Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30 March 2011; Women's Rights Wednesday

Hey folks; I'm trying out something new and hope to do occasional Women's Rights Wednesday publications here -- let me know what you think and whether you have suggestions for other specific human rights topics I could cover in specialized weekly columns like this one. As always, thanks for your participation and feedback!

Geraldine Ferraro died this past week; she was the first female candidate for Vice President of the United States, running with Walter Mondale in 1984 on the Democratic ticket. That run paved the way for female politicians in local, state and national elections ever since. Her New York Times obituary is online here, the Economist's is here and the Guardian's is here.


Egypt = Women must be involved in the rebuilding of Egypt; they were excluded from the official constitutional amendment process on 19th March, which included the passage of a provision which could be interpreted to mean that only men are eligible for the office of President. Women, who were active and equal participants in the protests and demonstrations, must be included in the parliamentary and presidential elections as both candidates and voters. Citizens – men and women – fought for a free democratic nation and a new Egypt, and all must be included in the nation building. Women demonstrators on International Women's Day were attacked and told to go home and feed their babies, told that they were not proper Egyptians, and “now” is not the time to pursue women's issues. (HRW)

Egypt = Twice in one week, Egypt? Bummer. But that's what you get when you require female protestors to undergo virginity tests. As an Amnesty rep said, “women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment.” Having government security forces check your privates to determine whether or not you are sexually active reeks of torture, degradation and discrimination to me. (AI)

Gambia = A gathering this week brought together leaders, advocates and security officers to discuss the implementation of women's rights in Gambia, on issues including gender-based violence and the Women's Act of 2010. The goal was to educate young people about their rights and the government's obligations toward them. (AA)

Somalia = A class at the Burtinle Secondary School is involved in a pilot program called the Management of Maturation Project which gives teenagers life-skills classes and tries to prevent school drop-outs, especially of girls. The programming discusses questions such as why girls are most likely to drop out of school (the girls voted for early marriage as the most common reason, while boys thought it was menstruation) and encourages debate in general. (UNICEF)


USA = Walmart is involved in a massive class action suit regarding the allegation that female employees have been subject to a discriminatory policy which determined pay increases and promotion potential. (BHR)

Guatamala = Canadian company HudBay Minerals is accused in the deaths of eleven indigenous Mayan women who were allegedly gang-raped by mining company security officers, police and military personnel who helped expel the Mayan Q'eqchi community from their homes to make room for HudBay's Fenix mining project. (BHR)

USA = In Texas, an eleven year old was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions by at least 19 men. Why do we live in world where 19 men think it is ok to have sex with a child? What can we do to address this? (NYT)


European Court of Justice = The Court recently decided that it was “inadmissible for car insurance providers to take into account sex-specific differences” in determining insurance rates; men's rates will remain the same and womens rates will increase to match the mens. (ADB)

UK = The Whitehall government post dedicated to preventing female genital mutilation on girls in the UK is being abolished, to the chagrin of charities and campaigners. Over 20,000 girls in the UK are in danger of having FGM forced upon them. (GRD)


Libya = On 26th March Attorney Eman al-Obeidi burst into Hotel Rixos in Tripoli where foreign journalists were staying and, appearing bruised and battered, told the journalists that she had been raped by 15 men in Qadaffi's security forces. She had time to show the media her bruised face, thigh, and rope-burn marks on her hands and feet. She was then forcibly removed by security forces and journalists who tried to come to her aid were beaten. She has not been seen since, and the government, which has changed its version of events several times, is investigating her for possible defamation of its forces, claiming she is a mentally ill prostitute (as though that would make the beatings tolerable). Her mother is supporting Eman's claims, saying she is not ashamed of her daughter, but is holding her head up high because her daughter has shown she is willing to break a barrier by talking publicly about being sexually assaulted. She is not the only woman imprisoned, or in danger, as many women who support the rebels have been raped or threatened with rape for their involvement in the protests. (AI, HRW, FIDH)


Forbes recently posted this article, on The Power of Investing in Women.

