Amnesty International

Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:53am
Headline Title:  Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos 11 April 2014

There are mounting fears over the fate of  a man who went missing 11 days ago after tweeting pictures of an attempted jail break in Abuja, Amnesty International said today as joined a twitter action on his behalf.

 

The man, identified by family members as Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi, has not been seen or heard from since 30 March after tweeting developments and images of fighting between Nigerian security forces and detainees trying to escape from the State Security Service (SSS) headquarters. He was reportedly working at an electrical sub-station within the nearby presidential compound when the fighting, which left 21 detainees dead, erupted.

 

“Nigerian security forces should immediately disclose the whereabouts and legal status of Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi. If he is in detention, Nigerian authorities must either charge him with a recognizably criminal offence or release him immediately,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa at Amnesty International.

 

Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi’s whereabouts are still unknown but witnesses reported that he was arrested by plainclothes armed men outside his office, raising fears the authorities have subjected him to an enforced disappearance, putting him at increased risk of torture or extrajudicial execution. The SSS has so far neither confirmed nor denied that they are detaining him.

 

Amnesty International spoke to Sanusi Onimisi, the missing man’s brother, who said Yusuf is the eldest of five siblings and had been working as a qualified electrical engineer.

 

"He has been arrested for 11 days without any information being given to the family. If the government treats people like this, who are the terrorists? Who is the threat? The family has been kept in darkness. If you are holding him or if there is to be a sentence of death, then tell the family,” said Sanusi Onimisi. 

 

Amnesty International has joined a twitter action launched by local activists, using the hashtag #FreeCiaxon, calling on the SSS to release Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi.

 

The SSS has launched an investigation into the attempted jailbreak in Abuja and alleges that the detainees were suspected Boko Haram members. However, the government has not yet given a full account of the incident.

 

In a report released in late March, the organization documented the Nigerian security forces’ alleged extrajudicial executions of more than 600 escaped detainees from Giwa Barracks, a military detention centre in Maiduguri.

 

There are mounting fears over the fate of  a man who went missing 11 days ago after tweeting pictures of an attempted jail break in Abuja, Amnesty International said today as joined a twitter action on his behalf.

Media Node:  Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi Twitter Tag:  FreeCiaxon Story Location:  Nigeria 9° 47' 32.7516" N, 4° 18' 23.9076" E “Nigerian security forces should immediately disclose the whereabouts and legal status of Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi. If he is in detention, the Nigerian authorities must either charge him with a recognizable criminal offence or release him immediately. ” Source:  Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa at Amnesty International. Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 “He has been arrested for 11 days without any information being given to the family. If the government treats people like this, who are the terrorists? Who is the threat? The family has been kept in darkness. If you are holding him or if there is to be a sentence of death, then tell the family. ” Source:  Sanusi Onimisi, brother of the disappeared man Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 URL:  Nigeria: War crimes and crimes against humanity as violence escalates in north-east Description:  News story, 31 March 2014 URL:  Nigeria: More than 1,500 killed in armed conflict in north-eastern Nigeria in early 2014 Description:  Report, 31 March 2014

Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:53am
Headline Title:  Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos 11 April 2014

There are mounting fears over the fate of  a man who went missing 11 days ago after tweeting pictures of an attempted jail break in Abuja, Amnesty International said today as joined a twitter action on his behalf.

 

The man, identified by family members as Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi, has not been seen or heard from since 30 March after tweeting developments and images of fighting between Nigerian security forces and detainees trying to escape from the State Security Service (SSS) headquarters. He was reportedly working at an electrical sub-station within the nearby presidential compound when the fighting, which left 21 detainees dead, erupted.

 

“Nigerian security forces should immediately disclose the whereabouts and legal status of Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi. If he is in detention, Nigerian authorities must either charge him with a recognizably criminal offence or release him immediately,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa at Amnesty International.

 

Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi’s whereabouts are still unknown but witnesses reported that he was arrested by plainclothes armed men outside his office, raising fears the authorities have subjected him to an enforced disappearance, putting him at increased risk of torture or extrajudicial execution. The SSS has so far neither confirmed nor denied that they are detaining him.

 

Amnesty International spoke to Sanusi Onimisi, the missing man’s brother, who said Yusuf is the eldest of five siblings and had been working as a qualified electrical engineer.

 

"He has been arrested for 11 days without any information being given to the family. If the government treats people like this, who are the terrorists? Who is the threat? The family has been kept in darkness. If you are holding him or if there is to be a sentence of death, then tell the family,” said Sanusi Onimisi. 

 

Amnesty International has joined a twitter action launched by local activists, using the hashtag #FreeCiaxon, calling on the SSS to release Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi.

 

The SSS has launched an investigation into the attempted jailbreak in Abuja and alleges that the detainees were suspected Boko Haram members. However, the government has not yet given a full account of the incident.

 

In a report released in late March, the organization documented the Nigerian security forces’ alleged extrajudicial executions of more than 600 escaped detainees from Giwa Barracks, a military detention centre in Maiduguri.

 

There are mounting fears over the fate of  a man who went missing 11 days ago after tweeting pictures of an attempted jail break in Abuja, Amnesty International said today as joined a twitter action on his behalf.

Media Node:  Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi Twitter Tag:  FreeCiaxon Story Location:  Nigeria 9° 47' 32.7516" N, 4° 18' 23.9076" E “Nigerian security forces should immediately disclose the whereabouts and legal status of Yusuf Siyaka Onimisi. If he is in detention, the Nigerian authorities must either charge him with a recognizable criminal offence or release him immediately. ” Source:  Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa at Amnesty International. Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 “He has been arrested for 11 days without any information being given to the family. If the government treats people like this, who are the terrorists? Who is the threat? The family has been kept in darkness. If you are holding him or if there is to be a sentence of death, then tell the family. ” Source:  Sanusi Onimisi, brother of the disappeared man Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 URL:  Nigeria: War crimes and crimes against humanity as violence escalates in north-east Description:  News story, 31 March 2014 URL:  Nigeria: More than 1,500 killed in armed conflict in north-eastern Nigeria in early 2014 Description:  Report, 31 March 2014

China: Rejection of detained activist’s appeal makes a “mockery of justice”

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:40pm
11 April 2014

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International.

A court in Beijing on Friday rejected Xu Zhiyong’s appeal against his conviction in January for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”

“Today’s ruling makes a mockery of justice as the decision was a foregone conclusion. The shock would have been if the appeals court had overturned the guilty verdict.  Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement.”

The trial of two other activists linked to the New Citizens Movement began on Tuesday before being postponed after their lawyers walked out of the court in protest at what they perceived as unfair proceedings. 

Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were also charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order in a public space". Another activist, Zhao Changqing was tried on Thursday on the same charge.

Background 

Dozens of people linked to the New Citizens Movement – however tenuously – have been detained over the past year. Several of these activists have already been prosecuted simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.

A highly regarded legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, wrote an article in May 2012 titled China Needs a New Citizens Movement, which is credited with spurring a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

Suggested activities for “New Citizens” include: practicing “New Citizen Responsibility” by rejecting corruption and by doing good for society; participating in civic life by holding meetings to discuss the political situation; helping the weak; and uniting to share and coordinate work.

 

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice.

Media Node:  Xu Zhiyong Twitter Tag:  newcitizensmovement Story Location:  China “Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights.” Source:  William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 URL:  China: Xu Zhiyong four year jail sentence “shameful Description:  News story, 26 January 2014 URL:  China: Hypocritical crackdown on anti-corruption campaigners Description:  News story, 24 January 2014

China: Rejection of detained activist’s appeal makes a “mockery of justice”

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:40pm
11 April 2014

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International.

A court in Beijing on Friday rejected Xu Zhiyong’s appeal against his conviction in January for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”

“Today’s ruling makes a mockery of justice as the decision was a foregone conclusion. The shock would have been if the appeals court had overturned the guilty verdict.  Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement.”

The trial of two other activists linked to the New Citizens Movement began on Tuesday before being postponed after their lawyers walked out of the court in protest at what they perceived as unfair proceedings. 

Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were also charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order in a public space". Another activist, Zhao Changqing was tried on Thursday on the same charge.

Background 

Dozens of people linked to the New Citizens Movement – however tenuously – have been detained over the past year. Several of these activists have already been prosecuted simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.

A highly regarded legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, wrote an article in May 2012 titled China Needs a New Citizens Movement, which is credited with spurring a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

Suggested activities for “New Citizens” include: practicing “New Citizen Responsibility” by rejecting corruption and by doing good for society; participating in civic life by holding meetings to discuss the political situation; helping the weak; and uniting to share and coordinate work.

 

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice.

Media Node:  Xu Zhiyong Twitter Tag:  newcitizensmovement Story Location:  China “Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights.” Source:  William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 URL:  China: Xu Zhiyong four year jail sentence “shameful Description:  News story, 26 January 2014 URL:  China: Hypocritical crackdown on anti-corruption campaigners Description:  News story, 24 January 2014

China: Rejection of detained activist’s appeal makes a “mockery of justice”

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:40pm
11 April 2014

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International.

A court in Beijing on Friday rejected Xu Zhiyong’s appeal against his conviction in January for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”

“Today’s ruling makes a mockery of justice as the decision was a foregone conclusion. The shock would have been if the appeals court had overturned the guilty verdict.  Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement.”

The trial of two other activists linked to the New Citizens Movement began on Tuesday before being postponed after their lawyers walked out of the court in protest at what they perceived as unfair proceedings. 

Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were also charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order in a public space". Another activist, Zhao Changqing was tried on Thursday on the same charge.

Background 

Dozens of people linked to the New Citizens Movement – however tenuously – have been detained over the past year. Several of these activists have already been prosecuted simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.

A highly regarded legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, wrote an article in May 2012 titled China Needs a New Citizens Movement, which is credited with spurring a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

Suggested activities for “New Citizens” include: practicing “New Citizen Responsibility” by rejecting corruption and by doing good for society; participating in civic life by holding meetings to discuss the political situation; helping the weak; and uniting to share and coordinate work.

 

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice.

