lunedì 21 luglio 2014

MALDIVES: CAMPAIGN FOR TRANSPARENCY PAYS OFF.

Access to information (ATI) is not simply a piece of legislation. A country’s passing of such an act signals a change in culture from one of secrecy to one of transparency, and a strengthening of democracy.

ATI is the freedom of citizens to access information held by public bodies, and is quickly becoming a global standard, with the Maldives becoming the 99th country to pass such an act. The historic ratification of the country’s first ATI legislation took place on 12 January 2014 – five years after Transparency Maldives’ campaign for an effective ATI Act began.

Members of the public participating in Transparency International Maldives workshops.
But how and why is an effective ATI law so important for the Maldives? Free flow of information and democracy go hand in hand. Democracy demands people’s ability to effectively participate in decision-making and this can only occur if a government is transparent. Citizens’ and the media’s right to information places the government under the supervision of the people it serves. A government that is regularly monitored is one that will work in the public interest and put power in the people’s hands.

This is especially important for the Maldives, which is still recovering from a 30-year rule by former President Abdul Gayoom, who was accused of corruption, human rights abuses and creating an opaque society. This was followed by the country’s first democratically elected president resigning three years into his five-year tenure amid protests and allegations of a lack of transparency.

The passing of the ATI bill is a great example of collaborative efforts between legislators, civil society, state institutions and international experts. Transparency International Maldives organised workshops, grassroots advocacy and media campaigns, travelled to five atoll and 12 island communities, engaged with the government, and brought together many other stakeholders to push for a strong ATI law.

The workshops run with community-based organisations, for example, were conducted with the aim of increasing grassroots demand for the right to information. It worked. Some participants realised that the extent of their community problems were in one way or another linked to a lack of access to information. This motivated participants to send hundreds of text messages to their MPs requesting that they quickly endorse a robust ATI bill. This renewed focus on the bill that was stagnating in Parliament.

In arguably our biggest advocacy success within Parliament, the ATI bill was endorsed by 67 of 68 MPs in attendance, without any significant or substantial change to the structure and spirit of the bill.

As a testament to the strength of the bill, which Transparency International Maldives was heavily involved in drafting, the Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy rated the ATI bill as the fourth strongest in the world.

However, we still have a long road ahead. The simple passing of an ATI law does not mean that the principle of freedom of information will be established. The positive impact it will have on ordinary Maldivians depends on numerous factors: these include funding, whether there are enough people to process all the requests, and whether the government genuinely wants to create a more open society – or simply use the law as window-dressing to project a certain image to the outside world. That is why we will continue to campaign for the effective implementation of the ATI law.

Bangladesh: Disband Death Squad.

The Bangladeshi government has promised to reform RAB and hold it accountable, but it has utterly failed. The lack of accountability has allowed the Rapid Action Battalion to run amok. RAB is beyond reform and should swiftly be abolished.
Brad Adams, Asia director
(New York) – The Bangladesh government should disband the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. Until it is disbanded, RAB should be made into an entirely civilian force by withdrawing all military officers and soldiers from its membership.

Evidence that RAB officers were responsible for the contract killings of seven men in April 2014, allegedly on behalf of a ruling party member, have provoked outrage in Bangladesh and are yet another example of how the unit has operated as a death squad, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Bangladeshi government has promised to reform RAB and hold it accountable, but it has utterly failed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The  lack of accountability has allowed the Rapid Action Battalion to run amok. RAB is beyond reform and should swiftly be abolished.”

The unit was established in 2004 by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Over the last decade, successive governments led by the BNP,  the subsequent military-backed caretaker regime, and since 2009, the Awami League, have allowed the force to operate with impunity, leading to serious and systematic abuses. RAB has been responsible for numerous acts of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, and approximately 800 killings over the last 10 years.

sabato 19 luglio 2014

India, stupro di una bimba di 6 anni: marcia di protesta di 5mila genitori.

