Hate Speech by Saudi Officials
Human Rights Watch - Defending Human Rights Worldwide
Tue, 17 Oct 2017 06:06:09 +0000
01/01/1970 01:00 AM Saudi Arabia: Official Hate Speech Targets Minorities
(Beirut) ‚Äď Some Saudi state clerics and institutions incite hatred and discrimination against religious minorities, including the country‚Äôs Shia Muslim minority, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 62-page report, ‚Äú‚ÄėThey Are Not Our Brothers‚Äô: Hate Speech by Saudi Officials,‚ÄĚ documents that Saudi Arabia has permitted government-appointed religious scholars and clerics to refer to religious minorities in derogatory terms or demonize them in official documents and religious rulings that influence government decision-making. In recent years, government clerics and others have used the internet and social media to demonize and incite hatred against Shia Muslims and others who do not conform to their views.
Hate Speech by Saudi Officials
‚ÄúSaudi Arabia has relentlessly promoted a reform narrative in recent years, yet it allows government-affiliated clerics and textbooks to openly demonize religious minorities such as Shia,‚ÄĚ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ‚ÄúThis hate speech prolongs the systematic discrimination against the Shia minority and ‚Äď at its worst ‚Äď is employed by violent groups who attack them.‚ÄĚ
Human Rights Watch found that the incitement, along with anti-Shia bias in the criminal justice system and the Education Ministry‚Äôs religion curriculum, is instrumental in enforcing discrimination against Saudi Shia citizens. Human Rights Watch recently documented derogatory references to other religious affiliations, including Judaism, Christianity, and Sufi Islam in the country‚Äôs religious education curriculum.
Government clerics, all of whom are Sunni, often refer to Shia as rafidha or rawafidh (rejectionists) and stigmatize their beliefs and practices. They have also condemned mixing and intermarriage. One member of Saudi Arabia‚Äôs Council of Senior Religious Scholars, the country‚Äôs highest religious body, responded in a public meeting to a question about Shia Muslims by stating that ‚Äúthey are not our brothers ... rather they are brothers of Satan‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ.
Such hate speech may have fatal consequences when armed groups such as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, or Al-Qaeda use it to justify targeting Shia civilians. Since mid-2015, ISIS has attacked six Shia mosques and religious buildings in Saudi Arabia‚Äôs Eastern Province and Najran, killing more than 40 people. ISIS news releases claiming these attacks stated that the attackers were targeting ‚Äúedifices of shirk,‚ÄĚ(polytheism), and rafidha, terms used in Saudi religious education textbooks to target Shia.
Saudi Arabia‚Äôs former grand mufti, Abdulaziz Bin Baz, who died in 1999, condemned Shia in numerous religious rulings. Bin Baz‚Äôs body of fatwas and writings remain publicly available on the website of Saudi Arabia‚Äôs Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas.
Some clerics use language that suggests Shia are part of a conspiracy against the state, a domestic fifth column for Iran, and disloyal by nature. The government also allows other clerics with enormous social media followings ‚Äď some in the millions ‚Äď and media outlets to stigmatize Shia with impunity.
Anti-Shia bias extends to the Saudi judicial system, which is controlled by the religious establishment and often subjects Shia to discriminatory treatment or arbitrarily criminalizes Shia religious practices. In 2015, for example, a Saudi court sentenced a Shia citizen to two months in jail and 60 lashes for hosting private Shia group prayers in his father‚Äôs home. In 2014, a Saudi Arabia court convicted a Sunni man of ‚Äúsitting with Shia.‚ÄĚ
The Saudi Ministry of Education religion curriculum al-tawhid, or (monotheism) which is taught at the primary, middle, and secondary education levels, uses veiled language to stigmatize Shia religious practices as shirk or ghulah (exaggeration). Saudi religious education textbooks direct these critiques to the Shia and Sufi practice of visiting graves and religious shrines and tawassul (intercession), to call on the prophet or his family members as intermediaries to God. The textbooks state that these practices, which both Sunni and Shia citizens understand as Shia, are grounds for removal from Islam, punished by being sent to hell for eternity.
International human rights law requires governments to prohibit ‚Äú[a]ny advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.‚ÄĚ Implementation of this prohibition has been uneven and sometimes used as a pretext to restrict lawful speech or target minority groups. Any steps to counter hate speech should be carried out within overall guarantees of freedom of expression.
To address this problem, experts in recent years have proposed a test to establish whether any particular speech can be lawfully limited. Under this formula, the speech Human Rights Watch documented by Saudi religious scholars sometimes rises to the level of hate speech or incitement to hatred or discrimination. Other statements don‚Äôt cross that threshold, but authorities should publicly repudiate and counteract it. Given the influence and reach of these scholars, their statements advance a system of discrimination against Shia citizens.
Saudi authorities should order an immediate halt to hate speech by state-affiliated clerics and government agencies.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has repeatedly classified Saudi Arabia as a ‚Äúcountry of particular concern‚ÄĚ ‚Äď its harshest designation for countries that violate religious freedom. The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act allows the president to issue a waiver if it would ‚Äúfurther the purposes‚ÄĚ of the act or if ‚Äúthe important national interest of the United States requires the exercise of such waiver authority.‚ÄĚ US presidents have issued such waivers for Saudi Arabia since 2006.
The US government should rescind the waiver and work with Saudi authorities to end incitement to hatred or discrimination against Shia and Sufi citizens, as well as other religions. The US should also press for removal of all criticism and stigmatization of Shia and Sufi religious practices, as well as practices of other religions, from the Saudi religion education curriculum.
‚ÄúDespite Saudi Arabia‚Äôs poor record on religious freedom, the US has shielded Saudi Arabia from possible sanctions under US law,‚ÄĚ Whitson said. ‚ÄúThe US government should apply its own laws to hold its Saudi ally accountable.‚ÄĚ
01/01/1970 01:00 AM Lebanon: Deaths, Alleged Torture of Syrians in Army Custody
(Beirut) ‚Äď Lebanese authorities should conduct an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into the deaths of Syrians in military custody and allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention, Human Rights Watch said today. On July 4, 2017, the Lebanese military issued a statement saying four Syrians died in its custody following mass raids in Arsal, a restricted access area in northeast Lebanon where many Syrian refugees live. On July 14, Human Rights Watch received credible reports that a fifth Syrian detainee had also died in custody.
A doctor with expertise in documenting torture reviewed photos of three of the men provided by their family lawyers to Human Rights Watch, which showed widespread bruising and cuts. He said the injuries were ‚Äúconsistent with inflicted trauma in the setting of physical torture‚ÄĚ and that ‚Äúany statement that the deaths of these individuals were due to natural causes is inconsistent with these photographs.‚ÄĚ Human Rights Watch also spoke with five former detainees, who said that army personnel beat and ill-treated them and other detainees. A military officer told Human Rights Watch that the army was investigating the deaths and would publish its findings.
‚ÄúWhile the Lebanese army‚Äôs promise to investigate these shocking deaths is a positive step, the promise will be meaningless without transparent and independent accountability for anyone found guilty of wrongdoing,‚ÄĚ said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ‚ÄúAnyone who supports the Lebanese army should support efforts to tackle such serious allegations of military abuse.‚ÄĚ
On June 30, the Lebanese army announced it had raided two unofficial refugee camps in Arsal that day, and was met with suicide bombers, a bomb, and a grenade, resulting in the injury of seven soldiers. On July 15, the army released a statement saying that it detained 356 people following these raids. It referred 56 for prosecution and 257 to the General Security agency for lack of residency. A humanitarian organization official told Human Rights Watch that children were among those detained.
The Lebanese army regularly conducts raids on unofficial refugee camps in Lebanon, but has not responded to questions from Human Rights Watch about the purpose of these raids. The raids came amid calls from Lebanese politicians for the return of refugees to Syria and reports of an impending military operation against armed groups on the Syrian border near Arsal.
Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm reports that Syrians died during the raids themselves, but a source in Arsal said the municipality received nine bodies, not including the five men who were reported to have died in custody.
The army‚Äôs July 4 statement said that four detainees who ‚Äúsuffered from chronic health issues that were aggravated due to the climate condition‚ÄĚ died before being interrogated. It identified them as Mustafa Abd el Karim Absse, 57; Khaled Hussein el-Mleis, 43; Anas Hussein el-Husseiki, 32; and Othman Merhi el-Mleis. The army did not specify where it had detained them.
Human Rights Watch spoke with a family member and a close acquaintance of two of the deceased, who said that they had no known serious health conditions. Both said that the army gave no reason for the arrests and did not notify the families of the deaths.
