AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 1995 UPDATES
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EMBARGOED FOR 1800 HRS GMT, WEDNESDAY 5 JULY 1995
Selected events covering the period from January to May
AI INDEX: POL 10/04/95
Selected events in Africa from January to May 1995
In January Amnesty International launched a major international
campaign to draw attention to human rights violations in Sudan and
urged the United Nations (UN) to create an international civilian
human rights monitoring team as a first step in breaking the cycle
of abuses. In February women relatives of army officers executed
after an unfair trial in 1990 were beaten and threatened with rape
and death following an anti-government protest on the anniversary
of the executions of their husbands and sons.
In March the UN Commission on Human Rights voted to
investigate sending human rights monitors. The African Commission
on Human and Peoples' Rights of the Organization of African Unity
went a stage further and called for monitors to be deployed.
Extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations
continued to be reported between January and May 1995,
particularly in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Police torture of
suspected criminals continued to be reported.
Constitutional Court hearings on the death penalty took
place in February 1995. By May the Court had not delivered its
ruling. The court's first ruling, in another case, placed the onus
on the state prosecutors to prove that confessions are made
voluntarily before they can be admitted as evidence. In May the
National Parliament passed legislation setting up the Commission
on Truth and Reconciliation, which can investigate past human
right violations, recommends compensation to victims of those
violations, as well as recommend granting amnesties to
Attacks by rebel forces intensified since the beginning of the
year, and have moved closer to the capital, Freetown. Hundreds of
civilians were deliberately killed and others abducted.
In an attack by rebels on the town of Kambia in Northern
Province on 25 January 1995 at least 15 civilians were shot dead
by the rebels and more than 100 school children were abducted.
Seven foreign nuns abducted from Kambia at the same time were
released in March, and a further 10 foreign hostages, two held
since November 1994, were released in April. However, large
numbers of Sierra Leonean civilians are believed to be still held
Killings of unarmed civilians by armed political groups have been
reported by UN staff in Liberia since the beginning of the year.
For example, 62 people --- mostly women and children --- were
killed in early April by machetes in Yosi, and dozens of other
civilians were killed during April at Sinje and Tobee.
Thousands of unarmed civilians were killed between January and May
1995 by members of the Tutsi-dominated armed forces and extremist
Hutu and Tutsi armed gangs. On 24 and 25 March suburbs in the
capital Bujumbura were the scene of another outbreak of mass
violence and human right abuses. The local Hutu majority were
driven out of two suburbs, which were the last remaining
ethnically mixed areas in the city. Thousands of Hutu citizens
fled the city to the nearby border with Zaire. In early April
1995, around 400 civilians were killed by the army and Tutsi armed
groups in Gasorwe and Kizi in Muyinga prefecture. Thousands of
Burundians fled to Tanzania.
There were continuing large-scale arrests of people suspected of
having committed crimes against humanity including genocide when
at least half a million people, mainly Tutsi, were killed between
April and July 1994. Prisons conditions - which were already bad -
deteriorated further, both in the official prisons and in
unofficial detention centres. In April there were an estimated
32,000 people held in detention without charge or trial. Many
prisoners died because of overcrowding; there were also numerous
reports of ill-treatment, especially in secret jails.
Reports of "disappearances", torture and killings of unarmed
civilians by members of the Rwandese Patriotic Army persisted. The
single largest incident was the massacre at the internally
displaced persons' camp in Kibeho, in the south west of Rwanda.
After thousands refused to move from the camp, soldiers opened
fire on the crowds and thousands of unarmed civilians were killed,
though the exact figure is still in dispute. An international
commission of inquiry into the incident began its work on 8 May.
Many Rwandese refugees in Zaire and Tanzania were still
refusing to return home because of persistent reports of attacks
on Hutu in Rwanda, despite reassurances by the Rwandese Government
that they have nothing to fear.
