Amnesty International

Libya: Trial of former al-Gaddafi officials by video link a farce

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:33am
Headline Title:  Libya: Trial of former al-Gaddafi officials by video link a farce 14 April 2014

The trial of former Libyan officials, including Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, risks descending into a farce after the court ordered today that he and six other defendants be tried via video link, said Amnesty International.

On 23 March, a day before the last hearing in this case, two amendments were made to Libya’s Code of Criminal Procedure to allow hearings via video link.

The trials by video link will infringe all the seven defendants’ rights to a fair trial. The impact on Saif al-Islam’s case is of particular concern as he remains held in a secret location in Zintan by a militia that has repeatedly refused to hand him over to state custody in Tripoli. The other six defendants are held in Misratah in prisons under the control of the Ministries of Justice and Defence.

“Allowing Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to appear by videoconference seriously undermines his right to a fair trial. Saif al-Islam is not in state custody and changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure and today’s court decision are simply about giving a gloss of legality to the stand-off between militias and the central authorities. The bottom line is that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, like hundreds of other detainees, remains held in an unofficial place of detention,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is on trial in Libya along with 36 other former Libyan officials, including the former Chief of Military Intelligence Abdallah al-Senussi. They are facing a string of charges related to crimes committed during the 2011 uprising and armed conflict. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on two counts of crimes against humanity; murder and persecution.

“How can the Libyan authorities claim that Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi will receive a fair trial when they cannot even ensure that he is physically present to face such serious accusations that may result in the death penalty? The court’s decision only reinforces that he must be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in line with the court’s decision issued nearly a year ago,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi remains held in a secret location without any regular contact with the outside world and his appearance by video link at court hearings undermine his right to be present at his own trial. Furthermore it would at best offer a glimpse into his detention and is not indicative of his overall treatment in detention and during his transfer to and from the court.  A trial under such circumstances could also impede his communication with his lawyer and affect his ability to prepare and present an effective defence.

The trial was adjourned to 27 April to allow enough time to make the necessary technical arrangements.

“The authorities appears to have amended laws to permit trial appearances by video link simply because they are unable to secure Saif al-Islam’s transfer into state custody. It shows how little control the state has over him,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

In certain circumstances, including under the ICC rules of procedure, parts of a trial may be conducted by video link. While this should be the exception, such provisions may be permissible for example for security reasons at the defendant’s request, or where the accused has made it impossible to continue with a trial in his presence. However, where the accused is in unofficial custody and the court cannot enforce its authority over him, presence by video link is merely providing an illusion of legality.

The General Prosecutor has stated that Saif al-Islam could not be transferred from Zintan to Tripoli for security reasons, and that he refused to be transferred to Tripoli out of fear for his own life. However, Amnesty International believes that this argument cannot be made while Saif al-Islam al Gaddafi remains in militia’s custody and vulnerable to duress.

Failing to transfer the other six defendants in Misratah to the court in Tripoli will also needlessly impact their right to a fair trial. 

Amnesty International recognizes the numerous security challenges faced by the Libyan authorities in the post-conflict period. The organization has expressed concern about attacks and abductions of detainees being transferred. However, while the judicial police remains weak, the authorities should focus on rebuilding institutions and improving security.

“Instead of changing the law to adapt it to current security and political challenges, the Libyan authorities should be seeking to expedite the process of taking over detention facilities from militias,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Fair trials are essential to address impunity and achieve truth and justice for victims of human rights abuses and international crimes perpetrated during the conflict.

“It is hard to imagine how a fair trial can be conducted in a climate where witnesses are scared to testify, lawyers are scared to plead, prosecutors and judges are threatened, trials are held inside prison complexes or via video link allegedly to address security concerns, and the state is unable to take over detainees from militias,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Amnesty International is also concerned about fair trial rights of all other defendants in the case. Lawyers told the organization that they were not given sufficient time to review evidence and prepare the defence in the pre-trial stage of the proceedings. Some reported intimidation and harassment. Threats have been common in Libya since the end of the 2011 conflict, especially in sensitive cases. 

Abdallah al-Senussi continues to be held without access to legal counsel. His family have been unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him since he was extradited from Mauritania in 2012. Under Libyan law, the court will have to appoint a lawyer to represent him for the case to go ahead.

Background 

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is the main defendant among 37 former officials, including the former Chief of Military Intelligence Abdallah al-Senussi, former Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, former Head of the Revolutionary Guard Mansour Daw, former Head of the External Security Agency Abu Zeid Dorda and others.

The numerous charges relate mainly to the command responsibility of Saif al-Islam and other former officials and their alleged incitement to, or ordering of crimes perpetrated during the conflict. Some carry the death penalty. Only 23 defendants in the case appeared today at the Criminal Department of the Tripoli Appeals Court located in the compound of al-Hadba Corrections and Rehabilitation Institution in Tripoli, a high-security prison nominally under the Ministry of Justice. Expecting an adjournment, most lawyers did not attend the hearing.

Amnesty International met with Saif al-Islam in September 2013 at the militia compound in Zintan, but was not able to speak to him in private or visit his place of detention. The organization remains concerned about his prolonged isolation and the potential detrimental effects it may have on his health, wellbeing, and his access to a fair trial. Visits to Saif al-Islam by independent national and international organizations which must be authorized by the General Prosecution, remain extremely rare and are very difficult to organize. Regular independent monitoring of places of detention is one the main safeguards against torture.

Amended articles undermining right to a fair trial 

On 23 March, the General National Congress (GNC) adopted amendments to articles 241 and 243 of the Code of Criminal Procedure regulating the right to public hearings and the defendant’s presence in court, two fundamental principles of fair trial guarantees under international human rights law.

