Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Former Uyghur Inmates Tell of Torture and Rape in China’s ‘Re-Education’ Camps

October 16, 2018

Uyghurs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are being tortured, raped, and killed in secretive “political re-education” camps, former detainees have told The Epoch Times.

“Upwards of one million” of the predominantly Uyghur prisoners continue to be detained in what were, until Oct. 9, extrajudicial internment camps in western China, according to figures quoted by the the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and the United Nations.

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Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials say the mass detentions among the Uyghur population, the majority of whom practice Islam, are part of measures to crack down on terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism in the country. The CCP has used the excuse of potential “extremist threats” to justify its strict surveillance and crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

First-hand accounts described to The Epoch Times reveal attempts by authorities to strip Uyghur detainees of their culture and language, forcing them to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the CCP and its leader.

Epoch Times
October 15, 2018 Updated: October 16, 2018
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If detainees fail to follow orders, they may be subject to up to five forms of torture as punishment, a Uyghur and former inmate explained in an interview from Istanbul, Turkey.

Xinjiang-born Omir Bekli, 42, a Kazakhstan national since 2006, was detained for six months in March last year after he was forcibly taken from his parents’ home in Shanshan—180 miles east of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang—his head covered in a black sack before being whisked away.

He was visiting Urumqi at the time to attend an international meeting about tourism.

Bekli was detained for seven months in a police cell and then sent to a reeducation camp in Karamay for 20 days where he was tortured, with one of the reasons being his refusal to sing songs which praise the CCP and its leader Xi Jinping.

“The torturing methods were very inhumane and extremely unbearable,” Bekli told The Epoch Times.

Former detainee Uyghur Omir Bekli
Uyghur Omir Bekli, 42, a former detainee in Xinjiang, China. (Courtesy of Omir Bekli)

Uyghurs are “chained up like animals,” deprived of food and sleep, and beaten until their bodies are “swollen and pouring blood.”

“They make you fear and make you weak, physically and mentally, so that they can make you obey them,” Bekli explained.

Another Uyghur detainee—a Kazakhstan national aged 54 who was released in September from a camp in Urumqi after being detained for 15 months—told The Epoch Times that young Uyghur women are being raped daily by CCP officials in the camps and could be killed if they resist. The 54-year-old spoke on condition of anonymity from Istanbul due to fears for her safety.

“Young girls are taken out and raped all night long. If you keep resisting, they will inject you with something and kill you,” she said.

She has personally witnessed two Uyghur females being killed by injection, she told The Epoch Times.

“There are usually 40 to 50 people in one small room, but five to 10 are regularly taken out and they just disappear—they never come back. People are being killed in tens all the time.”

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Internment camps make Uighurs’ life more colourful, says Xinjiang governor — “Not Muslims prison camps”

October 16, 2018

China on the defensive over camps where former prisoners have told of arbitrary detention, abuse and indoctrination

A senior official in Xinjiang has described mass internment camps for Muslim minorities as “training” and “boarding schools” where residents receive vocational, legal, and language training as well as “de-extremisation education”.

Beijing has faced growing international criticism for its crackdown in Xinjiang, a far north-western territory of China where it holds as many as a million Muslims prisoner in camps. Former detainees have said that they were subjected to political indoctrination and abuse.

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In a rare, detailed interview published by the state-run news agency Xinhua, the Xinjiang governor, Shohrat Zakir, said: “Xinjiang conducts vocational skills education and training according to law. The purpose is to fundamentally eliminate the environment and soil that breeds terrorism and religious extremism, and eliminate the terrorism activities before they take place.”

Over the last few months, as scrutiny over the situation in Xinjiang has grown, Chinese officials have shifted from denying the existence of such camps to justifying and reframing how they are described. Zakir’s interview represents one of the most detailed accounts of China’s defence of the centres and what goes on inside them.

Zakir said residents at the centres in Xinjiang learn Mandarin “to accept modern science and enhance their understanding of Chinese history and culture”. Students received vocational training, including courses on making clothing and footwear, assembling electronics, hairdressing and e-commerce, he added.

Students undergo legal training on the Chinese constitution, China’s legal code, and local regulations, according to the governor. Tacitly acknowledging that the camps represent a form of extrajudicial detention, he said people “influenced by terrorism and extremism” and suspected of “minor criminal offences” are provided with “free vocational training through vocational education institutions” to improve their ability in commanding the country’s common language, acquiring legal knowledge and vocational skills, among others.

The interview follows a revision of local rules last week to allow the regional government to officially permit the use of “education and training centres” to incarcerate “people influenced by extremism”. The interview, detailing daily life at the camps and the various kinds of vocational training, appears to be an attempt to normalise the system.

