Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, April 27, 2007

Yazidi Kurdish men stone teenager to death

According to the Kurdish website Jabar.info a teenage girl was stoned to death this week in Mosul by up to 1,000 Yazidi Kurdish men who were angry that she ran away four months ago to be with a Muslim man she loved, the Assyrian International News Agency reported Wednesday.

Family members convinced the girl to come back home and granted their forgiveness a few days before the incident. She was apparently ambushed on her way back to her home. The graphic scene was captured in short mobile video clip.

For the full article, click here.

150,000 arrested in crackdown on vice in Iran

Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Herandi threatened to take legal action against the media and shut down dailies for purportedly undermining law enforcement efforts to promote public morality by engaging in “divisive criticism” on Tuesday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Thursday. The Iranian police are seeking to banish indecent public conduct and ensure that appearances are in line with religious laws.

Some 150,000 people have been detained in the initial stages of the police drive, according to Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam. All but 13 were released shortly after signing pledges of good conduct and talking to psychologists or counselors.

Even though the police drive is not unanimously accepted among the public and officials, Ahmadi-Moqaddam indicated that it is necessary in order to enhance public security and morality. The campaign is reportedly not limited to cracking down on skimpy clothing, but is also intended to prevent individuals from bothering women and families in the streets.

For the full article, click here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Viet Nam restricts dissidents’ families, again

For the second time this month, relatives of several imprisoned dissidents were denied the ability to meet with the United States Ambassador, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Of the five family members invited to the embassy by U.S. Ambassador Michael Marine, only one was able to make it. The other four were kept from attending through several means, including calling them in for questioning by police. One of the invited women was injured in a car accident rumored to be driven by a plainclothes officer.

Three weeks ago a similar situation occurred, as the wives of several activists were surrounded by police officers as they made their way to the U.S. Embassy to have tea with Marine. Marine has warned of a crackdown on pro-democracy activists – a claim seconded by many nongovernmental organizations – and says that the detention of the dissidents has been addressed in talks with Vietnamese officials.

Amnesty International has reported that there have been more than 20 arrests of dissidents since November.

To read this article, click here.

Vietnamese journalists see backslide of freedom of the press

The Committee to Protect Journalists asserted Wednesday that during the time leading up to Viet Nam’s accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO) freedom for journalists was on the rise, but that since January 11, the official date of accession, many of these gains have been rescinded, according to a Nieuwsbank article.

The most recent case of this ongoing suppression involves the arrest of author and journalist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, who was detained Saturday because of pro-democracy articles posted on the internet. She faces up to 12 years if convicted. Thuy has also been accused of being a member of Bloc 8406, a prominent dissident group.

To read the entire article, click here.

Congressman condemns Burmese beatings

Congressman Tom Lantos has condemned actions taken by members of the military regime in Burma in a press release issued today. Lantos specifically referred to an incident on April 18 in which two Burmese human right advocates, Myint Naing and Maung Maung Lay, were brutally attacked by thugs working for the regime.

"The Burmese regime continues to terrorize its own people," Lantos said. "They are made to pay a vile price for standing up for their rights. The international community must act to stop the ongoing and horrific abuses in Burma."

The two were reportedly targeted for conducting training sessions that included the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The beatings were carried out by the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA). The two men are currently in a hospital in Rangoon being treated from head injuries.

The story was also reported by Reuters AlertNet on Tuesday. According to Reuters, a group of roughly 100 men carrying clubs and other weapons attacked Naing and Lay, and one still remains in serious condition after the beating. The USDA was also involved in the attacks on Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi a decade ago. The USDA is billed by the current military government as a “social welfare organization.”

To read the article from Reuters click here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kurdish officials criticized by U.N. on freedom of press and ‘honor killings’

In a report released Wednesday the United Nations criticized officials in Iraqi Kurdistan for their stance on several key human rights issues, Reuters reported the same day.

The U.N. denounced the harassment and arrest of journalists reporting on corruption and poor public services in the region. The report also expressed concern with long-term arbitrary detention without charge and allegations of ill-treatment and torture in some detention centers.

As far as freedom of press is concerned, Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government's U.N. coordinator, said the government is aware of violations but added that legal action is only taken against those who overstep the standards of journalism. An anonymous official said detained journalists are a threat to the stability of Kurdish society.

The report also denounced the frequent cases of “honor killings” – where young women are murdered by family members for suspected ‘immoral’ conduct – in the region. According to the report, roughly 40 cases of “honor killings” have been reported between January and March. Zebari stressed that the killings have tribal roots and are therefore very hard to prevent, but noted that the government is working to enact laws protecting women and children.

