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Ed Webb

Members of new Pompeo task force have previously praised human-rights abusers | PBS New... - 0 views

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights on Monday, saying he hoped it would undertake the most extensive reexamination of what counts as an “unalienable right,” first laid out in a 1948 United Nations document known as “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
  • the new chairperson of the 10-person commission has written in favor of practices that could undermine Pompeo’s stated goal of “ground[ing] our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” Separately, two of the new commissioners are on record defending known human-rights abusers.
  • In making the case for the commission, and the need for a wholesale revisiting of the concept of “human rights,” the State Department actually cited a white paper released by the Chinese Communist Party last year, in which it asserted that it had “blazed a trail of development in human rights that conforms to the national conditions.”
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  • Malinowski said governments like China could take advantage of possible U.S. flexibility to actually further their repressive practices in the name of “economic and social rights,” which is a term China often uses to justify its practices. For example, the State Department says China practices widespread Internet censorship to prevent disruptions to the “economic or social order,” according to the most recent human rights report.
  • Two have previously defended the regimes in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, all of which stand accused of human rights abuses by international standards.
  • In 2018, commissioner Russell Berman, a Stanford University professor of comparative literature and German studies, downplayed the outcry over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the reaction was politically motivated
  • Michael Posner, who served at State from 2009 to 2013. Posner expressed doubt that any one commissioner’s personal views would affect the department’s overall policies, but said that their ruminations on long-standing positions held at each of the agency’s many bureaus could muddle the State Department’s overall message.
  • Asked about Berman’s Khashoggi comments, a senior administration official referred to President Donald Trump’s latest comments about the matter at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. During a press conference there, Trump said he was “very unhappy” about Khashoggi’s murder but said “nobody, so far, has pointed directly a finger at the future King of Saudi Arabia,” contradicting the assessment of his own intelligence agency.
  • Last year, another commission member, Hamza Yusuf, praised the UAE, calling it “a country that is committed to tolerance…. This is a country that is committed to civil society. It is one of the safest countries on the earth.” Contrary to Yusuf’s assertion, the UAE also stands accused of numerous human rights abuses perpetrated on its own citizens.
  • The official noted that the commission is part of the Policy Planning Staff, a clearinghouse for independent analysis and advice for the secretary of state, arguing that its position means it will not play a role in policy-making
  • These commissions do not need congressional approval or appropriations of funds. Instead, they are enacted with a “timely notice” in the Federal Register, per a 1972 law, which also says advisory committees may not make policy, leaving such decisions up to the president or “an officer of the federal government.”
  • Some human rights groups and Democratic lawmakers have also expressed concern that the commission’s goal of refocusing on “unalienable rights” is actually an attempt to narrow the rights the government has to protect, including abortion rights and protections for the LGBTQ community.
Ed Webb

The Deportation of Omar Shakir: The Israeli Supreme Court and the BDS Movement - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Two judgments handed down just days apart—one by the Israeli Supreme Court and the other by the European Court of Justice—highlight a growing jurisprudential divide between Israeli and international courts on the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • On Nov. 12, the European Court of Justice ruled that Israeli food products from the West Bank and Golan Heights must be explicitly labeled as coming from “Israeli settlements,” rather than from Israel itself. The ruling, which cited European Union regulations designed to allow consumers to make informed choices about their food purchases, held that since international humanitarian law limits Israeli jurisdiction in these territories to that of an “occupying power,” it would be misleading to represent such products as being “from Israel.”
  • stakes of the long-anticipated Israeli Supreme Court judgment in Human Rights Watch v. Interior Minister, handed down just a week earlier. In its judgment, the court upheld a government decision to expel Human Rights Watch’s (HRW’s) Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, from the country, based on a law barring entry by foreigners who promote boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements. The case marked the first time the court was called upon to rule on the law’s application to boycott-related activities directed primarily at the settlements, rather than at Israel itself.
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  • In 2015, in Avneri v. The Knesset, a divided court upheld most of the 2011 law, striking down a provision providing for punitive damages in civil tort cases and construing the law narrowly in order to limit liability to instances where there is a proven causal link to concrete damage. (For more on Avneri, see here and here.) Most significantly for our purposes, a majority of justices in Avneri upheld the law’s contentious provision (which applies equally to the 2017 amendment), equating settlement boycotts to boycotts against Israel as a whole.
  • A boycott directed at an individual company due to its specific behavior, by contrast (for example, because it engaged in discrimination or in some other problematic activity), would not risk running afoul of the law.
  • If actively promoting HRW’s stance on settlements is enough to demonstrate ongoing promotion of boycotts, any new employee could face similar consequences. Israeli employees of HRW, too, could face civil or administrative ramifications simply for implementing HRW’s stated policy of calling on businesses “to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of their duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”
  • Back in 2016, when HRW first requested a foreign expert visa for Shakir, an American citizen, the Foreign Ministry objected on the grounds that HRW itself was biased against Israel, “falsely waving the flag of human rights” in the service of “Palestinian propaganda.” Shortly thereafter, the ministry withdrew its objection, citing political and diplomatic considerations, and the Interior Ministry granted Shakir his visa. An administrative petition by the right-leaning organization Shurat HaDin, among others, led to an additional reversal, and the visa was revoked. The new decision was based on a memorandum issued by the Strategic Affairs Ministry (charged in Israel with heading up the fight against BDS), which argued that the problem was Shakir himself—who had called in the past for boycotts of Israel and the settlements—rather than HRW
  • The appellants, for their part, challenged the constitutionality of the 2017 amendment, arguing that even though foreigners don’t have a right to enter the country, they should not be denied a visa or fear deportation for expressing unpopular views. Mainly, they claimed, the law violates the free speech and equality rights of Israelis (and Palestinians), whose ability to engage freely with foreigners the government doesn’t agree with is limited by the law. They also argued that Shakir’s activities—particularly those undertaken on behalf of HRW—shouldn’t be considered boycott activities, since they were motivated by a desire to combat specific human rights violations and to encourage private corporations to respect their human rights obligations under international law
  • While once again acknowledging that the law doesn’t apply to boycotts targeting specific behaviors, the court stated: An individual who negates the very legitimacy of the State of Israel or its control of the Area, and seeks to undermine it through a boycott, is [included in the law], even if he disguises his position with the rhetoric of human rights or international law. The test is a substantive one, and the words the de-legitimization campaign wraps itself in do not grant it immunity.
  • Several amici from both sides of the political spectrum, including NGO Monitor, Shurat HaDin and Amnesty International, submitted briefs to the court. A group of former foreign service officials also joined the proceedings as amici, arguing that removing Shakir would cause substantial and lasting damage to Israel’s image as an open and democratic society.
  • In Human Rights Watch, the court clarified that what is at stake is also, potentially, the “delegitimization of Israel and of its policy” (emphasis added).
  • the boycott laws, coupled with the court’s continued acquiescence to the law’s conflation of Israel with Israeli settlements, threaten to impair the ability of citizens and noncitizens alike to engage in free discourse on one of the most difficult issues facing the country. They risk undermining the ability of human rights groups to defend human rights and promote respect for international law when their positions and interpretations of the law do not align with those of the Israeli government. They also threaten to further erode the all-important distinction in a democracy between delegitimization of the country itself and criticism of government policy
  • a growing disconnect between the discourse on settlements in Israel (and now, perhaps, the United States) and abroad
Ed Webb

