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War Crimes

    August 22, 2012

    1982 was a dangerous time in El Salvador.

    The civil war had begun two years earlier, and in rebel-held areas, the national army saw everyone - peasant farmers, babies, women and the elderly - as legitimate military targets.

    By 1982 the armed forces had already committed a string of massacres across the country.

    In August that year, the Salvadoran armed forces launched a major offensive across the northern San Vicente region – an area considered by the military as a guerrilla stronghold. As news of the offensive spread, communities in San Vicente began to flee in fear for their lives. Many of those who stayed on to tend the crops were the elderly, women and young children.

    They had stayed thinking they would be safe at home.

    No-one could imagine what was about to come.

    August 22, 2012

    Civilians are enduring a horrific level of violence in the battle between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters for control of Aleppo - the country’s largest city and commercial capital, Amnesty International said in a new briefing on Syria.

    The 11-page briefing is based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty International during the first half of August.

    The briefing documents the Syrian government forces’ increasingly frequent air and artillery strikes against residential areas, resulting in often indiscriminate attacks which seriously endanger civilians. 

    “The use of imprecise weapons, such as unguided bombs, artillery shells and mortars by government forces has dramatically increased the danger for civilians”, said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently returned from Aleppo.

    August 07, 2012

    ‘Turning Syria’s most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians’ - Christoph Koettl

    Amnesty International has warned that both sides fighting in Aleppo may be held criminally accountable for their failures to protect the civilian population, as the organisation released new satellite images showing the extent of heavy weapon use in the city.
    The satellite images - from Aleppo and the surrounding area - show an increased use of heavy weaponry, including near residential areas. Amnesty said they raise urgent concerns over the assault on the beleaguered Syrian city. (The images can be downloaded from

    Some of the images reveal more than 600 probable artillery impact craters from heavy fighting between Syrian armed forces and armed opposition groups in the nearby town of Anadan. An image from 31 July shows probable artillery impact craters next to what appears to be a residential housing complex in Anadan.

    August 03, 2012

    The investigation announced by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) into the alleged unlawful killings of 14 members of the al-Berri clan must be carried out in an “impartial, independent and comprehensive” manner and its results should be referred to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Amnesty International said today.

    Fahad al-Masri, the FSA’s Head of Central Media, condemned the killings in a televised interview on Wednesday and said the FSA had opened an investigation into the incident and those responsible would be held to account.

    Members of the Sunni pro-government clan were shown in social media video, allegedly filmed by the al-Tawhid Brigade of the FSA, being shot dead after being ordered out of a clan  “hospitality” building by the fighters in Bab al-Nairab neighbourhood in the city of Aleppo.

    The head of the clan, Ali Zein al-‘Abdeen Berri (known as Zayno Berri), was reportedly killed in the shootings.

    July 31, 2012

    Mali must halt its slide into human rights chaos and open investigations into dozens of cases of enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture documented by Amnesty International.

    In a report released today following a ten day mission to Mali in July 2012, Amnesty International details brutal abuses committed by soldiers loyal to the military Junta against soldiers and police officers involved in an attempted counter-coup on 30 April 2012.

    In the days that followed the attempted counter-coup dozens of soldiers were arrested and taken to Kati military camp, 20 kilometres north of Bamako, the capital. They were held for more than 40 days in appalling conditions and subjected to torture and sexual abuse. Twenty one detainees were abducted from their cell at night and haven't been seen since.
    “The Malian authorities have a duty to investigate all the cases we have documented. Those responsible for these brutal efforts to avenge the attempted counter-coup must be held accountable for their actions,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.

    July 31, 2012

    The assault by government forces on the city of Aleppo is the culmination of months of a brutal crackdown against dissident voices, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    The new report All-Out Repression is based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty International in Aleppo city at the end of May.

    It documents how security forces and the notorious government-backed shabiha militias routinely used live fire against peaceful demonstrations, killing and injuring protesters and bystanders, including children, and how they hunted down the wounded, medics who treated them, and opposition activists.  

    “The current onslaught on the city of Aleppo – which puts civilians even more at grave risk– is a predictable development which follows the disturbing pattern of abuses by state forces across the country,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently spent several weeks investigating abuses in northern Syria, including in Aleppo.

    July 27, 2012
    As reports of civilians being targeted in Syria continue to make headlines, China, Russia and the US acted to delay what could have been a landmark agreement to end the irresponsible trade in arms, Amnesty International said on Friday.   “With one person dying every minute because of armed violence, there is an imperative for powerful states to lead.  President Obama has asked for more time to reach an agreement.  How much more time does he want?” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.   However, campaigners remain optimistic that an effective Arms Trade Treaty [ATT] is within reach as a significant majority of governments have indicated they will continue to work for a strong treaty that protects human rights.   The four week long negotiations at the UN in New York ended with more than 90 countries joining a statement reiterating their commitment to see the process succeed as soon as possible.   The call by the US, joined by Russia and China, to delay comes on a frantic final day of the negotiations.
    July 26, 2012

           Amnesty International experts available from the UN in New York to provide analysis

    Negotiations to reach agreement on a potentially historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), enter a critical final day on Friday 27 July, after nearly four weeks of talks at the United Nations in New York.