This event at John Jay College looks interesting: Mona Eltahawy is giving a free lecture on Islam, Women and the American Experience tomorrow, Thursday March 31st at 6:30pm.

Sarah Degnan Kambou writes about why she is committed to ending child marriage here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

27 March 2011


Egypt = The new law announced this past Thursday which bans “strikes and demonstrations that impede the work of public institutions” is one more blatant example of why the current state of emergency should be immediately revoked; human rights are being subjugated by security concerns (sound familiar?). The current state of emergency is scheduled to be in effect until May 2012. (HRW)

Ivory Coast = Civil war? Increased fighting has led to more than a million people currently displaced in the capital, Abidjan, and the Western part of the country, with 100,000 refugees in Liberia. The pro-Gbagbo (ousted former president) forces are accused of burning people alive and the pro-Outtara (president-elect) forces are committing extrajudicial executions in the territories under their control. The UN Human Rights Council on Friday decided to send a commission to investigate this post-election violence. (HRW, JURIST)

Uganda = Human Rights Watch has published a report about the numerous extrajudicial punishments carried out by the Ugandan police Rapid Response Unit, available online at HRW.


Cuba = Yay! Activists Jose Ferrer and Felix Navarro were released from prison on Wednesday after 8 years as part of a deal struck between Raul Castro and the Roman Catholic Church regarding prisoners of conscience. (AI)

United States = Oh, Bradley Manning. Traitor he may (or may not) be as he has not yet stood trial, but isn't this another chance for us, America, to demonstrate the benefits of our democracy and justice system where all are presumed innocent until proven guilty and the ideals of prisoner care are—no, who am I kidding? Of course, we are keeping him in unreasonable detention conditions. Apparently that's just how we roll … human rights concerns go out the door when our national security is at stake (see Egypt post above). Shame on us. Again. (AI)


China = Activist and writer Liu Xianbin was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment “for writing articles critical of the government,” the 3rd time Mr. Liu has been imprisoned for writing about democracy and human rights. Additionally, this week saw the website of the Aizhixing Research Foundation (ARF) shut down by the local government's Municipal Information Office. ARF promotes the human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. (AI, FIDH)

Indonesia = Journalist Banjir Ambarita was recently brutally attacked after accusing police officers of sexual abuses, suffering stab wounds to the chest and stomach. The police allegedly participated in the gang-rape of a 15 year old and the repeated sexual assault of a detainee. (FIDH)

  • To take action helping to guarantee Mr. Ambarita's safety and carry out a thorough investigation into his stabbing, you may contact Mr. Patrialis Akbar, Minister for Justice and Human Rights, at


Hungary = This week begins the trial of four people accused of killing people of Roma descent in racially-motivated murders. Six people were killed in a series of nine attacks across Hungary, all upon Romani people, in a violent spree of hate-crimes. As recently as 6th March, the extremist Jobbik Party held an anti-Roma march in the village of Gyongyospata and vigilante groups are continuing to harass local Romani people. (AI)


Syria = Security forces are using live ammunition on activists and detaining peaceful protestors; four days ago, protestors were hit with tear gas and live ammunition, killing at least 34 people. Security forces have also attacked a mosque and possibly at least one ambulance, murdering a doctor. Journalists and bloggers are being detained, and locals fear for their care. Locals are responding peacefully: more than 20,000 people gathered for the funerals of the people killed in the mosque in a show of solidarity. (AJ, HRW, DN)


Los Angeles teachers rap about the layoffs; you can listen here, courtesy of anonymous duo Two Teachers & a Microphone. They advocate for community action – if you like what they say and live in Cali, by all means contact your local rep on their behalf.

The United Nations has released new Guiding Principles on Human Rights for businesses. The Principles create distinct benchmarks rather than legal obligations; the hope is that these Principles will shape operational contexts in the business world. (BHR)

The Brookings Institution is hosting an event entitled, “Foreign Policies of Emerging-Market Democracies: What Role for Democracy and Human Rights?” on April 14th and 15th; info available here.

