IHRP external news feeds

UN faces a second Cholera Challenge in New York Courts

Opinio Juris - 5 hours 35 min ago
by Kristen Boon

by Kristen Boon Waiver of immunity is at the center of another cholera case against the UN, this time in the Eastern District of New York.  In LaVenture et al v. United Nations, the plaintiffs argue that they have two distinct questions on waiver that distinguish this litigation from the recent decision upholding the UN’s […]

South Korea: Seek Help for North Korean Refugees in China

Human Rights Watch - 5 hours 49 min ago

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South Korean President Moon Jae-In attends an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea June 22, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
(Washington, DC, June 29, 2017) – South Korean President Moon Jae-In should raise the perilous situation of more than 38 North Korean refugees detained in China in his meetings with US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, on June 29 and 30, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The refugees are at risk of imminent return to North Korea, where they face torture and long-term detention.

North Koreans forcibly returned by China regularly endure torture while being interrogated about their activities abroad. They then can disappear into North Korea’s horrific prison camp system, where prisoners face torture, sexual violence, forced labor, and other inhuman treatment.  Moon should also call for a global partnership to seek improvements on the human rights situation for North Korea people. Phil Robertson

Deputy Asia Director

“President Moon should urge President Trump to join South Korea in calling on China’s leaders not to send these 38 North Korean refugees back into harm’s way,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Moon should also call for a global partnership to seek improvements on the human rights situation for North Korea people.”

The death of the US student Otto Warmbier after apparent mistreatment in custody in North Korea has already alerted Trump administration officials to the dangers faced by prisoners in North Korean prisons.

Activists and family members have informed Human Rights Watch that at least 51 North Koreans have been detained in China since July 2016, including a baby born in detention, four children ages 10 to 16, and three elderly women in frail health. Based on their information, Human Rights Watch believes that at least 13 North Koreans have already been forcibly returned to North Korea, meaning that at least 38 remain in China. Human Rights Watch is unaware of reliable estimates of the total number of North Koreans in custody in China, or the number of refugees returned to North Korea.

China routinely labels North Koreans as illegal “economic migrants” and regularly repatriates them to North Korea, where they face abuses by prison guards, and forced labor in harsh and dangerous conditions. Those defying the rules of the camps, or seeking to escape face arbitrary punishments, including public executions. Leaving North Korea without official permission is a crime for which abuse and punishment is certain among those sent back to North Korean state security (Bowibu).

As a result, Human Rights Watch has determined that all North Koreans in China who left North Korea without permission should be considered refugees sur place –people who become refugees as a result of fleeing their country or due to circumstances arising after their flight – and thus in need of protection. North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security enforces a decree that makes defection from North Korea a crime of “treachery against the nation” that is harshly punished, including in some cases through executions.

Among the 38 North Koreans are a group of eight who were detained in March. People monitoring their situation believe they are still held in Suizhong county in Liaoning province. Among the group are two women who escaped after being sold to Chinese men and two women with serious health problems. On June 27, the US government downgraded China in its Trafficking in Persons Report to a Tier 3 country, noting the Chinese government’s continued forced repatriations to North Korea without protections for victims of trafficking.

In a recent case of five North Koreans at risk of repatriation, Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 24, requesting their release and free passage to a safe third country. The latest information received by a family member, “Lim,” on June 27 was that Chinese authorities were still detaining the five near Yanji city in Jilin province. Plans to move them to Helong city had reportedly changed and the group was scheduled to be moved to Tumen city, across the border from the North Korean city of Namyang. Human Rights Watch remains concerned that these five North Koreans could be forced across the border to North Korea at any time.

Lim remains very concerned about her family’s treatment if sent back because police detained and forcibly disappeared her father in 2010. When detainees vanish without information on their whereabouts, trial dates, or result of an administration or judicial procedure, it is common for North Koreans to assume the person has been sent to a political prison camp (kwanliso). Lim fears that because of their father’s status, her family will be lost in the kwanliso system.

A 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea found that those fleeing the country are targeted as part of a “systematic and widespread attack against populations considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership of the DPRK … to isolate the population from contact with the outside world.” It also found that crimes against humanity, including torture, execution, enslavement, and sexual violence are committed against prisoners and people forcibly returned to North Korea from China. The Commission of Inquiry also criticized China for failing to meet its obligations as a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

“President Moon should remind President Trump that it is not just Americans who suffer at the hands of the authorities in Pyongyang and that together they can take a stand to support these desperate North Korean refugees,” Robertson said. “China should provide them asylum or allow them to make their way to another country that will protect them.”

Angola: 2 Journalists face Baseless Criminal Charges

Human Rights Watch - 11 hours 4 min ago

(Johannesburg) – Angolan prosecutors should drop charges against two journalists accused of insulting the state and allow them to do their jobs without interference, Human Rights Watch said today. Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs the anticorruption website Maka Angola, and Mariano Bras Lourenço, editor of the weekly newspaper O Crime, were charged on June 21, 2017, with “outrage to a body of sovereignty and injury against public authority,” under Angola’s Law on Crimes against State Security.

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Journalist Rafael Marques de Morais sits in court in Luanda, Angola on May 28, 2015.

© 2015 Reuters

The journalists were charged over publishing an article about an alleged illegal land acquisition involving the attorney general, João Maria de Sousa. The article – first published on Maka Angola  in November 2016, and re-published by O Crime the same month – alleged that de Sousa unlawfully acted as a property and real estate developer in addition to his official duties. The article also suggested that President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos supported the attorney general’s actions.

“The charges against Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenço is the latest attempt by Angolan authorities to unduly limit freedom of expression and the media,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern African director at Human Rights Watch. “Exposing improper business deals involving state officials is not a threat to state security, but is journalism in the public interest.”

Angolan media operates in a very restrictive environment, with authorities often repressing coverage of cases of corruption involving government officials. In November 2016, without public consultation, parliament passed a media law that gives regulatory control of all media to a new body controlled by the government and the ruling party. The Angolan union of journalists called the law “a political tool to intimidate the press,” and vowed to take the matter to the constitutional court. Despite opposition, on January 23, 2017, Dos Santos signed the bill into law.

Angola is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to freedom of expression and the media in article 19. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that monitors state compliance with the covenant, has stated, “mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties.” Thus, “all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.”

EU: Rights Should Be on Egypt Meeting Agenda

Human Rights Watch - 12 hours 3 min ago
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Journalists protest in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo against press restrictions and for the release of detained journalists, May 2016. 

© 2016 Reuters

(Brussels) – The European Union and its member states should insist on including human rights concerns on the agenda for an upcoming EU-Egypt Association Council meeting and in EU public messaging about the meeting, Human Rights Watch said today.

EU foreign policy officials recently told human rights organizations based in Brussels that the EU had proposed several mid-July 2017 dates for the high-level meeting, the first EU-Egypt Association Council gathering since the military removed former President Mohamed Morsy in 2013. The EU should live up to its commitment to “place human rights at the centre of its relations with all third countries” – a pledge it has yet to fully apply to its relations with Egypt, Human Rights Watch said.

“For Egypt’s abusive government, what’s not to like about a high-level EU meeting that doesn’t raise pesky human rights questions,” said Lotte Leicht, Brussels director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU needs to put itself squarely on the side of Egyptians who courageously stand for basic rights when meeting with a government known for mass killings rather than respect for those rights.”

The meeting comes at a time when the Egyptian government has intensified and escalated its abusive policies and conduct. New legislation ends the ability of nongovernmental organizations to work independently and puts them under security agencies’ supervision. Security forces routinely disappear and torture people suspected of supporting opposition parties, Islamist or otherwise. Prosecutors have sent thousands of civilians to be tried before military courts, and tens of thousands of people are imprisoned in terrible conditions following unfair trials.

The EU and its member states should firmly address Egypt’s brutal repression of dissenting and critical voices and set out clear and public benchmarks for improvement, Human Rights Watch said. Those should include bringing to justice officials responsible for torture and extrajudicial killings and releasing journalists, political opposition members, and human rights activists who are behind bars solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

In November 2015, the EU revised its European Neighborhood Policy, downplaying discussion of rights and freedoms. The new policy, in the EU’s words, reflected a “new type of assessment, focusing specifically on meeting the goals agreed with partners.” The EU communique went on to say: “For those partners who prefer to focus on a more limited number of strategic priorities, the reporting framework will be adjusted to reflect the new focus.”

