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Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System
Source: Amnesty International

The USA stands virtually alone in the world in incarcerating thousands of prisoners in longterm or indefinite solitary confinement, defined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as “the physical and social isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day”. More than 40 US states are believed to operate “super-maximum security” units or prisons, collectively housing at least 25,000 prisoners. This number does not include the many thousands of other prisoners serving shorter periods in punishment or administrative segregation cells – estimated to be approximately 80,000 on any given day.

While US authorities have always been able to segregate prisoners for their own protection or as a penalty for disciplinary offences, super-maximum security facilities differ in that they are designed to isolate prisoners long-term as an administrative control measure. It is a management tool that has been criticized by human rights bodies, and is being increasingly challenged by US penal experts and others, as costly, ineffective and inhumane.

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Silenced, Expelled, Imprisoned: Repression of Students and Academics in Iran

June 9, 2014 Comments off

Silenced, Expelled, Imprisoned: Repression of Students and Academics in Iran
Source: Amnesty International

This report is based on research that Amnesty International conducted using a wide range of private and public sources. This included in-depth interviews with more than 50 individuals, both women and men, with direct knowledge of Iran’s universities and system of higher education, including former students and academic teaching staff. Amnesty International has not been permitted to visit Iran for fact-finding and research on the country since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and thus was unable to investigate conditions at Iran’s universities first hand. However, its interviewees included students and teaching staff who had recently attended or been employed at Iranian universities before fleeing Iran and seeking asylum in Turkey and other countries.

In addition to the interviews, almost all of which were conducted in Persian, Amnesty International compiled further information using questionnaires.

Among public sources, Amnesty International has drawn on information published by the Iranian government, including in submissions to the UN; reports and findings of UN bodies; statements made by Iranian officials; reports of independent non-governmental human rights organizations; and Iranian and international media reports.

Amnesty International — USA: Another Year, Same Missing Ingredient

May 26, 2014 Comments off

USA: Another Year, Same Missing Ingredient
Source: Amnesty International

For a speech seen as signalling a turning point, the direction travelled since it was delivered has been frustratingly familiar.

It is now one year since President Barack Obama revisited his administration’s framework for the USA’s counter-terrorism strategy, four years after a similar address he had given early in his first term. “From our use of drones to detention of terrorism suspects”, President Obama proclaimed on 23 May 2013, “the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children”.

At the time, Amnesty International expressed some cautious optimism at signs of a possible change for the better heralded by the speech, while noting that international human rights law was the ingredient still missing from the framework. The organization noted:

“Words are one thing, actions another. Despite their positive aspects, President Obama’s words leave a lot to be desired, and it remains to be seen how much will change, and how quickly, after this latest national security speech.”

One year on, little has changed. Why? Because the USA, a country not averse to promoting itself as a, or even the global human rights champion, continues in its singular failure to put respect for human rights at the centre of its counter-terrorism policies, despite a stated commitment to do so by successive administrations.

Torture In 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises

May 20, 2014 Comments off

Torture In 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises
Source: Amnesty International

Torture is abhorrent. It is barbaric and inhumane. It can never be justified. It is wrong, self-defeating and poisons the rule of law, replacing it with terror. No one is safe when governments allow its use.

The world’s governments recognized these fundamental truths when, in the aftermath of the atrocities of the Second World War, they adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This enshrined the basic right of all of us, everywhere, to live free from torture, free from cruelty.
This right – at the heart of our shared humanity – was later enshrined in a legally binding international agreement through an explicit and absolute prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment, in the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

30 years ago this year, this progress was further built upon by the UN Convention Against Torture. The Convention was groundbreaking: it offered a set of concrete steps to make the global ban on torture a reality, by establishing a set of measures, enshrined in law and specifically designed to prevent torture, punish perpetrators and ensure justice and redress to victims. These measures intend not only to end torture and other ill-treatment nationally, but also to ensure that no-one is deported across borders to be tortured, and that there is no safe haven for perpetrators.

