Posts Tagged ‘“Human rights”’

Meeting

Posted: July 7, 2021 in Group news
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Group meeting on Thursday 8th July starting at 7pm (note slightly earlier time) via Zoom. All supporters welcome. If you would like to attend, reply to this (or on Facebook, or Twitter) and we will send you a link. You can see the minutes of the previous meeting here.


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

Video


President-elect Joe Biden has declared that human rights will be an important part of his agenda when he becomes president in January.  Following a period when President Trump rowed back on a lot of US commitments in this area, this is clearly welcome.  So how is this likely to look?

Trump pulled the US out of the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 and this year designated the International Criminal Court a “security threat.”  It is expected that a Biden administration will reverse these decisions as well as re-staffing the depleted Human Rights Department of the US Department of Justice and returning to various arms control agreements.  It is also clear that Biden will take a multilateral approach to international issues, unlike his predecessor.

The US-based organisation Human Rights Watch have urged the new administration to reverse course:

On November 9, countries at the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights record of the United States and offered recommendations on guaranteeing the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health, non-discrimination, voting rights, policing, and gender equality, among others.  The Biden administration should re-engage with the Human Rights Council, including by accepting Universal Periodic Review recommendations aligned with international human rights law, and realizing the human rights obligations identified by the council

They also urge the incoming regime also to repudiate the Department of State’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, which Trump set up to make a hierarchy of countries and abandon the universality of international human rights law.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, has also urged the Biden administration to take a new approach to international law and has indicated 3 areas where the new administration needs to change its human rights policy internally – gun control, asylum seekers and police reform (AIUK, 9 November 2020).

In the run up to the election, Biden made a number of statements in defence of human rights, notably in the Middle East, which he may well struggle to carry out.  In the last week or two, Egypt and Turkey have both made a large number of arrests of dissidents (maybe hoping to do so before Trump leaves), and Saudi Arabia is sending feminist activists to a terrorism court.

As Kareem Fahim writes in the Washington Post (27 November 2020):

The moves in recent days, by a trio of authoritarian governments that are close allies or partners of the United States, have put human rights issues front and center weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, in a pre-emptive challenge to his pledge to vigorously defend such rights.

 

Web sites

Posted: November 29, 2020 in Human rights,, Israel
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At the bottom of this site, you will find links to many websites involved in human rights activities, either in specific countries or globally. Just added are three sites involved in Palestine and Israel: Yesh Din; Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights Israel.


The worst human rights abusing nations set for seats on the UN’s Human Rights Council

The news that Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan, Cuba and China are set to take seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council today has sent shock waves around the world.  How can it be that the world’s worst abusers of human rights get to be in a perfect position to frustrate the work of the UN?

China is the world’s largest executioner of its citizens the precise numbers being a state secret.  It is committing what amounts to cultural genocide with the Uighurs in Xinjiang.  Around a million are incarcerated for what is claimed are programmes of re-education.  Women are being forcibly sterilised.  It is hard at work trying to stifle freedoms in Hong Kong.  It’s activities in Tibet have drawn years of censure. Torture is common and many are held incommunicado.

Russia is another state with a dismal human rights record.  Here in Salisbury we have experienced months of

Bench in Salisbury where the Skripals were found. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

disruption following the attempted murder of the Skripals.  There are no free elections in the country and it looks as though there was an attempt on the life of opposition leader Navalny with Novichok.  Many journalists have been murdered, simply gunned down in the street.

Freedom of association is severely restricted.  Torture and mistreatment are common. Human rights defenders and NGOs are targeted.  Corruption is on a massive scale aided and abetted by the City of London.

Saudi Arabia is almost in a league of its own.  We have featured on these pages for many years the continuing bombing of civilians and civilian targets in Yemen and recently we have noted the disgraceful decision by the UK government to resume arms sales to the country.  Torture is common, and they are one of the world’s worst executioners often in public displays of barbarity.  Women’s rights are highly restricted.

These countries, under their despotic and dictatorial leaders, are simply not fit to be on a council for human rights.  They have no intention of changing their laws and systems to improve matters, indeed it can be argued that all three are getting steadily worse.

The Council is supposed to ensure that all people know their rights and are treated fairly.  It is supposed to ‘check what governments do to protect the rights of its people in their countries’.  How it can do this with countries like this sat on the governing body is a mystery.