The complicated legacy of Qatar's World Cup - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • perhaps the biggest test case for what happens when a Middle Eastern nation intent on using oil money to enhance its influence through sports emerges on the global stage.
  • Can sports help bring societal progress to a region that has long resisted change? Or are those countries rewarded with reputational prestige despite human rights abuses that they have little intention to address?
  • “FIFA has a human rights policy that guarantees press freedom, women’s rights and nondiscrimination,” said Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch. “What the Qatar World Cup showed is that, if you have enough money, you can absolutely ignore those requirements.”
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  • Owing to its small population of roughly 300,000 citizens, Qatar relies heavily on migrant workers. When it won the World Cup bid, it employed a labor system called kafala. Under kafala, migrant workers, mostly seeking to leave impoverished conditions elsewhere, have to pay exorbitant recruitment fees and cannot change jobs without the consent of their employer. The system led to rampant abuses that included wage theft and unsafe working conditions, ultimately resulting in the deaths of thousands of workers. Qatar also bans homosexuality, which it defends on religious grounds.
  • In 2016, Qatar said it would abide by the United Nations’ human rights code. In 2019, Qatar announced it would abolish kafala. In 2021, Qatar instituted a minimum wage. The Supreme Committee, Qatar’s World Cup host organization, created a workers’ welfare program for those who built World Cup infrastructure. By the sound of the first whistle last November, the country’s labor market was “radically transformed,” a FIFA spokesman said.“Would any of that have happened if they hadn’t hosted the World Cup?” said Mary Harvey, chief executive at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights. “Would kafala still be in place in Qatar if they hadn’t hosted the World Cup? That may not be the question people want to ask, but it’s important. … You don’t just flip the switch with a law change and expect an implementation is going to take hold. It’s going to take a generation probably to get this put in. But it’s still big change, and it’s change that is needed.”
  • Max Tuñón, head of the International Labor Organization’s Qatar office, said he has seen major improvements in working conditions for foreign laborers over the past five years.
  • We work all over the world, and we rarely see change happening at this pace
  • Rothna Begum, a Human Rights Watch researcher, has worked extensively in Qatar and visited with workers. (Unlike Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar’s government allows human rights groups to work in the country.) Begum said it is “not the case” that Qatar dismantled kafala in practice.“They didn’t do it properly, anyway,” Begum said. “They didn’t take away all the elements. They reformed aspects of the kafala system, but they didn’t dismantle the kafala system. The bits that they did reform, they are implementing in such a way that kafala still exists in practice.”
  • While workers can apply to change jobs, Begum said, she has found they must first give notice to their employer. If the employer does not sign a resignation notice, the worker cannot get permission from the government — “employer permission through the back door,”
  • “Qatari authorities — not just Qatari authorities but FIFA — sought to weaponize a narrative of Qatar being an underdog, that they were under attack in this double-standard way that no one else has been under attack before, and it’s because they are a Middle Eastern country,” Begum said. “Rather than dealing with the fact that they just did not come through with reforms and did not protect migrant workers who really contribute to the success of the World Cup and made sure they got their wages and compensated them for it, they instead used this narrative and weaponized it. We’re seeing the Saudis and UAE are moving in that direction.”
  • Qatar’s reforms also did not address the biggest cost of the World Cup: the migrant workers who died — in the thousands according to human rights groups, a number disputed by the Qatari government — while building stadiums and other infrastructure FIFA required after working in extreme heat on strict schedules. Human Rights Watch challenged whether Qatar could move forward with meaningful reform without compensating the families of the workers who died.
  • FIFA instituted its human rights policy in 2017 in response to criticism about Qatar. That policy may receive a more stringent test in coming years. Saudi Arabia, whose government has jailed and executed dissidents, submitted a bid to host the 2034 World Cup and is the favorite to host the tournament. Unlike Qatar, Saudi Arabia has not met with human rights groups.
Ed Webb