For the full article, click here.

EU officials reject need for greater Iraqi refugee resettlement in Europe

European Union nations do not consider the current refugee crisis urgent enough for Europe to open its doors to more Iraqi asylum seekers, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on April 20, according to The Associated Press.

According to Schaeuble, the problem should be addressed by providing help regionally. He said that EU aid should be channeled into helping to resettle Iraqi refugees in Jordan , Syria and Iraq , and added that EU nations are ready to disburse additional funds. Nevertheless, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini, said he would set aside special funds for EU nations who want to take in more refugees.

For full article, click here.

Shiite death squads blamed for mass killing of Yazidis in Mosul

In a statement issued on their website Tuesday, the Muslim Scholars Association accused Shiite death squads of executing 23 Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority, in northern Iraq on Monday, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

The attack by unknown individuals on Yazidi textile workers traveling on a bus near Mosul was confirmed by local police officials. The Muslim Scholars Association, a Sunni-led group, says that the attack was intended to fuel religious and ethnic strife and was carried out under the supervision of Shiite militia leaders. Yazidis practice an oft-derided pre-Islamic religion and number roughly 500,000 in Iraq .

For the full article, click here.

Prominent Egyptian dissident's health fading in prison; said to be at risk of "sudden death"

At the request of the attorney of Dr. Ayman Nour, a prominent Egyptian political prisoner, the concerns of a group of physicians regarding Ayman Nour’s severely deteriorating health were scheduled to be presented in front of an Egyptian court Tuesday. This effort comes in response to the Egyptian government’s persistent refusal to release Ayman Nour on medical grounds.

According to the medical reports conducted, Nour suffers from a number of serious ailments. One report states that Nour has “high blood sugar rates (diabetes) combined with high blood pressure and arrhythmia, which resulted in initial complications in the form of changes in the coronary arteries, as well as the arteries in the eyes and extremities, in addition to fatty liver; roughness and cervical prolapse in the neck; roughness of the joints of the two knees and the accumulation of residue and a stone in the right kidney.” As a result of the severity of Nour’s condition, some of the physicians recommended that Nour be released from prison and placed in a hospital in order to receive necessary treatment. The reports suggest that Nour’s illnesses are life threatening and constitute acceptable medical cause for his release.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

U.S. interested in talking to "alternative" voices in Egypt

In an article from Newsweek’s April 23rd edition, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball discuss the apparent shift in Bush administration policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Islamist movement with a strong presence in Egypt.

Mohammad Saad el-Katatni, a Brotherhood leader who serves in the Egyptian Parliament, attended a recent party in Cairo at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt. According to the article, this is significant considering that the U.S. since 9/11 has avoided any contact with the Brotherhood because of suspicions of possible ties to terrorism. Visiting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who attended the cocktail party, said that he wanted to hear “alternative” voices in Egypt.

Newsweek discusses the possibility that this ostensibly softened stance toward the Brotherhood could be seen as a way for the Bush administration to cleverly express their concern with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s recent crackdown on the Islamist group. A senior U.S. official said that the meeting with el-Katatni was a “subtle, smart way to express concern” over the crackdown.

For the full article, click here.

Afghanistan deemed 'heavily indebted'; eligible for special assistance

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced Saturday that Afghanistan will now be eligible to receive assistance under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

However, the country will be asked to complete three benchmarks before they will be able to benefit from the dept relief assistance.

“Afghanistan has achieved strong and continued progress toward macroeconomic stability over the last few years, despite the difficult security environment. At the same time, wide-ranging structural reforms have been put in place…The pursuit of macroeconomic reforms, prudent debt management, and continued donor support on highly concessional terms will be needed to restore sustainability over the medium-term,” said Murillo Portugal, the deputy managing director and acting chair at the IMF.

For the full article, click here.

Iraqi Prime Minister says he supports Assyrian Christians in Iraq

In an interview with the Assyrian News Agency last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki affirmed Assyrian Christians’ right to have a province of their own in Iraq.

In spite of the bad news coming out of Iraq on a daily basis, Maliki said the current situation is improving. After stressing that unemployment, as well as sectarian violence, has dropped, Maliki added that it is the government’s responsibility to bring back displaced people. Many see the creation of an Assyrian Province as critical for persuading some 500,000 Iraqi Assyrians refugees to return to Iraq. Maliki also said that the government will do everything in its power to create ideal conditions for their return.

For the full article, click here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

High maternal mortality rate one of many challenges facing Afghanistan

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the United Nations undersecretary-general and executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, said today that family planning can go a long way towards reducing Afghanistan’s high maternal mortality rate, Reuters reported.

“Afghan women have among the highest deaths as a result of pregnancy and complications in the world,” Obaid said at a news conference today. She added that one Afghan mother passes away for every 60 childbirths. To help combat the problem, Obaid pointed to the necessity of family planning, ensuring that trained birth attendants are present, and emergency hospital care accessible. Obaid also noted the importance of spacing out pregnancies, which would allow many Afghan mothers to regain their strength and health between pregnancies. She added: “The principle of family planning is well-enshrined in the Koran. The Koran says that women should nurse for two years, it was a form of family planning.”

For the full article, click here.

Another setback for freedom of expression in Egypt

For the second time this year Egyptian authorities have arrested a blogger for openly criticizing human rights abuses. The story of Abd al-Monim Mahmud, the latest victim in the crackdown, is featured in this week's edition of The New Statesman reports.

Mahmud how ran a blog in English and Arabic was arrested last week on charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned organization. However, like many others, Mahmud has always been open about his affiliation with the Brotherhood, and the article suggests that the real reason for his arrest was his “outspoken criticism of human rights abuses and his broad contacts with foreign journalists and secular pro-democracy activists.” A few weeks prior to his arrest, he spoke about torture in Egyptian prisons, which he himself experienced under imprisonment in 2003, at two international conferences.

For the full article, click here.

Woman journalist is latest victim Viet Nam's ongoing crackdown on dissent

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, a prominent Vietnamese writer and journalist, was arrested today for publishing articles that are critical of the government, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Thuy is being charged under article 88 of the Vietnamese criminal code, which bans “dissemination of propaganda hostile to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

When Thuy was arrested, the authorities took a USB key from her that was said to contain “libelous” articles. Thuy's arrest is the latest incident in a crackdown against activists in Viet Nam in recent months after the country secured World Trade Organization membership and Permanent Normal Trade Relations status with the United States.

Thuy is a well-known journalist and novelist in Viet Nam, and in January received the Hellman-Hammett prize for “courage in the face of political repression” from Human Rights Watch

To read the article, click here.

A parliament to represent the world’s people is proposed

A group of 541 Members of Parliaments (MPs), business leaders, and academics from around the world has proposed a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) that would represent the people of the world, the Independent reported today. The body would be a global citizens platform that could exist to promote the interests of people rather than just nations as a whole.

Some 377 MPs from over 70 countries have signed on to the plan, and arms of the campaign exist throughout the world. There has been a lack of support in the United States, though, as only nine Americans who have signed on. The UNPA would be initially comprised of appointed members from parliaments and nongovernmental organizations, with the ultimate goal being direct elections.

Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is one of the many supporters and signatories of the appeal.

To read the article, click here.

To learn more about the appeal and to visit its website, click here.

U.S. leaders urge Viet Nam to release former NED fellow

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senator John McCain, and Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy Vin Weber, on April 12 submitted a letter to Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet calling for the release Le Quoc Quan, a Vietnamese lawyer and who was arrested last month shortly after returning home from a fellowship with NED in Washington.

Quan researched civil society development while at NED and was deeply committed to helping the poor and promoting economic growth in his home country, according to the authors, who also called him “an outstanding representative of Vietnam and its people.”

To read the letter, click here.

"Afghanistan is not your ordinary post-conflict country", economic advisor says

In an interview Sunday, Ishaq Nadiri, senior economic advisor to President Hamid Karzai, says that reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan have been hampered by an underestimated level of devastation brought on by almost 30 years of constant conflict, Reuters reported today.

Nadiri argues that the international community had high expectations as to the ability of this post-conflict country to quickly rebuild. “We have to build the institutions, we have to build democracy, we have to educate the kids, we have to feed the people and we have to bring the hundreds of thousands per month or whatever of immigrants back, refugees back ... which other society has done that?” he said. Mr Nadiri also discusses the quest for security and recovery through aid projects in Afghanistan and expresses concern with the $1.6 billion used on so-called “technical assistance” from 2002 to 2005.

According to an account cited by New America Foundation senior fellow Peter Bergen in testimony to U.S. Congress, 86 cents out of every U.S. aid dollar going to Afghanistan is “phantom aid” that will not be appropriately distributed.

Last week, Afghanistan saw the opening of its first agricultural trade fair, an event considered of great significance in a country facing so many problems.

For the full article, click here.