Tag Archives: Human rights

Brazilian Court: Man Who Had Sex with 12-Year-Olds Can’t Be Convicted of Rape

Brazil Português: Brasil Русский: Бразилия

Brazil Português: Brasil Русский: Бразилия (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human rights advocates are furious about a decision by a Brazilian appeals court finding that a man accused of having sex with three twelve-year-old girls could not be convicted of rape.

The court found that having sex with a minor is not necessarily constitute statutory rape when there are extenuating circumstances. In this case, those circumstances included that the girls had worked as prostitutes.

Maria do Rosario Nunes, Brazil’s human rights minister, pledged to get the decision overturned.

The court’s president said the court is open to revising the decision.

Via The Washington Post.

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Court Sides with Immigrants Expelled by Italy

European Court of Human Rights

Image via Wikipedia

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it is a violation of human rights for a State to expel migrants intercepted on the high seas.

The case was brought by thirteen Eritrean and eleven Somali migrants rescued at sea in 2009 by the Italian Coastguard and forcibly returned to Libya.

The UN office for Human Rights and the UN Refugee agency said the action by the Italian authorities exposed the migrants to the risk of arbitrary return to countries where they face persecution or serious harm.

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Former Guatemalan Dictator Facing Genocide Charges

Ríos MonttOn January 26, 2012, a Guatemalan court determined that there is enough evidence to charge former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt with genocide and crimes against humanity. The ruling marks a turning point in Guatemalan efforts to redress human rights violations perpetrated by the military against indigenous peoples during Ríos Montt’s “scorched earth” counterinsurgency operations in the 1980s.

Ríos Montt was the military leader for seventeen months in 1982 and 1983 after he took power and abolished the constitution. Prosecutor Manuel Vásquez told the court that he will produce documents, videos, and statements proving that Ríos Montt “had direct participation in the implementation of the plans” which resulted in the deaths of 1,771 people, 1,485 acts of sexual violence, and 29,000 Guatemalans being displaced.

For fourteen years, Ríos Montt had enjoyed immunity as a member of congress; however his term expired on January 14, opening the possibility of charges against him.

Ríos Montt is accused of laying the foundation for the military plans Victoria 82, Firmeza 83, and Plan Sofia in which the military used counterinsurgency operations to “exterminate subversive elements,” including the elderly, women, and children. The Guatemalan military carried out actions in the Ixil Triangle of the Quiché region and in other areas of the country. The Ixil Triangle consists of three ethnic Mayan-Ixil towns.

One of the key pieces of the trial will be to prove chain of command: proving that superior officers, including Ríos Montt, were giving orders to and condoning the actions of inferior officers. The defense argued that Ríos Montt did not have command responsibility over his officers in the highlands, and that he is not responsible for the massacres and human rights violations.

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Haitian President Won’t Interfere with Case against Duvalier

English: Former President for life Jean Claude...

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Haitian President Michel Martelly says he won’t interfere in the case of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, the National Palace said Friday.

The office of the president issued a statement saying he respects the rule of law and has no right to meddle in the affairs of an independent judiciary that’s overseeing the case.

As evidence of the government’s commitment the law, the statement cites Pres. Martelly’s request for international legal experts to help Haiti’s judicial system.

The announcement comes five days after a magistrate recommended that Mr. Duvalier face trial for alleged financial crimes but not for human rights abuses.

The ruling prompted human rights groups to accuse the judge of disregarding testimony and laws that would have enabled prosecution on the more serious crimes. Some activists also complain that many of the new government’s officials have personal or family ties to the Duvalier regime that ruled from 1971 until it was overthrown in 1986.

Mr. Duvalier was nineteen when he assumed the presidency from his more ruthless father, Francois.

The younger Duvalier moved back to Haiti last year after twenty-five years in exile in France. Upon his return, he was charged with embezzlement and human rights abuses.

His defense attorneys contend that the statute of limitations against the alleged crimes has expired, a matter disputed by international rights advocates.

The Duvalier case is now expected to go before the attorney general, who must decide whether the case should go to a court that handles lesser crimes.

Via the Associated Press.

