Tag Archives: human-rights

Draft anti-terror, sedition laws seriously undermine freedom of expression: UN

Posted: April 11, 2015 at 7:40 am

GENEVA UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein today urged the government of Malaysia to withdraw its proposed amendments to the 1948 Sedition Act.

He warned that the new provisions would seriously undermine the freedom of expression and opinion in the country and would be in breach of Malaysias Federal Constitution and its international human rights obligations.

Zeid also expressed concern at the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday this week. Among the serious human rights shortcomings in the law are provisions that allow the indefinite detention of individuals without trial and the granting of sweeping powers to law enforcement authorities without sufficient safeguards to prevent abuses and ensure accountability for violations of human rights.

The UN Human Rights Office has long urged Malaysia to either repeal the 1948 Sedition Act or to bring it in line with international human rights standards. The government had committed to repealing the Act during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2013, the High Commissioner said.

It is very disappointing that the Malaysian government is now proposing to make a bad law worse.

The proposal to amend the overly broad Sedition Act, tabled on Tuesday, further broadens the scope of the offences and introduces harsher penalties, including up to 20 years imprisonment for aggravated sedition. New provisions for travel bans are also worrying as they may allow for arbitrary restrictions against individuals on the basis of an ill-defined law.

These proposals are particularly worrying given that the Sedition Act has been applied in many instances to curb the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression in Malaysia including through the arrests of individuals for merely tweeting their criticism of government policies and judicial decisions, the High Commissioner said.

Since the beginning of 2014, at least 78 people have been investigated or charged under the Sedition Act and in 2015 alone, so far, at least 36 individuals have already been investigated or charged.

High Commissioner Zeid urged the government to review the cases of all those who have been charged under the Sedition Act.

Silencing dissent does not nurture social stability, but an open democratic space does, the High Commissioner said. Curtailing the legitimate exercise of human rights in the name of fighting terrorism has been shown, time and again, to backfire and to only lead to festering discontent and a strong sense of injustice.

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Boko Haram fighters murdered women and girls they held as wives

Posted: April 8, 2015 at 5:40 pm

BERLIN The U.N.s human rights chief said Wednesday his office has received reports that Boko Haram fighters retreating from advancing military forces in Nigeria murdered women and girls they had taken as wives, along with other captives.

The recapture of parts of northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks has brought to light gruesome scenes of mass graves and further evident signs of slaughter by Boko Haram, Zeid Raad al-Hussein told a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Zeid gave no further details of what he said were multiple reports of fighters killing their so-called wives in fact, women and girls held in slavery and other captives. Boko Harams reported use of children as expendable cannon fodder and human bombs would, if confirmed, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, he said.

Zeid said there also are persistent and credible reports of serious rights violations by Nigerian and other security forces responding to Boko Haram. He called for thorough and fully transparent investigations by authorities.

The Islamic extremist militants have terrorized northern Nigeria and also attacked towns in neighbouring countries, prompting nations in the region including Chad and Niger to put together a force to combat them.

Zeid said he is profoundly concerned about the growing ethnic and sectarian dimensions of the conflict.

Boko Harams original leader was from the Kanuri ethnic group, and the U.N. human rights office has received reports indicating that Kanuris are now considered suspect by some military personnel, resulting in arbitrary arrests and abuse, Zeid said.

Boko Haram, meanwhile, has begun targeting Nigerians of Shuwa Arab origin apparently in retaliation for their perceived support to the Nigerian armed forces, he said.

There is thus a high risk of escalating ethnic and religious violence, Zeid said. This can only be halted by principled leadership and clear instructions to military personnel, with appropriate accountability.

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UN body tells Russia to act against human rights abuses

Posted: April 3, 2015 at 5:52 am

GENEVA: United Nations experts on Thursday called on Russia to repeal laws limiting free speech and targeting homosexuals and urged action to prevent torture, racist crimes and a wide range of other human rights abuses.

The 18-member Human Rights Committee also told Moscow it should move to prevent violation of U.N. pacts that it has signed by insurgents in eastern Ukraine and by the authorities in the Chechen republic, and in Crimea.

