International Issues

International Issues (31)

International News

ACHR welcomes UN High Commissioner's statement on unlawful conviction of Maldives' ex-President

NEW DELHI:  The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today welcomed the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein which questioned the unfair and hasty trial for convicting Maldives's ex-President Mohammed Nasheed to 13 years imprisonment under trumped up terrorism charges and called for respect for standards of fair trial including  "adequate time and the possibility to prepare and present his defence".  The statement of the High Commissioner is available at:
 http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15712&LangID=E

“The statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights makes it clear that sentencing of Nasheed is unlawful and that Nasheed be released immediately. President Abdullah Yameen should realise that dictatorial regimes in a democracy shall cannot survive in the long run despite the support of all the dictatorial regimes of the world which are few in numbers in any case". stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights. [Ends]

European Commission’s announcement on migration: Right words, but no solutions

Today’s announcement by the European Commission on managing the migration crisis in the Mediterranean contains the right analysis of the overall situation, but offers no concrete solutions to protecting and saving lives, said Amnesty International. 

“We agree that a European solution to the search and rescue crisis is urgently needed, but that's not being offered here. Member states need to step up and chip in. Extending operation Triton without increasing its assets and operational area changes absolutely nothing,” said Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty International European Institutions Office. 

During a press briefing in Brussels, Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, acknowledged that the European Union (EU) needed to react more efficiently to the “ever starker” reality of the rising number of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean. 

While he pledged to extend Triton, a pan-EU border management operation, to the end of the year and announced €13 million in new emergency funding to help Italy with the reception of rescued migrants, he did not commit to bolstering search and rescue operations. Before its closure at the end of last year, Italy’s Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation saved thousands of lives, with a price tag of €9.5 million per month. The significantly smaller Operation Triton costs between €1.5 and €2.9 million a month.  

  1. Mare Nostrum’s closure, Italy’s coast guard has continued to lead on life-saving operations in the central Mediterranean – contributing to the rescue of more than 2,800 people last weekend alone, including the deployment of Frontex assets. The loss of more than 300 lives earlier this month near the Italian island of Lampedusa underscored the glaring gap in search-and-rescue resources. 

“The latest Lampedusa tragedy laid bare yet again the woeful inadequacy of the European Union’s current border control approach to the spiralling humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Today’s announcement has failed to change the simple fact that without more resources from member states for search and rescue, more people will die on the high seas,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. 

Iran: Death Row Juvenile Offender at Risk of Secret Execution

Iranian officials’ refusal to provide the family of Saman Naseem, a death row juvenile offender who was due to be executed this morning, with information about his fate and whereabouts has sparked fears that he is at risk of being tortured or secretly executed, said Amnesty International.

Saman Naseem was transferred from Oroumieh Central Prison to an unknown location on 18 February 2015. Prison officials told the family to collect his belongings on Saturday.

“The lack of news about Saman Naseem’s fate or whereabouts with prison officers denying his family any information is cruel and inhuman,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Authorities in Iran must stop playing games with Saman Naseem’s relatives. They must immediately disclose his whereabouts, halt his execution and initiate a thorough judicial review of his case.”

Saman Naseem was sentenced to death following a grossly unfair trial in April 2013 by a criminal court in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province. He was convicted on charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” because of his alleged membership of the Kurdish armed opposition group, Party For Free Life of Kurdistan, and for taking part in armed activities against the Revolutionary Guard. He was 17-years-old at the time.

In a letter published by Amnesty International, Saman Naseem, now 22 years old, gave a harrowing account of torture during early investigations including how he was kept in a 2 x 0.5 metre cell and was forced, while blindfolded, to put his fingerprints on “confession” papers.

WASHINGTON — As he sought to rally the world behind a renewed attack on terrorism, President Obama argued on Thursday that force of arms was not enough and called on all nations to “put an end to the cycle of hate” by expanding human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue.

But the challenge of his approach was staring him right in the face. His audience of invited guests, putative allies in a fresh international counterterrorism campaign, included representatives from some of the world’s least democratic and most repressive countries.

