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News Clips – October 25, 2010

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights begins holding hearings today in its 140th Period of Sessions.  Issues to be discussed today include the Situation of Environmentalists in Mesoamerica, and Discrimination against the Transsexual, Transgender, and Transvestite Population in Brazil.  See the week’s schedule of hearings here.  Webcast of some hearings is available here.
  • The IACHR has called on the United States to suspend the execution of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan, following its grant of precautionary measures in Landrigan’s favor last week.  The Commission subsequently held that the U.S. violated the rights of Landrigan, who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, when he was sentenced to death by a trial judge rather than a jury using a procedure later found to be unconstitutional, but was never granted a new sentencing hearing.  The Commission requested the immediate suspension of his execution. [IACHR] Amnesty International USA questioned Landrigan’s defense counsel’s failure to present mitigating evidence of his neuropsychological health and raised concerns that the state of Arizona may have obtained the drug used for lethal injections, sodium thiopental, from a non-FDA-approved source. [AI USA]  Landrigan’s application for stay of execution and habeas petition  – on the grounds of possible actual innocence – are pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights for arbitrarily and discriminatorily denying authorization for gay rights marches in Moscow, in its judgment in Alekseyev v. Russia.
  • Canadian Omar Khadr has pleaded guilty to war crimes charges before a Military Commission in Guantánamo, as part of an agreement which will likely limit his prison sentence and provide for his return to Canada, while avoiding the controversy of trying Khadr for crimes he allegedly committed as a juvenile. [AI] Amnesty International urges the U.S. government to comply with its obligations to investigate Khadr’s allegations of torture and abuse while in custody.
  • Another mass killing in Ciudad Juárez has claimed the lives of 14 individuals at a teenage boy’s birthday party, following the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers’ visit to Mexico and her call for a reformed, independent judiciary capable of handling the increased incidence of violent crime, ensuring access to both defendants and victims, and prosecuting human rights offenders in the ordinary – rather than military – courts. [NYT]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on Turkey to investigate the arbitrary detention and beating of five transgender activists in Ankara by police officers in May 2010, as well as drop the charges against the activists. [HRW]
  • The ICC Trial Chamber III has rejected former DRC vice president Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo’s double jeopardy claim, making way for his trial to begin on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges related to the Movement for the Liberation of Congo’s activities in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. [RNW]  The situation in the CAR was referred to the ICC prosecutor in 2005 and the warrant for Bemba’s arrest was issued in 2008.
  • Cholera continues to take lives in Haiti, as fears grow of the disease spreading to camps for earthquake survivors. [Washington Post]
  • The Associated Press reports that “[a] group of Israeli reservists critical of the military’s treatment of Palestinians has released new photos that appear to show Israeli soldiers abusing Palestinians” [Washington Post] Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called attention to torture allegations in Palestinian detention in the West Bank. [HRW]
  • Vietnam has attracted criticism for recent, continued arrests of Vietnamese political bloggers and critics. [HRW]
  • The United Arab Emirates Federal Supreme Court has ruled that husbands have a right – under the penal code – to “chastise” their wives and children using violence and coercion, provided they leave no physical marks. [HRW]
  • Last week, the Burundi government denied that police arbitrarily executed 22 rebels, accusing the president of the Association for Protection of Detainees and Human Rights of making false accusations and insisting that the rebels were killed in combat. [RNW]
  • Strikes and fuel shortages persist in France as workers protest President Sarkozy’s decision to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 to balance the social security budget. [Washington Post]
  • Serbia is urged to prosecute two war crimes suspects, Goran Hadzic and Ratko Mladic, as the European Commission considers Serbia’s application to join the EU. [HRW]
  • Jailed Iranian human rights defender Nasrine Sotoudeh enters her eighth week of detention in solitary confinement, where she is reported to be on a hunger strike. [LA Times Blog]
  • Cuban journalist and political prisoner, Guillermo Fariñas, has been awarded the Sakharov Prize given by the European Parliament to recognize those who “combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression”.  Fariñas has been leading a hunger strike in prison to advocate for the release of prisoners in poor health who want to stay in Cuba. [RNW]
  • Following a YouTube video depicting the torture of two Papuan men by Indonesian officials, Amnesty International is calling for an investigation of torture allegations against Indonesian security forces in Papua province over the past two years. [AI]
  • A Virginia man has pleaded guilty in federal district court to attempted material support of terrorism and communicating threats, in connection with his online threats to South Park creators and advocacy of Somali Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabaab. [Washington Post]
  • The Iraqi Supreme Court has ordered Parliament to meet within two weeks, finding the suspension of the current legislative session – due to legislators’ failure to reach consensus on the formation of the next government – unlawful. [Washington Post]
  • A New York Times article reports on the crumbling state of public housing in the United States, as budget constraints force residents to wait years for necessary repairs. [NYT]
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily stayed enforcement of the District Court’s injunction against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding sexual orientation in the U.S. armed forces, in order to consider the federal government’s appeal in Log Cabin Republicans v. USA.
  • Twice this month, Iranian authorities have used amputation as punishment by cutting off the hand of two Iranians convicted of theft, raising concerns that the practice is regaining favor. [Huffington Post]
  • Thousands protested in Argentina following the death of labor activist Mariano Ferreyra last week during demonstrations for better pay and benefits for railway workers. [Impunity Watch]
  • The Telegraph reports, “The US is withholding assistance to Pakistani military units accused of human rights abuses, according to American officials, sparking outrage in a country where CIA drones are blamed for killing hundreds of civilians”. [Telegraph]
  • 1.3 million votes have been cancelled in Afghanistan’s recent election, following findings of fraud and irregularities. [BBC]  Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai is taking heat for accepting funding from Iran. [BBC]
  • The African Union has reported that the Central African Republic, along with the DRC, Sudan and Uganda, are working together to defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army, in part by creating a joint brigade and classifying the LRA as a terrorist organization. [RNW]
  • A New York Times editorial questions U.S. government treatment of material witnesses in terrorism cases, following the Supreme Court’s decision to hearAshcroft v. al-Kidd, a suit by an American citizen held in detention and subjected to strict probation-like restrictions for fifteen months, as a material witness. [SCOTUSblog]  Former Attorney General John Ashcroft appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decision holding he was not entitled to absolute immunity against the suit.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture warned last week that Greek detention facilities are dangerously overcrowded as they continue to receive irregular migrants seeking to enter Europe from Turkey, and called on the EU to address the migrant detention issue. [OHCHR]
  • Last week, Tibetan students marched in protest of reported government plans to institute a Chinese-only language policy in classrooms. [Impunity Watch]
  • The European Commissioner for Human Rights calls attention to the plight of institutionalized persons with disabilities in his latest comment.
  • A U.S. federal district court judge in Kansas has ruled that Human Rights Watch and a researcher must disclose their notes and sources in the trial of a Rwandan charged with illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship by lying about his participation in the Rwandan genocide. [AP]
  • Mark Lyttle, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent who was wrongly deported to Mexico is suing the U.S. government after Lyttle, who apparently has a history of mental illness and speaks no Spanish, was deported without court-appointed counsel or an opportunity to present evidence of his citizenship. [Impunity Watch]
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News Clips – July 18, 2010

