Inter Press ServiceCrime & Justice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 17 Oct 2018 15:43:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Sex Offender Registry is Not Enough to Curb Sexual Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:48:52 +0000 Elsa DSilva and Quratulain Fatima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158180 India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database […]

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Elsa D'Silva and Quratulain Fatima
Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database and accessible to law enforcement.

The creation of the registry is hailed by many as a welcome move in India, where violence against women and girls is pandemic. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Survey stated that India is the most dangerous country in the world with regards to sexual violence. From the start of this year, there has been a series of gang rapes of little girls ranging from babies to teenagers in all parts of the country –  NorthSouth, WestNorthEast and Central India

Neighbouring country Pakistan does not have a sex offender registry but is equally bad when it comes to violence against women and sex offences. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in Pakistan an incident of rape occurs every two hours and 70 percent of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime by their intimate partners and 93 percent women experience some form of sexual violence in public places in their lifetime.

Measures to prevent sex offenses are needed in both countries and each country can learn from each other’s successful prevention programs. However, only workable solutions should be replicated, and a sex offender registry is not one.

Evidence suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant

Sex offender registries exist in many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the Republic of Ireland. Sexual violence is a problem in each of those countries, too, but studies have shown that sex offender registries have little or no effect on crime prevention or recidivism. Furthermore, evidence from these countries suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant.

Further, we think making the details public, which is how it works in the United States and is what some people in India want, is dangerous as it would further increase the risk for women and girls rather than protect them. Though the government has assured that the registry would have multiple layers of security, there are doubts that the names and identities of the victims would be revealed. The Indian authorities are planning to link the details of the perpetrators to the Aadhar database which has biometric information of the person. Reports have indicated that the Aadhar database is itself not secure and for as little as $8 one can access personal information of people.

Moreover, Googling and knowing that a sex offender lives next door does not ensure that you can google your way to safety since safety from sex offences entail more than sex offender registration laws and a registry. Research shows that most sex offenders are relatives or people known to their victims but systems that put in place sex offender registry assume that sex offenders are strangers.

Many sex offenders are not even reported – particularly in South Asia due to the cultural stigma, faulty police procedures and lengthy court cases – and they aren’t included on any registration/notification system.

Instead of implementing a sex offender registry and seeing that as a solution, more efforts should focus on addressing the underlying issues, like patriarchy and improving the effectiveness of the justice system. Specifically, we recommend the governments of India and Pakistan concentrate on the following measures:

  • Sex education in school curriculum to educate people about sex offences and teach them ways to have responsible, healthy and consensual relationships.
  • Advocacy efforts to break down social taboos around this topic and make it easier to discuss and have a dialogue in the family and community about sex offences.
  • Allocation of public resources toward the rehabilitation of sex offenders with a high risk of repeating their crimes. Research suggests that psychological treatment and cognitive behavioural treatment can reduce recidivism amongst sex offenders.
  • Including women in all policy formulation, including the passage of any relevant laws. They are the stakeholders most at risk of sexual violence and they are in a better position to provide guidelines for policies aiming to stop sex offences.
  • Training police officers to be sensitive to the needs of victim and knowledgeable about the relevant laws so they can be a resource to individuals who want to report crimes. For example, Sweden has a high reporting of sexual violence because the creation of a strong eco-system, a feminist mindset and sensitive police have made it easier to break the silence.
  • Ensuring quick and swift punishment for convicted sex offenses. Long court cases in the face of lingering social stigma puts many victims off reporting sex offences. Policy makers must take a hands-on approach to swiftly dispense justice in sex offences.

Elsa D’Silva is the Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and works on women’s rights issues in India. She is a 2018 Yale World Fellow and a 2015 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow  her on Twitter, @elsamariedsilva. 

Quratulain Fatima is a policy practitioner working extensively in rural and conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan with a focus on gender inclusive development and conflict prevention. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter, @moodee_q.

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The Growing Need for Democracy in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/growing-need-democracy-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-need-democracy-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/growing-need-democracy-africa/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 11:19:01 +0000 Rev Gabriel Odima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157938 Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

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Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

By Rev. Gabriel Odima
MINNESOTA, USA, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Many scholars argue that democracy is not the answer to Africa’s problems. To certain degree, I agree with such statements that democracy alone cannot guarantee African nations’ happiness, prosperity, health, peace and stability. In fact, modern democracies also suffer greatly from many defects.

Uganda Police Force manhandle a journalist covering a demonstration in Kampala, Uganda. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

But in spite of the flaws, we must never lose sight of the benefits that make democracy more desirable than undemocratic regimes. The direct benefit of democracy is that it helps to prevent government from violating the rights of their people like the case of Uganda.

After observing the political development in Uganda for the last 33 years, I have come to the conclusion that human rights abuses, the lack of political freedom, corruption, poor leadership, greed and thirsty for power are the leading pillars of President Museveni ‘s rule in Uganda.

On becoming President in 1986, Museveni confirmed the massacres and the decapitations dramatically in two ways. The first was the exhibition of the male child soldiers. Museveni claimed that these soldiers found the children abandoned in villages and adopted them. The lie could not hide how only male children who were made child soldiers were found in villages allegedly abandoned by their inhabitants.

The second mocking order by Museveni that the remains of the dead be collected and exhibited on roadsides. In the collection, Museveni’s soldiers took journalists to scattered graves where only skulls were unearthed.

No one who had not participated in the burial of these skulls could have known of the sites of the graves. Despite this glaring evidence, the propaganda was that all the remains and skulls were of civilians killed by government troops of the late former President Milton Obote.

The message of the propaganda war that there had been no war in Luwero lunched by Museveni, in which his and government combatants died and were buried in Luwero, and that his army never killed anybody during that war and none of his men were killed or even died of other causes and was buried in Luwero.

This insult to human intelligence, knowledge and experience of war, any war, is still being preached 35 years later. The devastating war which Uganda’s present regime launched in February 1981 was not inevitable nor was it necessary. What many people in Uganda and the International community did not realize is that this kind of war was launched with one objective: to remove from Africa’s body politic the power of the citizen’s freedom of assembly and association.

This removal creates conflicts and suffering to millions of Africans whose lives are under constant fear. From Uganda, the same war spread to Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

By turning a blind eye not only to the deepening of dictatorship in Uganda, to the extent of even rejecting its very existence but also by ignoring the very extensive gruesome and widespread massacres and devastation committed in the process, governments, media, and human rights organizations in developed countries have cleansed, rewarded, and licensed Museveni to entrench the dictatorship in Uganda.

The International community should emphasize respect of territorial integrity of each nation. No country in Africa should have the power to invade another country for selfish interests. A civilized nation cannot engage in political assassinations and massive human rights violations.

The international community needs to come to terms with reality and help address the crucial crisis facing Uganda today.

1. The International community should encourage President Museveni to step down at the end of his current term in office.

2. Open up political space and call for Uganda national conference to deliberate on the political future of Uganda.

3. Formation of a transitional government to review the current constitution of Uganda and prepare for free and fair elections in Uganda.

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Excerpt:

Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim: Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence remains a source of guidance for bringing peace to the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-gandhis-philosophy-non-violence-remains-source-guidance-bringing-peace-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-gandhis-philosophy-non-violence-remains-source-guidance-bringing-peace-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-gandhis-philosophy-non-violence-remains-source-guidance-bringing-peace-arab-region/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 07:21:37 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157918 The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, HE Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, praised Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence in expressing concern about the current rise of extremist violence. Dr. Al Qassim made this statement to honour the legacy of the great Statesman of the Global South that […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Oct 2 2018 (Geneva Centre)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, HE Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, praised Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence in expressing concern about the current rise of extremist violence. Dr. Al Qassim made this statement to honour the legacy of the great Statesman of the Global South that is observed annually on 2 October on the occasion of the International Day of Non-Violence.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In the context of the Arab region, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman deplored in particular the rise of violence in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Palestine owing to extremist violence and foreign interventions. He said that the proliferation of crisis and conflict have the potential to divide religious and ethnic groups in multicultural societies fostering hate, intolerance and animosity between religions and denominations. With more than 10 million people forcibly displaced from their home societies, the Arab region is witnessing one of the world’s worst humanitarian calamities, he remarked.

