By Neil Sammonds, Syria Researcher at Amnesty International
Sitting on a thin mattress inside a ramshackle structure on a muddy hilltop, elderly Abu Fares told me how he came to live in poverty in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region.
For the past 11 months, he and his wife – along with around 200 families – have been eking out a living in makeshift shelters on the outskirts of the overcrowded Domiz refugee camp near the city of Dohuk.
The new UAN will be optimized for your phone and tablet to enable you to take action as soon as you receive a UA (Photo credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).
By Beth Ann Toupin, Amnesty International USA’s Iraq Country Specialist
This post is the first in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.
Amnesty International is all about individuals having impact. It may be hard to see sometimes how your actions as an activist can have a real, meaningful effect on someone’s life halfway around the world, but they do.
Take Abdullah al-Qahtani. Amnesty USA posted an Urgent Action (UA) for Abdullah when he was at risk of being executed in Iraq. We called on activists to write letters to Iraqi authorities calling on them to overturn his sentence. That UA grew to an online action that received 50,000 signatures within 24 hours of going live. And then, even more amazingly, Abdullah’s life has been spared for now.
By Mesfer Azzan Al Qahtani, Brother of Abdullah Al Qahtani, Saudi man at risk of execution in Iraq
This week my brother’s life could be taken for a “confession” he was tortured into making. Abdullah was beaten, burned and asphyxiated by Iraqi security forces into “confessing” to being a member of terrorist organization al-Qaeda.
Now our fear is that the Iraqi authorities will execute Abdullah without even allowing him to have a fair trial first. It could happen at any time now.
About a month ago, Amnesty called on you to stop my brother’s execution. Together, we have been successful in buying some time. For that, I would like to express my family’s heartfelt thanks and gratitude to you, Amnesty supporters, for your precious help and support. It has brought much needed attention to Abdullah’s plight.
By Samir Goswami, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaign
Last week, we issued an Urgent Action to the disturbing news that Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani was at imminent risk of execution.
Abdullah was convicted of robbery and murder under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law. While in custody, he was viciously beaten, burned and asphyxiated into “confessing” to being a member of al-Qaida. Four of Abdullah’s six co-defendants were executed last week and for a time, it seemed as though Abdullah was next.
But then, an amazing thing happened. We emailed a petition out to our Amnesty members and within 24 hours, received over 30,000 signatures.
Abdullah is still alive and pressure from activists like you likely helped spare his life. Today, Abdullah’s petition has over 40,000 signatures. But make no mistake – his execution is imminent. Abdullah’s attorney urges continued vigilance:
Abdullah al-Qahtani, a Saudi Arabian national, faces imminent execution in Iraq – a sentence based on “confessions” he says were false and obtained through torture. His story is a perfect illustration of why the death penalty is the ultimate violation of human rights; how ceding to the state the power to kill prisoners is connected to unfair trials, torture, and other abuses.
As Amnesty International’s survey of the death penalty worldwide in 2012 reports, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are both among the top executioners in the world, along with China, Iran, and, yes, the United States. The U.S. was once again the 5th most prolific executioner in 2012, and its death penalty continued to be plagued with bias and error and misconduct by the state (as has been exposed in the Reggie Clemons case).
With 15 executions in 2012, Texas would have ranked 8th in the world, between Sudan and Afghanistan.
The UN is expecting up to one million Syrian refugees by mid 2013. Click to explore full map.
Faced with shelling and shortages of food, water and fuel, civilians have fled their homes, becoming refugees in neighboring countries or finding themselves internally displaced. Towns and villages across Latakia, Idlib, Hama and Dara’a governorates have been effectively emptied of their populations. Entire neighbourhoods in southern and eastern Damascus, Deir al-Zour and Aleppo have been razed. The downtown of Homs city has been devastated.
—Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. December 20, 2012.
The impact of Syria’s spiraling conflict can be increasingly seen in neighboring countries, as indiscriminate attacks are sending hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from their homes across borders in search of safety and shelter. According to the latest update from the Independent International inquiry on Syria—released just hours ago—entire towns and villages have been emptied of their populations. The intensified fighting around Damascus and the mounting atrocities across the country are accompanied by increasing reports of sectarian violence. While we can’t predict the outcome of the conflict, one thing seems certain: the cycle of violence and displacement of civilians will go on for months. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Kimberly Rivera could face 2 to 5 years in prison for her resistance to the Iraq war.
In the next 48 hours, Kimberly Rivera will have her moment of truth: she will find out whether she will be deported to the US., where she will be immediately jailed for her resistance to the Iraq War.
While in Iraq, Kimberly began to seriously doubt the justification of the war, her participationin it, and being part of the US army.Coupled with her study of the Bible, she decided as a matter of moral conscience she could no longer participate in the war. Now she may be jailed for this decision.
She should not be.
Amnesty International believes “the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is part of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
That’s the agreement the Saudi and Iraqi government found on the matter of executing prisoners each is holding from the other country.
Arab News reported Friday that government officials of both countries came to a consent, at least in principle, to put executions of Saudi and Iraqi prisoners on death row on hold. This ‘in principle’ agreement reportedly will last two months until a final agreement to swap prisoners is reached. Currently, there are 138 Iraqi nationals imprisoned in the Saudi Kingdom, most of whom were charged with involvement in terrorist operations. Eleven Iraqis were sentenced to death. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
As the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa continue to unfold, serious concerns are emerging regarding the inclusion of women in the plans for new governance. In Egypt, for example, women stood shoulder to shoulder with men to topple a regime notorious for its human rights abuses and yet, now that those leaders have been forced to step down, women are too often finding their calls for an equal seat at the table rejected.
Yesterday, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to highlight these concerns. “Women and the Arab Spring: Spotlight on Egypt, Tunisia and Libya” focused on women’s human rights and emphasized the need for the US to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Senator Boxer (D-CA), Senator Casey (D-PA), Senator DeMint (R-SC), Senator Shaheen (D-NH), and Senator Udall (D-NM) were all in attendance to discuss how the US Senate could work to support women in the Middle East and North Africa.