Bahrain’s authorities must immediately release Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist jailed for taking part in an anti-government protest last year, said Amnesty International.
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), has been detained in Jaw Prison since 9 July 2012. On Friday 29 November he will have served three quarters of his two year sentence and will become legally eligible for release.
“A failure to release Nabeel Rajab on Friday would make it crystal clear that his imprisonment is not about justice or the law but about silencing him,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“Nabeel Rajab should never have been imprisoned in the first place. As a human rights defender he should be allowed to carry out his work free from intimidation or threat of reprisal. His arrest, detention and trial demonstrate the brazen disregard the Bahraini authorities have displayed for human rights and freedom of expression.”
Amnesty International considers Nabeel Rajab a prisoner of conscience.
Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison in August 2012 for calling for and participating in “illegal gatherings” and “disturbing public order” between February and March last year. His sentence was reduced to two years in prison on appeal.
An Amnesty International trial observer, who attended his hearing on 10 September, reported that Nabeel Rajab had told the court that he had been held in dire conditions and was subjected to ill-treatment. He described being placed in solitary confinement in a cell with a dead animal. He also said that he was held almost naked, with only a small piece of cloth covering his genitals.
“Not only has Nabeel Rajab been unfairly detained for more than a year but he has also been held in inhumane and humiliating conditions,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
“His detention for taking part in a peaceful protest shows the lengths to which Bahrain’s authorities will go to stamp out dissent. His case also shows how, despite repeated promises of reform, Bahrain continues to flout its international human rights obligations.”
Baharain’s authorities have repeatedly used legislation to punish peaceful protesters taking part in unauthorized gatherings. Under the country’s penal code, gatherings of more than five people can be criminalized if those assembled were deemed to do so with the intention to commit a crime or any acts aimed at undermining public security.
Nabeel Rajab was repeatedly detained and persecuted by the authorities even before his arrest. In February 2012 he was punched in the face several times by riot police as he led a demonstration.
He was also arrested after returning from a human rights workshop in Lebanon in May 2012 and charged with “insulting a national institution” (the Ministry of Interior) in his tweets. Two months later he was sentenced to three months in prison for different comments he made on Twitter about Bahrain’s Prime Minister. His conviction on this charge was overturned, but only after he had already served his three month sentence.
Two years after the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which was charged with investigating human rights violations committed in connection with the 2011 protests in Bahrain, the government has not implemented the report’s key recommendations.
Prisoners of conscience remain behind bars and the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly continue to be suppressed.
In July 2013, Bahrain’s King, Shaikh Hamad Bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa issued several decrees toughening punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law and further curtailing the right to freedom of assembly. These include banning all protests, sit-ins and public gatherings in Manama indefinitely and giving the security forces additional powers.
Bahrain’s authorities must immediately release Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist jailed for taking part in an anti-government protest last year.Media Node: Bahrain Story Location: Bahrain 26° 0' 50.4216" N, 50° 33' 32.6952" E URL: Reform shelved, repression unleashed Description: Report, November 2012
Afghanistan’s proposed reinstatement of atrocious punishments would mark a dangerous return to legalized state brutality, Amnesty International said today as it urged the authorities to reject such plans.
Public stoning to death, amputation of limbs and flogging are among the brutal punishments being put forward as draft amendments to the Afghan Penal Code.
“Stoning and amputation are always torture, and so is flogging as practised in Afghanistan. All these forms of punishment are strictly prohibited under international human rights treaties which are binding on Afghanistan,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International.
Some of these punishments are also proposed for acts which should never be criminalized in the first place, including consensual sexual relations between adults, and choosing one’s religion.
“When Afghanistan left behind such punishments with the ousting of the Taliban over a decade ago, it was a beacon of hope for gradual human rights reform in the country,” said Horia Mosadiq.
“That the Afghan authorities are even considering a return to such practices is unacceptable. It would be a betrayal of the Afghan people and a setback to the government’s commitment to improving and monitoring human rights.”
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice and the Ministerial Committee of Shari’a and Traditional Penalty and Investigating Crimes recently proposed at least 26 amendments to the country’s Penal Code.
The changes include the reinstatement of punishments dating to the Taliban era and reflecting their interpretation of Shari’a law. Among them are public stoning to death for “adultery” by married people, amputation of hands and feet for theft and robbery, and flogging of up to 100 lashes for unmarried people found guilty of “adultery”.
International law prohibits all forms of cruel, inhuman, degrading and torturous punishments. Amnesty International also opposes the death penalty – the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – under any circumstances and regardless of the method of execution.
Amnesty International calls on the Afghan parliament to flatly reject the draft amendments, abolish all forms of corporal punishment, and immediately establish a formal moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. It should also ensure that the Penal Code refrains from criminalizing behaviour such as consensual sexual relations between adults and choosing one’s own religion.
Afghanistan’s proposed reinstatement of atrocious punishments would mark a dangerous return to legalized state brutality, Amnesty International said today as it urged the authorities to reject such plans.Media Node: Afghan MOJ Story Location: Afghanistan 36° 5' 30.2064" N, 68° 9' 33.048" E “Stoning and amputation are always torture, and so is flogging as practised in Afghanistan. All these forms of punishment are strictly prohibited under international human rights treaties which are binding on Afghanistan ” Source: Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International Date: Tue, 26/11/2013 URL: Afghanistan: War crimes investigations crucial to any security pact with USA Description: News story, 20 November 2013 URL: Amnesty International recommendations on the situation in Afghanistan Description: Open letter, 8 October 2013
A new law placing broad restrictions on protests in Egypt is a serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators, Amnesty International said today.
The law, signed yesterday by Egyptian President Adly Mansour, grants the Ministry of Interior wide discretionary powers over protests and lays out broad circumstances in which demonstrators can be found to violate the law.
“It is a dangerous sign that the first piece of legislation regulating rights and freedoms passed since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi curtails freedom of assembly and treats peaceful protesters like criminals. Not only does it allow the police to disperse peaceful demonstrations, but gives them the power to shoot protesters who pose no threat to the lives or safety of others”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“Granting security forces complete discretion to ban protests or disperse them using excessive and lethal force is a serious setback for human rights in Egypt and paves the way for further abuse.”
In practice, the vague and overbroad grounds in the law will not only allow the authorities to prevent or forcibly disperse protests by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it will essentially allow for a ban on all opposition protests.
What is particularly worrying is that it gives the security forces a legal framework for the use of excessive force against any protesters deemed to have committed a “crime punishable by law”. In particular, the law provides for the police to use shotguns and rubber bullets, including to disperse peaceful protesters. Amnesty International has documented cases of protester deaths caused by the use of shotgun pellets, most recently on 6 October.
Moreover, the law allows security forces to respond to the use of firearms by protesters by “means proportionate to the level of threat to lives, money and property”. The inclusion of money and property in this provision contravenes international law and standards, which permit security forces to use firearms only when that is the sole means of defence against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.
Amnesty International fears that security forces will make use of the authority given to them under the new law to disperse peaceful protests for not complying with the law’s requirements, including on broad grounds such as disrupting traffic and holding demonstrations in places of worship. Moreover, under the new law, any violent act committed by a small minority of protesters, or even just one, can be used as a legal justification for dispersing the entire demonstration.
“Instead of using the opportunity to break the pattern where the security forces repeatedly kill protesters with no consequences, the new law will further entrench abuse,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
The new law grants the Ministry of Interior powers to ban protests on grounds including “threats to security and peace”, “security or public order”, and “influencing the course of justice”, as well as delaying traffic or transport. Protesters found in violation will face up to five years in prison and/or hefty 100,000 Egyptian pound fines (USD$14, 513). These restrictions and punishments, which go well beyond the restrictions permissible under international law, will severely curtail the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly in Egypt.
The law also imposes blanket prohibitions on protests and public gatherings of a “political nature” in places of worship. Since the ‘25 January Revolution’, many protest marches began after prayers at mosques – a practice continued by Mohamed Morsi’s supporters since he was ousted in July 2013.
The Minister of Interior and Governors can also use the new law to declare public spaces off limits for protest. These include public areas surrounding presidential palaces, parliaments, ministries, diplomatic missions and embassies, court buildings, hospitals, prisons, police stations or points, military zones and heritage sites.
Protest organizers are required to submit complete plans for any gatherings of more than 10 people to the Ministry at least three days in advance. Taken together with the Ministry’s powers to cancel a demonstration or change its route, this in effect means that demonstrations can take place only with the Ministry’s prior authorization.