To address these ominous trends, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman recalled that non-violence and lasting peace are key to secure the long-term stability of the Arab region. Dr. Al Qassim noted that military victory over extremist violence in the Arab region will only bring a “short-term solution as building lasting and sustainable peace requires addressing inter alia the root-causes of conflict, injustice, inequality, poverty and lack of social development.”

He therefore stated that societies in the Arab region gripped by violence must seek reconciliation, dialogue, respect for human rights and non-violence. “We must foster dialogue, strengthen empowerment, scale-up faith engagement involving religious leaders, enhance religious teaching, and include mediation and peace building in addressing intolerance and the rise of violence,” said Dr. Al Qassim.

In this connection, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi who said that “Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” He therefore asserted that the commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence is a timely opportunity for world society to commemorate the non-violent ideology of a world Statesman who believed in promoting peace and justice through acts of kindness and compassion. “Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence Satyagraha remains a source of guidance for bringing peace to the Arab region,” Dr. Al Qassim concluded.

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Entrepreneurial about Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurial-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:00:41 +0000 Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157901 Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

By Hong Joo Hahm
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific needs more women entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality depend on it, as does the inclusive economic growth needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This drives a new initiative by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, generously supported by Global Affairs Canada, focused on improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance in our region.

Hong Joo Hahm

Establishing a business can be life-changing. Particularly for women in developing countries where it’s a passport to financial independence: a means of breaking out of poverty. More women in employment gives families financial security. It helps guarantee children a good diet, a solid education and reliable healthcare. And because women employ other women and spend more on their families, women entrepreneurs create more inclusive economies and prosperous communities. Potential GDP gains from gender equality in the workplace are enormous, up to 50 percent in parts of South Asia.

But for all this potential, businesswomen face considerable obstacles in Asia and the Pacific. Representation on company boards is lower than in any other region and women CEOs are precious few. Gender bias runs through inheritance, labour and social security laws. Many women work in the informal economy with no social protection and societal prejudice frustrates women’s entrepreneurial potential. Across Asia, women give up to six hours of unpaid care work a day: thwarting educational attainment and career prospects.

For women wanting to start or expand a business, access to finance is key. 70 percent of women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Women struggle to borrow in a region where land is required as collateral but where very few are landowners. So women-owned enterprises are consistently smaller and concentrated in less profitable sectors.

To overcome these challenges, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is launching a new initiative with generous financial support from Global Affairs Canada. Its goal: to support financing for women entrepreneurs and innovators, improve their access to information and communication technology (ICT), and create a policy environment in which their businesses can flourish. It will give twenty thousand women entrepreneurs greater access to ICT and finance.

ICT and innovative financing lie at the heart of the initiative. We want to support businesswomen mainstream ICT across business operations; to make their financial management more robust and their outlook more responsive to new technologies. We plan to launch “women bonds” for women entrepreneurs, channeling private sector investment from developed markets to support gender equality in the developing world. We will work with impact investment funds to target women-led investments. And encourage financial technology (fintech) solutions through advice on regulatory frameworks, training to help women access fintech services and new credit lines to support innovators.

Deeper gender analysis of the MSME sector will complement these activities. To inform policies which strengthen women’s rights and access to justice; reforms which update inheritance and property regimes; and legislation which stops credit being extended according to gender or marital status. For such a broad challenge, we will bring women entrepreneurs and policy makers together, to build a gender sensitive response across policy areas and governments.

The case for investing in women entrepreneurs is overwhelming. They are true agents of change whose innovation can lift communities, companies and countries. We are committed to improving their prospects, to unleashing women entrepreneurs’ full potential and putting gender equality squarely at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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Impunity and Harsh Laws Trouble Journalists in South Asia as Protesters March on the U.N. For Release of Bangladeshi Journalisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 14:47:57 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157847 It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, news editor from Maasranga TV, were hacked to death at their home on Feb. 11, 2012. Years later, with no […]

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A student walks by a board displaying names of freedom fighters. The New Digital Security Act 2018 makes speaking against any freedom fighter leader a punishable offence. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
HYDERBAD, Sep 28 2018 (IPS)

It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, news editor from Maasranga TV, were hacked to death at their home on Feb. 11, 2012.

Years later, with no official updates on the progress of the investigation, their families wait for justice as the fear of impunity looms large.

The atmosphere in Bangladesh’s journalism today is one of trepidation and caution.

It has witnessed a series of attacks against students and journalists in the capital city of Dhaka, followed by the passing of a cyber law that has come under scathing criticism.

The Digital Security Bill 2018, passed on Sept. 19 has been strongly criticised by journalists, who have called it a tool designed to gag the press and freedom of speech.

The draft bill had been actually introduced last year, and there had been strong demands for amending several provisions of the law. The government had publicly promised to consider the demands. However, on the advice of the law makers, the government decided to go ahead without any changes and passed it last week. 

IPS Journalists worldwide stand in solidarity for press freedom and join the Nobel Laureates and 17 eminent global citizens, and British MP Tulip Siddiq as they call for the immediate release of Shahidul Alam. IPS also calls for the release of journalists who have been detained in the course of duty across the globe, including those in the Congo, Turkey, and Myanmar.

IPS has noted with concern the increasingly repressive environment that our reporters are working in and call on governments to review their media laws and support press freedom. It is incredibly important for IPS that our reporters are safe as they do their work in holding governments and institutions to account.

One of the most worrying provisions of the law (section 43) is that it allows the police to arrest or search individuals without a warrant.

Other provisions of the law includes 14 years of imprisonment for anyone who commits any crime or assists anyone in committing crimes using a computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other electronic medium.

As expected, the new law has come under scathing criticism of the media.

“The act goes against the spirit of the Liberation War. Independent journalism will be under threat in the coming days. We thought the government would accept our [Sampadak Parishad’s] suggestions for the sake of independent journalism, freedom of expression and free thinking, but it did not,” said Naem Nizam, editor of Bengali news daily Bangladesh Pratidin, in a strongly-worded public statement.

The Editor’s Council, known as Shampadak Parishad, also was unanimous in labelling the law as a threat to press freedom and independent media in the country.

To protest against the law, the council has called all journalists and media bodies to join a human chain on Sept. 29 in Dhaka.

The legislation “would violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press, and would create extensive legal dangers for journalists in the normal course of carrying out their professional activities,” Steven Butler, the Asia programme coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a statement.

Interestingly, the new law was originally developed in response to the media’s demand for scrapping Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006—a broad law against electronic communication.

Under Section 57, intentionally posting false, provocative, indecent or sensitive information on websites or any electronic platforms that was defamatory, and can disrupt the country’s law and order situation, or hurt religious sentiments, is a punishable offence, with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and a fine of USD120,000.

It was under this section 57 that Shahidul Alam, an award-winning independent photographer, was arrested.

Alam was arrested on Aug. 5 from his home in Dhaka and has been charged with inciting violence by making provocative statements in the media. He has been held without bail since the arrest, despite repeated appeals by the media, human rights groups and the international community for his release.

IPS contacted several local journalists and academics but everyone declined to comment on the issue of Alam’s arrest. However, last month, British MP Tulip Siddiq, and the niece of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, called on her aunt to release Alam saying the situation was “deeply distressing and should end immediately”.

Protestors demanded the unconditional release of Shahidul Alam, and for charges against him, and others held in similar circumstances, to be dropped. Courtesy: Salim Hasbini

Alam’s family organised a protest in New York on Sept. 27 to coincide with prime minister Hasina’s address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The protest was endorsed by human rights groups and journalist associations, rights activist Kerry Kennedy, actress/activist Sharon Stone, and attended by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others.

At the demonstration, Columbia University professor Gayatri Spivak pointed out, “What is really important for the state is that if one silences the creative artists and intellectuals, then the conscience of the state is killed because its the role of the creatives artists and intellectuals to make constructive criticism so that the state can be a real democracy.”

According to Meenakshi Ganguly, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Bangladesh government wants to show that no one who dares criticise or challenge its actions will be spared.

“Newspaper editors face being charged with criminal defamation and sedition. Journalists and broadcasters are routinely under pressure from the authorities to restrain criticism of the government,” Ganguly said.