Under the amended version of Article 241, a hearing is considered public as long as it is broadcast to the public via satellite channels, screens and other means of communication.

Under the amended version of Article 243, the court may use modern means of communication to connect the defendant to the courtroom whenever there is concern for his safety or fear that he may escape. This procedure is also applicable to witnesses, experts and prosecutors. It allows the trial of more than one defendant in more than one courtroom. 

The trial of former Libyan officials, including Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, risks descending into a farce after the court ordered today that he and six other defendants be tried via video link.

Media Node:  Libya Story Location:  Libya 27° 32' 43.6812" N, 13° 53' 19.3812" E “Allowing Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to appear by videoconference seriously undermines his right to a fair trial. Saif al-Islam is not in state custody and changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure and today’s court decision are simply about giving a gloss of legality to the stand-off between militias and the central authorities. ” Source:  Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. URL:  Libya must surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to International Criminal Court Description:  News Story, 18 September 2013.

Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 7:37am
Headline Title:  Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed 14 April 2014

The early release in Viet Nam of several prisoners of conscience is welcome, but serves to highlight the situation of at least 70 others who remain jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions, Amnesty International said today.

Nguyen Tien Trung, Vi Duc Hoi and Cu Huy Ha Vu have all been released over the past week.

“We are delighted that these men are out of prison but they should never have been locked-up in the first place,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“The releases are a step in the right direction for freedom of expression and we hope that they reflect a shift in Viet Nam’s commitment to respecting human rights.”

Amnesty International has documented the cases of 75 individuals who have been imprisoned after being tried and convicted for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and raised some of these cases in a recent visit to Viet Nam.

The cases, including the three men released, were included in the report Silenced Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam. The document charts the harsh conditions faced by prisoners of conscience, many of whom suffer unfair trials, degrading treatment and ill-treatment in detention.

Nguyen Tien Trung

The most recent release came over the weekend, when Nguyen Tien Trung, aged 30, was freed after more than four years in prison. The IT engineer, blogger and pro-democracy activist had been found guilty in 2010 of attempting to “overthrow the people’s administration”.

The charges were brought after Nguyen Tien Trung and some friends set up an activist group while studying abroad in France. The group, called “The Assembly of Vietnamese Youth for Democracy”, was founded to encourage young Vietnamese people in the country and abroad to call for political reform and democracy.

At his trial the judges deliberated for only 15 minutes before returning with the final decision. It then took 45 minutes for the judges to read the judgment, strongly suggesting that it had been prepared in advance of the hearing. He was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by three years under house arrest.

Nguyen Tien Trung was not due for release until January 2017 and his release on Saturday came as a surprise to campaigners and his family.. His co-defendant Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who Amnesty International also considers a prisoner of conscience, is still serving a 16-year sentence.

Vi Duc Hoi

Vi Duc Hoi, 56, was released on Friday 11 April, nearly a year-and-a-half earlier than expected.

Vi Duc Hoi is a writer and former member of Viet Nam’s ruling Communist Party. He was expelled from the party in 2007 for calling for democratic reform and then arrested in 2010 and jailed for eight years for using the internet to promote democracy. This sentence was reduced to five years on appeal.

Cu Huy Ha Vu

Last week, one of Vietnam’s most famous dissidents, human rights lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, 56, was released, three years into a seven-year prison sentence. He immediately travelled to the US, where he will live in voluntary exile.

Dinh Dang Dinh

However, jubilation over those released is marred by the tragic death of another prisoner of conscience, Dinh Dang Dinh, earlier this month. The 50-year old activist was unjustly jailed in 2011 after starting a petition against a mining project. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer while in prison and was only released a month before his death.

Amnesty International is calling on Viet Nam’s government to free all those who remain imprisoned for speaking out.

“The authorities should build on this positive step by immediately and unconditionally releasing all prisoners of conscience who still languish in prison simply for peacefully expressing their opinion,” said Rupert Abbott.

The early release in Viet Nam of several prisoners of conscience is welcome, but serves to highlight the situation of at least 70 others who remain jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Media Node:  Viet nam Twitter Tag:  Vietnam Story Location:  Vietnam 13° 16' 29.82" N, 108° 6' 26.892" E “We are delighted that these men are out of prison but they should never have been locked-up in the first place. ” Source:  Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. URL:  Death of activist Dinh Dang Dinh should be ‘wake-up call’ for Viet Nam Description:  News Story, 4 April 2014. URL:  Silenced Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam Description:  Report, 7 November 2013.

Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 7:37am
Headline Title:  Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed 14 April 2014

The early release in Viet Nam of several prisoners of conscience is welcome, but serves to highlight the situation of at least 70 others who remain jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions, Amnesty International said today.

Nguyen Tien Trung, Vi Duc Hoi and Cu Huy Ha Vu have all been released over the past week.

“We are delighted that these men are out of prison but they should never have been locked-up in the first place,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“The releases are a step in the right direction for freedom of expression and we hope that they reflect a shift in Viet Nam’s commitment to respecting human rights.”

Amnesty International has documented the cases of 75 individuals who have been imprisoned after being tried and convicted for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and raised some of these cases in a recent visit to Viet Nam.

The cases, including the three men released, were included in the report Silenced Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam. The document charts the harsh conditions faced by prisoners of conscience, many of whom suffer unfair trials, degrading treatment and ill-treatment in detention.

Nguyen Tien Trung

The most recent release came over the weekend, when Nguyen Tien Trung, aged 30, was freed after more than four years in prison. The IT engineer, blogger and pro-democracy activist had been found guilty in 2010 of attempting to “overthrow the people’s administration”.

The charges were brought after Nguyen Tien Trung and some friends set up an activist group while studying abroad in France. The group, called “The Assembly of Vietnamese Youth for Democracy”, was founded to encourage young Vietnamese people in the country and abroad to call for political reform and democracy.