On July 14, Human Rights Watch received reports that a fifth Syrian detainee, Toufic al Ghawi, 23, died in detention after the army transferred him to the Elias Hrawi government hospital. A witness in Arsal who saw the body before burial said, ‚ÄúToufic didn‚Äôt look human anymore. His flesh was torn apart.‚ÄĚ Human Rights Watch has not received photographs of the body.
Additional evidence supports the allegations of abuse and torture during the arrests in Arsal and at military detention facilities. A witness in Arsal told Human Rights Watch that he had seen 34 former detainees with marks on their hands, legs, and backs, and in one case, on a former detainee‚Äôs head.
Human Rights Watch spoke with five former detainees who said they were mistreated, physically abused, and denied food and water, along with scores of other detainees during four to five days of detention without charge before being released.
Human Rights Watch wrote to the military on July 10 to verify the number of those arrested, injured, or killed during the army raids; those still in custody; and the conditions of their detention, but has not received a response. Human Rights Watch also requested permission to enter Arsal to interview witnesses, but has not received permission. An army officer told Human Rights Watch that the army was not allowing ‚Äúmedia organizations‚ÄĚ to enter Arsal. Human Rights Watch shared its findings with the military and military prosecutor.
Under international law, Lebanon has an obligation to investigate deaths in custody and hold those responsible to account. Human Rights Watch and local human rights organizations have long documented reports of torture and ill-treatment by security services including the army. Impunity for violence is a recurring problem in Lebanon. Even when officials have initiated investigations into deaths, torture, or ill-treatment, they have often not been concluded or made public. Human Rights Watch is not aware of cases where military personnel have been held to account.
‚ÄúThe Lebanese public and the Syrian families of those who died in detention deserve a clear accounting of what happened to them and punishment for those found responsible,‚ÄĚ Whitson said. ‚ÄúUnfortunately, Lebanese authorities have a history of opening investigations in response to public pressure, but failing to conclude them or publish the results.‚ÄĚ
Photographic Evidence of Torture
Human Rights Watch received 28 photographs of three of the deceased men, taken at the Elias Hrawi government hospital in Zahle, from the law firm representing the families of the deceased. The lawyers said they were not able to locate Othman el-Mleis‚Äôs body. Dr. Homer Venters, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights, who has expertise in documenting torture, reviewed the photographs and shared his report:
The photos reveal widespread physical trauma of the upper and lower extremities. The lack of defensive wounds suggests that these injuries were inflicted while the victims were restrained or otherwise incapacitated and the distribution of these injuries are consistent with inflicted trauma in the setting of physical torture. Several of the photos are consistent with lacerations caused from being suspended by the wrists. It would be reasonable to conclude that the deaths of these men is the result of in-custody violence, although the precise cause of death cannot be predicted based on the information and photographs submitted. Any statement that the deaths of these individuals was due to natural causes is inconsistent with these photographs.
Corroborating Evidence of Torture and Mistreatment of Arsal Detainees
Human Rights Watch spoke with five former detainees from Arsal who said they were detained without charge for four to five days. They said soldiers handcuffed them, hooded them with their shirts, put them on the ground in the sun, and stomped or hit anyone raising their head. ‚ÄúI moved my head up slightly, and immediately a soldier hit me with his boot,‚ÄĚ one man said.
The men said soldiers then loaded them onto trucks ‚Äúone over the other, as if they‚Äôre shipping potato bags,‚ÄĚ and took them to multiple detention sites including Rayak Air Base in the Bekaa Valley and the military intelligence and military police bases in Ablah. At Rayak Air Base, they said, army personnel held more than 100 of them in one room overnight, denied them food and water, and did not allow them to use the bathroom. ‚ÄúThey would beat whoever asked to go to the bathroom,‚ÄĚ said a former detainee in his 60s.
They said that army personnel at Rayak beat, insulted, and threatened them and others. ‚ÄúThey beat people, some with batons, others with the butt of a gun,‚ÄĚ one said. ‚ÄúI saw one soldier on the outside poking one of the detainees from the window with a bent skewer. He beat him, then he started cutting his face‚Ä¶until blood came out.‚ÄĚ
The men interviewed said they were finally transferred to General Security, the agency in charge of foreigners‚Äô entry and residency, who did not mistreat them and released them. The former detainees said that the army never told them why they had been detained.
One former detainee, interviewed on July 11, said: ‚ÄúI had to leave my son behind [in detention]. To this day, I don‚Äôt know what has happened to him.‚ÄĚ Lebanese law limits pre-charge detention to 96 hours.
