Resources updated between Monday, January 27, 2014 and Sunday, February 02, 2014
February 2, 2014
"Last month, Hassan Rouhani, the new President of the Islamic Republic made a whirlwind visit to Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan. According to official media, Rouhani spent much of his time there dealing with "a number of sensitive files" left undecided by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One such file concerns 14 human rights activists who had been in prison for up to two years. When Rouhani took over as president he had them moved from the Karoun Prison in Ahvaz to an unknown destination. There, last July an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal with a single judge Ayatollah Muhammad-Baqer Mussavi, sentenced the 14 to death on charges of "waging war on God" and "spreading corruption on earth" and "questioning the principle of walayat al-faqih" (i.e., the Rule of the Jurisprudent) . Before he left Ahvaz, Rouhani gave his green light for the executions. The first two executions were carried out last Monday when Hashem Shaabani and Hadi Rashedi were hanged in an unidentified prison. ..To those who knew him, Hashem Shaabani was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system...In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says he could not have remained silent against 'hideous crimes against Ahvazis perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly arbitrary and unjust executions.' He adds "I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.'"
February 1, 2014
On January 30, 2014, the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which grants coveted UN NGO status to selected applicants, wrapped up its latest session in New York. UN NGO status allows NGOs to participate in UN meetings, and can include circulating documents on the official UN website and speaking rights. However, the very UN NGO body that accredits NGOs includes countries infamous for NGO harassment and intimidation such as China, Cuba, Pakistan, Sudan. These countries frequently manage to derail many applications of western NGOs. During this session, for example, the Committee postponed applications of an organization that focuses on genocide research and prevention, a Muslim feminist NGO and an organization that represents individual prisoners of conscience.
On January 30, 2014 the UN Committee announced removal of the Jewish National Fund's application from consideration because "they had not responded, as of 30 January 2014, to the Committee's last three reminders." The Jewish National Fund first applied for UN consultative status in 2006, was deferred in January 2007 pending the receipt of responses to the questions, and was ultimately voted down by such human rights stalwarts as Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guinea, Qatar, the Russian Federation, and Sudan in May 2007 after complaints of support for "settlements," and "discrimination."
At the session just concluded, on January 30, 2014 China blocked decision on "Sonke Gender Justice Network," a South African-based NGO on the grounds that the organization "referenced Tibet's right to self-determination." The F W de Klerk Foundation Trust's application was also postponed after China demanded it "use the correct United Nations terminology" for Taiwan on its website and Sudan questioned the organization's activities in "north-eastern Africa".
On January 31, 2014 former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was appointed to be the UN "special envoy for cities and climate change". According to UN officials and diplomats, the appointment is part of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's efforts to revive support for global action on climate change as key to his legacy as Secretary-General.
While the Secretary-General is focusing on climate change, Syrians are being slaughtered, Iran is executing its citizens, and Saudi Arabia enslaves its women, to name but a few issues that might have taken priority on the world stage.
UN officials complain that ever since the 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen failed to secure a deal on a binding treaty on reducing carbon emissions, the UN has been "sidelined". The three-page document adopted in 2009 summit set a goal of keeping the average rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, but allowed countries to write their own plans for cutting emissions with no legally binding targets or even a path to a formal treaty.
The Secretary-General will now host a one-day climate change summit in New York on September 23, 2014. Many developing countries are pushing for the summit to serve as a deadline for rich countries to outline planned cuts. Bloomberg's role will be to "assist the UN Secretary-General in his consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders," with the September summit specifically in mind. In other words, the Secretary-General has hired a wealthy American to lobby against anticipated Western interests - and Bloomberg obliged.
Bloomberg named UN climate envoy Article
The UN Human Rights Council has held one more review "universal periodic review (UPR)" session on Afghanistan. The UPR is touted as the Council's single most important innovation for protecting human rights. Given the abysmal human rights situation in Afghanistan, it provides a good test case by which to judge the system's effectiveness.
