A West Bank Village Protests Against Israel’s Military Occupation

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Lamri Chirouf, Amnesty International’s Delegate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Last month, we drove northwest from Ramallah to visit the small village of Budrus, which gained international attention a decade ago when residents started protesting against the fence/wall erected by Israel.

Regular protests there against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank continue, and clashes between village youths and members of the Israeli army have become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. The main reason behind the protests is still the wall, described by the Israeli government as a security fence and by Budrus residents, and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as an ‘apartheid wall’ and a way for the Israeli government to annex more Palestinian lands.  The majority of the wall is located inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In Budrus, it consists of rolls of barbed wire, multiple fences and sensors, and a road on the other side patrolled by Israeli military jeeps, all of which work to separate villagers from their farming lands.

There are no Israeli settlements or towns nearby, but Israeli troops regularly enter the village. The encounters between them and Budrus residents can be fatal.

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Help Commemorate 4 Important Human Rights Anniversaries at the AGM!

More than 10,000 Catholics gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a prominent human rights defender who was murdered during the Salvadorean civil war (Photo Credit: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images).

More than 10,000 Catholics gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a prominent human rights defender who was murdered during the Salvadorean civil war (Photo Credit: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images).

On Friday, March 22, Salvadoran torture survivor Carlos Mauricio will address the opening ceremony at Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to commemorate four important anniversaries for El Salvador and the international human rights movement.

  1. On March 15, 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission issued its report on human rights abuses committed during the civil war in El Salvador (1980-1991). Unlike many other truth commissions, this international body identified the names of those found responsible when it established that there was “overwhelming evidence.”
  2. The Salvadoran government protected these individuals from prosecution and further investigation by quickly passing a second amnesty law on March 20, 1993. The 1992 amnesty law already protected anyone not named by the Truth Commission. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for these laws to be overturned, a position supported by several rulings by the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
  3. These events occurred just before another important milestone for El Salvador, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, an outspoken human rights defender, on March 24, 1980. The Truth Commission Report identified death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson as the individual who ordered Romero’s death. The 1993 amnesty law protected D’Aubuisson for the rest of his life.
  4. In recognition of the importance of Archbishop Romero’s role standing up for justice in El Salvador and as an inspiration for human rights defenders throughout the world, the United Nations declared that International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims would be held on anniversary of his death, starting on March 24, 2011.

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How Do You Defeat a Dictator When He Gets to Write the Rules?

NO_ecard_AmnestyI didn’t think it was possible. As a student at Rutgers in 1988, I sarcastically asked my friends, “Who do you think is going to win the referendum in Chile? Pinochet or Pinochet?”

Following his bloody overthrow of the democratically elected Allende Government in 1973, Pinochet murdered thousands of dissidents and outlawed opposition parties. Like many dictators, he legitimated his rule by holding a plebiscite on a “constitution” that gave him unchecked power in 1980. He was able to do so, of course, because the climate of fear and impunity guaranteed his victory.

Facing growing international pressure to step down, General Pinochet tried to pull this same trick again in 1988, by offering a pseudo-election in which Chileans could vote to either let Pinochet remain in office for another eight years or hold a presidential election the following year. Given that he was writing the rules again, how could human rights activists and other opposition groups possibly win? It seemed hopeless.

But it wasn’t! No!, an Oscar-nominated film, tells the story of the brave and creative Chileans who helped their fellow citizens stand up and say, “NO!” to repression. This movie opens in New York and Los Angeles on February 15. You can find a list of theatres and dates for other cities by clicking here.

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The Road Forward in Egypt Begins By Ending Police Impunity

Egyptian protesters shout slogans against President Mohamed Morsi during a demonstration outside the high court in central Cairo on January 30, 2013.

Egyptian protesters shout slogans against President Mohamed Morsi during a demonstration outside the high court in central Cairo on January 30, 2013. (Photo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Before Egypt tears itself apart, it must get out under the shadow of the Mubarak years.  The way forward begins with breaking the culture of impunity that protects security forces and police from accountability for their abuses.

Amnesty International has long feared that the failure of the Morsi government to hold security forces and military accountable for their past human rights abuses ensured that those abuses would be repeated when the government called on those institutions to respond to the popular protests.

Sure enough, reporting from Egypt, Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy documented evidence that points to the use of excessive force by Egyptian security officials. 

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Why Do We Need to Keep Up the Pressure to Prosecute Rios Montt for Genocide?

Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt, flanked by General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, at first press conference on 23 March 1982, National Palace, Guatemala City.

Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt, flanked by General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, at first press conference on 23 March 1982, National Palace, Guatemala City. Photo courtesy of Jean-Marie Simon.

Monday’s ruling that General Efraín Ríos Montt and his former head of military intelligence, General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, should stand trial for the massacre of almost 2,000 people in the 1980s is an encouraging sign in the quest for justice and accountability in Guatemala. But we must keep up our vigilance to make sure justice moves forward!

A little over a month after I wrote a post on this blog about the need to bring Rios Montt to justice, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina—a former general who served under Rios Montt—issued a decree that said the State of Guatemala would no longer recognize the competence of the Inter American Court of Human Right’s rulings regarding crimes that took place before 1987.  The decree was published on December 28, 2012 – over the holidays when most people are out of their offices.

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Five Reasons for Engagement Following the Egyptian Uprising

Egyptians demonstrate outside of the Presidential Palace in May, 2012.  Copyright Amnesty International.

Egyptians demonstrate outside of the Presidential Palace in May, 2012. Copyright Amnesty International.

On the second anniversary of the Egyptian Jan. 25 uprising, there’s a strong sense that the hopes of Tahrir Square have been tarnished.

There’s some reason for this: There have been too many broken promises.  Women, who were so essential to the uprising, were quickly marginalized in the months after it. Copts and other minority groups fear for their future. A new civilian government pushed through a constitution that may further minimize the role of women and lead to past human rights abuses being repeated. And perhaps most important, no institution seems capable of holding former Mubarak officials, security forces and the military accountable for decades of human rights abuses. The spirit of impunity lives on.

Yet, that’s only one side of the situation. There is in fact reason not to lose faith in Egypt’s future. This is not a promise that the path toward justice in Egypt is smooth, nor is it a prediction. But here are five reasons why we must remain engaged:

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Why Does Guatemala Have One of the Highest Rates of Femicide in the World?

March to protest violence against women in Guatemala

March to protest violence against women in Guatemala.

The good news is that we know one of the main causes of gender based violence in Guatemala. Under normal circumstances, identifying such a cause would be a great step forward, as it would enable the police, courts, and other authorities to make substantial progress in protecting women from violence.

The bad news is that the main cause of femicide that Amnesty International has identified is government inaction and the resulting impunity—human rights abusers can literally get away with murder in Guatemala, especially when their victims are women.  Amnesty found that less than 4 percent of homicide cases result in the conviction of those responsible. This low rate, in turn, is largely the result of insufficient and ineffective investigations.

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The Uludere Bombing: When Will Their Families Get Justice?

Kurdish people hold pictures of victims killed in a Turkish air raid during a demonstration on May 26, 2012, in Istanbul. (Photo credit BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages)

Kurdish people hold pictures of victims killed in a Turkish air raid during a demonstration on May 26, 2012, in Istanbul. (Photo credit BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages)

On December 28, 2011, the Turkish military killed thirty-four of its own citizens, all civilians, most of them children in the Uludere/Qileban district, in Eastern Turkey.  The youngest was twelve.  A year has now passed and the families of these innocent people still wait for justice.

The Turkish government has offered compensation to the families of those killed.  The families, however, have refused to accept it until the truth behind the attack is uncovered and justice is done.

The families are still waiting.  On the anniversary of the Uludere bombings, Amnesty once again calls on the Turkish government to fully investigate these events and to bring those responsible to justice.

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Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Central America: Four Cases From New AI Report

Out of  almost 300 cases of human rights abuses covered in Amnesty International’s new report, Transforming Pain into Hope:  Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, only four have resulted in the conviction of those responsible.

One of the main reasons why violators continue enjoy impunity is that they target precisely those individuals who expose their crimes.  The report therefore emphasizes the danger posed to journalists, bloggers, and trade unionists who speak up for human rights.

Just within the relatively small region of Central America, the report highlights four important cases of attacks on freedom of expression that seek to cover up other human rights abuses: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Justice Denied for 30 Years: Six Reasons Guatemala Must Bring Rios Montt to Justice!

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As our families come together for Thanksgiving, please remember of the countless Guatemalans who have never learned the truth about what happened to their loved ones.

November 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of General Efrain Rios Montt launching the bloodiest period of Guatemala’s civil war after seizing power in a coup.  The victims and their families are still waiting for justice.  Thankfully, some of them are finally getting their day in court as Rios Montt stands accused in the Dos Erres Massacre of 1982.

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