Iran’s ban on female presidential candidates contradicts several articles of the country’s Constitution as well as international law and should be removed, Amnesty International said.
Mohammad Yazdi, a clerical member of Iran’s Council of Guardians, a constitutional body responsible for ensuring that legislation adheres to Iran’s Constitution, as interpreted by Iran’s religious scholars and Islamic law, and for vetting presidential candidates has announced that Iranian laws “do not allow women to become presidents”.
Thirty women have registered to stand as candidates for the forthcoming presidential election on 14 June 2013. Women were previously prevented from standing in presidential elections, but there was a chance that the Council could have overturned that situation this time.
The ban on women to run for presidency contradicts a number of articles of Iran’s Constitution, which say there should be equality for all citizens before the law and require respect for the rights of women. It is also in clear breach of Iran’s international human rights obligations.
The recent statement by a member of the Council also contradicts a previous statement made by Dr Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the Spokesman of the Council of Guardians, in 2009 when he said that there was “no legal restraint” on women standing for presidential elections.
“It is beyond belief that women are still being banned from trying to become presidents anywhere in the world,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“Iran should take a closer look at its own Constitution and the international treaties it has committed itself to uphold and ensure no one is prevented from taking part in the upcoming presidential election because of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or politically held beliefs.”
Article 115 of the Iranian Constitution, which is also reflected in the Law for the Presidential Elections, stipulates that candidates must be from amongst “religious and political personalities” [Persian: rejal].
It also states that a potential candidate should be of “Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness” and have “a good past record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country”.
The exclusion of women appears to have been made on an interpretation of the word rejal, used in the wording of Article 115, as meaning “men”.
In previous presidential elections, the majority of candidates registered were disqualified under the article’s criteria, including all women.
Despite discrimination against women in law and in practice, Iranian women have reached high level of education and play prominent roles in the society yet they remain almost completely absent from decision-making positions.
No woman has ever held a position in the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council, a non-legislative body that resolves disputes between Iran’s parliament and the Council of Guardians.
The election is scheduled for 14 June 2013, with the approved list of candidates announced on Tuesday.
Women in Iran have been banned from running for presidency, contradicting a number of articles of the country's Constitution.Media Node: iran Story Location: Iran 28° 36' 48.4524" N, 53° 36' 47.8116" E “It is beyond belief that women are still being banned from trying to become presidents anywhere in the world. ” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
Argentina’s former military leader, Jorge Rafael Videla, has died in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his time in office.
“Argentina led the way in the prosecution of those responsible for the torture, killing and disappearance of thousands of people during the many military governments across Latin America,” said Mariela Belski, Director of Amnesty International in Argentina.
“We urge Argentina and other countries in the region to continue with their efforts to bring all those responsible for the terrible crimes committed during the region’s darkest years to justice. There is still much work to be done."
Former military president Jorge Rafael Videla, 87, died this morning in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires.
Last year, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his part in the systematic kidnapping of children during the country’s military regime between 1976 and 1983.
"From the start of Videla's rule, Amnesty International received claims about human rights violations and, in November 1976, sent a research mission to Argentina. The result was the release of a comprehensive report detailing detention without judicial order and torture. There was also the first list of disappeared people."
When he died, Videla was also being tried for his role in Plan Condor – a secret coordinated operation by Latin American countries for the exchange, persecution and disappearance of political activists.
He led the military coup in Argentina in March 1976 and was head of the military junta until 1981. Argentinian human rights groups claim that at least 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared during Argentina’s military government.
Argentina’s former military leader, Jorge Rafael Videla, has died in prison, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his time in office.Media Node: Videla Story Location: Argentina 39° 54' 2.6964" S, 65° 23' 26.25" W “Argentina led the way in the prosecution of those responsible for the torture, killing and disappearance of thousands of people during the many military governments across Latin America. ” Source: Mariela Belski, Director of Amnesty International in Argentina. URL: Argentina: Military era sentences, another historic step towards justice Description: Press Release, 20 December 2012. URL: Argentina: Historical ruling is another step towards justice Description: Press release, 6 July 2012.
A decision by El Salvador’s Supreme Court to, once again, put off a ruling on whether or not to allow a severely ill pregnant woman to have an abortion shows no humanity, Amnesty International said.
Beatriz, a 22-year-old woman whose case is gathering attention around the world, is five months pregnant and has been diagnosed with a number of severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease.
The foetus she is carrying is not expected to survive as it is missing a large part of its brain and skull.
Beatriz is currently in hospital, but has been denied life-saving treatment because it would require terminating her pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador in all circumstances, even when the woman life is at risk.
The Supreme Court had the chance to resolve this issue with a definitive ruling – the delay puts Beatriz’s life in even greater danger than was already the case.
“Yesterday, judges with the power to immediately save the life of a young mother who desperately wants to live chose not to do so. We are outraged at their abdication of their role to protect and defend Beatriz’s life and health. There is no justice in this delay, and definitely no humanity,” said Esther Major, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International.
“To give themselves up to three weeks to decide on whether not Beatriz lives or dies, or is potentially left with severe health problems is cruel in the extreme.
“We urge the judges to immediately uphold Beatriz’s rights and treat this case with the urgency it merits.”
The United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, four United Nations special experts, including the experts on torture and violence against women, have demanded that the state provide Beatriz with the treatment she wants and needs to survive.
“The Salvadoran government must act now to save Beatriz and fulfil its role as guarantor of human rights in the country. The world is watching and urging the authorities to intervene now to guarantee her right to life,” said Esther Major.
It is now more than two months since the hospital treating her requested permission from the government to provide Beatriz with the treatment she needs, but the authorities have still not taken action.
The country’s Penal Code states that anyone seeking or carrying out an abortion could be given a long prison sentence. This means both doctors and Beatriz would be at risk of imprisonment if a termination is carried out.
Beatriz already has a one-year-old son who needs his mother. She was ill before she became pregnant, but her illnesses were under control.
Tens of thousands of people from around the world have urged authorities in El Salvador to provide Beatriz with the medical treatment she badly needs.
More than 70,000 Amnesty International activists have signed petitions and many more are currently taking action.
El Salvador’s Supreme Court has, once again, put off a ruling on whether or not to allow a severely ill pregnant woman to have an abortion.Media Node: El Salvador Beatriz ENG Story Location: El Salvador 14° 40' 32.5632" N, 90° 10' 32.8116" W “Yesterday, judges with the power to immediately save the life of a young mother who desperately wants to live chose not to do so. We are outraged at their abdication of their role to protect and defend Beatriz’s life and health. There is no justice in this delay, and definitely no humanity. ” Source: Esther Major, Central America Researcher at Amnesty International. URL: El Salvador’s officials are playing Russian roulette with young woman’s life Description: Blog, 13 May 2013 URL: El Salvador: “We don't want Beatriz to die, it's that simple” Description: News, 9 May 2013 URL: El Salvador must provide pregnant woman with access to life-saving medical treatment Description: News, 17 April 2013 URL: See Beatriz' plea to the President
Police in the Georgian capital Tbilisi failed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists as thousands of people violently attacked a Pride event today in what Amnesty International said was an ineffective response to organized and violent homophobia.
Georgian LGBTI activists were assembling in the capital's Pushkin park for a peaceful rally to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) when the event was cut short by a throng of angry counter-protesters reported to number in the thousands.
The ensuing violence resulted in 17 people being injured – 12 of whom were hospitalized, including three policemen and a journalist.
“Ironically this shameful violence marred a day that is meant to mark solidarity in the face of homophobic violence around the world, and it shows that the Georgian authorities have a long way to go to promote tolerance and protect LGBTI people and their human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“The authorities must investigate this violence and bring to justice those responsible for committing acts punishable by law.”
Video from the scene depicts dozens of people apparently attempting to lynch a young man because they believed he was gay – something he denies, while making the sign of the cross in front of a nearby church. Police intervened to separate the man from the crowd, but no arrests were made at the time.
The attackers at today's event were accompanied by – and appear to have been encouraged by – the religious authorities from the Georgian Orthodox Church.