On January 31, 2014 a report was produced and "adopted" by Human Rights Council members. The report includes recommendations made by states for improving Afghanistan's human rights record, as well as Afghanistan's "responses" to these suggestions. Afghanistan rejected recommendations such as: abolish the practice of prosecuting women for "moral crimes," put an end to the practice of criminal prosecutions for moral crimes against women who have fled their homes, and repeal the provisions of the penal code which criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex. Furthermore, Afghanistan said it needed more time to "examine" recommendations such as "adopt measures to combat cases of torture and ill-treatment in the detention centers" and "repeal article 398 of the Afghan Penal Code with a view to ensuring full accountability for the perpetrators of so-called honor killings."
Despite Afghanistan's contemptuous response to such elementary reforms, the Human Rights Council perfunctorily agreed on a 'preliminary' adoption of the report. The Afghan Head of Delegation was only too happy to use the opportunity to claim undeserved human rights credentials. Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai said (via an interpreter): "We have taken huge steps toward commitment we have made to international community on the implementation of human rights principles. Our constitution reflects that and also in action there is political determination...Thank you." In turn, the Council President thanked the Afghan delegation for "participation in this review".
A sorry spectacle that will be tremendously discouraging to the long-suffering human rights victims of Afghanistan.
January 31, 2014
"A Ukrainian opposition activist who went missing last week says he was kidnapped, crucified and had part of his ear cut off in the latest attack on an anti-government protester.
Dmytro Bulatov, 35, a member of Automaidan, a group of car owners that has taken part in the protests against President Viktor Yanukovych, went missing January 22.
He was discovered outside Kiev yesterday and told rescuers that his kidnappers kept him in the dark for more than a week, beat him severely, nailed him to a cross and sliced off a piece of ear, before eventually dumping him in a forest.
'They crucified me, they nailed down my hands. They cut off my ear, they cut my face. There isn't a spot on my body that hasn't been beaten...Thank God I am alive,' Bulatov told Ukraine's Channel 5."
January 30, 2014
The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, in charge of granting NGOs UN-accreditation, is currently meeting in New York. UN accreditation or "consultative status" provides NGOs with real benefits, such as attending international conferences and events, making written and oral statements, organizing side events, entering UN premises, and having opportunities to network and lobby.
On January 29, 2014 the Committee reviewed an application from Freedom Now, based in the United States. The organization represents individual prisoners of conscience as pro bono clients and works to free them from illegal detention "through focused legal, political and public relations advocacy efforts." China, Pakistan and Sudan, all members of the UN NGO Committee, responded to the application by derailing its accreditation. China's representative asked that the organization answer:"what was meant by 'prisoner of conscience'?" Sudan questioned the organization's activities in Africa. As a result, decision on UN accreditation was postponed.
China also blocked decision on Zala briviba, a Latvian-based NGO on the grounds that the organization didn't delete the link on its website to the "Free Tibet" organization as the Chinese had been requesting since 2012. And China blocked the Zoological Society of London, an NGO from the United Kingdom and demanded it "use the correct United Nations terminology for Taiwan Province of China."
One week before the Olympic Winter Games are set to begin in the Russian Federation, the President of the (UN) General Assembly John Ashe has said: "I call upon all warring parties of current armed conflicts around the world to boldly agree to true mutual ceasefires for the duration of the Olympic Truce, thus providing an opportunity to settle disputes peacefully." And yet, it was only on January 16, 2014 that the same Mr. Ashe spoke at the opening of the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People with a different agenda. He said that he was delighted about the convicted Palestinian murderers that Israel had been pressured to release from jail. (He didn't mention the reason they were in jail.) He condemned Israel for a variety of alleged crimes and stated only Israel was guilty of "contraventions of international law." As for unprovoked Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, according to Ashe, they were morally equivalent to Israeli efforts to stop those same attacks. In his words: "The international community is also rightly concerned by the recent tensions on the border between Gaza and Israel, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and Israeli air strikes on Gaza. This aggression... undermines the fragile ceasefire between the two sides..." Of course, there will be no "Olympic truce," and for that Mr. Ashe bears some considerable responsibility. Since he presides over a United Nations that cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.
