Document - Amnesty International News, February 1995. Vol.25, No.2.
AI NESLETTER FEBRUARY 1995 (NEWS ONLY)
AI delegates returned from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan in December with grim reports of mass murder, arbitrary detention and torture -- including widespread rape of women and children -- being carried out by armed political groups in Afghanistan.
Warring factions within the government, and provincial warlords loosely affiliated to them, have ignored international calls for a ceasefire. The international community, so vocal against violations of the human rights of civilian populations in other parts of the world, has remained virtually silent about the catastrophe in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's civilian political structure has all but dissolved, and armed political groups act with total impunity. The official judicial system has ground to a halt; in some areas, Islamic courts are reportedly dispensing summary justice, including public flogging and executions.
In Kabul alone, some 15,000 people have been killed since 1992. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and thousands more have "disappeared". The city has been under continuous bombardment, and for several months late last year was subjected to a virtual food blockade by forces loyal to Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of one of the factions.
Armed political factions on all sides raid civilian houses, killing the men they find there, confiscating property and raping women and children. In one case, Nahid, a 16-year-old girl, threw herself to her death from a fifth-floor balcony rather than be raped by the armed Mujahideen members who had burst into her apartment.
Unarmed civilians suspected of belonging to rival ethnic groups are regularly attacked and beaten. All of the factions maintain private detention centres, where people have been held solely on the basis of their political opinion, religion or ethnic origin. Former detainees have said that they were beaten with rifle butts, tied to dead bodies for several days or forced to eat what they were told is human flesh.
The lucky ones have managed to cross into Pakistan, paying Pakistani soldiers bribes to get through the officially closed border and ending up in grossly under-equipped refugee camps. Even there they are not safe; many of the refugees continue to receive death threats from armed groups.
The former head of a Moroccan torture centre was sent as a government delegate to the session of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) last November. Morocco's first report under the terms of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was examined at the session.
Yousfi Kaddouri, Director of the General Directorate for National Security [transl: Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale], was head of the secret detention centre of Derb Moulay Cherif in Casablanca from 1974 to 1987, where political prisoners were routinely tortured, sometimes to death.
Three Moroccan human rights activists who observed the CAT session had been detained at Derb Moulay Cherif and said that they had been tortured by Yousfi Kaddouri. Following these allegations, the UN CAT expressed its concerns to the Moroccan authorities about the participation of Yousfi Kaddouri in the government delegation.
Hundreds of innocent civilians were killed or wounded last year in attacks on towns and villages or along Sierra Leone's major roads in a conflict which worsened and spread throughout the country. Thousands of others have been displaced.
Although the government claimed that rebel forces were responsible for these incidents, there has been mounting evidence that attacks on both civilians and government troops have been carried out by disaffected soldiers as a cover for looting property and illegally exploiting minerals. Witnesses report that some attackers wore full army uniforms and that captured or killed "rebels" carried army identity cards.
The ruling military government admitted that there is "indiscipline" in the army and that large numbers of soldiers were unaccounted for in conflict areas. Twelve soldiers, including one 77-year-old, were executed in November after being convicted by a court martial of offences including collaborating with rebel forces, robbery with violence and murder.
Armed conflict between government forces and an opposition group, the Revolutionary United Front, began in 1991. Gross human rights abuses have been committed by both sides, including the torture and killing of captured opponents and civilians.
Fighting intensified during 1994 with incursions and attacks in areas of the country previously unaffected by the conflict. Hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed in attacks on convoys travelling the major road from the Northern to the Eastern Province.
Israel and the Occupied Territories
Human rights are facing a new crisis in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and are coming under threat in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), according to an AI delegation that visited the area late last year.
A series of terrorist attacks in October -- including the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas supporters and the suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, in which 22 people were killed -- have been used by the Israeli military authorities as justification for increased repression.
On 19 October Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called for legislation permitting harsher interrogation of suspects; the following day the Minister of Justice said that there were already exceptions in place that allowed interrogators to act "efficiently" in certain cases. In November the Minister of Justice said that a decision had been taken to "help strengthen the forces to fight the wave of terror..."
The Israeli Government has arrested hundreds of suspected members of Islamist organizations, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and AI fears that the sanctioned use of "increased physical pressure" during their interrogation will result in further incidents of ill-treatment and torture in custody.
One student, Ahmed Said, reported that following his arrest in October he was subjected to days of sleep deprivation, sometimes with his hands tied to his legs, sometimes being forced to stand for up to 20 hours at a time. His interrogators, who were demanding the whereabouts of the Hamas activist said to have made the explosive devices used in recent suicide bombings, told him that if he did not cooperate they could "now take their gloves off".
Palestinians held in administrative detention continue to be deprived of the ability to defend themselves, because the Israeli authorities nearly always classify the prosecution evidence as secret. Scores have been sentenced in military courts, where confessions which may have been obtained under duress are often the sole evidence against them. Unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians continue to be carried out by Israeli soldiers, in violation of international guidelines for the use of firearms and lethal force.