“Since the ‘25 January Revolution’, human rights groups and activists have been struggling to defend their hard-won space to protest. A government – which continues to pay lip service to the sacrifices made by protesters during that period – has now provided a legal cover to ban protests outright and give free rein to security forces, with their abysmal record of using excessive and lethal force, to forcibly disperse protesters at their whim,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
“Instead of investigating the large number of killings of protesters since the ‘25 January Revolution’ and punishing those responsible, the current government seems to be rewarding security forces for their excesses and providing them with further legal means to trample on rights.”
On 24 October 2013, Amnesty International sent a memorandum to President Adly Mansour urging him not to sign into law the restrictive draft Law 107 of 2013 Regulating the Right to Public Gatherings, Processions and Peaceful Protests. While some amendments were introduced since that draft, the adopted law still breaches Egypt’s obligations under International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to uphold freedom of assembly, and respect the right to life.
Efforts by Morsi’s government to pass similar restrictive legislation earlier this year were thwarted following an outcry by human rights NGOs, political parties, and other stakeholders.
Since 3 July, more than 1,300 people have died in protests and political violence in Egypt, many as a result of security forces using excessive and unwarranted lethal force. No adequate investigations have been launched into security force wrongdoing. Instead, thousands of pro-Morsi protesters have been arrested – many during the dispersal of sit-ins and protests – amid concerns on the lack of respect of due process rights.
A new law placing broad restrictions on protests in Egypt is a serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal force, against demonstrators, Amnesty International said today.
Media Node: Egypt protest law Story Location: Egypt 27° 31' 39.9288" N, 28° 49' 41.25" E “Granting security forces complete discretion to ban protests or disperse them using excessive and lethal force is a serious setback for human rights in Egypt and paves the way for further abuse” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director Date: Mon, 25/11/2013 URL: Egypt's draft protest law paves the way for fresh bloodshed Description: Public statement, 18 October 2013 URL: Egypt: State-sanctioned pattern of excessive use of force by security forces Description: News story, 14 October 2013 URL: More violence as Egyptians mark 6 October Description: Blog, 8 October 2013 URL: Egypt: Security forces must show restraint after reckless policing of violent protest Description: News story, 23 August 2013
The UN must take full account of the human catastrophe of epic proportions unfolding in the Central African Republic (CAR) when considering the options presented by the UN Secretary-General on peacekeeping in that country, Amnesty International said.
The situation is worsening on a daily basis in CAR, with extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls widely committed with total impunity by members of the security forces and armed groups alike.
“The crisis is spinning out of control, despite the fact that it has been ignored by the international community for far too long,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“People are dying in the Central African Republic as we speak, and action is needed as a matter of utmost urgency. There is no time to delay.”
In a 29 October report, Amnesty International denounced large-scale human rights violations and abuses in CAR. Satellite images the organization published a week later showed the shocking aftermath of abuses, including hundreds of homes that had been burnt to the ground and evidence of mass internal displacement.
The security situation has quickly deteriorated since December 2012, when a coalition of armed groups called Seleka launched an offensive against former President Francois Bozizé. Since Seleka seized power in March, violence by their fighters and armed opposition groups has spiraled out of control in what has now become a largely lawless country.
Tensions and clashes between different ethnic and religious communities are on the rise. The majority of the population is Christian – as was former president Bozizé. The current President Michel Djotodia and most members of the security forces are Muslim, as are former Seleka fighters, who are mostly from the north-east and from neighbouring Chad and Sudan.
CAR is awash with small arms and light weapons, with up to 20,000 former Seleka fighters, as well as other armed groups, having easy access to weaponry. Even in the capital Bangui, daytime attacks by armed groups, including killings by former Seleka fighters and current members of the security forces, are more and more common.
In July 2013, the African Union declared that it would deploy some 3,500 soldiers to protect civilians in CAR. By the end of October approximately 2,600 of these troops have been deployed. France also has troops in CAR and has just announced the deployment of additional forces.
“It is of vital importance that the UN work with other members of the international community, in particular, the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, and France to ensure that immediate concrete measures are put in place to establish law and order in the country”, said Salil Shetty.
“The international community must take action before it is too late to ensure that the abuses come to an end and that CAR isn’t catapulted into the international spotlight because it became a human catastrophe.”
The UN must take full account of the human catastrophe of epic proportions unfolding in the Central African Republic (CAR) when considering the options presented by the UN Secretary-General on peacekeeping in that country, Amnesty International said.
Media Node: CAR UN vote Story Location: Central African Republic 4° 22' 45.39" N, 18° 34' 0.822" E “People are dying in the Central African Republic as we speak, and action is needed as a matter of utmost urgency. There is no time to delay.” Source: Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International Date: Mon, 25/11/2013 URL: Central African Republic: Violence of security forces now out of control Description: News story/report, 29 October 2013 URL: New satellite images reveal shocking aftermath of abuses in Central African Republic Description: News story, 8 November 2013
The Government of Zimbabwe must guarantee all human rights enshrined in the new Constitution, Amnesty International said in a Human Rights Agenda issued as President Robert Mugabe approaches the 100th day of his new term.
In the report, Human Rights Agenda for the New Government – 2013 to 2018, the organization urges the Zimbabwean government to take significant steps to improve the country’s poor human rights record. It also must address impunity for past violations and provide remedies to victims.
“There is no doubt that the new government will be judged on the basis of its human rights record and ability to improve the living conditions for everyone in the country,” says Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“The new Constitution offers a golden opportunity for the government to begin to right the wrongs of the past, to deliver justice for its people and to allow freedom of expression. With political will all that is possible.”
“We want to see the new government sending a clear signal that it is committed to breaking away from a past where human rights were blatantly violated.”
Amnesty International called on the government to immediately repeal or amend all laws that are not aligned with the new Constitution. Laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act were used in the past to deny people their rights to freedom expression, association and peaceful assembly.
The new Constitution, drafted during the period of a coalition government and enacted in May this year, provides for a wide range of human rights under the Declaration of Rights (Chapter 4). The human rights in Chapter 4 include economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights that are enforceable by law .
Amnesty International is concerned about the new government’s continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders – particularly NGO leaders being prosecuted for undertaking their legitimate work, which is guaranteed under international law.
“The rights to freedom of expression and association of all those working to promote or protect human rights must be respected. The government must immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against anyone arrested for exercising their internationally guaranteed rights,” said Noel Kututwa.
The report also calls for an official moratorium on forced evictions. It urges a review of Operation Garikai, a government programme designed to re-house some of the 700,000 people made homeless by mass forced evictions in 2005 (known as Operation Murambatsvina), with the aim of providing effective remedies to the victims.
Earlier this month, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Dr Ignatius Chombo, reportedly ordered the destruction of “illegal structures” in the country as part of what was termed a “clean up.” Scores of small businesses and houses were torn down in Ruwa and Epworth townships near Harare. Government has also threatened to carryout evictions in Seke rural area and in Chitungwiza town, south of Harare.
“Forced eviction is unconstitutional in Zimbabwe. Section 74 of the Constitution recognizes the right to ‘freedom from arbitrary eviction.’ Under international law people facing eviction are entitled to adequate notice, they should be genuinely consulted, be given viable alternative housing and are entitled to compensation,” said Noel Kututwa.
The Human Rights Agenda also calls for an immediate official moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes and commuting all death sentences.
The Government of Zimbabwe must guarantee all human rights enshrined in the new Constitution, Amnesty International said in a Human Rights Agenda issued as President Robert Mugabe approaches the 100th day of his new term.Media Node: Zimbabwe 100 days of Mugabe Amnesty International Index Number: AFR46/017/2013 Story Location: Zimbabwe 18° 33' 36.612" S, 29° 26' 36.0924" E “There is no doubt that the new government will be judged on the basis of its human rights record and ability to improve the living conditions for everyone in the country” Source: Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa Date: Mon, 25/11/2013 URL: Human Rights Agenda for the New Government – 2013 to 2018 Description: Read the full report URL: Zimbabwe’s acquittal of activist a small step against climate of intimidation Description: News story, 22 November 2013
There’s hardly a moment when Honduran human rights defender Bertha Cáceres is not worrying about what may happen to her for defending the rights of her community, the Lenca Indigenous People. The risk is so high that she's been forced into hiding.
“They want to terrorize us,” she told Amnesty International.
“I cannot live my life like before. I cannot go to the office, take part in our campaign, or leave the country to denounce our situation in international forums. I can’t even go swimming in the Río Blanco, which is very important to me because it is sacred to our people,” she said.
