Week In Review

Photo from Human Rights Watch Rohingya Blog.

Here you can see the latest Human Rights news from around the world ! I will give you the highlights in human rights news so you don’t have to look anywhere else to stay up to date !

18-24 September 2017

Crisis in Yemen

Since early 2015 violence has been daily life for those living in Yemen. Saudi Arabian air strikes continue to devastate the country. The strikes are indiscriminate and appear to violate the “laws of war”. The UN has estimated that since 2015 2,795 civilians have lost their lives.

With the threat of Brexit the UK is clinging to international trade deals with those countries outside of the EU. Unfortunately one of these trade deals is the trade of arms, and the country is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia are continuing to bomb Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians, and being supplied by the UK.

More information can be found here.

Human rights crisis in Burma

Another area of violence is of course the mass deaths in Myanmar. The violence raging in the country is worsening as the muslim ethnic minority in Rohingya is being targeted and killed by military soldiers. I have been speaking of this crisis for some time as you can see in earlier weeks. The violence broke out in late August. The UN estimated in early September that 1,000 people have been killed, unofficial sources estimate it to be nearer 3,000. This has become a clear example of ethnic cleansing and may result in many more deaths if something is not done to end the violence.

The crisis in Rohingya has resulted in mass displacement as many flee to bordering Bangladesh, who have attempted to stem the flow of refugees. Unfortunately human trafficking and smuggling and drug smuggling have increased in the region as people are desperate to flee the violence. International response is badly needed to end the violence in the region before more deaths occur.

UN has limited abilities, unfortunately, due to state sovereignty. Until nations fully embrace human rights as worthy of protection little will be effective to end this kind of violence.

More info on Burma here.

Newstalk FM UPDATE

Presenter George Hook sparked outrage yesterday when speaking detrimentally of victims of rape on his radio show. He suggested that victims of rape were partly to blame for their rape.

Mr Hook’s comments were wrong. Victims have suffered enough. Victim blaming is totally unacceptable. Rape culture allows for victims to blamed for their assault. What a woman wears is irrelevant. What a woman looks like is irrelevant. Whether a woman is sober is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is consent. No means no.

NewstalkFM and Mr Hook apologised for his comments.

George Hook was removed from air briefly after advertising sponsors declined to sponsor the show after Hook’s comments. Unfortunately NewstalkFM have decided to retain Mr Hook, instead giving him weekend talk time. It’s astounding the lengths gone to to retain a man who seriously offended rape victims.

Please read my post on rape culture here.

Abortion Rights in Ireland

March for choice is happening on the 30 September in Dublin. Please go along and join the protest to give women the right to choose. Abortion is a very difficult issue to reconcile, whether you are for repeal or amend your support is welcomed.

This issue has been a long one in Irish history starting with the X case in 1993 where a young girl, a victim of rape, was prevented from travelling to the UK for abortion treatment. The girl was suicidal due to the circumstances of her pregnancy. What resulted was an amendment to the constitution prohibiting limitation on abilities to travel. Following this was the 14th amendment being the right to distribute information on abortion, which has become recently relevant when pro-life President of the Students Union in University College Dublin removed all abortion information from the college guidebook. This act was especially heinous as the Students Union is pro-choice.

Women have a right to decide what happens to their bodies. In cases of rape, incest, unplanned pregnancy and many other situations abortion may be the only option. Forcing women to travel to the UK to seek abortions is cruel. Women are isolated during a very difficult time.

More info on March for Choice here.

4 – 10 September 2017

NewstalkFM

Presenter George Hook sparked outrage yesterday when speaking detrimentally of victims of rape on his radio show. He suggested that victims of rape were partly to blame for their rape.

Mr Hook’s comments were wrong. Victims have suffered enough. Victim blaming is totally unacceptable. Rape culture allows for victims to blamed for their assault. What a woman wears is irrelevant. What a woman looks like is irrelevant. Whether a woman is sober is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is consent. No means no.

NewstalkFM and Mr Hook apologised for his comments.

Crisis in Burma.

The violence in Burma, unfortunately, continues and is worsening. Death tolls rise and 87,000 people have fled to the neighbouring safety of Bangladesh. The official military narrative is that the Rohingya militants who are reportedly attacking civilians. Rohingya people are an ethnic minority of muslims. Verifying the military’s narrative is difficult as access to the region is restricted.

Malala Yousafzai has called upon the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to step in and stem the growing bloodshed. Ms Suu Kyi is not the president of Myanmar, and has been previously under house arrest for her pro-democracy stance. She is seen as the leader of the government unofficially.