“The Communist party is clearly on the defensive, seeking to deflect international criticism of its radical new policies in Xinjiang and justify them retrospectively,” said James Leopald, a scholar focusing on Chinese ethnic policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Former detainees of camps in Xinjiang told the Guardian they did not receive vocational training but spent most of their time being forced to study Mandarin, pledge allegiance to the Chinese communist party and memorise patriotic songs. Ex-detainees have detailed being tortured, isolated and cut off from their families. Most of those detained are ethnic Uighurs, as well as Kazakhs, Hui and other Muslim minorities.

The governor of Xinjiang described a life in the centres that is in stark contrast to the accounts given by witnesses of poor nutrition and constant surveillance. One former detainee told the Guardian he had attempted to kill himself.

Zakir said the training institutions “care about the mental health of students” and provide counselling services. He said the cafeterias in the camps prepare “nutritious diets” and that all dormitories were equipped with radios, televisions, and air conditioning. Facilities for basketball, volleyball, table tennis and stages for performances have been built, he added. Activities such as writing, singing and dance contests are also organised for students, he said.

“Many trainees have said they were previously affected by extremist thought and had never participated in such kinds of arts and sports activities. Now they realise how colourful life can be,” Zakir said.

The governor did not say how many “trainees” were at the centres or how long their courses were but indicated the programmes were temporary. Zakir said some trainees were “expected to complete their courses successfully by the end of this year.”


Amnesty International slams ‘sickening’ execution of domestic and sexual violence victim in Iran

October 3, 2018

Amnesty International have responded to reports that a 24-year-old Kurdish woman was executed on Wednesday morning in Urumieh central prison in the country’s West Azerbaijan province, calling it “sickening.”

Zeinab Sekaanvand was sentenced to death under ‘qesas’ (retribution in kind) in October 2014 after a trial before a criminal court in West Azerbaijan province, which convicted her of the murder of her husband. Amnesty International said the trial was “grossly unfair.”

Zeinab Sekaanvand

She was arrested in February 2012 at a police station where she confessed to the murder of her husband. She was held in the police station for the next 20 days where she said she was tortured by male police officers through beatings all over her body.

She confessed that she stabbed her husband after he had subjected her to months of physical and verbal abuse and had refused her requests for divorce. She was only provided with a state-appointed lawyer at her final trial session, at which point she retracted her confession, telling the judge that her husband’s brother, whom she said had raped her several times, had committed the murder. She said that the judge told her that, if she accepted responsibility, he would pardon her.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement: “The execution of Sekaanvand is a sickening demonstration of the Iranian authorities’ disregard for the principles of juvenile justice and international human rights law. Zeinab was just 17 years old at the time of her arrest. Her execution is profoundly unjust and shows the Iranian authorities’ contempt for the right of children to life. The fact that her death sentence followed a grossly unfair trial makes her execution even more outrageous.

“Sekaanvand said that, soon after she was married at 15, she sought help many times from the authorities about her violent husband and alleged that her brother-in-law had raped her repeatedly. Instead of investigating these allegations, however, the authorities consistently ignored her and failed to provide her with any support as a victim of domestic and sexual violence.

“After the murder of her husband, Zeinab Sekaanvand said she was interrogated under torture by male police officers without a lawyer present. During her final trial session, where she was allowed a lawyer for the first time, she retracted her earlier ‘confession’ that she had murdered her husband, saying that she had been coerced to make it. Despite this, the judge refused to order a further investigation and instead sentenced her to death.

“It appears the Iranian authorities are increasingly scheduling the execution of people who were children at the time of the crime at very short notice to minimize the possibility of effective public and private interventions. We are horrified by their continuous use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, which is a violation of international human rights law. This is the fifth execution of a juvenile offender that we have recorded this year and we fear that it will not be the last unless urgent action is taken by the international community.

“We continue to urge the Iranian authorities to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and prohibit the use of the death penalty against people below the age of 18 at the time of the crime.”

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.

Arab News

Trump Needs to Start Worrying About Saudi Arabia’s Reform Efforts

September 29, 2018

The United States has a profound interest in helping Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman avoid his own worst impulses.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman at the U.N. headquarters in New York on March 23. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman at the U.N. headquarters in New York on March 23. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

For those of us who have been strong supporters of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s unprecedented reform efforts, the past several months have given cause for concern. There’s been a steady stream of bad news, and good news has grown less frequent. I’m certainly not ready to hit the panic button yet—those who thought the process of yanking Saudi Arabia into the 21st century would proceed smoothly, without its share of setbacks, were surely fooling themselves. But there have been enough warning signs now for the Trump administration to start taking greater notice—and, more importantly, taking greater action to curb some of Mohammed bin Salman’s less constructive impulses.

