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TV shows making 'torture acceptable' say Amnesty poll

More people in Britain believe torture can be justified than in Russia - thanks to popular TV shows such as 24, Homeland and Spooks, a new poll conducted by Amnesty International has said.

According to the poll, 29% in the UK think torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to protect the public, compared to 25% in Russia.

One scene in popular TV show 24 shows a man tortured in the opening scene of the second episode. He is electrocuted by a machine that monitors his saline levels.

Selmin Caliskan, Secretary General of Amnesty speaks out against torture in Germany. Credit: Stephanie Pilick/DPA

The research is published as Amnesty launched a new Stop Torture campaign and revealed that 27 different types of torture were reported during 2013/14, in at least 79 countries so far.

US government 'spied on human rights charities'

Edward Snowden speaking to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Credit: Reuters

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has said that the US National Security Agency deliberately listened in on the activities and staff of prominent human rights organisations.

Addressing members of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg via video link from Moscow, Snowden said that the NSA had deliberately monitored bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He told MEPs: "The NSA has targeted leaders and staff members of these sorts of organisations, including domestically within the borders of the United States." Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged.

The Council of Europe invited the White House to give evidence but it declined.


Amnesty: Pakistan 'must reform its blasphemy laws'

Human rights campaigners have called for the immediate release of a British man sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

A judge convicted and sentenced Mohammad Asghar, from Edinburgh, on Thursday following a trial. Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director Polly Truscott said:

Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters. He does not deserve punishment. No one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct.

Pakistan must immediately release Mohammad Ashgar and reform its blasphemy laws to ensure that this will not happen again.

EU 'miserably fails' to provide haven for Syrian refugees

The European Union has "miserably failed" to play its part in providing a safe haven for Syrian refugees, the secretary general of Amnesty International has said today.

Salil Shetty added:

Across the board European leaders should hang their heads in shame.

The EU must open its borders, provide safe passage and halt these deplorable human rights violations.

UK criticised over failing to resettle Syrian refugees

The UK has been criticised by a human rights charity for failing to resettle vulnerable Syrian refugees.

Amnesty International said the Government should "hang its head in shame" for not opening its borders to the some of the millions of people displaced by continuing violence in Syria.

A child refugee from the northern province of Raqqa in Syria, reacts from the cold weather in a Syrian refugee camp Credit: Reuters

The UK is one of a number of EU countries who have offered no resettlement or humanitarian places, Amnesty added.

The Government says it has no plans to plans to resettle or provide temporary protection to Syrians, but would consider individual asylum claims.

Malala wins top humanitarian award

Malala Yousafzai was shot in head by Taliban gunman near home in Pakistan for campaigning for equal access to education. Credit: PA

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl shot in the head by the Taliban near her home in Pakistan, will be honoured by Amnesty International in Dublin for her fearless crusade later today.

The 16-year-old, who campaigns for a women's right to an education, will be named Ambassador of Conscience, joining Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

Malala said she was "truly honoured" by the award and would continue campaigning for equal access to education.

"I am truly honoured to receive this award and would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that there are many millions of children like me across the world who fight every single day for their right to go to school," the teenager said.

Earlier this month Malala opened the £188 million new library in her adopted hometown of Birmingham. She addressed the crowd as "fellow Brummies".

Read more: Malala opens new library**


Charity auctions off Elton John's platform boots

Elton John may be better known for his Tantrums & Tiaras, but it is a pair of the pop legend's platform boots that are up for auction.

The platforms are signed by Elton John. Credit: Amnesty International

The six-inch-high boots, complete with gold keyboard motif platforms and signed by the man himself, are among a number of pop memorabilia items being auctioned off on eBay to raise money for Amnesty International.

Calls for UN inquiry into North Korean 'prison camps'

Amnesty International has called for the UN to establish an inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea after satellite images uncovered evidence of an expansion of an area thought to be a prison camp, north of Pyongyang.

Amnesty researchers found that between 2006 and 2013 North Korea has constructed a new 20km perimeter around the Ch’oma-Bongvalley, located 70km north of Pyongyang. The new perimeter is said to include civilian villages and encloses inhabitants within it.

Amnesty analysts also identified the construction of new buildings that appear to house workers, which they say is likely to be associated with an expansion of mining activity in the region. Amnesty's Frank Jannuzi said the images are worse than expected:

We expected to find a new prison camp. What we found is in some ways even more worrisome.

The creation of a security perimeter with controlled access points and guard towers beyond what appears to be the formal boundaries of Camp 14 blurs the line between more than 100,000 people who suffer in North Korea’s Kwan-li-so system and the neighbouring civilian population.

Images show 'prison camp expansion' in North Korea

The prison camp in 2011 Credit: Amnesty International

New satellite images show the North Korean government is expanding the perimeters of a prison camp north of Pyongyang, according to Amnesty International.

North Korea continues to deny the existence of such camps. Amnesty International says the new images show the camp is extending into the nearby area, thereby blurring the lines between the camps and the surrounding population.

The prison camp in 2013. Credit: Amnesty International

The satellite images were specially commissioned after reports of a possible construction of a new political prison camp.

Amnesty International condemns child beheading

Amnesty International has condemned reports that a 12-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl were beheaded in separate incidents in Afghanistan.

These two acts of despicable killings of children in Kandahar and Kapisa provinces must be subject to prompt, independent and thorough investigations – those responsible must be held to account in trials that meet international standards of fairness, without use of the death penalty.

Reports that the young boy was killed by the Taliban to avenge his brother’s service with the Afghan Local Police highlight the challenges in establishing rule of law in Afghanistan. The Taliban have denied responsibility. In the past, Afghan insurgent groups have targeted civilians – including children – for their perceived allegiance to the government.

– Amnesty International’s deputy director for Asia Polly Truscott
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