A move by Egyptian authorities to prohibit national NGOs’ contact with foreign organizations without prior permission from security bodies represents a new low for freedom of association, said Amnesty International.
In a letter to the NGO the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Egypt’s Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs stated that no “local entity” is permitted to engage with “international entities” in any way without the permission of the “security bodies”, referring to instructions issued by the Prime Minister.
Amnesty International has obtained a copy of the letter. The vague language on “international entities” is likely to include both international human rights organizations and UN bodies.
“NGOs in Egypt already face staggering restrictions, but this instruction is a new low,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is a disturbing indicator of what may lie ahead for human rights groups in the government’s new law.”
Under current legislation the numerous obstacles faced by NGOs include restrictions on registration and obtaining foreign funding. Drafts of new laws seen by Amnesty International tighten restrictions even more – in some cases severely limiting the ability of NGOs to conduct fact-finding visits and other essential activities, as well as further restricting funding.
“We fear that the authorities are yet again trying to push through legislation to stifle civil society to prevent criticism,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Since the ‘25 January Revolution’ of 2011 the Egyptian authorities have continued cracking down on international organizations and human rights groups.
In July 2011, the Egyptian government launched an investigation into the foreign funding of NGOs, leading to an unprecedented series of raids on both international and local civil society groups in December of that year.
Following the raids, 43 staff members of international organizations were put on trial on charges of operating without official registration and obtaining foreign funding without the authorities’ permission. Amnesty International has urged the authorities to drop the charges.
“The authorities must stop using independent civil society organizations as scapegoats for all the ills of Egypt,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “Banning contacts with international ‘entities’ invokes Mubarak-era practices that the current President had pledged to break with.”
“We’re urging the Egyptian authorities to ensure that any legislation to replace the NGO law is in line with international law, respects the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, and is based on transparent consultations with human rights organizations and other NGO.”
Egypt’s government has recently faced criticism over another new draft law limiting freedom of assembly, amid reports of other restrictive laws being on their way.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights was refused government permission last year to work on a freedom of association project.
New instructions from the Prime Minister indicate that no “local entity” is allowed to engage with “international entities” without permission.Media Node: egypt Story Location: Egypt 28° 58' 5.1564" N, 30° 19' 20.1576" E “NGOs in Egypt already face staggering restrictions, but this instruction is a new low” Source: Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Date: Thu, 21/02/2013 URL: Egypt: Stop holding NGOs hostage Description: News story, 7 February 2012
Sponsoring a Florida College Football Team Can’t Whitewash a Private Prison Company’s Atrocious Record
Riled up? Sign this petition urging Florida Atlantic University to walk away from its deal with the GEO Group. The Owl football team should not have to play in Owlcatraz.
In Florida, incarceration is big business. So is college football. There might be some twisted logic, then, to the GEO Group, Inc.'s latest scheme to whitewash its public image. The GEO Group, a for-profit prison corporation headquartered in Boca Raton, announced on Tuesday that it had secured the naming rights to Florida Atlantic University's football stadium in exchange for a $6 million donation to the university's athletic program.
FAU president Mary Jane Saunders said of GEO, "We think it's a wonderful company, and we're very proud to partner with them." President Saunders must have been blinded by the size of GEO's donation, because last time we checked the GEO Group had a horrific, well-publicized record of abuse and neglect. When the plans for the gray multi-story façade of the GEO Group Stadium, which has already been nicknamed "Owlcatraz" by students, were unveiled on Tuesday, so was a stark visual representation of FAU's shameful willingness to associate itself with a company that is anything but "wonderful."
To take just one example: last year, a federal judge issued a blistering order in a joint ACLU/Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit against the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, a GEO prison that held children and teenaged prisoners in Mississippi. Calling the GEO prison a "cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions" and "a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world," the judge ordered mass transfers out of the prison and ordered the company to stop locking children in solitary confinement. This came not long after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a similar report describing staff sexual misconduct at Walnut Grove as "brazen" and among the worst that DOJ had seen "in any facility anywhere in the nation." A month later, the State of Mississippi ended its relationship with GEO.
Making inroads into the Florida corrections system would indeed be a major business boon for the GEO Group. Currently, Florida operates the third-largest prison system in the United States, a $2.2 billion-a-year enterprise overseeing over 100,000 inmates and another 115,000 on community supervision. The prison population has more than doubled since 1990 and nearly quadrupled since 1984.
Of all states, Florida imprisons the second-highest number of prisoners – over 11,000 or approximately 11% of the state prison population – in private facilities. And about 10 miles from the FAU stadium, GEO operates the 700-bed Broward Transition Center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. The Broward facility is the only immigration detention center in Florida run by a private company, to the tune of an annual $20 million contract with the federal government. BTC is unique in that it is reserved for immigrants who have committed no crime or a nonviolent offense. While many of the detainees pose no threat to the public, the conditions at GEO pose a substantial threat to their health and well being.
Last year, two young people with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, both brought to the U.S. undocumented when they were children, turned themselves in to gain access to BTC and investigate the conditions. They reported seeing lengthy and unnecessary confinement and numerous incidents of substandard medical care. They report a woman returned to her cell bleeding the same day of her ovarian surgery, and a man denied access to medical care for days while he urinated blood. In response to their report, 26 members of Congress demanded an investigation into the quality of medical care provided at BTC.
The $6 million that FAU accepted from GEO this week should not be viewed as a philanthropic gift, but a purchase of 12 years of stadium naming rights, advertising to improve the company's image after its highly publicized improper treatment of detainees.
It is particularly galling that FAU and GEO made their announcement in the midst of FAU's commemoration of Black History Month. Prison profiteers like GEO depend for their profits on the continued large-scale incarceration of young men and women – many of whom are people of color. Nationwide, 58% of the people in prison are African-American or Latino, and 30.3% are between the ages of 18 and 29. (Indeed, one researcher recently found that African Americans and Latinos are even more overrepresented in private prisons than public prisons.). So the FAU Owls football team (most of whom are themselves African-American) will be sponsored by a company whose core business depends on the continued overincarceration of young people who look much like themselves.
TAKE ACTION: Join the ACLU, Beyond Bars, and the FAU community and ask FAU to walk away from GEO's tainted money.
Over the past year, thousands of civilians were brutally murdered during confrontations in Syria, people in Mali fell victim to an escalation in human rights abuses and women in Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to suffer great discrimination.
But underneath the radar, away from international attention, governments and armed groups are also abusing the rights of men, women and children in many other countries.
Here are five of them:
Survivors of human rights violations – including torture and enforced disappearances – committed during the military and authoritarian regimes (1964-1982) and their relatives have been sitting in front of the Ministry of Justice in La Paz for nearly a year.
