venerdì 20 giugno 2014

Sri Lanka: Act now to prevent further bloodshed in anti-Muslim violence.

 Sri Lankan authorities must act immediately to end anti-Muslim violence in the country, and to rein in groups that violently target religious minorities, Amnesty International said.

At least four people have been reported killed and scores injured in the southern coastal towns of Aluthgama and Beruwala since an anti-Muslim riot broke out following a rally organized by the hard-line Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) on Sunday.  Violent incidents have also been reported in other towns since Sunday.

“This is the worst outbreak of communal violence in Sri Lanka in years and there is a real risk of it spreading further. The government must do everything in its power to end it immediately, while respecting the human rights of all concerned. Those responsible for killings and other acts of violence must be held to account, and at-risk Muslim communities given the protection they need,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

“Eyewitness reports that police have stood by and refused to intervene in the violence are very troubling and must also be investigated. Security forces have a duty to protect the right of everyone to life and security regardless of their beliefs or identity.”
A Sri Lankan resident surveys the damage to a charred Muslim-owned home following clashes between Muslims and an extremist Buddhist group in the town of Alutgama.
A Sri Lankan resident surveys the damage to a charred Muslim-owned home following clashes between Muslims and an extremist Buddhist group in the town of Alutgama.

Despite police imposing a curfew, anti-Muslim mob violence continued over Monday and Tuesday, resulting in widespread destruction of property, with Muslims’ homes and shops burned and looted. Tensions had been rising in Aluthgama for days following an alleged fight between Muslim youths and a Buddhist monk’s driver.

But despite Muslim community leaders warning that the situation could escalate, the government granted BBS permission to stage the rally on Sunday that sparked the violence, apparently without putting in place the means to prevent or stop it.

“There has been a disturbing rise in attacks and harassment of religious minorities in Sri Lanka over the two past years, mostly led by groups with a hard-line Buddhist or nationalist agenda, and these groups are reported to have strong links to high-ranking government officials. Rising violence against religious minorities cannot be treated as an isolated issue – stopping it must be a crucial part of the national reconciliation that is so badly needed since the conflict’s end in 2009,” said David Griffiths.

Amnesty International received hundreds of reports of harassment, threats and attacks on Muslims and Christians and their places of worship in 2013.

After her August 2013 visit to Sri Lanka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern at the “recent surge in incitement of hatred and violence against religious minorities”. These concerns were echoed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014 in the resolution that established an inquiry into alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.

domenica 8 giugno 2014

Pakistan: Ban of major private TV network is ‘attack on press freedom’.

There have been protests in Pakistan against attacks on media workers.
There have been protests in Pakistan against attacks on media workers.
© Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)

The Pakistani government’s suspension of Geo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, is a politically motivated attack on freedom of expression and the media, Amnesty International said. 
 “The suspension of Geo TV is a serious attack on press freedom in Pakistan. It is the latest act in an organized campaign of harassment and intimidation targeting the network on account of its perceived bias against the military,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Director. 
 “The Pakistani authorities must immediately reverse this ban. If there are concerns about the content of Geo TV broadcasts, the authorities should address this in line with international human rights standards – not simply move to silence a critical voice.” 
 The governmental body Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) today ruled that the licenses of Geo TV be suspended for 15 days with immediate effect. 
 The ban is due to allegedly blasphemous content broadcast last month by Geo TV - part of the Jang Media Group - and its earlier accusations against a senior military intelligence official. 
 Geo TV has been locked in a stand-off with the Pakistan military, rival media houses and some political parties since one of its journalists, the news anchor Hamid Mir, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Karachi on 19 April. 
 The network accused the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of being behind the attack, which the ISI has denied. 
 On 20 May some government officials  attempted to pull Geo TV off the air over allegedly “anti-state” and “blasphemous” content, apparently under pressure from the military, but within hours the decision was overturned by PEMRA’s executive authorities until today’s order. 
 “The suspension of Geo TV sadly fits an all too familiar pattern in Pakistan. State authorities and other political actors use any means they can to silence critical reporting, from the use of anti-state and anti-religion provisions of the law to physical attacks and violence,” said Richard Bennett. 
In a report released on 30 April, Amnesty International documented how media workers in Pakistan live under the constant threat of harassment, violence and killings from a range of state and non-state actors. 
Several Jang Media Group journalists have told Amnesty International that they have received daily threats and harassment by unknown individuals by phone and in person. 
Many said they dare not enter their offices or identify themselves as belonging to Geo TV or other Jang Media Group outlets for fear of being attacked. 
 “Pakistan’s vibrant media scene deserves better protection, and journalists must be able to carry out their legitimate work without fear or interference,” said Richard Bennett.


