Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

Myanmar continued to destroy Rohingya villages just days after signing a refugee resettlement deal, according to a rights group.

HRW: Rohingya Villages Razed Despite Refugee Deal

Satellite images of Myanmar published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday revealed destruction in 40 Rohingya villages since October, Al-Jazeera reported.

"The Burmese army’s destruction of Rohingya villages within days of signing a refugee repatriation agreement with Bangladesh shows that commitments to safe returns were just a public relations stunt," HRW Asia director, Brad Adams, said.

The organization announced that the number of completely or partially destroyed Rohingya villages since Myanmar began its campaign targeting the largely Muslim ethnic group now stood at 354.

Citing evidence, HRW added that villages may have been targeted as recently as early December, despite a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow Rohingya refugees to return home in late November.

Images of Maungdaw Township in Rakhine State showed the razing of buildings at some point between November 25 and December 2.

Meanwhile, United Nations human rights chief announced that genocide charges could be brought against Myanmar following the country’s campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslims.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein stressed that attacks on the Rohingya had been “well thought out and planned” and he had asked Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to stop the military atrocities.

Arrangement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in November to start repatriating refugees within two months is viewed with deep suspicion and dread by Rohingya still traumatised by the violent expulsion from their homeland.

The Red Cross said the returns must be voluntary and safe, but rights groups added that the conditions are not in place to ensure safe, voluntary and dignified returns, and Rohingya sense danger lurking behind Myanmar’s assurances.

Aid groups have also warned Myanmar they would boycott any new camps for Rohingya returnees, saying refugees must be allowed to settle in their own homes and not forced into ghetto-like conditions.

More than 620,000 of Myanmar's Muslim minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh since late August when the Myanmar army launched a sweeping crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Northern Rakhine state.

The Red Cross , the only international aid organisation with broad access on the ground in Rakhine, estimates that only about 300,000 Rohingya remain in the entire state.

The International Committee of The Red Cross announced that life has stopped in Rakhine state due to the fear of violence, months after a new wave of crackdown by the government erupted against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the first month of a Myanmar army crackdown in Rakhine state that began in late August.

The revelation was made as Myanmar’s army has so far denied widespread accounts of violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority and has said that only 400 people died in the first few weeks of a new wave of “security operations”.

All along, government troops and the Buddhist mobs have been killing, raping, and arbitrarily arresting members of the Muslim community. They have also been setting the houses of the Muslims on fire in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the Northern parts of Rakhine, where nearly all the Rohingya reside.

Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the Rohingya, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, regards the desperate refugees as Myanmarese. The Rohingya, however, track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.

The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Myanmarese government, however, denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya people and has even rejected UN criticism for its “politicization and partiality.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, Avaaz and 7amleh: The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media have urged the Palestinian Authority (PA) to amend its controversial cybercrime law so as “to bring it in line with their international legal obligations”.

Global rights groups urge Palestinian Authority to reform law

While the PA has proposed striking some repressive provisions in the 2017 law in response to concerns from civil society groups, it has “left in place others that would allow disproportionate and arbitrary restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and protection of data”.

“The proposed amendments to remove provisions that allow prison sentences and heavy fines for anyone critical of the Palestinian authorities online are a welcome step,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“But further changes are required to fully safeguard Palestinian rights to freedom of expression, privacy and protection of data.”

According to HRW, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “issued the Law on Electronic Crimes by executive decree in July. The authorities subsequently charged several journalists as well as a human rights defender, Issa Amro, under the law. After calls from Palestinian civil society to repeal the law, the Justice Ministry proposed revisions.”

“The cybercrime law grants thin-skinned authorities virtually unrestrained power to block websites, conduct surveillance, and assemble reams of data on ordinary people,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

In a joint letter to the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers. Salah Alayan, the groups welcomed “proposed amendments that seek to remove provisions that permit the imposition of prison sentences and heavy fines solely for peaceful online criticism of authorities”.

They also “urge Palestinian authorities to amend or repeal provisions that allow the authorities to conduct surveillance, force service providers to retain consumer data, and block websites without sufficient safeguards for the rights to free expression and privacy.”

“The Palestinian authorities should amend the recent cybercrime law to ensure protection rather than violation of Palestinian digital rights and freedom of expression,” said Nadim Nashif, director of 7amleh. “Palestinians have long been struggling for freedom and justice and it is critical that freedoms within the virtual sphere are upheld and respected.”

The law, as it stands now, still violates international treaties the Palestinian government pledged to uphold and breaks a promise authorities made to respect the basic rights of its people said Fadi Quran, senior campaigner for Palestine at Avaaz. “At this point the Palestinian government should either include all civil society amendments or axe the law.”
More than 350 prisoners previously held by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces in Iraqi Kirkuk went missing under unclear circumstances, a prominent rights watchdog said on Thursday.

Over 350 Prisoners Held by Kurdish Forces Disappeared in Iraqi Kirkuk - Watchdog

More than 350 detainees held by the Kurdistan Regional Government in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk are feared to have been forcibly disappeared… Those missing are mainly Sunni Arabs, displaced to Kirkuk or residents of the city, detained by the regional government’s security forces, the Asayish, on suspicion of Daesh [terrorist group outlawed in Russia] affiliation after the regional forces took control of Kirkuk in June 2014," the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

On December 18, Human Rights Watch asked the Chairman of the KRG’s High Committee Dindar Zebari for information on the current number and whereabouts of people detained in Kirkuk facilities. The official has not responded. Other local officials told the HRW that the prisoners were no longer in and around Kirkuk when Iraqi federal forces regained control of the area in October.

The Iraqi-Kurdish conflict is an ongoing resistance between Kurds, whose aim is to establish an independent state, and the central Iraqi authorities. The last active phase of the conflict started in October 2017 after Iraqi Kurds held a referendum for independence from Iraq in September. The referendum was also held in Kirkuk, which was previously occupied by Kurdish Peshmerga forces amid an anti-Daesh campaign. Iraqi forces later pushed the Peshmerga out of the contested area.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for UN sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for leading a bloody bombing campaign and a crippling siege against impoverished Yemen.

HRW Urges UN Sanctions Against Saudi Crown Prince over Yemen War

Deputy United Nations Director at Human Rights Watch Akshaya Kumar lashed out at the Saudi crown prince and defense minister for the catastrophic ramifications of the Riyadh-led coalition’s war on Yemen, according to an article published on the websites of The Washington Post and HRW.

“There has been nothing bold or transformative about his coalition’s relentless bombing of Yemen’s civilians while denying holding any of his own forces accountable for their war crimes,” the article read.

“As restrictions on imports push millions of Yemenis further into famine and aid the spread of normally treatable diseases, Prince Bin Salman should not be getting a free pass. Instead, he and other senior coalition leaders should face international sanctions,” it added.

This is while bin Salman ended up this month winning Time Magazine readers’ poll for Person of the Year over his “reforms” in the kingdom, the HRW article said.

The young prince was appointed the first in line to the Saudi throne by his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in June.

Since then, he has engaged in a string of radical economic and social projects in a bid to portray himself as a “reformist.” But those projects have been widely seen to be more about consolidating his personal power and less about bringing about real change to Saudi Arabia.

Prince Mohammed has been behind an aggressive push to purge royals and businessmen critical of his policies under the banner of an “anti-corruption campaign.”

The HRW article pointed to a 2015 UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution which gave the body the power to impose travel bans and asset freezes on anyone responsible for obstructing the delivery of life-saving aid.

The UNSC “has the power to put sanctions on anyone violating the laws of war in Yemen. Coalition leaders, including Prince Bin Salman, meet that threshold,” it stressed.

“The United Nations has information that points to the need for similar individual sanctions on coalition members, including military leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. But mostly because of the power of Saudi Arabia’s allies, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, the Security Council hasn’t acted," HRW pointed out.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 15,300 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has driven the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster, as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country.

The cholera outbreak in Yemen which began in April, has also claimed over 2,200 lives and has infected more than one million people, as the nation has been suffering from what the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as the “largest epidemic in the world” amid a non-stop bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia. Also Riyadh's deadly campaign prevented the patients from traveling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country.

According to reports, the cholera epidemic in Yemen, which is the subject of a Saudi Arabian war and total embargo, is the largest recorded in modern history.

Aid officials have also warned of the spread of diphtheria in war-torn Yemen, as WHO and officials with the international medical charity Doctors Without Border, announced that the diphtheria spread is inevitable in Yemen due to low vaccination rates, lack of access to medical care and so many people moving around and coming in contact with those infected.