 

 


Women in Iran at risk

As news spreads that Iran could be facing a second wave of coronavirus due to an increase in the number of cases, the health and safety of Nasrin, Yasaman and other imprisoned women’s rights activists remains at risk.  Now more than ever, we must increase the pressure on Iranian authorities to release these women immediately.

Our campaigning has helped secure the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran before.  Please can help us do it again.  Please watch and share our post, featuring Iranian-born actress and Amnesty Ambassador, Nazanin Boniadi who has campaigned with us since 2008 on the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience.

 


Letter from Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty, to the Observer

We have featured on these pages the continuing scandal of arms sales to the Saudi regime.  Not only the destruction of large parts of Yemen these weapons are used for, but the fact that the Saudi regime’s repression of its own people and denial of human rights.  After China, they are the world’s second biggest executioner often following unfair trials and confessions extracted through torture.  But no matter, there’s money to be made.

Kate Allen discusses these factors in her letter to the Observer newspaper on Sunday 10 May 2020:

It is, as you say, long over overdue that the UK government put its relationship with Saudi Arabia on a healthier footing (Now is the time to distance ourselves from an odious regime, editorial 3 May, 2020).  For years, the UK has claimed behind-closed-doors diplomacy with Riyadh has been better than “lecturing” the kingdom over its appalling humans rights record.  Yet repression has only worsened including under the suppose reformer Mohammad bin Salmon.  Now virtually every human rights activist in the the country has either been locked up, intimidated in to silence or forced the flee the country.

We have sole Riyadh plenty of weaponry, but the UK hushed policy on Saudi human rights has sold the country’s embattled human rights community shamefully short.

The weapons are used in the war in Yemen the bombing of which has caused appalling damage to the nation’s infrastructure.

Attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have destroyed infrastructure across Yemen. Saudi forces have targeted hospitals, clinics and vaccinations centres.  Blockades have starved the population and made it hard for hospitals to get essential medical supplies.  Source; Campaign Against the Arms Trade

The UK is complicit: many of the Coalition’s attacks have been carried out with UK-made fighter jets, and UK-made bombs and missiles – and the UK government has supported them with billions of pounds of arms sales.

 


Speculation over health of Kim Jong-Un and his Nation

Kim Yong-Un

The unprecedented absence of North Korea’s leader from its most important state celebration, the Day of the Sun on 15 April, has fuelled speculation as to the health of Kim Jong-Un.   Suggestions from Daily NK – news supplied largely from defectors – is that the leader has recently received heart surgery.  No confirmation of this has been made to date however.  Another theory is that the leader is being protected from Covid-19, since Kim Jong-Un is often seen in close physical contact with people, offering handshakes and hugs, which make him vulnerable to the virus.

This secrecy surrounding his health inevitably extends to the health of the entire ‘hermit kingdom’.  While thousands have been quarantined, borders closed and tourists and foreign diplomats seen off, the government still insists there are ‘no cases in the country’.

Kim is however eager to be seen as pro-active in protecting the nation from the virus.  He recently chaired a public health meeting and has issued hygiene advice nationwide.  Pyongyang has received test kits from Russia and from China while various items of protective equipment have been donated by UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.

The ‘great leader’ would be reluctant in any case to admit to the arrival of the virus since any weakness might invite criticism of his regime.  It was fear of reporting the disease to central government that allowed it initially to spread in China but whether North Korea will learn from this lesson seems unlikely.  A defector who recalls practising medicine during the SARS outbreak of 2002/03 said that not only was medical equipment seriously lacking then, but deaths were going unrecorded.

Certainly the sheer length of the border between North Korea and China, and its regular use by smugglers and traffickers, would suggest that the virus might enter relatively easily. If it did, that would be a tragedy for the 40% of North Koreans reportedly undernourished. And while new hospitals have been built under Kim’s rule, experts say they mostly benefit the elite in this two-tier nation.

This month the defector Thae Yong-Ho made history by winning a constituency seat in South Korea’s government. Once deputy ambassador to the UK, he says he is determined to work for the freedom of his compatriots who live in virtual ‘slavery’.  The high price defectors pay (and there are on average 1000 per year) is the knowledge that their extended families will be detained, or worse, in one of the country’s many detention centres and labour camps.

Human rights, and the health care that these insist on, are sadly in very short supply in North Korea.

 

 

Sources: The Guardian, ABC News, TPM Seoul.