At his trial the judges deliberated for only 15 minutes before returning with the final decision. It then took 45 minutes for the judges to read the judgment, strongly suggesting that it had been prepared in advance of the hearing. He was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by three years under house arrest.

Nguyen Tien Trung was not due for release until January 2017 and his release on Saturday came as a surprise to campaigners and his family.. His co-defendant Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who Amnesty International also considers a prisoner of conscience, is still serving a 16-year sentence.

Vi Duc Hoi

Vi Duc Hoi, 56, was released on Friday 11 April, nearly a year-and-a-half earlier than expected.

Vi Duc Hoi is a writer and former member of Viet Nam’s ruling Communist Party. He was expelled from the party in 2007 for calling for democratic reform and then arrested in 2010 and jailed for eight years for using the internet to promote democracy. This sentence was reduced to five years on appeal.

Cu Huy Ha Vu

Last week, one of Vietnam’s most famous dissidents, human rights lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, 56, was released, three years into a seven-year prison sentence. He immediately travelled to the US, where he will live in voluntary exile.

Dinh Dang Dinh

However, jubilation over those released is marred by the tragic death of another prisoner of conscience, Dinh Dang Dinh, earlier this month. The 50-year old activist was unjustly jailed in 2011 after starting a petition against a mining project. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer while in prison and was only released a month before his death.

Amnesty International is calling on Viet Nam’s government to free all those who remain imprisoned for speaking out.

“The authorities should build on this positive step by immediately and unconditionally releasing all prisoners of conscience who still languish in prison simply for peacefully expressing their opinion,” said Rupert Abbott.

The early release in Viet Nam of several prisoners of conscience is welcome, but serves to highlight the situation of at least 70 others who remain jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Media Node:  Viet nam Twitter Tag:  Vietnam Story Location:  Vietnam 13° 16' 29.82" N, 108° 6' 26.892" E “We are delighted that these men are out of prison but they should never have been locked-up in the first place. ” Source:  Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. URL:  Death of activist Dinh Dang Dinh should be ‘wake-up call’ for Viet Nam Description:  News Story, 4 April 2014. URL:  Silenced Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam Description:  Report, 7 November 2013.

Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 7:37am
Headline Title:  Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed 14 April 2014

The early release in Viet Nam of several prisoners of conscience is welcome, but serves to highlight the situation of at least 70 others who remain jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions, Amnesty International said today.

Nguyen Tien Trung, Vi Duc Hoi and Cu Huy Ha Vu have all been released over the past week.

“We are delighted that these men are out of prison but they should never have been locked-up in the first place,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“The releases are a step in the right direction for freedom of expression and we hope that they reflect a shift in Viet Nam’s commitment to respecting human rights.”

Amnesty International has documented the cases of 75 individuals who have been imprisoned after being tried and convicted for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and raised some of these cases in a recent visit to Viet Nam.

The cases, including the three men released, were included in the report Silenced Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam. The document charts the harsh conditions faced by prisoners of conscience, many of whom suffer unfair trials, degrading treatment and ill-treatment in detention.

Nguyen Tien Trung

The most recent release came over the weekend, when Nguyen Tien Trung, aged 30, was freed after more than four years in prison. The IT engineer, blogger and pro-democracy activist had been found guilty in 2010 of attempting to “overthrow the people’s administration”.

The charges were brought after Nguyen Tien Trung and some friends set up an activist group while studying abroad in France. The group, called “The Assembly of Vietnamese Youth for Democracy”, was founded to encourage young Vietnamese people in the country and abroad to call for political reform and democracy.

At his trial the judges deliberated for only 15 minutes before returning with the final decision. It then took 45 minutes for the judges to read the judgment, strongly suggesting that it had been prepared in advance of the hearing. He was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by three years under house arrest.

Nguyen Tien Trung was not due for release until January 2017 and his release on Saturday came as a surprise to campaigners and his family.. His co-defendant Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who Amnesty International also considers a prisoner of conscience, is still serving a 16-year sentence.

Vi Duc Hoi

Vi Duc Hoi, 56, was released on Friday 11 April, nearly a year-and-a-half earlier than expected.

Vi Duc Hoi is a writer and former member of Viet Nam’s ruling Communist Party. He was expelled from the party in 2007 for calling for democratic reform and then arrested in 2010 and jailed for eight years for using the internet to promote democracy. This sentence was reduced to five years on appeal.

Cu Huy Ha Vu

Last week, one of Vietnam’s most famous dissidents, human rights lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, 56, was released, three years into a seven-year prison sentence. He immediately travelled to the US, where he will live in voluntary exile.

Dinh Dang Dinh

However, jubilation over those released is marred by the tragic death of another prisoner of conscience, Dinh Dang Dinh, earlier this month. The 50-year old activist was unjustly jailed in 2011 after starting a petition against a mining project. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer while in prison and was only released a month before his death.

Amnesty International is calling on Viet Nam’s government to free all those who remain imprisoned for speaking out.

“The authorities should build on this positive step by immediately and unconditionally releasing all prisoners of conscience who still languish in prison simply for peacefully expressing their opinion,” said Rupert Abbott.

The early release in Viet Nam of several prisoners of conscience is welcome, but serves to highlight the situation of at least 70 others who remain jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Media Node:  Viet nam Twitter Tag:  Vietnam Story Location:  Vietnam 13° 16' 29.82" N, 108° 6' 26.892" E “We are delighted that these men are out of prison but they should never have been locked-up in the first place. ” Source:  Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. URL:  Death of activist Dinh Dang Dinh should be ‘wake-up call’ for Viet Nam Description:  News Story, 4 April 2014. URL:  Silenced Voices: Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam Description:  Report, 7 November 2013.

