Monthly Archives: May 2008

60 years of Human Rights failures



  • Published on 28/05/2008
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Governments must recommit to the UDHR





To mark the 60th year of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Amnesty International has created a Passport for Human Rights for all citizens of the world. Click on ‘Open Publication’ to view your Human Rights Passport in full size, or download it here (PDF, 25Mb)


Amnesty International’s Report 2008 was launched on Wednesday 28 May. The report looks back on key events in 2007 and ahead to major human rights challenges for 2008, which is the 60th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).


The Report covers human rights abuses across 150 countries. It reveals governments’ failures to deliver on human rights, a growing impatience across the world among people with their leaders’ lack of action, and challenges world leaders have to make a fresh commitment to the UDHR in this significant anniversary year.


2008 – The State of the World’s Human Rights:



  • In the 60th anniversary year of the UDHR, governments must turn around six decades of human rights failures.
  • 2007 was characterised by growing grassroots impatience with the failure of governments to deliver equality and justice. World leaders ignore the voices of people at their peril.
  • New leaders must show the same courage and leadership in making a fresh commitment to human rights as we saw in 1948 when world leaders adopted the UDHR.


Australia in summary:


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Indigenous issues – Amnesty International supported genuine measures to address the chronic problems outlined in the Little Children are Sacred report. We expressed concern with the large-scale intervention approach taken by the previous Government in the Northern Territory. Indigenous communities were not adequately consulted in the process, which is required by international law. The intervention also overrode Indigenous controls over access to their land, and claimed exemption fro the Racial Discrimination Act.


Amnesty International also publicly called for the previous Government to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Australia was one of a handful of countries which did not support the declaration.


In December 2007 Amnesty International welcomed the announcement by the new Government that it would formally apologise to the Stolen Generations. This act was carried out in February 2008. We hope this will be the symbolic end to the tragic legacy of the horrific treatment of Indigenous children.


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Counter terror – Flaws in Australia’s counter terror legislation were highlighted through the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef. The Indian national was held in detention for nearly four weeks – two without charge or the ability to apply for bail. His right to presumption of innocence was seriously compromised, before all charges were dropped and was released. We continue to call for a review of the laws, as we have since they first began to be introduced in 2001.


Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks was returned home to Yatala prison, after more than five years in detention. Amnesty International welcomed his return to Australia, but continues to be critical of the military commission process which convicted him of providing material support for terrorism. We believe he pleaded guilty to trumped up charges before a kangaroo court.


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Refugees and asylum-seekers – In 2007, 89 asylum-seekers continued to languish on Nauru under the Pacific Solution, before the Rudd Government promised to shut down the policy and closed the detention centre. The 89 detainees were determined to be genuine refugees, yet some were held in the detention centre for more than 12 months. The use of Temporary Protection Visas also continued throughout 2007, before being abolished this year.



Read the report:


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You can read the Amnesty International Report 2008 online or download a PDF version.



  • Visit the full Annual Report 2008 online
  • Download the full Annual Report 2008 (PDF 4.3Mb)
  • Read the media release

source from Amnesty International, posted by Habib

UN Confirms Cyclone Refugees Forced Back to Devastated Villages


source from irrawaddy news,

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Friday, May 30, 2008<!– , –>

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Burma’s military government is forcing cyclone victims out of refugee camps and “dumping” them near their devastated villages with virtually no aid supplies, the United Nations said on Friday.

Eight camps set up earlier by the government for homeless victims in the Irrawaddy delta town of Bogale were “totally empty” as the clear-out continued, UNICEF official Teh Tai Ring told a meeting of aid groups.

“The government is moving people unannounced,” he said, adding that authorities were “dumping people in the approximate location of the villages, basically with nothing.”

Camps were also being closed in Laputta, another town in the delta, a low-lying area that took the brunt of Cyclone Nargis nearly a month ago.

Centralizing stricken people in the centers had made it easier for aid agencies to deliver emergency relief since many villages in the delta can only be reached by boat or over very rough roads.

Aid workers who have reached some of the remote villages say little remains that could sustain the former residents. Houses are destroyed, livestock have perished and food stocks have virtually run out. Medicines are nonexistent.