The latest sign of trouble was the news last month that Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, was putting off its long-anticipated initial public offering. Though Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, was quick to insist that the government remains committed to selling off a 5 percent stake in Aramco “at a time of its own choosing,” few were convinced. Since Mohammed bin Salman first unveiled the idea with great fanfare in 2016, it’s been one delay and missed deadline after another. Now the deadlines have disappeared altogether. Indefinitely postponed seems to be the most charitable euphemism one could use to describe the IPO’s current status. Collapsed is probably closer to the truth.

Mohammed bin Salman’s father, King Salman, reportedly delivered the coup de grâce. According to Reuters, during the month of Ramadan, which ended in June, the king received a number of complaints from princes, bankers, and Aramco executives about the pending IPO. Their primary concern: Any listing on one of the world’s major stock exchanges would require too much disclosure of Aramco’s financial dealings, potentially exposing irregularities and weaknesses that could embarrass and undermine not only the company, but also the legitimacy of the House of Saud itself.

Observers inevitably perceived the cancellation as a serious blow to Mohammed bin Salman’s reformist credentials. For better or worse, the crown prince had consistently portrayed the selloff as an essential element of his audacious Vision 2030 program to transform the Saudi economy. He insisted that Aramco would be valued at an eye-popping $2 trillion (making it easily the most valuable company in the world) and that the $100 billion raised by the IPO would help cover the enormous costs of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy by reducing its dependence on oil and building a future based on innovation, technology, and a vibrant private sector.

But the importance of the sale went far beyond exploiting Aramco as a convenient cash cow. It was also meant to serve as a massive signal of reassurance to foreign investors whose participation will be essential to Vision 2030’s success. Listing shares of Saudi Arabia’s most important asset on one of the world’s major exchanges was supposed to mark the kingdom’s opening to Western-style standards of transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.

Instead, the IPO’s scrapping has had the opposite effect. Investors rapidly determined that Mohammed bin Salman’s $2 trillion valuation was grossly exaggerated, although insufficient information existed to assess with any accuracy what the real figure should be. The Saudi government has neither offered an authoritative explanation for the IPO’s constant delays nor made any effort to articulate its concerns surrounding the sale. Rather than tearing down the wall of opacity around the kingdom, the IPO process helped reinforce it. And rather than boosting investor confidence, it underscored the extent to which major economic decisions are still subject to the murky political calculations, infighting, and arbitrary interventions of the Saudi ruling elite.

Mohammed bin Salman is now seeking to mitigate the IPO failure by insisting that Aramco instead take on tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt to purchase a controlling stake in Sabic, the petrochemical company owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund. The fund would in turn use the money from the sale to finance Vision 2030’s reforms. While such a fallback plan might make up for the funds that the IPO was supposed to generate, it would seem a less-than-ideal substitute when it comes to bolstering the kingdom’s attractiveness to global investors. Executives from both Aramco and Sabic have privately made known their lack of enthusiasm for the deal and hinted that the only reason it’s being considered is because of a royal command to do so. Potential investors could be forgiven for thinking that the transaction has the markings of a government-mandated forced transfer of assets.

The IPO’s unraveling may have been the most significant sign of trouble for Saudi reform over the past six months, but it wasn’t the only one. Just weeks before the kingdom lifted its ban on women driving in June—an occasion that should have looked like a moment of great triumph for Mohammed bin Salman—a number of well-known female activists who had long campaigned in favor of the change were arrested. The charges against them included trumped-up accusations of seeking to “destabilize the kingdom” and “mar the national consistency” (whatever that means). They were pilloried as traitors serving foreign interests in a well-coordinated hit job by the state-owned media. The message seemed all too clear: Any societal change flows strictly from the top down, a function of the beneficence and wisdom of Mohammed bin Salman—not through any process of grassroots activism on the part of the kingdom’s citizens. No doubt meant to shore up the crown prince’s power and authority at home, the move to Western eyes came across as heavy-handed and oppressive, driven as much by fear as strength. Not a particularly good look for foreign investors.

