Inter Press Service » Crime & Justice http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 29 May 2015 18:02:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 U.N. Security Council Takes “Historic” Stand on Killings of Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-n-security-council-takes-historic-stand-on-killings-of-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-security-council-takes-historic-stand-on-killings-of-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-n-security-council-takes-historic-stand-on-killings-of-journalists/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 13:14:57 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140846 Protesters in Moscow demand that authorities investigate an attack on prominent Russian journalist Oleg Kashin on Nov. 6, 2010. Credit: Yuri Timofeyev/cc by 2.0

Protesters in Moscow demand that authorities investigate an attack on prominent Russian journalist Oleg Kashin on Nov. 6, 2010. Credit: Yuri Timofeyev/cc by 2.0

By Kitty Stapp
UNITED NATIONS, May 29 2015 (IPS)

When war breaks out, most non-combatants run the other way. But a handful of courageous reporters see it as their duty to tell the world what’s happening on the ground. And many pay a high price.

Since 1992, 1,129 journalists have been killed on the job, 38 percent of them in war zones, according to figures compiled by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). And increasingly, they are being deliberately targeted."As excellent as it may be, there is no certainty that a new resolution will in and of itself be enough to resolve the problem." -- Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders

In an explicit recognition of the key role of the media in peace and security, the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution condemning all violations and abuses committed against journalists and deploring impunity for such acts.

“Recent killings of journalists have been given extensive and welcome attention around the world, including the brutal murders of Western media representatives in Syria,” said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

“Yet we must not forget that around 95 per cent of the killings of journalists in armed conflict concern locally-based journalists, receiving less media coverage,” he added.

Syria remains the deadliest place for journalists, with at least 80 killed there since the conflict erupted in 2011. The second and third places in journalist deaths were shared by Iraq and Ukraine.

According to CPJ, about one quarter of the journalists killed last year were members of the international press, double the proportion the group has documented in recent years.

Eliasson urged member states to implement the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed by the U.N. Chief Executives Board on Apr. 12, 2012.

Its measures include the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to the safety of journalists, as well as assisting countries to develop legislation and mechanisms favourable to freedom of expression and information, and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.

But this call may fall on deaf ears in some quarters. In March, a military spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition conducting air strikes in Yemen openly stated that media organisations associated with the Houthi rebels and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh are legitimate targets.

On Mar. 18, Abdul Kareem al-Khaiwani a Yemeni journalist from Sana’a, was shot and killed by assailants on motorbikes after representing a Houthi group in a conference on Yemen’s future, while on Mar. 26 Shi’ite Houthi militiamen overran the Sana’a headquarters of three satellite television channels: Al-Jazeera, Al-Yaman-Shabab (Yemen-Youth), and Yemen Digital Media.

On Apr. 20, journalist and TV presenter Mohammed Shamsan and three other staff members of Sana’a-based television station Yemen Today were killed in an airstrike that appears to have deliberately targeted the broadcaster’s office.

Christophe Deloire, director-general of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, said Wednesday that, “It’s historic that the Security Council should make a link between the right to freedom of expression and the need to protect journalists, even though it may seem obvious.”

But Deloire noted that hundreds of journalists have been killed since the last resolution was adopted in 2006 – 25 this year alone – and “as excellent as it may be, there is no certainty that a new resolution will in and of itself be enough to resolve the problem.”

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power singled out Colombia, once considered the most dangerous country for journalists in South America, as taking positive action by establishing a 160-million-dollar annual fund to protect 19 groups, including journalists.

Earlier this week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met with representatives of CPJ in Bogota and the Colombian press freedom group Foundation for a Free Press (FLIP) and pledged to prioritise combating impunity in attacks against the press.

While the security situation in Colombia has improved in recent years, impunity is entrenched and threats and violence against journalists continue, according to CPJ research.

“I envision a normal country where journalists won’t need bulletproof cars and bodyguards and will not need any protection,” said Santos, himself a former journalist and one-time president of the freedom of expression commission for the Inter-American Press Association.

“But for now we need to make sure that the programme is properly funded and effective,” he added.

Launched in 2011, the journalist protection programme provides protection for around 7,500 at-risk people, including human rights activists, politicians, and journalists, at a total cost of 600,000 dollars per day.

But the delegation recommended that it also focus on preventing attacks from occurring in the first place.

Colombia ranked eighth on CPJ’s 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free.

Iraq ranked number one, followed by Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria, Afghanistan and Mexico.

At the Security Council meeting, Deloire from Reporters Without Borders called for the creation of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the protection of journalists in order to increase the prominence of the issue within the U.N system.

He stressed that a staggering 90 percent of crimes against journalists go unpunished.

“Such a high impunity rate encourages those who want to silence journalists by drowning them in their own blood,” Deloire said.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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The U.N. at 70: Drugs and Crime are Challenges for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-drugs-and-crime-are-challenges-for-sustainable-development/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 21:25:27 +0000 Yury Fedotov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140824 Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done" – Yury Fedotov. Credit: Courtesy of UNODC

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, 'It always seems impossible until it is done'. We must keep working together, until it is done" – Yury Fedotov. Credit: Courtesy of UNODC

By Yury Fedotov
VIENNA, May 27 2015 (IPS)

With terrorism, migrant smuggling and trafficking in cultural property some of the world’s most daunting challenges, “the magnitude of the problems we face is such that it is sometimes hard to imagine how any effort can be enough to confront them. But to quote Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’. We must keep working together, until it is done.”

The words are those of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov, who was speaking at the closing of the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission) held in the Austrian capital from May 18-22.

Earlier this month, IPS Editor-in-Chief Ramesh Jaura interviewed Fedotov on how the challenges facing the United Nations’ drugs and crime agency translate into challenges on the sustainable development front.“The share of citizens experiencing bribery at least once in a year is over 50 percent in some low-income countries. Many detected human trafficking movements are directed from poor areas to more affluent ones. Research also suggests that weak rule of law is connected to lower levels of economic development” – UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov

Q. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), established in 1997, understands itself as “a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime”. At the same time, you have taken up the cudgels on behalf of sustainable development. What role does the UNODC envisage for itself in achieving sustainable development goals to be agreed at the U.N. summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September?

A. Crime steals from countries, families and communities and hampers development while exacerbating inequality and violence, especially in vulnerable countries. Trafficking in diamonds and precious metals, for instance, diverts resources from countries that desperately need the income.

The share of citizens experiencing bribery at least once in a year is over 50 percent in some low-income countries. Many detected human trafficking movements are directed from poor areas to more affluent ones. Research also suggests that weak rule of law is connected to lower levels of economic development. These are just some of the many challenges that the international community faces around the world that are related to crime.

UNODC’s broad mandate includes stopping human traffickers and migrant smugglers, as well as tackling illicit drugs. It encompasses promoting health and alternative livelihoods and involves battling corruption, illicit financial flows, money laundering and terrorist financing. Our work confronts emerging and re-emerging crimes, including wildlife and forest crime, and cybercrime, among others, all of which hinder sustainable development.

Currently the United Nations is making the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Goal 16, the Open Working Group, responsible for identifying the development goals stressed the need to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and to provide access to justice for all, as well as building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. Justice is also one of the six essential elements identified by the Secretary-General in his own Synthesis Report on this subject.

Goal 3, which focuses on “ensuring healthy lives”, underlines the importance of strengthening prevention and treatment of substance abuse. These goals – justice and health – go to the very heart of UNODC’s mission. I am hopeful that when the U.N. Heads of State Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 takes place these goals will remain.

Q. UNODC organised its Thirteenth Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice from Apr. 12 to 19 in Doha, Qatar. The 13-page Doha Declaration contains recommendations on how the rule of law can protect and promote sustainable development. Is that the reason that you described Doha as a “point of departure”?

A. The Doha Declaration was passed by acclamation at the 13th Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and contains crucial recommendations on how the rule of law can protect and promote sustainable development. The declaration is driven by the principle that these issues are mutually reinforcing and that crime prevention and criminal justice should be integrated into the wider U.N. system.

At the 24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (May 18-22), there were nine resolutions before the Commission and they pave the way for the Doha Declaration to go before the U.N. General Assembly and ECOSOC for approval. The other resolutions, for instance on cultural property and standard rules on the treatment of prisoners, seek to implement the principles of the Doha Declaration.

It is for this reason that I described the 13th Crime Congress in Doha as a significant “point of departure”. Doha is the first, but not the last step in the process of implementing the Declaration and ensuring that we turn fine words into spirited and dedicated action in the areas of crime prevention and criminal justice – action that can benefit the millions of victims of crime, illicit drugs, corruption and terrorism.

If we do this, we have an opportunity to energise the 60-year legacy of Crime Congresses and give it the power to shape how we tackle crime and promote development for many years to come. Indeed, I see a strong, visible thread between the recent Crime Congress, September’s UN Summit on Sustainable Development and the 14th Crime Congress in Japan in five years’ time.

Q. The Doha Declaration also pleads for integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda. This suggestion comes at a point in time when the United Nations is turning 70. Are there some issues which the United Nations has ignored until now or is there a range of issues that have emerged over previous decades?

A. Member States are increasingly affected by organised crime, corruption, violence and terrorism. These challenges undercut good governance and the rule of law, threatening security, development and people’s lives.

Sustainable development can be safeguarded through fair, human and effective crime prevention and criminal justice systems as a central component of the rule of law. As stated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “There is no peace without development; there is no development without peace; and there is no lasting peace and sustainable development without respect for human rights.”  We need to break down the walls between these activities and integrate the various approaches.

UNODC is well placed to assist. We work closely with regional entities, partner countries, multilateral and bilateral bodies, civil society, academia and the private sector to support the work on development. We can also offer our support at the global, regional, and local levels, through our headquarters and network of field offices.

Q. Do you find willingness on the part of all countries around the world to agree on national, regional and international legal instruments, to combat all forms of crime, and their willingness to pull on the same string when it comes to implementation?

A. Our work is founded on the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its three protocols, the Convention against Corruption, international drug control conventions, universal legal instruments against terrorism and U.N. standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice.

Almost all of these international instruments have been universally ratified by the international community. Why? Because countries recognise that crime today is too big, too powerful, too profitable for any one country to handle alone. Countries recognise that, today, crime not only crosses country borders, but regional borders. It is a global problem that warrants comprehensive, integrated global solutions.

The UNODC approach to this unique challenge is threefold. First, we are building political commitment among Member States. Second, we deliver our activities through our integrated regional programmes across the world. Third, we are working with partners, both within and outside the United Nations, to ensure that our delivery is strongly connected to other activities at the field level.

In support of this action, and to give just one example, UNODC is networking the networks. Today’s criminals have widespread networks and vast resources; if we are to successfully confront them, we need to ensure greater cross-border cooperation, information sharing and tracking of criminal proceeds.  The initiative is part of an interregional drug control approach developed by UNODC to stem illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan and focuses on promoting closer cooperation between existing law enforcement coordination centres and platforms.

Q. UNODC has assigned itself a wide range of tasks. Which are your priorities in the biennium ending this year, during which you have 760.1 million dollars at your disposal?

A. I would mention two matters that are of international importance. First, smuggling of migrants not just in the Mediterranean or the Andaman seas, but also elsewhere. We are witnessing unprecedented movements of people across the globe, the largest since the Second World War. People are leaving because of conflict, insecurity and the desire for a better life. They are falling into the arms of unscrupulous smugglers and many of them are dying, while trying to make the dangerous journey across deserts and seas.

Second, the nexus of transnational organised crime and terrorism is a major threat to global peace and security, and has been recognised as such in recent Security Council resolutions. Every extremist and terrorist group requires sustainable funding. The most reliable, and sometimes the only, means of achieving this is through illicit funds gained from transnational organised crime, including cybercrime, drug trafficking, people smuggling and many other crimes.

Information on the magnitude and exact nature of such relationships remains incomplete, and more research is needed. Based on data and analysis, however, for some regions, we can follow the funding in support of violent extremism and terrorism. In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban could be receiving as much as 200 million dollars annually as a tax on the drug lords.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Terror Groups May Be Winning Digital War on Extremist Ideologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/terror-groups-may-be-winning-digital-war-on-extremist-ideology/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 21:10:07 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140813 Islamic State fighters pictured here in a 2014 propaganda video shot in Iraq's Anbar province.

