Subscribe: Latest News from Ekklesia
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/rss/ekklesia.rss
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade A rated
Language: English
Tags:
abortion  cent  human rights  human  international  ireland  northern ireland  northern  people  report  rights  saudi   
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Latest News from Ekklesia

News Briefing and Comment





 



Abortion law reform in Northern Ireland 'unfinished business'

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:26:04 +0000

Amnesty International has reminded all political parties in Northern Ireland  that abortion reform is unfinished business and must be an urgent priority after the Assembly election, and in any political talks that follow. Amnesty International has reminded all political parties in Northern Ireland  that abortion reform is unfinished business and must be an urgent priority after the Assembly election, and in any political talks that follow. Grainne Teggart, Campaign Manager, said: "After the Assembly election, all political parties must play their part in delivering abortion reform; there can be no hiding from this issue. "Women's rights are non-negotiable, Northern Ireland's abortion law has been found by the courts and the UN to breach women's rights. With every passing day, women are being failed by the lack of progress on this issue. Our politicians need to stand with women and deliver much needed and long overdue change". In October 2016, Amnesty published a poll showing that nearly three-quarters of people in Northern Ireland want to see abortion law reform. The results showed overwhelming support from all religious backgrounds and political affiliations for a major overhaul of the region's restrictive abortion laws. Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where abortion is banned in almost all cases. The poll also showed an increase in support for access to abortion since a similar survey commissioned by Amnesty two years ago. In 2014, 69 per cent of people in Northern Ireland supported access to abortion in cases of rape, a figure which has now increased to 72 per cent. Meanwhile, 60 per cent of respondents supported access to abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. This has now grown to 67 per cent. The high levels of support for reform of Northern Ireland's abortion laws is largely consistent across all age ranges, between women and men, across regions of Northern Ireland, and whether people are from a Catholic or Protestant community background. There was also a high level of support for abortion law reform among voters for all Northern Ireland's main political parties, including for two political parties which have traditionally been opposed to change. 72 per cent think abortion should be available if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest; only 15 per cent are opposed 67 per cent  think abortion should be available in cases of fatal foetal abnormality; with 17 per cent opposed 58 per cent think abortion should be decriminalised so there would be no criminal penalty for women who have abortions in Northern Ireland; 22 per cent are opposed to this change 59 per cent think abortion should be decriminalised so there would be no criminal penalty for doctors and medical staff who assist women to have abortions in Northern Ireland; 21 per cent are opposed to this change 75 per cent think the fact that women from Northern Ireland who are seeking a lawful abortion must travel to England adds to their distress; 11 per cent disagreed. 71 per cent agreed that having to travel to England for a lawful abortion has a disproportionately negative impact on women with low income; 11 per cent disagreed. The polling was carried out in the week commencing 15 September 2016 by Millward Brown Ulster, using face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16+, in multiple urban and rural locations across Northern Ireland. * Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/ [...]



