Monthly Archives: March, 2013

In Afghan Child Abuse Cases, Victims Go to Jail

The 15-year-old refused to give his name, his eyes cast down as he sat in an empty room in the children‘s correction centre in Kabul.

Slowly, he began to open up and tell his story. An orphan, he left his home province of Sar-e Pol a year ago and came to the Afghan city to study at an Islamic school. One day while out in the city, he saw a man struggling to carry two bags of groceries.

“I went to help him, and I took one of the bags and carried it to his home,” he said. “The man invited me to come inside for lunch since I’d helped him, but when I entered the room, he attacked me sexually. I jumped out of the window to escape, but he came outside and shouted out that I was a thief. The local police arrested me for robbery. They wouldn’t listen to me…. I’ve been in prison for seven months, and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.”

As in other societies, sexual abuse of children is a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan. The judicial system is not set up to cope, and the victims often end up being placed in juvenile detention centres under the catch-all terminology of “moral crime”, while their adult assailants go unpunished.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, AIHRC, lists numerous recorded cases of sexual abuse of girls and boys, but it underlines that many others are never reported because of concerns about shame and honour, and because people have little faith in the justice system. (more…)

6 minors in Border Security Force custody

Do children understand borders? Perhaps not.

But borderguards surely dont understand that.

In an unusually insensitive act of border policing, six Bangladeshi children have been taken away by the Indian Border Security Force from the Parsuram-Belonia border at Feni.

The children were taken on Thursday and have not yet been returned.

Locals say they are all below 10 years of age. (more…)

National Peace Council – Way forward is to shift focus from accountability to reconciliation

Media Release

WAY FORWARD IS TO SHIFT FOCUS FROM ACCOUNTABILITY TO RECONCILIATION

A resolution titled “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka” was passed at the conclusion of the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 21, 2013.  This US-sponsored resolution was opposed by Sri Lanka which lost the vote by 25 to 13 with 8 abstentions.  This is the second such resolution to be passed in the UNHRC calling on Sri Lanka to improve its performance with regard to post-war accountability and reconciliation.

The international community presently seems more concerned with accountability than reconciliation nearly four years after the end of conflict.  The resolution signifies a hardening of the international community’s stance on human rights issues in Sri Lanka.  In comparison to last year’s resolution there is a shift in the present resolution away from a primary focus on reconciliation to a focus on accountability for past human rights violations and war crimes.   The resolution specifically calls upon the Government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable. (more…)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Ordinance challenged in Supreme Court

Two separate Public Interest Litigations (PILs) were filed at the Supreme Court (SC) today challenging the recently promulgated Truth and Reconciliation Commission Ordinance‚ which introduced blanket amnesty to serious human rights violations that occurred during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.

Advocates Madhav Kumar Basnet‚ Bishnu Prasad Pokhrel and a group of victims — chairman of Social Justice Committee Ram Kumar Bhandari and chairman of Terrorist Victims Orphan Society Suman Adhikary filed the cases — demanding the apex court to quash the provisions which are against the rights of the victims.

International rights institutions including the Office of the High Commissioners for Human Rights‚ Human Rights Watch and International Commission of Jurists have already objected to the ordinance.

The petitioners said Section 23 (4) of the ordinance was the most objectionable as it gave leverage of blanket amnesty to serious human rights violations including rape without the victims’ consent. (more…)

One million people sign petition calling for end to flogging of women and children in the Maldives

An online petition calling on the Maldivian government to end the practice of flogging women and children for the crime of fornication has been signed by more than one million people worldwide.

The Avaaz.org petition, titled ‘Horror in Paradise’, follows the sentencing of a 15 year-old rape victim to 100 lashes and eight months house arrest, for confessing to a separate instance of fornication during the investigation into the alleged murder of her baby. The child was found buried in an outside shower area.

“Let’s put an end to this lunacy by hitting the Maldives government where it hurts: the tourism industry,” declares the Avaaz petition.

“Tourism is the big earner for the Maldives elite, including government ministers. Let’s build a million-strong petition to President Waheed this week, then threaten the islands’ reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he steps in to save her and abolish this outrageous law,” it states. (more…)

Adoption of an unprecedented resolution at the UN to end the financial strangulation of human rights NGOs

Today, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council gave a strong response to the increasing trend of curtailing – when not criminalizing – the activities of human rights defenders by limiting their right to access funding, especially when they come from foreign countries. The Council adopted by consensus an unprecedented resolution, introduced by Norway and co-sponsored by 62 States, affirming that “no law should criminalise or de-legitimise activities in defence of human rights on account of the origin of funding”.

This is a strong signal of support sent by the United Nations to the defenders around the world who are prevented from funding their activities, de-legitimised and often criminalised for their human rights work, declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

We welcome the adoption of this important resolution, through which the UN Human Rights Council is calling for stronger protection for those actors for change and the guarantors of a free society, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. States have the responsibility to abide by the resolution and ensure that human rights NGOs are enabled to access funding, as such restrictions clearly aim at silencing them, he added. (more…)

UN rights body urges more thorough Sri Lanka probe into possible war crimes from civil war

For the second time in as many years, the U.N.’s top human rights body approved a U.S.-backed resolution Thursday calling on Sri Lanka to more thoroughly investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the country’s quarter-century civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

By a 25-13 vote, the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council urged the South Asian nation “to initiate credible and independent actions” to ensure justice and accountability in the aftermath of the conflict, which ended in 2009. Those in favor included India and Brazil, while those opposed included Pakistan, Venezuela and Indonesia.

The resolution followed a U.N. report alleging the government may be to blame for tens of thousands of civilian deaths during the military campaign to defeat the rebels. Like a similar resolution in March 2012, the measure asks Sri Lanka to probe allegations of summary executions, kidnappings and other abuses, but stops short of calling for an international investigation. (more…)

Nepal inches towards truth about war

Along with the appointment of the Chief Justice as the head of the government, Nepal’s peace process also witnessed another significant movement last Thursday when President Ram Baran Yadav enacted an ordinance on transitional justice. The “Investigation of Disappeared Person, Truth and Reconciliation Ordinance – 2013” will form a truth commission to investigate thousands of human rights abuses committed during the decade-long Maoist “People’s War” that ended in 2006.The truth commission was a part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war as well as the interim constitution.

But the bill has been criticised by some rights activists for its weaknesses in dealing with grave violations of human rights, which includes murder, abduction, disappearances, rape and torture, among others. They are unhappy that it could lead to amnesty on even the gravest crimes, though the truth commission can, if it chooses, recommend prosecution on those crimes.

“A truth and reconciliation commission formed by this will be powerful, but it does not bar amnesty in serious crimes, as did previous bills,” says Govinda Sharma “Bandi”, an advocate at the Supreme Court. “It will probably be challenged at the Court.” (more…)

UN blames rise in violence against Afghan women on culture

Violence linked to culture was the main reason for a 20 per cent rise in deaths and injuries of females in Afghanistan last year, UN special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis said on Monday.

Despite an overall fall in annual civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the first time in several years, the United Nations said last month that more than 300 women and girls were killed and more than 560 injured during 2012.

“The majority is linked to domestic violence, tradition, culture of the country,” Kubis told reporters at the United Nations in New York ahead of a debate on Afghanistan by the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

“Of course there are very clearly attacks on women’s activists by the insurgency,” he said. “Then there are unfortunate situations when indeed women are killed while doing their daily chores (by unexploded bombs).” (more…)

India key ally DMK pulls out of government

A key regional ally has pulled out of India’s ruling coalition over the government’s failure to condemn alleged atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils.

The DMK party’s 18 MPs will not support the Congress party-led government. Five MPs who are ministers in the government will also resign from the cabinet.

A senior minister said the government was “stable” and would remain in power.

The DMK is the main opposition party in the southern state of Tamil Nadu which has a large population of Tamils. (more…)

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