Islamic State fighters pictured here in a 2014 propaganda video shot in Iraq's Anbar province.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is quick to point out the increasing pace at which digital technology is racing across the world.

Six out of every seven people are armed with mobile phones – and more than three billion, out of the world’s 7.1 billion people, have access to the Internet.In February, ISIL posted a polished, 50-page guide online called “The Hijrah to the Islamic State,” that instructs potential recruits how to make the journey to its territory – including everything from finding safe houses in Turkey, to what kind of backpack to bring, and how to answer questions from immigration officials without arousing suspicion.

Still, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that while advanced technologies are accelerating progress, there are also emerging threats.

“Extremist groups are using social networks to spread their hateful ideologies,” he told a Digital Forum in South Korea last week.

And despite the wide digital divide, he said, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are fast shaping the U.N.’s future sustainable development agenda.

“Our food agency uses mobile phones to help farmers set prices. Our relief operations communicate emergency information over online networks. And our messages go directly to the global public over Twitter and Facebook,” he said.

But there is also an increasing downside to the wide use of Twitter and Facebook: the world’s terror networks have been more adept at spreading their politically-loaded messages of hatred and religious extremism through the use of modern communication technologies – and keeping one step ahead of the governments pursuing them.

Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council last month that groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are using the latest tools of modern technology to boost their cause.

“ISIL is showing increased sophistication in recruiting young people, particularly in virtual spaces,” Power said.

She said the group disseminates around 90,000 tweets each day, and its members and supporters routinely co-opt trending hashtags to disseminate their messages.

Nick Ashton-Hart, executive director of the Internet & Digital Ecosystem Alliance (IDEA), a Swiss non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IPS winning the digital argument, with those whose objective is the destruction of open, pluralistic societies, is a challenge.

“But online or offline it always has been,” he added.

Winning that argument requires demonstrating that secure, pluralistic societies have a better future to offer. “With respect to digital security, frankly, we are failing,” he said.

“Just look at basic international cooperation to protect people in their daily lives, from crime, fraud, and identity theft – as well as crimes like terrorism.”

The United States, he pointed out, has a backlog of more than 11,000 requests for legal assistance on all kinds of crime from the law enforcement officials of countries worldwide – and it is far from alone.

The international mutual legal assistance (MLAT) framework is simply not fit for digital purpose, said Ashton-Hart, the senior permanent representative of the technology sector to the U.N., its member-states, and the international organisations in Geneva.

Powers said ISIL even reportedly developed a Twitter app last year that allows Twitter subscribers to hand over control of their feed to ISIL – allowing ISIL to tweet from the individual subscriber’s account, exponentially amplifying the reach of its messages, Power said.

In February, ISIL posted a polished, 50-page guide online called “The Hijrah to the Islamic State,” that instructs potential recruits how to make the journey to its territory – including everything from finding safe houses in Turkey, to what kind of backpack to bring, and how to answer questions from immigration officials without arousing suspicion, she said.

“And it’s not just ISIL that is aggressively targeting children and youth – but al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and other groups,” Power told delegates.

Last week, ISIL released a 34-minute video, purportedly from its recluse leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he appealed to Muslims to either join ISIL or carry out attacks in their home countries.

The online recording, the New York Times reported, was translated into English, French, German, Russian and Turkish, “an unusual move suggesting that the group was hoping for maximum exposure.”

According to the United Nations, some 600 million people were victims of cybercrimes two years ago.

And U.N. experts estimate these crimes will cost the global economy about 400 billion dollars every year.

Ashton-Hart told IPS the main global crime prevention treaty, the Convention on Transboundary Organised Crime, is starved of the funding necessary to fully implement it.

“Senior judges in the Hague tell me they cannot get the cooperation they need in basic digital evidence-gathering integral to prosecute monstrous crimes, in some cases the most grave crimes in existence.”

“If the international framework that ISIL want to tear down cannot manage these fundamentals, how can we expect to win the broader argument over extremism?” he asked.

He also said creating the practical measures that underpin trust between societies in basic law enforcement and baseline cybersecurity is not optional “and yet we still have more than 200 processes related to these issues without any structured, effective coordination between them to ensure sustainable, win-win outcomes.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Opinion: Finance Like a Cancer Growshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-finance-like-a-cancer-grows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-finance-like-a-cancer-grows http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-finance-like-a-cancer-grows/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 07:18:16 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140797 By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 26 2015 (IPS)

It is astonishing that every week we see action being taken in various part of the world against the financial sector, without any noticeable reaction of public opinion.

It is astonishing because at the same time we are experiencing a very serious crisis, with high unemployment, precarious jobs and an unprecedented growth of inequality, which can all be attributed, largely, to speculative finance.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This all began in 2008 with the mortgage crisis and the bursting of the derivatives bubble in the United States, followed by the bursting of the sovereign bonds bubble in Europe.

It is calculated that we will need to wait until at least 2020 to be able to go back to the levels of 2008 – so we are talking of a lost decade.

To bail out the banks, the world has collectively spent around 4 trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money. Just to make the point, Spain has dedicated more than its annual budget on education and health to bail out the banking sector … and the saga continues.

Last week, five major banks agreed to pay 5.6 billion to the U.S. authorities because of their manipulations in the currency market. The banks are household names: the American JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, the British Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Swiss UBS.“To bail out the banks, the world has collectively spent around 4 trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money”

In the case of UBS, the U.S. Department of Justice took the unusual step of tearing up a non-prosecution agreement it had reached earlier, saying that it had taken that step because of the bank’s repeated offences. “UBS has a ‘rap sheet’ that cannot be ignored,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell.

This is a significant departure from the Justice Department’s guidelines issued in 2008, according to which collateral consequences have to be taken into account when indicting financial institutions.

“The collateral consequences consideration is designed to address the risk that a particular criminal charge might inflict disproportionate harm to shareholders, pension holders and employees who are not even alleged to be culpable or to have profited potentially from wrongdoing,” said Mark Filip, the Justice Department official who wrote the 2008 memo.

Referring to the case of accounting giant Arthur Andersen, which certified as valid the accounts of the Enron energy company that went into bankruptcy for faking its budget, Filip said that “Arthur Andersen was ultimately never convicted of anything, but the mere act of indicting it destroyed one of the cornerstones of the Midwest’s economy.”

This was in fact a declaration of impunity, which did not escape the managers of the financial system, under the telling title of “Too Big to Fail”.

Two weeks ago, a judge from the Federal District Court of Manhattan, Denise L. Cote, condemned two major banks – the Japanese Nomura Holdings and the British Royal Bank of Scotland – for misleading two mortgage public institutions, Fannie Mae [Federal National Mortgage Association] and Freddie Mac [Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation], by selling them mortgage bonds which contained countless errors and misrepresentations.

“The magnitude of falsity, conservatively measured, is enormous,” she wrote in her scathing decision.

Nomura Holdings and the Royal Bank of Scotland were just two of 18 banks that had been accused of manipulating the housing market. The other 16 settled out of court to pay nearly 18 billion dollars in penalties and avoid having their misdeeds aired in public.

Nomura Holdings and Royal Bank of Scotland refused any settlement and instead went to court against the U.S. government, arguing that it was the housing crash which caused their mortgage bonds to collapse. Judge Cote, however, wrote that it was precisely the banks’ criminal behaviour which had exacerbated the collapse in the mortgage market.

It is worth noting that, until now, the cumulative fines inflicted by the U.S. government on just five major banks since 2008 amount to a quarter of a trillion dollars. No one has yet gone to jail – fines have been paid and the question closed.

Now the question: is all this due to the misconduct of a few greedy managers or is it due to the new “ethics” of the financial sector?

By the way, let us not forget that it was revealed recently that 25 hedge fund managers took close to 14 billion dollars only last year and that the highest paid manager took for himself the unthinkable amount of 1.3 billion dollars, equal to the combined average salaries of 200,000 U.S. professionals.

Well, just a week ago, the respected University of Notre Dame was reported as having published a startling report, based on a survey of more than 1,200 hedge fund professionals, investment bankers, traders, portfolio managers from the United States and the United Kingdom, in which about one-third of those earning more than 500,000 dollars a year said that they “have witnessed or have first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing in their workplace.”

The report went on to say that “nearly one in five respondents feel financial services professionals must sometimes engage in unethical or illegal activity to be successful in the current financial environment” and in any case,  nearly half of the high income professionals consider authorities to be ”ineffective in detecting, investigating and prosecuting securities violations.”

A quarter of respondents stated that if they saw that there was no chance of being arrested for insider trading to earn a guaranteed 10 million dollars, they would do so.

And nearly one-third “believe compensation structures or bonus plans in place at their companies could incentivise employees to compromise ethics or violate the law.”  It should also be noted that the majority were worried their employer “would likely to retaliate if they reported wrongdoing in the workplace.” So, the bonus that goes to those in the financial sector every year practically amounts to a bribe for silence on misconduct.

At the same time, we have learned that in Guatemala the Governor of the Central Bank has been arrested for embezzling 10 million dollars. Of course, everything is a question of scale…but in sociology there is a mechanism called “demonstration effect”.

The example of Wall Street and the City will increasingly seep down once a new “ethic” is in place. It will propagate if it is not stopped … and this is not happening.

A final note. In the same week (how many things have happened in such a short space of time), the Federal Trade Commission of Columbia accused four respected cancer charities of misusing donations worth millions of dollars.

One of them, the Cancer Fund of America, declared that it spent 100 percent of proceeds on hospice care, transporting patients to chemotherapy sessions and buying medication for children. The Federal Trade Commission found in fact that less than three percent of donations was spent on cancer patients.

The “new ethic” is in reality a cancer, and it is metastasising rapidly. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Accusations of ‘Apartheid’ Cause Israelis to Backpedalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/accusations-of-apartheid-cause-israelis-to-backpedal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accusations-of-apartheid-cause-israelis-to-backpedal http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/accusations-of-apartheid-cause-israelis-to-backpedal/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 16:24:49 +0000 Mel Frykberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140792 Azzum Atme checkpoint border crossing from the West Bank into Israel, where hundreds of Palestinian labourers cross into Israel each day using Israeli buses. These labourers already face long delays at the checkpoint and if they are banned from Israeli buses their trips will take even longer. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

Azzum Atme checkpoint border crossing from the West Bank into Israel, where hundreds of Palestinian labourers cross into Israel each day using Israeli buses. These labourers already face long delays at the checkpoint and if they are banned from Israeli buses their trips will take even longer. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, West Bank, May 24 2015 (IPS)

A  decision by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to segregate buses in the occupied West Bank has backfired after causing an uproar in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, and political damage on the international stage.

This came as Israel faces mounting international criticism over its land expropriation and settlement building in the West Bank, and other forms of discrimination levelled against Palestinians.

Israel’s new extreme right-wing government is also being attacked on the domestic front with liberal Israelis, and Israeli NGOs involved in human rights, accusing the government of damaging Israel’s image and values.“The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner and the threat of economic sanctions on Israel is a language the Israeli government understands far more than empty threats from the Americans who never followed any criticism of the Israeli government with any action” – Prof Samir Awad, political scientist at Birzeit University

Israeli settlers in the West Bank have been waging a campaign to prohibit Palestinians, particularly labourers who work in Israel, from using their buses in the occupied West Bank for over a year, saying that they represented a security threat, refused to give up their seats for Israelis and expressed sexual interest in Israeli women.

Last week, approval was given for buses to be segregated but after the backlash the plan was quickly scrapped.

However, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon quickly denied that segregation or racism had anything to do with the issue and that the decision to ban Palestinians from Israeli buses had only been based on “security” needs.

Neither has Ya’alon given up on the plan. He intends to instruct the IDF to come up with a new plan to cover all 13 crossing points from the West Bank into Israel.

This development came simultaneously as European Union foreign policy head Federica Mogherini paid a 24-hour visit May 20-21 to Jerusalem and Ramallah in an effort to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward, stating that Europe wanted to play a more prominent role in the process.

But behind Mogherini’s visit was growing approval within the European Union for more pressure to be exerted on Israel to stop expropriating land from the Palestinians to build more illegal Israeli settlements and enlarge current ones.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry was on the defensive following its perception of bias from the European Union.

“The Israeli government will not be pressured by the European Union into making any concessions with the Palestinians in regards to the peace process,” said a spokesman from Israel’s Foreign Ministry – who insisted on remaining anonymous due to “ongoing problems at the ministry”.

