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Refugee abuse trial opens in Germany

The refugee abuse scandal sent shock waves through Germany when it became public nearly four years ago. Now, 30 guards and workers at the asylum center face a host of charges. The trial of 30 people accused of abusing refugees at an asylum center in Germany started on Thursday in the western town of Siegen. It has been nearly four years since shocking images of abuse against refugees in the small western town of Burbach triggered widespread outrage. The abuse was captured on cellphone photos. One of the Burbach photos showed a security guard posing with his foot on the neck of a handcuffed refugee lying on the floor, while another showed a refugee being forced to lie on a mattress stained with vomit. Security guards also took the refugees to a "problem room" where they were allegedly imprisoned, beaten and robbed. At the time the photos became public, Police Chief Frank Richter from nearby Hagen said: "These are images of the kind we've seen from Guantanamo Bay." The 30 guards and workers at the asylum facility face charges that include grievous bodily harm, deprivation of liberty, coercion and theft. Following the scandal, operations at the refugee center were transferred from the social services company European Homecare to the German Red Cross.

The refugee abuse scandal sent shock waves through Germany when it became public nearly four years ago. Now, 30 guards and workers at the asylum center face a host of charges. The trial of 30 people accused of abusing refugees at an asylum center in Germany started on Thursday in the western town of Siegen. It has been nearly four ... Read More »

UN to investigate Saudi Arabia’s human rights record

Saudi Arabia faces international condemnation for its apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its ongoing war in Yemen. The UK and the US are reportedly working on a joint resolution to end hostilities. The United Nations Human Rights Council is to debate on Monday the dismal human rights record of Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The so-called Universal Periodic Review, a compulsory review carried out every four years, will also focus on Riyadh's role in Yemen's civil war. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he will lobby the UN Security Council to try and find a political solution to four years of hostilities in Yemen. At least 10,000 have been killed in the conflict between a Saudi-backed coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and half the nation faces imminent starvation. Hunt's announcement came after Washington, which has long backed the Saudis, called for Riyadh to end its airstrikes in the country. UN diplomats, speaking anonymously, told Reuters news agency that Britain and the US were working on a joint resolution to stop the fighting in Yemen. Public grilling The half-day public debate will see a Saudi delegation, headed by the country's Human Rights Commission chief, Bandar Al Aiban, grilled by other nations over its human rights record. Activists have urged countries to hold Saudi Arabia to account. "UN member states must end their deafening silence on Saudi Arabia and do their duty of scrutinizing the cruelty in the kingdom in order to prevent further outrageous human rights violations in the country and in Yemen," Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns, said in a statement. "The Saudi government's long-standing repression of critics, exemplified by the extrajudicial execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month, has until recently been willfully ignored by UN member states," she added. According to publicly submitted questions, Britain, Austria and Switzerland will directly ask about the Khashoggi case. Sweden will ask how it plans to improve respect for the freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. The US will ask whether Riyadh plans to modify its counterterrorism law to ensure the definition of "terrorism" does "not include acts of expression, association, or peaceful assembly." Ahead of the review, the UN rights office published a list of concerns about human rights in Saudi Arabia, including discrimination against women, continued use of the death penalty, and "extremely broad" definitions of terrorism that enable "the criminalization of some acts of peaceful expression."

Saudi Arabia faces international condemnation for its apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its ongoing war in Yemen. The UK and the US are reportedly working on a joint resolution to end hostilities. The United Nations Human Rights Council is to debate on Monday the dismal human rights record of Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The ... Read More »