Human Rights Watch also reviewed medical reports for three of the deceased, dated July 1 and 2, and prepared by a forensic doctor at the request of the general prosecutor, concluding that they had suffered heart attacks and a stroke, and that the bodies did not show marks of violence.
A lawyer representing the families said she had received permission from a Judge of Urgent Affairs for a forensic doctor to examine the bodies, conduct an autopsy, and take medical samples to ascertain the cause of death. After she took the medical samples to the Hotel Dieu hospital in Beirut for analysis, the lawyer said, Military Intelligence personnel there demanded she turn them over, by order of the Military Information Directorate. She handed them over after the general prosecutor, Samir Hammoud, instructed her to do so. Following the military‚Äôs intervention, she said that the X-ray, CT scan, and autopsy results have not been released to her or made public.
The investigation into the men‚Äôs deaths is now before the military court, the family‚Äôs lawyer said. Human Rights Watch has previously raised concerns about the independence, impartiality, and competence of the Military Tribunal, where the majority of judges are military officers who are not required to have law degrees, and where trials take place behind closed doors.
01/01/1970 01:00 AM Whose Bastille Day?
President Emmanuel Macron is hosting President Donald Trump for Bastille Day to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I. The invitation is highly symbolic and ironic: the NATO- and EU-bashing Trump presiding over a military parade that celebrates the end of the splendid isolation that kept the United States out of the allied war effort through April 6, 1917, when Congress declared war on Germany.
The nativist and isolationist agenda Trump preaches for the United States is squarely at odds with the legacy that will be commemorated on the Champs-Elys√©es. Trump‚Äôs views dismiss ¬†historic allies and tarnish values and principles that are the foundation of the multilateral order first ushered in by the victorious allies at the end of World War I.¬†His agenda ¬†is also at odds with the values and principles that will be at the heart of the joint cabinet meeting Macron will be hosting alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel the eve of Bastille Day to mark the heightened entente between France and Germany on key issues from climate change to human rights to the future of the EU and the United Nations. On all of these fronts, as Merkel hinted in a veiled reference to Trump, ‚Äúthe times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over.‚ÄĚ
Whereas Macron will be on comfortable ground when meeting Merkel, the encounter with Trump is more risk-laden. It also comes on the heels of a lack-luster-yet-protest-mired G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, last week where, according to Merkel, ‚Äúdifferences were not papered over, they were clearly stated.‚ÄĚ Macron already navigated a similarly risky encounter with President Vladimir Putin quite skilfully, so here‚Äôs to him holding his ground and faithfully promoting the principles and values he has often defended in discourse if not yet in practice.
In a lofty and lengthy speech before an extraordinary joint session of congress in Versailles on July 3, Macron laid down the guiding principles for his administration. The first real foreign test since his attachment to these principles, absent other allies, will be his upcoming meeting with Trump. Regarding climate change and our common universal heritage, he is likely to insist on the ‚Äúneed to defend the planet from climate change‚ÄĚ as he already did when Trump unsigned the Paris Climate Agreement. But, will Macron speak more generally of ‚Äúthe vice that poisons our public debate: the denial of reality‚ÄĚ he warned against in Versailles, and take issue with Trump for propagating and feeding off the vice?
Regarding refugees, will Macron speak of them again ‚Äúnot as a burden but a chance‚ÄĚ and advocate ‚Äúfair,¬†humane treatment and protection‚ÄĚ to ‚Äúwelcome political refugees at risk,‚ÄĚ including in the United States? Regarding multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, will he insist that ‚Äúthe multilateral order is without doubt more necessary today than ever before‚ÄĚ and call on the United States to cease any ongoing efforts to weaken it? Regarding human rights, will he remain true to his call for the ‚Äúconcrete, tangible and visible application of the principles that guide us: liberty, equality, fraternity‚ÄĚ?
Will he make clear to Trump that implementation of his administration‚Äôs draconian and expansionist ‚ÄúGlobal Gag Rule‚ÄĚ against abortion will have a hugely negative impact on AIDS relief, efforts to stem the spread of infectious disease, and global health?
In short, will Trump be appeased or faced with the ‚Äúresistance and coherence‚ÄĚ that Macron promised would be his ‚Äúonly north‚ÄĚ? Will Macron have the courage and spine to break through the nativist and isolationist walls that Trump seeks to create, under the flimsy guise of greater safety and security for the United States? It is not the ceremonial saber-rattling of the military parade but the face-to-face discussion between Macron and Trump that will determine whose Bastille Day it turns out to be.