“If the EU exerts one-sided pressure on Israel, without putting any pressure on the Palestinians, the situation will backfire because it will allow the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations with us at the negotiating table,” the spokesman told IPS.

“Any future peace negotiations will have to involve face to face talks between the Palestinians and us. We will accept nothing less.”

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, quoting a mediaeval biblical scholar, instructed all Israeli diplomats not to apologise for Israel’s occupation, stating that “all of the land (meaning East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories) belonged to Israel.

As Israel finds itself painted into a corner politically, Palestinian and Israeli analysts have been debating whether there would be any European pressure on Israel and whether that pressure would have any effect.

Political scientist Prof Samir Awad from Birzeit University, near Ramallah, believes that the European Union will be able to successfully pressure the Israeli government, despite its extremism.

“The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner and the threat of economic sanctions on Israel is a language the Israeli government understands far more than empty threats from the Americans who never followed any criticism of the Israeli government with any action,” Awad told IPS.

“EU pressure on Israel will also be buoyed by the fact that a number of EU countries have officially recognised a Palestinian state while others have recognised a state in principle and are critical of Israel’s continued occupation and land expropriation in the West Bank,” added Awad.

However, political analyst Benedetta Berti, a research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, is not convinced that the European Union will succeed in pushing Israel to any negotiating table.

“If we look at their record so far there has been a lot of rhetoric but not much actual action. So far, 16 out of the 28 EU ministers have told Mogherini to go ahead with labelling settlement goods exported to Europe,” Berti told IPS.

“It hasn’t happened yet as they have to get 20 of the 28 EU ministers on board for that and due to the divisions in the EU over Israel I’m not sure that it will happen in the near future,” explained Berti.

Meanwhile, an Israeli rights group has accused the Israeli authorities of being indifferent to attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers and security forces.

“Most cases of violent crimes against Palestinians not only go unpunished – but often are completely ignored by the authorities. Even when criminal investigations against soldiers accused of such offences are opened, they almost always fail,” said Yesh Din, a volunteer organisation working to defend the human rights of Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation.

The groups said that approximately 94 percent of criminal investigations launched by the IDF against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians, and their property, are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.

“Moreover, Palestinians who attempt to file complaints about crimes committed against them face staggering obstacles in their way. The complete absence of military police stations open to the Palestinian public in the West Bank, for example, makes it literally impossible for Palestinians to file complaints directly with the military police,” stated Yesh Din.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Minorities Threatened More by Governments than Terrorist Groups, Says Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/minorities-threatened-more-by-governments-than-terrorist-groups-says-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=minorities-threatened-more-by-governments-than-terrorist-groups-says-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/minorities-threatened-more-by-governments-than-terrorist-groups-says-study/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 19:52:59 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140729 Hundreds of Christian girls have been abducted in Egypt, according to the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (AVAFD), and coerced into converting to Islam. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

Hundreds of Christian girls have been abducted in Egypt, according to the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (AVAFD), and coerced into converting to Islam. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 20 2015 (IPS)

In the conflict-ridden Middle East, minority groups continue to be threatened, attacked and expelled from their home countries by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Still, a new study released Wednesday by the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says populations in the region were more at risk from their own governments.Threat levels to civilians in seven countries – Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - increased significantly both last year and this year.

The minorities under attack include Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, ethnic Kurds, and both Coptic and Assyrian Christians.

Mark Lattimer, MRG’s executive director, told IPS the threat to minorities around the world from terrorism is very real, “but it is generally not as great as the threat from their own governments.”

From Sudan to Myanmar to the Russian Federation, he pointed out, minorities have suffered systematic attacks from the governments that are supposed to protect them.

In Syria, while many minorities now live in government-held enclaves, the civilian death toll as a whole is highest from attacks by the government side, he added.

With over 200,000 people now dead in the conflict, and up to half of the population forced from their homes, the crisis in Syria continues to worsen.

For the first time, the Syrian crisis tops the annual ‘Peoples under Threat’ table.

Extreme sectarianism has now infected much of the country, with nearly all the remaining Christian communities living in enclaves in government-held areas, the report noted.

Only in the Kurdish-held regions of the north has there been a serious attempt at establishing an inclusive democracy, says MRG.

According to the report, threat levels to civilians in seven countries – Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan- increased significantly both last year and this year.

Asked what the United Nations can do to protect minority rights, Lattimer told IPS thousands of U.N. staffers around the world work hard to protect minority communities.

But the U.N. as a whole often takes a reactive approach, only taking notice once violations of minority rights become extreme.

Enormous improvements could be made if minorities were routinely included in development projects, if minorities were able to participate fully in public life and if minority communities were represented around the table at peace talks, he added.

Iraq headed the table when the Peoples under Threat index was first published in 2006 and it has never been far from the top of the index in the intervening years.

Over 14,000 civilians were killed in 2014, many of them in massacres perpetrated by ISIS as it expelled minority communities, including Yezidis, Shabak, Chaldo-Assyrians and Turkmen, from Mosul, Sinjar and the Ninewa plain.

Thousands of Yezidi women and girls remain in ISIS captivity, and the risk remains acute for Shi’a communities threatened by ISIS and Sunnis at risk of retaliation from Iraqi Security Forces and allied Shi’a militias, according to MRG.

Conflict in the Central African Republic, which has risen four places this year, to occupy number 10 in the ranking, continued between the largely Muslim former Séléka rebels and anti-Balaka militias comprised mainly of Christians.

Upwards of 850,000 people – nearly one-fifth of the country’s population – were refugees or internally displaced at the end of 2014, and many tens of thousands more fled their homes in the first months of 2015.

A controversial peace agreement was signed in April 2015 between ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka leaders in Nairobi.

Egypt rose another three places in the index this year, according to the study.

Ongoing fighting and toughening security measures have affected the lives of Sinai Bedouin, who have long suffered political and economic marginalisation.

Human rights activists also continued to criticise the government for doing too little to provide security for Coptic and other Christian communities, especially in Upper Egypt, where individuals, their homes and places of worship regularly came under attack.

In China, which has risen a dramatic 15 places in the table, there was a severe escalation in the tactics used by Uighur militants seeking independence in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Over 200 people were killed in terrorist attacks, hundreds detained in mass arrests and dozens of death sentences handed down.

Little has been done, says MRG, to address the legacy of under-development and exclusion of Uighur communities that lies behind the unrest, and the government’s strategy of labelling Uighur human rights activists as terrorists has forestalled attempts to improve the situation.

The return of a more autocratic style of government in the Russian Federation, which occupies position 16 in the table, has coincided with rising xenophobia in Russian society against migrants, whether from abroad or from the Caucasus, says MRG.

But the threat is greatest in the North Caucasus itself, where regular clashes continue between Russian forces and Islamist separatists in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and, particularly, Dagestan, adds MRG.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Opinion: Bangladesh’s Persecuted Indigenous Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-bangladeshs-persecuted-indigenous-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-bangladeshs-persecuted-indigenous-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-bangladeshs-persecuted-indigenous-people/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 21:25:20 +0000 Julia Bleckner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140687

Julia Bleckner is a Senior Associate in the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.

By Julia Bleckner
NEW YORK, May 18 2015 (IPS)

The August 2014 killing of Timir Baran Chakma, an indigenous Jumma activist, allegedly in Bangladeshi military custody, was protested by his supporters. His death, and the failure of justice, like the plight of his people across the Chittagong Hills region, received little international notice.

Photo courtesy of Julia Bleckner

Photo courtesy of Julia Bleckner

Representatives of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission came to New York this month to shed light on the dire situation in the border region between India and Burma. Describing the ongoing crisis to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, they expressed one clear and simple ask: to finally implement the terms of a peace accord established almost two decades ago between the government and local armed groups.

One member of the community told the U.N. that the Bangladesh government has taken “repressive measures and deployed heavy military,” adding that instead of ensuring their protection, the military presence “has only aggravated human rights violations.”

In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, the indigenous groups—who mostly practice Theraveda Buddhism and speak local dialects of Tibeto-Burman languages—have a long endured displacement and suffering. In the late 1970s, then-president Ziaur Rehman instituted a government-run “population transfer programme” in which the government provided cash and in-kind incentives to members of the country’s majority Bengali community to move to the Chittagong Hills area, displacing the local population.

From 1977, the military moved into the region in response to the rise of local armed groups opposed to the “settlers” and the imposition of Bengali identity and language.The army’s failure to protect the Jumma from settlers, and in some cases aiding in attacks on indigenous families, has been well documented.

In the years following, there were credible reports of soldiers subjecting the indigenous civilians to abuses including forced evictions, destruction of property, arbitrary arrests, torture, and killings. According to one source, more than 2,000 indigenous women were raped during the conflict from 1971-1994. The security forces were implicated in many cases of sexual violence.

The 1997 peace accord aimed to bring an end to this violence and officially recognised the distinct ethnicity and relative autonomy of the tribes and indigenous people of the Chittagong Hills region.

However, 17 years later, the terms of the peace accord still have not been implemented. Instead, the Jumma face increasing levels of violence from Bengali setters, with no effective response from the state.

Members of the CHT Commission, a group of activists monitoring the implementation of the 1997 peace accord, told Human Rights Watch that the settlers have attacked indigenous homes, shops, and places of worship—in some cases with the complicity of security forces. There are reports of clashes between the two communities.

The situation is so tense that even some members of the CHT Commission were attacked by a group of settlers in July 2014. The perpetrators are yet to be identified and prosecuted.

The peace accord specifically called for the demilitarisation of the Chittagong Hills area. But nearly two decades later, the region remains under military occupation. The army’s failure to protect the Jumma from settlers, and in some cases aiding in attacks on indigenous families, has been well documented.

Successive Bangladeshi governments have failed to deliver the autonomy promised by the peace accord, representatives of the CHT Commission said. Instead the central government has directly appointed representatives to the hill district councils without holding elections as mandated by the peace accord.

With the tacit agreement of the military, Bengali settlers from the majority community have moved into the Chittagong Hills, in some cases displacing the Jumma from their land without compensation or redress.

The Kapaeeng Foundation, a foundation focused on rights of the indigenous people of Bangladesh, has reported that at least 51 women and girls suffered sexual violence inflicted by Bengali settlers and the military in 2014, while there have already been 10 cases as of May 2015.

Earlier this year a group of Bengali settlers gang raped a Bagdi woman and her daughter, according to the Foundation. The perpetrators are seldom prosecuted. In some instances, survivors—such as the Bagdi women—who file cases at the local police station have faced threats from the alleged perpetrators if they do not withdraw their case.

In an effort to block international attention to the plight of the Jumma, in January, the Bangladesh Home Ministry introduced a discriminatory directive which, among other things, increased military checkpoints and forbade both foreigners and nationals from meeting with indigenous people without the presence of government representatives.

In May, under national public pressure, the Home ministry withdrew the restrictions. But in practice, the government continues to restrict access by requiring foreigners to inform the Home Ministry prior to any visit.

The Jumma people have waited far too long to be heard. It’s time we listen. Implementing the Chittagong Hills peace accord would be an important first step.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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The U.N. at 70: Is It Still Fit for the Purpose?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-is-it-still-fit-for-the-purpose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-is-it-still-fit-for-the-purpose http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-is-it-still-fit-for-the-purpose/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 11:48:04 +0000 Julia Rainer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140625 A boatload of people, some of them likely in need of international protection, are rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. The UN at 70 must “be fit for the purpose … otherwise it would be letting down people in need and compromising its legitimacy”. Photo credit: UNHCR/A. D’Amato

A boatload of people, some of them likely in need of international protection, are rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. The UN at 70 must “be fit for the purpose … otherwise it would be letting down people in need and compromising its legitimacy”. Photo credit: UNHCR/A. D’Amato

By Julia Rainer
VIENNA, May 14 2015 (IPS)

Events are being organised around the world to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, but a recent seminar held in the Austrian capital was not held to applaud the body’s past contributions.

Rather, the 45th International Peace Institute (IPI) Seminar, held from May 6 to 7,  saw representatives from the political, NGO, media and military sectors come together to discuss the organisation’s capability to deal with the crises and challenges of the future.

