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Iraq: School Doors Barred to Many Children

Human Rights Watch - Wednesday, August 28, 2019


The school at Hammam al-Alil 1 camp for displaced people south of Mosul that security forces occupied on July 6, 7, and 9 in order to conduct security screenings of camp residents. 

© 2019 Belkis Wille/Human Rights Watch

(Beirut) The Iraqi government is denying thousands of children whose parents have a perceived Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation of their right to access an education, Human Rights Watch said today. The children, who were born or lived in areas under the control of ISIS between 2014 and 2017, lack the civil documentation the Iraqi government requires for school enrollment and the government is making it difficult for them to acquire it.

A September 2018 document signed by senior Education Ministry officials endorsed a discussion that appears to allow children missing civil documentation to enroll in school. But officials are instructing school principals and aid groups providing support services for education that undocumented children are still barred from enrolling in government schools.

“Denying children their right to education because of something their parents might have done is a grossly misguided form of collective punishment,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It undermines any potential government efforts to counter extremist ideology by pushing these children to the margins of society.”

An aid worker coordinating an education program in Nineveh and three school principals there told Human Rights Watch that ministry officials told them that despite the September 2018 decision, as of January 1, 2019 students could only attend school if their parents pledged in person at their governorate’s General Directorate of Education that they would obtain their child’s civil documentation by the end of the school year or within 30 days of making the pledge.

The principal of a primary school adjacent to a camp for displaced families 30 kilometers southeast of Mosul said that the ministry instructed schools to expel students whose parents failed to carry through on their pledge. At least 1,080 children of school age are living in the camp next door to the school, camp management told Human Rights Watch, but only 50 of these children, all with valid documentation, were enrolled at the school.

The principal of a school in a camp 30 kilometers south of Mosul said that since 2018 he had been allowing all children in the camp to enroll but that after he received the ministry’s new instructions, “at least 100 kids stopped coming to school. Either their parents couldn’t afford to go to Mosul to make the pledge, or they didn’t see the point because they knew that they would not be able to get civil documentation for them within 30 days.”

A 13-year-old girl who had been in 6th grade at the school said she had to stop attending in January. Her mother has no death certificate for the girl’s father who, the mother said, joined ISIS and died, and thus cannot get her daughter a valid identity card. “I like to learn and I want to keep studying and become a teacher but I don’t know if I will be allowed to,” her daughter said.

Many families who lived under ISIS rule between 2014 and 2017 are missing one or more of the civil documents schools are requiring parents to provide to enroll these children. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 20 families whose children could still not enroll in school for this reason after the September 2018 decision. It could not identify any families missing documentation who were able to enroll their children in school.

When in control of territory, ISIS regularly confiscated Iraqis’ civil documentation and issued their own, which the Iraqi authorities do not recognize. Iraqi security forces also confiscated some families’ documents as they fled fighting or when they arrived at camps for displaced people. Families whose children were born in ISIS-run hospitals have faced difficulties obtaining birth certificates and all subsequent documentation for their children, particularly if the husband is dead, missing, or detained. Authorities ask women to provide a valid death or divorce certificate in order to issue them and their children documentation, which most women in that situation do not have.

Ten women in that situation said that under those circumstances, neighborhood mukhtars, government-paid community leaders, have to sign off for security forces to grant the security clearances required to apply for civil documentation for the mother and subsequently the child. However, a mukhtar from Sinjar, an area in Nineveh governorate ISIS formerly controlled, said that security forces there had ordered him and other mukhtars not to stamp women’s documents if their husbands had joined ISIS unless the woman went before a judge and opened a criminal complaint against her husband for his ISIS membership. He said that not all women have been willing or able to do that.

As a result, many women married to men who joined ISIS have not been able to obtain divorce or death certificates. Government forces have even threatened them with arrest or other forms of collective punishment when they tried to obtain civil documentation. A woman from the town of Qayyarah, Nineveh, said that when she presented her 3-year-old son’s ISIS-issued birth certificate at the local civil status directorate in early 2018 in an effort to get a state-issued birth certificate, an official tore it up. “He said to me, we won’t give your son a birth certificate, his father was ISIS,” she said.

An upcoming joint study by the Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, and International Rescue Committee, “Paperless People of Post-Conflict Iraq: Denied rights, barred from basic services and excluded from reconstruction efforts,” revealed another barrier for some families. They found that officials at some schools have been requiring not only the child’s documentation, but also various types of civil documentation for the parents, including their identity cards, or the death or divorce certificate of a parent not present.

Even those children who have valid documentation because they were born before ISIS took control in 2014 may be excluded by schools that demand these documents if their father is no longer present and their mother has no divorce or death certificate.The joint study found that nearly half of the families interviewed could not enroll their children in school without presenting the father’s civil identity card or death certificate.

On July 26, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Iraqi government asking for clarification on the government’s position on whether children missing civil documentation are able to enroll in school but has received no response.

In addition to their fundamental obligation to guarantee the right to education to all children, free from discrimination, governments should adopt measures to ensure education is not interrupted during humanitarian crises, Human Rights Watch said.

Article 18 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that all children born to an Iraqi father or mother shall be granted citizenship and are therefore entitled to identity documents. Parliament should amend or revoke other laws and policies in force that thwart this constitutional right and Parliament should consider enacting a proposal submitted in June by the parliamentary human rights committee for the judiciary to set up special courts to issue civil documentation to children of families with perceived ISIS affiliation. In any case, Iraq should remove requirements for families to obtain security clearance from security services as a prerequisite for obtaining civil documentation.

To ensure that children can enroll by September 15, the beginning of the school year, the Education Ministry should urgently notify all school staff not to require civil documentation as a condition for enrolling, taking examinations, or obtaining certificates until a procedure is in place facilitating the issuing of civil documentation for all Iraqi children. The ministry, working with aid agencies, should seek to notify parents living in areas formerly under ISIS control and in camps for displaced people that the civil documentation requirements have been waived.

“Some Iraqi children lost three years of education under ISIS.” Fakih said. “The government should be doing everything in its power to ensure that children do not miss any more years of crucial education.”

Australia: Press Vietnam to Respect Rights

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc walk to a press briefing at the Government Office in Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, August 23, 2019.

© 2019 AP Photo/Duc Thanh (Sydney) – The Australian government should press the Vietnam government to respect human rights at the 16th Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue on August 29, 2019, in Canberra, Human Rights Watch said today.

Australia’s bilateral relationship with Vietnam has deepened significantly, upgrading to a strategic partnership in 2018. In August 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited Hanoi, but failed to address human rights concerns publicly during his visit.

In a June submission, Human Rights Watch urged the Australian government to use the dialogue to improve Vietnam’s poor human rights record, including the systematic suppression of freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion. Australia should also press the government of Vietnam to immediately release all political prisoners, and to revise its problematic cybersecurity law.

“Australia’s close ties with Vietnam mean the Australian government has a responsibility to speak out publicly on Vietnam’s abysmal human rights record,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “The crackdown on basic rights in Vietnam is escalating, with more political prisoners being unjustly detained for longer terms.”

As of August, Human Rights Watch has documented that at least 131 people are behind bars in Vietnam for exercising their basic rights. The Vietnamese government should immediately release all these political prisoners and detainees. Some of the most urgent cases include people with serious health conditions who require medical assistance, including Ngo Hao, a religious activist; Nguyen Trung Ton, a rights campaigner; and Nguyen Van Tuc and Ho Duc Hoa, pro-democracy activists.

The Vietnamese government has detained Chau Van Kham, an Australian citizen and pro-democracy activist, since January. He is being investigated for alleged offenses under Vietnam’s sweeping national security laws, including attempting to “overthrow the state.” Under Vietnam’s criminal procedure code, he will be allowed to have a defense lawyer only after the police say the investigation is concluded.

“Australia should be publicly calling for the immediate release of Chau Van Kham, an Australian citizen, and all other political prisoners who have been unjustly jailed in Vietnam,” Pearson said. “Australia should press Vietnam to change its rights-violating criminal procedure code so that all criminal detainees have prompt access to legal counsel as international law requires.”

Activists and bloggers in Vietnam face frequent physical assaults by official or government- connected thugs, who are not punished for these attacks. In January, unidentified men abducted an anti-corruption campaigner, Ha Van Nam, and drove him around in a van, where they covered his head and beat him repeatedly, eventually leaving him outside a hospital with two broken ribs.

In July, a group of rights activists accompanied Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, the wife of Truong Minh Duc, a political prisoner, to Prison No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province, to show their support for political prisoners who were on a hunger strike to protest the violation of their rights. When the visitors got close to the prison, a large group of men in civilian clothes attacked them with sticks and helmets, broke their phones, and robbed them. Many people in the group were injured, including a prominent blogger, Huynh Ngoc Chenh, and his wife, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, a human rights activist.

