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Amnesty International Puts Spotlight on Rights Abuses in Iran, Sri Lanka, DRC


The latest issue of Amnesty International Magazine highlights the human rights situation in three countries: Iran, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Members of Amnesty International's U.S. chapter spoke at a Washington news conference (Tuesday) about the magazine's articles and the general situation in those countries, as VOA's Bill Rodgers reports.

The cover story of Amnesty International Magazine features the situation in Sri Lanka, where the ongoing war between the government and ethnic Tamil rebels shows no sign of ending soon. The continuing violence is claiming the lives of civilians, while also displacing thousands of non-combatants.

Both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, or L-T-T-E, and government forces are to blame, according Amnesty International's Mona Dave "The civilian population does not seem to be safeguarded properly by either the government or by the L-T-T-E and that is of most concern to us. The U.N. today has actually called on both sides to cease their hostilities in areas that are highly populated by civilians. We are quite concerned that over 30,000 people have been either trapped or displaced in the east of the country."

The latest effort at peace talks collapsed earlier this year when representatives of the Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan government failed to agree on terms to revive a 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire.

As an interim measure, Mona Dave says a human rights commission needs to be set up in Sri Lanka. "I think in the short-term there needs to be access for humanitarian groups to these populations but also having a larger body which can look at the human rights violations as they are occurring, meeting with witnesses, investigating and being able to report out could really help in decreasing the number of violations that occur."

An interview with Iran's Nobel peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi, is another feature in the magazine. Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003, talks about the deteriorating rights situation in Iran and efforts by the government to shut down her organization, the Center for the Defense of Human Rights.

Amnesty International is also concerned about the conference in Tehran to deny the existence of the Holocaust.

Amnesty's Zahir Janmohamed fears the conference's aim to deny the World War Two genocide against the Jews could lead to greater persecution of religious minorities in Iran. "Iran has a very historic Jewish community and no doubt a conference so prominent as this in Iran about the Holocaust is certainly going to increase that intimidation and fear among the Jewish communities. So I'm certainly concerned about what that's going to do for the status of various religious minorities in Iran."

Sporadic fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the subject of a third feature in the magazine. Congo's first democratic election in 40 years offers some hope, says Amnesty's Lynne Frederiksson -- if President Joseph Kabila acts. "I think what we're waiting to see is and what we're promoting is diplomatic pressure on the new government to carry out on its promises to provide for the needs and the human rights of its people."

Amnesty hopes the publicity surrounding its magazine articles will help improve the human rights situation in the countries featured.