Rights watchdog hails UN's findings on Israeli abuses

            JERUSALEM (AA) - Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s strategy and research director for the Middle East and North Africa, has hailed a new report by a UN fact-finding commission, which found that Israel had used “excessive force” against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip. <br>  </p>  <p>“This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards,” Luther said in a statement. <br>

In some cases, Luther asserted, Israel “committed what appear to be willful killings, constituting war crimes”.

“Today’s footage from Gaza is extremely troubling,” he said. “As violence continues to spiral out of control, the Israeli authorities must immediately rein in the military to prevent further loss of life and serious injuries.”

“While some [Palestinian] protesters may have engaged in some form of violence,” he added, “this still does not justify the use of live ammunition.”

He went on to urge the international community to halt all weapons deliveries to Israel.

“The rising toll of deaths and injuries today only serves to highlight the urgent need for an arms embargo,” he said.

In a report released earlier Thursday, a UN fact-finding commission said that Israel's deadly 2018 crackdown on Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza "may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity".

"The commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law," the report reads in part.

According to the report, 183 Palestinians were killed by Israeli army gunfire — including 35 children — since demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone first began in March of last year.

“Another 6,106 Palestinians were injured by live ammunition,” the report notes, “while a further 3,098 were hurt by shrapnel, rubber-coated bullets and/or teargas.”

Amnesty: Myanmar army ops target Rakhine state

             By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p>    <p>LONDON (AA) - Myanmar security forces have shelled villages and blocked civilians from accessing food and humanitarian assistance in western Rakhine state since early 2019, a rights groups said Monday.</p>    <p>“Security forces have also used vague and repressive laws to detain civilians in the area,” according to the Amnesty International report based on fresh evidence on ongoing military operations.</p>    <p>“These latest operations are yet another reminder that the Myanmar military operates without any regard for human rights,” Tirana Hassan, director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International said.</p>    <p>“Shelling inhabited villages and withholding food supplies are unjustifiable under any circumstances,” Hassan added.</p>    <p>The Amnesty said it has “received reports that army divisions involved in atrocities against the Rohingya in August and September 2017 have been deployed to Rakhine State again in recent weeks.”</p>    <p>“Despite international condemnation of the Myanmar military’s atrocities, all evidence suggests that they are brazenly committing yet more serious abuses,” said Hassan.</p>    <p>According to the report, these violations came after a UN fact-finding mission called for the criminal investigation and prosecution of senior Myanmar officials for crimes under international law against the Rohingya population in Rakhine, and against ethnic minorities in Kachin and northern Shan states.</p>    <p>The report said that “an ethnic Rakhine armed group known as the Arakan Army carried out coordinated attacks on four police posts in northern Rakhine State, reportedly killing 13 police officers on Jan. 4, 2019” and “Myanmar’s civilian government instructed the military to launch an operation to ‘crush’ the Arakan Army, which the government spokesperson referred as as a ‘terrorist organization’”.</p>    <p>The Arakan Army is an armed Buddhist group that wants more autonomy for the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic minority.</p>    <p>It has fought the military as part of an alliance of armed groups in northern Myanmar and, as it has moved its attention to Chin and Rakhine states in recent years, has clashed sporadically with security forces there, according to the Amnesty.</p>    <p>The Myanmar army “has since moved considerable assets and troops into the region”.</p>      <p>The report said that “more than 5,200 men, women and children had been displaced by the ongoing fighting by 28 January, according to the UN.”</p>    <p>“They are overwhelmingly from predominantly Buddhist ethnic minorities, including the Mro, Khami, Daingnet and Rakhine.”</p>    <p>The Amnesty said it has found that “they fled their villages after the security forces shelled nearby or placed restrictions on food.”</p>    <p>In a June 2017 report, Amnesty International documented in detail “indiscriminate shelling by the Myanmar military during its operations in Kachin and Shan States, which killed and injured civilians and displaced thousands”.</p>    <p>“These unlawful attacks are sowing fear in many villages,” said Hassan.</p>    <p> </p>  <p>- Restrictions on humanitarian access</p>    <p>“The Myanmar authorities have also imposed further restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine State. On 10 January, the Rakhine State government barred all UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations, except the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and World Food Programme (WFP), from operating in five conflict-affected townships,” said the report, as well.</p>    <p>“Many organizations have had to stop their humanitarian assistance, undermining emergency response and relief efforts in one of Myanmar’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions,” it said.

