organization:human rights council

  • UN envoy fears ’new crisis’ for Rohingya Muslims if moved to remote Bangladesh island

    A United Nations human rights investigator on #Myanmar has voiced deep concern at Bangladesh’s plan to relocate 23,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island, saying it may not be habitable and could create a “new crisis”.
    #réfugiés #îles #île #Bangladesh #rohingya #réfugiés_rohingya #asile #migrations #Birmanie

    • Polly Pallister-Wilkins signale sur twitter ( le lien à faire avec le concept de #penal_humanitarianism (#humanitarisme_pénal)

      Introducing the New Themed Series on Penal Humanitarianism

      Humanitarianism is many things to many people. It is an ethos, an array of sentiments and moral principles, an imperative to intervene, and a way of ‘doing good’ by bettering the human condition through targeting suffering. It is also a form of governance. In Border Criminologies’ new themed series, we look closer at the intersections of humanitarian reason with penal governance, and particularly the transfer of penal power beyond the nation state.

      The study of humanitarian sentiments in criminology has mainly focused on how these sensibilities have ‘humanized’ or ‘civilized’ punishment. As such, the notion of humanism in the study of crime, punishment, and justice is associated with human rights implementation in penal practices and with normative bulwark against penal populism; indeed, with a ‘softening’ of penal power.

      This themed series takes a slightly different approach. While non-punitive forces have a major place in the humanitarian sensibility, we explore how humanitarianism is put to work on and for penal power. In doing so, we look at how muscular forms of power – expulsion, punishment, war – are justified and extended through the invocation of humanitarian reason.

      In the following post, Mary Bosworth revisits themes from her 2017 article and addresses current developments on UK programmes delivered overseas to ‘manage migration’. She shows that through an expansion of these programmes, migration management and crime governance has not only elided, but ‘criminal justice investment appears to have become a humanitarian goal in its own right’. Similarly concerned with what happens at the border, Katja Franko and Helene O.I. Gundhus observed the paradox and contradictions between humanitarian ideals in the performative work of governmental discourses, and the lack of concern for migrants’ vulnerability in their article on Frontex operations.

      However, in their blog post they caution against a one-dimensional understanding of humanitarianism as legitimizing policy and the status quo. It may cloud from view agency and resistance in practice, and, they argue, ‘the dialectics of change arising from the moral discomfort of doing border work’. The critical, difficult question lurking beneath their post asks what language is left if not that of the sanctity of the human, and of humanity.

      Moving outside the European territorial border, Eva Magdalena Stambøl however corroborates the observation that penal power takes on a humanitarian rationale when it travels. Sharing with us some fascinating findings from her current PhD work on EU’s crime control in West Africa, and, more specifically, observations from her fieldwork in Niger, she addresses how the rationale behind the EU’s fight against ‘migrant smugglers’ in Niger is framed as a humanitarian obligation. In the process, however, the EU projects penal power beyond Europe and consolidates power in the ‘host’ state, in this case, Niger.

      Moving beyond nation-state borders and into the ‘international’, ‘global’, and ‘cosmopolitan’, my own research demonstrates how the power to punish is particularly driven by humanitarian reason when punishment is delinked from its association with the national altogether. I delve into the field of international criminal justice and show how it is animated by a humanitarian impetus to ‘do something’ about the suffering of distant others, and how, in particular, the human rights movement have been central to the fight against impunity for international crimes. Through the articulation of moral outrage, humanitarian sensibilities have found their expression in a call for criminal punishment to end impunity for violence against distant others. However, building on an ethnographic study of international criminal justice, which is forthcoming in the Clarendon Studies in Criminology published by Oxford University Press, I demonstrate how penal power remains deeply embedded in structural relations of (global) power, and that it functions to expand and consolidate these global inequalities further. Removed from the checks and balances of democratic institutions, I suggest that penal policies may be more reliant on categorical representations of good and evil, civilization and barbarity, humanity and inhumanity, as such representational dichotomies seem particularly apt to delineate the boundaries of cosmopolitan society.

      In the next post I co-wrote with Anette Bringedal Houge, we address the fight against sexual violence in conflict as penal humanitarianism par excellence, building on our study published in Law & Society Review. While attention towards conflict-related sexual violence is critically important, we take issue with the overwhelming dominance of criminal law solutions on academic, policy, and activist agendas, as the fight against conflict-related sexual violence has become the fight against impunity. We observe that the combination of a victim-oriented justification for international justice and graphic reproductions of the violence victims suffer, are central in the advocacy and policy fields responding to this particular type of violence. Indeed, we hold that it epitomizes how humanitarianism facilitates the expansion of penal power but take issue with what it means for how we address this type of violence.

      In the final post of this series, Teresa Degenhardt offers a discomforting view on the dark side of virtue as she reflects on how penal power is reassembled outside the state and within the international, under the aegis of human rights, humanitarianism, and the Responsibility to Protect-doctrine. Through the case of Libya, she claims that the global north, through various international interventions, ‘established its jurisdiction over local events’. Through what she calls a ‘pedagogy of liberal institutions’, Degenhardt argues that ‘the global north shaped governance through sovereign structures at the local level while re-articulating sovereign power at the global level’, in an argument that, albeit on a different scale, parallels that of Stambøl.

      The posts in this themed series raise difficult questions about the nature of penal power, humanitarianism, and the state. Through these diverse examples, each post demonstrates that while the nation state continues to operate as an essential territorial site of punishment, the power to punish has become increasingly complex. This challenges the epistemological privilege of the nation state framework in the study of punishment.

      However, while this thematic series focuses on how penal power travels through humanitarianism, we should, as Franko and Gundhus indicate, be careful of dismissing humanitarian sensibilities and logics as fraudulent rhetoric for a will to power. Indeed, we might – or perhaps should – proceed differently, given that in these times of pushback against international liberalism and human rights, and resurgent religion and nationalism, humanitarian reason is losing traction. Following an unmasking of humanitarianism as a logic of governance by both critical (leftist) scholars and rightwing populism alike, perhaps there is a need to revisit the potency of humanitarianism as normative bulwark against muscular power, and to carve out the boundaries of a humanitarian space of resistance, solidarity and dignity within a criminology of humanitarianism. Such a task can only be done through empirical and meticulous analysis of the uses and abuses of humanitarianism as an ethics of care.

    • Most Rohingya refugees refuse to go to #Bhasan_Char island – Xchange survey

      Nearly all Rohingya refugees asked about relocating to a silt island in the Bay of Bengal refused to go, a new survey reveals.

      According to a new report published by the migration research and data analysis outfit Xchange Foundation, the vast majority of their respondents (98.4%) ‘categorically refused’ to go to Bhasan Char, while 98.7% of respondents were aware of the plan.

      From the over 1,000 respondents who expressed their opinion, concerns were raised about their safety, security and placement in a location further from Myanmar.

      Decades long limbo

      The findings obtained by the recent Xchange Foundation Report entitled ‘WE DO NOT BELIEVE MYANMAR!,’ chart the protracted living conditions and uncertain future of almost three quarters of a million recent Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh. Accumulated together with previous generations of Rohingya, there are approximately 1.2m living across over a dozen camps in the region.

      This is the sixth survey carried out by the Xchange Foundation on the experiences and conditions facing Rohingya refugees.

      The region has been host to Rohingya refugees for just over the last three decades with the recent crackdown and massacre by the Myanmar military in August 2017 forcing whole families and communities to flee westward to Bangladesh.

      While discussions between the Bangladeshi and Myanmar government over the repatriation of recent Rohingya refugees have been plagued by inertia and lukewarm commitment, the Bangladeshi government has been planning on relocating over 100,000 Rohingya refugees to the silt island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal. This process was expected to take place in the middle of April, according to a Bangladeshi government minister.

      State Minister for Disaster and Relief Management Md Enamur Rahman, told the Dhaka Tribune ‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed last week to complete the relocation 23,000 Rohingya families to Bhashan Char by Apr 15.’

      Is it safe?

      Numerous humanitarian organisations including Human Rights Watch, have expressed their concerns over the government’s proposals, saying there are few assurances that Rohingya refugees will be safe or their access to free movement, health, education and employment will be secured.

      HRW reported in March that the Bangladeshi authorities had issued assurances that there wouldn’t be forcible relocation but that the move was designed to relieve pressure on the refugee camps and settlements across Cox’s Bazar.

      The move would see the relocation of 23,000 Rohingya families to a specially constructed complex of 1,440 housing blocks, equipped with flood and cyclone shelter and flood walls. The project is estimated to have cost the Bangladeshi government over €250 million.

      To prepare the island, joint efforts of British engineering and environmental hydraulics company HR Wallingford and the Chinese construction company Sinohydro, have been responsible for the construction of a 13km flood embankment which encircles the island.

      When asked by the Xchange survey team one Male Rohingya of 28 years old said, ‘We saw videos of Bhasan Char; it’s not a safe place and also during the raining season it floods.’ An older female of 42 said, ‘I’m afraid to go to Bhasan Char, because I think there is a risk to my life and my children.’

      Threat of flooding

      Bhasan Char or ‘Thengar Char,’ didn’t exist 20 years ago.

      The island is understood to have formed through gradual silt deposits forming a island around 30km from the Bangladeshi mainland. Until now, human activity on the island has been very minimal with it being largely used for cattle and only reachable by a 3.5 hour boat trip.

      But, the island is subject to the tides. It is reported that the island loses around 5,000 square acres of its territory from low to high tide (15,000 – 10,000 acres (54 square kilometres) respectively).

      This is worsened by the threat of the monsoon and cyclone season which according to HRW’s testimony can result in parts of the island eroding. This is recorded as being around one kilometre a year, ABC News reports.

      Golam Mahabub Sarwar of the Bangladeshi Ministry of Land, says that a high tide during a strong cyclone could completely flood the island. This is exemplifed by the 6 metre tidal range which is seen on fellow islands.

      New crisis

      The UN Envoy Yanghee Lee has warned that the Bangladesh government goes through with the relocation, it could risk creating a ‘new crisis’.

      Lee warned that she was uncertain of the island was ‘truly habitable’ for the over 23,000 families expected to live there.

      The Special Rapporteur to Myanmar made the comments to the Human Rights Council in March, saying that if the relocations were made without consent from the people it would affect, it had, ‘potential to create a new crisis.’

      She stressed that before refugees are relocated, the United Nations, ‘must be allowed to conduct a full technical and humanitarian assessment’ as well as allowing the beneficiary communities to visit and decide if it is right for them.

  • Un intéressant éditorial du New York Times contre les tentatives du Sénat américain de criminaliser BDS

    Opinion | Curbing Speech in the Name of Helping Israel - The New York Times

    A Senate bill aims to punish those who boycott Israel over its settlement policy. There are better solutions.

    By The Editorial Board
    The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

    One of the more contentious issues involving Israel in recent years is now before Congress, testing America’s bedrock principles of freedom of speech and political dissent.

    It is a legislative proposal that would impose civil and criminal penalties on American companies and organizations that participate in boycotts supporting Palestinian rights and opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

    The aim is to cripple the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as B.D.S., which has gathered steam in recent years despite bitter opposition from the Israeli government and its supporters around the world.

    The proposal’s chief sponsors, Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, want to attach it to the package of spending bills that Congress needs to pass before midnight Friday to keep the government fully funded.
    The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby group, strongly favors the measure.

    J Street, a progressive American pro-Israel group that is often at odds with Aipac and that supports a two-state peace solution, fears that the legislation could have a harmful effect, in part by implicitly treating the settlements and Israel the same, instead of as distinct entities. Much of the world considers the settlements, built on land that Israel captured in the 1967 war, to be a violation of international law.

    Although the Senate sponsors vigorously disagree, the legislation, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, is clearly part of a widening attempt to silence one side of the debate. That is not in the interests of Israel, the United States or their shared democratic traditions.

    Critics of the legislation, including the American Civil Liberties Union and several Palestinian rights organizations, say the bill would violate the First Amendment and penalize political speech.