Did you celebrate Earth Hour this year? YouTube went silent this Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30pm in each time zone. Did that move have any effect on you? Did you “celebrate” Earth Hour? What does it mean to you? (FC)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

22 March 2011 World Water Day Special Edition

The United Nations has defined access to adequate water as an important global issue with an estimated BILLION people lacking such access. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's message for the world today is available online here and includes the imperative that, “without water there is no dignity and no escape from poverty.” He also states that this year's theme is “WATER FOR CITIES” to highlight urban water issues. His future policies will “connect the dots among water, energy and food security.”

A World Water Day Slideshow: Everything You Need to Know About H20 is available online here, courtesy of GOOD magazine.

The UNICEF Tap Project is being implemented at thousands of restaurants this week; upscale dining establishments are asking patrons to donate $1 for tap water with their meals, reminding people that even tap water is a privilege in many parts of the world. Since it was launched in 2007, the Tap Project has raised $2.5million to support UNICEF's global water and sanitation projects. This year's revenue will be directed to Togo, the Central African Republic and Vietnam.

For positive ways to contribute and celebrate World Water Day this year, check out Mashable's list here.

A World Water Day photo slideshow and video are available on Terra's website here.

Here is the Center for Disease Control's World Water Day informational page.

The United Nations' Deputy Secretary-General has posted this youtube video for World Water Day.

Treehugger has posted this story which includes 22 links to “key stories for understanding water issues.”

Check out Chris Perry's award-winning animated short The Incident at Tower 37 here.


South Africa = This year's World Water Day conference concluded today in Cape Town. The theme was “Water and Urbanization: Responding to the Urban Challenge,” appropriately held on the African continent where the rate urbanization rate is the highest in the world. Over a thousand government, civil society and private sector representatives were present, discussing the relationship between water, public health, sanitation, and the need for better “collaboration and communication between sectors.” (IRIN)


USA = American scientist Stephen Carpenter has won this year's Stockholm Water Prize for his work on practical frameworks for freshwater resource management. (WW)


Philippines = Officials rehabilitating the Las Pinas-Zapote river system have won a UN Best Practice Award for their progress in a local re-greening process. The project has been underway since 2002, with local “river watch” volunteers planting bamboo and mangroves to prevent soil erosion after undergoing training in ecological solid waste and river management. (IRIN)


Occupied Palestinian Territories = A new wastewater treatment plant is being constructed near Rafah to serve 180,000 people with reduced-contamination water which will be clean enough for irrigation purposes. This should help reduce several public health and environmental risks, but overall the water situation in the Gaza strip remains critical. (ICRC)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

13 March 2011


Angola = The Jasmine Revolution is spreading … and so are government crack-downs. The Angolan government this week effectively stopped Monday's planned demonstration by threatening punishment for attendees and arresting journalists (from the private newspaper Novo Jornal), musician-poets and proposed demonstrators the night before the event. (HRW)

Libya = Among the fighting and upheaval, thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are being conscripted to fight for the Libyan forces by Colonel al-Gaddafi. Be this misguided forced nationalism or the result of racism, this must be stopped immediately. Many of these people—like Libyan citizens—are trying to flee the State at this time; their migrant status must not effect their basic human right to security of the body, as well as repatriation. (FIDH, GV, IRIN)

  • A follow-up to last week's story: BP has now stopped doing business with Libya. (CHNG)


Ecuador = Chevron, in addition to causing over $9.5Million in environmental damages to the Amazon Basin, has engaged in an 18-year-long campaign to undermine the Ecuadorian court. (BHR)

USA = Boo! In a move reminiscent of the notorious Red Scare era, the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security held hearings this week on the alleged “radicalization of the Muslim American community.” (HRW, BCJ, IPS)

Is it acceptable practice for the US Congress to evaluate the patriotism of a religious community?