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage, becoming the second country in the Western Hemisphere to do so. [Washington Post]
  • The Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC has issued a second arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Al Bashir, who is wanted to face charges of genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.  The first warrant was based on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [ICC]
  • ACLU files suit alleging  U.S. “No Fly List” is unconstitutional, on behalf of individuals placed on the list without explanation or recourse, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. [ACLU]
  • In its admissibility decision in Babar Ahmar and Other v. United Kingdom, the ECHR requested additional information from the parties and extended interim measures to suspend the extradition of the applicants to U.S., where they could face life imprisonment in supermax prisons. The Court sought further information on the conditions of detention in such prisons, the reach of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and the reducibility of the life sentences potentially imposed – in order to determine whether the transfer would constitute a violation of Article 3’s prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment. [Huffington PostBBCECHR]
  • Jorge Rafael Videla, the former Argentina dictator whose de facto government was in power for most of the Dirty War years, has gone on trial again this month, in connection with the murder of 32 political prisoners in 1976. [BBCLa Nación]  Videla was previously convicted on kidnapping and other charges and later benefited from Argentina’s amnesty law, but began serving a life sentence in 2008 after his pardon was overturned [BBC].
  • IACHR welcomes the release of 7 Cuban political prisoners, which belatedly, partially complies with the Commission’s 2006 merits report in the case of several dozen journalists and human rights activists detained in Cuba, in which it recommended their release. [IACHR]
  • Attorney Lynne Stewart’s sentence has been increased on appeal to 10 years, following her2005 conviction of conspiring to aid terrorists for conveying messages on behalf of her client, who was detained on terrorism-related charges. [Democracy Now!]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on Iran to spare civilians in its military operations  surrounding Kurdish villages in Iraq. [HRW]
  • Human Rights Watch’s new publication Hellish Work denounces Philip Morris’ labor practices and exploitation of migrant workers in Kazakhstan. [NYT]
  • Internal Israeli report finds that the Gaza aid flotilla deaths were justified. [Impunity Watch]
  • President Medved says killer of human rights defender Natalya Estemirova has been identified, as European Commissioner for Human Rights calls on government to bring to justice those responsible. [VOA]
  • Zimbabwe faces continued allegations of human rights abuses in its diamond mines, as Kimberly Process and World Diamond Council approve Zimbabwean diamonds for sale. [NPR, Newsweek]
  • Conditions for Haitians displaced by earthquake are criticized, as nearly 2 million remain homeless.  [truthdig]
  • Last week, thousands commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Impunity Watch]
  • IACHR laments deaths in Uruguay prison fire. [IACHR]
  • South Korean human rights commission to review chemical castration of sex offenders, approved by parliament last month. [Dong-a Ilbo; MSNBC]
  • Egyptian Bedouin rights activist freed following three years of detention under Egypt’s emergency law. [Impunity Watch]
  • Russian Duma expands Russian security services’ powers, amidst protests. [Business Week]