Online repression is on the rise in Vietnam. Vietnam’s problematic cybersecurity law went into effect in January. This overly broad and vague law gives the authorities wide discretion to censor free expression and requires service providers to take down content the authorities consider offensive within 24 hours of receiving the request.

In August, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung claimed that Facebook had complied with “70 to 75 percent” of the government’s requests to restrict content, up from “about 30 percent” previously. Among the materials Facebook removed, according to the ministry, were “more than 200 links to articles with content opposing the Party and the State.”

The minister also claimed that Google complies with “80 to 85 percent” of its requests to restrict content on YouTube and other Google services – up from “60 percent” previously.

It is unclear how the ministry arrived at these figures, or when the social media giants’ compliance rate began to increase. The ministry did not disclose the legal bases for these requests.

The ministry said it has asked Facebook to limit live-streaming capabilities on its platforms to accounts that it has authenticated. It is unclear how Facebook will be expected to conduct such authentication, or what criteria authenticated accounts would have to satisfy. The ministry also said that it told the company to “pre-censor” online content and remove ads “that spread fake news related to political issues upon request from the government.”

When asked how it would respond to these requests, Facebook stated that its standards relating to its livestream and other services “are global.” The process for taking down content, Facebook added, is the “same in Vietnam as it is around the world.” Reported content is first reviewed against its Community Standards; if it passes muster, the company will assess whether the government request is legally valid.

Human Rights Watch also contacted Google for comment on the ministry’s allegations, but it had not responded at the time of publication.

“Vietnam’s increasingly aggressive approach to online censorship, including its enforcement of the cybersecurity law, an attempt to silence many online critical voices and unduly restrict freedom of expression in the country are worrisome,” Pearson said. “Australia should press Vietnam to amend this law and to end the government’s systemic repression of dissidents and peaceful activists.”

Why You Should Read the European Court Ruling on Magnitsky

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The grave of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is seen at a cemetery in Moscow, November 16, 2012. 

© 2012 AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File

Today, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Russia over the 2009 death of jailed whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

For many, the name Magnitsky has become synonymous with individual sanctions that states can impose for gross human rights violations in other countries.

But it is important to remember the individual human tragedy, the story of prolonged suffering and death of Sergei Magnitsky, that inspired the laws behind these sanction mechanisms. Magnitsky, a tax advisor, had alleged that various government officials were involved in a massive scheme that defrauded the Russian government of US$230 million in taxes. Russian authorities arrested Magnitsky in November 2008 and he died in prison, in pretrial detention, a year later, following acute pancreatitis and other serious medical problems for which he was not treated.

Today, almost 10 years after his death, the European Court ruled that Russia violated Magnitsky’s right to life by failing to hold an effective investigation into the alleged medical negligence that resulted in his death; that his detention conditions amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment; that repeated extensions of his detention was unjustified; and that his posthumous trial and conviction by a Russian court was inherently unfair. 

True, the judgment doesn’t break new ground in light of the court’s well-established case law on ill-treatment, death in custody, and lack of accountability for perpetrators in Russia.

But you should read it to see the summary of facts submitted by Magnitsky’s representatives about the alleged embezzlement and tax fraud, which at the time was possibly the largest tax fraud uncovered in Russia’s modern history.

You should read the judgment for its harrowing accounts of Magnitsky’s prolonged suffering and dying, and of the enraging mess that is the official account of his death.

You should read it to feel the truly Kafkaesque ordeal Magnitsky, his mother, spouse, and lawyers went through as they desperately tried to find recourse, get him the proper medical assistance, and, after his death, to secure some justice and accountability for his death.

And yet no one who had a role in his detention and suffering has been truly held accountable. 

Today’s European Court ruling finally gives some justice, and hopefully some relief, to Magnitsky’s loved ones. It also reminds us that beyond the politics of sanctions, there are human lives that have been torn apart, and people who should be held accountable for it.  

Myanmar’s New Children’s Law a Step Forward

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A boy runs as he exits his school in Rangoon, November 6, 2013. 

© 2013 Reuters

After years of discussion and debate, Myanmar has finally enacted a law to protect the rights of children.

Consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Myanmar has ratified, the law defines a child as anyone younger than 18 and provides all children born in Myanmar have the right to birth registration.

This is important, but other shortcomings need to be addressed. Myanmar should revise the law to provide all children with the right to a nationality and not be stateless – therefore, full citizenship rights. The children of parents Myanmar does not recognize as citizens, notably Rohingya Muslims, or who face discriminatory application of the law, such as Kaman Muslims or women trafficked to China, are denied Myanmar citizenship. Without citizenship, children have difficulty entering school, obtaining health care, and traveling inside the country as well as abroad. Those born in Myanmar often will be stateless, which international law tries to prevent.

The child rights law, passed in July, appropriately sets 18 as the minimum age of marriage, regardless of gender. Child marriage is hard to track in Myanmar, but the organization Girls Not Brides estimates 16 percent of girls are married before they turn 18. Now Myanmar should create a national action plan to end all child marriage, aligning implementation of the law to Target 5.3 of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Relevant ministries should work together and develop a comprehensive plan containing measurable benchmarks and clear timelines.

The child rights law now sets the minimum age of employment at 14 years and forbids children from doing dangerous forms of labor. But the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population still needs to finalize a hazardous jobs list. The International Labour Organization estimates a million children are employed in underage and often dangerous work in Myanmar. A draft list has been circulating for a considerable time, and should be finalized in consultation with unions, civil society groups, child rights advocates, and employers.

Myanmar law still has a long way to go in its treatment of children who commit crimes. The new law raises the age of criminal liability from the ridiculously low 7 years to 10 years. Even with the change, Myanmar is one of the lowest age of criminal responsibility for children of any country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on governments to set the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12 or higher.

Myanmar’s child rights law has filled an important gap in the law but reforms still need to be enacted and implemented.

New Pakistani Law Protects Women Farm Workers

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Pakistani women work in a field in Lahore.

© 2014 Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacifi/SIPA via AP Images

Sindh province in Pakistan is taking an important step toward ending abuse and discrimination against women agricultural workers. On August 24, the Sindh cabinet approved the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act 2019, which will now be brought to the provincial assembly for a vote. It is expected to pass.

The proposed law recognizes the right of women workers to have a written contract, minimum wage, social security, and welfare benefits including for child health, maternity leave, and access to government subsidies and credit. It requires gender parity in wages. It is also the first time that Pakistan will recognize the right of women agricultural workers to unionize.

The agriculture sector is Pakistan’s biggest employer. But agricultural workers are often denied labor rights protections, most do not have a written contract, and are often paid less than the minimum wage.

Rural women and girls face additional challenges. According to a 2018 report by UN Women, 67 percent of Pakistani women in the labor force work in agriculture and 60 percent of their work is unpaid. Discrimination faced by rural women is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in the country. The literacy rate among rural women is 35 percent as compared to 69 percent in urban areas. And the male literacy rate in rural areas is 63 percent, nearly double that of rural women. 

In September 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, recognizing the significant role rural women play in the economic survival of their families and the rural and national economy. This declaration built on 2016 guidance from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women regarding the rights of rural women.

The Sindh government’s initiative is an important recognition of the challenges faced by rural women, and the value of their work. Pakistan’s federal, as well as other provincial governments, should follow its lead.

Lebanon: Entry Ban Follows Gender, Sexuality Conference

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

People wave a Lebanese national flag during a protest in Central Beirut December 11, 2006.

© 2006 Reuters

(Beirut) – Lebanese General Security has banned a group of activists and academics from re-entering Lebanon following their participation in a September 2018 conference on gender and sexuality, Human Rights Watch, the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), and Legal Agenda said today. General Security officers attempted to unlawfully shut down the conference and took names of all conference participants from the hotel registry, including those from highly repressive countries. The agency apparently used the information to create a list of people who are not welcome in Lebanon. This appears to be the first time Lebanon has imposed a collective ban on individuals for participating in a conference.

Six people who took part in the NEDWA conference, hosted by the Arab Foundation, have since tried to visit Lebanon on different occasions in late 2018 and 2019, but told AFE that General Security officers at Beirut’s Hariri International Airport refused to allow them to enter the country. The officers gave no reason for the refusal at the time, they said. General Security oversees the entry and exit of foreigners and monitors nongovernmental organizations.

“The Lebanese authorities’ actions against the conference is a blatant attempt to restrict the space for free speech and assembly,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These collective sanctions undermine the rights of advocates who are committed to advancing equality in Lebanon and in the region.”

Three of the people refused entry – including a Tunisian and a Canadian – filed suit against the Interior Ministry with the assistance of AFE and Legal Agenda, asking the State Council – the high administrative court in Lebanon – to lift the entry bans. The Ministry of Interior and General Security responded to all three complaints, refusing to remove the bans and confirming that the bans resulted from the individuals’ participation in NEDWA, and that other participants are under similar bans.