According to media reports, on Thursday the Church's highest authority, Patriarch Ilia II, called on the authorities to ban the LGBTI rights event, saying it would be "an insult" to Georgian tradition.
Amnesty International noted that this is the second consecutive year that police in Tbilisi have failed to protect LGBTI activists from violent attacks by Orthodox groups inspired by such intolerance.
“It is becoming a dangerous trend in Georgia to condone and leave unpunished the acts of violence against religious and sexual minorities if they are perpetrated by the Orthodox religious clergy or their followers. It is simply unacceptable for the authorities to continue to allow attacks in the name of religion or on the basis of anyone's real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Dalhuisen.
“It was clear from last year’s events, as well as this year’s announcements for the planned counter-demonstrations, that violence was to be expected. The police appeared to have been woefully unprepared and failed once again to ensure that LGBTI activists could exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression.
“By failing to take effective measures and hold these accountable to justice, the Georgian authorities are allowing the intolerance and impunity to grow and fester. They must improve their policing of peaceful demonstrations in future and ensure that this is not allowed to happen again,” Dalhuisen added.
Police in the Georgian capital Tbilisi failed to protect LGBTI activists as thousands of people violently attacked a Pride event today in what Amnesty International said was an ineffective response to organized and violent homophobia.Media Node: Georgia IDAHO violence Twitter Tag: IDAHO Story Location: Georgia 41° 45' 17.7192" N, 43° 50' 27.3912" E “Ironically this shameful violence marred a day that is meant to mark solidarity in the face of homophobic violence around the world, and it shows that the Georgian authorities have a long way to go to promote tolerance and protect LGBTI people and their human rights” Source: John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: Activists worldwide target homophobia in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa Description: Feature, 17 May 2013 URL: ‘Virulent’ homophobic attacks put South Caucasus activists at risk Description: News story, 18 May 2012
There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.
On 12 March, the activist Hassan Mostafa was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for insulting and attacking a public prosecutor in Alexandria – accusations he vehemently denies. The case was marred by procedural irregularities and the refusal of the trial court to hear all defence witnesses. Hassan Mostafa is currently being held at the Borg al-Arab Prison and will attend his next hearing on Saturday.
“We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“The appeals court must review all the evidence in this case.”
The alleged incident took place in the morning of 21 January this year inside the Manshiya Prosecution office in Alexandria. Hassan Mostafa had gone there with a group of local lawyers and activists to enquire about the fate and whereabouts of dozens of protesters and passers-by, including children, who had been arrested a day earlier during unrest following the trial of police officers accused of killing protesters during the "25 January Revolution".
About an hour after leaving the Manshiya Prosecution office, Hassan Mostafa was arrested inside the adjacent Alexandria Court complex, in a corridor outside the office of Alexandria's Attorney General. According to other activists present at the time, a group of riot policemen beat them with sticks as they were trying to shield the activist from arrest.
Colleagues of the plaintiff led the investigations and brought the charges against Hassan Mostafa.
“In view of the concerns this raises about impartiality, Amnesty International believes that the interests of justice would have been better served if evidence-gathering and investigations into the alleged crime had not been conducted by prosecutors from that office,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
At his first appeal hearing on 4 May – which an Amnesty International delegate attended – witnesses testified that, while a verbal altercation did occur inside the Manshiya Prosecution office, Hassan Mostafa did not slap or otherwise physically assault the public prosecutor.
At this hearing, the judge decided to postpone the proceedings until 18 May in order to hear testimony from the prosecution witnesses. He also ordered the prosecution to present evidence linked to a hospital medical report which reportedly documents the redness of the plaintiff's cheek after the alleged incident – since the defence lawyers raised concerns about its reliability.
Before his recent arrest, Hassan Mostafa had been active in Egypt's opposition movement for several years. In April 2010, he was detained during a protest demanding the end of emergency laws, which the then-President Hosni Mubarak had kept in place for decades.
Amnesty International fears that the charges he faces are linked to his opposition activism and, more specifically, his activities urging the Manshiya Prosecution to reveal the fate and whereabouts of individuals arrested in connection with the unrest earlier this year.
His lawyers told the organization they fear that additional charges are likely to be brought against him in relation to his participation in another protest, in an apparent attempt to keep him imprisoned for longer.
Hassan Mostafa’s hearing comes amid a notable increase in legal harassment of opposition activists, bloggers, comedians, protesters, and others in Egypt. Charges of insulting President Mohamed Morsi or other officials, or of “defaming” religion – as well as sweeping arrests of opposition protesters – are now the norm.
There are credible fears that the charges against a well-known opposition activist in Alexandria may be spurious and in retaliation for his activism, Amnesty International said as his appeal hearing is due to resume.Media Node: Alexandria court Story Location: Egypt 31° 10' 47.676" N, 29° 57' 15.2064" E “We fear that Hassan Mostafa may be imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and other human rights, in which case Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release ” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: Egypt’s opposition activists in the dock Description: Blog, 14 May 2013 URL: Opposition activists in the ‘defendants’ cage’ amid ongoing crackdown Description: Blog, 9 May 2013 URL: More face charges in Egypt’s escalating free speech and dissent crackdown Description: News story, 3 April 2013 URL: Egypt: Grant Alexandria activist a fair trial Description: Public statement, 25 February 2013
The Moroccan authorities must immediately launch a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that six Sahrawi activists – including a child – were tortured in police custody in Western Sahara, Amnesty International said.
On 15 May, 17-year old El Hussein Bah was jailed in Laayoune, Western Sahara, in spite of a previous decision to release him on bail. He and five other Sahrawis had been arrested on 9 May after protesting for the self-determination of Western Sahara.
All six have been charged with “violence against public officials”, “participating in an armed gathering”, “placing objects on a road obstructing traffic” and “damaging public property”, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
They are currently in pre-trial detention in Laayoune Civil Prison, and there are fears they face unfair trials after reportedly being tortured into making “confessions”.
“Reports that the Moroccan authorities subjected these six detainees – including a child – to torture and other ill-treatment to extract ‘confessions’ are deeply disturbing. The allegations must be thoroughly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“El Hussein Bah must be and the remaining detainees must be treated humanely, protected from further torture and other ill-treatment, and have immediate access to all necessary medical care.”
Amnesty International fears that the decision to re-arrest El Hussein Bah three days after his release on bail was in retaliation for him speaking out about his alleged torture.
During his short release, the 17-year-old told Amnesty International that during his initial detention, police tortured him, threatened him with rape, and forced him to sign papers including a “confession” which he was not allowed to read.
He alleged that police officers pressed a urine-soaked sponge against his face and pulled his trousers off before threatening him with rape. During his interrogation, he was beaten while kept in a position known as the “roast chicken” – where he was suspended from his knees, with his wrists tied over his legs.
All six detainees told the investigative judge that they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated and that their “confessions” were extracted under torture in police custody. El Hussein Bah reported hearing other detainees being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in separate cells while in police custody, and later noticing their visible bruising, handcuff marks and swollen joints.
Moroccan security forces reportedly failed to produce arrest warrants when they arrested the six Sahrawis at their homes on 9 May. Their family members have not all been allowed to fully exercise their right to visit the detainees.
Calls for self-determination
The demonstration on 4 May in Laayoune was the culmination of 10 days of protests across Western Sahara calling for the region’s self-determination after the United Nations Security Council voted to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping mission, known as the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
MINURSO was originally mandated in 1991 for a transitional period to prepare for a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara could choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
MINURSO is one of the few UN peacekeeping missions that does not include a human rights component. A recent move by the USA to include a human rights component in the draft resolution under consideration by the Security Council was quashed after the Moroccan government objected.
In recent years, Sahrawi pro-independence activists have faced restrictions on their work, including harassment, surveillance by the security forces, limitations on their freedom of movement, and in some cases prosecution on grounds of threatening Morocco’s “internal” and “external” security. They have also been unable to obtain legal registration for their organizations, apparently due to politically-motivated administrative obstacles.
Besides the recent case, other Sahrawis have also been imprisoned following demonstrations calling for the right to Western Saharan self-determination, and others have reportedly been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during questioning by Moroccan law enforcement officials, allegations which have not been properly investigated.
