Document - Amnesty International News, July 1995. Vol.25, No.7.

AI NEWSLETTER JULY 1995

July ‘95 News

Germany

Police ill–treatment of foreign nationals and ethnic minorities in Germany has increased alarmingly in the past three years. Between January 1992 and March 1995, AI received details of more than 70 separate incidents in which German police reportedly used excessive or unwarranted force in restraining or arresting people, or subjected detainees to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

A recent AI report* describes how victims have suffered broken teeth, sprains, bruises, and in several cases broken bones from kicks, punches or beatings, often with batons. In at least two incidents, the injuries inflicted were so severe that they amounted to torture.

Many victims of alleged ill–treatment have been denied basic legal rights, including the right to be told why they were arrested, the right to contact a relative, and the right to receive medical assistance or to complain about their treatment. Most have been foreign nationals, including asylum–seekers, refugees or members of ethnic minorities, and many have claimed that they have been subjected to racist abuse by police officers.

Bülent Demir, a 17–year old German citizen of Turkish origin, was attacked near his parents’ home in Berlin by a plainclothes policeman in April 1994. When Bülent Demir started to run away, his assailant told him he was a policeman, and threatened to shoot him if he did not stop. Another police officer appeared and Bülent Demir lay on the ground in surrender. One of the officers pulled his arms up behind his back, handcuffed him, and began punching him in the kidneys and the face. The other officer kicked him in the head twice, causing his face to hit the tarmac with such force that two of his front teeth broke.

During the attack, the officers reportedly shouted verbal insults. Bülent Demir was then taken to a main road, where he was forced to lie in the bicycle lane. After his details were checked, he was finally told he could go home. X–rays revealed a complicated fracture to his finger and he had to spend several days in hospital. Following the incident he also suffered nose bleeds and loss of hearing.

In July 1994 Bülent Demir was charged with causing criminal damage and resisting state authority, but by May 1995 he had not been brought to trial. An investigation into his complaint of ill–treatment had been completed by May, but the findings were not known.

Although criminal investigations have been opened into all the allegations of ill–treatment reported to AI, the organization is concerned that these have not always been thorough, prompt or impartial. Many officers involved have not been prosecuted, and few, if any, have faced disciplinary sanctions. None of the foreign or ethnic minority victims have been compensated for their injuries.

AI is extremely concerned that, despite the evidence, the German authorities have refused to acknowledge that a pattern of ill–treatment exists. The organization is urging them to ensure that the rights of all people held in police custody are respected, that prompt and impartial investigations are conducted into all allegations of ill–treatment, and that those responsible are brought to justice.

* Federal Republic of Germany — Failed by the System: Police ill–treatment of foreigners

(AI Index: EUR 23/06/95)

India

Torture and death in custody appear to be increasing in India despite positive statements and recommendations made by the government and judiciary.

In 1994 AI recorded 68 deaths in police custody following torture or medical neglect. This is a significant increase on the 36 cases brought to the organization’s attention in 1993, indicating that custodial violence is still endemic throughout the country.

Satish Kumar, the 13–year–old son of Kabil Kumar, resident of Kapali Thottam, allegedly died as a result of police torture in Mylapore police station on 11 June 1994. He was arrested on the night of 8 June in the shop where he worked in connection with a complaint of theft, along with four other boys. His father could not afford to pay the Rs2,000 (US$60) which the police reportedly demanded for Satish Kumar’s release.

Satish Kumar’s dead body was found dumped outside the family house on 11 June 1994. A rickshaw driver claims that police made him transport Satish Kumar from the police station to his home. He and the police dumped his body in an empty rickshaw near the home. The next morning his body was found and he was rushed to hospital where doctors said he had been dead for three hours. The four others in detention with Satish Kumar said that they were all beaten by the police and that they saw Satish Kumar vomiting blood.

Three police personnel, including a sub–inspector were arrested and a magisterial inquiry ordered. A post–mortem was reportedly carried out. Compensation was reportedly paid to the family. The results of the inquiry and the post–mortem are unknown.

Independent and impartial inquiries into deaths in custody are rare and those found responsible are seldom prosecuted. When they are, sentences fail to adequately reflect the seriousness of the crime.

AI believes the Indian Government should ensure that all allegations of deaths in custody and other human rights violations in the country are immediately and impartially investigated and that those found responsible are brought promptly to justice.

