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Three weeks ago, two Syrian activist journalists, Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Fares Hamadi, both refugees who had survived harassment from the Assad regime, were killed in Urfa, Turkey, presumably by ISIS. They were added to the list of more than 220,000 Syrian dead, caught between the violence of both the Assad regime and ISIS and other armed groups.
Their murders highlight the continuing dangers Syrian refugees face. These are the people we should be supporting; these are the people who are essential to keeping hope the original vision of the Syrian uprising in 2011: a vision of a Syria built on respect for human rights. Instead, political leaders threatening to ban Syrian resettlement are threatening to shut the door on them.
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By Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece
The view was staggering upon my arrival in the village of Idomeni, near Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia).
Up to 4,000 refugees, many of them from Syria including many families with children, were trapped after Macedonia’s government designated the southern border just outside the town of Gevgelija a “crisis area”, closing the border crossing and bringing in military backup. The refugees were all trying to pass through Macedonia on their way to northern European countries. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images)
The lights are going out in Syria.
As the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens, the darkness is literally spreading. More than 80 percent of lights have gone out across Syria since March 2011; in Aleppo, site of fighting for more than two years, 97 percent of lights are not working.
If you want to understand what that means, listen to this description from a Syrian surgeon in Aleppo:
“Marwan was on the operating table when the lights blinked and fizzed out,” the doctor said. “The nurse pulled her mobile phone from her pocket – generating the only light in the pitch-black basement. Others followed suit, producing just enough light to allow me to finish repairing his broken little body.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
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Guest post by Erica Schommer, border immigration attorney
This May, in a police stop gone wrong, Benjamin Roldan Salinas and a companion were detained by the U.S. Forest Service for picking salal (a plant used in floral arrangements), without a license.
Because Salinas did not speak English, the Forest Service called in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to translate. Events escalated rapidly when Salinas, in fear of being apprehended by immigration agents, ran from the agents to a nearby river.
After days of searching, Salinas’ body was found near the river on June 4. His companion remained with agents, but was subsequently arrested by the CBP for a suspected immigration violation and placed in removal proceedings.
Salinas’ fear was due to a phenomenon in which the CBP is called on by outside law enforcement agencies under the guise of translator. Once on the scene, however, the CBP does not limit itself to translating and will question a person about potential immigration violations if it suspects the person of an infraction. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
”They stripped me naked and assaulted me. I begged them to kill me. Instead, they cut off my hands with machetes.”
– Amnesty International Interview, Sierra Leone, 1996
The Dhehiba camp in Tunisia © AI
After World War II and the systematic murder of millions of Jews, Roma, LGBT and many others, nations and individuals recognized the need for safe refuge from persecution and genocide.
After years of discussion and negotiation, the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the UN Refugee Convention) and later the 1967 Protocol emerged and provided a framework for protection. Most importantly, it established that no one could be returned to a country in which her/his life or freedom would be at risk.
It also placed obligations on signatories requiring they share responsibility when people flee across borders, and provide those seeking refuge with access to housing, health care and livelihood.
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By Amalia Greenberg Delgado, Immigrants’ Rights Coordinator
“You don’t imagine that your dreams can end in a moment on this journey… he [the soldier] pulled me by the hand and told me to walk further into the bushes. He took me far away from the train tracks until we were completely alone. He told me to take my clothes off so that he could see if I was carrying drugs. He said that if I did what he said he would let me go.”
Margarita (not her real name), a 27-year-old Salvadoran migrant, describing how she was sexually abused by a soldier, Amnesty International interview, June 2009.
Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children travel without legal permission through Mexico to reach the United States. They flee poverty, war, environmental disasters and are enticed by a promise of freedom and a chance to join their families in the North. Some disappear on the journey without trace, kidnapped and killed, robbed and assaulted or sometimes falling or thrown off speeding trains. Some suffer arbitrary detention and extortion by public officials along the way. The litany of abuses and repeated attempts to reach the United States are testaments to the determination migrants have to build a better life.
At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) this past Saturday, March 19, 2011, Amnesty International USA heard from leaders in the movement about increased human rights abuses of migrants on both sides of the United States’ southern border. Father Solalinde, a human rights defender and director of a migrants’ shelter in Oaxaca, spoke of the “globalization of love” and the absolute right to dignity that must be afforded to all human beings. His soft spoken words did not lessen the blows of his words as he reminded us of the struggles that migrants face.