Algeria: Pre-election clampdown exposes ‘gaping holes’ in human rights record

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:58am
Headline Title:  Algeria: Pre-election clampdown exposes ‘gaping holes’ in human rights record 14 April 2014

 

Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

Moves to silence critics and quash social unrest are at the forefront of a number of human rights concerns highlighted by the organization ahead of Algeria’s presidential elections on 17 April, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, is controversially seeking a fourth term. Other challenges include shortcomings in laws that facilitate torture and ill-treatment, and fail to adequately protect women from gender-based violence as well as prevailing impunity for past abuses.   

“Algerian authorities’ strategy has been to nip in the bud any attempt to challenge them or their record. With the upcoming elections, they are up scaling the clampdown and showing they will not tolerate public criticism at any level”, said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research. 

 “There appears to be a concerted effort by the Algerian authorities to seize control of the narrative in the run-up to the elections by tightening their stranglehold on freedom of expression. A lack of open debate and restrictions on the right to criticize or protest to express social grievances or political demands cast doubt over the upcoming elections.” 

Several foreign journalists have yet to be granted visas to cover the elections and international human rights groups such as Amnesty International have been withheld visas to the country for years. 

The state of emergency was lifted in Algeria in 2011, yet restrictions continue to be imposed on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Although it is an oil-rich country, social and economic unrest fuelled by corruption, the rising costs of living, high unemployment and lack of access to housing has continued. The Algerian authorities have largely responded to such protests by forcibly dispersing them, as well as harassing and arresting demonstrators and trade union activists. 

Despite a ban on demonstrations in Algiers, following an initial crackdown in early March the authorities have not forcibly dispersed peaceful protests in the capital which were held under heavy security. 

However, the authorities continue to target Algerians, including journalists who stray from the official, pro-Bouteflika narrative. In one harrowing recent example, the wife of a journalist who had covered opposition protests was assaulted by three individuals in plain clothes believed to be members of the security forces. They reportedly threatened her at gunpoint and demanded that her husband stop criticizing the authorities on Facebook, before scalding her with hot water. 

Last month security forces raided Al-Atlas TV, a private TV station which had criticised the authorities in its broadcasts. It was shut down and forced off air on 12 March 2014. Under current laws, only state-sanctioned media are fully licensed, with private channels granted temporary licenses that can be revoked with little warning. 

“Attacking a private television station simply because it dared to broadcast a different view is a reprehensible attack on freedom of expression,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

A 2012 law regulating associations places further restrictions on those wishing to register an independent organization and tightens regulations on foreign funding under the guise of protecting national values or morality. A number of associations that have been critical of government policy, including those seeking to combat corruption and sexual violence, or those demanding truth and justice about enforced disappearances, have yet to be registered. Amnesty International Algeria, which has been legally registered in Algeria since 1991, has most recently been denied the necessary authorization to organize its annual general assembly. 

“As well as a crackdown on civil society, Algeria’s authorities have also failed to implement UN recommendations to close loopholes in existing laws that facilitate torture and ill-treatment. Safeguards against torture in Algerian law are currently woefully inadequate. This is compounded by a dire record of impunity when it comes to violations by the state, a tragic legacy of the country’s bloody internal conflict,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

The hostage crisis at Algeria’s Amenas gas plant in January 2013, in which more than 40 workers and 29 hostage-takers were killed, put a spotlight on the security threats faced by the country as well as the abysmal record of the security forces. Algerian security forces have committed grave abuses including torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions and secret detention, in the name of fighting terrorism. However the track record of Algeria’s security forces has been disregarded in security cooperation with the USA, France and the UK. 

Wide reforms are also still needed to end discrimination and violence against women and to address migrants’ rights. In addition, a series of amnesty measures granting immunity to perpetrators of a catalogue of appalling abuses from Algeria’s past have only served to entrench impunity. 

“Despite repeated promises of reforms, these gaping holes in Algeria’s human rights record persist, even in areas trumpeted by the authorities as successes. Discrimination and violence against women remain rife,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

Media Node:  Algeria demos At a Glance: 
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly under threat with restrictions on protests, private TV station taken off air and NGOs in legal limbo
  • International human rights groups and UN human rights experts barred
  • Independent trade unions harassed amid social tensions and employment protests
  • Laws fail to protect women from gender-based violence and criminal suspects from torture
  • Failure to tackle pervasive impunity 
Amnesty International Index Number:  MDE28/004/2014 Story Location:  Algeria 32° 45' 31.0968" N, 5° 55' 57.4212" E “Algerian authorities’ strategy has been to nip in the bud any attempt to challenge them or their record. With the upcoming elections, they are up scaling the clampdown and showing they will not tolerate public criticism at any level ” Source:  Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research Date:  Mon, 14/04/2014 URL:  Algeria: Key human rights concerns ahead of presidential elections Description:  Briefing, 14 April 2014

Algeria: Pre-election clampdown exposes ‘gaping holes’ in human rights record

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:58am
Headline Title:  Algeria: Pre-election clampdown exposes ‘gaping holes’ in human rights record 14 April 2014

 

Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

Moves to silence critics and quash social unrest are at the forefront of a number of human rights concerns highlighted by the organization ahead of Algeria’s presidential elections on 17 April, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, is controversially seeking a fourth term. Other challenges include shortcomings in laws that facilitate torture and ill-treatment, and fail to adequately protect women from gender-based violence as well as prevailing impunity for past abuses.   

“Algerian authorities’ strategy has been to nip in the bud any attempt to challenge them or their record. With the upcoming elections, they are up scaling the clampdown and showing they will not tolerate public criticism at any level”, said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research. 