    The hard-line policies of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, including expanding settlements and an obvious unwillingness to seriously pursue a peace solution that would allow Palestinians their own state, have provoked a backlash and are fueling the boycott movement.
    Editors’ Picks

    How to Buy a Gun in 15 Countries

    In Praise of Mediocrity

    Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think

    It’s not just Israel’s adversaries who find the movement appealing. Many devoted supporters of Israel, including many American Jews, oppose the occupation of the West Bank and refuse to buy products of the settlements in occupied territories. Their right to protest in this way must be vigorously defended.

    The same is true of Palestinians. They are criticized when they resort to violence, and rightly so. Should they be deprived of nonviolent economic protest as well? The United States frequently employs sanctions as a political tool, including against North Korea, Iran and Russia.

    Mr. Cardin and Mr. Portman say their legislation merely builds on an existing law, the Export Control Reform Act, which bars participation in the Arab League boycott of Israel, and is needed to protect American companies from “unsanctioned foreign boycotts.”

    They are especially concerned that the United Nations Human Rights Council is compiling a database of companies doing business in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem, a tactic Senate aides say parallels the Arab League boycott.

    But there are problems with their arguments, critics say. The existing law aimed to protect American companies from the Arab League boycott because it was coercive, requiring companies to boycott Israel as a condition of doing business with Arab League member states. A company’s motivation for engaging in that boycott was economic — continued trade relations — not exercising free speech rights.

    By contrast, the Cardin-Portman legislation would extend the existing prohibition to cover boycotts against Israel and other countries friendly to the United States when the boycotts are called for by an international government organization, like the United Nations or the European Union.

    Neither of those organizations has called for a boycott, but supporters of Israel apparently fear that the Human Rights Council database is a step in that direction.
    Get our weekly newsletter and never miss an Op-Doc
    Watch Oscar-nominated short documentaries from around the world made for you.

    Civil rights advocates, on the other hand, say that anyone who joins a boycott would be acting voluntarily — neither the United Nations nor the European Union has the authority to compel such action — and the decision would be an exercise of political expression in opposition to Israeli policies.

    Responding to criticism, the senators amended their original proposal to explicitly state that none of the provisions shall infringe upon any First Amendment right and to penalize violators with fines rather than jail time.

    But the American Civil Liberties Union says the First Amendment wording is nonbinding and “leaves intact key provisions which would impose civil and criminal penalties on companies, small business owners, nonprofits and even people acting on their behalf who engage in or otherwise support certain political boycotts.”

    While the sponsors say their bill is narrowly targeted at commercial activity, “such assurances ring hollow in light of the bill’s intended purpose, which is to suppress voluntary participation in disfavored political boycotts,” the A.C.L.U. said in a letter to lawmakers.

    Even the Anti-Defamation League, which has lobbied for the proposal, seems to agree. A 2016 internal ADL memo, disclosed by The Forward last week, calls anti-B.D.S. laws “ineffective, unworkable, unconstitutional and bad for the Jewish community.”

    In a properly functioning Congress, a matter of such moment would be openly debated. Instead, Mr. Cardin and Mr. Portman are trying to tack the B.D.S. provision onto the lame-duck spending bill, meaning it could by enacted into law in the 11th-hour crush to keep the government fully open.

    The anti-B.D.S. initiative began in 2014 at the state level before shifting to Congress and is part of a larger, ominous trend in which the political space for opposing Israel is shrinking. After ignoring the B.D.S. movement, Israel is now aggressively pushing against it, including branding it anti-Semitic and adopting a law barring foreigners who support it from entering that country.
    One United States case shows how counterproductive the effort is. It involves Bahia Amawi, an American citizen of Palestinian descent who was told she could no longer work as an elementary school speech pathologist in Austin, Tex., because she refused to sign a state-imposed oath that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel. She filed a lawsuit this week in federal court, arguing that the Texas law “chills constitutionally protected political advocacy in support of Palestine.”

    Any anti-boycott legislation enacted by Congress is also likely to face a court challenge. It would be more constructive if political leaders would focus on the injustice and finding viable solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than reinforcing divisions between the two parties and promoting legislation that raises free speech concerns.

  • Eritrea-Etiopia – Si tratta la pace ad Addis Abeba

    Una delegazione eritrea di alto livello è arrivata in Etiopia per il primo round di negoziati di pace in vent’anni. Il ministro degli Esteri eritreo Osman Sale è stato accolto in aeroporto dal neo premier etiopico Abiy Ahmed che, ai primi di giugno, ha sorpreso il Paese dichiarando di accettare l’Accordo di pace del 2000 che poneva fine alla guerra con l’Eritrea.

    L’Accordo, nonostante la fine dei combattimenti nel 2000, non è mai stato applicato e i rapporti tra i due Paesi sono rimasti tesi. Etiopia ed Eritrea non hanno relazioni diplomatiche e negli ultimi anni ci sono stati ripetute schermaglie militari al confine.
    #paix #Ethiopie #Erythrée #processus_de_paix

    • Peace Deal Alone Will Not Stem Flow of Eritrean Refugees

      The detente with Ethiopia has seen Eritrea slash indefinite military conscription. Researcher Cristiano D’Orsi argues that without a breakthrough on human rights, Eritreans will still flee.

      Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a historic agreement to end the 20-year conflict between the two countries. The breakthrough has been widely welcomed given the devastating effects the conflict has had on both countries as well as the region.

      The tension between the two countries led to Eritrea taking steps that were to have a ripple effect across the region – and the world. One in particular, the conscription of young men, has had a particularly wide impact.

      Two years before formal cross-border conflict broke out in 1998, the Eritrean government took steps to maintain a large standing army to push back against Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrean territories. Initially, troops were supposed to assemble and train for a period of 18 months as part of their national service. But, with the breakout of war, the service, which included both military personnel and civilians, was extended. All Eritrean men between the ages of 18–50 have to serve in the army for more than 20 years.

      This policy has been given as the reason for large numbers of Eritreans fleeing the country. The impact of the policy on individuals, and families, has been severe. For example, there have been cases of multiple family members being conscripted at the same time. This denied them the right to enjoy a stable family life. Children were the most heavily affected.

      It’s virtually impossible for Eritreans to return once they have left as refugees because the Eritrean government doesn’t look kindly on repatriated returnees. Those who are forced to return to the country face persecution and human rights abuses.

      In 2017, Eritreans represented the ninth-largest refugee population in the world with 486,200 people forcibly displaced. By May 2018, Eritreans represented 5 percent of the migrants who disembarked on the northern shores of the Mediterranean.

      Things look set to change, however. The latest batch of national service recruits have been told their enlistment will last no longer than 18 months. The announcement came in the midst of the dramatic thawing of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It has raised hopes that the service could be terminated altogether.

      With that said, it remains to be seen whether the end of hostilities between the two countries will ultimately stem the flow of Eritrean refugees.

      It’s virtually impossible for Eritreans to return once they have left as refugees because the Eritrean government doesn’t look kindly on repatriated returnees. Those who are forced to return to the country face persecution and human rights abuses.

      The Eritrean government’s hardline position has led to changes in refugee policies in countries like the UK. For example, in October 2016, a U.K. appellate tribunal held that Eritreans of draft age who left the country illegally would face the risk of persecution and abuse if they were involuntarily returned to Eritrea.

      This, the tribunal said, was in direct violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, the U.K.’s Home Office amended its immigration policy to conform to the tribunal’s ruling.

      Eritrean asylum seekers haven’t been welcome everywhere. For a long time they were persona non grata in Israel on the grounds that absconding national service duty was not justification for asylum. But in September 2016, an Israeli appeals court held that Eritreans must be given the chance to explain their reasons for fleeing at individual hearings, overruling an interior ministry policy that denied asylum to deserters.

      The situation is particularly tense for Eritreans in Israel because they represent the majority of African asylum seekers in the country. In fact, in May 2018, Israel and the United Nations refugee agency began negotiating a deal to repatriate African asylum seekers in western countries, with Canada as a primary destination.

      An earlier deal had fallen through after public pressure reportedly caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to back out of it.

      Eritreans living as refugees in Ethiopia have been welcomed in Australia where they are one among eight nationalities that have access to a resettlement scheme known as the community support program. This empowers Australian individuals, community organizations and businesses to offer Eritrean refugees jobs if they have the skills, allowing them to settle permanently in the country.

      The government has always denied that conscription has anything to do with Eritreans fleeing the country. Two years ago it made it clear that it would not shorten the length of the mandatory national service.

      At the time officials said Eritreans were leaving the country because they were being enticed by certain “pull factors.” They argued, for example, that the need for low cost manpower in the West could easily be met by giving asylum to Eritreans who needed just to complain about the National Service to obtain asylum.

      But change is on the cards. After signing the peace deal with Ethiopia, Eritrea has promised to end the current conscription regime and announcing that national service duty will last no more than 18 months.

      Even so, the national service is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future to fulfil other parts of its mandate which are reconstructing the country, strengthening the economy, and developing a joint Eritrean identity across ethnic and religious lines.

      Eritrea is still a country facing enormous human rights violations. According to the last Freedom House report, the Eritrean government has made no recent effort to address these. The report accuses the regime of continuing to perpetrate crimes against humanity.

      If Eritrea pays more attention to upholding human rights, fewer nationals will feel the need to flee. And if change comes within Eritrean borders as fast as it did with Ethiopia, a radical shift in human rights policy could be in the works.

      #asile #réfugiés

    • Eritrea has slashed conscription. Will it stem the flow of refugees?

      Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed an historic agreement to end the 20-year conflict between the two countries. The breakthrough has been widely welcomed given the devastating effects the conflict has had on both countries as well as the region.

      The tension between the two countries led to Eritrea taking steps that were to have a ripple effect across the region – and the world. One in particular, the conscription of young men, has had a particularly wide impact.

      Two years before formal cross border conflict broke out in 1998, the Eritrean government took steps to maintain a large standing army to push back against Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrean territories. Initially, troops were supposed to assemble and train for a period of 18 months as part of their national service. But, with the breakout of war, the service, which included both military personnel and civilians, was extended. All Eritrean men between the ages of 18 – 50 have to serve in the army for more than 20 years.

      This policy has been given as the reason for large numbers of Eritreans fleeing the country. The impact of the policy on individuals, and families, has been severe. For example, there have been cases of multiple family members being conscripted at the same time. This denied them the right to enjoy a stable family life. Children were the most heavily affected.

      In 2017, Eritreans represented the ninth-largest refugee population in the world with 486,200 people forcibly displaced. By May 2018 Eritreans represented 5% of the migrants who disembarked on the northern shores of the Mediterranean.

      Things look set to change, however. The latest batch of national service recruits have been told their enlistment will last no longer than 18 months. The announcement came in the midst of the dramatic thawing of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It has raised hopes that the service could be terminated altogether.

      With that said, it remains to be seen whether the end of hostilities between the two countries will ultimately stem the flow of Eritrean refugees.
      The plight of Eritrean refugees

      It’s virtually impossible for Eritreans to return once they have left as refugees because the Eritrean government doesn’t look kindly on repatriated returnees. Those who are forced to return to the country face persecution and human rights abuses.

      The Eritrean government’s hard line position has led to changes in refugee policies in countries like the UK. For example, in October 2016 a UK appellate tribunal held that Eritreans of draft age who left the country illegally would face the risk of persecution and abuse if they were involuntarily returned to Eritrea.

      This, the tribunal said, was in direct violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, the UK’s Home Office amended its immigration policy to conform to the tribunal’s ruling.

      Eritrean asylum seekers haven’t been welcome everywhere. For a long time they were persona non grata in Israel on the grounds that absconding national service duty was not justification for asylum. But in September 2016 an Israeli appeals court held that Eritreans must be given the chance to explain their reasons for fleeing at individual hearings, overruling an interior ministry policy that denied asylum to deserters.

      The situation is particularly tense for Eritreans in Israel because they represent the majority of African asylum-seekers in the country. In fact, in May 2018, Israel and the United Nations refugee agency began negotiating a deal to repatriate African asylum-seekers in western countries, with Canada as a primary destination.

      An earlier deal had fallen through after public pressure reportedly caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to back out of it.

