Human Rights

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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B’Tselem’ rights group: Israel pursuing ‘apartheid regime’ in Palestine

Source: Jurist

January 13, 2021

 Israeli human rights group B’Tselem’ reported on Tuesday that the state of Israel is pursuing a nondemocratic “apartheid regime” and “Jewish supremacy” in both Palestinian and Israeli territories. The group has documented abuses against Palestinians since 1989 and continues to challenge the myth that Palestine and Israel exist side-by-side as separate autonomous regions. B’Tselem’ has called attention to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, citing abuses by the Israeli government against Palestinians under the guise of national security protocols.

The group’s report asserts that the Israeli regime seeks to govern “all the territory between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea” to “cement Jewish supremacy” throughout the entire area. The report further reveals that the state of Israel achieves this purpose by: (1) affording Jewish people throughout the world the right to secure Israeli citizenship while denying this right to Palestinians; (2) establishing mass Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land driving Palestinian residents out; (3) restricting Palestinians’ freedom of movement and political participation; and (4) holding Palestinians hostage under an illegal military occupation. According to B’Tselem’, Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians has unfolded over many years as the result of various laws aimed at promoting Jewish supremacy.

“One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group—Jews—over another—Palestinians,” B’Tselem’ said in its Tuesday statement.

Jewish B’Tselem’ director Hagai El-Ad hopes the report will aid the incoming Biden administration in crafting a US foreign policy that will advance the Palestinian cause. “I expect this will be part of a new chapter for fighting for justice in this place,” El-Ad said. He continued, “Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it: it is one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid.”

The Israeli government has not yet issued a response.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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North Carolina appeals court rules same-sex partners eligible for domestic violence protections

Source: Jurist

January 04, 2021

 The Court of Appeals of North Carolina ruled Thursday that people who are or have been in a dating relationship with a same-sex partner are equally protected against domestic violence as persons in opposite-sex relationships placed in a similar situation. North Carolina was the only US state where such protection had been unavailable.

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Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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Iran Cabinet approves bill to protect women from violence

Source: Jurist

January 05, 2021

The Cabinet of Iran approved a bill Sunday to bolster protections for women against violence in the country.

The Cabinet meeting saw the Council of Ministers approve the Protection, Dignity and Security of Women against Violence bill, moving the bill along the country’s law-making process. The bill defines violence as “any behaviour that is committed against a woman due to her gender or vulnerable position or type of relationship and causes harm or damage to her body or mind or personality, dignity or restriction or deprivation of her legal rights and freedoms,” a definition praised by the bill’s supporters. Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, Massoumeh Ebtekar, wrote in a tweet “[t]his progressive bill addresses both social [and] domestic violence, defines judicial [and] cross sectoral educative measures, defines criminal offenses [and] creates a supportive fund.”

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Pakistan approves anti-rape law allowing for speedy trials and chemical castration

Source: Jurist

December 17, 2020

 Pakistan approved a new anti-rape law Tuesday to allow for speedy trials and chemical castration of convicted serial offenders. The law will also create specialized rape courts designed to deal exclusively with rape and sexual assault cases.

President Arif Alvi approved the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020 and said that it will “help expedite cases of sexual abuse against women and children.” Although the law will take effect immediately, parliament must ratify it within 120 days. Once in effect, victims can expect prompt investigations, and the government hopes it will encourage them to come forward in holding offenders accountable. Victim identities would be protected due to the stigma surrounding such crimes. Any government official proved to be negligent in carrying out an investigation would face a prison sentence of up to three years.

The new law would ensure the creation of a nationwide database listing all offenders’ names, hoped to expedite subsequent court proceedings against repeat offenders. Convicted offenders could also face the death penalty.