USA = Yay! The Governor of the State of Illinois this week signed a law abolishing the death penalty in that state. America is slowly but surely, state by state, acceding to the internatioanlly accepted standard that the imposition of the death penalty is a violation of basic human rights. (AI)


Azerbaijan = Much like Angola (see above), authorities have been arresting, detaining and threatening people who plan to demonstrate in Jasmine Revolution protests. Additionally, this past Thursday the Ministry of Justice suspended a human rights NGO, the Azerbaijan Human Rights House. (HRW)

China = The Chinese Human Rights Defenders blog did a great piece on Female Human Rights Defenders in China in honor of International Women's Day; you can check it out here. (CHRD)

JAPAN = I'm sure all of us have been focused on the recent destruction in Japan, and are keeping our eyes on earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant developments there. I haven't seen much human-rightsy news yet (regarding health services, water, sanitation, food, etc) but did pick up an article wherein the group Architecture for Humanity has committed to helping rebuild Sendai when the proverbial and literal dust has settled. I'm hoping we will see many more positive actions in the coming weeks and months. (GOOD)


Britain = “Child soldiers” in the UK?? Apparently, yes. Britain's army may recruit soldiers at the age of 16, despite the fact that age of majority in Britain is 18 years to be able to buy alcohol, ride a motorbike, and rent violent movies (such as Apocalypse Now, which of course is about … war). Additionally, if a soldier enters the British military at age 16, they are still committed to 4 years of service after their 18th birthday, which is two years longer than anyone joining at age 18. (GRD)


Bahrain = Threats against Jasmine Revolution protestors now include very personal death threats against 3 human rights activists; the government thus far has done nothing to ensure or promote their safety. (AI)

Syria = Human rights attorney Haytham Al-Maleh was pardoned and released from prison this week after a year and a half of State detention. The International Commission of Jurists observed the trial of Mr. Al-Maleh, in which he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for “weakening national sentiments” among other accusations and issued a report which outlined consistent human rights violations throughout. (FIDH)

  • A group of approximately 12 prisoners detained in Damascus have been on a hunger strike since Monday, 7 March protesting their politicized trials; let's keep an eye on their situation.


The Human Rights Law Resource Centre and the Castan Center for Human Rights Law are hosting a seminar on 5 April, 2011 in Melbourne entitled, “Will the Revolution Be Tweeted? The Role of Social Media in Promoting and Protecting Human Rights.” (BHR)

UNICEF has a human rights podcast, “Beyond School Books,” highlighting the importance of education.

MotherJones publishes this Eco-News Roundup weekly.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

8 March 2011 - International Women's Day Edition


Folks, today is the 100th Annual International Women's Day. As you may or may not know, women's human rights issues are very near and dear to my heart. I hope you will check out some of the links and stories below and celebrate women with me today.

While some argue that women have gained many rights and are now on an even footing with men, the numbers tell a different tale (check out UNDP's Gender Inequality Index here). Despite the disparities in income, wealth, education, property ownership, opportunity, legal protections and basic respect as parents and homemakers, my focus is upon the great untapped resource of women globally, in the arts, sciences, economics, politics, journalism, legal arenas, big business, armed conflicts, peace negotiations, the home and as leaders in general in our societies. Our international culture can and must be improved by an increased presence of women in all of these sectors.


The most comprehensive list of events, not surprisingly may be found on the official website of IWD.

Cambodia = Boo! The government has unfortunately denied permission to the Cambodian Women's Movement Organization to hold a rally today.

Philippines = Valenzuela City is celebrating March as Women's Month by organizing a series of celebrations “to underscore women's role in society and to further promote their human rights.”

USA = The International Center for Research on Women is hosting an event this evening in Washington, DC bringing together “social pioneers for a conversation on breakthrough innovations poised to transform the trajectory of women's lives” and then presenting their annual “Champions of Change” award.

USA = The Tahirih Justice Center is also holding an event in Washington, DC tonight, to “celebrate the advances made over the last century, and to … fight to end global violence against women.”


UNWOMEN's online videos are all available here and they are awesome.

Judi Dench narrates and Daniel Craig acts in this 2 minute video for International Women's Day. Dame Dench reprises her role as M, and Craig his role as 007, as Dench discusses the various natures of women's current inequities in the UK.

Hillary Clinton's video message is available here.

Reese Witherspoon and AVON's message about violence against women is here.

The Russian take on IWD is online here.


