Human Rights in the news

Daily round up from CHRI UK on 26/01/2016

Today’s top news:

· China frees and deports Swedish human rights activist

· Wristbands for asylum seekers in Cardiff scrapped after human rights groups voice concerns

· Malaysian human rights commission starts probe into prison torture allegations

· Denmark considers selling seized refugees’ valuables at auction

United Kingdom

1. Visa scheme exposes workers to abuse

UK Human Rights Blog

Domestic worker visas are leaving women vulnerable to conditions of abuse that amount to modern slavery, according to an independent review commissioned by the Home Office. The current system ties overseas domestic workers to the foreign employer. Workers have no legal right to change their employer, and are liable to deportation if they escape their situation.

2. Lawyer says Irish courts are ‘timid and slow’ on human rights

The Irish Times

Indian barrister Colin Gonsalves criticised Ireland’s ‘traditional’ approach to litigation, saying Irish courts are “timid, pessimistic and slow” when it comes to vindicating human rights that are supported by the Constitution.

3. Wristbands for asylum seekers in Cardiff criticised

Irish Examiner/ BBC

The Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) was amongst the groups concerned after a UK Home Office contractor supplying accommodation for asylum seekers required migrants to wear brightly coloured wristbands at all times in Cardiff. The BBC reports the wristbands have now been scrapped.

4. Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy launched

Invest in UK/ FCO

The Fund was launched last week (January 18) by FCO Minister Baroness Anelay and aims to further British interests overseas by tackling the root causes of human rights violations, strengthening institutions and governance, promoting and protecting human rights, and supporting democracy and the rule of law. Guidance on bidding available here.

Commonwealth Countries

1. Ousted Maldives president calls for sanctions over human rights abuses


The former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has told the BBC he would like sanctions to be placed on Maldivian officials for alleged human rights abuses. Mr Nasheed was controversially jailed last year but has been allowed to spend 30 days in the UK for medical treatment, following a deal brokered by the US, UK, India and Sri Lanka.

2. Human Rights Commission reprimands church over physical discipline (South Africa)

Eyewitness News

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) criticised the Joshua Generation Church in Cape Town for preaching that parents should spank their children. NGO Freedom of Religion South Africa said the commission has overstepped the mark in its report, which provides recommendations for reform and confirms that physical discipline is a human rights violation.

3. Bangladesh PM tells police to serve the people

BD News 24

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the police to face all contemporary challenges and ‘serve the people’ at the ‘Police Week 2016’ at the Rajarbagh Police Lines. The government recently recruited an additional 50,000 policemen to addressing the number of officers per capita.

4. Opinion: How has India’s sexual landscape changed?


Zareer Masani, who considers himself a ‘sexual migrant’ fleeing a country where being gay was a crime, writes that, while legal battles simmer, attitudes towards homosexuality are finally changing.

5. Malaysian human rights commission starts probe into prison torture allegations

The Malaysian Insider

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has initiated an investigation into the allegation that several detainees under the controversial Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) have been abused by the authorities.

6. Cambodia and Singapore ratify convention against trafficking


Cambodia and Singapore have deposited their respective instruments of ratification for the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP) with ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh. ACTIP was signed by the ASEAN Leaders at the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015.

7. Australian doctor could be prosecuted for speaking out against detention centre conditions

ABC News

Professor David Isaacs has been an outspoken critic of the centres, but under the Border Force Act, contractors working in immigration detention — including doctors and aid workers — face two years’ imprisonment for revealing details of what happens in detention centres.


1. Somalia undergoes Universal Periodic Review


Somalia’s human rights record was scrutinised at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva. Zahra Ali Samantar, the Federal Minister of Women and Human Rights, said that the country has improved its human rights record in the past four years (through the national action plan, plans to end sexual violence, children’s rights gender policy).

2. African Union in historical shake-up

The Herald

In elections at the African Union (AU) Commission at this week’s 26th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, all 15 members of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will be re-elected, and for the first time there is some real uncertainty over who gets these positions.

3. Ghanaian workers deserve better

Ghana Web

An opinion piece on Ghanaian workers human rights.

4. Malawi warned over ‘gays should be killed’ comments

Pink News

Following comments from a political party spokesperson that gay people are “worse than dogs” and should be killed, the UN has warned that Malawi needs to protect LGBT people.