 


Credible evidence of prisoners killed during Covid-19 concerns

Around 36 prisoners in Iran are feared to have been killed by security forces after the use of lethal force to control protests over COVID-19 safety fears, Amnesty International has learned.  The full story can be read on Amnesty’s site:

Prisoner deaths: Iran

The situation in Iran is grave and the government has relaxed social distancing rules and travel restrictions in a move that could be disasterous.  The country is reeling from the continued US sanctions.

 


Edited: 10 April 20

We have chosen to review the book Twilight of Human Rights Law by Prof. Eric Posner (OUP) as it appeared in an article by Britain’s new Attorney General, Suella Braverman.  She refers to one of his arguments in a newspaper article.  In addition, the many attacks on human rights and the desire to abolish the Human Rights Act is part of current government policy.

The first part of the book is a tour d’horizon of the many failings in human rights around the world.  He instances massive violations in places like Rwanda, the appalling treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the terrible events in Chechnya and many other places around the world.  He rightly points out that although countries have signed up to treaties to abolish the use of torture, it is still widely practised.  He points to bad police practice in countries like India, Brazil and Indonesia.  Slavery is still the curse it ever was but organised in a different way.

International treaties have had little effect he says in improving behaviour.  In a small number of cases it has he concedes.  He discusses the imperialist criticism of western states seeking to impose their moral compass on other countries based on attitudes dating back to colonial days.  He instances the use of torture by the Americans at Guantanomo Bay following 9/11.  This was supported by a majority of Americans and thus challenges their claims of moral leadership.

The argument seized on by the Attorney General is that of a trade-off as far as the use of torture is concerned.  The argument here is that many countries have limited resources.  They have a choice between spending money on improving the police and stopping torture or, investing in health care or education.  Since better health care and eduction is likely to be of greater benefit to more people, it is a preferred option.

THE book is flawed in many important respects.  Although the arguments he provides and examples of failure and continuing violations and bad behaviour by many states around the world are true enough, it is not true to say that there have been no improvements in the human rights everywhere.  One of the problems is that transgressions are news: steady improvements aren’t.  So we read or see TV programmes about violations or genocide for example, but not small improvements in say, Russia.

The argument about torture assumes that there is an economic equivalence between improving police behaviour and education spend.  The two are likely to be vastly different.  Improving police behaviour and that of the judiciary would cost millions, education costs significantly more than that.  Moreover, education is a continuing cost, sorting out the police is more likely to be a one-off cost.  Getting rid of torture is likely to have benefits to society.  The police are trusted then they will get more support from the public.  He gives no credence to the fact that torture is ineffective.  People will say anything to get it to stop.

Another unconsidered factor is the very cost of running a police state.  To run a state like China where human rights are flouted on a massive scale, is immensely costly.  The Chinese monitor movements of its people, they have a vast system of tracking the worldwide web to ensure its citizens do not read what the state doesn’t want them to, and they employ a huge army of police and informers.  They have invested heavily in cameras and systems to watch its people’s movements.  It is not true to assume therefore that improving human rights is somehow automatically more costly than the politics of repression.

As AC Grayling puts it in his book Ideas that Matter (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2009);

The ideas embodied in all these human rights instruments have a powerful influence on thinking and behaviour, even if violation of them continues: hope has to lie in the future as these ideas become more widespread and more influential still.  (p179)

Although Posner gives a good summary of human rights, especially since the war, he does not discuss the longer history since Magna Carta. There has been a trend over centuries of citizens gradually acquiring more rights.  The European Court has, slowly but surely, done a lot to raise standards as has the International Criminal Court.  Nor does he credit the fact that the presence of treaties is an important support for people pressing for better rights in those countries where they are poor.  The many human rights organisations are able to pursue their arguments and press for changes precisely because there is a corpus of treaties and law to base their actions on.  The point overlooked by the professor is that the treaties enable action within the country itself.

He also makes great play of the numbers of treaties and long list of rights, which he says, renders them less effective.  He lists them all in an appendix but upon examination, many are restating the same points.  He seems to overlook the vast number of laws which govern most states.  These are constantly added to as new problems emerge or old problems need solutions, the Children Act for example.  The number of laws do not make improving society less effective – quite the opposite it could be argued.

Perhaps because Prof. Posner is a lawyer but he sees progress purely through the lens of law and treaties.  He does not take into account that laws are just one part of the equation.  A considerable amount is done by persuasion, human rights activists, diplomats and others (including Amnesty members) beyond pure legal action.

Overall, despite the long list of problems and failures, he does not convince that it is twilight for human rights.

Human Rights tableau, France