The UNICEF official said some of the refugees were “being given rations and then they are forced to move.” But others were being denied such aid because they had lost their government identity cards, he said.

There was speculation that authorities did not want “a refugee mentality” to set in, with camp inmates dependent on aid for a long period of time.

Terje Skavdal, a senior UN official in Bangkok, Thailand, said he could not confirm the camp closures but that any such forced movement was “completely unacceptable.”

“People need to be assisted in the settlements and satisfactory conditions need to created before they can return to their place of origins,” Skavdal, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters. “Any forced or coerced movement of people is completely unacceptable.”

Aid groups say Burma’s military government is still hindering foreign assistance for victims of the cyclone, while the junta has belittled the aid efforts as mere handouts of chocolate bars.

Foreign aid workers are still awaiting visas, and the government is taking 48 hours to process requests to enter the Irrawaddy delta, the groups said.

They said the International Red Cross was waiting for permission to send 30 foreign staffers into the delta.

“We urge speedy implementation of all agreements, on access, visas and use of logistical assets,” Skavdal said. “We need to see more relief experts, including [those] from the [International Red Cross], getting into the delta as soon as possible without bureaucratic hindrance.”

While saying there have been “promising indications that the government is moving in an overall right direction,” the real test remains implementation on the ground, he said.

An estimated 2.4 million people remain homeless and hungry after the May 2-3 cyclone hit Burma. The government says the storm killed 78,000 people and left another 56,000 missing.

“The Burmese government is still using red tape to obstruct some relief efforts when it should accept all aid immediately and unconditionally,” US-based Human Rights Watch said.

“By still delaying and hampering aid efforts … the generals are showing that, even during a disaster, oppression rules,” it said in a statement.

The junta has also barred naval vessels from the United States, France and Great Britain, which were poised offshore with humanitarian supplies. The French have been forced to dock in Thailand and turn over relief goods to the United Nations for shipment into Burma.

While welcoming millions of dollars from the international community for cyclone relief, Burma lashed out at donors for not pledging enough.

State-run media condemned donors for pledging only up to US $150 million—a far cry from the US $11 billion the junta said it needed.

The Myanma Ahlin newspaper, a government mouthpiece, said in any case cyclone victims could get by without foreign handouts.

“People from the Irrawaddy delta can survive on their own, even without bars of chocolate donated by the international community,” it said, adding they can live on “fresh vegetables that grow wild in the fields and on protein-rich fish from the rivers.”

The reference to chocolate bars appeared to be metaphorical. No aid agency is known to be distributing chocolate, which would be impractical in the country’s tropical heat.

The isolationist government only agreed to allow foreign aid workers in after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe last weekend.

The country’s leaders are leery of foreign aid workers and international agencies, worrying they could weaken the junta’s powerful grip.

The generals also don’t want their people to see aid coming directly from countries like the US, which the regime has long treated as a hostile power.

The Depayin Massacre, Five Years Later


source from Irrawaddy news

By SAW YAN NAING Friday, May 30, 2008<!– , –>

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May 30 marks the fifth anniversary of the Depayin massacre, one of the most notorious incidents in recent Burmese history.

Five years after this planned attack on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, Toe Lwin still can’t forget that horrific night when junta-backed thugs blocked their convoy and went on a murderous rampage. 

Protesters from the National League for Democracy shout slogans during a rally calling for the immediate release of their pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi near the Burmese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on May 30. (Photo: AP)

“They blocked our vehicles. They tore clothing off of women and then beat them. They hit elderly people. I saw them collapse in front of me. I will never forget it,” said Toe Lwin, a survivor of the Depayin massacre who now lives in exile in Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burmese border.

“My duty was to protect Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I was standing beside her car for security. The attackers moved toward Daw Suu’s car, and soon there around 30 of them surrounding us. I told them it was Daw Suu’s car and asked them not to attack. I told them to stop beating people and asked them to go back.” 

“Suddenly, they started to hit Daw Suu’s car. First I tried to cover it. Then they started to beat me. They hit my head three times and I collapsed. Daw Suu’s driver finally sped away and escaped,” said Toe Lwin.

There are many Burmese people who will never be able to forget the Depayin massacre, which left at least 50 people dead.

