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Public statements

    November 21, 2016

    New information released last week concerning police investigations into allegations of sexual violence and other abuses of Indigenous women and men in northern Quebec highlights the urgent need to ensure better police accountability, particularly for individuals and communities who have experienced a history of severe human rights violations in Canada.

    “Indigenous women and girls are rightly questioning whether they can trust police and government to take allegations of sexual assault and other abuses seriously,” said Beatrice Vaugrante, Directrice générale of the Francophone Branch of Amnesty International Canada. “We know that a swift and thorough investigation is the most likely way to meet the burden of proof in the prosecution of sexual assaults. Unfortunately, mistrust of authorities, fear of repercussions and gender discrimination means that assaults either generally go unreported, especially if the alleged perpetrators are police, or go reported but with obstacles to accessing justice. These concerns are magnified for Indigenous women and girls who have experienced so much racism and discrimination in Canadian society.”

    September 12, 2016

    The authorities must take immediate and effective action to once and for all put an end to the spate of recent killings of human rights defenders and social and community activists, said Amnesty international today as yet another activist was killed yesterday.

    On 11 September, Néstor Iván Martínez, a member of the Afro-descendant Community Council (Consejo Comunitario) of La Sierra, El Cruce and La Estación, and a leader of the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos) social movement, was shot dead by unknown assailants in a rural part of Chiriguaná Municipality in the department of Cesar. Néstor Iván Martínez had been active in environmental and land rights campaigns in Cesar, and had also campaigned against mining activities in the region.

    On 29 August, three leaders of the NGO Integration Committee of the Colombian Massif (Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano, CIMA), Joel Meneses, Nereo Meneses Guzmán and Ariel Sotelo, were stopped in the vehicle they were travelling in and shot dead by a group of armed men in Almaguer municipality in the department of Cauca.

    July 29, 2016

    A permit issued this week by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans violates the rights of Indigenous peoples by allowing continued construction of a destructive and unjustified hydro-electric megaproject that does not have their free, prior and informed consent.

    “The federal government had the opportunity to do the right thing and at least insist that First Nations legal challenges be given a fair hearing before construction of the Site C dam continues,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Instead, in taking this step the government has broken its promise to respect Canada’s Treaties with Indigenous peoples and uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

    July 14, 2016

    July 1976 proved to be pivotal in justice systems on both sides of the Canada/US border. On the 14th of July, Canada took a significant step forward for human rights and justice by removing the death penalty from its Criminal Code.  Yet only twelve days earlier, the US Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was constitutional (after a period of moratorium). Since that time, the United States has executed 1,436 people. After abolition, Canada’s per capita rate for homicide has steadily declined, it is now at the lowest murder rate since 1966. In contrast, the United States has not had a steady drop in the homicide rate until quite recently and it remains well above that of Canada. Notably, the homicide rate remains higher in states that execute than those that do not. When Canada abolished the death penalty in law it joined a small number of countries, but today they represent more than half of the world’s countries. More than two thirds of the world’s countries no longer execute.

    June 21, 2016

    The government of Ontario has demonstrated shocking indifference to the lives and well-being of the people of the Grassy Narrows First Nation who are suffering the devastating consequences of mercury dumped into their river system a half century ago. A story published this week in the Toronto Star revealed that the ongoing threat to Grassy Narrows may be even worse than previously known, and the province’s failure even greater.

    In the 1960s, the Ontario government allowed a Dryden pulp mill to release approximately 9 metric tonnes of mercury into the English and Wabigoon river system. According to the story published in the Star this week, a former mill employee mill has now alleges that after the province finally stopped the mercury dumping in 1971, an additional 50 barrels of salt and liquid mercury were illegally buried in a plastic lined pit where it could be leaching into the river.

    June 06, 2016

    The Colombian authorities must ensure that the security forces, in particular the ESMAD anti-riot police, refrain from using disproportionate and excessive force against demonstrators, Amnesty International said today as a nationwide protest by rural communities enters its second week.

    According to local social and human rights organizations, at least 179 demonstrators have been injured and three Indigenous protestors killed since Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities began a national mobilization on 30 May. There are also reports that members of the security forces have been injured.

    The demonstrators are protesting at what they argue is the Colombian government’s failure to comply with numerous agreements on a range of rural issues. These include agrarian reform; education; health; free, prior and informed consent; and mining.

    The security forces have a duty to guarantee public order but this must not be used as an excuse to ignore international standards on the use of force by the security forces.

    May 27, 2016

    The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group must immediately and unconditionally release two journalists and a cameraman that are believed to be hostages and must ensure that the three are treated humanely at all times, Amnesty International said today.

    Colombian-Spanish journalist Salud Hernández-Mora was last seen in the northern region of Catatumbo on 21 May, while Colombian journalist Diego D'Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo disappeared two days later in the same region.

    This is a clear violation of international humanitarian law and risks undermining recent efforts to start peace talks with the ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group.