The United Nations had described the current level of hunger in Yemen as “unprecedented,” emphasizing that 17 million people are now food insecure in the country.

A recent survey showed that almost one third of families have gaps in their diets, and hardly ever consume foods like pulses, vegetables, fruit, dairy products or meat, while the humanitarian food aid is reaching only a third of Yemen’s population.

Aid agency CARE also declared that more than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian aid, 7 million people face famine-like conditions.

More than 3 million pregnant and nursing women and children under 5 need support to prevent or cure malnutrition.

The United Nations has also warned that 8.4 million people in war-torn Yemen are “a step away from famine”, as Saudi Arabia and its allies are ceaselessly pounding the impoverished country.

"The lives of millions of people, including 8.4 million Yemenis who are a step away from famine, hinge on our ability to continue our operations and to provide health, safe water, shelter and nutrition support," Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said in a statement on Monday.

"The continuing blockade of ports is limiting supplies of fuel, food and medicines, dramatically increasing the number of vulnerable people who need help," he added.

The United Nations had warned that millions of people will die in Yemen, in what will be the world's worst famine crisis in decades, unless the Saudi-led military coalition ends its devastating blockade and allows aid into the country.

Aid agency CARE warned, as the country marks 1,000 days since conflict began, Yemen risks sliding into famine and further disease outbreaks unless all the country’s ports are fully reopened.

“The situation is appalling,” CARE’s Country Director in Yemen Johan Mooij said, adding that “Today millions of Yemenis are facing multiple crises of war, hunger, disease outbreaks and recent blockades on fuel and commercial imports”, Reliefweb reported.

Mooij stressed that while some land, sea and air ports had recently reopened, the country’s main ports remained closed to commercial imports.

International aid agency Oxfam warned that Yemen was pushed ever closer to famine after 1,000 days of a brutal war, exacerbated by a crippling blockade of its key ports which is starving its people of food, fuel and medicine.
At the beginning of the year, two British journalists from Sky News - set out to stage a short video with paid actors - to slander the Chinese Government, the U.S.'s competitor in Cobalt mining in the Congo.

In July, an investigation by the Global Times, who visited the area and personally contacted "the actors in the video" learned the video was staged.

In November, Amnesty International released a report highlighting the child labor issue in DR Congo and criticizing the Chinese company and its supply chain. A day after Amnesty's report, the Washington Post reprinted the article with the video (link below). From there, I have noticed, Amnesty has spun at least four more articles with the same content (minus the video link) that's been picked up by other media outlets.

The video report by Sky News, a UK-based news organization, released earlier this year, claimed that the cobalt collected by child laborers in these small mining operations will be sold to Chinese dealers who don't ask questions about its source or who extracted it.

A video allegedly staged by UK journalists in DR Congo has nobody fooled about Sino-Congolese relations 20.12.2017

At first glance it looked like a virtual hell. Beneath the pouring rain, young children with no shoes staggered under heavy sacks at an unregulated cobalt mine in Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). Ruthless overseers threaten to beat the children who don't work fast enough. Some of these children, according to the narrator, are as young as four years old.

Dealers will then sell most of the cobalt to Congo Dongfang International Mining, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, which supplies most of the world's largest battery makers.

Cobalt is a key material for lithium-ion batteries. With the growing global demand for electric cars and devices, cobalt has been dubbed as the "new gasoline." Over half of the world's cobalt comes from DR Congo.

The video, with its strong allegations, was used as major evidence against Chinese operations in DR Congo. On November 15, Amnesty International released a report highlighting the child labor issue in DR Congo and criticizing the Chinese company and its supply chain.

Investigations by the Global Times this July, however, found many inconsistencies in the Sky News report, which was suspected of having been staged as part of a Western conspiracy against Chinese companies who are increasingly dominant in the competitive cobalt market in DR Congo.

Obviously staged

The Global Times reporter visited Kolwezi, capital of Lualaba Province in the South of DR Congo and center of the country's copper and cobalt mining industry. Kolwezi is also where the mines shown in the Sky News video are located.

Alain, the younger son of a local chief, said he was a fixer for the two British journalists from Sky News when they visited the mine at the beginning of the year, including hiring for them the children who appeared in the video.

"They gave each child a reward of $250, and they told them what to say and how to act," Alain told the Global Times in Swahili.

Alain claims the British journalists promised that hospitals and schools would be built in the area in the near future, but said that first they needed to take photographs and videos there.

Eliace, a local freelance mining consultant, said the video looks staged. "They made two major mistakes: First, mining on rainy days is a taboo here because it will increase the rate of accidents. Second, this is a copper mine, but in the video it's described as a cobalt mine," he told the Global Times.

Eliace added that the mine in the video belongs to the Congolese government, and therefore cannot be sold to Chinese companies.

Zhu Chunyou, a manager at Jiangzhi Warehouse who appeared in the Sky News report as a Chinese dealer and who, according to the narrator, does not ask for sources, told the Global Times that nobody approached him for an interview. Instead, he claims he was filmed secretly.

"In reality, we source every batch we receive, and we keep paper receipts for a year. After one year, we make a digital copy of the receipts and keep those for three years," Mr Liu, Zhu's superior, told the Global Times.

Makumba Mateba, a local cobalt miner, appeared in the video with a large tumor on his neck. According to the subtitles, he was quoted as saying that drinking water from the mining site had caused him to get sick.

However, when interviewed personally by the Global Times, he said the tumor had been with him for the past 10 years. "I don't know about the cause of the tumor. This is what I told the British reporter," he said.

A Western distortion

For more than a century, Western countries, first through colonial rule and then through multinational companies, exploited DR Congo's natural resources and plundered its wealth.

As a result, while being one of the world's richest countries in natural resources, it is also one of the poorest and most underdeveloped nations.

The arrival of Chinese companies over the past decade challenged Western dominance. At the end of 2005, there were only 15 Chinese companies investing in DR Congo. By the end of 2013, the number of Chinese mining companies registered in the province of Haut-Katanga alone have risen to over 100.

Kapend Williag, director of the Musompo market, the biggest mineral market in Kolwezi, told the Global Times that the market has been dominated by the Chinese for the past seven years, with about 98 percent of mineral buyers in the local market being Chinese.

"Chinese businessmen are rich and willing to pay cash. Some Western companies voluntarily quit the competition when they see the Chinese coming," he told the Global Times.

"The Chinese are good at working with the Congolese. They don't look down upon us," he added.

Chinese companies are bringing changes, but not everyone likes it. Jean-Marie Tshizainga, minister of mines at the Lualaba Province, told the Global Times that, "DR Congo is rich in resources, but the cobalt market is a small one. By smearing Chinese companies, Western companies may be able to get more businesses."

"This is a Western strategy to gain profits, and the Western media are working with the companies in the strategy," Tshizainga added. "Western media distorted and exaggerated the truth."

Chinese contributions

Contrary to Western claims, Chinese companies are providing a large number of decent jobs and other economic opportunities to the Congolese. For many locals, working at a Chinese company means good welfare and healthcare.

Peng Yunqi, CEO of Kemika Mines, a Chinese mining company in DR Congo, told the Global Times that Congolese employees and their families enjoy free healthcare. Chinese companies also provide financial support to families unable to afford their children's education.

"Chinese companies don't ask about personal histories and are willing to spend the time to train employees," he said.

Six years ago, Didier Kyona, then a 24-year-old student at DR Congo's top university, University of Lubumbashi, was selected by Congo Dongfang International to study in China for two years for free.

Today, he is a manager at Congo Dongfang International. Kyona speaks fluent Putonghua. Kyona said that Chinese-speaking natives are hot in the local job market as the number of Chinese companies moving there continues to grow.

In addition, Many Congolese males who were addicted to gambling changed their lives for the better after joining Chinese companies and learning new skills, a Congolese employer working at a Chinese company told the Global Times.

Apart from providing training and job opportunities, Chinese companies contribute enormously to local infrastructure. Traveling between Lubumbashi and Kolwezi, for example, used to take over five hours. Now it takes only three on a new highway constructed by China Railway.

Richard Muyej Mangeze Mans, governor of the Lualaba Province, said this warm cooperation between China and DR Congo is partly because Joseph Kabila, DR Congo's President, used to study in China 20 years ago.

Kabila attended the National Defense University PLA China from February 1998. Although a riot in DR Congo interrupted his studies, he remained on good terms with the Chinese and visited China during its V-Day military parade in 2015.

In the past, Congolese government officials preferred to send their children to Europe or the US for further studies. These days, many find China more attractive.