"On 25 January 2014, the office of Alternative Côte d'Ivoire – an organization working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people (LGBTI) living with HIV -- was ransacked by a mob of around 200 people. Computers were stolen and the security officer was beaten so badly he required medical treatment.
When members of the organization contacted the police they were accused of being homosexuals and working as pimps and told that the police had more important work to do.
Earlier last week, an angry mob threw rocks and garbage at the Alternative Côte d'Ivoire office in Abidjan. The building walls were daubed with graffiti saying 'Non aux pédés (No to fags)'.
On 20 January, the house of the Director of Alternative Côte d'Ivoire, Claver Touré, was attacked in the area of Angré in Abidjan. A member of the security forces was reportedly among the attackers.
Several people working in the organization are now in hiding in fear of further attacks."
The UN Human Rights Council continued this week to review human rights situations in various countries at its 18th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva. The Human Rights Council is supposed to "undertake a universal periodic review (UPR), based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments..." Instead, the UPR has become a place where the worst violators of human rights are commended. Rights abusers also use the opportunity to present themselves as human rights champions.
On January 29, 2014 the human rights situation in Yemen was reviewed by members of the Council and any other UN member wanting to comment.
In her opening remarks the head of the Yemeni delegation, Ms. Hooria Mashhoyr Ahmed, declared "What is of most concern to us is rights of vulnerable groups, women, children..." Later on, responding to a question on women rights in Yemen, she said "As regards the Yemeni woman actually there has been great progress".
In fact, according to the State Department 2012 Report, societal discrimination severely limited women's ability to exercise equal rights. Some of the worst women rights violations in Yemen include the following:
January 29, 2014
"The Philippines' Commission on Human Rights (CHR) discovered the 'torture roulette' table during a routine visit to the facility. The officers have a list of different torture positions or 'torture consequences' which are chosen by spinning a roulette wheel. A '30 second bat position' for example, meant that the detainee would be hung upside down like a bat for 30 seconds. A '20 second Manny Pacquiao' meant that a detainee would be punched non-stop for twenty seconds. The CHR reported that 44 detainees at the Philippine National Police Laguna Provincial Intelligence in Biñan, Laguna province had accused at least 10 law enforcement officers of torture and extortion. 'Drinking sprees' by the police officers also led to further torture and ill-treatment incidents of the criminal suspects in the police facility."
A new report on abuses of human rights in Saudi Arabia highlights the lack of credibility of the UN Human Rights Council, to which Saudi Arabia was elected in November. The report highlights: "Saudi Arabia in 2013 convicted eight prominent human rights activists...on charges, such as "trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom," "breaking allegiance with the ruler," and "setting up an unlicensed organization"....Saudi officials in 2013 refused to register political and human rights groups, leaving members subject to prosecution for "setting up an unregistered organization"...Under the guardianship system, girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians. Authorities passed a law criminalizing domestic abuse for the first time, but the law does not detail enforcement mechanisms."
The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, in charge of granting NGOs UN-accreditation, is currently meeting in New York. UN accreditation provides NGOs with various benefits, such as the ability to attend and sometimes to speak at UN meetings.
On January 28, 2014 the Committee had before it an application from the International Association of Genocide Scholars, based in the United States. The organization's stated goal is to "further research and teaching about the nature, causes, and consequences of genocide, and advance policy studies on genocide prevention." China and Sudan, both members of the UN NGO Committee, responded to the application by taking steps to impede its accreditation.
The Chinese delegate was "not satisfied" with the organization's explanation regarding information posted on its website about Falun Gong and Tibet and objected to its website featuring "inappropriate information."
The representative of Sudan was worried about "genocide and Darfur" and demanded to hear "directly on those issues". He also demanded more information on conferences that the International Association plans to conduct in Africa.
As a result, decision on providing this organization with UN accreditation was postponed, possibly for years.