The kingdom’s overreaction to a handful of tweets (including one in Arabic) by the Canadian Foreign Ministry that mildly criticized the arrest of two more human rights activists in early August made matters worse. Virtually overnight, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, canceled flights to Canada, ordered Saudi students home, liquidated investments in Canada, and froze new Canadian-Saudi business trade and investment. Defenders rushed to explain that the move had nothing to do with Mohammed bin Salman’s reformist bona fides and everything to do with shoring up his strength at home. In this telling, precisely to preserve his ability to continue driving the modernization process forward, the crown prince had no choice but to respond vigorously to Canada’s perceived affront to Saudi sovereignty—lest powerful reactionary forces within the kingdom, both tribal and religious, use it to beat him for failing to protect the prestige of the Saudi state. Perhaps. But for Western audiences, including the investor class, the over-the-top response added detail to a growing narrative that portrays Mohammed bin Salman as less a historic reformer than an impulsive authoritarian, prone to temper tantrums and flights of irrational decision-making.

All of these unfortunate recent developments, of course, occurred against the stark backdrop of last November’s notorious anti-corruption campaign, in which hundreds of wealthy Saudis, including powerful princes, former government ministers, and businessmen, were arrested, forcibly detained in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, and coerced into surrendering billions of dollars in cash and property. Allegations of physical abuse, even torture resulting in death, were widespread. Needless to say, this has cast a long shadow over the kingdom’s investment climate.

The numbers tell an alarming story. Over the past two years, there has been massive capital flight from Saudi Arabia. Some $80 billion in 2017. Another $65 billion projected this year—and that was before the diplomatic spat with Canada. Reports suggest that the numbers might have been even higher if not for Saudi government measures to stem the rush to the exits. Wealthy Saudis believe their bank accounts are now being monitored. Small cash transfers have been questioned by government officials. Larger transfers have been blocked outright. Efforts to exchange Saudi riyals for other currencies have allegedly been denied, all part of what one Saudi wealth manager described to the Financial Times as “targeted—but huge scale—capital controls.”

The flight of money out of the country has coincided with a collapse of incoming investment. A report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in June provided the gory details. In 2017, new foreign direct investment plunged to a 14-year low. Since 2016 alone, FDI dropped more than 80 percent, from $7.5 billion to $1.4 billion—making Vision 2030’s target of attracting $18.7 billion in FDI by 2020 appear to be a pipe dream. Even Jordan, oil-poor and perennially teetering on the economic abyss, and Oman, a country with an economy a tenth the size of Saudi Arabia’s, attracted more foreign inflows than Saudi Arabia did last year. And while Saudi FDI was in freefall in 2017, Qatar—the target of a devastating Saudi-led economic boycott—actually saw a small increase in foreign investment.

As worrisome as these mounting difficulties may appear, the right reaction from Washington shouldn’t be giving up on Mohammed bin Salman and Vision 2030. It remains the case that the United States has a profound interest in seeing the kingdom successfully reform. Whatever his shortcomings, in recent years Mohammed bin Salman has taken a series of unprecedented liberalizing steps that—for many longtime observers of the kingdom—once seemed unthinkable.

Whatever his shortcomings, in recent years Mohammed bin Salman has taken a series of unprecedented liberalizing steps that—for many longtime observers of the kingdom—once seemed unthinkable.

Their significance shouldn’t be easily dismissed or taken for granted. With breathtaking speed, Mohammed bin Salman has launched groundbreaking changes to challenge extremist ideology, empower women, loosen cultural restrictions, reduce budget-busting subsidies, and impose taxes. In the process, he’s almost certainly alienated and angered powerful domestic constituencies—especially within the ruling family and Wahhabi religious establishment. His domestic politics are no doubt real and complex. Calculating when to press ahead and when to retreat, when to steamroll opponents and when to appease them can’t be easy—in particular for an inexperienced 33-year-old seeking to transform one of the most hidebound and consensus-driven governing systems in the world. Mistakes, even serious ones, are inevitable.That said, as Saudi Arabia’s most important ally, the United States should be working actively but quietly to help Mohammed bin Salman avoid needless errors where possible, while mitigating the consequences of those already made. U.S. President Donald Trump, to his credit, moved early on to repair ties with key Middle Eastern partners, especially the Saudis, that had badly frayed under his predecessor—in particular, by adopting a much tougher posture toward Iran. The president and his senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also bet heavily—and correctly—that Mohammed bin Salman would rapidly emerge as the country’s dominant decision-maker, and they conspicuously conferred U.S. backing for his meteoric rise.

Although the administration has occasionally used its increased leverage to press the Saudis on several discrete issues—such as buying additional U.S. weapons and pumping more oil to reduce gasoline prices—it has largely demurred when it comes to systematically engaging Mohammed bin Salman on his historic reform agenda. Indeed, there’s a widespread perception that the administration’s Saudi policy has been on autopilot. In turn, the crown prince has been left alone, flailing at times, without the benefit of sustained U.S. counsel on the wide array of growing challenges that he confronts—not just at home but regionally as well, including the costly quagmire of the war in Yemen and the divisive conflict with neighboring Qatar.

