Amnesty Urges UN Probe Of ‘Systematic’ Philippine Drug War Killings

Butch Olano (L), Amnesty International section representative speaks during a press conference in Manila on July 8, 2019. Ted ALJIBE / AFP

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s narcotics crackdown has become a “systematic” campaign of abuses, Amnesty International alleged on Monday, urging the United Nations to launch a probe into thousands of killings.

The drug war is Duterte’s signature initiative and is heavily supported by many Filipinos, however the nightly killings by police have provoked international condemnation.

In its second report on the crackdown since 2016, Amnesty said targets, mostly poor people, are largely drawn from “drug watch lists”.

Those names are supplied by local officials who are “under immense pressure” from police to provide a steady stream of suspects, the London-based monitor said.

“Worse still, individuals on watch lists appear to be placed on them indefinitely, with no means of getting delisted, even after they have gone through drug treatment or stopped using drugs,” said the report.

Amnesty said it was impossible to determine how many people have been killed in the campaign, accusing Manila of “deliberate obfuscation and misinformation” that has left victims’ kin feeling helpless.

The government’s official toll is just over 5,300 suspects killed by police, but watchdogs say the true number is quadruple that.

“What we believe is most important, in assessing the current situation, is the systematic nature of the violations,” Amnesty’s East Asia director Nicholas Bequelin told AFP.

Amnesty said the press has lost interest in the killings while the government fails to investigate or provide adequate treatment programmes for drug users.

“It has had the effect of creating a climate of total impunity in the country, in which police and others are free to kill without consequence,” it said.

“There is sufficient evidence to conclude that crimes committed may constitute crimes against humanity,” the group added.

‘Failure of international community’

Amnesty said it investigated the deaths of 27 people over the past year in Bulacan, a province near Manila that has become “the country’s bloodiest killing field”.

Police broke down doors before shooting drug suspects inside and abducted others to be killed elsewhere, it alleged.

Police also tampered with crime scenes and fabricated their reports, planted evidence and stole from victims, it added.

“The failure of the international community to meaningfully address the serious human rights violations committed… has emboldened the government to carry out a wider crackdown on independent media, human rights defenders, and political activists,” the report said.

Amnesty called on the UN Human Rights Council to open an independent inquiry to “put an end to these crimes, and to provide justice and reparations for countless families and victims”.

The group’s appeal echoed a draft resolution proposed by Iceland at the UN rights council and backed mainly by Western nations.

With the council expected to vote on the document before ending its sessions on July 12, the Philippine government on Friday reiterated Duterte’s warning to back off.

“Any attempt… by any foreign country to interfere with how this government maintains its peace and order, not only is an affront to their intellect but an interference with the country’s sovereignty as well,” Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

AFP

Amnesty Calls On ICC To Fully Probe Boko Haram Conflict Atrocities

Nigeria Must Account For Victims Of 'Enforced Disappearance', Says Amnesty International

Amnesty International on Monday said the International Criminal Court should start a full-blown investigation into atrocities committed in the Boko Haram insurgency, accusing Nigeria of failing to bring those responsible to justice.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatma Bensouda opened a preliminary examination in 2010 into eight potential cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the violence.

Six cases relate to the jihadists and include the killing of civilians, mass kidnapping, attacks on schools and places of worship, sexual violence, plus the use of children in conflict.

The other two — involving attacks on civilians, mass arrests and detention of suspects, abuse, torture and summary executions — concern the military.

Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency has killed more than 27,000 people and left 1.8 million homeless in northeast Nigeria since 2009, triggering a humanitarian crisis in the wider region.

President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2015 promised to “leave no stone unturned to promote the rule of law and deal with all cases of human rights abuses”.

Bensouda acknowledged in her latest annual report published on December 5 that Nigeria appeared to have taken “concrete steps” towards investigating the allegations.

She wrote there appeared to be a “tangible prospect” of proceedings against Boko Haram members but not against troops “since the Nigerian authorities tend to deny any allegation”.

But Amnesty International suggested Abuja was keeping her “in limbo” by giving the impression of domestic action but in reality doing very little.

“Eight years since the opening of the preliminary examination and faced with the continuing commission of crimes under international law and the possibility of a never-ending preliminary analysis, it is time for the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) to open a formal investigation in Nigeria,” it said.