“As a photographer, Alam documents the truth; his work and his voice matter now more than ever,” she said. 

In Bangladesh, the media has been demanding the scrapping of Section 57, explains Afroja Shoma, an assistant professor of Media and Mass Communication at American International University of Bangladesh.

“However, the Digital Security Act left this untouched and so this new law is nothing but ‘old wine in a new bottle,’” Shoma told IPS.

“Section 57, in the past, has been misused several times. The media wanted the government to scrap this. The government then brought this whole new law [the Digital Security Bill 2018]. But it has retained the same old provisions of the section 57. As a result, the law has created an atmosphere of fear among the journalists of the country,” said Shoma.

Digital security breeding insecurity

However, digital laws are not just threatening press freedom in Bangladesh. Several countries in south Asia have had similar punitive laws passed.

India had its own “Section 57” known as the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000.

Section 66A in the act made provisions for “punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service” and included information shared via a “computer resource or a communication device” known to be “false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.”

In March 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck it down, calling it “open ended, undefined, and vague.”

However, of late, India has also seen a spate of vicious attacks on journalists. These include the murder of journalists Gauri Lankesh and Shujat Bukhari as well as online attacks on investigative journalist Rana Ayyub who authored the book Gujarat Files. No arrests have been made in any of these cases so far.

Nepal, a country not known for attacks on the press, has just passed a new law  that makes sharing confidential information an offence resulting in a prison sentence. The code criminalises recording and listening to conversations between two or more people without the consent of the persons involved, as well as disclosing private information without permission, including private information on public figures.

Under the law, a journalist could face fines of up to 30,000 rupees (USD270) and imprisonment of up to three years, according to the CPJ. The CPJ has released a statement asking the government to repeal or amend the law.

Badri Sigdel, Nepal’s National Press Union president, said in a recent press statement: “The NPU condemns the Act with provisions that restrict journalists to report, write and take photographs. Such restrictions are against the democratic norms and values; and indicate towards authoritarianism. The NPU demands immediate amendment in the unacceptable provisions of the law.”

Pakistan, which ranks 139 in the Press Freedom Index (India ranks 138, while Bangladesh and Nepal rank 146 and 106 respectively), has witnessed the killings of five journalists while working between May 1, 2017 to Apr. 1, 2018.

Also, according to a study by local media watchdog the Freedom Network there have been:

• 11 cases of attempted kidnapping or abduction,

• 39 illegal detention and arrest,

• 58 physical assault and vandalism,

• and 23 occurrences of verbal and written threats.

The country has just, however, drafted the Journalists Welfare and Protection Bill, 2017, which aims to ensure safety and protection of journalists. The draft, once adopted, will be the first in the region to provide physical protection, justice and financial assistance for all working journalists—both permanent and contractual.

 

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The Shrinking Space for Media Freedom in Ugandahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/shrinking-space-media-freedom-uganda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shrinking-space-media-freedom-uganda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/shrinking-space-media-freedom-uganda/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 18:37:38 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157825 Last month, a horrifying video circulated on social media in Uganda. It shows Reuters photographer, James Akena, surrounded by Uganda Peoples Defence Force soldiers who beat him as he raised his hands in the air in surrender. He was unarmed and held only his camera.  Akena suffered deep cuts to his head and injuries on […]

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Uganda Police Force manhandle a journalist covering a demonstration in Kampala, Uganda. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

By Wambi Michael
KAMPALA, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Last month, a horrifying video circulated on social media in Uganda. It shows Reuters photographer, James Akena, surrounded by Uganda Peoples Defence Force soldiers who beat him as he raised his hands in the air in surrender. He was unarmed and held only his camera. 

Akena suffered deep cuts to his head and injuries on his hands, neck and fingers for which he had to be hospitalised. He is yet to resume work.

But a month after Akena’s torture, there is no evidence that the soldiers who assaulted him have been punished, despite the Ugandan army issuing a statement against the soldiers’ unprofessional conduct, saying orders had been issued for their arrest and punishment.

Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces General David Muhoozi insisted in an interview with IPS that action was being taken against his soldiers.

“We don’t need anyone to remind us that we need to [hold] those who commit torture to account. Those ones who assaulted the journalist, we are going to take action. They have been apprehended. So it is within in our DNA to fight mischief,” Muhoozi told IPS.

Akena was photographing protests against the arrest and torture of popular musician turned politician Robert Kyangulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine. He had been in the process of taking photographs that would expose the brutal conduct of the army and the police while they dispersed demonstrating crowds.

A week later, president Yoweri Museveni told members of parliament from his ruling National Resistance Movement party that his security had told him Akena had been mistaken for a petty thief taking advantage of the demonstration.

Human Rights Network For Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ) executive director Robert Sempala told IPS that the abuse of journalists has continued despite assurances from the army and Uganda Police Force. He said about 30 journalists have been beaten by the army between Aug. 20 and Sept. 22, 2018.

“They insist that they arrested those soldiers but the army has not disclosed their identities. So we are still waiting to see that they are punished or else we shall seek other remedies, including legal action,” Sempala said.

Maria Burnett, an associate director at Human Rights Watch in charge of East Africa, expressed doubt whether the arrest of those who tortured Akena would mean that journalists would not be beaten in the future. 

“Security forces have beaten journalists with limited repercussions for years in Uganda. Other government bodies then censor coverage of army-orchestrated violence. 

“Beating journalists serves two purposes: It scares some journalists from covering politically-sensitive events, and, at times, it prevents evidence of soldiers beating or even killing civilians from reaching the public,” Burnett said in a statement.

She said threatening and intimidating journalists curtailed the public’s access to information – information they could use to question the government’s policies.

“With more and more cameras readily available, beating or censoring the messenger isn’t feasible in the long term. It will only lead to more fodder for citizen journalists and more questions about why the government resorts to violence in the face of criticism,” observed Burnett.

The Ugandan government uses its national laws to bring charges against journalists, revoke broadcasting licenses without due process of law, and practice other forms of repression. In this dated picture Laila Mutebi, 26, presented the Evening Voyage, on Uganda’s 101.7 Mama FM. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Dr. Peter Mwesige, a media scholar and head of the African Centre For Media Excellence, said: “This is unacceptable. We call upon the government to rein in members of the armed forces who are now presiding over this frightening erosion of press freedom and free expression in Uganda. As we have said before, press freedom and freedom of expression are not just about the rights of journalists and the media to receive and disseminate information.”

He said stopping journalists from covering political protests and violence denied citizens access to information about what was going on in their country.

“No degree of imperfections in our media ranks can justify the wanton abuse that security forces have visited on journalists,” said Mwesige.

Sarah Bireete, the deputy executive director at the Centre for Constitutional Governance, told IPS that the violence against journalists was part of the shrinking civic space in Uganda. 

She said there were efforts to silence civil society groups who worked in the areas of governance and accountability.

“Such abuses also continue to extend to other groups such as journalists and activists that play a key role in holding governments and their bodies to account,” said Bireete.

The Ugandan government uses its national laws to bring charges against journalists, revoke broadcasting licenses without due process of law, and practice other forms of repression.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has used ill-defined and unchecked powers to regulate the media. 

The UCC, for instance, issued on Sept. 19 a directive to radio and TV stations in Uganda restricting them from carrying live coverage of the return of Kyangulanyi to the country. The legislator was returning from the United States where he had gone for treatment after he had been tortured by the army. Most of the media outlets heeded the directive.

The government has moved further to restrict press freedom by restricting the number of foreign correspondents in Uganda.

The Foreign Correspondent’s Association in Uganda (FCAU) on Sept. 12 issued a statement calling on the Uganda government to stop blocking journalists from accessing accreditation. 

It said at least 10 journalists wishing to report in Uganda had not been given government accreditation even after they had fulfilled all the requirements.

“Preventing international journalist from working in Uganda adds to a troubling recent pattern of intimidation and violence against journalists. Stopping a number of international media houses from reporting legally inside Uganda is another attempt to gag journalists,” read the statement. 