    The Colombian authorities must take all necessary measures to locate their whereabouts and to secure their release without jeopardizing their safety

    May 12, 2016

    Amnesty International is alarmed at reports that Indonesia is planning to carry out executions in the immediate future. It urges the authorities to immediately halt any such plans and establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty. It also calls on them to review the cases of all prisoners currently under sentence of death with a view to the commutation of their death sentences and to address violations of international law and standards relating to the use of the death penalty in Indonesia.

    May 11, 2016

    Amnesty International strongly condemns the execution of 22-year old Siarhei Ivanou in Belarus. He is the first person known to have been executed since November 2014.

    Siarhei Ivanou was executed on the night of 18 April. In March 2015 he was sentenced to death having been convicted of the murder of a 19-year old woman in 2013. The UN Human Rights Committee had requested a stay of execution while it considered his case.  Such requests are binding on state parties to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Belarus acceded to in 1992. Despite that, and in contravention of Belarus’ human rights obligations, Siarhei Ivanou was executed.

    Siarhei Ivanou’s family only learned of his execution in May, after the sentence had been implemented. They were not given any warning or granted a final meeting with him. In keeping with Belarusian law, his body will not be returned to them for burial, nor will his place of burial be disclosed. His personal belongings have not yet been returned to them. They are now required to collect his death certificate from the Belarusian authorities.

    May 10, 2016

    Amnesty International supports efforts by the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign to seek the disclosure of all government documents relevant to the case and calls on the Criminal Cases Review Commission to give serious consideration to referring the conviction of Des Warren for appeal.

    Dennis (Des) Warren (1937-2004), was a construction worker and prominent trade union activist in the United Kingdom, who was imprisoned for charges arising from the 1972 building workers strike. Des Warren was arrested and charged in 1973, and eventually convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy to intimidate and unlawful assembly.

    May 10, 2016

    The Israeli authorities should drop the charges handed down two days ago to nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, as well as lifting all of the restrictions still imposed on him, Amnesty International said today. This latest development is illustrative of the pattern of persecution he has faced since he was released from prison 12 years ago after serving an 18-year sentence for disclosing information on Israel’s secret nuclear capacity in 1986.

    On 8 May 2016, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court charged Mordechai Vanunu with breaching the ongoing severe and arbitrary restrictions against his rights to freedoms of movement and expression. The charges apparently relate to a meeting he had with two US nationals three years ago; an interview he gave to Israeli broadcaster Channel 2 in September 2015, for which he was already punished that same month; and moving his residence within the same building without informing the police.

    May 10, 2016

    National and international civil society organisations working to advance transparency and accountability in supply chains welcome this 10th Joint Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains.  The Forum represents a commitment by governments and companies to engage in more responsible sourcing and trading in line with applicable laws and standards, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

    As articulated in the UNGPs, states have an obligation under international law to take appropriate legislative, policy and other measures to protect people against human rights abuse by third parties such as companies. Additionally, the UNGPs require that companies “do no harm” and take pro-active steps to ensure that they do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses in their global operations – and respond to any human rights abuses if they do.

    May 10, 2016

    On 26 April, the Hungarian government tabled a package of measures, including a “sixth amendment” to the Constitution (Magyarország Alaptörvénye, the Fundamental Law of Hungary) and to laws governing the police, national security services and defence forces, to streamline the process to call a state of emergency in the country. The package of measures, which would grant the Executive overly broad counter-terrorism powers with wide scope for restricting human rights, are under debate in the Hungarian Parliament this week.

    May 05, 2016

    Amnesty International welcomes the Swaziland Government’s preparedness to amend the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 (STA) as it had committed to do in March 2012 at the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    Amnesty International has consistently called for the STA to be repealed or immediately amended, because it is an inherently flawed piece of legislation which is inconsistent with Swaziland’s obligations under international and regional human rights law as well as the Swaziland Constitution.

    In 2009, Amnesty International in association with the International Bar Association found several provisions of the STA to be incompatible with Swaziland’s human rights obligations. 

    While states have a duty to protect all those under its jurisdiction, including by taking measures to prevent and protect against attacks on civilians, there is also an absolute necessity to ensure that all anti-terrorism measures are implemented in accordance with international human rights law.  

    May 04, 2016

    World-renowned musician Angélique Kidjo and three inspirational African youth activist movements have been declared this year’s joint winners of the prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2016, the organization said today.

    The award will be shared between Benin-born artist Angélique Kidjo, one of world’s most successful African singer-songwriters, and the activist groups Y’en a marre from Senegal, le Balai Citoyen from Burkina Faso and Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA) from DRC. All will be honoured at the awards ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on 28 May.

    “The Ambassador of Conscience Award is a celebration of those public figures who have shown exceptional courage in standing up to injustice. Angélique Kidjo and the members of Y’en a marre, le Balai Citoyen and LUCHA have all proved themselves to be bold advocates for human rights, using their talents to inspire others,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    Grammy-winning artist Angélique Kidjo fled her homeland in the 1980s after being pressured to perform for the country’s repressive regime.


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