Selected events in the Americas from January to May 1995
Mass arrests of trade unionists have continued under the state of
siege legislation declared by President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada
on 18 April. Some of those detained have reportedly been
subjected to ill-treatment, beatings and electric shocks after
being arrested. The state of siege followed three weeks of
demonstrations, some violent, staged by the teachers' union
against the Education Reform Law and the General Strike called by
Bolivian Labour Confederation (COB) in support of teachers'
demands. Under Bolivia's constitution, the state of siege is an
exceptional measure that the executive power may invoke to
preserve public order.
Gross human rights violations continued into 1995. Scores of
people were killed in an upsurge of paramilitary activity in
several areas of the country, including the departments of Cesar,
North Santander and Meta. The government took little effective
action to disband such groups although one army officer was placed
under arrest after openly acknowledging his links with a
paramilitary group responsible for a series of massacres in the
south of Cesar department.
There have also been renewed attacks against human rights
defenders. Members of the Civic Human Committee of Meta (Comite
Civico de Derechos Humanos del Meta) based in the departmental
capital, Villavicencio, received numerous death threats
apparently from paramilitary forces operating in the area. As a
result, members of the Committee were forced to leave the area.
In February, President Ernesto Samper Pizano admitted state
responsibility for the "disappearance", torture and murder of 107
people by the security forces and paramilitary groups in Trujillo,
Valle de Cauca department, between 1988-1990.
The US-led Multinational Force that returned President Aristide to
power in October 1994 was replaced on 31 March by the United
Nations Mission in Haiti, made up of military, civilian police and
civilian personnel. Since the return of President Aristide, there
has been a dramatic reduction in the level of human rights
In December 1994 the parliament passed a law banning the
existence of paramilitary groups. The infamous chefs de section,
rural police chiefs, who were responsible for numerous human
rights violations in the past, were also disbanded. The armed
forces have been effectively demobilized, for the time being.
Police functions have been separated from the army and a
controversial interim police force, composed largely of former
military personnel, established. A National Commission for Truth
and Justice has been created and government investigations
announced into a few cases of extrajudicial executions.
However, many problems still remain. Much needed judicial
and prison reform has barely started, and there has been
widespread criticism of the lack of systematic disarmament of the
military and paramilitary. The lack of a properly functioning
police force and judiciary has left a vacuum in which criminal
elements, believed to consist largely of former soldiers and
paramilitary, feel free to perpetrate acts of violence against the
Amnesty International is concerned that the issue of
impunity both for human rights violations of the past and the
present has scarcely been touched so far. Legislative and local
elections are due to take place in June and presidential elections
in December; Amnesty International will be urging the current and
new administrations to bring those responsible for past human
rights violations to justice as a matter of urgency.
New incursions by the Mexican army into the southern state of
Chiapas in February led to a rise of human rights violations.
Amnesty International documented scores of cases of arbitrary
arrests, including prisoners of conscience, dozens of cases of
torture and some "disappearances" of people in Chiapas and
elsewhere in Mexico. Despite President Ernesto Zedillo's
announcement early this year promising an end to impunity in
Mexico, none of those responsible for the violations have been
brought to justice.
Violations of human rights continue to be reported in the USA. On
issues like the death penalty, police brutality and torture and
ill-treatment in jails and prisons, Amnesty International has
found repeated violations of international human rights standards.
Serious incidents of police ill-treatment and the use of excessive
force, often towards racial minorities, have been documented in
major US cities, including Los Angeles and New York. Amnesty
International has also condemned conditions in some super-maximum
security prison units where prisoners are isolated in sealed
windowless cells, with no work, educational or rehabilitation
facilities. The organization also condemned the recent
reintroduction of chain gangs, by an Alabama prison in May, as a
retrograde step in human rights.
As of 15 May, 21 executions had taken place in the United
States: eight in Texas; two each in Alabama and Illinois; and one
each in Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, North
Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennslyvania and Virginia. Three of the
prisoners concerned had refused to continue with their legal
appeals and agreed to their execution.