That should change as quickly as possible. The administration needs to recognize Mohammed bin Salman’s escalating difficulties and quickly develop a strategy to bring U.S. advice and interests to bear on his decision-making. The aim should be to encourage and support his best impulses, while tempering the worst ones. In other words: more economic liberalization, empowerment of women, and promotion of moderate Islam, and fewer arrests of sympathetic human rights activists, diplomatic blowups with industrialized Western democracies, and poorly executed foreign-policy adventures.

In this regard, the fact that the administration has still not named an ambassador to Saudi Arabia nearly two years in is a serious failure. Getting a new U.S. envoy to Riyadh in short order, one with deep experience and whom both Trump and Mohammed bin Salman hold in high regard, should be a top priority. The administration should also resurrect the high-level U.S.-Saudi strategic dialogue, with the aim of better coordinating approaches on key shared interests—especially with respect to Saudi reform and regional security.

Saudi Arabia’s trajectory could be one of either great promise or great peril for the future of the Middle East and vital U.S. interests. The issue is too important for the United States to leave to Mohammed bin Salman alone. It’s time that the Trump administration got off the sidelines and into the game.

John Hannah is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, focusing on U.S. strategy. During the presidency of George W. Bush, he served for eight years on the staff of Vice President Cheney, including as the vice president’s national security advisor.

Yemen activist once held by Houthis slams UN peace drive as ‘naive’ — UN being “played by the Houthis.”

September 28, 2018

Prisoners tortured —  haunted by their screams.

A Yemeni activist who was held and allegedly tortured for months by Houthi militia this week criticized the UN-backed peace process for his country as “naive,” warning against “humanizing” his captors.

Hisham Al-Omeisy, an outspoken activist, journalist and political commentator, was arrested in August 2017 after speaking out against restrictions and corruption in Houthi-held areas of the war-ravaged country.

Omeisy says the Houthis accused him of being an American and Saudi spy.

Hisham Al-Omeisy was arrested after speaking out against restrictions and corruption in Houthi-held areas. (Photo courtesy: Amnesty International)

“I was tortured in prison… They employed barbaric measures,” he told AFP in an interview on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

He warned that UN officials trying to bring both sides to the table to hammer out a peace deal were being “played by the Houthis.”

Omeisy was finally released in January after an international campaign to secure his freedom. He lives in Cairo but says he still follows the situation at home.

Yemen’s war pits forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who seized control of the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Some 10,000 people have died since the conflict escalated in 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition entered the fighting to support the government.

UN mediator Martin Griffiths tried earlier this month to organize the first negotiations between Yemen’s warring sides in two years, but the Houthis failed to show up in Geneva.

Omeisy said the Houthis refusal to come should not have been a surprise, and questioned whether those trying to broker peace sufficiently understand the complexities of the conflict.

“The process came off as very naive and overly simplistic,” he said.

A major mistake, he said, was trying to “humanize” the Houthis.

Omeisy said he knew from his time in Houthi custody how brutal they were.

“They would hang me from the wall, beat me up. I had cuts and bruises all over my body,” he said, displaying scars on his wrists from metal cuffs and a stab-wound on the back of one hand.

He also had pictures of big, red scars on his back and thigh.

His interrogators demanded that he confess on video to being a spy, but Omeisy said he refused, pointing out that if he had given in, “I know I would have been executed.”

He said he was held alone in a tiny concrete cell with no light and no toilet, and was often denied food and water.

“They dehumanize you,” he said, adding that he knew of at least 16 journalists who were held in his block. He says he is haunted by their screams.

The UN insists there is no military solution to Yemen’s conflict, but Omeisy insisted it would be preferable to go in quickly to retake the areas under Houthi control, instead of allowing the conflict to drag on.

He described the Yemen conflict as Syria “on steroids.” While Syria’s war has been raging for more than seven years, he warned that Yemen’s conflict could “drag on for 70.”

The UN process was “flawed,” he said. “You need something beyond just good intentions. You need a solid strategy, and you need a solid implementation.”


Human Rights Watch accuses Yemen rebels of hostage-taking, torture — Iran-backed Shiite insurgents guilty of illegal detention, torture and murder

September 25, 2018

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Yemen’s Huthi rebels of hostage-taking, torture and other serious abuses against people in their custody.

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The New York-based watchdog said it had documented 16 cases of illegal imprisonment by the Iran-backed Shiite insurgents, “in large part to extort money from relatives or to exchange them for people held by opposing forces”.