In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has arrested hundreds of suspected supporters of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad which have claimed responsibility for recent attacks in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Arbitrarily arrested without warrant, detainees were held in police stations without access to lawyers or judges, for several days and even up to two months. Under Israeli Military Orders, Palestinians could be held for up to 108 days without appearing before a judge; now Palestinian law, based on British Mandate Law, insists that any detainee should be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours. However, Mustafa Sawwaf, Director of al-Nahar (Day) newspaper, was arrested on 13 October as part of a sweep of over 200 Islamists in Gaza; although most of those arrested were released within a week, Mustafa Sawwaf was held for 46 days without seeing his lawyer or any judicial authority.
Unlawful killings have also been carried out by the Palestinian security forces; on one occasion in November, police trying to break up an Islamist demonstration after Friday prayers at the Palestine Mosque in Gaza City opened fire at stone-throwing demonstrators killing 13 people and wounding over 100, including many journalists. The PNA set up judicial commission was set up to investigate the killings; AI has called for its report to be made public.
Despite official calls from the government to forgive and forget past human rights crimes, the ghosts of the "dirty war" (1975-1983) refuse to be laid to rest in Argentina.
Evidence of the repressive techniques used by the military regime continues to emerge. In October, for the first time on record, a serving navy officer publicly admitted that the navy had tortured prisoners during their anti-subversive operations. The officer, Captain Antonio Pernías, said that the navy had used torture as "a tool" during the interrogation of prisoners.
Another serving navy officer, captain Juan Carlos Rolón, stated that the so-called "task groups" engaged in the clandestine operations of the dirty war, including torture, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions, were an integral part of the navy's operations. The officers remain on active duty, although the Senate committee before which they made these admissions subsequently withheld agreement for their promotion.
Criticizing the senate's decision, President Carlos Menem said that it was better to forget the past. Speaking at a military ceremony in October, President Menem said that it was thanks to the armed forces that victory had been achieved in the "dirty war", which, he said, had taken the country "to the brink of collapse".
He was sharply criticized by Argentinean human rights organizations, which accused him of condoning the human rights crimes committed by the military junta. Over 9,000 people "disappeared" during the dirty war.
In November a judge in a civil damage suit ordered two former commanders-in-chief of the navy, Emilio Massera and Armando Lambruschini, to pay one million US dollars each in compensation for "material and moral damage" to the only survivor of a family of five who "disappeared" during the dirty war. Hugo Tarnopolsky, his wife Bianca and their children Sergio and Betina were abducted by clandestine forces and taken to the Naval School of Mechanics, a notorious detention centre, in July 1976. They were never seen alive again.
The judge also ordered the Argentinean state to pay a further US$ one million compensation. This is the highest compensation ever awarded in a "disappearance" case and the first in which former military offices were made personally liable for human right abuses committed by their forces. Like other junta members, Massera and Lambruschini were imprisoned after the return to democracy. Lambruschini served five years of an eight-year sentence and Massera was pardoned after President Carlos Menem took office in 1989.
Commenting on his decision the judge argued that it was based in the principle of the "right to life". The judge ruled that since the two former admirals had exercised the highest powers of public authority - and effectively decided upon the life or death of Argentinean people - the state must assume some responsibility for the abuses they perpetrated. The government is appealing against the decision.
Evidence about the fate of hundreds of "disappeared" children had emerged earlier in the year. In August General Cristiano Nicolaides, former commander in chief of the army, stated in court that during the years of military rule the army kept files on "disappeared" children and written records on the functioning of clandestine detention centres. The whereabouts of most of the children who "disappeared" in custody during these years, many of whom are probably still alive, remain unknown.
Some of these children were abducted with their parents, some were killed by the security forces and buried in unmarked graves. About 150 children were born in secret detention centres or military hospitals and taken from their mothers at birth. Some of them were then adopted in good faith, but others were given illegally to military couples to raise as their own.
The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, founded in 1977 by the grandmothers of the "disappeared", have been instrumental in locating more than 55 missing children. Some have been returned to their natural families, while others have remained with their adoptive parents.
WORLD WIDE APPEALS
Che John Njiyang, a treasury employee in Cameroon, was arrested on 1 March 1994 after protesting to police about the detention of a trade union leader. His wife Mary Lum Njiyang was also arrested.
The couple were beaten with the butt of a gun and suffered extensive abrasions and bruising. Che John Njiyang was stripped and dragged along the ground towards a police station where he and his wife were held for four days in a small crowded cell with male [common-law] detainees stripped to their underclothes.
When Simon Nkwenti, a trade union leader, went to inquire about Che John Njiyang and Mary Lum Njiyang, he too was arrested and beaten consciousness. The Cameroon government has been attempting to suppress trade union protest against salary cuts in the country by arrests and large-scale dismissals.
