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    January 07, 2015

    Following reports that Dominic Ongwen has surrendered to the US forces, Amnesty International is calling for his immediate transfer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face trial.

    “The people of northern Uganda have waited almost 10 years for the warrants issued by the ICC against leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army to be executed. Dominic Ongwen now needs to be held to account for the numerous charges he faces of murder, mutilation, forced recruitment of child soldiers and use of sex slaves – crimes he allegedly committed when he was a senior commander of  the LRA,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Regional Director for Amnesty International.

    “The remaining two warrants of arrest against other Lord Resistance Army leaders Joseph Kony and Okot Odhiambo must be expedited without delay.”

     

    Background

    January 07, 2015

    This morning’s deadly attack by gunmen on the Paris office of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo is a chilling assault on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The attack, allegedly carried out by masked gunmen who fled the scene after engaging in a gunfight with police, reportedly left 12 people dead and several more wounded at the newspaper’s office.

    "This is a dark day for freedom of expression and a vibrant press culture. But above all, it is an appalling human tragedy,” said Stephan Oberreit, Director of Amnesty International France.

    “It is an atrocity that sought to kill journalists, suppress freedom of expression and sow fear. It must be utterly condemned and the French authorities must ensure all those responsible are brought to justice in a fair trial. Journalists under threat must be protected and allowed to carry out their work without fear of deadly violence.”

    Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical newspaper based in Paris, has faced controversy in the past for its publication of cartoons deemed to be insulting to Islam.

    December 24, 2014

    The series of attacks, allegedly by armed groups, on unarmed civilians in Assam that has led to the death of at least 50 people and serious injuries to several others is highly condemnable and shows contempt for human lives. Authorities must step up security for civilians and bring the perpetrators to justice.

    The Assam Police said the killings started at Sonitpur district in northern Assam where more than 23 people were killed on 23 December. Several others were killed and injured in Kokrajhar districts as well. Authorities have blamed members of the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-S) for the attacks.

    The men, women and children killed and injured in these attacks were mostly members of the Adivasi community who traditionally work in the tea gardens of the region.

    This region has witnessed several incidents of violence in the past. In July 2012, clashes broke out between Bodo and Muslim communities, killing over 75 people and displacing thousands from their homes. In May 2014, at least 27 civilians were killed in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts in attacks authorities blamed on NDFB-S. 

    December 19, 2014

    Resuming the death penalty is not the answer to combating terrorism in Pakistan and only perpetuates a cycle of violence, Amnesty International said as two people were executed in the country today for the first time since 2012.

    Two people who had been convicted over their role in two separate Taliban attacks were hanged in Pakistan today. They were the first executions since the government lifted a moratorium on executions for those tried of terrorism-related charges this week in response to the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed at least 142 people.

    “It is extremely disappointing that the government has given into fear and anger by executing two people today. As horrific as the attack on the Peshawar school was, more killings – this time by the government – is never the answer to combating terrorism and crime,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “This is a cynical reaction from the government. It masks a failure to deal with the core issue highlighted by the Peshawar attack, namely the lack of effective protection for civilians in north-west Pakistan.”

    December 19, 2014

    A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming support for this historic move to rein in the irresponsible international arms trade, Amnesty International said.

    Yesterday alone, Andorra, Israel and Zimbabwe signed the ATT while Lithuania and the Netherlands ratified. These five states join several others which signed and ratified the treaty earlier this month, bringing the total number of signatures to 128, of which 60 have ratified. South Africa is also expected to ratify the treaty at the UN imminently. States that have ratified will now become states parties to the treaty.

    “World leaders are sending an unequivocal message. This virtual stampede of new states rushing to join the Arms Trade Treaty is another clear vote of confidence for this ground-breaking measure that will protect human rights and save countless lives,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2014

    Today’s prisoner exchange between the USA and Cuba presents the best opportunity in more than half a century to forge an agenda for human rights change amid efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, Amnesty International said.

    Alan Gross, an alleged US aid worker imprisoned in Cuba for the past five years after being accused of spying, and the three remaining “Cuban Five” prisoners held in the USA on espionage charges since 1998, had been released and were en route to their respective home countries on Wednesday morning local time.

    “Today’s prisoner swap is a very welcome opening salvo in a long-awaited overhaul of US-Cuban relations after more than half a century of thorny relations, sanctions and mutual recriminations. Any efforts at political and diplomatic change must now go hand-in-glove with historic human rights change in Cuba,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    December 10, 2014

    The death of a Palestinian minister during a protest against land confiscations in the West Bank may have resulted from arbitrary and abusive force by Israeli forces against demonstrators, said Amnesty International.

    Ziad Abu Ein, who headed a committee that opposed the West Bank wall and Israeli settlements, died after a confrontation with Israeli forces in the village of Turmus'ayya. Photographs posted online showed Israeli forces grabbing his throat.

    “This appears to be a tragedy that could have been avoided. The Israeli forces have an abysmal track record when it comes to policing protests and have frequently resorted to the unnecessary or excessive use of force against protesters in the West Bank, resulting in numerous unlawful killings. And they continue to do so with impunity,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

    Shortly before his death Ziad Abu Ein told news reporters the protest had been peaceful. "We came to plant trees on Palestinian land, and they launched into an attack on us from the first moment. Nobody threw a single stone," he said. 

    December 09, 2014

    Authorities in Russia must urgently investigate the burning down of at least five houses believed to belong to the relatives of 11 men blamed by the authorities of carrying out an armed attack in the Chechen capital, Grozny, Amnesty International said after news emerged today of the “collective punishment” against the families.