There was consensus among participants that the difficulties in the realms of international peace and security are very different today from those that dominated the international community at the time of the foundation of the United Nations in 1945.The global scenario has seen the entry of non-state “actors” such as criminals and terrorists representing a real threat to stability of the international system that the United Nations was set up to safeguard

Not only has the number of member states quadrupled since then, the global scenario has seen the entry of non-state “actors” such as criminals and terrorists representing a real threat to stability of the international system that the United Nations was set up to safeguard.

At the same time, the planet is afflicted by other threats that do not stop at national borders, such as climate change, pandemics and wars, which have global dimensions and are extremely difficult to contain in our globalised world.

As Martin Nesirky, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna, put it: “The UN grew from the ashes of World War Two and there has been no global conflict since then, but neither has there been global peace.”

This year, debate about reform of the United Nations comes at a time that represents a possibility for change and action on two major fronts.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), although they have not yet been fully realised, are being pushed forward in the spirit of adapting a new development agenda in the form of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Furthermore, there are hopes that a global agreement on climate change will finally be reached in Paris in December at the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

According to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “this is not just another year, this is the chance to change the course of history.”

However, the not all participants at the IPI seminar were convinced that the United Nations could fulfil its destined role without adapting to the fast changing circumstances that shape the world community.

A hotly debated issue was the long demanded reform of the U.N. Security Council and the power of veto held by its five permanent members – China, United States, France, United Kingdom and Russian Federation – which were said not to represent the world community.

Some participants noted that the current geopolitical situation is marked by a breakdown of power relations which have complicated the work of the United Nations enormously.

Richard Gowan, Research Director at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC) and a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), expressed his concern about the escalation of power struggles in recent years.

“Tensions between Russia and the West, and to some extent China and the West, have severely impaired the UN’s ability to deal with the Syrian crisis and stopped the UN having a serious role in the Ukrainian crisis altogether.”

He called for resolution of ongoing geopolitical competition to enable the United Nations to regain the strength to deal with pressing crises” and warned that “if the Security Council breaks down, the rest of the UN will ultimately break down.”

Meanwhile, as the world faces the most severe refugee crisis since the Second World War, it was stressed that the proper functionality of international institutions – and of the United Nations in particular – is of the highest importance. More than 53 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced today, a figure equal to the entire population of South Korea.

The last tragic incidents of hundreds of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean have shown that the international community is failing to ensure the security of those seeking a safe future in Europe. “Desperation has no measure and no cost,” said Louise Aubin, Deputy Director of the Department of International Protection at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

During her work for the U.N. refugee agency, Aubin came face to face with the situation of the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, situated some 100 kilometres from the Kenya-Somalia border, which houses an estimated 500,000 Somali refugees, some of whom are third generation born in the camp.

“It’s impossible for me to explain as a parent that I would actually accept that situation,” Aubin said.” There is no way I would not do anything in my power to try to send my children somewhere else. And that somewhere else is across the Mediterranean.”

In the light of the recent tragedies suffered by refugees, participants said that it is necessary to create safe access to asylum in order for refugees to enjoy the rights that are theirs under international law.

It is clear that this responsibility does not lie only with the United Nations, they agreed, pointing to the role of the European Union in dealing with refugee flows.

However, both the United Nations and the European Union are only as strong as their member states allow them to be.

If the UN at 70 turns out not be fit for the purpose, it has to take immediate measures to become so – otherwise it would be letting down people in need and compromising its legitimacy.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Campaign to End Sexual Violence Targets Civilian Peacekeepers Firsthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/campaign-to-end-sexual-violence-targets-civilian-peacekeepers-first/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=campaign-to-end-sexual-violence-targets-civilian-peacekeepers-first http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/campaign-to-end-sexual-violence-targets-civilian-peacekeepers-first/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 20:25:21 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140614 Different jurisdictions and immunities apply to civilian and military personnel, made more obscure by a lack of transparency and detail in the U.N.’s reporting of abuse cases. Photo: UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz

Different jurisdictions and immunities apply to civilian and military personnel, made more obscure by a lack of transparency and detail in the U.N.’s reporting of abuse cases. Photo: UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2015 (IPS)

“We can really argue as much as we want but if we put ourselves in the skin of victims, we just have to do something to stop this.”

This was Graça Machel’s appeal at the launch of Code Blue, the campaign to end impunity for sexual violence by United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping personnel Wednesday.“Each country will act according to what it thinks is appropriate and more often than not rather than a full-fledged investigation you simply see a plane arriving and a bunch of people being put on a plane and disappearing." -- Lt. General Roméo Dallaire

Machel, a renowned human rights advocate, spoke of her own dismay when researching the landmark U.N. study ‘The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children’.

“We came across, eye to eye, women and girls who had been abused by U.N. peacekeeping personnel – it was shocking to us,” Machel said.

Peacekeeping is about more than military peace but also about bringing peace in people themselves, Machel said.

Her sentiments were shared by a panel of international leaders, including Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, Force Commander for the U.N. mission during the Rwandan genocide; Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary General; Theo Sowa, CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund; and Paula Donovan Co-director of AIDS-Free World, the organisation spearheading Code Blue.

The panel implored the United Nations and world leaders to act, and called for a truly independent Commission of Inquiry, with unobstructed access to U.N. records and correspondence, and full subpoena power.

Mahel called for the response to cut through the complex technicalities that raised many questions from the media present at the launch.

The problem is truly complex, with different jurisdictions and immunities applying to civilian and military personnel, made more obscure by a lack of transparency and detail in the U.N.’s reporting of cases.

One issue discussed at the forum was Code Blue’s decision to first focus on civilian personnel. The founders of Code Blue argued that this is an important first step to addressing the overall problem.

IPS spoke with Dr Roisin Burke, author of the book ‘Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by U.N. Military Contingents,’ who said that while she agreed that the “jurisdictional vacuum” surrounding civilian personnel needed to be addressed, she also hoped that Code Blue would equally tackle sexual abuse and sexual exploitation by both military and civilian personnel.

“The vast majority of U.N. operations, 70-80 percent of the people who are deployed are military, so you’ve got hundreds of thousands of military personnel deployed across the world,” Burke said.

“Per person, it’s happening more with civilian personnel, the problem is that doesn’t mean that in terms of numbers that it’s happening more.”

The panel also discussed the problems among military personnel, which Code Blue plans to address after first tackling the problem of bureaucratic delays around immunities impairing investigations into civilian personnel.

Lt. General Dallaire also discussed the problems associated with investigating allegations against military personnel who continue to fall under the jurisdiction of their home country.

“Each country will act according to what it thinks is appropriate and more often than not rather than a full-fledged investigation you simply see a plane arriving and a bunch of people being put on a plane and disappearing,” said Dallaire.

“There is far too much centralisation and taking away the ability of those in the field to be able to do the investigation in a timely fashion,” he said.

The panel disagreed with the idea that troop contributing countries will be less likely to send troops if their troops risk prosecution for sexual abuse.

“I come from Bangladesh, the largest troop contributing country. Bangladesh will welcome very much setting the standards high,” Chowdhury said.

Dallaire also agreed that this argument did not hold up and that it was holding the U.N. to ransom.

The first problem Code Blue plans to address though is immunity for civilian personnel. Donovan said that it was often not possible to substantiate allegations against civilian peacekeepers because bureaucracy gets in the way.

“The first step that kicks off the bureaucracy is immunity,” she said.

Immunity is not meant to cover sexual exploitation and abuse because personnel are only covered by immunity during their normal functions as a U.N. staff member. However, Donovan said that there are significant delays because each individual case has to be reviewed by the secretary-general before immunity can be waived. During this time evidence is eroded and witnesses disappear, making a successful investigation almost impossible.

Chowdhury told IPS he believed the U.N. should no longer hide behind legal difficulties and should take the moral high ground in these situations. He added that addressing sexual exploitation and abuse was important if the U.N. was serious about involving more women in peacekeeping operations.

An internal expert report leaked by AIDS-Free World earlier this year said that there is considerable under-reporting of these cases.

Sowa spoke passionately, saying it was heartbreaking this issue had to be discussed, “when the U.N. becomes the protector of predators instead of the prosecutor of predators, that destroys me because I believe in the U.N.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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U.S. Failings Exposed in U.N. Human Rights Reviewhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-s-failings-exposed-in-u-n-human-rights-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-failings-exposed-in-u-n-human-rights-review http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-s-failings-exposed-in-u-n-human-rights-review/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 22:51:38 +0000 Gustavo Capdevila http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140606 The human rights exam in Geneva complained that U.S. President Barack Obama has failed to keep his promise to close down the Guantánamo military base. Credit: Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy

The human rights exam in Geneva complained that U.S. President Barack Obama has failed to keep his promise to close down the Guantánamo military base. Credit: Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy

By Gustavo Capdevila
GENEVA, May 12 2015 (IPS)

Without the emperor’s clothes, like in the Hans Christian Andersen story, the United States was forced to submit its human rights record to the scrutiny of the other 192 members of the United Nations on Monday.

Washington attended the country’s second universal periodic review (UPR) in the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which reviews each U.N. member country’s compliance with international human rights standards.
“So today was a demonstration of the no confidence vote that world opinion has made of the United States as a country that considers itself a human rights champion,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Program (HRP) of the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit organisation that has worked to defend individual rights and liberties since 1920.

“I think that there was a clear message from today’s review that the United States needs to do much more to protect human rights and to bring its laws and policies in line with human rights standards,” he told IPS.

Although the UPR has come in for criticism because its conclusions are negotiated among governments, it is recognised for starkly revealing the abuses that states commit against their own citizens and those of other countries – and the Monday May 11 session was no exception.

One of the demands set forth by the 117 states taking part in the debate was for Washington to take measures to prevent acts of torture in areas outside the national territory under its effective control and prosecute perpetrators, and to ensure that victims of torture were afforded redress and assistance.

With respect to torture, among the positive achievements mentioned was the release of a report on abuses committed as part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) interrogation practices.

The head of the 20-member U.S. delegation that flew over from Washington, acting legal adviser in the State Department Mary McLeod, gave an indication that the negotiations for the visit by Juan Méndez, U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay were not closed.

In March, Méndez, an Argentine lawyer who lives in the United States, complained that Washington did not intend to give him access during his visit to the more than 100 inmates in Guantanamo.

The country’s closest ally, the United Kingdom, congratulated the United States on its commitment to close Guantanamo, announced by President Barack Obama before his first term began in January 2009. But the British delegate said they would like to see it actually happen.

“The problem with Guantanamo is that it created a system of indefinite detention that we would like to see shut down with the facility,” Dakwar said. “It also created a flawed system of military commissions that provide a second system of justice. This system should also be shut down.”

Ejim Dike, executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, said the concerns brought to the attention of the U.S. delegation revolved around issues of poverty, criminalisation and violence.

“In the United States we have more money today than we ever had. We have the highest child poverty rate of any industrialised country. However, for the UPR no one from the government mentioned poverty,” Dike commented to IPS.

The Cuban delegates addressed the issue, urging the United States to guarantee the right of all residents to decent housing, food, healthcare and education, in order to reduce the poverty that affects 48 million of the country’s 319 million people.

A number of countries asked the United States to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in effect since 1976 and considered one of the pillars of the U.N. human rights system.

They also pointed out that the United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nor has it ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Furthermore, it has not recognised the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, or the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) conventions on forced labour, minimum age for admission to employment, domestic workers, and discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

McLeod also said that her country is not currently considering the ratification of the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court.

Dakwar said the debate in the UPR highlighted “the issue of the lack of a fair criminal justice system that is being demonstrated through the stops and frisks, racial profiling, racial studies in the death penalty. You see it in the police violence and killing of unarmed African-Americans with no accountability.

“Its inhuman and unfair system of immigration needs to again be brought in line with human rights…That means…no detention of migrants, and ending migrants’ family detention,” he added.

Another of the main recommendations to the United States is that it desist from targeted killings through drones.

“The United States continues to violate human rights in the name of national security and it needs to roll back these policies and bring them in line with the U.S. constitution and international law,” Dakwar argued.

