Venezuela Hails ‘Victory’ Over UN Human Rights Council Seat

 

Venezuela hailed its “victory” and celebrated an “important achievement” on Thursday after winning a seat on the UN Human Rights Council despite fierce criticism over its own record.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the country would “celebrate a new victory for Bolivarian peace diplomacy,” in reference to the regime of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab described it as an “important achievement” while announcing the release of 24 detained opposition figures.

Venezuela Obtains Seat On UN Human Rights Council

 

Venezuela obtained a seat on the UN Human Rights Council Thursday despite criticism from advocacy groups and other Latin American countries that its own rights record is dismal.

To applause in the chamber, Venezuela got the nod in a vote by the UN General Assembly to choose 14 new members for the 47-member body based in Geneva.

In Caracas, the government of President Nicolas Maduro called this an “important achievement.”

AFP

US Imposes Sanctions On Raul Castro Over Human Rights Violations

Cuba’s ex-President Raul Castro

 

The United States on Thursday announced sanctions against Cuba’s former president Raul Castro, accusing him of violations of human rights.

In his continued role in the communist party, “Raul Castro oversees a system that arbitrarily detains thousands of Cubans and currently holds more than 100 political prisoners,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

AFP

US Bars Chechnya PM Over Alleged Human Rights Violations

 

The United States said Thursday it would bar the entry of Chechnya’s prime minister for allegedly orchestrating human rights violations in the Russian republic.

Under a US law that requires action against foreign officials over human rights concerns, the United States announced that Chairman Muslim Khuchiyev and his immediate family will be ineligible for US visas if they apply.

The State Department said in a statement that it had “credible information that Muslim Khuchiyev was involved in torture.”

Chechnya’s pro-Moscow authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov last year elevated Khuchiyev, previously the mayor of the Chechen capital Grozny which was reduced to rubble when Russia crushed two separatist wars that left tens of thousands dead.

While the Muslim-majority republic has largely been pacified, Chechen authorities have still engaged in unlawful arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings, according to a report last year by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The public designation comes amid a slew of rifts between Russia and the United States, which has pressed President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s support for separatists in Ukraine and alleged interference in US elections.

AFP

Accountability For Human Rights Violations Remains Elusive, Says Amnesty

Accountability For Human Rights Violations Remains Elusive, Says Amnesty

 

Global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has raised concern over the inability of the Nigerian government to hold those involved in human rights violation accountable.

In a statement by the Media Manager of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, the group decried what it described as pervasive violence against women.

According to the statement, these include purported rape of women and girls at various Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps, as well as sexual violence against female detainees by security operatives, sometimes in order to extract confessions.

READ ALSOAmnesty International Demands Probe Of ‘Rampant Corruption’ In IDP Camps

The group said it was worried that the violations have continued, despite the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act by the National Assembly in 2015.

“While welcoming Nigeria’s acceptance of recommendations to intensify efforts to combat gender-based violence, the organisation urges the government to ensure that victims throughout the Federation can seek legal redress for gender-based violations, in line with the provisions of the VAPP,” it said.

“Since the beginning of the armed conflict in northeast Nigeria in 2009, Amnesty International has documented war crimes and other human rights abuses by Boko Haram and serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the security forces, including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions,” it stated further.

It, however, frowned on the lack of accountability for crimes committed by Boko Haram, as well as by government forces in the fight against the insurgents, and called on the government to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice in fair trials.

The organisation noted that several states had called on the Federal Government to strengthen the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

In order to promote these rights, it disclosed that it recently launched a campaign on freedom of expression in Nigeria.

Amnesty International explained that this was a platform to call on the government to ensure that journalists and other media professionals could operate without fear of arrests or other reprisals.

Noting that the Human Rights Council has adopted a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome on Nigeria, the group commended the nation’s cooperation with the review process and its positive response to some of the recommendations made by other states in the UPR Working Group.

US Voices ‘Deep Concern’ Over Tanzania Rights Deterioration

 

The United States on Friday urged Tanzania to safeguard the rights of journalists and civil society, voicing concern over a growing crackdown on media, activists and the gay community.

Two press freedom advocates were taken in for questioning and released Thursday, while a powerful Dar es Salaam official last week vowed to track down people suspected of engaging in homosexuality — illegal in Tanzania.

“The United States government is deeply concerned over escalating attacks and legislative actions by the Government of Tanzania that violate civil liberties and human rights, creating an atmosphere of violence, intimidation and discrimination,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“The deteriorating state of human rights and rule of law in Tanzania inhibits development, economic prosperity, peace and security,” she said.

“We call on Tanzanian authorities to act decisively to safeguard the rights of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, health workers, political activists and all people,” in accordance with local and international law, she said.

She added that the United States was “troubled” by arrests and harassment of the LGBT community.