Brazil - picture caption

During an AI mission to Brazil in April 1995, the organization’s Secretary General Pierre Sané travelled to Rio de Janeiro, where he met the “Mothers of Acari”, whose children were among the victims of the “disappearances” in the well–documented case of the “Mage 11” in July 1990. The people of Acari have recently been petitioning against police violence in the area. Talking to Pierre Sané, (see picture, from right to left): Vera Lucia Flores, Leite Marilene Lima de Souza, Ana Maria da Silva and Tereza de Souza Costa.

Sierra Leone

Rebel forces in Sierra Leone have abducted large numbers of civilians, including more than 100 schoolchildren.

During a visit to neighbouring Guinea in March and April, AI delegates interviewed Sierra Leonean refugees who had fled across the border to escape attacks by armed rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

The refugees included distraught parents of over 100 schoolchildren abducted from Kambia in northern Sierra Leone in January. One family lost four children aged between 13 and 16. The children are believed tobe still held by the rebels who shot dead at least 15 people, including the local traditional chief’s daughter, during the attack on Kambia.

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 being held by the RUF; some have been forced to join RUF forces.

Killings of civilians by both rebel and government forces began in 1991 when the RUF launched an attack from neighbouring Liberia. Hundreds of civilians have been deliberately killed in attacks on towns, villages and major roads. Attacks have spread throughout the country and closer to the capital, Freetown.

Government soldiers have tortured and summarily executed suspected rebel fighters and supporters, and since 1994 there has been evidence that some killings which the government blamed on the rebels were in fact carried out by government troops.

The distinction between rebels and soldiers is increasingly blurred. A refugee in Guinea told AI: “It is very difficult to distinguish between a rebel and a soldier because they use the same arms and ammunition, they wear the same uniforms.”

AI has appealed to the government and rebel forces to stop the killings. It has also urged the RUF to release civilian captives, including the children from Kambia.

Cyprus

Conscientious objector Iosif Kosta Kourides was sentenced by Nicosia Military Court to 15 months’ imprisonment for refusing to perform military service on 3 May 1995. In 1992 he had received a 15–month prison sentence (reduced on appeal to 10 months) for the same offence.

Iosif Kosta is one of about 15 conscientious objectors currently in prison in Cyprus serving sentences of up to 15 months for their refusal to perform military service or reservist exercises. As far as AI is aware, all are Jehovah’s Witnesses and are opposed to performing any form of military service.

AI considers the right to have conscientious objections to military service to be a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and that conscientious objectors should have the right to perform alternative civilian service of non–punitive length. The organization considers Iosif Kosta Kourides and the other conscientious objectors to be prisoners of conscience and urges the Cypriot authorities to release them and introduce alternative civilian service in line with international standards.

+Please send appeals to Mr Glafcos Clerides/ President of the Republic of Cyprus/ Presidential Palace/ Nicosia/ Cyprus; and to Dr Konstandinos Iliadhis/ Minister of Defence/ Ministry of Defence/ Emmanouil Roidi 4/ Nicosia/ Cyprus.

colombia

On 20 April 1995 the Civic Human Rights Committee of the Department of Meta, Colombia, announced that it was temporarily closing its headquarters in Villavicencio. Since 1992, four members of the committee have been extrajudicially executed, three have “disappeared” and 25 have been forced to flee the region.

Committee members have received repeated death threats and been subject to covert surveillance. Among those recently targeted are Sister Nohemí Palencia, a Catholic nun who was forced to leave Colombia temporarily in March 1995 following death threats — and the committee’s secretary–general Josué Giraldo, who has been kept under constant surveillance and has also received threats.

Meta has a strong guerrilla presence. Civilians living in the area are often perceived by the armed forces and their paramilitary allies as subversives or potential guerrilla collaborators and have, as a result, been subjected to serious human rights violations.

The committee works to assist families who have been displaced as a result of armed conflict in the region and to denounce human rights violations.

+Please write, asking for immediate steps to be taken to ensure the safety of committee members so that they can resume their legitimate human rights work; for full and impartial investigations into the death threats, “disappearances” and extrajudicial executions of committee members, and for those responsible to be brought to justice, to: Señor Presidente Ernesto Samper Pizano/ Presidente de la República/ Palacio de Nariño/ Santafé de Bogota/ Colombia.

Indonesia

JOsÉ Antonio Belo and at least four others have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 20 months to two years for their peaceful political activity.

On 9 January 1995 José Antonio Belo, an East Timorese student, was arrested along with 24 East Timorese youths during a brief pro–independence demonstration which was held at the University of East Timor in Dili. The demonstrators had apparently held up banners and shouted slogans denouncing Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.