“Also in the domestic system we have surveillance of Muslim communities. There is a guidance by the Department of Justice that they allow the use of informants within communities, particularly Muslim and Middle Eastern communities,” he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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The Definition of ‘Rape’ Cannot Change with a Marriage Certificatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-definition-of-rape-cannot-change-with-a-marriage-certificate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-definition-of-rape-cannot-change-with-a-marriage-certificate http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-definition-of-rape-cannot-change-with-a-marriage-certificate/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 17:40:24 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140594 A couple performs a ritual at an Indian wedding. Experts say that every year, thousands of women experience marital rape, which is yet to be decriminalised in India. Credit: Naveen Kadam/CC-BY-2.0

A couple performs a ritual at an Indian wedding. Experts say that every year, thousands of women experience marital rape, which is yet to be decriminalised in India. Credit: Naveen Kadam/CC-BY-2.0

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, May 12 2015 (IPS)

“I was brutally raped thrice by my husband. He kept me under surveillance in his Dubai house while I suffered from severe malnutrition and depression. When I tried to flee from this hellhole, he confiscated my passport, deprived me of money and beat me up,” recalls Anna Marie Lopes, 28, a rape survivor who after six years of torture, finally managed to board a flight to New Delhi from the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

Today, Lopes works at a non-profit in India’s capital, New Delhi, and is slowly picking up the shards of her life. “Life’s tough when you have to start from scratch after such a traumatic experience with no support even from your parents. But I had no other choice,” Lopes tells IPS.

"Is the government saying that it is acceptable for men to rape their wives? Or does it believe that marriage is a licence for sexual violence on the pretext that this constitutes upholding Indian culture and values?” -- Amitabh Kumar, the Centre for Social Research
Her story is different from that of thousands of Indian women only in that it has a somewhat happy ending. For too many others who are victims of marital rape, escape is not an option, keeping them trapped in relationships that often leave them broken.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that over 40 percent of married women in India between 15 and 49 years of age have been beaten, raped or forced to engage in sexual intercourse with their spouses.

In 2011, a study released by the International Center for Research on Women, a Washington-based non-profit, said one in every five Indian men surveyed admitted to forcing their wives into sex.

Only one in four abused women has ever sought help, the survey stated, adding women are much less likely to seek help for sexual violence than for physical violence. When violated, women typically approach family members rather than the police.

Given this ominous and entrenched social reality, the present government’s reluctance to criminalise marital rape on the grounds that marriage is “sacred” in India has fuelled an intense debate.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in a statement to the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian parliament) last week that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, could not be “suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty […] religious beliefs [and the] mindset of the society.”

Human rights campaigners are up in arms about this statement, claiming that in addition to it affirming the country’s patriarchal mindset, it besmirches India’s reputation as a liberal and equitable democracy.

“Is the government saying that it is acceptable for men to rape their wives? Or does it believe that marriage is a licence for sexual violence on the pretext that this constitutes upholding Indian culture and values?” asked Amitabh Kumar of the Centre for Social Research, a Delhi-based think tank.

“A rape is a rape, and […] infringes upon the victim’s fundamental rights,” Kumar told IPS.

Currently, marital rape, defined as forceful sexual intercourse by a husband without the consent of his wife – leading to the latter being physically and sexually battered – is governed by Section 375 of India’s Penal Code.

The law expressly states that forced sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, provided the latter is not under 15 years of age, does not constitute rape.

Though the Domestic Violence Act passed in 2005 recognises sexual abuse in a marital relationship, legal eagles say it offers only civil recourse, which cannot lead to a jail term for the abusive spouse.

Following the gang rape of a young medical student in New Delhi in December 2012, the groundswell of public angst in India led the then-ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to set up a commission tasked with reforming the country’s anti-rape laws.

 

Anna Marie Lopes, 28, is a survivor of marital rape who now works at a local non-profit in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Anna Marie Lopes, 28, is a survivor of marital rape who now works at a local non-profit in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The three-member Justice Verma Committee recommended that sexual violence between spouses be considered rape and be punishable as a criminal offence.

However the government, which at the time was helmed by the Congress Party, dismissed the committee’s suggestion by arguing that such a move would wreck the Indian institution of marriage.

“If marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress,” said a report by lawmakers submitted to parliament in 2013. The government eventually cleared a new sexual assault law, one that did not criminalise marital rape.

Experts say the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government is toeing a similarly conservative line to its predecessor.

BJP Spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi stated last week, “We will give prominence to our institutions,” suggesting that the government has little intention of acting on the recommendations of the Verma Committee, or demands from civil society.

In January this year, the Supreme Court rejected a woman victim’s petition to declare marital rape a criminal offence, arguing that nationwide legislation couldn’t be tweaked for one person.

Even now, the legal community is splintered over the merits and demerits of criminalising marital rape.

While senior criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani and former Supreme Court Justice K T Thomas have publicly endorsed the government’s viewpoint that the law must not be changed, others beg to differ.

“The institution of marriage is an integral part of Indian culture. But this has not stopped us from bringing in the anti-dowry law or domestic violence legislation,” New Delhi-based human rights lawyer Soumya Bhaumik told IPS.

“If a husband can be tried for murdering his wife, why can’t he be tried for raping her? The entire concept of consent or definition of rape does not change with a marriage certificate.”

Bhaumik also referred to documented cases of husbands or even wives forcing themselves upon their spouses, leading to not just physical but mental and emotional trauma as well.

“The current Domestic Violence Act treats such episodes as civil cases. This means that erring spouses are issued restraining orders or the aggrieved party is given a protection order. However, there is no provision for putting the guilty party behind bars,” he stated.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recommended that India make it criminal for a man to rape his wife.

Marital rape has already been criminalised in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, most European nations, Malaysia, Turkey and Bolivia.

This places India in a tiny global minority – along with China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – which refuses to criminalise this form of assault.

Some experts feel that the Indian government’s reservations over the issue may stem from fears about a communal or religious backlash. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 states that it is a wife’s foremost duty to have sex with her husband.

This entrenched attitude, as well as a lack of economic independence, acts as a barrier for women who might otherwise come forward to report the crime.

“Most women don’t come forward to complain about such rapes as they fear that jail for the breadwinner will spell doom for family and kids,” Winnie Singh, executive director of Maitri, a Delhi-based non-profit that works for the rehabilitation of underprivileged women, told IPS.

“According to our research, conviction has been less than one percent in such cases.”

Singh also blames a cumbersome legal process that puts the onus on the woman to prove that a rape has occurred, something that few women are willing to take on given low conviction rates.

According to a report by Aashish Gupta of the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), despite an increase in reporting among survivors following the passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, rape continues to remain under-reported.

Only about six of every 100 acts of sexual violence committed by men other than husbands actually get reported, reveals Gupta’s report.

Experts like Singh feel that in such a scenario, sensitisation and mass education are vital to bringing about awareness and ensuring justice for the victims.

“Stepping up rehabilitation efforts as well as large-scale visual campaigns by the government and human rights organisations involving all stakeholders are the only ways to safeguard women from this heinous crime,” she stressed.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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NGOs Urge Commission of Inquiry to Probe Sexual Abuse in U.N. Peacekeepinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/ngos-urge-commission-of-inquiry-to-probe-sexual-abuse-in-u-n-peacekeeping/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ngos-urge-commission-of-inquiry-to-probe-sexual-abuse-in-u-n-peacekeeping http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/ngos-urge-commission-of-inquiry-to-probe-sexual-abuse-in-u-n-peacekeeping/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 17:31:54 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140599 Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses a press conference on the investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by foreign military troops during the French military intervention in that country on May 8, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses a press conference on the investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by foreign military troops during the French military intervention in that country on May 8, 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 12 2015 (IPS)

A rising tide of sexual abuse in U.N. peacekeeping operations has triggered the launch of a high-level campaign to end the continued attacks on women and children and an urgent call for the creation of an independent commission of inquiry.

The latest “horrible” sexual attacks have been attributed to French peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) although U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said they were “not under the command and control of the United Nations.”"The truth is startling and simple: No new mechanisms, no new methods of operation, no new policies can ever work in practice to prevent or punish sex abusers on staff who commit sexual offenses at present, because the U.N. bureaucracy responsible for implementing changes is completely dysfunctional." -- Paula Donovan

“We do hope that anyone who engaged in the atrocious activities involving children in the Central African Republic face justice and are prosecuted,” he told reporters last week.

Paula Donovan, co-director at AIDS-Free World, who helped break the story of a long-suppressed report on sexual abuse in CAR, told IPS: “From confusion and ineptitude on the ground, to cover-ups at the highest levels of the U.N. in New York, Member States must subject U.N. peacekeeping to a rigorous, entirely independent commission of inquiry with complete access to documents and staff.”

Until that happens, any new polices or procedures will fail, just as the current policies and procedures do, in their implementation, said Donovan, a former executive officer at the U.N. Children’s agency UNICEF and regional advisor, East and Southern Africa.

Last year, there were more than 50 cases of sexual abuse at the hands of U.N.-supported field personnel, although the actual number is said to be far higher.

But the existence of diplomatic immunity is said to allow perpetrators to go unpunished and avoid legal constraints.

A longstanding proposal, going to back to 2008, for an international convention to punish those accused of sex crimes in U.N. operations overseas never got off the ground.

But against the backdrop of the current campaign, called Code Blue, the proposal may be revived, even though it could be shot down by developing countries who provide most of the soldiers in the 16 peacekeeping operations currently under way, with an estimated total of 106,595 military personnel and 17,000 civilian staff.

The largest contributors of peacekeepers include Bangladesh (9,307 troops), Pakistan (8,163), India (8,112), Ethiopia (7,864) and Rwanda (5,575), according to the latest U.N. figures.

Asked whether an international convention will deal more effectively with sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. staff, police and experts on mission (who are currently covered by the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunities), a sceptical Donovan told IPS “jurisdictional issues are incredibly complex in peacekeeping operations.”

“But the truth is startling and simple: No new mechanisms, no new methods of operation, no new policies can ever work in practice to prevent or punish sex abusers on staff who commit sexual offenses at present, because the U.N. bureaucracy responsible for implementing changes is completely dysfunctional,” she declared.

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, international coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, a programme partner of the International Civil society Action Network, told IPS the proposed convention is long overdue.

“If not now, when?” she asked. “It’s time to close the accountability gap. We have addressed this point in our recent international security sector workshop.”

She said: “I am hopeful about this convention and we will advocate for its adoption and ratification. We, in civil society, are always hopeful—as that is one of our sources of strength amidst growing conservatism among governments and as a result, repression of civil society.

“At the same time, we are also realistic as we have our ears close to the ground. We know what is happening. The information we receive is not filtered—unlike what U.N. headquarters and government missions receive.”

So, realistically speaking, she had doubts that troop contributing countries (TCCs) will actually support such a convention—except maybe the European countries and Canada.

However, these are not the biggest troop contributing countries. The biggest TCCs are in the developing world, she pointed out.

“We should do active lobbying with the big TCCs and show them that the convention will be useful to them—it can serve as a guide for Member States to monitor their troops; and in investigating and prosecuting troops who have committed crimes,” she added.

A 2008 report of the ‘Ad Hoc Committee on Criminal Accountability of U.N. Officials and Experts on Mission’ said “some delegations reiterated the view that it was premature to discuss the possibility of negotiating an international convention on the topic, as had been proposed by the Group of Legal Experts, and as had been subsequently supported by the Secretariat in its note.”

It was argued, the report said, that it was necessary to understand the actual impediments to prosecution, before embarking on the negotiation of a convention.

Some delegations expressed support, in principle, for a convention requiring member states to exercise jurisdiction over their nationals participating in U.N. operations.

The report further added: “It was noted that while bilateral agreements existed in the area, they provided incomplete coverage and did not usually address judicial cooperation between States and the United Nations.”

Cabrera-Balleza told IPS the TCCs should also put themselves in the shoes of the recipient countries. Don’t they want to see accountability if crimes are committed against their own people?

“I am also hoping that this convention would include mandatory training on U.N. Security Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, 1820 and supporting resolutions on women, peace and security (WPS). The TCCs should be mandated to train their troops prior to deployment and debrief using the WPS resolutions as guide after deployment.”

She said the United Nations also has a Conduct and Discipline Unit under the Department of Field Support that maintains global oversight of the state of discipline in peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

“However, I once had a discussion with a Conduct and Discipline Officer in a peacekeeping mission and we asked him if they are integrating UNSCR 1325 in their training and he had no clue what I was taking about,” she said.

The U.N. is committed to a zero- tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse but its Member States are not. The convention will bring some coherence, she declared.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The U.N. at 70: Risk Averse, Unsafe and Too Oldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-risk-averse-unsafe-and-too-old/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-risk-averse-unsafe-and-too-old http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-risk-averse-unsafe-and-too-old/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 11:35:51 +0000 Ian Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140569

Ian Richards is President of the Coordination Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations, representing 60,000 UN staff in headquarters and the field.

