Gross human right violations took place throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa in the year 2000, according to Amnesty International’s newly released international report.
The 2001 report by the human rights watchdog, which this year marks its 40th anniversary, cited violations including extrajudicial executions, widespread use of torture and unfair trials, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders.
“Freedom of expression and association continued to be curtailed; the climate of impunity remained and the victims were still awaiting steps to bring those responsible for past human rights violations to justice,” said the authors.
The Middle East section of the report leads with the fact that more than 350 Palestinians, including nearly 100 children, “were killed mostly through excessive use of lethal force by Israeli security services.”
Meanwhile, says Amnesty, “More than 60 Israelis, including more than 30 civilians, were killed by Palestinian armed groups and individuals.” The report goes on to note that hundreds of people, mainly Palestinians from Israel and the Occupied Territories, were arrested for political reasons, mostly in connection with stone-throwing demonstrations.
In Lebanon, many prisoners held for up to 15 years without charge or trial in the Khiam detention centre in south Lebanon were released on Israel's withdrawal from the area it had occupied for decades.
Under the Palestinian Authority, says the report, at least 25 prisoners of conscience were briefly detained, mostly for criticizing PA policies. Scores of other political detainees were released in October at the beginning of the Intifada, added Amnesty, saying: “However, more than 200 other detainees imprisoned on accusations of ‘collaborating’ with Israel continued to be detained without charge or trial.”
BLOODSHED IN THE MAGHREB
In Algeria, impunity continued to be widely enjoyed by the security forces and paramilitary militias, says the Amnesty report.
“Several thousand members of armed groups were granted exemption from prosecution under the Civil Harmony Law,” said the authors, adding that “the level of violence, which had decreased in 1999, rose again. More than 2,500 people were killed in individual attacks, massacres, bomb explosions and armed confrontations. Hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. Several cases of "disappearances" were reported, adding to the thousands of cases reported in previous years.”
The report added that no independent and impartial investigations have been carried out to bring those responsible to justice.
Amnesty also criticized Egypt for “torture and ill-treatment in police stations.”
“Several people died in custody in circumstances suggesting that torture caused or contributed to their deaths,” reads the report. “At least six women and 16 men were executed during the year. Thousands of detainees continued to be held in prisons where conditions amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
“In addition, human rights defenders continued to be targeted and faced harassment and legal restrictions,” Amnesty notes (see Albawaba.com’s In the Spotlight story on human rights activist Saad Eddine Ibrahim
on News page).
The Amnesty reports denounces torture as still widespread in Iraq, and says that new punishments, including “beheading and amputation of the tongue,” were reportedly introduced.
“Scores of people, among them political prisoners and possible prisoners of conscience, were executed,” added the authors. “The bodies of many executed bore visible signs of torture.”
In Tunisia, according to Amnesty, “the targeting of human rights defenders escalated to an unprecedented level.”
Torture in police stations and prisons remained widespread and at least two detainees died in police custody, said the report’s authors.
“Up to 1,000 political prisoners, most of them prisoners of conscience, remained detained,” the report goes on. “Trial proceedings began against scores of people arrested in previous years on political grounds.”
CLAMPDOWNS AND TORTURE
The 2001 report notes that Iran witnessed a “clampdown on freedom of expression and association resulted in the arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of scores of journalists and intellectuals.”
Scores of political prisoners, sentenced after unfair trials in previous years, and students detained following demonstrations, remained behind bars in 2000, according to the authors, who added that at least 75 executions took place.
In Jordan, according to Amnesty International, “more than 1,700 people were arrested…during 2000 for political reasons.”
“Trials by the state security court failed to provide adequate safeguards for fair trials,” said the authors, adding: “During the year at least 23 family "honor killings" took place and 10 executions were carried out.”
The Amnesty report reveals that in Yemen, “hundreds of people who were arrested on political grounds were detained and court proceedings continued against several journalists.”
It further notes that “scores, possibly hundreds, of people were believed to be under sentence of death or facing trial for capital offences at the end of 2000. At least 13 people were executed.”
Hundreds of people, including students and suspected opponents of the government, were also arrested on political grounds in Lebanon, according to Amnesty.
“Two human rights activists were subjected to harassment and prosecution before criminal and military courts,” reads the report, which adds that “Hundreds of political prisoners were subjected to summary trials before the Military Court. Hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers were periodically detained and scores of asylum-seekers were deported from the country.”
Meanwhile, in Libya, hundreds of political prisoners remained in detention without charge or trial in 2000, while many others remained held despite having being tried and acquitted, says the report.
“Political detainees were routinely tortured,” said the authors. “At least one person died in police custody in circumstances suggesting that torture reportedly caused or contributed to his death.”
Racist attacks against sub-Saharan Africans which took place in September reportedly led to dozens of deaths and scores of injuries, adds the report.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s accession to the UN Women Convention, says Amnesty’s report, women continued to face severe discrimination and were also subjected to human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and death penalty.
“In an increase over the previous year, at least 123 people were executed, all after trials about which very little was known,” said the authors. “There were 34 cases of amputation during the year and flogging continued to be imposed for a wide range of offences. Arrests on political and religious grounds were continuing while people arrested in previous years remained in detention.”
FATE OF THE DISAPPEARED
In Syria, according to the authors, the fate of hundreds of people who “disappeared” in the 1970s and 1980s remained unknown.
“At least two political detainees died in custody,” reads the report. “Hundreds of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, were released during 2000, however, hundreds of others remained in detention without trial or serving long sentences after unfair trials.”
“Although restrictions on freedom of expression were apparently relaxed, prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Nizar Nayuf remained in detention despite his ill health,” continues the report.
The process of compensating victims of ''disappearance'' and arbitrary detention began in Morocco, according to the report.
“Even in cases of ‘disappearance’ and arbitrary detention which have been acknowledged by the authorities, no investigations are known to have been carried out, nor were the perpetrators brought to justice,” said the authors. “The fate of some 450 people, the majority of them Sahrawis, who ‘disappeared’ between the mid-1960s and early 1990s, had not been clarified.”
The right to freedom of expression was increasingly violated in Morocco in 2000, added Amnesty, “leading to the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience.”
Since 1961, Amnesty International members have campaigned to defend prisoners of conscience and other victims of human rights violations including torture, "disappearances," political killings and executions. Amnesty International activists have worked on more than 45,000 cases, and have responded to more than 16,600 urgent appeals on behalf of men, women and children in immediate danger – Albawaba.com
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