Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sept.24-26: DC Mobilization to End the War in Iraq!

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Hold Bush & Congress Accountable for the Deaths, the Destruction,
the Lies, and the Toll on Our Communities
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 2005

Leave no bases behind - End the corporate occupation of Iraq
Stop bankrupting our communities - No military recruitment in our schools

Sat., 9/24 - Massive March, Rally & Festival
Sun., 9/25 - Interfaith Service, Grassroots Training
Mon., 9/26 - Lobby Day, Mass Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Disobedience


More than two years after the illegal and immoral U.S. invasion of Iraq, the nightmare continues. More than 1600 U.S. soldiers have died, at least another 15,000 have been wounded; even the most conservative estimates of Iraqi deaths number in the tens of thousands. Iraq, a once sovereign nation, now lies in ruins under the military and corporate occupation of the United States; U.S. promises to rebuild have not been kept and Iraqis still lack food, water, electricity, and other basic needs.

A majority of Americans believe that this war never should have happened, but our elected representatives in Washington continue to rubber-stamp the Bush Administration's disastrous Iraq policies. They have given military recruiters nearly unrestricted access to our schools -- and the Pentagon nearly unrestricted access to our tax dollars. At a time when our vital social programs are eroding or completely decimated, an overwhelming majority in Congress recently approved Bush's request for an additional $82 billion in war funding, and there's already talk of another $50 billion appropriation this fall.

It's time to hold all pro-war politicians accountable for the deaths, the destruction, the lies, and the toll on our communities! Join United for Peace and Justice in Washington, D.C. for three massive days of action against the war: a major march, rally, and festival on Saturday, September 24; an interfaith religious service and day of grassroots trainings on Sunday, September 25; and a large-scale grassroots lobbying day and mass nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience on Monday, September 26.

From every corner of this country, people will travel to Washington to bring our demands directly to the policymakers responsible for this unjust war. These three days of actions will send a clear message to the White House and Congress: The Iraq war must end. It's time to bring all the troops home, leaving no U.S. military bases behind, and to stop the corporate theft of Iraq's resources. Instead of draining our national treasury for endless war, we demand that our tax dollars be used to repair the damage done to Iraq and to fund services in our communities. We call for an immediate end to our government's assault on immigrants, the unethical pressures on our young people to join the military, and the undermining of democracy through relentless attacks on everyone's basic rights.

Our mobilization will coincide with the meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, whose economic policies place corporate profits ahead of basic human needs worldwide. We will speak out against the corporate theft of Iraq's resources and the decimation of the Iraqi economy through privatization and "free trade."

Join our weekend of action to stop this war, and help prevent any new wars!

Leaflets and more information will be available soon at

In the meantime, circulate this announcement far and wide and mark your calendar for the weekend of September 24-26.

We need your financial support to make this mobilization possible! Please make the most generous contribution you can today at

Thanks, and we'll see you in Washington!

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

News from the Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2005

World > Terrorism & Security
posted June 1, 2005, updated 12:00 p.m.

'Peaceful' Basra now out of control?

Iraqi police chief say at least 50 percent of his force has been infiltrated by sectarian militias.

By Tom Regan |

On the very day that President George W. Bush was telling members of the media that he is pleased with the progress in Iraq, the chief of police in Basra, Iraq - long considered a much safer city than Baghdad - said that "he has lost control of 75 percent of his officers" and that "sectarian militias" had infiltrated his force.
The Guardian reported Tuesday that General Hassan al-Sade said sectarian militias "are using their posts to assassinate opponents."

General Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force were secretly working for political parties and that some officers were involved in ambushes. Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders. "I trust 25 per cent of my force, no more," he said.

The Guardian report noted that Basra is still a "relatively peaceful" city, but Sade says that peace has been bought "by ceding authority to conservative Islamic parties and turning a blind eye to their militias's corruption scams and hit squads."

Sade pointed to a recent well-publicized incident where members of the ultra-religious Mahdi Army, which is loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, attacked unversity students at a picnic while the police stood by and watched. Sade said he had identified the officers involved but did not punish them "for fear of upsetting the militias."

In April Knight-Ridder reported on how political instabililty in Iraq was leading to the formation of local militias. The New York Times reported last Friday on the rise in sectarian killings in Iraq, many of which are believed to have been carried out by rival Sunni and Shiite militias.

