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    December 07, 2010

    On December 10th, thousands of Canadians across the country will join hundreds of thousands of activists in 50 countries to participate in the world’s largest letter-writing event. Write for Rights celebrates International Human Rights Day and the write-a-thon, as it is known has grown tremendously. Last year, participants used their pens or keyboards to send 700,000 letters to governments for people facing human rights violations. There were more than 2,000 events held in Canada alone. Events are held in schools, community centres, faith institutions, cafes and living rooms across the country. They write on behalf of prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders under threat, and other cases of serious human rights violations. Participation in the event is free and open to everyone.

    December 07, 2010

    The Nobel Committee has confirmed that nineteen countries have declined invitations to attend the Peace Price ceremony in Norway on 10 December, a rise on the usual number of declines. This year, the Nobel Peace Prize is being awarded to Chinese prisoner of conscience Liu Xiaobo. The 19 countries that have declined to attend according to the Committee are Afghanistan, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.

    “China has been arm-twisting behind the scenes to stop governments from attending the Nobel Prize ceremony, using a combination of political pressure and economic blackmail” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific.

    “The fact that, despite the pressure and threats, the Chinese could only cajole a small minority of countries, reflects the unacceptable nature of their demands. Governments and international institutions must continue to resist this type of bullying.”

    December 06, 2010

    The Malaysian government must immediately end the practice of judicial caning, which subjects thousands of people each year to systematic torture and ill-treatment, leaving them with permanent physical and psychological scars, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    A Blow to Humanity provides an in-depth look at Malaysian caning, which leaves victims, including many foreigners seeking asylum, with little recourse, support or hope. Many have no understanding of the charges or fate that awaits them.

    “Caning in Malaysia has hit epidemic proportions,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director. “In every case that we examined, the punishment amounted to torture, which is absolutely prohibited under any circumstances.”

    In recent years, Malaysia has increased the number of penal offenses subject to caning to more than 60. Since 2002, when Parliament made immigration violations such as illegal entry subject to caning, tens of thousands of refugees and migrant workers have been caned.

    December 06, 2010

    Amnesty International has called on the security forces in Côte d’Ivoire to protect civilians, as the number of people shot dead in violent incidents following the country's presidential elections rose to at least 20. Tensions have risen in Côte d’Ivoire since both presidential candidates in the 28 November election declared themselves the winners on Friday. Both the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara have sworn themselves in, prompting increased clashes between supporters of both parties and the security forces.

    The call comes ahead of meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

    "The international community, especially the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and ECOWAS must take steps to prevent further escalation of violence in Côte d’Ivoire," said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International's West Africa researcher.

    December 03, 2010

    Amnesty International today strongly condemned a call by the Iraqi Interior Minister for the swift execution of 39 alleged al-Qai’da members as they were paraded before journalists, handcuffed and clad in orange jumpsuits. “For Jawad al-Bolani to abuse his position as Interior minister by parading these men publicly and calling for their execution before they have even gone to trial, flagrantly flaunting the requirement for defendants to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court, is absolutely outrageous,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “It makes a complete mockery of any suggestion that these suspects will receive a fair trial, and sets a most ominous precedent for others.”

    Jawad al-Bolani said at a press conference in Baghdad on 2 December:

    "Today, we will send those criminals and the investigation results to the courts that will sentence them to death. Our demand is not to delay the carrying out of the executions against these criminals so that to deter terrorist and criminal elements."

    December 02, 2010

    Amnesty International has condemned an armed raid led by a paramilitary force (gendarmerie) on an opposition party headquarters in the city of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire on 1 December, which left at least four people dead and several wounded. The raid happened at the offices of the Rally of Republicans (RDR), the party of Alassane Ouattara, a presidential candidate in last Sunday's election. More than 10 people were arrested during the attack in the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan. The whereabouts of those arrested are unknown.

    "If the authorities do not condemn this attack and bring those responsible to justice, it will be a sign that they condone this very serious human rights violation,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West African researcher.

    December 02, 2010

    Recently disclosed documents indicate that the Canadian Forces have mishandled these children in a manner that contravenes Canada’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In a letter sent to Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) call on the Department of National Defence to take immediate action to bring its policies and practices regarding children apprehended in course of military operations in Afghanistan into compliance with international law.

    “International treaties that Canada has ratified make it clear that when alleged child soldiers come into the custody and care of Canadian Forces, Canada’s primary obligation must be to ensure that they are demobilized and that they receive the assistance they need to ensure their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration,” says Alex Neve, Secretary- General of Amnesty International Canada.

    December 01, 2010

    Amnesty International has called on the Central African Republic (CAR) to arrest wanted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and surrender him to the International Criminal Court (ICC), should he go ahead with his planned visit to the country today. President Bashir is wanted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the conflict in Darfur.

    "The Central African Republic should not shield President Omar al-Bashir from international justice," said Christopher Keith Hall, Senior Legal Adviser at Amnesty International.