Imprisoned Saudi activist earns human rights award

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:00:04 +0000

The Law Society of Upper Canada’s selection of the imprisoned Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair for its 2016 Human Rights Award highlights Saudi Arabia’s brutal repression of peaceful activists and dissidents, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. The Law Society of Upper Canada’s selection of the imprisoned Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair for its 2016 Human Rights Award highlights Saudi Arabia’s brutal repression of peaceful activists and dissidents, Human Rights Watch said yesterday (20 February 2017). The organisation has called on the Saudi authorities tp immediately and unconditionally release Abu al-Khair, who was sentenced in 2014 to 15 years in prison for his peaceful human rights advocacy, so that he can attend the award ceremony in Toronto on 22 February,. Saudi courts have convicted at least 20 prominent peaceful activists and dissidents since 2011. Many, like Abu al-Khair, have faced sentences as long as 10 or 15 years on broad, catch-all charges – such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “participating in protests” – that do not constitute recognisable crimes. “Every day Waleed Abu al-Khair spends in prison compounds the injustice Saudi Arabia has imposed on him and his family,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Continued recognition of Abu al-Khair’s human rights work demonstrates that Saudi Arabia’s repression of peaceful activists and dissidents generates wide notice and criticism.” Abu al-Khair has been one of Saudi Arabia’s leading human rights advocates for years. In July 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal, convicted him on a number of broad and vaguely worded charges, including for comments to news outlets and on Twitter criticising Saudi human rights violations. In addition to sentencing him to prison, the court banned him from traveling abroad for another 15 years and fined him 200,000 Saudi riyals (US$53,000). Abu al-Khair played no active part in his trial. He refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court or to defend himself. He also refused to sign a copy of the trial judgment or to appeal either his conviction or sentence. In January 2015, an appeals tribunal within the SCC overturned part of the earlier ruling following a prosecution appeal of the court’s suspension of five years of his term, and ruled instead that Abu al-Khair should serve all 15 years in prison. The Saudi authorities have shuffled Abu al-Khair among four prisons without explanation since his arrest on April 15, 2014, including stints in al-Ha’ir Prison, south of Riyadh; al-Malaz Prison, in Riyadh; Buraiman Prison, in Jeddah; and al-Dhahban Prison, north of Jeddah. Since December 2015, Abu al-Khair has been held in al-Dhahban Prison. Abu al-Khair’s first child, Jude, was born in June 2014, following his arrest. In addition to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s 2016 Human Rights Award, Abu al-Khair received the prestigious Olof Palme Prize in 2012, and the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize in 2015, in recognition of his human rights work. Saudi authorities regularly pursue charges against human rights activists based on their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, in violation of international human rights obligations. Other Saudi activists and dissidents currently serving long prison terms based solely on their peaceful activism include Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdullah al-Hamid, Fadhil al-Manasif, Sulaiman al-Rashoodi, Abdulkareem al-Khodr, Fowzan al-Harbi, Raif Badawi, Saleh al-Ashwan, Abdulrahman al-Hamid, Zuhair Kutbi, Alaa Brinji, and Nadhir al-Majed. The Saudi authorities arrested activists Issa al-Nukheifi and Essam Koshak in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively, and they may face trial. Others, including Abdulaziz al-Shubaily a[...]



The Smokescreen of the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:45:28 +0000

The Smokescreen of the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

read more




'Shoot-on-sight' conservation policy in Indian National Park

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 09:32:40 +0000

A BBC investigation has revealed that tribal peoples living around a national park in India are facing arrest and beatings, torture and death under the Park’s notorious 'shoot-on-sight' policy.

A BBC investigation has revealed that tribal peoples living around a national park in India are facing arrest and beatings, torture and death under the Park’s notorious 'shoot-on-sight' policy.

The report for television, radio and the BBC news website featured interviews with park guards, tribal people who have been affected by the policy in Kaziranga National Park, and a spokesman from WWF-India, which helps fund, train and equip park guards and advertises tours of the park through its website.

The park gets over 170,000 visitors each year. Fifty suspects were extrajudicially executed there in the last three years, and a severely disabled tribal man was shot dead in 2013. The BBC has estimated that 106 have been killed in the last 20 years. In the same period,only one official has been killed.

The programme also featured Akash Orang, a seven-year-old tribal boy who was shot in the legs by park guards last July. Akash said that: “The forest guards suddenly shot me” as he was on his way to a local shop. His father said: “He’s changed. He used to be cheerful. He isn’t any more. In the night, he wakes up in pain and he cries for his mother.”

Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal people, says park guards have effective immunity from prosecution and are encouraged to shoot suspects on sight – without arrest or trial, or any evidence that they might have been involved in poaching. One guard admitted that they are: “Fully ordered to shoot them, whenever you see the poachers or any people during night-time we are ordered to shoot them.”

WWF has provided equipment – including what the BBC calls “night vision goggles” – which have been used in night-time operations and “combat and ambush” training. When asked by the BBC how donors might feel about their money being used to enforce this brutal treatment, WWF India’s spokesman said that: “What is needed is on-ground protection… We want to reduce poaching and the idea is to reduce it with involving other partners.”

Survival International is leading the global fight against these abuses and first brought the park’s high death toll and serious instances of corruption among Kaziranga officials – including involvement in the illegal wildlife trade they are employed to stop – to international attention in 2016.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Conservation organisations, including WWF, are supporting a model of conservation which is resulting in gross human rights abuses. They have failed to condemn policies that are leading to widespread extrajudicial executions. For too long, conservation has relied on its positive public image to hide its horrific and sustained attacks on indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights. We’re working to stop this. It’s time for conservationists to work with tribal people, the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. It’s time for conservation organisations to call for an end to shoot on sight policies.”