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“Huthi officials have treated detainees brutally, often amounting to torture,” HRW said, adding that former detainees described being beaten with iron rods, wooden sticks and assault rifles.

Prisoners were shackled to walls, caned and threatened with rape, it said, noting that hostage-taking “is a serious violation of the laws of war and a war crime”.

“The Huthis have added profiteering to their long list of abuses and offences against the people under their control in Yemen,” said HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.

“Rather than treat detainees humanely, some Huthi officials are exploiting their power to turn a profit through detention, torture and murder.”

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The Huthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, forcing the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee south.

Nearly 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened on the side of the Yemeni government in 2015.

UN investigators said last month that all sides in the conflict may have committed war crimes, pointing to widespread arbitrary detention, rape, torture and the recruitment of children.

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HRW called on the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of a group of experts on Yemen to investigate and identify all parties responsible for abuses.

“The United Arab Emirates, UAE proxies, and Yemeni government forces have also arbitrarily detained, tortured and forcibly disappeared scores of people in the Yemeni conflict,” it said.


Northern Ireland: Teenager shot once in each arm and leg in paramilitary-style attack

September 23, 2018

Police have described the shooting of an 18-year-old man in County Antrim as a “brutal paramilitary-style attack”.

The incident happened at about 03:30 BST on Sunday at a house in Moneycannon Road in Ballymoney.

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The teenager was shot once in each arm and leg by unknown intruders. He was taken to hospital but his injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

Insp Vince Redmond said it was an attack on a young man in his home by “dangerous and violent individuals”.

Police are appealing for information.

China’s reeducation camps for Muslim Uighurs — “I really don’t know if my family is alive or dead.”

September 17, 2018

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Adil Ahmad, right, 15, from Yarakan, says his parents are in a reeducation camp, and four of his siblings in China are missing, presumed in some kind of detention. Nuruddin, left, 16, says his parents are in a camp near their home in Urumchi. (Umar Farooq / For The Times)

Adil Ahmad, 15, has had no contact with his parents since February 2017, when he received a frantic phone call from his mother in the Uighur homeland of China’s western Xinjiang region.

SEP 17, 2018

“She said my father was in some kind of trouble with the police,” recalls Ahmad, whose parents had brought him and his older brother to Egypt to study Arabic. “She said, ‘Don’t come back to China.’”

When Ahmad tried calling a few days later, none of the phone numbers worked. Finally, he heard from an uncle in China that his parents had been taken by police after their last phone conversation. His four siblings had also disappeared. Then, his uncle’s phone number stopped working.

Ahmad and his brother, fearing that they would be sent back to China, have since moved to Turkey.

“I really don’t know if my family is alive or dead, or if they are in these camps,” he said.

The youngsters are among tens of thousands of Uighurs living in Turkey who find themselves cut off from their relatives in China. They are left to worry from abroad whether their families have been swept up in a large-scale social engineering campaign aimed at replacing the millennium-old Muslim Uighur identity with a secular Chinese one.

In August, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination estimated that about 1 million Muslims — mostly ethnic Uighurs but also other minorities — in the Xinjiang region were being “held incommunicado … without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.”

Up to 10% of the Uighur population in Xinjiang, the U.N. said, may be in detention.

China has denied Uighurs are being arbitrarily detained, telling the U.N. in August that “there are no such things as reeducation centers,” and that only those suspected of “violent terrorist activities” were being held at facilities providing “vocational education and employment training.”

The Times spoke with 11 ethnic Uighurs living in Turkey who believe their families in China have been placed in reeducation camps. Over the last two years, they have grappled with whether to return to China, as Xinjiang authorities have asked.

Uighurs have long been subjected to intense scrutiny by Beijing, which points to a handful of terrorist attacks as justification for restrictions aimed at stemming the rise of Islamist extremism.

For years, teaching and learning the Uighur language has largely been prohibited. Mosques have been made off-limits to those under 18 and schoolchildren and government workers are banned from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Hijabs for women — as well as beards for men — have been outlawed in many parts of Xinjiang.

Yet such practices pale in comparison with policies enacted in 2016, when Beijing reassigned a top Communist Party official, Chen Quanguo, from his job overseeing security in Tibet, according to Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany.

In party directives, and bids for construction projects, Zenz has found evidence of a systematic program of building large-scale detention facilities.

At the same time, a pervasive system of surveillance — tapping mobile communications, using facial recognition technology and inspecting phones at hundreds of checkpoints — has made it extremely difficult to obtain details from Xinjiang.