Dozens have reportedly died attempting to pass the Naf River to enter Bangladesh. Bangladesh border police are allowing refugees to enter, despite government orders to refuse entry.

More info

Silencing in China

The UN has called, once again, for the Chinese government to improve its treatment of Human Rights. President Xi Jinping has led a government that repeatedly restricts access of UN groups and activists. Non-Governmental Organisations are often blocked from carrying out humanitarian work.

China repeatedly attends UN events and conferences to act in bad faith. UN workers have reported harassment by Chinese officials and restriction. Activist Cao Shunli was detained in 2013 for promoting human rights. She fell gravely ill in custody and died.

China has been urged to cooperate with the UN and human rights.

More info

28 August – 3 September 2017

Burma Violence

Since the civilian led government took control in Myanmar in March of last year violence and repression has been on the rise. Many activists are arrested and prosecuted for criticising the government and army. Violence has been particularly bad in the Rakhine State where extrajudicial killings, rape and torture has become common.

This week the army opened fire killing many civiliancs, mostly women and children in the Rakhine State. Bangladesh has been asked not to turn away victims and show compassion to the refugees.

More information here.

Remembering the “Disappeared”

30 August is the United Nations International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The day aims to remember those forced to disappear by governing bodies, unfortunately a common fate in many areas of the world.

In particular the Syrian government has been guilty of following a policy of enforced disappearances of political opposition, activists and journalists. It has been encouraged that an independent body be established to investigate the disappearances in Syria and investigate the mass graves of unidentified bodies.

Any investigations by international governing bodies have been difficult and obstructed by the Syrian government. The exact number of those disappeared is uncertain as Syrian detention centers are off limits to outsiders.

More information is available here.

North Korea

In keeping with remembering those victim to enforced disappearances, justice is needed for those in North Korea where forced disappearances are a State policy. Crimes against humanity occur repeatedly in North Korea, with many people going missing for slight opposition.

North Korea has also caused international tension as of late with the testing of missiles and recently it is thought that they are testing nuclear weapons. Today a tremor of 6.3 magnitude was recorded near the country’s weapon testing site.

The US President has threatened war with North Korea should they act on their weapons, adding to the international tension. The fierce abuse of human rights in North Korea must be combatted through legal means. The International Criminal Court and other international organisations should be at the forefront of this effort, not weapons of mass destruction.

More information on North Korea is available here.

13 – 20 August 2017

Barcelona Attacks

14 people were killed and more than 50 people injured in Barcelona following a terrorist attack. A van drove into a restaurant following by gun attacks in the great city. The deaths of these innocent people is deeply tragic and my thoughts and love are with the families of all those killed and injured.

The Spanish police shot and killed five suspects following the attack while attempting to arrest the individuals. The best way to combat these attacks and times of hate is through upholding the human rights of every individual and ensuring the strength of democracy. The values of our society separate us from the extremism of the terrorists.

The world is in mourning with the losses in Barcelona.

Charlottesville

As I’m sure many of you are aware last weekend a white supremacy rally took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. Protesters took to the streets with torches shouting racist, anti-semitic and homophobic chants. Anti-protesters then took to the streets and violence ensued. A white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of anti-protesters killing Heather Heyer, a young woman who fought for equality and justice in the world.

President Donald Trump said nothing of the violence for three days when he failed to condemn white supremacy. He then went on to say there was blame on many sides before saying in a later press conference that “one side was bad and the other side was very violent”.

Huge backlash has ensued with many calling for Trump’s removal. The events were tragic and the loss of life deeply regretful. A special post has been dedicated to the awful events here.

Death Penalty in Iran

Iranian MPs are set to vote on new law to raise the criteria for inflicting the death penalty. The death penalty in Iran is used widely in circumstances where it is inherently cruel. Should the law be passed many lives can be saved.

Libyan National Army

The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant of arrest for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a general of the Libyan National Army, following the unlawful executions of “extremists”.

The prisoners were bound, hooded and executed, with their bodies receiving brutal treatment following the executions. The LNA is allied with the interim government and is spreading fear and violence throughout the country. The government should cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court and arrest Mahmoud al-Werfalli for his crimes.

31 July – 06 August 2017

Venezuelan Vote

President Maduro of Venezuela has decreed the establishment of a Constituent Assembly that would have a wide array of powers, compromising democracy. The Assembly’s powers undermines democracy and could result in a huge number of human rights violations, including the indefinite suspension of elections.

