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Saudi Arabia jails lawyer and human rights activist in ongoing crackdown on dissent

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 9:48am
Headline Title:  Saudi Arabia jails lawyer in ongoing crackdown on dissent 16 April 2014

Saudi Arabia must immediately release prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation, said Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair was detained in connection with his human rights work. He is now facing charges almost identical ones he was convicted of by another criminal court back in October 2013.

“Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Waleed Abu al-Khair’s detention is a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent. Nobody should be jailed for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

Waleed Abu al-Khair is among a dozen prominent activists who were all sentenced in 2013 to long prison terms based on trumped-up charges that the authorities resorted to after failing to silence them by other means, including the threat of prosecution and other extra-judicial means of intimidation.

He was brought before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 6 October 2013, on charges that included, among other things, “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler”, “disrespecting the authorities”, “offending the judiciary”, “inciting international organisations against the Kingdom” and “founding an unlicensed organization”.

Three weeks later, on 29 October 2013another criminal court in Jeddah sentenced him to three months in prison on similar charges related to ridiculing or offending the Saudi Arabian judiciary. The Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on 6 February 2014. In both court cases, evidence for all charges against Waleed Abu al-Khair seem to be based on his signing of a petition that criticized the heavy-handedness of the Saudi Arabian authorities in dealing with 16 reformists.

Waleed Abu al-Khair, head of the Saudi Arabia Monitor of Human Rights, an independent human rights organization founded in 2008, has faced persecution from the Saudi Arabian state before and has been banned from traveling since March 2012.

"Independent activists in Saudi Arabia who dare to peacefully voice their opinions are forced to pay a heavy price. Waleed Abu al-Khair is the latest in a long list of human rights activists who have been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned by the authorities in recent months" said Said Boumedouha.

Speaking earlier this year, Waleed Abu al-Khair told Amnesty International that he, like other activists, had often been pressured to stop their work.

“This is a campaign that affects all human right defenders in Saudi Arabia, the option is either for the activist to sign a pledge to stop his activism and apologize, or to bear the heavy consequences for refusing to do so: prison, travel ban and deprivation of livelihood,” he said.

Despite continued pressure, he has refused to renege on his human rights work.

“I am pleased with what I did, and until now, despite all the harassment, I do not regret my choices. I am still on the right path. If you have a goal to live for, things become easier. My goals are justice, rights, freedom of expression and to be able to stand up and say that the regime is unfair,” he told Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair has represented many victims of human rights violations. Amongst his former clients is Raif Badawi, a well-known Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced in July 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. One of the charges levelled against Raif Badawi was insulting religious authorities by creating and managing a website.

Saudi Arabia must immediately release human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation.

Media Node:  Saudi Arabia Twitter Tag:  SaudiArabia Story Location:  Saudi Arabia 25° 3' 10.9548" N, 44° 7' 23.1348" E “Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. ” Source:  Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. URL:  Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer sentenced to prison for demanding reforms Description:  News Story, 29 October 2013. URL:  Saudi Arabia: Empty promises as crackdown intensifies Description:  News Story/Report, 21 October 2013.

Saudi Arabia jails lawyer and human rights activist in ongoing crackdown on dissent

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 9:48am
Headline Title:  Saudi Arabia jails lawyer in ongoing crackdown on dissent 16 April 2014

Saudi Arabia must immediately release prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation, said Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair was detained in connection with his human rights work. He is now facing charges almost identical ones he was convicted of by another criminal court back in October 2013.

“Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Waleed Abu al-Khair’s detention is a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent. Nobody should be jailed for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

Waleed Abu al-Khair is among a dozen prominent activists who were all sentenced in 2013 to long prison terms based on trumped-up charges that the authorities resorted to after failing to silence them by other means, including the threat of prosecution and other extra-judicial means of intimidation.

He was brought before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 6 October 2013, on charges that included, among other things, “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler”, “disrespecting the authorities”, “offending the judiciary”, “inciting international organisations against the Kingdom” and “founding an unlicensed organization”.