Two states resumed executions after lengthy gaps. On 2 May
Keith Zettlemoyer became the first prisoner executed in
Pennslyvania since 1962, and on 10 May Ducan McKenzie became the
first prisoner executed in Montana since 1943. McKenzie was also
one of the country's longest serving death row prisoners having
been convicted and sentenced in 1975. On 7 March, New York became
the thirty-eighth state to reintroduce capital punishment.
Selected events in Asia-Pacific from January to May 1995
In China, the first few months of 1995 saw a crackdown on Tibetans
protesting at the enforcement of new security measures and
restrictions on religious activities. There was also a crackdown
on China's Christian community, with Catholics and Protestants
claiming they had been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture
and heavy fines by local officials for unapproved religious
activities. The death penalty continued to be a concern in China,
with many executions recorded for drug trafficking and economic
INDONESIA AND EAST TIMOR
In February, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions reported that
Indonesian security forces were responsible for at least 100 and
possibly as many as 270 killings during the November 1991 Santa
Cruz massacre in Dili, East Timor. The report also criticized the
Indonesian Government for failing to investigate those killings.
In March, the government renewed its attack on freedom of
the press by detaining journalists, raiding the offices of non-
governmental organizations and threatening publications which
consider employing members of an independent journalists'
A wave of violence swept Karachi, with more than 300 people shot
to death in the first three months of 1995. In response, Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto authorized police to use "ruthlessness"
whenever necessary, sending a signal that human rights violations
may be condoned.
In February, a 14-year-old boy and another man, both members
of the Christian minority group, were sentenced to death for
blasphemy after an unfair trial based on malicious accusations. In
March, the two were acquitted, but Amnesty International urged the
government to prevent other such abuses of the blasphemy laws and
to protect lawyers and human rights activists threatened by
Islamists. In April, a member of the Ahmadi sect who had gone to
provide bail for another man imprisoned for conversion was stoned
to death in the court premises. Police did nothing to assist him.
The Government of Singapore confirmed in 1995 that the true number
of executions in 1994 was 76, much higher than the 32 people
Amnesty International knew had been executed. Another 16 people
are known to have been executed in Singapore between January and
One execution in particular attracted worldwide attention.
The 17 March hanging of Flor Contemplacion, a Filipino domestic
worker, was carried out despite appeals by the Philippine
Government and human rights organizations, including Amnesty
International, to commute the death sentence. There were doubts
about the fairness of the trial. She was executed in Singapore for
the murder of another Filipino domestic worker and her employer's
four-year-old son, despite new evidence which came up two days
before the execution which may have proven her innocence. Flor
Contemplacion's cell-mate is reported to have claimed that Flor
was forcibly drugged prior to appearing in court, which may
explain why she remained silent throughout her trial. Three
others were executed alongside Flor Contemplacion.
Selected events in Europe from January to May 1995
The spring of 1995 saw continuing human rights abuses in the
former Yugoslavia. In Bosnian Serb-controlled northwest Bosnia-
Herzegovina, expulsions of non-Serbs continued. There was new
pressure on Croats, partly resulting from military action by the
Croatian army which resulted in the creation of many new Serbian
refugees in the area. In Kosovo province of Serbia, some 160
ethnic Albanian former policemen were investigated and tried on
charges of forming a parallel police force. Many of the
defendants and their lawyers alleged that they were tortured or
otherwise ill-treated during pre-trial detention in order to
obtain self-incriminating statements from them.
Reports of human rights abuses committed by Russian troops
continued in the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic. Following
investigation trips in February and March, Amnesty International
documented allegations of people being ill-treated in detention
and of civilians being deliberately shot while trying to leave the
Chechen Republic. The organization remains concerned that, despite
compelling allegations of human rights abuses, no one appears to
have been brought to account.
By May 1995 there had been no revision of Article 8 of the Anti-
Terror Law, under which scores of people are being prosecuted or
serving prison sentences for expressing their non-violent
opinions. None of the safeguards against torture recommended by
expert bodies of international governmental organizations
(Committee against Torture, European Committee for the Prevention
of Torture) were enacted.