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Mohammad Taher Batili is a refugee at risk of torture and possibly the death penalty. He is an Iranian national and member of Iran’s Arab minority. He and his family fled to Lebanon in May 2009 to escape reprisals from the Iranian government due to his and his father’s political activities in support of the Arab minority in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province. He is recognized as a refugee by the UN but was arrested in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on June 2, 2010 on the grounds that he entered Lebanon from Syria illegally. On June 26 he was convicted for “irregular entry” and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and payment of a fine. One he serves his sentence he may be forcibly returned to Iran where he would be at risk of torture and possibly face the death penalty.
Mohammad Taher Batili has been interrogated twice by officials from Iran’s embassy in Lebanon regarding his father’s political activities and those of other members of Iran’s Arab minority in Syria and Lebanon. His father, Hadi Mohammad Jawad Batili, has been arrested in Iran several times because of his political activities and support of Arab minorities who had been marginalized and abused by government authorities.
Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees seeking protection from violence, war and systematic human rights abuses in their home countries. While many of them are formally recognized as refugees by the UN, they often face arrest and detention by Lebanese authorities. In 2008 the Lebanese authorities agreed to grant refugees a three-month grace period to find an employer to sponsor them and provide them with a residence permit, but it seems this agreement is not being honored. Lebanon is bound by international customary law, including the principle of non-refoulement which states countries may not forcibly return people to countries where they would face serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment.
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Amnesty International is extremely disappointed that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB1070, a bill that will significantly increase the likelihood of racial profiling, arbitrary arrests, and detentions in the state. By forcing Arizona police, the vast majority of whom opposed this law, to implement it or face lawsuits is bad policy and will drastically undermine communication between communities of color and the police who are supposed to keep them safe.
As the governor said when signing the bill, national immigration legislation is desperately needed, but the absence of it does not abdicate the governor’s own responsibility to preserve, promote, and protect the human rights of every individual in Arizona, whether citizen, resident, or visitor. Human rights exist regardless of nationality, ethnicity or immigration status. In passing SB1070, Arizona public officials have ignored this truth to the detriment of every individual who passes through the state.
The reports from Haiti are more tragic everyday. The loss, the devastation, the aftershock, the grief and the suffering. Today, there are reports of losses to the women’s human rights movement– Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan are Haitian women’s human rights defenders who were victims of the earthquake. This tragic loss will be mourned throughout the global women’s rights community but the impact will be felt deeply as Haiti rebuilds.
Women’s rights and gender equality must be promoted during the humanitarian relief process but also during the rebuilding process. On the Dianne Rehm show yesterday, academics and relief organizations spoke about the importance of recognizing the risk of gender based violence in refugee camps and the threat of violence against displaced women.
Amnesty recently reported on sexual violence against school girls in Haiti. The women’s rights leaders who lost their lives spoke out against the issue of gender violence in Haiti before the earthquake. The people of Haiti, and all of us, relied on human rights defenders like these to take a stand. My thoughts go out to the families of them and all of the victims of this disaster.
This past weekend, the New York Times reported on the widespread and coordinated cover up of deaths in immigration detention. One such case, highlighted in our 2009 report on immigration detention, Jailed Without Justice, involved Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who had lived in the US for ten years when he was detained. Newly available video shows him begging for help while handcuffed on the floor in solitary confinement. After four months in a coma, he died in detention.
The deliberate and coordinated dehumanization of the 107 people known to have died in immigration detention is shocking and shameful. For the last seven years Amnesty has monitored, investigated and advocated on the mistreatment of immigrants in detention, some of the core problems seemed to stem from incompetence and mismanagement. But it seems clear now that officials involved in immigration detention were regrettably quite competent at re-framing deaths due to neglect, and that detention facilities were in fact well coordinated in the cover up of ill-treatment and disregard.
Independent oversight and accountability is crucial to reforming a cruel detention system that is overused, under-scrutinized and where impunity is the rule and transparency the rare exception. While the US government has publicly stated its intent to reform the detention system, it has specifically rejected calls for enforceable rules as to the treatment of people in detention. According to the government, they are not necessary. The government is wrong. In Jailed Without Justice, Amnesty called for the adoption of enforceable human rights standards in all detention facilities coupled with independent oversight and accountability for transgressions. Until this occurs, ICE will have the ability to arbitrarily deprive people of their liberty, abuse them without repercussion, and label them as criminals as some sort of justification for the mistreatment they are forced to endure in silence.