* More about the BBC investigaton here

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

[Ekk/4]




High Court to review CPS decision in Libyan renditions case

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 09:13:27 +0000

The High Court is to hear a challenge to the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute an ex-MI6 director over a family’s rendition to Colonel Gaddafi’s torture chambers in 2004.

The High Court is to hear a challenge to the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute an ex-MI6 director over a family’s rendition to Colonel Gaddafi’s torture chambers in 2004.

Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Allison Saunders, announced that no UK official would face charges over the joint MI6-CIA rendition of Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his heavily pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar, from Kuala Lumpur to Tripoli.(http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23321)

The CPS took two years to decide that it would not charge the lead suspect, ex-MI6 counter-terror director Sir Mark Allen, due to ‘insufficient evidence’. The CPS did however find that Sir Mark was involved in the renditions and had “sought political authority for some of his actions.”

The decision was taken despite London’s Metropolitan Police providing a file of over 28,000 pages of evidence. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has since confirmed that the Met sought “to demonstrate that the conduct of a British official amounted to misconduct in public office.”

The International human rights group Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day, who are representing the victims, filed a judicial review of the CPS decision in October 2016. The High Court has now said that this will proceed to a ‘rolled-up hearing’ later this year.

The significant move looks set to shed more light on Britain’s central role in the rendition of Belhaj and Boudchar. The case first came to light after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, when Human Rights Watch found documents in Tripoli showing Sir Mark taking credit for the operation – in which he colluded with the CIA and Libyan intelligence.

The judicial review argues that the decision of Director of Public Prosecutions “erred in law” and “reached a conclusion that was inconsistent with the evidence.”

Cori Crider, a lawyer for the rendition victims from human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “The CPS decision not to charge anyone for these abductions never made sense. They looked away from a mountain of evidence and just plain got the law wrong – Mr Belhaj and his wife felt the CPS were straining to excuse the suspect, MI6’s Sir Mark Allen, at any price. If Britain’s security services can help the CIA abduct children and a pregnant woman with absolutely no sanction, what is to stop some ambitious MI6 officer doing it again for Donald Trump? We’re delighted that the CPS’s mystifying decision will be tested in court. Britain’s security services cannot be above the law.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Electoral Reform Society releases report on 2016 NI Assembly elections

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 08:57:39 +0000

The Electoral Reform Society has released a major report on the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election.

The Electoral Reform Society has released a major report on the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election.

The report, ‘The 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election: How Voters Used STV’ commissioned IpsosMori to gather data from thousands of respondents – over 4,000 – to create the largest database of voting patterns for NI.

The launch follows debate about parties recommending their supporters give their second preference to other ‘blocs’.

Nearly 2,500 filled out mock ballot papers reflecting how they voted in their constituencies – allowing for a highly rigorous look at how they expressed their preferences under the STV system – focusing on the different communities, including the extent to which unionists/nationalists vote for other blocs.  

The research and analysis was conducted by Prof John Coakley and Prof John Garry at Queen’s University Belfast, as well as Dr Neil Matthews at the University of Bristol and Prof James Tilley at the University of Oxford.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the ERS, said: ‘This research is the first of its kind, and contains some fascinating insights into voting habits in Northern Ireland – insights that go far beyond the usual analysis looking solely at the end results or just first preferences’.

The report will be formally launched at an event in Belfast on 23 March

*Read the report here

* Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Equality Trust calls on Prime Minister to build an economy for all

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 22:11:36 +0000

The Equality Trust has today responded to the Government’s Corporate Governance reform Green Paper

The Equality Trust has today (17 February 2017) responded to the Government’s Corporate Governance reform Green Paper.

Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, said: “We are calling on the Prime Minster to be bold in reducing the immoral and unequal gap between millionaire CEOs and their workers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. When the average FTSE 100 CEO is earning 145 times more than a teacher, then it’s clear we need bolder proposals. We cannot continue to rely on shareholders to reduce executive pay, as they have repeatedly failed to do so.