NUOVA DELHI - Una marcia di 6 chilometri alla quale hanno partecipato 5mila mamme e papà indiani. E' quella che si è tenuta oggi a Bangalore, nel sud del Paese, dopo la notizia dello stupro di una bambina di 6 anni in una scuola privata. Sarebbe stata violentata da alcuni componenti dello staff dell'istituto scolastico. I dimostranti hanno marciato in un corteo silenzioso fino al commissariato di polizia, dove hanno consegnato una lettera con delle richieste per rafforzare la sicurezza dei bambini.

La rabbia delle famiglie. I genitori sono infuriati con la direzione della scuola, la 'Vibgyor High School' e con le stesse forze dell'ordine, che non hanno ancora trovato i responsabili. Per questo dopo la notizia non hanno più mandato i figli a scuola e centinaia di mamme e papà degli studenti si sono radunati davanti alla 'Vibgyor High School', chiedendo di intensificare le misure di sicurezza, minacciando, altrimenti, di tenere a casa i loro figli se non riceveranno rassicurazioni in merito. "Abbiamo detto alla direzione - ha raccontato una delle mamme, Anita Makharia - che non riteniamo sia sicuro mandare i nostri bambini a scuola fino a quando non acconsentirà alle nostre richieste sulla sicurezza per iscritto".

Le indagini. La polizia ha detto che otto dipendenti della scuola sono in stato di fermo e sono state interrogate circa 90 persone, ma per non ci sono stati degli arresti. In base al racconto della bambina, si sospettano un insegnante e una guardia. E' stata la madre a scoprire l'abuso lunedì scorso, quando la scolara è tornata a casa per pranzo e si è lamentata per dolori alla pancia. Un esame medico ha successivamente confermato la violenza carnale.

Chiusura della scuola. "Fin dall'inizio - ha raccontato un altro genitore, Mayank Kumar - la scuola ha sempre negato. Prima, quando la polizia è arrivata a scuola, dicevano che si trattava di un caso di furto. Poi, siamo venuti a sapere dai giornali che si trattava di uno stupro". Da parte sua, il preside della scuola Rustom Kerawala ha espresso le sue "scuse sincere" ai parenti e promesso una "piena collaborazione" con le indagini della polizia. Nel frattempo, l'istituto ha annunciato che oggi la scuola rimarrà chiusa, mentre mamme e papà avrebbero intenzione di organizzare un'altra protesta per domani.

Violenza di gruppo u una pre-novizia. Sempre in questi giorni una pre-novizia di 17 anni è stata stuprata a Bangalore da tre uomini nell'istituto delle Suore della Santa Natività. L'aggressione risale a mercoledì e la denuncia è stata fatta ad AsiaNews dall'arcivescovo di Bangalore, monsignor Bernard Moras. Trovata in stato di incoscienza, la giovane è stata ricoverata in ospedale.

martedì 15 luglio 2014

Nepal: Fix flawed Truth, Reconciliation Act.

The Nepal government should act immediately to fix crucial flaws in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act, particularly those highlighted in a new United Nations evaluation, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said today.

The assessment, in a technical note from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human rights to the Nepal government, pointed out that the TRC Act does not conform to Nepal’s international legal obligations, including in that it allows for amnesty for crimes committed under international law. Five experts for the UN Human Rights Council have also voiced similar serious concerns over the TRC Act, passed by Nepal’s Constituent Assembly in April 2014.

“The UN’s findings are consistent with what human rights groups have been saying all along – Nepal’s TRC Act is fundamentally flawed and could leave thousands of victims of conflict-related violations without access to the justice they deserve,” said Richard Bennett, Asia director at Amnesty International. “The act allows the commission to recommend amnesties for crimes under international law, including war crimes, which flies in the face of Nepal’s obligations under international law.”

Nepal’s Supreme Court in January rejected an earlier version of the TRC Act – the 2013 Truth and Reconciliation Ordinance, which contained many of the same flawed provisions. The court ruled that any mechanism for transitional justice must conform to international legal standards, lead to accountability for serious human rights violations, and guarantee victims their right to remedy and reparation.