01/01/1970 01:00 AM France is addicted to the state of emergency. Put an end to it, Mr. President
‚ÄúThis bill will be the last one. The first and the last one.‚ÄĚ That is how Emmanuel Macron answered the question I had just asked him: ‚ÄúWhat would happen, Mr. President, if France were hit by another terrorist attack in the coming months? Would you propose yet another bill?‚ÄĚ
The exchange took place last Friday, in the late afternoon. I was in the Elys√©e as part of a delegation of leading human rights organizations, lawyers and magistrates to meet President Macron and two of his advisors. We had come to express our concerns and criticisms of two bills drafted by the government and submitted to Parliament: a sixth extension of the state of emergency until November, and a counterterrorism bill directly inspired by the provisions of the state of emergency. This bill would make permanent special powers which were supposed to be temporary, introduced as necessary only for the extraordinary circumstances of a time-limited state of emergency.
For over an hour and a half, we set out methodically the abuses committed against ordinary citizens when those powers were used under the state of emergency. We warned the President that the counterterrorism bill would entrench what were exceptional powers into regular law and pose grave dangers for fundamental rights and the rule of law. We denounced the lack of evaluation of the effectiveness of state of emergency measures and of the existing legal arsenal for counterterrorism. We lamented the choice of an accelerated procedure for the parliamentary review of these two proposed bills, depriving the country of what ought to be a meaningful democratic debate about the concept of liberty, one of France‚Äôs founding values.
But despite this discussion, President Macron did not waver.
Far from reinforcing freedoms, as the President claimed this past Monday in his speech to Parliament, the new bill would entrench in regular law abusive powers introduced under the state of emergency. It would normalize the considerable powers awarded by the state of emergency to the Ministry of the Interior and the administrative police. The drastic weakening of judicial safeguards, which are the foundation of the rule of law and an essential defense against abuse, would become permanent. In effect it treats France as if it is always in a state of emergency. By authorizing ‚Äúassigned residence orders‚ÄĚ, whereby individuals‚Äô freedom of movement is severely limited even though they have not been accused of a crime, this new bill also confirms a dangerous shift towards so-called preventive justice. Just this week we‚Äôve learned that since the state of emergency was declared in November 2015, there have been 708 assigned residence orders. More than one a day. This is a trend, not a small set of isolated actions. The ‚Äúlogic of suspicion‚ÄĚ, on which these orders are predicated, opens the door to significant abuse.
During the meeting, the President admitted that the state of emergency can foster ‚Äúarbitrary behaviors‚ÄĚ and has led to ¬ę¬†excesses¬†¬Ľ. Emmanuel Macron, then a candidate, had himself expressed in his book, Revolution ‚Äúthat reducing the freedoms of all, and the dignity of each citizen, has never anywhere led to an increase in security.‚ÄĚ Despite that, Emmanuel Macron chose to follow in the footsteps of governments that, over the last two decades, have responded to the threat of terrorism with ever harsher laws, turning France into the country with the most expansive counterterrorism laws in Europe. Members of Parliament, a large majority of whom are supportive of the President, will most likely adopt the bill without much opposition. Macron may well say this is his ‚Äúfirst and last law‚ÄĚ on security; but recent history in France and elsewhere teaches us that once states start down this legislative slope, more repressive laws follow.
If we refer to the past 18 months, France may well be addicted to emergency powers. As a responsible leader, however, the French President‚Äôs job is to break that dependency and resist the temptation to react to the fear of another attack with laws that do more harm to rights than they do good to security. As activists, lawyers, and voices of civil society, that is what we will keep telling the President and our elected representatives. End the state of emergency, don‚Äôt simply inject a dose of it into ordinary law.¬†
01/01/1970 01:00 AM What Do the UK Party Manifestos Say About Human Rights?
Human rights have so far barely featured in the British election campaign. Yet in their manifestos theConservatives,¬†Labour¬†and¬†Liberal Democrats¬†as well as the¬†Scottish National Party¬†have set out distinctive positions on a range of rights issues relating to both domestic and foreign policy. ¬†These policies warrant public attention and political debate. To help encourage this, we highlight¬†the parties‚Äô commitments in seven key areas, offer some brief context, and make links to other relevant material.¬†
‚ÄĒ Clive Baldwin (@cliveabaldwin) 1 June 2017
‚ÄĒ Hillary Margolis (@hillarymargo) 2 June 2017
‚ÄĒ Ben Ward (@Benjamin_P_Ward) 2 June 2017
01/01/1970 01:00 AM 'Every Year, I Give Birth': Why War is Driving a Contraception Crisis in Sudan
Under a huge baobab tree in Sudan‚Äôs Nuba mountains, I met Sebila, a 27-year-old mother of three. In March last year, her village had been attacked by Sudanese ground troops and bombed by government war planes. The assault forced Sebila and many other villagers to flee deeper into rebel-held territory.