Three weeks later, on 29 October 2013another criminal court in Jeddah sentenced him to three months in prison on similar charges related to ridiculing or offending the Saudi Arabian judiciary. The Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on 6 February 2014. In both court cases, evidence for all charges against Waleed Abu al-Khair seem to be based on his signing of a petition that criticized the heavy-handedness of the Saudi Arabian authorities in dealing with 16 reformists.

Waleed Abu al-Khair, head of the Saudi Arabia Monitor of Human Rights, an independent human rights organization founded in 2008, has faced persecution from the Saudi Arabian state before and has been banned from traveling since March 2012.

"Independent activists in Saudi Arabia who dare to peacefully voice their opinions are forced to pay a heavy price. Waleed Abu al-Khair is the latest in a long list of human rights activists who have been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned by the authorities in recent months" said Said Boumedouha.

Speaking earlier this year, Waleed Abu al-Khair told Amnesty International that he, like other activists, had often been pressured to stop their work.

“This is a campaign that affects all human right defenders in Saudi Arabia, the option is either for the activist to sign a pledge to stop his activism and apologize, or to bear the heavy consequences for refusing to do so: prison, travel ban and deprivation of livelihood,” he said.

Despite continued pressure, he has refused to renege on his human rights work.

“I am pleased with what I did, and until now, despite all the harassment, I do not regret my choices. I am still on the right path. If you have a goal to live for, things become easier. My goals are justice, rights, freedom of expression and to be able to stand up and say that the regime is unfair,” he told Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair has represented many victims of human rights violations. Amongst his former clients is Raif Badawi, a well-known Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced in July 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. One of the charges levelled against Raif Badawi was insulting religious authorities by creating and managing a website.

Saudi Arabia must immediately release human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation.

Media Node:  Saudi Arabia Twitter Tag:  SaudiArabia Story Location:  Saudi Arabia 25° 3' 10.9548" N, 44° 7' 23.1348" E “Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. ” Source:  Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. URL:  Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer sentenced to prison for demanding reforms Description:  News Story, 29 October 2013. URL:  Saudi Arabia: Empty promises as crackdown intensifies Description:  News Story/Report, 21 October 2013.

Saudi Arabia jails lawyer and human rights activist in ongoing crackdown on dissent

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 9:48am
Headline Title:  Saudi Arabia jails lawyer in ongoing crackdown on dissent 16 April 2014

Saudi Arabia must immediately release prominent human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation, said Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair was detained in connection with his human rights work. He is now facing charges almost identical ones he was convicted of by another criminal court back in October 2013.

“Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Waleed Abu al-Khair’s detention is a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent. Nobody should be jailed for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

Waleed Abu al-Khair is among a dozen prominent activists who were all sentenced in 2013 to long prison terms based on trumped-up charges that the authorities resorted to after failing to silence them by other means, including the threat of prosecution and other extra-judicial means of intimidation.

He was brought before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 6 October 2013, on charges that included, among other things, “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler”, “disrespecting the authorities”, “offending the judiciary”, “inciting international organisations against the Kingdom” and “founding an unlicensed organization”.

Three weeks later, on 29 October 2013another criminal court in Jeddah sentenced him to three months in prison on similar charges related to ridiculing or offending the Saudi Arabian judiciary. The Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on 6 February 2014. In both court cases, evidence for all charges against Waleed Abu al-Khair seem to be based on his signing of a petition that criticized the heavy-handedness of the Saudi Arabian authorities in dealing with 16 reformists.

Waleed Abu al-Khair, head of the Saudi Arabia Monitor of Human Rights, an independent human rights organization founded in 2008, has faced persecution from the Saudi Arabian state before and has been banned from traveling since March 2012.

"Independent activists in Saudi Arabia who dare to peacefully voice their opinions are forced to pay a heavy price. Waleed Abu al-Khair is the latest in a long list of human rights activists who have been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned by the authorities in recent months" said Said Boumedouha.

Speaking earlier this year, Waleed Abu al-Khair told Amnesty International that he, like other activists, had often been pressured to stop their work.