Tshizainga's four children, for example, are all currently studying in China. "I want them to learn from China's technology and contribute to DR Congo's development after they graduate," he told the Global Times.

Government officials like Tshizain and citizens like Kyona expressed their willingness to change their own country by learning from China. Peng said this shows how people from different classes in DR Congo admire China's rapid development and want to follow the Chinese model.

Amnesty report - November 14, 2017
Amnesty International Reports on Child Labor in Cobalt Battery Supply Chain

On November 15, 2017, Sustainable Brands reported that Amnesty International had released a new report revealing that tech industry giants such as Microsoft, Lenovo, Renault and Vodafone aren’t doing enough to keep child labor out of cobalt battery supply chains in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China. “The findings come almost two years after Amnesty exposed a link between batteries used in their products and child labor. Time to Recharge ranks industry leaders, including Apple, Samsung SDI, Dell, Microsoft, BMW, Renault, Vodafone and Tesla according to improvements to their cobalt-sourcing practices since January 2016. The 108-page report revealed that only a handful of companies made progress, with many failing to take even basic steps, such as investigating supply links in the DRC. The report’s publication is timely, arriving just months after the UK government announced plans to ban new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040, which would ultimately lead to higher demand for cobalt batteries. This last point is particularly problematic as recent reports have revealed that cobalt resources are on the decline, despite demand growth predicted at 500 percent.”

Time to Recharge

The cobalt pipeline (Video and photos made by the two U.K. journalist republished in the WaPo article)

Report Reveals Tech Industry Giants Failing to Keep Child Labor Out of Cobalt Supply Chains November 15, 2017

More than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in lithium-ion batteries, comes from the DRC, with 20 percent of it being mined by hand. Amnesty has documented children and adults mining cobalt under dangerous conditions, such as in narrow man-made tunnels where there is a high risk of fatal accidents and serious lung disease. Amnesty traced the cobalt from these mines to a Chinese processing company called Huayou Cobalt, whose products end up in the batteries used to power electronics and electric vehicles.
HRW: 350 Arabs missing from Kurdish detention

More than 350 prisoners held by the Kurdistan Regional Government have disappeared from the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a a Human Rights Watch report revealed today.

Those missing are mainly Sunni Arabs, displaced to Kirkuk or residents of the city, detained by the regional government’s security forces, the Asayish, on suspicion of being members of Daesh, the organization said.

This has left 350 families in fear and doubt of what has occurred to their detained relatives. Families of missing detainees have been deprived communication and even basic information about the whereabouts of their relatives. However, HRW said that in some cases, families have been able to obtain information from informal channels suggesting relatives were being held by the security forces in other parts of the Kurdistan region.

Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said: “The secret, incommunicado detentions raise grave concerns for their safety.”

Families in Kirkuk are desperate to know what has become of their detained relatives.

In one case, highlighted by HRW , the wife of detainee Faisal Sultan Hamed had tried to locate him over the past two years but was denied any information by the Asayish.

Family communications between detainees and their families as well as urgent information on where they are being held is vital to help families of the 350 disappeared detainees, the organization added.

As a possible solution, HRW has suggested that Kurdistan Regional Government authorities should work with the Human Rights Commission’s list of complaints to help families of the 350 people identify the status and whereabouts of their relatives who have disappeared from Kirkuk.

The previously disputed city of Kirkuk had come under Kurdish government control after Peshmerga troops captured the city from Daesh when the Iraqi army fled without a fight. Following the Kurdish independence referendum on 25 September where Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede, Baghdad imposed sanctions on the Kurdish region and Iraqi forces regained control of Kirkuk in October.

Living in the besieged Syrian province of Eastern Ghouta, a Pakistani couple hope to return home

Pakistan couple starving in Syria, ignored by nearby embassy

An elderly Pakistani couple, begging to be rescued from the besieged Syrian province of Eastern Ghouta, has been repeatedly ignored by the Pakistani embassy just a few miles away, according to Pakistan Today.

Muhammed Fadel Akram, 72, and his 62-year-old wife, Sugran Bibi, are among the 400,000 people trapped in the opposition-held region just east of Damascus. Living in Syria since 1973, Akram has been trying to leave the country since the outbreak of the civil war, in which one his children was killed. He now faces starvation amid continual bombardment by regime forces.

“What story should I tell you people?” Akram told journalists. “I have nothing to eat. I have no clean water to drink. My wife is sick; she needs medicine, yet there is nowhere we can get any.”

Despite the Pakistani embassy being just miles away, Akram said his repeated appeals for the Pakistani government’s intervention in his case have been ignored.

I have contacted the Pakistani embassy so many times. Every time they snub me. I have been contacting them since the war broke out, but I get no response. Now, the situation is so bad that I feel there is no chance of me getting out.

Living in extreme poverty, Akram and his wife survive by raising livestock; four animals of their herd remain. They occupy the same ruined room that their cattle sleep in.

The Embassy of Pakistan in Syria, the Foreign Office and the Middle East Office in Pakistan have not responded to requests for comment from journalists.

Whilst the chances are slim, Akram and his wife are hoping that they can find a way to escape Ghouta and make their own way back to Pakistan.

“I don’t want to beg, but if anyone can get us enough money for passage to Damascus, then we can make it back home. That is all that we ask, just to come back home and live the rest of our lives away from these bombs,” Akram pleads.

Despite Eastern Ghouta being one of the four de-escalation zones established in May by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the besieged province is subject to regular airstrikes from the Syrian regime; the UK-based Syrian Observatory has recorded the deaths of more than 200 civilians, including many children, in the past month.

This week, several humanitarian agencies issued statements on the deterioration of suburbs outside Damascus. The UN again warned that the situation in Eastern Ghouta had reached a “critical point” due to the lack of emergency aid reaching civilians.

“495 people were on the priority lists for medical evacuations. That number is going down. Not because we are evacuating people, but because they are dying,” Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian advisor on Syria said yesterday.

The province is also suffering from a tightening of the blockade imposed since 2013, after an offensive by the Syrian regime earlier this year cut underground smuggling routes that formerly allowed civilians access to food, fuel and medicine.

Last month, Amnesty International released a report, stating that the Syrian government’s strategy of “surrender or starve” towards civilian populations in opposition controlled areas amounts to a crime against humanity.

Amnesty International has urged Israeli authorities to end the use of “excessive force” against protesters in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), accusing Israeli forces of “arbitrary” and “abusive” violence against unarmed civilians.

Amnesty urges Israel to end lethal violence against Palestinian protesters

In a statement released yesterday, the international human rights group drew attention to Palestinian casualties over the last two weeks, with four killed and more than 3,000 injured by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the opt.

Amnesty described Israeli forces’ use of live ammunition against protesters as “particularly alarming”, citing the killing on 15 December of Ibrahim Abu Thurraya, who it says was “shot in the head” by an Israeli soldier from 15 metres away as he sat “with a group of young protesters”.

Referring to eyewitness accounts, Amnesty says Abu Thurraya was “waving a Palestinian flag and chanting slogans”, and “in possession of a slingshot, which he did not use”.

“Israeli authorities must stop using excessive force against protesters once and for all. The fact that live ammunition has been used during protests in Gaza and the West Bank is particularly shocking,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Under international human rights law lethal force can only be used when lives are at imminent risk, which clearly was not the case in the examples we have documented,” he added.

According to Luther: “Israeli authorities have consistently refused to investigate killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers or police or at least not done so to international standards.”

He continued: As long as Israeli officers are not held to account for abusing their powers, the pattern of unlawful killings will continue, and Palestinians will be denied their right to peaceful protest without fear of injury or death.

The senior Amnesty official urged Israel to “properly investigate all incidents in which arbitrary and otherwise abusive force appears to have been used and bring those suspected of being responsible to justice”, and “reform its investigation systems to ensure their impartiality and independence.”
Human Rights Watch yesterday accused Yazidi militias of executing 52 civilians north-west of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul.

HRW: Yazidi militia executed 52 civilians in Mosul, Iraq Thursday December 28, 2017

The rights group said in a report that it had met with relatives of the victims of the Imteywit tribe and had seen the crime scene. It added that Yazidi gunmen had forcibly detained then executed men, women and children belonging to eight of the tribe’s families who were fleeing the battles between Iraqi forces and Daesh.

The Yazidi militiamen were implicated in the enforced disappearance of members of the Imteywit and Jahayish tribes in late 2017.

Deputy Middle East Director at HRW, Lama Fakih said: “As the ground fighting against ISIS [Daesh] winds down in Iraq, state security forces need to turn their focus to preventing retaliation and upholding the rule of law.”

