Apartheid in Israel: UN report


UN report concludes there is apartheid in Israel

In a significant development this week (21- 27 March 2022), the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the OPT published a landmark report concluding that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. Due to his mandate, he was only able to look at the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories but his findings are similar to Amnesty’s.  Amnesty’s detailed response can be read in full here.

This is a link to a short video made outside the Israeli Embassy in London to highlight the campaign against apartheid.

In a previous post, we discussed the issue in greater detail and provided links to two other reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch which provide copious evidence of the Israeli government’s dreadful behaviour towards its Palestinian citizens. The UN report can be accessed here.

The response from Jewish groups has been fierce. A report in the Jewish Journal included the following quotes:

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar accused Lynk (the UN rapporteur) of promulgating “baseless and outrageous libels previously published by NGOs that share the same goal as the author of this report: to delegitimize and criminalize the State of Israel for what it is: the Nation State of the Jewish People, with equal rights for all its citizens, irrespective of religion, race or sex.”

Jewish Journal, 24 March 2022

Other comments include assert the report is ‘biased’ contains ‘outrageous libels’, ‘baseless allegations’ and a ‘gross distortion of the truth and should be placed in dustbin of antisemitic history’.

Good News From Iran: Death Sentence Overturned


A man sentenced to death for an offence when he was a child has had his sentence overturned by the Iranian Supreme Court after 18 years on death row. Mohammad Reza Haddadi was 15 years old when he was arrested in 2002 on charges of committing murder while stealing a car. Although he initially pleaded guilty he later explained that his two co-defendants had coerced him by promising him money to take the rap for the murder telling him that he would not receive the death penalty as he was underage. Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still uses the death sentence against minors even though it is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits the use of the death sentence for crimes committed by anyone under the age of 18. However, in Sharia law, the “age of criminal responsibility” for children is defined as the age of maturity, which means that females over 9 lunar years of age and boys over 15 lunar years of age are both eligible for execution if convicted of “crimes against God” (such as apostasy) or “retribution crimes” (such as murder).

The law grants judges the discretion to replace the death penalty with an alternative sentence if they find that there are doubts about the individual’s comprehension of the nature of the crime or consequences, or their full “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime. International human rights organizations say Iran is responsible for more than 70% of all juveniles executed in the last 30 years with at least 63 in the last decade, including at least six in 2018 and four in 2019. Given the security state, suppression of civil society activists, and limited interaction with detainees, the number of juvenile executions is likely to be significantly greater than reported.

In 2020 Iran carried out at least 246 executions with 194 were for murder; 23 for drug-related offences; 12 for rape; four for “armed insurrection against the state”; five for “enmity against God”; two for espionage; one for “spreading corruption on earth” and one for drinking alcohol. One execution was carried out in public and nine women were executed. Hanging and shooting were the methods of execution. The Islamic Penal Code continued to provide for execution by stoning, for some consensual same-sex sexual conduct and extramarital sexual relations. The death penalty was increasingly used as a weapon of political repression against dissidents, protesters and members of ethnic minority groups.

Repost from Amnesty

Singapore: execution to continue


Fury at decision to execute man with learning disabilities

In the early hours of yesterday morning (29 March) morning, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a man with intellectual disabilities on death row in Singapore, lost his fight in court against his execution. The courts may have rejected his appeal, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong could still save him.  Nagen still needs this community to keep fighting for a life-saving pardon. The decision has received world wide condemnation. Singapore does not have a favourable human rights record and uses repressive laws against political opponents and human rights defenders. Human Rights Watch describes the country’s political environment at ‘overwhelmingly repressive’ with severe restrictions on free expression, association and assembly.

Nagaenthran claims he was coerced into carrying a package of heroin but that he was unaware of the contents. The UN has said the sentence is disproportionate and no allowance had been made by the authorities for his disabilities. His IQ is said to be 69.

In the 48 hours before his hearing, over 4,000 people made their voices heard and tweeted Lee Hsien Loong asking for Nagen to be spared. Only the Singaporean government can save him now, should they decide to show compassion and grant him a pardon that will spare his life.