More than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, according to Amnesty International.

Since then, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

The OIDA also reported that more than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police, and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

– Arbitrary detention

<p>The Myanmar security forces also “appear to be using abusive laws to detain and prosecute civilians for allegedly supporting the Arakan Army, raising concerns about arbitrary detention and potential ill-treatment,” the Amnesty noted. </p>  <p>In a June 2018 report, Amnesty International “documented torture and other inhuman treatment against Rohingya men and boys held in BGP posts in Rakhine.”</p>    <p>The Amnesty said local activists and media reports suggest that “arbitrary detentions and the use of vague and repressive laws have been commonplace during the latest military operation in Rakhine State.”</p>    <p>The group added, based on local reports, that “around 30 village administrators submitted resignation letters in January, out of concern they might be wrongly prosecuted for unlawful association”.

Iraqi women suspected of Daesh links face abuse: NGO

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi women and children suspected of having links to the Daesh terrorist group through their male relatives are being sexually exploited, Amnesty International said in a Tuesday report.

According to the U.S.-based rights watchdog, the report was compiled based on interviews with 92 women at eight internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps in Iraq’s Nineveh and Saladin provinces.

The report claims to reveal “widespread discrimination against women living in IDP camps by security forces, camp administrators and the local authorities, who believe that they are affiliated with [Daesh]”.

“Desperate and isolated, these women are at heightened risk of sexual exploitation by security forces, armed guards and members of militias working in and around the camps,” the report reads.

It goes on to document “the plight of thousands of female-headed families left to fend for themselves in IDP camps after male family members were killed or arbitrarily arrested… while fleeing [Daesh]-held areas in and around Mosul”.

The report quotes Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director, as saying: “Iraqi women and children with perceived ties to [Daesh] are being punished for crimes they did not commit.”

“These families,” she adds, “must be allowed to return home without fear of intimidation, arrest or attack.”

Daesh overran vast swathes of northern and western Iraq in mid-2014. But its military presence was largely destroyed late last year following a nine-month Iraqi army campaign centered on the northern city of Mosul.

Cameroon, Zimbabwe urged to end enforced disappearances

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AA) – Amnesty International urged Cameroonian authorities on Tuesday to stop using its fight against Boko Haram militants to justify its blatant violations of human rights.

The rights watchdog also said the country’s authorities should provide answers about the whereabouts of 130 people still unaccounted for 20 months after they were arrested in a crackdown on suspected Boko Haram members.

In a statement made to mark the International Day of victims of Enforced Disappearances, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Regional Director Alioune Tine, said: “The government’s continued failure to reveal their whereabouts adds insult to injury to the families who have already waited a long time for news of their loved ones.”

Tine said the missing people were among more than 200 arrested during a cordon-and-search operation in villages in the Northern region of Cameroon two years ago.

“Of those arrested, at least 25 died in custody on the night of the arrests, with another 45 transferred to Maroua prison the day after. Three have died since due to dire conditions in detention,” he said.

The International Day of victims of Enforced Disappearances is marked annually on August 30, with the aim of drawing attention to the plight of people imprisoned in places unknown to their relatives or the public.

– Zimbabwe

According to Amnesty, governments around the world are consistently using enforced disappearances to secure their power and silence opposition or critics.

“The enforced disappearance of government critics has become standard practice in Zimbabwe,” the rights group noted.

Amnesty said it was now over a year since they wrote to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe informing him about the disappearance of one of his prominent critics, Itai Dzamara.

“Amnesty International is renewing its call for the Zimbabwean government to establish a commission of inquiry into his case.”

The group said Dzamara had not been seen since last March while government was yet respond to the disappearance.

– Kenya

Amnesty also said enforced disappearances have become commonplace in Kenya, where despite compelling evidence, authorities continue to deny the problem is systemic.

This month a Kenya High Court found that human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and their taxi driver who were executed by police were subjected to enforced disappearances.

“Amnesty International has called for the formation of a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and for the establishment of a comprehensive accountability framework consistent with international human rights standards.”

* Felix Nkambeh Tih contributed to this story from Ankara.

SA: Amnesty slams mining giant over workers’ poor housing

JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Amnesty International has condemned British platinum mining giant Lonmin for failing to provide adequate housing to thousands of its South African workers who live in squalid conditions in informal settlements, i.e. around the mine.