Like Ahmad, Adil Hassan has been unable to reach his family for more than a year. The 35-year-old jewelry trader fled China for Turkey in 2015, after learning he was wanted by police for questioning because of his frequent business trips abroad.

At first, he had only sporadic contact with his wife in China, and in 2016 a friend told him she had been detained.

He has since received video of his three children from a man calling himself a police officer.

“Daddy, I’ve grown up and you never came to see me,” Hassan’s youngest child, Omer, 5, says in one video.

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Ismail Abdulkerim, a teacher in Istanbul, says his elderly parents, three young children, two brothers, and two sisters-in-law are in detention. (Umar Farooq / For The Times)

Ismail Abdulkerim, a Uighur language and Islamic studies teacher, came to Turkey with his wife in 2015, after learning they were wanted as a result of their time abroad.

They had left their children in the care of his parents and siblings, but he now believes all his immediate relatives in Xinjiang — including three of his children — are in camps.

“There is oppression in many countries, even war, but not like this: You take away such large numbers of people and no one knows where, or why,” Abdulkerim said.

Among Uighurs outside China, the experience of having relatives in detention centers seems to be “nearly universal,” said Rian Thum, associate professor of history at Loyola University New Orleans.

Aside from some elderly and ill detainees, there is no indication authorities are releasing Uighurs from the camps, Thum said. A vast surveillance network and a blanket ban on Uighurs leaving China have meant even of those released, only a few have provided details of the conditions there.

Among them is Omer Bekali, a 42-year-old ethnic Kazakh Muslim, who spent seven months in police detention centers, and a month in a reeducation camp near Karamay, a city in northern Xinjiang.

Bekali, who ran a small travel company, was born in China but obtained Kazakhstan nationality in 2009. He was released along with 10 other Kazakhstan nationals in November 2017 after the Kazakhstan government intervened on their behalf.

His troubles began during a business trip to China in March 2017, when he took a day off to visit his mother in Turpan. A Uighur in Kazakhstan had warned him to be careful, but Bekali thought he had nothing to worry about.

After being taken by police, he said, he was housed in a 12-square-foot cell with 42 other men.

Shuffled from one detention facility to another, Bekali claims he spent five hours a day suspended from the ceiling by his wrists, which still have scars. Other times, he said, he was beaten with iron and wooden sticks while shackled to a chair.

“They asked me over and over again, do you pray, do you fast, have you been to Turkey, have you been to Syria, are you in a terror group?” Bekali said. “From this I understood they view all Uighur and Kazakh Muslims as terrorists.”

More than seven months after being detained, Bekali was moved to what he believes was one of the reeducation camps. Each day, the detainees were told that their Islamic heritage was backward and that there was no God.

After meals, they were made to line up in two rows and sing patriotic hymns, including one that began, “Without the Communist Party, there is no new China.”

“If you refused, or your voice was not loud enough, you were not given food, or put in solitary, or beaten,” said Bekali. While in the camp, he said, the population swelled by 50 to 60 people daily with truckloads of new detainees brought in at night.

In March, Bekali began speaking to international news outlets about his detention. Within a few weeks, he says, 14 members of his family in China were detained, including his sister, mother and father.

Farooq is a special correspondent.

Torture in Russia’s prisons becoming ‘more sophisticated and brutal’

September 14, 2018

After a video surfaced showing Russian inmate Evgeny Makarov being brutally tortured by prison guards, his lawyer, Irina Biryukova, had to flee the country. She told DW that prisoner abuse remains widespread in Russia.

Cell doors in the notorious Russia's Butyrka remand prison

In July this year, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper released footage showing Evgeny Makarov being brutally tortured by a group of guards at the Yarslavl prison in Russia. The incident reportedly occurred in 2017. Irina Biryukova works for the Public Verdict Foundation and serves as Makarov’s lawyer. Her organization has published the names of the 18 prison guards involved in the torture of Makarov. Thirteen guards are currently in pretrial custody.  Now, a second video with further evidence of torture inside a Russian jail has surfaced.

DW: You have been working as a lawyer for 13 years. Would you say that incidents of torture have increased in Russian jails?

Irina Biryukova: Yes, the situation has definitely become worse. I don’t recall there ever being as many complaints about torture as now. Occasionally in the past there were cases where officers would abuse their power during arrests, or inadvertently use excessive force and break someone’s arm. Ten years ago, however, the situation began growing worse and worse. In the past five years, the torture of inmates has become more sophisticated and brutal.

Reports claim that prisoners are even tortured while in pretrial custody. How serious is this issue?

Torture in pretrial custody is an even bigger issue than the torture of regular inmates. In pretrial custody, authorities use torture to force inmates to make confessions. In regular prisons, torture is applied to break individuals who oppose the system.