 “There appears to be a concerted effort by the Algerian authorities to seize control of the narrative in the run-up to the elections by tightening their stranglehold on freedom of expression. A lack of open debate and restrictions on the right to criticize or protest to express social grievances or political demands cast doubt over the upcoming elections.” 

Several foreign journalists have yet to be granted visas to cover the elections and international human rights groups such as Amnesty International have been withheld visas to the country for years. 

The state of emergency was lifted in Algeria in 2011, yet restrictions continue to be imposed on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Although it is an oil-rich country, social and economic unrest fuelled by corruption, the rising costs of living, high unemployment and lack of access to housing has continued. The Algerian authorities have largely responded to such protests by forcibly dispersing them, as well as harassing and arresting demonstrators and trade union activists. 

Despite a ban on demonstrations in Algiers, following an initial crackdown in early March the authorities have not forcibly dispersed peaceful protests in the capital which were held under heavy security. 

However, the authorities continue to target Algerians, including journalists who stray from the official, pro-Bouteflika narrative. In one harrowing recent example, the wife of a journalist who had covered opposition protests was assaulted by three individuals in plain clothes believed to be members of the security forces. They reportedly threatened her at gunpoint and demanded that her husband stop criticizing the authorities on Facebook, before scalding her with hot water. 

Last month security forces raided Al-Atlas TV, a private TV station which had criticised the authorities in its broadcasts. It was shut down and forced off air on 12 March 2014. Under current laws, only state-sanctioned media are fully licensed, with private channels granted temporary licenses that can be revoked with little warning. 

“Attacking a private television station simply because it dared to broadcast a different view is a reprehensible attack on freedom of expression,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

A 2012 law regulating associations places further restrictions on those wishing to register an independent organization and tightens regulations on foreign funding under the guise of protecting national values or morality. A number of associations that have been critical of government policy, including those seeking to combat corruption and sexual violence, or those demanding truth and justice about enforced disappearances, have yet to be registered. Amnesty International Algeria, which has been legally registered in Algeria since 1991, has most recently been denied the necessary authorization to organize its annual general assembly. 

“As well as a crackdown on civil society, Algeria’s authorities have also failed to implement UN recommendations to close loopholes in existing laws that facilitate torture and ill-treatment. Safeguards against torture in Algerian law are currently woefully inadequate. This is compounded by a dire record of impunity when it comes to violations by the state, a tragic legacy of the country’s bloody internal conflict,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

The hostage crisis at Algeria’s Amenas gas plant in January 2013, in which more than 40 workers and 29 hostage-takers were killed, put a spotlight on the security threats faced by the country as well as the abysmal record of the security forces. Algerian security forces have committed grave abuses including torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions and secret detention, in the name of fighting terrorism. However the track record of Algeria’s security forces has been disregarded in security cooperation with the USA, France and the UK. 

Wide reforms are also still needed to end discrimination and violence against women and to address migrants’ rights. In addition, a series of amnesty measures granting immunity to perpetrators of a catalogue of appalling abuses from Algeria’s past have only served to entrench impunity. 

“Despite repeated promises of reforms, these gaping holes in Algeria’s human rights record persist, even in areas trumpeted by the authorities as successes. Discrimination and violence against women remain rife,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

Media Node:  Algeria demos At a Glance: 
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly under threat with restrictions on protests, private TV station taken off air and NGOs in legal limbo
  • International human rights groups and UN human rights experts barred
  • Independent trade unions harassed amid social tensions and employment protests
  • Laws fail to protect women from gender-based violence and criminal suspects from torture
  • Failure to tackle pervasive impunity 
Amnesty International Index Number:  MDE28/004/2014 Story Location:  Algeria 32° 45' 31.0968" N, 5° 55' 57.4212" E “Algerian authorities’ strategy has been to nip in the bud any attempt to challenge them or their record. With the upcoming elections, they are up scaling the clampdown and showing they will not tolerate public criticism at any level ” Source:  Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research Date:  Mon, 14/04/2014 URL:  Algeria: Key human rights concerns ahead of presidential elections Description:  Briefing, 14 April 2014

Algeria: Pre-election clampdown exposes ‘gaping holes’ in human rights record

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:58am
Headline Title:  Algeria: Pre-election clampdown exposes ‘gaping holes’ in human rights record 14 April 2014

 

Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

Moves to silence critics and quash social unrest are at the forefront of a number of human rights concerns highlighted by the organization ahead of Algeria’s presidential elections on 17 April, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, is controversially seeking a fourth term. Other challenges include shortcomings in laws that facilitate torture and ill-treatment, and fail to adequately protect women from gender-based violence as well as prevailing impunity for past abuses.   

“Algerian authorities’ strategy has been to nip in the bud any attempt to challenge them or their record. With the upcoming elections, they are up scaling the clampdown and showing they will not tolerate public criticism at any level”, said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research. 

 “There appears to be a concerted effort by the Algerian authorities to seize control of the narrative in the run-up to the elections by tightening their stranglehold on freedom of expression. A lack of open debate and restrictions on the right to criticize or protest to express social grievances or political demands cast doubt over the upcoming elections.” 

Several foreign journalists have yet to be granted visas to cover the elections and international human rights groups such as Amnesty International have been withheld visas to the country for years. 

The state of emergency was lifted in Algeria in 2011, yet restrictions continue to be imposed on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Although it is an oil-rich country, social and economic unrest fuelled by corruption, the rising costs of living, high unemployment and lack of access to housing has continued. The Algerian authorities have largely responded to such protests by forcibly dispersing them, as well as harassing and arresting demonstrators and trade union activists. 

