Human Rights

Equity, opportunity, access to education. Social determinants of health.


Rights Groups: no amnesty for Central African Republic atrocities | 

from the PK5 area in Bangui, Central African Republic under the protection of French troops and members of the Multinational Force of Central Africa. (Feb 2014)
from the PK5 area in Bangui, Central African Republic under the protection of French troops and members of the Multinational Force of Central Africa. (Feb 2014)
Rex Features via AP Images

Discussions are currently underway to bring to an end the year-long strife and fighting that has beset the Central African Republic. The hopes is that a peace settlement will be agreed upon and the country will be able to regain stability. So far, things have not gotten off to a good start. The talks were canceled today after the ex-rebel Seleka group was a no show. Moving forward on suspending fighting and disarming fighters are now on hold.

One concern going into the talks is over whether the people who committed some of the most heinous crimes will be given a pass as a part of the deal. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights watch say that such an amnesty should not be available to persons that committed serious crimes.

“Mediators and participants at the Brazzaville forum need to keep the thousands of victims in the Central African Republic and their desire for justice at the top of the agenda,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a public statement. “Amnesty for those most responsible for crimes against humanity and other heinous crimes is simply not an option.”

A day later, Amnesty International released its own statement calling for no amnesties for war crimes.

“The Brazzaville peace talks must ensure that accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law are at the heart of any discussion to bring peace in CAR. Individuals suspected of these crimes must not be allowed to use these peace talked to secure positions in the government that they may use to enjoy impunity,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.

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As DC fights over immigration, a documentary shows reality from the front lines | 

Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Marc Silver

The debate over immigration is once again taking off in the United States. The sudden influx of more than 57,000 children having illegally entered the US sparked calls for immediate action by all sides. President Obama, for his part, went to Congress with an appeal for $3.7 billion in emergency funding that will provide support for the children and speed up the deportation process.

While all sides try to find common ground for agreement, a new documentary enters the conversation at an important time. Who is Dayani Cristal? depicts the consequences of an increased US border presence and wall building to stem the flow of illegal immigration. Rather than give up, people are turning to Arizona’s vast desert to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

The erection of walls and provision of border patrol has not deterred people from continuing to find a way to get into the US. It is estimated that 11 million people entered the US unauthorized in 2013. Nearly half of the adult immigrants are parents of young children. Some 2,000 bodies have been found in the Arizona desert over the past decade.

Roughly 700 of those have yet to be identified. Bodies are found in poor condition and often times with out any official identification. This is done for the sake of protection, but makes it hard to know who the person was.

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Charity leaders push back against Obama’s gay-rights order | 

Scott Ableman

In the wake of the controversial Hobby Lobby decision by the US Supreme Court, a group of religious leaders, including those from major Christian charities, are appealing for an exemption to a proposed LGBT non-discrimination order. The White House is poised to issue an executive order banning all federal contractor from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

That means groups like World Vision, World Relief and Catholic Charities will need ensure that they are not discriminating against LGBT individuals if they want government money to support their work.  In a letter to the President, allies of Obama call on him to issue an exemption for faith-based groups.

“Religious organizations, because of their religious faith, have served their nation well forcenturies, as you have acknowledged and supported time and time again. We hope that religious organizations can continue to do so, on equal footing with others, in the future,” says the letter.

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The danger of free artistic expression in Belarus | 

Dangerous Acts

Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, is sometimes called the last dictator in Europe. Lukashenko is believed to have stolen the 2010 elections, claiming to have won nearly 80% of the vote against his 9 opponents.

Riot police were prepared when people gathered in protest in October Square, located in the capital city of Minsk. People were beaten and bloodied by the police. Several hundred were arrested, including 7 of the candidates that ran against Lukashenko in the election.

The unfolding events in the Ukraine earlier this year were frightening familiar to filmmaker Madeleine Sackler. Russia would not stand idly by while Ukranians protested against a regime they did not support. It was striking that another Russian neighbor went through a similar ordeal only four years prior.

Sackler’s new film Dangerous Acts follows a group of actors and artists who make up the independent Belarus Free Theatre. State censorship is so strong that it is illegal to perform without state approval. Performance information has to be shared carefully and the people who attend are told to bring their passports in case there is a raid.