Free-press conflict overshadows Merkel meeting Turkey’s Erdogan

Angela Merkel says she raised human-rights issues with Recep Tayyip Erdogan — an issue where they can only agree to disagree. The Turkish president's visit to Berlin was met with protests from public and press alike. The elephant in the room when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday was the fundmantal disagreement between their countries on human rights. Germany has been very critical of Ankara on this score, while Erdogan has insisted that Berlin do more on German soil to go after detractors he claims are terrorists. At their post-meeting press conference, Merkel argued that the important thing was that the two sides were talking. "I consider the visit very important because when there are differences, a personal meeting is vital to resolve them," Merkel said. Ties with Germany deteriorated following a failed coup attempt in Turkey two years ago that prompted Ankara to react with draconian measures, including jailing journalists, soldiers and public servants, among them several German citizens. Relations reached a low point last year when Erdogan comparing the current government to the Nazi regime. Friday's meeting was seen as a chance to put that level of hostility to rest. "I have called for these cases to be resolved as quickly as possible," Merkel said, referring to the jailed Germans. Erdogan glossed over the criticism, insisting that the fundamental point was respect for the Turkish judiciary. As if to illustrate the depth of the conflict, the press conference was briefly disrupted by a protester wearing a T-shirt that read "freedom for journalists" in Turkish. As he was removed by security, the two leaders looked at each other and noticeably tensed up. The journalist was later named as Adil Yigit, a Turkish journalist who runs the Avrupa Postasi online news portal from Hamburg. An unhappy partnership Both Merkel and Erdogan seemed at pains to suppress any hints of personal acrimony, but there was no hiding that the two aren't close friends and that at present German-Turkish relations are dominated by necessity, not affinity. Merkel stressed the central role played by Turkey in restricting the flow of refugees, particularly from Syria to Europe — a hot-button issue for her own government at the moment. Merkel also stressed the special connection between the two countries based on the some 3.5 million people in Germany who are either Turkish citizens or have Turkish roots. Both leaders underscored the economic importance of the two countries for one another, with Erdogan keen to suggest the struggling Turkish economy was actually in robust health. Read more: How Erdogan fills a political gap for German-Turks Still, while Germany and Turkey undeniably need one another in a number of respects, they don't see eye to eye on basic democratic standards. Erdogan fails to understand why Germany isn't more active in extraditing leaders of Gulen and PKK movements he holds responsible for the failed coup against him in 2016. "If the tables were turned, I would hand over people Germany put on an extradition list," the Turkish president said. For her part, Merkel acknowledged that Germany is generally skeptical about democratic freedoms and the rule of law in Erdogan's Turkey. In the press conference, she diplomatically declined to comment on any particular extradition cases, especially that of a prominent Turkish journalist in exile in Germany. Exiled Turkish journalist absent from press conference A government-friendly Turkish newspaper, Yeni Asir, reported Friday that Turkey had already requested the extradition of the journalist Can Dundar in the run-up to Erdogan's visit, along with a "terror list" detailing 69 names of people wanted by Ankara. "It will only enhance the peace and security in both countries to do so," said Erdogan during the press conference. Dundar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, who has been living in exile in Germany for more than two years, was convicted in Turkey over an article about weapons supplied to Syria by Turkish intelligence. He is accused of spying, betrayal of state secrets and propaganda. A controversy erupted ahead of Friday's press conference, as reports emerged that the German government press office had accredited Dundar to attend the event — though without giving him the right to ask a question. In the end, after Erdogan reportedly threatened to call it off the press conference over Dundar's presence, the journalist said that he would not be take part. At the press conference, Merkel said that Dundar himself made the decision not to attend. Erdogan, meanwhile, described the journalist as an "agent who revealed state secrets to the public." Later on Friday, at a hastily called press gathering in the offices of investigative journalism organization Correctiv, Dundar confirmed Merkel's statement, underlining that he had not been asked to stay away. "If I had received any pressure not to go, then I definitely would have gone," he said. Dundar, who now edits the Correctiv magazine Özgürüz ("We are free"), also accused Erdogan of lying about him during the afternoon's press conference with Merkel. "Erdogan looked the whole world in the eyes and lied. I am not an agent, I am a journalist." "What he presented as state secrets were illegal weapons exports to foreign countries," Dundar went on. "Erdogan knows very well that our report was not a lie, and that what he did was a crime. There is no legally binding sentence against me at all — the sentence of five years and ten months was overturned by the highest Turkish court. The whole case is now being reconsidered." 'Fascist, dictator, terrorist!' Dundar also described Berlin as being in a "kind of state of emergency." "Demonstrators have been pushed out of the city center. There are snipers on the rooftops — in other words, Erdogan brought Turkey with him to Germany," the journalist said. As Friday afternoon wore on, thousands of Erdogan opponents congregated for various demonstrations in different parts of the German capital. At the largest event, entitled "Erdogan not welcome," protestors held up placards of the Turkish president's likeness sporting a Hitler moustache and chanted, "Erdogan is a fascist, a dictator, a terrorist." Some members of the crowd held up photos of Sehit Namirin, a young Kurdish man who set himself on fire earlier in the week in the city of Ingolstadt, taking his own life to protest Erdogan's visit. Many of the demonstrators voiced support for Turkey's large Kurdish minority, while others focused their criticism on Erdogan's treatment of journalists and political dissidents and Germany's millions in weapons exports to Turkey. They also skewered the honors, including a full military reception, Erdogan has received in Berlin. "It's a scandal that this country has rolled out the red carpet for a dictator," said one of the speakers at the "Erdogan not welcome" demo. Cordoned off by the sort of security normally reserved for the leaders of the United States or Russia, Erdogan likely may not have registered the protests as all. While his detractors were taking to the streets, he was readying himself for an official state banquet, which Merkel and other prominent political leaders have declined to attend.

