Urge Brazil, South Africa and India to stop the bloodshed in Syria
Since largely peaceful protests began in March, Syrian authorities’ have brutally responded to their people’s demands with bullets and bloodshed.
The UN Security Council’s response, however, has been completely inadequate. Its August 3rd statement fell short of taking decisive action. It must follow up with a firm and legally binding position. This position must include imposing an arms embargo, freezing the assets abroad of the Syrian President and his senior associates and referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Three of the six Security Council members which have opposed tougher action on Syria, Brazil, South Africa and India, are sending a joint delegation to Syria to intercede with the Syrian authorities to try to end the violence. Please call on Brazil, South Africa and India to support a firmer position on Syria and help end the bloodshed there. Learn more on the new “Eyes on Syria” website »
Egypt’s military rulers are responsible for the life of a jailed blogger on the 43rd day of a hunger strike, Amnesty International warned today after a Cairo military court adjourned his appeal hearing until 11 October.
Maikel Nabil Sanad, aged 26, has been on hunger strike since 23 August to protest against his conviction and imprisonment for comments he made on Facebook and his blog related to the Tahrir Square protests earlier this year and his views on the military in Egypt.
Nabil Sanad, whose health has significantly worsened in recent days, was unable to attend today’s hearing in Cairo.
“Maikel Nabil Sanad’s dire predicament highlights the ongoing abuses faced by prisoners of conscience in Egypt,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Civilians should never face trial before military courts, which are fundamentally unfair, as they deny defendants basic fair trial guarantees, including the right to proper appeal.”
“It seems that little has changed since the ‘January 25 Revolution’. The Egyptian authorities must urgently act to rectify the injustice done to this blogger whose life is in danger after his wrongful imprisonment.”
A lawyer representing the blogger said he was unable to plead before the court in today’s hearing because the presiding judge did not have the original case file in the court room. He said he believed the postponement had been intentional.
In the Egyptian military court system, appeals are limited to legal points and do not include a review of the facts of the case and the evidence.
After his arrest at his home in Cairo on 28 March, a military court sentenced Maikel Nabil Sanad on 10 April to three years in prison over his criticism of the Egyptian military’s use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and his objection to military service.
The blogger’s weight has plummeted since he went on hunger strike and prison authorities have removed medication he needs to treat a heart condition.
“The postponement is like a death sentence against Maikel because he has vowed to stop drinking water if not released today,” his father Ibrahim Nabil Sanad told Amnesty International.
Shortly after breakfast, Khaled al-Hamedh left his home to buy medicine for his four-year-old brother, who had a fever.
He never came home.
Several hours later, family members laid him to rest in the garden of nearby al-Serjawi mosque, a bullet wound in his back and his body crushed by a tank.
As the 21-year-old construction worker walked out into Hama’s Bab Qebli neighbourhood on Sunday morning, Syrian security forces were encroaching on the city with tanks, firing into residential areas.
The scene was by now all-too-familiar in cities across Syria, as the authorities continued to try to put down months of mainly peaceful protests calling for government reform.
Khaled had himself finished military service in January, a few months before he was faced with tanks on the streets of his hometown.
“All the pharmacies had closed because of the security operation, so Khaled set out on foot for al-Hikmeh hospital on the city’s main street, a five-minute walk away,” an eyewitness told Amnesty International.
He never made it to the hospital.
“Several minutes after he had left home, the sound of shooting broke out. Family members rushed out behind him, but they returned home in fear when they saw the tanks moving along the main street,” the eyewitness said.
Bystanders would later recount to them how Khaled died.
“He was shot in the back while attempting to cross over to the hospital,” they said.
“He fell on the ground but nobody was able to take him away from the street as the tanks were near by. That is when an army tank deliberately crushed his body repeatedly.”
Only when the tanks had pulled away could the bystanders approach and take Khaled’s body to the hospital.
“Khaled’s friends called his father and informed him that his son was injured,” the eyewitness said.
“They did not want to shock him straight away. He rushed to the hospital looking for Khaled, but could not find him among the injured. He found his corpse in the fridge.”
Before Khaled was buried, his body was brought home so his family could say goodbye.
Though his body had been crushed, his face was untouched, belying the violent death he had suffered.
“He was innocent,” the eyewitness said.
“He did nothing wrong and harmed nobody. He was very polite and sweet.”