The EU’s public silence about abuses under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has brought about no positive change in Egypt. The EU and its member states should boldly raise human rights issues with Egypt because the people who work for freedom of expression, association, and assembly in Egypt need to hear the EU’s voice, not silence or generalities, Human Rights Watch said.

The Association Council meeting comes after Germany and France, two EU leaders, have sent high-level delegations to Cairo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited in March 2017 and the French defense and foreign affairs ministers visited in early June. Human rights appeared to be absent from those meetings, at least as reflected in their public statements.

At the June regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Greece and Hungary objected to a mention of Egypt in the EU’s Item 4 statement on “countries of concern.” Though Hungary’s delegation ultimately relented, the EU never delivered its statement as Greece refused to join a consensus because of a reference to human rights concerns in Egypt and China.

“In the face of escalating arrests, killings, torture, and enforced disappearances, it borders on the obscene for the EU and its member states to be signaling to Egyptians and the world that human rights are off the agenda,” Leicht said. 

Hong Kong: Chief Executive Should Defend Autonomy

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam (R) enters a news conference with Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung (C) and Financial Secretary Paul Chan in Hong Kong on June 21, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

(New York) – Hong Kong’s incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam should vigorously defend Hong Kong’s autonomy as guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” arrangement enshrined in the Basic Law, Human Rights Watch said in a public letter today. Many in Hong Kong have expressed their discontent with the failure of political reform and other issues through repeated protests since the handover.

July 1, 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer from British to Chinese control, and the inauguration of Lam, who was selected  as chief executive of Hong Kong by a committee of 1,200 electors heavily influenced by Beijing.

“Fears of a militarized Chinese encroachment on Hong Kong have not materialized, but that doesn’t mean key human rights aren’t at serious risk in the territory,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Carrie Lam and other Hong Kong political leaders must use their position and power to resist Beijing’s pressure on the legal system, the press, and diverse political views – while they still can.”

The letter notes Beijing’s rhetorical attacks on the “one country, two systems” arrangement, repeated failures to honor pledges of democracy to Hong Kong, and inference in the territory’s press freedom and judicial independence. Human Rights Watch also highlights the Hong Kong government’s increasing harassment of opposition political parties and the deterioration in freedom of expression as a worrying trend. Human Rights Watch calls on Lam to:

  • Use President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong in July to publicly assert that Hong Kong will retain control over all issues other than foreign affairs and defense;
  • Publicly challenge President Xi on issue of cross-border abductions and clarify the nature of cooperation with mainland security agents in Hong Kong;
  • Restart the political reform process by submitting to Beijing a report making clear the need for greater democratization;
  • Drop charges against protesters and pro-democracy leaders for their peaceful activities;
  • Approve the registration applications of pro-democracy political groups; and
  • Uphold press freedom and freedom of expression, and allow greater access to government events and facilities. 

“Since 1997, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people have repeatedly taken to the streets over threats to education, political rights, and human rights abuses in the mainland,” Richardson said. “The new chief executive should recognize that her best chance to govern is to defend the rights and autonomy of Hong Kong to Beijing.”
 

Germany, Malta on Verge of Marriage Equality

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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People dance as they participate in the annual Gay Pride parade in Berlin, Germany on July 23, 2016. In Germany, same-sex couples can become registered partners, but cannot get married.

© 2016 Reuters

Barring any last minute political surprises, two European Union countries are poised to embrace marriage equality: Germany and Malta.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) party has historically been opposed to same-sex marriage, made a surprising comment this week. At an event in Berlin hosted by a women’s magazine, Chancellor Merkel responded to a question from the audience and said opinion polls show that the vast majority of Germans favor marriage equality. She suggested that a free vote on the matter could be held in the German parliament.

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Boris Dittrich, Human Rights Watch LGBT Rights Advocacy Director, with Monsignor Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta, June 9, 2017.

©2017 Human Rights Watch

In the past, Merkel has said that she sees marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. A “free vote” means that each member of parliament can vote according to conscience, rather than along party lines. Merkel’s party is in coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Its leader, Martin Schulz, immediately responded to Merkel’s remarks by calling for a vote this coming Friday, prior to federal elections that are scheduled for September. If a vote takes place, it is expected to pass, as almost all other political parties represented in the German parliament support gay marriage, and at least a quarter of Merkel’s own party will likely also vote in favor.

Meanwhile in Malta, recently re-elected Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has delivered on his election promise and introduced a bill on marriage equality. The bill, which streamlines marriage legislation including for same-sex marriage, was debated in the Maltese parliament this week. The vote is likely to take place later this week or early next. It is expected to pass with a large majority, as all political parties promised to support gay marriage during the election campaign.

If Germany and Malta do embrace marriage equality, they will become the 23rd and 24th countries globally to do so. The first country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples was the Netherlands in 2001. Marriage equality legislation has been implemented on almost every continent, for example in South Africa, New Zealand, the United States, and Argentina. Taiwan is expected to become the first country in Asia with equal marriage rights after its Supreme Court found a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

This week is set to be a landmark week for marriage equality.

That Syria War Power Debate, Continued

Opinio Juris - Wednesday, June 28, 2017
by Deborah Pearlstein

by Deborah Pearlstein Cross-posted at Balkinization If, as I argued earlier this week, the 2001 AUMF passed by Congress cannot be read to authorize the growing set of U.S. military actions against Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, does the President’s Article II power standing alone support these strikes? The best articulated argument I’ve seen […]

Vietnam: Free Blogger “Mother Mushroom”

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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Photograph of "Mother Mushroom." 

© 2017 Private
(New York) – Vietnam should immediately free Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (also known as “Mother Mushroom”) and drop all charges against her, Human Rights Watch said today. Police arrested her in October 2016, and pressed a charge of “conducting propaganda against the state” in accordance with article 88 of the penal code. The People’s Court of Khanh Hoa province plans to hear her case on June 29, 2017. 

“It’s outrageous to put Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh on trial simply for using her right to free expression to call for government reform and accountability,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The scandal here is not what Mother Mushroom said, but Hanoi’s stubborn refusal to repeal draconian, rights-abusing laws that punish peaceful dissent and tarnish Vietnam’s international reputation.”

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is 38, blogs under the pen name Mother Mushroom (Me Nam). The pen name came from her 11-year-old daughter whom she calls “Mushroom.” 

With the motto, “Who will speak if you don’t?” Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh wrote on social and political issues including land confiscation, police brutality, and freedom of expression. She voiced support for fellow dissidents and publicly campaigned for the release of many political prisoners including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Ngoc Gia, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, and Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Anh Ba Sam). Above all, she advocated for a social and political environment free from fear. The morning before she was arrested, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh went with Nguyen Thi Nay, the mother of political prisoner Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy, to try to visit him in prison. International donors and trade partners should publicly condemn her arrest and urge the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release her. Brad Adams

Asia Director

In September 2009, the police took Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh from her home in the middle of the night and questioned her about her blog posts that criticized government policies on China and its disputed claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands. She was released after nine days but remained under intrusive surveillance by police, who continued to pressure her to shut down her blog.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh participated in numerous public protests that advocated for human rights and a cleaner environment. She was subject to constant police harassment, intimidation, interrogation, and put under house arrest on numerous occasions to prevent her from attending important events. Police detained her twice in 2014 to prevent her from flying to Hanoi to attend meetings at the Australian Embassy in July, and at the Canadian and Norwegian Embassies in November. In March 2015, police detained her again to prevent her from going to Hanoi to attend a meeting at the German Embassy. In July 2015, she reported being assaulted by men in civilian clothes in front of police officers for participating in a sit-down protest to campaign for the release of political prisoners.

State media reported that the police alleged that the evidence against Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh for anti-state blogging included a file named “Stop police killing civilians.” The file included data on 31 cases regarding people who died in police custody, which she and others had collected from state media. The police claimed that the file “bears a hostile viewpoint against the people’s police force. The document makes the readers misunderstand the nature of the problem, offends and lowers the prestige of the people’s police force, and harms the relationship between the people and the police force.”

Many cases summarized in “Stop police killing civilians” had been documented and published by Human Rights Watch, such as the violent deaths in police custody of Nguyen Quoc Bao, Nguyen Van Khuong, Trinh Xuan Tung, Tu Ngoc Thach, and Y Ket Bdap. According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, reported by state media, from October 2011 to September 2014, there were 226 cases of death in detention facilities.

