Children Risk ‘Generational Catastrophe’ From Covid, Says Rights Group

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: A boy wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus stands beside a stall selling watermelons at a market in Siliguri on April 30, 2021. (Photo by Diptendu DUTTA / AFP)


The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected children’s rights worldwide, with young people risking a “generational catastrophe” if governments do not act, a rights group said in an annual survey Thursday.

Millions of children have missed out on education because of COVID-19 restrictions while there will be a long-term impact in terms of their physical and mental health, Dutch NGO KidsRights said as it launched its annual ranking.

The survey ranks Iceland, Switzerland and Finland as best for children’s rights and Chad, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone as the worst, out of a total of 182 countries.

Marc Dulleart, founder and chairman of KidsRights, said that the effects of the pandemic on children had “unfortunately exceeded our predictions at the outset last year”.

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“Apart from patients of the coronavirus, children have been hardest hit, not directly by the virus itself, but fundamentally failed through the deferred actions of governments around the world,” he said.

“Educational recovery is the key to avoiding generational catastrophe,” Dulleart added.

The group said schools for more than 168 million children have been closed for almost a full year, with one in three children worldwide unable to access remote learning while their schools were shut.

An additional 142 million kids fell into material poverty as the global economy was hit by the pandemic, while 370 million kids missed out on school meals.

KidsRights paid tribute to Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford for his campaign to extend free school meals.

It also hailed Bangladesh for taking over a national TV channel for homeschooling and praised Belgium and Sweden for trying to keep schools open.

Meanwhile, 80 million children under the age of one could miss out on routine vaccination for other diseases because of disruption to healthcare systems, it said.

The report said there was also an “astonishing increase” in domestic violence during lockdowns, with children often the victims.

KidsRights included Palestine on its list for the first time, placing it in the 104th position due to a focus on healthcare despite difficult circumstances.

However, as in previous years, it gave low scores to Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, due to a lack of legal protection for children relative to their wealth.

Britain and New Zealand were ranked at 169 and 168 respectively, below North Korea, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan, and just ahead of Eritrea.

Austria and Hungary also fell heavily due to discrimination.

The survey uses UN data to measure how countries measure up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Facebook Settles With Rights Groups On Ad Discrimination



Facebook unveiled major changes to how it uses targeted advertising on Tuesday, settling a legal challenge alleging it discriminated in messages on jobs, housing, credit and other services.

The leading social network said housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code — a practice critics argued had led to discrimination.

The changes came as part of a settlement with the National Fair American Civil Liberties Union, National Fair Housing Alliance, Communication Workers of America and others.

“Today’s changes mark an important step in our broader effort to prevent discrimination and promote fairness and inclusion on Facebook,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement announcing the changes.

“But our work is far from over. We’re committed to doing more, and we look forward to engaging in serious consultation and work with key civil rights groups, experts and policymakers to help us find the right path forward.”

The ACLU called the agreement a “historic settlement” that will result in major changes to Facebook’s advertising platform.

Under the settlement, Facebook will take proactive steps to prevent advertisers from discrimination when sending job, housing or credit ads to users of Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

“Advertisers will no longer be able to exclude users from learning about opportunities for housing, employment or credit based on gender, age or other protected characteristics,” ACLU attorneys Galen Sherwin and Esha Bhandari said in a blog post.

“Ad-targeting platforms can be used to exclude users on the basis of race, gender or age, as well as interests or groups that can serve as proxies for those categories (think ‘soccer moms’ or ‘Kwanzaa celebrators’).”

The ACLU said it began exerting pressure on Facebook several years ago to stop its use of an “ethnic affinity” category, which labeled users as Asian American, Hispanic or African American based on what they liked on Facebook.

The organization said Facebook took some steps to eliminate discriminatory targeting but did not always follow through.

For certain ad categories, Facebook will create a separate portal for such ads with a much more limited set of targeting options excluding Facebook users’ age, gender, race or other characteristics.

Facebook will also implement a system of automated and human review to ensure compliance and to study the potential for unintended biases in algorithmic modeling.


Amnesty International Accuses Security Forces Of Killing 150 IPOB Supporters

biafra A rights group, Amnesty International, has accused security forces in Nigeria of killing at least 150 members and supporters of the pro-Biafran organisation IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra).