“This is a campaign that affects all human right defenders in Saudi Arabia, the option is either for the activist to sign a pledge to stop his activism and apologize, or to bear the heavy consequences for refusing to do so: prison, travel ban and deprivation of livelihood,” he said.

Despite continued pressure, he has refused to renege on his human rights work.

“I am pleased with what I did, and until now, despite all the harassment, I do not regret my choices. I am still on the right path. If you have a goal to live for, things become easier. My goals are justice, rights, freedom of expression and to be able to stand up and say that the regime is unfair,” he told Amnesty International.

Waleed Abu al-Khair has represented many victims of human rights violations. Amongst his former clients is Raif Badawi, a well-known Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced in July 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. One of the charges levelled against Raif Badawi was insulting religious authorities by creating and managing a website.

Saudi Arabia must immediately release human rights activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was arrested following his fifth hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday and taken to al-Ha’ir prison without an explanation.

Media Node:  Saudi Arabia Twitter Tag:  SaudiArabia Story Location:  Saudi Arabia 25° 3' 10.9548" N, 44° 7' 23.1348" E “Authorities in Saudi Arabia are clearly punishing Waleed Abu al-Khair for his work protecting and defending human rights. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. ” Source:  Boumedouha Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. URL:  Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer sentenced to prison for demanding reforms Description:  News Story, 29 October 2013. URL:  Saudi Arabia: Empty promises as crackdown intensifies Description:  News Story/Report, 21 October 2013.

BULGARIA: AUTHORITIES MUST URGENTLY ACT TO STOP THE ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE TARGETING THE ROMA COMMUNITY

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 6:09am
Publication Date:  16 April 2014

Amnesty International urges Bulgarian authorities to effectively tackle the escalation of violence which is resulting in racially-motivated attacks against the Roma community in the country.

Amnesty International Index Number:  EUR15/002/2011

Israel: Lift ‘ludicrous’ restrictions on whistleblower Vanunu decade after release

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 2:52am
Headline Title:  Israel: Lift ‘ludicrous’ restrictions on whistleblower Vanunu decade after release 16 April 2014

Ten years after serving a full sentence for his revelations to the press about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu still faces severe restrictions that arbitrarily infringe on his freedom of movement, expression and association, said Amnesty International.

The former nuclear technician served an 18-year-prison sentence, the first 11 years of which were in solitary confinement, for disclosing information to journalists about Israel’s nuclear arsenal during the 1980s.

Since his release in 2004, renewable military orders, have placed Mordechai Vanunu under police supervision. Among other things, he is banned from leaving the country and participating in internet chats. He must also seek permission to communicate with any foreign nationals, including journalists.

“The authorities’ continued punishment of Mordechai Vanunu appears to be purely vindictive.   The government’s arguments that these severe restrictions are necessary for national security are ludicrous,” said Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International.

Israeli officials claim that restricting Mordechai Vanunu’s freedom is necessary to prevent him from divulging further secrets about Israel’s nuclear programme. He has, however, repeatedly stated that he revealed all he knew about Israel’s nuclear arsenal in 1986 and that he has no further information. He and his lawyers have also pointed out that the information he had at the time of his imprisonment has now long been in the public domain and is about 30 years out of date.

“The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu are arbitrary, unnecessary and have no grounds in international law. The continuing restrictions on his liberty have placed a severe strain on his mental and physical health and should immediately be lifted,” said Avner Gidron.

Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to allow Mordechai Vanunu to leave the country if he wishes, and to allow him to exercise his rights to freedom of movement, association and expression while in Israel.

Last December, following an appeal by his lawyer, the High Court of Justice upheld the restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Interior on Mordechai Vanunu, which prevent him from leaving Israel, and ban him from entering a consulate or embassy or coming with 500 meters of international borders, border passages, harbours or airports.  And they upheld the requirement that he seek permission before contacting foreign nationals. The current restrictions, which are due for renewal in May 2014, should be lifted immediately.

Mordechai Vanunu is a former technician at Israel's nuclear plant near the southern town of Dimona. He revealed details of the country's nuclear arsenal to the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, in 1986. He was abducted by Israeli secret service (Mossad) agents in Italy on 30 September 1986 and secretly taken to Israel. He was tried and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.

In May 2010 he was imprisoned for a second time following his release, for three months, after being convicted of breaching his restrictions by speaking to foreigners and attempting to attend Christmas Mass in Bethlehem. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. He was held for 11 weeks under harsh conditions in solitary confinement in Ayalon Prison near Ramle in central Israel, in a special unit for dangerous prisoners and was able to leave his cell for only one hour every day. The prison authorities said they decided to place him there in order to protect him from attacks from other inmates.

The restrictions he has been subjected to since 2004 are not parole restrictions since Mordechai Vanunu served his full sentence. They are arbitrary and contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interference in the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association and protects individuals from being punished again for the same offence.

Mordechai Vanunu had been previously held by Israel in solitary confinement for 11 years from 1986 in conditions that Amnesty International at the time called cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. 

Ten years after serving a full sentence for his revelations to the press about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu still faces severe restrictions that arbitrarily infringe on his freedom of movement, expression and association.

Media Node:  Israel Story Location:  Israel 32° 34' 31.5084" N, 35° 19' 58.908" E “The authorities’ continued punishment of Mordechai Vanunu appears to be purely vindictive. The government’s arguments that these severe restrictions are necessary for national security are ludicrous. ” Source:  Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International. URL:  Israel: End arbitrary restrictions on Vanunu Description:  Document, 11 October 2010. URL:  Israeli nuclear whistleblower returned to solitary confinement Description:  News Story, 18 June 2010. URL:  Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Mordechai Vanunu - Prisoner of conscience: Medical action Description:  Urgent Action, 9 July 2010. URL:  Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Further information: Mordechai Vanunu is released from prison: Description:  Urgent Action, 12 August 2010. URL:  Israel and the Occupied Territories: Mordechai Vanunu: Solitary confinement as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment Description:  Document, 30 September 1991.

Israel: Lift ‘ludicrous’ restrictions on whistleblower Vanunu decade after release

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 2:52am
Headline Title:  Israel: Lift ‘ludicrous’ restrictions on whistleblower Vanunu decade after release 16 April 2014

Ten years after serving a full sentence for his revelations to the press about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu still faces severe restrictions that arbitrarily infringe on his freedom of movement, expression and association, said Amnesty International.

The former nuclear technician served an 18-year-prison sentence, the first 11 years of which were in solitary confinement, for disclosing information to journalists about Israel’s nuclear arsenal during the 1980s.

Since his release in 2004, renewable military orders, have placed Mordechai Vanunu under police supervision. Among other things, he is banned from leaving the country and participating in internet chats. He must also seek permission to communicate with any foreign nationals, including journalists.

“The authorities’ continued punishment of Mordechai Vanunu appears to be purely vindictive.   The government’s arguments that these severe restrictions are necessary for national security are ludicrous,” said Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International.

Israeli officials claim that restricting Mordechai Vanunu’s freedom is necessary to prevent him from divulging further secrets about Israel’s nuclear programme. He has, however, repeatedly stated that he revealed all he knew about Israel’s nuclear arsenal in 1986 and that he has no further information. He and his lawyers have also pointed out that the information he had at the time of his imprisonment has now long been in the public domain and is about 30 years out of date.

“The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu are arbitrary, unnecessary and have no grounds in international law. The continuing restrictions on his liberty have placed a severe strain on his mental and physical health and should immediately be lifted,” said Avner Gidron.

Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to allow Mordechai Vanunu to leave the country if he wishes, and to allow him to exercise his rights to freedom of movement, association and expression while in Israel.

Last December, following an appeal by his lawyer, the High Court of Justice upheld the restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Interior on Mordechai Vanunu, which prevent him from leaving Israel, and ban him from entering a consulate or embassy or coming with 500 meters of international borders, border passages, harbours or airports.  And they upheld the requirement that he seek permission before contacting foreign nationals. The current restrictions, which are due for renewal in May 2014, should be lifted immediately.

Mordechai Vanunu is a former technician at Israel's nuclear plant near the southern town of Dimona. He revealed details of the country's nuclear arsenal to the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, in 1986. He was abducted by Israeli secret service (Mossad) agents in Italy on 30 September 1986 and secretly taken to Israel. He was tried and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.

In May 2010 he was imprisoned for a second time following his release, for three months, after being convicted of breaching his restrictions by speaking to foreigners and attempting to attend Christmas Mass in Bethlehem. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. He was held for 11 weeks under harsh conditions in solitary confinement in Ayalon Prison near Ramle in central Israel, in a special unit for dangerous prisoners and was able to leave his cell for only one hour every day. The prison authorities said they decided to place him there in order to protect him from attacks from other inmates.

The restrictions he has been subjected to since 2004 are not parole restrictions since Mordechai Vanunu served his full sentence. They are arbitrary and contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interference in the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association and protects individuals from being punished again for the same offence.

Mordechai Vanunu had been previously held by Israel in solitary confinement for 11 years from 1986 in conditions that Amnesty International at the time called cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. 

Ten years after serving a full sentence for his revelations to the press about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu still faces severe restrictions that arbitrarily infringe on his freedom of movement, expression and association.

Media Node:  Israel Story Location:  Israel 32° 34' 31.5084" N, 35° 19' 58.908" E “The authorities’ continued punishment of Mordechai Vanunu appears to be purely vindictive. The government’s arguments that these severe restrictions are necessary for national security are ludicrous. ” Source:  Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International. URL:  Israel: End arbitrary restrictions on Vanunu Description:  Document, 11 October 2010. URL:  Israeli nuclear whistleblower returned to solitary confinement Description:  News Story, 18 June 2010. URL:  Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Mordechai Vanunu - Prisoner of conscience: Medical action Description:  Urgent Action, 9 July 2010. URL:  Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Further information: Mordechai Vanunu is released from prison: Description:  Urgent Action, 12 August 2010. URL:  Israel and the Occupied Territories: Mordechai Vanunu: Solitary confinement as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment Description:  Document, 30 September 1991.

Israel: Lift ‘ludicrous’ restrictions on whistleblower Vanunu decade after release

Amnesty International - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 2:52am
Headline Title:  Israel: Lift ‘ludicrous’ restrictions on whistleblower Vanunu decade after release 16 April 2014

Ten years after serving a full sentence for his revelations to the press about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu still faces severe restrictions that arbitrarily infringe on his freedom of movement, expression and association, said Amnesty International.

The former nuclear technician served an 18-year-prison sentence, the first 11 years of which were in solitary confinement, for disclosing information to journalists about Israel’s nuclear arsenal during the 1980s.

Since his release in 2004, renewable military orders, have placed Mordechai Vanunu under police supervision. Among other things, he is banned from leaving the country and participating in internet chats. He must also seek permission to communicate with any foreign nationals, including journalists.

“The authorities’ continued punishment of Mordechai Vanunu appears to be purely vindictive.   The government’s arguments that these severe restrictions are necessary for national security are ludicrous,” said Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International.

Israeli officials claim that restricting Mordechai Vanunu’s freedom is necessary to prevent him from divulging further secrets about Israel’s nuclear programme. He has, however, repeatedly stated that he revealed all he knew about Israel’s nuclear arsenal in 1986 and that he has no further information. He and his lawyers have also pointed out that the information he had at the time of his imprisonment has now long been in the public domain and is about 30 years out of date.

“The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu are arbitrary, unnecessary and have no grounds in international law. The continuing restrictions on his liberty have placed a severe strain on his mental and physical health and should immediately be lifted,” said Avner Gidron.

Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to allow Mordechai Vanunu to leave the country if he wishes, and to allow him to exercise his rights to freedom of movement, association and expression while in Israel.

Last December, following an appeal by his lawyer, the High Court of Justice upheld the restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Interior on Mordechai Vanunu, which prevent him from leaving Israel, and ban him from entering a consulate or embassy or coming with 500 meters of international borders, border passages, harbours or airports.  And they upheld the requirement that he seek permission before contacting foreign nationals. The current restrictions, which are due for renewal in May 2014, should be lifted immediately.