      Eritreans living as refugees in Ethiopia have been welcomed in Australia where they are one among eight nationalities that have access to a resettlement scheme known as the community support programme. This empowers Australian individuals, community organisations and businesses to offer Eritrean refugees jobs if they have the skills, allowing them to settle permanently in the country.
      The future

      The government has always denied that conscription has anything to do with Eritreans fleeing the country. Two years ago it made it clear that it would not shorten the length of the mandatory national service.

      At the time officials said Eritreans were leaving the country because they were being enticed by certain “pull factors”. They argued, for example, that the need for low cost manpower in the West could easily be met by giving asylum to Eritreans who needed just to complain about the National Service to obtain asylum.

      But change is on the cards. After signing the peace deal with Ethiopia, Eritrea has promised to end the current conscription regime and announcing that national service duty will last no more than 18 months.

      Even so, the national service is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future to fulfil other parts of its mandate which are reconstructing the country, strengthening he economy, and developing a joint Eritrean identity across ethnic and religious lines.

      Eritrea is still a country facing enormous human rights violations. According to the last Freedom House report, the Eritrean government has made no recent effort to address these. The report accuses the regime of continuing to perpetrate crimes against humanity.

      If Eritrea pays more attention to upholding human rights, fewer nationals will feel the need to flee. And if change comes within Eritrean borders as fast as it did with Ethiopia, a radical shift in human rights policy could be in the works.

      #conscription #service_militaire #armée

    • Out of Eritrea: What happens after #Badme?

      On 6 June 2018, the government of Ethiopia announced that it would abide by the Algiers Agreement and 2002 Eritrea-Ethiopian Boundary Commission decision that defined the disputed border and granted the border town of Badme to Eritrea. Over the last 20 years, Badme has been central to the dispute between the two countries, following Ethiopia’s rejection of the ruling and continued occupation of the area. Ethiopia’s recently appointed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed acknowledged that the dispute over Badme had resulted in 20 years of tension between the two countries. To defend the border areas with Ethiopia, in 1994 the Eritrean government introduced mandatory military service for all adults over 18. Eritrean migrants and asylum seekers often give their reason for flight as the need to escape this mandatory national service.

      Since 2015, Eritreans have been the third largest group of people entering Europe through the Mediterranean, and have the second highestnumber of arrivals through the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. According to UNHCR, by the end of 2016, 459,390 Eritreans were registered refugees in various countries worldwide. Various sources estimate Eritrea’s population at 5 million people, meaning that approximately 10% of Eritrea’s population has sought refuge abroad by 2016.
      Mandatory military service – a driver of migration and displacement

      As data collection from the Mixed Migration Centre’s Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) shows, 95% of Eritrean refugees and migrants surveyed gave fear of conscription into national service as their main reason for flight out of Eritrea. Men and women from 18 to 40 years old are required by law to undertake national service for 18 months — including six months of military training followed by 12 months’ deployment either in military service or in other government entities including farms, construction sites, mines and ministries.
      In reality, national service for most conscripts extends beyond the 18 months and often indefinite. There are also reported cases of children under 18 years old being forcefully recruited. Even upon completion of national service, Eritreans under the age of 50 years may been enrolled in the Reserve Army with the duty to provide reserve military service and defend the country from external attacks or invasions.

      According to Human Rights Watch, conscripts are subject to military discipline and are harshly treated and earn a salary that often ranges between USD 43 – 48 per month. The length of service is unpredictable, the type of abuse inflicted on conscripts is at the whim of military commanders and the UN Commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea reported on the frequent sexual abuse of female conscripts. Eritrea has no provision for conscientious objection to national service and draft evaders and deserters if arrested are subjected to heavy punishment according to Amnesty International, including lengthy periods of detention, torture and other forms of inhuman treatment including rape for women. For those who escape, relatives are forced to pay fines of 50,000 Nakfa (USD 3,350) for each family member. Failure to pay the fine may result in the arrest and detention of a family member until the money is paid which further fuels flight from Eritrea for families who are unable to pay the fine.

      The government of Eritrea asserts that compulsory and indefinite national service is necessitated by continued occupation of its sovereign territories citing Ethiopia as the main threat. In its response to the UN Human Rights Council Report that criticised Eritrea for human rights violations including indefinite conscription, Eritrea stated that one of its main constraints to the fulfilment of its international and national obligations in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is the continued occupation of its territory by Ethiopia.

      In 2016, Eritrea’s minister for Information confirmed that indefinite national service would remain without fundamental changes even in the wake of increased flight from the country by citizens unwilling to undertake the service. The Minister went on to state that Eritrea would contemplate demobilization upon the removal of the ‘main threat’, in this case Eritrea’s hostile relationship with Ethiopia. Eritrea and Ethiopia have both traded accusations of supporting opposition/militia groups to undermine each other both locally and abroad. If the relations between the countries turn peaceful, this could potentially have an impact on Eritrean migration, out of the country and out of the region.

      In the absence of hostilities and perceived security threats from its neighbour, it is possible that Eritrea will amend – or at least be open to start a dialogue about amending – its national service (and military) policies from the current mandatory and indefinite status, which has been one of the major root causes of the movement of Eritreans out of their country and onwards towards Europe. Related questions are whether an improvement in the relations with Ethiopia could also bring an immediate or longer term improvement in the socio-economic problems that Eritrea faces, for example through expanded trade relations between the two countries? Will this change usher in an era of political stability and an easing of military burdens on the Eritrean population?
      A possible game changer?

      The border deal, if it materialises, could at some time also have serious implications for Eritrean asylum seekers in Europe. Eritreans applying for asylum have relatively high approval rates. The high recognition rate for Eritrean asylum seekers is based on the widely accepted presumptionthat Eritreans who evade or avoid national service are at risk of persecution. In 2016 for example, 93% of Eritreans who sought asylum in EU countries received a positive decision. This recognition rate was second to Syrians and ahead of Iraqis and Somalis; all countries that are in active conflict unlike Eritrea. If the government of Eritrea enacts positive policy changes regarding conscription, the likely effect could be a much lower recognition rate for Eritrean asylum seekers. It is unclear how this would affect those asylum seekers already in the system.

      While Eritreans on the route to Europe and in particular those arriving in Italy, remain highly visible and receive most attention, many Eritreans who leave the country end up in refugee camps or Eritrean enclaves in neighbouring countries like Sudan and Ethiopia or further away in Egypt. After they flee, most Eritreans initially apply for refugee status in Ethiopia’s and Sudan’s refugee camps. As Human Rights Watch noted in 2016, the Eritrean camp population generally remains more or less stable. While many seek onward movements out of the camps, many refugees remain in the region. With these potentially new developments in Eritrea, will the Eritreans in Sudan, Ethiopia and other neighbouring countries feel encouraged or compelled to return at some, or will they perhaps be forced to return to Eritrea?
      What’s next?

      Conservative estimates in 2001 put the cost of the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia at USD 2.9 billion in just the first three years. This has had an adverse effect on the economies of the two countries as well as human rights conditions. In 2013, Eritrea expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue with Ethiopia should it withdraw its army from the disputed territory which it further noted is occupied by 300,000 soldiers from both countries. Ethiopia has previously stated its willingness to surrender Badme, without in the end acting upon this promise. Should this latest promise be implemented and ties between two countries normalized, this might herald positive developments for both the economy and the human rights situation in both countries, with a potential significant impact on one of the major drivers of movement out of Eritrea.

      However, with the news that Ethiopia would move to define its borders in accordance with international arbitration, the possibilities for political stability and economic growth in Eritrea remain uncertain. On 21 June 2018, the President of Eritrea Isaias Aferwerki issued a statement saying that Eritrea would send a delegation to Addis Ababa to ‘gauge current developments… chart out a plan for continuous future action’. The possibility of resulting peace and economic partnership between the two countries could, although a long-term process, also result in economic growth on both sides of the border and increased livelihood opportunities for their citizens who routinely engage in unsafe and irregular migration for political, humanitarian and economic reasons.

    • Despite the peace deal with Ethiopia, Eritrean refugees are still afraid to return home

      When Samuel Berhe thinks of Eritrea, he sees the sand-colored buildings and turquoise water of Asmara’s shoreline. He sees his sister’s bar under the family home in the capital’s center that sells sweet toast and beer. He sees his father who, at 80 years old, is losing his eyesight but is still a force to be reckoned with. He thinks of his home, a place that he cannot reach.

      Berhe, like many other Eritreans, fled the country some years ago to escape mandatory national service, which the government made indefinite following the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia. The war cost the countries an estimated 100,000 lives, while conscription created a generation of Eritrean refugees. The UNHCR said that in 2016 there were 459,000 Eritrean exiles out of an estimated population of 5.3 million.

      So, when the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a sudden peace deal in July 2018, citizens of the Horn of Africa nations rejoiced. Many took to the streets bearing the two flags. Others chose social media to express their happiness, and some even dialed up strangers, as phone lines between the nations were once again reinstated. It felt like a new era of harmony and prosperity had begun.

      But for Berhe, the moment was bittersweet.

      “I was happy because it is good for our people but I was also sad, because it doesn’t make any change for me,” he said from his home in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “I will stay as a refugee.”

      Like many other Eritrean emigrants, Berhe fled the country illegally to escape national service. He fears that if he returns, he will wind up in jail, or worse. He does not have a passport and has not left Ethiopia since he arrived on the back of a cargo truck 13 years ago. His two daughters, Sarah, 9, and Ella, 11, for whom he is an only parent, have never seen their grandparents or their father’s homeland.

      Now that there is a direct flight, Berhe is planning on sending the girls to see their relatives. But before he considers returning, he will need some sort of guarantee from Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, who leads the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, that he will pardon those who left.

      “The people that illegally escaped, the government thinks that we are traitors,” he said. “There are many, many like me, all over the world, too afraid to go back.”

      Still, hundreds fought to board the first flights between the two capitals throughout July and August. Asmara’s and Addis Ababa’s airports became symbols of the reunification as hordes of people awaited their relatives with bouquets daily, some whom they hadn’t seen for more than two decades.

      “When I see the people at the airport, smiling, laughing, reuniting with their family, I wish to be like them. To be free. They are lucky,” Berhe said.

      Related: Chronic insomnia plagues young migrants long after they reach their destination

      Zala Mekonnen, 38, an Eritrean Canadian, who was one of the many waiting at arrivals in Addis Ababa, said she had completely given up on the idea that the two nations — formerly one country — would ever rekindle relations.

      Mekonnen, who is half Ethiopian, found the 20-year feud especially difficult as her family was separated in half. In July, her mother saw her uncle for the first time in 25 years.

      “We’re happy but hopefully he’s [Afwerki] going to let those young kids free [from conscription],” she said. “I’m hoping God will hear, because so many of them died while trying to escape. One full generation lost.”

      Related: A life of statelessness derailed this Eritrean runner’s hopes to compete in the Olympics

      Mekonnen called the peace deal with Ethiopia a crucial step towards Eritrean democracy. But Afwerki, the 72-year-old ex-rebel leader, will also have to allow multiple political parties to exist, along with freedom of religion, freedom of speech and reopening Asmara’s public university while also giving young people opportunities outside of national service.

      “The greeting that Afwerki received here in Ethiopia [following the agreement to restore relations], he didn’t deserve it,” said Mekonnen. “He should have been hung.”

      Since the rapprochement, Ethiopia’s leader, Abiy Ahmed, has reached out to exiled opposition groups, including those in Eritrea, to open up a political dialogue. The Eritrean president has not made similar efforts. But in August, his office announced that he would visit Ethiopia for a second time to discuss the issue of rebels.

      Laura Hammond, a professor of developmental studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said that it is likely Afwerki will push for Ethiopia to send Eritrean refugees seeking asylum back to Eritrea.

      “The difficulty is that, while the two countries are normalizing relations, the political situation inside Eritrea is not changing as rapidly,” Hammond said. “There are significant fears about what will happen to those who have left the country illegally, including in some cases escaping from prison or from their national service bases. They will need to be offered amnesty if they are to feel confident about returning.”

      To voice their frustrations, thousands of exiled Eritreans gathered in protest outside the UN headquarters in Geneva on Aug. 31. Amid chants of “enough is enough” and “down, down Isaias,” attendees held up placards calling for peace and democracy. The opposition website, Harnnet, wrote that while the rapprochement with Ethiopia was welcomed, regional and global politicians were showing “undeserved sympathy” to a power that continued to violate human rights.