There was no immediate response from the government or military. But both have previously dismissed accusations from Amnesty as being without foundation.

 ‘Legal cover’

Central to the human rights group’s argument is Nigeria’s investigations into alleged military atrocities and its prosecution of thousands of Boko Haram suspects.

None of the more than 20 government inquiries launched into claims of abuse by troops and civilian militia members in the last nine years has led to formal investigations and prosecutions, it pointed out.

Instead, the proceedings appeared designed to provide a “veneer of accountability” and exonerate senior officers and “shield persons concerned from criminal responsibility”, it alleged.

At the same time, there had been a “minimal” number of prosecutions against mid- to high-ranking Boko Haram members for serious crimes such as terrorism, murder or hostage-taking.

The report said mass trials of more than 1,000 suspects that began in October 2017 were a “sham” designed to provide “legal cover” for those held in prolonged, arbitrary and unlawful detention.

Prosecutions were based on unreliable and untested confessions or guilty pleas, while defendants had a lack of access to lawyers and trials were rushed through.

Most of those on trial were acquitted due to lack of evidence or walked free because of time already served in custody. The majority appeared to be civilians caught up in the conflict.

Amnesty said Nigeria had failed to meet its obligations under international law to investigate and prosecute crimes as part of the ICC’s preliminary examination.

Further delays to a formal investigation “will allow further destruction and decay of evidence”, it added in the 74-page report.

“It is in the interests of both the OTP and Nigeria to demonstrate that serious steps are being taken to cure Nigeria’s inability or unwillingness to bring perpetrators to justice,” it said. “Above all, it is in the interest of victims.”

AFP

Cote d’Ivore Frees Ex-First Lady Simone Gbagbo After Amnesty

Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves at her supporters as she arrives at Abidjan’s courthouse prior to the opening hearing of her trial over charges of crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the 2010 electoral violence. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Former Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo, who had been serving a 20-year jail term, was released on Wednesday, two days after being amnestied by President Alassane Ouattara, her lawyer said.

Gbagbo, 69, left the gendarmerie academy in Abidjan where she had been held for seven years, said attorney Blede Dohore. She was expected to head to her home in the district of Cocody, where around a thousand supporters were preparing to welcome her.

AFP

Cote d’Ivore Grants Amnesty To Ex-President Gbagbo’s Wife, Others

 Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves at her supporters as she arrives at Abidjan’s courthouse prior to the opening hearing of her trial over charges of crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the 2010 electoral violence. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Ivory Coast’s former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, who is serving a 20-year jail term, will be freed on Wednesday after President Alassane Ouattara granted her an amnesty, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo has spent seven years behind bars for her role in a wave of political violence that claimed several thousand lives in 2010-11.

On the eve of independence day, Ouattara had on Monday announced an amnesty for Simone Gbagbo, 69, and around 800 others in the name of national reconciliation.

Her attorney, Rodrigue Dadje, told AFP she would be “released tomorrow after the judicial formalities have been completed.”

She was “delighted to learn the news of her release,” Dadje said.

Simone Gbagbo, who was first detained without trial after her arrest in 2011, was convicted for “endangering state security” and sentenced in 2015.

She had been implicated in the 2011 shelling of a market in an Abidjan district that supported Ouattara and for belonging to a “crisis cell” that allegedly coordinated attacks by the armed forces and militias in support of her husband.

Laurent Gbagbo has been in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for seven years. He has been on trial since 2016 for alleged crimes against humanity.

In February 2012, the ICC also issued a warrant for Simone Gbagbo’s arrest. But in 2016, Ouattara said he would “no longer send” Ivorian nationals to the court, as the country now had a “functioning justice system.”

 Electoral commission reform welcomed 

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that erupted in Abidjan — once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities — after presidential elections in November 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to Ouattara, his bitter rival, after a decade in power.

The conflict left a legacy of political friction that endures today. The lack of national reconciliation has been seen by many observers as the biggest mark against Ouattara’s record.

The Gbagbos remain well-liked within the Ivorian Popular Front, the party they co-founded in the 1980s which has since split into two factions.

“This is a big step towards reconciliation. But we should go further with the release of soldiers and Laurent Gbagbo, who remains the crucial element for reconciliation,” said Georges Armand Ouegnin, president of the opposition coalition Together for Democracy and Sovereignty.

