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    November 23, 2018

    Ahead of the Bahraini parliamentary election on 24 November, Amnesty International is gravely concerned over the widespread suppression of the political opposition, activists, and civic leaders. Shi’a public figures have been disproportionately targeted in the pre-election clampdown.

    “Over the past two years, the crackdown in Bahrain has seen the political opposition detained, intimidated and silenced. We call on the authorities to stop this ongoing and escalating repression and to allow free expression of dissenting voices, including those who oppose the monarchy,” said Devin Kenney, Amnesty International’s Bahrain researcher.

    “Bahrain’s international partners and allies cannot remain silent, and must use their influence to pressure the Bahraini authorities to adhere to the international standards they have committed to.”

    November 22, 2018

    In response to the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling that the government cannot issue a license for proposed titanium mining in Xolobeni without the consent of indigenous communities, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, Shenilla Mohamed, said:

    “This progressive court ruling is a victory for the people of Xolobeni, who have long fought for their right to say no to mining on their ancestral land. The judgement sends a clear message that multinational mining companies cannot trample over people's rights in the pursuit of profit. 

     “This judgement is not only a win for this community, but for communities across the country who are fighting to protect their land, heritage and culture.

    "The government must take heed of the ruling and ensure that informed consent is sought from Indigenous peoples when granting future mining licenses."

    Background

    A subsidiary of the Australian mining company MRC, Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), had applied for the right to mine titanium in the uMgungundlovu district on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape province in 2008.

    November 22, 2018

    A Zambian human rights activist is facing jail simply for accusing the country’s judiciary of corruption, Amnesty International said today.

    Gregory Chifire’s verdict and sentencing are due to be delivered on 23 November following a grossly unfair trial on four trumped-up contempt of court charges.

    “This trial is an affront to the right to freedom of expression. Gregory Chifire’s only ‘crime’ has been to ask the Zambian judiciary to ensure accountability within its ranks,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    “The contempt of court charges against Gregory Chifire are a total fabrication. They make a mockery of justice and must be dropped immediately.”

    The four contempt of court charges against Chifire, the director of the Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC), emanate from his questioning of a Supreme Court judgment handed down in March 2018 involving two large corporations.

    November 21, 2018

    Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, has addressed Mexican president elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in response to his recent announcements regarding the creation of a National Guard conformed by trained military personnel and federal police to take over public security in Mexico.

    Find the video of Kumi Naidoo calling on Andrés Manuel López Obrador to prevent further militarization of Mexico on Facebook or download the file here.

    Below an excerpt of the video transcript:

    November 21, 2018

    The Trinidad and Tobago authorities must stop criminalizing the peaceful protest of migrants and refugees and find human rights-based solutions for them consistent with its existing obligations under international law, Amnesty International said today.

    In response to official statements from Trinidad and Tobago’s Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi, suggesting that the country was not yet legally required to establish systems for addressing the growing number of migrants and refugees reaching the Caribbean island, as it has not ratified the UN Refugee Convention, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “The Attorney General is mistaken in his understanding of Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations under international law. Having acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the country is bound by international law to uphold the terms of these treaties. This means it must respect the fundamental human right to seek asylum and never return people to countries where their lives or freedom are at risk.”

    November 21, 2018

    Election campaigning will take place in a hostile political environment that leaves little room for people to freely and safely exercise their human rights, Amnesty International said ahead of tomorrow’s kick-off of political campaigns for the long-awaited elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The government maintains a blanket ban on protests other than those organized by politicians close to outgoing President Joseph Kabila. Opposition supporters, as well as people calling for improvements to security and services, have faced threats, intimidation, harassment, arrests and violent dispersal often resulting in deaths and injuries.

    “The authorities’ determination to silence dissent couldn’t be more evident through their ceaseless silencing of any kind of criticism or public demand, whether it touches on the country’s dire security situation, social grievances or the ongoing electoral process,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    November 21, 2018

    Responding to the news that Lahiru Madhushanka, a Sri Lankan driver who has endured more than three years behind bars amid concerns about an unfair trial and harrowing prison conditions Amnesty International’s South Asia Research Director, Dinushika Dissanayake, said:

    “It’s a relief to hear that Lahiru Madhushanka has been acquitted of all charges and released by the Maldivian authorities. For three years Lahiru experienced agonizing treatment where he was denied basic fair trial rights and was subject to a catalogue of serious human rights violations.”

    “Lahiru was beaten, denied medical care and held in solitary confinement in the most deplorable prison conditions. We hope Lahiru gets due reparations and justice for what he endured. Complaints of torture and other ill-treatment must be investigated independently and transparently as a matter of urgency.”

    “Amnesty International also calls for Maldivian authorities to guarantee humane conditions of detention, freedom from torture and other ill-treatment and access to free and fair trial for all persons imprisoned in the Maldives.”  

