venerdì 24 gennaio 2014

Pakistan: Free man sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Pakistan must immediately and unconditionally release a man sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws today, Amnesty International said.
Mohammad Asghar, a UK citizen with a mental illness, living in Pakistan, was first arrested in 2010 after allegedly sending letters to various officials claiming he was a prophet.
“Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters. He does not deserve punishment. No one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used indiscriminately against both Muslims and non-Muslims, and violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and thought.
“The blasphemy laws undermine the rule of law, and people facing charges risk death and other harm in detention. Pakistan must immediately release Mohammed Ashgar and reform its blasphemy laws to ensure that this will not happen again,” said Polly Truscott.
In November 2012, another British citizen, Masud Ahmad, of the Ahmadi sect, was imprisoned for reciting a passage from the Qu’ran, a prohibited act for Ahmadis under the country’s blasphemy laws.
Masud has been denied bail and his health is deteriorating as he languishes in jail awaiting an appeal of his sentence which has yet to be concluded.
The Ahmaddiya community are legally barred from calling themselves Muslim, and professing, practicing and propagating their faith as Muslims.
“The Pakistani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release both Mohammad Asghar and Masud Ahmad and guarantee their safety and that of their families. Several individuals have been attacked, some even killed following charges of blasphemy,” said Polly Truscott.
The blasphemy laws have fostered a climate of religiously-motivated violence and persecution, which leads to persecution of religious minorities and Muslims alike. They are often used to make unfounded malicious accusations to settle personal scores in land and business disputes.
“At a time when Pakistan is reeling from a spate of abuses which perpetrators seek to justify as a defence of religious sentiments, reform of the blasphemy laws is more urgent than ever,” said Polly Truscott.

Maldives: Halt “retrograde” move to resume executions.

While Maldives legally retains the death penalty the country, it has not carried out an execution since 1954.
While Maldives legally retains the death penalty the country, it has not carried out an execution since 1954.
© Amnesty International

Maldives must immediately put a stop to any plans to resume executions for the first time in 60 years, said Amnesty International.
Home Minister Umar Naseer yesterday ordered the country’s prisons to start making “all necessary arrangements” for the implementation of all death sentences through lethal injection.
“Any move towards resuming executions in Maldives would be a retrograde step and a serious setback for human rights in the country,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.
“There is no such thing as a ‘humane’ way to put someone to death, and no evidence that the threat of execution works as a deterrent to crime. Maldives should put an immediate end to such plans now, and instead abolish the death penalty in law once and for all.”
While Maldives legally retains the death penalty, it has not carried out an execution since 1954. There are currently 19 prisoners on death row.
In 2006 Maldives became a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a key international treaty which sets the abolition of the death penalty as the goal for states that still retain it. Resuming executions clearly goes against that purpose.
“The government’s order is surprising and extremely disappointing. The death penalty violates the right to life, regardless of the circumstances of the crime or the execution method used”, said Abbas Faiz.
Even though the Home Minister has assured that the government will not seek to expedite judicial processes in death penalty cases, the mere fact that regulatory steps are taken to execute people might encourage a greater preference for use of death penalty rather than imprisonment. Even more worrying is that the Home Minister’s orde condones people being sentenced to death and executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age. The imposition of the death penalty against juvenile offenders violates international law and Maldives’ own international obligations.
Opposing the death penalty does not mean advocating impunity for crime. Instead of resorting to the death penalty, the government should devise effective measures that would prevent and tackle crime while respecting human rights.  The public interest would be best served by, for instance, strengthening the judicial system, so that offenders are brought to justice without their own human rights being violated.

giovedì 23 gennaio 2014

India: Another horrific gang-rape must be investigated.

Suspects in the gang-rape case are led by police to a district courthouse in Birdhum district near the village of Subalpur

Authorities must investigate the alleged gang-rape of a 20-year-old adivasi woman in Birbhum, West Bengal, on 20 January 2013 and bring to justice those responsible, Amnesty International said.

The adivasi woman was allegedly gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of a khap panchayat - an unelected all-male village council - as punishment for falling in love with a Muslim man.  

Divya Iyer, Senior Researcher, Amnesty International India said:  

"The West Bengal police must thoroughly investigate this alleged gang-rape, and bring to justice those responsible. Authorities must also ensure that the woman and her family receive immediate and adequate police protection.  

“Any person found guilty of inciting violence against the woman must be held accountable.  