Amnesty International is calling on the Maldivian authorities to investigate the actions of the police during and after a raid on a music festival on 20 April 2014, including reports that police used unnecessary force. Police action at what they said was a drugs raid raised a number of additional human rights concerns, including:
The arbitrary arrest of 79 festival goers on claims of possession and use of drugs, despite tests having not been carried out by the police;
The alleged ill-treatment of detained festival goers in police custody;
The denial of festival goers’ rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
The music festival, which was attended by 200 youths, was a private event held on an uninhabited island, Anbaraa, located some 40 miles south of the capital, Malé. The organisers sought and received the approval from the authorities, including the Ministry of Tourism, to hold the festival from 18 to 20 April 2014. However, in the very early hours of 20 April, the police raided the island from the sea in full riot gear and masks, shot off flares and rubber bullets, and rounded up festival goers.
The festival’s participants with whom Amnesty International spoke after the raid said police manhandled many of them, verbally abused them, threw them to the ground and forced them to lie face down. They said police also ransacked and looted their belongings.
The United Nations basic principles on the use of force and firearms states that in carrying out their duty, law enforcement officials “shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms” (Principle 4). The information received by Amnesty International suggests that the police use of force was unnecessary, as festival participants were acting peacefully.
One participant told Amnesty International that she was kicked hard in the back by a policeman for not putting her hands up when ordered to, because in a state of shock she did not know what she was supposed to do. “I was so shocked and scared. I still have nightmares about that night,” she said.
Another participant told Amnesty International that her cousin, also at the festival, was sprayed in the face with pepper spray by a police officer without provocation. The same eyewitness saw her friend being taken away by policemen from the crowd. When her friend was returned to the group, he told her that he was beaten up for asking the police to explain why they were arresting festival goers.
There are also credible reports of the detainees being ill-treated in police custody. A lawyer who represented a number of the detainees reported that many of his female clients were threatened with sexual abuse at the time of their arrest and in custody, with police allegedly saying they would “shove their batons up them.”
The 79 detainees, who included 19 women and a 17-year-old girl, were left in plastic handcuffs for 14 hours continuously. One of the women who was detained said:
“We were separated from the men and then the police draped the women, some of whom were wearing shorts and shirts, with material because they said we were not decent. They also filmed us. They meant to humiliate us and refused to say why we had been arrested. We spent the night in handcuffs, with little water and no food until morning.”
The next day, the 79 were taken to court, where they learnt in remand hearings that they had been taken into custody for the possession and use of drugs and would be placed in police detention for 10 days. However, at the time police had not yet performed urine tests on those arrested to substantiate this.
The detainees with whom Amnesty International spoke said that drug tests were only performed after the court hearings, at Dhoonidhoo detention centre where they were being held, contrary to police statements that all detainees had tested positive for drugs at the time of arrest.
The 17-year-old girl was placed under house arrest, while the remaining detainees were kept at Dhoonidhoo detention centre. One woman told Amnesty International that while in the detention centre, she was separated from the other female detainees without explanation and placed in a small, cramped room with little ventilation. The lack of air worsened her asthma, but she was not given vital medication for over eight hours. Only when her lawyer intervened the next day was she returned to the other women, who were all kept in one cell.
A few days later, the women detainees were released from the Dhoonidhoo detention centre and placed under house arrest but the men remained at the centre. According to a lawyer representing some of the detainees, all detainees have since been released without charge except five men, who remain in Dhoonidhoo detention centre. None of them have been charged as yet.
Police in the Maldives have frequently used unnecessary or excessive force against demonstrators. Concern about this has been raised by Amnesty International, the Maldives National Human Rights Commission and the National Inquiry Commission that was set up to investigate the February 2011 events during and after the transfer of presidential power at that time. No police officer in the Maldives is known to have been held accountable for the excessive use of force.
The police said they raided the Anbaraa festival because the participants were using drugs. However, the delay in carrying out drugs tests, and the fact that no one has been charged with any offence, raises concern that this was only a pretext. Although there are no laws banning music in the Maldives and Islamic dress is not mandatory, police action appears to have focused on stopping the music festival and forcing women wearing skirts and shirts to cover themselves.
Maldives is a popular holiday destination for people all over the world. The number of tourists each year constitute around three times the total population. However, Maldivians are not allowed to enter holiday resorts. Maldivian youths say they feel deprived of venues on habitable islands to enjoy music as the authorities do not permit it, apparently on religious grounds and under pressure from Islamic parties. However, holding festivals on uninhabited islands has not been a problem in the past.