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    November 27, 2018

    Amnesty launches global day of action against secretive “Project Dragonfly”

    Google’s plans to launch a censored search app in China could irreparably damage internet users’ trust in the tech company, Amnesty International said today, warning that going ahead with the app would set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.

    The organization has launched a global petition calling on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to drop the app, which is codenamed Project Dragonfly and would blacklist search terms like “human rights” and “Tiananmen Crackdown”. Following a public outcry from Google’s own workforce, Amnesty International is reaching out to the company’s staff through protests outside Google offices and targeted messages on LinkedIn calling on them to sign the petition. A spoof promotional video offering Google staff the chance to participate in Project Dragonfly ends with a twist on Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil – unless it’s profitable”. 

    November 26, 2018

    Responding to the news that a court in Chechnya has refused to release human rights defender Oyub Titiev on bail, Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, said:

    “The decision not to grant bail to Oyub Titiev once again demonstrates the political motivation of the case against him. He has committed no crime, having been jailed on completely fabricated drug charges, and must be released immediately and unconditionally.

    “In today’s hearing, all the defence’s arguments were dismissed without any proper consideration while the court accepted every one of the prosecution’s objections to the bail request.

    “This case is an affront to justice which highlights the Chechen government’s intolerance of opposing views and is further evidence that human rights defenders jailed in Chechnya cannot rely on the tools of justice to help them.”

    Background

    The Shali City Court today rejected Oyub Titiev’s bail request. The judge stated that the defence did not present enough evidence to mitigate the previous grounds for his arrest.

    November 26, 2018

    Responding to news that the detained British student Matthew Hedges has received a pardon in the UAE, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:

    “This is a huge relief and goes some way to righting a wrong after Matthew’s grossly unfair trial. Now Matthew needs to be speedily released and allowed to return to the UK.

    “Matthew should never have been jailed after such an unfair process, and he should never have been held in the miserable conditions of solitary confinement. A pardon doesn’t make up for this injustice.

    “Today’s news is a tribute to the tireless efforts of Matthew’s wife Daniela, who has bravely pushed the UK Government into taking action.

    “Matthew’s ordeal is a reminder that the UAE is a deeply repressive country which ruthlessly suppresses free speech and peaceful criticism, and we should spare a thought for Emirati prisoners of conscience like Ahmed Mansoor or Mohammed al-Roken who aren’t getting a pardon today.

    November 23, 2018

    Most European countries still do not recognize in law that sex without consent is rape, Amnesty International said on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, highlighting how flawed legislation and a dangerous culture of victim blaming is perpetuating impunity across Europe.

    In a briefing released today, Amnesty International analyses rape legislation in 31 countries. It found that only 8 of these countries have consent-based definitions of rape, while the vast majority only recognize rape when physical violence, threat or coercion is involved.

    “Although movements like #MeToo have inspired many women to speak out about their experiences, the sad fact is that rape remains hugely underreported in Europe. Women’s fear of not being believed is confirmed time and time again, as we see courageous survivors who do seek justice frequently failed by outdated and harmful definitions of rape in law and treated appallingly by justice officials,” said Anna Błuś, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Western Europe and Women’s Rights.

    November 23, 2018

    Responding to the suicide bomb attack on a crowded marketplace in Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that has left at least 25 dead and more than 50 injured, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director, Omar Waraich, said:

    “This was a horrific attack that shows utter contempt for human life. The attackers deliberately targeted a marketplace full of ordinary people on a busy Friday afternoon. It is a grim reminder of the threat that continues to be posed by armed groups who are prepared to kill large numbers of people to pursue their agenda. Such attacks, which flout fundamental principles of humanity, can never be justified.

    “The Pakistani authorities should hold the suspected perpetrators accountable through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. Their response to this appalling crime must prioritize justice for the victims and the protection of human rights and avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuses.”

    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:

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