Saturday, December 31, 2005

British Envoy Goes Public About Use of Torture

Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has published on the internet documents providing evidence that the British Government knowingly received information extracted by torture in the "war on terror".

Mr Murray, who publicly raised the issue of the usefulness of information obtained under torture before he was forced to leave his job last year, submitted his forthcoming book, Murder in Samarkand, to the Foreign Office for clearance. But when the Foreign Office demanded that he remove references to two sensitive government documents showing that Britain had been aware it was receiving information obtained by the Uzbek authorities through torture, Murray decided to publish the material on the internet.

The first document published by Mr Murray contains the text of several telegrams that he sent to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful". The second document is the text of a Foreign Office legal opinion which argues that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture is not a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The World has "Just Weeks" to prevent Dafur from Sliding Back into Chaos

Sudan has been swept from view in the mainstream media and in the U.S. government, partly due to the peace settlement earlier this year, and partly due to the disire to exploit the oil rich region in the southern part of the country.

Fortunately, bloggers are attempting to keep the issue in view. Allthings2all has published a Christmass roundup of blog reports on Sudan and Darfur.

Congress has adjourned without taking action on Darfur:
The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act passed the Senate on Nov. 18, and the House was poised to pass the DPAA before the White House delayed it. Apparently, the Bush Administration objects to the continuation of sanctions on the government of Sudan. Congress must not allow this pressure to prevent the passage of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act,

The Atlantic Review
condemns European governments for being too eager to do business with Sudan.

The German media is very critical of any wrong doing by the US government, a few US soldiers and many US companies. Hedge funds were not just characterized as bloodsuckers, but as American bloodsuckers. German companies receive less criticism. Sometimes they even receive government support for doing business with rogue states.

The Sudanese government is complicit in the genocide in the western province of Darfur, but the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Labor sponsored a "German Pavilion" at a trade fair in the Sudanese capital in February 2005 and will do so again in February 2006 due to "the positive feedback from the German participants," according to one chamber of commerce.

Africa action lists the top 10 ways to take action to stop genocide in Darfur, while Sudan Divest is urging a divestiture campaign against Sudan similar to that taken against South Africa.

This is an issue that should not be allowed to be swept under the rug.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Amnesty International urges WTO to respect human rights

As 148 governments prepare to meet in Hong King for the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the WTO, Amnesty International is urging the governments to give greater attention to human rights.

One example of particular concern comes from the WTO's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Rights (TRIPS) which can hinder access to essential medicines for all. Concerns about this issue have lead to the WTO granting a 7 year extension to implement TRIPS.

Amnesty International urges all 148 governments to ensure that human rights concerns are central to the considerations of the upcoming meeting. Specificaly they urge the governments to;

* Ensure LDCs make full use of the seven years extension for the compliance of the TRIPS obligations. Developed countries should cooperate with at least one LDC by helping them to develop their technological base and to conduct, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, a human rights impact assessment to ensure their compliance with the TRIPS obligations will not negatively affect the human rights of their populations.

* Commit to carrying out participatory human rights impact assessment before concluding any new trade agreements, or making revisions to existing ones.

* Ensure that decisions made are informed and complemented by exchanges with governmental bodies responsible for ensuring compliance with human rights obligations. The governments may, for example, consider including at least one human rights expert in their delegations.

* Offer political support to ensure that relevant UN agencies and organizations build on existing expertise and best practice worldwide in order to identify an effective model of human rights impact assessment, which will include the development of appropriate methodology and human rights indicators and benchmarks.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Slave Labor Flourishing in Argentinian Sweatshops

An estimated 150,000 people are working in sweatshops in Argentina under forced labor conditions. These are largely Bolivian immigrants who are luring into the country with promises of a good income and a place to live. But when they arrive they are locked into a small room, recieving very little pay.

A test case was brought before Argentinan courts by Jose Orellan, a Bolivian immigrant who escape a textile sweatshop in Buenos Aires with his family. The family of five ended up living in a single room. The Boss refused to give him most of his pay, saying he would hold it until the end of the year so that Orellan "wouldn't spend it all." Food was included in the contract but for employees only. In order for the children to eat, Orellan and his wife had to go hungry.

Many undocumented workers end up in hospitals with lung ailments caused by the dust they inhale in the workshops. They were rarely allowed to go out; Orellan was not even allowed to take his children to the hospital when they fell sick.

Eventually, Orellan and his family was able to escape with the aid of a community organization and the city's ombudsperson's office. He brought charged against his former boss in October but the case was dismissed by a judge who ruled that there was no merit to the case.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Migrants And Asylum Seekers Are Regularly Abused in the Ukraine

Ukraine has been charged with subjecting migrants and asylum seekers to abuse, including extended detention in appalling conditions, violence, extortion, robbery and forced returns to face torture or persecution, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on the eve of an EU-Ukraine summit.

European Union policies worsten these problems, presuting Ukraine to prevent migrants from entering the European Union. Migration will be a major issue in the Eu-Ukraine conference in Kiev.

The Human Rights Watch report documents the routine detention of migrants and asylum seekers in conditions of severe overcrowding, frequently inadequate bedding and clothing, and little or no access to fresh air, exercise and medical treatment.

The detainees face physical abuse, verbal harassment, robbery and extortion, often have no access to a lawyer and are unable to apply for release. The asylum system is barely functioning, leading to the forced return of people to countries where they face persecution or torture.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch also documented the use of return agreements between Ukraine and its EU neighbors to summarily return migrants and asylum seekers to Ukraine without first determining whether they need protection as refugees or on human rights grounds.

Asylum seekers from Chechnya are particularly vulnerable, both to abuse at the hands of the Ukrainian police and forced return to Russia, despite the risk of persecution they face in that country. Although Russian citizens do not require visas to enter Ukraine, Chechens are routinely denied access at the border unless they pay bribes. Chechens detained in Ukraine trying to enter the European Union are denied access to asylum. In fact, no Chechen has been recognized as a refugee in Ukraine. A Chechen woman told Human Rights Watch, “They don't consider us human beings.”