Human Rights round-up

A monthly round-up of Human Rights issues around the world

September 2010

The UK news was dominated by the first state visit of the pope, however for al the bravado the visit was under the specter of a host of issues. Gay and women's rights to child abuse within the Catholic church. The pope promised private meetings with abuse victims but other issues were dodged as protests took place against the visit across Britain, with thousands turning up in London. In stark contrast, the gay, lesbian and bisexual population of Britain was revealed by the Office of National Statistics, with around 480,000 considering themselves gay or lesbian and 245,000 bisexual accounting for 1.5% of the population. Gay equality charity Stonewall expects the number to increase over time as more people become confident in 'coming out'. It is a landmark for sexual rights in the UK, and the statistics show that it gay rights are not to be swept under the carpet in Britain. Of a darker note, an Iranian gang were jailed for sex-trafficking in London when it was discovered that they were selling the services of girls, some of which they claimed to be as young as 14, to wealthy businessmen in hotels in the capital. Elsewhere the Equality and Human Rights Commission has threatened legal action against guidance to Uk intelligence staff that they are protected from court action with regards to information attained from torture. It is believed that UK intelligence staff knew that London resident Binyam Mohamed was being tortured by the CIA.

Across the channel, the French government was under-fire following its program of deporting Roma people within France to Bulgaria and Romania. Reportedly the government were footing the bill for the flights and offering a 330 Euro payment. However under EU law, France falls foul of discriminating against an ethnic group and the row could spill into financial penalties as several EU countries voice their anger.

In West Africa, the sudden death of election chief Ben Sekou Sylla in a Paris hospital cast doubts over the Guinea elections. They are seen as vital to kick starting a democratic and more stable trend amongst governments in West Africa. An important sentiment given the events on the other side of the continent as Barrack Obama issued a statement pressing for a peaceful referendum in Sudan, an ongoing legacy from a deal struck way back in 2005 relating to south Sudanese. Events in Darfur and around Sudan since have been tantamount if not glaringly obviously genocide.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinians were ready to reach a peace agreement with Israel, however such statements were scuppered when the Israeli 'settlement freeze' came to a close amid scenes of an actual countdown as Palestinian territory looks to continue shrinking. Obama once again had something to say, urging Israel to extend the freeze to create the atmosphere for talks. The Independent drew a special feature on Israeli journalist Gideon Levy who has offered a consistent voice against the status quo that warrants a read. Similarly Robert Fisk wrote a piece on Human Rights in Syria that also warrants some of your time. Sarah Shourd, the US hiker who was accused of spying and jailed by Iran has vowed to keep fighting for the release of her friends. She spent a year in prison, and her fiance and friend are still held. The Iranian authorities may demand massive bail payments in a political row that brings the issues of borders squarely into the basic humanitarian frame. Over in India, or at least an Indian administered area, Kashmir, dissident voices are trying to bring the plight into the international arena. Pakistan and India have been fighting over Kashmir for over 60 years and in the process, countless abuses as well as scores of militant and civilian deaths have laid out a tragic tale for the region. The October commonwealth games in India could put the spotlight over Indian conduct in Kashmir. Meanwhile Nato and the UN praised Afghanistan voters after a 40% turnout in the elections despite Taliban threats of violence. And in another election issue, the eternally arrested Aung San Suu Kyi has been put on the electoral register by the Burmese military junta. She won the elections in a landslide in 1990, but the military government annulled the elections and placed her under house arrest. Finally in Asia, justice seems to be coming at last for the Cambodia people as four ex-Khmer Rouge leaders were indicted in a war-crimes tribunal.

Finally in the US, Teresa Lewis opened up the death penalty debate as she was executed for the murder of her family. However with an IQ of 72 it is claimed that she did not have the capacity to plan the murders. Meanwhile most of the world wonders why there should even be a debate on state killings in the first place. While to tie things to the beginning, US pastor Bishop Long vowed to fight allegations of sexual abuse in what is a grim pattern across the world.

On a final note, if grim note, the UN highlighted the dangers of refugee camps in terms of violence, degradation, disease and even chillingly, militia recruitment. The very existence of refugee camps around the world is food for thought of where we stand as a civilization.


Mike Brandon 2008-10 | better in