Gilad Shalit is not a 'Bargaining Chip'

Amnesty International was born out of the injustice of the forgotten prisoner.  In 1960, a British lawyer, Peter Benenson, read a story about the imprisonment of two Portuguese students, who had raised their wine glasses in a toast to freedom, but had been overheard and imprisoned.  Benenson wrote an article, ‘The Forgotten Prisoner’ for The Observer which started the worldwide movement, Amnesty International, which works on behalf of prisoners and in support of basic human rights for all.

Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit is completing his fourth year of isolated captivity June 25th, 2010.

Although Hamas has asserted that Gilad is alive and being well treated, the only communications that Gilad has had with the outside world, and indeed the only real proof of life that have been put forward, are a videotape and letter written by him in 2007, a year after he was captured, and another videotape passed on to the Israeli government in October 2009.

Amnesty International members have been campaigning on behalf of Gilad Shalit since 2006 and to also end the misuse of administrative detention of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by Israel and for family visits.  Amnesty has condemned the use of prisoners as political bargaining chips as a violation of international law by both Israel and Hamas, the de facto administration in the Gaza Strip, noting both Israel’s detention of Palestinian parliamentarians as well as the detention of Gilad Shalit.

As Gilad’s captivity closes in on the fifth year of secret imprisonment, Amnesty International urges Hamas to abide by its international obligations.  Gilad should be afforded his rights to regular visitation by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), regular communication with his family and to be treated humanely.    He should also not be used as a ‘bargaining chip’.

Don’t let Gilad become a ‘forgotten prisoner’.  Join Amnesty in its call for Gilad to be treated humanely by taking action online now.

Iran Thumbs its Nose at the World

The Iranian government has repeatedly insisted that it cooperates with the international human rights community and abides by internationally recognized human rights instruments and agreements. However, these assertions are belied by Iran’s dismal performance at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on February 15 and 17. The Iranian delegation incredibly denied its government’s egregious human rights violations, asserting that any criticisms of Iran’s human rights record were merely politically motivated and deliberate mischaracterizations of its efforts to protect its people from “terrorism.”  The Iranian delegation also rejected important recommendations made by the UNHRC which were intended to address the deplorable human rights situation in Iran.

Even before the UPR took place, the Iranian authorities provided evidence that its position would be one of obstruction and denial rather than cooperation and commitment to universally accepted human rights standards. In its submission for the UPR process, Iran claimed full compliance with international human rights mechanisms, and that torture, forced confessions, and other abuses did not occur.  Amnesty International issued a report that thoroughly dissected Iran’s submission. The report’s conclusions were summarized by Hassiba Hadjsahraoui, the Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, who said “The Iranian authorities seem either to have lost touch with reality or are unwilling to acknowledge it.” Although it is true, as Iran’s submission claims, that Iran’s Constitution guarantees many rights such as those of freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial,  those are routinely denied in practice. Even though Iran insists that it permits religious freedom it continues to carry out a harsh campaign of repression against the Baha’i community.  Whereas Iran’s submission maintained that it cooperates with the international human rights community, Amnesty International has not been granted access to the country to carry out research there since 1979 and Iran has not permitted U.N. human rights experts to visit the country in the last several years. And while Iran has made great strides in some areas since the 1979 Revolution—most notably in literacy rates and in education for women and girls—Iran’s overall record is abysmal, as was made clear in Amnesty International’s submission to the UPR process.

At the UPR on Monday February 15, Iran was urged to fulfill many of the recommendations that Amnesty International had been promoting—such as to end execution of juvenile offenders, torture of detainees and the arrest of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly—including peaceful protesters, journalists and women’s rights activists. The response of the Iranian delegation—led by Mohammad Javad Larijani the director of Iran’s Human Rights Headquarters—was essentially complete denial. They maintained, for instance, that all of those arrested and sentenced for their involvement—alleged or real—in the post-election protests were actually guilty of terrorism, espionage and endangering national security.


Aung San Suu Kyi Charged Today in Myanmar

Myanmar’s (Burma) pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged today with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man allegedly snuck into her home last week.  She now faces a prison term of up to five years – just weeks before her house arrest was set to expire on May 27th.

With general elections coming up next year many have questioned the timing of the arrest as pretext to prevent Suu Kyi’s involvement.  Is it merely a convenient coincidence?  You decide.

Suu Kyi’s female companion, Khin Khin Win, and Khin Khin Win’s daughter were also arrested at the same time.  Amnesty International is demanding that the U.N. Security Council, notably China and Japan, and ASEAN countries, urgently intervene to secure their release.  They are best placed to bring the necessary pressure to bear on the Myanmar government.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Khin Win and her daughter are now among the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held in prison in Myanmar. Conditions in Myanmar prisons are extremely bad and jeopardize the health of prisoners.  Take action now to demand Suu Kyi’s and other political prisoners’ immediate release from prison!