Torturers are now international outlaws. A robust international legal framework has been built up and 155 countries are state parties to the UN Convention. This is real and meaningful progress. But many governments are betraying their responsibility. Three decades on from the Convention – and more than 65 years after the Universal Declaration – torture is not just alive and well. It is flourishing.

The outrageous extent of torture today exposes the gulf between what promises governments made 30 years ago and what governments do today.

Death Sentences and Executions 2013

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Death Sentences and Executions 2013
Source: Amnesty International

2013 was marked by some challenging setbacks on the journey to abolition of the death penalty. Four countries – Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Viet Nam – resumed executions and there was a significant rise in the number of people executed during the year compared with 2012, driven primarily by increases in Iraq and Iran.

Executions were recorded in 22 countries during 2013, one more than in the previous year. As in 2012, it could not be confirmed if judicial executions took place in Egypt or Syria. The overall number of reported executions worldwide was 778, an increase of almost 15% compared with 2012. As in previous years, this figure does not include the thousands of people executed in China; with the death penalty treated as a state secret the lack of reliable data does not allow Amnesty International to publish credible minimum figures for China.

Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian Killings in the Central African Republic

February 21, 2014 Comments off

Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian Killings in the Central African Republic
Source: Amnesty International

“Ethnic cleansing” of Muslims has been carried out in the western part of the Central African Republic, the most populous part of the country, since early January 2014. Entire Muslim communities have been forced to flee, and hundreds of Muslim civilians who have not managed to escape have been killed by the loosely organised militias known as anti-balaka.

“They killed my children heartlessly,” said Oure, a Muslim woman whose four sons were killed by anti-balaka fighters on 26 January. She, her two sisters, their 75-year-old mother, and seven of the family’s children had gone out early in the morning, trying to reach a church in the northwest town of Baoro, when they were caught by an anti-balaka militia unit. “The children were slaughtered in front of our eyes,” Oure continued, sobbing: “both my children and my sisters’ children.” One of Oure’s sisters, Aishatu, was wounded on her hand when she tried to protect the children, who were boys ranging in age from 8 to 17 years old.

Amnesty International has documented large-scale and repeated anti-balaka attacks on Muslim civilian populations in Bouali, Boyali, Bossembélé, Bossemptélé, Baoro, Bawi, and the capital, Bangui, in January, and has received credible information regarding additional attacks in Yaloke, Boda, and Bocaranga. Some of these attacks were carried out in revenge for the previous killing of Christian civilians by Seleka forces and armed Muslims.

“Will I Be Next?” U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan

October 23, 2013 Comments off

“Will I Be Next?” U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan (PDF)
Source: Amnesty International

This report is not a comprehensive survey of US drone strikes in Pakistan; it is a qualitative assessment based on detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes that occurred in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency between January 2012 and August 2013 (see Appendix) and a survey of publicly available information on all reported drone strikes in Pakistan over the same period.

An area bordering Afghanistan, North Waziristan is one of the seven tribal agencies that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Tribal Areas), a loosely-governed territory in northwest Pakistan that has been the focus of all US drone strikes in the country. Research was also carried out on the general impact of the US drone program on life in North Waziristan, as well as attacks by Pakistani forces and armed groups. The report highlights incidents in which men, women and children appear to have been unlawfully killed or injured. By examining these attacks in detail, Amnesty International seeks to shed light on a secretive program of surveillance and killings occurring in one of the most dangerous, neglected and inaccessible regions of the world.

Approaching the 2014 Sochi Olympics: Human Rights in Russia

August 21, 2013 Comments off

Approaching the 2014 Sochi Olympics: Human Rights in Russia
Source: Amnesty International

In July 2012 President Putin signed a new law obligating NGOs receiving overseas funding and involved in undefined “political activities” to register as “foreign agents”. As a result of this legislation, leading human rights NGOs, including Memorial, For Human Rights and Amnesty International itself have been subjected to unplanned inspections resulting in prosecutorial “warnings” and court cases. This particular brand of harassment can result in self-censorship, restriction of activities, or even flight. The conflation of NGOs with “foreign agents” or spies has also resulted in stigmatization and, in some cases, offices being vandalized.