“Pay inequality in this country is at dangerous levels. We know this damages society, but it also damages businesses, eroding trust between workers and management. Productivity will not rise when you shut workers out from decision-making and ratchet down their wages, all the while feting ‘superstar’ executives.

“Instead we need workers to be a given a genuine voice, with a say on how their business is run, and how its success should be shared fairly. The only way to achieve this is through workers sitting on boards and being represented on remuneration committees, so the Government mustn’t take this off the table.

“We also need greater transparency for consumers and workers, which means the Government must press ahead with plans to require large and medium sized businesses to report the pay ratio between their CEO and average paid employee.

“We fear that the Green Paper’s current recommendations are half measures, and will not build the economy for all that this Government has pledged.”

Key recommendations by The Equality Trust include:

  • No extra powers for shareholders
  • Compulsory requirement for large and medium sized businesses to report their top to media pay ratio
  • Employee involvement in remuneration committees
  • Genuine consultation with employees regarding remuneration committees
  • Greater employee representation in board decisions through worker representation on board

* Read the Corporate Governance reform Green Paper here and the Equality Trust's response here

* The Equality Trust https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Four million more living on inadequate incomes in modern Britain

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:25:32 +0000

Four million more people are living below an adequate standard of living and are just about managing at best, according to an authoritative report on living standards in modern Britain. Four million more people are living below an adequate standard of living and are just about managing at best, according to an authoritative report on living standards in modern Britain. The new research for the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) sheds light on how different kinds of household are faring, against the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). MIS is a benchmark of income adequacy, as defined by what the public think is needed for a decent living standard. It is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University. It warns that millions of just managing families are on the tipping point of falling into poverty as prices rise in the shops, with forecasts showing the cost of living could be 10 per cent higher by 2020. Between 2008/9 – 2014/5, based on the latest available data from official statistics: The number of individuals below MIS rose by four million, from 15 million to 19 million (from 25 to 30 per cent of the population). There are 11 million people living far short of MIS, up from 9.1 million, who have incomes below 75 per cent of the standard and are at high risk of being in poverty. The remaining eight million fall short of the minimum, by a smaller amount, and despite having a more modest risk of poverty, are just about managing at best. Families just about managing have been the focus of the Government’s efforts to support people on low incomes. But JRF is warning there is a fine margin where just managing can quickly tip into living in poverty, such is the precarious state of many household budgets. The increase in the numbers below MIS has been driven by rising costs while incomes stagnate. The price of a minimum “basket of goods” has risen 27-30% since 2008, and average earnings by only half that amount. The cost of living could be 10 per cent higher by 2020, a period when state support through tax credits and working age benefits has been frozen. The growing risk of low income is not due to an increased risk of unemployment, but a growth in the risk working people will have low income. It shows how record employment in the economy on its own is not enough to help families reach MIS. Almost three million working age households, six in 10 below MIS, have at least one person in work. Families with children continue to have the highest risk of having incomes that fall short of the standard, with working parents facing worsening prospects: For lone parents, even those working full time have a 42% risk of being below MIS, up from 28 per cent in 2008/09. 151,000 out of 356,000 people in households headed by lone parents working full time are below the minimum. 56 per cent of people in single-breadwinner couples with children live below – a substantial increase of more than a third over the six-year period. This affects 500,000 out of 880,000 people in such families. For couples with children where one adult works full time and the other is in part-time or self-employment, the risk of inadequate income has increased by a half, reaching 18 per cent. This is 310,000 out of 1.7 million people in such families. Campbell Robb, chief executive at JRF, said:“For a truly shared society, everyone should have the chance to live a decent and secure life. These stark figures show just how precarious life can be for many families. Government focus on people on modest incomes is welcome, but it cannot be at the expense of those at the poorest end of the income scale: it must remember just about managing today can become poverty tomorrow. “This could be a very difficult time for just manag[...]