Section 29(1) of the Press and Journalists Act requires all foreign journalists who wish to report from Uganda to get accreditation from the Media Council of Uganda through the Uganda Media Centre. The journalists are required to pay non-refundable accreditation fees depending on their duration of stay in the country. 

IPS has learnt that a number of journalists have since returned home after failing to secure accreditation.

Uganda Media Centre director Ofwono Opondo told IPS that the government has not stopped the accreditation of foreign journalists but was reviewing the guidelines.

Magelah Peter Gwayaka, a human rights lawyer with Chapter Four, a non-profit dedicated to the protection of civil liberties and promotion of human rights, told IPS: “Not long ago we had a BBC reporter, Will Ross, who was deported. The implication is to force journalists to cower down, to stop demanding accountability, to stop demanding all those things that democracy brings about.”

“So if the army is going to stop demonstrators and it beats up journalists like we saw the other day, no civil society [can stand] up to say please can we account? Can we have these army men arrested?” Gwayaka said.

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Alarm raised over Digital Security Acthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/alarm-raised-digital-security-act/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alarm-raised-digital-security-act http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/alarm-raised-digital-security-act/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2018 09:25:35 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157806 The Right to Information Forum (RTI Forum) has expressed deep concerns over the passage of the Digital Security Act 2018 by the Parliament as some of its provisions have been given undue precedence over those of the Right to Information Act 2009. The forum believes that The Digital Security Act, in its present form, will […]

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Illustration: Amiya Halder

By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
Sep 25 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The Right to Information Forum (RTI Forum) has expressed deep concerns over the passage of the Digital Security Act 2018 by the Parliament as some of its provisions have been given undue precedence over those of the Right to Information Act 2009.

The forum believes that The Digital Security Act, in its present form, will grossly restrict the scope of people’s access to information under the RTI Act which has been widely held as one of the best opportunities created by the government in empowering people to promote transparency and accountability.

In a statement yesterday, the RTI Forum observed that some provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1921 have been included in the Digital Security Act 2018 which directly undermines Section 3 of the RTI Act. Section 3 stipulates that the RTI Act will prevail over any Act that may create obstacles in providing information or is conflicting with provisions of the RTI law.

The Digital Security Act not only contradicts parts of the RTI Act, but also raises questions about the government’s capacity to be consistent in law-making, the forum observed.

It also lamented that the Digital Security Act creates wide opportunities to restrict the space for raising informed public opinions and ensuring transparency and accountability of public institutions, reducing corruption, and establishing good governance as outlined in the preamble of the RTI Act 2009.

The forum further observed that the Digital Security Act is clearly inconsistent with the fundamental constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression as per Article 39 of the Constitution and, therefore, undermines democracy and human rights, which are among the fundamental principles of state policy.

Bangladesh’s commitment under Sustainable Development Goal 16.10, that obliges the government to promote free flow of information, will also become nationally and internationally questionable, the forum further added.

The RTI Forum, a coalition of more than 45 organisations, played a pivotal role in the enactment of the right to information law in 2009 and has been supporting the government its implementation and promotion since then.

Meanwhile, journalist’s organisation Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) yesterday expressed grave concerns over the Digital Security Act 2018 as well, saying that some harsh and objectionable provisions in the law would create obstructions in the way of independent journalism.

They also criticised the government for passing the law, while ignoring the concerns and recommendations of journalists.

The organisation urged the government to review the law with the light of the journalists’ recommendations and revoke the objectionable provisions from the law.

In a statement, DRU president Saiful Islam and its joint secretary Moin Uddin Khan said that journalists had been expressing concerns over some provisions ever since the draft was approved in the cabinet meeting.

Journalist leaders demanded to scrap the much-debated provisions from the law after meeting with the ministers concerned and also sent their recommendations to parliamentary standing committee.

“The government also assured the journalists that there would be no such harsh provisions. But the bill was passed in the parliament ignoring the concerns and recommendations of journalists,” the statement added.

The DRU observed that the existence of the RTI Act beside Official Secrets Act is conflicting and enabling the police to exercise unfettered power — to search, seize and arrest anyone without a warrant – may create the risk of harassment for journalists.

“Such provisions are against basic human rights and democracy,” the statement added.

In the meantime, rights body Human Rights Support Society (HRSS) expressed solidarity with the human chain programme called by the Sampadak Parishad (Editors’ Council) that will be formed in front of Jatiya Press Club on September 29.

The organisation requested President Abdul Hamid not to approve the law and urged him to return it for a review.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The US vs. UNRWA: Who’s the Real Loser?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/us-vs-unrwa-whos-real-loser/#comments Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:36:44 +0000 Mona Ali Khalil http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157516 Mona Ali Khalil, PassBlue*

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For the first time, students from the West Bank met students from Gaza through an UNRWA summer program. Here, they say farewell after a camping activity, July 20, 2017. The US decision to end funding to the UN agency that administers to Palestinian refugees will damage everyone in the region, including Israel, the author argues. Credit: FADI THABET/UNRWA

By Mona Ali Khalil
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

It is entirely the United States’ prerogative to cut off its voluntary contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.

In her statements about why the Trump administration has decided to do so, however, Ambassador Nikki Haley misses the mark on who should be grateful for her country’s past largess and whose interests will actually be hurt.

On Aug. 29, Haley said, “The Palestinians continue to bash America . . . this is the government, not the people,” but “they have their hand out wanting UNRWA money.” On a separate occasion, Haley also said that “as of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process.”

Contrary to what Haley said, US funding to UNRWA is not a favor to the Palestinian people or to the Palestinian government. It is, in fact, a favor to Israel.

As any occupying power, Israel is obliged, under international humanitarian law, to ensure the welfare and well-being of the occupied population, including maintaining public order and public health and providing food and medical care.

These are among the forms of assistance that Unrwa delivers to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and as refugees in neighboring countries.

Accordingly, when Unrwa fulfills its UN mandate, it is fulfilling Israel’s responsibilities. Nonetheless, Israel retains ultimate responsibility for meeting these obligations.

So, if the UN agency is ever unable to continue to provide these services, then Israel will, at least as a matter of international law, resume its responsibility for doing so.

Moreover, when the US generously grants $300 million in annual contributions to help Unrwa heal, educate and shelter Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it is thus adding a stipend of $300 million to its far more generous $5 billion annual contribution to Israel.

It is ironic that with the same $300 million in grants, Israel can buy about 10 F-15s or 15 Apache helicopters — US-made weapons — which it uses to make another kind of delivery, bombs and missiles, to Palestine and occasionally to neighbouring countries.

Despite the asymmetry of her government’s generosity, Haley demands gratitude from Unrwa’s beneficiaries — the besieged people of Gaza and the millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria but not from Israel — one of the wealthiest and most militarily and technologically advanced nations in the world.

As for that peace table that Haley keeps referring to, she should be reminded that Washington appears to have found a faster and easier path to “peace” that dispenses with tables as well as with fairness to, and equality between, the parties.

Instead, the Trump administration has chosen unilateral decrees on the final-status issues — not only deciding for the parties but also doing so consistently in favor of one party.

So why bother inviting the other party to a table when everything has seemingly been determined: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel; the Palestinian refugees are no longer refugees and therefore no longer have a right of return; the illegal settlements in the West Bank will define the borders of Israel; and Israel is a uniquely Jewish state, although a third of its citizens are Christian or Muslim.

The current US policy will not help those who want peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian people. It won’t help American standing in the region or in the world at large. It won’t even help Israel. According to Israel’s own military and intelligence officials, it might help the radicals and violent extremists.

Did the architects of this flawed policy want to reduce the prospects of peace in the Middle East by design or by default?

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship, as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from its base in the UN press corps.

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Excerpt:

Mona Ali Khalil, PassBlue*

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“We Should Not Wait” — Action Needed on Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-wait-action-needed-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 08:57:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157443 After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.   A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar. “The gross human […]

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Rohingya alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh in 2017. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.  

A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar.

“The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States are shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity,” the report states.

“Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” it continued.“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly.” -- Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau

Triggered by insurgent attacks on security forces, the report pointed a finger to Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, for committing the gravest of crimes including indiscriminate killing, burning of houses, and sexual violence.

The investigators identified six generals, including the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and recommended that they be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or at an alternative tribunal.

“There needs to be an unequivocal message sent that Myanmar’s military cannot act with impunity against ethnic minorities in Myanmar again,” Amnesty International’s Asia Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme told IPS.

“Never again has to mean never again – and the entire world is watching to see what the international community does,” he continued.

Like Bencosme, Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau also told IPS that the Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC or create a special criminal tribunal for prosecution.

But how did we get here?

Years of systematic oppression against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities made the crisis “foreseeable”—so what happened?

A System-Wide Failure

In 2008, the U.N. failed to heed warnings of increasing violence between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and did not report evidence of widespread government violations and casualties.

A 2012 internal review found that various U.N. agencies including the Security Council failed at every level to protect civilians and meet their responsibilities in the last months of the civil war in the South Asian nation.

In the wake of the fiasco, the U.N. implemented the Human Rights Up Front Initiative to ensure a better system of monitoring and responding to international crises. Though Myanmar was identified as a situation requiring the Action Plan’s human rights response to crises, the approach was rarely, if ever, used, the report stated.

Instead, U.N. agencies continued to prioritise development goals, humanitarian access, and quiet diplomacy—an approach which “demonstrably failed.”

“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly,” Charbonneau told IPS.

“Now instead of us saying ‘never again’ after Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Srebrenica—here we are saying well yet again it happened. The U.N. didn’t do what it was supposed to be doing, it didn’t raise the alarm bells to the extent that they could have,” he continued.

The Security Council’s response, or lack thereof, has been equally disappointing. The U.N. organ has had only a handful of meetings on Myanmar and none have resulted in any resolution.

In contrast, Syria has received special attention over the last seven years with numerous meetings in the “triple digits.”

“Given the scale of the crisis in Myanmar, it is difficult to reconcile the different responses of the Security Council particularly given a situation where the U.N. for sometime has been warning about the possibility of the ‘g’ word that is genocide,” Charbonneau said.

“It would be good to see an attempt to really push the Council to try something. We haven’t seen that yet and I don’t know if we will see it,” he continued.

China and Russia, Security Council members with veto power, have consistently pushed back on efforts to act on Myanmar’s crisis, stating that the crisis should only be resolved by the parties directly affected including Bangladesh where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to.

In the Security Council’s first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years, Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya warned against claims of ethnic cleansing and blaming Myanmar’s authorities as it “will make it more difficult to achieve lasting interethnic peace inside the country.”

Whether it is genocide or crimes against humanity, Bencosme highlighted the need for the international community to act with respect to Myanmar.

“We don’t need a legal diagnosis to understand that something desperately tragic and clearly unlawful has been happening in Myanmar. What matters most is that a civilian population is under attack because of its race or religion, and that these violations must stop immediately,” he told IPS.

Myanmar has repeatedly denied accusations of violations including those most recently published through the fact-finding mission’s report.

“Myanmar authorities have shown themselves to be both unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As a result, the ICC is the appropriate route to deliver justice,” Bencosme said.

However, since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, only a member of the Security Council can bring the case to the tribunal.

“The time for rhetoric is over – there needs to be action. There needs to be genuine accountability and justice. There needs to be an honest conversation about referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. We need to pursue all avenues of justice for these victims and their families who are the heart of the crisis,” Bencosme concluded.

Urgent Action Needed

While Charbonneau expressed hope that the new report will “reenergise” the U.N., he noted that we should not idly wait.

“I don’t think we should be waiting around for the Security Council—too often the Council doesn’t move on issues and it’s more deadlock than ever these days. We may have to keep using these work-arounds like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council,” he told IPS.

Among the alternative avenues for action is the establishment of an impartial mechanism by the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to collect, analyse, and preserve evidence for future potential criminal proceedings in the ICC or another criminal tribunal.

The report also recommends that the U.N. urgently adopt a common strategy to address human rights concerns in Myanmar in line with the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan, as well as a comprehensive inquiry into whether the U.N. did everything possible to prevent or mitigate Myanmar’s crisis.

“The time has past for these feeble condemnations or expressions of concern that we are so used to from the U.N.—we just really need action,” Charbonneau said.

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Addressing Bangladesh’s Age-Old Public Transportation Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/addressing-bangladeshs-age-old-public-transportation-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=addressing-bangladeshs-age-old-public-transportation-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/addressing-bangladeshs-age-old-public-transportation-system/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 15:23:53 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157427 After the recent student uprising in Bangladesh, and despite increased policing on the streets and amendments to the traffic laws, there has been criticism that things have not changed significantly enough to make the country’s roads safer. Ilias Kanchan, an actor and road safety activist, tells IPS that while the government was quick to observe […]

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About 3,000 to 5,000 student protesters took to Bangladesh’s streets at the end of July and in early August, demanding safer roads. Students even imposed informal roadblocks in order to check the roadworthiness of vehicles. Courtesy: A.K.M. Moshin

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

After the recent student uprising in Bangladesh, and despite increased policing on the streets and amendments to the traffic laws, there has been criticism that things have not changed significantly enough to make the country’s roads safer.

Ilias Kanchan, an actor and road safety activist, tells IPS that while the government was quick to observe ‘Traffic Week’ at the start of August, during which time the police had been actively inspecting vehicles and private cars for violations, it was not sufficient.

“The move was an eye wash. We notice the same [unroadworthy] public buses on the streets again driving without valid road permits and driving licenses. Although the traffic police are checking and fining violators everyday, the scale of violations have not declined, which shows ignorance [about the laws on the part] of the vehicle owners,” Kanchan, who himself narrowly escaped injury in a road accident in 1989, tells IPS.“In true sense we require massive plans on infrastructure development, equipment support, strengthening of institutions and building capacities to see an overall improvement in public road safety.” -- architect and outspoken social activist, Mubasshar Hussain

Kanchan has been advocating for safer roads under the Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Demand Safe Roads) campaign for the last 25 years, ever since his wife was killed in a tragic road accident.

About 3,000 to 5,000 student protesters took to the streets at the end of July and in early August, demanding safer roads and calling for order to be brought to the chaotic, age-old public transportation system—one that is mostly dominated by private transport owners and workers.

The protests, the first of its kind by students in the history of this country, began after a bus crashed into students on the afternoon of Jul. 29, killing two and injuring many others. It sparked off violent protests across the capital Dhaka, a city of over 18 million people.

Shaken by the nationwide, fast-spreading student road blockade movement, the government bowed to the ultimatum of demonstrators, agreeing to meet their demands in phases.

Quick changes to the laws

The government promised safer roads and a clampdown against illegal bus drivers. And the country’s relevant traffic departments are already implementing some of the demands, which include:

  • The vigorous checking of vehicles for roadworthiness;
  • Increasing the number of police check posts;
  • Strictly fining offenders;
  • Punishing drivers and owners for driving unroadworthy vehicles on the roads.

The government also amended the country’s traffic laws.

In early August, cabinet approved the Road Transport Act 2018, which changed the maximum sentence for death in a road accident to five years without bail, from a previous maximum of three years with bail. Fines ranging from USD 50 to USD 200 for speeding and other traffic offences were also imposed. The act will soon be passed into law by parliament.

The effect of the clampdown is often noticeable on Dhaka’s streets. Motorcyclists now wear helmets and private cars and buses are also forced to drive in their demarcated lanes, instead of driving all over the road as previously. Speeding is virtually absent and the use of indicator lights when turning is mandatory.

The police and road safety departments have substantially increased their vigilance and checking, according to officials in these departments.

Some feel sentences are too lenient

But Kanchan tells IPS that activists had called for a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and were dissatisfied with the new proposed act.

“We had proposed a minimum sentence of five years instead. We had also proposed punishing not only the drivers [responsible for] accidents but also the [vehicle] owners for neglecting to comply with the laws.

“This clearly shows how serious the governments [is] about road safety,” Kanchan says.

Recent research by the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh’s University of Engineering and Technology shows that reckless driving and speeding cause 90 percent of the 6,200 road accidents that occur in the country each year.

The report also shows that in the past three and a half years over 25,000 people were killed in road accidents alone—about 20 people per day. And over 62,000 people were permanently injured or maimed during that same timeframe. In addition, the Bangladesh loses USD 4.7 billion from these accidents—about two percent of the country’s GDP—each year.