“In Belarus, everything is political,” said Sackler to Humanosphere. “The very act of creating  a theater that is operating outside of the guidelines of the state is a political action.”

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Ugandan and Thai LGBT activists describe continued rights violations | 

Ugandan pupils from different schools take part in an event organised by born-again Christians to celebrate the signing of the anti-gay, in February.
Ugandan pupils from different schools take part in an event organised by born-again Christians to celebrate the signing of the anti-gay, in February.
AP Photo/Stephen Wandera

Despite major gains in both the US and abroad, it is still a difficult time to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) in many parts of the world. There are still 77 countries where it is possible to go to jail for having sex with someone of the same sex.

The signing of stricter anti-gay legislation by Uganda’s president brought attention to the problems faced by the LGBT community in the country and elsewhere.  It forced Ugandan Transgender activist Nikki Mawanda to seek asylum in the United States. A fear for his own safety motivated the decision.

The situation remains tenuous in Uganda. Mawanda is connected to the Transgender community back home, but is unable to disclose the name of the organization he works with over fears that it and its members will be targeted.  The number of recorded attacks, arrests and other such incidents have increased by tenfold, said the group Sexual Minorities Uganda in a May report.

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John Oliver explains how soccer is a religion and FIFA is evil | 

The World Cup kicks off on Thursday in Brazil, but all the talk is about the corrupt practices of the governing body for the sport of soccer (FIFA). What was already known was revealed to be true: FIFA officials were bribed in the process of Qatar making a winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The Middle Eastern country has also been beset by criticisms of human rights abuses towards the migrant workers building the stadiums.

In Brazil, police have been clearing out slums to prepare for this week’s event. Protests dogged the Confederations Cup tournament, a sort of World Cup warm up played the year prior, and there is good reason to believe protests will begin again with the major event. HBO comedian and television show host John Oliver summed up just how horrible FIFA has been while admitting that he is still excited about seeing the sport he loves.

“[Soccer is] an organized religion, and FIFA is its church. Just think about it,” says Oliver. “It’s leader is infallible. It compels South American countries to spend money they don’t have building opulent cathedrals. And it may ultimately be responsible for the deaths of shocking numbers people in the Middle East. But, for millions of people around the world like me, it is also the guardian of the only thing that gives their lives any meaning.”

If you need a catch up on all the terrible things that are associated with FIFA and the World Cup’s preparations in Brazil and Qatar, Oliver’s 13 minute description is a good start.

Making visible the stories of immigration | 

Often left out of the US immigration debate are the stories of the people trying to enter the United States. The immigrants from many countries are lumped together as if all are the same. A series of short videos commissioned by Amnesty International in 2010 shows the stories of the ‘invisible’ migrants.

“People leave their countries to find a better future, but instead of finding a better future, they come across things they would never expect to find. It’s very sad for all of us because we are all suffering,” says one man.

“The journey is very difficult. People’s lives are in danger here. You could get kidnapped or have your money stolen. Women and children are raped. Very ugly things happen here.”

Families with infants are risking everything to cross the border into the United States. While walls are being built and efforts try to keep people out, migrants keep trying to enter. It is time to stop asking what should be done to keep people out and understand why they want to come. Only then can the US lawmakers begin to shape policies that will benefit everyone. Most of all, they can assure that people no longer endure such hardships just to find a better life.

Visualizing violence against women | 

Activists shout slogans during a candle lit vigil in New Delhi last week protesting the gang rape and murder of two girls found hanging from a tree in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Activists shout slogans during a candle lit vigil in New Delhi last week protesting the gang rape and murder of two girls found hanging from a tree in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

India is making headlines yet again for violence against women, but these examples are just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger global epidemic.

It turns out that sexual violence is mostly perpetrated by people known to the victim – not strangers.

Last week, two girls aged 12 and 14 were sexually assaulted and hanged in Uttar Pradesh. In a district nearby, another woman was gang raped and strangled according to The Guardian.

An Indian official, Babulal Guar, who is responsible for law and order in Madhya Pradesh, offered this astonishing perspective on rape: “Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong,” according to the same Guardian article.

According to a study published in Science by authors from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and others, the most frequent form of violence against women globally is intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence includes sexual, physical, and emotional violence.

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