Newsday also reported last week that sectarian violence "now threatens to drag Iraq into civil war."

Colin Smith, the senior British police adviser in Iraq, told the Guardian that the development of a police force in Basra had actually gone quite well in the past two years, but cautioned that it was a "five to ten year" project. He also said a major problem was that US and British trainers too often gave the Iraqis "plans that don't work."

For example police stations were given expensive cameras to photograph suspects without heed to the Iraqis' difficulty in replacing the batteries, said Mr Smith. "A lot of the time we're not moving forward but rectifying the mistakes made in the past two years."
The Christian Science Monitor reports on how the US is "eager to show" that Iraq's own troops can fight back against the insurgents. The BBC reports, however, that Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said he is worried that the US will pullout of Iraq before "local troops are able to maintain security."

Also increasing sectarian tensions was the the mistaken arrest of a leading moderate Sunni politician. The Daily Telegraph reports that US troops fired stun grenades before they entered the home of Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, leader of the largest Sunni political party in Iraq.

Mr. Abdul-Hamid, his three sons and four body guards were forced to lie on the ground for an hour. Hamid said one Marine stood with a "foot on his neck" for 20 minutes. Abdul-Hamid wife said an American soldier screamed at her in Arabic "This is what happens to those who boycotted the election."

Abdul-hamid's party had been the main Sunni party interested in participating in the January elections, but pulled out saying it feared violence would lead to inaccurate results.

Tuesday the US military said that "it was determined he was arrested by mistake and released" after being detained for 10 hours. The military said it regretted the incident, but stopped short of apologizing for it.

The Daily Telegraph reports Abdul-Hamid is a moderate in favor of Sunnis becoming part of the Iraqi government and that "a number of Sunni politicians and religious leaders have been accused of links to Iraq's insurgency - but never Mr. Abdul-Hamid." He had also served as one of the rotating presidents in Iraq's interim government

Reuters reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has ordered an investigation into the detention. The Los Angeles Times reports that Abdul-Hamid himself called on Sunnis to participate in the new Iraqi government. He said he would not allow his "extremely aggressive and humiliating" arrest to become a reason for sectarian violence to worsen.

• May a deadly month for US troops (Knight Ridder)
• Friends describe terror suspect as well-known New York musician (Knight Ridder)
• Fear of US attack forces N. Korea to develop nuclear program (Zaman Online, Turkey)
• Ya'alon: Israel to face terror war after pullout (Ha'aretz, Israel)

• Feedback appreciated. E-mail Tom Regan

More News from Democracy Now

Bush: Iraq War Will Be Seen As "America's Golden Moment"President Bush said Tuesday that he was "pleased with the progress" in Iraq and later agreed that the Iraq invasion will someday be seen by historians as "America's golden moment." Bush's comments came during a morning news conference at the White House. But the fighting continues on the ground in Iraq. The governor of Anbar province was found dead on Tuesday -- three weeks after he was kidnapped. And the month of May ended with the U.S. losing 77 soldiers -- making it the deadliest month for the United States since January. To date just over sixteen hundred fifty U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq.
Military Admits Too Few Troops In Northwest IraqOn Tuesday the U.S. military admitted that the Iraqi resistance has doubled its number of daily attacks since April. Meanwhile U.S. officials are publicly admitting they do not have enough troops in Iraq to handle the resistance. Maj. John Wilwerding -- of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment -- said the U.S. has far too few troops in northwestern Iraq -- a region spanning about 10,000 square miles. He said "Resources are everything in combat ... there's no way 400 people can cover that much ground."
Iraq: Saddam Hussein Trial to Open Within Two MonthsAnd in Baghdad, Iraq's president Jalal Talabani announced Tuesday that he expects the trial of Saddam Hussein to open within two months.
Suicide Bomber Kills Over 20 At Mosque in AfghanistanAt Tuesday's presidential news conference, Afghanistan was never mentioned -- but the war there ravages on. Earlier this morning in Qandahar, a suicide bomber blew himself up killing at least 20 and wounding dozens. The attack came at a mosque that was holding a memorial service for a leading cleric who was assassinated last week. The cleric was an ally of President Hamid Karzai and a vocal critic of the Taliban. On Monday a roadside bomb in Kabul killed seven Afghans -- the target of the bomb was a passing NATO convoy. And on Sunday, clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces killed as many as 18.
Juan Cole: The Iraqization of Afghanistan Has BegunAnalyst Juan Cole describes this recent upswing in deadly violence as the Iraqization of Afghanistan. He said "It seems clear that the Taliban have learned from observing events in Iraq, and are developing a similar strategy of targetted bombings to destabilize the country and force US troops out. "