On a recent visit to Western Sahara, an Amnesty International delegation met protesters who reported being injured by security forces in Laayoune on 25 and 26 April and in Smara on 28 April 2013. The delegation observed security officers hurling rocks at protesters on 27 April 2013 in Laayoune, an incident that was also backed up by video footage.
For several years, the organization has been calling for a United Nations human rights monitoring mechanism to look into Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps across the border in Algeria.
“The UN needs an adequate human rights monitoring presence in the region to provide independent and impartial reporting on the current situation, including allegations of torture and other ill-treatment,” said Philip Luther.
“It would play a key role in documenting human rights violations that would otherwise go unreported, and prevent unfounded accusations in other cases.”
The Moroccan authorities must immediately launch a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that six Sahrawi activists – including a child – were tortured in police custody in Western Sahara.Media Node: Sahrawi Story Location: Morocco 25° 29' 48.606" N, 12° 20' 55.0788" W “Reports that the Moroccan authorities subjected these six detainees – including a child – to torture and other ill-treatment to extract ‘confessions’ are deeply disturbing. The allegations must be thoroughly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice.” Source: Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Date: Thu, 16/05/2013 URL: Morocco: Six arrested and tortured in Western Sahara Description: Urgent action, 15 May 2013 URL: UN 'miss opportunity' to allow Western Sahara human rights monitoring Description: News story, 25 April 2013
In Jamaica, some men are labelled as criminals just for expressing their love.
Attempts to hold a Pride in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv have repeatedly run into roadblocks because of very real threats of violence and a police force unwilling to protect participants.
And in South Africa, homophobic hatred all too often leads to violent attacks and killings which frequently go uninvestigated by police.
These three countries provide just a snapshot of the types of discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people the world over. In many countries, such a climate of prejudice increases the likelihood of physical attacks and other human rights abuses against people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
On 17 May, to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), Amnesty International supporters worldwide will take action to highlight the human rights situation of LGBTI people in these three countries and show solidarity.
High levels of discrimination
Around the world, individuals face numerous human rights violations because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTI people face disproportionately high levels of discrimination when accessing healthcare, education, employment and housing. In many countries, consensual same-sex conduct remains criminalized and LGBTI people are often subjected to violence, harassment, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, imprisonment, and torture. Several countries still impose the death penalty for same-sex consensual relations, and it is at risk of being introduced in some others.
They are also denied the right to freedom of expression and assembly – in some countries, activists organizing Pride events face bans by city authorities or inadequate police protection when the Prides are threatened with violence.
IDAHO was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to such issues. It takes place on 17 May each year to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify “homosexuality” as a mental disorder.
“Simply because of who they are, LGBTI people in many countries face discrimination, violence and fear as a part of their daily lives,” said Emily Gray of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme at Amnesty International.
“On the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Amnesty International is calling on thousands of activists to make a strong show of solidarity to help change attitudes and realities in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa.”
In Jamaica, consensual same-sex conduct between men continues to be criminalized and punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. While these laws are rarely implemented, the resulting climate of prejudice increases the likelihood of discrimination, physical attacks and other human rights abuses against people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
Such discrimination translates into frequent incidents of arbitrary arrests, detention and ill-treatment of LGBTI people. Access to healthcare, housing, employment and other services is also limited by disproportionately high levels of discrimination.
During December 2011 electoral campaign, the current Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, stated that “no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation”, and that the “government should provide protection” for LGBTI people.
Amnesty International activists are using Twitter to remind the Prime Minister and her government of the urgency to take concrete action to back up this pledge.
Meanwhile in Europe, LGBTI people in Ukraine face negative stereotyping and discriminatory treatment by members of the public and officials. Religious leaders and elected government officials have been known openly to make discriminatory comments about LGBTI people.
No Pride march has ever taken place in Ukraine. A march planned in the capital Kyiv last May was cancelled because of threats of violence against participants from members of the public, and a police failure to put adequate security measures in place.
Other public events by LGBTI groups have been banned for fear of eliciting negative reactions from the public, and LGBTI activists have been prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
There are fears that a Pride planned for 25 May this year may once again be cancelled because of threats and inadequate protection measures from the police.
Amnesty International fully supports Kyiv Pride. It has been working with the organizers to ensure local authorities allow it to go ahead without hindrance, and will send a delegation to support the march.
Activists are also focusing on South Africa, where hate crimes targeting individuals because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity are all too common.
Between June and November 2012 alone, Amnesty International documented seven murders of LGBTI people in the country – though the actual number is likely to be much higher.
There is an apparent disconnect between South Africa's progressive laws on LGBTI issues, and practical access to justice for LGBTI individuals who are victims of hate crimes. This is evident in the failure of the police to investigate adequately cases of violence against LGBTI people and the continuing climate of fear they endure, especially in townships and rural areas. On the whole, impunity for such hate crimes pervades.
On and around this 17 May, Amnesty International supporters will send personal messages of solidarity to LGBTI activists in South Africa, to stand together against hate crimes.
“Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to exercise their full human rights without fear of violence, discrimination and persecution,” said Emily Gray.
On 17 May, to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), Amnesty International supporters worldwide will take action to highlight the human rights situation of LGBTI people around the world.Media Node: IDAHO Amnesty International Index Number: EUR50/005/2013 Twitter Tag: IDAHO Story Location: South Africa 31° 31' 42.978" S, 22° 30' 0" E “Simply because of who they are, LGBTI people in many countries face discrimination, violence and fear as a part of their daily lives. On the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Amnesty International is calling on thousands of activists to make a strong show of solidarity to help change attitudes and realities in Jamaica, Ukraine and South Africa.” Source: Emily Gray of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme at Amnesty International Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia Description: External web portal URL: Ukraine: Discrimination and violent attacks in pervasive climate of homophobia Description: News story/report, 16 May 2013
The Jamaican authorities must swiftly appoint a commission of inquiry with an adequate mandate, resources and powers to carry out a thorough investigation into the security forces’ conduct during the 2010 state of emergency, Amnesty International said today during a visit to Jamaica.
Three years after the state of emergency resulted in serious alleged human rights abuses – including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests – the Jamaican government has finally acknowledged the need for a commission of inquiry. This followed the Office of the Public Defender’s call for a commission as part of an interim report it presented to Parliament on 29 April.
The Public Defender’s report found that at least 76 people and one soldier were killed in the first days of the state of emergency, representing “the greatest loss of life in a single State Security Forces operation in independent Jamaica”. However, the “interim” report does not state final conclusions on the events; it only recommends that the events be subject to further investigation, by a commission of inquiry and relevant criminal justice authorities.
“After three years, Jamaica still has not met its obligation to complete a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the dozens of allegations of unlawful killings by security forces and other serious human rights abuses during the state of emergency,” said Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Jamaica.
“The previous and the current governments should take responsibility for this failure and must immediately do everything necessary to ensure that the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations are fulfilled without further delay.”
According to the Public Defender’s report, inaction by officials in the initial days after the events of 2010, such as the failure to protect crime scenes, unnecessarily impeded investigations. The Jamaica Defence Force was also initially reluctant to cooperate fully with the Public Defender’s investigations. The report shows how a lack of resources prevented crucial forensic tests, such as ballistic exams, from being concluded, despite international expertise being provided.
Despite several calls from the Public Defender, Jamaican civil society and Amnesty International since shortly after the incidents, the ruling government at the time of the events, as well as the current one that took power in January 2012, refused to appoint a commission of inquiry until the Public Defender’s report had been released.
“The appointment of this commission of inquiry is long overdue – at the very least the government should have previously provided the Office of the Public Defender with the necessary resources to complete its report in a more timely manner. The victims of human rights violations cannot wait any longer for answers and justice,” said Liguori.
As Amnesty International already recommended in its May 2011 report A long road to justice? Human rights violations under the state of emergency, the government should consult with civil society in drawing up the commission’s terms of reference. These should be framed in a way that will require the commission to assess the operations carried out by the security forces against international human rights laws and should include an obligation on the commission to formulate recommendations on how the security forces should operate in the future.