Where Will Everyone Go? - 0 views

  • The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60% in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83%. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third.
  • As their land fails them, hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan to the Mekong Delta will be forced to choose between flight or death. The result will almost certainly be the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen.
  • For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north.
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  • the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1% of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing 1 of every 3 people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on
  • In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than 8 million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations.
  • Migration can bring great opportunity not just to migrants but also to the places they go
  • Northern nations can relieve pressures on the fastest-warming countries by allowing more migrants to move north across their borders, or they can seal themselves off, trapping hundreds of millions of people in places that are increasingly unlivable. The best outcome requires not only goodwill and the careful management of turbulent political forces; without preparation and planning, the sweeping scale of change could prove wildly destabilizing. The United Nations and others warn that in the worst case, the governments of the nations most affected by climate change could topple as whole regions devolve into war
  • To better understand the forces and scale of climate migration over a broader area, The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica joined with the Pulitzer Center in an effort to model, for the first time, how people will move across borders
  • The story is similar in South Asia, where nearly one-fourth of the global population lives. The World Bank projects that the region will soon have the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world. While some 8.5 million people have fled already — resettling mostly in the Persian Gulf — 17 million to 36 million more people may soon be uprooted, the World Bank found. If past patterns are a measure, many will settle in India’s Ganges Valley; by the end of the century, heat waves and humidity will become so extreme there that people without air conditioning will simply die.
  • If governments take modest action to reduce climate emissions, about 680,000 climate migrants might move from Central America and Mexico to the United States between now and 2050. If emissions continue unabated, leading to more extreme warming, that number jumps to more than a million people. (None of these figures include undocumented immigrants, whose numbers could be twice as high.)
  • As with much modeling work, the point here is not to provide concrete numerical predictions so much as it is to provide glimpses into possible futures. Human movement is notoriously hard to model, and as many climate researchers have noted, it is important not to add a false precision to the political battles that inevitably surround any discussion of migration. But our model offers something far more potentially valuable to policymakers: a detailed look at the staggering human suffering that will be inflicted if countries shut their doors.
  • the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes
  • Climate is rarely the main cause of migration, the studies have generally found, but it is almost always an exacerbating one.
  • Drought helped push many Syrians into cities before the war, worsening tensions and leading to rising discontent; crop losses led to unemployment that stoked Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Libya; Brexit, even, was arguably a ripple effect of the influx of migrants brought to Europe by the wars that followed. And all those effects were bound up with the movement of just 2 million people. As the mechanisms of climate migration have come into sharper focus — food scarcity, water scarcity and heat — the latent potential for large-scale movement comes to seem astronomically larger.
  • North Africa’s Sahel provides an example. In the nine countries stretching across the continent from Mauritania to Sudan, extraordinary population growth and steep environmental decline are on a collision course. Past droughts, most likely caused by climate change, have already killed more than 100,000 people there. And the region — with more than 150 million people and growing — is threatened by rapid desertification, even more severe water shortages and deforestation. Today researchers at the United Nations estimate that some 65% of farmable lands have already been degraded. “My deep fear,” said Solomon Hsiang, a climate researcher and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is that Africa’s transition into a post-climate-change civilization “leads to a constant outpouring of people.”
  • Our model projects that migration will rise every year regardless of climate, but that the amount of migration increases substantially as the climate changes. In the most extreme climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the course of the next 30 years
  • every one of the scenarios it produces points to a future in which climate change, currently a subtle disrupting influence, becomes a source of major disruption, increasingly driving the displacement of vast populations.
  • rough predictions have emerged about the scale of total global climate migration — they range from 50 million to 300 million people displaced — but the global data is limited, and uncertainty remained about how to apply patterns of behavior to specific people in specific places.
  • Once the model was built and layered with both approaches — econometric and gravity — we looked at how people moved as global carbon concentrations increased in five different scenarios, which imagine various combinations of growth, trade and border control, among other factors. (These scenarios have become standard among climate scientists and economists in modeling different pathways of global socioeconomic development.)
  • We are now learning that climate scientists have been underestimating the future displacement from rising tides by a factor of three, with the likely toll being some 150 million globally. New projections show high tides subsuming much of Vietnam by 2050 — including most of the Mekong Delta, now home to 18 million people — as well as parts of China and Thailand, most of southern Iraq and nearly all of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket. Many coastal regions of the United States are also at risk.
  • Around 2012, a coffee blight worsened by climate change virtually wiped out El Salvador’s crop, slashing harvests by 70%. Then drought and unpredictable storms led to what a U.N.-affiliated food-security organization describes as “a progressive deterioration” of Salvadorans’ livelihoods.
  • climate change can act as what Defense Department officials sometimes refer to as a “threat multiplier.”
  • For all the ways in which human migration is hard to predict, one trend is clear: Around the world, as people run short of food and abandon farms, they gravitate toward cities, which quickly grow overcrowded. It’s in these cities, where waves of new people stretch infrastructure, resources and services to their limits, that migration researchers warn that the most severe strains on society will unfold
  • the World Bank has raised concerns about the mind-boggling influx of people into East African cities like Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, where the population has doubled since 2000 and is expected to nearly double again by 2035
  • now a little more than half of the planet’s population lives in urban areas, but by the middle of the century, the World Bank estimates, 67% will. In just a decade, 4 out of every 10 urban residents — 2 billion people around the world — will live in slums
  • El Paso is also a place with oppressive heat and very little water, another front line in the climate crisis. Temperatures already top 90 degrees here for three months of the year, and by the end of the century it will be that hot one of every two days. The heat, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, will drive deaths that soon outpace those from car crashes or opioid overdoses. Cooling costs — already a third of some residents’ budgets — will get pricier, and warming will drive down economic output by 8%, perhaps making El Paso just as unlivable as the places farther south.
  • High emissions, with few global policy changes and relatively open borders, will drive rural El Salvador — just like rural Guatemala — to empty out, even as its cities grow. Should the United States and other wealthy countries change the trajectory of global policy, though — by, say, investing in climate mitigation efforts at home but also hardening their borders — they would trigger a complex cascade of repercussions farther south, according to the model. Central American and Mexican cities continue to grow, albeit less quickly, but their overall wealth and development slows drastically, most likely concentrating poverty further. Far more people also remain in the countryside for lack of opportunity, becoming trapped and more desperate than ever.
  • By midcentury, the U.N. estimates that El Salvador — which has 6.4 million people and is the most densely populated country in Central America — will be 86% urban
  • Most would-be migrants don’t want to move away from home. Instead, they’ll make incremental adjustments to minimize change, first moving to a larger town or a city. It’s only when those places fail them that they tend to cross borders, taking on ever riskier journeys, in what researchers call “stepwise migration.” Leaving a village for the city is hard enough, but crossing into a foreign land — vulnerable to both its politics and its own social turmoil — is an entirely different trial.
  • I arrived in Tapachula five weeks after the breakout to find a city cracking in the crucible of migration. Just months earlier, passing migrants on Mexico’s southern border were offered rides and tortas and medicine from a sympathetic Mexican public. Now migrant families were being hunted down in the countryside by armed national-guard units, as if they were enemy soldiers.
  • Models can’t say much about the cultural strain that might result from a climate influx; there is no data on anger or prejudice. What they do say is that over the next two decades, if climate emissions continue as they are, the population in southern Mexico will grow sharply. At the same time, Mexico has its own serious climate concerns and will most likely see its own climate exodus. One in 6 Mexicans now rely on farming for their livelihood, and close to half the population lives in poverty. Studies estimate that with climate change, water availability per capita could decrease by as much as 88% in places, and crop yields in coastal regions may drop by a third. If that change does indeed push out a wave of Mexican migrants, many of them will most likely come from Chiapas.
  • even as 1 million or so climate migrants make it to the U.S. border, many more Central Americans will become trapped in protracted transit, unable to move forward or backward in their journey, remaining in southern Mexico and making its current stresses far worse.
  • Already, by late last year, the Mexican government’s ill-planned policies had begun to unravel into something more insidious: rising resentment and hate. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has effectively sealed borders, those sentiments risk bubbling over. Migrants, with nowhere to go and no shelters able to take them in, roam the streets, unable to socially distance and lacking even basic sanitation. It has angered many Mexican citizens, who have begun to describe the migrants as economic parasites and question foreign aid aimed at helping people cope with the drought in places where Jorge A. and Cortez come from.
  • a new Mexico-first movement, organizing thousands to march against immigrants
  • Trump had, as another senior government official told me, “held a gun to Mexico’s head,” demanding a crackdown at the Guatemalan border under threat of a 25% tariff on trade. Such a tax could break the back of Mexico’s economy overnight, and so López Obrador’s government immediately agreed to dispatch a new militarized force to the border.
  • laying blame at the feet of neoliberal economics, which he said had produced a “poverty factory” with no regional development policies to address it. It was the system — capitalism itself — that had abandoned human beings, not Mexico’s leaders. “We didn’t anticipate that the globalization of the economy, the globalization of the law … would have such a devastating effect,”
  • No policy, though, would be able to stop the forces — climate, increasingly, among them — that are pushing migrants from the south to breach Mexico’s borders, legally or illegally. So what happens when still more people — many millions more — float across the Suchiate River and land in Chiapas? Our model suggests that this is what is coming — that between now and 2050, nearly 9 million migrants will head for Mexico’s southern border, more than 300,000 of them because of climate change alone.
  • “If we are going to die anyway,” he said, “we might as well die trying to get to the United States.”
  • In the case of Addis Ababa, the World Bank suggests that in the second half of the century, many of the people who fled there will be forced to move again, leaving that city as local agriculture around it dries up.
  • Without a decent plan for housing, feeding and employing a growing number of climate refugees, cities on the receiving end of migration can never confidently pilot their own economic future.
  • The United States refused to join 164 other countries in signing a global migration treaty in 2018, the first such agreement to recognize climate as a cause of future displacement. At the same time, the U.S. is cutting off foreign aid — money for everything from water infrastructure to greenhouse agriculture — that has been proved to help starving families like Jorge A.’s in Guatemala produce food, and ultimately stay in their homes. Even those migrants who legally make their way into El Paso have been turned back, relegated to cramped and dangerous shelters in Juárez to wait for the hearings they are owed under law.
  • There is no more natural and fundamental adaptation to a changing climate than to migrate. It is the obvious progression the earliest Homo sapiens pursued out of Africa, and the same one the Mayans tried 1,200 years ago. As Lorenzo Guadagno at the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration told me recently, “Mobility is resilience.” Every policy choice that allows people the flexibility to decide for themselves where they live helps make them safer.
  • what may be the worst-case scenario: one in which America and the rest of the developed world refuse to welcome migrants but also fail to help them at home. As our model demonstrated, closing borders while stinting on development creates a somewhat counterintuitive population surge even as temperatures rise, trapping more and more people in places that are increasingly unsuited to human life
  • the global trend toward building walls could have a profound and lethal effect. Researchers suggest that the annual death toll, globally, from heat alone will eventually rise by 1.5 million. But in this scenario, untold more will also die from starvation, or in the conflicts that arise over tensions that food and water insecurity will bring
  • America’s demographic decline suggests that more immigrants would play a productive role here, but the nation would have to be willing to invest in preparing for that influx of people so that the population growth alone doesn’t overwhelm the places they move to, deepening divisions and exacerbating inequalities.
  • At the same time, the United States and other wealthy countries can help vulnerable people where they live, by funding development that modernizes agriculture and water infrastructure. A U.N. World Food Program effort to help farmers build irrigated greenhouses in El Salvador, for instance, has drastically reduced crop losses and improved farmers’ incomes. It can’t reverse climate change, but it can buy time.
  • Thus far, the United States has done very little at all. Even as the scientific consensus around climate change and climate migration builds, in some circles the topic has become taboo. This spring, after Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the explosive study estimating that, barring migration, one-third of the planet’s population may eventually live outside the traditional ecological niche for civilization, Marten Scheffer, one of the study’s authors, told me that he was asked to tone down some of his conclusions through the peer-review process and that he felt pushed to “understate” the implications in order to get the research published. The result: Migration is only superficially explored in the paper.
  • Our modeling and the consensus of academics point to the same bottom line: If societies respond aggressively to climate change and migration and increase their resilience to it, food production will be shored up, poverty reduced and international migration slowed — factors that could help the world remain more stable and more peaceful. If leaders take fewer actions against climate change, or more punitive ones against migrants, food insecurity will deepen, as will poverty. Populations will surge, and cross-border movement will be restricted, leading to greater suffering. Whatever actions governments take next — and when they do it — makes a difference.
  • The world can now expect that with every degree of temperature increase, roughly a billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years
  • “If we don’t develop a different attitude,” he said, “we’re going to be like people in the lifeboat, beating on those that are trying to climb in.”
Ed Webb