Path to Middle East peace ‘riddled with hazards’ says UN envoy

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:47 +0000

Extremism, bloodshed and displacement continue to plague the Middle East, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council yesterday, warning that these phenomena are feeding intolerance, violence, and religious radicalism far beyond the region. Extremism, bloodshed and displacement continue to plague the Middle East, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council yesterday 16 February 2017), warning that these phenomena are feeding intolerance, violence, and religious radicalism far beyond the region. “It is critical that we all understand that we must never allow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to drift into the abyss of the extremism and radicalism sweeping the region,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefing the Security Council. “Palestinians, Israelis and the international community have a duty to act responsibly, avoid escalating tensions, refrain from unilateral actions and work together to uphold peace”, he added. He also drew attention of the Council members to the recently adopted so called 'Regularisation Law' which has the potential to retroactively regularise thousands of existing settlement units built on land owned by Palestinian individuals living under occupation, as well as dozens of illegal outposts. Noting that the “Regularisation Law” is in contravention of international law and that according to the Israeli Attorney General it is also unconstitutional, Mr. Mladenov told the Council that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on its constitutionality soon. “If the Law stays in place, it will have far-reaching consequences for Israel, while seriously undermining prospects for the two-state solution and for Arab-Israel peace,” he cautioned. The UN envoy also expressed concern over daily violence and 'lone wolf' attacks against Israeli civilians. In one such recent incident, six Israelis were injured in a shooting and stabbing attack by an 18-year-old Palestinian from Nablus (a city in northern West Bank). He further told the Security Council members that the volatile situation in Gaza continued to exacerbate humanitarian and development challenges, related in large part to the crippling closures of the Strip and the continuing political divide. “This winter has borne witness to a serious electricity crisis which in December left Palestinians in Gaza with only two hours of electricity per day,” he said, informing them of UN’s work to address the electricity challenges in a sustainable manner. He also spoke of the situation in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) areas of operations, noting that the ceasefire between Israel and Syria (under UNDOF area of operations) is holding, albeit in a volatile security environment. Concluding his briefing, the UN envoy recalled that the Middle East Quartet Report and Security Council resolutions clearly outlined what is required to advance a sustainable and just peace in the region. “The two-state solution remains the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples”, he said, noting that Israel can take the necessary step to stop settlement expansion and construction in order to preserve this prospect, while the Palestinian leadership can demonstrate their commitment to tackling the challenges of violence and incitement on their side. “This will create an environment that will facilitate bilateral final status negotiations that the international community can support,” he added. * United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html [Ekk/4] [...]



Transforming Christian-Muslim relations

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:36:02 +0000

Transforming Christian-Muslim relations

read more




Cross party call for death row Briton's return

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 10:20:28 +0000

A former Attorney General, Lord Chancellor and Director of Public Prosecutions have written to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider his approach to a British father on death row in Ethiopia.

A former Attorney General, Lord Chancellor and Director of Public Prosecutions have written to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider his approach to a British father on death row in Ethiopia.

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, Labour peer Charlie Falconer and Liberal Democrat peer Ken MacDonald have signed a joint letter raising concerns about Andy Tsege, a British father of three from London.

Mr Tsege has been held under sentence of death since he was kidnapped and illegally rendered to Ethiopia by the country’s forces in 2014.

The trio, who are all QCs, criticise the Foreign Office’s approach to the case, which has focused on requesting a lawyer for Mr Tsege rather than seeking his return to the UK.

In the letter, the authors said that “The British Government’s emphasis on securing Mr Tsege a lawyer ignores statements by the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister confirming that ‘there is no appeal process’ available to Mr Tsege”.

“If there is no legal remedy available to Mr Tsege, it is hard to see how legal representation will help him in any way”, they add.

Boris Johnson has refused to call for Mr Tsege’s release, claiming that the British government does not interfere in foreign judicial proceedings. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23499)

However, the letter points out that “there are several recent examples in which the Government has intervened and sometimes been able to secure the release of British nationals arbitrarily detained abroad”, citing cases in China and Saudi Arabia.

The authors go on to highlight the importance of Mr Tsege’s case to the “rules-based international system”. They argue that “To not interfere on Mr Tsege’s behalf would be to permit an impermissible abuse of the international system and the flagrant circumvention of the UK legal system, which occurred when the Ethiopians failed to request Mr Tsege’s extradition.”