      Sitting in front of the TV, Berhe’s two daughters sip black tea and watch a religious parade broadcast on Eritrea’s national channel. Berhe, who has temporary refugee status in Ethiopia, admits that one thing that the peace deal has changed is that the state’s broadcaster no longer airs perpetual scenes of war. For now, he is safe in Addis Ababa with his daughters, but he is eager to obtain a sponsor in the US, Europe or Australia, so that he can resettle and provide them with a secure future. He is afraid that landlocked Ethiopia might cave to pressures from the Eritrean government to return its refugees in exchange for access to the Red Sea port.

      “Meanwhile my girls say to me, ’Why don’t we go for summer holiday in Asmara?’” he laughs. “They don’t understand my problem.”

    • Etiopia: firmato ad Asmara accordo di pace fra governo e Fronte nazionale di liberazione dell’#Ogaden

      Asmara, 22 ott 09:51 - (Agenzia Nova) - Il governo dell’Etiopia e i ribelli del Fronte nazionale di liberazione dell’Ogaden (#Onlf) hanno firmato un accordo di pace nella capitale eritrea Asmara per porre fine ad una delle più antiche lotte armate in Etiopia. L’accordo, si legge in una nota del ministero degli Esteri di Addis Abeba ripresa dall’emittente “Fana”, è stato firmato da una delegazione del governo etiope guidata dal ministro degli Esteri Workneh Gebeyehu e dal presidente dell’Onlf, Mohamed Umer Usman, i quali hanno tenuto un colloquio definito “costruttivo” e hanno raggiunto un “accordo storico” che sancisce “l’inizio di un nuovo capitolo di pace e stabilità in Etiopia”. L’Onlf, gruppo separatista fondato nel 1984, è stato etichettato come organizzazione terrorista dal governo etiope fino al luglio scorso, quando il parlamento di Addis Abeba ha ratificato la decisione del governo di rimuovere i partiti in esilio – tra cui appunto l’Onlf – dalla lista delle organizzazioni terroristiche. La decisione rientra nella serie di provvedimenti annunciati dal premier Abiy Ahmed per avviare il percorso di riforme nel paese, iniziato con il rilascio di migliaia di prigionieri politici, la distensione delle relazioni con l’Eritrea e la parziale liberalizzazione dell’economia etiope.

    • UN: No Rights Progress in Eritrea After Peace Deal With Ethiopia

      U.N. experts say Eritrea’s human rights record has not changed for the better since the government signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia last year, formally ending a two decades-long border conflict. The U.N. Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on the current situation in Eritrea this week.

      After a 20-year military stalemate with Ethiopia, hopes were high that the peace accord would change Eritrea’s human rights landscape for the better.

      U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore said that has not happened. She said Eritrea has missed a historic opportunity because the government has not implemented urgently needed judicial, constitutional and economic reforms.

      She said the continued use of indefinite national service remains a major human rights concern.

      “Conscripts continue to confront open-ended duration of service, far beyond the 18 months stipulated in law and often under abusive conditions, which may include the use of torture, sexual violence and forced labor,” she said.

      Gilmore urged Eritrea to bring its national service in line with the country’s international human rights obligations.

      “The peace agreement signed with Ethiopia should provide the security that the government of Eritrea has argued it needs to discontinue this national service and help shift its focus from security to development…. In the absence of promising signs of tangible human rights progress, that flow of asylum-seekers is not expected to drop,” Gilmore said.

      Human rights groups say unlimited national service forces thousands of young men to flee Eritrea every month to seek asylum in Europe. They say many lose their lives making the perilous journey across the Sahara Desert or while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

      The head of the Eritrean delegation to the Council, Tesfamicael Gerahtu, said his country has had to adopt certain measures to counter the negative effect of the last 20 years on peace, security and development. He insists there is no human rights crisis in his country.

      He accused the Human Rights Council of exerting undue pressure on Eritrea by monitoring his country’s human rights situation and adopting detrimental resolutions. He called the actions counterproductive.

      “The honorable and productive way forward is to terminate the confrontational approach on Eritrea that has been perpetrated in the last seven years and that has not created any dividend in the promotion of human rights. And, there is no crisis that warrants a Human Rights Council agenda or special mandate on Eritrea,” Gerahtu said.

      Daniel Eyasu , head of Cooperation and International Relations of the National Youth Union and Eritrean Students, agrees there is no human rights crisis in Eritrea. He offered a positive spin on the country’s controversial national service, calling it critical for nation building.

      Unfortunately, he said, the reports of the council’s special procedures characterizing national service as modern slavery is unwarranted, unjustified and unacceptable.

      The Founder of One Day Seyoum, Vanessa Tsehaye, said the government has not changed its stripes. She said it is as repressive today as it was before the peace accord with Ethiopia was signed.

      Tsehaye’s organization works for the release of her uncle, a journalist who has been imprisoned without a trial in Eritrea since 2001 and for all people unjustly imprisoned. She said they continue to languish in prison.

      “The standoff at the border cannot justify the fact that all capable Eritreans are enlisted into the national service indefinitely. It cannot justify the fact that the country’s constitution still has not been implemented and that the parliament still has not convened since 2002. It does not justify the fact that the only university in the country has been shut down, that the free press has still not been opened and that tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned without a trial simply for expressing their opinions, practicing their religion or attempting to leave their country,” Tsehaye said.

      But delegates at the council welcomed the peace process and expressed hope it will result in better protection for the Eritrean people. But they noted the prevailing abusive conditions are not promising.

      They urged the government to reform its military service, release all political prisoners, stop the practice of arbitrary arrests, and end torture and inhumane detention conditions.
      #processus_de_paix #droits_humains

  • UN officials point finger at Myanmar for ’crimes under international law’ | World news | The Guardian

    UN human rights officials have said it is likely that “crimes under international law” have been committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar and called for a body to collect evidence that could be presented in international criminal courts.

    Speaking to the Human Rights Council on Monday, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said that “the repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more” in Myanmar.

    #birmanie #rohingyas

  • Separating children and parents at the border is cruel and unnecessary

    The Trump administration has shown that it’s willing — eager, actually — to go to great lengths to limit illegal immigration into the United States, from building a multi-billion-dollar border wall with Mexico to escalated roundups that grab those living here without permission even if they have no criminal record and are longtime, productive members of their communities. Now the administration’s cold-hearted approach to enforcement has crossed the line into abject inhumanity: the forced separation of children from parents as they fight for legal permission to remain in the country.

    How widespread is the practice? That’s unclear. The Department of Homeland Security declined comment because it is being sued over the practice. It ignored a request for statistics on how many children it has separated from their parents, an unsurprising lack of transparency from an administration that faces an unprecedented number of lawsuits over its failure to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for government — read: public — records. But immigrant rights activists say they have noticed a jump, and in December, a coalition of groups filed a complaint with Homeland Security over the practice.
    When parents and children cross the border and tell border patrol agents they would like to apply for asylum, they often are taken into custody while their request is considered. Under the Obama administration, the families were usually released to the care of a relative or organization, or held in a family detention center. But under President Trump, the parents — usually mothers traveling without their spouses — who sneak across the border then turn themselves in are increasing being charged with the misdemeanor crime of entering the country illegally, advocates say. And since that is a criminal charge, not a civil violation of immigration codes, the children are spirited away to a youth detention center with no explanation. Sometimes, parents and children are inexplicably separated even when no charges are lodged. Activists believe the government is splitting families to send a message of deterrence: Dare to seek asylum at the border and we’ll take your child.
    #frontières #unité_familiale #séparation #enfants #enfance #parents #asile #migrations #réfugiés #USA #Etats-Unis #détention_administrative #rétention #dissuasion

    • Familias rotas, familias vaciadas

      Es delgada y pequeña. No rebasa el 1.60. La habitación en la que duerme —en el segundo piso del albergue para veteranos deportados que creó Héctor Barajas— tiene una cama con un oso de peluche que ella misma confeccionó y una mesa para cuatro personas. La sonrisa que a veces asoma en su rostro nunca llega a sus ojos, oscuros y con marcadas ojeras. Se llama Yolanda Varona y tiene prohibido, de por vida, entrar a Estados Unidos, el país donde trabajó 16 años y donde viven sus dos hijos y tres nietos.

    • Taking Migrant Children From Parents Is Illegal, U.N. Tells U.S.

      The Trump administration’s practice of separating children from migrant families entering the United States violates their rights and international law, the United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday, urging an immediate halt to the practice.

      The administration angrily rejected what it called an ignorant attack by the United Nations human rights office and accused the global organization of hypocrisy.

      The human rights office said it appeared that, as The New York Times revealed in April, United States authorities had separated several hundred children, including toddlers, from their parents or others claiming to be their family members, under a policy of criminally prosecuting undocumented people crossing the border.

      That practice “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva, told reporters.

      Last month, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings, saying that it would significantly increase criminal prosecutions of migrants. Officials acknowledged that putting more adults in jail would mean separating more children from their families.

      “The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense — that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

      You have 4 free articles remaining.
      Subscribe to The Times

      The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, clearly showed American irritation with the accusation in a statement released a few hours later.

      “Once again, the United Nations shows its hypocrisy by calling out the United States while it ignores the reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council,” Ms. Haley said. “While the High Commissioner’s office ignorantly attacks the United States with words, the United States leads the world with its actions, like providing more humanitarian assistance to global conflicts than any other nation.”

      Without addressing the specifics of the accusation, Ms. Haley said: “Neither the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders.”
      The Last Days of Time Inc.
      Overlooked No More: She Followed a Trail to Wyoming. Then She Blazed One.
      In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

      The administration has characterized its policy as being about illegal immigration, though many of the detained migrants — including those in families that are split apart — enter at official border crossings and request asylum, which is not an illegal entry. It has also said that some adults falsely claim to be the parents of accompanying children, a genuine problem, and that it has to sort out their claims.

      On Twitter, President Trump has appeared to agree that breaking up families was wrong, but blamed Democrats for the approach, saying that their “bad legislation” had caused it. In fact, no law requires separating children from families, and the practice was put in place by his administration just months ago.

      The Times found in April that over six months, about 700 children had been taken from people claiming to be their parents.

      The American Civil Liberties Union says that since then, the pace of separations has accelerated sharply. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the group’s immigrant rights project, said that in the past five weeks, close to 1,000 children may have been taken from their families.

      Last year, as Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly raised the idea of separating children from their families when they entered the country as a way to deter movement across the Mexican border.

      Homeland Security officials have since denied that they separate families as part of a policy of deterrence, but have also faced sharp criticism from President Trump for failing to do more to curb the numbers of migrants crossing the border.

      For the United Nations, it was a matter of great concern that in the United States “migration control appears to have been prioritized over the effective care and protection of migrant children,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

      The United States is the only country in the world that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she noted, but the practice of separating and detaining children breached its obligations under other international human rights conventions it has joined.

      “Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation,” she said, calling on the authorities to adopt noncustodial alternatives.

      The A.C.L.U. has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in San Diego, calling for a halt to the practice and for reunification of families.

    • U.S. policy of separating refugees from children is illegal, horrific

      Somewhere in #Texas, a 3-year-old is crying into her pillow. She left all her toys behind when she fled Guatemala. And on this day the U.S. government took her mother away.

      When we read about the U.S. administration’s new policy of trying to stop people from crossing its borders by taking away their children, we too had trouble sleeping.

    • What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated ?

      An expert on helping parents navigate the asylum process describes what she’s seeing on the ground.

      Everyone involved in U.S. immigration along the border has a unique perspective on the new “zero tolerance” policies—most notably, the increasing number of migrant parents who are separated from their children. Some workers are charged with taking the children away from their parents and sending them into the care of Health and Human Services. Some are contracted to find housing for the children and get them food. Some volunteers try to help the kids navigate the system. Some, like Anne Chandler, assist the parents. As executive director of the Houston office of the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, which focuses on helping immigrant women and children, she has been traveling to the border and to detention centers, listening to the parents’ stories. We asked her to talk with us about what she has been hearing in recent weeks.

      This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

      Texas Monthly: First, can you give us an overview of your organization?