Because of your support, Nagen is not standing alone in his fight for his life. For details and how you can help follow this link to the Reprieve site.

We include a link to a video of an interesting talk by Kirsten Han on the subject of the death penalty in Singapore.

Sources: Amnesty; Guardian; Reprieve; Human Rights Watch.

Formula 1 in Saudi


Can nothing stop the F1 circus?

Despite the enormous scale of death and destruction taking in place in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the F1 Grand Prix still took place there (Saudi).  The Saudi regime is desperately keen to use sport as a means to whitewash its appalling human rights record.  Not only is it causing misery in Yemen but it has recently executed 81 people in a single day in Saudi itself almost certainly after torture was used to extract confessions.  Executions are usually carried out by beheading. 

There was a time when sport was confined to the back pages of newspapers or at the end of news bulletins.  It was about sport itself with reports of competitions, league tables or medals won.  The use of sport to promote nations has a long history and in recent times we have seen enormous sums spent by regimes to secure medals at the Olympics.  Recently, the notion of ‘sports washing’ has become established with Saudi Arabia a prominent player.  In addition to boxing promotions, golf and Formula 1, it has poured a huge sum into Newcastle United football club

A recent edition of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CAAT, newsletter (Issue 262) provides an update on the destruction in Yemen.  In November, the UN estimated that 377,000 will have died.  This would be the total to the end of 2021.  Unfortunately, they say, ‘the escalating death toll and overwhelming evidence of repeated breaches of international humanitarian law have done little to curb the arms dealers: to them it represent a business opportunity’.  Since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015, the value of UK sales to Saudi Arabia amounts to £20 billion.  Further details and background can be found on the Mwatana site.

CAAT reports that the UN failed to renew the mandate in October for the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen following intense lobbying of council members by the Saudi regime.

Saudi Arabia

Human rights infringements continue in the country itself.  Critics of the government or ruling family are routinely jailed.  Prejudice against women and the LGBT community is practised.  Many people are executed in barbaric fashion after wholly unsatisfactory trials.  Reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty provide further details.

No impact on F1

None of this seems to have an impact on Formula 1.  It is interesting to note however that, following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, the F1 race due to take place in Sochi this year was quickly cancelled.  It seems truly bizarre that they were able to act with great speed following the Ukraine invasion but prolonged death, destruction and egregious human rights abuses in Yemen and Saudi has not made any impression.  Could it be the considerable publicity the war has attracted and the actions being taken against Russian oligarchs meant that any attempt by F1 to carry on as usual was simply not possible?  Whereas, what is going on in Saudi and Yemen only rarely makes it onto the front pages thus enabling them to carry on with business as usual. 

Saudi is spending billions on its campaign to improve its image and holding various sporting events and some sporting authorities seem immune to what is going on.  It seems as though the lure of money – and lots of it – is too great.  They exist, as one commentator puts it, in a vacuum.  Perhaps we should not be too surprised at F1’s flimsy approach to human rights when its former boss Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed on Times Radio defending President Putin as an ‘honourable man’. 

Sources: HRW; Amnesty; Daily Express; Guardian; al Jazeera; BBC

New HR site added


The Institute for Human Rights and Business has been added to our list of human rights sites to be found at the bottom of this page. The institute says it is ‘the leading international think tank on business and human rights. IHRB’s mission is to shape policy, advance practice, and strengthen accountability in order to make respect for human rights part of everyday business’.

Saudi executes 81 in one day


News that Saudi Arabia has executed 81 people in one day has shocked the world. Where or how is not known but the usual method is beheading. It surpasses the 63 executed in one day in 1979. So much for the reforms Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to be introducing.

The dead were unlikely to have received a fair trial. They would almost certainly have been tortured into providing confessions. Saudi television said that those executed had ‘followed the footsteps of Satan’.