WeAreEquals has posted a great interactive timeline of International Women's Day here.


THIS site is truly your best resource for everything IWD-related.

The Guardian newspaper has listed its Global Top 100 Women in Law, Top 100 Women in Politics, Top 100 Women Activists and Campaigners, and Top 100 Women in Writing and Academia.

The Daily Beast and Newsweek are honoring 150 Women Who Shake the World.

Author Murad H. Elsaidi has recently published this important article in the Muslim World Journal of Human Rights: “Human Rights and Islamic Law: A Legal Analysis Challenging the Husband's Authority to Punish 'Rebellious' Wives.”

This article in FastCompany magazine discusses how female farmers are and will remain an important force in fighting global food shortages.

A report on ways to reduce the risk of HIV for women is available here.


Mallika Dutt from Breakthrough's talk was my favorite. She said (and I am paraphrasing), “we are at a moment of crisis and opportunity; UNWOMEN provides us the opportunity to make a turning point into a tipping point, where 'women's issues' are taken seriously in politics … especially because we know that male politics have failed (look at all our wars and at the current Jasmine Revolution), so let us catalyze the power of the international women's movement and bring that power to the table … the table which is round, and respectful and forward-thinking."

I also really appreciated the words of Karima Bennoune, a professor of law at Rutgers, who said, “we need to maintain a vigorous championing of universality without exception because the daily struggles as human beings (against sexual assault, e.g.) are the most important; we must all be unapologetic supporters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in every situation.”

Sindi Medar-Gould from BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights also made some comments worth mentioning: “UNWOMEN must follow through on their international commitments; many nations sign the UN documents which support women's rights, but they never follow through; this is a deliberate political strategy because no one can be forced to implement the declarations they sign … UNWOMEN must look for and support gender-mainstreaming in very real ways, not just in ceremonial actions.”

Sunday, March 6, 2011

6 March 2011


Democratic Republic of the Congo = The “world capital of rape” continues to earn its title. Since January of this year, more than 200 civilians—women, men and children—have been treated for sexual assault by Doctors Without Borders in just one region of South Kivu Province. Rape has been used as a weapon of war fairly consistently since 2004 by the Rwandan Liberation group FDLR which is now based in Eastern DRC, just across the Rwandan border. However, this is largest scale of mass rape victims in years. (IRIN, OHCHR)

Ivory Coast = Political conflict is fueling a humanitarian crisis. Current but outgoing President Gbagbo allegedly cut off water and electricity to the Central, Northern and Western areas of the country for “national security” reasons. These areas voted principally for Presidential hopeful Allassane Outtara, the “internationally recognized winner of the November 2010 presidential elections” and fighting has broken out between groups loyal to Gbagbo and to Outtara. The conflict, combined with the lack of water and electricity has resulted in terrible sanitation issues as well as limited medical resources, as surgeries, for example, require both clean water and electricity. As the death toll rises, civilians are having to unceremoniously burn dead bodies to help prevent the spread of disease. (AI, IRIN)

Libya = I'm sure those of you who follow this blog are well aware of most of the actions in Libya this past week. Here are some additional doozies to consider:

  • Paramedics have been attacked by al-Gaddafi's Security Forces, despite the fact that the medical workers were wearing “full medical uniform” and arrived at the hospital in Red Crescent-marked vehicles. (AI)

  • A video “roundup” showing what has been happening on the ground is available online here.

  • BP is still doing business in Libya, engaging in offshore activities, despite the UN's imposition of sanctions on the current government. (CHNG)


China = Since local bloggers and activists have been calling for an extension of the Jasmine Revolution in China, authorities have cracked down on the media – including the foreign media. This past week, more than a dozen foreign journalists were attacked by Chinese police officers and “plainclothes thugs.” Despite China's agreed-upon October 2008 regulations regarding rights of media correspondents, officials have warned reporters that they must now apply for and “obtain government permission before any newsgathering within the city center.” (HRW, NPR)

  • If this is how the foreign media are being treated, what about the locals??


