Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, July 25, 2008

Afghan religious leaders encouraged to raise awareness about new anti-trafficking law

With their government last week enacting historic anti-trafficking in persons legislation, Afghan religious leaders met Tuesday for a roundtable on the matter, ReliefWeb reported the same day.

The meeting, convened by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Afghan government, was designed to encourage the leaders to raise awareness in their communities through discussion and prayer. It dovetails with IOM information campaigns targeting schoolchildren.

As the piece notes, “Afghanistan faces serious problems as a country of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking.”

For the full piece, click here.

Nearly half of Egyptian women sexually harassed on daily basis

Sexual harassment is pervasive and on the rise in Egypt, with almost half of women harassed on a daily basis, Agence France-Presse reported on July 17, citing a recent survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights.

Eighty-three percent of the Egyptian women polled reported being harassed at some point, and 46 percent said they were harassed daily.

The article adds that 62 percent of Egyptian men “admitted harassing women, including those wearing Islamic headscarves.”

“This shows that the belief that harassment is linked to women who wear indecent clothing is false,” said Nihad Abul Qomsan the center’s director, denouncing the idea that women should feel responsible for the abuse.

According to the center, only 12 percent of Egyptian women filed a harassment complaint with the police last year.

For the full article, click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reporter recounts horrors of Bosnian war

As former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic prepares to stand trial in The Hague on charges of genocide, Roger Cohen describes his experiences covering the war in Bosnia in a New York Times op-ed Thursday.

“You talked of your ‘love’ for Sarajevo, the ethnically mixed city your boozy forces kept shelling,” Cohen says of Karadzic. “You told me, 32 months into the fighting that you were ready ‘to declare a state of war.’

Cohen also writes of those he met during the war and the tragedy they endured, remembering the words of a wounded Sarajevo resident: “If I remain a paraplegic, I will be better, anyhow, than the Serb who shot me. I will be clean in my mind, clean with respect to others, and clean with respect to this dirty world.”

For the full piece, click here.

China continues to violate human rights as Olympics approach, Berman says

China has reneged on its commitment to improve its human rights situation in advance of the Olympics, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) said Wednesday in his opening statement for the hearing “China on the Eve of the Olympics.”

Among the transgressions Berman highlights are the recent crackdowns in Tibet; Beijing’s support of Burma, Sudan, and Zimbabwe; and widespread restrictions on press freedoms.

Berman notes that the committee will on Thursday “mark up a resolution that calls China to account for its actions.”

For the full statement, click here.

Eight Vietnamese dissident writers among recipients of human rights award

Pro-democracy leader Father Nguyen Van Ly and seven other Vietnamese dissidents have been recognized as 2008 recipients of Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett award for writers displaying courage in the face of political persecution, the group said Tuesday.

According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnamese “dissident writers have been harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed on trumped-up charges, dismissed from their jobs, socially isolated, detained and interrogated by police, publicly humiliated in officially orchestrated ‘Peoples’ Tribunals,’ and injured by officially sanctioned mobs or targeted traffic ‘accidents.’”

This year’s awards went to 34 writers from 19 countries.

For the full press release, click here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mideast rethinking agricultural policies in light of global food crisis

Amid rising food prices and declining water availability, countries in the Middle East and North Africa are struggling to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population, The New York Times reported Monday.

“For decades nations in this region have drained aquifers, sucked the salt from seawater and diverted the mighty Nile to make the deserts bloom,” the article notes. “But those projects were so costly and used so much water that it remained far more practical to import food than to produce it. Today, some countries import 90 percent or more of their staples.”

However, The Times says that the global food crisis is prompting a regional reassessment, as countries are “turning anew to expensive schemes to maintain their food supply.”

For the full article, click here.

Prominent Iranian activists granted asylum

LCHR has learned that high-profile Arab-Iranian human rights activists Imad and Mohsen Bawi were released last week from a Basra, Iraq detention center and have been granted refugee status by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and transferred to camps on the Jordan-Iraq border.

The Bawi brothers were in 2006 convicted after an unfair trial of hiding explosives, establishing an illegal group and propaganda against the Iranian government. Both men were serving lengthy prison sentences in Iran, but earlier this year were given leave to spend time with their family following the execution of their brother, Zamel. In February, Imad and Mohsen fled to Iraq and were subsequently arrested in Basra.

Rights group calls for investigation into Syrian prison deaths

In the wake of a shooting two weeks ago at Syria’s Sednaya prison that left inmates dead at the hands of military police, Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the incident.

Police opened fire on the inmates to quell a riot that began after an aggressive search at the prison. During the search, prisoners were insulted and copies of the Qur’an were thrown on the floor and trampled upon. After the shooting, several security guards were taken hostage by the prisoners. In response, the authorities sent army troops and tanks as reinforcements.

Since July 8, three days after the shooting, families of inmates have been unable to obtain any information on their relatives.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented torture of Sednaya detainees.

“The bloodshed at Sednaya highlights the need to improve the treatment of prisoners there,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Torture should immediately be halted and all detainees properly charged should get a fair trial.”

For the full article, click here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The importance of book distribution in Afghanistan

The ability of citizens to access printed materials is critical to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, Nancy Hatch Dupree writes in an op-ed in the July 19 edition of The New York Times.

Dupree, the director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, argues that a lack of access has undermined health care, education, and democratic governance. Without written materials, she writes, patients are unable to reacquaint themselves with the instructions of community health workers; students are unable to read about relevant subjects; all citizens are unable to obtain basic information on the democratic process.

Dupree, whose Center has “placed more than 100,000 books in 160 libraries in 32 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces,” says that the Afghan government and foreign donors need to support efforts to develop and distribute books and other printed materials.

For the full piece, click here.

Nine Iranians sentenced to death by stoning despite moratorium

Iran has handed down death by stoning sentences to eight women and one man convicted of adultery, despite an alleged moratorium on the punishment, The Guardian reported Monday.

Iranian lawyers highlighted the cases Sunday as they campaigned to eliminate stoning in the Islamic Republic. They claim that most of the nine have in fact been the victims of violence.

“These women mostly come from the illiterate masses and did not have money or access to a lawyer. Many did not understand Farsi and, of course, all the interrogations were in Farsi,” said Shadi Sadr, a prominent human rights lawyer. “In all of the cases, there has been violence against them, or they have been forced into marriages, or their divorce applications have been refused. In some cases, they couldn’t apply for a divorce due to family pressures.”

While the lawyers are urging Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the country’s judiciary chief, to issue pardons, it is believed that his influence is limited.

For the full article, click here.