Thursday , 19 October 2017
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Dispatches: US Gives Brushoff to Women and Girls Raped in War

Dispatches: US Gives Brushoff to Women and Girls Raped in War

The United States plays a critical role in protecting the human rights of women and girls affected by war by raising concerns internationally and funding programs that aid sexual violence survivors. But – and it’s a very big but – the 1973 Helms amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act undermines much of this important work. Yesterday, instead of choosing to reinterpret the amendment in a manner protective of women’s rights, the US government said it will stand by the law, as is.

It’s a reality that some women and girls subjected to rape in conflict become pregnant by their perpetrators. Healthcare providers funded by the US are limited in how they can help these rape survivors because the Helms amendment prohibits the use of US funding for abortion “as a method of family planning.” This has been interpreted to prohibit abortion even in the case of rape.

Concerns about the detrimental impact of the Helms amendment on rape in conflict are regularly raised by humanitarian organizations, including by the service providers who struggle to give rape survivors the care they need.

Governments at the United Nations Human Rights Council recently raised this concern during the review of the US human rights record. The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Belgium, among others, encouraged the US to clarify that the Helms amendment, in its implementation, should recognize that women and girls raped in conflict are not seeking to use abortions as family planning. This would allow US funding to support a comprehensive package of health care for women and girls in the aftermath of wartime rape, including abortions for those who need or choose this option.

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Israel nuclear arsenal poses threat to entire world

Israel nuclear arsenal poses threat to entire world

Press TV has conducted an interview with Richard Silverstein, journalist and political commentator from Seattle, for his take on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) failure to adopt a resolution against Israel's nuclear activities.The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

- Why is Israel's nuclear arsenal never the subject of investigation?

Silverstein: Well I think that the arsenal is well known to many people around the world and to scholars and analysts so it is only a secret to people who do not want to know about it. But I was aghast that this vote at the IAEA added support for the opposition to the resolution by the European Union nations and the United States and many Western countries, it seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy to be claiming that Iran is a violator of nuclear safeguards when Israel is actually the one who has at least 200 nuclear warheads and is a real concrete danger to peace and stability in the region.

When Iran is a member of NPT and is agreeing to the nuclear deal that has just been approved by the US Senate, so that seems to me the height of hypocrisy.

- Of course the fact that Israel’s nuclear arsenal upsets the military balance in the Middle East calls into question of the very fact that: Will Israel ever use its nuclear weapons?

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UNHCR urges Europe to change course on refugee crisis

UNHCR urges Europe to change course on refugee crisis

UNHCR reiterates its deep conviction that only a united European emergency response can address the present refugee and migration crisis. Individual measures by individual countries will not solve the problem but will make an already chaotic situation worse, further the suffering of people and increase tension amongst states at a time when Europe needs more solidarity and trust.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about a series of restrictive measures recently introduced by Hungary and the way they are being implemented, resulting in extremely limited access for refugees at the border. New legislation includes deterrence measures, some contrary to international law and European jurisprudence when applied to asylum-seekers and refugees.

"UNHCR reiterates its call on the the Hungarian authorities to ensure unimpeded access for people in need of protection in line with its legal and moral obligations,"the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said today. "States should manage their borders in a way that is consistent with International and EU Law, including guaranteeing the right to seek asylum," Guterres added.

Reports indicate that only a few asylum-seekers have been allowed to enter Hungary through the official border crossing point. UNHCR was especially shocked and saddened to witness Syrian refugees, including families with children who have already suffered so much, being prevented from entering the EU with water cannons and tear gas.

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American Police Have Killed 700 People So Far in 2015

American Police Have Killed 700 People So Far in 2015

Over the summer, the Guardian predicted that American police will kill 1,100 people this year. So far, officers have killed 700 and are on pace to reach that abysmal prediction. In 2015, police officers in America have killed 703 citizens, 26 of which were black and unarmed. Although the majority of the 703 people killed were armed or posed a legitimate threat, the more alarming number is 65. That’s the total number of unarmed people that police have killed this year.