On 19 March 35,000 Turkish troops entered Northern Iraq with
the aim of destroying camps of the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party) in
the mountains along the border with Turkey. As a result of
comprehensive controls by the Turkish forces on access by press
and monitors to the region, detailed information has proved
extremely difficult to obtain. Amnesty International is
investigating a number of reports that Turkish troops killed
The excessive use of force by Turkish police apparently led
to the deaths of demonstrators in Istanbul in March when police
broke up a rally to protest an earlier attack on a cafe by
unidentified assailants. Video footage clearly showed police
shooting directly into the crowd.
During the course of the disturbances, Hasan Ocak
"disappeared" after being detained on 21 March in the Aksaray
district of Istanbul. A detainee claims to have seen Hasan Ocak
in police detention - others that they saw his name on prisoner
lists. The authorities deny that he was taken into custody.
Throughout the rest of the country "disappearances" have continued
Harassment of human rights defenders was a particular
feature of the early months of 1995. Eight members of the
DiyarbakIr branch of the Turkish Human Rights Association were
committed to prison. Two of the prisoners, both lawyers, reported
being severely tortured in police custody. Although they were all
accused of membership of the PKK, examination of the indictment
against them revealed no evidence to support these charges, and
Amnesty International, believing that they were arrested for their
legitimate human rights work, appealed for their release. All
eight were released by DiyarbakIr State Security Court at hearings
in April and May, but the prosecutions continue.
MIDDLE EAST UPDATE
Selected events in the Middle East from January to May 1995
Killings, torture and detentions without trial continue in 1995 as
the government sought to crack down on demonstrators calling for
democratic rights since December 1994.
At least 12 civilians have been killed by security forces
using live ammunition, in circumstances suggesting that they may
have been extrajudicially executed. The government has so far
failed to take any steps to investigate or prevent such killings.
Unconfirmed estimates suggest several thousand people have
been arrested, including women and children. The government has
rejected such claims as "exaggerated" yet refuses to disclose
the names of detainees and their whereabouts.
State Security Court trials of those arrested, which are
being held in camera, were unfair. Defendants are held
incommunicado and denied access to defence lawyers until the start
of their trial. They have no right of appeal against their
convictions or sentences to a higher tribunal. According to
reports received by Amnesty International, some defendants were
tortured to extract "confessions" from them.
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES INCLUDING THE AREAS UNDER THE
JURISDICTION OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
More than a year since the signing of the agreement establishing
the Palestinian Authority, human rights violations are still being
perpetrated by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. The Israeli
authorities have detained over 6,000 Palestinians, including
prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience. In
violation of international human rights standards, detainees have
been held without access to lawyers for up to 30 days and without
access to families for up to 140 days. The Israeli Government has
condoned and even encouraged interrogation methods such as
hoodings, shaking, beatings, and prolonged sleep deprivation. In
April, one detainee died in custody as a result of torture during
In the Palestinian Authority's areas, hundreds of people --
including prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of
conscience -- have been arrested and detained without charge,
trial, formal access to lawyers or family and without any judicial
review. Detainees have been tortured and ill-treated in detention
centres in both the Gaza Strip and Jericho; one detainee has died
in Jericho, reportedly after torture.
In February, the Palestinian Authority set up its own State
Security Court with special procedures. Since April they have
sentenced political prisoners, most of them Islamists, to up to 25
years' imprisonment on charges such as inciting suicide bombers.
These trials were held at night and in camera. Defendants
were not informed that they were to be tried until they were
brought to court, and were not allowed to have their own lawyer
defend them in court. Amnesty International considers these courts
to be grossly unfair.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of executions in
1995. At least 90 people were executed between 20 January and 19
April. This is the highest number of executions even recorded by
Amnesty International to have taken place in such a short period
in Saudi Arabia. Executions are carried out after trials in which
internationally agreed safeguards for prisoners facing the death
sentence are completely ignored. Defendants have no right to be
formally represented by defence lawyers during their trials and
confessions, even when obtained under torture, are accepted by the
court as evidence, and may be the sole evidence on which a
conviction is based.
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