U.S. Publishes Annual Trafficking in Persons Report

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

U.S. Department of State

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State put out its annual Trafficking in Persons Report.  This year, for the first time, the report includes a section on the United States; however, it was given the highest rating (complete compliance with the standards set in the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)).  In the words of Secretary Clinton, “This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it”.  This statement is an interesting echo of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s words at the presentation of the 2008 report, when she said, “Trafficking and exploitation plague all nations, and no country, even ours, is immune”.

This year’s report has a new image and content, much like the State Department’s website.  Along with statistics and analysis on human trafficking flows and recommendations to governments, the report also examines how the problem of human trafficking affects distinct groups, such as child soldiers, women, and those in post-disaster situations.  In addition, it takes a look at troubling State practices, the negative implications of using immigration enforcement and voluntary repatriation as responses to trafficking, and pays particular attention to the complicity of State agents in trafficking.

The report examines, and ranks in four tiers, the practices and policies of a large, but select group of States that are determined to be countries of origin, transit or destination in human trafficking rings.  States are ranked based on their efforts to  prevent, punish and eradicate human trafficking, using the following cited criteria:

• enactment of laws prohibiting severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by the TVPA, and provision of criminal punishments for trafficking offenses;

• implementation of human trafficking laws through vigorous prosecution of the prevalent forms of trafficking in the country;

• victim protection efforts that include access to services and shelter without unnecessary detention and with legal alternatives to removal to countries in which the victim would face retribution or hardship;

• proactive victim identification measures with systematic procedures to guide law enforcement and other governmental or government-supported front-line responders in the process of victim identification;

• criminal penalties prescribed for human trafficking offenses with a maximum of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty, or a more severe penalty;

• the extent to which a government ensures the safe, humane, and to the extent possible, voluntary repatriation and reintegration of victims;

• government funding and partnerships with NGOs to provide victims with access to primary health care,

counseling, and shelter, allowing them to recount their trafficking experiences to trained social counselors and law enforcement at a pace with minimal pressure;

• governmental measures to prevent human trafficking, including efforts to curb practices identified as contributing factors to human trafficking, including employers’ confiscation of foreign workers’ passports or allowing labor recruiters to charge excessive fees to prospective migrants – factors shown to contribute to forced labor;

and,

• the extent to which a government ensures victims are provided with legal and other assistance and that, consistent with domestic law, proceedings are not prejudicial against victims’ rights, dignity, or psychological well being.

Read the full report, fact sheet, and tier placement map for details on the 177 countries covered.

In the international human rights realm, human trafficking is increasingly being considered an area of potential State responsibility.  For example, the European Court of Human Right’s recent decision in Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia held both States responsible for violations of article 4 of the European Convention (slavery) for their failure to prevent, protect and punish human trafficking which resulted in the death of a young woman. Read more about this decision on the website of INTERIGHTS, a London-based NGO which submitted a third party intervention (or amicus brief) before the Court.

Framing human trafficking in terms of States’ obligations has been complicated because of a number of factors, including: its generally clandestine nature, the potential involvement of two or more States’ territories, the fact that typically State agents or agencies do not participate in the trafficking, and perceptions that trafficked persons were to be viewed as criminals and/or undocumented migrant workers rather than as victims.

IACHR Refers Two Cases to Inter-American Court

March 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Today the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it filed two applications with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The first, against the State of Ecuador, has to do with an individual who died after failing to receive adequate medical treatment while in detention.

The second, against the State of Peru, involves judicial protection against the retroactive elimination of the wage-scale system governing a trade union’s members.  See the press release here and the Commission’s application in the second case here.

Under the Court’s new Rules of Procedure which entered into force on January 1, the Commission’s role in arguing the case before the Court is now somewhat limited, specifically at the oral stage, while the victims’ representatives have some freedom to more independently manage the litigation before the Court, including with the assistance of the new figure of the Inter-American Defender and the legal aid fund for the Inter-American System.

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