“Past atrocities against the Yezidis don’t give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past,” she added.

The organization pointed out that 52 Arabs were missing from a village near Sinjar, adding that local residents have confirmed the existence of a number of mass graves which include members of the Imteywit tribe.

It added that “a leader of the Yazidi community has provided Human Rights Watch with a list of five Yazidi fighters who were said to have executed those families.

Yezidi fighters in Iraq allegedly forcibly disappeared and killed 52 civilians from the Imteywit tribe in June 2017, Human Rights Watch said today.

Iraq: Yezidi Fighters Allegedly Execute Civilians Wednesday December 27, 2017

Relatives of victims told Human Rights Watch that on June 4, 2017, Yezidi forces detained and then apparently executed men, women, and children from eight Imteywit families who were fleeing fighting between the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) west of Mosul. Yezidi forces were also implicated in two other incidents of enforced disappearances of members of the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes in late 2017.

“As the ground fighting against ISIS winds down in Iraq, state security forces need to turn their focus to preventing retaliation and upholding the rule of law,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Past atrocities against the Yezidis don’t give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past.”

Human Rights Watch spoke to two Imteywit members who traveled through the village where, two hours later, the 52 people went missing. Human Rights Watch also spoke to a member of the PMF intelligence services who had visited the village and saw several mass graves that local Yezidi residents told him contained the bodies of the Imteywit victims. A Yezidi community leader provided to Human Rights Watch a list of five Yezidi fighters who he said told him they had killed the families.

In late April, as fighting approached the area just south of the Sinjar region, ISIS forces moved their families from the village of Ain Ghazal in Qayrawan to the desert north of the town of Baaj, two Imteywit men said. They said that on June 4, the Imam Ali Battalions, a PMF unit, retook the area from ISIS, and started moving local families out of the desert in a convoy of 70 cars traveling north toward Tel Afar. The two men and their relatives – 22 men, 20 women, and 10 children from the Imteywit tribe traveling in seven cars – broke off from the other members of the convoy.

When one car in the smaller convoy got a flat tire, the other cars stopped and waited for the tire to be fixed. The two men opted to head north ahead of the others, and traveled about 18 kilometers, reaching the village of Qabusiye at about 2 p.m. They said that a car with four Yezidi fighters, one of whom they recognized from home, flagged them down and forced them out of their car. The fighters asked them where they were from and said they would kill the two men as revenge for what ISIS had done to the Yezidis. Just then, the men said, a vehicle carrying Imam Ali Battalion fighters drove up, which ended the altercation, and escorted the two men to safety in the town of Qayrawan.

The men said that two hours later they called a cousin traveling in the convoy to warn them about the Yezidi fighters on the road. The cousin said they were arriving at Qabusiye, but then the call dropped, and his phone was soon switched off. The men said their relatives never made it to Qayrawan and the men have not been able to find out any information about their relatives since. The men gave Human Rights Watch a list of the 52 people in the convoy.

In early 2017, Yezidi fighters formed the Lalish Brigades and the Ezidkhan Brigades, units under the PMF, a force of the Iraqi prime minister, and therefore part of the state’s armed forces. Two Yezidi community leaders told Human Rights Watch that the Ezidkhan Brigades were responsible for the abduction and killing of the 52 Imteywit tribe members. One said that fighters from the Ezidkhan Brigades told him the unit had detained the families in the convoy and held them for two days in the abandoned village, then killed them. He shared photos of women’s and men’s sandals, jewelry, a woman’s scarf, and tufts of hair that he said belonged to the families.

A member of the PMF intelligence services told Human Rights Watch that he was sent to Sinjar to investigate the allegations. With help from local Yezidis he located a cluster of four mass graves in Qabusiye, which he visited on December 5. He said he saw the bones and skulls of at least four children, tufts of women’s hair, and women’s and children’s shoes and bracelets in the vicinity of the graves.

In July, a legal adviser to the Ezidkhan Brigades told Human Rights Watch that Yezidi forces were involved in the capture of 52 people, but that members of the Imteywit tribe were “dogs who deserve to die.” Another senior Yezidi military commander said in early December that, “If any members of the Imteywit or Jahaysh tribes try to return to Sinjar, we will kill them.” Other senior Yezidis have alleged that the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes participated with ISIS in the executions and abuse of Yezidi men and women in August 2014. Members of the two tribes denied these allegations and said that the Yezidis were scapegoating them for ISIS atrocities.

Responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses against the Yezidis and other groups such as the Imteywit and Jahaysh rests with the Iraqi government, Human Rights Watch said. In July a spokesman from Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Ministry told Human Rights Watch that government representatives in Sinjar had investigated the Qabusiye incident and that their initial findings were that Yezidi forces had abducted the Imteywit civilians as revenge for abuses against Yezidi women. He said that the government intended to hold those responsible to account. Since then, however, Human Rights Watch has received no responses to queries as to whether anyone has been held accountable for the apparent killings.

Members of the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes have reported other incidents in which alleged Yezidi forces have forcibly disappeared and possibly killed their members. An Imteywit man told Human Rights Watch that on August 14, an Imteywit tribal commander and seven farmers went missing when they traveled to their former village to work their agricultural land. The forces in control of the area at the time were a mix of Shia and Yezidi PMF units. Two men from the Jahaysh tribe said that on February 26, when members of the tribe fled their villages as fighting approached, armed men wearing PMF badges disappeared 10 men who were escorting their livestock by foot from the area. Human Rights Watch was unable to corroborate this information or the units implicated.

Enforced disappearances occur when a person is arrested or detained by government officials or their agents and the authority refuses to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts.

Iraqi criminal justice authorities should investigate alleged criminal offenses by all parties to the conflict in a prompt, transparent, and effective manner, up to the highest levels of responsibility. Those found criminally responsible should be appropriately prosecuted. Summary executions and torture during an armed conflict are war crimes.

No armed forces in Iraq should be detaining suspected criminals for prolonged periods, but should instead hand suspects immediately over to judicial authorities to investigate.

International law requires that punishment for crimes only be imposed on the people responsible, after a fair trial to determine individual guilt. Imposing collective punishments on families, villages, or communities violates the laws of war and is a war crime.

“Allowing the many armed forces involved in Iraq’s civil war to retaliate against any group they think was complicit with ISIS would shatter the rule of law,” Fakih said. “Baghdad needs to assert its authority over the criminal justice process and end armed group vigilantes.”
As HRW urges Iranian authorities to investigate the deaths of 21 people killed in anti-government protests.

Huge pro-government rallies in Iran as protests die down

Tens of thousands gathered across Iran Wednesday in a massive show of strength for the government after days of deadly unrest, with state television showing vast crowds marching through several cities.

Chants of "Leader, we are ready" were heard as images showed thousands rallying in the cities of Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Gorgan and elsewhere.

The demonstrators waved Iranian flags and pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as placards saying "Death to seditionists."

"We offer the blood in our veins to our leader," was another popular chant.

There were few reports of anti-regime protests overnight after the political establishment closed ranks against the unrest since last week that has left at least 21 dead.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that he hoped the protests in Iran would end in a few days, sources in Erdogan's office said on Wednesday.

In the phone call, Erdogan said Rouhani had taken an appropriate stance by saying demonstrators should not violate the law while exercising their right to peaceful protests, the sources said.

Washington continued to exert pressure on the Islamic republic, with its UN ambassador Nikki Haley calling for emergency UN talks to discuss the situation.

"The people of Iran are crying out for freedom," she said at a news conference. "All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause."

Iran's leaders have said the protests, which began over economic issues on 28 December but quickly turned more radical, were part of a foreign plot to destabilise the regime.

"The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime," Khamenei said.

"The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation."

'The poor under pressure' - in 2009, condemned the violence and the support it has received from the United States.

But they also urged the authorities to address economic grievances that have fuelled the protests.

"Officials must acknowledge the deplorable situation of the country as the first step to hearing the protesters," tweeted Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, whose father Mehdi Karroubi has been under house arrest for almost seven years for helping lead the 2009 demonstrations.

Many have been turned off by the violence, which has contrasted with the largely peaceful marches in 2009.

But on the streets of the capital, there is widespread sympathy with the economic grievances driving the unrest, particularly an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent for young people.

"The poorer section of society is really under pressure," Sakineh Eidi, a 37-year-old pharmacist in Tehran, told AFP. "But I don't think it will continue."

"Even those who maybe acted emotionally, vandalising things and setting fire to public property, know that the smoke will get into everyone's eyes and that insecurity in the country is not in anyone's interest."