“Khap panchayats notoriously issue extra-legal decrees ordering inhuman and sexually violent punishments against women, including 'honour' killings. The Justice Verma Committee has pointed out that the orders of khap panchayats are illegal, and urged the government to crack down on them.  

“Authorities must ensure that women's rights to choose their partners are respected and protected, and take steps to end discrimination and violence against women."

martedì 21 gennaio 2014

India: Landmark Supreme Court decision upholds rights of death row prisoners.

A historic decision by India’s Supreme Court commuting the death sentences of 15 prisoners and setting out guidelines to safeguard the rights of prisoners on death row and their families is a positive step for human rights in the country, Amnesty International India said today.

The Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of Suresh, Ramji, Bilavendran, Simon, Gnanprakasham, Meesekar Madaiah, Praveen Kumar, Gurmeet Singh, Sonia Chaudhury, Sanjeev Chaudhury, Jafar Ali, Shivu and Jadeswamy, on the grounds of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the President ranging between five and 12 years.  

The Court commuted the death sentences of Sundar Singh and Magan Lal Barela on the ground that they suffer from mental illness.

“While acknowledging the need to strike a balance between the rights of the accused as well as the victims, this momentous decision reaffirms the rights guaranteed to death row prisoners under the Constitution of India and international law and standards,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.

“The verdict places a strong emphasis on the human rights of all persons, and should steer the country towards completely doing away with the death penalty.”

Yug Mohit Chaudhry, one of the lawyers representing prisoners affected by the decision, told Amnesty International India, “This judgment is a tribute to Indian constitutional values and the independence of the judiciary. It recognizes that death row prisoners have rights that the court will protect.”

In its judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that “undue, inordinate and unreasonable delay in execution of death sentence [amounts to] torture” and was a ground for commutation of sentence. Importantly, the Court ruled to be bad law a previous decision in the case of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, which stated that prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offences could not appeal for commutation on grounds of inordinate delay.

Quoting extensively from international treaties and standards, the court stated that the execution of people suffering from mental illness would be unconstitutional. It ruled that “insanity” or mental illness would be a factor that warranted commutation of a death sentence. The Court also reiterated that solitary confinement of a prisoner on death row was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court also laid down guidelines on the treatment of people under sentence of death, in a move that could end the trend towards secrecy in executions in 2012 and 2013. According to the guidelines, prisoners on death row should receive legal aid, be informed about the rejection of their mercy petitions and in writing, have their mental and physical conditions regularly checked and be allowed to meet their family members before execution, which should not happen before two weeks from the communication of the rejection of the mercy petition.

The Court’s ruling is likely to affect the cases of at least six other prisoners on death row – Murugan, Santhan, Arivu (aka Perarivalan), Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, Saibanna Natikar and B A Umesh, who are also seeking commutation on the grounds of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions.

“This verdict provides an opportunity for India to rethink its use of the death penalty,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan.

“The death penalty has not been shown to have any particular deterrent effect. UN experts and bodies, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have said that suggestions that the death penalty has a meaningful deterrent effect have been overstated.

“Research by Amnesty International and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties into India Supreme Court judgements on the death penalty has also revealed that the imposition of death sentences in India is highly arbitrary, and disproportionately affects those with little wealth or influence.

“The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights. While today’s verdict is welcome, it does not do away with this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The government must carry forward the impetus the ruling has provided to place a moratorium on all executions and abolish the death penalty altogether.”


Three TV station employees killed in targeted shooting by Taliban group

Reporters Without Borders is appalled and saddened by the deliberate murder of three Express News TV employees in a shooting attack by a Taliban group on one of the TV station’s vehicles in Karachi on 17 January.“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and we urge the Pakistani authorities to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for this shocking crime are brought to justice as soon as possible,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Targeted terrorist attacks on news media are intolerable but unfortunately only too frequent. This was not the first attack on the Express Media group but the authorities have still done nothing to protect media personnel, who continue to be killed while covering the news.
“The freedom of action and impunity enjoyed by those who carry out these attacks will only encourage them to commit more attacks with the aim of gagging the media. This climate of violence must be combatted.
“Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group that claimed this attack, has announced that there will be more attacks of this kind against media it regards as ‘propagandist.’ The authorities have been warned. They must implement special security measures for independent news media.”
Technician Waqas Aziz, security guard Ashraf Yusuf and driver Khalid Khan, all aged less than 30, were fatally injured in the head and chest when four gunmen on two motor-cycles opened fire on theExpress News van with silencer-equipped pistols. A cameraman asleep in the back was unhurt. His three colleagues were pronounced dead on arrival at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
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Khalid Khan - Ashraf Yusuf - Waqas Aziz
TTP representative Ehsanullah Ahsan said his group was responsible for the shooting. Speaking by telephone on the Express News programme “Kal Tak,” he said that, “in the war of ideologies all media channels including Express News are acting as propagandist and as rival party.”
He warned that the TTP would continue to attack all news media “that are involved in carrying out propaganda against us.” Referring to an earlier attack on the Express Media group in December, he added: “We had not incurred any loss of life so we attacked them again.”
The 17 January shooting was the third armed attack in five months on the liberal Express Media group. The first was an attack by a gunman on 16 August and the second was a homemade bomb attack in December.
Ranked 159th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Pakistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel.