Cultural heritage and violence in the Middle East | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • According to reports of the activist Facebook group Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger, all six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been damaged, major museum collections at Homs and Hama have been looted, and dozens of ancient tells have been obliterated by shelling. In Iraq, recent media stories recount ISIS fighters’ use of antiquities to raise revenues. So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS. As devastating as this news is, Syria and Iraq are simply additional chapters in the long-running story wherein conflict is characterised by a two-fold assault on humanity: human bodies themselves as well as the objects and sites that people create and infuse with cultural meaning.
  • So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS.
  • Current scholarly discussion on the Armenian genocide, however, focuses almost exclusively on the human destruction, not taking into consideration the systematic annihilation of Armenian sites and monuments that has taken place since then
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  • The destruction of human communities is incomplete without cultural violence. This was the conclusion of lawyer and human rights advocate Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born jurist who coined the term “genocide” and fought successfully for its recognition by international legal bodies as a crime. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), he argued: By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group…[It signifies] a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. (Lemkin 1944: 80) Among the “essential foundations” of the life of human societies, Lemkin argued, were cultural sites, objects, and practices. The Holocaust galvanised his human rights work, but it was the tragic case of Turkish Armenians during the beginning decades of the twentieth century that served as the basis for Lemkin’s theory of genocide.
  • Also significant in this context was the systematic replacement of Armenian place names (on streets, buildings, neighbourhoods, towns, and villages) with Turkish names. The erasure of Armenians from collective memory was completed during the Turkish Republic; in their history textbooks, Turkish children hear nothing about Armenian culture or learn simply that they were enemies of the Turks.
  • the Turkish state and its governments have systematically removed all markers of the Armenians’ civilisation
  • This is cultural death, and it is especially dangerous because it legitimates the denial of diversity by authoritarian states and their societies.
  • Historical records document previous erasures of peoples and their culture: the Native Americans and First Nations of north America; the Mayas and Aztecs of Mesoamerica; and the Roman destruction of Carthage (north Africa), which some scholars point to as the earliest recorded organised genocide.
  • the harrowing plight of Syrian journalist Ali Mahmoud Othman, co-founder of Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger. Othman was arrested by government forces in March 2012 and has not been heard of since his televised “confession” in May 2012
  • Recurring Internet images of ISIS fighters beheading western men obscure the equally outrageous and horrific acts of sexual violence against women, torture of children, and destruction of homes, markets, churches, Shi’a mosques, and ancient monuments. All of this constitutes the challenging environment in which cultural activists must do their work.
  • Lemkin’s teachings still have something to say to us today: without monuments and cultural objects, social groups are atomised into disaffected, soulless individuals
Ed Webb