Bertha is being intimated and threatened because of her work as general coordinator of the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The organization has been fighting for over 20 years for better standards of living of her community in Río Blanco, north-western Honduras. Since 2011, COPINH has been campaigning for their right to free, prior and informed consent in relation to a proposal for a hydroelectric plant that might force them out of their ancestral lands.
A campaign of terror
As if the never ending abusive, anonymous phone calls and “wanted” posters depicting her face were not enough, spurious and what appear to be fabricated charges have been filed against her.
In May 2013, Bertha was accused of carrying an unlicensed gun in her car. She claims it was planted by the military officers at a checkpoint. The trial on these charges is still ongoing.
Some weeks after she was charged, the Honduran army killed one of her colleagues, indigenous leader Tomás García, and seriously injured his teenage son. All this happened on 15 July when they were protesting against the hydroelectric project. A soldier is currently facing criminal proceedings in relation to the killing.
In August, another criminal proceeding was filed against Bertha Cáceres, and two other COPINH leaders, Tomás Gómez and Aureliano Molina. They were accused of inciting others to commit the crimes of usurpation, coercion and continued damages against the company behind the hydro-electric project in Río Blanco. In fact, according to information received by Amnesty International, what they did was to express their opposition to the project at a meeting.
“The situation has deteriorated. It’s very worrying, there’s more cruelty and the repression is increasing,” she said.
Stories of attacks and harassment against activists like Bertha are common in Honduras and authorities rarely investigate them.
“We have nowhere to go and feel helpless and vulnerable, because we have no trust in the judicial system in Honduras,” Bertha explained.
“Defending human rights in Honduras is a crime. They are criminalizing the right to our identity and sense of self.”
No-go zone for human rights activists
Amnesty International and other human rights organization have recently reported an escalation in threats and abuses against human rights defenders like Bertha.
They say anyone seen to be speaking out for marginalized communities is usually intimidated or even directly attacked.
As presidential elections approach in the Central American country, Amnesty International has written to candidates to ask for an explicit commitment to prioritize the protection of human rights and those who defend them.
“I want the authorities to understand that when we make demands we are not asking for charity. We are asking for justice, for our human rights. They are obliged to guarantee them, to respect them and abide by them,” Bertha said.
There’s hardly a moment when Honduran human rights defender Bertha Cáceres is not worrying about what may happen to her for defending the rights of her community, the Lenca Indigenous People. The risk is so high that she's been forced into hiding.Media Node: Honduras - Bertha Caceres Story Location: Honduras 15° 19' 22.944" N, 85° 33' 41.4828" W “I cannot live my life like before. I cannot go to the office, take part in our campaign, or leave the country to denounce our situation in international forums. I can’t even go swimming in the Río Blanco, which is very important to me because it is sacred to our people” Source: Bertha Cáceres, general coordinator of COPINH and member of the Lenca Indigenous People “Defending human rights in Honduras is a crime. They are criminalizing the right to our identity and sense of self” Source: Bertha Cáceres URL: COFADEH; Human rights defenders under threat Description: Take action URL: Honduras: Elections should mark a turning point for human rights Description: News story, 5 November 2013 URL: Honduras: Open letter to the presidential candidates in the Republic of Honduras Description: Open letter, 4 November 2013 URL: Honduras: Write for rights: Human rights defenders under threat: COFADEH Description: Briefing, 1 October 2013
Today’s acquittal of a key Zimbabwean human rights defender is encouraging, but the fact that it comes after three years of harassment is further confirmation that the police continue to abuse the law to hamper the work of human rights defenders, Amnesty International said.
Abel Chikomo, Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, was brought to court in 2011 on charges of running an ‘illegal’ organization after it conducted a survey on transitional justice in Harare’s Highfield suburb. The judge today found he “had no case to answer”.
“Today’s ruling confirms what Amnesty International has said all along – the Zimbabwean authorities never had a legal leg to stand on when they brought Abel Chikomo to court,” said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.
“Bringing unfounded criminal charges against human rights defenders is one of the tools which have been consistently used to harass and intimidate Zimbabwe’s civil society.
“The Zimbabwean authorities must not let such conduct by police tarnish the new government’s pledges to improve their human rights record. They must act urgently to end the malicious use of spurious charges and trials against human rights defenders, and publicly denounce these practices.”
Abel Chikomo has consistently denied the charges against him. His trial had many false starts and postponements before being revived in the run-up to elections in July of this year.
Today’s acquittal of a key Zimbabwean human rights defender is encouraging, but the fact that it comes after three years of harassment is further confirmation that the police continue to abuse the law to hamper the work of human rights defenders, Amnesty International said.Media Node: Zimbabwe Abel Chikomo Story Location: Zimbabwe 18° 35' 24.0828" S, 29° 39' 47.1096" E “Bringing unfounded criminal charges against human rights defenders is one of the tools which have been consistently used to harass and intimidate Zimbabwe’s civil society” Source: Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa Date: Fri, 22/11/2013 URL: Zimbabwean human rights leader charged as crackdown continues Description: News story, 1 April 2011 URL: Zimbabwe must respect and protect fundamental freedoms during the 2013 harmonized elections: “Walk the Talk” Description: Report, 12 July 2013
The provisional release of housing rights activist Yorm Bopha is a great relief both for her family and community but does not go far enough, Amnesty International said, after Cambodia’s Supreme Court today released her on bail and sent her case back to the Appeals Court.
“Yorm Bopha’s release is good news, but it is disappointing that her conviction still stands and the case is not over,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Cambodia who attended today’s appeal hearing.
“She should never have been imprisoned, locked up and separated from her young son and family,” he added.
Amnesty International designated Yorm Bopha a prisoner of conscience, having determined that the real reason for her imprisonment was her human rights activism. She had been defending her community’s rights at the former Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people have been forcibly evicted since 2007.
“Yorm Bopha’s case is symbolic of a worrying trend in Cambodia over recent years where human rights defenders face harassment, threats, arrest, imprisonment and worse for their peaceful activism," said Abbott.
"Human rights defenders in Cambodia should be able to do their important and legitimate work unhindered.”
A 30-year old mother of one, Yorm Bopha has been imprisoned since her arrest in September 2012 on accusations of planning an assault on two men. She was convicted in December last year for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances”, despite no evidence against her and inconsistent witness testimonies.
In June 2013, Cambodia’s Appeal Court upheld Yorm Bopha’s conviction with one year of her three-year sentence suspended. She was not due for release until September 2014. But today, 22 November, Cambodia’s Supreme Court released her on bail and ordered the Appeal Court to reconsider her case.
Yorm Bopha’s is among 12 cases selected for Amnesty International’s flagship campaign Write for Rights 2013, the world’s biggest human rights campaign.
Together with her community and other activists in Cambodia, thousands of Amnesty International’s members in almost 40 countries around the world have been calling on Cambodia’s government to release Yorm Bopha, signing petitions and sharing their photos and messages of support online to show their solidarity with the imprisoned housing rights activist.
“The release of Yorm Bopha, albeit on bail, proves that campaigning and activism can really make a difference in the lives of people who are victims of human rights abuses and violations,” said Rupert Abbott.
“We will continue to campaign until she is acquitted and released unconditionally,” he said.
The provisional release of housing rights activist Yorm Bopha does not go far enough, Amnesty International said, after Cambodia’s Supreme Court today released her on bail and sent her case back to the Appeals Court.Media Node: Yorm Bopha release on bail Yorm Bopha demo Story Location: Cambodia 11° 51' 41.8212" N, 104° 27' 28.8288" E “Yorm Bopha’s release is good news, but it is disappointing that her conviction still stands and the case is not over. Her case is symbolic of a worrying trend in Cambodia over recent years where human rights defenders face harassment, threats, arrest, imprisonment and worse for their peaceful activism.” Source: Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Cambodia who attended today’s appeal hearing Date: Fri, 22/11/2013 URL: Cambodia: Global call to release Yorm Bopha ahead of Supreme Court appeal Description: News story, 19 November 2013 URL: Yorm Bopha; Housing rights activist imprisoned Description: Action, 15 November 2013 URL: Never forget Bopha! Description: Interview with Yorm Bopha’s family in WIRE magazine URL: Cambodia: Jailed activist must be released, not forgotten Description: News story, 3 September 2013 URL: Convictions of activists in Cambodia demonstrates dire state of justice Description: News story, 27 December 2012
US President Barack Obama must urge Moroccan King Mohammed VI to scrap laws which see women and girls forced to marry their rapists, and teenagers facing jail for kissing in a public place, Amnesty International said ahead of a meeting between the two heads of state on Friday.