Sudan Arrests Two Officials With Doctors Without Borders Following Report of Widespread Rapes in Darfur

* Sudan Arrests Two Officials With Doctors Without Borders Following Report
of Widespread Rapes in Darfur *

MSF-Holland director Paul Foreman said he was arrested and interrogated on
Monday and Vince Hoedt, Darfur co-ordinator for the Dutch section of MSF was
arrested and questioned on Tuesday. Foreman was charged with crimes against
the state, publishing false reports, spying and undermining Sudanese


News From Democracy Now

CIA Secretly Restores Ties to Sudan Despite Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in
Darfur *

The Los Angeles Times recently revealed that the U.S. has quietly forged a
close intelligence partnership with Sudan despite the government's role in
the mass killings in Darfur. Charles Snyder, the U.S. State Department
Senior Representative on Sudan, defends the Bush administration's policy on Sudan.


AI Canada Taste for Justice Event

I will be hosting an Amnesty International (Canada) Taste for Justice Event barbecue, in my home on Saturday, June 11th at 3:00 pm. We will have lots of food and refreshments, with donations taken for Amnesty International in support of the great work they do on behalf of human rights worldwide. Hopefully we have nice weather for this event. I will have photos posted afterwards. I look forward to seeing my friends, family and supporters! Stay tuned for more news about this, and other news and events. Thank you, and God bless! Peace, Annamarie

Japan: AI's Secretary General awarded honorary doctorate by Ferris University

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: ASA 22/007/2005 1 June 2005

Japan: Amnesty International’s Secretary General awarded honorary doctorate by Ferris University

(Yokohama) Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan, was awarded an honorary doctorate today by Ferris University, Yokohama, Japan.

"Students, ordinary people, each one of us can make a difference in the world," Ms Khan said during a speech at the university in which she called on people to join Amnesty International’s Stop Violence against Women campaign.

Ms Khan highlighted the global problem of violence against women, both in conflict situations and in peace-time.

"Across the world women are asserting their rights to employment, medical care and education. Women activists have achieved huge victories in the past 30 years. Yet, in many parts of the world, women still do not have the vote, or equal access to property and family rights," said Ms Khan.

"In far too many countries laws discriminate against women, politically, socially and economically. Cultural values are often invoked by governments to justify this unequal treatment, in contravention of their obligations to uphold universal standards of human rights."

"Violence against women doesn’t only happen over there, far away. It also happens here: in our homes; to women we know and love; sometimes to us," said Ms Khan.

She highlighted some of the issues that need to be addressed in Japan: reparations for former 'comfort women'; domestic violence – which is the second most cited reason for divorce in Japan; and the need for protection for women who have been trafficked to Japan.

"Violence against women may be universal but it is not inevitable," Ms Khan concluded.

Visit Amnesty International's Stop Violence Against Women website at

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Nigeria: Level of violence against women in the home shockingly high

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: AFR 44/012/2005 31 May 2005

Nigeria: Level of violence against women in the home shockingly high

(Lagos, Nigeria) -- Up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Lagos State, Nigeria are believed to have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the family, with neither the Lagos government nor the Federal government doing anything to stem the tide of violence – and in some cases even condoning it, said Amnesty International at a press conference today launching a new report, Nigeria: Unheard voices – violence against women in the family (full report online at ).

"On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s permission," said Stephane Mikala, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme. "Tragically, husbands, partners and fathers are responsible for most of the violence against these women -- and the government has a duty to protect them."

In some cases, vicious acid attacks have left women with horrific disfigurements, in a brutal form of punishment known as an "acid bath". Such violence is deliberately intended to mutilate or kill – and many women subjected to an "acid bath" die as a result of the attack.

"This and other violence persist because discriminatory laws condone certain forms of violence against women," said Itoro Eze-Anaba of the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), who contributed to the study. "Dismissive attitudes within the police and a justice system that is difficult to access compound the failures of the state to protect women’s rights."