The letter concludes by asking Boris Johnson to “call for Mr Tsege’s immediate release to his family in London”.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “This is a wake up call for Boris Johnson to step up and start negotiating Andy Tsege’s return to the UK. Boris Johnson must listen to warnings from a former Attorney General, Lord Chancellor and DPP that Ethiopia has broken British law by snatching Andy abroad and locking him on death row. After three years in terrible conditions on Ethiopia’s death row it is high time Andy is reunited with his family in London.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




'Right to rent' checks discriminating against asylum seekers

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:58:16 +0000

Vulnerable people are being discriminated against as a consequence of a new Government scheme which obliges landlords to check the eligibility of prospective tenants, a new report has revealed.

Vulnerable people are being discriminated against as a consequence of a new Government scheme which obliges landlords to check the eligibility of prospective tenants, a new report has revealed.

The scheme, which came into force nationally last February, requires landlords to carry out immigration checks on possible tenants. Those who fail to do so or let to ineligible tenants face prison and fines of thousands of pounds.

Research published  by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has now revealed that the scheme is resulting in landlords discriminating against people who are eligible to rent, especially those without British passports,  including British citizens, in favour of ‘safe options’.  

The report outlines how both refugees and those seeking asylum are among the unintended victims of the scheme.

While refugees have the right to rent, they will not be British passport holders and may struggle to prove their eligibility. For those seeking asylum, the situation is even more complex, with the report noting: “The most vulnerable individuals, such as asylum seekers, stateless persons, and victims of modern day slavery, who would require landlords to do an online check to confirm they have been granted permission to rent, face the greatest barrier of all.”

As part of the research, 150 mystery shopping enquiries from a prospective tenant who asked landlords to conduct an online check were carried out: 85 per cent received no response. The JCWI is calling for the scheme to be abandoned.

The Refugee Council's Director of Advocacy, Dr Lisa Doyle said: "The Government was well warned about the unintended negative consequences of this scheme and now it is seeing the results; with vulnerable people being left to suffer.

"It’s completely unacceptable that refugees and asylum seekers are among the victims of this divisive and ill-conceived scheme. These people were forced from their own homes by war and persecution and came here seeking refuge. It’s our responsibility to provide it, not to encourage landlords to discriminate against them and to marginalise them further."

* Read the JCWI report here

[Ekk/4]




Bahrain at 'tipping point' as crackdown continues

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:44:47 +0000

The authorities in Bahrain must refrain from using excessive force against protesters, Amnesty International has urged, as mass protests took place to mark the sixth anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising. The authorities in Bahrain must refrain from using excessive force against protesters, Amnesty International has urged, as mass protests took place to mark the sixth anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising. Bahrain is on the verge of a human rights crisis, said Amnesty, with recent weeks seeing increased repression – including violence against protesters, executions, arbitrary detentions and a crackdown on freedom of expression. On the evening of 12 February 2017, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in several villages in protest at the authorities not allowing the performance of religious funeral rituals for three men who were killed by coast guard forces three days earlier after escaping from Jaw prison on 1 January. Bahraini Shia religious figures had called for mass rallies in protest. Some protests remained peaceful, while others turned violent. Amnesty has obtained reports and photos of injuries to protesters caused by the security forces firing birdshot. In Sitra, a large armoured vehicle was filmed being driven toward protesters, appearing to fire tear gas at body height, causing injuries. The vehicle was then bombed, with the group Al-Muqawama Liwehdat al-I'lam al-Harbi claiming responsibility for it. The Bahraini authorities have not commented publicly on this attack. Tensions have risen in the country since the 15 January execution of three men after a grossly unfair trial, says Amnesty. In response, protests erupted in 20 Bahraini villages, a number of which turned violent, with government armoured vehicles charging at protesters, as well as the security forces using tear gas and shotguns to fire birdshot directly at protesters. Amnesty has seen video footage of armed men wearing black balaclavas firing Benelli semi-automatic shotguns during clashes in Duraz on 26 January. It is unclear whether they were firing live ammunition or less-lethal riot control ammunition. Additional masked men were seen carrying drawn semi-automatic handguns, as well as one carrying an MP-7 Personal Defense Weapon. In some instances, protesters also resorted to violence against the security forces, throwing Molotov cocktails and burning tyres, injuring at least two police officers. According to the Ministry of Interior, two police officers have also been killed. One police officer was shot in Bani Jamra on 14 January and later died from his injuries, while an off-duty police officer was shot and killed by armed men in Bilad al-Qadem on 29 January. Scores of people have been arrested, including Munir Mshaima, the brother of Sami Mshaima, one of the three men executed. He was arrested immediately after his brother's funeral, accused of "insulting the King" during the proceedings. He was released the following day. More protests erupted on 29 January, seeing thousands of people peacefully protesting ahead of the following day's trial of Sheikh Issa Qassem, the spiritual leader of the Al Wefaq opposition party, which was dissolved last July. Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director at Amnesty International's Beirut office, said: "Bahrain is at a tipping point. The first six weeks of 2017 alone have seen an alarming upsurge in arbitrary and abusive force by security forces as well as the first executions since the uprising in 2011. "For six years, the Bahraini government has been claiming that it has taken meaningful steps towards reform and upholding its human rights obligations, including by prosecuting tho[...]



