Posts tagged human rights
Posts tagged human rights
More prisoners have joined a hunger strike at the US-run detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, bringing the reported total to 93 out of 166 held at the facility, according to media reports. Lawyers for the detainees claim that the actual number is higher.
“The illegal detentions without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay have gone on for more than a decade with no end in sight, so it’s not surprising that detainees feel desperate,” said Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch. “The Obama administration simply has to do more to end this unlawful practice that will forever be a black mark on US history.”
Human Rights Watch has long called for an end to the practice of indefinite detention at Guantanamo, which violates international law. More than half of the detainees currently at the facility were approved for transfer to their home or third countries by an Obama administration interagency task force in 2009. Congress restricted those transfers but the Defense Department still has the ability to transfer the cleared detainees as long as certain safeguards are in place. Human Rights Watch urged the Obama administration to use its authority to begin transferring detainees out of the facility as soon as possible.
Photo: © 2009 Reuters
The Russian government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society in the year since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency that is unprecedented in the country’s post-Soviet history.
The authorities have introduced a series of restrictive laws, begun a nationwide campaign of invasive inspections of nongovernmental organizations, harassed, intimidated, and in a number of cases imprisoned political activists, and sought to cast government critics as clandestine enemies.
All photos © Human Rights Watch
Tajik authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate the brutal beating of an opposition leader. Mahmadali Hayit, deputy head of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), the country’s largest opposition party, was attacked in the evening of April 19, 2013, outside his home.
“This was a savage attack on a prominent opposition figure in an election year, which raises many concerns about the motivation”
- Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Photo: Mahmadali Hayit, deputy head of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, lies in his hospital bed at the National Medical Center in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on April 20, 2013. © 2013 Human Rights Watch
GUATEMALA CITY — She holds one of the most dangerous jobs in this spectacularly dangerous country, confronting the most feared and powerful men of the Guatemalan present: gang leaders; dirty public officials; shot-callers in the Mexican drug cartels who have bled in from the north.
She is also taking on the titans of Guatemala’s past: military men and security chiefs whom she has accused of human rights abuses during the nation’s brutal 35-year civil war. Guatemala’s emblematic 20th century strongman, Efrain Rios Montt, has been under house arrest since January, when her office charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity.
Claudia Paz y Paz, a 46-year-old former human rights lawyer, has served as attorney general since December 2010, earning a reputation as the most aggressive prosecutor the Central American nation has seen since the war’s end in the mid-1990s.
The challenges she faces are formidable: The Guatemalan homicide rate has roughly doubled in the last decade, because of ghastly cartel slayings in the countryside and a rise in crime, much of it gang-related, in and around Guatemala City, the capital.
Moreover, she inherited an office tarnished by scandal and a dismal conviction rate. Her critics, meanwhile, accuse her of re-fighting the civil war in the courts on behalf of the Guatemalan left, not administering justice, they say, so much as settling scores.
Pictured: Atty. Gen. Claudia Paz y Paz, seen in October, is taking on the titans of the Guatemalan past: military men and security chiefs whom she has accused of human rights abuses during the nation’s civil war. (Moises Castillo, Associated Press / October 11, 2012)
Iranian human rights activist, lawyer and Sakharov Prize winner Nasrin Sotoudeh has been on hunger strike for more than four weeks in reaction to the restrictions imposed on her family and the mistreatment of political prisoners by Iranian authorities.
Several demonstrations have been held outside Iran to protest (like this one in Norway) against Stoudeh’s detention.
A Bahraini woman walks past a poster demanding the freedom of jailed human rights activist Nabeel Rajab during the third day mourning procession of Rajab’s elderly mother, Rabab, in Manama, Bahrain, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. Rajab is on a hunger strike after authorities, who allowed him to leave prison for the first day of funeral rites for his mother, revoked his permission to participate in the following two days of rites, according to relatives and human rights activists.
[Credit : Hasan Jamali/AP]
Bahrain appeal court upholds activists’ convictions
An appeals court in Bahrain has upheld the convictions of 20 activists and opposition figures for allegedly plotting to overthrow the state.
The verdicts, originally issued by a military court following the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations last year, include eight life sentences.
Among those convicted was Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who went on a 110-day hunger strike in protest at his detention.
The defendants, seven of whom were tried in absentia, plan to appeal.
Human rights groups have demanded their release and said no evidence was presented by the authorities at the trial showing the activists had used or advocated violence during the protests against King Hamad.
Also sentenced on Tuesday were Hassan Mushaima and Abdeljalil al-Singace, both leaders of an unauthorised Shia group, the al-Haq (Truth) Movement for Liberty and Democracy.