They complain that the authorities are denying them full reparations, including economic compensation, for the abuses they or their loved ones suffered in the past.
In March 2004, a law was passed regarding the victims’ right to be compensated for the abuses suffered. According to official information, of the 6,000 applications received, only 1,714 people were qualified as beneficiaries. All other applications were rejected.
Survivors of abuse and their relatives complain that conditions imposed by the authorities to claim any compensation have been extremely restrictive. Authorities would request, for example, medical certificates from torture sufferers, death certificates and other documents which would be difficult or impossible to obtain.
On 8 February this year, a man attacked Victoria López, one of the victims sitting in front of the Ministry. He shouted at her, complaining about the presence of the crowd on the street and hit her with a stick. The man was handed over to the police, who then released him without interrogation.
Ten months after a military coup in April 2012 imposed repressive measures to stifle criticism of the new authorities, attacks on human rights and the suppression of fundamental freedoms are still commonplace in this West African country.
Demonstrations remain banned, journalists are hassled, harassed or arrested, and extra-judicial executions from the time of the coup have not been investigated while their perpetrators are still at large.
Last October freelance journalist António Ali Silva fled the country after soldiers went to his house and reportedly threatened to kill him. Silva had previously been arrested and beaten for writing about the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces in his blog.
As well as violations of civil and political rights, the economic and social situation has deteriorated sharply in Guinea Bissau following the coup, leading to a precarious humanitarian situation. Food is scarce and expensive, schools have been closed and hospitals lack essential medicines.
Being Roma in Macedonia is not easy, and for Romani women, the situation is even harder as they face high levels of discrimination when trying to access education, find a job or receive health care.
The female student drop-out rate is very high, which Amnesty International believes is due to, amongst other things, the fact that stereotypes about how Romani parents fail to value girls’ education weigh heavily on teaching staff’s expectations of Roma schoolchildren.
The authorities have done very little to improve the situation – international pressure has only led to half-hearted measures that have never been effectively implemented.
In January 2013, Amnesty International published a briefing on the Macedonian government’s failure to take special measures to guarantee the rights of Romani women and girls. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is reviewing its findings.
United Arab Emirates
Hidden beneath the United Arab Emirates’ glittering façade of lavishly appointed skyscrapers, and the assured smiles of the country’s human rights officials lies a shoddy track record on human rights.
In the UAE of today, torture is carried out with near-impunity and opposition activists including prisoners of conscience are routinely detained and held – some for many months – without charge or trial. In 2011, five dissidents were sentenced to prison terms.
Foreign workers, including female domestic workers, continue to be denied substantive rights.
Women are discriminated against in law and practice and the death sentence continues to be imposed.
In January 2013, the UN Human Rights Council scrutinized the UAE’s human rights record, after it pledged in 2008 to make significant progress. The night before, 94 activists were put on trial for criticizing the government. The coincidence of these two events highlights, so far, promises that are barely skin deep.
Largely off the media radar, Viet Nam is turning into one of South East Asia’s largest prisons for human rights defenders.
Over the past two years, the government has intensified its crackdown on freedom of expression, imprisoning dozens of bloggers, peaceful political activists, writers, lawyers, business people and even songwriters.
Human rights defenders often face decade-long prison sentences following trials that are far from fair and transparent. The courts use Orwellian-sounding charges, including “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “activities aimed at overthrowing the government”, despite freedom of expression being guaranteed in the Vietnamese Constitution.
On 24 September 2012, for example, three Vietnamese bloggers were sentenced to between four and 12 years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the state”. Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai, co-founders of the Free Vietnamese Journalists Club in 2007, had been campaigning for a free press and other pro-democracy issues.
The trial lasted only a few hours, while several of the bloggers’ supporters and relatives were arrested to stop them from attending the proceedings.
Underneath the radar, away from international attention, governments and armed groups are abusing the rights of men, women and children in many countries.Media Node: Roma women in Macedonia Twitter Tag: humanrights Story Location: United Kingdom 51° 27' 47.2824" N, 0° 3' 57.3048" W See map: Google Maps “Underneath the radar, away from international attention, governments and armed groups in many countries are abusing the rights of men, women and children - here are just five examples.”
Over the weekend, "NBC Nightly News" aired a segment on ranchers in rural Arizona concerned with border security. As is so often the case with media coverage of the border, this segment only included one side of the story – ranchers concerned about smugglers. Not included in this piece were the voices of many community members in the southwest—including ranchers – who are critical of the massive scale-up of border security, and the effect that it's had on their communities and ranches. For example, we have heard complaints from ranchers in the New Mexico boot heel region, who are concerned with Border Patrol agents "tearing up their land" or killing their cattle without paying them for their loss.
The Nightly News segment fails to contextualize the Arizona ranchers' concerns. There has been a massive intensification of border enforcement and personnel over the past decade – from FY2004 to FY2012, the budget for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) increased by 94 percent to $11.7 billion. At a time when migrant apprehensions are lower than at any time since the 1970s, wasteful spending by CBP must be reined in. As House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers' warned about wasteful border spending: "It is a sort of a mini industrial complex syndrome that has set in there. And we're going to have to guard against it every step of the way."
Also not mentioned in the piece is the fact that border communities are among the safest in the nation. As southwest border security is discussed in the context of immigration reform, what is truly needed is more accountability by border enforcement agencies, not an expansion of an already-bloated border enforcement system.
Overall, border enforcement policy decisions should be pragmatic and reflect the perspectives of border communities. This includes halting the unnecessary prosecution of migrants through programs like Operation Streamline, a southwest border prosecution initiative that unnecessarily treats unlawful border crossers as high-priority public safety threats. Subjecting migrants to the federal criminal justice system, instead of the existing civil immigration removal system, throws money away without resulting in proven deterrence. Operation Streamline has strained federal criminal courts and has diverted scarce law enforcement resources from more pressing criminal justice priorities. Critics of Operation Streamline include the Vatican, federal judges, and human rights experts. Representatives of these groups will brief congressional staff on the program during a visit to Washington, D.C. later this week.
Immigration reform must not come at the expense of border communities, who have endured years of border security "enhancements" including more agents, drones, military presence, and walls. It's time to look beyond reflexive conventional wisdom that the border isn't secure, and to make policy based on realities, not myths about border communities.
For more on our recommendations for border communities' needs, see the letter we submitted to President Obama last month.
As President Obama and Congress take up immigration reform, the ACLU has developed a framework and urges policymakers to promote its priorities in any proposals. The framework is available here.