Imam Mohamed Magid, at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va. The imam said he has persuaded several young men to abandon their plans to join extremists and fight overseas. U.S. Muslims Take On ISIS’ Recruiting Machine FEB. 19, 2015
Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, who killed two people and wounded five police officers in Copenhagen. After Attacks, Denmark Hesitates to Blame IslamFEB. 19, 2015
Attendees during closing remarks by President Obama on Wednesday at the “Countering Violent Extremism” meeting. Faulted for Avoiding ‘Islamic’ Labels to Describe Terrorism, White House Cites a Strategic LogicFEB. 18, 2015
President Obama urged worldwide cooperation at a summit meeting Wednesday on countering violent extremism. Obama Urges Global United Front Against Extremist Groups Like ISISFEB. 18, 2015
Islam Yaken at a gym in Cairo, left, and as a fighter with the Islamic State extremist group in Syria, where he has been since 2013. From a Private School in Cairo to ISIS Killing Fields in Syria (With Video)FEB. 18, 2015
The three-day White House conference on violent extremism that Mr. Obama wrapped up on Thursday provided a case study in the fundamental tension that has bedeviled the American struggle with terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While Mr. Obama has concluded that radicalism is fueled by political and economic grievance, he has found himself tethered to some of the very international actors most responsible for such grievances, dependent on them for intelligence and cooperation to prevent future attacks.

Egypt: Video Shows Police Shot Woman at Protest

Written by Monday, 02 February 2015 00:00

(New York) – Photographs, videos, and witness statements strongly indicate that a member of Egypt’s security forces was responsible for fatally shooting a female protester in a downtown Cairo square on January 24, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today.

Evidence analyzed by Human Rights Watch shows a uniformed police officer apparently directing a masked man who fires a shotgun toward a group of about two dozen peaceful protesters whom police were dispersing from Talaat Harb Square. Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 32, is seen immediately falling to the ground following the shot. She died later from what medical authorities described as “birdshot” injuries. Prosecutor General Hisham Barakatannounced an investigation into al-Sabbagh’s death the same day.

“The prosecutor general needs to follow through on his pledge to bring those responsible for al-Sabbagh’s death to justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “The world is watching to see whether this case breaks the pattern of impunity for rights abuses that has marred Egyptian justice since the 2011 uprising.”

The prosecutor general said that investigators would review all the available evidence, including surveillance camera footage and official logbooks detailing the weapons used by security forces, and would question the police who dispersed the protest. In a statement, Barakat confirmed his office’s “commitment to apply the law to everyone with all firmness and without discrimination and present the perpetrators of the incident – whoever they were – to criminal prosecution.”

However, Barakat also said that “preliminary investigations” had found that the police had only used teargas, and only after the protesters had failed to respond to police orders to leave and had injured police with rocks and fireworks. On January 28, 2015, an official from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, told the media that the projectile that killed al-Sabbagh was not a type that the security forces use and suggested that videos of her being shot were fabricated.

On January 31, the Qasr al-Nil district prosecutor’s office, which is investigating the incident, ordered the arrest of the vice president of al-Sabbagh’s political party, 60-year-old Zohdi al-Shami, who had been present at the protest and had gone to the prosecutor to offer testimony. Prosecutors questioned al-Shami as a suspect for about nine hours before ordering his arrest, according to one of al-Shami’s lawyers, Mohamed Abd al-Aziz. They presented a report from the National Security Investigations Service that said al-Shami is suspected of having carried a weapon to the protest, Abd al-Aziz told Human Rights Watch.

Prosecutors have also charged nearly a dozen people involved in the protest with breaking an anti-protest law passed in November 2013 than bans all unauthorized gatherings, according to some of those charged. One witness told Human Rights Watch that the district prosecutor investigating the killing initially attempted to arrest her when she offered her statement.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four witnesses to the shooting and analyzed 18 photographs and three videos. This evidence shows that the security forces deployed in Talaat Harb Square that day used excessive force in response to a small, peaceful march organized by the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, and fired teargas and birdshot at the protesters apparently without warning.