Several teenage survivors of sexual violence have committed suicide in recent months.
Public pressure to protect survivors of sexual violence had peaked in March 2012 when 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself, after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her.
“It is dreadful that this sort of attitude is enshrined in law. The Penal Code allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims. This discriminates against women and girls and provide them with little protection when they are subjected to sexual violence,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
As Obama and King Mohammed VI meet in Washington, three teenagers will appear in court in Morocco for kissing and posting photos on Facebook. Two 15-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl were charged with “public indecency”, while one of the boys was accused of “indecent assault” on a minor for a kiss. This offence carries a prison sentence of between two and five years’ and a possible fine.
“The King’s visit to the USA provides an opportunity for President Obama to add his voice to calls inside Morocco for these pressing issues to be addressed,” said Philip Luther.
“Despite official promises to reform the Penal Code, the Moroccan authorities have failed to take action over the last couple of years to protect women and girls from violence and guarantee freedom of expression.”
Earlier this month, the Moroccan government finally submitted a draft law to protect women from violence to parliament – nearly a year after a parliamentary group first proposed it.
“Delays in legal reform in Morocco are leaving women and girls exposed to abuse. Unless the gap is closed between the authorities’ rhetoric about improvements to the law and their delivery of these changes, more lives will be at risk,” said Philip Luther.
Two years after Morocco's celebrated new Constitution came into force, human rights violations are still an everyday reality. Flawed laws and practices continue to deny Moroccans and Sahrawis - people from Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Morocco in 1975 – access to fair trials, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, among other human rights.
US President Barack Obama must urge Moroccan King Mohammed VI to scrap laws which see women and girls forced to marry their rapists, and teenagers facing jail for kissing in a public place.Media Node: Morocco Story Location: Morocco 32° 18' 42.822" N, 7° 17' 41.7192" W “It is dreadful that this sort of attitude is enshrined in law. The Penal Code allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims. This discriminates against women and girls and provide them with little protection when they are subjected to sexual violence. ” Source: Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. URL: Morocco/Western Sahara: Drop absurd charges against teenagers arrested for kissing Description: News Story, 10 October 2013 URL: Morocco/Western Sahara: Comprehensive reforms to end violence against women long overdue Description: Document, 1 March 2013
The Libyan authorities must actively protect protesters from attacks by armed militia during ongoing demonstrations this week or risk further bloodshed, Amnesty International said today.
The Head of the Tripoli Local Council has called on Tripoli’s residents to pursue a general strike until all armed groups leave the city. Large demonstrations are planned for this Friday in Tripoli’s Al Quds Square. Activists have also called for demonstrations outside militia compounds.
The calls follow the deaths of 43 individuals and hundreds of injured, including children as young as 11 at a peaceful demonstration and subsequent clashes in Gharghour area of Tripoli on 15 November.
"The Libyan authorities must guarantee that protesters taking to the streets on Friday will be protected from violence by militias. Anything short of that could result in a new tragedy," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
"Two years of militia appeasement have led to a situation where abductions, torture and killings have become the norm in Libya. Those who once fought for freedom are now turning into criminal gangs."
Last Friday, protesters in Tripoli called on militias based in the neighbourhood of Gharghour to leave the city and demanded that the police and national army return to the streets to ensure public order. The demonstration, which had received authorization from the authorities who promised to take measures to protect them, was held in protest at heavy clashes in the capital between Misratah and Tripoli militias on 7 November.
Eye-witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International’s delegates in Tripoli said that police had failed to protect demonstrators or intervene when they were being shot at by militias. Most police units stayed behind as the demonstration started marching towards the militia compounds in Gharghour. They failed to take any preventive action to protect demonstrators from militias known to be heavily armed and reckless.
A 51 year old man told Amnesty International’s researchers: "Many of the demonstrators were old people who had just come out of the mosque after prayer. They were not armed and carried revolutionary and white flags and posters with peaceful messages. The police were in the background but did not do anything to stop the shooting. I was hit by shrapnel in my left leg, which had to be amputated."
Bystanders were also injured by stray bullets. Mabrouka Muhadab, 42, told Amnesty International: "I stepped out onto the balcony to get my son’s blanket when I was hit by a bullet in the back. Libya Shield brigades [a grouping of militias under the Ministry of Defence] were protecting our area, and the fighting was taking place some 10 to 15 minutes away from our home."
As the violence continued, at about 10pm militias shot at a nearby camp for internally displaced Tawarghas, wounding a man in the knee. The next morning, militias attacked the camp again with rifles, killing one man and injuring two others. Despite previous such attacks by Misratah militias, the authorities failed to provide protection to the camp.
On 17 November, the Libyan General Prosecutor told Amnesty International an investigation into the events had been initiated. The organization’s delegates were able to observe the handing over of official forensic reports to families of victims at the morgue.
"The fact that an investigation has been initiated is positive. However, experience shows that investigations into militia abuses in Libya rarely result in successful prosecutions. Letting it happen again will only further embolden militias," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
"These deaths and injuries could have been avoided had the Libyan authorities been serious about fighting impunity and investigating militia abuses since 2011."
In March the General National Congress, Libya’s first elected body, issued a decision ordering all “illegal armed formations” to leave Tripoli. However, the government has been unable to implement the decision since then. Nor was it able to successfully disarm and demobilize militias. Since the end of the 2011 armed conflict, hundreds of anti-Gaddafi militias have refused to disarm and reintegrate into civilian life; most are based in Tripoli and the west of the country.
Following the violence on 15 November and calls by the Tripoli Local Council, Misratah militias started pulling out from the capital. Other cities such as Gharyan have started withdrawing their brigades as well.
In parallel, the government announced a new plan to remove militias from the capital by integrating them into state security forces.
Amnesty International urges the government to ensure that any disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts are compliant with human rights standards. No one responsible for human rights abuses should be integrated into state institutions.
"As militias withdraw from Tripoli, the government must put in place measures to fight impunity and ensure that perpetrators of abuses are held accountable for their actions and brought to justice. Otherwise it is merely shifting around the problem," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. "People throughout Libya – not only in Tripoli – must be able to live without fear of militia abuses."
The Libyan authorities must actively protect protesters from attacks by armed militia during ongoing demonstrations this week or risk further bloodshedMedia Node: Libya Amnesty International Index Number: MDE19/012/2013 Story Location: Libya 27° 1' 58.908" N, 20° 44' 31.8768" E “The Libyan authorities must guarantee that protesters taking to the streets on Friday will be protected from violence by militias. Anything short of that could result in a new tragedy. ” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International. URL: Libya: The day militias shot at protesters Description: Read the briefing URL: Two years after conflict Libya must end plight of displaced communities Description: News Story, 22 October 2013
The Northern Ireland Attorney General’s call for an end to prosecutions for killings during three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland is an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental rights to justice, Amnesty International said today.
Attorney General John Larkin said there should be no inquests, inquiries and prosecutions into any killings that took place before the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in 1998.
"The Attorney General’s call today would in effect be the granting of a blanket amnesty for human rights abuses and violations committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland. It would be an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental right to justice. Such a move would fly in the face of international human rights standards and perpetuate impunity," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.
"While fully recognising the challenges in bringing prosecutions after many years have passed, it is nonetheless vital that where sufficient evidence exists those suspected of committing killings, life-threatening attacks, torture and ill-treatment should be brought before the courts."
"Victims are too often already being let down by flawed investigations into past human rights abuses and violations. Today’s proposals from the Attorney General would be a further betrayal for many victims in Northern Ireland."
Amnesty published a report in September, Northern Ireland: Time to deal with the past. It found that the patchwork system of investigation that has been established in Northern Ireland has proven inadequate for the task of establishing the full truth about human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence.
Amnesty International continues to call for a comprehensive mechanism to be set up to review the conflict as a whole, establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations and determine responsibility.
The Northern Ireland Attorney General’s call for an end to prosecutions for killings during three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland is an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental rights to justice.Media Node: Northern Ireland Story Location: United Kingdom 53° 18' 48.1356" N, 7° 33' 30.9384" W See map: Google Maps “The Attorney General’s call today would in effect be the granting of a blanket amnesty for human rights abuses and violations committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland. It would be an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental right to justice.” Source: ohn Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International. URL: Northern Ireland: New report slams failure to deal with the past Description: News Story, 12 September 2013 URL: Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past Description: Read the report
Almost 4 million Indonesians have officially migrated abroad for work since 2006. The majority of them are women who take on domestic work in private homes. Poverty and unemployment compel them to seek opportunities abroad, including Hong Kong. Yet for many Indonesian migrant domestic workers, hopes for a better life are crushed by a migration process that is fraught with duplicity and abuse from the moment they enter it.