Venezuela already has a high number of human rights violations, including repression, political prisoners, no judicial independence and lack of fair and free trials. The President failed to hold a vote at all and simply decreed its creation. The opposition held a plebiscite to ascertain public disapproval. This resulted in unfortunate scenes of violence as voters took to the polls in protest.

Democracy is an important element to the protection of human rights. The threat to democracy in Venezuela could be the start of an era of no human rights. Two opposition leaders have been taken from their homes.

More information: Human Rights Watch – Venezuela Vote

Victory in Jordan for victims of sexual assault

On 1 August Jordan’s parliament voted to repeal penal code article 308 which allowed those who committed sexual assault to escape impunity by marrying their victims.

Reform was originally proposed in 2015 where the law would be amended to disallow exemption upon marriage, except for the case of consensual sex with a teenager (15-17). The perpetrator could marry the teenager and escape impunity. This breached Jordan’s laws against child marriage, where the legal age of marriage is 18. Thankfully the lower houses of representatives voted to repeal the law in its entirety.

In July Tunisia held a similar vote and repealed a similar law. Lebanon is currently contemplating voting on their version of the law.

Many countries around the world still have such laws in their legal systems with no sense of urgency to repeal them. Algeria, the Philippines, Libya, Palestine and Syria all retain this law, to name a few.

More Information (HRW)

Detention of Migrant Children in Greece

There are an estimated 117 unaccompanied minors being held in unsuitable police cells and detention centers in Greece as they await transfer to migrant shelters. This is a massive increase from the reported cases of 2 unaccompanied minors last November (2016).

The European Commission decided to transfer responsibility for these children, and EU funding, from Non-Governmental Organisations to the GRepreek government, which could exacerbate the growing problem. These children are vulnerable and in need of protection and safety. Instead they are being held like prisoners in unsanitary conditions, awaiting transfer to shelters.

The treatment of these children is appalling.

More Information (HRW)

Trump’s disregard for Civil Rights

This week President Trump “jokingly” encouraged police officers to use unlawful force against suspects in custody. As the law stands, there is little accountability of police officers in America. Trump’s encouragement for the use of unlawful violence against suspects (whether in jest or not) raises the depth of the problem.

The Republicans are pushing for the “Back the Blue Act” which would limit police accountability for officers who injure or kill suspects in violation of the law. The already limited accountability would be limited further, almost nonexistent. Though police are tasked with defending the population, and put themselves in danger, the use of unlawful force will lead to a fear filled public. Nobody will feel safe if the police can lawfully use force against them, with limited to no liability.

Since the start of 2017 581 people have been killed by police officers in the US. Encouraging the use of force by police officers will not make people feel safer but feel afraid of the police. Police brutality is a serious violation of human rights and should not be encouraged, jokingly or not, it is a serious issue that needs to have serious ramifications.

The proposed Act and Trump’s speech pose a serious threat to police credibility and pose serious threats of human rights violations.

More information (HRW)

That’s it for this week !

Thank you for reading !

 

24-30 July 2017

United Nations Committee Against Torture 61st Session

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) met for its 61st session under Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The session lasts from 24 July – 11 August.

I have set up a new page to detail the events of the session which you can view if you would like more information (UNCAT61). It will be updated as the session continues.

 

Transgender Rights in US Military

I’m sure many are aware of the terrible events that occurred this week in America. President Trump announced that the US military would no longer be accepting transgender people because of “medical costs”. The announcement was made via the President’s twitter account.

Obviously this is of huge concern to the transgender community, especially to those 15,000 serving members. It is also a violation of human rights on a number of grounds. Whether or not this new policy has come into effect is still unclear. The only information given was from the President’s twitter account.

Representatives of the White House have informed the military to wait for official guidance before implementing President Trump’s tweets. It is very unclear as to whether anything will come of this, seeing as it was only announced on social media without any formal acknowledgement from the military or official statements.

A post will detail the events in more detail later in the week. Of course for now the support shown to the LGBT community following the announcement has been heartwarming and I hope that nothing more comes of this disgraceful announcement.

More Information: RTE Report

Judiciary in Poland

A victory was seen this week in Poland when President Andrezj Duda vetoed a law that would jeopardize judicial independence from government. The proposed law would replace Supreme Court Judges with government nominees, removing the independence of the judiciary.

Judicial independence is a vital part of democracy. Separating judicial power from the executive and legislative organs of government allows for fair and non-political findings to ensure just law. Many worried the removal of independent Supreme Court judges was a step towards an authoritarian state.

Following mass protests President Duda vetoed the laws after advice from legal experts.