In a response letter to the complainants, General Security justified its decision on grounds of “considerations of state security” and “protecting society from imported vices” that “disrupt the security and stability of society.” General Security falsely claimed that the purpose of the conference was to “discuss same-sex marriage,” and that the Arab Foundation “violated the Lebanese public order.”

“The NEDWA conference is and has always been a space for activists, including sexual and gender minorities, to discuss important issues, such as sexual health, mental well-being, and human rights,” said Georges Azzi, executive director of AFE. “We’re disappointed that security forces that exist to protect people are instead busy restricting activists’ basic rights with false claims.”

General Security’s mission statement obliges it to uphold “non-discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, language, gender, political opinion or national origin, or any other grounds.”

On December 17, Human Rights Watch requested a meeting with the director general of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, to discuss the entry bans. He declined. On April 5, 2019, Human Rights Watch, AFE, and Legal Agenda also requested a meeting with interior minister, Raya El-Hassan, to discuss the entry bans and are still awaiting a response.

“General Security’s measures against participants in a conference is an arbitrary collective sanction that has no legal basis, which further proves that the Lebanese authorities are attempting to limit discussion on issues related to gender and sexuality instead of upholding their duty to protect free speech,” said Ghida Frangieh, a lawyer and president of Legal Agenda, “We ask the Ministry of Interior and the General Security to lift such sanctions immediately.”

Applying poorly defined morality standards to crack down on human rights events related to gender and sexuality breaches Lebanon’s obligations under international law.

As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Lebanon should protect freedom of expression, association, and assembly for everyone, regardless of their own sexual orientation or gender identity or their advocacy on behalf of sexual and gender minorities.

The Yogyakarta Principles, on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, say that countries should ensure that notions of public morality and order “are not employed to restrict any exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly and association solely on the basis that it affirms diverse sexual orientations or gender identities.” The United Nations resolution 15/21 mandates member states to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in all their manifestations.

The Interior Ministry should urgently work with the interior minister, public prosecutor, and the general director of General Security Forces to safeguard the rights to free expression, assembly, and association, and ensure that groups can organize around the protection of rights of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities without official interference and intimidation, the groups said. The authorities should immediately lift any entry bans based on discriminatory criteria.


The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality is an officially registered nongovernmental organization that works on advancing rights related to gender and sexuality, including for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Since 2013, it has held the NEDWA conference, a four-day conference whose initials stand for networking, exchange, developments, wellness, and achievement, annually in Lebanon. The conference includes workshops on health, human rights, advocacy, movement-building, and the arts, and attracts people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Human Rights Watch representatives have attended the conference regularly since 2016.

In an oppressive regional climate where individual freedoms and the rights of gender and sexual minorities are severely constrained, Lebanon had been known to set an international example by serving as a safe haven for activists from the Arabic-speaking world to organize freely and without censorship. The annual NEDWA conference has been one such hub for inclusive advocacy for the past five years. Because of the 2018 General Security raid and the entry ban affecting participants, AFE has been forced to hold its 2019 NEDWA conference outside Lebanon, a development that signals the steady decline of safe spaces in Lebanon for networking and assembly around the rights of gender and sexual minorities in the Arab world.

Nigeria: Anguish, Poverty Confront Trafficking Survivors

Human Rights Watch - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

August 27, 2019 Video Nigeria: Anguish, Poverty Confront Trafficking Survivors

Many survivors of sex and labor trafficking struggle with unaddressed health challenges, poverty, and abhorrent conditions upon their return to Nigeria. Nigerian authorities have failed to provide the assistance that survivors need to rebuild their lives and have unlawfully detained many of the already traumatized women and girls in shelters. 

(Abuja) – Many survivors of sex and labor trafficking struggle with unaddressed health challenges, poverty, and abhorrent conditions upon their return to Nigeria, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Nigerian authorities have failed to provide the assistance that survivors need to rebuild their lives and have unlawfully detained many of the already traumatized women and girls in shelters.

The 90-page report, “‘You Pray for Death’: Trafficking of Women and Girls in Nigeria,” provides detailed accounts of how human trafficking operates in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch found that the nightmare does not end for survivors who manage to return home. The Nigerian government should take steps to address the serious health conditions, social exclusion, and poverty faced by survivors, and stop further traumatizing survivors by detaining them in shelters.

August 27, 2019 Report “You Pray for Death”

Trafficking of Women and Girls in Nigeria

“Women and girls trafficked in and outside Nigeria have suffered unspeakable abuses at the hands of traffickers, but have received inadequate medical, counseling, and financial support to reintegrate into society,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “We were shocked to find traumatized survivors locked behind gates, unable to communicate with their families, for months on end, in government-run facilities.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 76 trafficking survivors in Nigeria, as well as government officials, civil society leaders, and representatives of donor governments and institutions providing support to anti-trafficking efforts in Nigeria.

The frequent trafficking of Nigerian women and girls to Europe and Libya has led to international headlines in recent years and to action by the Nigerian government. Many women and girls are also held in slavery-like conditions inside Nigeria.

Witness: No Reprieve for Trafficking Survivors in Nigeria

Adaura C. escaped after being trafficked to Libya, where she was repeatedly raped and exploited. She then suffered severe abuse at the hands of ISIS. Now, back in Nigeria, she is anxious about her uncertain future.


Nigerian authorities have taken some important steps to address the country’s widespread problem of trafficking, including establishing shelters, assisting with medical care, and creating skills training and economic support programs for trafficking survivors.

However, the authorities rely too heavily on shelters, as opposed to community-based services, as the primary means of providing services to survivors. Nigerian authorities have also detained trafficking survivors in shelters, not allowing them to leave at will, often for many months, in violation of Nigeria’s international legal obligations. Protection should not be an excuse to arbitrarily detain women and girls and deprive them of their liberty and freedom of movement, Human Rights Watch said. Such detention conditions risk their recovery and well-being.

“I have been here for almost six months…. I eat and sleep and shout. They do not open the gate…” said an 18-year-old woman at a National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) shelter. “I told NAPTIP I do not want to stay here; I want to go home. They said they will allow me to go. I do not feel okay being here. I cannot stay here doing nothing.”

The journey into being trafficked is harrowing, and relief is hard to come by. Human Rights Watch documented how traffickers, most known to their victims, deceive women and girls, transport them within and across national borders, and then exploit them in various forms of forced labor.


A woman who tried to make her way to Europe sits with her child in a shelter in Benin City, Nigeria. Nigerians who attempt the journey to Europe often end up enslaved, beaten, assaulted, and trapped in Libya. March 2018.

© 2018 Lynsey Addario/Getty Images Reportage

Women and girls often believed they were migrating for high-paying overseas employment as domestic workers, hairdressers, or hotel staff. They were shocked to learn they had been tricked and were trapped in exploitative situations, with high “debts” to pay. They said their captors subjected them to forced prostitution and forced domestic work for long hours with no time to rest, and without pay. Traffickers made them have sex with men without condoms, and often compelled them to undergo abortions in unsanitary conditions, without pain medication or antibiotics.

Survivors described horrifying experiences leading to long-term trauma. Another woman said she was 18 when she was trafficked into forced prostitution in Libya and held for about three years. While in Libya, she was abducted by people she said were the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). She witnessed executions and bombings, and was sold from one trafficker to another. She became pregnant but lost her newborn baby during a bombing. She described her life after trafficking: “Sometimes I don’t want to see people. Sometimes I feel like I am going to kill myself. I don’t sleep well.”

Some women and girls said they suffered long-term mental and physical health problems and social stigma upon returning to Nigeria, where they struggled to get support and services. Many women and girls said they lacked money to support themselves and their families. Survivors described feeling deeply stressed and desperate.

Survivors said service providers generally did not actively involve them in decisions about their own assistance, and that service providers gave them insufficient information about services. Some reported long waiting periods without assistance after they contacted service providers to ask for help.

Outside of the government’s use of shelters, a network of nongovernmental organizations provides services to trafficking victims, including shelter accommodation, identification and family tracing, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration. However, representatives of some of these groups said they are poorly funded and are unable to meet survivors’ multiple needs for long-term comprehensive assistance. 

Rehabilitation and reintegration efforts in Nigeria are also plagued by an over-emphasis on short-term skills training that also reinforces traditional gender roles, weak government efforts to identify victims, problems with funding and coordination, and poor oversight.

Nigerian authorities, including NAPTIP officials, should work urgently to improve assistance and services for internally identified and repatriated human trafficking survivors, including by ending the practice of denying freedom of movement to survivors housed in shelters. The Nigerian authorities should ensure that shelter policies and practices respect survivors’ human rights, ensure that no one is detained in shelters, and assess the impact of its “closed” shelter approach.