The PBS series NOVA, “Rise of the Drones,” recently aired a segment detailing the capabilities of a powerful aerial surveillance system known as ARGUS-IS, which is basically a super-high, 1.8 gigapixel resolution camera that can be mounted on a drone. As demonstrated in this clip, the system is capable of high-resolution monitoring and recording of an entire city. (The clip was written about in DefenseTech and in Slate.)
In the clip, the developer explains how the technology (which he also refers to with the apt name “Wide Area Persistent Stare”) is “equivalent to having up to a hundred Predators look at an area the size of a medium-sized city at once.”
ARGUS produces a high-resolution video image that covers 15 square miles. It’s all streamed to the ground and stored, and operators can zoom in upon any small area and watch the footage of that spot. Essentially, it is an animated, aerial version of the gigapixel cameras that got some attention for super-high resolution photographs created at Obama’s first inauguration and at a Vancouver Canucks fan gathering.
At first I didn’t think too much about this video because it seemed to be an utterly expected continuation of existing trends in camera power. But since it was brought to my attention, this technology keeps coming back up in my conversations with colleagues and in my thoughts. I think that’s because it is such a concrete embodiment of the “nightmare scenario” for drones, or at least several core elements of it.
First, it’s the culmination of the trend towards ever-more-pervasive surveillance cameras in American life. We’ve been objecting to that trend for years, and many of our public spaces are now under 24/7 video surveillance—often by cameras owned and operated by the police. But even in our most pessimistic moments, I don’t think we thought that every street, empty lot, garden, and field would be subject to video monitoring anytime soon. But that is precisely what this technology could enable. We’ve speculated about self-organizing swarms of drones being used to blanket entire cities with surveillance, but this technology makes it clear that nothing that complicated is required.
Second and more significantly to me, this technology also makes real a key threat that drones pose to privacy that we've talked about: the ability to do location tracking. The video shows cars and pedestrians near Quantico, Virginia automatically tagged with colored boxes, which follow them as they move around. As the technology’s developer told NOVA,
Everything that is a moving object is being automatically tracked. The colored boxes represent that the computer has recognized the moving objects. You can see individuals crossing the street, you can see individuals walking in parking lots.
The surveillance potential of such a tracking algorithm attached to such powerful cameras is worth pausing to think about. To identify someone there’s no need for face or license-plate recognition (which may be impractical from above anyhow), cell phone tracking, gait recognition, or what have you. Even knowing where a little green square starts and finishes its day can reveal a lot, because it turns out that even relatively rough location information about a person will often identify them uniquely. For example, according to this study, just knowing the zip code (actually census tract, which is basically equivalent) of where you work, and where you live, will uniquely identify 5% of the population, and for half of Americans will place them in a group of 21 people or fewer. If you know the “census blocks” where somebody works and lives (an area roughly the size of a block in a city, but much larger in rural areas), the accuracy is much higher, with at least half the population being uniquely identified.
However, ARGUS-type tracking could be used to get more precise data than that—in many cases, to determine a vehicle’s home address, which pretty much reveals who you are if you’re in a single-family home, and narrows it down pretty well even if you’re in a large apartment building. (Academic papers have been written on inferring home address from location data sets.) Add work address and I expect that would nail virtually everybody. And of course lodged in the data set would be not just where a particular vehicle starts and finishes its day, but all the places it stopped in between—potentially revealing, as we so often point out, an array of information about a person such as their political, religious, and sexual activities.
True, such tracking using ARGUS would be disrupted whenever a subject disappears from aerial view. For example, pedestrians who travel by subway or bus or walk under foliage, or vehicles entering tunnels, would be harder to track. But even there, datamining large data sets collected over time could probably reveal a lot of things about people’s daily patterns and I would bet could eventually be used to identify a surprisingly large number of them. I expect that ARGUS would be used (if it’s not already) to generate a database consisting of location tracks of moving vehicles or pedestrians beginning in one place and ending in another. Think of them as little strings on a map. Some of these strings would stretch from a person’s home to their work, with stops in between, while others might be fragments, interrupted by a tunnel or other obstruction. But even the fragments, when the dimension of time is added to the equation, could probably be correlated together.
Of course low-lying clouds or fog might also interfere with aerial tracking, though imaging technologies already in existence could probably be deployed to see through them.
NOVA was not allowed to show images of the ARGUS censor, and stated that part of the program remained classified, including whether it has yet been deployed. (Though, we know it has been deployed domestically at least once, over Virginia as shown on NOVA. I’m going to assume it has not been deployed domestically in any more routine manner.) But, it is good that the Air Force allowed NOVA to see its capabilities. I’d like to think it’s because as Americans, Air Force officials have respect for our country’s values and democratic processes and don’t want to let such powerful and potentially privacy-invasive tools to be created in secret. It could also be, however, because the Air Force needs private-sector help in figuring out how to analyze the oceans of data the device can collect (5,000 hours of high-def video per day).
Either way, it’s important for the public to be aware of the kinds of technologies that are out there so that it can better decide how drones should be regulated.
The execution of three death row inmates is an ominous and regressive move by Japan’s new Liberal Democratic government, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The executions are the first since the administration took office in December and raises fears that the pace of executions may increase during Prime Minister Abe’s term.
Masahiro Kanagawa, 29, was hanged at Tokyo Detention Centre on Thursday, along with Kaoru Kobayashi, 44, at Osaka Detention Centre and Keiki Kano, 62, at Nagoya Detention Centre. Kobayashi and Kano were executed despite both being in the process of preparing to apply for retrials.
“These executions, carried out under a shroud of secrecy, are a callous act of premeditated killing,” said, Roseann Rife, Head of East Asia at Amnesty International.
“The authorities appeared alarmingly merciless in their willingness to execute during Shinzo Abe’s previous stint as Prime Minister. The fear is that this marks the beginning of a new wave of cold-blooded killing by the State. It raises serious questions whether such executions are carried out purely for political expediency.”
Ten people were hanged in less than a year during Shinzo Abe’s previous time as Prime Minister between September 2006 and September 2007. With current Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki publicly expressing his support for the death penalty the concern is this may be surpassed.
“Rather than sign more death warrants we urge Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki to step back and consider the facts. Over two thirds of countries in the world no longer use capital punishment, disproving claims it is necessary. Japan is among an isolated minority on this issue and we urge the Minister to take steps to initiate a public debate on the future use of the death penalty, said Rife.”
The number of death row inmates, at 134, is at one of the highest levels in Japan in over half a century. Prisoners are typically given a few hours’ notice before execution, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are typically notified about the execution only after it has taken place.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
* This story was corrected on 25 February 2013. The original article stated that the ten executions during Shinzo Abe’s previous time as Prime Minister (September 2006 - September 2007) was the highest rate under any Liberal Democratic rule and this is not the case.