More information: BBC Report

Children Soldiers in South Sudan

South Sudan has now become the country with the highest number of child soldiers. UNICEF have estimated that 15-16,000 children have fought in the conflict. Child soldiers are commonly used in developing countries with the threat of death and physical punishment if they do not comply. Children are often used as “bodyguards” to officials and front line fighters.

Obviously this breaches a huge number of children’s rights including their right to education as they are forced to leave school to fight. Their right to freedom from violence, health, life and so much more are being violated by this practice. Very rarely are military punished for their use of child soldiers.

Swift international action is needed to end this practice and save these children from death. The use of child soldiers is a historic one and needs to be changed.

More information: Human Rights Watch Report

That’s It !

These are the top stories in human rights this week ! Thank you for reading and don’t forget to spread awareness about what you’ve read here or any other sources of human rights!

 

17-23 July 2017

Liu Xiaobo:

Nobel Peace Prize laureate died in custody on 13 July 2017 in China. Liu Xiaobo fought tirelessly for human rights and non-violence in China, hoping one day to achieve a democracy.

Xiaobo was imprisoned on 23 June 2009 on suspicion of inviting subversion of state power and was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment and two years deprivation of political rights. Xiaobo was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 during his prison term, the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize while residing in China, and the third to be awarded the prize in prison.

Liu Xiaobo was granted medical parole on 26 June 2017 after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Sadly he was never released and died in hospital, in custody, on 13 July 2017.

His contribution to the increased protection of human rights and push for democracy in China will never be forgotten, and his memory honoured forever. Following Liu Xiaobo’s death efforts are now in force to free his wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest.

Arrests in Turkey

Six human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director, were accused of aiding a terror group. The charges appeared to be arbitrary and unfounded and many international organisations called for their immediate release.

The activists are to remain in custody pending trial.

Chechnya

For those of you unaware of the atrocities occurring in the Chechen Republic (Chechnya) here is a short summary:

In February 2017 reports began to emerge of male residents being abducted, imprisoned and tortured by authorities, based on their perceived sexual orientation. An unknown number of these men have been killed. The men are reported to be held in “concentration camp” like conditions with frequent torture. Chechnya is part of Russia though it is mainly independent. The Russian government ignored the atrocities occurring in Chechnya until late May when it was agreed an “investigative team” would be sent to Chechnya.

Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has repeatedly claimed that there are no concentration camps because there are no gay men in Chechnya. He has condoned honour killings of gay people and has expressed an extremely violent homophobic agenda. He has claimed “we don’t have any gays here, such people are subhuman”.

The violence is worsening everyday with more and more gay men attempting to escape the small region. A few men who have survived their torture have come forward to tell their stories of brutal torture.

Many human rights activists and organisations have called for action to be taken in the Russian colony but nothing has been done as of yet. With more and more tales of torture and terror someone must step in and end this brutal treatment of the LGBT community.

Same-Sex Marriage in Germany

President Merkel of Germany has signed same-sex marriage into law, legalising same-sex couples to marry. The first marriages are expected to take place in October.

To celebrate, here is a brief history of LGBT rights in Germany:

1920s: Homosexuality was generally tolerated during the 20s and early 30s. Gay bars and clubs were set up in Berlin. Same sex relations between men was illegal under the 1871 German Empire but laws were not generally enforced.

1936-1949: With the rise of Nazism came the rise of homophobia. Nazis extended the 1871 laws during WWII which saw the mass persecution of homosexual citizens. Gay men were sent to concentration camps where they suffered horrific torture, cruel and degrading treatment.

1950-2000: Following the end of the war the Nazi extensions of the 1871 laws were repealed in 1950. Same-sex activity was decriminalised in both East and West Berlin in 1968 & 1969 respectively.

2001-2017: In 2001 same-sex couples could register for partnerships which provided most of the same rights as marriage. In 2005 same-sex step adoption was legalised and in 2013 a same-sex partner could adopt a child already adopted by their partner.

On 30 June 2017, the Bundestag (German Parliament) voted to legalise same-sex marriage and extend full adoption rights to same-sex couples. The law was signed by the President on the 21 July 2017. The law will come into effect on 1 October 2017.

That’s it ! 

Those are the top stories in human rights news this week ! To keep up to date on a daily basis please have a look at Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) and follow them on twitter for updates throughout the day (@HRW) !

Thank you for reading, I hope you took something away from this brief ! Remember that everyone can do their part ! Spread awareness, like a tweet, follow a human rights update account, join an organisation, talk about it with your friends, anything can make a difference !

In the words of the late Liu Xiaobo:

Free expression is the best of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth.

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