The executions brings into sharp focus UK relations with the regime. Saudi is our biggest overseas buyer of weapons many of which are being used in the war in Yemen. While our news media is giving wall to wall coverage of the war in Ukraine, the bombing of Yemen hospitals, clinics, weddings and other communal events gets scant coverage. Tens of thousands have been killed, including many children, and cholera is endemic.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, is due to visit the kingdom in the next few days to try and increase the supply of oil. One wonders if the executions and the outrage they have caused will feature in the discussions. A Reprieve action urging Johnson to cancel his trip is here. Saudi Arabia has invested in Newcastle Football Club.

A report by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights report on this can be accessed here. This organisation has been added to our list of contacts to be found at the bottom of the page.

Let us not forget the Uyghurs


The focus on Ukraine risks us forgetting other abuses around the world

One of the problems with crises such as that in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, is that other terrible events can risk being forgotten. It is as though we can only cope with one crisis at a time which may well be true enough. As we watch the horrific events unfold in Ukraine, we must not forget that millions suffer in Syria, Myanmar, Yemen and in China.

In a recent edition of the New Statesman magazine (18 – 24 February 2022), there were several articles under the general heading of The Silencing focusing on the plight of the Uyghurs in China. There were pieces by Katie Stallard, John Simpson, Elif Shafak, Rian Thum and Musapir. Some of the points made are repeated below.

The opening ceremony of the recent Winter Olympics which was described as ‘jarring and banal’. A Uyghur skier stood on a podium with a member of the Han community (the dominant one in China) in an attempt to show harmony and to send the message ‘genocide, what genocide?’ Unfortunately she could not be interviewed as she failed to appear in the media zone. It was denounced by the Uyghur Human Rights Project as a ‘political stunt meant to deflect international criticism as though parading a Uyghur athlete around somehow disproves the party state’s well document atrocity crimes’.

The state has implemented a ‘devastating system of collective punishment that targets the Muslim population of Xinjiang’. Attending a mosque or growing a beard is considered suspect. Hundreds of internment camps and a suffocating network of surveillance technology have been built and between 10% and 20% of the adult population has been detained.

John Simpson notes that ‘the 12 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China are suffering one of the most intense policies of collective punishment since the end of the Second World War: a campaign designed to change them as a people, remould their beliefs and limit their numbers.’

Satellite images examined by the Australian Strategic Policy Unit (ASPI) have identified at least 380 detention centres ranging from low-security installations to fortified prisons complete with watch towers, high walls and barbed wire. Some of these were seen in a recent Channel 4 documentary.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that they estimate 83 Chinese and foreign brands have allegedly benefitted from the forced labour of Uyghur prisoners and they name Apple, Amazon, Marks and Spencer, Nike and Adidas among others. There have been repeated claims that much of China’s cotton, which is grown in Xinjiang, is produced by slave labour.

Elif Shafak bemoans the shear number of crises around the world and the difficulty we have in coping with it all. She quotes the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, attacks on abortion rights in USA and the ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in Ethiopia as well as Myanmar. She says one thing that dictators and demagogues know is that numbness is transmissible – that is our indifference and detachment as global citizens.

Every time we fail to investigate a gross human right violation, every time we turn a blind eye to atrocities because we have trade deals or financial engagements, we are closely observed not only by that particular country’s government but also be the authoritarian regimes across the world. for they know that when one of them is met with numbness it will benefit them all. This is how democracy loses. Not only “there” but here and everywhere.

New Statesman 18 – 24 February 2022

As we are learning with Russia and Ukraine, financial interests have dominated our policy and there is now, belatedly, an attempt to control the flow of Oligarch money following the invasion.

UPDATE 8 March 2022: The full ASPI report on Uyghur oppression. Other reports can be found on the ASPI site. More companies listed in the appendix include: Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Electrolux, Gap, Diesel, Zara, Rover, Mercedes-Benz, VW, Nintendo, Nokia, Levi’s, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Calvin Klein, Adidas and many more [accessed 10 March 2022]. NB: the appendix has been updated to include denials by some of the companies named (not included in this list) and other less well-known companies in the UK have not been included.

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