Others rejected the official line that foreign powers were behind the unrest.

"I don't agree. People have reached a stage where they can no longer tolerate this pressure from the authorities. They have burst and are now out in the streets," said Soraya Saadaat, a 54-year-old unemployed woman.

12 percent unemployment - There were only limited reports of violence and clashes in provincial areas on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday.

Two men fired on a bank and police post in the central province of Isfahan, without causing casualties, said state television.

"No information has been published on clashes or arrests in Tehran," said reformist news agency ILNA late Friday.

Police presence in the capital also appeared to have dwindled, official media and AFP journalists said.

That was in contrast with the previous two nights, when multiple deaths were reported across smaller towns, including six protesters killed during attacks on a police station in Isfahan province.

As violence grew, authorities stepped up arrests, with at least 450 people detained in Tehran between Saturday and Monday, and many more in outlying areas.

The authorities must now investigate the deaths, and remove arbitrary restrictions on internet access, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

“The rising death toll bodes ill for Iranians who are daring to take their grievances to the streets,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

“Rather than issue barely veiled threats against protesters, the authorities should investigate these deaths, ensure the rights of all detainees, and guarantee that people can protest freely and peacefully.”

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Rural areas, hit by years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit.

Rouhani on Sunday acknowledged there was "no problem bigger than unemployment", and also promised a more balanced media and more transparency.

In 2009, authorities ruthlessly put down protests against the re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least 36 people were killed, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

Amnesty International has slammed Israel’s detention without charge or trial of a high-profile French-Palestinian human rights worker, who has been locked up without “a shred of evidence”.

Amnesty slams Israel’s detention without trial of French-Palestinian activist

On 17 September, Salah Hamouri, a field researcher for Palestinian prisoner rights NGO Addameer, had his six-month administrative detention order confirmed in court. The order is dated from his arrest and will end on 22 February 2018.

Administrative detention orders can last a maximum of six months, but can be renewed indefinitely at the discretion of the Israeli occupation authorities.

Responding to news of the court-approved detention order, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Magdalena Mughrabi, said: “The arbitrary detention of Salah Hamouri is yet another shameful example of the Israeli authorities’ abusive use of administrative detention to detain suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.”

She added: For 50 years, Israel has relied upon administrative detention to suppress peaceful dissent and as a substitute for proper criminal prosecution. Now they appear to be using it to target human rights activists. They must take urgent steps to end this cruel practice once and for all.

Hamouri is the second Addameer staff member to be held in administrative detention, Amnesty notes, with the NGO’s media coordinator Hasan Safadi similarly detained since 10 June 2016. In addition, five staff members from the organization are banned from travelling abroad.

“We believe that Salah’s imprisonment is an attempt at punishing him for his activism and human rights work,” Addameer said. “It represents but one part of the occupation’s continued attempts to stifle the Palestinian people’s legitimate struggle for human rights, autonomy, and basic dignity.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that a prominent Muslim scholar has been detained by Saudi Arabia for the past four months without charge.

HRW: Saudi Scholar Held for Months without Charge

Saudi authorities detained Salman al-Awda in early September and later imposed travel bans on members of Awda's family, the US-based rights group said on Sunday, Al-Jazeera reported.

A family member told HRW that Awda was being held over his refusal to comply with an order by Saudi authorities to tweet a specific text to support the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Instead, Awda posted a tweet in September, saying that "May God harmonize between their hearts for the good of their people" - an apparent call for reconciliation between the Persian Gulf countries, HRW added in a statement.

The family member cited by HRW stressed that authorities permitted Awda only one phone call in October.

Awda's brother, Khaled, was also held after he tweeted about his brother's detention, media reported, as he remains in detention, according to HRW.

Saudi authorities imposed travel bans on 17 members of Awda's family, according to HRW .

"Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's efforts to reform the Saudi economy and society are bound to fail if his justice system scorns the rule of law by ordering arbitrary arrests and punishments," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said.

"There's no justification for punishing family members of a detainee without showing even the slightest evidence or accusation of wrongdoing on their part," she added.

"If Mohammad bin Salman wants to show that a new era has begun in Saudi Arabia, a refreshing first step would be the release of activists and dissidents who have never been charged with a recognizable crime and should never have gone to jail in the first place," Whitson underlined.

According to HRW , Awda was among the first of dozens of people detained in mid-September as part of a crackdown against what Saudi authorities said were those acting "for the benefit of foreign parties against the security of the kingdom and its interests".

Saudi Arabia carried out another wave of arrests in November against people they accused of corruption and held many at five-star hotels until they agreed to turn over assets to the state.

In early June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East, while Qatar, for its part, slammed the measures as unjustified, stressing that they are based on false claims and assumptions.

Qatar denied the accusations, describing attempts to diplomatically isolate it as a violation of international law and its national sovereignty.

The four threatened to impose further sanctions on Doha if it failed to accept a long list of demands, including the closure of the Qatar-funded Al-Jazeera television and scaling down ties with Iran.

The split among the Arab states erupted after US President Donald Trump visited Riyadh where he accused Iran of "destabilizing interventions" in Arab lands.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has blasted the United Arab Emirates for violating human rights by suppressing dissent and discriminating against citizens at home while committing war crimes in Yemen.

HRW: UAE Violating Human Rights

In its World Report 2018 published on Thursday, the New York-based rights organization accused the UAE of “arbitrarily detaining or rounding up in its routine crackdowns on dissent,” citing the case of Ahmed Mansoor.

The award-winning Emirati rights activist has been in detention since March 2017, facing speech-related charges that include using social media to “publish false information that harms national unity.”

“The government and the many public relations firms it pays try to paint the UAE as a modern, reform-oriented country,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.

“This rosy vision will remain fiction so long as the UAE refuses to release the activists, journalists, and critics it has unjustly jailed, like Ahmed Mansoor,” she added.

Elsewhere, the HRW report highlighted persistent labor abuses and the exploitation of migrant construction workers in the Persian Gulf country.

It also said that the UAE is discriminating against its people based on their sex, gender and identity, reported Press TV.

The rights group further touched on the UAE’s complicity in torture and disappearances across Yemen.

The UAE is a key ally of Saudi Arabia in its military campaign on Yemen, which has claimed around 13,600 lives since its onset in March 2015.

Besides playing a significant part in aerial assaults and deploying troops to Yemen, Abu Dhabi has been training the pro-Saudi militants fighting on the ground against the Yemeni army and its allied forces.

Human Rights Watch said US President Donald Trump’s rise to power and his knack for populist policies has dealt a blow to the global campaign for human rights, hailing the growing wave of resistance against “authoritarian populists.”

Human Rights Watch: Donald Trump Presidency ‘Blow to Human Rights’

Describing the businessman-turned-politician’s 2016 victory over former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “moment of despair,” the group's executive director Ken Roth told AFP there was still hope that leaders like him could be stopped.

"The big theme this year is really how much the world has changed," Roth said, adding that "Because a year ago, just as Donald Trump was entering the White House, it was a moment of despair.

"It seemed as if the authoritarian populists were in the ascendancy and there was nothing we could do to stop them,” he underlined.

"What has been encouraging over the last year is how much resistance we've seen in many countries to this rise of populism," he explained.

A good example of the resistance, according to Roth, was the fight that activists and federal judges have mounted against Trump and his widely-condemned measures in blocking refugees and citizens of some Muslim countries from entering the US.

Roth also referred to the Trump administration continued support for Saudi Arabia in the face of its deadly war against Yemen and stressed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s claims of being a reformer should be taken “with a big grain of salt.”

The non-profit dedicated a large part of its annual report released Thursday to review Trump’s first year in the White House.

Trump is wrapping up a year in office with the lowest average approval rating of any elected President in his first term, according to a poll by Gallup.

He has averaged just a 39 percent approval rating since his inauguration. The previous low was held by Bill Clinton, whose first-year average stood 10 points higher than Trump's, at 49 percent.

In another AP-NORC poll conducted late in 2017, just 23 percent of Americans said he has kept the promises he made while running for president, while 30 percent said he has tried and failed and 45 percent said he has not done so at all. More than half said the country is worse off since Trump became president.

Amnesty International denounced the Saudi regime’s relentless crackdown on activists and critics, urging the immediate and unconditional release of those detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, among them a prominent cleric.

Amnesty International Urges Saudi Arabia to Free Activists

Sheikh Salman al-Awda, who was arrested in September 2017, has been held in solitary confinement without charge or trial, Shafaqna reported.

He was apparently detained over his refusal to comply with an order by Saudi authorities to tweet a specific text in support of a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, while he has been prevented from communicating with the outside world since October.