The United States has had warm relations with Tanzania, which has received aid under the Millennium Challenge Corporation which is only eligible to countries that respect democratic norms.

AFP

ECOWAS Calls For Cooperation In Protecting Human Rights

Members of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja

 

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) has called for the cooperation of member states to the protection of human rights.

Incoming President of the court, Edward Asante, made the call during a handover ceremony in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

“Human rights in our subregion is a very delicate issue which we must all come together to deal with.

We will not leave out the Auditor-General who also makes sure provision is made available for all the logistics that we need to have the work done,” he said.

Asante is however hopeful that with more funding, the court will achieve its set objectives of resolving disputes within the sub-region.

ECOWAS Court has its membership drawn from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau.

Others are: Nigeria, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

Its core function is to resolve disputes relating to the Community Treaty, Protocols and Conventions.

US Has ‘Abandoned’ Role As Rights Champion – Jimmy Carter

Former US President Jimmy Carter attends a book signing event for his new book ‘Faith: A Journey For All’ in New York City.  Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Former president Jimmy Carter has warned that the United States has “abandoned” its standing as the premier champion of human rights, showing “indifference” to abuse at home and abroad.

“The United States has already lost its place as a leader of protecting people and their human rights,” the Democratic ex-president told a Human Rights Defenders Forum on Tuesday at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

“We still have a chance to restore our position as the foremost champion of human rights, but we are not in that position at this moment,” said Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting human rights, democracy and development.

“If we retain our present position of indifference to human rights violations, we’ll encourage” such violations to grow even more rapidly than they have in recent years, he stressed.

The 93-year-old Carter, who was speaking to dozens of human rights experts from around the world, noted that the United States was at the forefront seven decades ago when it led the United Nations to proclaim the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But the US government’s dramatic clampdowns on civil liberties following the September 11 terror attacks in 2001 helped shred American credibility, Carter said.

“So we have abandoned, basically, our position as a government to be the champion of human rights,” added the former president, who made rights concerns a central pillar of his foreign policy during his term in office.

The United States emerged as a superpower not because it has a powerful military or the world’s strongest economy, Carter argued, but “because we espouse things that are important to everyone on Earth — and I think human rights are one of them.”

Current US President Donald Trump has placed little emphasis on human rights, instead often praising, or turning a blind eye to, the words and actions of authoritarian-minded rulers in countries from the Philippines to Russia — even to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

AFP

U.S. Accuses FG Of Failing To Stop Human Rights Abuses, Impunity

U.S. Accuses FG Of Failing To Stop Human Rights Abuses, Impunity
File photo: President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The United States Government has released a report, accusing the Nigerian Government of failing to adequately investigate widespread human rights abuses and impunity in the country or punish those responsible for the abuses.

In its Country Report on Human Rights Practices For 2017, the U.S. State Department said although the Federal Government took steps to investigate alleged abuses, it took fewer steps to prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

“Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government,” the report said. “The government did not adequately investigate or prosecute most of the major outstanding allegations of human rights violations by the security forces or the majority of cases of police or military extortion or other abuse of power.”

The most significant human rights issues in Nigeria in 2017, according to the report, included extrajudicial and arbitrary killings; disappearances and arbitrary detentions; torture, particularly in detention facilities, including sexual exploitation and abuse; use of children by some security elements, looting, and destruction of property.

Other abuses alleged in the report are civilian detentions in military facilities, often based on flimsy evidence; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women and children, including female genital mutilation/cutting and sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; early and forced marriages, and more.

The State Department alleged that the outcomes of investigations into reports of extrajudicial killings, unlawful detentions and use of excessive force against protesters were not made public neither was anyone held accountable for them.

It said, “Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody.

“State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths generally did not make their findings public. In August, the acting president convened a civilian-led presidential investigative panel to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement. As of November, the panel had not issued a report.”

Concerning the war against Boko Haram, the report claimed that allegations of human rights violations against members of the Civilian Joint Task Force were not dealt with decisively.

“The government took limited steps to investigate and punish CJTF members who committed human rights abuses. There were no reports of a criminal investigation into members of the military or armed groups who were previously alleged to have used children in support roles or who continued to do so,” it said.

Another issue the report claimed the Nigerian government failed to tackle decisively is “arbitrary deprivation of life and other unlawful or politically motivated killings”.

It cited the December 2015 clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army as an example.

According to the report, although the Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the matter recommended that the Federal Government should conduct and independent investigation into the matter, it had yet to do so.

“As of November (2017), however, there was no indication that authorities had held any members of the NA accountable for the events in Zaria,” it said.

The Nigerian government has yet to react to the State Department Report, but it had rejected previous reports by Amnesty International accusing the army of rights abuses and alleging widespread corruption within the government.

The report, published on April 20, comes 10 days before President Muhammadu Buhari’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington D.C.