Despite a ban on demonstrations in Algiers, following an initial crackdown in early March the authorities have not forcibly dispersed peaceful protests in the capital which were held under heavy security. 

However, the authorities continue to target Algerians, including journalists who stray from the official, pro-Bouteflika narrative. In one harrowing recent example, the wife of a journalist who had covered opposition protests was assaulted by three individuals in plain clothes believed to be members of the security forces. They reportedly threatened her at gunpoint and demanded that her husband stop criticizing the authorities on Facebook, before scalding her with hot water. 

Last month security forces raided Al-Atlas TV, a private TV station which had criticised the authorities in its broadcasts. It was shut down and forced off air on 12 March 2014. Under current laws, only state-sanctioned media are fully licensed, with private channels granted temporary licenses that can be revoked with little warning. 

“Attacking a private television station simply because it dared to broadcast a different view is a reprehensible attack on freedom of expression,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

A 2012 law regulating associations places further restrictions on those wishing to register an independent organization and tightens regulations on foreign funding under the guise of protecting national values or morality. A number of associations that have been critical of government policy, including those seeking to combat corruption and sexual violence, or those demanding truth and justice about enforced disappearances, have yet to be registered. Amnesty International Algeria, which has been legally registered in Algeria since 1991, has most recently been denied the necessary authorization to organize its annual general assembly. 

“As well as a crackdown on civil society, Algeria’s authorities have also failed to implement UN recommendations to close loopholes in existing laws that facilitate torture and ill-treatment. Safeguards against torture in Algerian law are currently woefully inadequate. This is compounded by a dire record of impunity when it comes to violations by the state, a tragic legacy of the country’s bloody internal conflict,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

The hostage crisis at Algeria’s Amenas gas plant in January 2013, in which more than 40 workers and 29 hostage-takers were killed, put a spotlight on the security threats faced by the country as well as the abysmal record of the security forces. Algerian security forces have committed grave abuses including torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions and secret detention, in the name of fighting terrorism. However the track record of Algeria’s security forces has been disregarded in security cooperation with the USA, France and the UK. 

Wide reforms are also still needed to end discrimination and violence against women and to address migrants’ rights. In addition, a series of amnesty measures granting immunity to perpetrators of a catalogue of appalling abuses from Algeria’s past have only served to entrench impunity. 

“Despite repeated promises of reforms, these gaping holes in Algeria’s human rights record persist, even in areas trumpeted by the authorities as successes. Discrimination and violence against women remain rife,” said Nicola Duckworth. 

Mounting curbs on freedom of expression in the run-up to Algeria’s upcoming elections underscore disturbing shortcomings in the country’s overall human rights record, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

Media Node:  Algeria demos At a Glance: 
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly under threat with restrictions on protests, private TV station taken off air and NGOs in legal limbo
  • International human rights groups and UN human rights experts barred
  • Independent trade unions harassed amid social tensions and employment protests
  • Laws fail to protect women from gender-based violence and criminal suspects from torture
  • Failure to tackle pervasive impunity 
Amnesty International Index Number:  MDE28/004/2014 Story Location:  Algeria 32° 45' 31.0968" N, 5° 55' 57.4212" E “Algerian authorities’ strategy has been to nip in the bud any attempt to challenge them or their record. With the upcoming elections, they are up scaling the clampdown and showing they will not tolerate public criticism at any level ” Source:  Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research Date:  Mon, 14/04/2014 URL:  Algeria: Key human rights concerns ahead of presidential elections Description:  Briefing, 14 April 2014

Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 8:33am
Headline Title:  Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees 11 April 2014

Somali refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya are being trapped in a catch-22 situation by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown, Amnesty International said as thousands of Somalis continued to be rounded up by security forces in Nairobi.

Registration of Somali refugees in Kenya has been largely halted since 2011, preventing many who should qualify for refugee status from obtaining papers. Without these they could be returned to Somalia, where they may be at risk of human rights abuses.

“Thousands of unregistered Somali refugees and asylum-seekers are in an impossible situation: they face arrest and deportation because they are not registered, but it is extremely difficult for them to register,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Regional Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.  

“The Kenyan government is punishing refugees and asylum-seekers for being in a legal limbo that it has created, while showing no consideration for their human rights.”

Somali refugees told Amnesty International they had faced intimidation, beatings and unlawful detention at the hands of security forces conducting house-to-house searches in predominantly Somali neighbourhoods over the past week.

Ahmed, 26, who was taken from his home to the Kasarani football stadium to have his papers checked on 7 April, said: “They came to my house in the middle of the night and demanded my papers. My ID had expired. They said ‘this is not real ID’ so they beat and kicked me and then took me to Kasarani.” 

Unregistered asylum-seekers are at particular risk, though people with valid papers have also been arbitrarily detained, threatened and mistreated.

Mohamed, who was arrested on 6 April near Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali area of Nairobi, told Amnesty International: “Four policemen stopped me and asked for my ID. I showed them my refugee card; they said it meant nothing. They demanded 35,000 KSh ($400 US) from me. When I didn’t have it, they told me I was al-Shabab and forced me to go with them.” 

He was detained at the Kasarani stadium, where many refugees have been taken for screening, before being moved to a police station overnight. The following day he was released along with 47 others, but he now has no ID. 

“When they brought us back to Eastleigh they didn’t give me my refugee mandate back. They told me to come back the next day to Kasarani, but when I went I was told to come back another time,” he said.

Refugees and asylum-seekers without IDs are at high risk of arrest and detention. Though Mohamed is legally in Kenya, he is unable to move around freely for fear of arrest.

 “I didn’t sleep last night. Now I don’t have an ID, if they arrest me right now, I have nothing to show,” he said.  

