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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U.S. Must Stop Obstructing Edward Snowden’s Ability to Claim Asylum

By Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Amnesty International

Let’s face it: the reason Edward Snowden is stuck in limbo in Moscow is because he has revealed the unlawful behavior of the U.S. and other governments. They are trying to turn the tables and say he is the criminal when in fact it is the governments’ behavior that is unlawful.

“We think that Snowden will be in danger if he is given over to the authorities of the United States,” Amnesty International representative Sergei Nikitin said after he met with Snowden at the Moscow airport.

Indeed, the U.S. government is not only pursuing him, wanting to arrest him and charge him in the United States but they’re also obstructing his ability to claim asylum elsewhere. The Russian president has said if Snowden stays in Russia he has to shut up – but you cannot give somebody asylum and say that it is conditional on your relinquishing your right.

So what we need to do is keep heavy pressure on the U.S. government and others who are actively obstructing his right to seek asylum. We need to keep bringing the focus back to the unlawful activity of the U.S. government and other governments that he revealed.

U.S. Authorities Must Not Persecute Whistleblower Edward Snowden

Photo Credit: The Guardian via Getty Images

Photo Credit: The Guardian via Getty Images

By Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International

The U.S. authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is a gross violation of his human rights. It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.

The U.S. attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are all the more deplorable when you consider the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the U.S.

No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment. We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International, but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.

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Escalating Attacks on Religious Minorities in Indonesia

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

Imagine a mob of 500 people with sickles and stones descending on your neighborhood, setting fire to houses, and driving you away from your jobs and community. This occurred in August 2012 in East Java, Indonesia, leaving one member of a Shi’a community dead and injuring dozens. At this time 168 people, including 51 children, are living in a temporary shelter. In the last two weeks, they have been denied clean drinking water and food supplies.

Some of the villagers had previously been harassed by local government officials who told them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes.  Now, after eight months, the Sampang district administration has agreed to the demands from anti-Shi’a groups to forcibly evict the Shi’a community from their shelter in a sports complex and remove them from Madura Island in East Java.

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Hacking Away at Threats

mobile phone activate

Developing an App to securely capture and transmit photo and video

In a little over a week, I’ll make my way to San Francisco to participate in an innovation event that represents the cutting edge of the promise of science and technology in the fight for human rights.

Colleagues from Amnesty International will simultaneously be convening in Berlin, and in both cities, Amnesty and their partners Random Hacks of Kindness, (with their apt slogan “Hacking for Humanity”) will seek practical solutions to the very real threats that refugees and migrants face in transit in Mexico and the Mediterranean in a two-day “hack-a-thon.”

As an aside, for those wedded to the pejorative association with ‘hack,’ ‘hacking,’ ‘hackers,’ a hackathon event is “a gathering of technically skilled individuals focusing on collaborative efforts to address a challenge, issue, or goal.” In this case, the challenge is significant.

Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children are ill-treated, abducted or raped as they travel through Mexico without legal permission as irregular migrants. As we’ve tragically seen as people have fled Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, the “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011“.

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Flames of Despair in Tibetan Protest for Human Rights

Lhamo Tso wife imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen

Lhamo Tso, the wife of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, in New York, March 9, 2012. (Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Tibetan exile Jampa Yeshi committed the ultimate act of protest Monday by setting himself on fire in New Delhi on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India.  Horrific photographs of his self-immolation [warning: graphic image] quickly spread around the world via the Internet and India’s dynamic press, galvanizing the cause of Tibetans fighting to draw international attention to human rights violations committed by the Chinese government in Tibet.

Although Yeshi was one of nearly 30 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves over the past year to protest Chinese government policies, outsiders have rarely seen such agonizingly clear documentation of the immolations before now. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Syria: 'I'm Not Afraid of Dying. What I Fear is Being Arrested'

Syrian refugees protest in Amman

Syrian women protest in Jordan's capital Amman. © KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images

You have heard the stories on the news — Syrian cities are being besieged, and civilians are dying in droves at the hands of their own government.

Last week, a U.S. journalist and a French photographer were killed while covering the violence in Homs. Despite the Syrian government’s refusal to allow independent international human rights monitors into the country, Amnesty International is on the Syrian border, collecting stories for the world to hear.

Amnesty’s Syria campaigner Maha talked with a group of women from the village of Tasil, including a young mother:

“One day before we left Tasil I was looking out from the window and saw security forces chasing a man in the farms near the village. They were shooting at him and I thought no doubt they would kill him. When I looked closely I realized that that man was actually my husband. Thank God he managed to escape.”

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Refugees in Turkey: Unsafe Harbor

This year is the Sixtieth Anniversary of one of the landmarks of human rights, the 1951 Refugees Convention.  In 1967, a protocol amended the convention, removing both time and geographic restrictions to the convention.  Taken as a whole, this document serves as one of the most important safeguards to the rights of refugees within international law.  It is an anniversary well worth celebrating.

Turkey’s status within the convention, however, is something of an oddity.  Although it ratified both the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, it did so with an important reservation: it did not accept the erasure of regional exceptions in the 1967, ratifying the protocol with “an exception” that it would continue to only accept refugees from the Council of Europe.

The result is that Turkey, a country of over seventy million people and a major destination for refugees and migrants, accepts, according to Amnesty International – Turkey, only a small handful of refugees. Refugees from outside Europe – from Sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Iran, and elsewhere – can only hope to achieve temporary residence while the UNHCR works to find them permanent sanctuary elsewhere.

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On 60th Anniversary of Refugee Convention States Failing Refugees

”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

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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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