The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment | The New York Review of Books - 2 views

  • They had imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights. And in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to shed those values when it came to Israel.
  • For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead
  • Every country manifests some kind of ideological divide. But in contemporary Israel, the gulf is among the widest on earth
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  • while American Jewish groups claim that they are simply defending Israel from its foes, they are actually taking sides in a struggle within Israel between radically different Zionist visions
  • In 2006, Foxman called an Amnesty International report on Israeli killing of Lebanese civilians “bigoted, biased, and borderline anti-Semitic.” The Conference of Presidents has announced that “biased NGOs include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid, [and] Save the Children.” Last summer, an AIPAC spokesman declared that Human Rights Watch “has repeatedly demonstrated its anti-Israel bias.” When the Obama administration awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, the ADL and AIPAC both protested, citing the fact that she had presided over the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. (Early drafts of the conference report implicitly accused Israel of racism. Robinson helped expunge that defamatory charge, angering Syria and Iran.)
  • Hebrew University Professor Ze’ev Sternhell is an expert on fascism and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize. Commenting on Lieberman and the leaders of Shas in a recent Op-Ed in Haaretz, he wrote, “The last time politicians holding views similar to theirs were in power in post–World War II Western Europe was in Franco’s Spain.” With their blessing, “a crude and multifaceted campaign is being waged against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order.” Sternhell should know. In September 2008, he was injured when a settler set off a pipe bomb at his house.
  • Israel’s vice prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, called the anti-occupation group Peace Now a “virus.” This January, a right-wing group called Im Tirtzu accused Israeli human rights organizations of having fed information to the Goldstone Commission that investigated Israel’s Gaza war. A Knesset member from Netanyahu’s Likud promptly charged Naomi Chazan, head of the New Israel Fund, which supports some of those human rights groups, with treason, and a member of Lieberman’s party launched an investigation aimed at curbing foreign funding of Israeli NGOs.
  • by downplaying the significance of Avigdor Lieberman, the settlers, and Shas, American Jewish groups allow these older Zionists to continue to identify with that more internally cohesive, more innocent Israel of their youth, an Israel that now only exists in their memories
  • America’s Jewish leaders should think hard about that rally. Unless they change course, it portends the future: an American Zionist movement that does not even feign concern for Palestinian dignity and a broader American Jewish population that does not even feign concern for Israel.
  • In a more recent report on how to foster Zionism among America’s young, Luntz urges American Jewish groups to use the word “Arabs, not Palestinians,” since “the term ‘Palestinians’ evokes images of refugee camps, victims and oppression,” while “‘Arab’ says wealth, oil and Islam.”
  • In the world of AIPAC, the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about themselves. Many of Israel’s founders believed that with statehood, Jews would rightly be judged on the way they treated the non-Jews living under their dominion. “For the first time we shall be the majority living with a minority,” Knesset member Pinchas Lavon declared in 1948, “and we shall be called upon to provide an example and prove how Jews live with a minority.”
  • the dilemmas you face when you possess dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, and your adversary, however despicable, may acquire one, are not the dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto
  • a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth
Ed Webb

