers all of them prisoners of conscience.

    January 26, 2011

    Amnesty International today condemned a crackdown on demonstrations in Egypt amid continuing protests against poverty, police abuse and corruption. Reports of ongoing demonstrations in Egypt today follow a day of protest in Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities that saw at least three deaths, rubber bullets and tear gas employed against crowds, beatings of detainees and at least 500 protesters arrested.

    Amnesty International repeated its call on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators, and criticised the actions of security forces yesterday.

    “We witnessed reckless policing yesterday with the security forces relying on tear gas and using rubber bullet as a first resort,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Security forces must be held in check.”

    Demonstrations yesterday started peacefully but stone throwing and scuffles broke out when the security forces started forcibly dispersing demonstrators.

    Three demonstrators were reportedly killed as well as one policeman in the largest demonstrations that Egypt has seen in decades.

    January 25, 2011

    Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth today filed an official complaint against oil giant Shell for breaches of basic standards for responsible business set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The organisations claim that Shell’s use of discredited and misleading information to blame the majority of oil pollution on saboteurs in its Niger Delta operations has breached the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The complaint was filed with UK and Netherlands government contact points for the OECD..

    Tomorrow (Wednesday 26 January) Shell will be under scrutiny for its environmental and human rights impacts during a hearing in the Dutch Parliament on the company’s activities in Nigeria.

    In the mid 1990s Shell accepted that much of the oil pollution in the Niger Delta was due to the company’s own failures. However, the company now blames sabotage by communities and criminals for most of the problem, citing misleading figures that purport to show as much as 98% of oil spills being caused by sabotage.

    January 25, 2011

    The Afghan government must investigate thousands of allegations of human rights violations, criminal activity and electoral fraud by members of the country’s parliament, which begins its second term on 26 January, Amnesty International said. At least 40 parliamentarians are accused of serious human rights abuses while serving, including murder, kidnapping, extortion, intimidation of activists and journalists, and election related violence.

    Dozens of members face credible allegations of war crimes like attacks on civilian targets and massacres committed during Afghanistan’s long-running civil conflict.

    “We fear that the criminals and warlords in the Afghan parliament and government could keep getting away with human rights abuses unless they answer to the ongoing investigations,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

    Amnesty International is urging the Afghan authorities to continue investigation of human rights violations committed by parliamentarians by the Electoral Complaints Commission and the Afghan judiciary, without recourse to parliamentary immunity.

    January 24, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the US authorities to alleviate the harsh pre-trial detention conditions of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking information to Wikileaks. The US army private, 23, has been held for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished solitary cell and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010.

    Amnesty International last week wrote to the US Defence secretary, Robert Gates, calling for the restrictions on Bradley Manning to be reviewed. In the same week, the soldier suffered several days of increased restrictions by being temporarily categorised as a 'suicide risk'.

    "We are concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities," said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Programme Director for the Americas.

    "Manning has not been convicted of any offence, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention. This undermines the United States’ commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence."

    January 24, 2011

    Amnesty International has today called on the Tunisian authorities to fundamentally overhaul the country’s repressive security apparatus and justice system as part of a human rights action plan to be presented to the new government.

    “This is a critical moment for Tunisia” said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research and Regional Programs.

    “Those now in power have an unprecedented opportunity to make fundamental and lasting reforms and to break with Ben Ali’s legacy of decades of abuse. Tunisians deserve real, not cosmetic change.”

    The call came as unrest and political uncertainty continued to grip Tunisia and threaten its new caretaker government, formed following the flight of the former president and his family 10 days ago.

    “As a first step, the new government must immediately rein in the security forces which have for so long harassed and oppressed ordinary Tunisians, and make them accountable under the law.

    “Human rights cannot be an optional part of the new government’s program but must be placed at the very foundation if Tunisian institutions are to be made just and accountable.”

    January 24, 2011

    Amnesty International has urged the US authorities in the state of Pennsylvania to drop their pursuit of a murder trial in an adult court for a 13-year-old boy, as it could result in a violation of international law. On 25 January, the Pennsylvania’s Superior Court is set to hear an appeal against an earlier decision to try 13-year-old Jordan Brown in adult court on charges of killing Kenzie Houk, his father’s pregnant fiancée, when he was 11 years old in 2009.

    The Pennsylvania Attorney General is pushing for the court to agree to Jordan Brown being tried as an adult, which will result in life imprisonment without parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

    “Putting a child as young as Jordan Brown at risk of life in prison with no chance of parole is inconsistent with international human rights obligations” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas.