Media Node:  Xu Zhiyong Twitter Tag:  newcitizensmovement Story Location:  China “Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights.” Source:  William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 URL:  China: Xu Zhiyong four year jail sentence “shameful Description:  News story, 26 January 2014 URL:  China: Hypocritical crackdown on anti-corruption campaigners Description:  News story, 24 January 2014

China: Rejection of detained activist’s appeal makes a “mockery of justice”

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:40pm
11 April 2014

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International.

A court in Beijing on Friday rejected Xu Zhiyong’s appeal against his conviction in January for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”

“Today’s ruling makes a mockery of justice as the decision was a foregone conclusion. The shock would have been if the appeals court had overturned the guilty verdict.  Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement.”

The trial of two other activists linked to the New Citizens Movement began on Tuesday before being postponed after their lawyers walked out of the court in protest at what they perceived as unfair proceedings. 

Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were also charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order in a public space". Another activist, Zhao Changqing was tried on Thursday on the same charge.

Background 

Dozens of people linked to the New Citizens Movement – however tenuously – have been detained over the past year. Several of these activists have already been prosecuted simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.

A highly regarded legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, wrote an article in May 2012 titled China Needs a New Citizens Movement, which is credited with spurring a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

Suggested activities for “New Citizens” include: practicing “New Citizen Responsibility” by rejecting corruption and by doing good for society; participating in civic life by holding meetings to discuss the political situation; helping the weak; and uniting to share and coordinate work.

 

A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice.

Media Node:  Xu Zhiyong Twitter Tag:  newcitizensmovement Story Location:  China “Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights.” Source:  William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014 URL:  China: Xu Zhiyong four year jail sentence “shameful Description:  News story, 26 January 2014 URL:  China: Hypocritical crackdown on anti-corruption campaigners Description:  News story, 24 January 2014

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 6:22am
Headline Title:  UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights 11 April 2014

 

The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year. 

 

In a report to the Security Council UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for independent, impartial and sustained human rights monitoring in the territory and Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. 

“Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York. 

 

“In the absence of an independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained human rights monitoring, parties are allowed to trade accusations of rights abuses which fuel the tension as violations go unaddressed. 

 

“A continued clampdown has left human rights defenders powerless to effectively document rampant violations in Western Sahara. Maintaining a peacekeeping force with a limited mandate is no longer an option.” 

 

The UN Security Council is due to extend the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at the end of April 2014. It is the only modern UN peacekeeping operation without a human rights component. 

 

In the year since the mandate was last renewed, the Moroccan authorities have continued to stifle dissent, placing restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful protests and civil society. Peaceful demonstrations are routinely banned or violently dispersed. Amnesty International has documented cases of activists and protesters being tortured and otherwise ill-treated in police custody following demonstrations calling for MINURSO to adopt a human rights mandate in 2014. 

 

Human rights defenders and activists in Western Sahara also face numerous restrictions on their work, including harassment and relentless surveillance by security forces, while authorities continue to obstruct the registration of local human rights associations. 

 

“If Morocco wishes to prove it is serious about respecting its international obligations, it must end the harassment or intimidation of activists and stop blocking independent human rights monitoring by both local groups and the UN,” said Salil Shetty. 

Given the political sensitivities surrounding the unresolved dispute over the territory annexed by Morocco in 1975, impartial and sustained monitoring by MINURSO could be crucial. On 8 November 2010, violence erupted as Moroccan security forces forcibly dismantled of a peaceful protest camp in Gdim Izik, near Laayoune, leaving 11 members of the Moroccan security forces and two Sahrawis dead. Moroccan authorities failed to independently and impartially investigate the events. Twenty-five Sahrawi civilians were later convicted by a military court for their alleged role in the violence and given heavy prison terms, including nine life sentences. The prisoners also spent two years in pre-trial detention during which they reported being tortured and otherwise ill-treated, before being unfairly convicted on the basis of forced “confessions”. 

 

An expanded MINURSO mandate could also help ensure an independent investigation is carried out into the deaths of 11 Sahrawis forcibly disappeared in 1976. Their remains were discovered and exhumed last year by an independent forensic team whose findings suggest the 11 were extrajudicially executed by Moroccan armed forces at the time. 

“MINURSO could play a valuable role in preserving forensic evidence and paving the way for independent and impartial investigations into incidents such as enforced disappearances,” said Salil Shetty. 

The Polisario Front, for its part, has also failed to take steps to end impunity for those accused of committing human rights abuses in the 1970s and 1980s in the camps under its control, where no independent human rights organizations currently operate. 

Establishing an independent and impartial human rights monitoring body could also contribute to helping the Polisario Front and the Moroccan authorities overcome their mutual mistrust fuelled by allegations of human rights abuses and help build an environment conducive to fruitful political negotiations. 

 

Background 

 

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established in 1991 in the territory annexed by Morocco in 1975 as well as Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf in south-western Algeria. Its mandate has been to monitor a ceasefire between the Moroccan armed forces and the Polisario Front, as well as to implement a referendum to determine Western Sahara’s final status. 

The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year. 

Media Node:  ws Twitter Tag:  morocco Story Location:  United Kingdom 21° 27' 29.4516" N, 15° 22' 51.0924" W See map: Google Maps “Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations ” Source:  Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 6:22am
Headline Title:  UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights 11 April 2014

 

The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year. 

 

In a report to the Security Council UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for independent, impartial and sustained human rights monitoring in the territory and Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. 

“Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York. 

 

“In the absence of an independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained human rights monitoring, parties are allowed to trade accusations of rights abuses which fuel the tension as violations go unaddressed. 

 

“A continued clampdown has left human rights defenders powerless to effectively document rampant violations in Western Sahara. Maintaining a peacekeeping force with a limited mandate is no longer an option.” 

 

The UN Security Council is due to extend the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at the end of April 2014. It is the only modern UN peacekeeping operation without a human rights component. 

 

In the year since the mandate was last renewed, the Moroccan authorities have continued to stifle dissent, placing restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful protests and civil society. Peaceful demonstrations are routinely banned or violently dispersed. Amnesty International has documented cases of activists and protesters being tortured and otherwise ill-treated in police custody following demonstrations calling for MINURSO to adopt a human rights mandate in 2014. 

 

Human rights defenders and activists in Western Sahara also face numerous restrictions on their work, including harassment and relentless surveillance by security forces, while authorities continue to obstruct the registration of local human rights associations. 

 

“If Morocco wishes to prove it is serious about respecting its international obligations, it must end the harassment or intimidation of activists and stop blocking independent human rights monitoring by both local groups and the UN,” said Salil Shetty. 

Given the political sensitivities surrounding the unresolved dispute over the territory annexed by Morocco in 1975, impartial and sustained monitoring by MINURSO could be crucial. On 8 November 2010, violence erupted as Moroccan security forces forcibly dismantled of a peaceful protest camp in Gdim Izik, near Laayoune, leaving 11 members of the Moroccan security forces and two Sahrawis dead. Moroccan authorities failed to independently and impartially investigate the events. Twenty-five Sahrawi civilians were later convicted by a military court for their alleged role in the violence and given heavy prison terms, including nine life sentences. The prisoners also spent two years in pre-trial detention during which they reported being tortured and otherwise ill-treated, before being unfairly convicted on the basis of forced “confessions”. 

 

An expanded MINURSO mandate could also help ensure an independent investigation is carried out into the deaths of 11 Sahrawis forcibly disappeared in 1976. Their remains were discovered and exhumed last year by an independent forensic team whose findings suggest the 11 were extrajudicially executed by Moroccan armed forces at the time. 

“MINURSO could play a valuable role in preserving forensic evidence and paving the way for independent and impartial investigations into incidents such as enforced disappearances,” said Salil Shetty. 

The Polisario Front, for its part, has also failed to take steps to end impunity for those accused of committing human rights abuses in the 1970s and 1980s in the camps under its control, where no independent human rights organizations currently operate. 

Establishing an independent and impartial human rights monitoring body could also contribute to helping the Polisario Front and the Moroccan authorities overcome their mutual mistrust fuelled by allegations of human rights abuses and help build an environment conducive to fruitful political negotiations. 

 

Background 

 

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established in 1991 in the territory annexed by Morocco in 1975 as well as Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf in south-western Algeria. Its mandate has been to monitor a ceasefire between the Moroccan armed forces and the Polisario Front, as well as to implement a referendum to determine Western Sahara’s final status. 

The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year. 

Media Node:  ws Twitter Tag:  morocco Story Location:  United Kingdom 21° 27' 29.4516" N, 15° 22' 51.0924" W See map: Google Maps “Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations ” Source:  Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 6:22am
Headline Title:  UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights 11 April 2014

 

The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year. 

 

In a report to the Security Council UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for independent, impartial and sustained human rights monitoring in the territory and Sahrawi refugee camps in southern Algeria. 

“Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York. 

 

“In the absence of an independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained human rights monitoring, parties are allowed to trade accusations of rights abuses which fuel the tension as violations go unaddressed. 

 

“A continued clampdown has left human rights defenders powerless to effectively document rampant violations in Western Sahara. Maintaining a peacekeeping force with a limited mandate is no longer an option.” 

 

The UN Security Council is due to extend the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at the end of April 2014. It is the only modern UN peacekeeping operation without a human rights component. 

 

In the year since the mandate was last renewed, the Moroccan authorities have continued to stifle dissent, placing restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful protests and civil society. Peaceful demonstrations are routinely banned or violently dispersed. Amnesty International has documented cases of activists and protesters being tortured and otherwise ill-treated in police custody following demonstrations calling for MINURSO to adopt a human rights mandate in 2014. 

 

Human rights defenders and activists in Western Sahara also face numerous restrictions on their work, including harassment and relentless surveillance by security forces, while authorities continue to obstruct the registration of local human rights associations. 

 

“If Morocco wishes to prove it is serious about respecting its international obligations, it must end the harassment or intimidation of activists and stop blocking independent human rights monitoring by both local groups and the UN,” said Salil Shetty. 