It also says hundreds have been injured during non-violent meetings, marches and other gatherings.

In a report released by the group on Thursday and entitled, “Nigeria: ‘Bullets Were Raining Everywhere’ Deadly Repression Of Pro-Biafra Activists”, Amnesty International claimed that the killings occurred between August and now, with hundreds also arbitrarily arrested.

It said that the report focused on the crisis brewing in the southeast of Nigeria, where IPOB campaigns for an independent state of Biafra.

“Video footage and eyewitness testimony consistently show that the military, which has been deployed instead of police to control pro-Biafran events, has dispersed peaceful gatherings by firing live ammunition with little or no warning.

“This report documents extrajudicial executions and the use of excessive force by military, police and other security agencies.

“It also shows a worrying pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions, including soldiers arresting wounded victims in hospital, and of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Hardly any allegations of crimes under international law and human rights violations by the Nigerian security forces, and in particular the military, are investigated.

“If an investigation is carried out, there is no follow up.

“Because no one has been seen to be held to account for serious human rights violations, an already pervasive culture of impunity within the military has been further strengthened,” the report alleged.

The group further alleged that the military was currently deployed in 30 out of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), insisting that frequent deployment of soldiers has resulted in many cases of excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances throughout the country, and in particular in the northeast, southeast and north central regions.amnesty-international-report

It further claimed that it had repeatedly called on the government of Nigeria to initiate independent and effective investigations into its evidence of crimes under international law committed by the military, especially in the context of the conflict in northeast Nigeria.

The report further read: “In response, President Buhari has repeatedly promised that Amnesty International’s reports would be looked into. However, no concrete steps have been taken to begin independent investigations.

“As a result of the apparent lack of political will to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of such crimes, the military continues to commit human rights violations and grave crimes with impunity”.

The rights group said it interviewed 193 people and analysed 87 videos and 122 photographs showing IPOB assemblies, members of the security forces in the process of committing violations and victims of these violations.

It further stated that on 30 September 2016, it wrote to the Nigerian authorities including the military, police and officials of the State Security Service (SSS, also known as Department of State Security, DSS) to share the findings. Responses were received from the Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General and Inspector General of Police but neither answered the questions raised in the letter.

Amnesty International is recommending that the Nigerian government immediately end the involvement of the military in public order operations throughout Nigeria, initiate independent investigations into the deadly repression of pro-Biafra activists by the Nigerian military and police with the aim of bringing suspects to justice in fair trials

It also asked the state governors of Abia Anambra, Delta and Rivers states to set up judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate the allegations documented in this report.

Amnesty Accuses Nigerian Army Of Killing At Least 17 Unarmed Biafra Protesters

Amnesty, Biafra, IPOBRights group, Amnesty International says that Nigeria’s army in May killed at least 17 unarmed members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Amnesty’s report, which it says was based on details from eyewitnesses, morgues and hospitals, says soldiers opened fire on members of IPOB and their supporters in Onitsha, Anambra State during the build up to a march.

The human rights group added that the killings took place during a security operation in the early hours of the morning, shortly before the march when the military raided homes and a church where IPOB members slept.

The Nigerian Army, however, dismissed the allegations as unfounded. The Army says that Amnesty’s accusations reveal a bias that undermined its credibility.

The Army issued a statement in which it said troops had to “resort to self defense” after IPOB members attacked security agencies with “firearms” and various weapons including dynamite.

It said five members of IPOB were killed, eight wounded while nine were arrested.

“These efforts were in order to de-escalate the palpable tension as well as ward off the apparent threats to lives and property in the general area,” it said.

However, Amnesty said its investigation showed at least 17 people were killed and nearly 50 injured, adding that “the real number is likely to be higher”.

Urging government to investigate, the right group said, “Information gathered by Amnesty International indicates that the deaths of supporters and members of IPOB was the consequence of excessive, and unnecessary use of force.”

The contents of the report were rejected by army spokesman Sani Usman. “The allegations are unfounded,” he said.

Amnesty International Should Do More To Support War On Terror – Onyekwelu

Vince-Onyekwelu on Amnesty International reportA report of Amnesty International indicting Nigerian Armed Forces of war crime has continued to draw reactions, with an ex-British police officer and a security consultant, Vince Onyekwelu, stressing the need for Amnesty International to show more support to the war against terror.

