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Resources updated between Monday, February 24, 2014 and Sunday, March 02, 2014

February 28, 2014

Residents of so-called slave villages

The UN is failing miserably at protecting human rights victims in the world's darkest places.

A case in point is the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences, Gulnara Shahinian. After wrapping up her visit to Mauritania in February 2014 the Rapporteur "hailed Mauritania's commitment and progress in the fight against slavery." She said: "I commend the Government of Mauritania for the measures taken since my last mission in 2009 and for its commitment to ending slavery in the country." On top of that, the Council is not scheduled to discuss the Rapporteur's findings until September 2014.

The Special Rapporteur's comments and the Council's deafening silence should come as no surprise. The Mauritanian UN representatives have repeatedly downplayed or denied the scope of slavery in their country. On March 4, 2013 speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, the delegate said that "slavery was no longer institutionalized in Mauritania" and that "proven cases of slavery were dealt with in the country's courts". He also warned against "the politicization of slavery in Mauritania." On September 16, 2013 the Mauritanian representative at the Council "rejected allegations that large number of persons in Mauritania live in a state of slavery."

In fact, as reported in October 2013, Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery in the world. Further, the newly released State Department 2013 Human Rights Report on Mauritania found the following

    "The central human rights problems were ... continuing slavery and slavery-related practices... [T]here were reports that police detained and questioned journalists during the year in connection with their coverage of topics such as slavery... There were no convictions for slavery during the year, nor did the government initiate judicial proceedings against...alleged slave masters...Slavery-like practices, typically flowing from ancestral master-slave relationships and involving both adults and children, continued. Former slaves and their descendants remained in a dependent status in part due to a lack of marketable skills, poverty, and persistent drought...Some former slaves and descendants of slaves were forced to work for their old masters in exchange for some combination of lodging, food, and medical care...Women with children faced particular difficulties and could be compelled to remain in a condition of servitude, performing domestic duties, tending fields, or herding animals without remuneration... Some persons continued to link themselves to former masters because they believed their slave status had been divinely ordained and they feared religious punishment if that bond was broken...Forced labor also occurred in urban centers where young children, often girls, were retained as unpaid household servants. Some individuals self-identified as slaves or masters and claimed with varying degrees of plausibility they were unaware slavery had been abolished."

UN failing Mauritania's slaves Development

February 27, 2014

Doctors Without Borders returned to a hospital it had evacuated last month and found it had been destroyed

"Patients in South Sudan have been shot to death in their hospital beds, and medical facilities have been looted and burned to the ground, forcing the aid group Doctors Without Borders to reexamine its operations here.

The extreme violence and lack of respect for health care workers shown by South Sudan's warring sides have made Doctors Without Borders' work almost impossible, the international group said Wednesday.

Members of the aid group discovered at least 14 patients killed in a hospital in the contested city of Malakal over the weekend, the group said, adding that several of the patients had been shot in their beds. Rebels have been fighting government forces for control of the city, the capital of an oil-producing state.

In addition, Doctors Without Borders' facilities in the towns of Leer and Bentiu have been looted and destroyed..."

14 patients slain in South Sudan Document

February 26, 2014

Saudi women

"Education departments in a number of regions in Saudi Arabia have banned female employees and visitors who do not wear a face veil from entering girls' schools, the Saudi Gazette reported on Monday.
The report cited a pamphlet sent by education departments to school principals, in which male and female school guards are instructed to abide by Islamic rules, regulations and directives and moral principles.
They should avoid anything that violates the honor of the profession, the pamphlet said. The education departments said no female employee or student should be allowed to leave school before the end of school hours unless they have a written permission from the female school principal. The identity cards of drivers who transport female students in private cars should be checked.
Men should not be allowed to enter the schools except in special circumstances after checking by the female in-charge and after taking precautions to prevent mixing between genders, the instructions said, according to the Saudi Gazette."

Saudi Schools Ban Females Who Don't Wear a Face Veil Document

February 25, 2014

In what was clearly a show trial, a Moscow court found guilty eight defendants in the Bolotnaya case

"In what was clearly a show trial, a Moscow court found guilty eight defendants in the Bolotnaya case...

The verdicts in the Bolotnaya case are part of a wider clampdown on freedoms of assembly, association and expression since Vladimir Putin resumed the Russian presidency on 7 May 2012. A day earlier, the Bolotnaya protest took place against his controversial return to power...