One video that shows security forces dispersing the protest captured what appears to be the moment that al-Sabbagh was shot. Four gunshots are audible in the video. The first two were fired in quick succession at the outset of the dispersal, with the third shot nine seconds later and the fourth shot seven seconds after that. When the first two shots were fired, protesters on the sidewalk carrying a large red banner had begun moving away, southwest along Talaat Harb Street toward Tahrir Square. Their banner can be seen near the door of the Air France office that faces Talaat Harb Square. Based on published photographs showing both al-Sabbagh and the banner at this position, al-Sabbagh was standing and was not wounded at that time.

In the video, the protesters can be seen walking southwest farther along Talaat Harb Street, pursued by the police, when the third shot is heard. At that moment, a masked man in dark clothes is seen standing beside a uniformed officer, identified as a police brigadier general, in the street. The masked man adopts a shooting stance and points his firearm in the protesters’ direction as the police officer runs toward and points at the protesters. Three photographs published by local media organizations also show this moment, with the police officer and the gunman, from different angles.

Hisham Abd al-Hamid, spokesperson for the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority, told the television channel Al-Hayat in a January 24, 2015 interview that al-Sabbagh had been shot in the back and neck by birdshot from a distance of about eight meters. A forensic medical report documenting al-Sabbagh’s death, photos of which were posted on Twitter, states that al-Sabbagh died after being shot in the back, causing lacerations to her lungs and heart and massive bleeding in her chest.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which set out international law on the use of force in law enforcement situations, provide that security forces shall as far as possible apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force. Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, the authorities should use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life.

“The claim that these protesters attacked police or that the images of al-Sabbagh’s death are fabricated simply defies all available evidence and smacks of an attempted cover up,” Whitson said. “After so many protesters have died exercising their basic rights, the prosecutor general needs to step up and ensure that those responsible for this death are held to account.”

Evidence from Witnesses
Azza Soliman, a 48-year-old lawyer and director of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, told Human Rights Watch that she was at a café across the street with her son and watched the 25 to 30 protesters, some of whom carried flowers and were chanting. Before the dispersal began, she went out to greet friends she saw among the protesters. Within about five minutes, Soliman said, she heard sirens and saw security force personnel, some wearing masks and carrying shotguns, approach the protest and fire both teargas and shotguns in the direction of the protesters.

Osama Hammam, a photographer who was covering the protest, confirmed to Human Rights Watch the details of an account he posted to Facebook, in which he described security forces firing teargas and shotguns at the protest without warning.

“The demonstration was simply 30 people carrying some roses, half of them were old guys, and the street was empty,” he wrote to Human Rights Watch. “And the police were on the sidewalk on the opposite side.”

Human Rights Watch stabilized and enhanced the video to analyze the moment of the third shot. In the enhanced video, al-Sabbagh can be seen falling to the ground immediately after the shot is heard. Two protesters, one wearing a black jacket and identified as Sayyid Abou al-Ela, a fellow member of her party, and one wearing a green sweater, reach down to assist her. Two additional photographs from two different angles show al-Sabbagh falling at this moment and the men reaching down to help.

An Egyptian newspaper photographer who was taking pictures of the dispersal from a short distance away told Human Rights Watch that the man wearing the black mask, who was standing to his left, fired the shot that hit al-Sabbagh. He said that the protesters, 20 to 25 people by his estimate, had been chanting slogans of the 2011 uprising – not against the authorities. The security forces had fired on the demonstrators with teargas and shotguns without warning within two minutes of the marchers’ arrival at Talaat Harb Square, he said.

The video clearly shows that the fourth and final shot – identical in sound to the previous three – was fired by the masked man toward an unseen location farther down Talaat Harb Street, in the direction of Tahrir Square, not toward al-Sabbagh. She can be seen at the same moment lying on the sidewalk as al-Ela tries to assist her.

The video then shows the masked man hand his shotgun to another member of the police in exchange for what appears to be a grenade launcher. The masked man then fires again toward the unseen location farther down Talaat Harb Street. Unlike the previous four shots, this weapon emits a different sound and a large muzzle blast containing gray smoke, suggesting that it fired a large projectile, such as a teargas grenade.

