News (handpicked)

Refugees fleeing Yemen head for Saudi Arabia's closed border

Saudi Arabia must not close its borders to civilians fleeing the conflict raging in Yemen's Sa'da region, Amnesty International said on Thursday in a letter addressed to the Minister of Interior.

The warning comes amid reports that some have been denied entry and others have been forcibly returned to the conflict zone where a reported bombing raid by government forces on Wednesday was said to have killed about 80 people.

"The Sa'da region has been largely sealed off to the outside world by Yemeni forces since the current upsurge in fighting between government troops and armed Zaidi Shi'a militants began last August, but it is clear that civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"Scores, perhaps hundreds, of civilians have already been killed and for many now, fleeing into Saudi Arabia is the only way to get out of the firing line. They must be allowed to enter and be afforded adequate protection."

At present, the situation along the border between Yemen's Sa'da region and Saudi Arabia is unclear. News reports suggest that more than a dozen members of one Yemeni family who crossed into Saudi Arabia in late August were rounded up and pushed back across the border and that others are said to have been prevented from entering Saudi Arabian territory.

Saudi Arabia has never become party to the main UN treaty governing the treatment of refugees.

It is nevertheless bound under international law not to turn away people seeking asylum, either by sealing its borders or by forcibly returning people on its territory, if on return they may be at serious risk of human rights abuses.

"While the Saudi Arabian authorities have been playing a positive role in helping organize the flow of humanitarian assistance to beleaguered civilians in Sa'da governorate, they must not force the return of any people seeking safe haven," Malcolm Smart added.

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The CIA's willing torturers

The CIA report into prisoner abuse reveals a new, ugly reality: America's torturers weren't simply following orders. There is a moment in the still heavily redacted CIA inspector general's report into its use of harsh interrogation techniques against al-Qaida suspects that speaks volumes of how torture is allowed to become acceptable.

Oddly it is not to be found in the details of the most egregious abuses: the mock executions, the simulated drownings and physical abuse, the intimidation with power drills or guns or the threat that one's family may be killed or raped. Instead it is to be found in a discussion between a CIA interrogator and the agency's headquarters about a technique an officer had found to be effective.

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'I had my childhood taken from me'

There are currently more than 200 million children working in various jobs around the world. Deprived of an education and a childhood, child labourers are left with no choice but to work in order to provide for their family. As countries prepare to mark World Day Against Child Labour on June 12, former child worker Urmila spoke to Plan International about losing 13 years of her life working as a housemaid

My name is Urmila and I am 19 years old. I was six when my family sent me to work as a housemaid for a wealthy banker in Kathmandu. We were a very poor family and were at the mercy of the local landlord that employed my family. We are south-Nepalese Tharu people, and for the traditionally landless Tharus, entering into child labour contracts with landlords is often the only way to make ends meet; an arrangement known as the Kamalari system.

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Transgenderism: "Society can be cruel"

Dr Manabi Banerjee, 38, underwent a sex change operation to become a woman in 2003, in Kolkata. Despite suffering torture and physical intimidation, Manabi earned a doctorate and now works as college lecturer in Bengali, one of the most spoken languages in the world. On the back of the Delhi court's decriminalisation of homosexuality last week, she describes her journey.

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Doña Jacinta, presa de conciencia

México ya ocupa más espacio en la lista negra de Amnistía Internacional (AI). Desde ayer, Jacinta Francisco Marcial, indígena otomí condenada a 21 años de cárcel por secuestrar a seis agentes de la policía federal, es considerada por la organización defensora de derechos humanos como una "prisionera de conciencia".

AI, con sede en Londres, avisó a sus más de dos millones de socios en el planeta para que apunten en su agenda que tienen que luchar también por la liberación de esta abuela indígena, madre de seis hijos y con igual número de nietos, que no contó, ni cuenta, con un debido proceso judicial, de lo que han dado fe distintos organismos.


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Aung San Suu Kyi found guilty of breaking house arrest

Aung San Suu Kyi will spent the next year and a half under guard at her home in Rangoon after a court today found her guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest. Her sentence means she will play no part in elections the junta has promised to hold early next year.
The 64-year-old learned her fate in a few minutes of courtroom drama witnessed by journalists and diplomats from the same countries that have been calling for her immediate and unconditional release. Although her sentence falls some way short of the maximum five years available to the court, news that the Nobel peace laureate had again been denied her freedom drew immediate condemnation from around the world.



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Pressure mounts over allegations of British complicity in torture

Ministers came under fresh pressure today over detailed allegations of complicity in torture, with Gordon Brown being asked whether the attorney general would investigate them and human rights groups joining MPs and peers demanding an independent inquiry. They were responding to today's report by parliament's joint committee on human rights which said the government could no longer get away with repeating standard denials of complicity by the security and intelligence agencies.


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Condenados dos serbobosnios que quemaron a 142 civiles

Milan y Sredoje Lukic, dos primos serbobosnios que lideraban un grupo paramilitar autodenominado Águilas Blancas, fueron condenados ayer a cadena perpetua por el Tribunal Penal Internacional para la antigua Yugoslavia por uno de los crímenes más horrendos que recuerdan sus jueces. En junio de 1992, y en dos ataques sucesivos, encerraron a unos 142 niños, mujeres y ancianos musulmanes en sendas casas a las que prendieron fuego después. Quemados vivos dentro, los pocos que trataron de escapar fueron abatidos a tiros. Los hechos, calificados por la fiscalía de "ejemplo claro de limpieza étnica", ocurrieron en Visegrado, al este de Bosnia.

La pareja siempre ha negado su participación en el crimen. De hecho, a Sredoje Lukic, de 48 años, le impusieron 30 años de reclusión porque no pudo probarse que estuviera presente en uno de los ataques. Milan Lukic, de 41 años, sí pasará el resto de su vida entre rejas. Durante el juicio, los testigos señalaron que las mujeres retenidas por la pareja "solían ser violadas y torturadas, una vez que sus esposos, padres, hermanos e hijos habían sido asesinados". Patrick Robinson, el presidente de la sala que los condenó, calificó sus actos de "crueles más allá de lo imaginable y con total desdén por la vida humana".

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