Well-known architect and outspoken social activist, Mubasshar Hussain, tells IPS: “I am very hopeful of a better situation as the government is showing signs of bringing safety on the roads but the point is we let this situation reach its limits. In general we are too tolerant and seldom challenge or protest crimes committed by the unruly drivers.”

“I also see a lack of seriousness from the traffic division who control and are responsible for maintaining order on the streets. Despite checking, [unsafe] vehicles and illegal drivers are still allowed to drive on the streets and it is a shame that despite such a stir the same crimes are taking place again,” he says.

“In true sense we require massive plans on infrastructure development, equipment support, strengthening of institutions and building capacities to see an overall improvement in public road safety,” Hussain adds.

Numerous police check points and mobile courts

Sheikh Mohammad Mahbub-e-Rabbani, director of the road safety wing of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, tells IPS things have changed on the roads.

“I don’t think the observations are correct,” he says responding to the criticism.

“Things have drastically changed as you can already see on the streets of Dhaka and other cities. We have launched massive police check posts with mobile courts to give on the spot decisions for any offence. Far more numbers of police have been deployed to keep vigil and check any offence.”

“The records of fines and punishments for fake licenses and registration documents in the last three weeks show the difference. Such a drive to bring offenders to book could soon bring better safety standards on the roads,” says Rabbani.

However, some are concerned that the powerful lobbying power of transport owners means that amendments to the laws are not strong enough and that corrupt police officers will continue to overlook their transgressions.

“It is indeed also frustrating that the amendments are largely ‘dictated’ by the transport owners’ bodies that are known to exert pressure on the lawmakers to sway clauses of laws in their favour,” Kanchan accuses.

Mozammel Huque, Secretary General of Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, a civil society body, tells IPS that, “the transport owners and workers are very powerful.”

“Two separate systems largely work on the roads of Bangladesh. One is [comprised of] the businessmen who run the affairs of the transport system and continue to enforce the illegal driving of unroadworthy vehicles by unskilled drivers on the streets every day.

“Millions of taka is allegedly traded as bribes to overlook such crimes. In the other system, traffic police or highway police monitor and check on private vehicles and drivers who largely comply with the road safety rules and regulations,” Huque says.

But Khondoker Enaeytullah, the general secretary of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity (Bangladesh Transport Owners Association), tells IPS: “The transport owners are complying with the demands for stricter fines and punishment to the offenders.”

“There are massive changes proposed in the operations of all public transportation in the city. All buses will be regulated by one single authority instead of [being run by] individual owners who control the transport businesses without any accountability and which gives way to unprecedented and unhealthy competition and hence chaos.”

“Once the new system of public bus services is in place, there would be no more competition to pick up passengers and hence no question of speeding. All buses would be inspected for safety and fitness before each leaves to pick up passengers. These new measures will certainly ensure safer roads,” says Enaetullah.

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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The Fight for the Right to Abortion Spreads in Latin America Despite Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:41:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157331 The Argentine Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalise abortion did not stop a Latin American movement, which is on the streets and is expanding in an increasingly coordinated manner among women’s organisations in the region with the most restrictive laws and policies against pregnant women’s right to choose. Approved in Argentina by the Chamber […]

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Q&A: Comoros Power Grab Rejected by Opposition, Amid Pleas for International Interventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2018 12:16:36 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157326 President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros Islands is tightening his grip on power. First, he insisted on holding a referendum allowing him to extend his term of office and abolish the country’s constitutional court. Which he won. And now, the lawyer of former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has said that his client has been charged […]

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Former Comoros president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has been charged with corruption and the misappropriation of public funds in a passport fraud. He has been under house arrest by current president Azali Assoumani for the last three months. Courtesy: Abubakar Aboud

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 23 2018 (IPS)

President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros Islands is tightening his grip on power. First, he insisted on holding a referendum allowing him to extend his term of office and abolish the country’s constitutional court. Which he won. And now, the lawyer of former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has said that his client has been charged Tuesday with corruption and the misappropriation of public funds in a passport fraud.

This July, Assoumani held a referendum in the Indian Ocean archipelago, giving himself a mandate that widely extends his powers.

The constitutional draft allows for the President of the Union of the Comoros to now ratify international treaties and agreements without consulting parliament. The text also provides for the abolition of the three vice-presidencies, as well as the Constitutional Court. The Comoros was plunged into crisis in April when Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.

Under the current constitution, power rotates every five years between the archipelago’s three main islands. But this has also been done away with through the referendum.

Sambi, who is a leading critic of Assoumani’s rule and president of the vocal opposition, the Juwa Party, was placed under house arrest three months ago. Since then has not been allowed any visitors, though his lawyer Mahamoud Ahamada saw him on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The Juwa party has rejected the mandate extending Assoumani’s powers, and has called for immediate international intervention to restore democracy.

Comoros, situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has been repeatedly shaken by separatist movements and instability prior to the passing of a new constitution in 2001, which provides for the rotation of power between the islands.

Advisor to Sambi, Abubakar Aboud, told IPS that they have reached out to the international community to intervene in the political crisis unfolding in the Comoros to avoid bloodshed. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): The referendum has given Assoumani carte blanche to grab power, as it were, with an extension to his rule. Do you accept this outcome?

Abubakar  Aboud (AA): We do not approve at all the electoral process that Colonel Azali [Assoumani] has started. This process is illegal to the extent that it has violated the fundamental texts of our country. Colonel Azali [Assoumani] put an end to the Constitutional Court without consulting the people. From that moment on, we cannot accept the results of this illegal process.

IPS: What about the charges against Sambi?

AA: The arrest as well as all the charges are purely political. In parallel, the lawyers will ask for a provisional release of president Sambi, who has now been a political prisoner of Colonel Azali [Assoumani] for over three months.

IPS: What does this mean for the fragile democracy in Comoros?

AA: I fear the worst for the fragile peace of our country. It is very disturbing to see a colonel put our country in danger for the sole purpose of holding on to power. Our country has not tasted the benefits of democracy for long, and now Colonel Azali [Assoumani] is demolishing everything that we have built for his own interests.

IPS: What action will you take, or can you take, now if you are to save the country from the autocratic rule?

AA: We do not want violence in the country. And yet, Colonel Azali [Assoumani] is doing everything to crush the discordant voices we are part of as members of the opposition. To avoid confrontations that could cause bloodshed, we regularly call on the international community for help. These calls are becoming more and more urgent as almost all the members of the opposition are either arrested or have suspended sentences.

 

IPS: What is the feeling on the other islands’ about this result?

AA: Everyone feels betrayed by the colonel and his men. The Comoran people are very peaceful. But Azali [Assoumani] is driving the people to revolt. I feel a lot of anger and frustration among the population. I don’t know how long the current patience will last, but we are dangerously close to reaching [the] limit.

IPS: Where do you see the future of Comoros now?

AA: I hope to see my country return to the democracy that we fought so hard to achieve. I hope for a brighter future, even though we are crossing the darkest path of our history… I see this future without Colonel Azali [Assoumani], because he will have to answer for the violations of human rights and the acts of high treason.

IPS: What of ex-president Sambi? Is he safe and how does he feel about this turn of events?

AA: His lawyer, Mahamoud Ahamada, saw him Tuesday [Aug. 21] and told us he seems a little bit weak but he is okay.  I did not have the ex-president’s opinion on this electoral masquerade. But knowing him, I’m sure he shares our opinion on it.

IPS: What are your next steps to challenge this result?

AA: We are waiting for the international community to react. If they don’t do it fast, we’ll be obliged to do it ourselves by any means necessary. Formal letters have been signed by president Sambi and his lawyers have sent them by mail today [Aug. 22] to the United Nations and the African Union.

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Palestinian Children, the True Victims of the Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 06:57:07 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157188 Over 500 to 700 West Bank children are arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest. With the release of Palestinian teen activist […]

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Over 700 West Bank children were detained by Israeli military forces between 2012 and 2017, with 72 percent of them enduring physical violence after the arrest, according to Defense for Children International Palestine. Photo credit: UNICEF/El Baba

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

Over 500 to 700 West Bank children are arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest.