5. South Sudan needs arms embargo, leaders killing civilians — UN panel

The Star

The United Nations Security Council should place an arms embargo on South Sudan, while the oil-rich country’s President Salva Kiir and a rebel leader qualify to be sanctioned over atrocities in a two-year civil war, UN sanctions monitors said in an annual report.


1. China frees and deports Swedish human rights activist


China has released a Swedish human rights activist it had taken into custody earlier this month and accused of being a foreign agent trying to undermine the Communist party, the Swedish foreign ministry has said.

2. Kerry raises human rights, corruption in Cambodia

Washington Post

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday with Cambodian leaders (Prime Minister Hun Sen, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, acting head of the opposition Kem Sokha) to express concern for the government’s record on human rights and corruption in a one-day visit that otherwise focused on forging trade and investment ties.

The South China Morning Post reports that he “failed to sway Cambodian leaders to take a robust stance on South China Sea”.

3. New Zealand man released in Myanmar

Myanmar Times

Phil Blackwood, a New Zealand bar manager convicted of insulting religion in a high-profile case last year, was released from prison on January 22, but his two Myanmar colleagues remain in detention. The three were convicted last March for causing religious offence after their advertisement for a cheap drinks night sparked hardline Buddhist nationalists like the Ma Ba Tha group to protest.


1. HRW: US tainted water scandal is a human rights disaster

Human Rights Watch

Two years ago, switching to a less expensive water source the city of Flint in Michigan led to corrosion of the water pipes and high levels of lead in the water and the blood of city residents. Human Rights Watch frames the incident as a human rights disaster due to the “human right to water” and rights to information and health.

The New York Times reports newly released emails “show a cynical and callous indifference” towards residents by ignoring public pleas and mocking complaints.

2. Argentine president refuses to meet human rights activists


Activists and members of civil society criticised Argentina’s conservative president Mauricio Macri on Sunday after saying in a letter he did not have time to meet the leaders of the human rights groups Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora, Estela de Carlotto and Taty Almeida.

Two contentious issues are the dismissal Wednesday of Horacio Pietragalla, head of the National Archives of Memory and one of the sons of a disappeared activist under the old dictatorship, and Macri’s ignoring the organisations’ demand to outline a human rights programme.

3. Opinion: The toxic debate about refugee resettlement in the US

Huffington Post/ Human Rights First

Eleanor Acer criticises the low number of refugees (10,000) the US has pledged to resettle. She commends the Senate, however, for voting to prevent a bill that would halt Syrian resettlement from moving forward in a hearing last week.

4. US Senate wants to target Vietnam human rights abuses

The Hill

Republican Senator John Cornyn has introduced legislation that would block Vietnamese nationals connected to human rights abuses from travelling to the United States and freeze any assets currently under US jurisdiction. The legislation would require President Obama to come up with a list of individuals targeted for financial penalties, and turn over the list to Congress within 90 days.

5. Human rights commissioner joins debate over Saudi-based campus of Canadian college

National Post

Ontario’s human rights commissioner, Minister of training, colleges and universities Reza Moridi, says it’s up to the province to set the rules for post-secondary campuses in foreign countries amid a debate about two Ontario colleges operating in Saudi Arabia.


1. Inadequate human rights policies in Slovakia

The Slovak Spectator

According to Zuzana Števulová from the Human Rights League “nothing significant has been achieved” on the exclusion of Roma communities and LGBTI issues in Slovakia.

2. Denmark considering new bill to sell refugees’ assets at auction

EU Observer

Denmark is set to pass a controversial bill on Tuesday that will require asylum seekers to hand over cash or valuables worth more than €1,300 to help cover government expenses on room and board. Migration minister Inge Stojberg said one option under consideration is a public auction.

Middle East

1. Human Rights First report outlines recommendations for stability in Egypt

Human Rights First

Human Rights First yesterday released a new blueprint, titled “How to Navigate Egypt’s Enduring Human Rights Crisis”, that examines conditions in Egypt, the strengths and shortcomings of the U.S. response to instability and human rights challenges in the country, and provides recommendations for how the U.S. government can support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights.


1. FIFA Presidential candidates should pledge to end human rights abuses

Amnesty International

Amnesty International reports that a group of NGOs said ahead of a debate in the European Parliament that candidates for the FIFA presidency should sign up to a set of pledges to prevent human rights abuses and corruption linked to the World Cup and other FIFA events. Amnesty International, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, Terre des Hommes, and Transparency International Germany asked the candidates to commit to taking six clear steps towards ensuring its events do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses and corruption. The FIFA presidential election takes place on 26 February.