Anti-terror operation

The Kenyan government has been carrying out a large-scale anti-terror operation called Rudisha Usalama (“restore peace”) since 2 April, arresting more than 4,000 people throughout the country, mainly from the Somali community. 

“Such blanket arrests are discriminatory and arbitrary. Marginalizing entire communities is not the way to deal with insecurity, and may well cause further insecurity,” Michelle Kagari said. 

The government crackdown on refugees has escalated since Kenya’s Secretary of Interior, Ole Lenku, issued a directive on 26 March ordering all refugees to move to run-down and overcrowded camps in northern Kenya. 

This followed a similar government directive in December 2012, which was quashed by Kenya’s High Court in July 2013.

The Court said relocation to the camps would violate refugees’ dignity and freedom of movement and risks indirectly forcing them back to Somalia. The Court also ruled that the Kenyan government had not proved that the move would help protect national security.

The current crackdown is not only in breach of the High Court judgement, but has also been implemented unlawfully. 

Ibrahim, a Somali elder in Eastleigh, told Amnesty International: “The way they’re treating people is forcing people to go back to Somalia.”

Amnesty International’s report published in February, No Place Like Home: Returns and Relocations of Somalia’s Displaced, documented how widespread intimidation and lack of respect for human rights are forcing Somali refugees out of Kenya.

On 9 April, the Somali embassy in Nairobi said that Kenya had deported 82 Somalis to Mogadishu. More are expected to be deported in the coming days. 

“These deportations to a volatile security situation in Somalia may well amount to refoulement,” said Michelle Kagari. 

“Forcibly returning people to places where their lives or freedoms are at risk would violate international refugee law, which Kenya is bound to respect.”

Somali refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya are being trapped in a catch-22 situation by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown, Amnesty International said. 

Media Node:  kenya Twitter Tag:  kenya Story Location:  United Kingdom 1° 24' 12.1068" S, 38° 45' 35.1576" E See map: Google Maps “The Kenyan government is punishing refugees and asylum-seekers for being in a legal limbo that it has created.” Source:  Amnesty International's Michelle Kagari

Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 8:33am
Headline Title:  Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees 11 April 2014

Somali refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya are being trapped in a catch-22 situation by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown, Amnesty International said as thousands of Somalis continued to be rounded up by security forces in Nairobi.

Registration of Somali refugees in Kenya has been largely halted since 2011, preventing many who should qualify for refugee status from obtaining papers. Without these they could be returned to Somalia, where they may be at risk of human rights abuses.

“Thousands of unregistered Somali refugees and asylum-seekers are in an impossible situation: they face arrest and deportation because they are not registered, but it is extremely difficult for them to register,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Regional Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.  

“The Kenyan government is punishing refugees and asylum-seekers for being in a legal limbo that it has created, while showing no consideration for their human rights.”

Somali refugees told Amnesty International they had faced intimidation, beatings and unlawful detention at the hands of security forces conducting house-to-house searches in predominantly Somali neighbourhoods over the past week.

Ahmed, 26, who was taken from his home to the Kasarani football stadium to have his papers checked on 7 April, said: “They came to my house in the middle of the night and demanded my papers. My ID had expired. They said ‘this is not real ID’ so they beat and kicked me and then took me to Kasarani.” 

Unregistered asylum-seekers are at particular risk, though people with valid papers have also been arbitrarily detained, threatened and mistreated.

Mohamed, who was arrested on 6 April near Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali area of Nairobi, told Amnesty International: “Four policemen stopped me and asked for my ID. I showed them my refugee card; they said it meant nothing. They demanded 35,000 KSh ($400 US) from me. When I didn’t have it, they told me I was al-Shabab and forced me to go with them.” 

He was detained at the Kasarani stadium, where many refugees have been taken for screening, before being moved to a police station overnight. The following day he was released along with 47 others, but he now has no ID. 

“When they brought us back to Eastleigh they didn’t give me my refugee mandate back. They told me to come back the next day to Kasarani, but when I went I was told to come back another time,” he said.

Refugees and asylum-seekers without IDs are at high risk of arrest and detention. Though Mohamed is legally in Kenya, he is unable to move around freely for fear of arrest.

 “I didn’t sleep last night. Now I don’t have an ID, if they arrest me right now, I have nothing to show,” he said.  

Anti-terror operation

The Kenyan government has been carrying out a large-scale anti-terror operation called Rudisha Usalama (“restore peace”) since 2 April, arresting more than 4,000 people throughout the country, mainly from the Somali community. 

“Such blanket arrests are discriminatory and arbitrary. Marginalizing entire communities is not the way to deal with insecurity, and may well cause further insecurity,” Michelle Kagari said. 

The government crackdown on refugees has escalated since Kenya’s Secretary of Interior, Ole Lenku, issued a directive on 26 March ordering all refugees to move to run-down and overcrowded camps in northern Kenya. 

This followed a similar government directive in December 2012, which was quashed by Kenya’s High Court in July 2013.

The Court said relocation to the camps would violate refugees’ dignity and freedom of movement and risks indirectly forcing them back to Somalia. The Court also ruled that the Kenyan government had not proved that the move would help protect national security.

The current crackdown is not only in breach of the High Court judgement, but has also been implemented unlawfully. 

Ibrahim, a Somali elder in Eastleigh, told Amnesty International: “The way they’re treating people is forcing people to go back to Somalia.”

Amnesty International’s report published in February, No Place Like Home: Returns and Relocations of Somalia’s Displaced, documented how widespread intimidation and lack of respect for human rights are forcing Somali refugees out of Kenya.

On 9 April, the Somali embassy in Nairobi said that Kenya had deported 82 Somalis to Mogadishu. More are expected to be deported in the coming days. 

