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    May 25, 2018

    Responding to the news that blogger Merzoug Touati was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 50,000 Algerian dinar (approximately USD $430) for online posts, Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa Regional Director at Amnesty International, said:

    “It is utterly shocking that the Algerian authorities have imposed such a heavy sentence on someone solely for expressing his peaceful opinion online.

    “Merzoug Touati’s arrest, trial and sentence is further proof that freedom of expression remains under threat in Algeria, where the authorities continue to use a range of repressive laws to quell dissent.

    “As a citizen-journalist, Merzoug Touati has every right to document the world around him and the country he lives in.

    "Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Touati, a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully expressing his views on Facebook and YouTube."

    May 25, 2018

    Reacting to the decision of the House of Representatives on Friday to pass into law the revision of the anti-terrorism bill, Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said:

    “The newly-passed law contains a number of draconian articles that threaten to undermine human rights in Indonesia. The law erodes safeguards against arbitrary detention and against torture and other ill-treatment, as well as expanding the scope of the application of the death penalty. Plans to deploy the military in counter-terrorism operations are also deeply concerning.

    “The vagueness of some of the law’s wording could be used by authorities to restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly or misused to label peaceful political activities as terrorism. This lack of clarity violates the requirement under international human rights law that  criminal law must be formulated with enough precision for people to understand what conduct is prohibited.

    May 24, 2018

    Grave health impacts linked to fish from poisoned river

    A new health report by a renowned Canadian mercury expert provides the strongest evidence yet of mercury poisoning in this northern Ontario Indigenous community.  The community health survey finds that health and wellbeing in Grassy Narrows is significantly worse than in other First Nations and links fish eating to a wide range of grave impacts.  The government has yet to acknowledge even one case of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows, which is located downstream from the Dryden mill, one of Canada’s most notorious toxic dumping sites.  This is the first study of its kind in Grassy Narrows, and the most comprehensive assessment of the health of the community to date.

    “Our survey confirms what leaders of Grassy Narrows have been saying for decades,” said renowned environmental health scientist and lead author Dr. Donna Mergler.  “There are long term effects on health and well-being of eating the fish from Grassy Narrows lakes and rivers.”

    May 23, 2018

    In response to the Fianarantsoa Appeal Court’s decision to uphold a two-year suspended jail sentence against environmental human rights defender Raleva for questioning the legality of a Chinese gold mining company’s activities, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said:

    “By upholding the ludicrous charge of ‘using a false title’ against Raleva, the court has confirmed our worst fears that challenging big corporates is costly in Madagascar.

    “Raleva is not a criminal. This suspended sentence is designed to silence him and send a chilling message to other activists campaigning for human rights and the environment.

    “The Malagasy authorities should be protecting activists like Raleva, who are fighting to preserve the natural resources of the country for future generations, not misusing the courts to muzzle them. The sentence against Raleva must be quashed and all charges against him dropped.” 

    Background

    May 23, 2018

    Responding to news reports that more people have been detained in Saudi Arabia – bringing to 11 the number imprisoned since last week – Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East Director of Campaigns, said:

    “Amnesty International is extremely concerned following reports that yet more individuals and activists have been arrested in Saudi Arabia.

    “Despite the international outcry at last week’s arrests, authorities have responded with even more repression in a desperate attempt to silence dissent and feminist voices speaking up for human rights.

    “Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman presents himself as a ‘reformer’, but his promises are meaningless if those who fought for women’s right to drive are now all behind bars for peacefully campaigning for freedom of movement and equality.

    “We call on the authorities to reveal the whereabouts of these individuals and either charge them with a recognizable offence - or release them immediately.”

    Background

    May 23, 2018

    Sweden’s parliament will today vote on a bill which, if passed, will recognize in law that sex without consent is rape. Ahead of the vote, which is expected to be passed with a large majority, Anna Blus, Amnesty International’s Women’s Rights Researcher for Europe said:

    “Today’s vote will mark a huge victory for women’s rights activists in Sweden who have been campaigning tirelessly for this change for more than a decade. By refusing to stay silent, these activists have led the charge to end sexual violence, and politicians voting today should be guided by their courage.

    “Shockingly, this change in law will make Sweden only the tenth country in Europe to recognize that sex without consent is rape. Most European countries still define rape based on physical force, threat or coercion, and these outdated definitions have caused immeasurable harm. While there is still a great distance to travel, we are hopeful that today’s decision will herald a Europe-wide shift in legislation and in attitudes.”

    May 23, 2018

    The trial of an Algerian blogger who faces the death penalty on trumped-up espionage charges based on online posts is yet another stain on the country’s human rights record, Amnesty International said today ahead of the opening hearing on 24 May.

    Merzoug Touati faces charges relating to a Facebook post and YouTube video that authorities claim encouraged civil unrest. He has been in detention since January 2017.

    Amnesty International has reviewed the court documents which list as “evidence” the posts published by Touati before his Facebook account and website were deleted, and found that there was no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred, rather his posts were covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist. Amnesty International therefore considers Merzoug Touati a prisoner of conscience held solely for expressing his peaceful opinions.

    May 22, 2018

    Amnesty International has called for an immediate investigation into a deadly attack by a pro-government militia on an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Central Darfur, in which one woman was shot dead and at least 10 people injured.