Why do you believe there has been an increase in this kind of treatment?

I think these things happen because people believe they won’t be caught. Judging by the statements made by Yaroslavl prison guards they thought they’d go scot-free.

Attorney Iryna Biruykova (DW)DW sat down with Biruykova in Warsaw

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The torture footage leaked to you was recorded using a guard’s body camera. Why did he film the incident in the first place?

Prison staff told the court that inmates like Evgeny Makarov, who constantly complain about their treatment and demand their rights be respected, need to be “educated.” One prison guard said: “We were very disgruntled because he was permanently complaining about the prison administration. He even called on the European Court of Human Rights.” The guards provoked Evgeny. He’s only 25 years old and very impulsive. They destroyed a letter by his mother in front of his eyes, filming how he began cursing at them. They then showed the footage to the prison director, who in turn agreed Evgeny should be subjected to “education measures.”

That means the torture footage was recorded for the prison director?


So why was the video published?

I tried identifying the motive for that. I was given the following explanation: “First of all, it’ll show us how you work. Secondly, we want you to help stop the perverse practice of prisoners being released on parole if they pay money. And we want the prison guards who beat Evgeny Makarov to be punished because this is simply unacceptable.” Though not only Evgeny was beaten in jail.

You have asked the state to protect you and your client, who will be released in October. Is the state doing that?

It’s not protecting me, but him. It sounds a bit odd, asking someone to be protected who is locked up in a jail where he was tortured. The prison director has been obliged to implement the state’s protection measures. To him that means visiting Evgeny every day in his cell to check that he is doing alright. And Evgeny is now under constant video surveillance.

After the torture video was released, you left Russia. Now, you want to return. Does this mean you are no longer in danger?

I fear the threat will increase. After the second torture video was released it became clear that not just ordinary prison staff are involved in these things, but also prison officers on the regional level. More and more cases are coming to light. They are creating a certain momentum. We got everything rolling. People in our organization have different opinions. Some say I can return now because the case has been made public and because the main culprits are in jail. Others think it would be a good idea for me to stay in safety a while longer. But I will return soon, I hope.

UN says ‘criminals’ impersonating its staff in Libya to target migrants

September 8, 2018

The UN decried Saturday “reliable reports” that smugglers and traffickers were impersonating its staff in Libya to target desperate migrants and refugees, and demanded action to hold them to account.

The UN refugee agency said reliable sources were indicating that smugglers and traffickers trying to pretend they worked with different UN organisations had been seen in a range of different locations across the conflict-torn country.

“These criminals were spotted at disembarkation points and smuggling hubs, using vests and other items with logos similar to that of UNHCR,” it said in a statement.

© AFP/File | A UNHCR worker tends to African migrants in Libya (pictured March 2018), where the UN refugee agency says reliable sources indicate that smugglers and traffickers pretend they work with that and other UN organisations to target refugees

The agency said it had received information about the problem from among other “refugees who report having been sold to traffickers in Libya, and subjected to abuse and torture, including after having been intercepted at sea”.

Spokesman Babar Baloch however told AFP that it remained unclear if the fake UN employees had succeeded in tricking migrants and refugees who subsequently faced abuse, saying the agency was still investigating.

“We want the authorities to go after these people,” he said, stressing that they clearly had “criminal intent” and were going after people who were already extremely vulnerable.

Plunged into chaos following the fall of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, Libya has become a prime transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants making dangerous clandestine bids to reach Europe.

People smugglers have taken advantage of the turmoil, putting African migrants seeking to reach Europe at greater risk.

Many migrants, intercepted or rescued at sea, find themselves detained in detention centres with poor conditions.

UNHCR said Saturday that it and its partners are present at all the official disembarkation points “to provide lifesaving humanitarian and medical assistance”.

“Once the smuggled passengers are back on land, the Libyan authorities transport them to detention centres, managed by the Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration,” the agency said, adding that its staff do not help with such transports but they are present at the centres to monitor the situation and provide assistance.

UNHCR pointed out that the situation for refugees and migrants in the Tripoli area has significantly worsened in recent weeks amid heavy clashes.

Last week, the agency helped evacuate some 300 migrants from the Ain Zara detention centre to another a few kilometres away as they risked getting caught in the crossfire.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders has meanwhile urged the evacuation of thousands of migrants trapped in detention centres in Tripoli, where a fragile ceasefire was negotiated last week.

But those in detention centres are not the only ones at risk.

UNHCR said Saturday it had received reports of “unspeakable atrocities” committed against migrants in the streets of the Libyan capital, including rape, kidnapping and torture.