    The irresponsible and poorly regulated international arms trade fuels serious human rights abuses, armed violence, conflict, organized crime and poverty around the world.  If agreement on a comprehensive ATT is reached it will help end the devastation caused to millions of lives by the irresponsible arms trade.

    To request an interview or briefing with an Amnesty International spokesperson at the UN on the outcome, key countries involved and what any potential agreement will actually mean, please contact:
    Tom Mackey
    Amnesty International Press Office
    +1 646 3185 134

    July 25, 2012

    The US administration is the pivotal player in closing major loopholes and setting strong rules for international transfers of arms in the final days of negotiations to agree an Arms Trade Treaty [ATT], Amnesty International said today.

    After three weeks of talks to hammer out a deal at the UN in New York, a draft treaty text was published on Tuesday. Governments will now enter into three days of intense negotiations as they look to reach an agreement by Friday.

    Major loopholes in the draft text include ammunition not being subject to tight decision-making controls, an array of weapons, munitions and related equipment not being covered, as well as the treaty only applying to the international trade of conventional arms instead of all international transfers including gifts and aid.  

    Small arms and light weapons and rules to stop arms transfers from being used for crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of human rights are in the current proposal.

    July 25, 2012

    Reports that government forces and armed opposition groups have been deliberately and unlawfully killing captured opponents in Syria bolster the need for all sides to commit to abiding by international humanitarian law, Amnesty International said today.

    Earlier this week, the bodies of 19 unarmed men and one child were found in several locations in the Damascus neighbourhood of al-Mezzeh, after – according to local activists – having been killed by government forces who suspected them of aiding rebels in the area. Activists said that some of the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs and some bore marks indicating they had been tortured before being killed.

    Although Amnesty International cannot directly confirm these reports, they mirror a pattern documented by the organization elsewhere in the country.

    July 20, 2012

    Orders to clear the streets of Damascus issued by the Syrian authorities do not open the door to a legal bombardment of residential areas, Amnesty International said today.

    “A pattern is emerging of orders being issued to civilians to move out of urban areas, raising fears that the authorities intend to increase the intensity of assault on neighbourhoods they plan to attack,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

    “The fact that an order has been issued does not mean that the area has actually been cleared, which could result in  more and more people coming under attack.”

    The Syrian armed forces and members of armed opposition groups such as the Free Syria Army (FSA) may be held criminally responsible if they fail to protect the civilian population caught up in this conflict, with resultant unlawful killings.

    As members of the opposition become better equipped with weapons and armaments, more and more civilians are being exposed to danger as fighting intensifies in populated urban areas.

    July 19, 2012

    The failure today of the UN Security Council to deliver better human rights protection for Syrians will embolden those responsible for the crimes and violence wracking the country, Amnesty International said.

    Russia and China vetoed on Thursday a UN Security Council resolution that proposed that international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan be placed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the Security Council to authorize a range of diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Syrian government should they fail to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns and cities.

    It was the third time Russia and China have used their veto power to block Security Council resolutions on Syria.

    The veto comes a day after an attack that killed the Syrian Defence Minister, his deputy and the Assistant Vice-President in Damascus. There are also reports that a number of other senior officials have been critically injured, including the Interior Minister.

    July 18, 2012

    It’s crucial that the Court looks at the full scope of alleged crimes across the country, including those carried out by Malian security forces

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate killings, rapes and torture and other possible crimes recently carried out in Mali, Amnesty International said as the country’s government formally asked the Court to step in.

    Mali’s Minister of Justice Malick Coulibaly delivered a letter to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Wednesday, referring the situation in Mali since January 2012 on the basis that national authorities are unable to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

    “This is the fifth time an African state has either referred crimes committed on its own territory to the ICC or accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction, indicating that governments across the continent are now acknowledging the importance of the ICC in providing justice to victims,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.

    July 13, 2012

    Reports of mass killings in the Sunni town of al-Treimseh (or Tremseh) are further proof of the urgent need for UN monitors to be granted full and immediate access to all parts of the country to conduct independent investigations into human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today.

    According to Syrian opposition sources, scores of people were killed on Thursday morning when the Syrian army and security forces along with pro-government militia known as Shabiha, attacked al-Treimseh near the city of Hama. Syrian state-run media have blamed “terrorist groups” for the killings.

    UN mission chief Major General Robert Mood said today that UN observers are ready to go to Treimseh when a ceasefire is in place. He confirmed continuous fighting yesterday in the area of Treimseh, including the use of mechanized units, indirect fire and helicopters and said that observers were ready to go and seek verification of the facts if and when there was a credible ceasefire.

    July 11, 2012

    The UN Security Council must call on the Rwandan government to stop providing support for the M23 armed group in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, Amnesty International said as the UN redeployed peacekeepers to the main eastern city of Goma.

    The M23 have driven back the Congolese government army in a determined offensive over the last few days. The UN and authorities in eastern DR Congo say Rwanda has backed  the non-state armed group, M23,, a claim denied by Kigali.

    “While redeploying UN troops to Goma to protect civilians is a positive step, the situation in the North Kivu is so tense that it has the potential to turn into a regional conflict if the international community does not take urgent measures,” said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

    Amnesty International has received reports from numerous sources that M23 is using heavy artillery and continue to forcibly recruit civilians. According to credible sources, two civilians were killed by the M23 in Bunagana on Sunday when they refused to join the group, while two other civilians were killed during the fighting.


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