    On 21 May, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a pro-government militia, on board of five pick-up trucks and armed with machine guns, attacked the IDP camp in the city of Zalingei. A 22-year-old woman was shot in the head and later died in hospital. Ten others, including children, sustained serious head, neck, arm and leg injuries. The reasons for the attack remain unclear.

    “The victims of this appalling attack were forced to flee from their homes by the violence that has plagued Darfur for years, and this camp was supposed to be a place of safety. Unless the perpetrators of gross human rights violations like this are brought to justice, the voluntary and safe return to home of Darfur’s displaced will remain a distant prospect,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa.

    May 22, 2018

    As the date draws near for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to fulfil its promise to lift restrictions on political activities in June 2018, in place since the military coup of 22 May 2014, Katherine Gerson, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on South East Asia, said:

    “The sweeping and wholly unjustified restrictions on human rights put in place by the NCPO in the wake of the coup were supposed to be exceptional and temporary measures. Four years on and countless abuses later, they remain firmly in place and are relentlessly deployed by authorities.

    “After backtracking on previous promises, it’s vital that the NCPO delivers on its pledge to lift restrictions on political activities by June. But, taken alone, this move goes nowhere near far enough.

    May 22, 2018

    Responding to the news that a Rohingya refugee has reportedly died on Manus Island, Kate Schuetze, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International said:

    “This is extremely sad and heartbreaking news. Amnesty International is extending our sincere condolences to the man’s family and friends.”

    “This tragic and avoidable death is the seventh death of a refugee on Manus Island and the tenth in connection with offshore processing centres on both Manus and Nauru. Australia’s reckless and cruel refugee policies continue to endanger lives and must end immediately.

    “The Australian Government knowingly sends refugees and asylum seekers to places that are unsafe and unsustainable. Enough is enough, offshore processing must end now before further lives are lost.

    “There must be an independent, impartial, prompt and effective investigation into his death, and the other two untimely deaths which happened in August and October last year. The Australian government must bring all refugees and people seeking asylum to Australia immediately, or to a safe third country, and offer them the protection they need and deserve.”

    May 22, 2018

    The five-year prison sentence against Tibetan language education activist Tashi Wangchuk for “inciting separatism” highlights the Chinese authorities’ unyielding assault on Tibetans who peacefully defend their cultural rights, Amnesty International said.

    Tashi was sentenced on Tuesday morning at Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, northwest China. According to his lawyer, the main evidence presented against Tashi at his trial in January 2018 was a short video documentary produced by The New York Times in 2015, which documented Tashi’s campaign for Tibetan language education in schools.

    May 18, 2018

    The Australian government is attempting to walk away from the human rights crisis it has created for refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) by winding back critical healthcare services, despite the ongoing plight of the people trapped in its offshore detention centres, Amnesty International said today.

    Over the past six months the Australian government has terminated trauma and counselling services for refugees and asylum seekers in PNG, and moved refugees to new detention centres where they have reduced access to healthcare.

    “Nearly five years after Australia began implementing its harmful and illegal offshore detention policy, the situation for refugees and asylum seekers trapped in PNG is as desperate as ever. Rolling back healthcare at this time is making a grave situation even worse,” said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher.

    May 18, 2018

    Responding to reports that several prominent women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia have been detained this week, Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “This is an extremely worrying development for women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

    “The Saudi Arabian authorities’ endless harassment of women’s rights defenders is entirely unjustifiable.

    “Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has presented himself as a ‘reformer’, but his promises of reform seem entirely superficial as the repression of human rights activists continues unabated.

    “Saudi Arabia cannot continue to publicly proclaim support for women’s rights and other reforms, while targeting women human rights defenders and activists for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    “We are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all activists that may still be detained solely for their human rights work.”

    May 18, 2018

    A harsh new property law implemented by the Syrian government effectively deprives thousands of people displaced by the ongoing conflict of their homes and lands and potentially destroys evidence of war crimes it has committed, Amnesty International said today.

    Passed in 2012, Legislative Decree 66 allows the Syrian government to demolish informal settlement areas in Damascus and Damascus Countryside to convert them into urban development zones with residential blocks, markets and public spaces. Under the new regulations passed in Law 10 in 2018, once a development zone has been designated, the authorities must publicly notify home and land owners, who have only 30 days to assemble the necessary paperwork and claim their property.

    May 17, 2018

    The Lebanese authorities’ disruption of activities planned for Beirut Pride Week is an outrageous attempt to deny the human rights of LGBTI people, Amnesty International said today. The authorities cancelled events within the program launched to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), and briefly arrested Beirut Pride Week’s organizer Hadi Damien.

    “The shutdown of Beirut Pride and the arrest of Hadi Damien is a blatant case of state harassment. The Lebanese authorities must stop cancelling events to celebrate LGBTI rights, and ensure freedom of expression and assembly for the LGBTI community.

    “They must also stop arresting those perceived to be LGBTI, and drop charges and release those who have been arrested under the draconian legislation of Article 534. Activists have been bravely struggling to repeal this legislation for over a decade. We hope that the newly-elected members of parliament will recognize this struggle, and move forward with finally repealing it.

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