Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty International’

Marjorie Cohn: Close the Guantánamo Gulag

January 16, 2012
_______________________________
by Marjorie Cohn, ZNet, Monday, January 16, 2012

Travelers to Cuba and music lovers are familiar with the song “Guantanamera”— literally, the girl from Guantánamo. With lyrics by José Martí, the father of Cuban independence, Guantanamera is probably the most widely known Cuban song. But Guantánamo is even more famous now for its U.S. military prison. Where “Guantanamera” is a powerful expression of the beauty of Cuba, “Gitmo” has become a powerful symbol of human rights violations—so much so that Amnesty International described it as “the gulag of our times.”

That description can be traced to January 2002, when the base received its first 20 prisoners in shackles. General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned they were “very dangerous people who would gnaw hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down.”  We now know that a large portion of the 750 plus men and boys held there posed no threat to the United States. In fact, only five percent were captured by the United States; most were picked up by the Northern Alliance, Pakistani intelligence officers, or tribal warlords, and many were sold for cash bounties.

Continues >>

Advertisements

Saudi Arabia – human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism

August 30, 2011
Saudi special forces outside the hotel where the Counter Terrorism International Conference. Riyadh, February 2005.

Saudi special forces outside the hotel where the Counter Terrorism International Conference. Riyadh, February 2005.

© AP/PA Photo/Hasan Jamali

Amnesty International, 22 July 2009

We were afraid that something bad might have happened to him, that he might have been tortured. We called the prison but they would respond: “Be patient, the investigation is not finished.” I cried: “Let me just hear my husband’s voice”. His disappearance was so sudden…me and my family kept asking ourselves: why is it happening?

Wife of Khalil ‘Abdul Rahman ‘Abdul Karim al-Janahi who was arrested at Riyadh airport in April 2007.

The Saudi Arabian authorities have launched a sustained assault on human rights under the façade of countering terrorism, Amnesty International said in a new report on Wednesday.

Thousands of people have been arrested and detained in virtual secrecy, while others have been killed in uncertain circumstances. Hundreds more people face secret and summary trials and possible execution. Many are reported to have been tortured in order to extract confessions or as punishment after conviction.

Continues >>

Israel’s Gaza blockade continues to suffocate daily life

January 19, 2010

Amnesty international, 18 January 2010

Palestinian girls try to cross a flooded street, Shati refugee camp, Gaza City

Palestinian girls try to cross a flooded street, Shati refugee camp, Gaza City

© Associated Press

Israel must end its suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip, which leaves more than 1.4 million Palestinians cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty, Amnesty International said one year on from the end of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

Amnesty International’s briefing paper Suffocating: The Gaza Strip under Israeli blockade gathers testimony from people still struggling to rebuild their lives following Operation “Cast Lead”, which killed around 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more.

Continues >>

Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water

October 27, 2009

Amnesty International USA, 27 October 2009

Amnesty International has accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.

These unreasonably restrict the availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevent the Palestinians developing an effective water infrastructure there.

Continues >>

 

Amnesty International Calls on Pakistani Army to Stop Harassment of Mehsud Tribe

October 23, 2009

Amnesty International, October 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – October 22 – The Pakistani military must stop its harassment of civilians from the Mehsud tribe as they flee the government’s latest offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest of the country, Amnesty International said today.

The Pakistani military refused to allow Mehsud members to use major roads in fleeing the conflict zone, witnesses told Amnesty International. Some of the tribe members are involved in the senior leadership of the Pakistani Taliban.

Continues >>

Saudi Arabia – countering terrorism with repression

September 11, 2009

Amnesty International, September 11, 2009

A Saudi special forces soldier stands guard at a check point, 5 February 2005, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi special forces soldier stands guard at a check point, 5 February 2005, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

© AP/PA Photo/Amr Nabil

Since the September 11 attacks in the USA eight years ago, the Saudi Arabian authorities have launched a sustained assault on human rights in the name of countering terrorism. The attacks were carried out by a group that included Saudi Arabian nationals.

“The anti-terrorism measures introduced since 2001 have set back the process of limited human rights reform in Saudi Arabia,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Combined with severe repression of all forms of dissent and a weak human rights framework, there is now an almost complete lack of protection of freedoms and rights.”

An Amnesty International briefing paper, launched on Friday, describes the shocking scale of abuses. Thousands of people have had their lives devastated by violations of their basic rights. Some have been arrested and detained in virtual secrecy, while others have been killed in uncertain circumstances.

Hundreds more people face secret and summary trials and possible execution. Many are reported to have been tortured in order to extract confessions or as punishment after conviction.

Since Amnesty International’s July 2009 report, Saudi Arabia: Assaulting Human Rights in the Name of Counter-Terrorism, the government has announced that 330 people have been tried on terrorism charges in recent months, virtually all of whom were convicted in closed trials, with sentences ranging from fines to the death penalty. However, they have not disclosed their names or details of the charges, maintaining the extreme secrecy of the trial process.

Of the thousands detained by the authorities, some are prisoners of conscience, targeted for their peaceful criticism of government policies. The majority are suspected supporters of Islamist groups or factions opposed to the Saudi Arabian government’s close links to the USA and other Western countries.

Such groups have carried out a number of attacks targeting Westerners and others, and are officially dubbed as “misguided”. The detainees also include people forcibly returned from Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries.

“The abuses take place behind a wall of secrecy. Detainees are held with no idea of what is going to happen to them,” said Malcolm Smart.

“Most are held incommunicado for years without trial, and are denied access to lawyers and the courts to challenge the legality of their detention. This has a devastating effect on both the individuals who are detained and on their families.”