Ex-Indian Army Officer On Street Killing Spree As Six Die

A former army officer beat six people to death with an iron rod Tuesday in a street killing spree that sparked panic in an Indian city, police said.

Naresh Dhankar, 45, began his two hour murder rampage in a hospital in Palwal, in Haryana state, then walked outside picking victims at random, police said.

His first killing of an woman waiting for a relative in the hospital was caught on security cameras.

As police took the body of the woman to the morgue word came through of the other killings and a citywide alert was ordered.

Three of the dead were night watchmen and one was a beggar who had been sleeping in the street in the city about 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of New Delhi, police officials said.

All were beaten over the head with the iron bar by the former army lieutenant who has a master’s degree in agriculture.

Dhankar was detained as he was attacking a seventh victim at another hospital.

“He attacked a woman at a hospital first. We rushed there and as we were scanning the CCTV footage we got to know that more bodies had been found,” said police spokesman Sanjay Kumar.

“The accused has been arrested and is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital.”

A TV grab showed Dhankar, wearing a blue pullover, walking with an iron rod in his hands.

As news of the attacks spread on social media, police appealed to residents of Palwal, ordering them to stay indoors.

Kumar quoted Dhankar’s wife as saying he had been “mentally disturbed” for the past few days. The couple had been separated for several years.

“We are investigating to find out the exact motive behind the killings,” the spokesman said.

AFP

Obasanjo Urges Zambian Govt. To Follow Rule Of Law In Dealing With Opposition

Xenophobia Attacks: Obasanjo Lays Blame On SA Government
Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

A former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has appealed to the Zambian government to adhere to the rule of law and human rights principles, in dealing with the opposition in the Southern African country of Zambia.

The appeal is coming on the heels of the report, which broke early on Tuesday that the house of the main opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, was allegedly broken into by the Government Police and other Paramilitary Agencies with the purpose of arresting him without any warrant.

Obasanjo, in a statement signed by his Media Aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, said it was in the best interest of the country to maintain the rule of law and human rights principles, which are recipes for peace, stability and development not only in the Southern African country, but the entire African continent.

“Early Tuesday, the news broke that the Zambian Government Police and other Paramilitary Agencies broke into the house of the opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, to effect his arrest without any warrant.

“Special appeal is being made to the Government of Zambia to ensure that the rule of law is followed without Bach of human rights in dealing with the opposition leader of the stature of Hakainde Hichilema.

“It is in the best interest of the country in ensuring that the rule of law and human rights principles are followed to ensure peace, stability and security, which are fundamental basis for development, which all Africans require at this point in time”, he stated.

SERAP Calls On FG To Investigate Amnesty International Office Attack

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has called on both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to urgently instruct appropriate authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate the attack on the Amnesty International office in Nigeria, and ensure the safety and security of its staff.

It would be recalled that a group of protesters on Monday, barricaded the Abuja office of Amnesty International and asked the international organisation to quit Nigeria within 24 hours.

In a statement signed on Tuesday, by SERAP Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, the organization called on Buhari and Osinbajo to “Act swiftly to end the attack, intimidation, harassment and threats against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff.

“Any failure to hold to account those who may be responsible will invariably increase the vulnerability of civil society in the country, and strengthen the perception that attacks against the Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and the human rights workers can happen with impunity.”

“If the Buhari government does not take all necessary measures to immediately end the mob attack on Amnesty International or any other civil society group for that matter, SERAP will be compelled to take appropriate legal action nationally and internationally including approaching the United Nation (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders for remedy.

“SERAP will continue to work to challenge any attempt to restrict, silence or eliminate the voices of credible civil society in the country.

“We urge the presidency to speak out strongly against intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International office in Nigeria and its staff.

“Investigating the attacks against naming and shaming the sponsors and bringing them to justice will send a powerful message of protection and support to civil society groups who stand up to speak truth to power.

“Any attack on Amnesty International office in Nigeria or harassment and intimidation of its staff members is an assault on the entire human rights community in the country.

“This government has an obligation to support and protect civil society groups and human rights defenders against violence and sponsored attacks.

“Nigeria is a democratic society and the government can’t just sit back and watch reprisals, threats and increasing hostility to Amnesty International in particular and the NGO community in general.

“Under the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and International Human Rights Law, everyone whose rights are violated are entitled to a right to an effective remedy.

“Exposing human rights violations and seeking redress for them is largely dependent on the degree of security enjoyed by civil society groups and human rights defenders.

“Protecting NGOs against sponsored attacks and ending impunity for such attacks is therefore a critical element in the promotion and protection of human rights in this country.

“While some may not like to hear these things Amnesty International has said, this in no way justifies this kind of mob attack on its office and staff members.

“The authorities should show its commitment in protecting the right to freedom of expression and guarantee conditions for civil society to flourish.”