Members of the commission of inquiry should be selected based on recognised impartiality, competence and independence, and civil society should be consulted about the appointments. The commission must also have adequate powers and authority to guarantee access to all relevant evidence, should ensure the involvement of victims and other parties and should be open to public scrutiny, Amnesty International said.
On 23 May 2010, the Governor-General of Jamaica declared a month-long State of Public Emergency in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew. The situation arose from resistance by armed supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke to government efforts to take him into custody. The US authorities were seeking Coke’s extradition to the USA where he faced drug-trafficking and firearms charges.
The declaration of the state of emergency gave the security forces broad new powers to restrict freedom of movement, search premises and detain persons suspected of involvement in unlawful activities without a warrant.
The Office of the Public Defender’s interim report found that at least 44 of the deaths during the state of emergency could represent unlawful killings. It also pointed to four possible victims of enforced disappearance and allegations of hundreds of arbitrary detentions – finding that some 1,000 people were detained towards the beginning of the state of emergency.
The report also covers investigations into the killing of businessman Keith Clarke in his house by security forces on 27 May 2010, for which three officers of the Jamaica Defence Force were charged for murder in July 2012.
Its key recommends are to appoint a Commission of inquiry “to conduct a judicial enquiry into the activities of the State Security Forces and illegal gunmen during the State of Emergency, 2010” and to adequately equip and staff the Forensic Science Laboratory in order to “facilitate completion of outstanding ballistic work in accordance with the agreed Protocol”.
The Jamaican authorities must swiftly appoint a commission of inquiry with an adequate mandate, resources and powers to carry out a thorough investigation into the security forces’ conduct during the 2010 state of emergency.Media Node: Jamaica Tivoli gardens Story Location: Jamaica 18° 1' 24.9492" N, 76° 48' 54.1188" W “After three years, Jamaica still has not met its obligation to complete a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the dozens of allegations of unlawful killings by security forces and other serious human rights abuses during the state of emergency” Source: Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Jamaica Date: Fri, 17/05/2013 URL: Jamaica: A long road to justice? Human rights violations under the state of emergency Description: Report, 23 May 2011
A senior US diplomat has said his government will be quick to sign the new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a move Amnesty International said raises hopes for swift implementation of the potentially lifesaving treaty around the world.
Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman said on Wednesday that the USA would sign the ATT “in the very near future”. Many other governments are also indicating that they will soon sign the treaty which will be open for signature and ratification at the United Nations in New York on 3 June 2013. At least 50 states must ratify the treaty into their national law before it can come into force.
The USA – by far the world’s largest arms producer and exporter – is a key state to support the ATT. Despite playing an obstructive role earlier in the treaty process, US support during the final round of UN negotiations in March this year was an important factor in finally achieving the overwhelming vote of 155 states to adopt the treaty in the General Assembly on 2 April.
“Amnesty International commends the US government commitment to sign the Arms Trade Treaty in the very near future and thus avoid any action that would undermine the treaty. We will continue pushing leaders in the USA and elsewhere in the world to ratify and implement the treaty as soon as possible in order to ensure that arms transfers no longer fuel atrocities and abuse,” said Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.
A group of US Senators – emboldened by the country’s powerful gun lobby – have shown resistance to future US ratification of the ATT. But Amnesty International has pointed out that their concerns are rooted in baseless assertions about the treaty’s reach into domestic gun control regulations.
In his remarks, Countryman once again allayed fears about the ATT’s impact on domestic gun legislation, reiterating that it poses no danger to US constitutional rights. By signing, he said the USA would set an important example and encourage broad adoption and enforcement of the ATT worldwide.
“Our hope is that all the major arms-producing states will eventually support the ATT. In the interim we will encourage as many countries as possible to sign the treaty on 3 June or soon afterwards, and begin taking the necessary measures to ensure its implementation nationally,” said Brian Wood, head of arms control at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has campaigned since the early 1990s to achieve robust, legally binding global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and abuse.
Despite some shortcomings in the treaty text, the organization believes that the ATT represents a significant step towards this goal and provides a firm foundation to better regulate the international flow of weapons.
“While parts of the treaty – such as the definitions of scope and the risk of misuse of arms – could be stronger, the ATT has the real potential to reduce violations of human rights and humanitarian law, particularly if states implement its Articles 6 and 7 in good faith and in line with the object and purpose of the treaty”, said Wood.
Article 6.3 is an important step forward, as it prohibits arms transfers by a state if it has knowledge that those transfers would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Article 7 will require a State Party to not authorize an arms export where there is an overriding risk that the export could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights or humanitarian law – including summary and arbitrary killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.
The treaty also obliges states to assess the risk of arms exports being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.
Iran, Syria and North Korea – all of which have been under some form of international arms embargo – were the only three countries to vote against adoption of the ATT when it went to a vote at the UN General Assembly on 2 April. The USA was among the 155 countries to support its adoption.
A senior US diplomat has said his government will be quick to sign the new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a move Amnesty International said raises hopes for swift implementation of the potentially lifesaving treaty around the world.Media Node: USA ATT Twitter Tag: ArmsTreaty Story Location: United States 38° 53' 43.782" N, 77° 1' 13.224" W See map: Google Maps “Amnesty International commends the US government commitment to sign the Arms Trade Treaty in the very near future and thus avoid any action that would undermine the treaty. We will continue pushing leaders in the USA and elsewhere in the world to ratify and implement the treaty as soon as possible in order to ensure that arms transfers no longer fuel atrocities and abuse” Source: Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Date: Thu, 16/05/2013 URL: UN puts human rights at heart of historic Arms Trade Treaty Description: News story, 2 April 2013 URL: The long journey towards an Arms Trade Treaty Description: Feature, 27 March 2013 URL: Global Arms Trade Treaty – a beginners’ guide Description: Feature, 11 March 2013 URL: Arms control and human rights Description: Campaign page
The Bahraini authorities must immediately release five men sentenced to a year imprisonment for allegedly insulting the King of Bahrain in messages posted on Twitter, Amnesty International said.
Lawyer Mahdi al-Basri, 25, was arrested following a police raid on his home in Karrana, northern Bahrain.
Mahmood ‘Abdul-Majeed ‘Abdullah Al-Jamri, 34, Hassan ‘Abdali ‘Issa, 33, Mohsen ‘Abdali ‘Issa, 26, and ‘Ammar Makki Mohammad Al-Aali, 36, were detained a day later.
The five were tried in separate cases on charges of insulting the King in messages posted on Twitter.
Mahdi al-Basri was accused of posting twitter messages in June 2012 that were traced to his IP address. He has denied the charges, stating that his personal Twitter account was not the one used to post these messages and that he had no connection to the account that used his IP address.
The men were sentenced to one year imprisonment on 15 May under Article 214 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, which criminalizes “offending the emir of the country [the King], the national flag or emblem”.
“The authorities in Bahrain seem to be using every trick in the book to stop people from expressing their views,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“Two years after the uprising in Bahrain, and despite the government claiming to have initiated reforms, the Bahraini authorities are stepping up the repression of those daring to express their views, whether via Twitter or on peaceful marches.”
On 14 April, Bahrain’s cabinet endorsed an amendment to Article 214 of the Penal Code, increasing the penalty for offending King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah or the country’s flag and other national symbols.
The amendment, which has been referred to the National Assembly, would make such offences punishable by up to five years in prison in addition to steep fines.
In another move to restrict basic rights,,earlier this month the lower chamber of Bahrain’s Parliament proposed new amendments to the Law on Public meetings, processions and gatherings.
This further restricts the right to peaceful assembly by demanding that organizers pay a warranty of 20,000 dinars (US$53,050) for a licence. The organizers must also notify people in the area where the gathering will take place.
Since the start of the uprising in 2011, Amnesty International has documented scores of human rights abuses against peaceful activists in Bahrain, including arbitrary arrests, unnecessary and excessive use of force and torture, and other ill-treatment.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by the Bahraini government in June 2011, was charged with investigating and reporting on human rights violations committed in connection with the 2011 protests.
The commission found the security forces were responsible for excessive use of force and arbitary arrests, but no progress has been seen in taking those responsible for the abuses to justice.