The police claimed that during the search of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh’s house, they found many documents providing evidence of crimes. Among these documents were slogans such as “Fish Need Water,” “The Country Needs Transparency” (Ca can nuoc sach; Nuoc can minh bach), “Take Legal Action Against Formosa” (Khoi to Formosa), “No Formosa,” “Formosa Get Out,” and anti-China claims over the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands such as “No to Chinese Expansionism.”

The police reportedly said that in addition to her Facebook and blog posts, other “crimes” she committed included giving interviews to CNN and Radio Free Asia. June 18, 2017 Report No Country for Human Rights Activists

Assaults on Bloggers and Democracy Campaigners in Vietnam

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh received a Hellman Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch in 2010 as a writer defending free expression. In 2015, Civil Rights Defenders gave her the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year award. In March 2017, she received the International Women of Courage award from the State Department.

“For the last 10 years, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh has worked tirelessly to advance human rights and promote freedom and democracy in Vietnam,” said Phil Robertson. “International donors and trade partners should publicly condemn her arrest and urge the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release her.”

In addition to blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Human Rights Watch urges Vietnam to unconditionally release all those detained or imprisoned for their peaceful activities and speeches. Among those who are being held and pending investigation include prominent rights defenders Nguyen Van Dai and Tran Thi Nga. Since his detention in December 2015, it is reported that by early May 2017, Nguyen Van Dai has not been allowed access to legal counsel. According to defense lawyer Ha Huy Son, Tran Thi Nga (detained since January 2017) has been sick for the last three weeks and can only eat porridge. She asked the authorities to allow her to seek medical treatment at the hospital twice, but her requests were denied. Both Nguyen Van Dai and Tran Thi Nga were charged under article 88 of the penal code.

Russia: Government vs. Rights Groups

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

For the past four years, the Kremlin has sought to stigmatize criticism or alternative views of government policy as disloyal, foreign-sponsored, or even traitorous.  It is part of a sweeping crackdown to silence critical voices that has included new legal restrictions on the internet, on freedom of expression, on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and on other fundamental freedoms.   

An enduring, central feature has been the 2012 law requiring independent groups to register as “foreign agents” if they receive any foreign funding and engage in broadly defined “political activity.” In Russia, the term “foreign agent” can be interpreted by the public only as “spy” or “traitor.” To date, Russia’s Justice Ministry has designated 158 groups as “foreign agents,” courts have levied staggering fines on many groups for failing to comply with the law, and about 30 groups have shut down rather than wear the “foreign agent” label.  Organizations targeted  include groups that work on human rights, the environment, LGBT issues, and health issues,  groups that do polling about social issues. A court forced the closure of AGORA Association, one of Russia’s leading human rights organizations , in response to a  Justice Ministry suit alleging that the group violated the “foreign agents” law and carried out work beyond its mandate.   The ministry has removed its “foreign agent” tag from over 20 groups, acknowledging that they had stopped accepting foreign funding. Accordingly, as of June 28, 2017, the official list of active “foreign agents” consisted of 95 groups.      The ‘Foreign Agent’ Law Under the 2012 law, groups must register with the Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” if they receive even a minimal  amount of  funding from any foreign sources, governmental or private, and engage in “political activity.” The definition of political activity under the law is so broad and vague that it effectively extends to all aspects of advocacy and human rights work. Initially, the law required all  nongovernmental organizations that met these criteria  to register with  the ministry and to identify themselves as “foreign agents” in all their public materials, with  legal consequences for failure to comply.     Russia’s human rights groups resolutely boycotted the law, calling it “unjust” and “slanderous.” In 2013, Russia’s then-federal ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, challenged the law in Russia’s Constitutional Court. In 2014, the court upheld the law, finding that there were no legal or constitutional grounds for contending that the term “foreign agent” had negative connotations from the Soviet era and that, therefore, its use was “not intended to persecute or discredit” organizations. The court also found that the “foreign agent” designation was in line with the public interest and the interest of state sovereignty.   Two years of mounting pressure by the authorities, court proceedings, and massive fines did not succeed in forcing groups to voluntarily register as foreign agents.  In May 2014 Russia’s parliament amended the “foreign agents” law to authorize the Justice Ministry to register groups as “foreign agents” without their consent.    In May 2016, parliament adopted another set of amendments to the law, expanding the controversial definition of “political activity” to include, among other things, any attempt by an independent group to influence public policy, regardless of the group’s mandate.    To date, the registry of “foreign agents” includes the following organizations:​
  1. Association of non-profit organizations in defense of voters’ rights “Golos” (Moscow) – June 5, 2014
  2. Interregional public organization Human Rights Center "Memorial" (Moscow) – July 21, 2014
  3. Regional public organization “Ecozaschita! – Womens’ Council” (Kaliningrad) – July  21, 2014
  4. Foundation for assistance to protection of Citizens' Rights and Freedoms "Public Verdict" (Moscow) – July 21, 2014
  5. Foundation "Institute for Information Freedom Development" (Saint-Petersburg) – August 28, 2014
  6. Private institution "Information Agency MEMO. RU" (Moscow) – November 20, 2014
  7. Non-profit partnership "Institute of Regional Press" (Saint-Petersburg) – November 20, 2014
  8. Autonomous non-profit organization "Moscow School of Civic Education" – December 9, 2014
  9. Arkhangelsk regional public organization of socio-psychological and legal assistance to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT) "Rakurs" (Arkhangelsk) – December 15, 2014
  10. Regional public organization "Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician Sakharov" (Moscow) – December 25, 2014
  11. Kaliningrad regional public organization "Human Rights Center" (Kaliningrad) – December 25, 2014
  12. Free Press Support Foundation – December 30, 2014
  13. Saint-Petersburg public human rights organization "Civil Control" (Saint-Peterburg) – December 30, 2014
  14. Interregional public human rights organization "Man and the Law" (Yoshkar-Ola) – December 30, 2014
  15. Interregional public organization "Information-Educational Center 'Memorial' " (Yekaterinburg) – January 16, 2015
  16. "Information Bureau of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Saint-Petersburg" (Saint-Petersburg) – January 20, 2015 
  17. Non-profit partnership "Press Development Institute - Siberia" (Novosibirsk) – January 30, 2015
  18. Interregional public foundation for civil society development "GOLOS Povolzhie" (Samara) – February 6, 2015
  19. Interregional charitable organization “Siberian Environmental Center” (Novosibirsk) – February 12, 2015
  20. City public organization "Samara Center for Gender Studies" “Samara Center for Gender Studies” (Samara) – February 16, 2015
  21. Regional foundation "Center for the Protection of Mass Media Rights" (Voronezh) – February 26, 2015
  22. Autonomous non-profit organization "Center for Anti-Corruption Research and Initiatives 'Transparency International-R' " – April 7, 2015
  23. Ozersk city social and environmental public organization "Planet of hopes" (Озерск) – April 15, 2015
  24. Regional public charitable organization for assistance to refugees and migrants "Civil Assistance [Civic Assistance Committee]" (Moscow) – April 20, 2015
  25. Foundation for Support of Investigative Journalism - Foundation 19/29 (Moscow) – April 24, 2015 
  26. Interregional charitable public organization "Center for Development of Non-Profit Organizations" (Saint-Petersburg) – May 13, 2015
  27. Establishment "Informational Bureau of the Council of Ministers of Northern Countries" (Kaliningrad) – May 13, 2015
  28. Non-governmental specialists' educational institution of additional professional education (advanced training) "Academy of Human Rights" (Yekaterinburg) – May 15, 2015
  29. Sverdlovsk regional public organization "Sutyajnik" (Yekaterinburg) – May 15, 2015
  30. Nizhny Novgorod regional public organization "Environmental Center 'Dront'" (Nizhny Novgorod) – May 22, 2015
  31. Non-profit programmes foundation of Dmitry Zimin "Dynasty" – May 25, 2015
  32. Interregional public "Foundation for Peace in the South and North Caucasus" (Stavropol) – June 19, 2015
  33. Autonomous non-profit organization "Center for Independent Social Research" (Saint-Petersburg) – June 22, 2015
  34. Regional public organization for promoting protection of reproductive health of citizens "Population and Developmen" – June 23, 2015
  35. Association "Assistance in Legal Protection of People 'Legal Basis' " (Yekaterinburg) – July 3, 2015
  36. Komi regional public organization "Commission for Protection of Human Rights 'Memorial' " (Syktyvkar) – July 21, 2015
  37. Interregional public foundation for civil society development "GOLOS-Ural" (Chelyabinsk region) – July 27, 2015
  38. Media Support Foundation "Sreda" – July 28, 2015
  39. Foundation "Civic Action" (Perm) – August 5, 2015
  40. Chechen regional public organization "Human Rights Center of the Chechen Republic" (Grozny) – August 21, 2015
  41. Interregional public environmental foundation "ISAR-Siberia" (Novosibirsk) – August 26, 2015
  42. Public organization "Perm Regional Human Rights Center" (Perm) – September 3, 2015
  43. Interregional public charitable organization "Society for Protection of Consumer Rights and Environmental Protection 'Principle' " (Moscow region) – October 5, 2015
  44. Autonomous non-profit organization "Far Eastern Center for Civil Initiatives and Social Partnership" (Vladivostok) – October 13, 2015
  45. Union of public associations "Russian Human Rights Research Center" (Moscow) – October 20, 2015
  46. Foundation for Promotion of Civil Society and Human Rights "Women of the Don" (Novocherkassk) – October 27, 2015
  47. Regional public institution "Research and Information Center 'MEMORIAL' " (Saint-Petersburg) – November 6, 2015
  48. Non-profit organization "Glasnost Defense Foundation" – November 19, 2015
  49. Autonomous non-profit organization "Institute of Human Rights" (Moscow) – November 20, 2015
  50. Interregional public organization "Center for Assistance to Indigenous Peoples of the North" (Moscow) – November 27, 2015
  51. Regional public organization "Information and Research Center 'Panorama' " (Moscow) – December 18, 2015
  52. City public organization "Ekaterinburg society 'Memorial' " (Yekaterinburg) – December 30, 2015
  53. Interregional public organization "Committee for Prevention of Torture" (Orenburg) – January 14, 2016
  54. Interregional public organization "Bureau of Public Investigations" (Nizhny Novgorod) – January 14, 2016
  55. Nizhny Novgorod Regional Public Organization "Institute for Forecasting and Settlement of Political Conflicts" (Nizhny Novgorod) – January 22, 2016
  56. City public organization "Ryazan historical, educational and human rights society 'Memorial' " (Ryazan) – February 1, 2016
  57. Chelyabinsk regional public initiative - women's public association "Women of Eurasia" (Chelyabinsk) – February 15, 2016
  58. Chelyabinsk regional public initiative "Ural Human Rights Group" (Chelyabinsk) – February 15, 2016
  59. Omsk regional public organization "Center for Health and Social Protection 'SIBALT' " (Omsk) – February 15, 2016
  60. Charitable foundation for social and legal support "Sphere" (Saint Petersburg) – March 1, 2016
  61. Interregional public organization "Center for Civic Education and Human Rights" (Perm) – March 3, 2016
  62. Non-profit organization "International Foundation for Development of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East 'BATANI' " (Moscow) – March 11, 2016
  63. Autonomous non-profit organization "Center for Social and Labor Rights" (Moscow) – March 21, 2016
  64. Autonomous non-profit organization "Publishing House  'Valentin Manuylov' " – April 15, 2016
  65. Regional public organization "School of Ecology of 'the Soul of Tengri' "(Altay) – May 17, 2016
  66. Saratov regional public organization "Socium" (Engels) – May 30, 2016
  67. Regional public organization "Integration Center 'Migration and Law' " (Moscow) – June 16, 2016
  68. Non-commercial partnership for support of social and preventive programs in public health "ESVERO" (Moscow) – June 22, 2016
  69. Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice Promotion (Moscow) – June 29, 2016
  70. Non-profit organization "Foundation 'Institute for Economic Analysis' " (Moscow) – July 22, 2016
  71. Autonomous non-profit organization "Publishing house 'Park Gagarina' " (Samara) – August 31, 2016
  72. Autonomous non-profit organization "Analytical Center of Yuri Levada" (Moscow) – September 5, 2016
  73. Interregional environmental protection and human rights public organization "Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus" (Maikop) – September 13, 2016
  74. Foundation for support of civil freedoms "Legal Mission" (Chelyabinsk) – September 21, 2016
  75. Autonomous non-profit human rights organization "Draftee's School" (Chelyabinsk) – September 21, 2016
  76. International public organization "International Historical-Educational, Charitable and Human Rights Society 'Memorial' " (Moscow) – October 4, 2016
  77. Sverdlovsk regional public foundation "Health Era" (Yekaterinburg) – October 11, 2016
  78. Chapaevsk city public organization "Association of Medical Workers of Chapaevsk" (Chapaevsk) – October 21, 2016
  79. Regional charitable foundation "Samarskaya Gubernia" (Samara) – November 2, 2016
  80. Association "Internet Community" (Samara) – December 13, 2016
  81. Autonomous non-profit organization for social support "Project April" (Tolyatti) – December 19, 2016
  82. Regional public organization for assistance to women and children in crisis "Information and Methodological Center 'Anna' " (Moscow) – December 26, 2016
  83. Krasnodar regional charitable public organization "Southern Human Rights Center" (Sochi) – December 27, 2016
  84. Regional public oranization for promotion of citizens' education "Center for Information and Analysis 'SOVA' " (Moscow) – December 30, 2016
  85. Sverdlovsk public organization for assistance to legal migration "Nelegalov.Net [No Illegals]" (Yekaterinburg) – January 10, 2017
  86. Saint-Petersburg public environmental human rights center "Bellona" (Saint-Petersburg) – January 16, 2017
  87. Soloneshensky district youth public organization "Pro-Movement" (Altay region) – January 25, 2017
  88. Kaliningrad regional public organization "Society for German culture and Russian Germans Eintracht - Soglasie" (Kaliningrad) – January 31, 2017
  89. Foundation for development assistance to mass communication and legal education "Tak-Tak-Tak" (Novosibirsk) – February 20, 2017
  90. Murmansk regional public organization "Kola Environmental Center" (Apatity) – April 20, 2017
  91. Foundation for sustainable development "Silver Taiga" (Syktyvkar) – June 23, 2017

