Resources updated between Monday, April 14, 2014 and Sunday, April 20, 2014
April 20, 2014
On April 18th, 2014, President Obama signed into law Senator Ted Cruz's bill (S.2195), which amends the Foreign Relations Authorization Act to prohibit entry to the United States to anyone who has engaged in espionage or terrorist activities against the U.S. or its allies. This bill was proposed by Senator Cruz in response to Iran's nomination of Hamid Aboutalebi as its UN ambassador, a man who was involved in the 1979 American hostage incident in Tehran.
The summary of the bill: "Amends the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991 to direct the President to deny U.S. admission to any representative of the United Nations (U.N.) who: (1) has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity against the United States or its allies; and (2) may pose a threat to U.S. national security interests."
President Obama's move was begrudging. The State Department rendered a decision barring admission to Aboutalebi only after Senator Cruz's bill gained strong and rapid partisan Congressional support. And Obama signed the bill only with the qualification that: "'curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.' I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion." President Obama prefaced his remarks by saying he was just quoting from and simply following President George H.W. Bush. Evidently, he found it hard to stomach that the first-time Senator had acted more decisively and quickly to counter this latest Iranian treachery than the President of the United States.
April 18, 2014
After wrapping up her visit to the United Kingdom on April 15, 2014 Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, declared that sexism in the UK is more "pervasive" than any other country.
Manjoo made the comments during a presentation of her preliminary findings on the situation on women's rights in the United Kingdom. In her words: "Have I seen this level of sexist culture in other countries? It hasn't been so in your face in other countries. I haven't seen that so pervasively in other countries. I'm sure it exists but it wasn't so much and so pervasive."
The Special Rapporteur is appointed by the UN "Human Rights" Council. The Council's mandate for the position includes seeking and receiving information on violence against women, its causes and consequences; responding effectively to such information and recommending measures, ways and means at the local, national, regional and international levels to eliminate all forms of violence against women.
During her tenure as the UN expert on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo has visited several countries with actual abysmal records on women's rights.
In November 2009 she visited Kyrgyzstan who has a practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage. Manjoo ended up lauding the country for "undertaking important initiatives which have resulted in a number of significant achievements in raising the status of women."
In 2010 she was in El Salvador which, according to the UN agency "UN Women," is the country with the highest murder rate of women in the world - femicide - a crime involving the violent and deliberate killing of women. Yet Manjoo found praise for the country's "commitment to placing the human rights of individuals at the centre of its policies, laws and institutions."
In 2010 the UN expert was also in Algeria where a woman must be "incapacitated for 15 days or more and present a doctor's note certifying the injuries before filing charges" for spousal abuse. But Manjoo was thrilled that Algeria has "distinguished itself in the promotion of the status of women."
Then in 2011 she visited Zambia where wife beating is widespread and where "sexual cleansing" is practiced, a practice in which "a widow is compelled to have sexual relations with her late husband's relatives". However, Manjoo was pleased that "the Government has committed to continue advancing gender mainstreaming."
In 2011 she was in Jordan where, according to customary belief, "if a woman marries her rapist her family members do not need to kill her to 'preserve the family's honor.'" Nevertheless, Rashida Manjoo was happy to praise the government of Jordan for taking "important steps to achieve [women's] integration into education, employment and politics."
Conversely, during her 2011 visit to the United States, the Special Rapporteur found "the continued prevalence of violence against women and the discriminatory treatment of victims."
The UN Human Rights Council's Code of Conduct, which governs the work of all UN human rights experts, states that they must "ensure that their personal political opinions are without prejudice to the execution of their mission, and [to] base their conclusions and recommendations on objective assessments of human rights situations."
The current UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women clearly hasn't been able to put her personal political opinions aside while passing judgments on women's rights in countries around the world. Doing a tremendous disservice to the real victims of women's rights violations everywhere.
"Four prisoners were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas (Southern Iran) yesterday April 17. According to the group 'Human Rights and Democracy activists in Iran' (HRDAI) five prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Wednesday April 17, for implementation of their death sentences. Four of the prisoners were executed on Thursday morning. These prisoners were identified as: Zargham Jahangiri (27) been 5 years in prison; and three Juvenile offenders: Ahmad Rahimi (21) been in the prison since he was 17 year old (Juvenile offender); Ali Fouladi (22) been in the prison since he was 16 year old and Ali Sharifi (29) been in the prison since he was 14 year old...Despite ratification of the UN convention on the rights of the child which bans death penalty for offences committed at under 18 years of age, Iran stays as the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders in the world. In 2013 at least 8 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran."
April 17, 2014
On April 2, 2014 the Palestinian Authority officially asked that the "state of Palestine" become a signatory to the following 21 international conventions:
"Qin Zhihui, a self-confessed 'rumor monger', was led away from court on Thursday to serve a three-year sentence for spreading 'lies, smear campaigns and fibs' across the Chinese internet. Mr. Qin accepted the verdict, telling the court: 'I hope my behaviour can warn others, not to do stupid things as I did.' On the same day, the platform he used to achieve his notoriety, microblogging site Sina Weibo, received a different kind of punishment from financial markets. The launch of its initial public offering, listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange, achieved a valuation of just $3.8bn, much reduced from earlier ambitions of $7bn-$8bn in March...Punishments such as Mr Qin's, meted out to China's bloggers in the wake of a crackdown last autumn, have sent a chill through the microblogging industry, which is now creating a backlash for its business model. Many analysts increasingly refer to the period of 2011-13, the boom years for Sina Weibo, as 'the Weibo era' and refer to it in the past tense...'Censorship has created a climate of fear on Weibo, people are more reluctant to use it now,' said Zhang Lifan, a university professor and blogger whose account was deleted in November. 'If your account has not been deleted you are not a fully qualified Weibo user,' he jokes."
"Heavily armed Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped more than 100 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria, sparking a search by soldiers to track down the attackers, a security source and witnesses said on Tuesday. The unprecedented mass abduction in Borno state came hours after a bomb blast ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, killing 75 people, the deadliest attack ever in Nigeria's capital. The violence underscored the serious threat the Islamists pose to Africa's most populous country, with the group capable of carrying out large-scale attacks in remote areas and massive bombings in major urban centers...A security source who requested anonymity...blamed the attack on Boko Haram, a radical group whose name means 'Western education is forbidden'."
"Roya Nobakht, 47, presently being detained as a political prisoner in Iran, may face execution for insulting Islam. She has lived in Stockport, England with her husband for the last six years and holds dual British-Iranian citizenship. Her husband, Daryoush Taghipoor, has stated that his wife was arrested while visiting a friend at Iran's Shiraz airport last October for comments she had made on a Facebook group calling the government of Iran 'too Islamic.' According to a copy of her charge sheet seen by the UK's Independent; she was transferred to Tehran and charged with 'gathering and participation with intent to commit crimes against national security and insulting Islamic sanctities'-- crimes punishable by death. In an interview, Mr. Taghipoor told the Manchester Evening News that 'his wife is not well at all...she has lost three stones [42 lbs]... and is scared that the government will kill her.' He also said that a confession had been extracted from his wife 'under duress.' As is well documented, torture is systematically used by Iranian authorities to obtain confessions from political dissidents and even from some common prisoners. Ms. Nobakht's fears are not unfounded."
"His head covered in a black hood, lawyer Tang Jitian recalls being taken into a room and hearing the sound of a rope being pulled. The handcuffs behind him were jerked upward and soon he was dangling in the air. 'I got hoisted with my head facing down, feet off the ground and butt in the air,' Tang said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'Five or six people were hitting me and kicking me. All I heard was 'thud, thud, thud,' throughout.' Tang is among a group of four Chinese rights lawyers who say they were tortured by police when they were rounded up in late March after protesting outside a detention center in Jiansanjiang, a farming community in northeastern China. They had joined several people shouting to demand information about relatives believed locked up inside because they were members of Falun Gong - banned as a cult though they claim to be a peaceful spiritual movement...Their accounts raise doubts about commitments by Chinese authorities to curb the use of torture, establish rule of law and ensure due process for those accused of wrongdoing. Their experience is part of a broad crackdown over the past year on rights lawyers and other activists seeking to hold authorities accountable to the country's constitution and to their own stated goals of boosting fairness in Chinese society... 'China's legal system is regressing,' said Wang Jianxun, a legal scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law. 'I have seen no sign of progress, but rather that the overall conditions are deteriorating.'"
April 16, 2014
Iran is refusing to withdraw its candidate for its next UN ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi. It has requested a special meeting of the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country "on the United States' refusal to grant Aboutalebi a visa, describing the decision as a dangerous precedent that could harm international diplomacy."
The Obama administration finally indicated that it would not issue Aboutalebi a visa in order to take up the post, "over concerns about his involvement" in the 1979 hostage crisis. On April 11, 2014 White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: "We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Abutalebi,"he said. "We certainly share the intent of the bill passed by Congress as we have already told the U.N. and Iran that we will not issue a visa."
The administration's move came after Congress adopted a bill which would "impose a blanket prohibition, denying entry to the United States to an individual found to be engaged in espionage, terrorism or a threat to national security."
Aboutalebi was a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam's Line, the group of terrorists who seized the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans diplomats hostage for 444 days. Moreover, according to the New York Times, Aboutalebi has admitted he served as a translator for the Iranians who seized the Embassy and the hostages.
He is also accused of being an accomplice in a murder plot that killed a prominent Iranian government defector, Mohamed Hossein Naghdi, in Rome in 1993.
On April 13, 2014 Russia requested the UN Security Council convene on an urgent basis "to consider the alarming developments in Ukraine" - developments orchestrated by Russia itself.
Russian Ambasador Vitaly Churkin used the Council session to complain about a Ukrainian government it is refusing to recognize, so-called "self-claimed Kyiv authorities. Russia demanded these "authorities" "listen to the voices of protestors in south-eastern Ukraine." He made no mention of what might befall someone who protested Putin's authority. Churkin also complained about the existence of "anti-Russian sentiment" in Ukraine - after having invaded the country.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the Council that "many of the armed units that we've seen [in eastern Ukraine] ... raised Russian and separatist flags over seized buildings and have called for referendums and union with Russia. We know who is behind this. Indeed, the only entity in the area capable of these coordinated, professional military actions is Russia... This 'instability' was written and choreographed in and by Russia."
In response, Churkin smirked: "Weren't the people in eastern Ukraine able to protest without the Russian Federation telling them to do so?" He called for "dialogue" - after unilaterally changing the facts on the ground.
The Council session ended without a resolution, since Russia would veto any condemnation of its aggression and clear violation of the UN Charter.
April 14, 2014
For the first time, the Obama administration is now a part of the implementation process of the antisemitic UN Durban Conference. Although the U.S. walked out of the notorious Durban conference in 2001 in disgust, and has boycotted the second and third follow-up Durban conferences, American diplomats are now participating in the "Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action" in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Working Group was established by the Commission on Human Rights in its Resolution 2002/68 with a mandate to "Make recommendations with a view to the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.' It is one of the several follow up mechanisms created after the 2001 Durban Conference (Durban I), held in Durban, South Africa, which produced the infamous Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA). The DDPA charges Israel with racism and names no other state in the world. The Durban Review Conference (Durban II), held in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2009, was headlined by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used the occasion to deny Holocaust and call for the destruction of Israel. In 2011 during the 10th anniversary of the DDPA (Durban III) in New York City the UN adopted a declaration which reaffirmed the original anti-Israel document adopted in 2001.
The opening statement from the Obama administration on April 7, 2014, in Geneva, included the following: "The United States normally does not participate in this working group because of our significant and well-known concerns about the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. That said, we are always ready to find common ground with others in the effort to combat racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination... We look forward to working constructively with you."
The new Obama administration policy on the Durban Declaration might be summarized as attempting to combat bigotry by implementing a document intended to promote bigotry.
"The Islamic insurgency Boko Haram in Nigeria killed 217 people during attacks on five villages Thursday and Friday, a ranking official said, the latest massacre in Nigeria's rural and inaccessible northeast. Suspected fighters from the sect burned down four villages over two days, shooting 210 civilians as they ran from house to house, said Sen. Ahmed Zanna. In a fifth town, Dikwa, they burned down a teachers' college, killing seven, said Sen. Zanna, the leading legislator from Borno state, which is the epicenter of Boko Haram's war to impose Quranic law across Africa's biggest economy...Mass killings of similar scale have become almost weekly events in war-troubled northeastern Nigeria. Often, word takes days to trickle out, hindered by the remoteness of the region's scattered villages. Many of those towns have been without cellphone reception for much of the past year as Nigeria's military shut down towers in an attempt to block Boko Haram's internal communications. Though Boko Haram didn't immediately claim the attack, it fits a pattern in Nigeria's northeast: Increasingly, the sect is carrying out horrific reprisals against pro-government villages far removed from military protection."