Five men in Bahrain have been sentenced to a year imprisonment for allegedly insulting the King of Bahrain in messages posted on Twitter.Media Node: Bahrain At a Glance:
Human rights in Bahrain
- At least 46 people died during protests between February and November 2011, a further 26 have been killed since November 2011.
- More than 500 allegations of torture or other ill-treatment were received by the BICI in 2011.
- Seventeen policemen have gone on trial. Eight have already been acquitted.
- At least 80 children are currently held in adult prisons.
- Amnesty International has adopted 20 individuals as prisoners of conscience.
- According to the Bahrain Watch, the Bahraini government has recently spent at least US$32 million on public relations firms since February 2011.
Story Location: Bahrain 15° 49' 19.938" N, 40° 9' 57.6576" E “The authorities in Bahrain seem to be using every trick in the book to stop people from expressing their views. ” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International. URL: Cancelled UN visit shows Bahrain 'not serious' about human rights Description: News, 24 April 2013 URL: Bahrain’s dark side – Empty promises while repression goes unabated Description: Feature, 17 April 2013
The authorities in Indonesia must immediately halt the execution of three men, expected imminently, Amnesty International said.
If the men are executed it would be a major setback in the use of the death penalty, in a country that appeared to be moving away from the brutal practice in recent years.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, Suryadi Swabuana, Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang, are set to be executed this month.
But there are indications they could be carried out as soon as this evening. The three men are now being held in isolation cells in the Nusakambangan island prison in Central Java, where they are due to be executed by firing squad.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.
In Indonesia’s case, there is no clear indication why the country has decided to resume executions after a four year gap. That period was broken on 14 March this year when Malawian national Adami Wilson, 48, was put to death for drug-trafficking.
This execution - and the three that are imminent – appear to contradict previous statements and actions taken by government officials.
In October last year President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono commuted the death sentence of a drug trafficker. The Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the move was part of a wider push away from the use of the death penalty in Indonesia.
It also runs contrary to Indonesia’s efforts to seek commutations for its nationals on death row overseas, in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.
“More executions in Indonesia must be stopped. They call into question many of the human rights reforms and commitments made by the Indonesian government in recent years. Where it seemed that President Yudhoyono, who is due to step down next year, would leave a positive legacy relating to human rights, the opposite now appears to be the case”, said Papang Hidayat, Amnesty International’s Indonesia Researcher.
“These developments in relation of the death penalty also undermine the positive role Indonesia has played in ASEAN in promoting better respect for human rights.”
Suryadi Swabuana was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of a family in South Sumatra province. His clemency application was rejected in 2003. Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang were convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 for murder in Musi Banyuasin district, South Sumatra province.
According to their lawyers, Jurit and Ibrahim re-filed clemency applications in 2006 and 2008 respectively, but have not received a reply from the President.
In March, after the execution of Adami Wilson, the Attorney General announced plans to this year execute at least nine other people who are currently under sentence of death.
The authorities did not reveal the names of the nine or their execution dates.
There are at least 130 people under sentence of death in Indonesia.
Death sentences there are carried out by firing squad. The prisoner has the choice of standing or sitting, and can decide whether to have their eyes covered by a blindfold or hood. Firing squads are made up of 12 people, three of whose rifles are loaded with live ammunition, while the other nine are loaded with blanks. The squad fires from a distance of between five and 10 metres.
140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice around the world, 17 in the Asia-Pacific region.
Three men are expected to be executed in Indonesia in what would be a major setback in the use of the death penalty, in a country that appeared to be moving away from the brutal practice.Media Node: Indonesia Death penalty 2012 video Death penalty graphic: Executing countries 2012 At a Glance:
Death penalty in numbers
At least ...
- 682 people were executed in 21 countries in 2012.
- 38 people were executed in 8 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
- 23,286 people were on death row at the end of 2012.
- 679 people were sentenced to death in 19 countries in Asia-Pacific.
- 140 countries worldwide, more than two-thirds, are abolitionist in law or practice.
Source: Amnesty InternationalStory Location: Indonesia 3° 5' 47.8896" S, 114° 20' 4.9812" E “More executions in Indonesia must be stopped. They call into question many of the human rights reforms and commitments made by the Indonesian government in recent years. Where it seemed that President Yudhoyono, who is due to step down next year, would leave a positive legacy relating to human rights, the opposite now appears to be the case.”” Source: , said Papang Hidayat, Amnesty International’s Indonesia Researcher. URL: Indonesia: Nine more to be executed in Indonesia Description: News, 29 April 2013 URL: Indonesia: First execution in four years “shocking and regressive” Description: News, 15 March 2013 URL: Death sentences and executions 2012 Description: Feature, 15 April 2013 URL: Five ‘crimes’ that can get you killed
The Ukrainian government must introduce legislation to address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity following a number of attacks on individuals, Amnesty International said in a report published today.
Lawmakers should also vote down proposed legislation to criminalize the “propaganda of homosexuality”, something that is being debated in Parliament at the moment.
“People have been beaten and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished,” said Max Tucker, an Amnesty International expert on Ukraine.
“To add insult to injury, the possibility of attack is now routinely used as an excuse to deprive gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people of their rights to express themselves and to hold public events in a peaceful manner.”
The Amnesty International report, Nothing to be proud of: Discrimination against LGBTI people in Ukraine, exposes endemic discrimination by officials and members of the public towards LGBTI people. Attacks on LGBTI people are fuelled by negative stereotypical and discriminatory statements from elected government officials and church leaders.
Rather than addressing discrimination against LGBTI people, Parliament is now discussing proposals to criminalize the “propaganda of homosexuality,” measures that would restrict fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly.
Antidiscrimination and hate crimes provisions now on the books do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity..For example, a 2013 law "On Principles of Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine" does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
Ukrainian authorities do not adequately investigate or prosecute acts of violence motivated by bias. In fact, those working for the police, prosecutors and other government offices routinely express negative stereotypes about LGBTI people, calling into question their willingness to afford everyone equal protection of the law.
A Ukrainian non-governmental organization (NGO) received 29 reports of violent attacks against LGBTI people by members of the public in Ukraine in 2012, and 36 reports of threats of violence. It has also has documented 49 cases of human rights violations committed by police against LGBTI people, including illegal detention, blackmail, torture and other ill-treatment in 2012.
Armen Ovcharuk, a young gay man, was hit on the head as he left a gay nightclub in Kyiv in the early hours of 22 October 2012. Witnesses called an ambulance. His friends reported the crime the following day and an investigation was subsequently started. Armen died of his injuries on 27 October, but so far Amnesty International has received no response from the Ministry of Interior about the progress of the investigation into the attack, or whether it has been recorded and investigated as a hate crime.
Mykola Lebed was with friends in a bar in the town of Rivne on 2 March 2013 when he was assaulted by a group of men at a nearby table who had been drinking heavily. His nose was broken and his eyes were blackened. When the police arrived, they spoke to the attackers, but did not arrest them. They reportedly told Mykola Lebed that the assailants were part of a ‘higher structure,’ a phrase that suggests that they were officials from the prosecutor’s office.
To date, no pride march of LGBTI supporters has yet taken place in Ukraine. A march planned for last May was cancelled at the last moment because of threats of violence and the failure of the Kyiv police to put in place adequate security measures to protect marchers.
Immediately after the cancellation, and in the months that followed, some of the organizers were targeted and attacked with tear gas because of their association with the event. None of the investigations into these attacks has been concluded.
Other public events by LGBTI groups have been attacked by extremists, with the police not only failing to protect, but rather prosecuting LGBTI activists for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
“The police must guarantee adequate police protection for LGBTI groups seeking to demonstrate peacefully. The police’s failure to adequately protect the participants and organizers of last year’s Kyiv pride march amounts to a violation of the participants’ right to freedom of assembly,” said Max Tucker.
“The police must redress this failure by professionally ensuring Ukraine’s first LGBTI pride march takes place on 25 May in Kyiv without hindrance and with adequate police protection. A further failure to protect LGBTI groups exercising their right to peaceful assembly would not bode well for Ukraine’s aspirations to move closer to the European Union.
“If the government of Ukraine is to succeed in these ambitions it must bring its legislation into line with European human rights standards. It must ensure that all people, including LGBTI people, are treated equally.”