Nepal’s Constituent Assembly defied the Supreme Court ruling, and passed the TRC Act. It became law on May 11, 2014. The act is only a slightly modified version of the 2013 TRC Ordinance and fails to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. The Supreme Court is set to rule on a petition challenging the new act in July 2014.

In its briefing paper issued in May, Justice Denied: the 2014 Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act, the ICJ highlighted the flaws of the new TRC Act and called on the government to take active steps to implement the Supreme Court’s orders.

“By defying the Supreme Court’s recent principled ruling, the Nepal government is violating its obligations under national and international law to provide justice and accountability,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia director at the International Commission of Jurists. “All eyes are now on the Supreme Court to see whether it will allow the Nepal government to legislate impunity for perpetrators of crimes under international law, such as unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, including rape and other sexual violence.”

The international community should support and encourage initiatives that can deliver real justice for victims of human rights violations in Nepal and oppose those that could shield perpetrators from accountability, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said.

Last year, EU missions, including Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, UK, and the EU delegation, joined by Norway and Switzerland, issued a statement calling for credible and independent commissions that do not have the authority to confer amnesty for serious human rights abuses and that have regard for victims’ needs. The donors said they would “be unable to support mechanisms that do not meet international standards.” Nepal’s donors need to live up to their promise and refrain from supporting government processes that violate Nepal’s international legal obligations.

“There is no question that the TRC, if implemented without serious amendments, will entrench a culture of impunity rather than delivering justice,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Donors need to unequivocally refuse to participate in any process that strips victims of their rights.”

http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/nepal-fix-flawed-truth-reconciliation-act-2014-07-09

giovedì 10 luglio 2014

URGENT ACTION - ASYLUM SEEKERS AT RISK OF RETURN TO SRI LANKA .

153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers travelling by boat from India and intercepted by the Australian Navy are at risk of being returned to Sri Lanka, where they could face serious human rights violations.
On 28 June, a boat travelling from India carrying 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, reportedly residents of Tamil Nadu in India, contacted refugee advocates and journalists in Australia to say they were nearing Christmas Island, a remote territory of Australia. Shortly afterwards, communication with the boat was lost, as it was intercepted by the Australian Navy. The Australian government has refused to disclose the asylum seekers’ whereabouts or well- being. On 8 July, an injunction by the High Court of Australia delayed the forcible transfer of the asylum seekers to the Sri Lankan authorities, pending further investigation of the lawfulness of this action. The affidavits submitted by the Australian government were the first admission that they are detaining the 153 asylum seekers at sea.
All asylum seekers on board are at risk of being denied access to a full, fair and rigorous refugee status determination process, including access to legal representation and the opportunity to submit evidence in support of their protection claims. They are also at risk of being subjected to refoulement – return to a risk of persecution, torture or death – as the Australian government may transfer them by force to the Sri Lankan authorities.
The asylum seekers are believed to include mostly Tamils. Sri Lankan Tamils remain a target of harassment and arrest upon return because of their ethnicity and suspected links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Asylum seekers have faced torture upon return to Sri Lanka from countries such as the UK and Canada. Amnesty International has interviewed a number of people who were tortured by the Sri Lankan security forces ‘on suspicion’ of being members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the last two years. All ethnic groups in Sri Lanka are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody, including sexual violence, which is pervasive.
Please write immediately in English or your own language:
 Urging the Australian authorities to immediately halt any transfer of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka who have not had access to a full, fair and impartial procedure for determining their need for international protection;
 Urging the Australian authorities to ensure that all asylum-seekers under the effective control of Australia, whether they arrive on Australian territory or are intercepted by Australia outside of its territorial waters, are given access to a full and fair refugee status determination process in Australia consistent with the country’s international human rights law and refugee law obligations;
 Urging Australia to comply with its obligations under the Refugee Convention and international law in its treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees, in particular the prohibition on refoulement.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 13 AUGUST 2014 TO:
Prime Minister
The Hon. Tony Abbot MP
P.O. Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
Fax: +612 6273 4100
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Minister for Immigration and Border
Protection
The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
P.O. Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
Fax: +612 6273 4144
Email: minister@immi.gov.au
Salutation: Dear Sir
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation

Nepal: Fix flawed Truth, Reconciliation Act.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 
PRESS RELEASE
9 July 2014 



The Nepal government should act immediately to fix crucial flaws in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act, particularly those highlighted in a new United Nations evaluation, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said today. 
 