 And the four NGOs which registered voluntarily:

  1. Association “Supporting Competition in the CIS Countries” (Moscow) – June 27, 2013 
  2. Karachay-Cherkess republican youth public organization "Union of Young Political Scientists" (Cherkessk) – December 15, 2014
  3. Regional public organization "Center of Independent Researchers of the Altai Republic" (Gorno-Altaisk) –  June 10, 2015
  4. Sverdlovsk regional public social projects foundation "New Time" (Yekaterinburg) – June 23, 2017

 

Leader of at least 1 NGO faces criminal charges personally:

  1. Regional public human rights organization "Union 'Women of the Don' " – criminal proceeding is in process. Chair Valentina Cherevatenko faces up to two years in prison for “malicious evasion of the duty to file the documents required for inclusion in the register of nonprofit organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

OJ Bloggers in Salim v Mitchell

Opinio Juris - Wednesday, June 28, 2017
by Kevin Jon Heller

by Kevin Jon Heller As many readers are probably aware, the ACLU is currently bringing an ATS action against the two psychologists, James Mitchell and John Jessen, who allegedly designed and administered the CIA’s torture program. Here is the ACLU’s summary of the case, Salim v. Mitchell: The CIA paid the two men and the company […]

Philippines: Duterte’s First Year a Human Rights Calamity

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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A victim’s relative cries behind the police line at the site of a drug-related shooting in metro Manila, Philippines, June 19, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

(New York) – President Rodrigo Duterte has unleashed a human rights calamity on the Philippines in his first year in office, Human Rights Watch said today. The government’s murderous “war on drugs,” drug-related overcrowding of jails, and the harassment and prosecution of drug war critics has caused a steep decline in respect for basic rights since Duterte’s inauguration on June 30, 2016.

Security forces and “unidentified gunmen” have killed at least 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers since July 1, including 3,116 killings by police, according to government data. Yet the Duterte administration has rejected all domestic and international calls for accountability for these abuses, and instead has denied any government responsibility for the thousands of drug war deaths.

Philippines’ ‘War on Drugs’

Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has carried out a “war on drugs” resulting in the deaths of over 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users by January 2017.

Essential Background

“President Duterte took office promising to protect human rights, but has instead spent his first year in office as a boisterous instigator for an unlawful killing campaign,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “Duterte has supported and incited ‘drug war’ killings while retaliating against those fearless enough to challenge his assault on human rights.”

Human Rights Watch field research found that government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful were blatant falsehoods. Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records expose a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions that may amount to crimes against humanity.