    The 11 men were killed alongside 14 law enforcement officers during an armed confrontation in Grozny on 4 December. At least one civilian is also believed to have been killed.

    A day after the attack, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, said the families of the armed group members would be expelled from Chechnya and their houses demolished.

    “Punishing the relatives of those suspected of involvement in crimes is a flagrant violation of international law. Nothing can justify acts of collective punishment. The federal authorities must ensure an independent and impartial investigation is conducted into the burning of the houses and bring those responsible to justice in fair trials,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for the Europe and Central Asia Program at Amnesty International.

    December 05, 2014

    Today’s court order authorizing two months of pre-trial detention for the well-known Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is just the latest move to silence independent media voices in the country, Amnesty International said.

    “This move has all the hallmarks of another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan – Khadija Ismayilova is one of the last remaining independent voices in the country,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “Today’s detention order comes hot on the heels of a long series of attempts to silence her. The Azerbaijan authorities must stop this harassment of journalists just for doing their jobs.”

    Khadija Ismayilova, who reports for Radio Free Europe and other outlets, has been an outspoken government critic and has published several articles exposing corruption and human rights violations.

    She faces the unexplained charges of “inciting someone to attempt suicide”. If found guilty, she could face three to seven years of imprisonment.

    December 05, 2014

    Justice for victims of the 2007-2008 post-election violence is still an urgent priority, said Amnesty International, following today’s move by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to withdraw charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

     
    “Thousands died in the post-election violence in Kenya and this development throws a stark light on the continuing impunity for those who committed these serious crimes. Victims of these crimes are still waiting for justice and closure,”  said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    “The withdrawal of the charges is not a vindication of President Uhuru Kenyatta, rather it is an indictment of the government of Kenya and the International Criminal Court, both of which continue to fail the victims of the post-election violence by denying them the justice they rightfully deserve.

    December 05, 2014

    European Union member states must urgently step up efforts to protect refugees and migrants trying to reach their countries by sea after it was revealed this morning that 16 bodies were found on board a rubber dinghy rescued off the coast of Libya yesterday, said Amnesty International.

    “These latest deaths show yet again how vital it is that the EU maintains adequate search and rescue capacity along the routes taken by those fleeing conflict and persecution. The down-sizing of Italy’s search and rescue operation without an effective EU-wide replacement is putting the lives of hundreds of thousands at risk,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    According to the Italian Navy, the 16 perished due to hypothermia and dehydration. A further 76 refugees and migrants were rescued, of whom two were reportedly in critical conditions. One later died.

    December 04, 2014

    A court in Manama has today handed down a three-year prison sentence and a 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. US$8,000) fine to prominent activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, for allegedly “insulting the king” when she tore up a photograph of him in a court in October.

    She and her family have been continually targeted by the Bahraini authorities. Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a leading human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, is currently serving a life sentence. Just three days ago, her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is living in exile, was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison.

    “Tearing up a photo of the head of state should not be a criminal offence. Amnesty International is calling for this and all of Zainab Al-Khawaja’s other convictions to be quashed and all outstanding charges to be dropped,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    December 04, 2014

    The Philippine Senate’s decision to open an inquiry today into widespread police torture in the country is a promising development in the battle against impunity, Amnesty International said.

    “This inquiry is a welcome first step towards tackling entrenched impunity within the Philippine police force,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, speaking from Manila.

    “The government’s next step should be two truly independent systems, one for monitoring places of detention and one unified and effective institution to investigate and prosecute police abuse.”

    The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights passed the resolution opening the inquiry in response to evidence contained in an Amnesty International report, Above the Law: Police Torture in the Philippines, which launched in Manila earlier today. The report found that police have tortured hundreds of detainees with total impunity.

    The police force itself tried to play down its failures, citing an incorrect figure to understate the number of torture complaints made to the Philippine Commission for Human Rights in 2013.

    December 03, 2014

    A man stands by the water’s edge, proffering a small, sad looking fish. A mud-stained canvas bag full of them hangs from his left shoulder. He tells me he has caught the fish fresh from the pond behind him and it costs just 10 Indian rupees.

    We’re standing in stifling heat on the site of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. On the night of 2 December, 1984, 80,000 pounds (36,300kg) of toxic gas leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, poisoning more than half a million people. It’s estimated that up to 10,000 died in the first three days as chemicals tore through their internal organs. Many choked to death on their own fluids, while thousands more have been suffering a slow and painful death since.

    The man is fishing from one of Union Carbide’s abandoned evaporation ponds, used between 1970 and 1984 to remove water from hazardous waste. After the disaster, the plant was abandoned and never cleaned up. The hazardous chemical waste remains. The fish this man will take home to feed his family have been swimming, eating and breeding in it.

    December 02, 2014

    Criminal justice system spiralling out of control

    In response to the court ruling for 188 people to be sentenced to death in Egypt today on charges of killing 11 police officers in the town of Kerdasa in August 2013 Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadj Sahrouai said:

    “The death penalty ruling against 188 people to be sentenced to death in Egypt today is just another example of how the country’s criminal justice system is spiralling out of control.  These latest death sentences clearly expose a pattern of issuing death sentences en masse in cases involving police killings.”

    “It is quite telling that the sentencing, the third such conviction we have seen this year, was handed down in the same week that the case against former President Hosni Mubarak was dropped and and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and his aides were cleared of all charges over killing protesters during the 'January 25 revolution'. This is blatantly a case of justice being meted out based on a political whim."

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