Given the political sensitivities surrounding the unresolved dispute over the territory annexed by Morocco in 1975, impartial and sustained monitoring by MINURSO could be crucial. On 8 November 2010, violence erupted as Moroccan security forces forcibly dismantled of a peaceful protest camp in Gdim Izik, near Laayoune, leaving 11 members of the Moroccan security forces and two Sahrawis dead. Moroccan authorities failed to independently and impartially investigate the events. Twenty-five Sahrawi civilians were later convicted by a military court for their alleged role in the violence and given heavy prison terms, including nine life sentences. The prisoners also spent two years in pre-trial detention during which they reported being tortured and otherwise ill-treated, before being unfairly convicted on the basis of forced “confessions”. 

 

An expanded MINURSO mandate could also help ensure an independent investigation is carried out into the deaths of 11 Sahrawis forcibly disappeared in 1976. Their remains were discovered and exhumed last year by an independent forensic team whose findings suggest the 11 were extrajudicially executed by Moroccan armed forces at the time. 

“MINURSO could play a valuable role in preserving forensic evidence and paving the way for independent and impartial investigations into incidents such as enforced disappearances,” said Salil Shetty. 

The Polisario Front, for its part, has also failed to take steps to end impunity for those accused of committing human rights abuses in the 1970s and 1980s in the camps under its control, where no independent human rights organizations currently operate. 

Establishing an independent and impartial human rights monitoring body could also contribute to helping the Polisario Front and the Moroccan authorities overcome their mutual mistrust fuelled by allegations of human rights abuses and help build an environment conducive to fruitful political negotiations. 

 

Background 

 

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established in 1991 in the territory annexed by Morocco in 1975 as well as Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf in south-western Algeria. Its mandate has been to monitor a ceasefire between the Moroccan armed forces and the Polisario Front, as well as to implement a referendum to determine Western Sahara’s final status. 

The UN Security Council must expand the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara to include sustained human rights monitoring, said Amnesty International, amid clampdowns on peaceful protests and reports of activists tortured in custody during the past year. 

Media Node:  ws Twitter Tag:  morocco Story Location:  United Kingdom 21° 27' 29.4516" N, 15° 22' 51.0924" W See map: Google Maps “Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations ” Source:  Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014

Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:05am
Headline Title:  Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists 09 April 2014

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive”, Amnesty International said ahead of the trio’s latest trial hearing.

Al Jazeera English staff Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with five Egyptian students, stand accused of belonging to or assisting a banned terrorist organization -, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial resumes on 10 April.

“What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director. 

“So far, the Prosecution has failed to produce any convincing evidence and the journalists appear to be pawns in the hands of the authorities in their ongoing dispute with Qatar. The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

The men have been detained since 29 December 2013, when security forces arrested Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste at the Marriott Hotel in Cairo and Baher Mohamed at his home. 

The five Egyptian students were arrested two days later. 

At their last hearing on 31 March, the judge ordered forensic experts to examine three of the students, after they alleged security forces had beaten them during their arrest.

The authorities are also denying Mohamed Fahmy adequate medical treatment for a shoulder injury sustained in the days before his arrest. 

The journalist has a fractured bone in his arm and his condition has worsened considerably due to lack of adequate medical care and the poor prison conditions he has endured, including over a month spent in the maximum-security Scorpion Prison after his arrest.

“This trial is nothing more than posturing by the authorities to gain public support,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“This farce must end and the charges against the three men must be dropped.”

Media crackdown

The trial has come amid a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on the Al Jazeera network, as well as other media seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

It has also played out against the backdrop of worsening relations between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

Security forces filmed the arrest of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste and the video was later screened on Egyptian television, apparently in an attempt to smear the men. 

The arrests sparked an international outcry from media organizations, as well as a statement by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 31 January, which expressed concern over what it called “the systematic targeting of Al Jazeera staff” and the wider situation facing journalists and other media workers in Egypt.

In March 2014, Egypt’s president wrote to the families of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, stating he will spare no effort to quickly resolve the situation.   

“Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative on their reporting. These arbitrary restrictions on expression violate Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

However, there is little sign of an end to the men’s ordeal. The judge hearing the case has denied the men bail. 

In the nine months since Mohamed Morsi’s ousting, Al Jazeera has reported a number of incidents where security forces have arrested its staff or raided its offices. 

The authorities are continuing to detain Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah al-Shami, arrested on 14 August 2013. He has been on hunger strike since mid-January 2014. The journalist has faced harassment by the security forces, both during his arrest for his work and in detention.  

An administrative court banned Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel, Mubasher Misr, on 3 September 2013, along with three other channels seen as supporting Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The authorities are also continuing a wider crackdown on dissent, targeting both the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters as well as other opposition activists critical of the authorities.

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive", said Amnesty International.

Media Node:  ajaz Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 27° 59' 57.3072" N, 30° 35' 9.3768" E See map: Google Maps “Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui URL:  Journalism is not a crime Description:  Blog, 5 March 2014 URL:  Egypt: End military trial of journalists Description:  News story, 25 February 2014 URL:  Grave risk to media freedom in Egypt as journalists face ‘terror charges’ Description:  News story, 29 January 2014

Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:05am
Headline Title:  Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists 09 April 2014

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive”, Amnesty International said ahead of the trio’s latest trial hearing.

Al Jazeera English staff Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with five Egyptian students, stand accused of belonging to or assisting a banned terrorist organization -, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial resumes on 10 April.

“What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director. 

“So far, the Prosecution has failed to produce any convincing evidence and the journalists appear to be pawns in the hands of the authorities in their ongoing dispute with Qatar. The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

The men have been detained since 29 December 2013, when security forces arrested Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste at the Marriott Hotel in Cairo and Baher Mohamed at his home. 

The five Egyptian students were arrested two days later. 

At their last hearing on 31 March, the judge ordered forensic experts to examine three of the students, after they alleged security forces had beaten them during their arrest.

The authorities are also denying Mohamed Fahmy adequate medical treatment for a shoulder injury sustained in the days before his arrest. 

The journalist has a fractured bone in his arm and his condition has worsened considerably due to lack of adequate medical care and the poor prison conditions he has endured, including over a month spent in the maximum-security Scorpion Prison after his arrest.

“This trial is nothing more than posturing by the authorities to gain public support,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“This farce must end and the charges against the three men must be dropped.”

Media crackdown

The trial has come amid a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on the Al Jazeera network, as well as other media seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

It has also played out against the backdrop of worsening relations between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

Security forces filmed the arrest of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste and the video was later screened on Egyptian television, apparently in an attempt to smear the men. 

The arrests sparked an international outcry from media organizations, as well as a statement by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 31 January, which expressed concern over what it called “the systematic targeting of Al Jazeera staff” and the wider situation facing journalists and other media workers in Egypt.

In March 2014, Egypt’s president wrote to the families of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, stating he will spare no effort to quickly resolve the situation.   

“Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative on their reporting. These arbitrary restrictions on expression violate Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

However, there is little sign of an end to the men’s ordeal. The judge hearing the case has denied the men bail. 

In the nine months since Mohamed Morsi’s ousting, Al Jazeera has reported a number of incidents where security forces have arrested its staff or raided its offices. 

The authorities are continuing to detain Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah al-Shami, arrested on 14 August 2013. He has been on hunger strike since mid-January 2014. The journalist has faced harassment by the security forces, both during his arrest for his work and in detention.  

An administrative court banned Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel, Mubasher Misr, on 3 September 2013, along with three other channels seen as supporting Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The authorities are also continuing a wider crackdown on dissent, targeting both the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters as well as other opposition activists critical of the authorities.

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive", said Amnesty International.

Media Node:  ajaz Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 27° 59' 57.3072" N, 30° 35' 9.3768" E See map: Google Maps “Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui URL:  Journalism is not a crime Description:  Blog, 5 March 2014 URL:  Egypt: End military trial of journalists Description:  News story, 25 February 2014 URL:  Grave risk to media freedom in Egypt as journalists face ‘terror charges’ Description:  News story, 29 January 2014

Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:05am
Headline Title:  Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists 09 April 2014

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive”, Amnesty International said ahead of the trio’s latest trial hearing.

Al Jazeera English staff Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with five Egyptian students, stand accused of belonging to or assisting a banned terrorist organization -, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial resumes on 10 April.

“What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director. 

“So far, the Prosecution has failed to produce any convincing evidence and the journalists appear to be pawns in the hands of the authorities in their ongoing dispute with Qatar. The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

The men have been detained since 29 December 2013, when security forces arrested Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste at the Marriott Hotel in Cairo and Baher Mohamed at his home. 

The five Egyptian students were arrested two days later. 

At their last hearing on 31 March, the judge ordered forensic experts to examine three of the students, after they alleged security forces had beaten them during their arrest.

The authorities are also denying Mohamed Fahmy adequate medical treatment for a shoulder injury sustained in the days before his arrest. 

The journalist has a fractured bone in his arm and his condition has worsened considerably due to lack of adequate medical care and the poor prison conditions he has endured, including over a month spent in the maximum-security Scorpion Prison after his arrest.

“This trial is nothing more than posturing by the authorities to gain public support,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“This farce must end and the charges against the three men must be dropped.”

Media crackdown

The trial has come amid a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on the Al Jazeera network, as well as other media seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

It has also played out against the backdrop of worsening relations between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

Security forces filmed the arrest of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste and the video was later screened on Egyptian television, apparently in an attempt to smear the men. 

The arrests sparked an international outcry from media organizations, as well as a statement by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 31 January, which expressed concern over what it called “the systematic targeting of Al Jazeera staff” and the wider situation facing journalists and other media workers in Egypt.

In March 2014, Egypt’s president wrote to the families of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, stating he will spare no effort to quickly resolve the situation.   

“Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative on their reporting. These arbitrary restrictions on expression violate Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

However, there is little sign of an end to the men’s ordeal. The judge hearing the case has denied the men bail. 

In the nine months since Mohamed Morsi’s ousting, Al Jazeera has reported a number of incidents where security forces have arrested its staff or raided its offices. 

The authorities are continuing to detain Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah al-Shami, arrested on 14 August 2013. He has been on hunger strike since mid-January 2014. The journalist has faced harassment by the security forces, both during his arrest for his work and in detention.  