With the release of Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi in late July, the constant arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli forces have been in the spotlight once again.“Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.” -- Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at Defense for Children International Palestine.

“Ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces is widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the Israeli military detention system,” Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, told IPS.

July was an eventful month for Palestine. On the one hand, the observer state of Palestine was chosen to lead the Group 77 at the United Nations, making it a big win for Palestine and increasing the tensions with Israel. G77 is the largest bloc of developing countries, currently with 135 countries, and Palestine spoke at the General Assembly. Palestine will assume leadership of the G77 by January 2019, replacing Egypt.

On the other hand, some days later the 17-year-old Palestinian activist, Tamimi, was released after an eight-month stay in an Israeli prison. She was arrested after she hit an armed Israeli soldier at the entrance of her village, Nabi Saleh. The scene was recorded and the video made her well known worldwide.

Commenting on Tamimi’s case, Parker said: “Ahed’s detention, prosecution, plea agreement, and sentencing in Israel’s military court system is not exceptional, but illustrates the widespread, systematic, and institutionalised ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces and the fair trial denials inherent in Israel’s military detention system.”

“Now that she has been released, attention will likely wane but she has and continues to highlight the plight of the hundreds of other Palestinian child detainees that continue to be detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system,” he added.

Palestinian child arrests are becoming pervasive and the legitimacy of the methods used to process their arrests is quite questionable. Of the 727 children processed by Israeli military courts that DCIP represented, 700 had no parent or legal counsel present during the interrogation.

Additionally, 117 spent more than 10 days in solitary confinement. For Parker, “the ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces has been one of the more high profile Palestinian rights issues raised by the international community.”

With Palestine’s new leadership position at the U.N., the observer state could draw international attention towards this issue. But some experts remain sceptical as to whether this will prove to be true. Vijay Prashad, director at Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, said: “The G77 is hampered as countries that once were stalwarts in the fight against colonialism—such as India—are now hesitant. They need to be called to account.”

Asked about the role of the international system and institutions such as the U.N. to stop Palestinian child abuses in the West Bank, Prashad was adamant that there must be more action.

“The U.N. must be more vigorous. It is one thing to have declared the settlements as illegal and another to do nothing about it,” he said.

He went on, stating, “there needs to be more action by countries that abhor this policy of colonisation. Much more vocal condemnation, more stringent policies against the Israeli government [is needed].” 

Parker called the Israeli authorities to responsibility.

“Despite sustained engagement by [U.N. Children’s Fund] UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against Palestinian child detainees or guarantee due process rights and basic fair trial rights,” he said.

In response to the question of whether there had been any reforms within the Israeli military, Parker answered: “Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.”

The international community is taking a stand with, for example, briefings and reports by different U.N. agencies and the current United States bill that focuses on the rights of Palestinian children detainees called the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act”.

According to Parker, this is not enough as Israel keeps breaking international justice agreements.

“Regardless of guilt or innocence or the gravity of an alleged offence, international juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obligated itself to implement by ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” Parker said.

When asked whether the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem— enacted by U.S. president Donald Trump—has increased tensions, Prashad said: “Israeli policy has been whipped past illegality long before Trump became president. It has certainly intensified. But it is the same U.S. policy of appeasement of Israel’s ambitions.”

Parker, on the other hand, did see changes.

“Large-scale demonstrations, marches and clashes throughout the West Bank following the Trump administration’s decision to publicly recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December corresponded with a spike in the number of Palestinian child detainees held in Israeli military detention,” Parker said.

“Systemic impunity is the norm when it comes to Israeli’s 50-plus year military occupation of Palestinians, so demanding justice and accountability and ultimately an end to occupation is what is needed to end grave human rights violations against children,” he said.

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Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/farmer-herder-conflicts-rise-africa/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:51:42 +0000 Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157073 Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on land rights issues.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Excerpt:

Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu is a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on land rights issues.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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“Outrage is Appropriate, Surprise is Not”: Tackling Sex Abuse in the Aid Sectorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 13:30:28 +0000 Jacqui Hunt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157075 Jacqui Hunt* is Regional Director for Europe, Equality Now

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Horror of sexual exploitation in the aid sector must be confronted. Credit: International Development Committee

By Jacqui Hunt
LONDON, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

A new report on the scale and extent of sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector should come as no surprise. It is now time for international agencies, including the UN, to step up and show some much-needed leadership to tackle this issue once and for all.

The report, published 31 July 2018 by the UK House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC), has condemned the “complacency, verging on complicity” of the aid sector in responding to widespread sexual abuse and exploitation by its staff.

The IDC established its enquiry following revelations that Oxfam covered up accounts of sexual misconduct be senior employees, including allegations that staff made women – some of whom may have been minors – transact sex for aid during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The enquiry and subsequent report reveal that this is far from an isolated incident, with the several aid and development organizations involved apparently being more concerned with their reputation than with the safety of victims.

While outrage at these findings is appropriate, unfortunately surprise is not. The enquiry’s report reaffirms what those of us campaigning for change have known for some time: sexual abuse and exploitation is endemic, and is sustained through a lack of accountability for perpetrators. It is carried out in all walks of life, including by the so-called good guys.

A sector-wide issue

For years, aid organizations have systematically ignored problems and failed to effectively implement policies to stop predatory sexual misbehavior, including the use of prostituted women and girls.

Let’s be clear. Whether or not you believe prostitution is sexual exploitation or not, there is no such thing as a child prostitute and men who “buy” sex from minors are rapists.

Reporting procedures are often unclear or non-existent, and the prevailing lack of accountability has undermined reporting mechanisms by sending a strong message that there is little to be achieved by disclosing allegations.

Even in cases where abuse is reported, culprits have often not been held to account, and instead have been moved to different posts or enabled to get jobs at other organizations within the sector, where they have abused more victims elsewhere.

Adding to the toxic mix has been the tendency for whistleblowers to feel penalized, unprotected, and at risk of their career being damaged by speaking out.

These issues have made it impossible to accurately measure the true extent of the problem, although according to the IDC, the cases recently made public are just the “tip of the iceberg”.

This kind of impunity for those who sexually exploit and abuse others when they are at their most vulnerable is utterly unacceptable. Aid and development agencies need to put in place effective zero tolerance policies regarding sexual exploitation, including a total and enforced ban on staff and contractor use of prostitution.

This involves having a comprehensive understanding about the various crosscutting forms of discrimination and oppression that women and girls may face, and which are exacerbated in situations of conflict and natural disasters.

A lack of support for victims compounds the problem. The IDC report recommends a ‘victim-centered’ approach, where their welfare is put front and center. This needs to be fully integrated across all aspects of the sector’s response.

Indeed, evidence submitted jointly by Rape Crisis and Equality Now is referenced in the report, citing our recommendation that anyone who speaks out about violations should be afforded independent advocacy and support from a specialist in sexual violence and its impacts.

The role of the UN

Addressing these issues will require fundamental changes to be made to the way that aid and development agencies operate, and the IDC’s findings highlight the need for clear and effective leadership to guide best practice in the sector.

As the gold standard for international aid agencies, it is the UN that should be leading by example.

The United Nations has admitted receiving 70 new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse from April to June this year alone. However, the UN has itself consistently failed to address sexual abuse and exploitation, not only of aid recipients but also of its own staff – something on which Equality Now has been calling for change since at least 2009.

The IDC report is critical of the UN for its lack of joined-up approach, despite its self-professed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.” This is not the first time that the UN has come under fire for its ineffectiveness in this area, with revelations earlier this year about key exemptions to its policy “making a mockery” of its ongoing fight against harassment.

With the aid sector reeling from the recent revelations, and the extent of the problem clear from the IDC report, it is now more important than ever for the UN to put in place clear, effective policies that protect victims and whistleblowers.

The tremendous work achieved by the international development sector should not mean we turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation and other violence and abuse of power perpetrated predominantly against women and girls by men employed in the industry.

It is crucial that all those within the industry take account of the superior position of power that someone from an aid organization may have and can easily exert over those who are vulnerable. Sexual exploitation must end and the exploiters held properly accountable – the UN among others has to fully recognize and internalize its role in achieving this, and step up to the challenge.