Japan hanged three death row inmates on Thursday, the first since the new government took office, raising fears that the pace of executions may increase under Prime Minister Abe.Media Node: Shinzo Abe Japan PM source AP At a Glance:
- The number of death row inmates, at 134, is at one of the highest levels in Japan in over half a century
- Ten people were hanged in less than a year during Shinzo Abe’s previous time as Prime Minister
Today the ACLU and a wide variety of other organizations sent a short letter to the Hill describing our concerns with the E-Verify program. These types of letters aren't unusual – in DC groups frequently try to showcase the breadth of support or opposition to particular programs. But what is surprising is how many groups that have little or nothing to do with immigration are worried about E-Verify.
Ok, take a deep breath. In addition to supporters of immigration reform, the concerns over E-Verify are shared by: libertarians and librarians; advocates for workers' rights and small business owners; those worried about government overreaching, government overspending, and income inequality; groups dedicated to limiting money in politics; and those protecting free speech, protecting civil rights, and protecting home schooling. And let's not forget, of course, lots and lots and lots of consumer and privacy groups. It's quite a list!
But the simple fact is that lots of people – no matter how they feel about the specifics of immigration reform – want to do it right. That means without an E-Verify system that we describe in the letter as "irredeemably flawed." What unites these groups?
- E-Verify imposes immigration enforcement costs on Americans. System errors will make hundreds of thousands of legal workers visit federal offices to exercise their right to work.
- E-Verify errors disproportionately impact minority groups: including young workers, married women, naturalized citizens, legal immigrants, and individuals with multiple surnames, including many Hispanics.
- E-Verify conscripts employers to act as immigration agents. According to Bloomberg Government, small businesses will spend $2.6 billion every year to implement the system.
- E-Verify will exacerbate identity theft. E-Verify will increase demand for stolen identities and enable thieves to use its database to determine the validity of a Social Security number.
- E-Verify creates a de facto national ID system. Since the system permits identity verification, it can be used to monitor access to any public or private service based on immigration status or any other criteria.
Longtime readers of this blog know we've been ringing the alarm bell on E-Verify and national ID for years. But since it's in the news and part of every immigration proposal, we know we have our work cut out for us and we welcome it. We're going to work arm-in-arm with our disparate group of friends and allies to see that these concerns are addressed because immigration reform shouldn't result in injustice or privacy harms to any American or legal resident.
Coming on the heels of a letter from 37 U.S. senators, a coalition of national civil rights, religious, professional, labor, civic and educational organizations sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday urging him to issue a long-sought executive order to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. The letter, which was signed by dozens of organizations including the ACLU, AFL-CIO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Council of La Raza, recognizes President Obama's strong record of accomplishment for the LGBT community, and concludes:
Your record of accomplishment from the first term demonstrates your strong commitment to the principle that all Americans deserve a fair shot to succeed regardless of who they are or whom they love. We urge you to begin the second term by taking strong executive action to prevent irrational workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans.
The ACLU has long prioritized this executive order, and included it as the top first 100 day civil liberties recommendation for President Obama's second term. It represents the single most important step that President Obama could take over the next four years on his own to eradicate LGBT discrimination in America's workplaces. It has been estimated that it would cover a fifth of the entire U.S. labor force, and, with federal contractors employing people in all 50 states, would ensure that there were at least some workplaces in every state with legally binding protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
All American workers who stand side-by-side at the workplace and contribute with equal measure in their jobs deserve to also stand on the same equal footing under the law. This executive order would build on a tradition of non-discrimination with federal funds first made by President Roosevelt more than 70 years ago when he signed an executive order integrating the nation's shipyards and other worksites run by defense contractors. As the chorus of voices in support of the executive order – in Congress, in the media and among national advocacy organizations – continues to grow, the time for action from President Obama is now.
Last Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee held a hearing that focused on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)—the reintroduced privacy-busting cybersecurity bill from last year that would allow the private sector to share Americans' private information with the government, including agencies within the Department of Defense (DoD), such as the National Security Agency (NSA).
Despite failing to include a single privacy expert, the hearing returned to privacy and civil liberties issues repeatedly. Interestingly, corporate representatives—perhaps to the surprise of CISPA's sponsors—said repeatedly that the private sector generally does not need to share Americans' personally identifiable information (PII) with the government to advance cybersecurity. For example, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., questioned a witnesses on how to amend CISPA to protect PII. The witness, Paul Smocer from the Financial Services Roundtable, replied that "the kind of information we're talking about sharing here seldom, if ever, actually does contain any private information." He also added that he'd be "willing to work with" Thompson to improve CISPA's privacy protections.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., then followed up with similar privacy concerns, asking whether it would be an "insurmountable burden for the private sector to have to take reasonable steps to minimize [PII]." Smocer again said that "there is very little private data, PII, being exchanged today in the threat information world," and that he didn't "think it would be an issue to make sure that we're doing it the right way." Ken DeFontes, president of Baltimore Gas and Electric, added "I think it's an absolute necessity." And John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, echoed their sentiments, saying "I think it's exactly fine."
Despite this, the bill's sponsors, Reps. Rogers, R-Mich., and Ruppersberger, D-Md., crafted CISPA to immunize companies from liability for sharing private information like internet records, communications content, and identifying information. The bill sponsors also tried to establish that the government, and not the private sector, is best positioned to anonymize data—but the witnesses would not change their answers. Smocer said that companies are in the best position to protect customer data, that the added cost wouldn't be a deterrent, and reminded everyone how infrequently PII needs to be shared in the first place. Kevin Mandia, the panelist representing the cybersecurity industry, enthusiastically agreed with Smocer, stating that "in 20 years of doing cybersecurity…[he's] never seen a package of threat intelligence that's actionable that also includes [PII]."
Rogers and Ruppersberger argue their bill strongly protects privacy, assuring everyone that the private sector will just be sharing 1's and 0's—no PII. And industry is now on the record stating that companies do not normally need to share PII with the government. This raises the question: If sharing this information is so unnecessary to the cybersecurity mission, why not just explicitly build that protection into the bill?
Two years after thousands of people took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca and other cities in Morocco calling for reform, repression of protests in Morocco remains routine, said Amnesty International.
To this day, dozens of activists affiliated with the 20 February movement are reported to be detained for peacefully expressing their views. Some have said they were tortured and ill-treated in custody.
The 20 February movement, which was formed in the wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region, demands greater respect for human rights and democracy, better economic conditions and an end to corruption.
“It is unfathomable that the authorities continue to violently suppress critics in blatant disregard of the new constitution adopted in July 2011, which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful demonstration and association,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme.
