Archive for January, 2021


IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers

29/01/21

Faisal Yousef Mohamed

On 17 January 2021, human rights defender Faisal Yousef Mohamed was killed in his house in El Genena city, West Darfur by unknown individuals from armed militant groups. Two of the human rights defenders brothers were murdered in the same incident.

Faisal Yousef Mohamed was human rights defender and paralegal training to become a lawyer. The human rights defender was a member of Hay El Ameerya resistance committee, a committee that frequently organises peaceful demonstrations to promote civil and economic rights in Sudan. Faisal Yousef Mohamed was a member of El Geneana Para Legal Network, a network of paralegals who offered legal assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) in refugee camps in West Darfur. One of his main areas of human rights work was helping IDPs who had been victims of human rights violation seek justice by connecting them with lawyers.

On 16 and 17 January 2021, Faisal Yousef…

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President temporarily halts arms sales to Saudi Arabia

It’s only temporary, but it may be a start.  It is being cast as part of the normal review of sales which a new president undertakes upon taking office but let us hope that it becomes permanent.  The scale of destruction in Yemen continues apace so anything which acts to reduce it must be welcomed.

Sources: HRW; The Hill


Two people at risk of execution

Belarus is the last European nation to maintain the death penalty and this urgent action is asking you to take part in the campaign please.  In addition to the penalty itself, the execution is carried out in secrecy with neither the family or their legal representatives told when it will be nor where where they are buried afterwards.

Urgent Action

Belarus Embassy, London. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

 


UPDATE: 30 JANUARY 2021

Press release from Amnesty International on this subject.

UPDATE: 19 January 2021

In the BBC’s World at One on Radio 4 today, programme went someway to rectify the complete failure to mention Palestinians in their earlier broadcasts.  They had a lengthy clip and an interview with Tom Bateman in which this matter was discussed.  Whether this was in response to complaints about their previous bias we cannot know.  Amnesty was mentioned in the clip.  


Serious bias in BBC report on progress with vaccination in Israel

Last week, on the BBC’s radio 4 programme PM which is broadcast between 5pm and 6pm each day, the presenter, Evan Davies interviewed a journalist from the Jerusalem Post about the rapid progress being made in Israel with vaccinating its citizens.  Around 12% had already had their first vaccination and Evan Davies was clearly impressed.

What neither he, nor the journalist, mentioned it was only Jewish citizens who were being vaccinated, not Palestinians in the occupied territories or in Gaza.  Perhaps this news item was put together in haste and slotted into the programme as it was a rare good news story in the current gloom.

However, a detailed report has been produced six days ago by B’Tselem, based in Israel, which analysed in considerable detail the second class status of Palestinians (not just with vaccinations) and their report, called This is Apartheid, concludes that Israel is effectively an Apartheid state.  The BBC cannot claim ignorance.

BBC fails to mention that no Palestinians are being vaccinated in Israel

It is therefore very surprising and extremely troubling that on the BBC’s World at One programme today (18 January 2021), Sarah Montague hosted a 4 and a quarter minute clip – including an interview with the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent, Tom Bateman – again lauding the rapid progress made with Israel’s vaccination programme which has now reached 20%.  The interview was again a fulsome piece about what is happening in Israel but shockingly, neither of them mentioned that no Palestinians are being vaccinated.

Human Rights Watch points out that Israel, as the occupying power, is obliged under the 4th Geneva Convention to ensure that adequate medical supplies are available including for contagious diseases and epidemics.

The reasons for Israel’s actions are complex and they claim they have insufficient vaccines to give and that they have not received any request from the Palestinian authorities.  Given the pace of the vaccination programme, the former seems a weak argument.  Whatever the reasons, there seems no credible reason why the BBC, which is supposed to provide balanced reporting and impartiality, should twice broadcast pieces and interviews and completely fail to mention the lack of vaccination of Palestinians.

See our earlier blog on the B’Tselem.

The Israeli Government has strongly denied the Apartheid claim.

Sources: BBC; Independent, HRW


The US rushed to execute 13 before Jo Biden became president

Shock was widely expressed following the execution of 13 people in the final days of the Trump presidency and just days before president elect Jo Biden takes office on 20th.  President Trump has been the most prolific executioner in more than a century.  There has been a gradual drift away from this use of the penalty in the USA – the only American nation still to have the penalty – and the executions are out of step with trends and attitudes among the US public.  These executions took place in federal prisons. It has been criticised as vindictive.

The Attorney General, William Barr said:

[…] We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.  US Department of Justice statement when federal executions were resumed after two decades.  July 2019 [accessed 16 January 2021]

 

 


Report from the Israel Information Centre accuses Israel of being an Apartheid state

Older readers will remember the news bulletins from South Africa during the Apartheid era.  Pictures of white police officer beating black people, townships being bulldozed and signs on buildings and entrances saying ‘Nie Blankes’ the quaint ‘European Ladies only’ and ‘Caution, beware natives’.  These and other signs divided the country into a variety of areas into which people of colour could not travel unrestricted.  There were many other laws which severely restricted the lives of non-white South Africans.