An administrative court banned Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel, Mubasher Misr, on 3 September 2013, along with three other channels seen as supporting Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The authorities are also continuing a wider crackdown on dissent, targeting both the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters as well as other opposition activists critical of the authorities.

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive", said Amnesty International.

Media Node:  ajaz Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 27° 59' 57.3072" N, 30° 35' 9.3768" E See map: Google Maps “Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui URL:  Journalism is not a crime Description:  Blog, 5 March 2014 URL:  Egypt: End military trial of journalists Description:  News story, 25 February 2014 URL:  Grave risk to media freedom in Egypt as journalists face ‘terror charges’ Description:  News story, 29 January 2014

Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:05am
Headline Title:  Egypt must end 'vindictive' detention of Al Jazeera journalists 09 April 2014

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive”, Amnesty International said ahead of the trio’s latest trial hearing.

Al Jazeera English staff Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with five Egyptian students, stand accused of belonging to or assisting a banned terrorist organization -, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial resumes on 10 April.

“What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director. 

“So far, the Prosecution has failed to produce any convincing evidence and the journalists appear to be pawns in the hands of the authorities in their ongoing dispute with Qatar. The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

The men have been detained since 29 December 2013, when security forces arrested Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste at the Marriott Hotel in Cairo and Baher Mohamed at his home. 

The five Egyptian students were arrested two days later. 

At their last hearing on 31 March, the judge ordered forensic experts to examine three of the students, after they alleged security forces had beaten them during their arrest.

The authorities are also denying Mohamed Fahmy adequate medical treatment for a shoulder injury sustained in the days before his arrest. 

The journalist has a fractured bone in his arm and his condition has worsened considerably due to lack of adequate medical care and the poor prison conditions he has endured, including over a month spent in the maximum-security Scorpion Prison after his arrest.

“This trial is nothing more than posturing by the authorities to gain public support,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“This farce must end and the charges against the three men must be dropped.”

Media crackdown

The trial has come amid a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on the Al Jazeera network, as well as other media seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

It has also played out against the backdrop of worsening relations between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

Security forces filmed the arrest of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste and the video was later screened on Egyptian television, apparently in an attempt to smear the men. 

The arrests sparked an international outcry from media organizations, as well as a statement by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 31 January, which expressed concern over what it called “the systematic targeting of Al Jazeera staff” and the wider situation facing journalists and other media workers in Egypt.

In March 2014, Egypt’s president wrote to the families of Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, stating he will spare no effort to quickly resolve the situation.   

“Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative on their reporting. These arbitrary restrictions on expression violate Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

However, there is little sign of an end to the men’s ordeal. The judge hearing the case has denied the men bail. 

In the nine months since Mohamed Morsi’s ousting, Al Jazeera has reported a number of incidents where security forces have arrested its staff or raided its offices. 

The authorities are continuing to detain Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah al-Shami, arrested on 14 August 2013. He has been on hunger strike since mid-January 2014. The journalist has faced harassment by the security forces, both during his arrest for his work and in detention.  

An administrative court banned Al Jazeera’s Egyptian channel, Mubasher Misr, on 3 September 2013, along with three other channels seen as supporting Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The authorities are also continuing a wider crackdown on dissent, targeting both the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters as well as other opposition activists critical of the authorities.

Egypt’s continued detention of three Al Jazeera journalists charged with falsifying news and involvement with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement is “vindictive", said Amnesty International.

Media Node:  ajaz Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 27° 59' 57.3072" N, 30° 35' 9.3768" E See map: Google Maps “Interim President Adly Mansour is presiding over a campaign of intimidation against journalists and activists, who are being targeted just for challenging the authorities’ narrative.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui URL:  Journalism is not a crime Description:  Blog, 5 March 2014 URL:  Egypt: End military trial of journalists Description:  News story, 25 February 2014 URL:  Grave risk to media freedom in Egypt as journalists face ‘terror charges’ Description:  News story, 29 January 2014

Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:42am
Headline Title:  Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis 09 April 2014

Background

The Seleka militia (meaning “alliance” in Sango, the national language) was responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the course of 2013. After a murderous rampage that started in the north-east, the Seleka spread out across the country, seizing the capital Bangui and ousting then-President François Bozizé in March 2013. Over the following 10 months, Seleka forces killed countless civilians, burned numerous villages, and looted thousands of homes. (See Amnesty International, CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control, AFR 19/003/2013.)

 

The arbitrary and abusive nature of the Seleka’s rule helped give rise to the current high level of sectarian hostility. The majority of the country’s population is Christian, as was former President Bozizé. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia, who served as the country’s transitional president until 10 January 2014, is Muslim, as are most members of the Seleka forces.

 

Seleka abuses spurred the emergence of the loosely organized “anti-balaka” militia (“machete proof” in Sango), made up of Christians and animists opposed to Seleka rule. In the last four months of 2013, anti-balaka fighters carried out horrific attacks on Muslim communities, particularly in CAR’s northwest, including on many villages around the town of Bossangoa.

 

A daring 5 December 2013 anti-balaka attack on Bangui led to an explosion of violence, tearing whatever was left of the country’s social fabric. After the Seleka forces managed to repel the anti-balaka offensive they carried out an extensive series of reprisal attacks against Christians in the city. Although the Seleka in some cases claimed to be pursuing anti-balaka militants, they did not make a meaningful effort to distinguish between militants and non-militants, killing between 800 to 1,200 people, primarily civilian men.

 

French military forces with a UN mandate began their deployment in CAR during the early December violence, joining a small African-led peacekeeping force that was already deployed there. They are due to be joined in the near future by up to 1,000 European Union troops, which will hand over to a larger UN peacekeeping mission in September 2014.

 

How has the situation in CAR evolved since January 2014?

 

The situation in CAR changed significantly after the resignation of President Michel Djotodia on 10 January 2014, and the election of a new interim president, Catherine Samba Panza soon after.

 

As soon as Djotodia left office, Seleka forces began to withdraw from their outposts across the country. In town after town, when the Seleka left, the anti-balaka militia moved in and launched violent attacks against the Muslim minority. Because international peacekeeping forces were extremely slow to deploy across the country, the field was open to the anti-balaka to assert their power and authority. They killed many hundreds of Muslim civilians, sometimes in large-scale massacres, looted Muslim homes and shops, and burned and destroyed mosques. Among their victims were women and young children; in some cases entire families were killed. Their stated goal was to rid the country of Muslims forever.

 

Anti-balaka fighters are now the main perpetrators of violence, especially in Bangui and in the western third of the country. Seleka forces that retreated to the north also continue to commit serious human rights abuses in the territory under their control. There is currently no functioning justice system in CAR, with little or no possibility of police investigations, court proceedings, and incarceration, resulting in total impunity for human rights violations.

 

Recent months have witnessed massive ethnic cleansing: a forced exodus of tens of thousands of Muslim civilians to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Much of this newly-created refugee population is living in makeshift camps where conditions are dire. 

 

The few thousand Muslims who remain in the capital and the western part of the country (where they used to represent about 15 percent of the population) are nearly all displaced. Many are taking refuge in churches, and most are waiting for evacuation, fearing attacks by anti-balaka fighters. 

 

There are still more than 650,000 internally displaced people inside CAR. Thousands of houses have been looted and burnt, leaving many people – Christians and Muslims alike – without a home to return to. 

 

Is it a religious conflict?

 

Civilians are being targeted along religious lines, but not because of their religious beliefs or practices. Although different religious communities lived peacefully together for generations, intermarrying and living in mixed neighbourhoods, mistrust and even hatred now separates many members of different religious communities. Religion is viewed as a critical indicator of one’s loyalties to the country’s different armed groups. 

 

Not all Christians and Muslims have embraced sectarian hatred. Indeed, many Muslim civilians have been protected by their Christian neighbours, or have sought – and found – protection in churches and Catholic missions. In addition, some Christians, especially women who married Muslim men, have been threatened and harmed by the anti-balaka militia.

 

Amnesty International has characterized the forced expulsion of Muslims from CAR as “ethnic cleansing”. (See CAR: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings in the Central African Republic, AFR 19/004/2014.) Although the term does not have a formal definition under international law, a UN Commission of Experts has defined it as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”  The anti-balaka militia groups each operate under a local command but with the common objective of ridding the country of its Muslim population. These acts can constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

How are the new transitional authorities dealing with armed groups?

 

The new government, led by President Catherine Samba-Panza, includes some representatives of the Seleka and anti-balaka militias. Negotiations are ongoing between the government and militia leaders. This has led to various splits among both armed groups, especially on the question of disarmament. 

 

About 8,000 Seleka fighters are still cantoned (but not yet disarmed) in military camps in Bangui and are expecting to benefit from a Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. While some anti-balaka are willing to disarm if they benefit from a similar package as the Seleka, radical leaders of both armed groups have told their members to keep fighting. The phenomenon is similar with the former army (Forces Armées Centrafricaines or FACA), dispersed since the departure of President Bozizé. Along with former police and gendarmerie forces, some ex-FACA agreed to reintegrate their positions under the supervision of international peacekeepers in Bangui. However others gathered in the north to form a new armed group called Renewal and Justice (RJ) and are recruiting anti-balaka fighters. RJ now controls a huge territory along the border with Cameroon and Chad.

 

Several areas of the capital Bangui have increasingly come under the control of the anti-balaka militias, who have (especially since 22 March 2014) launched repeated attacks on civilians and African Union-led peacekeepers of the International Support Mission to Central Africa (MISCA). The rest of the country generally remains out of control, as the government has no authority outside Bangui and relies on international peacekeepers. Some Seleka members who fled Bangui have regrouped in towns where peacekeepers are not present, especially in the country’s north-east, where they continue to commit atrocities, and have not shown any willingness to disarm. Others have fled the country, mainly to Chad, raising serious questions about whether they will ever be brought to justice. 

 

What happens to people fleeing the CAR?

 

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee the violence in the CAR are now facing another humanitarian catastrophe in neighbouring countries including Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the rainy season, the already desperate situation will quickly deteriorate unless shelter, food and medical facilities are urgently made available for them. 