    November 21, 2018

    British national Matthew Hedges convicted of ‘spying’ in relation to his academic study

    ‘This is clearly an unsound conviction’ - Devin Kenney

    Commenting on news that Matthew Hedges, the British PhD student detained in the United Arab Emirates, has been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of spying, Amnesty International’s UAE researcher, Devin Kenney, said:

    “This is jarring and terrible news.

    “We’ve always had the gravest concerns about this case - from the long period that Matthew Hedges was in detention without access to a lawyer, the supposed confession in detention, and now the ludicrously short trial hearing today.

    “The proceedings against him have been grossly unfair and this is clearly an unsound conviction.

    “Mathew Hedges must be afforded his right to fair trial proceedings; otherwise, the UAE has no right to hold him and he should be released without delay.

    November 21, 2018

    A news editor facing a criminal investigation over an article that criticized the Singapore government is the latest victim of an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    Singapore police yesterday raided the home of Terry Xu, editor-in-chief of The Online Citizen (TOC) news site, and seized all his electronic equipment. Police informed him he was being investigated for criminal defamation over an article published on his website on 4 September. Authorities have also threatened action against the alleged author of the article, Willy Sum.

    “The targeting of Terry Xu and Willy Sum is a callous attempt by the authorities to silence and punish peaceful dissent. They are being persecuted solely for daring to publish content critical of the Singapore government,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East and South East Asia and the Pacific Regional Director.

    November 21, 2018

    The government of Canada must establish parliamentary oversight to ensure Canadian-made weapons will not be transferred to countries like Saudi Arabia, where there is a serious risk they will be used to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity and other grave human rights violations, say a group of arms control and human rights advocates.

    Project Ploughshares, the Rideau Institute, Oxfam-Québec, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and Amnesty International will testify before the Senate on Bill C-47, legislation that prepares Canada for accession to the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), starting Wednesday, November 21.

    While joining the ATT is a positive step for Canada, Bill C-47 is deeply flawed and fails to comply with the treaty’s essential objective to “establish the highest possible common international standards” for regulating the arms trade.

    The numerous shortcomings under Bill C-47 leave glaring loopholes in the country’s export permit process, as outlined in a briefing document that has been presented to Senators. Those include:

    November 20, 2018

    Thousands of digital activists around the world will take part in an innovative new crowdsourcing data project Amnesty International is launching today, which uses satellite imagery to help plot how the US-led military coalition’s bombings destroyed almost 80% of the Syrian city of Raqqa.

    “Strike Tracker” is the next phase of an in-depth Amnesty International investigation, in partnership with Airwars, into the shocking scale of civilian casualties resulting from four months of US, UK and French bombardment to oust the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) from Raqqa.

    Amnesty International’s field investigations and analysis since the battle ended in October 2017 presented compelling evidence of apparent violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by the US-led Coalition. They prompted the Coalition to revise its civilian death toll statistics upwards from 23 to more than 100 – a 300% increase.

    November 20, 2018

    The 17 November 2018 detention of Azerbaijani opposition leaders and activists as they were attempting to organize a peaceful rally in the capital Baku is a violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

    Azerbaijani police detained prominent opposition leaders and activists for attempting to organize what the authorities call an “unauthorised demonstration”. According to Amnesty International’s sources in Azerbaijan, police started to detain individuals as the opposition leaders began to organise a peaceful procession that included laying flowers at the Alley of Martyrs. The Alley of Martyrs is a national cemetery and memorial near Baku dedicated to those who lost their lives when Azerbaijan became independent from the Soviet Union and during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh (the breakaway region of Azerbaijan supported by Armenia).

    November 20, 2018

    Responding to the deaths of at least 40 people and the wounding of at least 60 in a bomb attack at a religious event in Kabul today, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich said:

    “This sickening attack once again lays bare the growing risks to civilians in Afghanistan, where a record number of civilians were killed in the first half of 2018 – many of them children.

    “Any attack in which civilians are deliberately targeted constitutes a war crime under international law, yet those killed in Kabul today will merely become another statistic.

    “Armed groups must immediately halt all attacks targeting civilians and indiscriminate attacks, while the Afghan government must make the protection of civilian lives its absolute priority.

    “This attack also once again highlights the irresponsibility of countries in the European Union who claim Afghanistan is a safe place for refugees and asylum seekers to be returned to.”

    No one has yet admitted responsibility for the blast.

    November 20, 2018

    In response to a court decision temporarily blocking the Trump administration from denying asylum to people seeking protection arriving between ports of entry, Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang issued this statement:

    “It is unlawful and cruel to deny protection to desperate families simply because they arrived between ports of entry, especially when we have seen many people being turned away even when presenting themselves at these ports.

    “This ruling is a temporary relief for thousands of families and reaffirms our responsibility to protect human rights. People who are fleeing violence and persecution have the right to seek safety. These are people just like you and me, except they are running for their lives. We must not abandon mothers, fathers, and children who have lost everything and are trying to rebuild their lives.”

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