Violence against women in the home is generally regarded as belonging to the private sphere in Nigeria, and therefore to be shielded from outside scrutiny. A culture of silence reinforces the stigma attached to the victim rather than condemning the perpetrator of such crimes.

However, women and men in Nigeria are increasingly drawing attention to injustice and discrimination against women, and asserting the rights of the women and girls who suffer violence in the home. One of their main challenges is that crimes of rape and other forms of violence in the home are seriously under-reported – with the result that perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

"The criminal justice system in our country provides almost no protection for women from violence in the home or community," said Itoro Eze-Anaba. "The police and courts often dismiss domestic violence as a family matter and refuse to investigate or press charges. Furthermore, the few rape victims who summon up the courage to take their cases to court face humiliating rules of evidence, patronizing and discriminatory attitudes from police and court officials, and little chance of justice."

Discriminatory legislation further compounds the problem of violence against women in Nigeria. For example, under the Nigerian Criminal Code, the penalty for indecent assault against a man is higher than that for a woman:

"Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years." (Section 353)

"Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a woman or girl is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years." (Section 360)

Amongst Amnesty International’s recommendations to the Nigerian government to tackle the problem of violence against women in the home is for authorities to:

- monitor violence against women in the home;
- ban it in law and repeal laws that allow it to flourish;
- end discrimination against women in the criminal justice system; and
- take positive measures to challenge social prejudices against women.

"The Nigerian government must take immediate action to meet its obligations under international human rights law, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, against to prevent violence against women," said Stephane Mikala.

"The courage of individual women who have spoken out about their experiences of violence has given hope to others and must be met with full support from all Nigerian authorities -- including by assisting women to escape violence, securing justice for the victims, and to actively promote changes in social attitudes so as to finally bring an end to violence against women in the home."

For further information or to see a copy of the full report, please see

Act now to stop violence against women:

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Amesty International USA - Africa Human Rights Update - Call for Release of Eritrean Journalists

From: Africa Human Rights Update
Date: 06/01/05 17:18:25
Subject: Call for Release of Eritrean Journalists

Members of Reporters without Borders hold up a sign that reads, "Eritrea: 18 Journalists in Prison" in front of the Eritrean Embassy in Paris. Amnesty International has documented that hundreds of political detainees remain held in secret locations in Eritrea without charge or trial.© AFP
Take Action: Urge Congress to Call for Release of Journalists in Eritrea
Congressmen Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Mark Udall (D-CO) are seeking co-signers on a joint letter from Members of the U.S. House to the President of Eritrea. The letter asks for the release of prisoner of conscience Fessahaye Yohannes and his detained journalist colleagues, and for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Eritrea.
Take Action!Ask your representative to join in signing the letter.» ACT NOW» Read more
Take Action: Send Letters of Support to Human Rights Activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Years of conflict have taken their toll on people's lives and human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but activists across the DRC are trying to make positive changes. They are investigating and denouncing human rights abuses, protecting former child soldiers, providing medical and social care for survivors of rape and torture, visiting detention centres, and preparing prosecutions against the perpetrators of abuses. They are playing a key role in peace-building. The efforts of human rights activists deserve greater recognition internationally and from the DRC authorities. An international show of solidarity would offer much needed encouragement and a first line of protection for activists at risk, as well as for the victims they care for.» ACT NOW
Listen to their Stories
Marie-Dolorose Masika Kafanya is president of Femmes Engagées pour la Promotion de la Santé Intégrale (FEPSI), a women-run independent medical centre. It opened in 2003 and is based in the town of Butembo in the North-Kivu province of eastern DRC.» Listen to the interview
Murhabazi Namegabe is Director of the Bureau pour le Volontariat au service de l'Enfance et de la Santé (BVES), an NGO that protects marginalized children and promotes children's rights.» Listen to the interview
Take Action: Release Religious Prisoners of Conscience in Eritrea
Amnesty International continues to be concerned for religous prisoners of conscience in Eritrea. Amnesty Internationl has learned that Demoze Afewerki, chair of the Gideons Bible International section was arrested at the same time as Kidane Weldu, a pastor of the Mulu Wengel ("Full Gospel") evangelical church in Eritrea's capital, Asmara, on March 13. Both men are held incommunicado in the 2nd police station in Asmara and are at risk of torture.» ACT NOW
Take Action: Call for Investigation into Murder of Khadar Osman Dhabar in Somaliland
Following a peaceful protest up to a hundred Gaboye demonstrators are held incommunicado without charge, either in Hargeisa central prison in the capital of Somaliland or in unauthorized and secret police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detention centers where they are at risk of torture. They had been protesting at the shooting of Khadar Osman Dhabar by a police officer.» ACT NOW
More Africa News and Reports
Nigeria: Level of violence against women in the home shockingly high
Eritrea: Amnesty International appeals for the release of six women prisoners of conscience on the occasion of Eritrean Independence Day
Burundi: Rwandan asylum seekers should have access to fair and satisfactory refugee determination procedures
Zimbabwe: Government Continues Pattern of Harassment and Repression of Human Rights Defenders, Charges Amnesty International
En Español.