According to the human rights watchdog, Lonmin made commitments to build 5,500 houses for its workers in 2006 under its Social and Labor Plan (SLP) but has allegedly not delivered.

In August 2012, police shot and killed 34 mine workers belonging to Lonmin in Marikana after they engaged in protests over pay.

President Jacob Zuma then appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate circumstances that led to the killings that provoked outrage nationwide.

“The Commission concluded that housing conditions for much of Lonmin’s workforce were extremely poor and created an environment conducive to the creation of tension, labour unrest and disunity among its employees or other harmful conduct” Amnesty said in a report released Monday.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for Southern Africa, said the events of August 2012 should have been a decisive wake-up call to Lonmin that it must address the living conditions of its workers.

“Amnesty International is calling on the Minister of Mineral Resources to investigate and, if required, sanction Lonmin over its failure to fulfill the terms of its SLP on the provision of 5,500 houses, in line with the Commission (of inquiry’s) recommendation,’’ said the rights group.

In a response letter written to Amnesty, Lonmin said it had converted former hostels into 776 family units as well as 1,908 single apartments for workers since 2012.

Lonmin, which is the world’s third largest platinum producer, also said: “The provision of housing for our entire workforce will of course take time and will involve the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders particularly given the current economic constraints.’’

The mining giant also admitted that 13,500 of its employees, who are mostly migrants, did not have formal housing.

Justice minister denies claims of coup detainee torture

ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey’s justice minister Monday denied claims by a human rights group saying that suspected plotters of the July 15 coup have been subjected to torture in detention.

Bekir Bozdag, minister of justice, said on his Twitter account, “There has not been any torture or assault of detainees in custody,” in response to allegations by Amnesty International.

Bozdag added, “The claims of torture and assault make up a package misinformation campaign formed by members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETO/PYD), one which is untrue and distorted.”

The group said Sunday that it had evidence the detainees have been tortured as well as beaten and even raped.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry issued a statement saying that Turkey is a constitutional state, and that it meets national and international criteria on human rights law even amid a state of emergency.

“The health conditions of the detainees were checked by doctors after the detention and during custody, in line with detention regulations,” the statement said.

The ministry added that contrary to Amnesty claims that Turkey lacks an institution which monitors detention conditions, Turkey’s Human Rights and Equality Institution is continuing to fulfill its duties.

The deadly coup attempt began late July 15 when rogue elements of the Turkish military tried to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government, killing at least 246 people and injuring more than 2,100 others.

The government said the attempted coup was organized by followers of U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen.

Gulen is accused of a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through infiltrating Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, forming a parallel state.

Cameroon: Amnesty Intl decries mass detention, torture

ANKARA (AA) – Cameroonian authorities are currently detaining and torturing more than 1,000 people for alleged involvement in Boko Haram terror activities in the Central African state, charged human rights group Amnesty International Thursday.

A new Amnesty International report also claimed that “dozens are dying from disease and malnutrition or have been tortured to death.”

Amnesty said 1,000 people are being detained in “overcrowded prisons” – with nearly 1,500 people detained in a building built for 350 – “in insanitary conditions where malnutrition is rampant.”

“In Maroua prison, for example, between six to eight people die each month… Family visits to detainees are strictly limited.”

Amnesty says that Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram has resulted in many human rights violations against civilians, especially in Cameroon’s Far North region, where the militant group is active.

“In seeking to protect its population from the brutality of Boko Haram, Cameroon is pursuing the right objective; but in arbitrarily arresting, torturing and subjecting people to enforced disappearances, the authorities are using the wrong means,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West and Central Africa regional director.

“With hundreds of people arrested without reasonable suspicion that they have committed any crime, and people dying on a weekly basis in its overcrowded prisons, Cameroon’s government should take urgent action to keep its promise to respect human rights while fighting Boko Haram,” Tine added.

The rights group added that Cameroon security forces arrest people based on little information and sometimes target a whole group.

“In February 2015 for example, in Kossa, 32 men were rounded up and arrested based on accusations that the village was providing food to Boko Haram. Most were later released, but one man died in custody,” it said.

A 70-year-old man detained in one of the prisons told Amnesty that Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Brigade, BIR (special forces involved in the fight against Boko Haram), had tortured his son for 10 days and he also saw some men beaten to death.

