Category Archives: civil society

News Clips – July 8, 2016

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in ChinaCredit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Human Rights Bodies’ Activities

  • The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution supporting online users’ human rights and criticizing internet shutdowns. [Access Now; TechCrunch]
  • The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met with civil society representatives from the Philippines, Myanmar, and France ahead of those States’ interactive dialogues with the CEDAW Committee, which also took place this week as it began its 64th session. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has suspended its planned July (and October) sessions amid an ongoing, critical financial crisis. [IJRC]
  • The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights held a special meeting this week in Thailand to review its work, complete its annual report, and address new areas of work, including its Judicial Colloquium on the Sharing of Good Practices regarding International Human Rights Law and Human Rights Cases in Domestic Courts. [AICHR Press Release]

Conflicts & Humanitarian Crises

  • The UN Security Council agreed to reauthorize the deployment of African Union troops in Somalia for an additional year, to improve stability and reduce the security threats posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. [UN News Centre]
  • Amnesty International this week criticized the lack of investigation into war crimes committed by the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups during the 50-day siege of summer 2014, when approximately 1,500 civilians died in the Gaza Strip. [Amnesty]
  • More than 280 people were killed as a result of last Saturday’s bombing in Baghdad, the worst such attack in Iraq since 2003. [Al Jazeera]
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross called on the parties to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine to stop attacking infrastructure on which civilians depend. [ICRC]
  • Many thousands have fled the South Sudanese city of Wau amid fresh fighting. [Al Jazeera]
  • An independent inquiry into the United Kingdom’s role in the Iraq war has culminated with the release of the so-called Chilcot report, which finds serious flaws in decision making by British intelligence and politicians, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair. [Washington Post; NYT]
  • A terrorist attack in Dhaka killed 20 people and prompted increased calls for the government of Bangladesh to improve justice and accountability while respecting human rights, particularly of civil society and members of the political opposition. [FIDH]

Human Rights Defenders & Civil Society

  • As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visits Beijing, China’s year-long crackdown on civil society has come under increased scrutiny. [AP; Amnesty]
  • Another Honduran activist, a colleague of slain environmentalist Berta Cáceres, has been killed. [The Guardian]
  • In Zimbabwe, citizens stayed home and businesses closed to protest government corruption and shortages. [The Guardian]
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights joined other human rights bodies this week in condemning the murders of Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and his companions. [ACHPR Press Release]
  • The human rights community mourns the death of Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate, advocate, and Holocaust survivor, who died on July 2, 2016. [NYT; Enough Project; UN News Centre]

International & Domestic Courts

  • Following investigations and pressure from UN actors and civil society, Sri Lanka has agreed to establish, within a year, a special Sri Lankan court to try those responsible for human rights violations and war crimes committed during its internal armed conflict. [NYT]
  • A legal challenge to Brexit will proceed before a British court, which will be asked to determine whether parliament alone can initiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. [The Guardian]
  • Unconfirmed – and contested – reports are circulating that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has been released from custody in Libya, where he had been held in secret detention awaiting execution. [The Guardian; JiC]
  • A French court sentenced two former Rwandan mayors to life imprisonment on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide for their roles in the massacre of 2,000 people in a church, during the country’s 1994 genocide. [BBC]

Police Violence

  • Following the police killings of two black men, in Louisiana and Minnesota, earlier this week and the killing of five police officers by snipers at an otherwise peaceful protest against police brutality, in Texas last night, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on Persons of African Descent called on U.S. authorities to address the persistent lack of accountability for police killings. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is making good on his promise to violently crack down on the drug trade, with 45 people reportedly killed by police and civilians during his first week in office. [Al Jazeera]

 

Documentation, Local Prosecutions Advance Accountability for War Crimes in Syria

The UN Security Council meets on the situation in SyriaCredit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
The UN Security Council meets on the situation in SyriaCredit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The UN Security Council meets on the situation in Syria
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Germany recently began its first prosecution for alleged war crimes in Syria, joining the several States and private actors seeking accountability for atrocities committed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. [The New Arab] Despite the lack of a final peace agreement, human rights experts are encouraging State governments to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity through domestic trials, such as the one that just commenced in Germany, or before an international court, such as the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal. [BBC; Reuters] Additionally, other entities have been actively collecting evidence of international crimes for any future trials that may take place, which may prove helpful to local prosecutors taking on cases such as the one in Germany. [New Yorker; Fox News] While political and practical challenges could continue to impede a referral to the ICC or creation of a special tribunal, these trials and documentation efforts demonstrate progress towards accountability. Read more

Rwanda Withdraws Access to African Court for Individuals and NGOs

Credit: Wouter Engler via Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wouter Engler via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wouter Engler via Wikimedia Commons

The government of Rwanda has announced it will no longer allow individuals and non-governmental organizations to directly file complaints against it with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR). [Ministry of Justice Press Release] The decision comes as the African Court is set to decide a claim against Rwanda by a leading opposition politician, Victoire Ingabire, who alleges her imprisonment for genocide denial was unfair and politically motivated. [AfCHPR Press Release; HRW] Rwanda deposited the withdrawal on February 29, just over three years after it first deposited the declaration under Article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The government asserts that the withdrawal is intended to prevent exploitation of the individual complaint procedure by criminals, particularly individuals who took part in the 1994 genocide and have subsequently fled the country. [Ministry of Justice Press Release] The Protocol does not outline a withdrawal process, and the Court has yet to make a decision on the validity of the withdrawal or how it will affect pending cases against Rwanda. Only eight African Union (AU) countries have submitted declarations allowing individual complaints to the Court, and Rwanda is the only State to withdraw, potentially reducing the number of AU countries where individuals and NGOs have direct access to the Court to seven. Read more

Increased Oppression of Chinese Human Rights Defenders Draws International Criticism

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard 0

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Human rights monitors have expressed alarm at China’s ongoing crackdown on those critical of the government. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, recently drew attention to the Chinese government’s continued oppression of human rights defenders and government critics, specifically referring to a wave of arrests and harassment of civil society actors that began after the implementation of a controversial National Security Law last July. [OHCHR Press Release: China 2016; OHCHR Press Release: China Security Law 2015] Some 250 human rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists have been arrested in the ensuing eight months, and an additional 15 human rights lawyers were arrested last month, a majority of whom face charges of subversion of state power and could face between 15 years to life in prison. Among those arrested are some of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, including Li Heping and Wang Yu, both known for defending activists and political dissidents. [Guardian; Reuters] Mr. Zeid echoed human rights organizations in calling on China to release those lawyers who were arrested for performing their professional duties. [OHCHR Press Release: China 2016; Amnesty: Activists; Human Rights Watch]

The High Commissioner also stressed the crucial role of civil society and public participation in ensuring national security and the rule of law. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for the Chinese government to ensure that its national security efforts do not oppress the rights of public interest workers to exercise their freedoms of expression, assembly, and association and has, therefore, criticized China’s ongoing treatment of human rights defenders as threats to the country’s peace and security. The oppression in China is part of an increasing global trend to use national security measures to dilute the power and freedom of human rights workers. Accordingly, Mr. Zeid urged governments to recognize and respect the importance of human rights and public participation in ensuring national security and upholding the rule of law. [OHCHR Press Release: China 2016] Read more

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