Resources updated between Monday, June 09, 2014 and Sunday, June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
The UN top rights body is about to take a big step backward concerning the promotion and protection of LGBT rights. The UN Human Rights Council, currently meeting in Geneva, is poised to adopt its first ever resolution on "protection of the family".
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has been on the war path for years against any UN recognition of LGBT rights. In March 2012 they boycotted a panel discussion of the subject at the UN in Geneva, and a report on the subject by UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay carefully avoided mentioning the worst violators by name. There have been no resolutions or formal discussions of the subject since.
On June 13, 2014 the UN delegates in Geneva held informal consultations on a draft UN Human Rights Council resolution entitled "Protection of the Family". The main sponsors of this initiative are some of the world's worst human rights violators: Bangladesh, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Qatar and Uganda.
During the backroom meeting, Pakistan, Iran, the African Union, Malaysia, Belarus, and Bolivia also expressed their strong support for the draft text.
Pakistan, a member of the "Human Rights" Council, made clear real intentions of the sponsors: "It is clear what we are talking about. Family is a man, a woman and his children. We are talking about the pollution of the family by bringing an idea for which there is no consensus on the international level. We are very clear about the definition of the family."
On the other hand, a suggestion to include in the resolution reference to protecting women and children from domestic violence was rejected by the main supporters.
The European Union proposed that "states have the responsibility to promote and protect the rights of women and children" within the family as well as to recognize the "rights of individuals". The African Union strongly objected to mentioning women and children. Iran, where girls below the age of 10 are registered for marriage and minors are hanged for being gay, had this to contribute: the "family is the basic core of the society" and "family role is more important than the state's" role in protecting children's rights.
The sponsors of the draft resolution also made sure that the issue of "the family" stays on the Council's agenda as long as possible. The text requests the Council to organize a "panel discussion on the protection of the family" at its September 2014 session and asks the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the discussion and present it to the Council at the March 2015 session.
"Israel accused Hamas of abducting three Israeli teenagers missing in the West Bank since Thursday evening, after the military arrested dozens of Palestinians overnight and enforced a closure around the city of Hebron. The disappearance of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach while hitchhiking on a highway in the West Bank has become a crisis for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is straining ties with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the jointly backed government he formed with Hamas two weeks ago. Mr. Netanyahu, who huddled with security chiefs over the weekend at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, said Saturday night that 'there is no doubt' that the teenagers had been kidnapped by a terrorist group. On Sunday, he told his cabinet that a wave of arrests of top Hamas members in the West Bank had confirmed that the Islamist militant group was responsible. 'We know that for a fact,' he said, but offered no evidence to back up the statement. The prime minister said Saturday that the disappearance was a result of Mr. Abbas's reconciliation efforts with Hamas, and said the Palestinian president would be held responsible by Israel for the well-being of the teenagers..."
June 13, 2014
"Last summer, an American-born teenager of Somali descent fled her parents' home in a suburb here after she discovered that a coming vacation to Somalia would include a sacred rite of passage: the cutting of her genitalia. In Guinea, a New Yorker escaped to the American Embassy after an aunt told her that her family trip would involve genital cutting. And in Seattle, at least one physician said parents had sent girls back to Somalia to undergo cutting. Immigrant parents from African and other nations have long sent their daughters back to their ancestral homes for the summer, a trip intended to help them connect with their families and traditions. During their stays, some girls are swept into bedrooms or backwoods and subjected to genital cutting in the belief that it will prevent promiscuity, ready them for marriage or otherwise align them with the ideals of their culture. 'Vacation cutting,' as the practice is deemed by those who oppose it, has existed in immigrant enclaves around the world for decades. Federal law has banned genital cutting in the United States since 1996, and last year it became illegal to transport girls for that purpose. But some are concerned that such cutting could be on the rise. The number of African immigrants in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past two decades to almost 1.7 million, according to the Census Bureau. The growing numbers have brought new attention to the issue, and have spurred a small Internet-age, app-enabled support network of girls and women who have been victims of cutting, or believe they will be. About 228,000 women and girls in the United States have been cut or are at risk of it, according to an analysis that uses 14-year-old census data..."
"Attending public executions, whether beheadings or stonings, is not my predilection, yet one does come across them in the course of life in Arabia and Pakistan. Beheading and stoning are the accepted penalties for a range of presumed offences in much of the Muslim world, and the all-male crowd - especially the old men - push and shove outside Riyadh's main mosque after Friday morning prayer for a better view of offenders losing their heads by the ceremonial sword. The seeping cadavers and their heads are left on the tarmac pour encourager les autres.
"Further east, outside a much smaller mosque in the desert near Hofuf, the miscreants were two women making their living by harlotry, and hence adulterers, due to be judicially stoned after the amplified rant from the imam. The mosque had been selected as a venue I think because it had no concrete forecourt. It had therefore been possible to scoop mechanically two neat holes in the ground, each lined with an open-topped oil drum.
"Let me quote from my notes. It was again a Friday, the holy day. 'There must have been 60 or 70 cars and a couple of hundred people, some perched on the car bonnets, and four or five police cars, blue and white, and a police van with a pulsing beacon beyond the crowd. A proclamation was now being read out, flat and deadly, the reader having difficulty with a name. The head and shoulders of one binte were already sticking out of one of the holes. Just then two policemen were lifting the other from where the van was and inserting her, carefully, into the other hole. She was trussed in some manner, arms down the side of her, in leg-irons probably.
"'I couldn't spot where the first rock came from - maybe from the mutaween, the religious police, "upholders of virtue and stoppers of sin', identifiable by their beards. The uniformed police, lined up, were busy throwing rocks. A tipper truck had brought up a load of Type Two aggregate of red sandstone from the road-building being undertaken by my companion's construction company, and dumped in two heaps for those without sin to fling at the women under their shrouds. The targets could not of course duck down into their holes: they were too narrow.'...
"The act of stoning, while not actually lawful in Pakistan, was done in what is called a 'climate of impunity' in the rigorous Islamic tradition of daughters marrying who they're told to, and in the light of the awareness of several hundred other such killings in Pakistan every year going unpunished..."
"Two more women have been found hanging from trees in India's Uttar Pradesh state, and another has claimed she was gang-raped by four police officers, the latest developments in a crisis over women's safety that has gripped the Asian nation, Sky News reports. Last month, two girls, aged 14 and 15, were gang-raped and lynched in the impoverished Katra village, triggering outrage across the nation and leading India's national women's rights body to call for the state government to resign over the crisis. In Thursday's incident, a 19-year-old was found hanging from a tree in a village in Morabad district, Sky News reported. "The body was strung up using the girl's dupatta (long scarf)," senior police superintendent Ashutosh Kumar said. 'The FIR (first information report) was lodged by the girl's brother against unidentified persons. He has alleged the girl was murdered.' The discovery comes one day after a 45-year-old woman was found hanging from a tree, with her family claiming she had been raped and murdered. Her husband said she was singled out for attack as she returned home in Bahraich district as punishment for trying to halt the sale of alcohol in her area. A district superintendent said four men have been detained in the case. Meanwhile, the woman who alleged she was gang-raped by police officers said the crime happened inside a police station as she was trying to secure her husband's release. She claimed she was attacked when she refused to pay authorities a bribe. Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. Activists, though, say that number is just a tiny percentage of the actual number, since victims are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet about sexual assaults. The stigma of rape runs deep, with many women accused of rape still forced to answer questions about their sexual history, the provocativeness of their clothing and whether they may have invited the attack."
"Three yeshiva students in their teens are believed to have been kidnapped in the West Bank, Israeli officials announced Friday afternoon. The IDF spokesperson's office said they lost contact with the three Thursday overnight. Israeli security forces were conducting a widespread operation to locate them, the IDF said. 'Since the morning, we have been engaged in operational activity designed to find [them] and bring them [back],' said Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, the commander of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. 'Over the past several hours, there has been a very large intelligence effort to try and determine what happened with those youths since they disappeared.' Facts that might interfere with the ongoing investigation, he said, were being withheld at this time. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the families of the missing teenagers,urged them to remain strong and told them the State of Israel would do everything possible for their sons. He promised to keep them updated. The Prime Minister's Office said it held the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for their well-being."
"Six months ago, when UNESCO canceled an exhibition about the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel just before its scheduled opening, Professor Robert Wistrich, its author, was livid. The cancellation, which followed Arab pressure, was disgraceful, he fumed, an appalling "betrayal" that proved that the organization is "subjected, entirely, to political considerations," because "there's one standard for Jews, and there's another standard for non-Jews, especially if they're Arabs." The situation has much improved since then, Wistrich and others involved in the project assert, as the exhibition opened on Wednesday afternoon at UNESCO headquarters in Paris...
And yet changes have been made to the exhibition since it was nixed in January. Most strikingly, the word "Israel" has been deleted from the exhibition's title and replaced by "Holy Land." An exhibit that was initially called "The 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel" is now entitled "The 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land.""..."Simon Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Marvin Hier...told The Times of Israel...the replacement of the "Land of Israel" wording with the "Holy Land,"... it perceived as an unimportant nuance...We never objected to it."
In addition, "six months ago, the invitation prominently featured an image of the Dead Sea scrolls. On the invitation to Wednesday's event, the picture is conspicuously absent. ...Wistrich confirmed that UNESCO asked for the picture to be removed, though he said he didn't know what could be objectionable about old scrolls from Qumran. "Perhaps it too obviously recalls, as it were, the longevity of the Jewish people's association with the Land of Israel," he said. "It's a very concrete display of the fact that 2,000 years these were our whereabouts." The same Hebrew found in these scrolls, some of which date back to 400 BCE, is spoken today in the State of Israel, he said, "and this is a very striking manifestation of the intimacy of the connection. That would be my speculation, but they may have other considerations.""
June 12, 2014
On June 11, 2014 the UN Assembly elected by acclamation Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa its president for the 2014-2015 session. His term will officially start in September 2014.
The mission of the UN General Assembly includes "promoting international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, and assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion."
Kutesa stands for the opposite. Not only does he have close professional and personal ties to Uganda's brutal 28-year dictator Yoweri Museveni, but he is directly linked to numerous corruption scandals. Kutesa, Museveni's "top advisor and spokesperson," is reputed to be one of "the most corrupt Ugandan politicians". He has so far survived trial and conviction due to his close personal ties with Museveni.
Moreover in February, Uganda passed a new law which "authorises life imprisonment for 'repeat homosexuals' – couples in a committed relationship; seven-year sentences for anyone helping gay people to 'avoid detection' and five years in prison for 'promotion of homosexuality.'" As Uganda's foreign affairs chief, Kutesa was responsible for defending the law in the face of widespread international condemnation. His words: "the majority of Africans abhor this practice".
On June 11, 2014 the UN Assembly also elected as one of its Vice-President the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is how the DRC has been "assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms": according to the latest State Department report "The three most important human rights problems were: armed conflict in the East that exacerbated an already precarious human rights situation, particularly with regard to sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV); lack of an independent and effective judiciary; and impunity throughout the country for many serious abuses, including unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, rapes, and arbitrary arrests and detention... [R]ape was common throughout the country... Domestic violence was common throughout the country ...Many churches conducted exorcisms of children accused of witchcraft, which involved isolation, beating and whipping, starvation, and forced ingestion of purgatives..."
In addition, Cuba was chosen by drawing of lots to occupy the first seat in the first row of the General Assembly Hall in 2014-2015 session, starting September 2014. (The remainder of countries follow in alphabetical order after "C-U-B-A".) The number one spot for a non-democracy makes sense - at the UN.
June 10, 2014
Outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, gave her last speech to the Human Rights Council on June 10, 2014 and took the opportunity to condemn the United States before mentioning Iran.
The "horrific" human rights violations of the U.S. - to use Pillay's word - were the two legal executions in Ohio and Oklahoma in 2014 where procedures failed unintentionally during the execution phase. Only after condemning the U.S., did she mention that Iran has deliberately executed more than 200 people already this year for crimes that international law says do not warrant the death penalty at all.
Before the U.S. or Iran, came Pillay's favorite whipping boy on her list of human rights "priorities" - Israel. Pillay was "deeply troubled" by alleged "excessive use of force" by Israel. She was not troubled by Palestinian terrorism. On the contrary, Palestinians were "commended" for just ratifying treaties (that they have no intention of implementing).
Throughout her time in office, Pillay cast herself as a third world champ, standing up to the big bad democracies in the Western world. In this last speech she played the same card, using extreme epithets when it came to the US and Israel, but having this to say about the forty-two dead in Venezuela since February: "I have engaged the Government of Venezuela...emphasizing the importance of dialogue and engagement."
Here is her final rundown of all the states with human rights issues she deemed worth mentioning - though blameworthiness was markedly uneven and in some cases totally absent: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Syria, Israel, Venezuela, the United States, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, "Western Europe," Ukraine, Sri Lanka, North Korea and Turkey. No Russia. No China. No Cuba. No Saudi Arabia...and on and on. The list sums up her time in office and the billions of people she routinely ignored.
Pillay is a native of Durban and made resurrecting the antisemitic Durban Declaration a central plank of her six years in office. Out of the starting gate she promoted and headed the 2009 "Durban Review Conference" - which resulted in a document reaffirming the Durban Declaration. The conference is best remembered by the rest of the world for its opening act - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who took the opportunity of Pillay's "anti-racism" venue to question the Holocaust. Western democracies either boycotted the conference or walked out during his Hitler-like tirade, while Pillay remained glued to her seat on the podium. Leaving office, however, she is apparently hoping for collective amnesia and attempted to re-write her own history. She told the assembled on June 10, 2014: "the Durban Review Conference... resulted in a landmark plan of action that sets a principled international agenda for the global movement against racism and discrimination."
Navi Pillay dragged the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to a new low. A woman who either could not tell the difference between right and wrong or who believed that political expediency came first. The real victims of human rights abuse that she left languishing do not much care why she abandoned them. They will not remember her fondly, if at all.
Obama's new pick for Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Keith Harper, made his debut in Geneva on June 10 by lauding the UN body whose stock-in-trade is promoting antisemitism. Right on cue, Harper referred to the continual demonization of the Jewish state under the guise of human rights, as a mere "shortcoming." Not an inequality that vitiates the integrity of the institution.
As the slaughter in Syria continues unabated, Russian aggression succeeds, Iranian terrorism spreads, and North Koreans are tortured and starved en masse, Harper made the ridiculous claim that: "the Human Rights Council is a critical venue for addressing some of the most persistent threats to human rights around the world... With U.S. leadership, the Council has responded to urgent human rights situations in real time, shining a spotlight on situations such as Syria, North Korea, Iran and the Central African Republic."
Here is what Harper means by "shining a spotlight:" "In Ukraine, we are deeply concerned by the human rights impact of destabilizing actions by external actors." In the world of the UN Human Rights Council, he dared not even mention the word "Russia."
Another laughable example: Harper said "We will also reaffirm the importance of Internet Freedom...We are pleased to be working with excellent partners on this initiative, including core group members...Turkey." That's the same Turkey where the Erdogan government has blocked dozens of websites this year including YouTube and Twitter.
Expect Harper and the Obama administration to continue the game of pretending this UN farce - led by members like Cuba, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia - is a substitute for serious human rights leadership. Sadly, real victims around the world know the difference.
"North Korea on Monday threatened a planned U.N. field office in South Korea set up to investigate human rights abuses in the isolated country, saying anyone involved would be 'ruthlessly punished'.
"The United Nations in March called for the field office to monitor human rights in North Korea following the release of a 372-page U.N. Commission of Inquiry report that detailed wide-ranging abuses, including systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.
"'Anyone who challenges our dignity and social system and agrees to go ahead with the establishment of the office will be ruthlessly punished,' the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement."
"Exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad got under the skin of the Islamic Republic with 'My Stealthy Freedom,' a Facebook campaign encouraging women in Iran to post photographs of themselves not wearing the compulsory headscarves. The page has attracted some 482,000 'likes' and commanded considerable international attention.
"Now, Iran has hit back with a thinly veiled lie, broadcasting on state television in late May that Alinejad had been assaulted and raped by three men in London in the presence of her son. Two days later, a hardliner commentator and TV personality called Alinejad a 'whore who should not be elevated to the level of a heretic.'
"It didn't take long for Alinejad to answer back, posting a video clip of herself singing a famous Iranian song about freedom on a London tube station platform near where Iran's state television had claimed she was assaulted. She intends to file a complaint with the Iranian judiciary against the Iranian television station who broadcast the false claims.
"'My son and I are living a proud and peaceful life,' Alinejad wrote on Facebook. 'Sometimes when I burst out singing he starts laughing. I wish from the bottom of my heart that I could break into song in a metro station in my own country and that nobody would assault my intellect...'
"'I know that it might get nowhere, but this is my only recourse. I do not want to give in.'"
June 9, 2014
"We all know things are bad for LGBT people in Russia, right?
"In fact, we have no idea. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Tatiana Vinnichenko, director of the Russian LGBT organization Rakurs, revealed how much most of us in the West don't know about Russia's anti-gay crackdown. And all of it is bad news.
"First, official state prosecutions and persecution of LGBT organizations has morphed and intensified. Previously, LGBT organizations were pressured to register as 'foreign agents'-spies, basically-but those registrations were subject to judicial review. The results were uneven: Some courts rubber-stamped the government's positions, but others found a lack of evidence and ruled for the LGBT organizations.
"Earlier this year, says Vinnichenko, the law was quietly changed. Now the government has the power to declare an organization a foreign agent as an administrative matter. In other words, what was once a matter of law, however imperfect, is now a matter of bureaucracy. With one fell swoop-and one that can come at any moment, without warning-a gay community center, or film festival, or support group can be branded a spy.
"The St. Petersburg-based LGBT organization Coming Out has been immersed in Russia's Kafkaesque bureaucracy for months, having endured four hearings to ascertain whether it is a foreign agent. But it has endured, thanks to the rule of law. Without that protection, Coming Out would have no recourse. And once one is labeled a foreign agent, even routine administrative errors can result in criminal prosecution.
"'We are being boiled in a pot,' Vinnichenko said.
"The foreign agents law and the 'anti-propaganda law' are really just the tip of the anti-gay iceberg, however. The newest phase of Putin's campaign has been, ironically, privatization.
"According to Vinnichenko, Russian authorities are putting pressure on all kinds of institutions-banks, landlords, employers-not to do business with LGBT people and LGBT organizations. Because licenses are required for just about everything in Russia, this 'pressure' is existential. Banks are being told, 'Dump your LGBT customers, or we'll shut you down,' she said...
"This subcontracted homophobia has largely escaped the notice of the Western media so far. It is off the books, so to speak, propelled by threats and extortion rather than overt acts like legislation or prosecution. And it has plausible deniability. 'Putin is asked about LGBT people whenever he goes abroad, and he just lies or says he doesn't know,' said Vinnichenko. 'But he knows the situation-he's the homophobe in chief.'"