A new report exposes endemic discrimination by officials and members of the public towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex in Ukraine.Media Node: Ukraine Amnesty International Index Number: EUR50/005/2013 Story Location: Ukraine 47° 0' 22.4316" N, 30° 14' 3.75" E “People have been beaten and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished. ” Source: Max Tucker, Amnesty International's expert on Ukraine. URL: Nothing to be proud of: Discrimination against LGBTI people in Ukraine Description: Report
Today’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on Syria is a positive step but it does little to address the immense ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country, Amnesty International said.
The non-binding resolution – which 107 states voted to adopt – encourages, among other things, the UN Security Council to “consider appropriate measures” that would ensure accountability for the ongoing violence and human rights violations in Syria. Russia was among the 12 countries who voted against the measure, while 59 abstained.
The resolution contains the UNGA’s strongest call yet for independent and impartial investigations of all suspected violations of human rights and international humanitarian law since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Russia and China have three times vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on the situation in Syria.
“Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been uprooted by the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, but it has taken the United Nations more than two years to even begin to address the grave human rights abuses being committed there,” said José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International’s UN Representative in New York.
“A majority of the world’s governments have now spoken out, and their endorsement for clear action on Syria must build pressure for the UN Security Council to take up the issue again and press for binding action to bring accountability for abuses.
“This includes referring the situation to the International Criminal Court to bring to justice those on all sides who are responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law.”
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UK and France were among the countries that introduced today’s General Assembly resolution, which condemned all violence amid the Syrian conflict, irrespective of who was responsible. It called upon all parties to bring an immediate end to hostilities and to comply strictly with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law. And it supported a transition of power to help end the current crisis.
The resolution stressed the importance of ending impunity and holding to account all those responsible for serious violations or abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law, including those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also called for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria to be given an extended mandate and greater access to carry out their work.
Since the initial reports of serious human rights violations in Syria in March 2011, Amnesty International has made consistent calls for the international community to take meaningful steps to ensure those responsible are held to account for crimes under international law and other abuses, and for victims to receive reparations.
Activists in the crossfire
The organization has also repeatedly called for an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on dissent in the country amid the conflict, which has led to the detention of tens of thousands of people for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly – with many of them held incommunicado or put at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
Among those targeted have been a large number of human rights activists, a number of whom are facing trial at the recently established Anti-Terrorism Court, where proceedings appear to fall far short of international standards of fair trial.
On 19 May, the Anti-Terrorism court is due to prosecute five independent activists from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression who were arrested in a raid on the centre in February 2012 and have been detained arbitrarily and in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance since then.
The activists, who include the centre’s director, Mazen Darwish, are charged with “propagating terrorist acts” for their human rights and media activities in response to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“The pending trial of Mazen Darwish and his fellow human rights activists on terrorism-related charges is indicative of how the respect for human rights has been trampled amid the ongoing armed conflict in Syria,” said José Luis Díaz.
“The international community – in particular Syria’s allies – must pressure the al-Assad government into halting this persecution of human rights defenders and ensure the release of all prisoners of conscience still being held solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or assembly.”
Bashar al-Assad’s government has granted several general prisoner amnesties since the armed conflict began, but Amnesty International has been following the cases of dozens of prisoners of conscience who have not been affected by the measures and remain behind bars in what are believed to be terrible conditions.
Today’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on Syria is a positive step but it does little to address the immense ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country.Media Node: Syria UN Ambassador Twitter Tag: eyesonsyria Story Location: Syria 35° 12' 8.6076" N, 37° 24' 30.4092" E “Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been uprooted by the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, but it has taken the United Nations more than two years to even begin to address the grave human rights abuses being committed there” Source: José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International’s UN Representative in New York Date: Wed, 15/05/2013 URL: Syria: Rights activists face terrorism charges Description: Public statement, 17 May 2013 URL: Journalists targeted in ongoing conflict in Syria Description: News story/report, 3 May 2013 URL: Syria: Security Council vote will embolden violators Description: News story, 19 July 2012
The Azerbaijani authorities must not use the upcoming presidential election as a pretext to silence critical voices and meaningful debate, Amnesty International said following a move to extend criminal defamation laws to the internet.
On 14 May, the Azerbaijani Parliament approved an amendment to the country’s defamation law to impose hefty fines and prison sentences for anyone convicted of online slander or insults. The new legislation constitutes a further attack of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.
According to the state news agency APA, those found guilty of slander face a fine of up to 500 Azeri manat (US$637), corrective labour of up to one year or jail time of up to six months. The punishment for an online “insult” is even harsher – fines of up to 1,000 Azeri manat, one year of corrective labour or imprisonment of up to six months.
This is just the latest in ever-more restrictive measures – including actions to muzzle mainstream media outlets and the introduction of harsher punishment for peaceful protesters – ahead of October’s election.
“The Azerbaijani authorities’ fear of critical voices has already led them to attempt to keep peaceful protesters off the streets and to muzzle the mainstream media. This new law aims to shut down one of the few last resorts of legitimate protest – the internet,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.
“It’s clear from the timing of these ever-more restrictive measures that the authorities want to prevent any critical voices or meaningful political debate from taking place ahead of October’s election.”
“The high fines proposed under this law will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, leading to self-censorship among independent voices and activists.”
The government of Ilham Aliyev – who has been in power for the past decade, following a decade of his father being in power – has been keeping a tight grasp on the public opinion by restricting severely freedom of expression in Azerbaijan ahead of October’s presidential election.
In addition to the legislative measures introduced in recent months, opposition candidates have been violently attacked, activists have frequently been detained during anti-government protests, and independent journalists have been attacked or prevented from carrying out their work.
Even before the recent defamation laws, criticism of the President’s family has often provoked a swift and harsh response from the authorities. In March 2012 two musicians were arrested and tortured after they insulted the President’s late mother during a public performance.
The Azerbaijani authorities must not use the upcoming presidential election as a pretext to silence critical voices and meaningful debate, Amnesty International said following a move to extend criminal defamation laws to the internet.Media Node: Azerbaijan defamation Story Location: Azerbaijan 40° 23' 29.526" N, 49° 51' 21.4452" E “The Azerbaijani authorities’ fear of critical voices has already led them to attempt to keep peaceful protesters off the streets and to muzzle the mainstream media. This new law aims to shut down one of the few last resorts of legitimate protest – the internet ” Source: David Diaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Date: Wed, 15/05/2013
The use of special government measures to thwart a proposed teachers’ strike in Greece violates the country’s international human rights obligations, Amnesty International said.
The national Union of High School Teachers (OLME) has proposed taking industrial action for six days during university entrance exams, which begin on Friday 17 May and come at the end of the academic year.
The strike action – reportedly endorsed by the local teacher’s unions – is in protest at a decision in late April to increase teachers’ working hours. Teachers’ unions claim the change will result in substantial layoffs and a downgrade in the overall quality of education in the country.
In a bid to quash the strike, the Greek authorities are reportedly invoking special legislation to force teachers to keep working. Teachers could face criminal charges and a minimum of three months’ imprisonment if they fail to comply – if charged, they face immediate suspension from their duties and a prospect of losing their jobs.
“A blanket prohibition on teachers’ right to strike, imposed by means of criminal prosecution and the threat of prison sentences, is clearly unnecessary and disproportionate and would violate Greece's international human rights obligations,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Times of financial hardship don’t absolve governments from their obligations to uphold all human rights, and workers’ rights in particular should not become a casualty to the crisis.”
Under Greek law the government has powers to compulsorily mobilize workers during peacetime in the event of a sudden incident that requires the adoption of urgent measures to deal with the defence needs of the country or an urgent social need – for example, a natural disaster or a public health risk.
When it announced the use of this legal provision against the teachers’ strike, the government argued that the measure was necessary “to prevent a severe disturbance in the social and financial life of the country and to safeguard public order and the health of the prospective university students”.
Under international law, Greece has binding obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of association, which includes the right to organize – to form and join trade unions – and the right to strike. These obligations are set out in international human rights treaties to which it is a state party. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the European Convention on Human Rights; and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.