On Friday, about 300 members of Burma’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy (NLD), gathered at the party’s office in Rangoon to mark the fifth anniversary of the brutal Depayin attack.

The massacre took place in Kyee village, on the outskirts of Depayin Township in Sagaing Division, central Burma.

Nyan Win, a spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Friday: “We held a religious ceremony at our office today. We offered food to the monks in memory of democracy supporters who died in the massacre.”

Members of the NLD in Mandalay also held a memorial ceremony in Burma’s second largest city.

The attack was launched by a pro-junta group consisting of members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Swan Ah Ashin militia, who blocked the road to prevent vehicles from escaping the ambush. They also shone floodlights from trees lining the road, which was partially covered with barbed wire.

After the massacre, police appeared and rounded up the survivors. Men and women were detained separately on the night of May 30, and some of the women were raped by the authorities, claimed witnesses.

This incident is commemorated by Burmese democracy activists around the world. Many democracy supporters in South Korea, Japan and Thailand marked the fifth anniversary of the massacre with protests.  

On Friday, about 20 demonstrators gathered in front of the Burmese embassy in Seoul for more than one hour calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the Depayin massacre.

The protesters held the NLD flag, photos of Aung San Suu Kyi and signs calling for an investigation of the incident. The group also demanded that Burmese authorities take action against the perpetrators of the attack.

During the demonstration, the protesters shouted “Release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.”  

“Burmese authorities are worried about reprisals,” said Yan Naing Htun, one of the organizers of the Seoul protest. “If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is released, she will tell the truth. So the authorities continue to detain her.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest period detention began in 2003; this week, she completed five years of house arrest. She was first detained in the run-up to the 1990 parliamentary election, which the NLD won by a landslide. 

The military regime announced on Tuesday that Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention had been officially extended for six months, although several sources have claimed that the detention order was for one more year.    

Nyan Win also criticized the Burmese military government for extending the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The Burmese authorities have detained Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for five years. Legally, they can detain her for five years.

So the extension of Daw Suu’s house arrest is illegal,” said Nyan Win. 

Under Article 10 (b) of the 1975 State Protection Act Law, a person can be detained without charges for a maximum of five years.

The party also demanded that the regime explain the extension and said it planned to appeal the decision in court.

World leaders and human rights groups have expressed outrage over the extension of Suu Kyi’s house arrest and have criticized the Burmese government for violating its own law.

 

Myanmar police detain Suu Kyi supporters


posted by Aung Naing,

YANGON, Myanmar – Police in Myanmar have detained more than a dozen members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party.

The members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy were marching Tuesday from the party’s headquarters to her home when riot police shoved the group into a truck.

It was not immediately clear where the truck was headed or exactly how many people were detained.

Suu Kyi has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, mostly under house arrest.

Security was stepped up around Suu Kyi’s home as the military junta faced a deadline to decide whether extend her current period of house arrest or release her.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi

Protesters shout slogans during a rally Tuesday, May 27, 2008, ...
AP

Tue May 27, 2:22 AM ET

7 of 29

Protesters shout slogans during a rally Tuesday, May 27, 2008, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Security was stepped up around detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house Tuesday as Myanmar’s military junta faced a deadline to decide whether to release her or extend her house arrest for another year.

(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

What the Human Resource Ministry-Malaysia has done to reduce dependence on foreign workers


NST Online » NewsBreak

2008/05/27
By : June Ramli at the Dewan Negara

KUALA LUMPUR, TUES

The Human Resource Ministry has taken various steps to reduce the dependence on foreign workers in the country. Human Resource Minister Dr S Subramaniam said among them was by advertising the jobs slated for foreign workers to the locals first.

“We at the Ministry also help these sectors to get locals to work with them but if all fails then we have no choice but to allow them to take in foreign workers,” Subramaniam told the Dewan Neagara during the question and answer session.

He was replying to a question by Datuk Kamarudin Ambok who asked the Human Resource Minister to state the measures taken by the Government to overcome the dependency on foreign workers in all sectors.

Subramaniam said foreigns workers earned well in Malaysia and some could also take home RM2,000 a month.