“Ostensible reforms launched by the Moroccan authorities appear to be designed to shake off criticism from international partners while the authorities continue to suppress protests.”
One the members of the 20 February movement, Youssef Oubella, 24, was arrested at a demonstration in July 2012 in Casablanca. He told Amnesty International that police officers had beaten, insulted and tortured him during his arrest and in police custody. He said he had been forced to sign a statement declaring he had hit a police officer.
In September 2012, Oubella and five other members of the movement were sentenced to up to 10 months imprisonment for insults and violence against police officers. All said they had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. They were released in January 2013.
Mohamed Messaoudi, a lawyer who has worked on many cases of activists linked to 20 February movement, said he had recently noticed increased state repression of the group’s demonstrations. He told Amnesty International that the authorities routinely charged those arrested with offences such as insults and/or violence against police officers, drug trafficking and participating in an unauthorized demonstration.
Mohamed Messaoudi said the ill-treatment of activists during and following their arrest is widespread, and that the torture Youssef Oubella described is far from being an isolated case.
Rap singer, Mouad Belghouat – another member of the 20 February movement – was arrested in March 2012 and charged with insulting the police after a video of a policeman wearing a donkey head was posted on the internet to one of his songs denouncing police corruption.
He was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, a sentence upheld by the Casablanca Court of Appeal in July 2012. He has been on hunger strike at least twice to protest against his detention conditions. He remains in Oukacha prison in Casablanca.
“So far, the Moroccan authorities have acted against – not for – the rights of people. Peaceful protests must be allowed to take place without harassment or repression, and in no event must protesters or others be arrested and detained arbitrarily. Any allegations of ill-treatment or intimidation must immediately be investigated and anyone found responsible brought to justice,” Said Harrison.
“It is also crucial that those arrested have immediate access to a lawyer, as they are at particular risk of torture and other ill-treatment in the first hours following their arrest.”
Following his visit to Morocco and Western Sahara in September 2012, Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, stated that although the Code of Criminal Procedure guarantees access to a lawyer, “…that guarantee is neither fully respected in law nor in practice. The detainee only has access to a lawyer of his choice 24 hours after arrest, for 30 minutes in the presence of an investigator.”
Amnesty International is calling on Morocco to amend its laws to ensure that detainees have effective access to a lawyer of their choice from the outset of and throughout their detention, and that they can consult their lawyer in private.
Two years after thousands of people took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca and other cities in Morocco calling for reform, repression of protests in Morocco remains routine.Media Node: maroc Twitter Tag: morocco Story Location: United Kingdom 30° 30' 7.2468" N, 0° 56' 41.3664" E See map: Google Maps “"It is unfathomable that the authorities continue to violently suppress critics in blatant disregard of the new constitution."” Source: Amnesty International's Ann Harrison
A year after the punk band Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, the situation for freedom of expression has only worsened in Russia, Amnesty International said.
Last year’s arrest and criminal conviction of Pussy Riot members under the dubious charge of "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred" signalled a fresh and severe clampdown on human rights in the country.
Since then Russia’s Parliament has adopted several new laws targeting activists and those critical of the authorities.
"New laws introduced since the Pussy Riot protest have given the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on NGOs, human rights and political activists in Russia and go against the country's international human rights obligations," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Meanwhile, two Pussy Riot band members are still languishing in a prison colony far from their families, including small children – and our call for their immediate release continues.
"Russia’s government is failing to live up to promises made to its citizens 20 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It desperately needs to show a commitment to upholding human rights and must stop peddling the disingenuous line that civil liberties and social, economic and political stability are incompatible in Russia.”
Fresh attacks on free speech
In June 2012, Russian authorities introduced further restrictive rules on conducting public protests, along with exceptionally high penalties of up to US$32,000.
The same month libel – which had only a few months earlier been de-criminalized - made its way back into the Criminal Code, with heftier fines than before.
In November 2012, a new law was introduced which requires NGOs receiving overseas funding to register as ‘foreign agents’. This not only puts additional administrative burden on them, but more importantly, may create negative perceptions of their activities due to the negative connotation ‘foreign agent’ in the Russian language.
That month a broad new legal definition of “treason” was also introduced, which could potentially criminalize human rights and political activism.
And in December, Russia’s Parliament passed the so-called “Dima Yakovlev” law, imposing further severe restrictions on NGOs and introducing discriminatory measures aimed at persons with dual US and Russian citizenship.
Harsh punishment for Pussy Riot
While these legislative changes were being rolled out, the Russian authorities tried, convicted and imposed harsh punishment on three Pussy Riot band members for their protest at Moscow’s cathedral.
In August 2012, following several months of pre-trial detention and unfair court proceedings, Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years imprisonment in a penal colony for their part in the protest.
Ekaterina Samutsevich was later granted conditional release on appeal.
Amnesty International has flagged the conditions in which Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Maria Alekhina are being held.
Maria Alekhina received threats and had to be placed in solitary confinement. The maximum period she can be held there – three months – is due to expire soon, so the penal colony authorities must look into other options.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has health conditions which apparently deteriorated while in custody. Even though some medical help is being provided, her health might deteriorate further.
Both women have young children who might be deprived of fully fledged contact with their mothers for yet another year.
"The fact that Nadia and Masha are imprisoned even though they have children is also a certain kind of intimidation. After that, who would want to engage in [protests] if they have children? This is cruelty on purpose, cruelty for propaganda purposes. This is very unpleasant and we need to fight it somehow,” Ekaterina Samutsevich recently told Amnesty International.
"The Russian authorities have another chance to right the wrongs they have committed against the Pussy Riot members with an upcoming supervisory hearing and parole hearings for the Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina. They must take the opportunity to unconditionally release both women," said Dalhuisen.
Since the conviction of members of the punk band, Russia has adopted several new laws targeting activists and those critical of the authorities.
Russian Federation: New laws lead to increased repression of fundamental rights (Report, 20 February 2013)
Russian Court upholds ban on 'extremist' Pussy Riot videos (News, 31 January 2013)
Russia: ‘Dima Yakovlev’ Bill in no one’s best interests (News, 20 December 2012)
Pussy Riot: Russian court orders conditional release of one, other two jailed (News, 10 October 2012)
Russian court jails Pussy Riot for two years (News, 17 August 2012)
The Yemeni authorities must end the routine violent repression of freedom of assembly by its security forces, Amnesty International said ahead of mass demonstrations planned tomorrow in the south of the country.
Protest marches organized by the Southern Movement, which demands a peaceful secession from the rest of Yemen, are due to converge in the city of Aden on Thursday.
The protest, which marks the first anniversary of the election of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, comes 10 days after security forces opened fire at a similar peaceful demonstration in the region, killing two.