January 28, 2014
"Mothers in Abu Dhabi will be required to breastfeed their children until the age of two, in terms of a new law currently under discussion in the legislative body of the United Arab Emirates. The breastfeeding clause was passed by the state's Federal National Council last week. FNC members argued that breastfeeding was a 'duty'...A few members said it was also laid out in the Quran...The Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi told lawmakers that the law would enable men to sue their wives if they didn't breastfeed."
A terrorist front organization is seeking formal UN NGO status. On January 27, 2014, the Islamic African Relief Agency's (IARA) deferred application came before the UN Committee in charge of NGO accreditation.
At a 2013 UN NGO Committee session, the US representative said that the IARA was designated as a terrorist organization by the US Treasury Department in 2004 "for providing support to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups. They were involved in terrorist financing ... and have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars" to terrorist organizations. The UN press release, on the other hand, described this terrorist patron as an organization "focused on humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and development".
On January 27, 2014 at the UN Committee the US delegate questioned Sudan-based IARA regarding its classification as a terrorist organization by the United States government. The representative of Sudan - a member of the UN NGO Committee - stepped in to defend the IARA on the grounds that "there was no evidence that this organization supported terrorist activities" and asked that the application "move forward". The representative of Pakistan also objected to the questions posed by the United States. Consideration of the application will continue.
On January 23, 2014, the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations continued to examine NGOs applying for UN accreditation at its meeting in New York.
One of the NGOs seeking UN access is the Palestinian Return Center (PRC), which has been documented as one of the central institutions through which Hamas operates in the United Kingdom. On January 22, 2014 Israel's representative asked the PRC, among other things, whether it has a relationship with Hamas. The Center's representative responded – falsely - by denying any relationship. On January 23, 2014 the Palestinian UN representative supported the PRC's application. He also objected to Israel asking questions "of the Center and other Palestinian non-governmental organizations."
Also applying for UN accreditation is an organization from the United Kingdom, Women Living under Muslim Laws - International Solidarity Network (WLUML). The organization says it "aims to strengthen women's individual and collective struggles for equality and their rights, especially in Muslim contexts." On January 23, 2014 various Muslim states derailed the application. Pakistan's representative complained that the organization has "not satisfactorily answered his delegation's concern over a contradiction between its name and its beliefs" and asked if the organization "viewed Islamic law as discriminatory". Sudan's representative backed the Pakistani delegate, because ts name "'women living under Muslim law' could lead to an erroneous understanding of the organization." Morocco's delegate asked the WLUML to "elaborate on its views on sexual rights so the Committee could come to a consensus on whether the organization respected religious values."
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was created in 2006 by the UN General Assembly resolution 60/251. The General Assembly mandated the Human Rights Council to "undertake a universal periodic review (UPR), based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments..." The review is conducted every four years by the UPR Working Group which consists of the 47 members of the Council. Any UN member state can take part in the dialogue with the state under review.
In reality, the UPR has become a place where abusers are applauded and democracies are heavily criticized.
On January 27, 2014 Afghanistan's human rights record was reviewed by the Working Group in Geneva. In its National Report, submitted as part of the UPR process, Afghanistan admitted: "honor killings carried out under the motive of upholding honor" are sometimes considered "as mitigating circumstances".
In his opening remarks before the UPR Working Group, however, Senior Adviser in the Afghan Ministry of Justice said that Afghanistan is "committed to promoting and protecting human rights in particular women and children's rights...Women rights and gender equality remain top priority..."
He also used this opportunity to whitewash other human rights abuses: "[O]ur country is a good example in the region for promoting freedom of speech, freedom of the media and association...Afghanistan has adopted measures to ensure that children are protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment...[and] continues to stand firm to fight the corruption..."