Exclusive: Ex-NSA cyberspies reveal how they helped hack foes of UAE - 0 views

  • Project Raven, a clandestine team that included more than a dozen former U.S. intelligence operatives recruited to help the United Arab Emirates engage in surveillance of other governments, militants and human rights activists critical of the monarchy.
  • in 2016, the Emiratis moved Project Raven to a UAE cybersecurity firm named DarkMatter. Before long, Stroud and other Americans involved in the effort say they saw the mission cross a red line: targeting fellow Americans for surveillance.
  • former U.S. government hackers have employed state-of-the-art cyber-espionage tools on behalf of a foreign intelligence service that spies on human rights activists, journalists and political rivals
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  • surveillance techniques taught by the NSA were central to the UAE’s efforts to monitor opponents
  • Various reports have highlighted the ongoing cyber arms race in the Middle East, as the Emirates and other nations attempt to sweep up hacking weapons and personnel faster than their rivals. The Reuters investigation is the first to reveal the existence of Project Raven, providing a rare inside account of state hacking operations usually shrouded in secrecy and denials.
  • While this activity raises ethical dilemmas, U.S. national security lawyers say the laws guiding what American intelligence contractors can do abroad are murky. Though it’s illegal to share classified information, there is no specific law that bars contractors from sharing more general spycraft knowhow, such as how to bait a target with a virus-laden email.
  • The hacking of Americans was a tightly held secret even within Raven, with those operations led by Emiratis instead. Stroud’s account of the targeting of Americans was confirmed by four other former operatives and in emails reviewed by Reuters.
  • Mansoor was convicted in a secret trial in 2017 of damaging the country’s unity and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He is now held in solitary confinement, his health declining, a person familiar with the matter said. Mansoor’s wife, Nadia, has lived in social isolation in Abu Dhabi. Neighbors are avoiding her out of fear security forces are watching. They are correct. By June 2017 Raven had tapped into her mobile device and given her the code name Purple Egret, program documents reviewed by Reuters show. To do so, Raven utilized a powerful new hacking tool called Karma, which allowed operatives to break into the iPhones of users around the world.
  • the UAE has been accused of suppressing free speech, detaining dissidents and other abuses by groups such as Human Rights Watch. The UAE says it is working closely with Washington to fight extremism “beyond the battlefield” and is promoting efforts to counter the “root causes” of radical violence. Raven’s targets eventually would include militants in Yemen, foreign adversaries such as Iran, Qatar and Turkey, and individuals who criticized the monarchy, said Stroud and eight other former Raven operatives. Their accounts were confirmed by hundreds of Raven program documents reviewed by Reuters.
  • “Some days it was hard to swallow, like [when you target] a 16-year-old kid on Twitter,” she said. “But it’s an intelligence mission, you are an intelligence operative. I never made it personal.”
  • the program took aim not just at terrorists and foreign government agencies, but also dissidents and human rights activists. The Emiratis categorized them as national security targets
  • Emirati security forces viewed human rights advocates as a major threat to “national stability,”
  • Reached by phone in London, Donaghy, now a graduate student pursuing Arab studies, expressed surprise he was considered a top national security target for five years. Donaghy confirmed he was targeted using the techniques described in the documents. “I’m glad my partner is sitting here as I talk on the phone because she wouldn’t believe it,” he said. Told the hackers were American mercenaries working for the UAE, Donaghy, a British citizen, expressed surprise and disgust. “It feels like a betrayal of the alliance we have,” he said.
  • Stroud had already made the switch from government employee to Booz Allen contractor, essentially performing the same NSA job at higher pay. Taking a job with CyberPoint would fulfill a lifelong dream of deploying to the Middle East and doing so at a lucrative salary. Many analysts, like Stroud, were paid more than $200,000 a year, and some managers received salaries and compensation above $400,000.
  • Karma was particularly potent because it did not require a target to click on any link to download malicious software. The operatives understood the hacking tool to rely on an undisclosed vulnerability in Apple’s iMessage text messaging software. In 2016 and 2017, it would be used against hundreds of targets across the Middle East and Europe, including governments of Qatar, Yemen, Iran and Turkey, documents show. Raven used Karma to hack an iPhone used by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as well as the phones of close associates and his brother.
  • Providing sensitive defense technologies or services to a foreign government generally requires special licenses from the U.S. State and Commerce Departments. Both agencies declined to comment on whether they issued such licenses to CyberPoint for its operations in the UAE. They added that human rights considerations figure into any such approvals.
  • But a 2014 State Department agreement with CyberPoint showed Washington understood the contractors were helping launch cyber surveillance operations for the UAE. The approval document explains CyberPoint’s contract is to work alongside NESA in the “protection of UAE sovereignty” through “collection of information from communications systems inside and outside the UAE” and “surveillance analysis.”
  • “It was incredible because there weren’t these limitations like there was at the NSA. There wasn’t that bullshit red tape,”
  • Under DarkMatter, Project Raven continued to operate in Abu Dhabi from the Villa, but pressure escalated for the program to become more aggressive. Before long, senior NESA officers were given more control over daily functions, former Raven operatives said, often leaving American managers out of the loop. By mid-2016, the Emirates had begun making an increasing number of sections of Raven hidden from the Americans still managing day-to-day operations. Soon, an “Emirate-eyes only” designation appeared for some hacking targets.
  • Stroud began searching a targeting request list usually limited to Raven’s Emirati staff, which she was still able to access because of her role as lead analyst. She saw that security forces had sought surveillance against two other Americans. When she questioned the apparent targeting of Americans, she received a rebuke from an Emirati colleague for accessing the targeting list, the emails show. The target requests she viewed were to be processed by “certain people. You are not one of them,” the Emirati officer wrote.
  • Days later, Stroud said she came upon three more American names on the hidden targeting queue.
  • occupations were listed: journalist
  • When Stroud kept raising questions, she said, she was put on leave by superiors, her phones and passport were taken, and she was escorted from the building. Stroud said it all happened so quickly she was unable to recall the names of the three U.S. journalists or other Americans she came across in the files. “I felt like one of those national security targets,” she said. “I’m stuck in the country, I’m being surveilled, I can’t leave.” After two months, Stroud was allowed to return to America. Soon after, she fished out the business card of the FBI agents who had confronted her at the airport. “I don’t think Americans should be doing this to other Americans,” she told Reuters. “I’m a spy, I get that. I’m an intelligence officer, but I’m not a bad one.”
Ed Webb

Simon Dalby, 400ppm: Anthropocene Geopolitics | Society and Space - Environment and Pla... - 1 views

  • Humanity is remaking the biosphere; producing the new natures in which the human future will play out. Hence the now widespread use of the term Anthropocene for the period of planetary history in which the dominant ecological force is humanity, or more precisely, fossil fueled industrial capitalist humanity.
  • Natural environments are no longer in any meaningful sense the given context for human existence; they are being remade by land use changes, urbanization and by both technologies and species moved and recombined in numerous artificial assemblages. Atlases with their designations of planetary biomes frequently need replacement with a dynamic cartography charting the changing “anthromes” that are the new terrestrial ecological patterns that matter.
  • Globalization now has to be understood as a process of material transformation quite as much as a matter of trade, culture and politics crossing frontiers. The processes whereby business decisions are made to produce particular products by using certain technologies is key to understanding the future of the planet; economic geography has become essential to geomorphology.
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  • The Westphalian political imaginary of separate competing territorial states is a spatial arrangement singularly unsuited to the collective tasks ahead, but it is the institutional context within which we have to act.
Erin Gold

U.N. Finds Signs of War Crimes on Both Sides in Gaza - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • A United Nations fact-finding mission investigating the three-week war in Gaza issued a lengthy, scathing report on Tuesday that concluded that both the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.
  • also concluded that neither Israel nor the Palestinian groups had carried out any “credible investigations” into the alleged violations.
  • did not change within six months
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  • possible prosecution
  • Israel reacted quickly, saying in a statement issued by its diplomatic mission in Geneva that it did not cooperate with the investigation but had opened many of its own
  • The report found the Palestinians at fault for rocket fire into southern Israel, which “caused terror in the affected communities of southern Israel as well as loss of life and physical and mental injury to civilians and damage to private houses, religious buildings and property.”
  • The report, the bulk of which focused on the Israeli violations, said that during the war, Israeli forces engaged in a deliberate policy of collective punishment in furtherance of “an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population”
  • also found that the Israeli forces used disproportionate force against the Palestinian civilian population. In a number of cases, it said, Israeli forces launched “direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcome,” even when the facts indicated no justifiable military objective.
  • “civilians were shot while they were trying to leave their homes to walk to a safer place, waving white flags and in some cases, following an injunction from the Israeli forces to do so.”
  • Israeli forces also intentionally attacked civilians in aiming a missile strike at a mosque during the early evening prayer
  • Palestinian armed groups, the group found, fired repeated rockets and mortars into southern Israel. By failing to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population, those actions also “constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity,”
  • Responding to Israeli allegations that Palestinian fighters used civilians as human shields, the panel found that Palestinian armed groups did launch rockets from urban areas
  • he mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants “mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack,” the report said
  • The mission was tasked by United Nations Human Rights Council in April to investigate all violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law that might have been committed during the conflict.
  •  
    We should probably discuss this later in the course when we get to Israel/Palestine. Thanks for bookmarking it.
Erin Gold