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China Cracks Down on Activists During Christmas

On Monday, a court in Guiyang, China sentenced activist Chen Xi to ten years in prison for “subversion of state power” and “inciting subversion of state power.”

Chen Xi has been jailed repeatedly for his continued advocacy of human rights and freedom of expression in China. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

The court also announced that Chen will be “deprived of his political rights” for three years.

According to a statement by Amnesty International,Chinese law never defines “subversion” or “incit[ing] others to subvert state power,” common charges leveled against activists in China.

Chen Xi is a former soldier and factory worker, previously jailed for three years in 1989 for his support of the student protests in Tiananmen Square. Mr. Chen served a ten-year jail term from 1995-2006 for “organizing and leading a counter-revolutionary group.” Mr. Chen is a prominent member of Guizhou Human Rights Forum, which China outlawed on December 5.

Mr. Chen’s conviction follows his arrest on November 29 in what activists claim to be a response to his authoring thirty-six online articles critical of the state and Communist party. The articles were published domestically and abroad and called for political reform and improvement of human rights in China. Mr. Chen recently incurred the ire of officials by campaigning for independent candidates.

Chen Xi’s sentence is one in a series of lengthy prison terms recently handed down to human rights activists by Chinese authorities. Many analysts believe that the arrests, trials, and imprisonments coincide with a window of low-key diplomatic activity in the West during the Christmas holiday to reduce criticism.

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Egyptian Military Targets Female Protesters

Egyptian security forces and military are targeting female protesters, subjecting them to torture, sexual assault, and threats of rape.  The practices are similar to those employed pre-revolution, say various international and Egyptian human rights organizations.

Photo courtesy of Jezebel

Since January, it has appeared that the military was protecting protesters during a revolutionary process that ended in the overthrow of long-time president Hosni Mubarak.  With the power of the government now in the hands of the military critics say that they have resorted to the same sorts of brutality used by the former regime.

A viral video shows Egyptian soldiers beating and disrobing a female protester.  Three men expose her midriff and bra as they stomp on her stomach and batter her head with batons.  The video has drawn international scorn, including a condemnation of the “systematic degradation” of Egyptian women by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

In response to this beating, thousands of Egyptian women took to the streets in protest.  It was the largest all-female protest since Egypt’s independence.

The Egyptian government released an apology via Facebook and expressed “great regret to the great women of Egypt for the violations that took place” and promising “all legal measures have been taken to hold accountable all those responsible for these violations.”

There is skepticism about seeing change come from the government’s response.

Violence against female protesters has a purpose.  Egypt is a patriarchal society.  Women are not supposed to express themselves publicly.  The violence is likely meant to punish those who violate this norm and deter those who might consider doing so in the future.

Via Impunity Watch.

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Syria’s Crackdown on Protests Claims at Least 5,000 Lives

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navane...

Image by US Mission Geneva via Flickr

The death toll in Syria‘s crackdown on an uprising against President Bashar al–Assad has passed 5,000, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay told the Security Council Monday.

The figure represents a sharp increase over the more than 4,000 that she cited just ten days ago.

The figure included civilians, defecting soldiers, and those executed for refusing to shoot civilians, but not members of the military and security forces killed by opposition forces.

More than 14,000 people were reportedly in detention, at least 12,400 had sought refuge in neighboring countries, and tens of thousands had been internally displaced.

“Independent, credible and corroborated accounts demonstrate that these abuses have taken place as part of a widespread and systematic attack on civilians,” Ms. Pillay said.

She told the council her information was based on information from more than 230 witnesses.

Ms. Pillay suggested the actions of the Syrian government constitute crimes against humanity and suggested referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Western envoys on the council lined up after the briefing to tell journalists they were shocked by what they had heard.

“It was the most horrifying briefing that we’ve had in the Security Council over the last two years,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said after the session.

Via War Crimes Prosecution Watch.

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China Considers Allowing Forced Disappearances

The Chinese government is hoping to expand its power to jail those it deems “criminals” by modifying China’s Criminal Procedure Law to legitimize forced disappearances.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was held in secret detention for 81 days. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

The amendment would allow Chinese authorities to detain a person up to six months without any kind of proceeding if alerting family members or lawyers of the detainee’s location would “hinder the investigation.”