She was just back in the village for the day with her children, two toddlers in tow and carrying a baby, to dig up sorghum she had buried. Sebila said food here is scarcer than it has been for years, because of¬†poor rains and conflict fighting. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs exhausting, trying to feed them all [my family],‚ÄĚ Sebila said of her children.
Aid obstruction in the rebel-held territories of Sudan‚Äôs South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been in force for nearly six years, and has had a¬†devastating impact on the communities here. For Sebila ‚Äď and all the women living across these territories ‚Äď it has meant no access to contraception. ‚ÄúEvery year, I give birth,‚ÄĚ she told me. ‚ÄúIt would be better if I could space it [out].‚ÄĚ But Sebila cannot space her babies out, or have any control of her body. Like all women living in rebel-held territory here, she has zero access to contraception.
It has also meant a severe lack of maternal healthcare. There is no local midwife, and Sebila lives five hours‚Äô drive from a hospital, in a region where cars are a rare luxury.¬†Women told me¬†of waiting hours for transport while in obstructed labour, or being held propped up, bleeding and falling in and out of consciousness, between two men on the back of a motorcycle to reach a hospital. Multiple and closely-spaced births can carry serious health risks for both mother and infant, and can be life-threatening without proper treatment.
Yet there is no coordinated international aid effort under way in the Nuba mountains. Funds are in place, but both the government and the rebel group are preventing supplies getting in. The conflict has left already-stretched health services in the region in a pitiful state. Most facilities are little more than a table with some basic medicines, and there are only five doctors and one blood bank for perhaps close to a million people.
Despite many rounds of peace talks since¬†fighting began in 2011, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People‚Äôs Liberation Army-North have failed to agree on how to allow aid ‚Äď needs-based and impartially delivered ‚Äď into the affected areas. Instead they are still arguing about whether aid can come through a third country, or, as the government insists, only from inside Sudan. Some aid groups have found ways to provide occasional help, unauthorised by the government but supported by the rebels, but this is no substitute for the large-scale effort needed.¬†
This has very serious consequences for reproductive health. None of the women I met in the Nuba mountains had any access to family planning. One clinic provides a three-month injectable contraception, but local rebel regulations require women to get their husband‚Äôs permission first. Despite evidence that gonorrhoea and syphilis are on the rise and hepatitis B common, condoms are scarce. Most of the women I met had never seen a condom, let alone any other form of contraception.
It is also feared that the number of women and girls dying in childbirth in the rebel-held areas of Southern Kordofan ‚Äď already much higher than other states in¬†Sudan¬†‚Äď is rising yet further. And two major aid efforts, including a UN polio vaccination campaign for children, have failed.
Sudan has a long history of aid obstruction going back to the start of the conflict: denying travel permits; rejecting visas; blocking work permits; and expelling aid workers. Meanwhile, citing mistrust of the government, the rebels have still not agreed to an offer by the US to provide aid via Khartoum, and have instead called for yet more negotiations.¬†
Although aid saves lives, and warring parties in conflict have an obligation to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, preventing it from reaching people is rarely punished. The UN security council¬†briefly threatened punitive action against Sudan in 2012, but never acted. The health crisis unfolding in the Nuba mountains should prompt a change of tack. The UN security council, the African Union and the EU should investigate and consider travel bans and asset freezes on rebel and government leaders found to have deliberately blocked such deliveries.¬†
International aid is often a lifeline to civilians trapped in conflict. And it would help women like Sebila to access contraception, avoid risky childbirth, and feed their children.
01/01/1970 01:00 AM Military Might Alone Won‚Äôt Pull Mali From Quagmire
‚ÄúThe jihadists are the law now,‚ÄĚ an elder from central Mali told me. ‚ÄúThe very day the French-supported operation finished, the Islamists were back in the villages,‚ÄĚ confided another villager last week, referring to a military operation near the Mali-Burkina Faso border in April.
The endurance of the jihadist recruitment success and their appeal to many villagers suggests that military operations on their own will not be sufficient to defeat the threat. President Emmanuel Macron should keep this in mind when he visits the country this Friday.