Years of struggle finally ended the regime in the years 1990 – 1994.  The campaigns involved civil disobedience, boycotts and international pressure.

The system of separation, restrictions of movement and second class status applies in many similar ways in Israel and their treatment of Palestinians.  This is set out in some detail in a report by B’Tselem the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.  Entitled: A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid – published this month (January 2021).  It sets out in considerable detail the methods by which Israel has created a divided state with one law for Jewish people and another law for Palestinians.  These include not allowing Palestinians to move between different parts of Israel if their status would improve as a result; non-Jews have no rights to settle in the country; Palestinians not being allowed to live in certain areas for reasons of ‘cultural incompatibility’; not being allowed to demonstrate, and a whole range of laws which effectively confirms their second class status.  There are many more listed in the report.

Gaza of course is an egregious example which is almost a prison.  Movement in or our is tightly restricted and there is no port or airport.  The wall cuts a swathe through Palestinian territory.

The similarities to Apartheid are many.  Whereas it was based on race and colour in South Africa, in Israel it is based on nationality and ethnicity.  The report concludes:

As painful as it may be to look reality in the eye, it is more painful to live under a boot. The harsh reality described [in this report] may deteriorate further if new practices are introduced – with or without accompanying legislation. Nevertheless, people created this regime and people can make it worse – or work to replace it. That hope is the driving force behind this position paper. How can people fight injustice if it is unnamed? Apartheid is the organizing principle, yet recognizing this does not mean giving up. On the contrary: it is a call for change.

A future of peaceful coexistence seems unachievable while Israel maintains and continues to expand a two state country, with one group of citizens with all the freedoms of a modern state and another group denied most of these rights.

UK aid to Saudi Arabia

Posted: January 15, 2021 in Saudi Arabia
Tags: , , , ,

UK has funnelled £2.4m to the Saudis to help them comply with humanitarian law

Last year, there was a political fuss when the Department for International Development was merged with the Foreign Office and subsequently, its budget cut from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%.  David Cameron, when prime minister, had kept to the higher level despite a fierce campaign and a string of exaggerated stories by the tabloid press, principally the Daily Mail.  DFID had a good reputation and with broadly favourable audit reports on how and where the money was spent and its effectiveness.

A number of prominent Conservatives, including Andrew Mitchell, Tobias Ellwood and others, opposed the move.  The pledge to keep the 0.7% was in the last party manifesto.  There were many Conservatives however who were in favour of the cuts saying that the aid was best spent at home especially with the money needed for Covid.  The arguments against the aid were that it was wasted and one example quoted was India which can afford nuclear weapons and has a space programme.

It is more than a little surprising therefore to discover that HMG has been quietly funding the Saudi government to the tune of £2.4m over a 4 year period to help them with meeting international humanitarian law requirements.  In view of the Saudi regime’s continuing activities, it doesn’t seem like it is money well spent.  Opposition to the regime is ruthlessly crushed.  The women who argued for the right to drive languish in prison.  Executions continue apace with a record 184 in 2019.  Torture is routine.  And then there is the bombing of Yemen where there have been 8,758 civilian deaths and 9,810 injured.  During the period of this funding, the regime murdered and then dismembered the body of Adman Khashoggi.

So while aid will be cut – not just the reduction in the percentage itself but the reduction in our GDP because of the pandemic – money continues to flow to one of the richest countries in the world.

Sources: Human Rights Watch; Guardian; al Jazeera; Yemen Data Project

 

 

 

 


The death penalty report for December to January is now available thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.

Report- Word

Lisa Montgomery executed on Wednesday 13th


Lisa Montgomery was executed in the Federal prison of Terre Haute, Indiana today (Wednesday, 13 January 2021) after a long legal struggle to save her from this punishment. The case has caused a major debate in the US partly because Lisa was the first woman to be executed in nearly seven decades. She was executed in a federal prison, not a state one.

There is no doubt that her crime was horrific. But there seems little doubt also that her upbringing, which included being gang raped more than once, contributed to her lack of mental wellbeing and borderline personality disorder. It is unlikely she was aware of what was happening to her. She was the 11th person to be executed at Terre Haute since President Trump resumed federal executions.

The US is the only country in the Americas to retain the death penalty and not all states in the union practise it.

There is no evidence to support the maintenance of this penalty. It does not deter and it brutalises those involved in it. It can make securing convictions harder if juries are unwilling to agree a guilty verdict if there is a risk of execution. It is extremely expensive as we noted in a previous post and it has cost California for example, around $12bn to administer since 1978.  For poor people, unable to employ expensive lawyers, the system is stacked against them.  Mistakes – and there are many – cannot afterwards be rectified.  


View Amnesty International’s review of 2020 – a tumultuous year by any reckoning.

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