Mordechai Vanunu is a former technician at Israel's nuclear plant near the southern town of Dimona. He revealed details of the country's nuclear arsenal to the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, in 1986. He was abducted by Israeli secret service (Mossad) agents in Italy on 30 September 1986 and secretly taken to Israel. He was tried and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.

In May 2010 he was imprisoned for a second time following his release, for three months, after being convicted of breaching his restrictions by speaking to foreigners and attempting to attend Christmas Mass in Bethlehem. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. He was held for 11 weeks under harsh conditions in solitary confinement in Ayalon Prison near Ramle in central Israel, in a special unit for dangerous prisoners and was able to leave his cell for only one hour every day. The prison authorities said they decided to place him there in order to protect him from attacks from other inmates.

The restrictions he has been subjected to since 2004 are not parole restrictions since Mordechai Vanunu served his full sentence. They are arbitrary and contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interference in the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association and protects individuals from being punished again for the same offence.

Mordechai Vanunu had been previously held by Israel in solitary confinement for 11 years from 1986 in conditions that Amnesty International at the time called cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. 

Ten years after serving a full sentence for his revelations to the press about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu still faces severe restrictions that arbitrarily infringe on his freedom of movement, expression and association.

Media Node:  Israel Story Location:  Israel 32° 34' 31.5084" N, 35° 19' 58.908" E “The authorities’ continued punishment of Mordechai Vanunu appears to be purely vindictive. The government’s arguments that these severe restrictions are necessary for national security are ludicrous. ” Source:  Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International. URL:  Israel: End arbitrary restrictions on Vanunu Description:  Document, 11 October 2010. URL:  Israeli nuclear whistleblower returned to solitary confinement Description:  News Story, 18 June 2010. URL:  Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Mordechai Vanunu - Prisoner of conscience: Medical action Description:  Urgent Action, 9 July 2010. URL:  Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Further information: Mordechai Vanunu is released from prison: Description:  Urgent Action, 12 August 2010. URL:  Israel and the Occupied Territories: Mordechai Vanunu: Solitary confinement as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment Description:  Document, 30 September 1991.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

Amended articles undermining right to a fair trial 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

Amended articles undermining right to a fair trial 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background 

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

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

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

Amended articles undermining right to a fair trial 

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

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

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

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

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

Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nguyen Tien Trung

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

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

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

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

Vi Duc Hoi

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

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

Cu Huy Ha Vu

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

Dinh Dang Dinh

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

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

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

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

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

Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nguyen Tien Trung

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

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

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

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

Vi Duc Hoi

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

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

Cu Huy Ha Vu

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

Dinh Dang Dinh

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

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

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

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

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

Viet Nam: Prisoners of conscience released but dozens remain jailed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nguyen Tien Trung

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

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

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

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

Vi Duc Hoi

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

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

Cu Huy Ha Vu

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

Dinh Dang Dinh

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

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

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

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

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

BLM Halts Actions at Nevada Ranch

SPLC Hatewatch - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 11:05am
Editor’s Note: The BLM has apparently backed down in the face of the armed protest. They say they are going to release the seized cattle. In the midst of widespread vitriol and antigovernment rage, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on Saturday that it was ending its operation to remove cattle from federal land […]

Right-Wing Media Eagerly Promote Cliven Bundy and His Anti-Federal Faceoff

SPLC Hatewatch - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 5:06pm
Mainstream media coverage of the showdown in southern Nevada over Cliven Bundy’s cattle has so far been scrupulously balanced. Most outlets – including local TV stations from nearby Las Vegas, as well as cable news outlets CNN and MSNBC – have presented Bundy’s belief that the U.S. government has no jurisdiction over the land on […]

Not Every ‘Patriot’ is Rushing to Nevada Standoff

SPLC Hatewatch - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 2:28pm
Not every gun-worshiping, Second Amendment-quoting “Patriot” thinks it’s a good idea for militia members to descend armed to the teeth on the Nevada desert to confront a small army of federal agents and stand with a defiant rancher fighting for his “right” to illegally graze his cattle on environmentally sensitive government land. Take the gray-bearded […]

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-terror operation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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