*Jacqui Hunt is a prominent campaigner for women and girls’ rights, and has spearheaded several of Equality Now’s successful campaigns, including for creation of a United Nations Working Group to focus on ending discrimination against women in law and in practice.

A lawyer who trained and worked with international law firm Linklaters, she started her professional career with Amnesty International, working in campaigning and research at the United Nations and in press and special projects. She joined the Board of Equality Now in 1992, the year of its founding, and was later asked to start the London office, which she opened in 2004.

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Jacqui Hunt* is Regional Director for Europe, Equality Now

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Laws and Threats Undermine Freedom of Expression in Hondurashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/laws-threats-curtail-freedom-expression-honduras/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=laws-threats-curtail-freedom-expression-honduras http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/laws-threats-curtail-freedom-expression-honduras/#respond Sat, 04 Aug 2018 00:26:49 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157053 A series of laws that came into force in the last five years and the petition for amparo by 35 journalists and 22 social communicators against the government’s “Secrecy Law” give an idea of the atmosphere in Honduras with regard to freedom of expression. The international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB) gives an account of […]

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Save the Children Warns Untraceable Minors in Italy May be Traffickedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 12:08:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157020 Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked. A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy […]

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The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from some EU member countries. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked.

A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy are untraceable as of May.

Once they escape the facilities, their vulnerable position—having no money, not knowing the language and being often traumatised after their trip to Italy—places them at the mercy of traffickers and exploiters.

Many of these children end up in networks of sexual exploitation, forced labour and enslavement. Save the Children reported that some girls are forced to perform survival sex—to prostitute themselves in order to pay the ‘passeurs’ to cross the Italian border or to pay for food or a place to sleep.

“I left Nigeria with a friend and once we arrived to Sabha (Libya) we were arrested,” Blessing, one of the victims, told Save the Children.

“I stayed there for three months and then I moved to Tripoli. For eight interminable months I was forced to prostitute myself in exchange for food,” she added.

Blessing then reported that her nightmare continued in Italy where she was sexually exploited by a compatriot. She ultimately was able to enter a protection programme thanks to Save the Children. But her story is a rare case of rescue as many other children find themselves enslaved with no end in sight.

According to testimonies collected by the NGO, minors leave reception facilities because they judge the processes of entering the child protection system as a useless slowing down towards the economic autonomy they aspire to and usually leave the centres a few days after identification.

This has been occurring largely in the southern regions of Italy.

But according to the report, “the flow of minors in transit through Italy to northern Europe is, by its own nature, difficult to quantify.” Though it noted that minors transiting through Italy between January and March, make up between 22 percent and 31 percent out of the total transitioning migrants across the country. The minors are mostly Eritrean (14 percent), Somalis (13 percent), Afghans (10 percent), Egyptians (9 percent) and Tunisians (8 percent).

“The fact that the European Union relocation programme was blocked in September 2017, has contributed in an important way to forcing children in transit to re-entrust themselves to traffickers, or to risk their own lives to cross borders, as well as it continues to happen for those minors who transit through the Italian north frontier with the aim of reaching the countries of northern Europe,” Roberta Petrillo, from the child protection department of Save the Children, Italy, told IPS.

The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from the EU member countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.

The EU’s initial plan provided for the relocation of 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other European countries within two years. As of May, 12,690 and 21,999 migrants were relocated from Italy and Greece respectively. To date, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 refugees, Slovakia 16, with Hungary and Poland having taken no refugees.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 10 million children and youth across the world were forced into slavery, sold and exploited, mainly for sexual and labour purposes in 2016.

They make up 25 percent of the over 40 million people who are trafficked, of which more than seven out of 10 are women and girls. According to the ILO estimates, nearly one million victims of sexual exploitation in 2016 were minors, while between 2012 and 2016, 152 million boys and girls aged between five and 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour. More than half of these activities were particularly dangerous for their own health.

“When we talk about data of this kind we must be very cautious because we are dealing with numbers that only concern the emergence of the phenomenon, without keeping track of the submerged data,” Petrillo added.

There were 30,146 registered victims of trafficking and exploitation in 2016 in the 28 EU countries with 1,000 of them minors.

However, according to 2016 figures from the ILO, 3.6 million people across Europe were reportedly modern day slaves.

According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, second only to the illegal drug trade. It is estimated to be an industry worth USD32 billion annually.

The most targeted

Nigerian and Romanian girls are amongst the most targeted by the trafficking networks.

According to Save the Children, for the journey that will take them to Italy, the Nigerian girls contract a debt between 20,000 and 50,000 euros that they can only hope to repay by undergoing forced prostitution.

Like their peers from Romania, they enter a mechanism of sexual exploitation from which they cannot get free easily.

While Nigerians escape mainly for security issues and political instability, Romanian girls flee their country because of a total lack of opportunities and economic autonomy there. Their deep economic deprivation makes them highly vulnerable and easy targets for traffickers, who deceive or coerce them to enter into networks of sexual exploitation. 

According to the Save the Children Report, in 2017 there were a total of 200 minor victims of trafficking and exploitation who were put into protection programmes. The vast majority of these, 196, were girls with about  93.5 percent Nigerian girls aged between 16 and 17 years.

In addition, almost half of the minors were sexually exploited 

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy,  told IPS that migrant men were welcomed with open arms because they were useful for working under exploited conditions.

However, migrant women were welcome only because they were used for prostitution.

“By not guaranteeing legal and safe paths for those fleeing wars and persecution, by not organising and recognising the presence of migrant workers, we just do a favour to the criminal groups, who build real fortunes on trafficking in human beings,” Noury told IPS.

While Petrillo said that “the Italian and the EU legal framework is solid and a good one,” she cautioned that  “what is needed, instead, is a unitary intervention that closely links the issue of anti-trafficking reality with that of minors in transit. And we must be able to guarantee universal protection for the victims.”

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Jalalabad Attack Claims Life of IOM, IRC Colleagues Among Civilianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/jalalabad-attack-claims-life-iom-irc-colleagues-among-civilians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jalalabad-attack-claims-life-iom-irc-colleagues-among-civilians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/jalalabad-attack-claims-life-iom-irc-colleagues-among-civilians/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 15:08:48 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157003 It is with profound sadness that the United Nations family in Afghanistan confirms that an employee of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was killed in yesterday’s attack on the Department of Refugees and Returnees in Jalalabad. Our immediate thoughts are with her family and friends. The United Nations expresses its deep sense of revulsion […]

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By International Organization for Migration
KABUL, Aug 1 2018 (IOM)

It is with profound sadness that the United Nations family in Afghanistan confirms that an employee of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was killed in yesterday’s attack on the Department of Refugees and Returnees in Jalalabad.

Our immediate thoughts are with her family and friends.

The United Nations expresses its deep sense of revulsion at this senseless attack that claimed the lives of at least 13 civilians. Among the 20 others injured was another IOM colleague. The UN wishes him and all the injured a speedy and full recovery.

“I condemn this heinous crime which has already taken the life of one of our brave IOM colleagues in Jalalabad yesterday and left another grievously injured. It is a loss for IOM, our partners and Afghanistan,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

“Equally tragically the attack claimed the lives of at least 13 civilians, including an IRC colleague. My heart goes out to the families of all the victims. Everyone in IOM is thinking of our colleagues working in difficult conditions across the country on behalf of the Afghan people in the aftermath of this senseless attack,” added DG Swing.

Our colleague’s life was taken while she was working in the noble cause of assisting some of the most vulnerable communities in Afghanistan. There is no justification for such acts of terror. She is one of thousands of Afghans who form the backbone of the daily work of the United Nations in the country to help the most in need, supporting development and contributing to the restoration of peace and stability.

This young woman, who was 22, lost her husband in a bombing in Kabul three years ago. She leaves behind a six-year old daughter, now an orphan.

“We mourn the loss of our colleague and, in tribute, commit ourselves to re-double our work to serve Afghanistan and its peoples,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The deliberate targeting of civilians and the places where they work, such as the department in Jalalabad, is an appalling crime. The architects of this crime must be brought to justice.

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