Angela Merkel says she raised human-rights issues with Recep Tayyip Erdogan — an issue where they can only agree to disagree. The Turkish president’s visit to Berlin was met with protests from public and press alike. The elephant in the room when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday was the fundmantal disagreement ... Read More »

Egyptian singer jailed for insulting the Nile

An Egyptian pop singer has been sentenced to prison for suggesting that drinking from the Nile leads to a parasitic illness. It's the latest case against artists in the country. A Cairo court on Tuesday sentenced prominent Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab to six months in prison in absentia for offending Egypt. The court accused her spreading of "false news." She can appeal. The offense occurred in the United Arab Emirates in 2016 when the pop singer suggested that drinking water from the Nile would make one sick with a parasitic disease. At a concert a fan asked her to play the song, "Have You Drunk from The Nile?" Abdel-Wahab responded: "No, you'd get Bilharzia. Drink Evian, it's better!" Read more: German archaeologists help uncover ancient cemetery near Egyptian city of Minya Disparaging Egypt A video of her response then hit social media, drawing criticism and a lawsuit from an Egyptian lawyer for disparaging Eygpt and hurting the country's tourism industry. She later apologized for the comment in a Facebook posting. Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. It can be transmitted by drinking or being exposed to contaminated water. The Egyptian government has developed plans with the World Health Organization to eventually eliminate Bilharzia from its waters, including through medication programs. Tuesday's verdict comes after in December an Egyptian court sentence a female pop singer to two-years in prison for a sexually suggestive music video.

An Egyptian pop singer has been sentenced to prison for suggesting that drinking from the Nile leads to a parasitic illness. It’s the latest case against artists in the country. A Cairo court on Tuesday sentenced prominent Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab to six months in prison in absentia for offending Egypt. The court accused her spreading of “false news.” She ... Read More »