The rights group had in a recent report alleged that the Nigerian military had engaged in violation of human rights in form of extra-judicial killings in the fight against insurgents in Nigeria’s north-east, calling for the investigation of some top military officials, both serving and retired.

But the military denied the allegations saying it was a blackmail against Nigeria and its armed forces.

Giving his opinion about the report the ex-British police officer said Amnesty International had not showed much concern for the innocent Nigerians killed by the Boko Haram terrorists.

He urged the rights group to equally carry out more social responsibilities to ensure that Nigerians see the group as not being against the government of Nigeria and fight against the insurgents.

“We have not felt their Corporate Social Responsibility in Nigeria. A lot of Nigerians are asking about what the Amnesty International had done to remedy the situation in Nigeria.

“They have not reported much around the issues of local and national security. They have not reported the killings in Benue State.

“We still need to look into their allegation but we need to encourage Amnesty to talk about the issue of the killing of Nigerians everyday by terrorists. So it would not sound like Amnesty international is against Nigeria,” he said.

Report Requires A Response

Asked if there was a need for investigation into the report, Mr Onyekwelu sid it was necessary that the report should be looked into to ascertain the truth about the claims.

The rights group claimed it got evidences from non-members of the terrorist group who had been accused of being members of Boko Haram.

But Mr Onyekwelu faulted the claims, questioning how the rights group verified the identity of the whistle blowers.

“How are we sure that the persons giving Amnesty International evidence are not members of the Boko Haram.

“We have basic security issues that start from identification of who is a Nigerian to who is a member of the Boko Haram.

“The Nigerian government and the National Assembly have to respond to the report. They can decide if the content of the report is what should be considered.

“The rights group’s report requires a response,” he said.

On the action that should be taken, the security consultant said “If the Nigerian Army had done anything wrong, they should be investigated and the right decisions taken. We should not allow the report to affect the activities of the military in the war against terror.

“It there are credible evidences, the people responsible should be asked to come and defend themselves and give their own account.

“The Amnesty International is a respected and credible organisation across the world, so their report should be looked into and investigated”.

Mr Onyekwelu commended the military for its response to the allegations but advised that a research institution should be set up to look into such crisis and react proactively.

He stressed that every human being, including the criminal arrested, had a right that the military and other security agencies must respect in the course of providing security.

Asked if the report would affect the morale of the military in the counter-terrorism operation in the north-east, Mr Onyekwelu said the allegations were not expected to affect the morale of the troops, urging them to carry out their duty with respect for human rights.

Alleged Extra-judicial Killings: Amnesty Says Military Is Culpable

amnestyRights Group, Amnesty International claims to have verified a video which appears to show Nigerian soldiers killing Boko Haram suspects and dumping their bodies in a mass grave.

Amnesty alleges that the footage includes images of suspects being pulled off the back of trucks and beaten by soldiers and allied civilian militias.

Amnesty said the extrajudicial killings occurred shortly after Boko Haram’s attack on a detention centre in Giwa Barracks, in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, on March 14.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, claims that the footage is a further proof of the appalling crimes being committed with reckless abandon by all sides in the conflict .

“Numerous testimonies we have gathered suggests that extrajudicial executions are, in fact, regularly carried out by the Nigerian military,” she added.

Rights Groups argue that such acts by the military are not only wrong but counter-productive, as they fuel much of the anger that has helped drive insurgency over the past five years.


Security Tightens Ahead Of World Economic Forum In Myanmar

Security is tight around the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Wednesday as the capital prepares to host the 2013 World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Hundreds of global and business leaders from roughly 50 countries are descending on the convention centre in the country’s first international gathering since it began implementing democratic reforms two years ago.

The official opening of the forum takes place on Thursday and comes to a close the following day.

Armed security officers are on guard outside the centre with scanners and metal detectors inside for visitors and participants to check through.

Businesses around the world have expressed investment interests in the country that was once closed off under strict military rule and isolation.

According to the World Economic Forum’s website, this year’s meetings will focus on inspiring inclusive transformation, realising regional integration, and scaling solutions for global resilience.

Panels will also be held on how to support Myanmar’s on-going reforms and reconciliation process.