"The Southern Movement and its followers have a right to protest peacefully, and the Yemeni authorities must allow them this right," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme
"That means that security forces deployed to police these demonstrations must refrain from using excessive, lethal force against peaceful protesters, something they have failed to do in the recent past."
On 11 February, Central Security Forces opened "indiscriminate fire" on protesters marching to Aden, eye witnesses told Amnesty International.
A man on a bus and a 14-year-old girl travelling in a car were killed, while several others were said to have been wounded by live fire allegedly from security forces.
Two days earlier, Central Security Forces in the street shot dead a pregnant woman in her home while apparently trying to disperse a Southern Movement sit-in in Aden.
On 4 July 2012, Central Security Forces and snipers opened fire on a peaceful march in Aden, killing three people.
In October 2012, security forces stormed the house of Fairouz Nasser Ahmed in Aden in an apparent attempt to arrest some wanted men. According to the statement given by her family to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation, security forces opened fire indiscriminately, killing Fairouz in her bedroom. She and others in the house are not believed to have posed a risk to the lives of security forces.
In 2012 alone, at least a dozen people were killed and dozens more wounded as a result of security forces and pro-government supporters use of excessive, including lethal force against protesters in Aden.
"Time and again in Yemen, the security forces, particularly Central Security Forces, have shown total disregard for human life, killing and injuring peaceful protesters and bystanders," said Harrison.
"In the marches converging on Aden this week, Yemeni security forces must ensure that international policing standards on the use of force are strictly adhered to, and must respect the peaceful protesters’ right to freedom of expression and assembly.”
The Yemeni authorities must end the routine violent repression of freedom of assembly by its security forces, Amnesty International said ahead of mass demonstrations planned in the south of the country.Media Node: yemen Twitter Tag: yemen Story Location: United Kingdom 12° 20' 9.8412" N, 44° 32' 18.8664" E See map: Google Maps “"The Southern Movement and its followers have a right to protest peacefully, and the Yemeni authorities must allow them this right."” Source: Amnesty International's Ann Harrison
China, the USA, EU states and other arms-exporting countries must ensure that any deals brokered at an international arms fair in Abu Dhabi this week do not result in weapons reaching countries where they could contribute to serious human rights abuses, Amnesty International said.
The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), held every two years in the United Arab Emirates capital, bills itself as one of the biggest arms bazaars in the world.
This week’s IDEX concludes on 21 February, less than a month before states convene at the United Nations in New York to finalize a historic Arms Trade Treaty where the USA, China and some other states are hoping to get weaker treaty controls.
Amnesty International has repeatedly flagged how the poorly regulated global arms trade contributes to war crimes and other serious human rights violations around the world and since the 1990s has highlighted the problem of unregulated arms brokering.
“The wide array of conventional weapons being displayed at IDEX this week stands in sharp contrast to the narrow scope of items proposed by the USA, China and other states for the draft Arms Trade Treaty,” said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights.
“And if their proposed human rights rules and brokering controls in the treaty remain weak, companies will continue to garner hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons deals for unscrupulous buyers.”
International arms fairs and exhibitions like IDEX are one of the main ways for governments and defence industry associations to promote and broker international sales of weapons, munitions, and other military and security equipment and services.
Among the more than 1,100 companies from almost 60 countries exhibiting this week at IDEX, Amnesty International has been able to identify a number of manufacturers from key arms-exporting countries whose products have previously been used in areas where serious human rights abuses have taken place.
For example, state-owned arms manufacturers from China exhibiting at IDEX this week have heavy weaponry, such as artillery systems, on display. Pakistani companies are advertising a range of munitions including small arms ammunition, mortars, artillery shells, and bombs.
Both countries have supplied a wide range of arms to Sri Lanka, which emerged from a bitter, three-decade armed conflict in 2009. During the final years of the conflict, from 2000 to 2009, Amnesty International identified China as one of the biggest arms suppliers to the Sri Lankan armed forces. Both Sri Lanka’s government and the armed separatist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), committed serious human rights violations and abuses, and tens of thousands of civilians were killed, with many more injured and abused.
The Chinese companies exhibiting at IDEX also manufacture a wide array of small arms and ammunition, including cartridges that have been used by an armed group in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). UN peacekeeping forces in Goma in eastern DRC have collected cartridge casings with Chinese markings. These were manufactured in 2007 and subsequently used by an armed group in DRC. Amnesty International identified the markings as belonging to a specific Chinese manufacturer.
Amnesty International also concluded that Chinese cartridges were among those found at Bushani, DRC, where government soldiers committed rape, torture and other sexual violence.
Also on display at IDEX this week are a wide range of “less lethal” weapons – including chemical irritants like tear gas and crowd-control equipment such as baton rounds and water cannon.
Police and security forces have deployed such weapons across the Middle East and North Africa to repress the massive popular uprisings that have taken place in the region since early 2011. While such weapons can have a legitimate use in law enforcement, they can be lethal and Amnesty International has repeatedly decried when security forces have used them to violate human rights, including through the excessive and unnecessary use of force to disperse such protests.
Among the manufacturers exhibiting such “less-lethal” weapons are two companies from the USA and France whose tear gas has been used in Bahrain. Another US firm has supplied such weapons to Egypt. In both Bahrain and Egypt, protesters have died or been severely injured during 2011 and 2012 as a result of the security forces allegedly misusing tear gas.
“Governments are letting the unrelenting commercial pressures of arms companies and their own narrow national interests take precedence over building the rule of law and respect for human rights,” said Wood.
“These are prime examples of why the world desperately needs a strong Arms Trade Treaty that would halt an arms sale when it can be foreseen that there is a substantial risk the arms will be used for serious human rights abuses.”
One exhibitor from South Korea is also promoting cluster munitions at IDEX – an inherently inhumane weapon. So far 111 states have signed, ratified or acceded to a separate international treaty banning these weapons.
Cluster bombs have been used in recent conflicts. Russian and Spanish-made cluster munitions were photographed in 2011 in Libya. Amnesty International found that al-Gaddafi forces used the weapons in residential areas in Libya and also that Syrian government forces used cluster bombs in Syria in 2012.
“It is unconscionable that internationally banned weapons like cluster bombs that blow the legs off children long after conflicts end are still being peddled at a major international trade fair,” said Wood.
Amnesty International calls on companies that manufacture or supply such indiscriminate weapons to immediately cease production and take them off the market and appeals to all states to join the international Convention on Cluster Munitions which bans their use, production transfer and stockpiling.
