Escalating Attacks on Religious Minorities in Indonesia

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

Imagine a mob of 500 people with sickles and stones descending on your neighborhood, setting fire to houses, and driving you away from your jobs and community. This occurred in August 2012 in East Java, Indonesia, leaving one member of a Shi’a community dead and injuring dozens. At this time 168 people, including 51 children, are living in a temporary shelter. In the last two weeks, they have been denied clean drinking water and food supplies.

Some of the villagers had previously been harassed by local government officials who told them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes.  Now, after eight months, the Sampang district administration has agreed to the demands from anti-Shi’a groups to forcibly evict the Shi’a community from their shelter in a sports complex and remove them from Madura Island in East Java.

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Eritrea’s Independence: 20 Years of Brutal Repression

Explore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in EritreaExplore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in Eritrea (Photo Credit: Amnesty International USA).

Explore the interactive map of suspected places of detention in Eritrea.

As the 20 year anniversary of Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia approaches, the euphoria and – one may speculate – hope, that characterized celebrations on May 24, 1993 could hardly be more incongruent with the bleak reality faced by the Eritrean people today.

The scope of repression in Eritrea is truly striking. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have disappeared into a vast and secret system of detention, many never to be heard from again. This system of abuse is used to silent all dissent and punish anyone who refuses to comply, including suspected critics of the government, journalists, pastors and other members of “unregistered” religious groups, those who have been caught attempting to flee the country and those forcibly returned to Eritrea from other countries.

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Three Years After Earthquake, Hundreds of Thousands of Haitians Still Homeless, Facing Eviction

IDP camp Grace Village, Carrefour municipality, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 2012 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

IDP camp Grace Village, Carrefour municipality, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 2012 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Chiara Liguori and James Burke of Amnesty International’s Caribbean Team

“Be prepared, we will burn down your shelters, shoot you and throw you all out.”

“We’ll burn all the camp down and kill your children.”

“I will get you out of here by any means necessary.”

These are only a few of the recent eviction threats heard by residents of camps in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince which still house hundreds of thousands of those displaced by the January 2010 earthquake.

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To My Valentine: Death Will Not Part Us

Ghassan al-Shihabi and his twin daughters © Private

Ghassan al-Shihabi and his twin daughters © Private

By Cilina Nasser, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher

When Siham Abou Sitte fell in love with Ghassan al-Shihabi, she was drawn by his determination to keep the memory of old Palestine alive, his passion for reading and writing and his commitment to his work.

They were both Palestinian refugees living in Syria’s Yarmouk neighbourhood in Damascus.

When he proposed, Ghassan promised to cherish Siham’s two children from a previous marriage, Carmen (then 12) and Yamen (then 15), and treat them as his own.

Six years after they got married, Siham says Ghassan never disappointed her.

Siham recalls the day her mother passed away, Carmen was upset by her grandmother’s death and ran to Ghassan who held her in his arms even though her own father was sitting there.

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Saudi Arabia: Two Executions a Week is Two Too Many!

Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, including drug offences, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. © Private

Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, including drug offences, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. © Private

Saudi Arabia is executing nearly two people per week this year: We say NO MORE!

A spree of executions that has sent 10 prisoners to their deaths since the beginning of the year in Saudi Arabia must be halted, Amnesty International said earlier this week.

The beheadings included Abdullah Fandi al-Shammari, who had originally been convicted of manslaughter, but was tried again on the charge of murder in proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards, as well as Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan foreign domestic worker.

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UN Alarmed Over Syrian Humanitarian Funding Shortfall

Humanitarian Aid for Syria.

Humanitarian Aid for Syria. Click to explore interactive map.

Ahead of a crucial donors conference for Syria tomorrow, UN officials are warning of a funding shortfall that severely might affect the response to the spiraling humanitarian crisis. John Ging, the Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), cited “a funding shortfall that is affecting the ability of the UN and its partners to deliver vital assistance, including food, water and medical supplies”, according to the UN News Centre.

Already last week, Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, urged more funding ahead of the donors conference:

We also need more resources. The humanitarian community has requested US$1.5 billion to help displaced people and the communities hosting them in Syria – and in neighbouring countries – for the next six months.

There is a funding conference on the 30th of this month, in Kuwait, which will be hosted by the Secretary-General of the UN and the Emir of Kuwait. We hope that the conference will yield the resources we need. If we do not receive these funds, we will not be able to reach the poorest and most vulnerable families who so desperately need our help.

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Saudi Arabia’s Attack on Foreign Domestic Workers

Birth certificate of Sri Lankan Rizana Nafeek.

The passport of  Sri Lankan Rizana Nafeek. She was a foreign domestic worker in Saudi Arabia.  And at the age of 17, she was arrested on charges of murdering an infant in her care. 

Saudi Arabia has a long, infamous history of denying legal rights to foreign domestic workers, but it’s still outrageous that two recent cases indicate that these workers– whom are predominantly women —  can’t even count on basic internationally accepted protections for juveniles and the mentally ill. This month, one Sri Lanka woman paid for this failure with her life. And another’s life is at risk.

The beheading of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan foreign domestic worker, on Jan. 12 underscored the lack of legal protections for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia.  The execution came despite an international campaign protesting her death sentence as violating international legal standards preventing the execution of juveniles.

Only 17 years old at the time of the crime, Nafeek was arrested in May 2005 on charges of murdering an infant in her care. A court in Dawadmi, a town west of the capital Riyadh, sentenced her to death in 2007.

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Dangerous to Stay, Dangerous to Move – the Plight of Refugees in Yida

New arrivals crowd together living in makeshift shelter at the Yida refugee camp along the border with North Sudan July 4, 2012 in Yida, South Sudan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

New arrivals crowd together living in makeshift shelter at the Yida refugee camp along the border with North Sudan July 4, 2012 in Yida, South Sudan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

By Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General and Khairunissa Dhala, South Sudan Researcher

It’s been nine months since we last visited the Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan and returning now it’s amazing what has changed – it’s also deeply troubling what hasn’t.

Over the past year and a half this camp has been the destination of refugees fleeing massive human rights violations and a humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state.

When we were here in April, there were just over 20,000 refugees at Yida but hundreds more were arriving every day.

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7 Ways for Obama to REALLY Earn that Nobel Peace Prize

president obama

Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.

As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.

INCOMPLETE

Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

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Far From New, Far From Over: The Crisis in Mali

France has deployed some 550 soldiers to Mali© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty

France has deployed some 550 soldiers to Mali© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty

(For a helpful cheat sheet of armed groups in the north of Mali, see the end of this post.)

The notion that Mali faces crisis is not new. For the better part of a year, Amnesty International has been documenting and reporting the long catalogue of abuses and outright atrocities committed in the country, by the Malian military and Junta government, and the various armed opposition groups in the North: amputations and other gruesome corporal punishment, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual violence, child soldiering, torture, stoning, disappearances, and arrests and killings based on ethnicity, to name just the most egregious.

Indeed, on this very blog, as early as May 2012, the situation in Mali was described as a “forgotten crisis” and by July, an “urgent crisis.” There are many human rights situations that could be called a crisis, to be fair. But with the catalyzed attention as a result of French intervention at the request of the Malian government last week, recognition of the crisis in Mali warrants an urgent appeal to stave off a disastrous worsening of the conditions and abuses faced by Malians, in the north and south, as well as those displaced to neighboring countries.

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