giovedì 16 gennaio 2014

INDIA - Publication of Mohamed picture triggers riots, journalist’s arrest.

Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s arrest of Jitendra Prasad Das, a subeditor with the regional Oriya-language daily Samaj in Cuttack, in the eastern state of Odisha, in connection with the publication of a picture of the Prophet Mohammed on 14 January.
The media freedom organization also calls for investigations into attacks on the newspaper’s offices in Cuttack and other cities in Odisha so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
“We urge the authorities to release Jitendra Prasad Das without delay,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They must not bow to pressure from the street. This journalist committed no crime and arresting him just to defuse the anger of fundamentalists is not justifiable.
“We regret that Samaj did not protect this young journalist by taking responsibility for publishing the picture. This attitude is indicative of the pressure under which it was placed and the self-censorship it feels forced to adopt.”
Reporters Without Borders points out that:
  • The only curbs on freedom of information tolerated under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are those that protect the rights or reputations of others, national security, public order, or public health or morals. The criteria for applying any such restrictions on freedom of expression and information must be extremely precise.
  • Restriction of freedom of expression and information under criminal law is only permitted in cases of spoken or written words manifestly inciting hatred, violence or discrimination against a community or individual, or violating a person’s privacy.
  • And finally, a strict distinction must be made between offences against beliefs, ideas and dogma, on the one hand, and offences against persons, on the other. Only the second are admissible in law.
The offending picture of the Prophet accompanied a short text in a special issue that Samaj published on 14 January, which Muslims celebrate as his birthday.
As Islam forbids any pictorial representation of Mohamed, members of the Muslim community demonstrated outside the newspaper’s offices in Cuttack, Balasore, Rourkela and Kendrapada, demanding a public apology. Although editor Satya Ray published an apology in the newspaper, protesters ransacked its Balasore office and torched its Rourkela office.
As the person supposedly responsible for the inclusion of the picture, Das was arrested at the newspaper’s headquarters in Cuttack yesterday on a charge of “hurting religious sentiments.”
When the entire editorial staff told the police that they wanted to be arrested, the police said they were arresting Das just to defuse street tension. He was nonetheless taken before a judge.
Calling for Das’ release, National Union of Journalists secretary general Prasanna Mohanty criticized the Samaj management for giving Das’ name to the police instead of taking collective responsibility.
Last month, Reporters Without Borders published a report on blasphemy entitled “Information sacrificed on altar of religion.” It examines the dangers to freedom of information from censorship in the name of religion and the belief that religion and “traditional values” should be untouchable.
Working as journalist is tough in India, which is ranked 140th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and which is one of the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel.

PAKISTAN - Reporter gets death threats after covering sexual assault.

Reporter gets death threats after covering sexual assault

Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the anonymous threats that Noorul Wahab, a journalist who covers the districts of Charsadda and Mardan in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the Daily Express newspaper, has been getting for the past two days.
“We urge those responsible for these threats to stop harassing this journalist, who has committed no crime and has just done his job,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We also urge the authorities in Charsadda and Mardan to provide Wahab with protection without delay, to ensure that the threats are not carried out.
“We can take it for granted that the police are now aware of these threats and, in view of Pakistan’s disastrous history in combatting violence against journalists, they can no longer justify any failure to take action in this case.”
Wahab began receiving the threats from an Afghan phone number on 12 January, the day after his newspaper published a report by him on a sexual attack on a female student. It was reprinted in the Daily Pakistan and Khabrain, and was picked up by the ARY News TV station.
“You will be shot dead after three days,” the anonymous phone callers said.
Wahab thinks that the national coverage put pressure on the student’s attackers, forcing them to contact her family in an attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement
He immediately reported the threats to the Charsadda and Mardan authorities. He has received the support of the Peshawar Press Club and the Union of Khyber Journalists, which have voiced their unanimous condemnation.
Ranked 159th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Pakistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel.,45728.html

venerdì 3 gennaio 2014

Pakistan: Elderly man imprisoned for reading the Qu’ran: Masud Ahmad.