Arms-exporting countries must ensure that any deals brokered at an international arms fair do not contribute to serious human rights abuses.Media Node: IDEX arms bazaar Twitter Tag: ArmsTreaty Story Location: United Arab Emirates 24° 27' 13.7412" N, 54° 24' 35.244" E “The wide array of conventional weapons being displayed at IDEX this week stands in sharp contrast to the narrow scope of items proposed by the USA, China and other states for the draft Arms Trade Treaty” Source: Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights Date: Wed, 20/02/2013 URL: Global arms trade contributes to use of child soldiers Description: News story, 11 February 2013 URL: Arms control and human rights Description: Campaign page
Tensions are spiraling in South Sudan’s western Bahr El Ghazal state following a series of arrests by the state authorities and a security clampdown that has left 24 dead and more than 60 injured, Amnesty International said today in a new report.
The organization is calling for a thorough investigation into the largely unreported events of December 2012 in the wake of a controversial decision to relocate Wau County headquarters.
On 8 and 9 December 2012, security forces killed 11 people following road blocks and protests in Wau town. The protests began over the state government’s decision to move Wau County headquarters from Wau to Bagari – a town 19 kilometres away.
“The failure of the authorities to ensure proper investigations into the events in Wau County in December 2012 has allowed tensions to mount,” said Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Netsanet Belay.
“Those responsible for unlawful killings, including the security forces responsible for killing protesters, must promptly be held to account.”
Since the unrest in December, scores of people deemed to be opposed to the policies of the state government have been arrested and accused of instigating the protests in addition to their alleged involvement events in the lead up to them – including around 13 people on 12 February 2013.
Trials are due to take place this week, but no members of the security forces have been held to account for shooting and killing protesters.
“These arbitrary arrests contravene the law in South Sudan. Many of the detainees were initially held for up to two months, without being questioned about any offence they are alleged to have committed, with no access to a lawyer and with no arrest warrant ever being shown,” added Belay.
Unnecessary force has also been used to arrest people - for example, three vehicles filled with members of the security forces turned up at the home of a former Wau County commissioner at 10.30pm on 31 December 2012.
They reportedly beat his sons and brothers, threatened other family members, ransacked his house and destroyed his furniture in an attempt to find him.
Amnesty International calls on the Government of South Sudan to investigate killings and human rights violations which have taken place in connection to the Wau Country relocation protests since December 2012 and to ensure that all those who carried out the unlawful killings are brought to justice.
The organization is also calling for reparations for the families of victims of unlawful killings, the and for the rights to freedom of expression and association to be respected.
Tensions are spiraling in South Sudan’s western Bahr El Ghazal state following a series of arrests by the state authorities and a security clampdown that has left 24 dead and more than 60 injured.Media Node: wau Amnesty International Index Number: AFR65/001/2013 Twitter Tag: sudan Story Location: United Kingdom 11° 15' 24.1596" N, 33° 0' 10.548" E See map: Google Maps ““Those responsible for unlawful killings, including the security forces responsible for killing protesters, must promptly be held to account."” Source: Amnesty International's Netsnanet Belay
A string of recent violent attacks against journalists and media workers, including the murder of a blogger, shows the urgent need to better protect individuals commenting on Bangladesh’s ongoing war crimes tribunal, Amnesty International said.
The latest attack on Wednesday morning left a journalist from an online news site seriously injured.
Those targeted include journalists and bloggers calling on the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) to impose death sentences on people accused of mass scale human rights abuses during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war.
“The government must do their utmost to ensure that individuals at risk of retaliation for commenting on or interacting with the ICT are given the protection they need. People must be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.
On Friday 15 February, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haidar was brutally beaten and stabbed to death in his home in the capital Dhaka.
Haidar is a well-known blogger and had posted comments critical of the opposition political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), one senior leader of which has been convicted and seven more are facing trial at the ICT.
Early on Wednesday morning, Sumon Mahbub, a journalist with the online news site bdnews24.com, was left seriously injured after being rammed by a car in an apparently targeted attack in Dhaka.
The offices of bdnews24.com had started receiving threats earlier this week after publishing an online poll which showed support for banning JI.
No one has been arrested or claimed responsibility for either attack. JI on 17 February condemned the murder of Haidar and said it was not involved.
“We urge the authorities to carry out a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into these attacks, otherwise violence could continue with impunity,” Faiz said.
Equally at risk are journalists and bloggers critical of the ICT.
Amnesty International has received disturbing reports that some individuals criticizing the tribunal’s proceedings have been threatened and may be at risk of retaliatory violence.
The ICT was set up in 2010 to try people suspected of crimes under international law, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence.
The tribunal handed down its first sentences in January 2013, sentencing one of the accused, Abul Kalam Azad, to death for crimes against humanity. On 5 February, senior JI member Abdul Quader Molla was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.
The Shahbag neighbourhood of Dhaka has seen mass protests calling for Molla to be sentenced to death since 5 February. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.
Meanwhile, JI has been holding rallies throughout the country and calling for daylong strikes, demanding the release of their leaders who are on trial at the ICT.
A string of recent violent attacks against journalists and media workers shows the urgent need to better protect individuals commenting on Bangladesh’s ongoing war crimes tribunal.Media Node: Bangladesh Twitter Tag: bangladesh Story Location: United Kingdom 19° 9' 47.3688" N, 83° 40' 18.75" E See map: Google Maps “"People must be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear.”” Source: Amnesty International's Abbas Faiz
Last June I wrote about a police officer whose driver's license record was repeatedly accessed by a state-run database without proper authorization. She is an attractive woman and her fellow officers were treating her record like a Facebook page. She was stalked, harassed and eventually forced to leave town.
Details of a tentative settlement have recently been reported, and Minnesota is now realizing that - in addition to the emotional stress suffered by victims of these kinds of abuse - there are serious financial costs to weak privacy protections.
The officer sued a number of Minnesota cities and counties as well as the Department of Public Safety (DPS). A recent article in Bloomberg's Privacy Law Watch (behind a pay wall) reported that thus far, the tentative settlement in the dispute would cost the defending jurisdictions over $1 million . St. Paul, alone, has agreed to pay a hefty $385,000.
The settlement also requires strict privacy safeguards to assure future database searches have legitimate law-enforcement purposes. Searches will be audited every month with a focus on the top 50 law enforcement users, as well as the top 25 targets, to determine if the searches were performed for legitimate law-enforcement purposes. Check boxes will also be required to pop up on video screens whenever the license database is accessed making officers verify that they are using the database for approved purposes.
This case should serve as a stark warning to other states. While government databases are necessary, their administration can't be taken lightly and personal information must be strongly protected. Minnesota's new rules are a good first step; but for many databases, the best protections come from tight data retention rules. Only data that is absolutely necessary should be collected, and the information should be held only as long as necessary. If Minnesota had proper protections in place from the start, these costs may have been avoided.