United Arab Emirates = The government this week announced its candidacy for a spot on the UN Human Rights Council. The Council is currently meeting in its 16th regular session in Geneva until 25th March. (UAEI)

Yemen = This week has seen more protestors attacked and fired upon by Yemeni officials, including during prayer time. (HRW)


A group of representatives of the apparel industry have formed a sustainable apparel coalition in conjunction with the US Environmental Protection Agency. (BHR)

The Brookings Institute has published a new (and very comprehensive) report on Education and Displacement: Assessing Conditions for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Affected by Conflict. You can find it online here.

March is International Women's Month – more on this topic on Wednesday, 8 March, International Women's Day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2 March 2011

Regular Readers, my apologies for this week's late edition! I blame travel and a sickly old laptop which had to be put to rest this week. The RoundUp will back on schedule this coming Sunday – see you then.


Libya = Wow. It appears that Colonel al-Gaddafi has completely lost it --- control of his nation, that is. In an unprecedented move this weekend, Libya's own UN delegation declared that they now represented the people of Libya, not its government, and appealed to the UN Security Council to take action against al-Gaddafi. In another unexpected move, the Security Council unanimously referred Libya to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity under international law, following Friday's UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva where the Council strongly denounced the human rights abuses being perpetrated in Libya. (AI, HRW, FIDH)

  • Apparently al-Gaddafi ordered some of his military pilots to fire on civilian demonstrators from the air. A petition has been started to support grants of asylum to two pilots who refused to kill unarmed protesters and escaped to Malta; you can sign it here.

  • For a good article on the role of technology in the Libyan protests, check out Fast Company magazine's recent article here.

Central African Republic = Diamond profits are still supporting armed and abusive rebel groups ... and the Kimberly Process (designed to ensure “conflict diamonds” are not put into the stream of commerce) isn't working. (AA)


USA = We all know how serious America is about following through on its international legal obligations (ahem), so despite the ILO's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the ICCPR's guarantees to trade union activity, etc. Wisconsin Governor and state legislators took away Wisconsin workers' collective bargaining rights in a 2am vote this week. The public response was immediate, with solidarity rallies in all 50 states this weekend. (HRW, CHNG)

  • Wisconsin residents are now signing a petition to recall Scott Walker as Governor in 2012, which has already gained 65,000 signatures; it is online here.


China = Chinese bloggers and “netizens” are calling for “Jasmine Revolution” protests … and the government is not surprisingly moving swiftly to stifle their voices. At least 5 people have been criminally detained for “subversion of state power,” a charge that could get these activists 10 years in prison. Additionally, more than one hundred people have had their residences raided, been beaten, interrogated or disappeared over the past week. (CHRD)


England = Two teenage college-hopefuls are suing their government for human rights abuses because university tuition was tripled starting next September. Public Interest Lawyers is representing the students, who argue the increased tuition disproportionately affects students from lower-income homes and ethnic minorities. England, as a member of the European Union, is subject to the European Convention on Human Rights and this tuition raise allegedly breaches Article 14 of that Convention. (GRD)


Bahrain = Yay!! The Bahrain 23 have been freed. Last summer, activists from government opposition groups organized a boycott of the approaching elections. The Ministry of Justice arrested and charged 23 activists with “forming an authorized group which incites to overthrow the government.” Since their arrest 6 months ago, the detainees have all been brutally tortured, spurring thousands of their colleagues to protest and blog about their treatment. This week the Bahrain 23 along with 250 other political prisoners were released from jail. (CHNG)

Yemen = With an average of 3 deaths per day since demonstrations started on 16 February, Yemeni security forces are now allegedly opening fire on protesters, attacking protesters' homes, outright executing people and barring both injured patients and doctors from entering hospitals. A doctor in the al-Mu'alla region was told, “Let them die!” by security officers who would not allow him to enter the hospital to treat people who had been injured in the demonstrations. (AI)


Any environmentalists out there feel like taking the Fate of the World into your hands? This video game lets players turn climate change issues around and save the future of our planet. If you purchase the Fate of the World before Thursday, all proceeds will benefit the global environmental-group coalition, TckTckTck. (GOOD)