“Working in the plantations is a well paying job. I was told that a plantation worker, who are now mostly foreigners, take home about RM2,000 a month,” he added.

Malaysia to ban foreigners from filling up on subsidized gasoline near borders


 By JULIA ZAPPEI,Associated Press Writer AP – Tuesday, May 27

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The government will ban people in foreign-registered vehicles from buying gasoline in border areas of Malaysia, where heavy subsidies have kept petroleum costs low despite soaring prices internationally.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Abdul Samad said a day earlier that the ban was aimed at keeping foreigners from driving into Malaysia from Thailand and Singapore to fill up on cheap gasoline and diesel, which cost up to twice as much in the neighboring countries.

The ban was “a stern act by the government to reduce the leak in subsidy,” national news agency Bernama quoted Shahrir as saying. His aide, who declined to be named citing protocol, confirmed his comments Tuesday.

The fuel subsidies, which were expected to cost the government 45 billion ringgit (US$14 billion; �9 billion) this year, “should actually be enjoyed by the lower-income group in the country” and not foreigners, Shahrir said.

“This move is temporary until we come up with better management of our subsidy system,” The Star daily quoted him as saying.

Shahrir said the ban could take effect as early as Friday at up to 300 stations within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the borders with Thailand and Singapore.

Alang Zari Ishak, president of a local petroleum dealers association, said the ban may hurt tourism and relations with Malaysia’s neighbors.

“It’s a very harsh decision,” he said. “There are other ways to curb this subsidy money being utilized.”

Enforcement officers will monitor gasoline stations and signs will inform motorists of the new rule, Shahrir said. Those found breaking the rule could be fined or face up to three years in jail, said another official in Shahrir’s ministry. He declined to be named, citing protocol.

Currently, foreign registered vehicles are allowed to buy only up to 5.3 gallons (20 liters), he said.

Although oil prices have soared globally, the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has not raised retail gasoline, diesel or gas prices.

Suu Kyi detention decision is due


source from bbc news, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 08:49 UK

Aung San Suu Kyi pictured on 30 January 2008

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 18 years in detention

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is due to expire, but the ruling junta has given no indication if she will be released.

About 20 of her supporters were arrested as they marched to the Nobel laureate’s home in Rangoon, where she has been detained since May 2003.

The decision comes at a tricky time for the generals, who have been criticised for their response to Cyclone Nargis.

Ms Suu Kyi’s party won polls in 1990, but she was denied power by the army.

The 62-year-old National League for Democracy (NLD) leader has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years in detention.

The opposition says her period of detention is due to expire at midnight on Tuesday (1830 BST), but with the junta keeping tight-lipped there is uncertainty about the exact date.

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About 20 NLD members were bundled into a truck by police on Tuesday as they marched from party headquarters to her lakeside villa, where security has been stepped up.

The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Bangkok says her house arrest – which has been renewed annually – is expected to be rolled over again for another year.

Extending her detention will likely provoke further criticism of the junta by an international community already frustrated by the military’s stalling of foreign aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Donors pledged nearly $50m (£25m) in aid at a landmark summit in Rangoon on Sunday in the wake of the storm.

The cyclone, which struck on 2 May, has left 134,000 people dead or missing and another 2.4m clinging to survival.

Ms Suu Kyi’s detention has been the cause of friction between the junta and many countries around the world, including Burma’s fellow members in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

Asean member Indonesia called for her release on Tuesday, saying it would be a goodwill gesture for the aid pledged by the international community in the aftermath of the cyclone.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda told AP news agency: “I hope for the best but to be frank I’m not optimistic.”

The eyes of the world are watchig


psted by James,

 

 

“The Burma authorities must turn promises into action. The eyes of the world are watching,”
—Douglas Alexander, British Development Minister

Burma Bans Top Western Journalist, Deports Another


source from Irrawaddy news, By JIM ANDREWS Monday, May 26, 2008<!– , –>
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The Burmese regime on Sunday banned the prominent Swedish author and journalist Bertil Lintner from accompanying a Swedish government delegation to Rangoon.

Lintner, author of six books on Burma and a leading authority on the country, had been invited by the Stockholm government to join two other Swedish journalists on a two-day visit to Rangoon, and possibly Naypyidaw, in a delegation led by Minister of International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson.