Pictured: Rights groups say no evidence was presented showing the activists had used or advocated violence
Imagine this: The three men sit in a Moscow court, awaiting their verdict. The youngest, an experienced dissident described by Western media as a “sultry sex symbol” with “Angelina Jolie lips,” glances at his colleague, an activist praised by the Associated Press for his “pre-Raphaelite looks.” Between them sits a third man, whose lack of glamour has led the New Republic to label him “the brain” and deem his hair a “poof of dirty blonde frizz.” The dissidents — or “boys” as they are called in headlines around the world — have been the subject of numerous fashion and style profiles ever since they first spoke out against the Russian government. “He’s a flash of moving color,” the New York Timeswrites approvingly about their protests, “never an individual boy.”
If this sounds ridiculous, it should — and not just because I’ve changed their gender. These are actual excerpts from the Western media coverage of Pussy Riot, the Russian dissident performance art collective sentenced to two years in prison for protesting against the government. Pussy Riot identifies as feminist, but you would never know it from the Western media, who celebrate the group with the same language that the Russian regime uses to marginalize them.
Read more. [Image: AFP/Getty]
Argentina’s Videla and Bignone guilty of baby theft
Two former leaders during Argentina’s military rule have been found guilty of overseeing the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.
A court in Buenos Aires sentenced Jorge Videla to 50 years in prison and Reynaldo Bignone to 15 years.
They are already serving lengthy jail sentences for crimes committed under military rule, between 1976 and 1983.
At least 400 babies are thought to have been taken from their parents while they were held in detention centres.
The verdict is the culmination of a trial that began in February 2011.
In total, 11 people, most of them former military and police officials, were facing charges.
Nine, including Videla and Bignone, were convicted in the case over the theft of 34 babies. Two were found not guilty.
Videla, 86, received the maximum sentence as he was held criminally responsible for 20 of the thefts.
The court said Videla was guilty of the “systematic abduction, detention and hiding of minors under the age of 10”.
Videla listened to the verdict without showing any visible emotion. Both he and Bignone were already serving time in prison.
Videla was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for the torture and deaths of 31 dissidents during his rule.
Bignone was also given a life sentence in April 2011 for the torture and murder of political opponents.
Victims’ groups nevertheless welcomed the latest verdicts as a confirmation of the defendants’ guilt for what many consider as the most heinous crimes committed under military rule.
Pictured: Jorge Videla (l) and Reynaldo Bignone (r) showed no emotion when the verdicts were read
Former detainees and defectors have identified the locations, agencies responsible, torture methods used, and, in many cases, the commanders in charge of 27 detention facilities run by Syrian intelligence agencies.
The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.
Check out the interactive map here.
Aung San Suu Kyi gives Nobel acceptance speech 21 years later
LONDON – Twenty-one years after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi made her acceptance speech at last on Saturday during her first tour of Europe after spending most of the last two decades under house arrest.
“When I joined the democracy movement in Burma, it never occurred to me that I might ever be the recipient of any prize or honor. The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realize their full potential,” Suu Kyi said. “When the Nobel committee chose to honor me, the road I had chosen of my own free will became a less lonely path to follow.”
The 66-year-old democracy campaigner was greeted with a standing ovation by the glittering crowd inside Oslo city hall in the Norwegian capital. She spoke clearly and firmly, showing no sign of the exhaustion-induced illness that struck her at an earlier stop in Switzerland.
She recalled learning that she had won the 1991 Nobel Prize by hearing news of it on the radio in Burma, also known as Myanmar. With her movements restricted by the country’s ruling military junta, she was unable to receive the award in person; her now-late husband accepted it on her behalf. But the recognition helped ease her isolation.
“It had made me real once again. It had drawn me back into the wider human community, and what is more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma,” Suu Kyi said. “We were not going to be forgotten.”
Her belated speech Saturday was made possible because of the Burmese government’s recent political liberalization, which has earned praise from around the world.
“There have been changes in a positive direction,” Suu Kyi said. “Steps towards democratization have been taken. If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.”
Rather, all sectors of Burmese society must actively participate in and support the reform process, she said. And in the only part of her address to be interrupted with applause, she called for the release of other political prisoners in her country.
“I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience. As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the oft-repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many,” she said. “Those who have not yet been freed, those who have not yet been given access to the benefits of justice in my country number much more than one. Please remember them and do whatever is possible to effect their earliest, unconditional release.”
Suu Kyi’s tour of Europe will also take her to Ireland and to Britain, where she was once a student at Oxford. In London, she will enjoy the rare honor of addressing the British Parliament.
On Saturday, Suu Kyi emphasized the need for universal human rights to be upheld around the world.
“Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concern for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart,” she said, then urged her audience: “Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness.”
Pictured: Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi delivers her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech 21 years after she was accorded the honor. Credit: Ragnar Singsaas / Getty Images
Bahrain rights activist Nabeel Rajab back in detention
Prominent Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been re-arrested on suspicion of posting tweets seen as critical of Bahrain’s ruling system.
Mr Rajab is accused of publicly insulting residents of a Sunni-dominated neighbourhood for their ties to the ruling dynasty, lawyers said.
