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Access to Justice

    November 05, 2013

    Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior must immediately rescind the decision to strip 31 members of the opposition of their Bahraini nationality made a year ago, Amnesty International urged.

    On 7 November 2012, the Ministry took the extreme measure against the opposition activists, who are all Shi’a, saying they had caused “damage to state security”. Those without dual citizenship were effectively made stateless by the decision.

    “Stripping away the nationality of government critics shows that the Bahraini authorities continue to lash out and discredit anyone they deem a threat. Instead of addressing the criticism levelled against them, the authorities have found no other way to respond than depriving Bahraini citizens of their nationality,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East Programme.

    October 30, 2013

    The Mexican President’s decision to pardon indigenous teacher Alberto Patishtán who was imprisoned for more than a decade following an unfair trial is a long overdue recognition of the injustice done to him, but it should spur a complete review of countless unfair trial cases, Amnesty International said today.

    “This is an innocent man who has been in prison for 13 years. The Presidential pardon is a big relief for Alberto Patishtán and his family, but it falls short of delivering truth, justice and reparation. Those responsible for his unfair trial and imprisonment should be held to account,” said Javier Zúñiga, special advisor at Amnesty International.

    “Mexico’s prisons are populated by countless people like Patishtán. His liberation should be only the first step towards a total review of those cases and the adoption of measures that put a halt to discrimination and inequality in the access to justice.”

    The presidential pardon is the result of years of campaigning by Alberto Patishtán, his lawyers and supportive non-governmental organizations.

    October 24, 2013

    The Israeli authorities must drop all charges against a Palestinian human rights lawyer released on bail last night, Amnesty International said.

    A military judge at Ofer Military Court ordered the release of Anas Bargouthi on bail because confessions from other detainees submitted as evidence failed to prove he is a security threat – particularly since the accusations against him relate to alleged activities from over a year ago.

    “The release of Anas Bargouthi is positive news but he should have never been detained and charged in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    October 18, 2013

    The Dominican Republic should not implement a Constitutional Court ruling that could leave hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of foreign descent stateless, Amnesty International urged today.

    Under aspects of the ruling, individuals of foreign descent - the vast majority Dominicans of Haitian origin- could be deprived of their nationality, forced to leave and ordered to apply for citizenship from scratch.

    "The full implementation of this ruling will have a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people whose identity documents would be cancelled and, therefore, would see many of their human rights – freedom of movement, education, work and access to healthcare – totally denied,” said Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International researcher on the Caribbean.

    The Constitutional Court last month ruled that Juliana Deguis, who was born in the Dominican Republic in 1984 to Haitian parents, had been wrongly registered as Dominican at her birth.

    The case could have wide-reaching discriminatory effects, particularly for Dominicans of Haitian descent.

    October 04, 2013

    Justice deferred to the end

    Today is a sad day for human rights and justice.

    Herman Wallace, the 71-year-old man who spent over 41 years in solitary confinement in prison in Louisiana, finally passed away after losing his battle with liver cancer.

    The only solace was that he died a free man. Last week a federal judge overturned his conviction.

    Even then, consistent with their decades-long obsession with keeping Herman Wallace behind bars, the state of Louisiana appealed against the court order for his immediate release.

    Thankfully, within hours, the same federal judge denied the appeal and threatened to hold the state in contempt of court. Only then did the state finally release Herman Wallace.

    He was so weak that he left the prison by ambulance, to be taken directly to hospital.

    From the unsafe conviction at his deeply flawed trial in 1974, through 41 years of confinement in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions, to a belated terminal diagnosis and his death, Herman Wallace’s treatment at the hands of the state was dogged by a fundamental disregard for his human rights.

    September 06, 2013

    A Dutch Supreme Court judgment finding the state liable for the deaths of three Muslim men amid the Srebrenica genocide marks a significant victory in the decades-long search for accountability, Amnesty International said today.

    “Nearly two decades on from Srebrenica, this Dutch case marks the first time an individual government has been held to account for the conduct of its peacekeeping troops under a UN mandate,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    According to the court, Dutch troops serving as UN peacekeepers in Srebrenica sent three Bosniak Muslim men away from a “safe area” on 13 July 1995. This effectively handed them over to Bosnian Serb forces, who went on to kill some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys; many of their bodies have still not been found.

    August 30, 2013

    The refusal by California’s prison authorities to explore options to resolve the hunger strike crisis in the state’s high security units is a dangerous move that could lead to the deaths of inmates in their custody, Amnesty International said.

    More than 30,000 prisoners joined a hunger strike last July over inhumane detention conditions in California’s security housing units (SHUs). More than 70 are still refusing food.

    “It’s nothing short of appalling that instead of dealing with the complaints, California’s prison authorities have chosen to threaten inmates with force-feeding and disciplinary measures, and have moved some to other facilities,” said Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.  

    “No one should be punished for exercising the right to peaceful protest. California prison authorities must stop toying with people’s lives and meet with the mediation team to begin a meaningful process of negotiation.”

    Amnesty International has also received reports that some of those on hunger strike have been denied medical care.

    July 10, 2013

    An elderly man who has been held in solitary confinement in a prison in Louisiana for over 40 years and has now been diagnosed with terminal cancer should be immediately released on humanitarian grounds, Amnesty International said.

    “He has already spent decades in cruel conditions” said Tessa Murphy, USA campaigner at Amnesty International. “He was found guilty on dubious evidence in the first place and he should now be allowed to live out his last days with dignity in the care of his family.”

    Herman Wallace, aged 71, was originally jailed for armed robbery. However, in 1973 he was convicted of the murder of a prison guard along with Albert Woodfox ; both have been held in isolation ever since.

    No physical evidence linked the men to the crime; DNA evidence that could have cleared them has been lost over the years, and the testimony of the main eyewitness has subsequently been discredited.
    Last month Wallace was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and the prognosis is that he only has months to live .

    May 31, 2013

    The Turkish authorities must order police to stop using excessive force against peaceful protesters in Istanbul and immediately investigate alleged abuses, said Amnesty International after more than a hundred people were injured during an ongoing peaceful demonstration in a city centre park. 

    On 30 and 31 May, police officers used water cannon and tear gas to disperse a peaceful protest against the destruction of Gezi Park in central Istanbul. 

    More than a hundred protesters are reported to have been injured during police interventions. Some suffered head injuries and at least two people had to receive emergency surgery. 

    Amnesty International activists who were observing the protest were also hit with truncheons and tear gassed.

    “The use of violence by police on this scale appears designed to deny the right to peaceful protest altogether and to discourage others from taking part” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International. 

    May 01, 2013

    Two men wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for the killing of prominent trade union leader Chea Vichea in 2004 should be released immediately, Amnesty International said today, on International Labour Day.

    Following an unfair trial, Born Samnang, 32, and Sok Sam Oeun, 45, were sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2005 after being convicted for the murder a year earlier of Chea Vichea, the president of Cambodia’s Free Trade Union (FTU).

    After a campaign by human rights groups, the Supreme Court released the two men on bail on 31 December 2008 and ordered a retrial. But on 27 December 2012, four years after their provisional release, the Appeals Court upheld the original verdict and sent the pair back to prison, despite any new evidence being presented. They have appealed this latest decision.

    “Considering the seriously flawed criminal investigation, grossly unfair trial and lack of evidence, these two men should never have been convicted in the first place,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s researcher on Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.

    April 17, 2013

    (Washington, D.C.) – The Supreme Court today dismissed the closely-watched case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co in a severe blow for victims of human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, and severely limited the reach of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a law enacted in 1789.

    The Court’s decision significantly reduces access to the U.S.courts for all survivors of human rights abuses committed abroad, a radical departure from its own precedent and a decision that Amnesty International believes flies in the face of the trend toward enhancing accountability for serious human rights violations.

    The Court’s ruling was in relation to the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. The suit was brought by members of the Ogoni community in the Niger Delta in relation to human rights violations committed against them and their families in the mid-1990s by the military government in power in Nigeria at the time.

    February 01, 2013

    This week’s ruling by a Dutch court in a case brought by four Nigerian farmers against the oil company Shell for pollution damage represents a small victory – but also underlines the real-world challenges facing victims of pollution and human rights abuses involving multinational companies.

    The four farmers who brought the case had seen their livelihoods destroyed by oil pollution from Shell’s operations.

    The court found in favour of one plaintiff, stating that Shell Nigeria had breached its duty of care in that case by failing to take reasonable action to prevent third parties tampering with oil wells and causing oil spills. Shell will now have to pay compensation to the affected farmer.

    While sabotage of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta is one cause of pollution, it’s not nearly such a major issue as Shell’s public relations machine likes to make out. Many spills are caused by leaks from pipelines that are old and poorly maintained, and Shell’s claims about the extent to which sabotage causes pollution have been strongly challenged by communities and NGOs, including Amnesty International.

    January 24, 2013

    The trial of a Russian lawyer who blew the whistle on a high-level corruption scandal even though he is dead as a result of mistreatment while in detention is an attempt to deflect attention from those who committed the crimes he exposed, Amnesty International said on the eve of the preliminary hearing scheduled for 28 January in a Moscow court.

    Sergei Magnitsky – who died on 16 November 2009 – was charged with the very crimes he exposed triggering a sequence of events that lead to his premature death.

    “The Russian authorities’ intention to proceed with the criminal prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky violates his fundamental rights even in death, in particular the right to defend himself in person,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    “The trial of a deceased person and the forcible involvement of his relatives is a dangerous precedent that would open a whole new chapter in Russia’s worsening human rights record.

    “The legal grounds for the posthumous criminal prosecution against Sergei Magnitski to say the least are dubious and the authorities must halt this travesty.”

    January 16, 2013

    Continued delays in the investigation into the killing of 73 people in May 2010 during an operation by security forces in West Kingston could be letting people get away with murder, said Amnesty International today.

    In a letter sent to Michael Peart, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Jamaica, the organization questioned ongoing delays in the development of the report that the Office of the Public Defender was due to submit to the parliament on 15 January after missing previous deadlines.

    “It is outrageous that nearly three years since the Tivoli Gardens killings the Jamaican authorities are far from being able to answer the many questions that remain, ” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

    “By failing to ensure that those responsible for the killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests that took place in Tivoli in 2010, the Jamaican authorities are simply sending the message that human rights abuses are permitted and won’t be punished.”

    December 17, 2012
    Amnesty International and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have hailed lthe ECOWAS Court of Justice ground-breaking judgment as a “key moment in holding governments and companies to account for pollution.”

    In the case, SERAP v. Nigeria, the Court unanimously found the Nigerian government responsible for abuses by oil companies and makes it clear the government must hold the companies and other perpetrators to account.


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