More than 200 Russian non-governmental organizations in 50 regions have already undergone inspections, often with devastating effects. The Association in Defense of Voters’ Rights Golos (Voice) was first NGO to face charges under the foreign agents law. Both the organization and its director now face exorbitant fines and Golos has been forced to close.

A law passed in late 2012 also provides for sentences of up to 20 years for individuals who “provide consultative assistance to a “foreign organization” if that group was involved in “activities aimed against Russia’s security.” This catch-all phrase can be used to criminalize almost any activity the government deems hostile.

Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa

July 3, 2013 Comments off

<strong>Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa
Source: Amnesty International

This report provides an analysis of the legal environment and wider context of human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent years have seen increasing reports of people being harassed, marginalized, discriminated against and attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This is occurring in countries whose legal systems still condone the criminalization of consensual same-sex behaviour, and in countries where the police and justice systems are failing to prevent these crimes from happening.

The continued criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct in 38 African countries is a serious cause for concern. The existence and implementation of these laws violates a raft of international and regional human rights norms, and serves to marginalize one group of Africans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity alone. The last decade has witnessed efforts in some sub-Saharan African countries to further criminalize LGBTI individuals by ostensibly targeting their behaviour, or to impose steeper penalties and broaden the scope of existing laws. Uganda has seen repeated attempts since 2009 to introduce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – a bill which would seek to impose the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, and which would criminalize anyone in Uganda who does not report violations of the bill’s wide-ranging provisions within 24 hours to authorities. South Sudan, on becoming independent in 2008, criminalized consensual same-sex conduct for women and men with up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Burundi criminalized same-sex conduct for men and women in 2009 by revising the criminal code to outlaw ‘sexual relations with someone of the same sex’. In 2011 and 2012, Nigeria and Liberia respectively introduced bills to toughen penalties for same-sex conduct. And Mauritania, northern regions of Nigeria, the southern region of Somalia and Sudan, retain the death penalty for the same.

Laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct affect LGBTI Africans on a daily basis. In some countries, like Cameroon, individuals are regularly arrested after having been denounced to authorities as being gay or lesbian. Individuals are usually arrested, charged and sentenced without evidence of same-sex conduct, and sometimes invasive medical examinations are performed in an attempt to obtain ‘evidence’ of such. Even in countries where anti-homosexuality laws are not routinely implemented, the existence of the laws alone provide opportunities for abuse, including blackmail and extortion, both by police and by non-state actors. Furthermore, the existence of laws that criminalize one group of people based on who they are and who they (are presumed to) have consensual sex with, sends a message to the broader population that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is acceptable, and that human rights do not apply to LGBTI people. This creates an environment in which harassment, intimidation and violence against LGBTI people can flourish, and people can perpetrate such acts with impunity.

Amnesty International — Annual Report 2013

June 12, 2013 Comments off

Annual Report 2013: The State of the World’s Human Rights

Source: Amnesty International

Human rights know no borders. But Amnesty International’s 2013 report shows governments are using the excuse of ‘internal affairs’ in shameful attempts to block concerted international action to resolve human rights emergencies.

Death penalty 2012: Despite setbacks, a death penalty-free world came closer

April 11, 2013 Comments off

Death penalty 2012: Despite setbacks, a death penalty-free world came closer
Source: Amnesty International

Despite some disappointing setbacks in 2012, the global trend towards ending the death penalty continued, Amnesty International found in its annual review of death sentences and executions.

2012 saw the resumption of executions in several countries that had not used the death penalty in some time, notably India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia, as well as an alarming escalation in executions in Iraq.

But the use of the death penalty continues to be restricted to an isolated group of countries, and progress towards its abolition was seen in all regions of the world.

Libya: Rule of Law or Rule of Militias?

July 9, 2012 Comments off

Libya: Rule of Law or Rule of Militias?
Source: Amnesty International

Two sisters aged 27 and 32 were stopped by a militia at a checkpoint in February 2012 and forced at gunpoint to a nearby farm. One was suspended from a door for hours, had boiling water poured over her head, and was beaten and stabbed while being accused of supporting the former government of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. The other was also suspended and beaten. The husband of one of them, who was detained at the same time, has disappeared.