Guilty until proven innocent; French fries protester regrets war jibe

Guilty until proven innocent 05/26/05 02:17 PM Perhaps one the most dangerous, and most damaging, features of the war on terror is the hollowing out of one of the core tenets of our judicial system--the presumption of innocence. Witness the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, Bagram, and elsewhere who have been denied legal rights on the grounds that, well, they're not entitled to any. This argument is of course premised on a presumption of guilt. (Consider how ingrained is this habit of thought among our military and civilian leadership: when asked for comment on the allegations of Koran-flushing, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said, “It's a judgment call, and I trust the judgment of the commanders more than I trust the judgment of Al Qaeda," by which he meant the detainees at Guantanamo.) As well as being legally and morally objectionable, this presumption, as evidenced by periodic detainee releases, is quite often incorrect. Nevertheless, this same presumption lies behind the administration's approach to domestic security. Here matters are further complicated by the government's self-contradictory insistence, one, that a suspect shoulder the burden of proving his innocence (the logical flipside to the presumption of guilt), and, two, that crucial evidence against a suspect remain secret -- even from the suspect. Take the Senate Intelligence Committee's discussions on the expansion and use of Patriot Act powers. The Committee is scheduled to have a closed meeting today to discuss classified information on how the Patriot Act, passed in 2001, has been used. The concerns that many Americans have regarding the abuse of power may or may not be discussed. We won't know either way. The reasoning behind any abuses of power­unlawful searches and seizures, amassing lists of Americans based on their political affiliation, medical information, etc.­is classified. Any discussion about this classification is also classified. You might be on a list, but the government doesn't have to tell you that, much less why. Essentially, it becomes impossible to prove your innocence, because you don't know what you're innocent of. Take the Homeland Security's "no-fly" lists. A recent Washington Post article notes, "Homeland Security officials will not discuss the criteria that put an individual on the no-fly list, or how one is removed, except to say that the list contains names and other information about people with ties to terrorism. We know, thanks to the ACLU, that quite a few individuals and organizations without any apparent "ties to terrorism," (like the ACLU itself, and certain human rights and advocacy groups) are being watched--and in some cases, intimidated--by local government officials; so clearly the term "terrorism" is being broadly interpreted. How broadly? There's no way of knowing. - Onnesha RoychoudhuriRead the MoJo Blog online for more: The Foundation for National Progress -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------French fries protester regrets war jibe Jamie Wilson in WashingtonWednesday May 25, 2005GuardianIt was a culinary rebuke that echoed around the world, heightening the sense of tension between Washington and Paris in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But now the US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to "freedom fries" has turned against the war. Walter Jones, the Republican congressman for North Carolina who was also the brains behind french toast becoming freedom toast in Capitol Hill restaurants, told a local newspaper the US went to war "with no justification". Mr Jones, who in March 2003 circulated a letter demanding that the three cafeterias in the House of Representatives' office buildings ban the word french from menus, said it was meant as a "light-hearted gesture". But the name change, still in force, made headlines around the world, both for what it said about US-French relations and its pettiness. Now Mr Jones appears to agree. Asked by a reporter for the North Carolina News and Observer about the name-change campaign - an idea Mr Jones said at the time came to him by a combination of God's hand and a constituent's request - he replied: "I wish it had never happened." Although he voted for the war, he has since become one of its most vociferous opponents on Capitol Hill, where the hallway outside his office is lined with photographs of the "faces of the fallen". "If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong," he told the newspaper. "Congress must be told the truth."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited ==============================================================================================
The above articles were the kind contribution of Bob Wolfe excerpted from his June 1, 2005 Newsletter, available by written request from