German activist Peter Steudtner released from Turkish jail

German Peter Steudtner and seven other human rights activists were ordered to be released on bail after several months in jail. Germany's foreign minister says it is a sign of thawing relations, but that more is needed. Eight human rights activists, including German citizen Peter Steudtner and Amnesty International's Turkey chief Idil Eser had tearful reunions with relative and supporters early on Thursday after they walked free on bail from prison in Istanbul. Steudtner had been detained since July 5, when he was arrested on controversial terror charges amidst a widespread crackdown on activists and the press in Turkey. "I think we're all more than relieved. We feel really happy about what happened. Speaking for myself, I am really grateful and we are really grateful for everybody who supported us legally, diplomatically and for solidarity," said Steudtner. A Turkish court had said on Wednesday that Steudtner and 11 other human rights activists should be released after the Turkish public prosecutor requested an end to the pre-trial detention of the group. However, while Eser was released, the court ordered that fellow Amnesty director Taner Kilic remain in prison. 'First sign of a thaw' German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told news magazine Der Spiegel that the release was "the first sign of a thaw, as Turkey has fulfilled all its commitments (in the case of Steudtner)." But he added: "Now we have to work on the release of the other detainees." Eleven German citizens remain in prison in Turkey, including four with Turkish-German citizenship. Gabriel said former German Chancellor Gerdard Schröder had acted as a mediator in Steudtner's release, saying he was "very grateful" for Schröder's efforts. The co-leader of the Green party, Cem Özdemir, also warned against speaking of a normalization of ties with Turkey as long as German citizens were in detention there, and called for their release. He added that Germany had "not forgotten those who do not have a German passport and are also unlawfully in jail." Terror accusations The Turkish government had accused the group of "aiding armed terrorist organizations" through civil society actions in Turkey. The government had also accused the activists of being members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), far-left DHKP-C and the Gulen movement. Steudtner denied all of the accusations, telling the court in Istanbul on Wednesday: "I plead not guilty and demand my immediate release." Read more: Peter Steudtner, German human rights activist on trial in Turkey Critics, including the governments of the United States, the European Union and Germany, called the government's allegations against the human rights activists politically motivated and "absurd." Tens of thousands detained Turkish authorities detained Steudtner and nine other defendants in July while they were attending a human rights workshop on the island of Buyukada, near Istanbul. Taner Kilic had been arrested weeks earlier and his case was later merged with the case against the Buyukada group. More than 50,000 people have been detained and some 150,000 sacked from their jobs under a state of emergency that has been in place since a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. The crackdown has ignited international concern about the deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey.

German Peter Steudtner and seven other human rights activists were ordered to be released on bail after several months in jail. Germany’s foreign minister says it is a sign of thawing relations, but that more is needed. Eight human rights activists, including German citizen Peter Steudtner and Amnesty International’s Turkey chief Idil Eser had tearful reunions with relative and supporters ... Read More »

Amnesty accuses Tunisian authorities of torture ahead of key talks with Germany

The rights group has reported 23 instances of torture committed by security officials. Tunisia's prime minister is to meet with Germany's Angela Merkel this week to discuss a deportation deal for rejected asylum-seekers. The rights group Amnesty International fears that democratic reforms in Tunisia are being undermined by a rise in "brutal tactics" used by the country's security forces. A report published by the rights group on Monday "exposes how entrenched impunity has fostered a culture in which violations by security forces have been able to thrive," Amnesty's North Africa research director, Heba Morayef, said. Titled "An End to the Fear: Abuses Under Tunisia's State of Emergency," the report details 23 cases of torture and ill treatment committed by the police, the National Guard and counterterrorism brigades in the past two years. Victims quoted in the report said they had "[been] brutally beaten with sticks and rubber hoses, placed in stress positions such as the 'roast chicken' position or forced to stand for prolonged periods, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep or had cold water poured on them." One victim told Amnesty that his legs and feet were beaten until his toenails fell off. Living under the threat of terrorism Since the 2011 revolution that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been hit by a series of attacks. In the past six years, Islamist assailants have killed more than 100 soldiers and police, around 20 civilians and 59 foreign tourists. The country has been under an ongoing state of emergency since a November 2015 attack killed 12 presidential guards. The report described "Tunisian security forces' reliance on the brutal tactics of the past, including torture, arbitrary arrests, detentions and restrictions on travel of suspects as well as harassment of their family members." "The chilling accounts detailed in this report signal a disturbing rise in the use of repressive tactics against suspects in terrorism-related cases over the past two years, providing a grim reminder of former President Ben Ali's rule," Amnesty reported. Amnesty also expressed concern over travel bans imposed on at least 5,000 people, which officials say are designed to prevent selected young people from joining extremist groups such as the "Islamic State" abroad. "There is no doubt that the authorities have a duty to counter security threats and protect the population from deadly attacks, but they can do so while respecting the human rights protections set out in the Tunisian constitution and international law," Morayef said. Germany and Tunisia in talks over migrant deportations Prime Minister Youssef Chahed will visit Berlin this week for top-level talks concerning the expulsion of rejected Tunisian refugees from Germany. On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for faster deportations of rejected Tunisian asylum-seekers and reiterated her push to classify Tunisia, along with regional neighbors Algeria and Morocco, as a "safe country of origin." She has also pledged to help Tunisia cope with the threat of extremism and help rebuild its economy. The issue has become a point of urgency following the December terror attack on a Berlin Christmas market. The perpetrator, Anis Amri, was a Tunisian refugee whose deportation was delayed by Tunisia's initial reluctance to confirm that he was one of its nationals. He went on to kill 12 people and injure 56 others in the truck attack. Amnesty's report will leave a shadow hanging over this week's talks and could have a major bearing on how Germany proceeds with its deportation policy. Immigration and deportations are expected to be among the key issues concerning voters ahead of Germany's general elections in September.