    “His visit to the country is an opportunity to enforce the arrest warrant and send a message that justice will prevail."

    "Today, an ICC Pre-Trial Chamber requested the CAR 'to take all necessary measures to arrest Omar Al Bashir and transfer him to the Court'.

    If it were not to arrest President Omar al-Bashir, the CAR would violate its obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which it ratified in October 2001.

    December 01, 2010

    Amnesty International has today condemned the Iranian authorities for carrying out the execution of Khadijeh Jahed, known as “Shahla”, the temporary wife of a prominent Iranian footballer, at Evin Prison, Tehran this morning. Shahla Jahed’s hanging for the alleged murder of Laleh Saharkhizian, the permanent wife of footballer Naser Mohammad-Khani, is understood to have taken place today at 5am local time, her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, told the state News Agency, IRNA.

    “Shahla Jahed’s execution, like all such executions, is an example of premeditated and cold-blooded killing by the state, and is particularly distressing as there were serious concerns over the fairness of the trial, and the evidence used against the defendant.” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    According to the Iranian news agency ISNA Laleh Saharkhizan’s brother carried out the final stage of the execution of Shahla Jahed by kicking away the stool on which she was standing with the noose around her neck.

    December 01, 2010

    A leaked diplomatic cable has corroborated images released earlier this year by Amnesty International showing that the US military carried out a missile strike in south Yemen in December 2009 that killed dozens of local residents.

    In the secret cable from January 2010 published by the organization Wikileaks, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is reported as having assured US General David Petraeus that his government would “continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours”.

    According to the cable, this prompted Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-‘Alimi “to joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG [Republic of Yemen Government]”.

    “The cable appears to confirm Amnesty International’s finding that the Abyan strike was carried out by the US military, not Yemeni government forces,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    December 01, 2010

    The Zimbabwean government should urgently investigate the deaths of newborn babies at a settlement it created to re-house people made homeless by its mass forced eviction program five years ago, Amnesty International said in a report released today. The report No Chance to Live, Newborn death at Hopley Settlement found that at least 21 newborns had died at Hopley within a five month period indicating a very high level of newborn deaths within the settlement.

    “When people were settled in Hopley, the government promised them a better life but things have gone from bad to worse,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director.

    “Many of the women we spoke to felt that their minimal access to healthcare contributed to the deaths of their babies. Others suspected that their babies died of cold because they live in plastic shacks.”

    “The government must ensure these women have access to maternal and newborn healthcare in order to prevent further avoidable deaths.”

    Arms supplied by the world’s major powers are among those contributing to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and blighting the livelihoods of millions of people every year, Amnesty International said in a new briefing published just days before final negotiations on a global Arms Trade Treaty open at the United Nations.

    Between them, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA – are responsible for over half of the almost US$100 billion total annual global trade in conventional weapons.

    The same five states will be pivotal to finalizing an effective Arms Trade Treaty with strong human rights protections at the conference taking place at the UN from 18-28 March.

    All this week in the run-up to that historic meeting, Amnesty International activists and supporters are holding a “Global Week of Action” to call on world leaders to adopt an effective Arms Trade Treaty with strong human rights protections.

    Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors – part of the wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks. Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. The stated version of the inspections was to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

    Amnesty International, along with other NGOs, has repeatedly condemned the new legislation imposing increasing restrictions on NGOs and expressed its fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting abuses and critical of the government.

    Amnesty International is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the public.

    Amnesty International is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation. The organization expresses regret that its time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

    The acquittal of three high-ranking members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after a retrial on war crimes charges has prompted Amnesty International to reiterate its call for justice for all of the victims in the 1998-9 Kosovo war, and their relatives.

    Ex-prime minister and former KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj, Lahi Brahimaj, his uncle, and a fellow KLA commander, and deputy commander Idriz Balaj, were found not guilty of a joint criminal enterprise to mistreat Kosovo Serbs, Roma and Egyptians, and Albanians perceived to be collaborators with the Serbian authorities, or otherwise not supporters of the KLA.

    They were also acquitted on all counts relating to individual criminal responsibility for the murder, cruel treatment and torture, as war crimes, of members of minority communities, and Albanians perceived to be collaborators, at a KLA compound at Jablanica/Jablanicë.

    Timor-Leste: Victims of killings, rape and torture deserve justice

    Perpetrators of killings and other human rights abuses during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste must not be allowed to go unpunished, Amnesty International said as the UN Security Council was due to meet in New York to finalize withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission.

    Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries committed serious human rights violations during the occupation (1975-1999) and in the context of the 1999 Timorese independence referendum – including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence and torture.

    Despite the fact many of these acts amount to crimes against humanity, to date no one is imprisoned for these acts, either in Indonesia or in Timor-Leste.

    “The fact that the UN is leaving Timor-Leste does not let the international community off the hook. Delivering justice for victims of these horrendous crimes must remain a priority,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.


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