      Anne Chandler: We run the Children’s Border Project, and we work with hundreds of kids that have been released from ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] care. We are not a legal service provider that does work when they’re in the shelters. To date, most of our work with that issue of family separation has been working with the parents in the days when they are being separated: when they’re in the federal courthouse being convicted; partnering with the federal public defenders; and then in the adult detention center, as they have no idea how to communicate or speak to their children or get them back before being deported.

      TM: Can you take me through what you’ve been seeing?

      AC: The short of it is, we will take sample sizes of numbers and individuals we’re seeing that are being prosecuted for criminal entry. The majority of those are free to return to the home country. Vast majority. We can’t quite know exactly because our sample size is between one hundred and two hundred individuals. But 90 percent of those who are being convicted are having their children separated from them. The 10 percent that aren’t are some mothers who are going with their children to the detention centers in Karnes and Dilley. But, for the most part, the ones that I’ve been working with are the ones that are actually being prosecuted for criminal entry, which is a pretty new thing for our country—to take first-time asylum seekers who are here seeking safe refuge, to turn around and charge them with a criminal offense. Those parents are finding themselves in adult detention centers and in a process known as expedited removal, where many are being deported. And their children, on the other hand, are put in a completely different legal structure. They are categorized as unaccompanied children and thus are being put in place in a federal agency not with the Department of Homeland Security but with Health and Human Services. And Health and Human Services has this complicated structure in place where they’re not viewed as a long-term foster care system—that’s for very limited numbers—but their general mandate is to safeguard these children in temporary shelters and then find family members with whom they can be placed. So they start with parents, and then they go to grandparents, and then they go to other immediate family members, and then they go to acquaintances, people who’ve known the children, and they’re in that system, but they can’t be released to their parents because their parents are behind bars. And we may see more parents that get out of jail because they pass a “credible fear” interview, which is the screening done by the asylum office to see who should be deported quickly, within days or weeks of arrival, and who should stay here and have an opportunity to present their asylum case before an immigration judge of the Department of Justice. So we have a lot of individuals who are in that credible fear process right now, but in Houston, once you have a credible fear interview (which will sometimes take two to three weeks to even set up), those results aren’t coming out for four to six weeks. Meanwhile, these parents are just kind of languishing in these detention centers because of the zero-tolerance policy. There’s no individual adjudication of whether the parents should be put on some form of alternative detention program so that they can be in a position to be reunited with their kid.

      TM: So, just so I make sure I understand: the parents come in and say, “We’re persecuted” or give some reason for asylum. They come in. And then their child or children are taken away and they’re in lockup for at least six weeks away from the kids and often don’t know where the kids are. Is that what’s happening under zero tolerance?

      AC: So the idea of zero tolerance under the stated policy is that we don’t care why you’re afraid. We don’t care if it’s religion, political, gangs, anything. For all asylum seekers, you are going to be put in jail, in a detention center, and you’re going to have your children taken away from you. That’s the policy. They’re not 100 percent able to implement that because of a lot of reasons, including just having enough judges on the border. And bed space. There’s a big logistical problem because this is a new policy. So the way they get to that policy of taking the kids away and keeping the adults in detention centers and the kids in a different federal facility is based on the legal rationale that we’re going to convict you, and since we’re going to convict you, you’re going to be in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, and when that happens, we’re taking your kid away. So they’re not able to convict everybody of illegal entry right now just because there aren’t enough judges on the border right now to hear the number of cases that come over, and then they say if you have religious persecution or political persecution or persecution on something that our asylum definition recognizes, you can fight that case behind bars at an immigration detention center. And those cases take two, three, four, five, six months. And what happens to your child isn’t really our concern. That is, you have made the choice to bring your child over illegally. And this is what’s going to happen.

      TM: Even if they crossed at a legal entry point?

      AC: Very few people come to the bridge. Border Patrol is saying the bridge is closed. When I was last out in McAllen, people were stacked on the bridge, sleeping there for three, four, ten nights. They’ve now cleared those individuals from sleeping on the bridge, but there are hundreds of accounts of asylum seekers, when they go to the bridge, who are told, “I’m sorry, we’re full today. We can’t process your case.” So the families go illegally on a raft—I don’t want to say illegally; they cross without a visa on a raft. Many of them then look for Border Patrol to turn themselves in, because they know they’re going to ask for asylum. And under this government theory—you know, in the past, we’ve had international treaties, right? Statutes which codified the right of asylum seekers to ask for asylum. Right? Article 31 of the Refugee Convention clearly says that it is improper for any state to use criminal laws that could deter asylum seekers as long as that asylum seeker is asking for asylum within a reasonable amount of time. But our administration is kind of ignoring this longstanding international and national jurisprudence of basic beliefs to make this distinction that, if you come to a bridge, we’re not going to prosecute you, but if you come over the river and then find immigration or are caught by immigration, we’re prosecuting you.

      TM: So if you cross any other way besides the bridge, we’re prosecuting you. But . . . you can’t cross the bridge.

      AC: That’s right. I’ve talked to tons of people. There are organizations like Al Otro Lado that document border turn-backs. And there’s an effort to accompany asylum seekers so that Customs and Border Patrol can’t say, “We’re closed.” Everybody we’ve talked to who’s been prosecuted or separated has crossed the river without a visa.

      TM: You said you were down there recently?

      AC: Monday, June 4.

      TM: What was happening on the bridge at that point?

      AC: I talked to a lot of people who were there Saturdays and Sundays, a lot of church groups that are going, bringing those individuals umbrellas because they were in the sun. It’s morning shade, and then the sun—you know, it’s like 100 degrees on the cement. It’s really, really hot. So there were groups bringing diapers and water bottles and umbrellas and electric fans, and now everyone’s freaked out because they’re gone! What did they do with them? Did they process them all? Yet we know they’re saying you’re turned back. When I was in McAllen, the individuals that day who visited people on the bridge had been there four days. We’re talking infants; there were people breastfeeding on the bridge.

      TM: Are the infants taken as well?

      AC: Every border zone is different. We definitely saw a pattern in McAllen. We talked to 63 parents who had lost their children that day in the court. Of those, the children seemed to be all five and older. What we know from the shelters and working with people is that, yes, there are kids that are very young, that are breastfeeding babies and under three in the shelters, separated from their parents. But I’m just saying, in my experience, all those kids and all the parents’ stories were five and up.

      TM: Can you talk about how you’ve seen the process change over the past few months?

      AC: The zero-tolerance policy really started with Jeff Sessions’s announcement in May. One could argue that this was the original policy that we started seeing in the executive orders. One was called “border security and immigration enforcement.” And a lot of the principles underlying zero tolerance are found here. The idea is that we’re going to prosecute people.

      TM: And the policy of separating kids from parents went into effect when?

      AC: They would articulate it in various ways with different officials, but as immigration attorneys, starting in October, were like, “Oh my goodness. They are telling us these are all criminal lawbreakers and they’re going to have their children taken away.” We didn’t know what it would mean. And so we saw about six hundred children who were taken away from October to May, then we saw an explosion of the numbers in May. It ramped up. The Office of Refugee Resettlement taking in all these kids says that they are our children, that they are unaccompanied. It’s a fabrication. They’re not unaccompanied children. They are children that came with their parents, and the idea that we’re creating this crisis—it’s a manufactured crisis where we’re going to let children suffer to somehow allow this draconian approach with families seeking shelter and safe refuge.

      TM: So what is the process for separation?

      AC: There is no one process. Judging from the mothers and fathers I’ve spoken to and those my staff has spoken to, there are several different processes. Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.” Sometimes mothers—I was talking to one mother, and she said, “Don’t take my child away,” and the child started screaming and vomiting and crying hysterically, and she asked the officers, “Can I at least have five minutes to console her?” They said no. In another case, the father said, “Can I comfort my child? Can I hold him for a few minutes?” The officer said, “You must let them go, and if you don’t let them go, I will write you up for an altercation, which will mean that you are the one that had the additional charges charged against you.” So, threats. So the father just let the child go. So it’s a lot of variations. But sometimes deceit and sometimes direct, just “I’m taking your child away.” Parents are not getting any information on what their rights are to communicate to get their child before they are deported, what reunification may look like. We spoke to nine parents on this Monday, which was the 11th, and these were adults in detention centers outside of Houston. They had been separated from their child between May 23 and May 25, and as of June 11, not one of them had been able to talk to their child or knew a phone number that functioned from the detention center director. None of them had direct information from immigration on where their child was located. The one number they were given by some government official from the Department of Homeland Security was a 1-800 number. But from the phones inside the detention center, they can’t make those calls. We know there are more parents who are being deported without their child, without any process or information on how to get their child back.

      TM: And so it’s entirely possible that children will be left in the country without any relatives?

      AC: Could be, yeah.

      TM: And if the child is, say, five years old . . .?

      AC: The child is going through deportation proceedings, so the likelihood that that child is going to be deported is pretty high.

      TM: How do they know where to deport the child to, or who the parents are?

      AC: How does that child navigate their deportation case without their parent around?

      TM: Because a five-year-old doesn’t necessarily know his parents’ information.

      AC: In the shelters, they can’t even find the parents because the kids are just crying inconsolably. They often don’t know the full legal name of their parents or their date of birth. They’re not in a position to share a trauma story like what caused the migration. These kids and parents had no idea. None of the parents I talked to were expecting to be separated as they faced the process of asking for asylum.

      TM: I would think that there would be something in place where, when the child is taken, they’d be given a wristband or something with their information on it?

      AC: I think the Department of Homeland Security gives the kids an alien number. They also give the parents an alien number and probably have that information. The issue is that the Department of Homeland Security is not the one caring for the children. Jurisdiction of that child has moved over to Health and Human Services, and the Health and Human Services staff has to figure out, where is this parent? And that’s not easy. Sometimes the parents are deported. Kids are in New York and Miami, and we’ve got parents being sent to Tacoma, Washington, and California. Talk about a mess. And nobody has a right to an attorney here. These kids don’t get a paid advocate or an ad litem or a friend of the court. They don’t get a paid attorney to represent them. Some find that, because there are programs. But it’s not a right. It’s not universal.

      TM: What agency is in charge of physically separating the children and the adults?

      AC: The Department of Homeland Security. We saw the separation take place while they were in the care and custody of Customs and Border Protection. That’s where it was happening, at a center called the Ursula, which the immigrants called La Perrera, because it looked like a dog pound, a dog cage. It’s a chain-link fence area, long running areas that remind Central Americans of the way people treat dogs.

      TM: So the Department of Homeland Security does the separation and then they immediately pass the kids to HHS?

      AC: I don’t have a bird’s-eye view of this, besides interviewing parents. Parents don’t know. All they know is that the kid hasn’t come back to their little room in CBP. Right? We know from talking to advocates and attorneys who have access to the shelters that they think that these kids leave in buses to shelters run by the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement Department of Unaccompanied Children Services—which, on any given day there’s like three thousand kids in the Harlingen-Brownsville area. We know there are eight, soon to be nine, facilities in Houston. And they’re going to open up this place in Tornillo, along the border by El Paso. And they’re opening up places in Miami. They’re past capacity. This is a cyclical time, where rates of migration increase. So now you’re creating two populations. One is your traditional unaccompanied kids who are just coming because their life is at risk right now in El Salvador and Honduras and parts of Guatemala, and they come with incredible trauma, complex stories, and need a lot of resources, and so they navigate this immigration system. And now we have this new population, which is totally different: the young kids who don’t hold their stories and aren’t here to self-navigate the system and are crying out for their parents. There are attorneys that get money to go in and give rights presentations to let the teenagers know what they can ask for in court, what’s happening with their cases, and now the attorneys are having a hard time doing that because right next to them, in the other room, they’ve got kids crying and wailing, asking for their mom and dad. The attorneys can’t give these kids information. They’re just trying to learn grounding exercises.

      TM: Do you know if siblings are allowed to stay together?

      AC: We don’t know. I dealt with one father who knew that siblings were not at the same location from talking to his family member. He believes they’re separated. But I have no idea. Can’t answer that question.

      TM: Is there another nonprofit similar to yours that handles kids more than adults?