The rights group has reported 23 instances of torture committed by security officials. Tunisia’s prime minister is to meet with Germany’s Angela Merkel this week to discuss a deportation deal for rejected asylum-seekers. The rights group Amnesty International fears that democratic reforms in Tunisia are being undermined by a rise in “brutal tactics” used by the country’s security forces. A ... Read More »

Children in Aleppo: ‘I’d rather die’

Aleppo has become "a slaughterhouse," says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation for children there is especially serious. Experts are warning of depression and suicidal thoughts among the young. The image burns itself into your brain: little Omran from the Syrian city of Aleppo sitting in an ambulance, staring into space, covered in blood, clothes torn, his hair full of dust. The photograph, taken by an activist a few weeks ago, provoked horror around the world. We can only surmise from this little child's stunned expression what the war in his homeland has done to him, and to many other children and youngsters like him. Aleppo has again been forced to endure weeks of bombing by the Syrian and Russian regimes. A ceasefire was in place over the weekend. Of all the cities caught up in the Syrian civil war, Aleppo is the most fiercely contested. According to the UN, more than 250,000 people are trapped under siege in the eastern part of town. The recent bombardments were the heaviest since the start of the war in 2011. In the last offensive alone, which began on September 22, more than 500 people were killed and 2,000 wounded. Around a quarter of the victims were children - and that number could rise dramatically, as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are around 100,000 children and young people in eastern Aleppo. 'Medieval conditions' In an October 21 speech via video link to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, said the siege and bombardment of Aleppo "constitute crimes of historic proportions." This ancient Syrian city, "a place of millennial civility and beauty," was today, he said, "a slaughterhouse." Although Russia agreed to the ceasefire, the sick and injured could not be brought out of the city. The United Nations said it was unsafe to transport them, and secretary-general Ban Ki Moon pointed out that: "Under these medieval conditions, the vulnerable are suffering the most." Suicidal thoughts among children Katharina Ebel, the project advisor of SOS Children's Villages in Syria, confirmed that this is indeed the case. The children are under tremendous psychological strain, she said, warning of severe depression that could even lead to children having suicidal thoughts. "One boy who wanted to take his own life was only 12 years old," she told the "Passauer Neue Presse" newspaper. "So far we've always been able to prevent children from killing themselves," Ebel went on. But she reported that every day there are children who say, "I'd rather die than go on like this." Deep depression drives them to commit acts of aggression, against both themselves and others. "Many of them can't sleep any more, or have nightmares, and then they're completely exhausted during the day," she said. Children describe the rigors of their everyday lives on the website of UNICEF's #ChildrenofSyria campaign. Not only do they risk being killed on the way to school, the schools themselves are also often attacked - around 4,000 times since the war began. And even those who try to take shelter may be killed: The organization Save the Children has reported that so-called "bunker buster" bombs are being used. Some experiences are too extreme SOS Children's Villages have psychologists and social workers in every facility, "who talk to the children individually, try to alleviate their trauma, restore the children's sense of trust," Ebel said. "Sometimes it's just not possible, because what they've experienced is too extreme. Often, when a child has seen their parents die, seen them buried under rubble, seen their home destroyed, their sense of security is lost for a very long time." The Syrian winter will start to set in in just a few weeks' time. UNICEF warns that many children and their families have reached the end of their strength. Children are especially at risk from the freezing temperatures and snowstorms that have often occurred in recent years. The aid organization is also very worried about the children in the Iraqi city of Mosul, 600 kilometers (370 miles) further east. It warns that the current offensive to recapture the city means the more than 500,000 children and their families there are now in extreme danger.