On Sunday afternoon, Khaled was buried along with two other men in the garden of al-Serjawi mosque. Because the clashes continued, the mourners could not get to the cemetery outside the city to bury their loved ones, and the graves had to be dug in a hurry to avoid intense shooting.
Yesterday, 10 more people were reportedly killed, including a 17-year-old woman who was buried in the same plot, after being shot in her home. Locals said she was a newly-wed and had a child.
The military continued their attack on Hama unabated.
To date, the UN Security Council has remained silent on the situation in Syria. Three critical members of the UN Security Council need to join other members to call on the Syrian government to stop the use of tanks, snipers and torture to suppress peaceful dissent. Members of the UN Security Council have an increased responsibility to work on an end to the violent crackdown in Syria. By supporting the current draft resolution, Brazil, South Africa and India can help to end in the bloodshed and ensure accountability for the crimes committed. Read More »
Amnesty International has called for a UN-backed investigation into the violence in Syria, saying the regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters may constitute crimes against humanity.
The group has documented several cases of torture, deaths in custody and arbitrary detention in a new report.
All relate to a military sweep in the northern village of Tell Kalakh in May.
Amnesty says the UN Security Council must refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
Syrian human rights groups have said that more than 1,350 civilians and 350 security personnel have been killed across the country since protests began in mid-March against the repressive rule of President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting off the most serious challenge to his family’s four decades in power.‘Targeted abuse’
“The accounts we have heard from witnesses to events in Tell Kalakh paint a deeply disturbing picture of systematic, targeted abuses to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
Witnesses have told Amnesty that Syrian security forces fired on fleeing families on 14 May, the day the army entered Tell Kalakh, near the Lebanese border, following a demonstration in the village calling for the downfall of the regime.
At least one person, 24-year-old Ali al-Basha, was killed, apparently by snipers, and the ambulance carrying his body came under fire, witnesses said by phone and in Lebanon. Amnesty has not been allowed to enter Syria.
In the following days, scores of male residents were rounded up and detained. Most were tortured, Amnesty says, some even as they were being arrested.
In one incident, soldiers transporting detainees counted how many they had arrested by stabbing lit cigarettes on the backs of their necks, Amnesty said in its report, titled Crackdown in Syria: Terror in Tell Kalakh.Interrogation tactics
The report highlights the case of a 20-year-old, identified only as Mahmoud, who says he was jailed for nearly a month, including five days at a detention centre in Homs, where he was tied up in stress positions and tortured.
“Each day [was] the same story,” he told Amnesty researchers. “They tied me up in a shabah position [strung up by the wrists and forced to stand on tiptoes] and applied electricity to my body and testicles. Sometimes I screamed very loudly and begged the interrogator to stop. He didn’t care.”
Witnesses say at least nine people from Tell Kalakh died while in custody. Their bodies showed signs of torture, including cuts to the chest, slashes on the thighs and apparent gunshot wounds on the legs, Amnesty was told.
The London-based international rights group says that a number of Tell Kalakh residents remain in detention, including a 17-year-old boy. It called on the authorities to free them immediately.
“Amnesty considers that crimes committed in Tell Kalakh amount to crimes against humanity as they appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population,” Mr Luther said in a press statement that accompanied the report.
The organisation reiterated its call on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC prosecutor in the Hague so that legal proceedings could be taken.
The call comes as the Syrian authorities continue their crackdown in the central city of Homs, killing at least nine people in two days and arresting around 500 across the country over the past few weeks, according to Syrian human rights groups.
On Tuesday, France again called for the UN to act against the “ferocious armed repression”, but the French campaign for UN condemnation has met resistance from Russia and China.
The Syrian authorities - who blame “armed gangs” and “terrorists” for the unrest - are pushing for a national dialogue next week. But the opposition has refused to participate while the violence continues.
Popular protests calling for political reform in Syria have been met by brutal violence by security forces. Army tanks have shelled civilian areas and more than 400 people have been killed across Syria, many shot by government security forces during peaceful protests. Hundreds more have been arrested, many held incommunicado and at serious risk of torture.
Call on President Bashar al-Assad to immediately stop the killings, deliver justice and accountability. We will deliver your signatures to different Syrian embassies around the world as well as to the President himself. Read More »
The world faces a watershed moment in human rights with tyrants and despots coming under increasing pressure from the internet, social networking sites and the activities of WikiLeaks, Amnesty International says in its annual roundup.