The calls came in a report that indirectly drew a picture of a country rife with persecution of critics of the government and of groups that do not conform to its political and social views, and that gave no recourse to a proper judicial system.

The 12-page document largely referred to reports of abuses and violent activities, including by what it called “ultra-nationalist, racist and neo-Nazi groups”, and of torture of suspects by police.

The Committee, which monitors signatory countries’ performance under the 1976 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, issued the report after examining Russia’s record and hearing comments by Moscow’s delegation.

During discussion in the Committee late last month, Russian officials denied the truth of the many of the reports cited by the body’s members, who include non-government lawyers and academics from developing and developed countries.

The U.N. report said laws signed by President Vladimir Putin – including on limiting Internet activity and restricting links between Russian non-governmental organisations and foreign groups – “appear” to violate the U.N. Convention.

The Committee said it was concerned by reports of hate speech and violence against gays and called on Moscow to “clearly and explicitly state that it does not tolerate any form of social stigmatization of homosexuals”.

It also noted “under-representation of women in decision- making positions” in political life and urged Russia to fight “patriarchal attitudes” on the role of women and men in the family and society at large.

(Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Louise Ireland)

UN body tells Russia to act against human rights abuses

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New U.N. Investigator to Probe Digital Spying

Posted: March 27, 2015 at 12:41 pm

The United Nations’ top human rights body agreed on Thursday to appoint a special investigator to probe digital spying and violations of online privacy. Brazil and Germany spearheaded the resolution, which voiced deep concern over electronic surveillance and the interception of digital communications, as well as data collection by governments and private companies. Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents two years ago that exposed mass surveillance of private emails and phone data across the world. Brazil’s government fell out with Washington at the time over revelations that the NSA had eavesdropped on President Dilma Rousseff. Snowden has said the U.S. also carried out large-scale electronic espionage in Germany. “States must respect international human rights obligations regarding the right to privacy when they intercept digital communication of individuals and/or collect personal data,” Brazil’s ambassador Regina Dunlop told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Geneva forum, whose 47 members include the United States, adopted the text unanimously. U.S. ambassador Keith Harper said Washington had backed the call for an investigator because it has long championed human rights domestically and internationally. The U.N. council said the special rapporteur, who has not yet been selected, would have three years to document violations and urged all states to cooperate with the new mandate.

Eileen Donahoe, a former U.S. human rights ambassador now with Human Rights Watch, said the New York-based activist group hoped the move “marks the beginning of a serious global reckoning with mass surveillance and its effects.” ACLU Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar called the announcement “a big victory for privacy and human rights.” He added: “It comes at critical time when people around the world are looking for robust safeguards against privacy abuses by governments.”

First published March 26 2015, 3:06 PM

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Libyan human rights defenders under attack UN report

Posted: at 12:41 pm

Libyan human rights defenders under attack UN report

GENEVA (25 March 2015) A UN human rights report released on Wednesday reveals a catalogue of violent attacks and threats against Libyan rights defenders, across Libya and in some cases even after they are forced to leave the country.

Attacks, including killings, abductions, torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful deprivation of liberty and death threats by phone and on social media since the escalation of fighting in May 2014 have been documented in the joint report by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office. Armed groups across the country have targeted human rights defenders seeking to shed light on and address human rights violations and abuses.

Most recently, prominent civil society activist Entissar al-Hassaeri was shot dead last month in Tripoli. Her body and that of her aunt were found in the trunk of her car on 23 February. Two members of the National Commission for Human Rights-Libya, a human rights NGO, were abducted on 13 and 14 February in central Tripoli. Both have since been released, but other human rights defenders and members of civil society remain missing or have gone into hiding.

Given the increasing risks, the killings of prominent human rights defenders and repeated threats, many have fled the country, fallen silent, or have been forced to work in secret at great risk to themselves and their loved ones, the report notes.

Those who managed to flee abroad face a plethora of problems linked to their residency status, expiration of passports with no possibility of extension at some local Libyan consulates, loss of income, and other financial difficulties. Some human rights defenders who have fled have explained that they continued to receive death threats on their mobile phones and social media pages. In at least two cases human rights defenders were physically assaulted in Tunisia, apparently by Libyans.