The assessment, in a technical note from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human rights to the Nepal government, pointed out that the TRC Act does not conform to Nepal’s international legal obligations, including in that it allows for amnesty for crimes committed under international law. Five experts for the UN Human Rights Council have also voiced similar serious concerns over the TRC Act, passed by Nepal’s Constituent Assembly in April 2014. 
 
“The UN’s findings are consistent with what human rights groups have been saying all along – Nepal’s TRC Act is fundamentally flawed and could leave thousands of victims of conflict-related violations without access to the justice they deserve,” said Richard Bennett, Asia director at Amnesty International. “The act allows the commission to recommend amnesties for crimes under international law, including war crimes, which flies in the face of Nepal’s obligations under international law.” 
 
Nepal’s Supreme Court in January rejected an earlier version of the TRC Act – the 2013 Truth and Reconciliation Ordinance, which contained many of the same flawed provisions. The court ruled that any mechanism for transitional justice must conform to international legal standards, lead to accountability for serious human rights violations, and guarantee victims their right to remedy and reparation. 
 
Nepal’s Constituent Assembly defied the Supreme Court ruling, and passed the TRC Act. It became law on May 11, 2014. The act is only a slightly modified version of the 2013 TRC Ordinance and fails to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. The Supreme Court is set to rule on a petition challenging the new act in July 2014. 
 
In its briefing paper issued in May, Justice Denied: the 2014 Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act, the ICJ highlighted the flaws of the new TRC Act and called on the government to take active steps to implement the Supreme Court’s orders. 
 
“By defying the Supreme Court’s recent principled ruling, the Nepal government is violating its obligations under national and international law to provide justice and accountability,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia director at the International Commission of Jurists. “All eyes are now on the Supreme Court to see whether it will allow the Nepal government to legislate impunity for perpetrators of crimes under international law, such as unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, including rape and other sexual violence.” 
 
The international community should support and encourage initiatives that can deliver real justice for victims of human rights violations in Nepal and oppose those that could shield perpetrators from accountability, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said. 
 
Last year, EU missions, including Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, UK, and the EU delegation, joined by Norway and Switzerland, issued a statement calling for credible and independent commissions that do not have the authority to confer amnesty for serious human rights abuses and that have regard for victims’ needs. The donors said they would “be unable to support mechanisms that do not meet international standards.” Nepal’s donors need to live up to their promise and refrain from supporting government processes that violate Nepal’s international legal obligations. 
 
“There is no question that the TRC, if implemented without serious amendments, will entrench a culture of impunity rather than delivering justice,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Donors need to unequivocally refuse to participate in any process that strips victims of their rights.” 


venerdì 4 luglio 2014

India: Government must value migrant workers for more than the billions they send home.