The rights group singles out WikiLeaks and the newspapers that pored over its previously confidential government files, among them the Guardian, as a catalyst in a series of uprisings against repressive regimes, notably the overthrow of Tunisia’s long-serving president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
“The year 2010 may well be remembered as a watershed year when activists and journalists used new technology to speak truth to power and, in so doing, pushed for greater respect for human rights,” Amnesty’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, says in an introduction to the document. “It is also the year when repressive governments faced the real possibility that their days were numbered.”
But, Shetty adds, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, and elsewhere, remains unpredictable: “There is a serious fightback from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights.”
The 432-page report reviews 156 countries and territories, of which at least 89 were found to restrict free speech, 98 carried out torture or other ill-treatment and 48 had documented prisoners of conscience.
The report covers only to the end of 2010, and thus only the very beginnings of the so-called Arab spring – Ben Ali was not deposed until mid-January. However, subsequent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, many spread via mobile phones and social networking, reinforce Amnesty’s message about the importance of technology and communication.
A key element had been the work of WikiLeaks in first publishing information about the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then a massive trove of US diplomatic papers, disclosures carried out with newspapers worldwide.
“It took old-fashioned newspaper reporters and political analysts to trawl through the raw data, analyse it, and identify evidence of crimes and violations contained in those documents,” Shetty said.
“Leveraging this information, political activists used other new communications tools now easily available on mobile phones and on social networking sites to bring people to the streets to demand accountability.”
One example highlighted by Shetty was Tunisia, where WikiLeaks revelations about Ben Ali’s corrupt regime combined with rapidly-spreading news of the self-immolation of a disillusioned young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, to spark major protests.
The report also highlights the importance of new technology elsewhere, for example China, where “My father is Li Gang” – the cry of a senior policeman’s son after he killed a young woman while drunk driving – became a euphemism on China’s tightly controlled internet space for rife nepotism. Similarly, “empty chair” took the place of Liu Xiaobo’s name on Chinese web forums after such a chair took the place of the jailed rights activist at the Nobel peace prize ceremony.
Shetty said: “Not since the end of the Cold War have so many repressive governments faced such a challenge to their stranglehold on power. The demand for political and economic rights spreading across the Middle East and North Africa is dramatic proof that all rights are equally important and a universal demand.
“In the 50 years since Amnesty International was born to protect the rights of people detained for their peaceful opinions, there has been a human rights revolution. The call for justice, freedom and dignity has evolved into a global demand that grows stronger every day. The genie is out of the bottle and the forces of repression cannot put it back.”
Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, email@example.com
As Bahraini Parliament Renews Repressive ‘State of Emergency,’ Crackdown Continues, Fueling Human Rights Crisis, Says Amnesty International
Medical Professionals Are Again Targeted with Arrest of President of Bahrain Medical Society and Charges Against 47 Others For Treating Injured Protesters
(New York) — The Bahraini government must end its relentless crackdown on human rights, Amnesty International said today after the country’s parliament voted to extend a repressive state of emergency amid continued arrests of dissidents.
“The Bahraini authorities must stop detaining anyone who opposes them and release protesters who have been locked up for peacefully demanding reform,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Even since the protests on the streets were violently crushed in mid-March the government’s persecution of dissidents has not abated, while the renewal of the so-called ‘State of National Safety’ will only exacerbate this human rights crisis.”
Bahraini media reported that members of parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to extend the “State of National Safety” for another three months, even though it is not due to expire for another six weeks.
Under emergency law, protesters and political activists have been arrested, without warrants, held incommunicado and tried before military courts.
On Monday, two members of Parliament from al-Wefaq, the largest Shi’a political party, were detained.
Jalal Fairuz, 48, and Matar Ibrahim Matar, 35, were arrested by armed men wearing civilian clothes and their whereabouts are unknown. Both have been critical of the government and have given media interviews to international media outlets.
All 18 al-Wefaq members of Parliament had resigned in February to protest the government’s crackdown on protests, including the deaths of demonstrators and others as a result of excessive use of force. Only 11 resignations were accepted, including those of the two men arrested.
Medical professionals continue to be targeted for arrest, with Dr. Ahmed Jamal, President of Bahrain Medical Society, arrested at his clinic on Monday.
Around 47 other doctors and nurses, some detained for weeks, are facing trial in a military court after they were charged Tuesday for their role in treating anti-government protesters.
The overwhelming majority of those detained since March 2011 are Shi’a Muslims who were active during the protests, most of whose whereabouts remain unknown.