During the interactive dialogue many states, including some of the world's worst abusers, took the floor to praise Afghanistan's human rights record:
January 27, 2014
Once again, the UN has used its Holocaust Remembrance occasion to paint a picture of concern for the welfare of the Jewish people. Or at least the Jewish people of 70 years ago. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "we must teach our children well." How then to explain that thousands of school children visiting the UN every year are taught that Israelis are the perpetrators of gross human rights violations and the Palestinians the innocent victims of "al Naqba" - the catastrophe of the creation of the modern Jewish state?
It is Holocaust remembrance time at the United Nations. Once a year, Jews from around New York, a dwindling number of Holocaust survivors, occasional celebrities, and precious few friends, file into the General Assembly Hall and grant the U.N. the privilege of appearing to care. This year's speakers include Steven Spielberg. When it is over, the year-round ritual censure of the Jewish state will resume.
Characteristic of "International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust" is the scarcity of express emphasis on Israel, save for the remarks of the Israeli ambassador...The explanation, however, does not lie with general incompetence. For the organization has managed to devote its energy, time and resources to the denunciation and delegitimization of Israel – the embodiment of Jewish self-determination. Despite the fact that the U.N. was erected on the ashes of the Jewish people, the General Assembly has never adopted a resolution dedicated specifically to anti-semitism...In 2004, Israel proposed the adoption of a General Assembly resolution on antisemitism. And off-camera all hell broke loose....It threatened to undermine the very agenda being pursued so successfully at the U.N. itself. Modern anti-semitism encompasses the grotesque demonization of Israel, the U.N.'s Jew among nations...The Holocaust resolution was the consolation prize...Ironically, now the U.N.'s perceived antidote to criticism of the U.N.'s anti-Israel policies is Holocaust remembrance...Holocaust remembrance activities sponsored by the largest global platform for modern anti-semitism are more than paradoxical.
We will know if the U.N. has learned the lessons of the Holocaust when it does more than remember history's unique horror and its Jewish victims. When the General Assembly adopts a resolution dedicated to anti-semitism, commissions a report on its current manifestations, adopts recommendations for combating antisemitism in all its forms, and ensures their implementation. A strong Israel, supported by the community of nations, is the central remedial lesson of the Holocaust.
On January 26, 2014 the UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul concluded her first ever visit to Qatar where she was assessing the independence of judges, lawyers, and prosecutors, as well as the functioning of its justice system. The post of the Special Rapporteur was created in 1994 based on "both the increasing frequency of attacks on the independence of judges, lawyers and court officials and the link which exists between the weakening of safeguards for the judiciary and lawyers and the gravity and frequency of violations of human rights."
At the end of her mission, the UN expert held a press conference in Doha. The Gulf Times (run by the former head of the Emir's court), headlined the outcome: "Qatar's judicial independence hailed." It reports on Gabriela Knaul's visit: "The recognition of the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in Qatar's Constitution has been lauded by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. 'The unification of the courts under one system is also a welcome development...I thank the government of Qatar for the invitation to conduct this official visit and for its engagement with my mandate...' she said, while observing that Qatar's recent engagement...has been exemplary..."
The situation in Qatar on the subject of judicial independence, however, is not exemplary. According to 2012 State Department Human Rights Report: "[T]he emir, based on recommended selections from the Supreme Judicial Council, appoints all judges, who hold their positions at his discretion. Approximately 75 percent of the judges were foreign nationals dependent on residency permits. Suspects held in pretrial detention under the law had limited access to the legal system."
As for how justice is administered in Qatar: "At least six men and women, all foreign nationals, were sentenced to floggings of either 40 or 100 lashes for offences related to alcohol consumption or 'illicit sexual relations'... At least two men were arrested apparently because they were suspected of criticizing the government, and two people were jailed for blasphemy. At least 46 people, most of them foreign nationals, were convicted on charges of 'illicit sexual relations' and either deported or imprisoned followed in some cases by deportation."
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are now in Iran to "advance the new spirit of openness and dialogue between Iran and the international community." While Iranian dissidents languish in jails, democracy-seekers are tortured and murdered, and executions are multiplying under President Rouhani, the visit provides diplomatic cover for the brutal Iranian regime.