July 10th, 2015
Weekly News Round Up (10/07/15)
News from HART
- HART ambassador Adele Pilkington has written a blog on child soldiers, which can be found here.
- On Friday 26th June, Baroness Cox spoke at the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s event ‘Living Memory’ commemorating the centenary of the Armenian genocide, the write up of which can be found here.
- Yesterday Baroness Cox delivered a speech in the House of Lords debate on refugees and migrants, making specific reference to the crises in Burma and Sudan and the urgent need for cross border aid. See here for more details.
- The Burmese Election Commission has announced the national elections are to be held on 8 November this year. The main opposition party, the NLD, has not yet confirmed if it will participate.
- The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has adopted a resolution condemning “the systematic gross violations of human rights and abuses committed against all, including Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State” and calling on the Burmese Government to take measures to end discrimination against Muslim minorities in the country.
- 5 workers’ federations in Burma have agreed to the Government’ decision to set a national minimum wage of 3,600 Kyat (USD 3.27) per day. This is 2 years after the Government passed the Minimum Wage Law – the intervening time has been spent in negotiations over the level of the minimum wage. Several garment manufacturers have opposed the move, threatening that they would close their factories if a minimum wage were introduced.
- A group of teenagers behind the Facebook page “Rangoon Revealed” hopes to visit IDP camps to bring humanitarian aid and extend their project to help ordinary Burmese tell their stories. Rangoon Revealed is a project inspired by “Humans of New York” that aims to show the stories of ordinary people in Burma.
- 11 of the protestors arrested for taking part in the Letpadan pro-democracy demonstrations earlier this year have been granted bail. They are among 70 people, mostly students, facing charges following the protests, and could be given sentences of up to 3 years. Concerns have been raised over the health of several of those who were held in jail.
- Representatives from both the Burmese Government and ethnic groups have expressed optimism following peace talks which saw a new delegation of ethnic leaders come to the negotiating table.
- More than 100 Rohingya Muslims have been released 3 years after they were imprisoned, without proper inquiries, following unrest in 2012.
- The Burmese Government has approved a new law that may restrict interfaith marriages. The move has been criticised by rights groups.
- Mr Johnny, a prominent Burmese land and farmers’ rights defender and activist for the opposition NLD party, has been found dead with 8 bullet wounds outside his home. Mr Johnny had been involved in helping locals in several land-grabbing cases, and it is feared his death is linked to his human rights work.
- Save the Salween, a network of 122 organisations, have released a statement warning that the building of the Mong Ton Dam on the Upper Salween River risks inflaming conflict and could lead to the extinction of entire ethnic peoples, as well as posing an increased risk of earthquakes. Menanwhile, the Kunlong Dam on the Salween River has been delayed because of security concerns, including the threat of conflict with ethnic groups.
- Burma has ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention more than two decades after becoming a state signatory.
- Following the murder of a young Dalit man in a suspected honour killing, Indian human rights groups are calling for special legislation to deal with honour killings. Meanwhile, yet another Dalit young man has been murdered in a similar case.
- In a landmark judgement, India’s Supreme Court has ruled that a woman does not need to gain consent from the father in order to claim guardianship of her child.
- Thousands of students have taken part in a mass oath against untouchability as part of a wider grassroots movement to end caste discrimination in India.
- An investigation has been called into the “Vyapam” scandal, which has seen allegations emerge that thousands of teachers, medical staff, and government officials paid middlemen to secure passes for them in entrance exams for certain professions. Several people linked to or investigating the scandal have been found dead in recent days, in what have been seen as suspicious circumstances.
- The Russian opera singer Ljuba Kazarnovskaya has been barred from ever entering Azerbaijan after she visited Nagorno-Karabakh. The singer says that she visited Karabakh on a cultural mission, and is in fact proud to have been placed on Azerbaijan’s listed of persona non grata, which also includes other singers who have visited Karabakh.
- Ljuba Kazarnovskaya was joined on Azerbaijan’s list of persona non grata by the Russian billionaire German Sterligov, who has fled to Nagorn-Karabakh from Russia.
- The Foreign Minister of Nagorno-Karabkh has met with the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus to discuss the resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. The EU Special Representative, Herbert Salber, stressed that the EU remains committed to a peaceful solution to the issue within the OSCE Minsk Group’s negotiation format.