Some detainees have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated following arrest and at least four people have died in suspicious circumstances.
The dismissal of government employees who were known to have participated in protests continues unabated.
There have also been reports of several Shi’a mosques being destroyed by the security forces, allegedly because they did not have building permits.
This has increased suspicions that the majority Shi’a population of Bahrain is being punished for the February-March protests, which called for reforms and, in some cases, regime change.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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In 2010, says Amnesty, capital punishment was carried out in the following countries: China (1,000s), Iran (252+), North Korea (60+), Yemen (53+), USA, (46), Saudi Arabia (27+), Libya (18+), Syria (17+), Bangladesh (9+), Somalia (8+), Sudan (6+), Palestinian Authority (5), Egypt (4), Equatorial Guinea (4), Taiwan (4), Belarus (2), Iraq (1+), Malaysia (1+), Bahrain (1), Singapore (unknown number) and Vietnam (unknown number).
Amnesty International has called on the governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to immediately restrain their security forces after an anti-government protester was shot dead in Bahrain today and many others sustained gunshot injuries.
Eye-witnesses told Amnesty International that Bahraini riot police and plain-clothed security forces used shotguns, rubber bullets and teargas against demonstrators in Sitra and Ma’ameer. Several ambulance drivers were attacked by riot police with batons as they tried to reach the wounded.
An eyewitness told Amnesty International that riot police blocked access to the Sitra Health Centre where many of the injured were taken, while leaving other injured people lying unassisted in the streets. The electricity supply to the centre was cut.
“The Bahraini authorities must immediately rein in their security forces and end their use of excessive force, and the Saudi Arabian authorities should demand this too if they are not to appear complicit,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director. “All those involved must act with restraint to prevent further loss of life.”
The shootings came as the King of Bahrain declared a three-month state of emergency, as anti-government protesters continue to demand reform.
“Today’s shootings and the reports we are receiving about denial of medical care to the injured are a desperately worrying development and indicate a truly alarming escalation following the police killings of protesters in February and the influx yesterday of Saudi Arabian troops and Emirati police to buttress the Bahraini government,” said Malcolm Smart.
Amnesty International has confirmed that one man died in Sitra Health Centre after being shot, but has not yet been able to verify other reported deaths.
Hospital sources and other eye-witnesses have told Amnesty International that hundreds of people have been admitted with injuries but it is unclear whether these were caused by excessive force or in violent clashes.
According to media reports earlier in the day, a Saudi Arabian soldier was killed after clashes with protesters.
“The King’s declaration of a state of emergency must not be used as a cover for repression and abuses of human rights, as has happened in so many other countries,” said Malcolm Smart. “Those responsible for excessive force, unlawful killings and other serious abuses must be held to account and the King and his government have an obligation to ensure it.”
WASHINGTON - March 9 - Amnesty International said today that the Yemeni authorities must end deadly night raids and other attacks on protests after one protester was killed and around 100 injured in the capital Sana’a late last night.
According to media reports, security forces used live rounds and tear gas against protesters camped outside Sana’a University. Protesters are demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule.
“This is the second time in three weeks that protesters have been killed in late night raids by the security forces in the capital,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “These disturbing heavy-handed tactics used with lethal effect against protesters must stop immediately. People must be allowed to assemble and protest in peace.”
Some 30 people have reportedly now been killed in Yemen during ongoing unrest which began early last month. Protesters are demanding government reform and an end to corruption and unemployment.
Yesterday’s shooting followed reports of a riot by inmates at the capital’s Central Prison. The inmates were reported to have called for the sacking of the director of the prison, and for a new government. At least two prisoners were killed and 60 people wounded. Yesterday also saw protests in the southern city of Aden and in the town of ‘Ataq, south-east of Sana’a.
In the central region of Ibb tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand action over an attack on a protest camp by pro-government protesters on Sunday which reportedly killed one and injured dozens.
Yemeni soldiers were also reported to have opened fire on protesters in the northern town of Harf Sufyan on March 4. According to information received by Amnesty International, the protesters were leaving the protest area in cars when soldiers at a military post opened fire, killing two men in the same car and wounding several others. The Yemeni Ministry of Defense has denied allegations that the military opened fire on protesters.
In the previous late night raid in Sana’a, two protesters were shot dead on February 22 when security forces, aided by men described by witnesses as “thugs,” stormed a group of people who had set up a protest camp outside the university.