 

During a mission to Chad conducted in early March 2014, Amnesty International delegates found thousands of people from CAR who had been neglected by the Chadian authorities and humanitarian agencies, many suffering from severe malnutrition and with no shelter other than the shade of trees. Most of the camps where these people stay are too close to the border, contributing to increasing insecurity and vulnerability of refugees. 

 

How involved is the international community?

 

In December 2013, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of international forces, now comprising around 6,000 African Union peacekeepers (MISCA) and 2,000 French troops (Sangaris). Yet these forces failed to deploy swiftly outside Bangui to protect civilians. On 1 April, the European Union launched a military operation of up to 1,000 troops (EUFOR-RCA) to be deployed in Bangui soon, to allow the redeployment of international troops already present there to go to other provinces.  EUFOR RCA is intended as a “bridging mission” until a UN peacekeeping operation of around 12,000 troops and police can deploy in the CAR, which is expected by 15 September 2014.

 

What is Amnesty International calling for?

We are calling on the international community:

  • To provide MISCA and other international peacekeeping forces with sufficient resources to enhance their capacity to rapidly deploy in all regions of the country in order to protect civilians effectively, especially in and around IDP sites and remote towns where Muslims are still present.
  • To immediately start contingency preparations and planning for the transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, as requested by Security Council resolution 2127 (2013).
  • To ensure smooth coordination among all military forces present in CAR, including the MISCA, French forces (Sangaris), and EUFOR RCA.
  • To accelerate the disarmament process and ensure that no state is supporting in any way or providing arms to militias active in CAR, as prohibited by the UN arms embargo (resolution 2127 – 2013).
  • To expedite the effective deployment and coordinate the activities of the various human rights monitors, including the international Commission of Inquiry, in order to help identify the perpetrators of human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and ensure that they are held accountable.
  • To ensure the prompt reconstitution of the judiciary and other justice bodies, including courts, prisons, and prosecutorial agencies.
  • To ensure that refugees who flee to neighbouring countries are identified and receive appropriate protection through an effective cooperation between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the national authorities of Chad, Cameroon and the DRC.

 

Take action

 

An overview of the human rights crisis of historic proportions facing the people of the Central African Republic.

Media Node:  CAR Q&A Ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic Twitter Tag:  CARcrisis Story Location:  Central African Republic 5° 39' 29.0844" N, 19° 34' 39.4932" E “The Central African Republic is gripped by a human rights and humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. By failing to respond more robustly and urgently, the international community has shown a callous disregard for the country’s embattled civilians, abandoning them in their moment of need. ” Source:  Christian Mukosa, Central Africa Researcher at Amnesty International URL:  EU and African leaders must not fail the people of Central African Republic Description:  News story, 2 April 2014 URL:  The time is up: Protect civilians in the Central African Republic Description:  Story map/action URL:  CAR: Urgent deployment of EU troops needed to quell fresh violence Description:  News story, 26 March 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings Description:  News story/report, 12 February 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: War crimes and crimes against humanity in Bangui Description:  News story/briefing, 19 December 2013

Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:42am
Headline Title:  Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis 09 April 2014

Background

The Seleka militia (meaning “alliance” in Sango, the national language) was responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the course of 2013. After a murderous rampage that started in the north-east, the Seleka spread out across the country, seizing the capital Bangui and ousting then-President François Bozizé in March 2013. Over the following 10 months, Seleka forces killed countless civilians, burned numerous villages, and looted thousands of homes. (See Amnesty International, CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control, AFR 19/003/2013.)

 

The arbitrary and abusive nature of the Seleka’s rule helped give rise to the current high level of sectarian hostility. The majority of the country’s population is Christian, as was former President Bozizé. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia, who served as the country’s transitional president until 10 January 2014, is Muslim, as are most members of the Seleka forces.

 

Seleka abuses spurred the emergence of the loosely organized “anti-balaka” militia (“machete proof” in Sango), made up of Christians and animists opposed to Seleka rule. In the last four months of 2013, anti-balaka fighters carried out horrific attacks on Muslim communities, particularly in CAR’s northwest, including on many villages around the town of Bossangoa.

 

A daring 5 December 2013 anti-balaka attack on Bangui led to an explosion of violence, tearing whatever was left of the country’s social fabric. After the Seleka forces managed to repel the anti-balaka offensive they carried out an extensive series of reprisal attacks against Christians in the city. Although the Seleka in some cases claimed to be pursuing anti-balaka militants, they did not make a meaningful effort to distinguish between militants and non-militants, killing between 800 to 1,200 people, primarily civilian men.

 

French military forces with a UN mandate began their deployment in CAR during the early December violence, joining a small African-led peacekeeping force that was already deployed there. They are due to be joined in the near future by up to 1,000 European Union troops, which will hand over to a larger UN peacekeeping mission in September 2014.

 

How has the situation in CAR evolved since January 2014?

 

The situation in CAR changed significantly after the resignation of President Michel Djotodia on 10 January 2014, and the election of a new interim president, Catherine Samba Panza soon after.

 

As soon as Djotodia left office, Seleka forces began to withdraw from their outposts across the country. In town after town, when the Seleka left, the anti-balaka militia moved in and launched violent attacks against the Muslim minority. Because international peacekeeping forces were extremely slow to deploy across the country, the field was open to the anti-balaka to assert their power and authority. They killed many hundreds of Muslim civilians, sometimes in large-scale massacres, looted Muslim homes and shops, and burned and destroyed mosques. Among their victims were women and young children; in some cases entire families were killed. Their stated goal was to rid the country of Muslims forever.

 

Anti-balaka fighters are now the main perpetrators of violence, especially in Bangui and in the western third of the country. Seleka forces that retreated to the north also continue to commit serious human rights abuses in the territory under their control. There is currently no functioning justice system in CAR, with little or no possibility of police investigations, court proceedings, and incarceration, resulting in total impunity for human rights violations.

 

Recent months have witnessed massive ethnic cleansing: a forced exodus of tens of thousands of Muslim civilians to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Much of this newly-created refugee population is living in makeshift camps where conditions are dire. 

 

The few thousand Muslims who remain in the capital and the western part of the country (where they used to represent about 15 percent of the population) are nearly all displaced. Many are taking refuge in churches, and most are waiting for evacuation, fearing attacks by anti-balaka fighters. 

 

There are still more than 650,000 internally displaced people inside CAR. Thousands of houses have been looted and burnt, leaving many people – Christians and Muslims alike – without a home to return to. 

 

Is it a religious conflict?

 

Civilians are being targeted along religious lines, but not because of their religious beliefs or practices. Although different religious communities lived peacefully together for generations, intermarrying and living in mixed neighbourhoods, mistrust and even hatred now separates many members of different religious communities. Religion is viewed as a critical indicator of one’s loyalties to the country’s different armed groups. 

 

Not all Christians and Muslims have embraced sectarian hatred. Indeed, many Muslim civilians have been protected by their Christian neighbours, or have sought – and found – protection in churches and Catholic missions. In addition, some Christians, especially women who married Muslim men, have been threatened and harmed by the anti-balaka militia.

 

Amnesty International has characterized the forced expulsion of Muslims from CAR as “ethnic cleansing”. (See CAR: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings in the Central African Republic, AFR 19/004/2014.) Although the term does not have a formal definition under international law, a UN Commission of Experts has defined it as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”  The anti-balaka militia groups each operate under a local command but with the common objective of ridding the country of its Muslim population. These acts can constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

How are the new transitional authorities dealing with armed groups?

 

The new government, led by President Catherine Samba-Panza, includes some representatives of the Seleka and anti-balaka militias. Negotiations are ongoing between the government and militia leaders. This has led to various splits among both armed groups, especially on the question of disarmament. 

 

About 8,000 Seleka fighters are still cantoned (but not yet disarmed) in military camps in Bangui and are expecting to benefit from a Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. While some anti-balaka are willing to disarm if they benefit from a similar package as the Seleka, radical leaders of both armed groups have told their members to keep fighting. The phenomenon is similar with the former army (Forces Armées Centrafricaines or FACA), dispersed since the departure of President Bozizé. Along with former police and gendarmerie forces, some ex-FACA agreed to reintegrate their positions under the supervision of international peacekeepers in Bangui. However others gathered in the north to form a new armed group called Renewal and Justice (RJ) and are recruiting anti-balaka fighters. RJ now controls a huge territory along the border with Cameroon and Chad.

 

Several areas of the capital Bangui have increasingly come under the control of the anti-balaka militias, who have (especially since 22 March 2014) launched repeated attacks on civilians and African Union-led peacekeepers of the International Support Mission to Central Africa (MISCA). The rest of the country generally remains out of control, as the government has no authority outside Bangui and relies on international peacekeepers. Some Seleka members who fled Bangui have regrouped in towns where peacekeepers are not present, especially in the country’s north-east, where they continue to commit atrocities, and have not shown any willingness to disarm. Others have fled the country, mainly to Chad, raising serious questions about whether they will ever be brought to justice. 

 

What happens to people fleeing the CAR?

 

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee the violence in the CAR are now facing another humanitarian catastrophe in neighbouring countries including Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the rainy season, the already desperate situation will quickly deteriorate unless shelter, food and medical facilities are urgently made available for them. 

 

During a mission to Chad conducted in early March 2014, Amnesty International delegates found thousands of people from CAR who had been neglected by the Chadian authorities and humanitarian agencies, many suffering from severe malnutrition and with no shelter other than the shade of trees. Most of the camps where these people stay are too close to the border, contributing to increasing insecurity and vulnerability of refugees. 

 

How involved is the international community?

 

In December 2013, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of international forces, now comprising around 6,000 African Union peacekeepers (MISCA) and 2,000 French troops (Sangaris). Yet these forces failed to deploy swiftly outside Bangui to protect civilians. On 1 April, the European Union launched a military operation of up to 1,000 troops (EUFOR-RCA) to be deployed in Bangui soon, to allow the redeployment of international troops already present there to go to other provinces.  EUFOR RCA is intended as a “bridging mission” until a UN peacekeeping operation of around 12,000 troops and police can deploy in the CAR, which is expected by 15 September 2014.