“Nigerian authorities are struggling with a crisis of trafficking, and working under challenging circumstances, but they can do a better job by listening to what survivors have to say about their own needs,” Odhiambo said. “To end trafficking and break cycles of exploitation and suffering, survivors need the government to help them heal from the trauma of trafficking and earn a decent living in Nigeria.”

Selected accounts from the report

Harrowing journeys and captivity

Juliana P., 23, was trafficked to Libya in 2015. She said she was stuck at sea and later held captive in Libya:

We stayed in the sea for five days. The food got finished. We did not know where we were. A man died and was pushed into the sea. People were crying, saying they did not know they would suffer this much. We met a group of Arabs; they took us in their boat and took us to prison. We stayed for six months. In prison the food they gave us was bread and chai and spaghetti with water. The water was very salty; it used to peel the skin. We were crying and they would beat us.

Trafficked into sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and forced labor

Joy P. described being trafficked at age 12 in 2017 from her home in Anambra State to Lagos State by a woman who deceived her, saying she would help with her education while she took care of the woman’s children. The woman forced Joy to clean and cook for two months without pay, then she took Joy to a brothel for forced prostitution:

One day she … took me to a hotel. I found one of the girls I met in Anambra there. She went to the owner of the hotel and said, “I have brought another girl.” The man said I was too young to stay there. She took me back to the house and bought drugs for me to make me fatter. After three weeks, she took me back but [he] did not accept me. She took me to another hotel and the owner accepted me. I told her, “This is not what you brought me here for.” She said I have to pay the money she used to bring me to Lagos before I can go back.

She brought condoms and gave me and said men will be coming to me. She gave me a room. Different men would come and sleep with me. I lost count of how many. I ran away after two days. My madam sent people to look for me. They found me and took me back to her house. She beat me and said that I had to pay her. She brought me something to drink to make me promise that I will not run away again. She took me back to the first hotel and he accepted me. It was painful. I was crying all the time.

Uma K., 32, said she was trafficked to Libya in 2013 by a man who lived on her street in Benin City. She said a madam held her and other girls in debt bondage and sexually exploited them. The madam forced Uma to undergo multiple abortions, charged her for the abortions, and forced her to work almost immediately after abortions:

I got sick, she said, “You are a nurse, you can treat yourself.” The woman used to beat me. You eat once a day. You wake up at 4 a.m. She beats you to wake you up, her and her husband. Men sleep with us without condoms. I got pregnant four times. She would do abortions for us… If she pays the nurse 40 Dinar; she charges you double. Immediately after that day, you will work.

Georgina K., 13, is from Benin, and said she had been in Nigeria for four years when Human Rights Watch interviewed her in 2017. She said her mother did not have money to enroll her in school, and her aunt offered to help:

She brought me here [Nigeria] to work to get money for vocational training. She took me to someone who sells food. I was hawking amala [Nigerian food made with cassava or yam flour]. They did not feed me. I ate nothing in the morning; they said I will eat when I return at around 3 p.m. I also did housework. She beat me and abused me verbally. She said I did not work well. I was always working. They paid my aunt, who said she will send the money to my parents. I am not sure she sent the money. I was sick, and they did not treat me.

Life in Nigeria after trafficking

Uma K. described life in Nigeria after she escaped from sexual exploitation in Libya:

Sometimes my friends mock me. A colleague [fellow nurse] of mine mocked me on Facebook saying I went to do prostitution in Libya…. Sometimes I cry. I think some of my family members are ashamed of me because when we are with people, they do not want to talk to me. Sometimes I feel as if people are mocking me even when I am just walking around. I haven’t sought counseling because I am ashamed; I don’t know what I will meet. Some people might mock you and not help you.

Joan A., 13, said she sometimes cannot afford food:

I live alone; my aunt gave me the house where I stay … she buys the food. Sometimes the church gives me food. Sometimes I don’t have food.

Adaku G., 31, was told by a neighbor that he could help her find work in France, but after a long harrowing journey through the Sahara Desert, she was trapped in Libya where a madam forced her into prostitution. She has suffered lingering health problems resulting from her ordeal:

My health is not good. I am always sick…. I have one thing after another. My family paid for the treatment…. I have pain in my lower abdomen, back, [and] I cannot bend. My waist pains.

Detention in shelters

Ebunoluwa E., 18, a trafficking survivor in a NAPTIP shelter said:

Since I have been here, I chop [eat] sleep, chop sleep. A pastor comes every Sunday to preach to us. We do daily prayer and devotion. I have not been doing any vocational training. They have not asked me what I want to do. Yesterday was three weeks here. I have not spoken to my mum. I went to the manager and said I want to speak to my mum to tell her I am here, she asked why I did not tell the JDPC [Justice Development and Peace Caritas Commission], [an] NGO that came to interview us. NAPTIP has my phone. I do not have my passport. I saw it with JDPC. I am so sad, I want to go home. I do not like this place; too many rules. We are forced to wake up with a bell to pray. I have not been told when I will go home…. I have been crying since morning.

Gladness K., 24, said she was kept in a NAPTIP shelter for about three weeks and moved to another for a week without information about when she would go home:

I want to go to my mum… In Lagos they said I should be happy to come back because many people suffer and are exploited. They asked if I want to learn work, and I said I wanted to go home. They have not told me when I am going home; I called my mum this afternoon and I am not sure when she is coming to pick me.

Egypt: 20 Rights NGOs Call On President Macron To Denounce Egypt's Human Rights Record During The G7 Meeting

Human Rights Watch - Monday, August 26, 2019


French President Emmanuel Macron meets with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the presidential palace in Cairo on January 28, 2019.

© 2019 Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

It was a striking choice for France to invite Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to attend the 24-26 August G7 summit in Biarritz, for which the chosen theme is “the fight against inequality”. The number of Egyptians under the poverty line has clearly risen according to official Egyptian 2018 statistics, while the World Bank estimates that “some 60% of Egypt’s population is either poor or vulnerable” in 2019. Egyptian social and economic rights defenders, trade union activists, journalists and whistle-blowers, as well as feminist, LGBTQIA+ organizations and civil society at large have not been spared in recent waves of state crackdown on dissent.

Public space has been virtually closed down in Egypt in the midst of a worsening human rights crisis, with a severe rollback of the freedoms of expression, assembly, association and the press. The political sphere is extremely restricted for opposition political parties.

Ahead of the fall 2019 review of Egypt’s rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council, 20 rights groups are calling on French President Emmanuel Macron to follow up on his January 2019 statements in Cairo by speaking out again on the continuing human rights crisis in Egypt, and urging al-Sisi during his visit at the G7 to allow Egyptian rights defenders to document violations and travel to engage with multilateral mechanisms. If these abuses are left unquestioned, the G7 summit will de facto legitimize President al-Sisi’s utter disregard for Egypt’s human rights obligations.  

More specifically, the 20 organizations urge President Macron to call on President al-Sisi to drop all charges and unconditionally release all arbitrarily-detained human rights defenders and journalists, and drop abusive probation measures against them. Political prisoners detained for peaceful activities should be immediately released, and those jailed after unfair trial procedures or without trial should be tried or re-tried in proceedings that meet Egypt's international human rights obligations. Other recommendations include implementing an immediate moratorium on executions, promptly investigating all reported cases of enforced disappearance, and bringing an end to torture as well as to the persecution and criminalization of LGBTQI+ people.


Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms

Arab Network for Knowledge about Human rights (ANKH Association)

Centre arabe d’études du droit et de la société


Committee for Justice

Egyptian Front for Human Rights

Egyptian Human Rights Forum

EuroMed Rights

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Front Line Defenders

Human Rights Watch

Initiative franco-égyptienne pour les droits et les libertés (IFEDL)

Andalus institute for tolerance and anti-violence studies (AITAS)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

L'Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (ACAT-France)

Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH)

MENA Rights Group

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Reporters Without Borders

The Freedom Initiative


The Importance of Principle

Opinio Juris - Monday, August 26, 2019
A few months ago, I was invited by the Polish Ministry of Justice to participate in a one-day conference on the responsibility of lawyers for judicial crimes, part of Poland’s Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The Ministry asked me to discuss American prosecutions of Nazi lawyers at the Nuremberg Military Tribunals — something I wrote...

Thailand: Investigate Detainee’s Death

Human Rights Watch - Monday, August 26, 2019

(New York) –Thai authorities should immediately conduct an independent and credible investigation into the death of a suspected insurgent after being interrogated in military custody, Human Rights Watch said today. Abdulloh Esormusor, 34, died on August 25, 2019, after more than a month-long coma.


Abdulloh Esormusor died on August 25, 2019, after falling into coma in military detention.

2019 © Abdulloh Esormusor’s Family “The death of Abdulloh Esormusor is an important test case for the Thai government on whether it is willing to address rights violations in military detention,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Thai leaders need to demonstrate that they are serious about conducting an independent investigation and prosecute any wrongdoing or risk complicity for yet another unlawful conduct of soldiers.”