The president also announced a reform of the Independent Electoral Commission, which has come under fire for being unequal.

The commission is currently made up of eight members representing the government and four representing the opposition.

Civil society organisations welcomed the move which they said would ease political tensions, with local polls due in October and a presidential election in 2020.

Ouattara said he hoped “the next elections would be inclusive and without violence”.

Among others granted amnesties were former defence minister Lida Kouassi — a key Gbagbo ally — who was sentenced this year to 15 years for conspiracy, and former construction minister Assoa Adou, jailed in 2017 for four years.

Around 500 of those named have already been released provisionally from detention, the president said. They will have their criminal records erased.

The other 300 will be released “soon”, he added, without giving any dates.

AFP

Cote D’Ivoire’s President Grants Simone Gbagbo Amnesty

President of Cote d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara

 

Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara on Monday announced amnesties for around 800 people, including former first lady Simone Gbagbo who is currently behind bars, in the name of national reconciliation.

Last week, Cote d’Ivoire’s Supreme Court overturned an earlier acquittal granted to Gbagbo for crimes against humanity.

The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, in power from 2000 to 2010, will “soon be freed,” Ouattara said during a televised address to the West African nation on the eve of the country’s independence day.

Simone Gbagbo has been serving a 20-year sentence handed to her in 2015 for “endangering state security”.

In this file photo taken on May 9, 2016, Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves at her supporters as she arrives at Abidjan’s courthouse prior to the opening hearing of her trial over charges of crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the 2010 electoral violence. 
ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Laurent Gbagbo has been in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for seven years.

Since 2016, he has been tried for alleged crimes against humanity during post-election unrest in 2010.

Among the others granted amnesties by Ouattara on Monday were former defence minister Lida Kouassi — a key ally of Laurent Gbagbo — who was sentenced this year to 15 years for conspiracy, and former construction minister Assoa Adou, jailed in 2017 for four years.

“On Monday I signed an amnesty order that will benefit about 800 citizens prosecuted or sentenced for offences related to the post-election crisis of 2010 or state security offences committed after May 21, 2011, (the date of Ouattara’s inauguration),” the president said in his address.

Around 500 of those named have already been released provisionally from detention, he added. They will have their criminal records erased.

The other 300 will be released “soon”, he added, without giving any dates.

The question of national reconciliation in Cote d’Ivoire, or the lack of it, has been seen by observers as a black mark against Ouattara.

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that swept Abidjan — once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities — in the aftermath of the November 2010 presidential polls when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to bitter rival Ouattara.

AFP

Kukah Backs Decision To Grant Boko Haram Members Amnesty

Kukah Backs Decision To Grant Boko Haram Members Amnesty

 

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, has supported the decision of the Federal Government to grant amnesty to repentant members of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Bishop Kukah revealed his position while appearing as a guest on Channels Television’s Hard Copy in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

READ ALSO: FG Ready To Rehabilitate Repentant Boko Haram Members – Buhari

 

“I think I was one of the first people to raise the issue of amnesty about five years ago, I know how much we were vilified,” he said.

“But I was pretty convinced about what I was saying that for me if you mention the word amnesty, Nigerians think it simply means shaking hands and telling everybody to go home.”

On March 23, President Muhammadu Buhari had said the Federal Government was willing to offer amnesty to members of the outlawed group.

He had noted that while further efforts were ongoing to secure the release of every citizen abducted by the insurgents, government was ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the group who showed strong commitment in that regard.

 

Bishop Kukah, on his part, lauded the decision, saying amnesty was the way to go as no war has ended with victory being declared.

He added, “If Boko Haram has been perceived to be as so weakened as it is, we would not be talking about negotiation. So clearly, those with superior information and superior knowledge – which is what government is all about – know something that the rest of us don’t.”

Evaluating the war against corruption, the clergyman faulted the list of alleged looters recently released by the Federal Government.

He described the list as “uninspiring and diversionary,” saying it hardly speaks to the conduct of politics in Nigeria which he claimed had always run on corruption.

“From the last local government chairman, senator, president, governor; it would be nice to know one single politician who has run for office with what you call ‘hard-earned’ money.