While the Philippine National Police have publicly sought to distinguish between suspects killed while resisting arrest and killings by “unknown gunmen” or “vigilantes,” Human Rights Watch found no such distinction in the cases investigated. In several such cases, the police dismissed allegations of involvement when only hours before the suspects had been in police custody. Such cases call into question government assertions that the majority of killings were carried out by vigilantes or rival drug gangs.

March 1, 2017 Report “License to Kill”

Philippine Police Killings in Duterte’s “War on Drugs”

The “war on drugs” has also worsened the already dire conditions of Philippine jail facilities, including inadequate food and unsanitary conditions. Government data indicates that the country’s jail facilities run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which have a maximum capacity of 20,399, currently hold nearly 132,000 detainees, an overwhelming majority of them awaiting trial or sentencing. The bureau attributes the overcrowding to the arrest of tens of thousands of suspected drug users and dealers since the anti-drug campaign began. The drug war has also boosted the number of “secret jails” in which police unlawfully detain suspects and demand bribes in exchange for release.

The Duterte administration has subjected prominent critics of the government’s anti-drug campaign to harassment, intimidation, and even arrest. In February 2017, the police detained Senator Leila de Lima on politically motivated drug charges. Her arrest followed a relentless government campaign against her in evident response to her outspoken criticism of Duterte’s “war on drugs” and her calls for accountability. Other critics of the killings – including activists, journalists, international officials, and ordinary Filipinos – have been threatened online by pro-Duterte supporters and trolls. Among those targeted were Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and international experts on drug dependency.

“During his first year in office, President Duterte and his government have demonstrated a fundamental unwillingness to respect rights or provide justice for people whose rights have been violated,” Kine said. “A UN-led international investigation is desperately needed to help stop the slaughter and press for accountability for Duterte’s human rights catastrophe.”

Together, Trump and Modi Skip Human Rights

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump in Washington DC on Monday. Both are avid users of social media and announced their meetings in advance. Trump tweeted that he had “important strategic issues to discuss with a true friend!” Modi said on Facebook that he planned on “building a forward looking vision for our partnership with the new Administration in the United States under President Trump.” 

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U.S. President Donald Trump (R) greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters  

The US-India alliance has long focused on trade and commercial ventures, but the last few years saw steps to move toward a more comprehensive dialogue, including human rights-related issues

Yesterday’s joint statement, however, failed even a token mention of free expression or religious freedom – issues of pressing concern in both countries. Nor did it acknowledge worrying trends of rising communalism in various parts of the world, or armed conflicts in which rampant abuses are forcing millions into becoming refugees. “Combatting terrorist threats” and “increasing free and fair trade” were the main focus, though India and the US pledged to promote security in Afghanistan and increase collaboration on the Middle East, and both condemned North Korea. In a small victory for the Modi government, the statement called upon Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.

But Modi, at least publicly, did not raise any alarm over the Trump administration’s proposed travel ban on people from several Muslim countries or police abuse in the US. Nor are there indications that he raised the attacks on Indians in the US earlier this year.

Trump did not comment publicly on the crackdown on civil society in India, or the threat posed to vulnerable groups. Nor did he mention the populist hate campaign that has spawned brutal mob killings of Muslims suspected of trading or consuming beef.

In their prepared comments at a joint press conference, they spoke of mutual trust and shared values. They did speak of democracy, long a common bond of the two nations. But then, ironically, they refused to respond to any journalist queries – perhaps another shared value.

Thus, at the end of a meeting between the heads of the world’s biggest democracies, the media is left discussing the leaders’ penchants for aggressive handshakes or bear hugs. And for the millions whose lives could perhaps have improved a bit if Modi and Trump chose to speak for their rights—they will just have to be disappointed.

 

US State Department’s Lie About Child Soldiers

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S. June 21, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

Dozens of children were part of Burma’s armed forces as recently as last week. In Iraq, children have died fighting the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) with Iraqi government military units. But United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ignored these facts and took Burma and Iraq off the annual list, issued today, that identifies countries that use child soldiers or support militias that do.

The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act requires the State Department to publish the list each year. The new list includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In addition to Burma and Iraq, Afghanistan was again missing from the list, despite ongoing use of child soldiers by its security forces.

Why does the list matter? Under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, countries on the list are not eligible for certain forms of US military assistance unless they get a special waiver from the president. Human Rights Watch frequently criticized President Barack Obama for giving too many countries waivers, but the law has made a real difference. When the US withheld military training and financing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government began making progress to end its use of child soldiers. The law influenced Chad to end child recruitment and Rwanda to cut off support for an abusive militia that recruited children.

Tillerson reportedly overruled his own staff and US diplomats to take Burma and Iraq off the list this year. His decision flies in the face of evidence that both governments are still complicit in child soldier use, and undermines US leverage to influence change. The US provides Iraq with billions of dollars of military assistance each year; in exchange, it should insist the government put an end to child recruitment by its units. Instead, the State Department isn’t even acknowledging Iraq has a child soldier problem.

Congress should ask tough questions about the State Department’s listing process. It’s one thing to assert that governments using child soldiers still require military aid, but it’s another to pretend the problem doesn’t even exist. 

Uzbekistan: Forced Labor Linked to World Bank

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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A woman picks cotton during the 2015 cotton harvest, which runs from early September to late October or early November annually.

© 2015 Simon Buxton/Anti-Slavery International (Brussels) – The World Bank is funding half a billion dollars in agricultural projects linked to forced and child labor in Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights said in a report released today. Under the loan agreements, the Uzbek government is required to comply with laws prohibiting forced and child labor, and the World Bank can suspend the loans if there is credible evidence of violations.

The 115-page report, “‘We Can’t Refuse to Pick Cotton’: Forced and Child Labor Linked to World Bank Group Investments in Uzbekistan” details how the Uzbek government forced students, teachers, medical workers, other government employees, private-sector employees, and sometimes children to harvest cotton in 2015 and 2016, as well as to weed the fields and plant cotton in the spring of 2016. The government has threatened to fire people, stop welfare payments, and suspend or expel students if they refuse to work in the cotton fields.

“The World Bank is giving Uzbekistan cover for an abusive labor system in its cotton industry,” said Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “The World Bank needs to make clear to the Uzbek government and to potential investors that it wants no part of a system that depends on child and forced labor by suspending funding until these problems are solved.”

The World Bank is funding half a billion dollars in agricultural projects linked to forced and child labor in Uzbekistan. Under the loan agreements, the Uzbek government is required to comply with laws prohibiting forced and child labor, and the World Bank can suspend the loans if there is credible evidence of violations.

 

The World Bank’s support for these projects has created the impression that Uzbekistan is working to end forced labor in good faith, when it is not, confusing responsible companies and governments, Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum said.