UA: 345/13 Index: ASA 33/019/2013 Pakistan Date: 20 December 2013
URGENT ACTION ELDERLY MAN IMPRISONED FOR READING QU’RAN A British man of the Ahmadi sect has been imprisoned in Pakistan for reciting a passage from the Qu’ran, a prohibited act for Ahmadis under the country’s blasphemy laws. Masud Ahmad, a homeopathic practitioner, aged 72, was arrested at his pharmacy in Lahore on 25 November after two men secretly filmed him reading aloud a passage from the Qu’ran.
The Ahmaddiya community are legally barred from calling themselves Muslim, and professing, practicing and propagating their faith as Muslims.
Masud Ahmad appears to have been maliciously targeted because he is an Ahmadi. The two men, reportedly pretending to be patients, came to his pharmacy and asked Masud Ahmad questions about the Ahmadiyya faith and Islam. Masud Ahmad responded by referring to the Qu’ran and read out a translated verse in Urdu. The men then passed on the film to the local police who arrested Masud Ahmad under Section 298C of the blasphemy laws for “posing as a Muslim”. He is currently being detained in prison at City District Jail in Lahore.
Masud Ahmad opened his homeopathic dispensary when he returned to Pakistan in 1982. An elderly man, he had major operations to remove a tumour in 2010, and relatives are concerned that his health will deteriorate in prison. There have been several court hearings but a verdict has not yet been reached and bail has so far been denied. Masud Ahmad remains in prison.
Please write immediately in English, Urdu or your own language:  Calling on the authorities to release Masud Ahmad immediately and unconditionally;  Calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to guarantee the safety of Masud Ahmad and his family;  Expressing concern that the current blasphemy laws are a threat to freedom of religion and thought, are used maliciously to settle personal disputes and target religious minorities, and urging the government to amend or abolish the blasphemy laws to prevent this.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 31 JANUARY 2014 TO: Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan Minister for Interior Room 404, 4th Floor, R Block Pakistan Secretariat Islamabad, Pakistan Fax: +92-51-920 2624 Email: Salutation: Dear Minister Khan
Chief Minister, Punjab Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif Chief Minister Punjab Chief Minister’s Office 7, Club Road, GOR I Lahore, Pakistan Fax: +92 42 9920 3310 Salutation: Dear Chief Minister Sharif
And copies to: Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights Pervaiz Rashid Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights Room 305, S Block Pakistan Secretariat Islamabad, Pakistan Fax: +92 51 921 0062 Email:
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. URGENT ACTION
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The Ahmadiyya are a minority religious group who consider themselves Muslims but the majority of Pakistan’s Muslim population view them as heretical. Ahmadiyya community was declared non-Muslim in 1974, and a number of laws were subsequently passed which made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to profess, practice or preach their faith. Under sections 298B and 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code, part of the blasphemy laws, it is a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims, to employ names and terminology associated with Islam, to use Muslim practices of worship and to propagate their faith.
Every year, dozens of Ahmadis are charged with offences relating to their religious practices, including calling for prayers, preaching their faith or calling their place of worship a 'mosque'. Separate from criminal sanction by the state, individuals accused of blasphemy, whether they are Ahamdiyya or belong to another religious group, also risk attacks by private citizens. For example, in March 2013 a large mob went on a rampage and destroyed several homes in the Joseph Colony Christian neighbourhood in the city of Lahore after a Christian labourer was accused of blasphemy by a Muslim friend following a drunken argument. Several Christians were injured in the violence and most were forced to flee the area for a number of days. Although many of the perpetrators were arrested the authorities have been slow to progress their prosecution in the courts while witnesses and members of the Joseph Colony Christian community remain in fear of reprisals if they give evidence in court.
Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights state that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression. International human rights law provides that any limitations placed on these freedoms should be only such as are prescribed by law as well as being necessary and proportionate for, among other things, the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The UN Human Rights Committee noted in its General Comment No. 34, that “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights],” except in specific circumstances where individuals are advocating “national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” [Article 20 paragraph 2 of the Covenant]. Additionally the Committee said, “it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favour of or against one or certain religions or belief systems.”