“Corruption is not something that government fights, government might offer a lead, but it will get you to nowhere unless you have the buy-in of the people,” Kukah said.

Mali President Eyes Amnesties Under ‘National Consensus’ Law

 

Mali’s President, Ibrahim Keita

Mali will adopt a law on “national consensus” that may amnesty rebels who took part in a revolt in 2012, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in a New Year’s speech.

Keita, in a nationwide message late Sunday, said the law would draw on a so-called charter for peace, unity and national reconciliation, which he received in June as the outcome of a two-year-old peace pact between the government and Tuareg rebels aimed at shoring up Mali’s shaky security.

The “draft law on national consensus… (will) include exemption from prosecution for all those who are implicated in armed rebellion but who do not have blood on their hands,” he said.

It will also include “measures of conciliation”, he said.

These will be implemented after trials that are currently underway are fast-tracked to the conclusion, and after compensation for victims is speeded up.

Ideas include a programme to rehabilitate “all those who lay down their weapons and publicly undertake to renounce violence,” Keita said.

But he insisted the package is “neither a reward for impunity nor an avowal of weakness, and even less a denial of right for the victims.”

“It offers the possibility for reintegration for all those who let themselves be carried away by armed conflict, who have not committed unacceptable acts and who show sincere repentance,” he said.

Northern Mali was overrun in March and April 2012 after al-Qaeda-linked jihadists hijacked a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg groups.

A French-led military intervention in 2013 rolled back the jihadist threat.

However, the region remains highly unstable, prompting France and the United Nations to maintain a high military profile, and a peace deal with the Tuaregs signed in 2015 is still shaky.

Keita’s speech came on the heels of a government reshuffle, and ahead of presidential elections this year.

He has appointed a new prime minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, who is viewed as a loyalist, and installed 36 new ministers, including a new foreign minister.

AFP

Brazilian President’s Pardons Ignite Corruption Row

Brazilian President Michel Temer (R) and First Lady Marcela Temer get ready to listen to a choir of local public schoolchildren during a celebration for the Christmas holidays, at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia on December 22, 2017.
EVARISTO SA / AFP

President Michel Temer was accused Saturday of handing Brazilians convicted of corruption a get out of jail card with changes to the traditional collective Christmas pardon.

Temer, who has been charged with corruption himself, issued the annual decree Friday, expanding the categories of prisoners eligible for early release.

The main shift was to lift the previous exclusion on all those serving sentences of more than 12 years. Under Temer’s changes, the length of sentence no longer matters and a prisoner also needs only to have served 20 percent of the sentence to qualify, rather than 25 percent as under the previous rules.

“It’s a Christmas party for the corrupt,” lashed out Deltan Dallagnol, one of the chief prosecutors in operation “Car Wash,” as the biggest anti-corruption probe in Brazilian history is known.

“Practice corruption with only 20 percent of the consequences,” he said on Facebook.

Dallagnol referred to the case of construction tycoon Marcelo Odebrecht who was released this week into house arrest as part of a steep reduction of his sentence in exchange for providing devastating testimony to “Car Wash” investigators.

Originally, Odebrecht had been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison, but saw that cut to 10 years, with only two and a half behind bars and a transfer now to his luxury Sao Paulo house.

His testimony and that of fellow company executives was used to go after scores of politicians who allegedly took bribes.

Temer’s decree will undermine prosecutors’ bargaining power in such cases, Dallagnol said.

“If Marcelo Odebrecht could have seen this Christmas pardon from President Temer, he’d never have struck a plea bargain!” Dallagnol tweeted.

“Open season for corruption continues. They defraud bids. They embezzle from health, education and security! Come, steal, and head off!! That’s the message.”

Accused of corruption, Temer is the first sitting president to face criminal charges. Congress, where many members are also facing corruption probes, twice voted against putting him on trial.

Responding to the outcry, Justice Minister Torquato Jardim held a press conference in the capital Brasilia Saturday, telling journalists that Temer’s expansion of the pardons was done for completely different reasons.

“The prisons are overcrowded. That is a reality we cannot ignore. Those who will be let out did not commit heinous crimes and are not considered serious threats,” the Correio Braziliense newspaper quoted him as saying.