Amnesty International has called the new law “cruel and inhuman,” arguing that chemical castration will not fix a “flawed” system. South Asia Campaigner Rimmel Mohydin responded to the announcement of the new law:

Forced chemical castrations would violate Pakistan’s international and constitutional obligations to prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Punishments like this will do nothing to fix a flawed criminal justice system. Instead of trying to deflect attention, the authorities should focus on the crucial work of reforms that will address the root causes of sexual violence and give survivors the justice they deserve and the protection they need.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had proposed the legislation following a brutal rape that occurred in Lahore in September.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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Proposed India state bill would punish rape with death penalty

Source: Jurist

December 11, 2020

 The Cabinet of the Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday approved a draft of a bill setting extreme punishments for crimes against women and children. The Act is modeled after the Disha Act passed by the government of Andhra Pradesh state last year.

Known as the “Shakti Act”, the Maharashtra bill makes numerous changes to existing laws. Some crimes against women and children would become punishable by death, and others by life sentence and hefty fines. The duration of a life sentence would range between at least 10 years and the remainder of the perpetrator’s natural life. Victims of acid attacks would receive 10 lakh to help pay for plastic surgery and facial reconstruction. Any crime deemed heinous enough, such as raping a child, would carry the death penalty.

The Act also criminalizes threats and defamation made over the phone or social media. Perpetrators would face penalties of a fine for two months in prison. Failure to share such information with the police by internet provides or phone companies will carry a fine or a month in jail.

Under the Act, law enforcement would be required to complete a probe within 15 days. An offender would face trial within 30 days. To ensure compliance, special courts and police teams would be established to handle the investigations and trials.

The Act will go before the Maharashtra legislature for vote this winter. It will be presented in two parts, the Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law Act, 2020 and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law, 2020.

The Act represents a significant expense to the Maharashtra government, and it may face pushback on those grounds. It is likely have a great deal of public support, however, due to the protections it provides women and children.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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Argentina lower house votes to legalize abortion

Source: Jurist

December 11, 2020

 Argentina’s lower house, the Camara de Disputado, voted to legalize abortion Thursday after 20 hours of floor debate. The vote was seen as a victory for the Marea Verde (“Green Sea”) movement which seeks to make abortion legal.

The bid to legalize abortion had received support from President Alberto Fernandez and will allow “women and anyone capable of pregnancy” to legally terminate their pregnancy until the 14th week. Much of the debates centered around a medical professional’s ability to “continuously object.” The house eventually decreed that they could object but must perform or find someone to perform the abortion within 10 days.

Abortion has been illegal in Argentina since 1921 but activists have been fighting to legalize it since they regained democracy in 1983. The legalization fight is highly controversial since Argentina is a primarily Roman Catholic country and many legislators and citizens have religious objections.

The legalization bill faces its steepest challenge next because it must be approved by the Senate, where a similar effort failed in 2018.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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Bhutan parliament votes to decriminalize homosexuality

Source: Jurist

December 14, 2020

Bhutan’s parliament adopted the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill of 2019 on Thursday, decriminalizing homosexual conduct between two consenting adults. The legislation was tabled before both houses, being the National Assembly and the National Council, in a joint sitting of the bicameral legislature this year.

Section 213 of the Penal Code of Bhutan criminalized “unnatural sex,” which it defined as when any person “engages in sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature.” The crime was deemed to be a petty misdemeanor, the punishment for which could extend up to a year as per Section 214 of the Penal Code. Although there was no explicit mention of “homosexuality,” the provision of unnatural sex was widely taken to refer to homosexual conduct between two adults.

The National Assembly had repealed both the provisions earlier last year; however, the National Council voted for retention so as to prevent other forms of unnatural sexual conduct, such as bestiality. Amidst growing confusion surrounding the definition of “unnatural sex,” the bill was tabled for a joint sitting this year. After recommendations from the Joint Committee, “homosexuality” has now been explicitly excluded from the definition of “unnatural sex” through an exception clause, while the provision of “unnatural sex” still remains in the Penal Code (making acts which are considered against the nature punishable).