Spartacus Network responds to Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 23:13:34 +0000

The Spartacus Network has produced a new report, Smokescreen, in response to the Government's Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

The Spartacus Network has produced a new report, Smokescreen, in response to the Government's Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

The Green Paper was produced following pressure from Conservative MPs who felt they had been duped into voting to cut the benefit of people too sick to work (those in the ESA support group) down to the same level as Job Seekers Allowance. The government promised numerous plans to mitigate these cuts. However, says Spartacus, there remains a real risk of losses, as all the Green Paper offers is promises of further Work Programmes and the co-opting of charities and community groups to provide what the report describes as ‘pound-shop therapy’.

Spartacus is particularly critical of the emphasis throughout the Green Paper on work as a route to recovery, and of proposed medical interventions which would be instigated not by the clamant's GP, but by a Job Centre Employment Advisor

Caroline Richardson, one of the authors of the Spartacus report Smokescreen,described the Green Paper as  a “complex document designed to convince the many that the cuts are irrelevant, as the solution to all socio-economic and medical barriers is work. Its reliance on projects not yet tested, and its policy based evidence gathering are suggestive of yet another failure in the making.”

* Read the Spartacus report Smokescreen here

* Ekklesia's consultation on cutting ESA can be found here

[Ekk/4]




WCC chief speaks on religion and discrimination

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:33:55 +0000

Is religion discriminatory? Does discrimination exist within and by different religions? World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit explored these questions with fellow panelists during a conference at a cultural centre in Trondheim, Norway on 14 February 2017 Is religion discriminatory? Does discrimination exist within and by different religions? World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit explored these questions with fellow panelists during a conference at a cultural centre in Trondheim, Norway on 14 February 2017. “Discrimination is all about justice, and justice must be expressed in rights," said Tveit. “Rights belong to structures of accountability; universal human rights are what the national states should implement in their legislation and systems of justice. Rights are defined in international conventions and agreements.” When we connect these definitions with religion, we add many dimensions to the discussion, he continued. “Particularly we add basic questions to the dimension of accountability: What does it mean that we are accountable to God when we discuss religion and discrimination? My answer is, it means a lot, what we mean by moral accountability and even legal accountability.” Tveit spoke about religion and discrimination as it relates to the WCC’s current pilgrimage of justice and peace. “To establish justice and peace is to a large extent to address all forms of discrimination", he said. “Being accountable to God, to the living God and the creator of all, is to be accountable to the living of today. Particularly – and first and foremost – we are accountable to other human beings, all of whom are created in the image of God. To be a human being is to be ‘the fellow human being’, always relating to the others, even the unknown and the stranger.” Ultimately, he noted, considering religion and discrimination requires asking difficult but vital questions: “What can bring hope for human beings for tomorrow? Is religion something we use to secure our own future, to safeguard the reproduction of our clan, our group, our nation only, or is it a basis and an inspiration for what we can call the future of humanity?” Tveit spoke as  part of a plenary session addressing the topic of religion and discrimination. The speakers told their own stories and experiences from different parts of the world and religions, then took part in a discussion. Other speakers included Marina Nemat, a Christian refugee from Iran, and Dr Ismail Cuneyt Guzey, who is associate professor of the Department of Neuroscience and Movement Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) as well as leader of the Muslim Society in Trondheim. * The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. * World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en [Ekk/4] [...]