Syria: Leading Islamic Cleric 'Tortured to Death'

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: MDE 24/036/2005 1 June 2005

Syria: Leading Islamic cleric “tortured to death”

A prominent Islamic religious leader has been tortured to death, according to information received by Amnesty International. Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznawi died on 30 May, 20 days after he “disappeared”, apparently detained by Syrian Military Intelligence at an unknown location.

"The Syrian authorities should launch an immediate, independent investigation into Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznawi's death in custody," said Neil Sammonds, Syria Researcher at Amnesty International. "The results must be made public and those responsible for his torture should be brought to justice."

Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznawi was an outspoken member of the Kurdish community who practised as an imam in the city of Qamishli in north-eastern Syria. He was a critic of violence and terrorism and recently called for reforms in Syria and for more dialogue between religious groups. In February and March 2005 he travelled to Norway, Brussels, and Germany, apparently in connection with his work on building relations between the EU and Kurdish community.

Sheikh Muhammad Ma'shuq al-Khiznaw "disappeared" after leaving the Centre for Islamic Studies in Damascus on 10 May. The Syrian authorities denied that they were holding him but then handed over his body to his family earlier today. It was being taken back to Qamishli to be buried this evening. The family and body were accompanied by ten Military Intelligence cars on the journey between Damascus and Qamishli, according to witnesses.


According to Amnesty International's information, Sheikh Muhammad Ma’shuq al-Khiznawi is at least the sixth Syrian Kurd to have died as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody since March 2004. Amnesty International has not received information about any investigations into any of these deaths in custody, nor into any other of the scores of allegations of torture that it has received over many years. The organisation knows of no cases in which officials responsible for torture have been prosecuted. More than 2,000 people, almost all of them Kurds, were arrested in the wake of March 2004 disturbances. Most of these were held incommunicado at unknown locations, and about 100 remain in detention.

For further information, see Amnesty International's March 2005 report, Syria: Kurds in the Arab Republic one year after the March 2004 event, at

Syria: A culture oppressed – the torture and imprisonment of Syrian Kurds - take action!

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Greece has broken European consensus

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: EUR 25/009/2005 31 May 2005

Greece has broken European consensus

Amnesty International, European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters' International

"It is high time the Greek authorities respect and comply with European and international standards and recommendations and put an end to all prosecutions, imprisonments and violations of the human rights of conscientious objectors” the three international organisations stated today, condemning in the strongest terms the recent wave of sentences against conscientious objectors in Greece. “The Greek government cannot turn a blind eye to the problem any more,” they stressed.

The right to refuse to perform military service is a legitimate exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, enshrined in international human rights treaties to which Greece is a State Party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Greece cannot continue convicting people for exercising their human right to conscientious objection. We urge the Greek government to take action to stop immediately the prosecutions of all conscientious objectors, recover their civil and political rights and bring the provisions for conscientious objection in line with European and internationally recognized standards and recommendations (of the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as well as in line with the recommendations of the Greek Ombudsman and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights," Amnesty International, European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters' International stated.

Just recently, in March 2005, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on Greece to improve the situation of conscientious objectors noting that: "The Committee is concerned that the length of alternative service for conscientious objectors is much longer than military service, and that the assessment of applications for such service is solely under the control of the Ministry of Defence. The State party should ensure that the length of service alternative to military service does not have a punitive character, and should consider placing the assessment of applications for conscientious objector status under the control of civilian authorities."

However, as recently as May 2005, four more conscientious objectors were sentenced to suspended imprisonment of six to 24 months while one of them remained imprisoned for 11 days awaiting his trial. They have all appealed against their verdicts and are awaiting their appeal hearings.