On July 20 at about 4 p.m., the military apprehended Abdulloh at his home in Pattani province. He was detained without charge at the 43th Taharn Pran Task Force interrogation center located inside the Ingkayutthaboriharn military camp.

The Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 reported that soldiers interrogated Abdulloh until 9 p.m. ISOC stated that at approximately 3 a.m. the following morning, guards found Abdulloh lying unconscious on the floor in the toilet inside his holding cell. Soldiers brought him to Pattani General Hospital, and transferred him to the better-equipped Songklanagarind Hospital in neighboring Songkhla province the next day. Initial medical reports from Pattani General Hospital stated that Abdulloh was in a coma due to severe brain swelling, which could have been caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Human rights groups, religious leaders, and politicians both in the southern border provinces and Bangkok have harshly criticized the military’s treatment of Abdulloh. On July 22, ISOC Region 4 established a commission of inquiry and promised that soldiers would be subject to heavy disciplinary and criminal punishments if they committed abuses.

There has been little progress in the investigation, Human Rights Watch said. The military-dominated inquiry has been unable to provide even basic information about Abdulloh’s treatment at the interrogation center, the cause of oxygen deprivation, and the methods that soldiers used to interrogate him. Moreover, ISOC Region 4 claimed that all security cameras installed at the detention facility were not online at the time and could not provide video recordings or any other evidence for the inquiry.

On July 25, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, responding to questions from members of parliament, summarily dismissed allegations that Abdulloh was tortured in military custody, raising concerns of a possible cover-up. “You said he was tortured. He was examined by doctors and they did not find anything. He just fainted. He fainted after he was arrested. Do you watch movies too much?” Prayut said.

During the armed conflict in Thailand’s southern border provinces over the past 15 years, not a single soldier or other security personnel has been prosecuted for unlawfully detaining, torturing, or extrajudicially killing suspected insurgents, Human Rights Watch noted.

Torture has long been a problem in Thailand. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised its concerns with Thai authorities that detainees in security-related cases in the southern border provinces are extremely vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment in military detention. The military routinely uses a combination of the Martial Law Act and the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in a State of Emergency to put insurgent suspects in detention and interrogation for up to 37 days without charge. There is no effective judicial oversight or effective safeguards against abuse. Authorities also fail to provide those detained with access to a lawyer.

To meet Thailand’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Thailand ratified in 2007, the government should immediately ensure the safety of all detainees; provide urgent medical care to those injured during arrest or in custody; allow timely access to legal counsel and family members; and fully and impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute allegations of torture and ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said. The Thai government should also fulfill its pledges to criminalize torture under Thai law.

“The Thai government has repeatedly pledged to get serious about tackling torture, but it repeatedly fails to do anything about it,” Adams said. “Thailand’s donors and friends should press the Prayut government to adopt the laws and measures needed to put an end to this egregious problem.”

South Africa: Deadly Attacks on Foreign Truck Drivers

Human Rights Watch - Monday, August 26, 2019

Members of the All Truck Drivers Forum hold a banner that reads, “South Africa First Foreign Drivers Must Fall. We Will Die For Our Country We Want 100% South African Drivers In The Trucking Industry,” outside of the Pietermaritzburg High Court on July 18, 2019. 

© Human Rights Watch 2019

(Johannesburg) – The South African government should take urgent measures to protect foreign national truck drivers from violence, intimidation, and harassment in the country’s cycle of xenophobic violence. More than 200 people – mostly foreign truck drivers – have been killed in South Africa since March 2018, based on research by the Road Freight Association, which represents road freight service providers.

Groups of people claiming to be South African truck drivers have thrown gasoline bombs at trucks and shot at, stoned, stabbed, and harassed foreign truck drivers to force them out of the trucking industry. Many foreign truck drivers have lost their jobs, despite having valid work permits, or have been unable to return to work due to injuries or damage to their trucks. Some of the attackers claimed affiliation to the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), an association of local truck drivers.

“South African authorities should urgently intervene to stop the unlawful, unprovoked, and violent attacks and harassment of foreign truck drivers and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Any problems in the trucking industry, including undocumented drivers, are for the relevant authorities to address, and there is no defense to groups committing such violent, horrific crimes.”

In June and July 2019, Human Rights Watch conducted 35 interviews with foreign and South African truck drivers, a lawyer, the minister of home affairs, and activists in Johannesburg, Mpumalanga province’s Witbank town, and Durban and Pietermaritzburg, both in KwaZulu-Natal province.


Map of locations where Human Rights Watch documented attacks on foreign truck drivers in South Africa. 

© Human Rights Watch 2019

ATDF leaders told Human Rights Watch that they oppose companies hiring undocumented foreign truck drivers, but 18 of the 23 foreign drivers Human Rights Watch interviewed presented valid South African work permits. South Africa’s home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Human Rights Watch that he was aware that the attacks on truck drivers and the burning of trucks had spread from Durban to Mpumalanga province. While noting that a 2014 Home Affairs Immigration Directive authorized foreign truck drivers employed by South African companies to work in South Africa on a visitor’s permit, he acknowledged some employers hired foreign truck drivers without following the relevant government policy. He did not provide any information on steps that the government had planned to take to increase protection for drivers and deter attacks on them and their trucks.

In March 2019, Human Rights Watch documented attacks against foreign nationals in Durban that led to the displacement of hundreds of them, at least 200 deaths, and several injuries. Since then, the Positive Freight Solutions Forum (PFSF), a South African truck owner association, estimates that there have been over 75 incidents of attacks against foreign truck drivers and their cargo. The perpetrators have indiscriminately targeted foreign truck drivers, or trucks owned by companies known to employ foreign truck drivers, nationwide. Human Rights Watch has independently confirmed 15 of the reported incidents, including the stabbing of Zimbabwean truck driver Tinei Takawira in Durban on March 25, the gasoline bomb attack on a foreign national truck driver in Durban on April 7, and attacks of several foreign truck drivers in Witbank in June. According to media reports, in a three-week period in May, over 60 trucks were hit with gasoline bombs in several attacks that each targeted multiple trucks. Most occurred near Mooi River on the N3 highway, which connects Durban to Johannesburg, Human Rights Watch research indicates.

In a May statement, the ATDF, whose slogan is “foreign drivers must fall,” called for the resignation of all foreign truck drivers by June 2. Part of the statement read:

To all foreigners who are driving in South Africa as from 2 June 2019 we no longer want to see you in trucks. We [are] only giving you this month to sort everything and resign [from] the job. If we see any foreign [driver] still driving a South African [registered] truck we don’t know what will happen because we are sick of you now, and we are not going to let you take our job.

The ATDF describes itself on its Facebook page as a group that wants “all SA citizen truck drivers to join and unite to save our jobs from being taken away from us [by] the foreign nationals.”

The government has done little to address the attacks despite issuing a National Action Plan to combat xenophobia on March 25. On June 3, during an inter-ministerial meeting in Durban, the ministers of home affairs, transport, and labor, as well as representatives of truck owners and truck drivers, resolved to end the employment of undocumented drivers. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said at a press conference shortly after the meeting that the root cause of the crisis is the “oversupply of foreign drivers in the industry, and [that] some of the drivers are undocumented.”

Also speaking after the meeting, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the police had arrested 91 alleged attackers, adding, “We will let the law take its course because we cannot negotiate on such acts of criminality,” referring to the attacks. Cele indicated that those arrested were, however, only charged with minor traffic offenses, and the minister did not describe any clear steps the police would take to stop the violence and protect truck drivers and cargo.

On May 31, PFSF sought an injunction from the Pietermaritzburg High Court against the ATDF. They asked the court “to restrain them [ATDF] from assaulting, abusing, harassing, or threatening truck drivers; from damaging, stoning, and destroying trucks; and from publishing or disseminating information on social media inciting violence against truck owners, their assets, and their employees.” An initial hearing scheduled for July 18 was postponed to September 2, when the ATDF decided to contest the case.


Sign at the gate of a trucking company in Durban that reads, “No Vacancies for Foreign Nationals.” 

© Private 2019

The ATDF’s lawyer, Zwe Luthuli, denied the association’s involvement in the attacks in an interview with Human Rights Watch at the courthouse on July 18. However, the ATDF made a call for a strike via WhatsApp groups on the day of the scheduled court hearing: “It is our plea to all truck drivers to cooperate to our request/demand to put down all the truck keys on [July 18], should you not cooperate we will take no responsibility for what might happen.”

Human Rights Watch also observed an ATDF rally outside the courthouse, with some ATDF leaders, including the group’s chairperson, Sipho Zungu, dressed in ATDF-labeled fatigues, calling on foreign truck drivers to leave South Africa. One local truck driver told Human Rights Watch that targeting trucks alone was not enough because some companies had insurance and could get new trucks, hence the need to directly attack and burn foreign truck drivers. During the rally, the local drivers sang disparaging songs in which they referred to foreign truck drivers as Makwerekwere (a derogatory term that references the accent of African foreign nationals). Some displayed ATDF banners that said, “Foreign Drivers Must Fall.” The protesters called for a trucking strike until September 2 or until the court case against the ATDF was dropped. However, no strike has taken place.