UN commissioner urges move forward on women's rights - The National Newspaper - 0 views

  • Women around the world are denied fundamental freedoms according to the UN’s human rights chief, citing in particular Sudan, Afghanistan and Gulf states.“Women’s rights continue to be curtailed in too many countries,” and efforts must be made to address this,
  • She highlighted recent positive developments in the Gulf, such as the election of nine women in 2006 to the UAE’s Federal National Council [FNC], the election of four women to the 50-member Kuwaiti parliament, and the recent appointment of the first female deputy minister in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.But, Ms Pillay said, the overall situation of women in the region “falls well short of international standards”.
  • South African legal expert, formerly the top judge on Rwanda’s war crimes tribunal, urged Gulf governments to adopt international conventions and reject home-grown laws that discriminate against women.“A crucial step in the right direction is the ratification and implementation of key human rights conventions, as well as the removal of the numerous reservations expressed by many Gulf countries regarding those human rights treaties they have chosen to accept,”
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  • She described “huge gaps” between the “lofty pledges” made by states and the realities of daily life for many of their inhabitants, pointing out that “no country in the world can claim to be free of human rights violations”.
  • All six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) have been censured for laws that block female nationals from passing on their nationality to their children if the father is a foreigner.
  • Saudi Arabia’s record comes under particular scrutiny, with activists criticising a ban on female drivers and a system of male guardianship that sharply curtails a woman’s right to travel and control her own life.
  • “We’ve raised several concerns about the situation for women in the Gulf, including a report on the system of guardianship in Saudi Arabia and the problems faced by female migrant workers,
  • Emirati and other Gulf envoys have proven responsive to such criticism at past council meetings.
  • Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign and FNC Affairs, acknowledged the UAE is “not a perfect society” and listed improving conditions for women as at the top of the Government’s agenda. He said limitations on Emirati women passing on citizenship to their children should be “reviewed and debated” with the focus on liberalising such laws.
Ed Webb

JDA - The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism - 1 views

  • The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism responds to “the IHRA Definition,” the document that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Because the IHRA Definition is unclear in key respects and widely open to different interpretations, it has caused confusion and generated controversy, hence weakening the fight against antisemitism. Noting that it calls itself “a working definition,” we have sought to improve on it by offering (a) a clearer core definition and (b) a coherent set of guidelines. We hope this will be helpful for monitoring and combating antisemitism, as well as for educational purposes. We propose our non-legally binding Declaration as an alternative to the IHRA Definition. Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool for interpreting it.
  • The IHRA Definition includes 11 “examples” of antisemitism, 7 of which focus on the State of Israel. While this puts undue emphasis on one arena, there is a widely-felt need for clarity on the limits of legitimate political speech and action concerning Zionism, Israel, and Palestine. Our aim is twofold: (1) to strengthen the fight against antisemitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested, (2) to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. We do not all share the same political views and we are not seeking to promote a partisan political agenda. Determining that a controversial view or action is not antisemitic implies neither that we endorse it nor that we do not.
  • The guidelines that focus on Israel-Palestine (numbers 6 to 15) should be taken together. In general, when applying the guidelines each should be read in the light of the others and always with a view to context. Context can include the intention behind an utterance, or a pattern of speech over time, or even the identity of the speaker, especially when the subject is Israel or Zionism. So, for example, hostility to Israel could be an expression of an antisemitic animus, or it could be a reaction to a human rights violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at the hands of the State. In short, judgement and sensitivity are needed in applying these guidelines to concrete situations.
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  • Definition Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).
  • B. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are antisemiticApplying the symbols, images and negative stereotypes of classical antisemitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.Holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are Jews, are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.
  • C. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are not antisemitic(whether or not one approves of the view or action)Supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights, as encapsulated in international law.Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism, or arguing for a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. It is not antisemitic to support arrangements that accord full equality to all inhabitants “between the river and the sea,” whether in two states, a binational state, unitary democratic state, federal state, or in whatever form.Evidence-based criticism of Israel as a state. This includes its institutions and founding principles. It also includes its policies and practices, domestic and abroad, such as the conduct of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, the role Israel plays in the region, or any other way in which, as a state, it influences events in the world. It is not antisemitic to point out systematic racial discrimination. In general, the same norms of debate that apply to other states and to other conflicts over national self-determination apply in the case of Israel and Palestine. Thus, even if contentious, it is not antisemitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid.Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.Political speech does not have to be measured, proportional, tempered, or reasonable to be protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments. Criticism that some may see as excessive or contentious, or as reflecting a “double standard,” is not, in and of itself, antisemitic. In general, the line between antisemitic and non-antisemitic speech is different from the line between unreasonable and reasonable speech.
Ed Webb

Modern-Day Slavery: The Public Markets Selling Young Girls for $14 | Fast Forward | OZY - 0 views