In recent weeks the Uzbek-German Forum found that the government is once again forcing its citizens, including children, to weed the cotton fields and plant cotton as well as plant pumpkins, tomatoes, and other agriculture products.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> Banks State & Private companiesprovide workers and money for cotton work UniversitiesHigher Education Institutionsprovide teachers, staf, and students for cotton work Mahalla Committeesrecruit and mobilize residents, including people receiving benefts CollegesLyceumsprovide teachers, staf, third year, and sometimes frst and second year students for cotton work Primary SchoolsSecondary Schoolsprovide teachers, staf, and sometimes children for cotton work HospitalsClinicsprovide healthcare workers for cotton work Ministry of Higher & Secondary Specialized Educationmobilizes students and education workers Ministry of Public Educationmobilizes education workers Ministry of Healthmobilizes healthcare workers District & City Hokimsdistribute and enforce quotas, supervise harvest and labor mobilization, allocate workers Regional Hokimsimpose and enforce quotes on farmers and institutions, mobilize labor Ministry of JusticeMinistry of InteriorNational Security Serviceassist ofcials to supervise cotton work, enforce quotas, and mobilize workers Ministry of Labor & Social ProtectionILO social partner runs feedback mechanism Ministry of Agriculture & Water Resourcesoversees production, agricultural services, and water supply; sets production quotas for regions State Tax Committeecollects taxes and payments Ministry of Financesets prices, supplies credit, collects revenue Prime Ministerdirectly oversees cotton sector, meets with regional and local ofcials Presidentsets overall cotton policy Cabinet of Ministersimplements cotton policy The Uzbek Government’s Forced Labor System Decree from President on organizational measures ensuring the timely and quality harvesting of raw cotton in 2014:http://harvestreport2015.uzbekgermanforum.org/pdf/President/2014.09.04_Resolution-of-the-President.pdf Letter from regional prosecutor confrming the decision to mobilize employees in the cotton harvest was issued by the Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers in July 2016:http://harvestreport.uzbekgermanforum.org/d-r-makhmudovs-ofcial-reply-to-ele Order from company branch to send employees for cotton work:http://harvestreport2015.uzbekgermanforum.org/pdf/Private-Companies/2015.09.10_Angren-Coalmine.pdf Nurses failing to fulfl daily cotton quotas are threatened with dismissal:http://harvestreport.uzbekgermanforum.org/nurses-failing-to-fulfl-daily-cotton-quotas-are-threatened-with-dismissal/ Ledger from an education department reporting on teach-ers sent to the harvest:https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/fles/report_pdf/uzbekistan0617_appendices.pdf A pupil’s school diary saying “cotton - Day of”:https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/photograph/2017/06/19/201706business-uzbekistan-photo-cotton-08 Contract by school requiring students to take part in cotton harvesting or else face expulsion:http://harvestreport2015.uzbekgermanforum.org/pdf/Universities-Colleges-Academic-Lyceums/2015_Receipt-Samarkand-Architecture-Institute.pdf Notice to organizations, enter-prises, and business entities of a district to participate in the cotton harvest:http://harvestreport2015.uzbekgermanforum.org/pdf/Local-City-District-Administrations/2015.09_Uchtepa-Khokim-Urgent-Message.pdf Transcript of police ofcer ordering shopkeeper to go to cotton felds:http://harvestreport.uzbekgermanforum.org/you-dont-have-a-right-to-refuse-orders-of-the-acting-president/ Click to see documentation $(".rollover").hover( function() { console.log("#box-"+this.id); $("#arrow-"+this.id).css("fill","#F07800"); $(".text-"+this.id).css("fill","#F07800"); $("#box-"+this.id).css("opacity","1"); }, function() { $(".st3").css("fill","#F0A000"); $(".text-rollover").css("fill","#000"); $(".box-rollover").css("opacity","0"); } );

The country’s new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has promised reform following more than two decades of repressive rule under Islam Karimov, whose death was reported on September 2, 2016. This leadership change provides a good opportunity for concerned governments and international financial institutions to press for comprehensive reforms. Representatives of G20 countries meeting in Hamburg on July 7 and 8, 2017, should ensure that their efforts to support sustainable supply chains and decent work extend beyond factories to farms and press the World Bank to cease funding projects that reinforce abusive labor systems. June 27, 2017 Report “We Can’t Refuse to Pick Cotton”

Forced and Child Labor Linked to World Bank Group Investments in Uzbekistan

The report is based on 257 detailed interviews and about 700 brief conversations with victims of forced and child labor, farmers, and key actors in the forced labor system, leaked government documents, and statements by government officials. Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum documented forced and child labor in one World Bank project area and systematic forced labor throughout the cotton sector. They found that it is highly likely that the World Bank’s agriculture and irrigation projects, as well as its investments in education, are linked to ongoing forced labor and that there is a significant risk of child labor as well.

Uzbekistan is the fifth largest cotton producer in the world. It exports about 60 percent of its raw cotton to China, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Iran. Uzbekistan’s cotton industry generates more than US$1 billion in annual revenue, or about a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), from one million tons of cotton fiber. Cotton revenues go into an opaque extra-budgetary Ministry of Finance account that is not open to public scrutiny and is controlled by high-level government officials.

A total of 274 companies have pledged not to source cotton from Uzbekistan knowingly because of forced and child labor in the sector.

In 2015 and 2016 World Bank investments in Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector amounted to US$518.75 million. The Uzbek government promised the Bank that it would not use forced or child labor linked to the projects or within project areas. The Bank promised to independently monitor for abuses and create a way for victims to seek redress. But the Uzbek government has continued to force enormous numbers of people, sometimes children as young as 10 or 11, to work long hours in the cotton fields in difficult conditions, including within the Bank’s irrigation project area. The Bank has settled for narrow, ineffective monitoring, effectively providing cover for the government’s abuses.

Forced to work in the cotton fields for weeks

The World Bank should stop funding projects that are linked to forced and child labor.

TAKE ACTION “The government gave the orders [to pick cotton] and you will not go against those orders,” said a schoolteacher in Turtkul district, Karakalpakstan, where the government is implementing the Bank-financed irrigation project. “If I refuse, they will fire me…. We would lose the bread we eat.”

Independent groups, including the Uzbek-German Forum, submitted evidence of forced and child labor to the World Bank during and following the 2015 autumn harvest, as well as of attacks against human rights defenders who sought to report on these abuses. Instead of suspending its loan to the government, in line with its 2014 agreement, the World Bank increased its investments in Uzbekistan’s agriculture industry through its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). In December 2015 the IFC invested US$40 million in a leading cotton yarn producer in Uzbekistan to expand its textile plant.

The World Bank contracted the International Labour Organization (ILO), a tripartite UN agency made up of governments, employer organizations, and worker representatives, to monitor forced and child labor in 2015 and 2016. The ILO has an important role to play in promoting fundamental labor rights in Uzbekistan. However, with the government and non-independent labor unions involved in monitoring, the system effectively is monitoring itself. The government has also gone to great efforts to instruct pickers to tell monitors they were picking cotton voluntarily. In 2016, the ILO decided it was no longer necessary to monitor for forced labor, citing the government’s implicit acknowledgement of the forced labor problem.

The government used intimidation, violence, and arbitrary detention to prevent independent monitors and journalists from reporting on forced labor. The Uzbek-German Forum’s monitors, as well as other people conducting human rights and labor rights monitoring work, faced constant risk of harassment and persecution in 2015 and 2016.

In 2015, one monitor, Dmitry Tikhonov, had to flee the country and another, Uktam Pardaev, was imprisoned for two months and released on a suspended sentence. In 2016, only one Uzbek-German Forum monitor, Elena Urlaeva, continued to work openly, and she was subjected to surveillance, harassment, arbitrary detention, assault, and involuntary stays in a psychiatric hospital.

The World Bank and the IFC should suspend agriculture and irrigation financing to Uzbekistan until it is not tainted by forced and child labor, Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum said. The Bank and the IFC should also take all appropriate measures to prevent reprisals against human rights defenders carrying out work linked to their investments, respond swiftly should they occur, and work with borrowers to remedy abuses.

“The World Bank’s mission is to fight poverty, but people living in poverty are the most vulnerable to forced and child labor in Uzbekistan,” said Jessica Evans, senior business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “The World Bank should stop funding projects that reinforce the country’s forced labor system, instead prioritizing initiatives that advance the social and economic needs of people living in poverty.”

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13-year-old boy picking cotton in a World Bank project area, Ellikkala, Karakalpakstan, under orders from his school during the 2016 harvest. In Ellikkala, officials from at least two schools ordered 13 and 14-year-old children to pick cotton after school.  

© 2016 UGF Selected Quotes from the Report

“Cotton! You have to go and pick cotton and fulfill the norm. Is it clear!?.... This policy applies to everyone! If even one person does not go out, it will be bad for you! I’ll shut down your organizations! Everyone, without exception, whether from the hokimiat [local government], tax authorities, the bank or other organizations, all will be shut down.… [To one of the meeting attendees:] What’s this? You delivered only 1,286 kilograms? Why is that? I’ll tear your head off!”

-Hokim [district mayor], Uktam Kurbanov, cotton meeting in Khazarasp, Khorezm region, September 29, 2015.

“I work at a school. If it was up to the teachers, no one would want to work in the cotton fields. Nurses are also women [who have significant family responsibilities]. They don’t go reluctantly either, they are forced… Three or four of the 50 teachers at my school go voluntarily. Others don’t want to go. Those three or four are tired from teaching and would rather pick cotton than teach in school. If they are good pickers, able to pick more than 100kg per day, they get extra ‘presents’ from the government. But teachers like me can’t meet the quotas and can’t earn money from picking cotton. Maybe the ILO conclusion [that only a minority of cotton pickers are involuntarily working] is true from appearance, because people are scared to share the truth, but it doesn’t go underneath to expose reality.”

-Schoolteacher, 2017

“Maybe 10 children might agree to work during the harvest, but the others refuse and we have to run after them.”