A European Court of Human Rights ruling that Austria discriminated against a woman by refusing to consider her request to adopt her female partner’s biological child, must be followed by legal reform Amnesty International said.
“This welcome decision must prompt the Austrian government to shake up its thinking and its laws,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
The Court ruled today that the couple in X and others v Austria had been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, as heterosexual couples were not subjected to the same restrictions in Austria.
The case centred around Austrian laws that have led courts to specifically exclude requests from people wanting to adopt their same-sex partner’s child, whereas, for example, a man not married to his female partner can adopt her biological children.
The Austrian government argued before the Court that its laws were designed to uphold a traditional model of the family.
But in its majority ruling, the Court said “there is not just one way or one choice when it comes to leading one’s family or private life”, and noted that the Austrian government had failed to provide any evidence or even argument to show that an LGBTI couple could not adequately provide for a child’s needs.
Ten other Council of Europe member states allow for second-parent adoption for unmarried couples. Six of them allow it for same sex as well as different sex couples (Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom) and four allow it only for unmarried heterosexual couples (Portugal, Romania, Russia, Ukraine).
“Everyone has the right to marry and found a family. Some European governments need to wake up to the fact that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people should not be prevented from marrying and adopting, and that the march of law in Europe is inevitably on the side of social progress,” said John Dalhuisen.
European Court of Human Rights rules that Austria discriminated by refusing to consider a woman's request to adopt her female partner’s child.Media Node: austria lgbt flag Story Location: Austria 47° 32' 30.9372" N, 13° 18' 55.548" E “This welcome decision must prompt the Austrian government to shake up its thinking and its laws.” Source: John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Director for Europe and Central Asia Date: Tue, 19/02/2013
The Pakistan authorities must do more to protect the persecuted Shi’a Hazara minority community, Amnesty International said following a devastating attack in Quetta that killed scores.
On Saturday 17 February, at least 84 people, mostly Shi’a Hazaras, were killed when a bomb exploded in a vegetable market in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.
The bombing was claimed by the anti-Shi’a armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). LeJ also claimed responsibility for a series of bombings targeting Hazaras in Quetta on 10 January 2013 that claimed more than 90 lives.
“These attacks demonstrate Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s utter disregard for human rights and basic principles of humanity,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.
“Also shocking is the continued failure of the authorities to bring to justice any of those responsible for committing these killings, or inciting others to carry them out.”
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no one has been prosecuted for the January 2013 attacks or other targeted killings of Hazaras in recent years.
The authorities also have a poor record of prosecuting those who incite attacks on people on the basis of their religious beliefs, including prominent leaders of groups like LeJ.
“The failure to bring these perpetrators to justice sends the signal that they can continue to commit these outrageous abuses with impunity,” said Arradon.
Amnesty International has documented 91 separate attacks on Shi’as across Pakistan since January 2012 that have resulted in around 500 fatalities.
Hazaras are disproportionately represented in these chilling statistics – at least half of all deaths come from this community, one of the smallest in Pakistan.
“The last two months have been the worst on record for Quetta’s beleaguered Hazara community. In fact, the attacks in January and February constitute some of the worst killings in Pakistan’s recent history,” Arradon said.
Amnesty International calls on the Pakistani authorities to immediately carry out an impartial and independent investigation into the persistent failure of civil and military authorities to end such attacks.
“The Pakistani security authorities must be held accountable for their failure to protect Quetta’s Hazara community and the population at large,” Arradon said.
The Pakistan authorities must do more to protect the persecuted Shi’a Hazara minority community following a devastating attack in Quetta that killed scores.Media Node: Pakistan: Shia Hazara women & girls protest bombings Story Location: United Kingdom 29° 56' 54.9168" N, 67° 22' 5.3904" E See map: Google Maps “These attacks demonstrate Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s utter disregard for human rights and basic principles of humanity” Source: Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Date: Mon, 18/02/2013 URL: Pakistan: Shi'a killings failure of government protection URL: Pakistan must tackle brazen attacks on Hazara Shi'a
The Moroccan authorities must use civilian courts to give fair retrials to 25 Sahrawis and fully investigate their allegations of torture, Amnesty International said today after a military court handed them long prison sentences.
On Sunday, the Military Court of Rabat handed down nine life sentences and sentenced 14 other defendants to between 20-30 years imprisonment each. Two other defendants were released having served their two-year sentences in pre-trial detention.
The convictions relate to violence during and after the Moroccan security forces’ dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp in November 2010, during which 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawis were killed.
“The Moroccan authorities have ignored calls to try the defendants in an independent, impartial civilian court. Instead they have opted for a military court where civilians can never receive a fair trial.” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“It is disturbing that the authorities have also ignored the Sahrawi defendants’ allegations of torture and coerced confessions.”
“The use of military courts, compounded by the fact that torture allegations have not been investigated, casts a serious doubt on the Moroccan authorities’ intention and whether they were more concerned with securing a guilty verdict than justice”.
The defendants have repeatedly said they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated in detention, and coerced into signing statements, but there have been no reports of any official investigation into the allegations.
Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into the torture allegations, and for any evidence obtained under torture or coercion to be rejected by the court.
The lawyers of the detainees said they will challenge the verdicts before the Court of Cassation.
Amongst the charges against the defendants – who include members of Sahrawi civil society organizations and Sahrawi political activists – were belonging to a criminal organization, violence against a public official and the desecration of a corpse.
On 8 November 2010, violence broke out when Moroccan security forces tried forcibly to remove people from and dismantle the Gdim Izik protest camp a few kilometres east of the town of Laayoune, in the Moroccan-administered Western Sahara.
The camp had been set up in early October that year by Sahrawis protesting against what they describe as their marginalization and demanding jobs and adequate housing.
During and after the violence, the security forces arrested some 200 Sahrawis. Further arrests were also made in December 2010.
More than two years later, and despite persistent calls by Amnesty International and others, the Moroccan authorities have yet to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the human rights abuses committed in connection with the 8 November 2010 events.
Despite allegations of torture, life sentences handed out to civilians tried over clashes at a Sahrawi protest camp in 2010.Media Node: Morocco Story Location: Morocco 34° 8' 58.9056" N, 5° 16' 24.3768" W “It is disturbing that the authorities have also ignored the Sahrawi defendants’ allegations of torture and coerced confessions.” Source: Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Date: Mon, 18/02/2013 URL: For further information on the events, see Amnesty International report Rights trampled: protests, violence and repression in Western Sahara Description: Report URL: Morocco: Military trial of Sahrawi civilians flawed from the outset Description: News story, 1 February 2013