This was one of the 24 disputed clauses which were pending joint consideration of both the houses. The bill has been passed with an absolute majority, with 63 of 69 present and voting, voting in favor of the amendment to the Penal Code. The law is now short of a veto by the Bhutanese king.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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Switzerland voters reject stricter corporate responsibility measures for protecting human rights, environment

Source: Jurist

December 01, 2020

 Swiss voters on Sunday rejected measures that would have heightened penalties against Switzerland-based companies that violate UN human rights mandates or harm the environment abroad.

The proposal, titled “Responsible companies — to protect people and the environment,” was aimed at introducing new statutory obligations for Swiss businesses. It initially won by a narrow majority of votes, with 50.7 percent in support and 49.3 percent in opposition. However, the measure ultimately failed after the majority of the country’s cantons (states) expressed disapproval.

According to the Federal Council, the seven-member executive council, which makes up the federal government of the Swiss Confederation, the initiative would have required “Swiss companies to examine whether they can comply with internationally recognized human rights and environmental standards when carrying out their business operations.” Under the measure, Swiss companies could be held liable for human rights and environmental damage caused by their own operations and those of their subsidiaries, suppliers and business partners. Consequently, any failure to comply would have led to fines.

“Swiss companies are expected to uphold human rights and comply with environmental standards, not just in Switzerland but also when doing business abroad,” said the Federal Council. “Switzerland has played an active role in drawing up uniform international standards and has taken measures to ensure these standards are implemented.” The federal government opposed the initiative, which was championed by progressive groups and civil society organizations, including the Responsible Business Initiative: “For the authors of this initiative, [current] measures do not go far enough.”

Under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, voters get to express their opinion on federal decisions several times a year. To pass, however, proposals require a majority of both of the votes cast and approval from individual cantons. In response to the failed initiative, the federal government plans to propose a “more mild” countermeasure aimed at bolstering corporate responsibility.

The initiative is the first to fail on a statewide basis after winning the popular vote in more than 60 years.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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India court reaffirms fundamental right to marry person of choice

Source: Jurist

December 01, 2020

 The Karnataka High Court in India ruled Friday that the right to marry a person of choice irrespective of caste or religion is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. This is is a reaffirmation of a 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court of India.

The case arose after a woman was held in confinement for her relationship with a man whom her parents did not consent to her marrying. Her male companion sought a writ of habeas corpus requesting her release, and the court agreed.

In its judgment, the court concluded that “it is well settled that a right of any major individual to marry the person of his/her choice is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of India and the said liberty relating to the personal relationships of two individuals cannot be encroached by anybody irrespective of caste or religion.”

Intercaste marriages are uncommon in India, and only make up 5.1 percent of all marriages. They still are fairly controversial, and have, in some rare instances, led to honor killings.

Derechos Humanos / Human Rights

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Rights groups decry Bangladesh moving Rohingya refugees to remote island

Source: Jurist

December 05, 2020

 Amidst outcry from international human rights groups, Bangladeshi naval ships on Thursday started shifting the first batch of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a remote island located in the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh currently hosts around 1.1 million Rohingyas out of which it plans to relocate around 100,000 to Bhasan Char. The reasons cited are extreme congestion, landslides and the deteriorating security situation in the existing Cox Bazaar refugee camp. The government has assured that all refugees went voluntarily and the island has been equipped with proper infrastructure.

On the other hand, humanitarian and human rights groups like Refugees International, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have opposed the move citing improper planning and lack of facilities on the island. Refugees International in a statement said, “Without appropriate assessments and adequate information for refugees about conditions on the island, the move is nothing short of a dangerous mass detention of the Rohingya people in violation of international human rights obligations.”

The Bangladesh government has maintained that Rohingyas must return to their country of origin as soon as possible and they are being hosted only on a temporary basis. Bangladesh and Myanmar had signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017. Another document called  the Physical Arrangement was signed on January 16, 2018 which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas.  Repatriation attempts failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019 amid Rohingyas’ lack of trust in the Myanmar government.