Aleppo has become “a slaughterhouse,” says the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The situation for children there is especially serious. Experts are warning of depression and suicidal thoughts among the young. The image burns itself into your brain: little Omran from the Syrian city of Aleppo sitting in an ambulance, staring into space, covered in blood, clothes torn, his hair ... Read More »

Turkey’s Saturday Mothers meet for 600th time demanding justice for forceably disappeared

The families of the forcibly disappeared in Turkey have gathered for a symbolic 600th time demanding justice. The Saturday Mothers movement is one of the longest running civil disobedience campaigns in the country. Holding red carnations and pictures of loved ones forceably disappeared by Turkish security forces over the years, the Saturday Mothers (Cumartesi Anneleri) and thousands of supporters sat on Istanbul's main pedestrian thouroughfare for the 600th time on Saturday in one of the longest running acts of civil disobidenced in the country. The families of the forcibly disappeared and human rights activists gather in Istanbul's Galatasaray Square every Saturday at noon to demand justice and accountability for thousands of people, mostly Kurds, disappeared by security forces and the police in the wake of the 1980 military coup and the so-called "dirty war" between the state and Kurdish separatists in the 1990s. Taking inspiration from the Argentinean movement Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, which organized in the late 1970s to find out the fate of people disappeared during that country's dictatorship, the Saturday Mothers have gathered since 1995 under the motto "We want our disappeared loved ones." The protests for justice is against the "entrenched official mentality that has utilized enforced disappearance to eliminate the opposition and instill a culture of fear in society," according the Turkish Human Rights Organization. Speaking at the sit-down, Elmas Eren, whose son Hayrettin disappeared 36 years ago, said, "My soul has been troubled looking for his bones. What was the crime of our bright children that we never heard from them again, that the state killed them." The sit-down was supported by other protests across Turkey and in Europe, including solidarity sit-downs in Hamburg and Berlin. The Saturday Mothers' main demand is that the bodies of those disappeared be found, the perpetrators tried and justice delivered. Their demands also include a change in the statute of limitations in order to prosecute political murders and forced disappearances. The 600th sit-down comes as concern mounts that the state may be resorting to forced disappearances again after a multi-year break. A young Kurdish politician, Hursit Kulter, disappeared in Sirnak in May during a security clampdown on Kurdish militants. He is the first person to be disappeared in 15 years in Sirnak, where during the 1990s at least 200 people were never heard from again after being taken into custody by security forces.

The families of the forcibly disappeared in Turkey have gathered for a symbolic 600th time demanding justice. The Saturday Mothers movement is one of the longest running civil disobedience campaigns in the country. Holding red carnations and pictures of loved ones forceably disappeared by Turkish security forces over the years, the Saturday Mothers (Cumartesi Anneleri) and thousands of supporters sat ... Read More »