The shotgun the masked man carried appears to have been equipped with a launching cup attached to the barrel, which is used to fire teargas grenades and other projectiles if a specific cartridge meant for such purposes is loaded into the shotgun. However, the launching cup would not have obstructed the man from “shooting through” with birdshot. Furthermore, no smoke or projectile is visible after the apparently fatal third shot fired in al-Sabbagh’s direction, suggesting that the shotgun was not loaded with tear gas at that time.

In an account of the incident posted on the Tahrir News website, al-Ela wrote that he heard the sound of birdshot hitting the windows of the Air France office after the shot fired in the protesters’ direction and saw al-Sabbagh bleeding from her face. Al-Ela carried al-Sabbagh across Talaat Harb Street before another friend carried her through a nearby alley as the two tried to hail a car to take her to a hospital, he wrote. A police officer and a police brigadier general arrived and arrested al-Ela and at least three other men, as al-Sabbagh tried to hold al-Ela’s hand, he wrote.

Al-Ela confirmed his written account in a later interview with Human Rights Watch. He said that after the dispersal, police arrested a number of witnesses and others who were attempting to help al-Sabbagh and held them for two days. On the second day, the prosecutor questioned them as if they were suspects, al-Ela said, and they provided their testimonies. According to the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, the prosecutor released seven people that day without bail, including the party’s general secretary, after charging them with breaking the law banning protests.

Al-Ela said he believed the men stationed in Talaat Harb Square that day included regular police and plainclothes detectives, masked men not wearing insignia, and members of the Central Security Forces, a paramilitary riot police force often charged with securing government buildings and embassies. The police brigadier general seen pointing at the protesters was the highest-ranking officer present, he said.

Soliman, who witnessed the incident with her son, went to Zeinhom Morgue, where al-Sabbagh’s body was transported, to offer her testimony, according to an account she posted on Facebook and later confirmed in an interview with Human Rights Watch. She went to the district prosecutor’s office, and when the prosecutor called Soliman, who was accompanied by a lawyer, he took her testimony but subsequently accused her of participating in what he described as an “unauthorized march” and threatened to arrest her. The police report of the march, he told her, said protesters had used rocks and fireworks against the police, she told Human Rights Watch.

Soliman told Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor charged her with breaking the protest law and resisting the authorities and had also made similar charges against four other witnesses who came forward. She said it was unclear whether the prosecutor would pursue the charges or drop them.

Dozens of police officers and soldiers faced charges related to the killing of at least 846 protesters during the 2011 uprising, but only three low-ranking security force personnel were ever convicted and sentenced to prison. Since the mass killings of July and August 2013, which left at least 1,150 protesters dead, the authorities have not brought charges against any member of the security forces for killing protesters. The official Fact-Finding Committee tasked with investigating the 2013 incidents, which included the worst mass killing in Egypt’s modern history, completed its investigation in November 2014 and did not recommend any charges. The prosecutor general has not announced an investigation.

Given the Egyptian government’s failure to hold authorities responsible, Human Rights Watch haspreviously called for a commission of inquiry at the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate.

HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDIA

Written by Saturday, 31 January 2015 00:00

India has significant human rights problems despite making commitments to tackle some of the most prevalent abuses. There are increased restrictions on Internet freedom; continued marginalization of Dalits, tribal groups, religious minorities, sexual and gender minorities, and people with disabilities; and persistent impunity for abuses linked to insurgencies, particularly in Maoist areas, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, and Assam. Many children remain at risk of abuse and deprived of education. India’s free media, vibrant civil society, and independent judiciary often act as checks on abusive practices but reluctance to hold public officials to account for abuses or dereliction of duty fosters a culture of corruption and impunity. India continues to use laws to stifle dissent by restricting access to foreign funding for domestic nongovernmental organizations that are critical of the government.

 

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Human Rights Issues

Written by Tuesday, 13 January 2015 04:34

Human Rights Issues

 
 

IssuesDespite advances in recent years, the Asia Pacific continues to face significant human rights challenges. Some issues are specific to individual countries, while others span the region.

This section provides an overview of key human rights issues addressed by the APF.

