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Egypt comes down on HRW report on crackdown deaths

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Egypt on Saturday slammed a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the killings of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi during a security crackdown in 2013 on two protest camps as “biased and politicized”.

“Egypt strongly rejects such a politicised and non-objective report that lacks the least standards of credibility and neutrality,” foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu-Zaid said in a statement, Xinhua reported.

Morsi was removed by the military in early July 2013 in response to mass protests against his one-year rule, as well as the currently outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s power base.

On August 14, 2013, security forces killed hundreds of people during the dispersal of two major pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and Giza. The crackdown on Morsi’s loyalists since then has left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more jailed.

The human rights watchdog said the dispersal could amount to “crimes against humanity,” calling for an international UN-led probe into the crackdown killings, a call that is described by the Egyptian foreign ministry as “ridiculous.”

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Nearly 150 Bangladeshis Victims of Forced Disappearances at the Hands of Police since 2016

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Police escort government critic Farhad Mazhar (center) who was found about 18 hours after he was reported missing, July 4, 2017. Benar News
  • At least 90 people were victims of secret detentions in 2016 and another 48 were reported in the first five months of 2017, according to Human Rights Watch
  • Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal refuted the report’s findings
  • The report calls for the government to investigate allegations of deaths in “so-called crossfire or gunfights after they were already in security force custody”

Dhaka, July 9, 2017: Nearly 150 Bangladeshis were victims of forced disappearances at the hands of police since the start of 2016, Human Rights Watch alleged in a new report published on Thursday, adding that some were tortured or mistreated while in secret custody.

The New York-based rights watchdog said it had documented at least 320 such cases in Bangladesh since 2009 when the Awami League took power amid a promise of adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward human rights violations.

“The disappearances are well-documented and reported, yet the government persists in this abhorrent practice with no regard for the rule of law,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia Director Brad Adams said in a news release accompanying the 82-page report, titled “‘We Don’t Have Him’: Secret Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh.”

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At least 90 people were victims of secret detentions in 2016 and another 48 were reported in the first five months of 2017, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Bangladesh security forces appear to have a free hand in detaining people, deciding on their guilt or innocence, and determining their punishment, including whether they have the right to be alive,” Adams said.

Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal refuted the report’s findings.

“The HRW operated a negative campaign (against us) during the trials of war criminals. This new report is a part of that campaign,” he told reporters on Thursday.

HRW released its reports a few days after a prominent government critic, who was said to be missing following reports that he had been abducted, was found alive hours later. Police said they located Farhad Mazhar about 200 km (120 miles) from his home in Dhaka, about 18 hours after he was reported missing.

‘Police don’t violate the law’

In documenting cases of forced disappearance, HRW said it based its report on interviews with more than 100 people, including victims’ relatives and witnesses. The watchdog blamed the Bangladeshi police’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and detective branch (DB) for many of the abductions.

Police officials who spoke to BenarNews challenged the complaints against RAB and DB.

“Sometimes criminals use our name for kidnapping people. If someone identifies himself as law enforcement agency personnel, it should be challenged and the victim should contact us immediately,” said Mufti Mahmud Khan, the director of RAB’s legal and media wing.

“As a law enforcement agency, police don’t violate the law,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masdur Rahman said.

Not all abductees have been freed, according to the report. Many are still in custody while others have died in secret detention, with as many as 50 being killed over the years, HRW said.

“[T]here is an alarming trend of deaths occurring in secret detention of state authorities. In one such case, on June 13, 2016, Shahid Al Mahmud, a student activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was ‘dragged outside [his house] and taken into a black microbus,’ his father, Rajab Ali, told Human Rights Watch. Rajab Ali said that police officers were present during the arrest, although they later denied they were holding his son,” HRW said.

“Two weeks later, on July 1, police said they found Shahid’s body after a gunfight with criminals. Shahid’s father told Human Rights Watch that the police are lying: ‘The police abducted my son and staged a gunfight drama to justify the killing.’”

A senior lawyer at Supreme told BenarNews that he had not read the report but was familiar with its allegations.

“The volume of missing, disappearances, murders and kidnappings we are hearing about is alarming. In order to bring the confidence back to the law enforcement agencies, each of these cases should be investigated, because the law enforcement agencies are directly being accused for these crimes,” Shahdeen Malik said.

Recommendations

A key recommendation from the report is to invite the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and other relevant organizations, to visit Bangladesh to “investigate and make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice and accountability.”

The report calls for the government to investigate allegations of deaths in “so-called crossfire or gunfights after they were already in security force custody,” and to comply with the law that all detained people must appear in court within 24 hours.

HRW also recommends that the government promptly investigate existing allegations of enforced disappearances, locate and release those held by security forces and prosecute the perpetrators.