In one such case, a media professional and womens rights defender from Benghazi, left the country in late 2014 after numerous threats, including a text message threatening abduction of her son. Her car was struck, apparently deliberately, by another vehicle and a factory she owned was set on fire. She has continued to be outspoken and has continued to be threatened after moving abroad.

On 19 October 2014, as she was walking to the train station, she was stopped by a car with Libyan license plates, the report says. The passenger threw a cup of coffee at her warning: youactivist and journalistnext time it will be acid.

Another journalist and human rights defender received threats, including of sexual violence, on her Facebook page. We will come to your house and break your honour, read one post. After fleeing Libya in August 2014, she continued to receive threats via Viber and text messages.

Another human rights defender left Tripoli in September 2014 after being repeatedly subjected to physical assaults, short-term detentions and abduction threats directed at his family.

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Call to protect human rights of all in disaster response

Posted: March 22, 2015 at 9:43 pm

Vanuatu: After devastation, UN experts call to protect human rights of all in disaster response

GENEVA (20 March 2015) A group of United Nations human rights experts* called on Vanuatu and the international community to adopt a human rights framework as the basis for recovery in the aftermath of cyclone Pam, while noting that the new global framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted this week includes human rights as a guiding principle in mitigating natural disasters.

The experts on the right to adequate housing, and on the human rights of internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities and on older persons expressed their solidarity with the people of Vanuatu and deep concern for the widespread devastation caused by the storm.

The destruction brought upon by cyclone Pam has left thousands of people displaced or insecurely housed. As one of the poorest countries in the world, residents of Vanuatu who already had very little, have now lost everything.

In the wake of such a disaster, and as emergency response and reconstruction plans are discussed, it is imperative that a human rights framework be the foundation for recovery and rebuilding efforts, which must be inclusive of all. Post-disaster recovery and rebuilding activities are essential to ensure the fulfillment of the human rights of all.

Current reports by the UN and international aid organizations note that approximately 4,000 people have found refuge in 39 evacuation centres in Efate. In the capital city, Port Vila, approximately 90% of housing has been seriously damaged.

Temporary housing is an essential aspect of an emergency response, however it must still meet human rights standards and it must not be the sole focus. Those who are staying with relatives or families should also be assisted appropriately. Longer-term housing needs must also be considered and planned for immediately.

Lessons learned from past natural disasters around the world shed light on the way forward. In all phases of disaster response the right to adequate housing should be respected and protected. This means ensuring security of tenure; availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; affordability, habitability and accessibility of housing; an appropriate location for housing; and cultural adequacy.

We are concerned over the conditions in evacuation centres, which reportedly vary enormously, with overcrowding, privacy and security identified as serious issues. We are particularly concerned about the risk of sexual violence against women and girls, as lighting is lacking in most of the centres.

In the coming months as the rebuilding process evolves, access to housing, land or space will become an important part of rehabilitation. We are particularly concerned for the most marginalized groups. They will need special attention for example, womens privacy needs and the rights and needs of those with disabilities must be addressed. An age perspective has also to be included in all stages of disaster management and policies, from their elaboration to their execution.

Call to protect human rights of all in disaster response

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(CYG) Demonstration against Human Rights violations in Chad – Video

Posted: March 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm

(CYG) Demonstration against Human Rights violations in Chad
On the 8th of March in N'Djamena, the capital city of Chad, peaceful demonstrators who were fighting for their right of assembly and freedom of speech, again had to face harsh violations…

By: M.E. I.Y

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(CYG) Demonstration against Human Rights violations in Chad – Video

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Politics: 'Free speech' defenders are endorsing homophobia

Posted: March 14, 2015 at 4:58 am

When SBS flatly refused to broadcast an ad for a Christian lobby group which claimed same-sex marriages would force children to miss out on a mother or a father during their Mardi Gras coverage, a few commentators argued that the decision was a hasty blow against free speech.

Not least of them was out gay Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, who describes the ad as distasteful and inappropriate, but insists it should still have screened.

Below, Melbourne secondary school teacher Alexandra OBrien disagrees. How comfortable would these free speech! defenders be if we were talking about a racist ad instead?