This family is among the mounting toll of victims of an increasingly lawless Libya, where the transitional authorities have been unable or unwilling to rein in the hundreds of militias formed during and after the 2011 conflict that ended the rule of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. The militias are now threatening the very future of Libya and casting a shadow over landmark national elections scheduled for July 7, 2012. They are killing people, making arbitrary arrests, torturing detainees and forcibly displacing and terrorizing entire communities, often solely for reasons of revenge. They are also recklessly using machineguns, mortars and other weaponry during tribal and territorial battles, killing and maiming bystanders. They act above the law, committing their crimes without fear of punishment.

Cruel Isolation: Amnesty International’s Concerns about Conditions in Arizona Maximum Security Prisons

April 11, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Amnesty International
This report describes Amnesty International’s concerns relating to the conditions under which prisoners are confined in the Special Management Units (SMU) of Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)-Eyman and other maximum custody facilities operated by the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC).
More than 2,900 prisoners are held in Arizona’s highest security maximum custody facilities, the majority in the SMUs at ASPC-Eyman. Most are confined alone in windowless cells for 22 to 24 hours a day in conditions of reduced sensory stimulation, with little access to natural light and no work, educational or rehabilitation programs. Prisoners exercise alone in small, enclosed yards and, apart from a minority who have a cell-mate, have no association with other prisoners. Many prisoners spend years in such conditions; some serve out their sentences in solitary confinement before being released directly into the community.
While the Arizona authorities classify maximum security inmates as those posing the highest institutional security risk, Amnesty International’s findings suggest that some prisoners are confined to the units who do not fit this criteria. The organization is further concerned that many of those confined to the units suffer from mental illness or disability and are held in conditions likely to exacerbate their illness or disability. This report focuses mainly on conditions in the SMUs, but also includes information on other isolation units, including the Lumley Unit Special Management Area at the women’s prison at Perryville, and the maximum custody unit at Rincon Minors, a facility for male youths aged 14 to 17 who have been tried and convicted as adults.

+ Full Report (PDF)

‘I wanted to die’: Syria’s torture survivors speak out

March 25, 2012 Comments off

‘I wanted to die’: Syria’s torture survivors speak out
Source: Amnesty International

A grim catalogue of torture has emerged from former detainees describing their treatment in Syria’s detention centres since the predominantly peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government began in March 2011. This report reveals that all the various security forces are routinely torturing and ill-treating detainees held in the context of the protests and unrest, using methods of cruelty mostly used for decades. The torture carried out appears to be part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population as part of Syrian government policy to crush dissent.

+ Full Report (PDF)

No arms for atrocities or abuses: Commit to an effective Arms Trade Treaty

March 14, 2012 Comments off

No arms for atrocities or abuses: Commit to an effective Arms Trade Treaty
Source: Amnesty International

Each year, the global trade in conventional arms carries an enormous human cost. In July 2012, UN member states will be invited to the UN conference to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty. Now is the time to ensure that the Treaty contains the highest possible common standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. This briefing documents five personal stories in the context of human rights violations committed or facilitated using conventional arms in law enforcement or military operations.

“We Are Ordered to Crush You”: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran

March 12, 2012 Comments off

“We Are Ordered to Crush You”: Expanding Repression of Dissent in Iran
Source: Amnesty International

The net of repression is widening in Iran. The authorities are arresting filmmakers, bloggers, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, lawyers, students, journalists, political activists, religious and ethnic minorities — simply for speaking out against the government or expressing views with which the authorities do not agree. This report shows the lengths to which the Iranian authorities are prepared to go to isolate people in Iran from the rest of the world, and to try to hide information on human rights violations.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Fleeing War, Finding Misery: The Plight of the Internally Displaced in Afghanistan

March 11, 2012 Comments off

Fleeing War, Finding Misery: The Plight of the Internally Displaced in Afghanistan
Source: Amnesty International

Conflict affects more Afghans now that at any point in the last decade. The conflict has intensified in many areas, and fighting has spread to parts of the country previously deemed relatively peaceful. The surge in hostilities has many obvious consequences, among them that families and even entire communities flee their homes in search of greater security.