Home Minister Khan said police have always presented suspects before a judge within 24 hours of their arrests. “There are examples of taking law enforcement agency personnel to justice if found involved in crime,” he said, responding to HRW’s recommendations.

But a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission said each complaint should be investigated.

“Ensuring citizens’ security is the main responsibility of the state,” Mizanur Rahman told BenarNews. “Citizens lose their confidence in law enforcement agencies if they don’t get any information about a missing person after filing a case.” (Benar News)

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Boko Haram Refugees Raped by Nigerian Troops and Police, says Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Many women reported being coerced into sex with false promises of material assistance or marriage.

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A woman and a girl are seen outside makeshift accommodations at camp for internally displaced people in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March 8, 2016. VOA

November 1, 2016 :Human rights monitors are accusing Nigerian officials, soldiers and police of rape and other acts of sexual exploitation against women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram captivity for what they falsely believed to be the safety of government encampments.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) leveled the accusations in a report released Monday under the headline “Nigeria: Officials Abusing Displaced Women, Girls.”

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The 12-page document cites the cases of 43 females who were housed at seven government camps in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the 2009 birthplace of the Boko Haram extremist movement. The conflict has led to more than 10,000 civilian deaths and the abductions of more than 2,000 people — mostly women and girls in the country’s restive northeast.

FILE - A woman stands outside a makeshift house at an internally displaced persons camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March 24, 2016.
A woman stands outside a makeshift house at an internally displaced person’s camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March 24, 2016. VOA

Four women interviewed by HRW said they were drugged and raped by camp leaders or military advisers, while 37 others reported being coerced into sex with false promises of material assistance or marriage.

The report also said many of the victims were abandoned if they became pregnant by their would-be caretakers, and said mothers and offspring alike later faced abuse and discrimination from other camp residents.

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President Muhammadu Buhari ordered police Monday to immediately commence investigations into the issue. He said the allegations are “not being taken lightly.”

The report says aid workers began warning early this year that displaced women in some camps have been forced to exchange sex with authorities for basic necessities.

In August, United Nations special envoy Chaloka Beyani visited the country and later said the government had “a tendency to downplay the problem of sexual violence and abuse” of internally displaced people.

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HRW also said Nigeria’s Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, agreed to meet with HRW officials on September 5 to review the rape allegations and then respond to them.

HRW said it was still awaiting Alhassan’s response as it drafted Monday’s report. (VOA)

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The ruling government of Democratic Republic of Congo(DRM) grants amnesty to 110 prisoners

The Justice Minister signed the order pardoning prisoners who were guilty of insurrection, acts of war and political offences against the ruling government

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FILE - Edem Kodjo, center, a former chairman of the Organization of African Unity, sits with diplomats during the opening of a Congolese political dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, Sept. 1, 2016. Source: VOA
  • On Friday, September 9, Democratic Republic of Congo’s government released 110 prisoners as a demand for opposition party’s condition to continue further dialogues
  • Edem Kodjo, African Union’s facilitator for the political dialogues between the two parties, welcomes this move
  • According to Human Rights Watch, it is not clear whether the 110 prisoners amnestied, will include long-time political prisoners or leaders of political party

KINSHASA(DR Congo), September 9, 2016: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on Friday announced the release of another wave of prisoners in response to demands from opposition parties as a precondition to their involvement in a political dialogue in Kinshasa.

Last week, the government responded by releasing eight pro-democracy activists and another 170 prisoners held for various offenses.

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On Friday, the justice minister signed a ministerial order for the release of 110 prisoners found guilty, according to the order, of ‘insurrection, acts of war and political offences’.

The news was welcomed Friday by Edem Kodjo, the African Union appointed facilitator of the DRC’s political dialogue that started this week.

He told media: ” A short while ago I received from the justice minister an order amnestying 110 political prisoners who were already concerned by the amnesty law of 2014. 110 are being released this evening or tomorrow. So we are making progress.”

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Kodjo said he and others had been lobbying for the release of a number of prisoners whose names has been given to him by a group of opposition parties known as the G7.

Human Rights Watch said last week that it had documented at least 20 long-term political prisoners who remained in detention in DRC, including leaders of political parties. It was not clear whether any were among the 110 listed for release.

Samy Badibanga, an opposition politician taking part in the dialogue, welcomed the latest releases as proof that the dialogue was achieving results. Each of these measures was positive, he said, adding that he hoped there would be more such measures in the future.

During a dialogue debate Friday, the ruling coalition, and opposition maintained opposing positions on the order of upcoming elections. The opposition wants presidential elections to be held first, while the ruling coalition wants local elections held first. (VOA)