11,000 Reasons For Real Action in Syria

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they're running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

Syrian women, men and children, crossing the border to Jordan. Forced to leave everything behind, except what they can carry, they’re running for their lives (Photo Credit: Sweaters for Syria).

By Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

WARNING: Images below contain graphic content. 

Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe. But it is hardly surprising.

The thousands of photographs, part of a report published on Tuesday, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

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Tweet Hakan Yaman the Birthday Gift He Deserves: Justice

What Hakan Yaman most wants for his birthday – what he most deserves – is justice from the state that has so tragically failed him. Today, you can help him get it with a birthday greeting through twitter.

Yaman, the father of two,  is one of the thousands of victims of shocking police violence which Amnesty has described in its new report on the suppression of freedom in Turkey during the Gezi protests. Yaman, himself, was not even a protester, but simply returning home from work during the course of the protests. Mistaken for a protester, he was attacked by police who beat him, and dragged him on top of a street fire.  Before leaving him, one police officer gouged one of his eyes out.

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2 Historical Traumas That Continue to Cast a Long Shadow Over Iran

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

Khavaran Cemetery (Photo Credit: Iranian.com).

One of my favorite writers, William Faulkner, famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

I’ve been thinking about how societies wrestle with the profound historical trauma resulting from human rights violations on a massive scale since I saw the powerful new film “The Act of Killing.” It takes on the mass killings of hundreds of thousands of supposed “Communists” in Indonesia after an attempted coup in 1965, but not by using typical documentary devices of archival footage and talking heads.

Instead, the director Joshua Oppenheimer opted for a unique and unsettling approach – asking some of the perpetrators of the killings, who have never been held accountable for their abuses, to recreate their crimes, often in staged genre settings inspired by their favorite classic gangster films and fluffy musicals.

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WARNING: This Film Will Keep You Up at Night

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of 'An Act of Killing' poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)

By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair

“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”

So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.

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“Please…I Beg You…Find My Son”: Mother of ‘Disappeared’ Man


 

Four years ago, Ratnam Ratnaraja, a 24-year-old Sri Lankan man, went missing. His parents still don’t know what happened to him. We think the Sri Lankan government does.

In June 2009, Ratnam had been visiting his family in northern Sri Lanka during his usual 10-day holiday before returning to resume his engineering studies at a university in the south of the country. He said goodbye to his family on June 21 to make his way back to the university by the next day. But he never arrived. His parents have been desperately searching for him ever since.

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Sarah Shourd: What Everyone Ought to Know About Angola 3 and Solitary Confinement

Sarah Shourd was one of three U.S. hikers arrested by Iran in 2009 on espionage charges. Shourd was held in solitary confinement for 410 days (Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images).

Sarah Shourd was one of three U.S. hikers arrested by Iran in 2009 on espionage charges. Shourd was held in solitary confinement for 410 days (Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images).

Until recently, both Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox had been held in solitary confinement for 4 decades in Louisiana – longer than almost any other known prisoner in recent U.S. history. It’s long enough for one’s body to forget it ever knew anything else but four white walls and for the mind to be reshaped by extreme isolation. Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, says that after 15 days, further isolation can cause permanent psychological damage and constitute torture.

Herman has just been diagnosed with stage 5 liver cancer. Unless Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana grants him clemency, he may likely die in prison.

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Enough Hand-Wringing: The World Needs to Take Action on Syria

The U.N. chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus on August 18, 2013 (Photo Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images).

The U.N. chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus on August 18, 2013 (Photo Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images).

By Cilina Nasser, Amnesty International’s researcher on Syria

This op-ed originally appeared in MSN UK under the title “Enough hand-wringing on Syria – the world needs to take action.”

The global community has been given one last chance to turn the corner on Syria. We must take it.

It is impossible to watch the videos that emanated from Syria yesterday and not be moved, yet again, to rage about the international community’s repeated failure to end the slaughter of civilians amid the country’s internal armed conflict.

The videos – showing the deadly effects of an alleged chemical weapons attack on scores of civilians, including children, in towns outside Damascus – are just the latest chilling indication of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

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Life Under Pinochet: ‘I Remember Being Shown Some Very Severe Signs of Torture’

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In advance of the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30th, we have the following feature on Augusto Pinochet’s regime.

Roger Plant joined Amnesty International in 1972 to cover the organization’s work on Latin America. A few months after Pinochet took power by force, he went to Chile to document the arbitrary detentions, torture and disappearances. The result was a groundbreaking report that helped shine a light on the reality of life in the Latin-American country.

As a young researcher, Roger Plant had only been working for Amnesty International for less than a year when Augusto Pinochet launched his coup d’état in 1973. With his feet barely under the desk, it was a baptism of fire – a seminal moment that would eventually define his career.

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