- Despite continued protests by Azerbaijan, the President of Nagorno-Karabakh visited to the UK with a delegation of representatives from Karabakh and Armenia. Among other events, the President delivered a speech at Chatham House, discussed development projects in Karabakh, and spoke at the Houses of Parliament expressing optimism that the UK and Nagorno-Karabakh would develop closer ties.
- A European Parliament report has called for greater engagement with Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and also expressed support for further confidence-building mechanisms to deal with so-called “frozen conflicts” such as that in Nagorno-Karabkh.
- On Wednesday, the National Emergency Management Agency reported that casualties following a Boko Haram attack in the Nigerian city of Jos have risen to 51. The attack happened on Sunday, when both a mosque and a restaurant have been hit simultaneously. Jos is home to HART partners and has witnessed repeated attacks by the Islamist militia.
- Following last week’s arrest of businessman and Boko Haram supporter Babuji Ya’ari, CNN released a statement earlier today that another man was taken into custody by Nigerian soldiers in the northeastern city of Gombe. The man, who’s name or identity have not yet been released, is believed to be the “mastermind” behind the fatal bombing in Jos this Sunday as well as the deadly attack in the city of Zaria which followed two days later.
- According to a CBS news report this Wednesday, Boko Haram has offered to release more than 200 schoolgirls who have been kidnapped from Chibok in April last year and have remained in capture ever since. In exchange, Boko Haram demands the release of some of its militant leaders who have been caught by the government and are currently imprisoned.
- As violence on behalf of Boko Haram is continuing to increase, Vice News has published an update this Thursday, talking to victims of attacks in Nigeria’s neighbouring Chad, gaining first hand access to villages recently hit by the militant’s insurgency. Watch the full documentary here.
- Yesterday South Sudan celebrated what some are already describing as its fourth ‘unhappy birthday’, as the country continues to be torn apart by a protracted conflict that is has caused increased levels of death and displacement over the past few months. Over this time period there has been a noted increase in the levels in the intensity and brutality of the conflict, with reports from UNIMISS and Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighting horrific abuses carried out against women and children from both sides. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that ‘hope is in short supply’, and has called upon President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to ‘prove their leadership by investing in a political solution’.
- The US government has condemned the Kiir administration move to ‘unilaterally’ renew its mandate for another three years in office, arguing that such a move could only be legitimate if established through a peace agreement. The US has been leading calls for targeted sanctions against top-level officials on both sides, for grave human rights violations carried out against civilians. The government’s national security advisor, Sudan Rice, issued a statement saying that Kiir’s government had systematically failed to protect its citizens, squandered its legitimacy and, ‘instead of negotiating a resolution to the conflict it has subverted democracy and unilaterally extended its mandate’.
- On the day of South Sudan’s fourth anniversary, both sides of the conflict have come out to condemn the other as standing in the way of a peaceful solution to the conflict. President Kiir stated that hopes for South Sudan post-independence had been dashed when his deputy Riek Machar attempted a coup d’etat and started a ‘rebellion’, whilst the rebels accuse Kiir of imposing himself on the people and ‘usurping their powers’.
- The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has warned that ‘time is running out’ for the two Christian pastors who are on trial for their faith and for practicing Christianity. The ACLJ stated that more pressure needs to be put on the international community, and the Sudanese government, through intensified lobbying and campaigning efforts in order to save them from being given the death penalty. Much like Mariam Ibraheem, the Sudanese woman who was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death last year, but subsequently released after a world-wide campaign, the two pastors will suffer the same fate unless they receive the same level of support.
- The Sudanese government has rejected calls by the opposition for a renewed peace process supported by a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution. Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of the largest opposition party the National Umma Party (NUP) of ‘killing the national dialogue’, and called upon the African Union (AU) to support a peace process. The Sudanese information minister, Ahmed al-Balal Osman, responded by accusing the opposition of ‘internationalizing’ Sudan’s affairs.
- Earlier this week, presidential hopeful Amama Mbabazi, who aims to challenge current President Museveni in the upcoming elections in 2016, has been arrested and taken into custody while on his way to a meeting with political supporters outside the capital of Kampala. According to officials, Mbabazi was not permitted to do so and hence broke the law. Mbabazi told BBC news that he holds Museveni accountable for his arrest.
- A few hours after Mbabazi was arrested, opposition leader and expected presidential candidate Kizza Besigye was taken into custody as well, and similar to Mbabazi, his arrest was justified referring to a lack of permission to hold meetings. Both Mbabazi and Besigye have been released already.
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