These rights can only be limited under very specific circumstances if it is demonstrably necessary and proportionate, and will protect national security, public safety, public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.
On this basis, very narrow restrictions of the right to strike can be permissible. This could apply to the armed forces, the police and other public servants who exercise authority in the name of the state. It could also apply to workers in essential services – services which, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the population.
ILO experts have noted that the education sector does not constitute an essential service in that strict sense of the term and, more generally, that any limitations on strikes must be reasonable and must not place a substantial limitation on trade unions.
Since 2010, Greek workers have staged a number of anti-austerity strikes to protest at severe cuts to salaries and government programmes.
The use of special government measures to thwart a proposed teachers’ strike in Greece is disproportionate and in violation of the country’s international human rights obligations.Media Node: Greece teachers strike Story Location: Greece 38° 47' 28.32" N, 22° 14' 50.3304" E “A blanket prohibition on teachers’ right to strike, imposed by means of criminal prosecution and the threat of prison sentences, is clearly unnecessary and disproportionate and would violate Greece's international human rights obligations” Source: Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International Date: Wed, 15/05/2013
The arrest of at least nine activists who were trying to organize a peaceful demonstration in Equatorial Guinea is further evidence of the authorities’ determination to clamp down on free speech ahead of up-coming elections, Amnesty International said.
Two of those arrested were Clara Nsegue Eyi and Natalia Angue Edjodjomo, the founders of the newly created party Partido Democrático de la Justicia Social (Democratic Party for Social Justice) and coordinators of the Movimiento de Protesta Popular ( People’s Protest Movement). They were detained on 13 May and are reportedly being held incommunicado at Malabo Central Police Station.
They were planning to host a peaceful protest on 15 May to demand the registration of their political party, which the authorities had previously refused to allow.
Jerónimo Ndong, Secretary General of the opposition party Unión Popular (People’s Union), who was also involved in the organization of the protest, was arrested this morning. He too is being held at the Central Police Station.
These are the latest in a new wave of arrests of activists that began on 8 May, as the country prepares to hold a general elections on 26 May.
“The authorities in Equatorial Guinea are heading a terrifying detention campaign targeting anyone who dares compete with them in the elections,” said.Noel Kututwa, Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“The wave of arrests and harassment against pro-democracy activists documented in the last week is casting a dark shadow over the upcoming elections.”
Enrique Nsolo Nzo, a university teacher, was arrested on 8 May. He was preparing a banner for the demonstration with a group of students when six youths beat him and dragged him to a police car waiting outside.
He was taken to Malabo Central Police Station where he was interrogated in front of television cameras. He was asked why they wanted to demonstrate and if they had permission. Nsolo Nzo was released later that day without charge and was dismissed from his teaching posts.
On 14 May his father, Marcelo Nzo Nsue and his elder brother, Zenón Nsue Nzo, were arrested and taken to Malabo. Both are still being held at the Ministry of Interior. The reasons for their detention are not known.
Members of the opposition party Convergencia para la Democracia Social (Convergence for social Democracy), one of the two opposition parties taking part in the elections, were harassed and briefly detained as the electoral campaign opened.
Equatorial Guineans will go to the polls on May 26 to elect members of a new parliament as well as local council members across the country.
Voters will also elect, for the first time, 55 members of a new Senate established in accordance with the revised constitution passed in February 2012. The remaining 15 senators will be directly appointed by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979.
The government and the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) party, led by President Obiang, have a track record of cracking down on political opponents ahead of elections, often citing “security reasons” and suspected coup attempts.
The ruling PDGE benefits from a virtual monopoly on power, funding, and access to the national media, while political opponents face severe constraints. Opposition members are pressured through various means, including arbitrary arrest and harassment.
At least nine activists who were trying to organize a peaceful demonstration in Equatorial Guinea were arrested as authorities are determined to clamp down on free speech ahead of up-coming elections.Media Node: equatorial guinea Story Location: Equatorial Guinea 0° 30' 24.5844" S, 11° 4' 27.1884" E “The authorities in Equatorial Guinea are heading a terrifying detention campaign targeting anyone who dares compete with them in the elections. Noel Kututwa, Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.” Source: Noel Kututwa, Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International. URL: Human rights concerns ahead of Equatorial Guinea elections Description: Story, 7 May 2013.
A Gambian activist detained by the authorities after peacefully expressing his views has been released – but there is still no news about a journalist missing for seven years, Amnesty International says.
Imam Baba Leigh, a prominent Muslim cleric and activist, was freed after being held for more than five months at an unknown location after he publicly condemned the execution of nine inmates at Mile II prison in August 2012.
He was arrested on 3 December 2012 by two National Intelligence Agency officers and told he was being taken to their headquarters for questioning.
Imam Baba Leigh was effectively disappeared. He was never charged with a crime, was not brought before a court and during his time in detention and was not allowed contact with a lawyer or his family. Amnesty International adopted him as a Prisoner of Conscience.
The reason for his release is unknown, but media reports indicate he was pardoned by the President.
In 2009, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information expressed concern about threats made by President Yayah Jammeh against Imam Leigh, who had criticized the President.
“Tragically, the story of Imam Baba Leigh is not unusual in the Gambia where the authorities seem to be carrying out a campaign of illegal arrests, harassment, and death threats against anyone who dares to speak up on human rights,” said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, West-Africa researcher at Amnesty International.
Journalists, lawyers and human rights activists have been the targets of a new wave of arrests and harassments by the authorities that intensified after the August executions last year.
The authorities have particularly targeted those who have spoken out against the execution of the nine inmates at Mile II prison – the first executions in the country in 30 years. Others have been detained after criticizing other government policies or authorities.
Ebrima Manneh, a reporter with the then opposition newspaper Daily Observer was detained by government agents in 2006. He has not been seen since. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Manneh has never been charged with a crime and the government denies having him in their custody. The government recently claimed he had been seen in the USA, but his family vehemently denied these reports. He is still listed on the Interpol website as a missing person.
“The disappearance of Manneh is extremely worrying. For years no one has seen him or heard from him. Many fear he is now dead but until the government reveals what happened, we may never know his fate,” said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus.
Several other high-profile individuals have been targeted and arrested, often without being charged with a recognizable crime. Some have been detained for longer than the constitutionally allowed period of 72 hours without being brought before a court, or have been released on onerous bail conditions and ordered to report daily to the security forces.
A Gambian activist detained by the authorities after peacefully expressing his views has been released – but there is still no news about a journalist missing for seven yearsMedia Node: The Gambia Story Location: Gambia 16° 47' 25.8756" N, 14° 45' 56.25" W “Tragically, the story of Imam Baba Leigh is not unusual in the Gambia where the authorities seem to be carrying out a campaign of illegal arrests, harassment, and death threats against anyone who dares to speak up on human rights. ” Source: Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, West-Africa researcher at Amnesty International.
Forcibly returning people to a volatile security situation in Somalia would violate international law, Amnesty International said as the Danish Refugee Board is due to consider returning five Somali asylum seekers.
The Danish hearings on Thursday and Friday come after at least two other European states – Norway and the Netherlands – have already ended suspensions on forcibly returning people to the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The Dutch and Norwegian decisions – in December 2012 and February 2013, respectively – cited improved security in the capital as the reason for the change. But the European Court of Human Rights and Dutch courts have suspended the deportation of four Somali nationals from the Netherlands since then, while the security situation remains poor in Mogadishu, and extremely dire in other parts of Somalia.
“Though there have been improvements in the security situation in Mogadishu, it remains fragile and volatile,” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Somali government control and influence remain weak, and outside the capital in large parts of central and southern Somalia, the armed group al-Shabab maintains de facto control amid what is still an extremely volatile security situation. This is simply not a safe or sustainable situation to forcibly return people to and doing so would violate international law.”
In August 2012, a new Somali administration was appointed, marking the end of an eight-year “transitional” period towards the end of two decades of conflict and state collapse after the Siad Barre regime fell in 1991. Since the new administration has been in place, there have been some improvements in security, but Amnesty International said these changes are not enough to be considered fundamental, durable or stable enough for foreign governments to consider returning Somali individuals.