A country commits a forced disappearance when government agents take a person into custody and then deny holding the person or fail to disclose the person’s location.

China has a history of detaining people in “black jails” despite major human rights violations occurring in these facilities. Black jails are unlawful secret detention facilities. Former detainees have explained that they were dragged by their hair, beaten, starved, sleep deprived, and received threats of sexual violence in black jail sites.

In response to criticisms about the amendment, China’s Foreign Ministry said “the competent authorities of China have been soliciting the public’s views” on the proposal.

If the law is passed, the government could start a national security crackdown on human rights lawyers, bloggers, and civil activists by making them disappear before the upcoming leadership changes within the country.

Via Impunity Watch.

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“Kill the Gays” Bill Back in the Face of Woman Winning Human Rights Award for LGBT Activism

Earlier this month, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan woman, won the 2011 Martin Ennas Award for Human Rights Defenders.  The award is given annually by ten of the world’s leading human rights non-governmental organizations and has been referred to as the Nobel prize for human rights.  Nabagesera is the founder and executive director of the LGBT rights organization Freedom and Roam Uganda.

The situation for Uganda’s LGBT community is difficult, with documented cases of discrimination, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, torture and other ill-treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Activists who work to expose such abuses are often targeted.

Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone publishes a list of the 100 “Top Homos” calling for the people to be hanged. (Photo Courtesy of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.)

In January, Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered after the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone published a list of Uganda’s 100 “Top Homos” and called for the people in the list to be hanged.  Nabagesera’s name also appeared on the list.

Homosexuality is a criminal offense that carries a life sentence.  On Tuesday, Parliament voted to reopen a debate over a bill that seeks to expand on the criminalization of homosexuality and make it punishable by the death penalty.

The legislation was proposed in October 2009 by Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati.  The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee suggested that the penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” should be the same as for “defilement,” a crime punishable by death.  The bill could mandate the death penalty or life in prison for people who identify as gay or are caught engaging in homosexual acts.

The bill failed at the end of the legislative session after an international outcry directed at the nation.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the bill. More than 1.6 million people around the world signed a petition urging the Parliament to let the bill die.

Bahati said that the bill is aimed at stamping out western-imported immoral behaviors from society, protecting the moral fabric of the nation, saving the traditional family, and buttressing legislation against ‘gayism.’

Uganda is not the only African nation dealing with gay rights.  Ghana and Malawi have passed laws making homosexuality illegal, while some in Zimbabwe are seeking to have gay rights included in the constitution.

Via Impunity Watch.

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Police in Dominican Republic Account for 10% of Fatal Shootings

Police in the Dominican Republic account for 10% of all killings in the country, where crime rates have soared in the past few years.  There have been reports of unlawful killings, abuses of people in police custody, and even reports of enforced disappearance.

Image Courtesy of BBC News

Between January and July of 2011, the police killed 154 people, according to Amnesty International.  This number is up from 125 people during the same period last year.

The police contend these killings were always during “exchanges of gunfire” with criminal suspects, but the report finds that many situations involved deliberate shots to kill.

Colonel Maximo Aybar is the National Police spokesperson in the Dominican Republic.  He insists that the police are committed to protecting the public, telling CNN, “We are more than aware that we are here to defend members of society, not to assault them. . . . In those cases where excesses may have been committed, investigations have occurred and measures have been taken.”

The police point out that they have been the victims of these violent exchanges.  Ninety-seven officers have been killed this year, and 176 have been injured.

Beyond the killings on the street, Amnesty International reports that while in police custody, suspects have been threatened with death, denied food and water, beaten, had plastic bags put over their heads, or were hung on nails by their handcuffs.  At least two people last seen in police custody have gone missing.  The Washington Post reports that these instances are investigated, but not very thoroughly.

The police may be using the killings to deter young locals from engaging in future violence.  Javier Zuniga, head of Amnesty International’s delegation to the Dominican Republic said, “We believe their conduct is actually exacerbating the violence and creating a climate in which human rights are completely ignored,” reported BBC News.

Via Impunity Watch.

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