 

What is Amnesty International calling for?

We are calling on the international community:

  • To provide MISCA and other international peacekeeping forces with sufficient resources to enhance their capacity to rapidly deploy in all regions of the country in order to protect civilians effectively, especially in and around IDP sites and remote towns where Muslims are still present.
  • To immediately start contingency preparations and planning for the transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, as requested by Security Council resolution 2127 (2013).
  • To ensure smooth coordination among all military forces present in CAR, including the MISCA, French forces (Sangaris), and EUFOR RCA.
  • To accelerate the disarmament process and ensure that no state is supporting in any way or providing arms to militias active in CAR, as prohibited by the UN arms embargo (resolution 2127 – 2013).
  • To expedite the effective deployment and coordinate the activities of the various human rights monitors, including the international Commission of Inquiry, in order to help identify the perpetrators of human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and ensure that they are held accountable.
  • To ensure the prompt reconstitution of the judiciary and other justice bodies, including courts, prisons, and prosecutorial agencies.
  • To ensure that refugees who flee to neighbouring countries are identified and receive appropriate protection through an effective cooperation between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the national authorities of Chad, Cameroon and the DRC.

 

Take action

 

An overview of the human rights crisis of historic proportions facing the people of the Central African Republic.

Media Node:  CAR Q&A Ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic Twitter Tag:  CARcrisis Story Location:  Central African Republic 5° 39' 29.0844" N, 19° 34' 39.4932" E “The Central African Republic is gripped by a human rights and humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. By failing to respond more robustly and urgently, the international community has shown a callous disregard for the country’s embattled civilians, abandoning them in their moment of need. ” Source:  Christian Mukosa, Central Africa Researcher at Amnesty International URL:  EU and African leaders must not fail the people of Central African Republic Description:  News story, 2 April 2014 URL:  The time is up: Protect civilians in the Central African Republic Description:  Story map/action URL:  CAR: Urgent deployment of EU troops needed to quell fresh violence Description:  News story, 26 March 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings Description:  News story/report, 12 February 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: War crimes and crimes against humanity in Bangui Description:  News story/briefing, 19 December 2013

Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:42am
Headline Title:  Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis 09 April 2014

Background

The Seleka militia (meaning “alliance” in Sango, the national language) was responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the course of 2013. After a murderous rampage that started in the north-east, the Seleka spread out across the country, seizing the capital Bangui and ousting then-President François Bozizé in March 2013. Over the following 10 months, Seleka forces killed countless civilians, burned numerous villages, and looted thousands of homes. (See Amnesty International, CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control, AFR 19/003/2013.)

 

The arbitrary and abusive nature of the Seleka’s rule helped give rise to the current high level of sectarian hostility. The majority of the country’s population is Christian, as was former President Bozizé. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia, who served as the country’s transitional president until 10 January 2014, is Muslim, as are most members of the Seleka forces.

 

Seleka abuses spurred the emergence of the loosely organized “anti-balaka” militia (“machete proof” in Sango), made up of Christians and animists opposed to Seleka rule. In the last four months of 2013, anti-balaka fighters carried out horrific attacks on Muslim communities, particularly in CAR’s northwest, including on many villages around the town of Bossangoa.

 

A daring 5 December 2013 anti-balaka attack on Bangui led to an explosion of violence, tearing whatever was left of the country’s social fabric. After the Seleka forces managed to repel the anti-balaka offensive they carried out an extensive series of reprisal attacks against Christians in the city. Although the Seleka in some cases claimed to be pursuing anti-balaka militants, they did not make a meaningful effort to distinguish between militants and non-militants, killing between 800 to 1,200 people, primarily civilian men.

 

French military forces with a UN mandate began their deployment in CAR during the early December violence, joining a small African-led peacekeeping force that was already deployed there. They are due to be joined in the near future by up to 1,000 European Union troops, which will hand over to a larger UN peacekeeping mission in September 2014.

 

How has the situation in CAR evolved since January 2014?

 

The situation in CAR changed significantly after the resignation of President Michel Djotodia on 10 January 2014, and the election of a new interim president, Catherine Samba Panza soon after.

 

As soon as Djotodia left office, Seleka forces began to withdraw from their outposts across the country. In town after town, when the Seleka left, the anti-balaka militia moved in and launched violent attacks against the Muslim minority. Because international peacekeeping forces were extremely slow to deploy across the country, the field was open to the anti-balaka to assert their power and authority. They killed many hundreds of Muslim civilians, sometimes in large-scale massacres, looted Muslim homes and shops, and burned and destroyed mosques. Among their victims were women and young children; in some cases entire families were killed. Their stated goal was to rid the country of Muslims forever.

 

Anti-balaka fighters are now the main perpetrators of violence, especially in Bangui and in the western third of the country. Seleka forces that retreated to the north also continue to commit serious human rights abuses in the territory under their control. There is currently no functioning justice system in CAR, with little or no possibility of police investigations, court proceedings, and incarceration, resulting in total impunity for human rights violations.

 

Recent months have witnessed massive ethnic cleansing: a forced exodus of tens of thousands of Muslim civilians to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Much of this newly-created refugee population is living in makeshift camps where conditions are dire. 

 

The few thousand Muslims who remain in the capital and the western part of the country (where they used to represent about 15 percent of the population) are nearly all displaced. Many are taking refuge in churches, and most are waiting for evacuation, fearing attacks by anti-balaka fighters. 

 

There are still more than 650,000 internally displaced people inside CAR. Thousands of houses have been looted and burnt, leaving many people – Christians and Muslims alike – without a home to return to. 

 

Is it a religious conflict?

 

Civilians are being targeted along religious lines, but not because of their religious beliefs or practices. Although different religious communities lived peacefully together for generations, intermarrying and living in mixed neighbourhoods, mistrust and even hatred now separates many members of different religious communities. Religion is viewed as a critical indicator of one’s loyalties to the country’s different armed groups. 

 

Not all Christians and Muslims have embraced sectarian hatred. Indeed, many Muslim civilians have been protected by their Christian neighbours, or have sought – and found – protection in churches and Catholic missions. In addition, some Christians, especially women who married Muslim men, have been threatened and harmed by the anti-balaka militia.

 

Amnesty International has characterized the forced expulsion of Muslims from CAR as “ethnic cleansing”. (See CAR: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings in the Central African Republic, AFR 19/004/2014.) Although the term does not have a formal definition under international law, a UN Commission of Experts has defined it as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”  The anti-balaka militia groups each operate under a local command but with the common objective of ridding the country of its Muslim population. These acts can constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

How are the new transitional authorities dealing with armed groups?

 

The new government, led by President Catherine Samba-Panza, includes some representatives of the Seleka and anti-balaka militias. Negotiations are ongoing between the government and militia leaders. This has led to various splits among both armed groups, especially on the question of disarmament. 

 

About 8,000 Seleka fighters are still cantoned (but not yet disarmed) in military camps in Bangui and are expecting to benefit from a Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. While some anti-balaka are willing to disarm if they benefit from a similar package as the Seleka, radical leaders of both armed groups have told their members to keep fighting. The phenomenon is similar with the former army (Forces Armées Centrafricaines or FACA), dispersed since the departure of President Bozizé. Along with former police and gendarmerie forces, some ex-FACA agreed to reintegrate their positions under the supervision of international peacekeepers in Bangui. However others gathered in the north to form a new armed group called Renewal and Justice (RJ) and are recruiting anti-balaka fighters. RJ now controls a huge territory along the border with Cameroon and Chad.

 

Several areas of the capital Bangui have increasingly come under the control of the anti-balaka militias, who have (especially since 22 March 2014) launched repeated attacks on civilians and African Union-led peacekeepers of the International Support Mission to Central Africa (MISCA). The rest of the country generally remains out of control, as the government has no authority outside Bangui and relies on international peacekeepers. Some Seleka members who fled Bangui have regrouped in towns where peacekeepers are not present, especially in the country’s north-east, where they continue to commit atrocities, and have not shown any willingness to disarm. Others have fled the country, mainly to Chad, raising serious questions about whether they will ever be brought to justice. 

 

What happens to people fleeing the CAR?

 

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee the violence in the CAR are now facing another humanitarian catastrophe in neighbouring countries including Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the rainy season, the already desperate situation will quickly deteriorate unless shelter, food and medical facilities are urgently made available for them. 

 

During a mission to Chad conducted in early March 2014, Amnesty International delegates found thousands of people from CAR who had been neglected by the Chadian authorities and humanitarian agencies, many suffering from severe malnutrition and with no shelter other than the shade of trees. Most of the camps where these people stay are too close to the border, contributing to increasing insecurity and vulnerability of refugees. 

 

How involved is the international community?

 

In December 2013, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of international forces, now comprising around 6,000 African Union peacekeepers (MISCA) and 2,000 French troops (Sangaris). Yet these forces failed to deploy swiftly outside Bangui to protect civilians. On 1 April, the European Union launched a military operation of up to 1,000 troops (EUFOR-RCA) to be deployed in Bangui soon, to allow the redeployment of international troops already present there to go to other provinces.  EUFOR RCA is intended as a “bridging mission” until a UN peacekeeping operation of around 12,000 troops and police can deploy in the CAR, which is expected by 15 September 2014.

 

What is Amnesty International calling for?

We are calling on the international community:

  • To provide MISCA and other international peacekeeping forces with sufficient resources to enhance their capacity to rapidly deploy in all regions of the country in order to protect civilians effectively, especially in and around IDP sites and remote towns where Muslims are still present.
  • To immediately start contingency preparations and planning for the transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, as requested by Security Council resolution 2127 (2013).
  • To ensure smooth coordination among all military forces present in CAR, including the MISCA, French forces (Sangaris), and EUFOR RCA.
  • To accelerate the disarmament process and ensure that no state is supporting in any way or providing arms to militias active in CAR, as prohibited by the UN arms embargo (resolution 2127 – 2013).
  • To expedite the effective deployment and coordinate the activities of the various human rights monitors, including the international Commission of Inquiry, in order to help identify the perpetrators of human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and ensure that they are held accountable.
  • To ensure the prompt reconstitution of the judiciary and other justice bodies, including courts, prisons, and prosecutorial agencies.
  • To ensure that refugees who flee to neighbouring countries are identified and receive appropriate protection through an effective cooperation between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the national authorities of Chad, Cameroon and the DRC.