These numbers are likely skewed, however. Federal law doesn’t require police departments to deliver reports of shooting incidents involving police officers. They are submitted voluntarily, and the departments likely cherry-pick which incidents they submit to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since 1976, the FBI hasn’t recorded more than 460 per year.

News outlets like the Washington Post and the Guardian have been keeping track of police shootings via public documents, local news reports, and original reporting. This method has proven to be more accurate. Just within the first six months of 2015, 463 people were killed, already meeting the highest number the FBI has reported since the 70s.

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Refugees scramble for ways into Europe as Hungary seals borders

Refugees scramble for ways into Europe as Hungary seals borders

For a few fleeting minutes, there was some humanity in the darkness. It had turned midnight on the Serbian side of the Hungarian border, the time that Hungary had said it would close its borders for the final time to refugees. A fortified border fence had finally been finished. At the fence’s weakest point, where refugees had for weeks walked into Hungary along a set of disused railway tracks, police had blocked the way with the carriage of a freight train.

Yet even after the clock struck 12, Hungary seemed to soften, letting a few hundred stragglers enter its territory via a legal foot-crossing that lies in Horgoš, a mile to the west of those train tracks. At 10 minutes past midnight, there were still families running, limping and panting up the road that leads to the border gate. More than 160,000 people had crossed this line so far this year and no one wanted to be the first to be turned away.

“I’m hoping, hoping, hoping,” said Badr, a 47-year-old Syrian engineer, as he neared the final stretch. “We lost everything in Syria – homes, friends, and family. We need to pass through this border.”

So began a day in which Fortress Europe began to pull up the few drawbridges still open. First Hungary blocked its southern border with Serbia, putting into action its much-heralded fence, declaring a state of emergency in two southern counties, and arresting dozens of people for attempting to cross the border under new laws unveiled last week by the prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

Next Hungary announced plans to seal its border with Romania, a move denounced as “not a fair gesture” by the foreign ministry in Bucharest. Then Serbia warned it could not become the dumping ground for Europe’s refugees – or, as its foreign minister put it, “a collection centre”. And finally Austria introduced security checks along its border with Hungary, a measure it said could be extended to those with Slovenia, Italy and Slovakia if needed.

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Government invites regimes with ‘appalling’ human rights records to London arms fair

Government invites regimes with 'appalling' human rights records to London arms fair

Regimes criticised for “appalling” human rights records have been extended official invitations by the Government to attend the world’s largest arms and security fair in London, The Independent can reveal. The list of countries invited by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to attend the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition (DSEI) exhibition next includes countries criticised by campaigners for gross infringements of civil liberties, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Thailand.

The invitation to Azerbaijan has been made despite a rebuke from a Government minister over its draconian imprisonment of a journalist for “questionable allegations”. Foreign Office minister David Lidington said Britain “will take every opportunity to raise concerns over human rights” in the country.

Three countries asked to send a high-level delegation to DSEI - Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Colombia - also feature on the Foreign Office’s own list of “countries of concern” in the implementation of human rights for their citizens.

DSEI, which is held every two years in London’s Docklands, is billed as the largest event of its type in the world. Some 150 foreign government delegations are due to attend the exhibition next week in the ExCel centre, including some 2,800 VIPs ranging from senior generals to defence ministers.

Defence manufacturers from around the world attend the event but it is also a global showcase for British-made military and security hardware with the aiming of boosting exports for the UK’s burgeoning defence sector.

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Obama Humans Rights Violations: We Must Demand Accountability in the Encore Term

Obama Humans Rights Violations: We Must Demand Accountability in the Encore Term

As the confetti settles and election euphoria wanes, progressives must concentrate on the next task: holding their own accountable. President Barack Obama’s first term was in many ways a disaster for civil and human rights, yet even the most vehement rights defenders have barely mentioned the extrajudicial killings of Americans, the deaths of innocent civilians in the drone war, or indefinite detention. Yes, Obama ended Don't Ask Don't Tell, defended free speech on the internet, and bolstered socioeconomic rights with his health care plan — for this he deserves great credit. But supporters must be honest with themselves: overall, Obama has a very mixed rights record and we’ve done next to nothing to challenge him on it.