Hailed as a military success, the 2013 French-led military intervention in northern Mali ended the region‚Äôs occupation by ethnic Tuareg separatists and armed Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda. But since 2015, attacks against Malian forces and abuses by Al-Qaeda-linked groups have moved southward to Mali‚Äôs previously stable central regions and, last year, spread into neighboring Burkina Faso.
Since 2015, I‚Äôve interviewed scores of witnesses and victims to abuses in central Mali. They described how, in recent months, groups of up to 50 Islamist fighters closed down schools, banned women from riding on motorcycles driven by men other than their husbands, and imposed their version of Sharia (Islamic law). ‚ÄúWe used to spend days celebrating a marriage or baptism, dancing and singing together,‚ÄĚ one man said. ‚ÄúNot anymore.‚ÄĚ
Men accused of being informants for the Malian government often turn up dead. Since 2015, Islamists have executed at least 40 men in their custody, including village chiefs and local officials. Some were murdered in front of their families. Several people said they felt pressured to send one of their sons to join the Islamists.
However, an equal number of villagers told me they welcomed the presence of the Islamist groups in central Mali; they saw them as a benevolent alternative to a state they associate with predatory and abusive governance. Many seethed as they described Malian army abuses during counterterrorism operations, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and executions.
Since late 2016, I have documented the alleged extrajudicial killing by soldiers of 12 detainees, the most recent in early May, and the forced disappearance of several others. Villagers described how soldiers detained and executed three family members in January. ‚ÄúWe heard gunshots in the distance,‚ÄĚ one witness said. ‚ÄúI followed the tracks of the army truck and found our people in a shallow grave.‚ÄĚ This week, I received a desperate email from the brother of a man forced into a white pickup by men in uniform on February 3. ‚ÄúWe have heard nothing; we have searched everywhere,‚ÄĚ he said.
While the behavior of the state security services has improved in recent years, Malian authorities have made no meaningful ¬†effort to investigate those implicated in violations.
Villagers said the Islamists are recruiting by exploiting frustrations over poverty, abusive security services, rampant banditry, local Peuhl clan rivalries, and, especially, corruption.
‚ÄúThe jihadists speak a lot about corruption‚Ä¶ how the authorities steal, torture and do bad things to us,‚ÄĚ one elder said. ‚ÄúHonestly, they don‚Äôt need to try very hard to recruit the youth‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
Villagers also said the Islamists are increasingly filling the governance vacuum. They welcomed Islamist efforts to investigate and punish livestock thieves, including by executions. Others praised Sharia rulings in favor of victims of domestic violence or spousal abandonment. Elders from both the sedentary Bambara and pastoral Peuhl communities credited the Islamists‚Äô efforts in late 2016 to resolve deadly land disputes. This meaningfully reduced communal violence in some regions, they said.
‚ÄúWe are fed up with paying bribes every time you meet a man in uniform or government official,‚ÄĚ one villager said. ‚ÄúThe Islamists get all this done without asking for taxes, money, or one of our cows.‚ÄĚ
It was corruption, poor governance, and abusive security force conduct that significantly contributed ¬†to Mali‚Äôs spectacular collapse in 2012. The burden to resolve this situation lies first and foremost with the Malian government. But the French strategy in Mali and the wider Sahel won‚Äôt succeed without helping Mali to address the issues underlying decades of insecurity and the growing support for abusive armed Islamist groups. Military operations, including those supported by the French, are not enough to pull Mali from this deepening quagmire.
When President Macron visits Mali on Friday, he should urge the government to professionalize the security forces and hold them accountable, to support the chronically neglected judiciary, and to take concrete action against rampant corruption. Strengthening Mali‚Äôs weak rule of law institutions is complicated work, but no counterterrorism strategy can succeed without it.
01/01/1970 01:00 AM Latest Updates on Venezuela's Crisis
For a timeline of the most recent events in Venezuela, specifically related to Venezuela‚Äôs compliance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, please click here.¬†
01/01/1970 01:00 AM The Struggle for LGBT Rights in France
‚ÄúToday, in France, we still cannot live and love freely just as we are,‚ÄĚ said Jo√ęl Deumier, president of the association SOS Homophobie. In its annual report published May 10, 2017, the organization stated it received 1,575 testimonies of anti-LGBT acts in 2016, an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous year. It‚Äôs possible that the increase in reported incidents reflects a greater willingness of victims to speak out. Still, SOS Homophobie believes that many¬†victims of anti-LGBT acts do not dare come forward.