“We were all interrogated in the same room, one by one, by a man dressed with the BIR uniform. Two other men in plain clothes carried out the beatings and other torture. That day, two prisoners were beaten up so badly that they died in front of us. The men in plain clothes kicked them and slapped them violently, and hit them with wooden sticks,” he said.

“I was not beaten because I am old, so I was the one to help carrying the two dead bodies from the interrogation room to the cell. That night we slept in the cell with two dead bodies, and the day after the BIR came, threw plastic bags towards us, asked us to put the bodies inside, and then came to collect them. I don’t know where the bodies were taken and whether they were ever buried,” he added.

More than 1,100 civilians and security force members have been killed in attacks attributed to Boko Haram in the Far North since 2013, according to Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary.

Approximately half of Boko Haram’s 46 suicide attacks have been carried out by children, according to Amnesty.

This March a military court in Cameroon’s Far North Region sentenced 89 Boko Haram militants to death.

“More than 100 people, including women, have been sentenced to death in [the Far North] Maroua’s military court since July 2015, although none have yet been executed,” said Amnesty’s report, calling the military trials “unfair.”

Nearly 1,000 Boko Haram suspects are still awaiting trial, a judge told Anadolu Agency in March, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking with the media.

Cameroon has reinforced its military presence along its border with Nigeria, trying to repel the Nigerian militant group with the help of the local population.

The Central African nation is also part of a Multinational Joint Task Force that was created by Lake Chad Basin countries – Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin – aimed at eradicating the militant group.

Amnesty condemns South Sudan for torturing prisoners

By Andrew Ross

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Amnesty International on Friday strongly condemned the South Sudanese government for cramming dozens of prisoners in poorly ventilated shipping containers.

In a statement released in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East Africa Muthoni Wanyeki warned that detainees were at risk of dying, especially because they had been kept underfed, with most being given meals only once or twice in a week along with small amounts of water.

Wanyeki was referring to the Gorom detention site, which is located some 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the capital Juba.

“Detainees are suffering in appalling conditions and their overall treatment is nothing short of torture. This egregious disregard for human life and dignity must stop and for that to happen, the detention site should be immediately shut down until conditions are brought into compliance with human rights standards,” the statement said.

Amnesty also released satellite images of the detention camp, which is said to have been established in early 2015.

According to the human rights group, most people held at the site were civilians, who had been arrested for allegedly siding with the former rebel group, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Army.

Amnesty said detainees had no access to family members or lawyers.

“President [Salvar] Kiir should order an independent investigation into this site and into military intelligence detention practices generally, with a view to reforming the practices and ensuring that those responsible for torture, death or enforced disappearances are held accountable,” Wanyeki said.

The group also called on the South Sudanese president to suspend military officials alleged to have committed the crimes at the Gorom detention site.

In February, Amnesty International had released another report detailing how South Sudanese armed forces allegedly suffocated 60 people in shipping containers in the country’s Unity State in October 2015.

Amnesty slams Lesotho for detention of mutiny soldiers

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Rights group Amnesty International on Friday condemned a Lesotho court decision which authorized the continued detention of 16 soldiers accused of plotting a mutiny last year.

Twenty-three soldiers were arrested last June on allegations of planning a mutiny against the leadership of the Lesotho Defense Forces (LDF), but seven were later released.

However, a Lesotho high court ruled last October that it was unlawful to continue detaining the 16 soldiers without a proper trial and ordered their release on bail, but the defense forces refused to comply with the order.

On Friday, the Lesotho Court of Appeals turned down an application by the soldiers to be released on bail, instead authorizing the military to continue their detention.

“Today’s decision by the Lesotho Court of Appeals to deny bail to 16 soldiers raises serious questions about Lesotho’s justice system,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for southern Africa, said in an email statement to Anadolu Agency.

He said releasing the soldiers on bail would have helped them get adequate medical care and effective access to their legal advisers, which has not been possible since they are in detention.

Amnesty says allegations of torture of some of the soldiers have also surfaced.

The rights group says the soldiers are now facing a court martial which is due to resume on May 9.

“Under international standards people charged with criminal offenses should not, as a general rule, be held in custody pending trial, unless the state shows that it is necessary and proportionate to deprive them of their liberty,” Muchena said.

The Kingdom of Lesotho, a former British protectorate, has faced several military coups since gaining independence in 1996.