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3 July 2015
News from HART
- Russell Kane will star in a comedy fundraiser for HART, in collaboration with the Comedy Bunker at Mill Hill, on Thursday 17th September. You can buy tickets here – £15 or £13.50 with a student discount.
- HART is now part of the Medium community, a social journalism platform that gives us the opportunity to be even more creative, diverse and collaborative. Keep up to date here.
- HART Ambassador and winner of the Junior Essay Category for the HART Prize for Human Rights 2015, Jefferi Hamzah Sendut, has written an open letter responding to al-Bashir’s escape from justice. His work can be read on HART’s Medium page here.
- Kevin Tobia, also a HART Ambassdor, has written a blog piece on “Cleanliness, Disgust and Purity in India”, which you can read here.
- The Burmese Union Election Commission has agreed to extend the period during which voters can request changes to the official list of voters, following complaints of discrepancies in the preliminary lists.
- Following last week’s rejection of proposed constitutional changes that would have slightly lessened the military’s power, this week the Burmese military vetoed amendments that would have allowed state lawmakers, rather than the president, to nominate chief ministers. The rejection of the change means the involvement of ethnic groups at a high level of government remains effectively impossible, and pushes hopes for a federal Burma into the distant future. Representatives of ethnic groups have responded with frustration, and there have been warnings that the failed reform could cause further conflict.
- 6 student democracy activists have been placed in solitary confinement for bringing cigarettes and betel nut into the prison where they and several of their fellow activists have been detained for 4 months. Many of the students are in poor health as a result of mistreatment by the police at the democracy protests in March.
- Meanwhile, 5 further student activist leaders were charged with unlawful assembly for attending a rally against continued military involvement in the Burmese Government.
- The Shan Human Rights Foundation has documented indiscriminate violence against civilians by the Burmese Army in Shan State throughout June.
- A new briefing has documented the continued and widespread exploitation of child soldiers by the Burmese Army.
- The body of a 21-year-old engineering graduate was found decapitated on a railway track in Namakkal on 24 June. The murder is suspected to have been a case of honour killing, as there had been rumours of a relationship between the young man, who was a Dalit, and a girl from another caste. The mother of the victim was taken into police custody a week later, along with a group of supporters, when they held a hunger strike to demand the arrest of the accused and the registering of a police case against them.
- The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group is reportedly attempting to bring together the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents together to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict face-to-face.
- Azerbaijan has protested to the British Ambassador following news of the planned visit of the President of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan, to the UK next week. The British Embassy in Azerbaijan issued an announcement stating that the UK Government had no role in his visit and did not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state. Mr Sahakyan will be speaking at Chatham House, which has chosen to present him as President of the “de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
- Vardan Tadvosyan, the Director of the Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert and one of HART’s partners, was awarded the Karabakh Medal of Gratitude by the President of Nagorno-Karabakh in medal recognition of his remarkable work founding and building the Centre over 15 years. This is a huge achievement for Vardan, and everyone at HART offers warmest congratulations!
- Al Jazeera, with reference to Amnesty International, reported earlier this week that an estimated 2000 girls have been kidnapped in Boko Haram-infiltrated areas in north-eastern Nigeria since the end of 2013. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted that their captivity is followed by months and years of rape, sexual enslavement and forced marriage. He furthermore appealed to the UN Human Rights Council that abortion access should be eased for women raped by Boko Haram. While this would first and foremost require legal change (as Nigerian law legalises abortion only if the life of the woman is at risk), combating stigmatisation and enabling women to reintegrate into their communities will require much broader efforts.
- On Tuesday, Nigeria’s Defence Ministry confirmed that businessman Babuji Ya’ari, who was involved in the abduction of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014, has been taken into custody by Nigerian armed forces. According to the Nigerian government, Ya’ari “headed a terrorist intelligence cell” for Boko Haram and is furthermore responsible for numerous deadly attacks in the city of Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency.
- This news coincides with a BBC article published this Monday, reporting that some of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls were forced to join Boko Haram and take up arms. Witnesses and former captives who could flee from Boko Haram captivity told Amnesty International that kidnapped girls are being brainwashed and trained to fight, and those who refused would be threatened to be killed.
- A recent social media campaign has revealed everyday sexism in Nigeria. The hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria has been used 17 000 times across social media platforms by Nigerian women and girls, raising awareness of gender inequality and sexual harassment and discrimination that female Nigerians are facing on a daily basis. According to a recent BBC report, Nigeria was positioned at 118 out of 142 countries in the Gender Gap Index 2014 of the World Economic Forum. The index takes into account political, economic and social (including health and education) opportunities for women.
- It was announced on Monday that the UN Security Council would be extending the mandate of the UN African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for a further 12 months, and have tied the exit strategy to progress in the security and humanitarian situation. UN resolution 2228 also maintains the size and scope of UNAMID, despite efforts by the Sudanese government to ensure an end to UN monitoring and peace keeping efforts in the region.
- The UN Security Council has imposed targeted sanctions against 6 South Sudanese generals, three each from government and rebel forces. The move is seen as an attempt to punish those who have been accused of the worst atrocities of the conflict, and to pressure President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar into signing a peace agreement through sanctions. However, critics of the decision, such as James Copnall, have pointed out that the 6 generals in question do not travel abroad or have foreign bank accounts, rendering sanctions ineffectual. The International Crisis Group think-tank have gone as far as to say that the sanctions will in fact hinder the peace process.
- Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has received 9 patients for treatment following a shooting incident in a Protections of Civilians (PoC) site at the Malakal UN compound. The Malakal compound is in Upper Nile State, where 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are seeking refuge. This incident highlights the increase in violence against civilians as a result of a recent escalation in the conflict, along with the recent and disturbing report from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNIMISS) on women and girls being raped and burned alive in their own homes.
- More than 50,000 young Timorese have participated in educational courses offered by a regional NGO that offers computing, basic accounting and English training for young adults to improve their employment possibilities. This is vital considering that 60% of Timor Leste’s population is below 25, and youth unemployment is currently at 11%.
- Following last week’s news about a highly controversial proposed NGO bill, Human Rights Watch and 12 other international and Ugandan-based NGOs issued a statement this Thursday urging Uganda’s Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs to oppose many provisions of the bill.