Despite widespread messages and warnings of attacks on Facebook and WhatsApp, the police have failed to ensure adequate protection for truck drivers on the roads and during protests by ATDF members and others. Human Rights Watch requested a meeting with Minister Cele in June and in August but received no reply.

“The South African authorities are neither protecting foreign truck drivers against violence nor conducting effective investigations into those credibly implicated in attacks,” Mavhinga said. “South Africa should urgently prioritize safety, security, and protection of all truck drivers.”

Mpumalanga Attacks

Six truck drivers interviewed said that on June 22 in Witbank town, a group of approximately 60 people claiming to be ATDF members blocked the R544 road near the Legend Trucks company and stopped all trucks passing through Witbank, ordering the drivers to show their drivers’ licenses, but did not ask for work permits. They ordered those with foreign licenses to abandon their trucks or to empty the contents of their trucks onto the road and then leave the trucks on the road. The truck drivers were not asked for work permits.

A Zimbabwean truck driver said:

A group of men, about 20, stood in the middle of the road in Witbank and forced [me to stop my truck]. They demanded to see my license, shouting that all foreign drivers must fall. When I showed them my Zimbabwean driver’s license, they accused me of being an illegal truck driver although I have a valid work permit. One of them, who had a pistol in his hand, ordered me to tip all the coal in my truck onto the road and to leave the truck and go back to Zimbabwe. I tipped over the coal and ran away, leaving the group with the truck. I later phoned my company, who sent a manager to get the truck the following day, but without the coal, which had been looted.

A Zambian truck driver said:

When I got to Witbank, the road was blocked. Three trucks were parked on the road. Three men approached my truck and ordered me out of the truck. I didn’t know who they were. But I was too afraid, so I got out of the truck, and left the truck. I called my company after 20 minutes to tell them what happened. When the men stopped me, there were police trucks parked nearby, and the police officers watched, but they did not come to my assistance.

On the night of June 23, a group of 8 men claiming to be ATDF members, 3 of them armed with pistols, targeted truck drivers in the town of Ermelo in Mpumalanga, about 125 kilometers southeast of Witbank, threatening to kill 5 drivers and forcing them to flee and abandon their trucks.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four of the drivers. One of them, a Malawi national, said that the men stopped him and demanded that he hand over the truck keys or die on the spot, telling him: “No foreigners on our trucks. All foreign truck drivers must fall!” The driver called the truck owner to make him aware that he was in danger and hid, watching the truck from a distance. He said the owner sent a local driver to retrieve the truck after about two hours but did not offer him any assistance.

Attacks on the Road Between Durban and Johannesburg

On June 16 and 17, assailants carried out several coordinated attacks at truck rest stops on the road between Durban and Johannesburg. At least 10 trucks were attacked and vandalized at the Estcourt Truck Inn, Tugela Plaza Truck Stop on the N3 Highway, and at Mooi River near Durban. Truck drivers interviewed said that the attackers claimed to be ATDF members.

On June 16, three ATDF men stopped a Malawian truck driver as he drove on the N3 highway, about 150 kilometers from Durban on the road to Johannesburg. The driver said the men ordered him to call his employer to say he was resigning and that the company shouldn’t employ any foreign nationals. He complied. One of the three men then spoke on the phone with the employer, telling him to stop employing foreign nationals regardless of whether they had a work permit. After that, the driver said, he was told to leave the truck on the road and go back to his country. The driver abandoned the truck but was able to keep his job in South Africa with the same company.

Around 11 p.m. on May 18, at Mooi river on the N3 Highway about 140 kilometers from Durban on the road to Johannesburg, a group of unidentified men threw stones at a Zimbabwean driver’s truck, shattering the windshield, injuring the driver, and forcing him to stop the vehicle. The driver said that one of the men ran to the truck and shouted that they attacked the truck because the owner of the company employed foreign drivers. The driver sustained serious facial injuries, including a broken jaw, split lips, and a broken nose. His company dismissed him after the incident, saying he had been negligent.

In the early hours of June 1, men in a white sedan shot at a Zimbabwean driver en route to Durban from Johannesburg. One of the men in the car was holding a gasoline container while three others had handguns. Human Rights Watch saw six bullet holes in his truck during an interview on June 30. One of the bullets hit the radiator, causing the driver to stop the truck and flee. Although he was not injured, when he reported the incident to his company, they did nothing but give him another cargo load to transport that day using a different truck. The driver believed he was targeted because his company employs foreign drivers, and his company’s logo is clearly displayed on the driver’s side of the truck. The driver said he was afraid to keep driving but had to because he must pay his daughter’s school fees and look after his family.


Foreign truck driver hospitalized after his truck was gasoline bombed in Durban while he slept in it, April 2019. The driver sustained severe injuries and remains in hospital at time of publication. 

© Human Rights Watch 2019

Attacks in Durban

On April 27 at around 2 a.m., a Zimbabwean driver was asleep in his truck at the Durban port when a gasoline bomb was thrown at his truck, setting it on fire. The driver managed to escape but suffered severe burns and the loss of movement in his left arm, where his shirt became stuck to his body in the fire.

Human Rights Watch spoke to the driver on June 29 in a Durban hospital, where he had been for the two months since the attack. The driver said that he was unable to speak for three days after the attack, and that the police came to take his statement the following week. The man had not heard anything from the police since then. Because of his injuries, the driver most likely will not be able to work again. He also said that his papers, including his asylum documents, driver’s permit, and passport, were all burned in the truck.

On March 25, in an incident Human Rights Watch previously documented, a group claiming to be local truck drivers and other locals protesting the employment of foreign truck drivers blocked the South Coast Road near Durban’s dock yards, pulled foreign drivers from their trucks, took the truck keys, and beat the drivers. One of the foreign truck drivers, Tinei Takawira, said the attackers stabbed him as the police looked on, without apprehending the attackers or helping him get medical care.

When Human Rights Watch spoke to Takawira again on June 30, he said that the police had taken information from him about the stabbing during the week of June 24, but had not provided a reference number for his case or any updates. On August 15, Takawira said, there were no further updates from the police on his case.

Response of Employers to Foreign Employees

Employers have done little to ensure the wellbeing of foreign truck drivers who work for them. Some employers appear to have given in to the ATDF’s demands. Organizing Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Truck Drivers Association Edward Muchatuta confirmed to Human Rights Watch that they are providing legal support to 39 foreign truck drivers who were dismissed by Cape Town-based TimeLink Cargo on May 22.

Human Rights Watch spoke to five of the dismissed TimeLink drivers, all from Zimbabwe with valid work permits for South Africa, who said they did not receive advance notice, compensation, or an explanation for their dismissal. One driver said that a manager informed him that they could not afford to keep losing cargo during the attacks. Five truck drivers said that the company had asked them to sign documents indicating mutual agreement to terminate employment, although they had not resigned voluntarily. Human Rights Watch sent emails to TimeLink management on June 26 seeking their comment on these dismissals but has not received a response.

Human Rights Watch also spoke to seven drivers who said their employers told them to stay home out of fear for their safety, but then did not pay them because they were not working. Four drivers now out of work said that when they went to apply for available positions in Johannesburg and Durban, companies told them they were not hiring foreign nationals. Some said that South African applicants verbally harassed them at the interview sites. Others said that companies, including in Durban and Johannesburg, have posted signs indicating that they have no jobs for foreign nationals.

Government Policy on Foreign Truck Drivers

On July 13, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Human Rights Watch that he knew that attacks on truck drivers and the burning of trucks had spread from Durban to Mpumalanga province. He explained that the North Gauteng High Court had ordered a 2014 Home Affairs Immigration Directive that stipulated that foreign truck drivers employed by South African companies are authorized to work in South Africa on a visitor’s permit. However, he also claimed that some employers hired foreign truck drivers without following the relevant government policy. He said some local truck owners argued that some types of trucks require “scarce skills” to drive, and government policy on scarce skills requires employers to apply to the Department of Home Affairs if they need to hire foreign nationals with scarce skills. However, Motsoaledi said the government had not received any application to designate truck driving a scarce skill, and that employers do not have to follow the policy on scarce skills. He said foreign nationals are allowed to establish companies in South Africa, but government policy is that 60% of employees must be South African and only 40% could be foreign nationals. He did not address the issue of measures to be taken to protect truck drivers and prevent attacks.

