The struggle against torture: “Don’t let down your guard”

Ángel Amilcar Colón Quevedo (right) with Alex Neve (left) from Amnesty International Canada. ©Amnesty International.

Ángel Amilcar Colón Quevedo (right) with Alex Neve (left) from Amnesty International Canada. ©Amnesty International.

By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English branch)

It had been a two and a half hour drive from Guadalajara. As we approached, the ominously named prison, CEFERESO Number 4, the Federal Centre for Social Rehabilitation, loomed large and intimidating at the bottom of one last hill.

We spent the next hour going through the most extensive series of endless security checks I’ve been through in any prison visit, anywhere. It included a stamp on our forearms which only showed up under a special light, which we had to show again on our way out to demonstrate that none of us had stayed behind and allowed a prisoner to slip out in our place. There was, in fact, far more visible security than I have experienced on any of the visits I’ve made to the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Continue reading

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“Don’t they know that winter is coming?” Frustration and fear among Iraq’s displaced

Internally displaced people in northern Iraq ©Amnesty International.

Internally displaced people in northern Iraq ©Amnesty International.

By James Lynch and Francesca Pizzutelli, Refugee and Migrants’ Rights researchers, in northern Iraq.

Everywhere in northern Iraq thousands of people driven from their homes by the conflict are now struggling to survive in grim conditions. As winter approaches it can only get worse.

Near Derabon, close to the Turkish and Syrian borders, a group of displaced families have simply found a patch of open ground beside roads and built the most basic shelters out of wood and straw. They get water – which they say is barely drinkable – from a spring about half a mile away and they are without any kind of power.

While we are there, a truck arrives and hands out donated mattresses, but there are not enough to go around. A group of children fight over the last mattress; it ends in tears for those who will spend another night on hard ground. Many of the children have no shoes and the adults ask us to take photos of the swollen, broken, hard skin on their feet, to show the world what they are experiencing. Continue reading

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A decade of injustice – time to find Munir’s real killers

Indonesian human rights activist Munir was found dead on a Garuda Airlines flight from Jakarta to the Netherlands in 2004, as a result of arsenic poisoning. © Kontras

By Papang Hidayat, Amnesty International’s Indonesia researcher

Yesterday marked exactly 10 years since Indonesia lost one of its most courageous and compassionate voices — Munir Said Thalib.

On 7 September 2004, Munir, as he was affectionately known, was slipped arsenic while in transit in Singapore during a trip to Amsterdam, and didn’t make it through the flight alive. A decade later, we’re still no closer to finding the masterminds behind his murder.

One of Indonesia’s most prominent human rights campaigners, Munir took up the cause of dozens of activists who were subjected to enforced disappearance. He co-founded two prominent human rights organizations, helped to uncover evidence of military responsibility for human rights violations in Aceh, Papua and Timor Leste (formerly East Timor), and made recommendations to the government on bringing high-ranking officials to justice. In September 1999, he was appointed to the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP-HAM) in East Timor. Continue reading

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Kosovo: ‘The day I was left without my mother’

Petrija Piljevic

Dragan’s mother Petrija, who was abducted and killed in the immediate aftermath of the Kosovo conflict in 1999. © Amnesty International

By Dragan Piljevic. Dragan’s mother was abducted and killed in the immediate aftermath of the armed conflict in Kosovo in 1999. Her killers have still not been brought to justice.

My name is Dragan Piljević. I was born in Pristina, in Kosovo and Metohija. I am 46 years old. I used to believe in God, in good, in justice. On 28 June 1999, I lost a lot of my belief. On that day, I was left without my mother.

Albanians in Pristina abducted her. This was all I could find out, but whether she was still alive somewhere, suffering, I did not know. I went to seek help everywhere: from embassies, churches, political parties, anywhere people would listen to me – but nobody could help. I received an answer a year later – a cruel and unshakable one. In photographs taken of clothing found in mass graves I recognized my mother’s clothes. This is how I found she had been killed. I was handed over her remains on 16 August 2011, in an ordinary refuse sack. Continue reading

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Peña Nieto must commit to tackle torture

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission received more than 7,000 complaints for torture and other ill-treatment between 2010 and 2013 © Claudia Daut/Reuters

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission received more than 7,000 complaints for torture and other ill-treatment between 2010 and 2013 © Claudia Daut/Reuters

By Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Judging by some international headlines, you might think that things are looking up for Mexico. Its President, Enrique Peña Nieto, has said he is on the road to transforming and modernizing the country.

A TIME magazine cover portrait of the President earlier this year was headlined ‘Saving Mexico’. The government has played an important role in promoting human rights dialogue with other nations, including championing the Arms Trade Treaty over the past two years. And an economist named Mexico as one of the growing markets to watch out for, including it in a select group of up and coming economies known as “MINT” (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey).

All in all, Mexico has strong ambitions of playing a leading role within MINT and the G20.
But, as Amnesty International’s latest report finds, Mexico’s international plans are being undermined by its national policies and practices. Continue reading

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