In 2016, SOS Homophobie received 26 reports from people who said they had a homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic encounter with justice or law enforcement officials. By this is meant that an officer refused to characterize an assault as homophobic in a complaint or to even file a complaint, or that a law enforcement officer himself discriminated against LGBT people.
While these incidents remain thankfully limited, they are no less unacceptable. France should take measures to determine how widespread these attitudes are among public officials, and to prevent subversion of their duties because of this attitude.
SOS Homophobie‚Äôs report also shows a correlation between debates over equal rights and the increase of anti-LGBT acts. The organization recorded a spike in reported incidents in 2013, the year France legalized same-sex marriage. In 2016, France adopted a law waiving the requirement for transgender people to provide proof of medical treatment to amend their legal gender. That same year saw a 76% spike in reported transphobic incidents.
While a majority of the French population is in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married and adopt children, opponents of LGBT rights are a ‚Äúvocal minority,‚ÄĚ and are especially active on social media, where prosecution for homophobic statements remains difficult to carry out.
Several candidates for the 2017 presidential election expressed their intention to ‚Äúrewrite the Taubira law‚ÄĚ on same-sex marriage and adoption. One candidate even received the support of Sens commun, an organization openly opposed to the rights of LGBT people. When political figures take stands that are hostile to equal rights, they may ‚Äúrekindle hate.‚ÄĚ
It is high time to end discrimination against LGBT people and the French authorities have a key responsibility and role to turn this into reality.
01/01/1970 01:00 AM Israel: Human Rights Watch Granted Work Permit
(Jerusalem) ‚Äď Israeli authorities on April 26, 2017, granted a work visa to Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Human Rights Watch said today.
The approval of a one-year work visa reverses a February 20 Interior Ministry decision to deny a work permit to Human Rights Watch.
‚ÄúWe welcome this opportunity to work in Israel and Palestine alongside vigorous national human rights organizations,‚ÄĚ said Iain Levine, executive deputy director for program at Human Rights Watch. ‚ÄúIsraeli authorities do not always agree with our findings, but, in facilitating the ability of our staff to carry out our research and documentation, they have taken an important step to safeguard the principle of transparency and demonstrate their openness to criticism.‚ÄĚ
Human Rights Watch applied to the Israeli Interior Ministry‚Äôs Population and Immigration Authority on July 14, 2016, for a work permit on behalf of Shakir, a United States citizen who is a lawyer by training. The Interior Ministry initially denied the work permit for Shakir, but allowed him to enter the country on tourist visa on March 6, 2017, for a 10-day visit.
In a March 12 letter, which Human Rights Watch received on March 27, the Interior Ministry notified Human Rights Watch that it had granted it permission to employ a foreign expert in Israel. The Interior Ministry accepted the paperwork and payment for Shakir‚Äôs work visa under the organization‚Äôs work permit on April 20, and Shakir received the visa upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport on April 26.
Human Rights Watch has had regular access to Israel and the West Bank for nearly three decades, with staff and offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Gaza for much of this period. Human Rights Watch staff have regularly met and corresponded with Israeli government officials. Since 2008, Israel has refused Human Rights Watch access to Gaza, except for one visit in 2016.
Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organization that promotes respect for human rights and international law. It monitors rights violations in more than 90 counties across the world. To carry out its work, Human Rights Watch relies on rigorous research from professional researchers on the ground and regular engagement with government officials, as well as others with first-hand information.
Israeli authorities have in recent years limited the space for local and international human rights defenders operating in Israel and Palestine. A law passed by the Knesset in July requires Israeli nonprofit groups that receive more than half their funding, indirectly or directly, from foreign governments to note that information in communications with the public and with government officials. Data from the Population and Immigration Authority obtained by Haaretz via a Freedom of Information Law in February 2017 indicates a ninefold increase in the number of visitors to Israel denied entry over the past five years. In March, the Knesset passed a law barring entry to those who call for or support a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
‚ÄúHaving our country director based in Israel and Palestine will allow us to closely engage Israeli and Palestinian officials, partners, and those directly affected by human rights abuses,‚ÄĚ Levine said. ‚ÄúWe hope that this decision reflects a larger recommitment by the Israeli government to allow international and domestic rights groups to work freely and to improve access to and from Gaza, in particular for human rights workers.‚ÄĚ