“These deportations to a volatile security situation in Somalia may well amount to refoulement,” said Michelle Kagari. 

“Forcibly returning people to places where their lives or freedoms are at risk would violate international refugee law, which Kenya is bound to respect.”

Somali refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya are being trapped in a catch-22 situation by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown, Amnesty International said. 

Media Node:  kenya Twitter Tag:  kenya Story Location:  United Kingdom 1° 24' 12.1068" S, 38° 45' 35.1576" E See map: Google Maps “The Kenyan government is punishing refugees and asylum-seekers for being in a legal limbo that it has created.” Source:  Amnesty International's Michelle Kagari

Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 8:33am
Headline Title:  Kenya: Somalis trapped in ‘catch-22’ amid crackdown on refugees 11 April 2014

Somali refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya are being trapped in a catch-22 situation by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown, Amnesty International said as thousands of Somalis continued to be rounded up by security forces in Nairobi.

Registration of Somali refugees in Kenya has been largely halted since 2011, preventing many who should qualify for refugee status from obtaining papers. Without these they could be returned to Somalia, where they may be at risk of human rights abuses.

“Thousands of unregistered Somali refugees and asylum-seekers are in an impossible situation: they face arrest and deportation because they are not registered, but it is extremely difficult for them to register,” said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Regional Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.  

“The Kenyan government is punishing refugees and asylum-seekers for being in a legal limbo that it has created, while showing no consideration for their human rights.”

Somali refugees told Amnesty International they had faced intimidation, beatings and unlawful detention at the hands of security forces conducting house-to-house searches in predominantly Somali neighbourhoods over the past week.

Ahmed, 26, who was taken from his home to the Kasarani football stadium to have his papers checked on 7 April, said: “They came to my house in the middle of the night and demanded my papers. My ID had expired. They said ‘this is not real ID’ so they beat and kicked me and then took me to Kasarani.” 

Unregistered asylum-seekers are at particular risk, though people with valid papers have also been arbitrarily detained, threatened and mistreated.

Mohamed, who was arrested on 6 April near Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali area of Nairobi, told Amnesty International: “Four policemen stopped me and asked for my ID. I showed them my refugee card; they said it meant nothing. They demanded 35,000 KSh ($400 US) from me. When I didn’t have it, they told me I was al-Shabab and forced me to go with them.” 

He was detained at the Kasarani stadium, where many refugees have been taken for screening, before being moved to a police station overnight. The following day he was released along with 47 others, but he now has no ID. 

“When they brought us back to Eastleigh they didn’t give me my refugee mandate back. They told me to come back the next day to Kasarani, but when I went I was told to come back another time,” he said.

Refugees and asylum-seekers without IDs are at high risk of arrest and detention. Though Mohamed is legally in Kenya, he is unable to move around freely for fear of arrest.

 “I didn’t sleep last night. Now I don’t have an ID, if they arrest me right now, I have nothing to show,” he said.  

Anti-terror operation

The Kenyan government has been carrying out a large-scale anti-terror operation called Rudisha Usalama (“restore peace”) since 2 April, arresting more than 4,000 people throughout the country, mainly from the Somali community. 

“Such blanket arrests are discriminatory and arbitrary. Marginalizing entire communities is not the way to deal with insecurity, and may well cause further insecurity,” Michelle Kagari said. 

The government crackdown on refugees has escalated since Kenya’s Secretary of Interior, Ole Lenku, issued a directive on 26 March ordering all refugees to move to run-down and overcrowded camps in northern Kenya. 

This followed a similar government directive in December 2012, which was quashed by Kenya’s High Court in July 2013.

The Court said relocation to the camps would violate refugees’ dignity and freedom of movement and risks indirectly forcing them back to Somalia. The Court also ruled that the Kenyan government had not proved that the move would help protect national security.

The current crackdown is not only in breach of the High Court judgement, but has also been implemented unlawfully. 

Ibrahim, a Somali elder in Eastleigh, told Amnesty International: “The way they’re treating people is forcing people to go back to Somalia.”

Amnesty International’s report published in February, No Place Like Home: Returns and Relocations of Somalia’s Displaced, documented how widespread intimidation and lack of respect for human rights are forcing Somali refugees out of Kenya.

On 9 April, the Somali embassy in Nairobi said that Kenya had deported 82 Somalis to Mogadishu. More are expected to be deported in the coming days. 

“These deportations to a volatile security situation in Somalia may well amount to refoulement,” said Michelle Kagari. 

“Forcibly returning people to places where their lives or freedoms are at risk would violate international refugee law, which Kenya is bound to respect.”

Somali refugees and asylum-seekers living in Kenya are being trapped in a catch-22 situation by the government’s counter-terrorism crackdown, Amnesty International said. 

Media Node:  kenya Twitter Tag:  kenya Story Location:  United Kingdom 1° 24' 12.1068" S, 38° 45' 35.1576" E See map: Google Maps “The Kenyan government is punishing refugees and asylum-seekers for being in a legal limbo that it has created.” Source:  Amnesty International's Michelle Kagari

Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Nigeria: Fears grow for man forcibly disappeared after tweeting photos

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

 

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

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

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Background 

 

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

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

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

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Background 

 

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

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

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

UN peacekeeping force in Western Sahara must monitor human rights

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Background 

 

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

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

Media Node:  ws Twitter Tag:  morocco Story Location:  United Kingdom 21° 27' 29.4516" N, 15° 22' 51.0924" W See map: Google Maps “Extending the peacekeeping force’s mandate to include human rights would shed much-needed light on violations and abuses that would otherwise go unreported and provide an independent and impartial account on disputed allegations of human rights violations ” Source:  Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in New York Date:  Fri, 11/04/2014
War Is Not The Answer ~ Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War & Violence