"I was born into a very poor family. One day, a broker told me there was work in Hong Kong.
When I reached the training centre. I gave her my Indonesian ID and family certificate which she then passed on to the recruitment agency. I still haven’t got them back.
The centre was surrounded by high fences and all the women had their hair cut short. ‘If you decide to leave, then you have to pay us 27 million rupiah,’ they said.When I got to Hong Kong, I had problems with my first employer and was terminated in five months. At my placement agency they told me, 'You can’t go back to Indonesia because you still owe us two months’ deductions.' I found another employer. There the grandfather kept asking, ‘Do you want to have sex with me?’ I just cried and cried.”
"A broker told me there were plenty of opportunities in Hong Kong and that my time at the training centre would be brief but i was there for seven months.
The conditions were terrible – the centre was overcrowded and we slept on mattresses on the floor. There were only six bathrooms for 200 people, so three to four of us would have to shower together. The staff abused us all the time, calling us names and telling us we were bad workers.
Once I started work in Hong Kong, my wages were deducted for the first seven months. I had to pay HK$ 3,000 (US$390) each month. My employer paid this directly to the agency. That left me with only HK$580 (US$75) which isn’t very much to live on. I only had two days free per month.
My employer confiscated my passport to stop me running away.I am back in Indonesia now and don’t want to return to Hong Kong.”
"A broker told me an employer in Hong Kong needed domestic workers urgently. The broker asked for my high school diploma, family certificate and Indonesian ID card. To this day, I have not got them back. I stayed in Hong Kong for three months. I was never given a day off. I wasn’t paid either.
My employer told me I couldn’t speak to anyone and I always ate after the family. They gave me whatever was left over from their dinner. Sometimes that wasn’t enough. One night, at midnight, my employer told me to wash her daughter’s socks right away. I was exhausted but I did it. But my employer said they weren’t clean enough and dumped the dirty cold water on my head. She said I was stupid and lazy.
[Later] someone from the agency... told me my employer had terminated my contract. My employer refused to give me my salary and compensation for terminating my contract! The agency did not help me find a new job and just told me to go back to Indonesia. I am happy to be back in Indonesia where I have peace of mind.”
“My first job in Hong Kong was looking after an elderly lady who was very sick. It didn’t last long because she died. My employer gave me my severance pay equal to one month’s wages plus my last month’s salary. But the agency took this money from me.
I wanted to change agency but they wouldn’t let me and kept my passport. I lodged a complaint with the police. They came to the hostel and forced the agency to return my passport.
At the last minute another agency offered me a job. Things were not good with my new employer. After one month, I broke the contract. My next employer was good. I was able to join the Muslim Women’s Communication Forum whose mission is to help migrant domestic workers. I felt empowered and decided to study. at St. Mary’s University where I graduated from the Bachelor of Entrepreneur Management Programme."
Almost 4 million Indonesians have officially migrated abroad for work since 2006. The majority of them are women who take on domestic work in private homes. Here're some of their stories.
Afghan leaders meeting in Kabul this week should demand accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by US military forces in the country, said Amnesty International.
A Loya Jirga – or national consultative assembly – starting on 21 November will debate a proposed bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the USA. If signed by both governments, the BSA will set the terms of any continuing US military presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014. The USA is expected to maintain more than 10,000 forces as well as civilian contractors and CIA operatives in the country.
“The proposed bilateral security agreement offers Afghans a crucial opportunity to press for greater transparency and accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by US troops,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Right now, the lack of transparency means that family members of the hundreds of Afghan civilians killed in night raids and airstrikes by US forces lack any information about the progress of US military investigations, or even about whether investigations are being conducted. This is especially worrying, since in some cases the alleged abuses could amount to war crimes.”
The Afghan leaders taking part in the Loya Jirga should insist that the proposed BSA provide for the protection of civilians in accordance with international law.
“Loya Jirga participants should require the Afghan government to report regularly to parliament about steps the US authorities have taken to investigate alleged war crimes, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and provide reparations to victims and survivors,” said Horia Mosadiq.
“Despite the widespread allegations of violations of international humanitarian law by US troops in Afghanistan, the US authorities have only brought a handful of cases to trial.”
Every case involving civilian deaths should be investigated to assess whether or not the laws of war have been breached. Family members of the deceased should be kept informed of the results of such investigations, a practice that is not currently enforced in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s national judicial system still fails to comply with basic fair trial standards necessary to bring such cases to justice.
“Afghanistan’s inability to try cases of alleged war crimes should not be taken as a ‘get out of jail free’ card for anyone who may be responsible for such abuses in wartime,” said Horia Mosadiq.
To avoid a legacy of unresolved cases of war crimes and other violations, Afghan and US governments have a responsibility to ensure Afghanistan has a fully functioning justice system that implements international fair trial standards and can handle such cases, Amnesty International said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for this week’s consultative assembly, which will bring together some 3,000 political and tribal leaders from around the country, including members of parliament and other government bodies. Karzai, many other leaders and ordinary Afghans have long expressed outrage over incidents of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and over the perceived failure of US justice mechanisms in ensuring accountability for unlawful killings of civilians.
Over the past 12 years in Afghanistan, Amnesty International has repeatedly raised concerns about alleged violations of international humanitarian law – including unlawful killings and torture – committed by all parties to the conflict.
Afghan leaders meeting in Kabul this week should demand accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by US military forces in the country, said Amnesty International.Media Node: Loya Jirga Story Location: Afghanistan 35° 59' 17.0952" N, 69° 12' 49.9212" E “The proposed bilateral security agreement offers Afghans a crucial opportunity to press for greater transparency and accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by US troops” Source: Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International Date: Wed, 20/11/2013 URL: Afghanistan: Protection of civilians must improve as security transition looms Description: News story, 9 October 2013 URL: Afghanistan: Amnesty International recommendations on the situation in Afghanistan Description: Open letter, 8 October 2013 URL: NATO must address human rights in meeting on Afghanistan’s future Description: News story, 3 June 2013
Urgent action is needed from the Bulgarian authorities to improve conditions at an emergency accommodation centre for asylum seekers near the Turkish border, Amnesty International said after scores of its residents – including people who fled armed conflict in Afghanistan and Syria – staged a protest today.
As many as 100 people threatened to launch a hunger strike in protest at the deplorable living conditions at Harmanli camp, south-eastern Bulgaria, where around 1,000 asylum-seekers are being detained on a former military base.
“It is appalling that people seeking refuge in the European Union are being trapped in limbo in such awful conditions with winter rapidly approaching. The Bulgarian asylum system has a burgeoning crisis with a backlog of applications – the authorities must act fast to ensure they don’t have a humanitarian crisis on their hands too,” said Barbora Černušáková, EU team researcher at Amnesty International, who visited Harmanli camp last week.
“We witnessed the deplorable conditions where some 1,000 asylum-seekers are being held in metal containers, tents and a dilapidated building of a former military complex. They must be given immediate access to proper asylum procedures and the Bulgarian authorities must ensure they have access to basic necessities such as proper food, shelter and sanitation. This is their right under international law.”
Although the Harmanli camp is already crowded, the Bulgarian authorities continue sending new asylum seekers there. Last week, Amnesty International researchers witnessed the arrival of a group of Syrian men. The newcomers were equipped with nothing more than a flimsy mattress and two thin, damp blankets – hardly adequate cover to pass the cold nights in an unheated tent.
Pregnant women, unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable individuals face the same dire conditions. Amnesty International recently interviewed a woman who was six-months pregnant – she had not eaten for two days and had to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
The camp has only three toilets and eight showers, but most camp residents Amnesty International spoke to said they refuse to use them as they are completely filthy. The camp’s residents are not allowed to leave to buy essential food. Instead, they rely on a supply of staples like potatoes, rice and bread. Many of them have been living in these conditions for as long as a month.
“Some of those trapped in Harmanli have been here for over a month without being told why and what will happen with them. There are no lawyers, there is no person in charge whom we can talk to,” Malalai, a young woman from Afghanistan told Amnesty International.
The inefficiency of Bulgaria’s asylum system was exposed in July this year, when a growing number of people started entering the country through the Turkish land border. More than 100 people have been entering the country on a daily basis, reaching a high of 10,000 in November.
