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    March 15, 2019

    Responding to news that a court in Rostov-on-Don, Southern Russia, has extended until 17 June the house arrest of Anastasia Shevchenko, prisoner of conscience and former coordinator with Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia), a pro-democracy and human rights movement, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, Marie Struthers, said:

    “The criminal case against Anastasia Shevchenko is profoundly flawed, and by forging ahead with it regardless, the Russian authorities are creating an abhorrent precedent. Anastasia has lost her freedom and yet she has not committed any recognizable criminal offence. The authorities are casting their net ever more widely, with another former Otkrytaya Rossiya’s employee, Maksim Vernikov, now also facing criminal proceedings. We call on Russia to stop this increasingly ugly persecution.

    “The Russian authorities must drop all charges against Anastasia Shevchenko and Maksim Vernikov, and repeal the ludicrous ‘undesirable organizations’ law which is blatantly being used to target human rights defenders.”

    Background

    March 15, 2019

    Responding to reports that the U.S. will restrict visas for International Criminal Court personnel looking into the U.S. military personnel actions in Afghanistan, Daniel Balson, Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA stated:

    “This announcement is the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections.

    “While victims’ rights should be the very top priority of the United States government, throwing roadblocks in front of the ICC’s investigation undermines justice not only for abuses committed in Afghanistan, but also for the millions of victims and survivors throughout the world who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law.

    “The ICC prosecutes the most serious crimes under international law, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Impeding the work of ICC investigators disrupts its vital function and demands impunity for the White House's own policies. In doing so, it risks setting a dangerous precedent.

    March 15, 2019

    A deeply flawed draft state of emergency law currently being discussed in parliament could grant Tunisian authorities sweeping powers to ban demonstrations and strikes, suspend activities of NGOs, impose arbitrary restrictions on movement of individuals and carry out unwarranted searches of properties based on vague national security grounds, said Amnesty International. A parliamentary debate on the proposed law has started and is expected to go to a vote in the coming weeks.

    The organization is calling on Tunisia’s parliament not to adopt the new bill unless fundamental changes are made to bring it in line with international law and the country’s own constitution.

    “Tunisia has operated under a continuous state of emergency for more than three years. What should be an exceptional temporary state has become the new normal. Tunisia’s authorities should be urgently working to restore full respect for the rule of law – not approving a repressive draft law that will further endanger human rights,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    March 14, 2019

    Amnesty International welcomes today’s signing into law of the bill ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) without reservations by the President of Kyrgyzstan, Sooronbay Jeenbekov. The bill will enter into force in ten days after publication.

    “The ratification of the Convention paves the road to the effective inclusion of 180,000 people living with disabilities in the social and economic life of Kyrgyzstan,” said Anna Kirey, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    “It should be a priority for the government of Kyrgyzstan to guarantee that persons with disabilities are involved in all decision-making processes, including relevant working groups and committees. The Convention’s implementation will demand combined approaches to policy and advocacy from persons with disabilities and their organizations.   

    March 14, 2019

    Following last night’s presidential pardon of about 700 people, including many detained solely for expressing their political views or participating in peaceful protests over the period 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2018, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Sarah Jackson said:

    “President Tshisekedi’s decision to pardon prisoners of conscience and other people arbitrarily detained is to be applauded as a crucial first step towards restoration of human rights in the country. It must now be followed by their immediate and unconditional release from prison.

    “While their release will fulfil a promise he made to free political activists [from the opposition] in his first 100 days in office, his administration must now go further and guarantee that no one else is arrested, detained or prosecuted simply for expressing their opinions or for peacefully exercising their human rights.

    March 14, 2019

    The announcement today that the mandatory death penalty will be abolished for 11 offences should be considered Malaysia’s first step towards total abolition of the death penalty.

    “The government has sadly reneged on its earlier commitment to abolish the death penalty in totality, but we urge the government to keep its promise to abolish the death penalty once and for all at the soonest opportunity,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said today. 

    On 13 March 2019, Deputy Minister in charge of Law Mohamed Hanipa Maidin announced to Parliament that the Government is proposing to introduce sentencing discretion for 11 offences under the Penal Code and Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, which currently carry the mandatory death penalty. The change would leave the imposition of the death penalty at the hands of judges.

    March 14, 2019

    Speaking to Amnesty is not a crime

    The prosecution of 11 women activists before a Criminal Court in Riyadh for their human rights work and contact with international organizations is an appalling escalation of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown on peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

    Some of the women were charged with promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system. The women were also charged with contacting international organizations, foreign media and other activists, including their contact with Amnesty International

    “The charges against the activists are the latest example of the Saudi authorities abusing legislation and the justice system to silence peaceful activists and deter them from working on the human rights situation in the country. This trial is yet another stain on the Saudi authorities’ appalling human rights record, and shows how empty the government’s claims of reform really are,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director.

    March 13, 2019
    Governments are playing truant on climate action, warns Amnesty chief Kumi Naidoo

    Amnesty International today warned that the failure of governments to tackle climate change could amount to the greatest inter-generational human rights violation in history, as it welcomes a global day of school strikes against climate change planned for Friday 15 March by young people.