By Ian Richards
GENEVA, May 12 2015 (IPS)

On Apr. 20, this year, four of my colleagues tragically lost their lives in Northern Somalia, when an explosive device ripped through their minibus as they travelled back to their guesthouse.

Ian Richards. Credit: George Younes

Ian Richards. Credit: George Younes

It wasn’t the first, nor unfortunately will it be the last time that U.N. staff are killed in the line of duty.

But for an organisation turning 70 this October, it is an uncomfortable wakeup call, and a reminder to the world, that behind the walls of its gleaming, newly refurbished headquarters in New York, its modern conference rooms and news-grabbing resolutions, are a staff of 75,000 drawn from all quarters of the globe, many working in difficult and dangerous locations, some paying with their lives.

Much will be written about the U.N.’s 70th anniversary (even though the bulk of it was created more recently). But for staff, the focus isn’t so much on the past as on the way forward.

For the culmination of this year’s anniversary is a summit of world leaders in New York to agree targets that will guide our work for the next decade and a half.

Called the sustainable development goals, they promise, among other things to eradicate extreme poverty, fight climate change, prevent conflicts and protect those caught in the crossfire.

No sooner than the ink is dry, governments will turn their attention to how the U.N. can best achieve those goals.

As a representative of U.N. staff, I believe that most of my colleagues are capable, suitably qualified and up to the task.For many reasons, and despite its successes, it has become an organisation too scared of failure, overly centralised, ageing and unsuited to operating in conflicts where our blue flag is seen as a target rather than a shield.

However, I do have doubts as to whether the U.N., on its 70th anniversary, is the best place for it.

For many reasons, and despite its successes, it has become an organisation too scared of failure, overly centralised, ageing and unsuited to operating in conflicts where our blue flag is seen as a target rather than a shield.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shortly enters his final 18 months in the job. I know he’s a keen reformer.

Under his leadership departments have been restructured, pay and benefits are being reviewed, a new policy will require staff to rotate more between headquarters and the field, and a new IT system promises to eliminate duplication in administrative support.

But I’m not convinced that these reforms will make it any easier for staff to help the organization achieve the sustainable development goals.

Here though are three simple ideas that will. And I believe that Ban Ki-moon can easily put them in place.

First, he should encourage his staff to take greater risks and become more entrepreneurial.

The innovations and ideas that will help reduce extreme poverty by 2030 may not yet have been invented. But as things stand, with an increasingly centralised and bureaucratic organisation, it’s probably no longer at the U.N. that they’ll see the light of day.

Let me tell you then about a former colleague called Jean Gurunlian. He joined the U.N. as a junior clerk and retired as a director. In that time he built a team that created an electronics customs system, now used at ports and border posts in almost half the countries of the world.

By using IT instead of paper forms, Asycuda, as the system is called, reduced corruption, got goods through customs faster and in doing so, contributed to the creation of tens if not hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in developing countries. It is also one of the U.N.’s biggest self-funded programmes.

That was in the 1980s and 1990s. No doubt Gurunlian faced his share of detractors back then when he presented the idea.

But I doubt today’s more centralised, rigidly budgeted and risk-averse U.N. could provide the right environment for the next generation of innovators – staff who are brimming with ideas, need space to try them out and forgiveness when ideas fail.

In any case, one thing is for sure: the staff rules now make it extremely difficult for junior clerks to rise through the ranks as Gurunlian did.

Second, if the U.N. is to support its staff in doing their work, it must provide a safer environment for those it deploys to the world’s most dangerous locations. Places such as Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, Mali, Syria, South Sudan and Yemen.

As the U.N.’s outgoing emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, recently noted, “attacks on humanitarian workers have increased every year for more than a decade.” According to the U.N.’s own statistics, 100 staff and peacekeepers were killed in 2014.

Yet despite this and despite, for example, that Al Qaeda-linked al Shaabab has repeatedly attacked U.N. staff in Somalia and carried out attacks in Northern Somalia, our four colleagues died there last April.

The U.N. says it will “stay and deliver,” even in the most challenging environments when foreign embassies have evacuated their own staff.

But important as their work is, our colleagues can only assist those in the crossfire of conflict if they themselves get the protection they need.

We’ve been told that there is a tradeoff to be made between improving security for U.N. staff and being cost effective. Surely, cost should not be a factor when lives are at stake.

Third, the U.N. needs younger staff.

Only three percent of U.N. positions are at the entry-level grade called P-2. Worse, only 0.3 percent of staff are aged between 18 and 24. In contrast, the average age for joining the UN is 41.

Far from being structured like a pyramid, the U.N. looks more like a football. And as things stand, those graduating from university this year won’t even have joined the U.N. by 2030, the target date for the goals.

We will therefore miss out on the ideas and freshness that those straight out of university can bring to our organization.

This includes new methods of working, better use of technology, more effective ways to analyse and present information – everything to galvanise countries and other interests around the goals. That would be a shame.

So these then, in short, are three simple ideas that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could put in place this year and that will enable the UN’s staff to help it meet the ambitious targets set by the sustainable development goals.

By any measure, they are a fitting and worthy 70th birthday present.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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IACHR Tackles Violence Against Native Peoples in Costa Ricahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/iachr-addresses-violence-against-native-peoples-in-costa-rica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iachr-addresses-violence-against-native-peoples-in-costa-rica http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/iachr-addresses-violence-against-native-peoples-in-costa-rica/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 23:24:31 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140563 Members of the Bribri indigenous community during a February meeting with deputy minister of the presidency Ana Gabriel Zuñiga in the community of Salitre in southeastern Costa Rica, held to inform them of the government’s proposals for combating the violence they suffer at the hands of landowners who invade and occupy their land. Credit: Courtesy of the office of the Costa Rican president

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, May 11 2015 (IPS)

After years of violence against two indigenous groups in Costa Rica, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) demanded that the government adopt measures by May 15 to protect the life and physical integrity of the members of the two communities.

The IACHR granted precautionary measures in favour of the Bribri community living in the 11,700-hectare Salitre indigenous territory, who have been fighting for years to reclaim land that has been illegally occupied by landowners.

“The law gives us the right to defend our claim to our territory, and one of the things it allows us to do is take back the land that is in the hands of non-indigenous people who are not living on it,” the leader of the community, Roxana Figueroa, told IPS.

Besides seeking to protect the community of Salitre, the resolution is aimed at safeguarding the Teribe or Bröran community in Térraba, also in the southeast. Around 85 percent of the Teribe community’s land is occupied by non-indigenous people, which violates their collective title to their ancestral territory.

Salitre, Térraba and the other 22 indigenous territories established in this Central American nation all share the same problem: the occupation of their land by non-indigenous landowners, in violation of international conventions and local legislation.

Costa Rica’s indigenous law, in effect since 1977, declared native territories inalienable, indivisible, non-transferable and exclusive to the indigenous communities living there.

Non-indigenous people “have come here to exploit nature and have occupied our lands or acquired them through fraudulent means from indigenous people,” said Figueroa, who spoke to IPS from a farm that the Bribri people managed to reclaim from a group of outsiders who had invaded it.

Figueroa, 36, says that while the level of violence has gone down in the community, “it’s still there, looming. They have identified those of us who took part in recovering this land, and they know who are participating in the struggle.”

There are very real reasons to be afraid. The violent incidents documented by the IACHR include a Jan. 5, 2013 machete attack on three unarmed indigenous men. One was also tortured with a hot iron rod; another was shot; and the third man nearly lost two fingers.

A Costa Rican indigenous family runs to take shelter in the community of Cedror in the indigenous territory of Salitre on Jul. 6, 2014, fearing an attack by landowners who occupied their land after setting fire to their homes and belongings the day before. Credit: David Bolaños/IPS

A Costa Rican indigenous family runs to take shelter in the community of Cedror in the indigenous territory of Salitre on Jul. 6, 2014, fearing an attack by landowners who occupied their land after setting fire to their homes and belongings the day before. Credit: David Bolaños/IPS

In one of the latest incidents, a group of non-indigenous men sowed terror in Salitre, where they burnt down a house before fleeing – a common modus operandi of the thugs.

The precautionary measures granted by the IACHR came in response to complaints filed since 2012 by two lawyers with the Forest Peoples Programme, an international organisation that works with forest peoples in South America, Africa, and Asia, to help them secure their rights.

It represents a crucial step in order for the case to eventually to make it to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in the Costa Rican capital, San José.

The Court and the Washington-based IACHR are the Organisation of American States (OAS) human rights system.

The IACHR resolution, issued Apr. 30, stressed that the situation is grave and urgent, and that the damage caused is irreparable. It gives the Costa Rican government 15 days to deliver a report on the implementation of the measures it called for.

Besides demanding guarantees for the lives and personal integrity of the members of the Bribri and Teribe communities, the IACHR ordered the government to reach agreement on the measures with the beneficiaries and their representatives, and to investigate the violent incidents.

“This is a preliminary stage that would precede an eventual trial; the IACHR issues precautionary measures while it decides whether the case has merits to be taken to the Inter-American Court,” Professor Rubén Chacón, a lawyer who is an expert on indigenous law at the University of Costa Rica, explained to IPS.

According to Chacón, either the resolution will have a real impact on domestic policies, or the status quo will remain unchanged, and “if the Court asks, the state will respond that the country has an efficient judicial system.”

In his view, the violence against indigenous people has waned, but the authorities are failing to take advantage of this period of relative calm to tackle the roots of the problem.

However Chacón, who represents Sergio Rojas, one of the leaders of the indigenous peoples’ effort to recover their ancestral territory, acknowledged that things have changed. “If it weren’t for the willingness that the government is currently showing to some extent, the threats would be worse now than they were two years ago,” said Chacón.

The IACHR precautionary measures have come on top of international calls for a solution to the violence plaguing the indigenous people in Salitre, Térraba and other communities in Costa Rica, where 2.6 percent of the population of 4.5 million are indigenous people.

During a July 2014 visit to the country, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met with 36 leaders of different indigenous peoples, who described the hardships they suffer due to the authorities’ failure to enforce the laws that protect them and to take a hand in the matter.

In March 2012, then U.N. special rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya visited the country, and Térraba in particular, drawing attention to the violence against Costa Rica’s indigenous communities.

According to Chacón, the visit played a crucial role because “in his report, Anaya outlined the extent of the confrontation between indigenous and non-indigenous people and the threats” in Térraba and Salitre.

The government of Luis Guillermo Solís has taken up the challenge of solving the conflict over land in Salitre and assigned the president’s deputy minister of political affairs, Ana Gabriel Zúñiga, as an intermediary in the conflict in Salitre.

Zúñiga told IPS that the government sees the IACHR’s precautionary measures as an endorsement of the work done since Solis took office in May 2014, which has included the launch of talks with the indigenous communities in the south of the country.

“They pointed out the positive things we have been working on,” said the deputy minister, who added that “the conflict has dragged on because the integral solution required is structural and has to counteract 30 years of institutional inertia.”

Although the IACHR specifically mentioned the violent incidents of the second half of 2014, Zuñiga argued that they were the result of a long-seated problem that cannot be solved in a few months.

“The conflict that broke out in July is due to a historical problem that has not been resolved. When we assess the situation, the most serious events occurred in 2012, like the branding with a hot iron rod,” she said.

The roughly 100,000 indigenous people in Costa Rica belong to the Bruca, Ngäbe, Brirbi, Cabécar, Maleku, Chorotega, Térraba and Teribe ethnic groups, according to the 2011 census, living in 24 indigenous territories scattered around the country, covering a total of nearly 350,000 hectares – around seven percent of the national territory.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: A Development Fairytale or a Global Land Rush?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-a-development-fairytale-or-a-global-land-rush/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-a-development-fairytale-or-a-global-land-rush http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-a-development-fairytale-or-a-global-land-rush/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 07:08:51 +0000 Karine Jacquemart and Anuradha Mittal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140527

In this column, Karine Jacquemart, Forest Project Leader for Africa at Greenpeace International, and Anuradha Mittal Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, argue that the land rush unleashed around the world to own and exploit Earth’s natural bounty is not only fierce and unfair, but increasingly fatal, with lands, homes and forests bulldozed and cleared for foreign investors and livelihoods shattered.

