Sunday, January 30, 2011

30 January 2011


Egypt = This week’s demonstrations and riots against police brutality and against President Mubarak have resulted in at least 33 civilian casualties in Alexandria, with estimates of over 50 people dead in a Cairo morgue -- due to excessive force and live fire on civilian protestors. Additionally, the Egyptian government imposed a nation-wide blackout, shutting down the internet and most phone networks. (HRW, FC, FIDH, AI, HRW)

Ethiopia = YAY! Two districts in Ethiopia’s Afar Region have outlawed Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting, citing the many health problems it causes women and girls. (IRIN)

Uganda = David Kato, a prominent activist for LGBT rights in Uganda was killed in his home this past Wednesday. He was the Advocacy Officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda and was an active opponent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before Parliament. This Bill would officially criminalize all homosexuality, making offenses punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. (HRW)

USA = The state of Pennsylvania’s Superior Court met this Tuesday to hear an appeal regarding whether or not to try Jordan Brown, a 13 year-old boy, as an adult. Jordan allegedly shot and killed his father’s pregnant fiancĂ©e when he was 11 years old. Currently, the international human rights community is in almost consistent agreement that putting a minor child on trial for a crime which could result in life imprisonment without a chance for parole, violates international law. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits this action, but the USA (along with Somalia) has not yet ratified that Convention. (AI, CBS)

Phillippines = Peace talks are scheduled to resume next month between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Phillippine government. Previous negotiations broke down in August 2008 and led to over half a million people being internally displaced. The most contentious topic will likely be Ancestral Domain in disputed territories. (AST)

UK = The UK high court—perhaps in response to the killing of David Kato (see above)—granted 29 year-old Ugandan Brenda Namiggade a temporary stay, rather than being deported home on Friday, as was originally intended. Ms. Namiggade is a Ugandan national and a lesbian who has been petitioning for asylum in the UK since 2002. (ADV)

• The Danish Institute for Human Rights, with the UN, has published The Arc of Human Rights Priorities, a guide developed for businesses looking to integrate human rights practices into their internal management.

· The Arc builds upon the Sphere of Influence concept, and is designed to allow companies to focus their resources on the most urgent human rights issues in their operations. (BHR)

TED Talks go old-school, sort of … you can now read several of their talks on your Kindle. TED Talks are publishing short (10,000 to 20,000 word) electronic books by authors who have given Talks. The launch is 3 TED favorites, including The Happiness Manifesto, for $2.99 each. (FC)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

23 January 2011


South Africa = This week, Johannesburg hosted a summit on global poverty. The participants were in general agreement that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are falling short of targets and will not be reached by the originally anticipated 2015 deadline. (IRIN)

  • Do the MDGs remain helpful targets? Is there a way to address accountability which would prompt leaders to work harder toward achieving these goals?

Sudan = The 9th-15th January voting period in Sudan on the Referendum for Secession was “peaceful and calm,” according to observers. The final results of the vote will be revealed on 14th February and are expected to return strongly in favor of Secession. (IRIN)

  • The women’s vote may be the deciding factor in the outcome of this Referendum. Local rights activists see separation as “liberation” for the women of the South, freeing them from the rule of Islamic law, which many see as the primary limit to their freedom. Polling returns show that the majority of women voted for Secession. (IPS)

Haiti = This week the City University of New York’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic issued a press release regarding the incidence of sexual violence against displaced women in Haiti. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is now pushing the Haitian government to “take immediate measures” to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the displacement camps, based on advocacy by CUNY and other Haitian and American human rights activists. (CUNY)

  • The decision is available online here.

Thailand = 85 detained Pakistani people remain in detention in Bangkok over a month after arriving in the country seeking asylum. The refugees are of Pakistan’s Ahmadi sect; while they consider themselves Muslim, Pakistan does not and discriminates against Ahmadi people. Local rights groups are concerned that the Ahmadi refugees face either indefinite detention in Thailand or persecution and prejudice back home in Pakistan. (IRIN)

Germany = This past Tuesday marks the start of Germany’s first Rwandan genocide trial. A former Rwandan mayor who sought asylum in Germany in 2002 is now being tried in a Frankfurt court for murder, genocide, and incitement to both. The German prosecutors partnered with the Rwandan government to gather evidence and secure over 50 witnesses. This case could mark the beginning of a trend: because many Rwandan refugees fled to European countries, the future will likely bring similar continued cooperation between European governments, the Rwandan government, and the International Criminal Court. (DW)

  • Is this a positive justice-sharing program? Are the European courts over-stepping their bounds? Should the ICC support these types of cases? What role does the Rwandan government have here? Would justice be better served by trying all of the accused within Rwanda?

Liberia Women Democracy Radio is now in its 6th operating month. The station was launched in August 2010 by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with funding from the UN Democracy Fund to focus on women’s advancement. The UN funding expires in March 2011 and the station is now looking for donations and sponsorships. The station focuses on both producing gender-relevant radio shows and on training female reporters, who are currently a tiny minority in Liberia’s media. (WEN, YWCA)

• The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights is offering an Advanced Training Course on Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva from 9th-13th May 2011. Course information and registration form are available here.

• Open Society Foundations just published a new study regarding the rule of law in international criminal cases in 3 African States, entitled “Putting Complementarity into Practice: Domestic Justice for International Crimes in DRC, Uganda, and Kenya” and available online here.