To begin with: the drone wars. There are three huge reasons why Obama’s extensive use of drones is so problematic. First, Obama’s assassination-based foreign policy broadly interprets “counterterrorism” to justify killing anyone deemed a terrorist — even American citizens — without a trial, a policy that is in direct contradiction to the Sixth Amendment. In a watershed moment, the administration first defended their killing of U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki a year ago in Yemen as “consistent with the rules of war.” While reassuring us it’s “a very grave decision,” Obama now says killing American citizens sans trial is legal so long as it meets a three-part test — and kill they have. We don’t have solid numbers, but we do know thousands have been killed as a result of this policy, hundreds of them innocent civilians and American citizens. The Obama administration has sacrificed our civil rights on the altar of paranoia — the very criticism levied at Bush for the so-called Patriot Act. The precedent: it’s now much easier for the president to kill, the Constitution be damned.

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Great Britain is Violating Human Rights

Great Britain is Violating Human Rights

The deeply critical attitude of current United Kingdom politicians in relation to other countries’ violations of fundamental human rights is widely known. However, while criticizing other countries, the United Kingdom, with its characteristic stance of double standards, is completely ignoring human rights in its own kingdom, something which has now even been recognized by UN staff.

According to the Herald Scotland regional newspaper it is for exactly this reason, that United Nations staff intend to visit the UK to investigate the welfare reforms that have led to grave and systematic violations of the rights of certain categories of population in this country. In particular, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities intends to conduct thorough investigation of the situation, and has already launched an investigation into the activities of the head of the Department for Work and Pensions UK ( DWP ) Iain Duncan Smith.

The reason being that in late August of this year, the Minister for Work and Pensions, I.D. Smith, announced the Department for Work and Pensions’ plan to reduce benefits for the disabled, depriving a million Britons of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). These “new developments” will affect 43% of people with disabilities, as indicated in a report by the regional human rights organization Inclusion Scotland. What is quite remarkable is that, according to statistics recently released by the Department of Work and Pensions, from December 2011 to February 2014 2,380 Britons died, after social services found them ‘fit to work’ and struck them off the list of persons with disabilities. Inclusion Scotland reported in their study, that in 2018 more than 80,000 persons with disabilities in Scotland alone will lose all or some of their social benefits and currently disabled people in some areas already have to wait for their benefits for 10 months owing to the Department for Work and Pensions error.

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Amnesty International releases new guide to curb excessive use of force by police

Amnesty International releases new guide to curb excessive use of force by police

From the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to the favelas of Brazil, the police use of force and firearms makes global headlines when it turns fatal. In countless other cases, including in response to demonstrations, police are too quick to use force instead of seeking peaceful conflict resolution. In many countries police deploy tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons in arbitrary, abusive or excessive use of force, causing serious casualties, including killing and maiming people, often with little or no accountability.

Amnesty International is responding to this serious deficiency in law enforcement by publishing comprehensive new Guidelines for authorities to ensure that police give utmost priority to the respect and protection of life and physical integrity.

“All too often, in many countries around the world, people are killed or seriously injured when police use force in violation of international standards or existing national laws,” said the report’s author, Dr. Anja Bienert of Amnesty International Netherlands’ Police and Human Rights Programme.

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Muslim flight attendant says she was suspended for refusing to serve alcohol

Muslim flight attendant says she was suspended for refusing to serve alcohol

A Muslim flight attendant says she was suspended by ExpressJet for refusing to serve alcohol in accordance with her Islamic faith. In a bid to get her job back, Charee Stanley filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday for the revocation of a reasonable religious accommodation.

She wants to do her job without serving alcohol in accordance with her Islamic faith  just as she was doing before her suspension, her lawyer said.

“What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion and it’s incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely,” said Lena Masri, an attorney with Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Stanley, 40, started working for ExpressJet nearly three years ago. About two years ago she converted to Islam. This year she learned her faith prohibits her from not only consuming alcohol but serving it, too, Masri said.

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