      AC: Yes: in Houston it’s Catholic Charities. We know in Houston they are going to open up shelters specific for the tender-age kids, which is defined as kids under twelve. And that’s going to be by Minute Maid Stadium. And that facility is also going to have some traditional demographic of pregnant teenagers. But it’s going to be a young kid—and young kids are, almost by definition, separated. Kids usually do not migrate on their own at that age.

      TM: That’s usually teens?

      AC: Teens. Population is thirteen to seventeen, with many more fifteen-, sixteen-, and seventeen-year-olds than thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds. They’re riding on top of trains. You know, the journey is very dangerous. Usually that’s the age where the gangs start taking the girls and saying “you’re going to be my sex slave”–type of stuff. I’ve heard that it’s going to be run by a nonprofit. ORR does not hold the shelters directly. They contract with nonprofits whose job it is to provide essential food, mental health care, caseworkers to try to figure out who they’re going to be released to, and all those functions to nonprofits, and I think the nonprofit in charge of this one is Southwest Key.

      TM: So how long do the kids stay in the facility?

      AC: It used to be, on average, thirty days. But that’s going up now. There are many reasons for that: one, these facilities and ORR are not used to working with this demographic of young children. Two, DHS is sharing information with ORR on the background of those families that are taking these children, and we’ve seen raids where they’re going to where the children are and looking for individuals in those households who are undocumented. So there is reticence and fear of getting these children if there’s someone in the household who is not a citizen.

      TM: So if I’m understanding correctly, a relative can say, “Well, I can pick that kid up; that’s my niece.” She comes and picks up the child. And then DHS will follow them home? Is that what you’re saying?

      AC: No. The kid would go to the aunt’s house, but let’s just imagine that she is here on a visa, a student visa, but the aunt falls out of visa status and is undocumented and her information, her address, is at the top of DHS’s files. So we’ve seen this happen a lot: a month or two weeks after kids have been released, DHS goes to those foster homes and arrests people and puts people in jail and deports them.

      TM: And then I guess they start all over again trying to find a home for those kids?

      AC: Right.

      TM: What is explained to the kids about the proceedings, and who explains it to them?

      AC: The Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement goes through an organization called the Vera Institute of Justice that then contracts with nonprofit organizations who hire attorneys and other specialized bilingual staff to go into these shelters and give what they call legal orientation programs for children, and they do group orientation. Sometimes they speak to the kids individually and try to explain to them, “This is the process here; and you’re going to have to go see an immigration judge; and these are your rights before a judge; you won’t have an attorney for your case, but you can hire one. If you’re afraid to go back to your country, you have to tell the judge.” That type of stuff.

      TM: And if the child is five, and alone, doesn’t have older siblings or cousins—

      AC: Or three or four. They’re young in our Houston detention centers. And that’s where these attorneys are frustrated—they can’t be attorneys. How do they talk and try to console and communicate with a five-year-old who is just focused on “I want my mom or dad,” right?

      TM: Are the kids whose parents are applying for asylum processed differently from kids whose parents are not applying for asylum?

      AC: I don’t know. These are questions we ask DHS, but we don’t know the answers.

      TM: Why don’t you get an answer?

      AC: I don’t know. To me, if you’re going to justify this in some way under the law, the idea that these parents don’t have the ability to obtain very simple answers—what are my rights and when can I be reunited with my kid before I’m deported without them?—is horrible. And has to go far below anything we, as a civil society of law, should find acceptable. The fact that I, as an attorney specializing in this area, cannot go to a detention center and tell a mother or father what the legal procedure is for them to get their child or to reunite with their child, even if they want to go home?

      And my answer is, “I don’t think you can.” In my experience, they’re not releasing these children to the parents as they’re deported. To put a structure like that in place and the chaos in the system for “deterrence” and then carry out so much pain on the backs of some already incredibly traumatized mothers and fathers who have already experienced sometimes just horrific violence is unacceptable.

      Mise en exergue d’un passage :

      The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.”

    • Why the US is separating migrant children from their parents

      US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has defended the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border with Mexico, a measure that has faced increasing criticism.

      The “zero-tolerance” policy he announced last month sees adults who try to cross the border, many planning to seek asylum, being placed in custody and facing criminal prosecution for illegal entry.

      As a result, hundreds of minors are now being housed in detention centres, and kept away from their parents.
      What is happening?

      Over a recent six-week period, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents after illegally crossing the border, figures released on Friday said.

      Mr Sessions said those entering the US irregularly would be criminally prosecuted, a change to a long-standing policy of charging most of those crossing for the first time with a misdemeanour offence.

      As the adults are being charged with a crime, the children that come with them are being separated and deemed unaccompanied minors.

      Advocates of separations point out that hundreds of children are taken from parents who commit crimes in the US on a daily basis.

      As such, they are placed in custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and sent to a relative, foster home or a shelter - officials at those places are said to be already running out of space to house them.

      In recent days, a former Walmart in Texas has been converted into a detention centre for immigrant children.

      Officials have also announced plans to erect tent cities to hold hundreds more children in the Texas desert where temperatures regularly reach 40C (105F).

      Local lawmaker Jose Rodriguez described the plan as “totally inhumane” and “outrageous”, adding: “It should be condemned by anyone who has a moral sense of responsibility.”

      US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials estimate that around 1,500 people are arrested each day for illegally crossing the border.

      In the first two weeks of the “zero-tolerance” new approach, 658 minors - including many babies and toddlers - were separated from the adults that came with them, according to the CBP.

      The practice, however, was apparently happening way before that, with reports saying more than 700 families had been affected between October and April.

      Not only the families crossing irregularly are being targeted, activists who work at the border say, but also those presenting themselves at a port of entry.

      “This is really extreme, it’s nothing like we have seen before,” said Michelle Brané, director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a New York-based non-governmental organisation that is helping some of these people.

      In many of the cases, the families have already been reunited, after the parent was released from detention. However, there are reports of people being kept apart for weeks and even months.

      Family separations had been reported in previous administrations but campaigners say the numbers then were very small.
      Whose fault is it?

      Mr Trump has blamed Democrats for the policy, saying “we have to break up the families” because of a law that “Democrats gave us”.

      It is unclear what law he is referring to, but no law has been passed by the US Congress that mandates that migrant families be separated.

      Fact-checkers say that the only thing that has changed is the Justice Department’s decision to criminally prosecute parents for a first-time border crossing offence. Because their children are not charged with a crime, they are not permitted to be jailed together.

      Under a 1997 court decision known as the Flores settlement, children who come to the US alone are required to be released to their parents, an adult relative, or other caretaker.

      If those options are all exhausted, then the government must find the “least restrictive” setting for the child “without unnecessary delay”.

      The case initially applied to unaccompanied child arrivals, but a 2016 court decision expanded it to include children brought with their parents.

      According to the New York Times, the government has three options under the Flores settlement - release whole families together, pass a law to allow for families to be detained together, or break up families.

      It is worth noting that Mr Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly - who previously served as the head of Homeland Security - said in 2017 that the White House was considering separating families as a means of deterring parents from trying to cross the border.
      What do the figures show?

      The number of families trying to enter the US overland without documentation is on the rise. For the fourth consecutive month in May, there was an increase in the number of people caught crossing the border irregularly - in comparison with the same month of 2017, the rise was of 160%.

      “The trends are clear: this must end,” Mr Sessions said last month.

      It is not clear, though, if the tougher measures will stop the migrants. Most are fleeing violence and poverty in Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and staying, for many, could mean a death sentence.

      Human rights groups, campaigners and Democrats have sharply criticised the separations, warning of the long-term trauma on the children. Meanwhile the UN Human Rights Office called on the US to “immediately halt” them.

      But Mr Sessions has defended the measure, saying the separations were “not our goal” but it was not always possible to keep parents and children together.
      What is the policy in other countries?

      No other country has a policy of separating families who intend to seek asylum, activists say.

      In the European Union, which faced its worst migrant crisis in decades three years ago, most asylum seekers are held in reception centres while their requests are processed - under the bloc’s Dublin Regulation, people must be registered in their first country of arrival.

      Measures may vary in different member states but families are mostly kept together.

      Even in Australia, which has some of the world’s most restrictive policies, including the detention of asylum seekers who arrive by boat in controversial offshore centres, there is no policy to separate parents from their children upon arrival.

      Meanwhile, Canada has a deal with the US that allows it to deny asylum requests from those going north. It has tried to stem the number of migrants crossing outside border posts after a surge of Haitians and Nigerians coming from its neighbour. However, there were no reports of families being forcibly separated.

      “What the US is doing now, there is no equivalent,” said Michael Flynn, executive director of the Geneva-based Global Detention Project, a non-profit group focused on the rights of detained immigrants. “There’s nothing like this anywhere”.

      Republicans in the House of Representatives have unveiled legislation to keep families together but it is unlikely to win the support of its own party or the White House.

    • Les récits de la détresse d’enfants de migrants créent l’émoi aux Etats-Unis

      Plus de 2000 enfants ont été séparés de leurs parents depuis l’entrée en vigueur en avril de la politique de « tolérance zéro » en matière d’immigration illégale aux Etats-Unis. Ces jours, plusieurs témoignages ont ému dans le pays.

    • Etats-Unis : quand la sécurité des frontières rime avec torture d’enfants mineurs

      Au Texas, dans un centre de détention, un enregistrement audio d’enfants migrants âgés entre 4 à 10 ans pleurant et appelant leurs parents alors qu’ils viennent d’être séparés d’eux, vient de faire surface.

      Cet enregistrement a fuité de l’intérieur, remis à l’avocate Jennifer Harbury qui l’a transféré au média d’investigation américain ProPublica. L’enregistrement a été placé sur les images filmées dans ce centre. Il soulève l’indignation des américains et du monde entier. Elles sont une torture pour nous, spectateurs impuissants de la barbarie d’un homme, Donald Trump et de son administration.

      Le rythme des séparations s’est beaucoup accéléré depuis début mai, lorsque le ministre de la Justice Jeff Sessions a annoncé que tous les migrants passant illégalement la frontière seraient arrêtés, qu’ils soient accompagnés de mineurs ou pas. Du 5 mai au 9 juin 2018 quelque 2’342 enfants ont été séparés de leurs parents placés en détention, accusés d’avoir traversé illégalement la frontière. C’est le résultat d’une politique sécuritaire dite de “tolérance zéro” qui criminalise ces entrées même lorsqu’elles sont justifiées par le dépôt d’une demande d’asile aux Etats-Unis. Un protocol empêche la détention d’enfants avec leurs parents. Ils sont alors placés dans des centres fermés qui ressemblent tout autant à des prisons adaptées.

    • Aux États-Unis, le traumatisme durable des enfants migrants

      Trump a beau avoir mis fin à la séparation forcée des familles à la frontière, plus de 2 000 enfants migrants seraient encore éparpillés dans le pays. Le processus de regroupement des familles s’annonce long et douloureux.
      #caricature #dessin_de_presse

  • Les #réfugiés_érythréens ne sont pas les bienvenus en Suisse, mais l’or d’Erythrée, lui...

    Schweizer Geschäfte mit einem geächteten Regime

    Die Schweiz hat von 2011 bis 2013 für rund 400 Millionen Franken Rohgold aus Eritrea importiert. Schweizer Firmen haben es raffiniert und daraus Goldbarren gegossen.
    Die #Bisha-Goldmine gehört zu 40 Prozent dem repressiven eritreischen Regime.
    Ein ehemaliger Arbeiter der Mine lebt heute als Flüchtling in der Schweiz. Er erzählt von Zwangsarbeit beim Bau der Mine.
    Aus keinem anderen Land kommen so viele Asylsuchende in die Schweiz wie aus Eritrea. Die Mine ist eine der wichtigsten Einnahmequellen des Regimes.
    Asylpolitiker von links bis rechts kritisieren die Millionengeschäfte scharf.
    #or #matières_premières #Erythrée #Suisse #mines #travail_forcé #film #vidéo #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Lufthansa #Frankfurt #Nevsun

    Accusation (provenant de la société civile canadienne selon SFR) de travail forcé dans la mine :

    L’exploitant de la mine, Nevsun :
    Ici la description de la mine sur le site de l’entreprise :
    Bisha Mine Location

    On dit bien que :

    The State of Eritrea has a 40% interest in the Bisha Mine through the #Eritrean_National_Mining_Company (#ENAMCO), 30% of which it bought from Nevsun prior to initial construction. As a result, ENAMCO contributed 33% of the initial build capital and, as a partner with Nevsun, has been integral to the success of the Bisha Mine. For more see About Eritrea.