Human Rights Obligations to Protect Against Threats and Violence

Under international human rights law, governments have an obligation to protect against human rights abuses by third parties. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has instructed governments they have to protect individuals “against acts committed by private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of Covenant rights.” Failing “to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by such acts by private persons or entities” can lead to violations of their obligation. The committee has noted that it includes an obligation “to protect life from all reasonably foreseeable threats, including from threats emanating from private persons and entities.”

In 2015, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a General Comment on the right to life, reminding governments that under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights they have “an obligation to protect individuals from violations or threats at the hands of other private individuals or entities,” and that they “should ensure that all individuals are able to exercise their rights and freedoms, for example, by promoting tolerance, non-discrimination, and mutual respect.”

Events and Announcements: August 25, 2019

Opinio Juris - Sunday, August 25, 2019
Call for Papers The Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute is pleased to announce a research workshop on “Sociological Perspectives on International Economic Law and Human Rights Law” from 8 – 9 May 2020. International law is rooted in communities, influencing and affected by social groups and their socio-cultural features. This fifth workshop on the sociology of...

Pakistan v India at the International Court of Justice, on Kashmir?

Opinio Juris - Sunday, August 25, 2019
[This piece was translated and published by BBC India (Hindi) on 22 August. It is for a non-legal audience mainly, and is only focussed on the potential International Court of Justice case on Kashmir.] Pakistan has indicated publicly that it plans to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in relation to Kashmir.  The news of a potential ICJ case on...

Trump ‘Disloyalty’ Claim Raises Anti-Semitic Trope

Human Rights Watch - Friday, August 23, 2019

President Donald Trump addresses the audience at the 75th annual AMVETS National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, August 21, 2019. 

© 2019 AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

United States President Donald Trump has again turned to dangerous rhetoric to criticize those whose policy positions oppose his own, saying on Tuesday that “any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat … shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” He repeated his claim the next day, making clear that he indeed meant disloyalty to Israel.

Trump’s comments effectively endorse a longstanding anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty. They echoed comments he made in April when, speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual conference, he referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister.”

The concept – that Jews are more loyal to their religion than to their country, and pose a risk as a result – dates back centuries and has motivated countless acts of anti-Semitic violence. Trump’s use of the trope furthers anti-Semitic sentiments that American Jews have suspect allegiances.

Trump’s rhetoric raises real-world concerns. Anti-Semitic hate crimes have been on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States reported 2018 as the third highest year since they began tracking incidents in the 1970s. In the past year, there have been mass shootings at two US synagogues, in Poway, California and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

President Trump is not the only US official to invoke anti-Semitic tropes or use racist language. But he commands a wider audience and assumes a more prominent role on the global stage, putting a spotlight to his words. These latest remarks could put American Jews at greater risk. He has not apologized for his comments nor acknowledged the threats they could pose. Rather, he has doubled down, injecting more ridicule and anger into already dangerous rhetoric.

Indonesian Officers’ Racist Slurs Trigger Riots in Papua

Human Rights Watch - Friday, August 23, 2019

Papuan activists shout slogans during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 22, 2019.

© 2019 AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

Indigenous Papuans angered by decades of racism rallied in 30 cities across Indonesia, including Jakarta, this week, after video circulated of Indonesian militias racially abusing Papuan students. Rioting Papuans burned down a local parliament building in Manokwari and a prison in Sorong, West Papua province, on Monday, as video of the events spread. On Thursday the government shut down the internet in Papua.

The videos show Indonesian police detaining 43 Papuan students in Surabaya, Java Island, last Saturday, for allegedly failing to raise the Indonesian flag to celebrate Independence Day. Dozens of militia members and military officers surrounded the student dormitory, calling them “monkeys,” and police stormed the dorm, using teargas to arrest the students. Militia used similar racial slurs and harassment in Malang and Semarang in Java.

Papuan students have repeatedly been targets of intimidation by Islamist and nationalist groups as international advocacy for Papuan independence has escalated since the formation of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua in 2014.

Papuans have protested against discrimination and marginalization, including demographic change as a result of five decades of government-sponsored transmigration of Indonesian settlers to the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

While police released the students that night, the riots prompted Indonesian security forces to deploy hundreds of new troops into West Papua and Papua. In Fakfak, two Papuan men were critically wounded when Indonesian militias allegedly attacked their rally. On Thursday, Indonesia’s Ministry of Telecommunication “temporarily” shut down the internet “to accelerate government efforts to restore order.”

The Indonesian government has a responsibility to ensure security in West Papua and Papua and to respect the human rights of everyone, including protesters. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who plans to visit Papua, should condemn racist remarks and actions, promote tolerance, and direct the police to impartially investigate abusive militias and officers.

Indonesian authorities should immediately restore access to the internet, which is vital for emergency communications and basic information in times of crisis. Papua is already isolated, with the government preventing foreign journalists from reporting freely. Officials should stop limiting information and allow people to peacefully express their views.

Emerging Voices: The Participation of Children in Hostilities before the ICC–An Inherent Contradiction between IHL and ICL?

Opinio Juris - Friday, August 23, 2019
[Demetra Loizou is a Lecturer in International Law and Legal Skills at the University of Central Lancashire, Cyprus.]  Article 8 of the Rome Statute, which sets out the war crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction, is inextricably linked to the general IHL regime. Paragraph 2(a) refers to the grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (international armed conflicts). Paragraph 2(c) is...

Emerging Voices: The Case for CIL Interpretation–An Argument from Theory and an Argument from Practice

Opinio Juris - Friday, August 23, 2019
[Nina Mileva and Marina Fortuna are doctoral candidates at the University of Groningen, performing research within the TRICI-Law Project. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement No. 759728).] In international law interpretation is the process through which the interpreter attempts to determine the true...

Sudan: Prioritize Justice, Accountability

Human Rights Watch - Friday, August 23, 2019

Protesters rally at a demonstration near the military headquarters, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in the capital Khartoum, Sudan. 

© 2019 AP Images

(Nairobi) – Sudan’s new transitional government should take concrete steps to ensure accountability for past rights abuses, including the attacks on protesters since the ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, Human Rights Watch said today.

The new leaders, sworn in on August 21, should set clear benchmarks for progress on justice and a range of other reforms to be undertaken during the three-year transition period. International organizations including the United Nations, African Union (AU), the European Union and other states should monitor implementation of the agreement, as well as progress on key human rights reforms.

“As Sudan’s leaders embark on long-overdue critical reforms, they should ensure justice to fulfill the promise for a transition to a state based on human rights and rule of law,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To ensure progress, they should set goals and benchmarks, including for accountability for serious abuses, just as the protesters demanded.”

Under Sudan’s new power-sharing deal, signed August 17, a transitional government will be headed by an 11-member sovereign council for a period of three years, followed by elections. On August 21, the council’s chair, general Abdel Fatah Burhan – the army general who led the transitional military council (TMC) that took power in April – was sworn in as chair of the sovereign council for the first 21 months. A civilian leader will chair for the remaining 18 months. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was also sworn into office, and will select ministers by the end of August.

The agreement, the result of months of negotiations between the Transitional Military Council and a broad coalition of opposition groups, is an important step. But many observers have raised concerns that if the military generals block attempted reforms while they are at the helm for 21 months, they will effectively extend military rule. Women’s groups have criticized the process, saying that too few women have been appointed to the new leadership and that they have had little representation during the negotiation and signing of the agreement.

The constitutional charter, signed August 4, among other things, calls for a raft of major institutional and legal reforms. They are designed to end repression and gender discrimination; secure accountability for crimes since 1989 under al-Bashir’s rule; and establish an investigation into the attacks on protesters on June 3, which killed over 100 people according to independent doctors’ groups.

But the charter does not contain benchmarks or consequences for failure to make any specific reforms or to ensure justice and accountability, Human Rights Watch said. It does not provide that the investigation into attacks on June 3 should be capable of leading to criminal prosecutions of those most responsible. It provides immunity for sovereign council members, including Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, or “Hemeti,” who is the head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Burhan’s deputy. By all accounts heard by Human Rights Watch researchers, the RSF has led most of the attacks on protesters since April, including on June 3.

In July, the attorney general announced findings of an investigation into the June 3 attack, claiming that 87 people had died, and finding that “rogue” RSF soldiers were responsible. Burhan denied ordering the crackdown, while Hemeti announced arrests of some suspects. However, Sudanese activists and protesters rejected the findings and have continued to call for accountability for the killings. The RSF has a well-documented record of abuses committed in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile.

Incoming leaders should ensure that the new investigation committee has the authority to thoroughly investigate the crimes, with the capacity to preserve evidence, and that it is mandated to produce a public report that identifies those most responsible for the crimes and recommends ways to hold them accountable. They should request external involvement from all appropriate international bodies, including the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Council.

Leaders should also prioritize Sudan’s compliance with international human rights law, including ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention against Torture. Sudanese rights groups lobbied the former regime for years to ratify these treaties, without success. Since April, the TMC has insisted on trying al-Bashir domestically instead of handing him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The domestic trial, which began on August 19, on charges of corruption and money laundering, has no bearing on those crimes and the widespread human rights violations for which he has been charged. These national proceedings should not overshadow the pressing need for accountability for gross human rights violations and atrocity crimes in Darfur and elsewhere.

Sudan’s new leadership can demonstrate a commitment to respect for the rule of law and human rights by ensuring that al-Bashir is surrendered to the ICC, Human Rights Watch said. Sudanese authorities have an obligation to surrender al-Bashir to the ICC, which they can only overturn if they make a successful legal challenge to the ICC that would remove its jurisdiction on the basis that there are credible domestic proceedings for the same alleged underlying crimes.

“With such enormous tasks ahead, the new transitional authorities should ensure specific, measurable work plans to achieve progress, and the regional and international actors watching Sudan should do their part to monitor and support the process and promote justice,” Henry said. “If this new chapter is to bring real and sustained transformation, it needs to be founded on the respect of human rights without discrimination and justice for serious violations, not continued impunity.”

Zambia: Lead Contamination Imperils Children

Human Rights Watch - Friday, August 23, 2019

Three girls play the game isolo on the ground in the lead-affected township of Waya in Kabwe. Soil is the main source of lead exposure in Kabwe.

© 2018 Zama Neff/Human Rights Watch

(Johannesburg) – Lead exposure around a former lead and zinc mine in Zambia is having disastrous effects on children’s health. The Zambian government should promptly clean up the contamination and ensure proper treatment for all who need it.

August 23, 2019 Report “We Have to Be Worried”

The Impact of Lead Contamination on Children’s Rights in Kabwe, Zambia

The 88-page report, “‘We Have to Be Worried’: The Impact of Lead Contamination on Children’s Rights in Kabwe, Zambia,” examines the effects of lead contamination in Kabwe, a provincial capital, on children’s rights to health, a healthy environment, education, and play. Twenty-five years after the mine closed, children living in nearby townships continue to be exposed to high levels of toxic lead in soil and dust in their homes, backyards, schools, play areas, and other public spaces. The Zambian government’s efforts to address the environmental and health consequences of the widespread lead contamination have not thus far been sufficient, and parents struggle to protect their children.

“The profits of Kabwe’s mine came at a very high cost to generations of children who have grown up with toxic lead found throughout surrounding townships,” said Joanna Naples-Mitchell, children’s rights fellow at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “While the Zambian government has made several attempts to clean up the lead since the mine closed in 1994, the actual scope of the problem has yet to be addressed.”

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Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 residents of townships near the former mine, including the parents or guardians of 60 children who had been tested since the last government cleanup project ended and found to have elevated lead levels. Human Rights Watch found that government-run health facilities in Kabwe currently have no chelation medicine for treating lead poisoning or lead test kits in stock, and no health database has been established to track cases of children who died or were hospitalized because of high lead levels. Education for children with disabilities or learning barriers is a country-wide challenge in Zambia, and in Kabwe, the disability screening process does not even investigate lead-related causes.

Interview: Playing in Poisoned Dust

In Kabwe, children play outside at the risk of their health. One researcher explains what she found when she visited.

Read more

Human Rights Watch has engaged the Zambian government, including the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, in dialogue throughout its investigation, and invited the government to participate in the news conference to release the report. On August 12, 2019, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Mines sent Human Rights Watch a letter stating that the organization would not be allowed to release the report at an event in Lusaka. Rather than engage with Human Rights Watch over its substantive findings, the letter attacked the report as an “attempt to discredit the government.”

“The real threat to the government’s credibility lies in its own indefensible efforts to suppress our findings,” Naples-Mitchell said. “Instead of attacking its critics, the Zambian government should articulate a clear plan for living up to its responsibilities in Kabwe.”

Children are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely to ingest lead dust when playing in the soil, their brains and bodies are still developing, and they absorb at least four times as much lead as adults. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause learning barriers or disabilities; behavioral problems; impaired growth; anemia; brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage; coma and convulsions; and even death. Lead also increases the risk of miscarriage and can be transmitted through both the placenta and breastmilk.

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“I’ve never attended a meeting about lead poisoning. Never ever,” a staff member at a local hospital told Human Rights Watch. “It’s hard when you’re not tracking. It’s absent in our documents. It’s just not there.”

From 2003 to 2011, the World Bank funded a Zambian government project intended to clean up lead in affected townships in Kabwe and to provide testing and treatment for children.

But about 76,000 people continue to live in contaminated areas. In a 2018 study, researchers estimated that over 95 percent of children in the townships surrounding the lead mine have elevated blood lead levels and that about half of them require medical intervention.

Human Rights Watch found that the Kabwe mine’s waste dumps remain, exposing nearby residential areas to windblown lead dust and threatening community health. The government has neither removed the waste piles nor sealed the site, both of which have been done elsewhere in the world to treat affected sites.

Ongoing small-scale mining poses additional health risks. And plans by private companies to process the mineral waste at the site will present further risks without strong regulation and monitoring.

In December 2016, the government began a five-year World Bank-funded project to clean up lead-contaminated neighborhoods and conduct new rounds of testing and treatment. Government officials and World Bank representatives told Human Rights Watch that the government intended to start the remediation and health components later in 2019. In a July 2019 letter to Human Rights Watch, the government also indicated that it does not have enough resources to address the full scale of the contamination.

The project includes plans for testing and treating at least 10,000 children, pregnant women, mothers, and other individuals, which will be overseen by the district medical officer in Kabwe. Given the total number of residents in lead-affected areas, Human Rights Watch is concerned that the project will not reach all affected children and adults.

The Zambian government should adopt a lasting and comprehensive plan to address the impact of lead contamination, Human Rights Watch said. It should ensure that it provides for long-term containment or removal of lead hazards and that it addresses the full scope of the contamination in affected areas, including homes, schools, health centers, and roads.

Initial rounds of testing and treatment under the new project should give priority to those who are most vulnerable to lead poisoning, including children under age 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women, Human Rights Watch said. Ultimately, all children and adults in Kabwe should be eligible for testing and treatment. All treatment, especially chelation therapy, should coincide with cleaning up the patient’s home environment. Otherwise they will be re-exposed to lead.

The government should also deepen its efforts to address lead-associated disabilities or learning barriers, given the likelihood that these affect children in Kabwe, Human Rights Watch said. Schools should ensure that they adequately respond to the needs of many children facing learning disabilities or barriers potentially connected to lead poisoning, and that they provide the needed accommodations and individual learning support.

If small-scale mining is to continue, the government should ensure that operations are licensed, regularly monitored, and only conducted in accordance with mining regulations and the law. The government should scrutinize any future waste processing project for potential human rights and environmental impact.

“Thousands of children in Kabwe developed lead poisoning because they grew up in contaminated neighborhoods,” Naples-Mitchell said. “The government should adopt a lasting solution, assure a better future for the children of Kabwe, and clean up the lead.”

Pakistan Should Not Again Fail ‘Honor Killing’ Victim

Human Rights Watch - Thursday, August 22, 2019

Members of civil society protest against a recent "honor" killing in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 29, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters

In July 2016, 26-year-old Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother, who said he killed her because she “brought dishonor” to their family and tribe through her flamboyant online videos and statements.

Qandeel’s case received broad attention because of her celebrity. But Pakistani rights activists estimate that there are about 1,000 “honor killings” in Pakistan every year.

Convictions are rare for many reasons, yet critical is a loophole that allowed the legal heirs of the victim to pardon those responsible – who are usually also a relative.

Qandeel’s killing prompted a widespread outcry in Pakistan, leading to legislative action and the promise of prompt prosecution. Parliament passed a law imposing harsher punishments for “honor killings” and partially eliminated the pardon loophole.

This raised hopes that the case would be a turning point for the Pakistani government, which has tolerated violence against – and even the murder of – women on “honor” grounds.

State prosecutors took the unusual step of charging Qandeel’s three brothers, including the one who confessed to killing her, with a crime against the state. But the trial has dragged on. On August 21, Qandeel’s parents asked the court to “forgive” her brothers, their lawyers arguing that since the anti-honor killing law was passed after Qandeel’s death, it does not apply in her case. The next day, the court rejected the parents’ pardon request.

Still, “honor killings” and pressure to pardon perpetrators seem to have continued unabated since the adoption of the law. There are no credible official figures on “honor killings” because they often go unreported or are passed off as suicide or natural deaths by family members. But as an indication, in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, at least 94 women were murdered by close family members in 2017.

Justice for Pakistani women requires a broader government effort, including more state prosecutions of “honor killings,” reformed criminal laws, and greater access for women and girls to safe emergency shelters and other services when they report risks from their family.

The government should end a system in which a woman’s life is considered worthless and family members can kill with impunity.

Pakistan should not fail Qandeel again.