Taking torture personally

How do you support someone who has been tortured? That’s what this issue of WIRE explores, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June.

We speak to Farida Aarrass about why she will never give up fighting for her brother, Ali. We discover how the psychotherapeutic legacy of Amnesty legend Helen Bamber lives on in a quiet London garden. We meet two very different women who regularly protest on behalf of people they’ve never met. And we learn how our new Panic Button app could help protect people.

Meeting these inspiring people answered our question. We can support torture survivors by taking what happened to them personally. By never giving up on them, and giving them room to rebuild their lives. By sticking with people until they get justice. And by making sure torture doesn’t happen to somebody else.

Join us: Together, we can stop torture.

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Testimonies from Kocho: The village ISIS tried to wipe off the map

Khider, a 17-year-old student, was among those bundled into vehicles and taken to the village’s outskirts to be shot. © Amnesty International

By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International, in northern Iraq 

Just as the dire humanitarian situation on north-western Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain was beginning to improve, news broke on Friday about one of the worst reported attacks in the weeks since fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or IS) had started their assault on the towns and villages in the surrounding areas. Scores of people were killed and hundreds abducted by ISIS fighters in Kocho, a small village about 15 km south of the town of Sinjar.

This fresh atrocity was a bitter reminder of the ferocity of ISIS’s advance. Since 3 August, when the armed group began its march to take control of the territory surrounding Sinjar, they have forced tens of thousands of Yezidis from their homes, killed hundreds and abducted thousands.

After two days of searching, I finally found some of the survivors of the Kocho attack, who had managed to escape from ISIS-controlled territory. They are injured, weary and terrified about the fate of their families. They told me that scores of their relatives and neighbours were killed and they have no news about their families and other villagers. They don’t know if their parents, children and siblings are dead or alive.  Continue reading

Posted in Armed Conflict, Armed Groups, Iraq, Terrorism, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

‘We still have no justice, just tears’

An event organized by women residents of Marikana, South Africa, to mark the 2nd anniversary of the police killings of 34 miners on 16 August 2012. © Amnesty International

This week in Marikana, South Africa, women residents gathered to mark the second anniversary of police killings of 34 miners during a strike. Clare Fermont, Amnesty’s Southern Africa Regional Content Manager, attended the gathering and describes the lingering injustice they face. 

Here I was again at Marikana, the place where two years ago South African police shot dead 34 platinum miners who worked for Lonmin. The killings, so reminiscent of the apartheid era, sent political shockwaves across South Africa and the world.

I was attending one of a series of events being held in South Africa to mark the grim anniversary. The event was organized last Tuesday (12 August) by Sikhala Sonke, a women’s organization formed in Nkaneng informal settlement near the mine in order to promote peace and improve living conditions for miners and their families. Continue reading

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Egypt’s darkest day

On 14 August 2013 the Egyptian security forces dispersed sit-ins by supporters of Egypt’s deposed President, Mohamed Morsi. © Amnesty International

One year on from the slaughter of more than 600 protesters in one day by Egyptian security forces, not a single officer has been prosecuted. Meanwhile Egypt’s criminal justice system has been swift to arrest, try and sentence alleged Morsi supporters after grossly unfair mass trials. Two hundred and thirty two have already been condemned to death and courts have recommended death sentences for over a thousand.

Amnesty International’s Egypt Researcher Mohamed Elmessiry witnessed the massacre at Rabaa al-Adaweya square and has been campaigning for justice since.

I woke to a 7am phonecall. “It’s started.”  Continue reading

Posted in Censorship and Free Speech, Demonstrations, Egypt, Unlawful Killings and Extrajudicial Execution | Tagged , | 5 Comments

No justice for Afghan civilians killed by US or NATO forces

Orphaned children of Dawood and Zahir praying by the graveyard where their father, uncle, aunts and cousins are buried after being killed by US/NATO air strikes in Afghanistan. © Amnesty International

By Richard Bennett, Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International

In the early hours of 16 September, 2012, a group of women from different villages in Afghanistan’s eastern Laghman province set out to collect firewood. As they stopped to drink water by a small spring, US military planes appeared in the sky and started dropping bombs. Seven of the women were killed and another seven injured — four of them seriously.

The morning after, a NATO spokesperson told the media: “a large number of insurgents had been killed” in the airstrikes. The local villagers reacted furiously, taking the women’s bodies to the local district governor’s office and staging a protest against the killings. Realizing their mistake, NATO was quick to offer a public apology. In a press release the day after, the organization promised a thorough investigation into the killing of the women: “Coalition forces take civilian casualties seriously.” But the families saw no sign of an investigation after that.  Continue reading

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Robin Williams – friend of Amnesty and comic artist genius. RIP.

Memorial in New York City to the actor and comedian Robin Williams. © 2014 Getty Images

By Bill Shipsey, founder of Art for Amnesty

In the Steven Spielberg film “AI” (for ‘Artificial Intelligence’ not Amnesty International) the character played by Robin Williams recited the W.B. Yeats poem “The Stolen Child”:

“Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild:

With a faery, hand in hand.

For the world’s more full of weeping

than you can understand.”

Robin Williams in real life realised that the world was indeed full of weeping but principally through his art, but also through his advocacy, he tried so hard to make the world a better place. Continue reading

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