* On 10 May conscientious objector Makedonas Alexandridis was given a suspended sentence of six months for disobedience by the Military Court of Ioannina. Alexandridis had served his military service in the Russian army. Later, he became a Jehovah's Witness, so when the Greek army called him to report for military service he asked to serve alternative civilian service instead. However, the right to conscientious objection is not recognised under Greek Law 2510/1997 for those who have already served in armed forces.
* On 17 May conscientious objector Andreas Anastasiou was given a suspended sentence of six months for insubordination and disobedience by the Military Court of Larissa. Anastasiou had served his military service in the Greek army, but later became a Jehovah’s Witness, so when he was called up for reservist military service he refused to report on religious grounds.
* On 18 May conscientious objector Nikos Baltoukas was sentenced to a suspended 15-month prison term for insubordination by the Military Court of Xanthi. Baltoukas had served his military service in the Greek army but when he was called up for reservist military service he refused to report on grounds of conscience.
* On 23 May conscientious objector Georgios Koutsomanolakis was sentenced to a suspended 24-month prison term for insubordination by the Military Court of Athens. Koutsomanolakis was charged with insubordination in 1979, at a time when there was no alternative civilian service in Greece, because as a Jehovah’s Witness he refused to serve military service on religious grounds. He fled Greece and was granted political asylum in Germany, where he has been living since then. He was arrested and detained on 12 May 2005 on the Greek island of Rhodes during a visit to his parents and on 16 May he was transferred to Korydallos prison, Athens, where he remained imprisoned until his trial.

In addition, conscientious objectors Lazaros Petromelidis and Giorgos Monastiriotis have both been repeatedly sentenced by Military Courts to heavy prison sentences for their conscientious objection.

* Lazaros Petromelidis, President of the Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors, objected to military service on grounds of conscience in 1992 and has been repeatedly prosecuted and convicted since then. He refused to do the alternative service he was offered in 1998, as it was of an extremely punitive duration -- in his case, seven and a half times longer than the military service he would otherwise have had to perform -- and he got his conscientious objector status revoked. Since then, he has been regularly receiving call-up papers to serve in the military and has been repeatedly charged with insubordination because of his refusal, as a conscientious objector, to do military service. He was previously imprisoned in May 1998, April 1999 and September 2002. In June 2003 the Appeal Military Court of Athens sentenced him to 20 months' imprisonment suspended for three years for insubordination. With his most recent sentence in absentia to 30 months' imprisonment for insubordination in December 2004 by the Naval Court of Piraeus, the previous suspension of the sentence was lifted, meaning that he will have to serve a total prison sentence of 50 months as soon as he is arrested. The repeated prosecutions and convictions of Petromelidis contravene his right to conscientious objection since the alternative civilian service that he is called to perform should not be discriminatory or punitive in nature and length.
* Giorgos Monastiriotis, who had joined the Greek Navy on a five-year contract, refused, citing conscientious reasons, to follow his unit in May 2003 when the frigate "Navarino" on which he was serving was sent to the Persian Gulf. He is the first Greek professional soldier known to refuse to participate in the recent war in Iraq on the basis of his conscientious objection and to declare his resignation from the Navy for this reason. In his public refusal in May 2003, he stated that: "I refuse on grounds of conscience to participate in or contribute by any means to the relentless massacre of the Iraqi people... My refusal is also a minimal act of solidarity with the Iraqi people as well as to the peaceful sentiments of the Greek people." In September 2004 he was arrested and sentenced to 40 months' imprisonment for desertion by the Naval Court of Piraeus. He was taken immediately to prison in Corinth where he remained imprisoned for 22 days until his temporary release pending his appeal hearing. In January 2005 he was sentenced again by the Naval Court of Piraeus to 5 months' imprisonment for desertion which was suspended pending appeal. He appealed and was released until his appeal trial. Monastiriotis' convictions are in violation of his right to change his beliefs and develop a conscientious objection after joining the armed forces.

In addition, both Lazaros Petromelidis and Giorgos Monastiriotis are regularly called up to military service, and every time they refuse to serve in the army a new prosecution is brought against them on grounds of insubordination and desertion respectively. This violates Article 14 paragraph 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that: "No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country."

Greece in the Amnesty International Report 2005:

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Lack of human rights safeguards undermines EU counter-terrorism effort

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International


AI Index: IOR 61/011/2005 31 May 2005

Lack of human rights safeguards undermines EU counter-terrorism effort
New analysis from Amnesty International released today

(Brussels, 31 May, 2005) In a detailed analysis of the EU's counter-terrorism initiatives in the area of criminal law since 11 September 2001, Amnesty International has shown that the absence of concrete human rights safeguards in many of these initiatives is likely to undermine efforts to fight terrorism in Europe.