Shortly after the protest began, riot police and plainclothes security forces arrived and eyewitnesses claim that at least two demonstrators, including José Antonio Belo, were forced into security forces’ vehicles and beaten by plainclothes officers.

Again, while being held in detention, José Antonio Belo was reportedly tortured and beaten by security officers. He was also denied a lawyer of his own choice.

On 8 May 1995 José Antonio Belo was sentenced by the Dili District Court to 18 months’ imprisonment on charges of “expressing hostility to the government”.

+PLEASE WRITE TO: Col. Kiki Syanhakri Y.K./ Commander/ Resort Military Command/ Markas KOREM 164/Wiradharma/ Dili/ East Timor/Indonesia, expressing concern that José Antonio and others have been sentenced for their peaceful political activity, and expressing concern at reports that some (including José Antonio Belo) may have been ill–treated in detention. Urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release José Antonio Belo and others who are being held for the peaceful expression of their opinions.

Ethiopia

The positive initiative by Ethiopia’s transitional government to prosecute officials of the country’s former government for gross human rights violations is in danger of being undermined if abuses persist with impunity, AI has warned in a recent report.*

The transitional government came to power in 1991 after 17 years of the brutally repressive government of Lieutenant–Colonel Mengistu Haile–Mariam, now sheltered by Zimbabwe. Four years of transition ended after elections in May 1995, which were boycotted by the main opposition groups.

AI is appealing to the new government headed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, leader of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and former transitional President, to act firmly against human rights violations in line with safeguards in the new Constitution.

The transitional government detained thousands of government opponents — some of whom were involved in armed opposition — without charge or trial. Although the majority have now been released, several hundred remain in detention. Some prisoners of conscience remain imprisoned, including journalists and members of non–violent opposition parties. Dozens of government opponents “disappeared” and may still be held in secret detention centres, and some detainees were tortured. There were reports of numerous incidents of unarmed civilians and prisoners being killed by the security forces.

AI is appealing to the new government not to detain non–violent critics, and to ensure all political detainees are given fair and prompt trials, or released. It is also repeating calls made to the transitional government for impartial inquiries into “disappearances”, torture and political killings by the security forces.

While welcoming the start of the prosecutions of some 1,750 detained former officials for crimes against humanity, AI said the trials must be fully fair and not result in executions.

* Ethiopia — Accountability past and present: Human rights in transition

(AI Index AFR 25/06/95)

Argentina

Twelve years after the end of military rule, high–ranking officers have admitted for the first time that Argentine armed forces were guilty of kidnapping, torture and murder in the so–called ‘dirty war’ during the years of military rule between 1976 and 1983 and have apologized.

On 25 April 1995 Argentine Army Commander, General Martin Antonio Balza, accepted the army’s share of responsibility. He acknowledged that “illegitimate methods leading to the suppression of life” were used. Similar admissions were subsequently made by the Air Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier Juan Paulik and the Navy’s Chief of Staff, Admiral Enrique Molina Pico.

Relatives of the “disappeared have renewed their demands to discover the fate of their loved ones.

In his statement, General Balza indicated that the army did not have a list of victims, or information about the fate of the “disappeared”, but exhorted anyone in the army who remembered enough to reconstruct the past to come forward, offering public guarantee of complete confidentiality.

AI has consistently urged successive governments to investigate and clarify the fate and whereabouts of the “disappeared”. In 1984 the National Commission on Disappeared People catalogued 8,960 unresolved “disappearances”, warning that the true figure might be higher.

Recent confessions from former Sergeant Victor Ibañez, on the clandestine detention centre in the army barracks “Campo de Mayo”, confirmed earlier declarations of former navy Captain Adolfo Francisco Scilingo. Both men stated that tortured “disappeared” detainees were thrown, drugged and naked, into the Atlantic Ocean from military aircraft.

This practice was confirmed in a separate declaration by Federico Talavera, a non–commissioned officer who was a guard in the secret detention centres of Campo de Mayo and “Olimpo”.

Although President Carlos Menem initially rejected the confessions of former military personnel, he recognized that the very serious charges made by Victor Ibañez “must be investigated”.

Presidential pardons to leaders of the military government and high–ranking officers were passed by President Menem in 1989 and 1990. Other military officers beneath the rank of colonel were pardoned by the Full Stop and Due Obedience laws passed by a previous civilian government in the 1980s.

How you can help

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE