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Resources updated between Monday, November 09, 2020 and Sunday, November 15, 2020

November 12, 2020

The United Nations Human Rights Council

"UN envoys from some of the world's worst human-rights-abusing nations must've been looking in a mirror during Monday's UN Human Rights Council proceedings, when they raked America over the coals for abuses far more common, and worse, in their own countries.

China (yes, China) rattled off talking points covering a range of subjects, including religious discrimination and respect for 'people's rights to life and health.'

Seriously? Beijing is holding more than 1 million Uighurs in 're-education camps,' where evidence of torture, forced sterilization of women and other methods of population control have emerged. The Chinese sounded like they were in Opposite World.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, which also blasted US religious intolerance, regularly persecutes religious minorities. Lebanon, partly run by Hamas terrorists, blasted America's 'armed violence.' Terror-sponsoring Iran spoke against 'arbitrary killings.'

Does anyone still think President Trump was wrong to pull out of this council?"

These nations have some nerve to bash America on human rights at the UN Article

November 11, 2020

Iranian bodybuilder Reza Tabrizi being taken by Iranian police

Iran's Paralympics world champion has been arrested and could face the death penalty after he questioned why gyms have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic while religious shrines are allowed to remain open.

Reza Tabrizi, a bodybuilding silver medal winner in the 2011 New Zealand Paralympics, had claimed it was "hypocritical" to close down sports facilities in the holy city of Mashad but still allow pilgrims into the Imam Reza Shrine.

According to Iranian activists, religious hardliners burst into Mr Tabrizi's gym and arrested him just hours after he made the critical comments on his Instagram page, accusing him of insulting religious believers and being a "stooge" of French president Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Macron is locked in a bitter diplomatic row will Muslim leaders in the Middle East after declaring war on "Islamist separatism" in response to recent terror attacks in France.

"This guy had posted a threatening insult on his Instagram account and thought that in the country ruled by our religious beliefs he could do any damn thing that he wants. Thanks be to God he is now behind bars", Iranian cleric Morteza Mustafazadeh wrote on Instagram.

Mr Mustafazadeh, the head of the Basij militia in Iran, has called for Mr Tabrizi to face the death penalty, though he has not yet been sentenced.

Iranian officials have insisted on keeping the shrines open to the public, even as the country saw a record 458 deaths in a single day last week and the rate of daily infections exceeded 10,000.

Mr Tabrizi has issued a statement since his arrest where he apologizes for offending religious sensitivities

"I apologise to all my friends and fans and hereby state that the love of our religious saints runs in the blood of my family and if as a result of a moment of negligence I have hurt your feelings I do sincerely apologise and ask for your forgiveness", the statement said.

Nader Tavakkoli, a member of Iran's coronavirus response force, has warned that some hospitals have run out of beds to treat patients.

"Beds allocated for coronavirus patients are full at hospitals," he said. "We should have a temporary phase of two weeks closure in Tehran to control the wave of the disease. Meanwhile we can get into planning."

Iran has also faced accusations of downplaying the true scale of the coronavirus pandemic, which according to official figures has killed around 39,000 people.

Documents obtained by BBC Persian earlier this year showed that the government recorded some 40,000 coronavirus cases in the period up to 20 July, but then stated in public that only 14,000 people had died.

Even by the government's figures, Iran is one of the most severely affected countries in the Middle East.

Iranian Paralympic bodybuilder 'facing death penalty' for criticising coronavirus rules Document

A protest against a Hong Kong extradition bill (File photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Beijing forced the expulsion of four pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers, prompting the rest of the opposition bloc to resign in protest at China's intensifying crackdown on dissent in the city.

Hong Kong's government Wednesday said that the democratically elected legislators had been disqualified with immediate effect. The government announced the move minutes after China's legislature passed a resolution that empowered local officials to unseat dissenting politicians without going through the courts.

Slamming Beijing's decision as another assault on the freedoms China had guaranteed the former British colony until 2047, the group of 19 pro-democracy legislators said that quitting was the biggest possible protest they could make.

"Today starts a whole new ballgame on how the battle of democracy will be fought in Hong Kong," said Wu Chi-wai, the convener of the group, who separately confirmed the intention of the other 15 pan-democratic lawmakers to resign on Thursday. "Sooner or later we would all have been disqualified."

The resignations leave the city's mostly pro-Beijing legislature as effectively a rubber stamp for government policy and laws. The move threatens to upend decades of rough-and-tumble legislative politics in the city-where the opposition has at times delayed, amended and even thwarted government legislation.

Beijing's decision dealt another blow to the city's already reeling opposition movement. Dissent has been shrinking in the city since Chinese leaders imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in late June, leading to the arrests of some high-profile politicians and activists, while others have retreated from the public eye or fled abroad.

Opposition lawmakers have remained vocal in the legislative chamber, drawing criticism from officials for their delaying tactics over legislation they oppose. Several were recently arrested by police over a May scuffle in the legislature.

The city's top local official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said Wednesday the ruling followed an August decision by Beijing's top legislative body that extended the incumbent legislative term by a year after elections set for September were postponed, a delay officials attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

The four ousted lawmakers had been among 12 disqualified from that election for a variety of reasons, including alleged doubts about their allegiance to the territory and their public political views. Mrs. Lam said that addressing the issue of the disqualified candidates serving in the extended legislative term had required further clarification from central authorities.

She said the disqualifications were unrelated to parliamentary tactics such as filibustering that have come under criticism from officials and pro-establishment lawmakers.

The four ousted legislators are Alvin Yeung, the leader of the Civic Party, fellow party members Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok, and Kenneth Leung, who represented the accountancy sector.

Half of the city's 70-member legislature is directly elected by the public, with the other half chosen by industry bodies. The pro-democracy legislators said they would tender their resignations during the legislative session Thursday.

Two other pro-democracy-leaning legislators who are not part of the alliance between the various democratic parties said they would stay on.

The ouster of the four colleagues put the pan-democratic bloc "between the devil and the deep blue sea," said Steve Tsang, the director of the School of Oriental and African Studies China Institute. Staying under what they deem illegitimate conditions would be difficult, he said. Yet withdrawing together from the legislature gives Beijing what it wants: a compliant group that will do what is required of it.

Since the politicians were elected with the mandate to fight for democratic rights in Hong Kong, the decision to resign was inevitable, said Mr. Wu, the leader of the pan-democratic bloc. Beijing's decree violates the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution, he added, and takes away checks and balances on the government.

China's national security law has sent a chill throughout the city, targeting hostile media, dissent in schools and activism on social media. Beijing has cracked down on dissent this year after months of sometimes violent antigovernment protests paralyzed the city at times last year.

The right to democratically elect the city's chief executive and the entire Legislative Council had been a key demand of antigovernment protests.

In an emotional press conference Wednesday, the 19 legislators began by holding hands and chanted "Hong Kong Add Oil!" We Stand Together!"-using a popular protest refrain-and vowed to continue fighting for democracy in the city.

Many of those who resigned Wednesday were often seen on city streets alongside protesters. Some used their position as elected representatives to act as a buffer between police officers and protesters, despite on occasion being arrested for those actions.

Over the years, legislative council elections were colorful and feisty affairs, with many of the positions hotly contested around different districts of the city. The 35 seats that can be directly elected are the most powerful public positions that are democratically chosen in the city.

Over the past few years the government has increasingly moved to disqualify legislative candidates and in 2017 won a court ruling to oust four pro-democracy lawmakers it said failed to properly execute their oaths.

Wednesday's ruling from Beijing spells out conditions in which legislators could immediately lose their seats. Those include supporting independence for the territory, endangering national security and refusing to recognize China's sovereignty over Hong Kong. The legislators must also uphold their allegiance to the city.

"This fundamentally changes the Legislative Council," said Mr. Yeung, one of the disqualified lawmakers. "It's a blatant humiliation to this legislature that is already run short of legitimacy and respect from the people."

Hong Kong Opposition Resigns From Legislature Over Latest Beijing Crackdown Document

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands speaking the United Nations

"The Dutch Senate called for the Netherlands to vote against UN resolutions that only use the Arabic name for the Temple Mount, thus denying Judaism's connection to its holiest site, in a motion passed on Tuesday.

The motion by Sen. Peter Schalk of the Christian SGP faction asked the government 'to vote as much as possible against UN resolutions referring to the Temple Mount using only the Arabic name 'al-Haram al-Sharif' and to encourage other EU countries to do the same.'

The senate approved the motion with 50 in favor and 25 opposed.

The vote came after the Netherlands voted in favor of six out of seven annual UN resolutions concerning Israel last week, including 'Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem,' which only refers to the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, as al-Haram al-Sharif...."

Dutch Senate: Reject UN resolutions denying Jewish ties to Temple Mount Article

November 9, 2020

Islamic State graffiti (File photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

More than 50 people have been beheaded in northern Mozambique by militant Islamists, state media report.

The militants turned a football pitch in a village into an "execution ground", where they decapitated and chopped bodies, other reports said.

Several people were also beheaded in another village, state media reported.

The beheadings are the latest in a series of gruesome attacks that the militants have carried out in gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since 2017.

Up to 2,000 people have been killed and about 430,000 have been left homeless in the conflict in the mainly-Muslim province.

The militants are linked to the Islamic State (IS) group, giving it a foothold in southern Africa.

The group has exploited poverty and unemployment to recruit youth in their fight to establish Islamic rule in the area.

Many locals complain that they have benefited little from the province's ruby and gas industries.

The BBC's Jose Tembe reports from the capital, Maputo, that the latest attack was probably the worst carried out by the militants.

Many people are shocked, and they are calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, he adds.

The gunmen chanted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest", in English), fired shots, and set homes alight when they raided Nanjaba village on Friday night, the state-owned Mozambique News Agency quoted survivors as saying.

Two people were beheaded in the village and several women abducted, the news agency added.

A separate group of militants carried out another brutal attack on Muatide village, where they beheaded more than 50 people, the news agency reported.

Villagers who tried to flee were caught, and taken to the local football pitch where they were beheaded and chopped to pieces in an atrocity carried out from Friday night to Sunday, privately-run Pinnancle News reported.

Mozambique's government has appealed for international help to curb the insurgency, saying its troops need specialised training.

In April, more than 50 people were beheaded or shot dead in an attack on a village in Cabo Delgado and earlier this month, nine people were beheaded in the same province.

Human rights groups say Mozambican security forces have also carried human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and killings, during operations to curb the insurgency.

Militant Islamists 'behead more than 50' in Mozambique Document