• The Final Report of the Organisation of American States Mission to Haiti regarding Vote Tabulation of the November 2010 Presidential election is available online here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

16 January 2011


Tunisia = This week, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country amid massive protests and Prime Minister Mohammad Ghannouchi declared himself interim president on Friday. A curfew has been established, where “gatherings of more than 3 people will not be tolerated” and the security forces have permission to SHOOT ON SIGHT anyone breaking curfew. Already the government reports that 23 Tunisians have been killed. At this point, apparently 95% of Tunisian lawyers are on strike, with the support of their Bar Association. (AI, HRW, FPA)

  • Clearly this is illegal under the ICCPR; how are Tunisia’s leaders justifying this? Thoughts? Comments?

USA = The state legislature of Illinois this Tuesday passed a bill to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. It will become law only after Governor Pat Quinn signs the bill; (you can contact Governor Quinn here). The death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1977, despite the general international understanding that the death penalty is a human rights violation. Some US states are now making strides to once again abolish the death penalty and help bring their country within international judicial and human rights standards. (AI)

Brazil = The Open Society Justice Initiative this week published a piece remarking on the December Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling on Brazil’s amnesty “for ‘political offenses’ committed during its 1970s military dictatorship.” The decision, Gomes Lund v. Brazil, essentially articulated that the public’s right to truth and information outweighs a government’s right to political amnesty for past offenses. (OSF)

China = As always, you can check out the excellent China Human Rights Defenders Weekly Briefing here.
Nepal = The International Center for Transitional Justice has published a new report entitled Across the Lines: the Impact of Nepal’s Conflict on Women. This report documents women’s roles in the conflict as well as the sexual violence perpetrated against women during this “people’s war.” (ICTJ)

  • The report is available online here.

Hungary = On Friday evening, protestors demonstrated against Hungary’s new media law which came into effect on 1st January this year. The law allows the government to penalize content which is not “in the ‘public interest.’” Protestors argue against both the vagueness of the law and its over-breadth: it includes “all public or privately owned media content, whether broadcast, print or web-based.” (AI)

  • You can check out photos from Friday night’s protest here.

Iran = Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer and mother of two young children was this week sentenced to 11 years in prison for “activities against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.” She has also been prohibited from practicing law or for leaving Iran for 20 years. Meanwhile, Shirin Ebadi says that “Iran’s government routinely levels these charges against lawyers, journalists, NGO workers and others whose work it finds troublesome.” (NYT, WSJ)

6 Billion Ways 2011: This gathering is taking place on Saturday 5th March 2011 in London to address the effect of large-scale human rights abuses on each of us individually. Its purpose is to inform and mobilize “a wide range of people on local and global justice issues” and it is billed as “a day that explores resistance.” This event is FREE and you can register online here.

HURIDOCS, Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems International, is calling for applications from disability rights organizations to receive free access to their Global Disability Rights Library. Check it out here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

9 January 2011


Tunisia = A protestor last month set himself on fire to campaign against unemployment measures. Since then, protests have continued across the country eliciting a violent reaction from police officers who have used live ammunition against the protestors, killing at least 20 people. (EGV)

Sudan = Today is voting day; Sudanese are deciding whether to pass the Independence Referendum which will decide whether the South will gain independence from Sudan. (EGV)

Congo = The Republic of Congo is on the brink of adopting a new law which would make it the first nation in Africa to ensure judicial protection for its indigenous peoples, as soon as President Denis Sassou Nguesso signs it. (IRIN)

Iran = Executions have reached a total of almost 70 people in one month, most recently including a public hanging in Tehran on January 5th. Advocates are concerned that many of these deaths are the result of Iran’s political and free-speech repression. Karim Lahidji of the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights has called on the international community to adopt targeted sanctions per the UN General Assembly Resolution of 21st December 2010 [Addendum 3, Draft resolution III]. (FIDH)

• The Human Rights World Affairs Blog Network has published a Human Rights Year in Review for 2010, which you can check out here. It also lists some issues to pay attention to in 2011; what do you think of these “predictions”? Do you agree? Did the author miss anything from 2010 you think should have been included?

Kakenya is a short film about a young Kenyan girl who is trying to become a teacher; you can find an interview with the filmmaker here. Have you seen it? Feel free to post a review here.

• US law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll is continuing their human rights advocacy work on behalf of foreign subcontractors working on US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently Agnieszka Fryszman, a partner at the firm, initiated a case under the World War II era Defense Base Act, scoring a 7 figure settlement for the family of a Nepalese subcontractor who was killed while working in Iraq. According to Fryszman, the men they represent were hired by a subcontractor working for KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary. (NLJ) Do you know of any other law firms or big businesses doing good work? Let me know and I’ll highlight them on the HRRU.

Dutch lawmakers are questioning Royal Dutch Shell PLC this month about its oil sector activities in Nigeria. Amnesty International claims oil pollution is degrading locals’ water and food supplies, as well as their livelihoods. (WSJ)

Columbia University’s Law School has put together an online Islamic Law Research Guide, a good resource for some basics on Islamic Law.

UN Women, a United Nations agency focused on “gender equality and the empowerment of women,” officially began operating on 1st January, 2011. (UNWomen)

As always, your comments, story suggestions and feedback are always welcome.

Here’s to a happy and human-rightsy 2011 for all!