-School employee, 2017

“Of course I wouldn’t go [to pick cotton] if I had the choice. None of my colleagues would either. It’s forced, everyone is forced…. We would intimidate parents if they refused to have their children contribute to the harvest. We would threaten that they would not get their diploma…. In 2016, there were some pregnant women who were college teachers. Those that had powerful connections were not forced and were not required to contribute money. Otherwise, they were still forced to work.”

-College teacher, 2017

“The government pays your salary so you will pick or you could be asked to give up your post. Now, there is no work… so you can’t refuse [to pick cotton], you are obligated…. What kind of fool would go to work in the dirt in the cotton fields on a cold day of his own accord instead of sitting inside in a nice warm office? To understand that [picking cotton] is mandatory, you don’t have to be a genius and solve puzzles…

-Former Andijan mahalla council [neighborhood governing body] official, November 20, 2015

“Respected master’s students! You must resolve your participation in the cotton harvest within one hour. Today we are compiling information and you are at risk of expulsion. Immediately resolve this issue.”

-Text message from university administration to students, October 6, 2016.

“Two months weeding, and then another three months harvesting cotton: because of this, pupils do not receive their full education. Teachers have to conduct lessons in two or three classes simultaneously. For example, the teacher gives some written assignment to one class, and goes to another. Left alone, pupils start making noise. They’re still kids, they cannot learn on their own.

-Schoolteacher, Beruni district, Karakalpakstan region, September 29, 2016.

“I know that you cannot force people to work. But I won’t call the complaint line number we were given. There is no use. These posters are put up for the benefit of the ILO. All these calls [to the hotlines] will result in simple teachers and medical workers losing their jobs.”

-A school director who said she would be punished by the local government if she could not get her staff to pick cotton, Fergana region, September 29, 2016.

“[The education ministry] called the district department of education and asked them to resolve my issue ‘peacefully’…. After that, the school director went after me. He started threatening me and said he would show me ‘just what he’s capable of.’”

-A schoolteacher who had asked the education ministrythat teachers be freed from mandatory cotton picking, Gulistan, Syrdarya region, September 29, 2016.

“Go to the homes of farmers in debt, who can’t repay their credit, take their cars, livestock, and if there are none, take the slate from their roofs!”

-Then-Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev on a conference call with local authorities and farmers, October 12, 2015, as reported by a farmer who was on the call to Radio Ozodlik

US Senate Health Care Bill a Swipe at Rural United States

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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An ambulance leaves the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Virginia March 31, 2015.

© 2015 Reuters

Rural America is in the midst of a health emergency that will probably get much worse if the US Senate’s healthcare bill passes.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who live in rural areas are more likely to die of all of the five top causes of death, including heart disease and cancer, than their urban counterparts. Making matters worse, on average the 46 million people living in rural areas – 15 percent of the US population – are older, sicker, and have less access to health care than those who live in urban areas, and the gap has widened in recent years.

The Senate bill, currently a discussion draft, would leave millions of people across the country without health insurance, but those in rural areas are likely to be hardest hit. Most of the damage would be done through the bill’s decimation of Medicaid. Like the House’s healthcare bill, the Senate’s draft legislation includes a US$834 billion reduction in Medicaid spending over the next decade. Unlike the House bill, this spending cut would hit after 2020.

Today, 700 rural hospitals are already in danger of closing their doors due to federal budget cuts. Experts predict a dramatic rise in that number if either the Senate or House legislation is signed into law.

Cuts to Medicaid would also exacerbate the overdose epidemic that is raging in rural counties throughout the nation. Although all states have experienced increases in opioid use and overdose deaths in the past decade, the heaviest concentration of deaths are in states with large rural populations such as Kentucky, West Virginia, Alaska, and Oklahoma. Many factors, such as poverty and unemployment, contribute to this disparity. But health insurance has proven to be a primary lifeline to recovery. Medicaid is the largest single source of health coverage for substance use disorders. In states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, more than 1.2 million people have been able to get drug dependence treatment.

President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are in control of the White House and Congress largely because of the rural vote. This Senate health care bill would repay support at the ballot box with a punch to the gut.

Response to Heller on Ntaganda

Opinio Juris - Tuesday, June 27, 2017
by Luigi Prosperi

by Luigi Prosperi [Luigi Prosperi received his PhD in “International legal order and human rights” from Sapienza University of Rome, honorary fellow in International Law at Sapienza University, formerly Associate Legal Officer at ICTY.] Last week, the Appeals Chamber (AC) of the ICC unanimously rejected Bosco Ntaganda’s Defence appeal against the 4 January decision of […]

France: Don’t ‘Normalize’ Emergency Powers

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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French army paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, March 30, 2016. 

© 2016 Reuters

(Paris) – The French government’s new counterterrorism bill would move some overly broad emergency powers into normal criminal and administrative law without adequate judicial safeguards Human Rights Watch said today.

The Draft Law to Strengthen Internal Security and the Fight Against Terrorism, presented to the Council of Ministers on June 22, 2017, would undermine the rule of law. The government, which has a majority in parliament, also wants to extend the state of emergency until November, when the new powers would take effect.

“Instead of truly ending France’s 19-month temporary state of emergency, the government is making some of its far-reaching powers permanent but with little effective court oversight,” said Kartik Raj, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “If France’s new government is serious about defending core values while fighting terrorism, it should amend this law to restore the rule of law to counterterrorism efforts.”

France already has some of the continent’s most expansive laws to deal with terrorism, sweeping surveillance laws, and abusive counterterrorism practices, which Human Rights Watch has documented. The government’s own web page on the fight against terrorism noted in May that it had “completed its legal arsenal.”

The bill would grant increased powers to prefects, the interior minister’s local representatives, to designate public spaces as security zones, limiting who could enter and leave them; to limit the movement of people considered a national security threat; to close mosques and other places of worship; and to search private property.

The courts would have no role in approving the use of the first three powers, although there would be a limited right of appeal for orders limiting where a person has to live and for closing places of worship. A judge will have limited oversight of search powers. The lack of time limits and the bill’s vague definitions of terrorism and threats to national security exacerbates the concerns.

The Council of State, the governmental body that provides nonbinding legal advice to the executive about proposed laws to check their compliance with existing laws and obligations, issued its recommendations on the draft bill to the government on June 15. This advice sought to blunt the sharpest corners of the law, but in effect gave it a green light. Although the version presented to the Council of Ministers made some minor concessions and cosmetic changes, it ignored significant Council of State recommendations for time limits or for reducing the proposed time limits for the exercise of specific powers.

The powers as used in the state of emergency have drawn widespread criticism from members of parliament who oversee their use, UN experts, and the Defender of Rights – the national human rights oversight body, for leading to abuses while having limited impact on terrorism threats. Human Rights Watch and other groups have documented how assigned residence powers and the exercise of search powers have led to human rights abuses against ordinary people in France.

The draft bill also introduces changes to surveillance legislation, border controls, and processes for retaining the data of passengers arriving by sea or airplane.

The proposed law has received scathing criticism already from some of France’s leading constitutional law scholars and its Defender of Rights, who has characterized the replacement of exceptional measures with permanent ones as “a poisoned pill.”

The draft bill would grant a prefect the power to designate a zone as a “perimeter of protection” increasing police powers to conduct searches of people, bags, and vehicles, and to refuse entry. This power, envisioned for use where there is “a risk of an act of terrorism” to a public event or in a public space, is very vaguely worded, and lacks a requirement for judicial authorization. It also lacks any explicit requirement for the prefect to justify why the threat is imminent and severe enough to merit such a measure.

Given Human Rights Watch and others’ longstanding concerns about discrimination in identity checks and a significant reported spike in orders since July 2016 from prefects to carry out stop-and-search procedures, these new powers risk exacerbating ethnic profiling.

The law replaces the system of “assigned residence orders” in the current state of emergency with “individualized surveillance measures.” The law allows the executive to order a person to reside in a specific town (commune), report once a day to the police station, accept electronic surveillance using a bracelet, inform the authorities of any change of residence, and provide details of their electronic communications to law enforcement authorities. These are slightly less restrictive than assigned residence orders under the state of emergency which can, for example, require reporting to a police station up to three times a day and remaining at home for 10 to 12 hours overnight.

The orders could be issued “where there are serious reasons to believe that a person presents a risk to public order and security, given regular association with people or organizations that incite, facilitate or participate in acts of terrorism, or that support or follow theories that call for the commission of acts of terrorism in France or abroad, or that make apology for such acts.” Such orders would not require prior judicial authorization but a prefect would have to notify a prosecutor in advance.