This figure dwarfs last year’s number, and Amnesty International has documented in recent weeks how this influx has been met with violent xenophobic attacks and harassment of migrants and asylum seekers.
The Bulgarian authorities’ response to the increase has been wholly inadequate. Instead of providing people with adequate living conditions and ensuring their access to asylum procedure, the authorities “accommodate” them in centres where they are lost and forgotten by the system. Harmanli is one such place.
The asylum seekers allege that there is corruption in the camps. This is particularly pertinent in the closed ones, such as Harmanli.
“If you have money, you get out. Otherwise you stay here. All of us here, Afghans and Syrians got together to protest against these conditions,” said a male asylum seeker from Syria.
The director of Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees told Amnesty International that the authorities do not register the asylum seekers “accommodated” in Harmanli. Despite the thousand people housed at Harmanli, there is currently nobody even in charge of asylum claims.
“The camp in Harmanli is completely unlawful. There is no basis for its establishment in any of the adopted pieces of legislation and it is neither a centre for asylum seekers, nor a detention centre for irregular migrants,” said Iliana Savova, a Bulgarian refugee lawyer.
Urgent action is needed from the Bulgarian authorities to improve conditions at a camp for asylum seekers near the Turkish border, Amnesty International said after scores of its residents staged a protest today.Media Node: Harmanli refugee camp Story Location: Bulgaria 41° 58' 0.3864" N, 26° 8' 50.8596" E “It is appalling that people seeking refuge in the European Union are being trapped in limbo in such awful conditions with winter rapidly approaching. The Bulgarian asylum system has a burgeoning crisis with a backlog of applications – the authorities must act fast to ensure they don’t have a humanitarian crisis on their hands too” Source: Barbora Černušáková, EU team researcher at Amnesty International Date: Tue, 19/11/2013 “If you have money, you get out. Otherwise you stay here. All of us here, Afghans and Syrians got together to protest against these conditions” Source: A male asylum seeker from Syria at Harmanli camp Date: Tue, 19/11/2013 URL: On the fringes of Europe, no warm welcome for refugees in Bulgaria Description: Blog, 14 November 2013 URL: Bulgaria: Migrants 'living in fear' after xenophobic attacks Description: News story, 12 November 2013
Thousands of Indonesian women trafficked to Hong Kong risk slavery-like conditions as domestic workers, with both governments failing to protect them from widespread abuse and exploitation, said Amnesty International.
A new report, Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments, exposes how Indonesian recruitment agencies and placement agents in Hong Kong traffic Indonesian women for exploitation and forced labour. Abuses include restrictions on freedom of movement, physical and sexual violence, lack of food, and excessive and exploitative hours.
"From the moment the women are tricked into signing up for work in Hong Kong, they are trapped in a cycle of exploitation with cases that amount to modern-day slavery," said Norma Kang Muico, Asia-Pacific Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
The findings are based on in-depth interviews with 97 Indonesian migrant domestic workers and supported by a survey of nearly 1,000 women by the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union.
There are more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, with about half from Indonesia and nearly all are women. Lured with the promise of well-paid jobs the reality for the women could not be more different.
One woman told Amnesty International how she was beaten by her employer: "He kicked me from behind and dragged me by my clothes to my room. After locking the door, he smacked and punched me. He pushed me to the ground and kicked me some more. I was black and blue all over – my face, arms and legs. My mouth and forehead were bleeding."
Systemic failures by both the Hong Kong and Indonesian governments to protect migrant domestic workers from exploitation are highlighted in the report. Some of the authorities’ actions put women at even greater risk of abuse.
"It is inexcusable that the Hong Kong and Indonesian governments turn a blind eye to the trafficking of thousands of vulnerable women for forced labour. The authorities may point to a raft of national laws that supposedly protect these women but such laws are rarely enforced," said Muico.
In Indonesia, prospective migrant domestic workers are compelled to go through government-licensed recruitment agencies including for pre-departure training.
These agencies, and the brokers that act for them, routinely deceive women about salaries and fees, confiscate identity documents and other property as collateral, and charge fees in excess of those permitted by law. Full fees are imposed from the outset of training, trapping the women with crippling debt should they withdraw.
Lestari, 29, told of when she first arrived at a training centre: "I was shocked. It was surrounded by high fences and all the women had their hair cut short. I was given a piece of paper with English writing on it. All I could read was the number 27 million. The staff told me, 'You have to sign this.' There were about 30 of us; we just did as we were told. Afterwards, they said 'What you have signed means that if you decide to leave you have to pay us 27 million rupiah (US$ 2700).' "
Women from several different training centres also reported that they were forced to have a contraception injection. Many women said the training staff frequently taunted, abused and threatened them with the cancellation of their employment application. The vast majority could not freely leave the training centres.
The report also exposes that recruitment agencies routinely fail to provide migrant workers with legally required documentation including their contract, mandatory insurance and foreign employment identity card which also undermines their means of redress.
When a migrant domestic worker arrives in Hong Kong, they are tightly controlled by their local placement agency and often by their employer.
The vast majority of the women interviewed by Amnesty International had their documents taken by either their employer or the placement agency in Hong Kong. About a third were not allowed to leave their employer’s house.
Amnesty International found that interviewees worked on average 17 hours a day; numerous respondents did not receive the statutory Minimum Allowable Wage, were prohibited from practising their faith, and did not receive a weekly day off.
Women are trapped into this cycle of forced labour by excessive debts that cover opaque and excessive recruitment fees.
Recruitment agencies in Indonesia and placement agents in Hong Kong collude in order to circumvent the legal limits they can charge migrant domestic workers. Amnesty International found most women are charged way above the legal limits.
Agencies circumvent the law by collecting the excessive payments via a variety of third party schemes, including finance companies.
Despite this, Hong Kong’s Labour Commissioner revoked only two placement agencies’ licences in 2012 and only one in the first four months of 2013.
"Recruitment and placement agents are flagrantly breaching laws designed to protect migrant domestic workers from abuse. The near total lack of action by Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities means these women continue to be exploited for profit," said Muico.
No escape: Trapped and abused
Once in Hong Kong, the fear of being driven further into debt through repeat recruitment charges to access a new employer often means women are trapped with an abusive employer.
Two-thirds of migrant domestic workers interviewed by Amnesty International had been subject to physical or psychological abuse. The requirement that migrant domestic workers live with their employer increases their isolation, and places them at further risk of abuse.
One woman recalled how "the wife physically abused me on a regular basis. Once she ordered her two dogs to bite me. I had about ten bites on my body, which broke the skin and bled. She recorded it on her mobile phone, which she constantly played back laughing."
Women told Amnesty International that contracts could be terminated if they complained about their treatment, or if the placement agency manipulated the situation in order to collect a new recruitment fee.
Underpayment is a widespread problem. Yet, in the two-year period up to May 2012, just 342 cases of underpayment were lodged out of a total population of more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.
"We need to see current laws enforced and people face justice for the exploitation. Only then will we start to see an end to forced labour from Indonesia to Hong Kong," said Muico.
Hong Kong’s laws stipulate that migrant domestic workers must find new employment and get an approved work visa within two weeks of the termination of their contract, or they must leave Hong Kong.
This pressures workers to stay in an abusive situation because they know that if they leave their job, they are unlikely to find new employment in two weeks and therefore must leave the country. For many this would make it impossible to repay the recruitment fees or support their families.
"The entire system is loaded against migrant domestic workers. If the Hong Kong government is serious about protecting these women, it would abolish the Two Week Rule and the live-in requirement which place women at greater risk of abuse," said Muico.
"Both the Indonesian and Hong Kong governments need to show genuine commitment to tackling the human and labour rights violations exposed in this report."
Amnesty International is calling on both governments to swiftly ratify and implement the International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention.
Thousands of Indonesian women trafficked to Hong Kong risk slavery-like conditions as domestic workers, with both governments failing to protect them from widespread abuse and exploitation.Media Node: Indonesia/HK At a Glance:
- There are more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong -- about half from Indonesia.
- Nearly all are women who travel to Hong Kong lured with the promise of well-paid jobs.
- In Indonesia, prospective migrant domestic workers are compelled to go through government-licensed recruitment agencies.
- These agencies routinely deceive women about salaries and fees, confiscate identity documents and other property as collateral, and charge fees in excess of those permitted by law.
- Around a third of women interviewed were not allowed to leave their employer’s house and worked, on average, 17 hours a day.
- Two-thirds said had been subject to physical or psychological abuse.
A restrictive "foreign agents law" adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said today.
"One year after came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.
The "foreign agents law" is at the centre of a raft of repressive legislation that has been brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.
Enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012, it requires any NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in what it defines very loosely as "political activity" to register as an "organization performing the functions of a foreign agent".
It has a wide reach affecting NGOs working on civil and political, social and economic rights, as well as environmental issues and discrimination, including against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
As the Winter Olympic Games to be held in the Russian city of Sochi approach, Amnesty International's members and supporters from around the world are campaigning to highlight Russia’s increasingly deplorable human rights record.
"The 'foreign agents law' was designed to stigmatise and discredit NGOs engaged in human rights, election monitoring and other critical work. It is providing a perfect pretext for fining and closing critical organisations and will cut often vital funding streams," said John Dalhuisen.
Russian NGOs have unanimously and vocally refused to be branded "foreign agents". The unannounced mass "inspections" of some 1,000 organizations during the spring and autumn of 2013 were widely publicized by media aligned with the Russian authorities.
The "inspections" were followed by persecution of several NGOs and their leaders through administrative proceedings and the courts, and more cases are expected to follow.
The team of election watchdog Golos ("Voice") decided to disband their organization after the law was used to impose hefty fines on them and suspend their work for several months. They tried in vain to challenge the punitive measure in court before giving up.
The Kostroma Centre for Support of Public Initiatives suffered the same fate and closed because it could not pay the huge fine imposed on it.
The LGBTI film festival Bok o Bok ("Side by side") paid the fine and closed down. It had officially ceased to exist by the time it won its appeal and could no longer claim the money back.
This week alone, five Moscow-based NGOs, Memorial, Public Verdict, "For Human Rights" movement, Jurix and Golos, were in court trying to fend off the pressure exerted on them by the authorities’ under the so-called "foreign agents law". Court hearings on their cases have been postponed; numerous other NGOs across Russia have been in court since April for the same reason.
Since the "foreign agents law" came into being:
• At least 10 NGOs have been taken to court by the Russian authorities for failing to register as an "organization performing the functions of a foreign agent".
• At least five other NGOs across Russia have been taken to court following the "inspections" for purported administrative violations such as the failure to present requested documents.
• At least 10 Russian NGO leaders have been ordered to comply with the "foreign agents law".
• And at least 37 NGOs have been officially warned that they will be in violation of the law if they continue to receive foreign funding and engage in arbitrarily defined "political activities". This includes publishing online materials on human rights in Russia and not registering as "foreign agents".
Russian NGO leaders have told Amnesty International about their frustrations with the law.
The rights group "Alliance of Women of the Don" advises local people on issues affecting their everyday lives – family, labour, housing, pensions. The organisation is facing a court case next week for refusing to register as a "foreign agent".
"We have nothing to be ashamed of and we have nothing to feel guilty for. We are proud of our work. The closure of our organization will affect so many people," said Valentina Cherevatenko, leader of the Alliance.
Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the Russia-wide movement "For Human Rights" told Amnesty International: "If we have to close down, thousands of people across Russia will suffer. If other NGOs are forced to close down – tens of thousands will suffer. Civil society will be doomed."
"The ‘foreign agents law’ violates Russia’s national and international obligations to safeguard the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. It should be repealed immediately," said John Dalhuisen.
A restrictive "foreign agents law" adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said as the Winter Olympic Games to be held in the Russian city of Sochi approach. Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4
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Since the “foreign agents law” came into being:
- At least 10 NGOs have been taken to court by the Russian authorities for failing to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”.
- At least five other NGOs across Russia have been taken to court following the “inspections” for purported administrative violations such as the failure to present requested documents.
- At least 10 Russian NGO leaders have been ordered to comply with the “foreign agents law”.
- And at least 37 NGOs have been officially warned that they will be in violation of the law if they continue to receive foreign funding and engage in arbitrarily defined “political activities”. This includes publishing online materials on human rights in Russia and not registering as “foreign agents”.
Amnesty International Index Number: EUR46/051/2013 Story Location: Russia 64° 18' 38.5776" N, 85° 46' 52.5" E “One year after came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close. ” Source: John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International. “If we have to close down, thousands of people across Russia will suffer. If other NGOs are forced to close down – tens of thousands will suffer. Civil society will be doomed.” Source: Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the Russia-wide movement “For Human Rights” URL: Putin: Protect Freedom of Expression Description: Take Action! URL: Behind the Smokescreen of Olympic Celebrations: Key human rights concerns in the Russian Federation Description: Media Briefing, 19 November 2013 URL: Russian Federation: Freedom under threat: The clampdown against freedoms of expression, assembly and association in Russia Description: Document, 24 April 2013 URL: Russia: Winter games Olympic torch throws light on human rights violations Description: News Story, 3 October 2013 URL: Russia: Human rights activists - Voices from the ground Description: Feature, 03 October 2013
Cambodia must free housing rights activist Yorm Bopha, Amnesty International said as it launched a worldwide campaign for her release just days before the country’s Supreme Court hears her final appeal on 22 November.
“Yorm Bopha is a prisoner of conscience who is behind bars purely because of her human rights activism. She must be freed immediately and unconditionally,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.
“Thousands of our members and supporters around the world are taking action on Yorm Bopha’s behalf, calling on the Cambodian authorities to finally set her free.”
A 30-year old mother of one, Yorm Bopha has been locked up since her arrest in September 2012 on accusations of planning an assault on two men. She was convicted in December last year for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances,” despite no evidence against her and inconsistent witness testimonies.
In June 2013, Cambodia’s Appeals Court upheld her conviction with one year of her three-year sentence suspended. She is not due for release until September 2014.
“The lack of evidence against Yorm Bopha suggests that the authorities have unfairly targeted her,” said Isabelle Arradon.
Amnesty International believes that the real reason for Yorm Bopha’s imprisonment is her human rights activism. She had been defending her community’s rights at the former Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people have been forcibly evicted since 2007.
She also played a leading role in the campaign to release 13 women activists from her community who were convicted and imprisoned in May 2012 after they took part in a peaceful protest.
“Amnesty International stands up for human rights defenders across the world. We will keep campaigning hard on Yorm Bopha’s case until she has been released without conditions and reunited with her family and community,” said Isabelle Arradon.
Yorm Bopha’s case is among 12 cased selected for Amnesty International’s flagship campaign Write for Rights 2013, the world’s biggest human rights event. It runs until mid-December, and is expected to garner more than two million individual actions.
Members in almost 40 countries around the world are writing appeals and gathering thousands of signatures for petitions to demand Yorm Bopha’s release. They are holding events and sharing their photos and messages of support online, to show their solidarity with the imprisoned housing rights activist.
Cambodia must free housing rights activist Yorm Bopha, Amnesty International said as it launched a worldwide campaign for her release just days before her Supreme Court appeal.Media Node: Yorm Bopha At a Glance:
Ways to take action to free Yorm BophaDemand the release of Yorm Bopha Description: Take action URL: Never forget Bopha! Description: Interview with Yorm Bopha’s family in WIRE magazine URL: Cambodia: Jailed activist must be released, not forgotten Description: News story, 3 September 2013 URL: Cambodia: Release mother imprisoned for housing rights activism Description: News story, 3 June 2013 URL: Convictions of activists in Cambodia demonstrates dire state of justice Description: News story, 27 December 2012
Amnesty International supporters worldwide today begin a 16-day global campaign challenging violence against women and girls exacerbated by increasingly militarized societies or "militarism".
The 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence will put pressure on governments to take action to prevent and investigate sexual and gender-based violence, including crimes allegedly committed by security personnel, and protect women human rights defenders. It focuses on Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
"Militarism applies to situations where military values have a dominant influence over society – both in the context of armed conflict and in peacetime. It often has grave consequences for the equality, safety and security of women and girls," said Madhu Malhotra, Director of Amnesty International's Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme.
"Through our 16 Days of Activism campaign, we are sending a clear message that women and girls have the right to live free from violence, whether during war, protests or detention."
The 16 Days of Activism campaign includes five country actions:
Egypt: A letter to the Interim Prime Minister calling on him to combat sexual violence and discrimination against women and girls, who have been on the front line of demonstrations since 2011’s “25 January Revolution”. Since the uprising, women have been singled out and subjected to gender-specific abuses.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): A letter to the government calling for action to stop the intimidation and detention of women human rights defenders, who provide remarkable and resilient assistance to survivors of human rights abuses in the conflict-ravaged DRC. There is also a solidarity action with the women activists, who are often targeted due to their gender.