Although the capital Mogadishu is largely under government control, an armed conflict still rages between the Somali National Armed Forces (SNAF) and the al-Shabab armed group. Civilians persistently face insecurity and risk falling victim to grave human rights abuses, including indiscriminate and targeted violence, rape, killings, as well as extortion.
It is widely believed that all parties to the conflict are responsible for such abuses.
Both indiscriminate and targeted attacks still take place in Mogadishu itself – including the use of suicide bombs, improvised explosive devices (IED) and grenade attacks.
As recently as 5 May, an IED attack killed at least eight civilians and wounded many others in the capital. On 14 April, al-Shabab carried out two large-scale attacks in the city, killing at least 30 people. These were just the latest in a string of violent attacks in recent months.
Journalists, businessmen, clan elders and politicians are at special risk of targeted killings. Twenty-four journalists have been killed in Mogadishu since December 2011, including four so far this year. One of them was Mohamed Ibrahim Rageh, shot outside his home in the capital shortly after returning from exile in Uganda.
In southern and central areas of Somalia – where al-Shabab still exerts broad control – the security situation is extremely volatile, with the armed group and government forces vying for influence.
Government forces often lack the authority, discipline and control needed to protect civilians, and their reliance on Ethiopian and African Union forces mean that any security gains are extremely fragile.
In one recent example on 17 March 2013, Ethiopian troops aiding government forces withdrew from Xudur, the provincial capital of Badool, causing the SNAF to withdraw as well. Within hours of their departure, al-Shabab regained control of the town, prompting thousands of people to flee towards the border with Ethiopia. A surge of abuses followed, with reports that al-Shabab carried out a series of beheadings, including of children and an elderly religious leader.
Amnesty International said in March that the UN’s partial lifting of a longstanding arms embargo on Somalia runs the risk of fuelling an escalation in violations of international humanitarian and human rights law as foreign arms may continue to flow to al-Shabab.
Poor humanitarian conditions
According to UN agencies, more than half of Somalis rely on aid for their survival, and a sixth of the population is still in crisis – the majority of whom live in camps for internally displaced persons.
A drought in 2011 contributed to this situation, but the ongoing humanitarian crisis is largely man-made. Of the 19,000 people recorded as newly displaced between 1 November 2012 and 1 February 2013, 89 per cent cited insecurity as one of the three key reasons for their displacement.
Those living in IDP camps are extremely vulnerable to violence and suffer ongoing human rights abuses. Gender-based violence against women and girls in particular is reported to be endemic, and is often seems to be carried out by the very people mandated with protecting the population: government forces.
“With the ongoing armed conflict and dire humanitarian situation contributing to serious human rights abuses in central and southern Somalia, foreign countries including Denmark should under no circumstances attempt to return individuals there,” said Jackson.
Forcibly returning people to a volatile security situation in Somalia would violate international law.Media Node: Somalia bombing Story Location: Somalia 4° 13' 22.7208" N, 47° 3' 55.548" E “Somali government control and influence remain weak, and outside the capital in large parts of central and southern Somalia, the armed group al-Shabab maintains de facto control amid what is still an extremely volatile security situation. This is simply not a safe or sustainable situation to forcibly return people to and doing so would violate international law” Source: Sarah Jackson, Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International Date: Wed, 15/05/2013 URL: Returns to South and Central Somalia: A Violation of International Law Description: Public statement, 15 May 2013 URL: Somalia: Human Rights Agenda for the Post-Transition Somali Government Description: Public statement, 25 April 2013 URL: Somalia: UN arms embargo must stay in place Description: Press release, 4 March 2013
Heavy monsoon rains and a tropical cyclone threaten the lives of tens of thousands of displaced persons in western Myanmar unless the authorities immediately step up efforts to protect them, Amnesty International said.
More than 140,000 individuals – mostly from the Rohingya Muslim minority – are currently displaced across Rakhine state and have been living in temporary shelters since violence erupted between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state in June 2012. Around half are located in low-lying areas prone to flooding.
According to information released by the US military, cyclone “Mahasen” is expected to reach the area by late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.
“The government has been repeatedly warned to make appropriate arrangements for those displaced in Rakhine state. Now thousands of lives are at stake unless targeted action is taken immediately to assist those most at risk,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
Authorities in Myanmar are said to have taken some measures, including identifying evacuation sites and broadcasting announcements in and around the coastal town of Sittwe to warn residents of the impending storm.
However, several of the identified evacuation sites are within already established camps for internally displaced persons or fail to have adequate storm-ready structures, and storm warnings have not been provided to all at-risk displaced communities outside of Rakhine state’s capital city, Sittwe.
The authorities also continue to impose restrictions on freedom of movement for Rohingya in Rakhine state, including those who are confined to ill-equipped camps.
“The government must facilitate assistance without discrimination, including by lifting any restrictions on movement and ensuring humanitarian groups have access to all individuals in need. The freedom for Rohingya to seek higher ground may be their only chance to avoid potential flooding from heavy rains,” said Arradon.
The Rohingya have faced discrimination for decades in Myanmar. They are not recognized as an official ethnic group and continue to be denied equal access to citizenship rights. Their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practise their religion, and receive health services are restricted to various degrees.
Since the violence last June, Buddhist and Muslim communities have been living largely segregated from each other and tensions remain high.
“Considering continuing tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine, the authorities need to prepare for the possibility of violence during an evacuation situation or in the aftermath of a storm. Addressing the discrimination of the Rohingya community and taking urgent steps towards accountability for last year’s violence will be crucial to prevent future abuses,” said Arradon.
State security forces carried out human rights violations during last year’s violence in Rakhine state and failed to protect people from attacks, including Rohingya.
Heavy monsoon rains and a tropical cyclone threaten the lives of tens of thousands of displaced persons in western Myanmar unless the authorities immediately step up efforts to protect them.Media Node: Myanmar Story Location: Myanmar 17° 21' 42.5556" N, 95° 48' 2.8116" E “The government has been repeatedly warned to make appropriate arrangements for those displaced in Rakhine state. Now thousands of lives are at stake unless targeted action is taken immediately to assist those most at risk. ” Source: Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director. URL: Myanmar: Abuses against Rohingya erode human rights progress Description: News, 19 July 2012
The conviction of Guatemala’s ex-president General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity during his time in office is a historic step in the nation’s long struggle for justice, Amnesty International said today.
Ríos Montt was convicted and sentenced to 80 years for his role as the intellectual author of the killings of 1,771 individuals and the forced displacement of tens of thousands more from the Ixil triangle region of southern Quiché department in 1982 and 1983 in the midst of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, Ríos Montt’s head of intelligence during his time in power, was found not guilty of the same charges.
“With this conviction, Guatemala leads by example in a region where entrenched impunity for past crimes sadly remains the norm,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Guatemala must now follow up on this historic moment by ensuring that all those who took part in the murder, torture, rape and disappearance of tens of thousands of people are brought to justice.”
A UN-backed truth commission found that some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war (1960-1996). More than 80 per cent were of indigenous Mayan descent.
Despite recent efforts to strengthen justice and accountability for past abuses, the Guatemalan armed forces remain uncooperative when it comes to investigations of violations committed during the armed conflict.
The army continues to refuse to provide information to investigations into killings, enforced disappearances, the use of rape as a weapon of war, and other crimes committed during the conflict.
The failure to provide any documentation places a huge burden on families and victims who pursue justice, or are simply seeking to find the whereabouts of their disappeared loved ones.
“Today’s conviction should serve as a reminder to the current government of its duty to victims of the war. The President should use this opportunity to ensure genuine cooperation of the army with investigations into past crimes.”
The conviction of Guatemala’s ex-president General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity during his time in office is a historic step in the nation’s long struggle for justice.Media Node: Ríos Montt Maya celebration At a Glance:
- Guatemala's internal armed conflict took place between 1960 and 1996.
- More than 200,000 men, women and children were murdered or disappeared.
- General Efraín Ríos Montt was in office between March 1982 and August 1983.
- The conflict ended in 1996 with the signing of a Peace Accord.
- A UN-sponsored Commission of Historical Clarification said the Guatemalan state was responsible for most abuses.