 

Take action

 

An overview of the human rights crisis of historic proportions facing the people of the Central African Republic.

Media Node:  CAR Q&A Ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic Twitter Tag:  CARcrisis Story Location:  Central African Republic 5° 39' 29.0844" N, 19° 34' 39.4932" E “The Central African Republic is gripped by a human rights and humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. By failing to respond more robustly and urgently, the international community has shown a callous disregard for the country’s embattled civilians, abandoning them in their moment of need. ” Source:  Christian Mukosa, Central Africa Researcher at Amnesty International URL:  EU and African leaders must not fail the people of Central African Republic Description:  News story, 2 April 2014 URL:  The time is up: Protect civilians in the Central African Republic Description:  Story map/action URL:  CAR: Urgent deployment of EU troops needed to quell fresh violence Description:  News story, 26 March 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings Description:  News story/report, 12 February 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: War crimes and crimes against humanity in Bangui Description:  News story/briefing, 19 December 2013

Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:42am
Headline Title:  Q&A: The Central African Republic’s human rights crisis 09 April 2014

Background

The Seleka militia (meaning “alliance” in Sango, the national language) was responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the course of 2013. After a murderous rampage that started in the north-east, the Seleka spread out across the country, seizing the capital Bangui and ousting then-President François Bozizé in March 2013. Over the following 10 months, Seleka forces killed countless civilians, burned numerous villages, and looted thousands of homes. (See Amnesty International, CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control, AFR 19/003/2013.)

 

The arbitrary and abusive nature of the Seleka’s rule helped give rise to the current high level of sectarian hostility. The majority of the country’s population is Christian, as was former President Bozizé. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia, who served as the country’s transitional president until 10 January 2014, is Muslim, as are most members of the Seleka forces.

 

Seleka abuses spurred the emergence of the loosely organized “anti-balaka” militia (“machete proof” in Sango), made up of Christians and animists opposed to Seleka rule. In the last four months of 2013, anti-balaka fighters carried out horrific attacks on Muslim communities, particularly in CAR’s northwest, including on many villages around the town of Bossangoa.

 

A daring 5 December 2013 anti-balaka attack on Bangui led to an explosion of violence, tearing whatever was left of the country’s social fabric. After the Seleka forces managed to repel the anti-balaka offensive they carried out an extensive series of reprisal attacks against Christians in the city. Although the Seleka in some cases claimed to be pursuing anti-balaka militants, they did not make a meaningful effort to distinguish between militants and non-militants, killing between 800 to 1,200 people, primarily civilian men.

 

French military forces with a UN mandate began their deployment in CAR during the early December violence, joining a small African-led peacekeeping force that was already deployed there. They are due to be joined in the near future by up to 1,000 European Union troops, which will hand over to a larger UN peacekeeping mission in September 2014.

 

How has the situation in CAR evolved since January 2014?

 

The situation in CAR changed significantly after the resignation of President Michel Djotodia on 10 January 2014, and the election of a new interim president, Catherine Samba Panza soon after.

 

As soon as Djotodia left office, Seleka forces began to withdraw from their outposts across the country. In town after town, when the Seleka left, the anti-balaka militia moved in and launched violent attacks against the Muslim minority. Because international peacekeeping forces were extremely slow to deploy across the country, the field was open to the anti-balaka to assert their power and authority. They killed many hundreds of Muslim civilians, sometimes in large-scale massacres, looted Muslim homes and shops, and burned and destroyed mosques. Among their victims were women and young children; in some cases entire families were killed. Their stated goal was to rid the country of Muslims forever.

 

Anti-balaka fighters are now the main perpetrators of violence, especially in Bangui and in the western third of the country. Seleka forces that retreated to the north also continue to commit serious human rights abuses in the territory under their control. There is currently no functioning justice system in CAR, with little or no possibility of police investigations, court proceedings, and incarceration, resulting in total impunity for human rights violations.

 

Recent months have witnessed massive ethnic cleansing: a forced exodus of tens of thousands of Muslim civilians to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Much of this newly-created refugee population is living in makeshift camps where conditions are dire. 

 

The few thousand Muslims who remain in the capital and the western part of the country (where they used to represent about 15 percent of the population) are nearly all displaced. Many are taking refuge in churches, and most are waiting for evacuation, fearing attacks by anti-balaka fighters. 

 

There are still more than 650,000 internally displaced people inside CAR. Thousands of houses have been looted and burnt, leaving many people – Christians and Muslims alike – without a home to return to. 

 

Is it a religious conflict?

 

Civilians are being targeted along religious lines, but not because of their religious beliefs or practices. Although different religious communities lived peacefully together for generations, intermarrying and living in mixed neighbourhoods, mistrust and even hatred now separates many members of different religious communities. Religion is viewed as a critical indicator of one’s loyalties to the country’s different armed groups. 

 

Not all Christians and Muslims have embraced sectarian hatred. Indeed, many Muslim civilians have been protected by their Christian neighbours, or have sought – and found – protection in churches and Catholic missions. In addition, some Christians, especially women who married Muslim men, have been threatened and harmed by the anti-balaka militia.

 

Amnesty International has characterized the forced expulsion of Muslims from CAR as “ethnic cleansing”. (See CAR: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings in the Central African Republic, AFR 19/004/2014.) Although the term does not have a formal definition under international law, a UN Commission of Experts has defined it as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”  The anti-balaka militia groups each operate under a local command but with the common objective of ridding the country of its Muslim population. These acts can constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

How are the new transitional authorities dealing with armed groups?

 

The new government, led by President Catherine Samba-Panza, includes some representatives of the Seleka and anti-balaka militias. Negotiations are ongoing between the government and militia leaders. This has led to various splits among both armed groups, especially on the question of disarmament. 

 

About 8,000 Seleka fighters are still cantoned (but not yet disarmed) in military camps in Bangui and are expecting to benefit from a Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. While some anti-balaka are willing to disarm if they benefit from a similar package as the Seleka, radical leaders of both armed groups have told their members to keep fighting. The phenomenon is similar with the former army (Forces Armées Centrafricaines or FACA), dispersed since the departure of President Bozizé. Along with former police and gendarmerie forces, some ex-FACA agreed to reintegrate their positions under the supervision of international peacekeepers in Bangui. However others gathered in the north to form a new armed group called Renewal and Justice (RJ) and are recruiting anti-balaka fighters. RJ now controls a huge territory along the border with Cameroon and Chad.

 

Several areas of the capital Bangui have increasingly come under the control of the anti-balaka militias, who have (especially since 22 March 2014) launched repeated attacks on civilians and African Union-led peacekeepers of the International Support Mission to Central Africa (MISCA). The rest of the country generally remains out of control, as the government has no authority outside Bangui and relies on international peacekeepers. Some Seleka members who fled Bangui have regrouped in towns where peacekeepers are not present, especially in the country’s north-east, where they continue to commit atrocities, and have not shown any willingness to disarm. Others have fled the country, mainly to Chad, raising serious questions about whether they will ever be brought to justice. 

 

What happens to people fleeing the CAR?

 

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee the violence in the CAR are now facing another humanitarian catastrophe in neighbouring countries including Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the rainy season, the already desperate situation will quickly deteriorate unless shelter, food and medical facilities are urgently made available for them. 

 

During a mission to Chad conducted in early March 2014, Amnesty International delegates found thousands of people from CAR who had been neglected by the Chadian authorities and humanitarian agencies, many suffering from severe malnutrition and with no shelter other than the shade of trees. Most of the camps where these people stay are too close to the border, contributing to increasing insecurity and vulnerability of refugees. 

 

How involved is the international community?

 

In December 2013, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of international forces, now comprising around 6,000 African Union peacekeepers (MISCA) and 2,000 French troops (Sangaris). Yet these forces failed to deploy swiftly outside Bangui to protect civilians. On 1 April, the European Union launched a military operation of up to 1,000 troops (EUFOR-RCA) to be deployed in Bangui soon, to allow the redeployment of international troops already present there to go to other provinces.  EUFOR RCA is intended as a “bridging mission” until a UN peacekeeping operation of around 12,000 troops and police can deploy in the CAR, which is expected by 15 September 2014.

 

What is Amnesty International calling for?

We are calling on the international community:

  • To provide MISCA and other international peacekeeping forces with sufficient resources to enhance their capacity to rapidly deploy in all regions of the country in order to protect civilians effectively, especially in and around IDP sites and remote towns where Muslims are still present.
  • To immediately start contingency preparations and planning for the transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, as requested by Security Council resolution 2127 (2013).
  • To ensure smooth coordination among all military forces present in CAR, including the MISCA, French forces (Sangaris), and EUFOR RCA.
  • To accelerate the disarmament process and ensure that no state is supporting in any way or providing arms to militias active in CAR, as prohibited by the UN arms embargo (resolution 2127 – 2013).
  • To expedite the effective deployment and coordinate the activities of the various human rights monitors, including the international Commission of Inquiry, in order to help identify the perpetrators of human rights violations, including crimes under international law, and ensure that they are held accountable.
  • To ensure the prompt reconstitution of the judiciary and other justice bodies, including courts, prisons, and prosecutorial agencies.
  • To ensure that refugees who flee to neighbouring countries are identified and receive appropriate protection through an effective cooperation between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the national authorities of Chad, Cameroon and the DRC.

 

Take action

 

An overview of the human rights crisis of historic proportions facing the people of the Central African Republic.