    Et toujours sur le site un chapitre consacré à « about Eritrea », où on parle notamment de l’infrastructure (définie comme « excellente ») qui permet de sortir les matières premières des mines :

    L’histoire de l’Erythrée, pour Nevsun, s’arrête en 1993 :

    Eritrea gained independence in 1993, after fighting for its freedom for over 30 years.

    Et bien évidemment, on parle d’économie (un des pays les plus pauvres du monde), mais pas de politique...

    Eritrea is largely an agriculture based economy and one of the poorest nations in the world. The country’s economy predominantly consists of:

    cc @reka

    • Mining Company on Trial for Human Rights Abuses Appears to Lobby at the Human Rights Council (HRC)

      Nevsun Mining Resources Ltd, based in Canada is cur rently facing a lawsuit initiated by more than 80 Eritrean plaintiffs, who contend they were victims of forced labour, human rights abuses and crimes against humanity at the company’s Bisha Mine in Eritrea. #Bisha Mine is owned 60-per-cent by Nevsun and 40-per-cent by Eritrean government.

      Forced Labour and the appalling conditions in Bisha Mine have been documented by Human Rights Watch and the UN Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights in Eritrea. Yet the Todd Romain, the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility of this company and his PR are at present in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session where the current special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea is due to deliver her final report, and a decision will be made regarding the renewal of the mandate.

      Nevsun also participated in side events organized by the Eritrean Mission at the HRC on 16 June 2016 ( and on 8 March 2018 , and visited many Missions in Geneva despite the fact that this court case was already ongoing.

      Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) believes most strongly that it is inappropriate for a representative of a commercial corporation whose name has been raised in connection with human rights abuses during HRC debates and oral statements on the human rights in Eritrea, and which is currently the accused to court proceedings regarding human rights abuses, should be party to human rights side events, neither should it’s top representative give the appearance of lobbying country delegations about HRC initiatives that are directly concerned with its court case.

      Eritrea has not implemented any of the UPR recommendations from the first and second cycles. The recommendations from the Commission of Inquiries and the Special Rapporteur have so far been ignored. No improvements in human rights in Eritrea have been identified in the last decade; 10,000 or more prisoners of conscience are still in detention and the violently enforced lifelong military service which prevails unreformed. Forced/slave labour have been used in all the government owned businesses including mining projects.

      HRCE feels it important that country delegations and media are made fully aware of this issue, and advises that no further hearing should be given to any of Nevsun’s representatives pending a final court ruling on the human rights case.

    • Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, Eritrea)

      In November 2014, three Eritreans filed a lawsuit against Nevsun Resources in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They allege the company was complicit in the use of forced labour by Nevsun’s local sub-contractor, Segen Construction (owned by Eritrea’s ruling party), at the Bisha mine in Eritrea. Nevsun, headquartered in Vancouver, has denied the allegations. This lawsuit is the first in Canada where claims are based directly on violations of international law.

      The plaintiffs, Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle, claim that they worked at the Bisha mine against their will and were subject to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. They allege that they were forced to work long hours and lived in constant fear of threats of torture and intimidation. Nevsun has rejected the allegations as “unfounded” and declared that “the Bisha Mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety”.

      In October 2016, the Supreme Court of British Colombia rejected Nevsun’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that the case should proceed in British Colombia as there were doubts that the plaintiffs would get a fair trial in Eritrea. Nevsun appealed the decision.

      In November 2017, the British Columbia Court of Appeal rejected Nevsun’s appeal to dismiss the suit, thereby allowing the case to proceed in Canadian courts. The court also allowed claims of crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour, and torture to go forward against Nevsun. This decision marked the first time an appellate court in Canada permitted a mass tort claim for modern slavery.

      On 19 January 2018, Nevsun filed an application with the Canadian Supreme Court asking for permission to appeal the British Columbia ruling. There is no fixed time for the Supreme Court to decide whether to grant or deny such applications.

      – “Nevsun appeals to Canada Supreme Court in Eritreans’ forced labor lawsuit”, Reuters, 26 Jan 2018
      – “Court allows Eritrean mine workers to sue Nevsun”, Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver, 6 Oct 2016
      – [Video] “Nevsun in Eritrea: Dealing With a Dictator”, CBC Radio-Canada, 12 Feb 2016
      – [FR] «Une minière canadienne nie des allégations de travail forcé en Érythrée », Radio-Canada, 23 novembre 2014
      – “Nevsun Denies Accusations of Human-Rights Abuses at Eritrea Mine”, Michael Gunn & Firat Kayakiran, Bloomberg, 21 Nov 2014
      – “Nevsun Resources faces lawsuit over ‘forced labour’ in Eritrea”, Jeff Gray, Globe and Mail (Canada), 20 Nov 2014

      Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ):

      – “Vancouver court clears way for slave labour lawsuit against Canadian mining company to go to trial”, 6 Oct 2016
      – “Eritreans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity”, 20 Nov 2014
      – [FR] « Des Érythréens intentent un recours contre une compagnie minière canadienne pour l’usage de main d’œuvre servile ainsi que pour des crimes contre l’humanité », 20 novembre 2014
      – “Appeal court confirms slave labour lawsuit against Canadian mining company can go to trial”, 21 Nov 2017

      – “Nevsun Comments on B.C. Lawsuit”, 6 Oct 2016
      – “Nevsun Comments on B.C. Lawsuit”, 21 Nov 2014

      Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman [Counsel for the plaintiffs]
      – “Plaintiffs’ Submissions on Forum Non Conveniens”, 17 Dec 2015
      – “Plaintiffs’ Submissions on the Representative Proceeding”, 17 Dec 2015
      – “Plaintiffs’ Submissions on Customary International Law”, 15 Dec 2015
      – “Plaintiffs’ Submissions on the Act of State Doctrine”, 14 Dec 2015
      – “Notice of Civil Claim”, 20 Nov 2014

      Siskinds [Co-counsel for the plaintiffs]
      – “Siskinds co-counsel in lawsuit against Nevsun Resources”, 20 Nov 2014

      Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP [Counsel for the defendant]
      – “Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on Customary International Law”, 1 Dec 2015
      – “Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on Forum Non Conveniens”, 23 Nov 2015
      – “Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on the Act of State Doctrine”, 23 Nov 2015
      – “Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on the Representative Proceeding”, 23 Nov 2015
      – “Nevsun’s Response to Civil Claim”, 13 Feb 2015

      – Araya v. Nevsun Resources. Reasons for Judgment, Justice Abrioux, Supreme Court of British Columbia, 6 Oct 2016
      – Araya, Gize v. Nevsun Resources Ltd.[payment required], Vancouver law courts, 20 Nov 2014.

      – Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle v Nevsun Resources Ltd and Earth Rights International, Court of Appeal for British Columbia, 21 Nov 2017

      Quelques liens cités dans cet article :

    • Nevsun in Eritrea: Dealing With a Dictator

      When a small Vancouver mining company struck gold in a remote corner of Africa, it started with so much promise. In remote Eritrea, Nevsun built a mine that was generating $700 million in profits in its first four years of operation. But it was also generating a lot of controversy – because Nevsun was partnered with a brutal dictatorship that runs the country and controls 40% of the mine. That has led to allegations by the UN and Human Rights Watch that the regime has used conscripted military labour in the mine. The Eritrea government has also been accused of funnelling arms to the terrorist group al-Shabaab. Nevsun denies the allegations of human rights abuses and insists it is a “template for responsible international business.” What is the price of doing business with a dictator? Mark Kelley investigates.

      The Eritrea regime has a 40 per cent stake in the mine and is accused of crimes against humanity by the U.N.
      Nevsun Resources Ltd. is facing a lawsuit in B.C.’s Supreme Court
      The allegations filed by three former Eritrean conscripts in B.C.’s Supreme Court accuse Nevsun Resources of being “an accomplice to the use of forced labour, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses at the Bisha mine”

    • Appeal court confirms slave labour lawsuit against Canadian mining company can go to trial

      British Columbia’s highest court today rejected an appeal by Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources Limited (TSX: NSU / NYSE MKT: NSU) that sought to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Eritreans who allege they were forced to work at Nevsun’s Bisha Mine.

      The ruling by the British Columbia Court of Appeal marks the first time that an appellate court in Canada has permitted a mass tort claim for modern slavery.

      The court rejected Nevsun’s position that the case should be dismissed in Canada and instead heard in Eritrea. Madam Justice Mary Newbury described the situation in Eritrea as one with “the prospects of no trial at all, or a trial in an Eritrean court, possibly presided over by a functionary with no real independence from the state … and in a legal system that would appear to be actuated largely by the wishes of the President and his military supporters…”

      The court also allowed claims of crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour, and torture to go forward against Nevsun. It is the first time that a Canadian appellate court has recognized that a corporation can be taken to trial for alleged violations of international law norms related to human rights.

      The lawsuit, filed in November 2014, alleges that Nevsun engaged Eritrean state-run contractors and the Eritrean military to build the mine’s facilities and that the companies and military deployed forced labour under abhorrent conditions.

      “We are very pleased that the case will move to trial,” said Joe Fiorante, Q.C., of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “There will now be a reckoning in a Canadian court of law in which Nevsun will have to answer to the allegations that it was complicit in forced labour and grave human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.”

      Since the initial filing by three Eritrean men, which was the matter reviewed by the Court of Appeal, an additional 51 people have come forward to assert claims against Nevsun.

      “I am overjoyed that a Canadian court will hear our claims,” said plaintiff Gize Araya. “Since starting the case, we have always hoped Canada would provide justice for what we suffered at the mine.”

      The court also rejected Nevsun’s argument that the company should be immune from suit because the case might touch on actions of the Eritrean government, including allegations of severe human rights violations. Justice Newbury, looking to a recent UK case on the issue, wrote that “torture (and I would add, forced labour and slavery) is ‘contrary to both peremptory norms of international law and a fundamental value of domestic law.’”

      This latest ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal follows one earlier this year permitting a case to go forward against Tahoe Resources for injuries suffered by protestors in Guatemala who were shot outside the company’s mine.

      “The Nevsun and Tahoe cases show that Canadian courts can properly exercise jurisdiction over Canadian companies with overseas operations,” said Amanda Ghahremani, Legal Director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice. “When there is a real risk of injustice for claimants in a foreign legal system, their cases should proceed here.”

      The plaintiffs are supported in Canada by a legal team comprised of Vancouver law firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman LLP (CFM); Ontario law firm Siskinds LLP [Nick Baker]; Toronto lawyer James Yap; and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ). This victory would not have been possible without the support of Human Rights Concern Eritrea and the tireless efforts of Elsa Chyrum.

    • Nevsun Comments on B.C. Lawsuit

      Nevsun Resources Ltd...advises that the British Columbia Supreme Court has refused to permit a claim against Nevsun to proceed as a common law class action. The court did permit the lawsuit by the three named plaintiffs to continue. Today’s court decision addresses only preliminary legal challenges to the action raised by Nevsun. The judgment makes no findings with respect to the plaintiffs’ allegations, including whether any of them were in fact at the Bisha Mine. The judge also emphasized that the case raises novel and complex legal questions, including on international law, which have never before been considered in Canada. Nevsun is studying the court’s decision and considering an appeal of the decision that the action can proceed at all. Nevsun remains confident that its indirect 60%-owned Eritrean subsidiary, Bisha Mining Share Company (“BMSC”) operates the Bisha Mine according to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, health, safety and human rights...BMSC is committed to managing the Bisha Mine in a safe and responsible manner that respects the interests of local communities, workers, stakeholders and the natural environment.

  • You need two to tango : The responsibility of companies to respect privacy and free expression in the digital age

    "State capacity to conduct surveillance may depend on the extent to which business enterprises cooperate with or resist such surveillance” notes the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression in his report on the role of the private sector to respect human rights in the digital age. The Special Rapporteur will present its findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council on Thursday. It is no longer sufficient for companies to simply point the finger at intelligence and security (...)

