Archive for the 'Human Rights' Category

Algeria and Syria criticise British human rights record

The United Kingdom came in for robust questioning on its human rights record from other UN member states last week at the Human Rights Council, during the historic first session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Over the course of three hours, 38 countries took the floor to ask UK Justice Minister Michael Wills about a wide range of issues, including racial discrimination, corporal punishment against children, abuses committed by UK armed forces abroad, and failure to ratify particular UN conventions and their protocols.

Coming at a time when the UK government is trying to pass yet another piece of counterterrorism legislation, which includes extending pre-charge detention to 42 days, it’s no wonder a significant number of countries asked about UK counterterrorism policies. Neighbors such as The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland expressed concern about 42 day detention, but so did countries like Syria and Algeria. Algeria’s representative pointed out that the Human Rights Committee – the UN body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – had recently “upbraided” Algeria for allowing up to twelve days of pre-charge detention.

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Indonesia considers ‘disbanding Ahmadiyyas’

More than 1,000 Indonesian Muslims gathered in front of the presidential palace on Sunday to press the government to ban a Muslim sect that has been branded heretical by most Muslims.

An Indonesian government team is drafting a decree that will ban the Ahmadiyya sect, which views itself as Muslim but has been branded a heretical group by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the secular country’s highest Muslim authority.

Chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Great)” and “Disband Ahmadiyya”, the members of the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), a group of about 50 Muslim organisations, urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue the decree.

“We are pushing the president to immediately issue a presidential decree disbanding Ahmadiyya,” FUI Secretary General Muhammad Al Khaththath told Reuters.

The FUI also asked the government to capture Ahmadiyya’s leaders and seize all its assets.

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So much for our ‘progressive’ attitudes to violence against women

The British public gives more to a Devon-based donkey sanctuary than the most prominent charities trying to combat violence and abuse against women, a report released today by a leading philanthropy watchdog reveals.

New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) has calculated that more than 7 million women have been affected by domestic violence but found that Refuge, the Women’s Aid Federation and Eaves Housing for Women have a combined annual income of just £17m. By contrast the Donkey Sanctuary, which has looked after 12,000 donkeys, received £20m in 2006.

NPC estimates the cost to society of domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, trafficking and honour crimes has reached £40bn a year – greater than the country’s defence budget.

“As a society we are not spending enough on this issue whether through charities or the government,” said Justine Järvinen, the author of the report. “Violence against women appears regularly as the subject of media reports and in the storylines of soap operas but rarely does it come up in normal conversation, which suggests there is a stigma around it. The truth is it is very common.”

Every year 1.5 million women experience domestic abuse at least once, 800,000 are sexually assaulted and 100,000 raped, the report states. More than one in four women has experienced at least one incident of domestic violence by a current or former partner, which means 7.4 million women in the UK have suffered domestic abuse, according to government figures.

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The prisoner of three kings

The BBC profiles Mohamed Bougrine, the Morrocan dissident and human rights activist.

Local council uses anti-terrorism laws to spy on family

A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment.

A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council for more than two weeks.

The council admitted using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) on six occasions in total.

Three of those were for suspected fraudulent school place applications.

It said two offers of school places were withdrawn as a consequence.

Human rights pressure group Liberty called the spying “ridiculously disproportionate” and “intrusive”.

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Policemen involved in honour crimes investigated

Via Pickled Politics, comes news that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has reprimanded officers for failing to investigate claims of abuse made by Banaz Mahmod on numerous occasions. Banaz Mahmod, you may remember, was murdered by her father and uncle for ‘dishonouring’ her family. Two other offices are facing further disciplinary action.

Also via PP, I came across a Radio 4 discussion on forced marriages:

For the past twelve years, a former police inspector, Philip Balmforth, has worked with West Yorkshire Police on the question of forced marriage. He’s said to have protected thousands of vulnerable girls in the area. He is now undergoing disciplinary procedures, accused of giving out false information about forced marriage. But critics say he’s being disciplined because of concerns expressed by Bradford Council that his work is bad publicity for the city. More than 50 MPs have signed a petition asking for his reinstatement. It’s been organised by the MP for Keighley, Ann Cryer, who joins Jenni Murray to discuss the situation.

Knowing what little I know, I am compelled to agree with a commentator on PP: don’t underestimate the role of local politics in these allegations against Balmforth.

Update: There is definitely more to the Balmforth story than meets the eye. But perhaps not what prejudice might expect:

The uncorrected transcript (you have to scroll down) makes for fascinating reading. The committee heard that of the 33 pupils mentioned, there were no secondary school Asian girls and one secondary school Asian boy on the missing register. There is now an investigation underway into how information that supports prejudice against a community has made its way into the media.

Internment, then and now

[W]e should urgently try to understand how significant change came about for [the Irish during the Troubles]. Much current reminiscence ignores vital factors, such as the inescapable responsibility of the Irish Republic and, above all, the political weight of the Irish diaspora and the far-sightedness of those who began and maintained contact, long before Blair was elected and claimed the ultimate prize. Throughout the thirty years of conflict, forty million Americans of Irish descent formed an electoral statistic that no US administration could afford to ignore. It is said that on the night before he decided to grant a visa to Gerry Adams, Bill Clinton watched a film about the catastrophic injustice inflicted on one Irish family by the British state. Here, Lord Scarman and Lord Devlin, retired law lords, joined Cardinal Hume, the head of the Catholic Church in England, in educating themselves in the finest detail of three sets of wrongful convictions involving 14 defendants. At one critical moment Cardinal Hume confronted the home secretary, Douglas Hurd, challenging the adequacy of his briefing.

No similar allies for the Muslim community are evident today, capable of pushing and pulling the British government publicly or privately into seeing sense. Spiritually, the Muslim Ummah is seen as being infinite, but the powerful regimes of the Muslim world almost without exception not only themselves perpetrate oppression, but choose to work hand in hand with the US and the UK in their ‘war on terror’. It is for us, as a nation, to take stock of ourselves. We are very far along a destructive path, and if our government continues on that path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting. The choice and the responsibility are entirely ours.

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