Hundreds of peaceful anti-government protesters were arrested during the Bolotnaya Square protest on 6 May 2012 which police dispersed using excessive and unlawful force.

Criminal proceedings have subsequently been initiated against 28 individuals. Although the demonstration was predominantly peaceful, and all violence limited to certain areas and involving only a small number of protesters, the authorities described the event as 'mass riots', which allowed them to bring heavier charges against the accused."

Russia: Guilty verdict in Bolotnaya case - injustice at its most obvious Document

February 24, 2014

Displaced people fleeing Southern Kordofan, Sudan after bombings

The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Mashood Adebayo Baderin, has issued this appeal after visiting Sudan from February 11-19, 2014: "I urge and encourage the Government to continue to strengthen its effort to improve the situation of human rights in the country..." According to the sense of urgency assigned to the horrendous situation in Sudan, the full report on his visit is not scheduled to be submitted or considered until September 2014. Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council, which appointed the Independent Expert, is expected to adopt five or more resolutions condemning Israel alone at its forthcoming March session.

The mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan was established in June 2009 after the UN Human Rights Council failed to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Sudan. The Expert's mandate was initially set up under the Council's agenda Item 4 "Human rights situations that require the Council's attention". However, two years later in September 2011 the mandate was downgraded to Item 10 "Technical assistance and capacity‑building" which clearly shifts the focus away from the human rights abuses in the country.

On February 21, 2014 the Independent Expert released the preliminary observations of his visit. While he found that the Sudanese authorities have not issued their reports on "last year's oil subsidy demonstrations, which resulted in killings, injuries, arrests and detentions, and destruction of property" he also lauded Sudan's "expressed commitment to improv[ing] the practical realization of human rights in the Sudan".

The Sudanese authorities have a very good reason to misrepresent their intentions. The "technical assistance" Sudan receives depends on the improvement of its abysmal human rights record. The actual human rights situation in Sudan, however, remains grim. The Amnesty International 2013 report highlights the following abuses:

    "The government severely curtailed freedom of expression, using new forms of censorship, such as confiscating entire newspaper print runs; preventing the publication of articles or opinion pieces; banning certain journalists from writing for newspapers; and harassing editors in order to influence their choice of news coverage...Journalists faced arrests, torture and other ill-treatment by members of the NSS [National Security Services] and other security agents in Sudan...
    Authorities continued to severely restrict freedom of assembly...From June to August, security forces used batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against largely peaceful demonstrators, causing deaths and injuries. Some women were reportedly subjected to repeated 'virginity tests', amounting to torture or other ill-treatment. Plain-clothed security officers, deployed in or near hospitals, arrested suspected demonstrators seeking treatment...
    In May and July, two women, 23-year-old Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul and 20-year-old Intisar Sharif Abdallah, were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. In both cases, they were convicted solely on the basis of their confession, which was obtained under duress...
    Grave human rights abuses continued throughout Darfur amid continued fighting between the government and armed opposition groups, and a breakdown of government control over government-affiliated militias. Attacks on civilians by pro-government militias, aerial bombings, and looting and destruction of property were widespread...Rape and sexual violence by government-affiliated militia and government forces continued...
    Conflict...in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which erupted in June and September 2011, remained ongoing. From October, fighting intensified with indiscriminate attacks, including aerial bombardments... and resulted in civilian deaths and injuries... Indiscriminate aerial bombardments...resulted in over 200,000 people seeking refuge in South Sudan and Ethiopia."

Continued UN foot-dragging on human rights abuses in Sudan Development

Rights advocates say existing legislation in Sudan severely limits the ability of victims of sexual violence to seek justice

"A pregnant teenager who was gang-raped and ignored when she tried to report the crime has been convicted of 'indecent acts' by a court in Sudan.

The victim, an Ethiopian migrant, was sentenced to one month in prison, which has been suspended, and fined 5,000 Sudanese pounds (528). The verdict was condemned by activists who said it would discourage rape victims from speaking out and entrench 'a culture of impunity' for perpetrators.

The 18-year-old victim was searching for a new home when she was lured to an empty property in the capital, Khartoum, attacked by seven men and gang-raped. The incident was filmed by the perpetrators and distributed through social media six months later, triggering the arrests of everyone involved.

The woman, who is nine months pregnant, was initially charged with adultery and faced a possible sentence of death by stoning. This was dropped when the court accepted she is divorced. Since her arrest she has been detained in police cells and her requests for a transfer to medical facilities have been refused..."

Sudan court convicts gang-raped teenager of 'indecent acts' Document