Despite the Council of State’s recommendation for a six-month limit for the geographic restriction and to 12 months for all other measures, the government has proposed that the geographic restriction can be renewed indefinitely, every three months, based on a vague test of “new or additional information.” Violating the terms of such a measure could lead to up to three years in prison or a fine of €45,000. These restrictions on the right to liberty and freedom of movement also risk violating the rights to private and family life and freedom of association.

The draft law uses similarly vague language to repackage much-criticized powers of search without warrant during the state of emergency by relabelling searches of houses and business premises as “visits and seizures.” A prefect could also issue such an order, but, unlike the others, would need prior authorization of a liberty and detention judge, who would oversee its conduct and decide on what data and equipment could be seized.

Under the current wording, the government could conduct searches – except if the premises is covered by legal or journalistic privilege – where there are serious reasons for thinking that a person who presents a vaguely worded “threat to national security” frequents it. Human Rights Watch has previously expressed concerns about the extent to which a liberty and detention judge can provide the promised effective safeguard, especially in terrorism cases.

The bill also increases prefects’ authority to close places of worship with the specific aim of “preventing acts of terrorism,” on extremely broad grounds without requiring any direct link with the actual commission of an act of terror. Although the government has accepted the Council of State’s recommendation to narrow its initial definition, the reasoning still remains alarmingly vague. As the text stands, it could, for instance, be used arbitrarily to prohibit any meeting at which ideas or theological concepts associated with conservative interpretations of Islam, such as Salafism, are expressed regardless of whether there is any demonstrable connection to criminal activity.

The six-month closure would not require prior judicial authorization, although legal appeals would be possible. Violating such an order would carry a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to €7,500.

The measures risk restricting the rights to freedom of belief and religion, to freedom of expression and freedom of association. If, as is expected, the powers are used primarily against Muslims with conservative interpretations of their faith, they may also be discriminatory. Poorly worded laws that are likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society.

Human Rights Watch has called on the French government, in coalition with human rights organizations and other nongovernmental groups in France, to end the current state of emergency and to avoid normalizing emergency security measures.

“As a country that prides itself on a tradition of liberties and rights, France needs to find a way to end its state of emergency without normalizing abusive practices,” Raj said “As the law makes its way through the Assembly, representatives of all parties should ask tough questions about whether this law is necessary, and at what cost for liberty and the rule of law in France.”

Is Now a Good Time to Go Back to that U.S. War Power Debate?

Opinio Juris - Monday, June 26, 2017
by Deborah Pearlstein

by Deborah Pearlstein Cross-posted at Balkinization Because it’s too easy for our growing war in Syria to get lost amidst other also-pressing news, I want to be sure to note that last week ended with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee formally requesting the Trump Administration’s legal justification for a growing set of clashes between the […]

How to Put a Stop to North Korea&#039;s Brazen Impunity

Human Rights Watch - Monday, June 26, 2017
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Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea and passed away on June 19, 2017, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016.

© 2016 Reuters

The death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student from Ohio imprisoned in North Korea since last year, should be a wake-up call to the international community. Warmbier, who was arrested in January 2016 after attempting to remove a political banner from his hotel, was subject to a show trial and sentenced to 15 years forced labor.

There is, sadly, nothing unusual about the Warmbier case in the abstract. North Korea citizens are regularlysubjected to arrest for trifling crimes and sentenced to labor camps. As documented in harrowing detail by a recent UN report, many die in prison from beatings, malnourishment, or untreated sickness, among other causes.

What was strange about North Korea's treatment of Warmbier was that it was meted out to a foreigner. The United States and its allies strongly objected to his arrest, and Warmbier pleaded for forgiveness at his trial, citing what he called the "worst mistake of my life." Most observers expected that after a period of isolation and interrogation, coupled with private diplomacy, Warmbier would be repatriated. That is what has happened with many Americans in the past.

Instead, Warmbier was soon subjected to some unknown kind of mistreatment or possibly brutality, and ended up in a coma — in which he appears to have languished for more than a year. And now, days after returning home, he is dead.

The North Korean government's explanation of his death, involving botulism and a misprescribed sleeping pill, is questionable. How did a healthy young man suffer such severe brain damage from a treatable illness? And if he fell into a coma in March 2016, why did the regime not say anything about it — even to Sweden, which usually acts as intermediary with US prisoners — until recently? It is not clear what exactly happened to Warmbier, but it is possible that Warmbier suffered some of the kinds of abuses that befall North Koreans imprisoned in the regime's archipelago of prisoner camps.

The North Korean government won't own up to its problematic record. For decades, it has refused to cooperate in good faith with UN mechanisms set up to address human rights issues, and it still routinely releases absurdly hyperbolic panegyrics and paens to their "Supreme Leader," Kim Jong Un.

In dealing with North Korea, the international community has historically focused on nonproliferation concerns, but in recent years North Korea's human rights record has been getting more scrutiny. Since 2014, the UN Security Council has even held debates about whether the situation in North Korea should be referred to the International Criminal Court. And the US Congress has passed legislation to tighten bilateral sanctions on North Korea — not just in relation to their weapons program but also to address human rights abuses.

Last December, for the first time, the US Treasury and State Departments specifically sanctioned several senior officials for complicity in human rights abuses (not just for weapons proliferation), including Kim Jong Un himself. Currently, another newer set of names of North Korean officials is being considered by the Treasury Department for listing based on human rights grounds. In the wake of Warmbier's death, the US government should add those names to their list imposing travel and financial services restrictions.

At the United Nations, the US ambassador to the Security Council, Nikki Haley, needs to press other UN member countries to adopt tougher sanctions on human rights and better enforce the ones that already exist. It is often assumed that North Korea is already heavily sanctioned and under a tight embargo. The truth is that what UN sanctions exist are entirely based in the nuclear proliferation context, and although the United States has pushed allies recently to better enforce them, they are weaker than most people realize, and often go unenforced.

What's needed now are sanctions that are more specifically geared toward addressing human rights abuses and raising the cost of doing business for North Korean officials whose business is human rights abuses, like officials in the Ministry of Public Security, and prison wardens and other police officials.

It is impossible to know what North Korea's future holds, but one hope in the near term is to impose consequences on those responsible for the brutal treatment of prisoners like Warmbier, and the hundreds of thousands of others in North Korea's gulags.

This could create a shadow of fear in officials' minds about possible criminal liability in the future, and reduce the chances of others facing abuses like Otto Warmbier.

US General’s Photo Op with Accused Torturer in Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch - Monday, June 26, 2017
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A photo depicting General John Nicholson, Commander of United States forces in Afghanistan (C) with Kandahar's General Abdul Raziq (R).

© NATO/Resolute Support

When it comes to cosying up to alleged torturers in Afghanistan, the United States military has been a slow learner.

The US-led NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan just published a photo of Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, sharing a laugh with Kandahar strongman Gen. Abdul Raziq, long accused of forcibly disappearing detainees and having his henchman drill holes in the heads of some of them. Raziq runs secret prisons where torture is rife, and he’s also been implicated in corruption involving cross-border smuggling and unpaid custom duties. Both the United Nations and Afghan human rights activists have accused Raziq’s forces of extrajudicial killings going back at least a decade.

At the UN Committee Against Torture session in April, delegates repeatedly raised Raziq’s horrific record, citing in particular a UN report that month documenting that “a staggering 91 percent of detainees interviewed gave credible and reliable accounts of being subjected to the most brutal forms of torture and ill-treatment” in Kandahar that included “having water forcibly pumped into the stomach, having their testicles crushed with clamps, being suffocated to the point of losing consciousness and having electric current applied to their genitals.”

But the Resolute Support Mission, which “trains, advises and assists” Afghan national security forces, seems undeterred. This latest debacle comes just three years after US Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson found himself embroiled in controversy when he also posed for a photo op with Raziq. Since US taxpayers effectively pay Raziq’s salary and for the training of his men – including, ironically, human rights education – you would think the US government would care a bit more about what Raziq does with that money.

But the US has treated Raziq as its man in Kandahar, credited with keeping the Taliban at bay – though for how long is a pertinent question. Raziq’s forces’ killing spree has alienated tribal rivals and nurtured grievances against the government throughout the province. For years, the US sought to justify Raziq’s murderous actions as necessary for stability in Kandahar. By now the US and the Afghan government should know that backing corrupt and abusive security forces inflame insecurity. The Taliban certainly do. 

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