AFP

Yemen Govt Offers Amnesty To Those Who Cut Ties With Rebels – PM

Houthi Shiite Yemenis hold their weapons during a rally to show support for their comrades in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Yemen’s internationally-recognised government said Monday it would grant amnesty to anyone who cuts ties with Huthi rebels, after a key rebel ally turned his back on the Iran-backed insurgents.

“The president will soon announce a general amnesty for all those who collaborated with the Huthis in recent months and who have retracted that allegiance,” Prime Minister Ahmad Obaid bin Daghr said.

AFP

Bahraini Jailed For ‘Insulting King’ Deported, Says Amnesty Int’l

Amnesty International Declares Interest In Death Of Desmond Nunugwo

A Bahraini citizen convicted of “insulting the king” and stripped of his nationality has been deported to Iraq after serving a two-year jail sentence, Amnesty International said on Friday.

Ibrahim Karimi was released from the notorious Jaw prison on Monday and “deported to Iraq the next day”, Amnesty said in a report.

He had served a sentence of two years and one month for allegedly “insulting the king” of Bahrain as well as Saudi Arabia and its ruler, and for possession of a stun gun.

Karimi was sentenced in 2016 but his citizenship had been revoked by the Bahraini authorities more than three years earlier.

Amnesty said Karimi had been found guilty of “publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime” and of “publicly insulting the king”.

He was also convicted of “insulting Saudi Arabia and its king” in a tweet, following the deadly 2015 collapse of a massive construction crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca that killed more than 100 people.

Karimi has denied ownership of the twitter account.

Amnesty has described Karimi as a “prisoner of conscience”.

Authorities in Manama have stepped up prosecution of dissidents in recent months, granting military courts the right to try civilians for charges including terrorism as protests demanding an elected government in the Sunni-ruled monarchy near their seventh year.

Dozens of mostly Shiite protesters have been jailed and number of high-profile activists and clerics stripped of their citizenship since protests erupted in 2011.

Bahrain, a key ally of the United States and home to the US Fifth Fleet, accuses Shiite Iran of training “terrorist cells” that aim to overthrow the Bahraini government.

Iran denies the allegation.

AFP

Alleged Extra-Judicial Killing: Amnesty International Faults Army Report

Amnesty International Declares Interest In Death Of Desmond NunugwoHuman rights organisation, Amnesty International has faulted the findings of the Special Board of Inquiry investigating the allegations of human rights abuse by soldiers.

The agency, however, called for the establishment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to probe the allegations.

The Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stated this in a statement on Thursday while reacting to the summary of the Army report.

“We stand by the findings of our research and our call for an investigation that is independent, impartial and thorough; criteria that this panel clearly does not meet. We maintain that the nine senior commanders named in our report should be the subject of an effective and independent investigation.

“To this end, we welcome the panel’s recommendation that there should be a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into these allegations of horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in North-East Nigeria,” the statement said.

Amnesty International asked the Federal Government to set up an independent investigation into its allegations, insisting that those suspected of committing human rights violations must be brought to book.

“President Muhammadu Buhari promised an independent investigation into our allegations of human rights violations and crimes under international law two years ago. This is a vital step and must be implemented as a matter of urgency by the government.

“Amnesty International’s priority is justice, human rights and the dignity of human life in Nigeria. We maintain that those suspected of committing human rights violations and crimes under international law on all sides of the conflict must be brought to justice in fair trials before civilian courts without recourse to the death penalty. We also urge the military to make the whole of this report public,” the statement added.

Amnesty Programme Beneficiaries Seal Igbinedion University Hostel

igbinedion-universityBeneficiaries of the Nigerian government’s Amnesty Programme currently studying at the Igbinedion University in Okada, Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State have sealed the school hostel in protest of unpaid stipends.

The students, who locked up the gates to the school hostel alleged that the amnesty office had not paid them monthly stipends for six months, also threatened to disrupt the semester examinations starting next week.

“Here in this school, we are living from hand to mouth. This is not what we negotiated for,” one of the protesting ex-militants said.

The spokesperson for the institution, Jide Ilugbo, expressed optimism that there would be a quick resolution of the crisis by the relevant authorities.

He said the amnesty office was expected to resolve the issue before commencement of examinations.

“We are very optimistic that the Federal Government will yield to their demands on time,” he added.