Torture and ill-treatment by police and gendarmerie is routine in Cameroon. In March last year the United Nations Human Rights Committee deplored the many cases of torture there and recommended that all necessary measures be taken to prevent torture. However, the government is not known to have taken any preventive measures.
Please send appeals in French or English protesting about the beating of Che John Njiyang and Mary Lum Njiyang, condemning torture, calling for safeguards to protect all prisoners from torture and ill-treatment and for those responsible to be brought to justice to: M. Paul Biya, Président de la République, Palais de l'Unité, Yaoundé, Cameroon; and M. Jean Fochivé, Secrétaire d'Etat à la Sécurité intérieure, Sûreté nationale, Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Adel Selmi, a Tunisian academic living in France, was arrested on 10 June 1994 at Tunis airport during a visit to his family, and was held illegally and tortured during 17 days in incommunicado detention, before being tried and sentenced in July. He is a prisoner of conscience.
Adel Selmi was tried on charges including membership of an unauthorized organization, participation in an unauthorized demonstration and unauthorized collection of funds. In court he testified that while in custody he had been suspended in contorted positions and that his head had been plunged into buckets of water. He showed the court marks on his wrists and ankles, but judges failed to order an inquiry into his allegations of torture. Adel Selmi had made a confession in custody, which he retracted during his trial, saying he had signed the statement under duress. The court accepted his forced confession as evidence, and sentenced him to four years and two months' imprisonment
Adel Selmi had been living in France since 1990 and was a doctoral student at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes de Sciences Socialesin Paris. He is not known to have ever used or advocated violence and is a prisoner of conscience. He is being held at the 9 Avril Prison in Tunis.
Several Tunisians living in France have recently been arrested during visits to Tunisia and imprisoned under a new law which makes it possible to prosecute Tunisians for acts committed in other countries and considered to be offences under Tunisian law, even if these are not punishable under the law of that country.
Please send appeals calling for Adel Selmi to be immediately and unconditionally released, to the Minister of Justice: M. Sadok Chaâbane, Ministre de la Justice, Ministère de la Justice, Boulevard Bab Benat, Tunis, Tunisia.
Hariye Gündüz was severely beaten by the gendarmes guarding her at Istanbul Security Court No 3 on 10 October 1994.
She and 11 other prisoners were awaiting trial for membership of the illegal armed organization Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left). The prisoners, who had been searched once already, refused to undergo another search before entering the courtroom. In response, the gendarmes attacked the handcuffed prisoners with truncheons.
The attack was witnessed by three lawyers, who reported that the gendarmes shouted, "Get the lawyers out, we are going to kill this lot." Police on duty at the court hustled the lawyers away.
The prisoners were beaten in the court corridor for an estimated eight minutes, and then dragged into a yard where they were kicked and punched by plainclothes police amd members of the Mobile Force (an anti-riot squad).
A medical certificate issued on 20 October by the state Forensic Medicine Institute confirmed that Hayriye Gündüz had sustained serious injuries, including two wounds that required sutures.
Beatings of prisoners remanded or convicted for offences under the Anti-Terror Law frequently take place when they are put in the hands of the police or gendarmerie to be transferred or searched. Please write calling for a full and impartial investigation into the beating of Hayriye Gündüz and 11 other prisoners by guards and police at Istanbul State Security Court, and urging that those responsible be brought to justice, to: Mehmet Mogultay, Justice Minister, Icisleri Bakanligi, 06644 Ankara, Turkey.
NEWS IN BRIEF
In February South Africa's new Constitutional Court will begin examining the legality of the death penalty. The hearing concerns the appeals of Themba Makwanyane and Mvuso Mchunu against their death sentences, and there will be arguments challenging the death penalty on the grounds that it infringes the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment guaranteed under the new constitution. The ruling will affect the some 450 prisoners on death row in South Africa.
Swaziland's High Court sentenced seven supporters of the People's United Democratic Movement to brief terms of imprisonment for participating in an illegal demonstration in October. The seven were cleared of other charges brought under the laws that prohibit any party political activity in the country. They are appealing against their convictions.
A computer salesman has become the first foreigner to be sentenced to death in the Philippines since legislation restoring the death penalty was implemented early last year. Hideshi Suzuki of Japan was found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced on 7 December. AI opposes the death penalty under any circumstances and is concerned that the trial proceedings may have been prejudiced by the fact that Suzuki does not speak or read English.
In Brazil a key witness to the 1993 killing of eight street children in what has become known as the Candelária massacre was shot and wounded in Rio de Janeiro, despite being under state protection. After regaining consciousness Wagner dos Santos told the authorities that he was attacked by plain clothes policemen who said they were shooting him for having identified their colleagues. AI is calling for an effective witness protection program in Brazil.
The Nigerian authorities' contempt for the rule of law has become even more blatant in recent months as new decrees have completely tied the hands of the courts in defending basic human rights. One of the decrees removes the fundamental protection against arbitrary detention, the right of habeas corpus. The decree prevents the courts from ordering detainees to be produced before them or from challenging detentions by the security forces.