The case is the fifth since May against Mr Rajab, who was bailed last week.
Last year, Bahrain cracked down on Shia-led protests against the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family.
Dozens of people died in the unrest, and rights activists have been routinely prosecuted by the authorities, drawing international criticism.
Pictured: Nabeel Rajab has been an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s ruling royal family
Pall cast over U.S.-China deal over Chinese dissident
In events that could deal a blow to the Obama administration, activist Chen Guangcheng appears to question whether officials had dealt with him in good faith.
BEIJING — For several hours, it appeared the U.S. and China had struck a deal that would allow Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to walk free — and avoid a diplomatic disaster.
American officials said Wednesday that they had had obtained promises from Chinese authorities that the blind 40-year-old lawyer could live in a Chinese city of his choice and attend a university to continue his legal education. They portrayed Chen, who had dramatically fled house arrest in his village for the protection of the U.S. Embassy hundreds of miles away in Beijing, as exuberant over the deal.
But shortly after Chen was released from the embassy on Wednesday, he appeared to question whether officials had dealt with him in good faith. In a series of phone interviews from a hospital room, Chen said he had agreed to remain in China under the U.S.-devised deal only because American officials had told him that his wife would be beaten to death if he left the country.
“We’d like to rest in a place outside China,” Chen said in an interview late Wednesday with the Associated Press. He entreated U.S. officials for help in leaving for a safe refuge.
The cascade of events left U.S.-Chinese relations in a questionable state and threatened to deliver an embarrassing blow to the Obama administration.
American officials, who had hoped they were on the verge of a diplomatic triumph, denied that they had warned Chen that harm could come to his wife, and scrambled to convince skeptical Chinese activists and the world that in their six days of tense negotiations they sought only to do what Chen had wanted.
But the setback risked damage to the administration’s efforts to show itself strongly committed to the cause of human rights in China. And it threatened to prolong a diplomatic crisis with China a day before the opening of high-level talks aimed at smoothing relations on urgent issues including Iran, Syria and the global economy.
Pictured: Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, right, as U.S. State Department legal advisor Harold Koh applauds in Beijing. (U.S. Embassy Beijing Press Office, AFP/Getty Images / May 1, 2012)
Mexico passes law to compensate victims of crime
Members of Parliament in Mexico have unanimously approved a bill which will provide compensation to the victims of organised crime.
The law will create a national body to record such crimes as kidnapping and forced disappearances.
It will also oversee legal, medical and financial support to crime victims.
About 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon began deploying soldiers to fight organised crime in 2006.
Under the law, relatives of people who have been killed or forcibly disappeared can claim for compensation, as well as those who have been kidnapped or wounded as a result of organised crime.
The law will also apply to victims of human rights abuses carried out by the security forces.
Pictured: Activists Javier Sicilia (l) and Teresa Carmona had lobbied hard for the passing of the victims’ law
Afghan women are being jailed for ‘moral crimes’, says report
Courts failing to protect women, many of whom are in prison for running away from home or adultery, says Human Rights Watch
Nearly half of all women in Afghan prisons are being held for “moral crimes” such as running away from home or adultery, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
After more than a decade of international efforts to reform the legal system and women’s rights in Afghanistan, the report found that despite a number of improvements, women still face extremely limited protection in the court system.
The report focused primarily on the imprisonment of women who fled their homes to escape abusive situations. In almost all such instances, those responsible for the abuse did not face any legal actions, while the victims faced prison sentences.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world that interprets sharia law to prohibit women from running away from their home without permission.
“In our view this misuse of the made up crime of running away is emblematic of the difficult position that women find themselves in Afghanistan today. There has obviously been progress in education for women and healthcare for women and employment and travel for women. That’s all been good, but the progress that has been made is precarious,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
“Particularly as the international community pulls back militarily from Afghanistan we believe that it’s important too that the Afghan government and the international community recommit themselves to the rights of all Afghans, including women,” he added.
In one case described by the HRW report, a woman named Souriya Y was given away for marriage at the age of 12 to resolve a family dispute. Her husband was abusive, but her father encouraged her to be patient. Nine years into the marriage, her husband accused her of running away and having sex with one of his enemies. Souriya told HRW she saw the man she was accused of running away with for the first time in court and says her husband made up the story to get rid of her and shame his rival. She was convicted and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
The report follows numerous similar indicators that present a stark situation for women. A UN report published in winter found that despite the creation of a law designed to protect women, nearly two years after its inception it is rarely enforced. Meanwhile, a separate report by Oxfam found that 87% of Afghan women reported experiencing physical, psychological, or sexual abuse or forced marriages.
With a legal system that often punishes women for reporting violent crimes against them such as rape or abuse, a number of women do not speak up for fear of facing judicial reprisal.
Pictured: Women’s rights in Afghanistan have improved but the situation could deteriorate when international forces leave the country, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters