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Human Rights Watch - Defending Human Rights Worldwide





 



Military Might Alone Won’t Pull Mali From Quagmire

Friday, May 19, 2017 - 06:06

Expand French soldiers from Operation Barkhane stand outside their armored personnel carrier during a sandstorm in Inat, Mali, May 26, 2016. © 2016 Reuters “The jihadists are the law now,” an elder from central Mali told me. “The very day the French-supported operation finished, the Islamists were back in the villages,” confided another villager last week, referring to a military operation near the Mali-Burkina Faso border in April. The endurance of the jihadist recruitment success and their appeal to many villagers suggests that military operations on their own will not be sufficient to defeat the threat. President Emmanuel Macron should keep this in mind when he visits the country this Friday. Hailed as a military success, the 2013 French-led military intervention in northern Mali ended the region’s occupation by ethnic Tuareg separatists and armed Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda. But since 2015, attacks against Malian forces and abuses by Al-Qaeda-linked groups have moved southward to Mali’s previously stable central regions and, last year, spread into neighboring Burkina Faso. Since 2015, I’ve interviewed scores of witnesses and victims to abuses in central Mali. They described how, in recent months, groups of up to 50 Islamist fighters closed down schools, banned women from riding on motorcycles driven by men other than their husbands, and imposed their version of Sharia (Islamic law). “We used to spend days celebrating a marriage or baptism, dancing and singing together,” one man said. “Not anymore.” Men accused of being informants for the Malian government often turn up dead. Since 2015, Islamists have executed at least 40 men in their custody, including village chiefs and local officials. Some were murdered in front of their families. Several people said they felt pressured to send one of their sons to join the Islamists. However, an equal number of villagers told me they welcomed the presence of the Islamist groups in central Mali; they saw them as a benevolent alternative to a state they associate with predatory and abusive governance. Many seethed as they described Malian army abuses during counterterrorism operations, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and executions. Since late 2016, I have documented the alleged extrajudicial killing by soldiers of 12 detainees, the most recent in early May, and the forced disappearance of several others. Villagers described how soldiers detained and executed three family members in January. “We heard gunshots in the distance,” one witness said. “I followed the tracks of the army truck and found our people in a shallow grave.” This week, I received a desperate email from the brother of a man forced into a white pickup by men in uniform on February 3. “We have heard nothing; we have searched everywhere,” he said. While the behavior of the state security services has improved in recent years, Malian authorities have made no meaningful  effort to investigate those implicated in violations. The jihadists speak a lot about corruption… how the authorities steal, torture and do bad things to us. Honestly, they don’t need to try very hard to recruit the youth. Villagers said the Islamists are recruiting by exploiting frustrations over poverty, abusive security services, rampant banditry, local Peuhl clan rivalries, and, especially, corruption. “The jihadists speak a lot about corruption… how the authorities steal, torture and do bad things to us,” one elder said. “Honestly, they don’t need to try very hard to recruit the youth…” Villagers also said the Islamists are increasingly filling the governance vacuum. They welcomed Islamist efforts to investigate and punish livestock thieves, including by executions. Others praised Sharia rulings in favor of victims of domestic violence or spousal abandonment. Elders from both the sedentary Bambara and pastoral Peuhl communities credited the[...]



Latest Updates on Venezuela's Crisis

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 09:00

Police fire tear gas toward opposition supporters during clashes while rallying against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 20, 2017.

© Reuters 2017

So much has happened in the last few weeks that we thought it would be useful to kick off this blog with a summary of where the discussion about Venezuela’s compliance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter stands. The most recent events underscore the lack of judicial independence and separation of powers in Venezuela, and the government’s determination to shut down discussion of the crisis, making growing international pressure on the Maduro administration as important as ever to restore human rights and rule of law. 

 

 

 




The Struggle for LGBT Rights in France

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 05:27

“Today, in France, we still cannot live and love freely just as we are,” said Joël Deumier, president of the association SOS Homophobie. In its annual report published May 10, 2017, the organization stated it received 1,575 testimonies of anti-LGBT acts in 2016, an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous year. It’s possible that the increase in reported incidents reflects a greater willingness of victims to speak out. Still, SOS Homophobie believes that many victims of anti-LGBT acts do not dare come forward. Expand Demonstration in support of same-sex marriage in Paris, 16 December 2012. © 2012 Olivier Hoffschir In 2016, SOS Homophobie received 26 reports from people who said they had a homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic encounter with justice or law enforcement officials. By this is meant that an officer refused to characterize an assault as homophobic in a complaint or to even file a complaint, or that a law enforcement officer himself discriminated against LGBT people. While these incidents remain thankfully limited, they are no less unacceptable. France should take measures to determine how widespread these attitudes are among public officials, and to prevent subversion of their duties because of this attitude. SOS Homophobie’s report also shows a correlation between debates over equal rights and the increase of anti-LGBT acts. The organization recorded a spike in reported incidents in 2013, the year France legalized same-sex marriage. In 2016, France adopted a law waiving the requirement for transgender people to provide proof of medical treatment to amend their legal gender. That same year saw a 76% spike in reported transphobic incidents. While a majority of the French population is in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married and adopt children, opponents of LGBT rights are a “vocal minority,” and are especially active on social media, where prosecution for homophobic statements remains difficult to carry out. Several candidates for the 2017 presidential election expressed their intention to “rewrite the Taubira law” on same-sex marriage and adoption. One candidate even received the support of Sens commun, an organization openly opposed to the rights of LGBT people. When political figures take stands that are hostile to equal rights, they may “rekindle hate.” It is high time to end discrimination against LGBT people and the French authorities have a key responsibility and role to turn this into reality. [...]



Israel: Human Rights Watch Granted Work Permit

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 02:30

Expand An EL AL Airlines aircraft taxies at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on July 14, 2015.  © 2015 Reuters (Jerusalem) – Israeli authorities on April 26, 2017, granted a work visa to Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Human Rights Watch said today. The approval of a one-year work visa reverses a February 20 Interior Ministry decision to deny a work permit to Human Rights Watch. “We welcome this opportunity to work in Israel and Palestine alongside vigorous national human rights organizations,” said Iain Levine, executive deputy director for program at Human Rights Watch. “Israeli authorities do not always agree with our findings, but, in facilitating the ability of our staff to carry out our research and documentation, they have taken an important step to safeguard the principle of transparency and demonstrate their openness to criticism.” Human Rights Watch applied to the Israeli Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority on July 14, 2016, for a work permit on behalf of Shakir, a United States citizen who is a lawyer by training. The Interior Ministry initially denied the work permit for Shakir, but allowed him to enter the country on tourist visa on March 6, 2017, for a 10-day visit. Related Content Issuance of B/1 Visa for Employment of Foreign National in the Expert Branch In a March 12 letter, which Human Rights Watch received on March 27, the Interior Ministry notified Human Rights Watch that it had granted it permission to employ a foreign expert in Israel. The Interior Ministry accepted the paperwork and payment for Shakir’s work visa under the organization’s work permit on April 20, and Shakir received the visa upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport on April 26. Human Rights Watch has had regular access to Israel and the West Bank for nearly three decades, with staff and offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Gaza for much of this period. Human Rights Watch staff have regularly met and corresponded with Israeli government officials. Since 2008, Israel has refused Human Rights Watch access to Gaza, except for one visit in 2016. Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organization that promotes respect for human rights and international law. It monitors rights violations in more than 90 counties across the world. To carry out its work, Human Rights Watch relies on rigorous research from professional researchers on the ground and regular engagement with government officials, as well as others with first-hand information. Israeli authorities have in recent years limited the space for local and international human rights defenders operating in Israel and Palestine. A law passed by the Knesset in July requires Israeli nonprofit groups that receive more than half their funding, indirectly or directly, from foreign governments to note that information in communications with the public and with government officials. Data from the Population and Immigration Authority obtained by Haaretz via a Freedom of Information Law in February 2017 indicates a ninefold increase in the number of visitors to Israel denied entry over the past five years. In March, the Knesset passed a law barring entry to those who call for or support a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “Having our country director based in Israel and Palestine will allow us to closely engage Israeli and Palestinian officials, partners, and those directly affected by human rights abuses,” Levine said. “We hope that this decision reflects a larger recommitment by the Israeli government to allow international and domestic rights groups to work freely and to improve access to and from Gaza, in particular for human rights workers.”   [...]



Putting the British Election to Rights

Friday, March 17, 2017 - 03:00

On the day of the Westminster attack last month – when a man drove his car into a crowd, killing five and injuring dozens more – Prime Minister Theresa May made a rare positive comment about human rights, citing them as part of Britain’s defining values. The leaders of Britain’s other mainstream political parties have also voiced support for rights in different contexts. But with a general election now set for June 8, the challenge for each of them is the same: how to protect human rights in practice, writes HRW's David Mepham