By Karine Jacquemart and Anuradha Mittal
PARIS/OAKLAND, California, May 11 2015 (IPS)

In our work at Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute around access and control over natural resources, we face constant accusations of being anti-development or “Northern NGOs who care more for the trees”, despite working with communities around the world, from Cameroon, to China, to the Czech Republic.

Karine Jacquemart

This name calling, aimed at discrediting struggles for land, water, and other natural resources in the Third World countries, hides an ugly truth.  The land rush unleashed around the world to own and exploit Earth’s natural bounty is not only fierce and unfair, but increasingly fatal.

Recent reports, including a Global Witness report titled ‘How many more?’ released in April 2015, document the increase in the assassinations of land and environmental activists globally – a shocking average of over two a week in 2014.

As individuals and groups in the frontline of struggles face intimidation, arrests, disappearances, and even death, it is an ethical imperative to support the struggles of the grassroots land defenders against corporations and governments. This is what unites organisations like Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute.

Over the last decade, an estimated 200 million hectares – an area five times bigger than California – has been leased or purchased throughout the world, through completely opaque deals in most cases.

Natural resources in Africa are some of the most sought after, hence the fact that Africa experiences more than 70 percent of the reported land deals.

Anuradha Mittal

Anuradha Mittal

Multinational companies with assistance from powerful partners – the World Bank Group and G8 “donor” countries – are moving in, chanting their “development” formula: facilitate foreign investment through large-scale land acquisitions and mega-projects to ensure economic growth which will trickle down to translate into development for all.

Our work reveals a very different and worrying reality on the ground. Local communities and indigenous peoples report lack of consultation; their lands, homes and forests bulldozed and cleared for foreign investors; their livelihoods shattered.

As one villager in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said, “I want to remain a farmer on my land, not a daily worker depending on a foreign company”, or in the words of a Bodi chief in Ethiopia, “I don’t want to leave my land. If they try and force us, there will be war. So I will be here in my village either alive on the land or dead below it.”

They, and countless more, are victims of the theft of natural resources, made invisible and voiceless by those who define what development looks like.“As individuals and groups in the frontline of struggles face intimidation, arrests, disappearances, and even death, it is an ethical imperative to support the struggles of the grassroots land defenders against corporations and governments”

As if destruction of lives and livelihoods were not enough, those who resist are harassed, even face violence, by governments and private companies.

A planned palm oil plantation by the U.S.-based Herakles Farms in Cameroon threatens to evict thousands of people off their land and destroy part of the world’s second largest rain forest.

The company’s former CEO, responding to criticism of the project, said in an open letter: “My goal is to present HF for what it is – a modestly-sized commercial  oil  palm  project  designed  to  provide employment and  social  development and improve  the  level  of  food  security, while incorporating industry best practices.”

What he failed to mention is how a Cameroonian activist, Nasako Besingi, who heads a local NGO, The Struggle to Economize the Future Environment (SEFE), learnt first-hand the consequences of opposing the project. Arrested in 2012 for planning a peaceful demonstration in Mundemba, Nasako and two of his colleagues languished in a jail for several days.

Soon after his release, while touring the area with a French television crew, he was ambushed and assaulted by men he recognised as employees of Herakles Farms. Instead of protection from this violence, Nasako and SEFE face legal battles, including one of the favorite corporate tactics – a defamation lawsuit, intended to intimidate him and the others who oppose.

Privatisation of land and theft of natural resources will be irreversible and will put people, forest, ecosystems and the climate at risk, if it goes unchecked. The time is now to choose a development path that prioritises people and the planet over profits for the rich. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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‘Je Suis Favela’ – Bringing Brazilian Books to the Frenchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/je-suis-favela-bringing-brazilian-books-to-the-french-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=je-suis-favela-bringing-brazilian-books-to-the-french-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/je-suis-favela-bringing-brazilian-books-to-the-french-2/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 09:19:50 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140519 By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 9 2015 (IPS)

Long before the attack in Paris that inspired the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”, a young French publisher had released a collection of stories titled je suis favela about life in Brazilian slums.

In an ironic twist of history, sales of the collection have taken off since Jan. 7, when gunmen targeted the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 people dead.

French publisher Paula Anacaona

French publisher Paula Anacaona

Some readers apparently thought the je suis favela stories were an attempt to shed light on the situation of marginalised communities in France, but instead they learned about marginalised populations in South America, where similar forces of exclusion may push young people into crime.

“We can all learn from what is happening elsewhere in the world, because we’re all affected by similar social and economic issues,” says Paula Anacaona, the publisher of je suis favela and founder of Éditions Anacaona, whose mission is to publish Brazilian books in France.

Educated as a translator of technical texts, Paris-born Anacaona, 37, became a literary translator and publisher by chance. On holiday in Rio de Janeiro in 2003, she happened to start chatting with a woman who revealed she was a writer and who promised to send her a book.

Back in Paris, Anacaona received the book two months later and “loved it”, as she told IPS in an interview. She translated the work, written by Heloneida Studart and later called Le Cantique de Meméia, and managed to get a Canadian company to publish it.“To understand the favela, you have to understand the grandparents who came to the cities from rural areas, often with nothing and unable to read or write” – Paula Anacaona, founder of Éditions Anacaona

Studart, who died in 2007, was also an essayist, journalist and women’s rights activist, and the book caught the attention of French-speaking readers in several countries.

Other writers got in touch, and Anacaona found herself becoming a literary translator. But by sending out the works to publishing companies, she was also taking on the role of agent, a time-consuming task.

“With all that was involved, I thought why not publish the books myself?” she recalls. She set up Éditions Anacaona in 2009 and decided to focus initially on literature from and about the ghetto or favela in Brazil, because “no one else was doing it.”

The first published book under her imprint was le Manuel pratique de la haine (Practical Handbook of Hate), a very violent and dark work set in the favela and launched in 2009.

Two years later came je suis favela, published in 2011. Anacaona selected the writers for the collection, choosing authors from both the favela and the “middle class” and translating the works written in Portuguese into French.

Her motivation, she says, was to try to change perceptions of those considered to be living on the fringes of society. The cover of je suis favela features a young black woman sitting on a balcony and doing paperwork, possibly homework, with the city in the background.

“As you can see, she’s not dancing, so this isn’t about stereotypes,” Anacaona says.

Cover of ‘je suis favela’

Cover of ‘je suis favela’

The book has since been published in Brazil, with the title Eu sou favela, giving Anacaona a certain sense of accomplishment. “In Rio, twenty percent of the population lives in the favela, so the book is relevant to many readers,” she says.

In France, where there has been national soul-searching since the Charlie Hebdo attacks – with Prime Minister Manuel Valls calling the social exclusion of certain groups a form of “apartheid” – the book provides insights into the reasons and consequences of marginalisation, albeit from a distance of 8,620 kilometres.

“French readers have responded to the book because people really are trying to understand the space we all share and the reasons for radicalisation,” says Anacaona.

Now representing more than 15 authors, she has widened her company’s scope to include “regionalist” authors such as the late Rachel de Queiroz and José Lins do Rego, from the northeast of Brazil, who wrote about characters outside urban settings.

“To understand the favela, you have to understand the grandparents who came to the cities from rural areas, often with nothing and unable to read or write,” Anacaona says.

Her company’s contemporary writers include the award-winning Tatiana Salem Lévy, named one of Granta’s Best Young Brazilian Novelists, and the stand-out Ana Paula Maia, who began her career with “short pulp fiction” on the Internet and now has numerous fans.

Both writers were part of the contingent of 48 Brazilian authors invited to this year’s Paris Book Fair, which took place from Mar. 20 to 23.

Billed as “un pays plein de voix” (a country full of voice), Brazil was the guest of honour, and the writers discussed topics ranging from the depiction of urban violence to dealing with memory and displacement. Anacaona had a central role as a publisher of Brazilian books, with her stand attracting many readers.

Brazilian writer Ana Paula Maia. Credit: Marcelo  Correa

Brazilian writer Ana Paula Maia. Credit: Marcelo Correa

She has translated and published two titles by Maia – Du bétail et des hommes (Of Cattle and Men) and Charbon animal (Animal Coal) – which focus on characters not normally present in literature. Maia writes about a slaughterhouse employee and a worker at a crematorium, for instance, in an unsentimental manner with minimal dialogue and almost no adjectives.

“She really can’t be categorised,” says Anacaona, who adds that despite Maia’s fashion-model appearance, the writer identifies with those living on the margins because she grew up among people who did not fit into the mainstream.

Both publisher and writer bear a resemblance and even have a name in common, and Anacaona acknowledges that she is attracted to Brazil and its literature because of her own mixed background – her French mother is white and her South American father is of African descent.

“In Brazil, it’s possible to be both black and white, and that’s something that is important to me,” she says.

As for the books, she has recently published a boxed set of 14 Brazilian plays, with the translation sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, in an attempt to make Brazilian theatre more known in France.

There is also a second favela collection, titled je suis toujours favela (I am still favela), that includes literature as well as journalistic and sociological articles about the slums.

Between the first and second collections, Anacaona says she has found that the “favela has changed so much”, which she credits to the impact of policies to diminish inequality, launched by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva  – perhaps a lesson for France and other countries.

Edited by Phil Harris 

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Police Killings Challenge U.S. “Exceptionalism”http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/police-killings-challenge-u-s-exceptionalism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=police-killings-challenge-u-s-exceptionalism http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/police-killings-challenge-u-s-exceptionalism/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 16:42:10 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140478 Washington DC, the evening of April 29. 2015. Activists and supporters affiliated with the #DCFerguson movement gathered in Chinatown for a march in solidarity with the Baltimore protests of the cop killing of African-American youth Freddie Gray. The DC event involved over a thousand marchers by the time it wound up in front of the White House. Credit: Stephen Melkisethian/cc by 2.0

Washington DC, the evening of April 29. 2015. Activists and supporters affiliated with the #DCFerguson movement gathered in Chinatown for a march in solidarity with the Baltimore protests of the cop killing of African-American youth Freddie Gray. The DC event involved over a thousand marchers by the time it wound up in front of the White House. Credit: Stephen Melkisethian/cc by 2.0

By Kitty Stapp
UNITED NATIONS, May 6 2015 (IPS)

Since being roundly chastised last fall by the U.N. Committee Against Torture for excessive use of force by its law enforcement agencies, the United States hasn’t exactly managed to repair its international reputation.

Fatal beatings and shootings of African American and Latino citizens, mainly men, by the police have continued seemingly unabated, with the latest being the widely publicised case of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, died Apr. 19 of spinal cord injuries in what has been ruled a homicide after being arrested for allegedly carrying an illegal pocket knife. Six officers have since been charged in his murder."As the U.S. claims a human rights mantle and criticises others for racism, it becomes the world’s greatest hypocrite." -- Michael Ratner

The wave of cases – many caught on camera and shared via social media – have sparked a nationwide protest campaign grouped under the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.

On Nov. 28, a year after the Committee’s damning report, the U.S. must provide information on what it has done to follow up on its recommendations, which included prompt investigation and prosecution of police brutality cases and providing effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims.

“The best way to begin to bring this racism and particular police murders to an end is by what we are seeing today: massive and militant demonstrations everywhere and shutting cities down,” Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, told IPS. “We are in a special moment that rarely occurs in this country; people are mobilised and in the streets. That is the key. Our cities cannot be governed without the consent of the governed.

“But of course there are other important elements as well. The platform the U.N. CAT offered for Blacks particularly to speak out was important, very important. It gave Michael Brown’s family an opportunity to be heard around the world as it did others. The conclusions of the committee were powerful and while the United States tried to ignore them, the world would not. The report gives international legitimacy to the protests we are seeing every day.”

Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager who was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury refused to indict in his Aug. 9, 2014 death.

Brown’s parents testified before the U.N. committee in Geneva last year, and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cited the case in condemning “institutionalised discrimination in the U.S.”

“The CAT report put pressure on the U.S. to do something and while its response was inadequate, the report’s findings can be seen as the beginning of the end for the belief both in the U.S. and abroad that the U.S. is a just society toward Blacks,” Ratner said.

“As the U.S. claims a human rights mantle and criticises others for racism, it becomes the world’s greatest hypocrite. Yes, the U.S. is the most powerful country and can ignore the U.N., but ultimately by doing so, it will be ignored.”