    The USA and Somalia are the only countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits life imprisonment without the possibility of release for crimes committed before the age of 18.

    January 21, 2011

    Haitian authorities have told Amnesty International they are launching an investigation into crimes against humanity committed during Jean-Claude Duvalier’s rule in the 1970’s and 80’s. Amnesty International’s researcher on Haiti, Gerardo Ducos, yesterday met the country’s Prosecutor, Harycidas Auguste, and Minister of Justice, Paul Denis, to discuss the need for an investigation into the abuses committed during Duvalier’s years in power.

    Ducos handed over 100 documents detailing dozens of cases of detention without trial, systematic torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions which took place in Haiti between 1971 and 1986.

    “Investigating Jean Claude Duvalier for the human rights crimes committed during his time in power is a massive step forward”, said Gerardo Ducos, “What we need to see now is a swift and impartial process, in line with international standards, that truly brings justice for those who have been waiting for too long.”

    “Torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions are crimes under international law and do not prescribe. Justice must be done if Haiti is to move forward,” said Gerardo Ducos.

    January 21, 2011

    Amnesty International is again urging the Croatian authorities to investigate war crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war following a key European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that could allow thousands of victims seek justice internationally. The ECHR yesterday found that the Croatian authorities were responsible for the lack of adequate investigations into the disappearance and deaths of two war crimes victims in 1991, despite the country only becoming part of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1997.

    “This judgement creates a significant precedent, allowing victims of war crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia to seek justice before the ECHR if states do not carry out adequate investigations into those crimes.” said Marek Marczynski, Amnesty International’s expert on Croatia.

    The ruling centred around two cases, including that of a woman whose husband was shot by the Yugoslav army in 1991 in Vukovar.

    Despite some evidence being gathered by the authorities, no meaningful progress was made in the investigation and 2010 proceedings were terminated under an Amnesty law.

    January 21, 2011

    Amnesty International has today urged the authorities to investigate the reported deaths of three men during anti-government protests in the Albanian capital Tirana. Protesters calling for the resignation of the government were reported to have thrown sticks and stones at government buildings, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and truncheons.

    “The police have a right to maintain order and protect the public, but they must not use excessive force against those carrying out their legitimate right to protest,” said Andrea Huber, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    Demonstrators also reported the sound of gunfire. Albanian officals said three men died in the demonstrations, reportedly from shots fired at close range from small-calibre weapons; 17 police officers and 21 civilians were injured.

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332

    January 21, 2011

    Today, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights The ECtHR is an international judicial organ based in Strasbourg; it rules on complaints alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe. Rulings of the Grand Chamber of the Court are delivered by 17 judges of the Court. The Grand Chamber’s rulings are final upon delivery. Under Article 46, the final judgments of the Court are binding on the state(s) that is (are) party(ies) to the case. (ECtHR), by a majority, ruled in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece (application no. 30696/09) that Belgium and Greece had each violated the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).

    Amnesty International considers that today’s landmark ruling will have a lasting impact by enhancing the protection of human rights of asylum-seekers in the European Union (EU).

    January 20, 2011

    The United States should investigate Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa, on a surprise visit to the US today, for his alleged role in perpetrating torture and war crimes, Amnesty International said today. Mahinda Rajapaksa reportedly left Sri Lanka early Wednesday morning with a delegation of 20 bound for the US.

    "The US has an obligation under international law to investigate and prosecute people who perpetrated war crimes and grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa is commander in chief of Sri Lanka's armed forces, which face numerous allegations of war crimes, enforced disappearances, and torture. Under international law, military commanders may face criminal responsibility if they knew, or should have known, of such crimes being committed by their subordinates.

    January 20, 2011

    Amnesty International has called on the Kenyan authorities to properly investigate the apparently unprovoked killing of three men by police on a busy Nairobi highway yesterday. Reports indicate that the trio were shot dead after being ordered from their car during a traffic jam by plain clothes police who claimed the men were armed criminals. They were killed in a shoot-out with police officers. However, eyewitnesses reported that the slain men were compliant and had already surrendered to the police.

    Authorities said today that three police officers allegedly involved in the shooting have been suspended, pending an investigation.

    "The Kenyan authorities have repeatedly promised investigations into police shootings in the past, but they rarely materialise and this has bred a culture of unlawful killings by police who are never held accountable," said Justus Nyang’aya, Director of Amnesty International Kenya.

    "Eyewitness reports of this incident depict a disturbing image of police officers who are accustomed to acting with complete impunity. These appear to be blatant and deliberate killings that amount to extrajudicial executions."

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