His family told the Amnesty that the prominent cleric had recently been hospitalized in the Saudi city of Jeddah for an unknown reason.

The arrest “appears to be part of a wider crackdown by the Saudi Arabian authorities on freedom of expression in the country. All those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly must be immediately and unconditionally released,” director of campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle-East Samah Hadid said.

Hadid further lashed out at Saudi authorities for their “shameful treatment” of the prominent scholar.

“Five months after being arrested merely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, he remains held without charge or trial in cruel and inhuman conditions,” she added.

Hadid stressed that Saudi authorities “must ensure that he receives all necessary medical treatment, that he is allowed to communicate with his family and a lawyer, and – above all – that he is released from detention.”

Awda was among more than 20 people arrested in what the Saudi government has said was a crackdown on “intelligence activities... for the benefit of foreign parties against the security of the kingdom and its interests,” the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported earlier this month .

According to his family, Awda and other prominent figures had been asked by Saudi authorities to tweet in support of the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, but he had refused. Instead, Awda posted a tweet endorsing warmer relations with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is one of four Arab countries, which also include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, that imposed in June a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

Over the past few weeks, Saudi authorities have arrested some 30 clerics, intellectuals and academics, known for opposing the absolute monarchy, in what multiple rights advocates have described as a coordinated crackdown on dissent.

The arrests come amid reports that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud plans to renounce power in favor of his son Crown Prince Mohammed.

Human Rights Watch stressed that the detentions could be connected to efforts by the Saudi crown prince to consolidate power.

Responding to the ruling yesterday by an Israeli court that 16 year-old Palestinian activist Ahed al-Tamimi, will remain in custody until the end of her trial, Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International called on Israeli authorities to release her immediately.

Amnesty: Israeli Authorities Must Release 16 Year-Old Palestinian Activist Immediately

"There is nothing that can justify Ahed Tamimi’s continued detention. The video of the incident clearly showed that she posed little threat to the soldier she slapped, as he stood in front of her fully armed. Her continued detention is outrageously excessive for such a comparatively small crime and entirely inappropriate for a child. We call on Israeli authorities to release her immediately," Mughrabi stressed, AMNESTY International reported.

"Ahed Tamimi’s ongoing detention and trial in a military court is an example of the institutional discrimination typical of the treatment of Palestinian children who participate in activism against the Israeli occupation and shows how Israel is violating its international human rights obligations towards children," the Deputy Director added.

An Israeli military judge on Wednesday ordered al-Tamimi arrested after a viral video showed her hitting two Israeli soldiers held in custody until trial.

“I found no alternative other than to order her detention in custody until the end of proceedings,” the judge ruled.

“The gravity of the offences of which she is accused do not allow an alternative to custody,” the judge said.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Tuesday expressed deep concern at the almost one month long pre-trial detention of the Palestinian child.

UN has also voiced concern over the detention of al-Tamimi, as UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric stressed that "What is clear is that people need to have their rights respected. The detention of children is our particular concern and we have made those concerns known."

Israeli authorities sought 12 charges against the prominent 16-year-old Palestinian activist filmed slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank.

Ahed, 16, was arrested by Israeli forces during a predawn raid on her home in the village of Nabi Saleh, located in the central occupied West Bank.

Tamimi’s cousin Nour was also arrested. Her mother Nariman Tamimi was detained as well, when she went to the police station where her daughter was being held.

Ahed, whose family is well-known internationally for their activism against the Israeli occupation, became the latest face of Palestinian resistance when footage emerged of her slapping one and then another fully-armed Israeli officer in the face during a protest in her home village of Nabi Saleh, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

She is well-known across Palestine and the Arab world for videos of her, since her childhood, defiantly resisting Israeli soldiers who clash with Palestinians in her village nearly every week.

An Israeli soldier shot Ahed Tamimi’s brother Mohammad, 14, in the head during a demonstration, while he has been released from the hospital after undergoing surgery and a medically induced coma.

The Tamimis have long been targeted for their activism. In 2011, an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister from closer range at Mustafa Tamimi, killing him.
Amnesty International

Kuwait pleads with Philippines to send back maids

Kuwait has called upon the Philippines ambassador to lift a ban on domestic workers, Al Khaleej Online reported today.

“We have lost about four Filipino women in the last few months. It’s always in Kuwait”, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said last Friday, claiming that the four domestic workers had been driven to suicide by abusive employers.

Duterte has ordered that foreign employment contracts stop being granted to Kuwait due to a number of deaths among Filipinos working in the country.

“I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait”, Duterte continued, “I respect their leaders, but they have to do something about this”.

The Philippine’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) last year was forced to evacuate 35 Filipino maids when Kuwaiti employers failed to pay their salaries and subjected them to ill treatment and abuse.

The decision to ban Filipino expats “does not match the nature of the distinguished relations between the two countries and does not serve common interests”, Khalid Al-Jarallah, Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister said. He stressed that Kuwait has “become a desirable destination for workers who live in safety and stability”.

In a bid to persuade the Philippines to lift the ban assistant foreign minister for consular affairs, Sami Al-Hamad, met with the Philippines ambassador.

An Ethiopian maid last year was filmed by her Kuwaiti employer attempting to commit suicide as she dangled from a balcony. The maid claimed that her employer was about to kill her in the bathroom so she jumped to get away.

Amnesty International has frequently warned of the systematic exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers across the Gulf. Migrant workers in the Gulf comprise around 90 per cent of the workforce, who remain tied to their employers under a sponsorship system in which their passports are confiscated.

Since 2015 Indonesia has banned housemaids working in the United Arab Emirates due to mass ill treatment and exploitation.

There are currently 170,000 Filipinos in Kuwait. Kuwait continues to enjoy good relations with the Philippines socially, economically and culturally.

Amnesty International UK has cancelled an event set to be hosted at their London premises this week, after concerns were raised over the involvement of apologists for illegal Israeli settlements.

Amnesty UK cancels event featuring supporters of Israeli settlements

The Jewish Leadership Council (JLC)-organised event, originally scheduled for this Wednesday, was a panel discussion on the United Nations Human Rights Council, titled: “The UNHRC and Israel: How it works, what’s not working, and how it might be repaired”.

The event’s headline speaker was Hillel Neuer, who heads notorious pro-Israel pressure group ‘UN Watch’.

However, after concerns were raised both externally and within the organization, Amnesty UK has pulled the plug, saying it has “improved the way we review the hosting of events at Amnesty”.

“A wide range of organizations hold their events at our London office, but we reserve the right to withhold permission for our building to be used by organizations whose work runs directly counter to our own”, said Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s Director of Supporter Campaigning and Communications.

“We are currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. We do not think it’s appropriate for Amnesty to host an event by an organization that actively supports Israel’s settlements”.

UN Watch, whose logo appeared on promotional material for the event shared by the JLC, has a track record of apologizing for Israeli violations of international law.

In an article published just last month, UN Watch praised companies doing business in Israel’s internationally-condemned settlements, claiming they “promote peaceful co-existence by bringing Jews and Arabs closer together in a shared work environment”.

UN Watch also described Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 as merely an “acquisition” of the territory, after which, it added, “Jewish settlements were built on public land”.

All Israeli settlements established in the territories occupied in 1967 are illegal under international law, and many of them were built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

The piece was taken down in just the last few days, but is still viewable via Google’s cache.

In addition to its apologia for Israeli settlements, UN Watch has repeatedly attacked Palestinian and international humanitarian and rights workers, smearing UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk, refugee agency UNRWA, and even humanitarian workers arrested and tortured by Israel.

UN Watch head Hillel Neuer, meanwhile, who the JLC invited to speak at the event, has frequently singled out Amnesty for attack, mocking the human rights NGO as “pro Taliban-Hamas”. Neuer has also described the occupied and blockaded Gaza Strip as a “giant suicide bomb”.

The JLC, for its part, takes an active role in fighting the civil society, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, of which a boycott of settlement produce is a part.

Current chair Jonathan Goldstein met last summer with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister in charge of efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity activism and BDS in particular.

The JLC also backed, and its then-chair Simon Johnson spoke at, a rally in London in December 2016 to protest the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

In a statement released Monday morning, the JLC condemned the cancellation, and sought to link the decision to “antisemitism”.

“It is highly regrettable that on this occasion Amnesty International UK’s decision has targeted the Jewish community”, JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein said.