Egypt sees ‘unprecedented spike’ in forced disappearances, says Amnesty

The victims have been subjected to "horrendous abuses," including electric shocks to sensitive areas and rape. The interior ministry has denied any wrongdoing, acknowledging many are in custody after months of detention. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday published a damning report implicating Egypt's police and judiciary in an "unprecedented spike" in enforced disappearances since early 2015. The London-based organization said the practice aims to quash dissent. "Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt. Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk," said Philip Luther, the watchdog's Middle East and North Africa director. The report said "several hundred" Egyptians, many of them supporters of Egypt's first democratically elected president, had been arrested at their homes, then transferred to state security detention centers, where several had been tortured. "Methods of torture reported by victims and witnesses include electric shocks to the body and sensitive areas, such as the genitals, lips and ears; prolonged suspension by the limbs while handcuffed and naked; and sexual abuse, include rape; beatings and threats," the report said. In one case, Mazen Mohamed Abdallah, a 14-year-old arrested in September, had been subject to "horrendous abuse," including "being repeatedly raped with a wooden stick in order to extract a false 'confession,'" the human rights watchdog said. The country's official National Council for Human Rights said it raised 266 cases of enforced disappearances with the interior ministry from April 2015 to March of this year. In January, the interior ministry acknowledged that more than 100 people whose relatives complained of an enforced disappearance had been in their custody, adding that they had been lawfully detained. The ministry consistently denies it acts beyond the law. The majority of those disappeared by state security authorities supported ex-President Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by a military coup led by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in July 2013. El-Sissi's government has designated Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, as terrorist organizations. In August 2013, the army - led by then-military general el-Sissi - launched a brutal crackdown that left over a 1,000 people dead. Amnesty's Luther urged the Egyptian presidency to send a clear message to end the practice of enforced disappearances and torture at the hands of law enforcement authorities. "President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi must order all state security agencies to stop enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of ill-treatment and make clear that anyone who orders, commits or is complicit in such violations will be brought to justice," he said.

The victims have been subjected to “horrendous abuses,” including electric shocks to sensitive areas and rape. The interior ministry has denied any wrongdoing, acknowledging many are in custody after months of detention. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday published a damning report implicating Egypt’s police and judiciary in an “unprecedented spike” in enforced disappearances since early 2015. The London-based ... Read More »

Gao Yu family appeals to Merkel ahead of China trip

The family of Chinese journalist Gao Yu has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to pressure Beijing to allow the 71-year-old to travel to Germany for medical treatment. Merkel is headed to China for an official visit. Gao Yu's brother Wei expressed hope Saturday that the German chancellor would raise the case in Beijing, "so these problems can be resolved as soon as possible." Gao Yu, who has worked for DW, was convicted in April 2015 of leaking state secrets. The longtime Communist Party critic is currently under house arrest on medical parole. The journalist suffers from heart problems and has no pension or access to long-term support in China. She has a passport and a German visa, but despite multiple offers of aid from Germany, China has rejected pleas to let her leave the country. Chancellor Merkel travels to Beijing later on Saturday with six of her ministers and five permanent secretaries for the fourth Sino-German joint cabinet meeting on Monday. Human rights Ahead of the trip, Michael Brand, the German chair of the parliamentary committee on human rights, urged Merkel to press Beijing on its human rights record. "Dialogue is absolutely important, but dialogue is not an end in itself," Brand said. "When partners like China, Russia or Turkey cross red lines, the German federal government must show a stop sign that will also be understood as such." Beijing refused to issue Brand a visa in May because he had not obeyed a demand from the Chinese ambassador in Berlin to remove articles critical of China from his home page. In her weekly podcast on Saturday, Merkel said she also planned to push for Beijing to soften its stance on NGOs. A Chinese law set to go into effect in 2017 forbids foreign foundations from financing or engaging in "political activities." Merkel said the work of many such groups helped bring China and Germany closer together and should not be hindered by the legislation. German industry in trouble Merkel said the steel production crisis facing many European countries will also be on the agenda. China now produces about 50 percent of the world's steel, creating a difficult situation for EU states who are struggling to compete. Germany's industry is seeking additional protections from dumping and for China to reduce its overcapacity. A large delegation of CEOs from Volkswagen, BMW, Siemens, Lufthansa and Airbus is also expected to accompany the chancellor. German firms have increasingly raised concerns about barriers to foreign companies in China, as well as the implications of a decline in exports to China. Merkel is to dine with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday and President Xi Jinping on Monday. In between, she and Li will attend a meeting with business leaders, where German firms are expected to voice their frustrations with conditions in the Chinese market. On Tuesday, Merkel is due to travel to the northern "rust belt" city of Shenyang to visit a BMW plant.

The family of Chinese journalist Gao Yu has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to pressure Beijing to allow the 71-year-old to travel to Germany for medical treatment. Merkel is headed to China for an official visit. Gao Yu’s brother Wei expressed hope Saturday that the German chancellor would raise the case in Beijing, “so these problems can be resolved as soon ... Read More »

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