 Migrant workers from Kerala have reported poor working conditions in Saudi Arabia.
Migrant workers from Kerala have reported poor working conditions in Saudi Arabia.
© FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
The lack of effective regulation of visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents makes Indian migrant workers vulnerable to serious human rights abuses, said Amnesty International India today in a new report focusing on migrants from the Indian state of Kerala working in Saudi Arabia.
The report, Exploited Dreams: Dispatches from Indian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, highlights cases of migrant workers from Kerala who were deceived about their jobs, wages and working conditions by Indian visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents. Many workers went on to face a range of abuses in Saudi Arabia, which at their worst included forced labour.
“Migrant workers send billions of dollars in remittances every year to India and sustain thousands of families. Yet Indian authorities continue to let them down when they are abused. It is time that migrant workers’ rights get the protection they deserve,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.
“Recent events in Iraq have been a harsh reminder of the risks that Indian migrant workers can face in the countries they work in,” said Ananthapadmanabhan.
“This report shows how the exploitation and deception of migrants can start much earlier, before they even leave home, at the hands of visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents.”
The report is based largely on interviews with Indian government officials, recruiting agents and migrants, many of whom returned to India after the enforcement of the Saudi government’s ‘Nitaqat’ programme (which aimed to increase employment of Saudi nationals in the private sector and clamp down on irregular workers).
Amnesty International India interviewed migrant workers deceived by visa brokers and recruiting agents, who ended up working in Saudi Arabia in jobs different from the ones they were promised. In some cases, they were not paid for several months or at all.
Migrant workers reported working regularly for between 15 to 18 hours without a day off, and without being compensated for overtime. Some were subjected to threats and beatings by their employers, had their passports and residency permits confiscated and were denied exit permits to return home.
Few sought any remedy after they returned home, or were aware of their rights under law or existing mechanisms for redress. Virtually nobody had attended any training programmes before they left India.
“Migrant workers are vulnerable because of individual acts of deception, but also because policies and laws that regulate their recruitment are poorly designed and implemented,” said Ananthapadmanabhan.
The Indian Emigration Act governs the recruitment of Indian migrant workers, including by mandating government certification for recruiting agents, and setting up Protector of Emigrants offices to regulate them.
However, Amnesty International India’s research found evidence of recruiting agents violating emigration laws and policies, including by failing to conduct due diligence to ensure that migrant workers are not deceived.
Further, visa brokers, who are used by most potential migrants, are both unregistered and unregulated, and function outside the law. Migrants’ reliance on brokers to facilitate the recruitment process often left them vulnerable to deception, exploitation and indebtedness.
Authorities like the Protector of Emigrants lacked the resources to effectively regulate recruitment of migrant workers, and rogue recruiters were rarely punished.
“Systemic violations need to be met with systemic changes. The government must draft a new emigration law that is consistent with international human rights standards and aligned with progressive emigration management systems,” said Ananthapadmanabhan.  
“Authorities in Kerala and in the central government must better regulate recruiting agents and brokers, expand pre-departure training programmes and improve access to remedy.”
Recommendations to the government of India (see report for complete list)
  • Consider alternate regulatory measures to recognise and regulate visa brokers including: 
  • Providing clear terms of reference by which visa brokers may be tied to recruiting agents.
  • Informing brokers about their legal obligations and the rights of migrant workers.
  • Issuing short-term and individual licenses to visa brokers to conduct recruitment in collaboration with recruiting agents and renewing licenses based on their record.
  • Emphasizing to recruiting agents that the onus is on them to conduct due diligence on the prospective work conditions promised by visa brokers tied to them.
  • Enforce greater regulation of recruiting agents by setting up a separate department under the Protector of Emigrants to conduct timely and surprise checks and reviews. Provide the department with the necessary logistical and financial support and assistance to undertake their duties.
  • Improve access to remedy by setting up a separate department with enforcement powers under the Protector of Emigrants to investigate complaints of exploitation or other abuses by recruiters. The department must provide access to legal aid, information, translation services and other assistance where necessary.
  • Expand the outreach of the pre-departure orientation and support programmes provided by the Government of India and the state of Kerala, including through the Overseas Workers Resource Centre, the Non Resident Keralite Affairs Department (NORKA) and the Migrants Resource Centre (MRC).
Recommendations to the government of Saudi Arabia
  • Sign and ratify without reservations the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 
  • Sign and ratify without reservations the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
  • Fundamentally reform the kafala system and remove the requirement for migrant workers to obtain the permission of their employer to move jobs or leave the country.
  • Reform national labour laws to ensure that migrant workers have adequate protection against abuses by employers and the state.
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/india-government-must-value-migrant-workers-more-billions-they-send-home-2014-07-04