    “Amnesty International stands with all children and young people who are organizing and taking part in school strikes for climate action. This is an important social justice movement that is mobilizing thousands of people to peacefully call on governments to stop climate change,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “It is unfortunate that children have to sacrifice days of learning in school to demand that adults do the right thing. However, they know the consequences of the current shameful inaction both for themselves and future generations. This should be a moment for stark self-reflection by our political class.

    March 12, 2019

    One year after Lebanese actor Ziad Itani was released from detention, he is no closer to getting justice for the appalling torture he was subjected to in prison, Amnesty International said today.

    On 13 March 2018 a military court acquitted Ziad Itani of charges of spying for Israel and released him. He had spent three and a half months in detention, on the basis of trumped-up charges. During the trial, Itani reported being held in solitary confinement, subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while in detention, and denied access to legal counsel. The Military court failed to act on these reports.

    In mid-November 2018, Itani filed a civil lawsuit against officers and civilian assistants, but the State Prosecutor referred the case to the Military Prosecutor, even though both international and domestic law would require such reports to be investigated within the civilian criminal justice system.

    March 12, 2019

    Luis Carlos Díaz, a Venezuelan journalist and defender of digital rights and freedom of expression, was arrested in Caracas on the afternoon of Monday, 11 March, by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and accused of alleged “cyber-crimes”.

    “Luis Carlos Díaz has been detained solely because of his widely respected work covering the Venezuelan people’s demands to live in dignity in their country and for his denunciations of the authorities’ response to the serious human rights crisis that they are experiencing. He is a prisoner of conscience and we demand his immediate and unconditional release,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    Last weekend, senior officials under the command of Nicolás Maduro accused Luis Carlos Díaz of being part of a “conspiracy” that led to a power outage that has affected the country for more than five days, presenting a manipulated video where they used past statements he had made about internet service outages as if he were talking about the current power cuts.

    March 12, 2019

    Responding to reports that Brazilian police have arrested two men in Rio de Janeiro over the killing of human rights defender Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes on 14 March 2018, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “This week marks one year since Marielle Franco was brutally killed, in an attack which devastated the many communities whose rights she fought to defend. Marielle’s killing was a blatant attempt to silence a brave human rights defender, who had devoted her life to advocating for women, LGBTI people and black youth in Rio favelas.”

    “These arrests are the first sign of progress in an investigation that has barely moved in the year since the killings. We are calling for the Brazilian authorities to ensure that investigations are independent and impartial, and to bring all those responsible, including those who ordered the crime, to justice in fair trials.”

    “There is no better way to honour Marielle Franco’s amazing legacy than by committing to protect human rights defenders and ensuring they can safely continue their vital work.”

    March 11, 2019

    A series of videos shared on social media in recent weeks have shed light on the daily harassment and violent attacks women in Iran face at the hands of morality police and pro-government vigilantes seeking to enforce the country’s forced hijab (veiling) laws, said Amnesty International.

    The videos show members of the public or plain-clothes morality police aggressively confronting or attacking women for defying Iran’s degrading forced hijab laws, in the name of defending “public decency”. Perpetrators of such attacks appear to be getting bolder in their assaults in response to efforts by women to film the violence they face and share the videos on social media.

    “The video footage that has emerged in recent weeks demonstrates the shocking levels of abuse women in Iran face on a daily basis from morality police or pro-government thugs simply for daring to defy the country’s abusive forced hijab laws,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.  

    March 11, 2019

    The State of Palestine’s new government must seize the opportunity to reverse the appalling deterioration of human rights that took place under the previous administration and signal that it is serious about meeting its international obligations, Amnesty International. Mohammad Shtayyeh, the newly appointed prime minister, is expected to form a government in the coming days. 

    Since June 2014, when the national consensus government led by former Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah came to power, Amnesty International has documented escalating human rights violations by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank despite the State of Palestine having joined international human rights treaties. These include excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment leading to deaths in custody, and an intensified crackdown on freedom of expression and civil society.

    March 11, 2019

    The sentencing of prominent Iranian human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes in a new case against her is an outrageous injustice, said Amnesty International today. 

    The sentence, reported on her husband Reza Khandan’s Facebook page, brings her total sentence after two grossly unfair trials to 38 years in prison. In September 2016, she had been sentenced in her absence to five years in prison in a separate case.

    “It is absolutely shocking that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing nearly four decades in jail and 148 lashes for her peaceful human rights work, including her defence of women protesting against Iran’s degrading forced hijab (veiling) laws. Nasrin Sotoudeh must be released immediately and unconditionally and this obscene sentence quashed without delay,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

    March 11, 2019

    One year on from the killing of the human rights defender and Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes, Brazilian authorities are still failing to provide their families and society with adequate answers, and their inability to identify those responsible and bring them to justice continues to put other human rights defenders at risk, said Amnesty International today.

    “After a year of investigation, the Brazilian authorities’ alarming inability to solve the killing of Marielle Franco sends a message that attacks against human rights defenders will go unpunished,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    “The authorities that took office following last year’s elections must bring all those responsible for ordering and carrying out the killing to justice and show that attacks of this nature will not be tolerated in Brazil.”

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