Ratner cited a previous instance that demonstrates how important the U.N. can be in this regard. In 1951, “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People” was submitted to the U.N. by the Civil Rights Congress and detailed the horrendous situation faced by American Blacks.

“It received huge international press. The U.S. realized that it could not call itself a democracy and claim it was better than Communist countries if racism was so embedded in its society. Three years later the Supreme Court ended school desegregation.

“While the report was not the only reason for that change, the point is that the U.N. and particularly the recent CAT committee report has pointed to serious defects in U.S. democracy and human rights. It’s hard after this report, although surely the U.S. will try, to criticise other countries’ human rights and not simply be laughed at.”

Because the U.S. is a state party to the Convention against Torture, it is regularly examined by the CAT committee. Its next report is due in November 2018, after which the date for the next review will be set. In general, these reviews happen every four or five years.

Alba Morales, a researcher for the U.S. Programme at Human Rights Watch, agrees that advocates have been able to use the international attention brought by these reports to strengthen their local work.

“Take the John Burge torture cases in Chicago, for example,” she told IPS. “Burge was a Chicago police officer commander who oversaw the torture hundreds of arrestees in that city. Chicago advocates worked for decades to obtain accountability for those acts of torture by police, and appeared before the U.N. Committee Against Torture in 2006.

“It was only after the U.N. Committee called for accountability in that case that the U.S. government took action, eventually indicting and convicting Burge of obstruction of justice. While this was the result of many years of local advocacy, the spotlight that the U.N. report shone on these cases also contributed to the outcome.”

Morales said that the United Nations can continue to welcome the voices of those directly affected by human rights violations everywhere, including in the U.S.

“The families of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis attended the last meeting of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Their testimony powerfully illustrated the racial discrimination that persists in the U.S. While none of these U.N. committees can enforce any judgements against the U.S. or any other country, having an international platform amplifies the voices of those who are working incredibly hard to improve the human rights situation in the U.S.”

Ratner noted that U.S. racial discrimination, backed by state violence, has a lengthy and deeply rooted history that dates back hundreds of years.

“Ending the police murders and brutal treatment of Black people in the United States is no easy task,” he said. “Many whites, particularly in law enforcement, are racist to the core. It is a racism that has a history since the early days of slavery and it is a racism that continues in many aspects of Black people’s lives.

“Once it was called slavery, then Jim Crow, then slavery by another name, then the new Jim Crow. Yet we all know this unequal and brutal treatment of Black people must end.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Israel Slammed Over Treatment of Palestinian Children in Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/israel-slammed-over-treatment-of-palestinian-children-in-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=israel-slammed-over-treatment-of-palestinian-children-in-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/israel-slammed-over-treatment-of-palestinian-children-in-detention/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 08:15:29 +0000 Mel Frykberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140450 Palestinian children, no matter how young, are often victims of mistreatment in Israeli police and military detention facilities. Photo credit: UNICEF/El Baba

Palestinian children, no matter how young, are often victims of mistreatment in Israeli police and military detention facilities. Photo credit: UNICEF/El Baba

By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, West Bank, May 5 2015 (IPS)

Palestine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, has sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council demanding that action be taken against Israel over the abuse of Palestinian children after they have been arrested by Israeli security forces.

“Every single day and in countless ways, Palestinian children are victims of Israeli human rights violations, with no child considered too young to be spared the oppression being meted out by the Israeli occupying forces and extremist settlers,”  wrote Mansour. “These crimes committed against our children are intolerable and unacceptable.”

"Every single day and in countless ways, Palestinian children are victims of Israeli human rights violations, with no child considered too young to be spared the oppression being meted out by the Israeli occupying forces and extremist settlers” – Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s ambassador to the United Nations
The letter, sent on May 1, followed the detention of a nine-year-old boy, Ahmad Zaatari from Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem, who had been detained on the night of Apr. 28 for approximately eight hours by Israel police after they alleged that he and his brother, 12-year-old Muhammad Zaatari, had thrown stones at an Israeli bus.

Allegations of the mistreatment of Palestinian children while in Israeli police and military detention facilities in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are not new.

“The ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process,” said the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a 2013 report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention, which recommended that 38 changes be made after consulting with Israeli authorities.

However, in February 2015, UNICEF released an update reviewing progress made in implementing the report’s 38 recommendations during the intervening period, which found that “reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014.”

In an April 2015 report on ‘Children in Israeli Military Detention’, rights group Military Court Watch (MCW), which monitors the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, said that “at least 87 percent of UNICEF’s recommendations lack effective implementation and the ill treatment of children who come in contact with this system still remains ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalised’.”

Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP), a Palestinian human rights organisation specifically focused on child rights has been reported as saying that “Palestinian children are treated as mercilessly as adults. Most troubling are brutal beatings, other forms of torture and prolonged isolation in solitary confinement.”

According to DCIP, unlike Jews, Palestinian parents cannot accompany their children when interrogated, and there are cases of children even younger than 12 arriving at interrogation centres shackled, blindfolded and sleep-deprived.

Most experience physical abuse amounting to torture before, during and after interrogation, and “almost all children confess regardless of guilt to stop further abuse,” said DCIP, adding that the children are often forced to sign confessions in Hebrew which they cannot read or understand.

“Similarities in the situation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank exist because of the inevitable tensions that arise due to the prolonged military occupation,” Gerard Horton from MCW told IPS.

“You can tinker with the system as much as you like but unless the underlying causes are addressed the situation will remain the same.

“Most Palestinian children are arrested near Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. If you insert 500,000 settlers into occupied territory and the security forces’ job is to protect them, this inevitably results in the local population being terrorised,” added Horton.

Meanwhile, Israel was harshly criticised in a report of the board of inquiry regarding incidents during last year’s Gaza war released by U.N. Secretary General Bank Ki-moon on Apr. 27.

The board of inquiry concluded that Israel was responsible for the death of 44 Palestinians, and the injuring of 227 others, when they carried out seven attacks on six U.N. sites in Gaza where Palestinian civilians were sheltering.

Ban condemned the shelling attacks with “the utmost gravity” and said that “those who looked to them [U.N. shelters] for protection and who sought and were granted shelter there had their hopes and trust denied.”

According to Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the United Nations provided the Israelis with the exact locations of the U.N. facilities where the civilians were sheltering.

“The U.N. inquiry found that despite numerous notifications to the Israeli army of the precise GPS coordinates of the schools and numerous notifications about the presence of displaced people, in all seven cases investigated by the Board of Inquiry when our schools were hit directly or in the immediate vicinity, the hit was attributable to the IDF [Israel Defence Forces],” said Gunness.

However, the U.N. Secretary General also criticised Palestinian groups for putting some of the U.N. schools at risk by hiding weapons in some of them.

“I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms. However, the three schools at which weaponry was found were empty at the time and were not being used as shelters,” said Ban.

Israeli diplomats put pressure on the United Nations not to release its findings into the war until the Israeli authorities had conducted their own investigation into alleged human rights violations. In September last year, Israel opened investigations into five criminal cases, including looting.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed during the Gaza conflict. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed by rockets and attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Close to a Thousand Nigerian Girls Freed, Many Malnourished or Pregnanthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/close-to-a-thousand-nigerian-girls-freed-many-malnourished-or-pregnant/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=close-to-a-thousand-nigerian-girls-freed-many-malnourished-or-pregnant http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/close-to-a-thousand-nigerian-girls-freed-many-malnourished-or-pregnant/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 23:50:33 +0000 Lisa Vives http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140449 By Lisa Vives
NEW YORK, May 4 2015 (IPS)

Boko Haram, fleeing to a new hideout, has abandoned hundreds of women and girls in the Sambisa forest where the high school girls from Chibok were initially taken over one year ago. It is not certain, however, that the freed girls and women were part of the 200 plus kidnapped victims of Boko Haram, officials say.

Over the past few weeks, Nigerian troops claim to have rescued about 1,000 women and girls. “Many of them told us that they have been hungry for days,” said Sani Datti, spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.

However, kidnapping is still advancing and at least 2,000 new women and girls have been taken by the militants, according to Amnesty International.

Less mentioned are the boys seized and forced to become child soldiers. As many boys have been kidnapped as girls but the military hasn’t reported freeing boys in any significant number.

Boko Haram may have abandoned the girls but continues to occupy territory beyond Nigeria. A video released last month announced a new name (Iswap) for Islamic State’s West Africa Province and a pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

“It would be naive on the part of Nigeria’s authorities to think it is on the brink of victory,” wrote Tomi Oladipo for BBC Lagos. Sambisa forest is mine-infested and it is likely the Iswap fighters know this terrain better than the military does, he wrote. “The Nigerian military is likely to face its toughest battle yet,” he affirmed.

The head of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin, discussed the rehabilitation of the rescued women and children. He said his organisation had put in place a formidable team to restore the dignity of the girls, who were facing severe psychosocial trauma.

Interviews with some of the rescued girls appeared on the BBC website. According to the former hostages, Boko Haram fighters began pelting the women with stones when they refused to flee with their captors. Some were killed in that incident, the women said. Others were killed inadvertently by the military during the rescue operation.

“Soldiers did not realize that we were not the enemies,” and some women were run over by their trucks,” survivor Asama Umoru told the news station.

“Every day, we witnessed the death of one of us and waited for our turn,” said Asabe Umaru, a 24-year-old mother of two.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Video of Police Beating Black Soldier Sparks Protests by Israel’s Ethiopian Jewshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/video-of-police-beating-black-soldier-sparks-protests-by-israels-ethiopian-jews/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=video-of-police-beating-black-soldier-sparks-protests-by-israels-ethiopian-jews http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/video-of-police-beating-black-soldier-sparks-protests-by-israels-ethiopian-jews/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 23:46:14 +0000 Lisa Vives http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140447 Hundreds protest police brutality in Jerusalem, April 30, 2015 Credit: Screen capture/Facebook

Hundreds protest police brutality in Jerusalem, April 30, 2015 Credit: Screen capture/Facebook

By Lisa Vives
NEW YORK, May 4 2015 (IPS)

A video that caught an Israeli police officer and a volunteer shoving and punching a black soldier in uniform outraged members of the Ethiopian Jewish community and set off a clash Sunday between Ethiopian Jews and police in central Tel Aviv.

Thousands took part in the Sunday protest over the incident, including many non-Ethiopian Israelis. Police met the crowd, which froze traffic along a major highway, with water cannons and tear gas.

Some 13 people were injured and two policemen were reportedly suspended on suspicion of using excessive force.

From the video, caught by a security camera, the soldier, Damas Pakada, a member of the Israeli Defense Force, appears to be pushing a bicycle. Two officers approach him and after a brief interaction, attack him, push him to the ground, punch him, and appear to put him in a headlock. The officers look to weigh about twice Pakada’s slim size.

Pakada was initially accused of attacking the officer and arrested, only to be released once the surveillance video of the attack was uploaded to social media.

Fentahun Assefa- Dawit, executive director of Tebeka – Advocacy for Equality and Justice for Ethiopian Israelis, says that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but not an isolated incident.

The only thing unique about this incident, he said, is that it was caught on film. Young Ethiopian Israelis being attacked by police and then falsely accused of crimes is an all-too common scenario, he said.

“You can imagine, if there were no footage, what would have happened to this soldier?” asks Assefa-Dawit rhetorically. Pakada would have been put in jail with a record for assaulting a police officer following him around for the rest of his life.

The clashes reflected widespread frustration in the Ethiopian community which, three decades after it first arrived in Israel, has become an underclass plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment.

“Anyone who attended the protest yesterday experienced at one point in their life humiliation based on nothing but skin color,” said Mehereta Baruch-Ron, a Tel Aviv deputy mayor of Ethiopian descent. ‘We have had enough. It is time to do something.’

Shlomo Molla, a former lawmaker of Ethiopian origin, said his generation failed to make a change and that hope lies with the younger generation who were born in Israel and are less intimidated by the establishment.

“We should stop enlisting in the army, not join the police, and stop paying taxes, because if the state doesn’t take its citizens into account, the citizens are also permitted not to take the state into account.’

Children of the older generation of Ethiopian Jews speak fluent Hebrew, study in universities and serve in the army alongside native Israelis. But despite such gains, the younger generation is still struggling compared to other Israelis.

As the video of the beating went viral, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set up a meeting with the young soldier. “I was shocked by the pictures,” he told Pakada.” We cannot accept it, we will change things.”

“Maybe good things will come out of this difficult situation.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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