It blows my mind when I see people using the old right to free speech argument on social media as if this right gives companies and individuals the power to incite hate and fear, especially when using mass media outlets, such as the channel 7 and 9 anti-gay marriage ads which ran during Sydney Mardi Gras.

Im not going to endorse the institution of marriage here (hell nah), however lets get one thing straight for all of you closeted bigots out there who cry free speech when someone points out the homophobic, or perhaps racist or sexist comment that you are secretly supporting: No one, and I mean no one, has the right to cause further harm to an already oppressed, marginalised and vulnerable group.

There is no question that the LGBTIQ community, especially its youth, need protection, not condemnation.

In relation to the anti-marriage equality ads, the Australian Christian Lobby was happy to twist the statistics of one peer-reviewed study to suit their agenda, but in doing so they neglected that in a large queer specific study by The Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in partnership with The University of Western Sydney it was found that 33% of LGBTIQ youth have committed self harm, 64% have been verbally abused, 42% have thought about self-harm and suicide, 16% have attempted suicide and 18% have been physically abused. There is no question that the LGBTIQ community, especially its youth, need protection, not condemnation.

The old saying goes that a lie will go around the world while the truth is pulling its boots on and so yes, there is cause for restrictions of this so-called right to freedom of speech, and that is when it is being used to cause harm to oppressed and vulnerable people. Lets look to the European Convention on Human Rights who states that freedom of expression may be subject to restrictions or penalties and dont freak out, in Australia these restrictions come in the form of laws such as the sex discrimination act, telecommunications law (to avoid menacing, harassing or offensive communication), and the offensive language in public act. These are all restrictions in place to protect not to endanger.

According to The Guardian commentator Nesrine Malik however, there is a loophole. She argues that those who fancy themselves defenders of free speech must be consistent in their absolutism, and stand up for offensive speech no matter who is the target. So, where are the ad campaigns demoting and attacking interracial marriage, or indigenous rights and equity, or perhaps womens and childrens rights to safety? surely any such campaigns would be valid and protected by the virtuous freedom of speech argument? Oh wait, no they are not, because the general population understands them to be unethical and harmful.

So, to you bigots who hide behind your self-entitled right to freedom of speech, let the rest of us never forget the golden rule: When you defend something, you are actually endorsing it.

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Politics: 'Free speech' defenders are endorsing homophobia

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Dark Leviathan: The Failure of Silk Roads Libertarian Utopia (w/ Henry Farrell) – Video

Posted: March 11, 2015 at 7:49 am

Dark Leviathan: The Failure of Silk Roads Libertarian Utopia (w/ Henry Farrell)
George Washington University Professor, Henry Farrell, explains the role of Tor browser by human rights activists, civil libertarians and criminal organizations. Criminal subcultures and trust….

By: Sam Seder

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Dark Leviathan: The Failure of Silk Roads Libertarian Utopia (w/ Henry Farrell) – Video

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China's new counterterrorism law could heighten human rights abuses

Posted: March 7, 2015 at 5:44 pm

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) — A new counterterrorism law that will heighten surveillance in China is raising fresh concerns among human rights activists and in Washington.

The law, currently in draft form, requires technology companies doing business in China to surrender encryption codes, give backdoor security access to the Chinese government and retain data storage systems within China, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Critics of the law pointed out that China is exploiting the threat of terrorism to increase its grip on all information.

Human Rights Watch has called the law a “license to commit human rights abuses.”

The organization also has stated the 106-article draft defines terrorism so broadly it could easily “include peaceful dissent or criticism.”

President Barack Obama has expressed disapproval of the law’s overreaching powers to affect U.S. technology companies and how they operate in China.

China’s official news agency said Obama’s objection was “another piece of evidence of the arrogance and hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy,” referring to the lack of due process in Guantanamo and increased U.S. government power under the Patriot Act.

Human Rights Watch said the draft law was created in response to violence that has erupted in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China.

The Uyghurs are an ethnic Muslim minority. Uyghur attackers were blamed for a 2009 attack that killed several hundred people in Xinjiang.

In March 2014, eight knife-wielding assailants attacked a crowd at a train station in Yunnan province, and these incidents have been used by the government to crack down on 10 million ethnic Uyghurs.

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