Four hundred people a day are displaced in Afghanistan, on average, bringing the total displaced population to 500,000 by January 2012.

Such internal displacement is on the rise. Conflict-induced internal displacement increased rapidly in the first half of 2011 — the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that nearly 100,000 people were internally displaced between January and June of that year. The number of displaced persons has increased every year since at least 2008.

Tens of thousands of these displaced individuals have sought shelter in and around Kabul and other Afghan cities. Precise numbers are difficult to determine, but as many as 35,000 displaced persons are now living in slum areas in Kabul alone.

Ukraine must act to deal with endemic police criminality

December 17, 2011 Comments off

Ukraine must act to deal with endemic police criminality
Source: Amnesty International

The Ukrainian authorities must act immediately to deal with endemic police criminality, Amnesty International said today in a new report that reveals widespread torture, extortion, and arbitrary detention.

No evidence of a crime: Paying the price for police impunity in Ukraine, reveals how police are rarely punished for these crimes because of high levels of corruption, non-existent or flawed investigations, harassment and intimidation of complainants, and a low level of prosecutions for such crimes.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Death Sentences and Executions 2010

December 13, 2011 Comments off
Source:  Amnesty International

At least 23 countries were known to have carried out judicial executions in 2010. This is four more than 2009, when Amnesty International recorded the lowest number of executing countries since the organisation began monitoring death penalty figures.

There were no reported executions in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Saint Kitts and Nevis and United Arab Emirates, although these countries were known to have carried out executions up to 2008 or 2009. However, after a hiatus, Bahrain, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, Somalia and Taiwan all carried out at least one execution in 2010. At least 527 executions were carried out in 2010. This figure does not include the thousands of executions that were believed to be carried out in China last year. Last year Amnesty International decided not to publish minimum figures for the use of the death penalty in China, where such statistics are considered to be state secrets. Instead Amnesty International has challenged the Chinese authorities to publish figures for the number of people sentenced to death and executed each year to confirm their claims that there has been a reduction in the use of the death penalty in the country.

Saudi Arabia: Repression in the Name of Security

December 6, 2011 Comments off

Saudi Arabia: Repression in the Name of Security
Source: Amnesty International

Since March 2011 the Saudi Arabian authorities have launched a new wave of repression in the name of security. They have cracked down on demonstrators protesting over human rights violations in the context of calls for reform at home and the uprisings and mass protests in the region. At the same time, they are in the process of creating a new anti-terror law which threatens to exacerbate an already dire situation for freedom of expression, in which any real or perceived dissent is almost instantly suppressed. It would also legalize a number of abusive practices including arbitrary detention, thus consolidating draconian and abusive counter-terrorism measures imposed since 2001 against the backdrop of an extremely weak institutional framework for the protection of human rights. State power in Saudi Arabia rests almost entirely with the King and the ruling Al Saud family. The Constitution gives the King absolute power over government institutions and the affairs of the state, and severely curtails political dissent and freedom of expression.

The country’s 27 million residents have no political institutions independent of government, and political parties and trade unions are not tolerated. The media is severely constrained and those who express dissent face arrest and imprisonment, whether political critics, bloggers or academics. King Abdullah announced on 25 September 2011 that women will have the right to vote and run in municipal elections, the kingdom’s only public poll, from 2015 and be appointed to the Shura Council, a body that advises the monarchy. However, women remain subject to severe discrimination in both law and practice. Women are unable to travel, engage in paid work or higher education, or marry without the permission of a male guardian.

It is against this background that some Saudi Arabians have been insisting publicly that it is time for change and for their human rights to be respected. Many have tried to assert their right to peaceful protest on the streets. Some have demanded political and social reforms; others have called for the release of relatives detained without charge or trial on terrorismrelated grounds. In response, the security forces have arrested hundreds of people for protesting or voicing their opposition to government policies this year. Most have been released without charge; others remain in detention without charge or trial; and others still have been charged with vague security-related and other offences. Amnesty International considers many of those detained to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully expressing their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

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