India, i media: "Aveva 12 anni la ragazzina stuprata e bruciata dal branco".

India, i media: "Aveva 12 anni la ragazzina stuprata e bruciata dal branco"

NEW DELHI - Aveva 12 anni. Ne avrebbe compiuti 13 il prossimo mese la piccola indiana stuprata per due volte da un gruppo di giovani vicino Calcutta e poi bruciata viva. Lo ha rivelato oggi il quotidiano The Hindustan Times dopo aver controllato i registri scolastici, e cambiando quanto riportato fino a ieri dai media che sostenevano ne avesse 16. Secondo il  giornale la scuola dello Stato settentrionale del Bihar ha registrato come data di nascita il 5 febbraio 2001. Era una bambina incinta quando è morta l'ultimo giorno dell'anno, cancellata con il fuoco dai suoi stupratori.

La certificazione dell'età è spesso un problema in India, molte nascite non sono registrate o lo sono con molto ritardo, soprattutto negli stati più arretrati come il Bihar. Il padre, un tassista, si era trasferito con la famiglia in una città a 40 chilometri da Calcutta solo da 5 mesi per permettere alla figlia di frequentare scuole migliori.

La bimba faceva la spola, insieme alla madre, tra il villaggio d'origine dove è avvenuto lo stupro e la casa alla periferia di Calcutta dove il padre si era trasferito anni fa in cerca di lavoro. Dopo i due stupri, la famiglia è rimasta fino a metà novembre nel villaggio ma poi  per sfuggire alle minacce di morte dopo la denuncia, è tornata a Calcutta. Non è servito. Gli aggressori sono andati a prenderla nella casupola ancora non finita di costruire vicino all'aeroporto dove la famiglia viveva, e le hanno dato fuoco. La bambina è stata ritrovata lì.

Non è l'unica ulteriore novità dell'inchiesta. Secondo l'Hindustan Times, che ha citato fonti della polizia, l'autopsia ha confermato che fosse incinta di uno dei suo aggressori. Il feto - che l'esame post-mortem ha rivelato essere di età coincidente con uno dei due episodi di stupro - è stato sottoposto a esame del dna e la polizia ha prelevato il sangue degli arrestati per capire chi sia il padre.

Il primo stupro, fatto da sei persone, risale al 25 ottobre, e poi il giorno dopo dallo stesso 'branco'. La famiglia aveva infine deciso di denunciarli e lei, con il padre, era andata dalla polizia. L'omicidio, nei giorni scorsi, sarebbe stato perpetrato per impedirle di testimoniare al processo. La vicenda ha infiammato l'opinione pubblica indiana. Giovedì migliaia di persone si sono riversate in piazza nella metropoli nord-orientale, ma anche a New Delhi. Proteste anche contro la polizia che ha tentato di forzare la mano per cremare il corpo dell ragazzina, contro il volere del padre che voleva il funerale pubblico.

L'India è stanca. Il grave problema della sicurezza delle donne era stato portato alla luce dalla morte di una studentezza stuprata a dicembre scorso da un gruppo di uomini su un bus di Nuova Delhi. L'accusa alle forze dell'ordine è quella di non intervenire tempestivamente, di non difendere, di non garantire la sicurezza. Negli ultimi 12 giorni un'altra donna è stata stuprata due volte da un gruppo di uomini a Kanpur, dove la polizia le ha offerto 5mila rupie per non denunciare i fatti. Questa volta a riportarlo è The Times of India sul proprio sito web, citando l'ong Lakshya cui la vittima ha chiesto aiuto. Sono stati loro a depositare la denuncia minacciando di organizzare proteste. Anita Dua, a capo dell'ong attiva nell'Uttar Pradesh, ha raccontato: "La donna è stata stuprata una prima volta il 21 dicembre da 12 uomini. Quando ha tentato di depositare la denuncia alla polizia, gli agenti le hanno chiesto di lasciare la stazione e le hanno dato 5mila rupie perché non parlasse dell'incidente".

"I suoi tormenti - prosegue - sono continuati e il 31 dicembre gli uomini l'hanno di nuovo seguita tentando di molestarla, ma lei è riuscita a fuggire. Quando ci ha avvicinati, sono rimasta scioccata dal comportamento della polizia". L'ufficiale della polizia locale, Ajay Prakash Srivastava, ha dichiarato: "Il caso è stato registrato e le indagini proseguono. La donna sarà sottoposta a controlli medici e la sua dichiarazione sarà presto raccolta".