    #surveillance #Privacy_International #écoutes #surveillance #journalisme #GAFA

  • Human rights, climate change and cross-border displacement: the role of the international human rights community in contributing to effective and just solutions

    The links between climate change and human rights are more widely accepted than ever before. The Human Rights Council has adopted a series of resolutions calling attention to the effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, and the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC has also recognised that ‘the adverse effects of climate change have a range of direct and indirect implications for the effective enjoyment of human rights.’ While climate change impacts have implications for the human rights of individuals in all parts of the world, it is well established that the rights of those in already vulnerable situations are at particular risk. As sea levels rise and extreme weather events increase in frequency and magnitude, more and more people in such situations are expected to be displaced by disasters, some of them across international borders.

    And yet, despite a growing recognition of the human rights implications of climate change, including in the context of human displacement, and despite an understanding that adherence to international human rights commitments and principles can help to strengthen policymaking in response to global warming, relatively few concrete steps have been taken to bring a human rights perspective to climate negotiations. Likewise, beyond expressing concern about a possible human rights protection gap for the increasing number of people who are expected to be displaced across borders in the context of climate change, the international community has not done enough to consider how to fill that gap. This Policy Report is an important step towards clarifying what UN bodies can and should do to begin to safeguard human rights against the effects of climate change, including in the context of human displacement.
    #climat #changement_climatique #migrations #droits_humains
    cc @reka

  • Did Saudi buy its seat on the UN Human Rights Council? | The Saudi Cables

    An official cable from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Saudi mission to the UN ordered the transfer of $100,000 to be used for a “campaign” to win Saudi a seat on the Human Rights Council.

    In addition, a separate correspondence from the Saudi to Russian mission promises to support Russia’s candidacy to the Council if they reciprocate in kind.

    Saudi, which recently carried out its 100th beheading this year, did end up securing the seat. A questionable victory, given its abysmal human rights record at home as well as the Kingdom’s current controversial military campaign in Yemen. The Kingdom, which began an aerial-bombing campaign in Yemen more than three months ago, has enforced a strict blockade of Yemen’s ports, keeping out fuel needed for the local population’s survival in violation of the laws of war, according to Human Rights Watch.

    #saudileaks #ONU #corruption #arabie_saoudite #droits_humains

  • Uzbekistan - A Call for Human Rights Council Action

    Members of the Council should mark the 10th anniversary of the Andijan massacre by taking action to address the appalling state of human rights in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek government’s serious, systematic violations and persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN’s human rights mechanisms-including by denying access to special procedures, and failing to implement key recommendations made by treaty bodies and UN member states under the Universal Periodic Review-warrant resolute Human Rights Council action.
    #Ouzbékistan #droits_humains #Asie_centrale

  • Kerry Denounces #UN Human Rights Council “Obsession” with #Israel

    US Secretary of State #John_Kerry gestures as he delivers remarks to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, March 2. AFP/Evan Vucci

    #US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday launched a staunch defense of Israel at the annual session of the UN human rights body. Israel has long had stormy relations with the Human Rights Council (HRC), which has repeatedly accused it of rights violations in Palestinian territories, leading to accusations of bias by Israel and its allies. “The HCR’s obsession with Israel risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization,” Kerry said at the opening of the main annual session of the council, which aims to protect human rights around the globe. read (...)

    #Gaza #human_rights_violations #ICC #jerusalem #Palestine #west_bank

  • Study on censorship in Egypt

    As a Result of a Direct Threat to their Work: Egyptian Human Rights Organizations Have Decided Not to Participate in Egypt’s UPR before the UN

    The review of Egypt’s human rights record over the past four years will begin this week as part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

    The undersigned human rights organizations have decided not to participate in any of the UPR’s proceedings in fear that their participation might result in reprisal or possible persecution. This fear is especially pertinent in the context of the hostile climate in which they work. Several organizations have cancelled their side-events and conferences at the UPR session.

    The UPR comes 5 days before the expiration of the government’s ultimatum for “non-registered entities” to register under the repressive Law 84/2002 by November 10. A number of organizations have attempted to open dialogue with the government and meet with the prime minister to discuss withdrawing the ultimatum and delaying it until a new law is put in place that concords with the constitution and Egypt’s international obligations. In this case, organizations could register under the new democratic law, or they would be allowed to continue to work with the understanding that there would be reforms in the laws that govern their work. The government met civil society’s attempts at dialogue, however, with cold indifference. In fact, on 26 October, the government published another announcement in al-Ahram newspaper affirming that a delay or an extension of the ultimatum was not a matter up for negotiation. Law 84/2002 on associations, which the government is seeking to forcibly impose on human rights organizations, circumvents Article 75 of the 2014 constitution. By imposing it, the Egyptian state has failed to meet its obligations, which it accepted in Egypt’s UPR in 2010, to reform the law to give more freedom to civil society.

    #égypte #art #musique #censure cc @alaingresh @wardamd

    • Oui pardon, tu as raison. C’est un gros abus de ma prt du à une trop grande précipitation (aujourd’hui c’est chaud, des millions de trucs à faire). La boude s’explique par le fait que j’ai eu cette info grâce à la liste de diffusion de l’excellente institution danoise qui s’appelle « Freemuse » et qui s’occupe de protéger les artistes censurés dans le monde.

      Je corrige, encore pardon.

  • For a little pressure on Israel - The Hindu


    Despite the massacres of entire families, U.S. President Obama has made no major public address to caution Israel

    Sixteen days into the Israeli offensive on Gaza, on July 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva held a hearing. Pressure from the League of Arab States has been severe. A few days before, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an emergency session on Gaza. The Jordanian delegation, on behalf of the Arabs, carried a resolution for a ceasefire around the United Nations building to no avail. It had two points that Israel would not accept — it did not sanction Hamas by name, and it called for the end to the stranglehold on Gaza. Israel, which continues to occupy Gaza despite the withdrawal of its troops in 2005, has obligations as an occupying power. In 2005, it signed an Agreement on Movement and Access, but has never allowed this to come into effect. Israel controls the borders of Gaza, sealing in the almost two million people on to 140 square miles of land. With absent movement on the Jordanian resolution in the UNSC, the momentum shifted to the Human Rights Council.

    The debate in Geneva was very emotional. The U.N. agencies in Gaza have been deeply impacted by the Israeli war, with their buildings taking fire and their personnel in grave danger (with three U.N. teachers killed). Kyung-wha Kang of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs suggested that the attack on hospitals and school was “a flagrant violation of international law,” while the mechanism to warn civilians of bombardment creates “terror and trauma” in an occupied territory where there is no safe haven. Civilian homes are not a target, said the U.N. High Commissioner Navi Pillay, also pointing out that the entire situation was “dreadful and interminable.” The most telling moment in Commissioner Pillay’s statement came when she said this was the “third serious escalation of hostilities” in her six years on the job. As in 2009 and 2012, she said, “it is innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip, including children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities, who are suffering the most.”

    A ceasefire

    In Gaza, meanwhile, the sounds of bombardment continue. Negotiations persist in Cairo and Doha to create a pathway to a ceasefire, while Israel, obdurate, continues to pound the Gaza Strip. In an unguarded moment on Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his frustration with Israel. He hastily caught himself. The U.S. has no appetite to force Israel to silence its guns. Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal, speaking from Doha, said that he would accept a ceasefire only if it came alongside an end to the embargo. This is the pillar of the Jordanian resolution, which, it is clear, the Israelis will not tolerate. The Palestinians do not want a ceasefire without some improvement of their situation. Fatah, the other major faction of the Palestinians, takes the same position as Hamas. Yasser Abed Rabbo, the likely successor to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, said, “Gaza’s demand to lift the siege is the demand of the entire Palestinian people and not just one particular faction.” This is a position with which the government of India concurs. All factions in Palestine and the Arab League agree that the blockade must be lifted for a genuine ceasefire. If this is their minimum requirement, it is unlikely that there will be a ceasefire deal. No amount of U.S. pressure can convince Israel to the rationality of that demand.

    Fifty thousand Palestinians went on the streets of the West Bank through the night of July 24, signalling to the Israelis that they are ready for a third intifada

    Indications of any U.S. pressure are not evident. Despite the massacres of entire families, U.S. President Obama has made no major public address to caution Israel. Instead, the White House tells the press that Mr. Obama continues to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer U.S. support, as the U.S. Congress voted unanimously to fully back the Israeli war effort.

    Ms Pillay asked the Council, “What must we finally do to move beyond a ceasefire that will inevitably be broken again in two or three years?” A first step, she noted, is accountability — “ensuring that the cycle of human rights violations and impunity is brought to an end.” To that end the Human Rights Council called for the creation of an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate “all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” in all of Occupied Palestine “particularly in the Gaza Strip.” After Operation Cast Lead (2009), the U.N. empanelled the Goldstone Commission, whose report castigated Israel for the use of dangerous weapons (such as white phosphorus) and for targeting Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. Under intense U.S. pressure, including on India, the Goldstone Commission’s report went into cold storage.

    Out of the 47 members in the Council, 29 voted to create a Commission, 17 abstained and one voted against it. The sole ‘No vote’ came from the U.S., showing how little appetite there is in Washington to pressure Israel not only to a ceasefire but to be held accountable for its methods of war. The members of the European Union abstained, as did several African states. The ‘Yes’ countries included members of the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South American states, some African countries, and the entire BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). India’s Ambassador to the U.N. Asoke Mukerji said that India is “deeply concerned” about the civilian casualties — over 700 Palestinians dead, several thousand of them injured (as opposed to one Israeli civilian dead). Dilip Sinha, India’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council, was more graphic, bemoaning the “heavy air-strikes in Gaza and the disproportionate use of force resulting in the tragic loss of civilian lives.”

    India’s position

    The Indian government’s reticence to hold a debate in Parliament and its refusal to put any pressure on Israel for its war with a statement is now of no consequence. The U.N. vote shows two things. First, that India’s drift into the U.S. orbit is not complete. It has commitments to the BRICS states. South Africa — with vivid memories of apartheid — would be unwilling to soft-pedal on the issue of Palestinian rights. Nor would Russia, which sees this as an easy way to pressure the U.S. The BRICS, therefore, will retain India in the pro-Palestine camp. Second, despite the desire of the Indian establishment to create an enduring relationship with Israel, the grotesque actions of Tel Aviv are a constraint. India continues to believe in the possibility of the creation of Palestine with stable borders, including Jerusalem as its capital.

    None of this is accepted by Israel, whose own policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians is incoherent. Fifty thousand Palestinians went on the streets of the West Bank through the night of July 24, signalling to the Israelis that they are ready for a third ‘Intifada’. Israel is in no mood for concessions. The only outcome is more terrible violence.

    “All these dead and maimed civilians should weigh heavily on all our consciences,” said Ms Pillay. They certainly did not seem to bother the U.S.’ Ambassador Samantha Power, who is otherwise the champion of humanitarian intervention. Her preferred cocktail of Responsibility to Protect (R2) and “no fly zones” was not in evidence.

    Nor did it bother the U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Keith Harper — a Native American lawyer who knows a great deal about the occupation of a people. The U.S. sat silent and pushed the red button. This is not a red light of caution to Israel. For Tel Aviv, this is a green light.

    (Vijay Prashad is Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.)❞

  • UN inquiry says Israel must end settlements

    Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank violate international law, and the country must “immediately” withdraw all settlers from such areas, UN human rights investigators have said.

    Israel has not co-operated with the inquiry, set up by the Human Rights Council (HRC) last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem.

    “Israel must ... cease all settlement activities without preconditions [and] must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the occupied territories, the fact-finding mission concluded in a report released on Thursday.

    The inquiry was led by French Judge Christine Chanet, and included Asma Jehangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana as panel members.

    The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into the occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it said.

    In December, the Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the UN of planning to commit further “war crimes” by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto UN recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable.

    Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.

    On Thursday, the Israeli foreign ministry again said that the council was “systematically one-sided and biased”.

    “Counterproductive measures, such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” Yigal Palmor, a ministry spokesperson, said.