Media Node:  CAR Q&A Ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic Twitter Tag:  CARcrisis Story Location:  Central African Republic 5° 39' 29.0844" N, 19° 34' 39.4932" E “The Central African Republic is gripped by a human rights and humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. By failing to respond more robustly and urgently, the international community has shown a callous disregard for the country’s embattled civilians, abandoning them in their moment of need. ” Source:  Christian Mukosa, Central Africa Researcher at Amnesty International URL:  EU and African leaders must not fail the people of Central African Republic Description:  News story, 2 April 2014 URL:  The time is up: Protect civilians in the Central African Republic Description:  Story map/action URL:  CAR: Urgent deployment of EU troops needed to quell fresh violence Description:  News story, 26 March 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings Description:  News story/report, 12 February 2014 URL:  Central African Republic: War crimes and crimes against humanity in Bangui Description:  News story/briefing, 19 December 2013

Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:17am
Headline Title:  Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws 11 April 2014

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said.

Two draft anti-terror laws, which were sent to interim president Adly Mansour on 3 April and could be signed off at any time, would give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics.

“These deeply flawed draft laws can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism,” warned Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

“This draft legislation also violates the right to free expression, undermines safeguards against torture and arbitrary detention, and expands the scope of application of the death penalty.”

Egypt has seen a rise in deadly armed attacks, mainly targeting government buildings, army checkpoints and other security institutions and personnel, since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency on 3 July 2013, particularly in the restive North Sinai region. 

“The Egyptian government has a duty to prevent, investigate and punish violent attacks, but in doing so it must abide by its obligations under international law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

In the draft laws sent to Interim President Adly Mansour, the existing definition of terrorism is expanded to include actions aimed at “damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments… hindering the work of judicial bodies… regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions”. 

It is also extended to “any behaviour or preparation with the purpose of damaging communications, or information systems, or financial and banking systems, or the national economy”.

“The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offences’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The definition of terrorism potentially criminalizes strikes and peaceful demonstrations in schools, universities and those emanating from mosques, under the pretext that such legitimate activities harm national unity, hamper the work of national institutions and damage the economy.”

Many marches since the “25 January Revolution” are organized following prayers, including those by supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

 The draft legislation widens the scope for use of the death penalty, imposing it even where “terrorist” acts committed do not cause loss of life. This includes the crimes of founding, managing or administering a terrorist group. 

“Rather than reducing the number of capital crimes, the Egyptian authorities are expanding them to include crimes which do not cause a loss of life.  Disturbingly, this could feasibly lead to even more mass death sentences,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Repressive new laws

Another proposed change is to allow security forces to hold detainees for longer – 72 hours, which could be extended for another seven days – in breach of international law and Egypt’s recently adopted constitution, which states anyone arrested should be referred to a prosecutor within 24 hours.  

The period after arrest is the time detainees are most vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International’s research has shown. 

The draft laws also do not explicitly state that “confessions” extracted under torture must be excluded from evidence.

The laws impose penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for insulting verbally a public employee, member of the security forces or any person in charge of a public service while performing their duty - in violation of the right to freedom of expression.

A further law change gives the authorities more powers to check bank accounts and monitor phone calls of persons or associations without the approval of an independent authority, such as the judiciary. This could be routinely used to crack down on personal freedoms and civil society organizations.

Meanwhile, the proposed laws are silent on the state’s duty to recognize and respect the human rights of victims of terrorist acts, such as Coptic Christians and other minority groups.

The draft laws also give the president the power to declare a state of emergency without seeking the approval of parliament. 

This is a worrying echo of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, during which people were held without charge or trial - sometimes for decades - under Egypt’s emergency law. 

“The draconian nature of this legislation, which flouts Egypt’s obligations, suggests that it will pave the way to further clamp down on civil society and government opponents and critics, rather than tackling the threat of terrorism,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The government should change course and adopt an approach that respects human rights and the rule of law.”

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said.

Media Node:  egipto Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 28° 46' 20.9064" N, 30° 45' 42.1884" E See map: Google Maps “The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offences’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:17am
Headline Title:  Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws 11 April 2014

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said.

Two draft anti-terror laws, which were sent to interim president Adly Mansour on 3 April and could be signed off at any time, would give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics.

“These deeply flawed draft laws can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism,” warned Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

“This draft legislation also violates the right to free expression, undermines safeguards against torture and arbitrary detention, and expands the scope of application of the death penalty.”

Egypt has seen a rise in deadly armed attacks, mainly targeting government buildings, army checkpoints and other security institutions and personnel, since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency on 3 July 2013, particularly in the restive North Sinai region. 

“The Egyptian government has a duty to prevent, investigate and punish violent attacks, but in doing so it must abide by its obligations under international law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

In the draft laws sent to Interim President Adly Mansour, the existing definition of terrorism is expanded to include actions aimed at “damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments… hindering the work of judicial bodies… regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions”. 

It is also extended to “any behaviour or preparation with the purpose of damaging communications, or information systems, or financial and banking systems, or the national economy”.

“The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offences’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The definition of terrorism potentially criminalizes strikes and peaceful demonstrations in schools, universities and those emanating from mosques, under the pretext that such legitimate activities harm national unity, hamper the work of national institutions and damage the economy.”

Many marches since the “25 January Revolution” are organized following prayers, including those by supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

 The draft legislation widens the scope for use of the death penalty, imposing it even where “terrorist” acts committed do not cause loss of life. This includes the crimes of founding, managing or administering a terrorist group. 

“Rather than reducing the number of capital crimes, the Egyptian authorities are expanding them to include crimes which do not cause a loss of life.  Disturbingly, this could feasibly lead to even more mass death sentences,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Repressive new laws

Another proposed change is to allow security forces to hold detainees for longer – 72 hours, which could be extended for another seven days – in breach of international law and Egypt’s recently adopted constitution, which states anyone arrested should be referred to a prosecutor within 24 hours.  

The period after arrest is the time detainees are most vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International’s research has shown. 

The draft laws also do not explicitly state that “confessions” extracted under torture must be excluded from evidence.

The laws impose penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for insulting verbally a public employee, member of the security forces or any person in charge of a public service while performing their duty - in violation of the right to freedom of expression.

A further law change gives the authorities more powers to check bank accounts and monitor phone calls of persons or associations without the approval of an independent authority, such as the judiciary. This could be routinely used to crack down on personal freedoms and civil society organizations.

Meanwhile, the proposed laws are silent on the state’s duty to recognize and respect the human rights of victims of terrorist acts, such as Coptic Christians and other minority groups.

The draft laws also give the president the power to declare a state of emergency without seeking the approval of parliament. 

This is a worrying echo of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, during which people were held without charge or trial - sometimes for decades - under Egypt’s emergency law. 

“The draconian nature of this legislation, which flouts Egypt’s obligations, suggests that it will pave the way to further clamp down on civil society and government opponents and critics, rather than tackling the threat of terrorism,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The government should change course and adopt an approach that respects human rights and the rule of law.”

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said.

Media Node:  egipto Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 28° 46' 20.9064" N, 30° 45' 42.1884" E See map: Google Maps “The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offences’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 7:17am
Headline Title:  Egyptian president must reject flawed anti-terrorism laws 11 April 2014

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said.

Two draft anti-terror laws, which were sent to interim president Adly Mansour on 3 April and could be signed off at any time, would give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics.

“These deeply flawed draft laws can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism,” warned Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

“This draft legislation also violates the right to free expression, undermines safeguards against torture and arbitrary detention, and expands the scope of application of the death penalty.”

Egypt has seen a rise in deadly armed attacks, mainly targeting government buildings, army checkpoints and other security institutions and personnel, since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency on 3 July 2013, particularly in the restive North Sinai region. 

“The Egyptian government has a duty to prevent, investigate and punish violent attacks, but in doing so it must abide by its obligations under international law,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

In the draft laws sent to Interim President Adly Mansour, the existing definition of terrorism is expanded to include actions aimed at “damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments… hindering the work of judicial bodies… regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions”. 

It is also extended to “any behaviour or preparation with the purpose of damaging communications, or information systems, or financial and banking systems, or the national economy”.

“The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offences’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The definition of terrorism potentially criminalizes strikes and peaceful demonstrations in schools, universities and those emanating from mosques, under the pretext that such legitimate activities harm national unity, hamper the work of national institutions and damage the economy.”

Many marches since the “25 January Revolution” are organized following prayers, including those by supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

 The draft legislation widens the scope for use of the death penalty, imposing it even where “terrorist” acts committed do not cause loss of life. This includes the crimes of founding, managing or administering a terrorist group. 

“Rather than reducing the number of capital crimes, the Egyptian authorities are expanding them to include crimes which do not cause a loss of life.  Disturbingly, this could feasibly lead to even more mass death sentences,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Repressive new laws

Another proposed change is to allow security forces to hold detainees for longer – 72 hours, which could be extended for another seven days – in breach of international law and Egypt’s recently adopted constitution, which states anyone arrested should be referred to a prosecutor within 24 hours.  

The period after arrest is the time detainees are most vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International’s research has shown. 

The draft laws also do not explicitly state that “confessions” extracted under torture must be excluded from evidence.

The laws impose penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for insulting verbally a public employee, member of the security forces or any person in charge of a public service while performing their duty - in violation of the right to freedom of expression.

A further law change gives the authorities more powers to check bank accounts and monitor phone calls of persons or associations without the approval of an independent authority, such as the judiciary. This could be routinely used to crack down on personal freedoms and civil society organizations.

Meanwhile, the proposed laws are silent on the state’s duty to recognize and respect the human rights of victims of terrorist acts, such as Coptic Christians and other minority groups.

The draft laws also give the president the power to declare a state of emergency without seeking the approval of parliament. 

This is a worrying echo of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, during which people were held without charge or trial - sometimes for decades - under Egypt’s emergency law. 

“The draconian nature of this legislation, which flouts Egypt’s obligations, suggests that it will pave the way to further clamp down on civil society and government opponents and critics, rather than tackling the threat of terrorism,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The government should change course and adopt an approach that respects human rights and the rule of law.”

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised, Amnesty International said.

Media Node:  egipto Twitter Tag:  egypt Story Location:  United Kingdom 28° 46' 20.9064" N, 30° 45' 42.1884" E See map: Google Maps “The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offences’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist.” Source:  Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
War Is Not The Answer ~ Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War & Violence