There was no attempt by Goldstein or the JLC to address the specifics of Amnesty UK’s concerns.
Philippines says top rights group giving misleading account of drugs war deaths Monday 22 January 2018

The Philippines hit back at a prominent US-based human rights group on Monday for what it said was a misleading death toll of more than 12,000 in its war of drugs, putting the number at half of that and championing its rate of arrests and drug seizures.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte had not only resisted calls to end his brutal campaign, but handled criticism by “impugning, harassing, and threatening critics of the government and human rights defenders.”

The president’s office held a news conference on Monday with police and the drugs enforcement agency to present a detailed rebuttal to a report the foreign minister, Alan Peter Cayetano, said was without “any real research, study or investigation.”

Cayetano at the weekend challenged HRW to prove 12,000 people had died in the drugs war, while police spokesman Dionardo Carlos asked the group to provide evidence to help with investigations.

“We hope that they will be more specific, engage us so we can help look into the cases,” he said.

Carlos said 3,987 people had been killed in anti-drug operations during the 18-month crackdown, while some 11 percent, or 2,235, of the total 19,560 murders under police investigation were drug-related.

Eighty-five security forces had been killed during the campaign, he said.

In response to international criticism over what activists and the political opposition say are summary executions and cover-ups, Duterte suspended police from the campaign in October, but has since decided to bring them back.

The authorities deny systematic abuses are taking place in the campaign and say those killed had violently resisted arrest. Activists dismiss that as implausible.

“Oplan Tokhang,” where police visit homes of users and dealers and seek their surrender, is to resume soon, Carlos said, adding that it had brought positive results.

He said more than 1.3 million drugs users had turned themselves in seeking rehabilitation and police had made 119,361 arrests.

The authorities have seized more than two and a half tons of the methamphetamine “shabu,” with a street value of 13.2 billion pesos.
Human Rights Watch: UAE commits torture in Yemen Monday January 22, 2018

In its 2018 World Report Human Rights Watch confirmed that “the UAE committed violations inside and outside the country in 2017. It arrested one of the most outspoken critics in the country and played a role in torturing and forcibly causing people to disappear in Yemen”.

In its most recent report the organization mentioned that “In March, the UAE detained Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights defender, who spent years defending and speaking on behalf of arbitrarily detained people by the UAE or detained in routinely repressive operations against the opposition. Mansoor is facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to publish false information that harms national unity”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said that “The government and its many public relations companies are trying to portray the UAE as a modern state which is on its way towards reformation. This magical image will remain imaginary as long as the UAE is still refusing to release the unfairly detained activists, journalists and critics such as Ahmed Mansoor”.

In the 643-page World Report, in its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

The organization pointed out that “The UAE has a leading role in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen”. It documented 87 apparently unlawful coalition attacks and some likely war crimes that have killed nearly 1,000 civilians since March 2015. Coalition members have provided insufficient information about the role their forces are playing in the campaign to determine which party is responsible for illegal attacks.

Abu Dhabi “has also been involved in attacks in Yemen, including those that were committed through the support of offensive Yemeni forces carrying out security crackdowns in southern Yemen. The UAE runs at least two informal detention facilities in Yemen. Its officials appear to have ordered the continued detention of people despite release orders, forcibly detaining people, and reportedly moved high-profile detainees outside the country,” according to Human Rights Watch researchers.

In the same context the organisation further stated that “Former detainees and family members reported abuse or torture inside facilities run by the UAE and UAE-backed forces. Yemeni activists who have criticised these abuses have been threatened, harassed, detained, and forced to disappear. The United States is working closely with the UAE in Yemen”.

“The more the United States and others praise the UAE for its decisive support in fighting terrorism in places like Yemen, the more this covers a darker reality of forced disappearance, torture and mistreatment of detainees, and confirms their potential complicity in these abuses,” Whitson said.

Labour abuses persist. Migrant construction workers face serious exploitation. On September 2017 Abu Dhabi introduced for the first time a domestic workers law on the rights of female migrant workers. However, some provisions are weaker than those accorded to other workers under the labour law, according to Human Rights Watch.

The organisation added that: “The UAE exercises discrimination against gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. In August the UAE sentenced two Singaporean nationals who had been arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall to one year in prison ‘for attempting to resemble women’. An appeals court converted their sentence to a fine and deportation.”
Amnesty International has launched an urgent appeal demanding Israel immediately release Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi, 16, who faces 10 years in prison.

Amnesty International launches urgent appeal to release Ahed Tamimi

The organisation appealed to its friends around the world to help put pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release Tamimi without delay.

“There is nothing Ahed Tamimi has done that can justify the continuing detention of a 16-year-old child. She is one of approximately 350 Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons and detention centres” it said.

The rights group said Tamimi – who is now referred to as the “Rosa Parks of Palestine” – has been bravely fighting the Israeli occupation yet may face up to 10 years in jail because of an argument with Israeli soldiers.

On 15 December Ahed and her family protested the US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when an Israeli soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin, Muhammad, in the head at a close range.

The shot required dangerous surgery which involved removing part of the boy’s skull in order to take out the rubber bullet.

Later that day Ahed confronted Israeli soldiers when they entered the yard of her family’s house. A video, which has since gone viral, shows the unarmed girl slapping, shoving and kicking the armed Israeli soldiers who were wearing protective clothing.

“It was clear that she posed no real threat to them because they easily removed her, but now she could face up to 10 years in prison, which is a grossly disproportionate punishment” the organization said.

Amnesty said that while in detention Ahed has suffered aggressive interrogations, sometimes at night, whilst her family has been threatened.

“Her trial before an Israeli military juvenile court is imminent, we must mobilize quickly and effectively,” the rights group said.

The organization demanded the release of Ahed and that Palestinian children are not detained or imprisoned “except in cases where it is demonstrably necessary and proportionate as a last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time”.
Manila’s top diplomat accused Human Rights Watch on Friday of deceiving the international community by making it appear that the Philippines has become the “Wild, Wild West of Asia.”

Philippine official: We’re not ‘Wild, Wild West of Asia’ Friday 26 January 2018

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano demanded an apology from the US-based rights group mainly for reporting a larger number of drug suspects killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs to back up a statement that human rights in the Philippines “is at its worst” since the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’s time.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said Cayetano has a record of serving as “Duterte’s chief denier of the growing evidence linking state-sanctioned killings to the anti-drug campaign.” It added that the Duterte administration has pursued a “distraction strategy,” which appears aimed at sidelining domestic and international demands for accountability for the drug killings.

The group cited an estimate by private groups and media organizations of the drug war death toll as having surpassed 12,000 over the past 18 months.

Cayetano said that was a false assertion because the Philippine national police have recorded 3,968 deaths of suspects in more than 80,600 anti-drug operations from the time Duterte took power in 2016 until last November. At least 119,023 drug suspects were arrested in those operations.

“In making such a conclusion, Human Rights Watch is creating the impression that the Philippine government is engaged in the wholesale slaughter of innocent people,” Cayetano said in a statement, in which he demanded the group back up its claim with facts.

“There is no perfect law enforcement system,” Cayetano said. He added that while law enforcers strive to ensure that the rights of people are respected, including crime suspects, drug syndicates have unleashed violence against the enforcers. At least 86 police officers and soldiers have been killed and 226 others wounded “when drug personalities chose to fight back,” he said.

Cayetano declared at the United Nations General Assembly last September that the government’s drug campaign is a “necessary instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of all Filipinos.” Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the statement did more than “add gross insult to injury for the families of slain suspects under the crackdown.”

“It also airbrushed Human Rights Watch and the investigative journalists demonstrating that many of those deaths amount to extrajudicial killings by Philippine National Police personnel and their agents,” he said.

“Human Rights Watch joins a growing list of institutions and people, including United Nations officials, targeted for harassment and intimidation for demanding accountability for abuses linked to the drug war,” Kine said, citing the jailing of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, who has questioned the legality of Duterte’s campaign.

Crimes have declined under Duterte, Cayetano said. “In its rush to condemn the Philippine government, Human Rights Watch ... “set aside the countless stories of victims of the unspeakable crimes committed by those who sell and use illegal drugs such as the gang rapes and killings by methamphetamine-crazed individuals of children and even their own family members.”

He said Human Rights Watch had made it appear “that the Philippines has become the Wild, Wild West of Asia where we just kill people left and right.”

The government’s “hostility to accountability underscores the need for a UN-led international investigation of the killings to help expose the extent of the abuses and to determine possible targets for a criminal investigation, including possible prosecutions for crimes against humanity,” Kine said.

Duterte has denied he condones extrajudicial killings, although he has openly threatened drug dealers with death for years. He credits his harsh approach to crime for an improvement in law and order in southern Davao city, where he served as mayor for more than two decades before becoming president.