The APF has a strong record in developing programs and initiatives that bolster the work of national human rights institutions and, from this, deliver improved outcomes for vulnerable individuals and groups.

A number of our programs, such as regional thematic workshops, also engage governments, civil society organisations and human rights defenders on these critical issues.

In 1998, the APF established the Advisory Council of Jurists to provide independent and authoritative legal analysis on key human rights questions.

Comprised of eminent jurists drawn from across the region, it has prepared reports and recommendations on a broad range of issues, including the death penaltytorturehuman traffickingcorporate accountability and sexual orientation and gender identity.

Malaysia-I’m Scared to Be a Woman

Written by Monday, 12 January 2015 10:19
Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Malaysia
SEPTEMBER 25, 2014
This report documents government abuses against transgender people in Malaysia. In research in four Malaysian states and the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur, Human Rights Watch found that state Religious Department officials and police regularly arrest transgender women and subject them to various abuses, including assault, extortion, and violations of their privacy rights. Religious Department officials have physically and sexually assaulted transgender women during arrest or in custody, and humiliated them by parading them before the media.
READ THE REPORT
ISBN: 978-1-62313-1845

"It is a big challenge for us. HIV/AIDS patients now fear going to hospitals for treatment and our workers, who are also government health officials, are also afraid of contacting patients for fear of being infected," Abubakar Koroma, Director of Communications at the National AIDS Secretariat, told IPS.3

Sierra Leone records one of the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the West African region. For over five years, the country has managed to stabilise the figures at 1.5 percent, out of a population of 6 million, mainly because of massive countrywide awareness raising. The authorities also offer free medicines and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS.

But all this may be reversed if the Ebola crisis is not contained soon.

Before the outbreak of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone in April, one key area of success in the fight against HIV/AIDS had been in curtailing mother-to-child transmission. Today, however, there are concerns that it may surge again because pregnant women are now reluctant to go to hospitals for treatment.

In 2004, the prevalence rate among pregnant women was 4.9 percent but, just before the Ebola in April this year, the figure had dropped to 3.2 percent.

According to Koroma, "between January and now, that service has dropped by 80 percent. We are worried that the Ebola crisis may worsen the situation." From the point of view of those already living with HIV/AIDS, this is already happening.

Idrissa Songo, Executive Director of the Network of HIV Positives in Sierra Leone (NETHIPS) advocacy group, says that its members fear going to hospitals for care and treatment and that they are constrained by what he described as a cut in the support they were receiving from donors and humanitarian organisations before the outbreak of Ebola.

"Donors and other philanthropists have turned their attention away from the fight against HIV/AIDS," he said. "Now it's all about Ebola. Most organisations have diverted their funding to the fight against Ebola and this is badly affecting our activities."

Songo added that the core activities of NETHIPS, which include community awareness raising and training of members in care and prevention, have all come to a standstill because of the government's ban on all public gatherings following the Ebola outbreak.

Given the current crisis, the National Aids Secretariat and the Ministry of Health have set up telephone hotlines to connect with people suffering from HIV/AIDS. The aim is to be able to trace and locate them and then get treatment to them. At the same time, HIV/AIDS patients are now receiving a quarterly supply of the drugs they need, compared with the monthly dosage they were receiving before Ebola struck.

According to Songo, these measures are working because "that way, our members, who fear going to hospitals and treatment centres, can stay at home and take their medication. We know it is risky to go to treatment centres nowadays because of the possibility of contracting Ebola, another killer disease," Songo told IPS.

Notwithstanding the Ebola crisis, Ministry of Health officials say that they have not lost sight of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Jonathan Abass Kamara, Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health, told IPS that attention is still focused on the fight against HIV/AIDS. "Even though Ebola has taken centre-stage, the Ministry is still very much focused on the fight against HIV/AIDS. We supply drugs to patients regularly and we try our best to give care and attention to them," Kamara told IPS.

However, while Sierra Leone has made tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and its success in this fight surpasses that of almost all countries in the West Africa region, it may well find it difficult to maintain its achievements in this sector if the Ebola epidemic is not brought under control.

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