Case studies

Abdul Rahim al-Mirbati, a 48-year-old Bahraini businessman, was arrested in 2003 or 2004 in Madina. His family say he had travelled to Saudi Arabia to seek medical treatment for his 13-year-old son.

During three months of detention in al-Ruwais Prison in Jeddah, he was denied visits and is reported to have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Following a series of transfers, he is currently held in al-Dammam Central Prison.

Although he is said to have been accused of planning to carry out bombings in Bahrain, his relatives are not aware of any charges brought against him. They have contacted various authorities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to seek clarification of his legal status but to no avail.

Jordanian national Muzhir Mustafa Abdul Rahim Shkour, 44, was arrested in August 2007 on the border between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. He was held in incommunicado detention for four months before he was allowed a telephone call to his family and was subsequently allowed visits. He continues to be held without charge or trial, like many others in al-Dammam Central Prison.

Amnesty says end ‘immoral’ blockade of Cuba

September 2, 2009
Morning Star Online/UK, September 1,  2009
by Tom Mellen
Sanctions have forced Cubans to improvise, including bringing back oxen due to petrol shortages

Sanctions have forced Cubans to improvise, including bringing back oxen due to petrol shortages

Amnesty has challenged US President Barack Obama to deliver on his change agenda by taking the first step towards dismantling the “immoral” US blockade of socialist Cuba.

The human rights group has urged Mr Obama not to renew Trading with the Enemy Act sanctions against the island as it published its new report looking at the impact of the US economic embargo.

The deadline for the renewal of sanctions under the Act is September 14.

The report concluded that the sanctions, imposed by the US since 1962, are particularly affecting Cubans’ access to medicines and medical technologies and endangering the health of millions.

On the campaign trail last year Mr Obama told US citizens that, when “we win this election together, we’re going to change the country and change the world.”

Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan said: “This is the perfect opportunity for President Obama to distance himself from the failed policies of the past and to send a strong message to the US Congress on the need to end the embargo.

“The US embargo against Cuba is immoral and should be lifted – it’s preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health.”

Under the blockade, Cuba faces severe restrictions on importing medicines, medical equipment or technologies from the US or from any US company abroad.

The sanctions also limit other imports to the island and restrict travel and the transfer of money.

Products patented in the US or containing more than 20 per cent US-manufactured parts or components cannot be exported to Cuba, even if they are produced in third countries.

Cuba’s inability to import nutritional products for consumption at schools, hospitals and daycare centres is contributing to a high prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia.

Some 37.5 per cent of Cuba’s children under three years old are affected, according to UNICEF.

Children’s health was also put at risk by a decision from US syringe suppliers to cancel an order for three million disposable syringes made in 2007 by the UNICEF Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, when it became known that the units were destined for Cuba.

Similar situations have affected the implementation of UN programmes to prevent and fight HIV/AIDS on the island, according to Amnesty.

Ms Khan said that, while responsibility for providing adequate healthcare lies “primarily with the Cuban authorities, governments imposing sanctions such as embargoes need to pay special attention to the impact they can have on the targeted country’s population.”

CIA detention programme: Criminal investigations long overdue

August 28, 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder, June 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder, June 2009

© APGraphicsBank

Amnesty Internaional, 27 August 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement on Tuesday that he has ordered a “preliminary review” into some interrogations of some detainees in the secret detention programme operated by the CIA after the attacks of 11 September 2001, while a welcome first step, does not go far enough, Amnesty International said.

“The USA needs to ensure that every case of torture is submitted for prosecution, whether or not perpetrators claim to have been following orders, and those who authorized or ordered the commission of torture or other criminal abuse of detainees must also be brought to justice,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA. “The USA should also establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all aspects of the USA’s detention practices in what the previous administration called the ‘war on terror'”, he said.

Continues >>

Pioneering human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong faces trial in China

August 19, 2009

Xu Zhiyong became famous when he took up the cause of Sun Zhigang, a student who died in a detention centre in 2003

Xu ZhiyongXu Zhiyong is a co-founder of Gongmeng, a legal group which has dealt with some high-profile human rights cases. Photograph: Greg Baker/AP

Chinese authorities have formally arrested a pioneering lawyer, more than two weeks after security officials took him from his home at dawn. His lawyer warned today that he was likely to face a trial.

Xu Zhiyong, 36, is one of the best-known human rights lawyers in the country and co-founder of Gongmeng, a legal group that has dealt with some of the most sensitive cases in recent years. He is accused of tax evasion and, if found guilty, could face up to seven years in prison.

“It’s not an indictment. But in the usual run of things, I expect the procuratorate will take the case to court, and the court is very unlikely to reject their case,” Xu’s lawyer, Li Fangping, told Reuters.

Amnesty International alleged in a statement: “The charges of tax evasion are a simple ploy to shut down the Open Constitution Initiative [Gongmeng].”

It added that Zhuang Lu, a staff member detained at the same time as Xu, had also been arrested.

Gongmeng has taken on high-profile cases, including the parents of children made ill by tainted baby milk formula, and issued a report criticising the handling of unrest across the Tibetan plateau.

Xu’s arrest comes amid a broader crackdown on activist lawyers, in which more than 50 have lost their licences to practise, and the curbing of other dissent in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of Communist party rule in October this year.

US detainees remain at risk as they are transferred to Iraqi custody

July 25, 2009

Amnesty International, 22 July 2009

Call on the US not to transfer detainees at risk to Iraqi custody

Hundreds of detainees held by the US military in Iraq are being put at risk of execution, torture or other ill treatment as they are transferred to Iraqi custody under an agreement made without safeguards.

The detainees are being transferred under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by former President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which came into force on 1 January 2009. Under the agreement, US troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Some detainees in US custody have been sentenced to death after unfair trials and are likely to be executed if they are handed over to the Iraqi authorities.

Continued >>