Last week, Duterte said about 600 criminals were killed during his time as mayor, but added, “It was all legit.”

Leading international rights groups on Thursday condemned a video that recently went viral on social media purportedly showing a man shooting and killing 10 people at close range in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, near the site of this week’s massive twin car bombing.

Rights groups condemn video purported to show Libya killings Thursday 25 January 2018

Human Rights Watch said the killings shown in the video would “constitute war crimes” while Amnesty International said the video shows “the horrifying consequences of the rampant impunity that exists in Libya.”

In the video, the shooter, a man in military uniform, is seen standing before 10 blindfolded people in blue jumpsuits who are on their knees, hands tied behind their backs. He then opens fire with a machine gun, shooting each man in the head.

HRW and Amnesty said the shooter appears to be Libyan commander Mahmoud Al-Warfalli, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes since August 2017. The Associated Press could not independently confirm the man’s identity.

Earlier, the UN mission in Libya expressed its alarm over the killings and said the ICC has “documented at least 5 similar cases, in 2017 alone, carried out or ordered by Al-Warfalli.” Along with Amnesty , the UN mission in Libya demanded the immediate handover of Al-Warfalli.

Al-Warfalli heads an anti-terrorism unit under Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who commands Libya’s self-styled national army based in the country’s east and loyal to the government there. Haftar is at odds with Libya’s UN-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli.

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The country is currently split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.

On Tuesday night, a twin car bombing near a mosque in Benghazi’s Salmani neighborhood killed at least 33 people. No group claimed responsibility for the attack but many believe it bore the hallmarks of the Daesh group, which had been largely driven out of Libya.

Benghazi remains a trouble spot, with occasional bombings and attacks. The city has also seen fighting between forces loyal to Haftar and Islamist militia opponents.
Human Rights Activists Say Xinjiang Uighur Reeducation Camps Overflowing 26.01.2018

Reports have surfaced from the embattled Xinjiang province of China claiming that Han Chinese security forces have imprisoned an estimated 120,000 members of the Uighur minority in “reeducation camps,” nominally to stamp out radicalism in the Muslim ethnic group.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a Washington-backed news outlet that is one of the few foreign outlets able to report from the highly secure region of Xinjiang, claim that a Chinese security official told them of a major spike in reeducation imprisonments in the last 18 months.

"I have great relationships with the heads of all the government departments and we are in regular contact, informing each other on the current situation," the anonymous official said on Thursday. "Around 2,000 [are detained] from the four neighborhoods of Kashgar city, as well as an additional 30,000 in total from the city's 16 villages."

The report claims that the re-education centers are filled to bursting with new detainees, most of whom come from the large city of Kashgar. That city has been the site of friction between the central government in Beijing and the local Uighur ethnic group since China enacted stricter security measures in mid-2016.

The crackdown coincided with the appointment of Chen Quanguo to the secretariat of the province. Chen previously distinguished himself as the secretary of the similarly restive province of Tibet from 2011 to 2016. While the security situation did improve, human rights groups slammed his methods as abusive.

Upon taking office in Xinjiang, one of the first things Chen did was hire tens of thousands of new police officers, as he had done in Tibet. He has also pushed for the creation of reeducation centers to intern those who have shown themselves to be "politically unreliable" or resistant to Chinese state ideology.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the camps from September said that detainees were held without due process or being charged with a crime. Some detainees were held for religious offenses such as "excessive praying," while others had accessed forbidden websites. They also described the conditions as inhumane and overcrowded,

Beijing describes the centers as "extremism eradication" centers, meant to redirect the radical tendencies of those sent there in order to help them reintegrate into society.

Although no official figures exist, the new detainees are estimated by RFA to number around 120,000. Maya Wang, an HRW China officer who has researched Beijing's reeducation camps in the past, told The Guardian on Thursday that she agreed with RFA's estimates — although she added that accurate estimates are impossible to gather.

She also said that some liberal estimates placed the number of detainees past or present in Xinjiang at 800,000. "It's just like a black hole which people are added to and don't get out of."

The real purpose of the centers, Wang said, was to brainwash Uighurs and slowly disassemble their native culture to supplant it with Beijing's. "At the political education facilities, they sing patriotic songs. They learn about [Chinese President] Xi Jinping thought. These are patriotic measures aimed at making Uighurs love the Chinese government," she said. "It's extreme repression and yet completely silent."

The 11 million Uighurs of Xinjiang have a contentious relationship with Beijing: despite the province being home to nearly as many Han Chinese as Uighurs, the two groups rarely intermingle. Uighurs cannot serve in the government while holding Islamic views, and generally live in poverty even by regional standards.

This has galvanized Uighur Islamic terrorist groups and spurred subsequent Chinese government reprisals. Tensions exploded in mid-2009 when rioting Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi, causing security forces to reply. Around 200 people were killed in a single day of rioting.

Most recently in August 2016, a Uighur Islamist conducted a car ramming attack against the Chinese Embassy in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, injuring three embassy employees.

The sentencing comes amid what is being presented as a reform drive in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia sentences two human rights activists to a total of 21 years in prison Friday 26 January 2018

A Saudi court on Thursday issued harsh jail terms against two human rights defenders despite reforms touted by the kingdom's crown prince, according to
Amnesty International.

The court in Riyadh sentenced Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi to 14 and seven years' imprisonment, respectively, the rights group said.

"The harsh sentencing... confirms our fears that the new leadership of (Crown Prince) Mohammed bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights defenders in the kingdom," said Samah Hadid, director of campaigns for the Middle East at Amnesty.

"The crackdown on members of the human rights community has continued unabated, with almost all the country’s most prominent human rights defenders now behind bars," she said.

Otaibi and Attawi were charged with participating in setting up an organization and announcing it before securing an authorization.

They were also accused of dividing national unity, spreading chaos and inciting public opinion by publishing statements harmful to the kingdom's image and its judicial and security agencies, Amnesty said.

It did not say how they pleaded. The sentences were handed down by a court in the capital Riyadh on Thursday.

Otaibi, 49, was arrested at Doha airport and deported from Qatar to Saudi Arabia in May after he tried to fly with his wife to Norway where he had been granted political asylum.

He co-founded the Union for Human Rights in Riyadh in 2013 and authorities ordered it shut after about one month, but he continued his work.

"If Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is truly intent on bringing reforms to Saudi Arabia, he must ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders, detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights," Hadid said.

The Saudi government's communications office could not be reached for comment.

Crown Prince Mohammed has all but officially taken power in Saudi Arabia, a key Western ally, pushing a reform agenda aimed at weaning the country off oil wealth and introducing social changes.

However, New York-based Human Rights Watch said last week that more than a dozen prominent political activists convicted on "vague charges arising from their peaceful activities" were serving lengthy prison sentences.

Since the 2011 Arab Spring, Saudi authorities have stepped up efforts to curb dissent with tough new cybercrime laws, sentencing offenders to prison terms for online posts deemed insulting to the kingdom or threatening to public order.

An absolute monarchy, Saudi Arabia bans political parties and public forms of protest and has sentenced members of a civil rights organisation who campaigned for a constitutional monarchy to decades in prison.

Salman al-Ouda has spent almost five months in solitary confinement following a crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi cleric in hospital after months of solitary confinement: Amnesty Thursday 18 January 2018

Prominent Saudi cleric Sheikh Salman al-Ouda has been hospitalized after almost five months in solitary confinement, human rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday, citing family members.

Ouda was among more than 20 people arrested in a crackdown on dissent in early September and has been held without charge ever since. He has reportedly been allowed just one telephone call, in October.

Amnesty said he was admitted to hospital in the western city of Jeddah on Tuesday and his family were denied any contact with him.

"The hospitalization of Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, aside from being deeply worrying and traumatic for his family, highlights his shameful treatment by the Saudi authorities," Amnesty's Middle East campaigns director, Samah Hadid, said.

"The authorities must ensure that he receives all necessary medical treatment, that he is allowed to communicate with his family and a lawyer, and - above all – that he is released from detention," she said.

Amnesty said Ouda was arrested a few hours after posting a tweet welcoming reports of a possible reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and its allies cut off all diplomatic and economic ties with the emirate in June accusing it of links to Islamic extremists, a charge Doha has categorically denied.

According to his family, the Saudi authorities had demanded that Ouda and other prominent figures publicly back the kingdom in the dispute but he refused.

Saudi activists have said Ouda's brother Khaled has also been detained for disclosing the cleric's arrest.
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