Carlsson and her delegation attended Sunday’s international aid conference in Rangoon.

Lintner is correspondent in Southeast Asia for the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet and also writes for other publications, including The Irrawaddy. He frequently presides over conferences on Burma in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia.

One day before he was due to join the Stockholm delegation in Bangkok for the flight to Rangoon he was told his name had been struck from the list of participants by the Burmese authorities. No reason was given—“But it didn’t really surprise me,” said Lintner, an outspoken critic of the Burmese regime and its repressive policies.

Lintner said he was told by Burmese diplomats about 20 years ago that he had been put on the country’s black list of unwanted foreigners following the publication of his books “Land of Jade,” an account of a trek of more than 2,000 kilometers through northern Burma, and “Outrage: Burma’s Struggle for Democracy,” a blistering account of the military regime’s brutal rule,

Last Wednesday, another leading journalist and authority on Burma, Britain’s Andrew Marshall, was deported from Rangoon, together with his American photographer. Both underwent several hours of interrogation before being put aboard a flight to Bangkok.

“This is the reality behind the regime’s promises to become more open to the international community,” said Lintner. “They’re just empty promises.”

Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, detention and Discrimination


19 March 2008,  source from:  http://www.suaram.net/

On the occasion of the World Day for the elimination of racial discrimination, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), its member organization in Malaysia, launch a report entitled “ Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, Detention and Discrimination”.

 

PDF - 235.3 kb
Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, detention and Discrimination

There are no publicly available statistics on the number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Estimates refer to 1,8 million registered (or documented) migrant workers and about 5 million undocumented migrant workers. “Migrant workers account for about 30% to 50% of the total Malaysian labour force. In spite of the important contribution that this represents to the Malaysian economy, the authorities have not put in place any consistent national immigration policy”, said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

Undocumented migrants usually work for the ‘3D jobs’ (Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult) and are not adequately protected against unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers.

Domestic legislation does not provide for a specific protection for refugees, asylum seekers or trafficked persons. Only a temporary residence permit, the IMM 13 visas, can offer a de facto protection for refugees against refoulement. Domestic legislation provides for an insufficient protection of children refugees and asylum seekers, in particular as regards access to education. Detention of children for immigration purposes is common, while it should be prohibited as a principle.

The People’s Volunteer Corps-RELA, a volunteer force composed of more than 400 000 reservists, is meant to safeguard peace and security in the country. In times of peace, it contributes to the enforcement of the immigration law. The lack of training and supervision of RELA members are major concerns. “RELA carries raids against migrants, without distinction between undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and with unnecessary use of force. The Malaysian authorities should immediately cease the use of RELA officers in the enforcement of immigration law”, said Swee Seng Yap, Executive Director of SUARAM.

The Immigration Act raises a number of concerns with regard to the administration of justice: the length of time a migrant arrested under the Act may be held before being brought before a Magistrate is overly long (14 days); detention may even be indeterminate pending removal; the exclusion of the right to challenge decisions under the Act on a number of grounds; and the absence of specific protection for migrants in case of abuse by employers or unpaid wages.

The report documents the poor conditions of detention, particularly in the « immigration depots ». Overcrowded facilities are leading to breaches of basic standards of hygiene; insufficient diet and health care, ill treatment of detainees and a failure to adequately protect women and children in detention are of particular concern. FIDH urges the Malaysian authorities to amend the immigration Act with a view to avoiding that violations of provisions relating to migration are treated in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile and as a minimum, the sentence of whipping should be abolished as corporal punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, and the maximum term of imprisonment provided for immigration offences should be reduced.

Up to now, the government has been adopting a punitive approach to the issue of migration: the poor conditions of detention of migrants in the immigration detention centers and the fact that they can be condemned to corporal punishments (whipping) are part of this policy. Time has come for a comprehensive policy on migration, based on international human rights standards”, said Cynthia Gabriel, Vice-president of FIDH and Board member of SUARAM. “We call upon the newly elected parliamentarians to consider our recommendations, and to put aside the RELA Bill that was tabled last year for first reading”, she concluded.

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