Bangladesh: A letter to the Home Minister urging a new investigation into the 1996 abduction of indigenous women’s rights activist Kalpana Chakma, who has never been found. Although her two brothers identified the kidnappers, their names were omitted from all subsequent police investigations.
Syria/Jordan: A letter to the Jordanian Minister of Interior urging him to ensure that Syrian women and girls living in the Za’atri refugee camp have safe access to toilet facilities, which they feel unsafe using for fear of sexual violence or harassment.
Sudan: A letter to the Minister of Justice calling for the abolishment of a law that means Sudanese women can be sentenced to 40 lashes in public for wearing what is arbitrarily deemed “indecent” clothing, such as trousers, or leaving their hair uncovered.
Activists will also begin writing letters in support of persecuted women human rights defenders in Honduras, and calling for an investigation into the sexual abuse and torture of a woman by soldiers in Mexico, as part of Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign, which kicks off on 6 December 2013.
"Wars, internal conflicts and violent repression of political and social justice movements can have a particular and often disproportionate impact on women and the types of abuses they experience, despite the continued efforts of women's rights defenders to prevent such abuse," said Madhu Malhotra.
Amnesty International supporters worldwide today begin a 16-day global campaign challenging violence against women and girls exacerbated by increasingly militarized societies or "militarism".Media Node: 16 days of activism Amnesty International Index Number: ACT77/004/2013 Story Location: United Kingdom 51° 30' 16.704" N, 0° 12' 31.464" W See map: Google Maps “Militarism applies to situations where military values have a dominant influence over society – both in the context of armed conflict and in peacetime. It often has grave consequences for the equality, safety and security of women and girls” Source: Madhu Malhotra, Director of Amnesty International's Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme Date: Mon, 25/11/2013 URL: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Description: Campaign page
The Ukrainian authorities must make real progress towards eliminating torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials in line with the country’s international obligations, Amnesty International said ahead of the signing of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.
"Irrespective of the future of the Association Agreement with Ukraine, the EU must go on pushing Ukraine to comply with its international obligations. Ukraine is an important member of the European and international community. The country’s authorities have voluntarily signed up to all major international human rights agreements – the absolute ban on torture among them," said Heather McGill, Ukraine researcher at Amnesty International.
The Association Agreement offers enhanced cooperation in trade, energy, banking and many other areas, and is based on common values, including "democracy and rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, [and] good governance".
The EU had made the eradication of "selective justice" a pre-requisite for signing the agreement on 28 November in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, which currently holds the EU Presidency. It is expected that the Ukrainian authorities will allow Yuliya Tymoshenko, the imprisoned former prime minister and leader of the opposition party All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland", to travel to Germany for treatment for a back injury.
Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for exceeding her official powers by signing a gas deal with Russia at an unfavourable price.
"The case of Yuliya Tymoshenko highlights the lack of fair trials and poor prison conditions in Ukraine, but the political significance of her case should not be allowed to overshadow the systemic problems that deprive thousands of Ukrainians of their rights every day," said Heather McGill.
"Every year thousands of Ukrainians are beaten by the police to extract confessions for crimes that they may not have committed, only to be sent to prison after unfair trails. In the absence of an effective police complaints mechanism, their complaints are frequently ignored."
"The eradication of torture and other ill-treatment requires legislative changes as well as systemic reforms to the criminal justice system. The Ukrainian government has taken important steps, but until each and every allegation of torture is promptly, effectively and independently investigated, and the perpetrators are brought to justice, torturers will continue to act with impunity."
Amnesty International’s document, Ukraine and the EU: Time to put people first, outlines progress made so far and points out next steps.
The new Criminal Procedural Code that came into force in November 2012 stipulates that confessions made to police outside the court are no longer admissible in court and introduces limited jury trials for crimes that carry life imprisonment. Oleksandr Bondarenko was the first to benefit from this reform in October this year when a court of three jurors and two judges in the north-eastern town of Sumy acquitted him of the murder of two elderly women and released him immediately. The court rejected the prosecution’s case as it was based on a confession gained under torture However, the victim’s earlier complaint about the torture was rejected by the prosecutors, and no-one has yet been brought to justice.
But the new code failed to protect two 16-year-old boys in Ternopil, in western Ukraine, from suffering police abuse. Yaroslav Gizhovskiy was detained and beaten repeatedly by police officers for failing to present them with identification documents. A week later OleksandrKovtun was beaten by the same police officers as he returned home with his mother. An investigation is under way, but the police officers allegedly responsible for the beatings are still on active duty.
"These cases show the long road Ukraine has to go to ensure accountability for ill-treatment by police officers. It is imperative that the Ukrainian authorities set up an independent and effective mechanism to investigate promptly and adequately allegations of torture and other-ill-treatment in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights’ standards as soon as possible," Heather McGill said.
"The new Criminal Procedural Code provides for a State Investigation Bureau to investigate crimes by officials, including law enforcement officers, so that perpetrators of torture are brought to justice, and victims are offered redress."
"Any delay in setting up such a bureau is unacceptable – and may cost lives. The ongoing impunity for torture and other ill-treatment in Ukraine continues to erode trust in the country’s authorities – both within Ukraine itself and around the world."
Ukraine must make progress to end torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, AI said ahead of the signing of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.Media Node: Ukraine Amnesty International Index Number: EUR50/014/2013 Story Location: Ukraine 45° 45' 48.3696" N, 34° 32' 27.6576" E “Irrespective of the future of the Association Agreement with Ukraine, the EU must go on pushing Ukraine to comply with its international obligations. Ukraine is an important member of the European and international community. The country’s authorities have voluntarily signed up to all major international human rights agreements – the absolute ban on torture among them. ” Source: Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s researcher on Ukraine. URL: Ukraine and the EU: Time to put people first Description: Document, 19 November 2013 URL: Ukraine: Police crisis escalates after clash with Kyiv protestors Description: News Story, 13 July 2013 URL: Ukraine: Make the police accountable and stamp out torture Description: News Story, 11 April 2013 URL: Ukraine: Don’t stop halfway: Government must use new Criminal Procedure Code to end torture Description: Document, 11 April 2013
The execution of a Pakistani man in Indonesia on Sunday, carried out in secret, is a shocking and regressive step, said Amnesty International.
According to media reports, Muhammad Abdul Hafeez, 44, was executed by firing squad in the early hours of Sunday morning. Hafeez is the fifth person to be put to death this year since Indonesia resumed executions in March after a four year hiatus. A further five individuals are believed to be at imminent risk of execution.
"This latest death by firing squad highlights the deplorable and retrograde trend in Indonesia to shroud executions in secrecy. The complete lack of transparency is not only devastating for the individuals and their families; it can also prevent last minute appeals for a stay of execution," said Papang Hidayat, Indonesia Researcher at Amnesty International.
"Such actions fly in the face of the Indonesian government’s commitment to uphold human rights. We urge the authorities not to carry out any other death sentences. Anymore executions would also further undermine the government's efforts to protect Indonesian nationals that face the death penalty overseas."
"With these clandestine executions it appears the government is also trying to prevent a full and informed public debate on the use of the death penalty," said Papang Hidayat.
Muhammad Abdul Hafeez was arrested at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on 26 June 2001 for allegedly smuggling 900 grams of heroin into Indonesia. He was sentenced to death by the Tangerang District Court on 28 November 2001.
The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences does not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" as prescribed under international law.
Amnesty International is not aware that the families or representatives of the five individuals executed this year were informed in advance.
There are at least 130 people under sentence of death in Indonesia. Around half of those on death row, many of whom are foreign nationals, have been convicted of drug-related offences. So far in 2013 at least eight people have been sentenced to death. At least 12 people were sentenced to death in 2012.
Death sentences in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad. The prisoner has the choice of standing or sitting, and can decide whether to have their eyes covered by a blindfold or hood. Firing squads are made up of 12 people, three of whose rifles are loaded with live ammunition, while the other nine are loaded with blanks. The squad fires from a distance of between five and 10 metres.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.
The execution of a Pakistani man in Indonesia on Sunday, carried out in secret, is a shocking and regressive step.Media Node: Indonesia At a Glance:
- There are at least 130 people under sentence of death in Indonesia.
- Around half of those on death row, many of whom are foreign nationals, have been convicted of drug-related offences.
- So far in 2013 at least eight people have been sentenced to death. At least 12 people were sentenced to death in 2012.
- Death sentences in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad. The prisoner has the choice of standing or sitting, and can decide whether to have their eyes covered by a blindfold or hood.
- Firing squads are made up of 12 people, three of whose rifles are loaded with live ammunition, while the other nine are loaded with blanks.