"Respect for human rights is often portrayed as hampering efforts to defeat terrorism but this new analysis shows how genuine security is undermined if basic human rights and the rule of law are not respected. It is in the breach, not in the protection of human rights that security is put at risk. That goes for the EU as well as anywhere else in the world," Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International's EU Office told a press conference in Brussels today.

Amnesty International's 40-page analysis "Human Rights Dissolving at the Borders? Counter-terrorism and EU Criminal Law" - the first analysis of its type of the overall implications of the EU's recent counter-terrorism initiatives in the area of criminal law - is available on from 11.00 Brussels time, 31 May. A shorter Executive Summary ( ) is also available online.

It was presented today to the EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gijs de Vries who participated in an Amnesty International panel debate with Jonathan Faull, European Commission Director-General for Justice, Freedom and Security, Lord Carlile of Berriew, UK Independent Reviewer of terrorism legislation and Susie Alegre, co-author of the analysis, currently OSCE/ODIHR Counter-Terrorism Adviser.

Amnesty International analysed a range of counter-terrorism initiatives where the EU has direct responsibility for ensuring adequate protection of human rights including:
· terrorist blacklists
· European Arrest Warrant
· the drawing up of minimum standards across the EU on the rights of suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings
· admissibility of evidence obtained by torture
· extradition and expulsion of terrorist suspects to third countries.

"After surveying a wide range of counter-terrorism initiatives at EU level, it is clear that the lack of concrete, legally-binding human rights safeguards is not only leading to serious breaches of human rights but has created legal confusion and uncertainty," Dick Oosting said. "Cross-border cooperation to prosecute and remove people suspected of terrorist involvement is increasing, but fundamental human rights safeguards are being left behind at the borders."

Amnesty International's analysis states that the notion of a "war on terror" is helping to create a legal limbo, and that it is in no-one's interests and certainly not in the interest of security, to obtain a wrongful conviction in a terrorist trial or to cooperate blindly with countries that do not respect human rights or the rule of law, thus giving their methods legitimacy.

"Because of the political and emotional impact of terrorist offences, terrorist cases are often the most susceptible to abuses of fundamental rights. That is why it is in these most sensitive and difficult cases that clear and binding standards for criminal justice must prevail if the EU and its Member States are to live up to their collective commitments to protect the principles of human rights and the rule of law," Dick Oosting said.

Full report "Human Rights Dissolving at the Borders? Counter-terrorism and EU Criminal Law" online at

For further comment/background and interviews:
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels)
Tel: 32-2-5021499
Fax: 32-2-5025686

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Amnesty Response to President Bush

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: AMR 51/087/2005 31 May 2005

USA: Response to President Bush

President Bush again failed to address longstanding concerns regarding US detention policies and practices in the context of the "war on terror", Amnesty International said in response to his comments today.

At Guantánamo, the US has operated an isolated prison camp in which people are confined arbitrarily, held virtually incommunicado, without charge, trial or access to due process. Not a single Guantánamo detainee has had the legality of their detention reviewed by a court, despite the Supreme Court ruling of last year.

"Guantánamo is only the visible part of the story. Evidence continues to mount that the US operates a network of detention centres where people are held in secret or outside any proper legal framework -– from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond," said Amnesty International.

US interrogation and detention policies and practices during the "war on terror", have deliberately and systematically breached the absolute prohibition of torture and Ill-treatment. Individuals held in US custody have been transferred for interrogation to countries known to practice torture.

"If President Bush and his administration are serious about freedom and human dignity they should recommit to the rule of law and human rights."

Amnesty International continues to call on the US administration to:

* end all secret and incommunicado detentions;
* grant the International Committee of the Red Cross full access to all detainees including those held in secret locations;
* ensure recourse to the law for all detainees;
* establish a full independent commission of inquiry into all allegations of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions and "disappearances";
* bring to justice anyone responsible for authorizing or committing human rights violations

Background Information

When asked to comment about Amnesty International’s report during a White House Briefing President Bush said: "I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. (…) The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way."

For more information, please see:
"Guantánamo and beyond: The continuing pursuit of unchecked executive power":

"USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the 'war on terror' ":

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