  • 16 Ugandans who’ve died in the Middle East over just the past year, according to a parliamentary panel report from April this year. These women — all of whom died unnatural deaths after complaining of abuse — are just the most extreme examples of a growing epidemic of an increasingly open, modern slave trade that starts in Uganda’s eastern region and culminates in closed rooms in Gulf nations.
  • Migrant workers from across Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia have for several years complained of abuse in the Middle East
  • Uganda has emerged as the theater of a double-barreled racket. At fast-spreading weekly markets, some women are promised jobs in the Gulf only to be sold once they get there, while others — many of them girls between the ages of 10 and 18 — are directly and publicly “bought” as slaves in Uganda and then resold in the Middle East, according to Ugandan authorities, Interpol, independent experts, legislators, victims and their families.
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  • more than 9,000 girls and young women are estimated to have been bought at these markets since last year — for as little as 50,000 shillings ($14), according to Betty Atim, a member of Parliament.
  • After 22-year-old Shivan Kihembo died in Oman in October — months after she had been sold there — her father, Patrick Mugume, was asked by his daughter’s “owners” for money if he wanted her body back.
  • migrant laborers from other African countries have suffered human rights violations — and not just in the Gulf but in Southeast Asia too — in recent years that have drawn comparisons with slavery. But what’s different with Uganda, experts say, is the openness with which women are being auctioned in markets alongside domestic animals and household goods.
  • Officially, Uganda has banned its citizens from seeking work in most Middle Eastern countries — barring Saudi Arabia and Jordan — because it doesn’t have any diplomatic agreements on workers’ rights with those nations, says Uganda’s minister of gender Janat Mukwaya.That ban, though, rarely works as a deterrent when there’s a promise of significant economic gain being dangled before the downtrodden, experts say. Uganda has a per capita income of $604, so Nambereke was promised three times what the average citizen earns. It’s also no surprise that the markets where illegal traffickers find women they can dupe or buy are predominantly in eastern Uganda. It’s a part of the country that has seen far lower poverty reduction than other regions, according to the World Bank, with electricity available to only 6 percent of families, compared to 32 percent in the country’s central region. To get around the ban, traffickers take the women across the border into Kenya after fixing up their passports, and then fly them to the Middle East.
  • Because they’re traveling to countries they’re barred from legally working in, even those women who initially went thinking they were getting employed are scared to try and reach out to authorities, experts say. And their host countries — in a region not known for its defense of human rights of migrants — have little incentive to prioritize concerns for these slaves over those of nations that legally send workers there. And so the slavery mounts — as do the deaths
  • Authorities are also recording cases of abuse from countries where Ugandans are legally allowed to work such as Jordan, Juliet Nakiyemba died at the age of 31 in October. A postmortem showed her kidneys had been removed prior to her death.
  • the government is passing the buck around and hasn’t been able to stop the practice. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello says the ministry of labor needs to act to arrest traffickers. Mugisha says the ministry of labor has asked local governments to step in with legal remedies. And the country’s labor commissioner, Lawrence Egulu, concedes that Uganda’s law against human trafficking is routinely violated but has no clear answer as to why the government hasn’t been able to put a stop to it.
  • Herbert Ariko, the MP of the eastern Uganda region where most of these slave markets are located, says he’s drafting a law aimed at enhancing the punishment for human traffickers — currently 15 years in prison. Nonprofits such as the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies are demanding that the government enter into worker-safety agreements with all Middle Eastern countries. The archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, is also critical of the government’s inaction. “The government should ensure that the rights of children are respected and the act of selling them in markets is brought to an end,” he says.
Ed Webb

At Banque Havilland, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Was Known as 'The Boss' - Bloomberg - 0 views

  • A trove of emails, documents and legal filings reviewed by Bloomberg News, as well as interviews with former insiders, reveal the extent of the services Rowland and his private bank provided to one of its biggest customers, Mohammed bin Zayed, better known as MBZ, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. Some of the work went beyond financial advice. It included scouting for deals in Zimbabwe, setting up a company to buy the image rights of players on the Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City Football Club and helping place the bank’s chairman at the time on the board of Human Rights Watch after it published reports critical of the Persian Gulf country.
  • a 2017 plan devised by the bank for an assault on the financial markets of Qatar, a country that had just been blockaded by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain for allegedly sponsoring terrorism
  • a coordinated attack to deplete Qatar’s foreign-exchange reserves and pauperize its government
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  • One of Rowland’s sons, a senior executive at the Luxembourg-based bank, emailed the plan to Will Tricks, who had swapped a career in the U.K.’s foreign intelligence service MI6 for a job advising MBZ. Tricks, who acted as a go-between for the Rowlands, was paid as a contractor by Banque Havilland. The presentation found its way to the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., who stored it on his computer under “Rowland Banque Havilland.”
  • Last year, Qatar sued Banque Havilland in London, accusing it of orchestrating a campaign that cost the country more than $40 billion to shore up its banks and defend its currency peg against the U.S. dollar. While the lawsuit has received attention in the media, the extent of other work Banque Havilland did on behalf of MBZ hasn’t been previously reported. Nor has the role of Tricks.
  • Havilland is facing a criminal investigation in Luxembourg for, among other things, its dealings with the family of another head of state, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. It has also had communications with regulators in Luxembourg and the U.K. about the Qatar plan
  • Devising a plan for economic sabotage, whether implemented or not, is beyond the remit of most private banks. But Banque Havilland is no ordinary financial institution. The firm specialized in doing things others might balk at, the documents and emails show. Its clients included kleptocrats and alleged criminals in corruption hotspots including Nigeria and Azerbaijan. Its owners solicited business in sanctioned countries such as North Korea and Zimbabwe.
  • Not all of its clients were pariahs, and none was as important as MBZ, people with knowledge of the matter say. The crown prince, 59, is one of the Arab world’s most powerful leaders. A graduate of Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he commands one of the best-equipped armies in the region and has waged wars in Yemen, Libya and Somalia. He’s not as well-known as his protégé and neighbor Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. And he isn’t president of the UAE, a title held by a half-brother.
  • When MBZ wanted to develop a foothold in southern Africa’s commodities market in 2011, Tricks worked with the Rowlands on sourcing potential investments, documents and emails show. They picked Zimbabwe as a hub for the region, but there was a problem. The country was subject to U.S. and European Union sanctions that banned dealings with President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle and many of its state-owned companies. Tricks passed on advice about setting up a trust in Abu Dhabi for any Zimbabwe deals to hide the identities of investors from the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees sanctions enforcement
  • the UAE is now a major trading partner with the country despite continuing U.S. sanctions, and it opened an embassy there in 2019
  • Robeson, the foundation’s chairman, was elected to the Human Rights Watch board a few months later, in April 2012. He was named to the advocacy group’s Middle East and North Africa advisory committee. “We have been given the complete list of projects currently being undertaken by Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa,” Robeson wrote soon after joining the board, in a memo he emailed to Jonathan Rowland that he asked him to share with his father. Robeson also said he’d been given detailed notes of a meeting between the group and Britain’s then-Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, along with other private briefings.
  • The foundation appears to have had no other purpose than making the Human Rights Watch donations. It was registered in Guernsey after the first gift and wound down when Robeson left the board in 2016.
  • Emma Daly, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch in New York, said the organization vetted Robeson at the time he was being considered for the board and couldn’t find any conflicts. She said the group didn’t know about Rowland’s or the bank’s connections to MBZ. Its most recent report on the country noted that, “Despite declaring 2019 the ‘Year of Tolerance,’ United Arab Emirates rulers showed no tolerance for any manner of peaceful dissent.”
  • The presentation is now a key part of the case in which Qatar accuses the bank of orchestrating an illegal UAE-backed campaign to create false impressions about the country’s stability. The UAE is not a defendant. The plan called for setting up an offshore vehicle into which the UAE would transfer its holdings of Qatari debt before buying more of the securities. The fund would also purchase foreign-exchange derivatives linked to the Qatari riyal and buy enough insurance on its bonds—a barometer of a country’s creditworthiness—to “move the price sufficiently to make it newsworthy.” Working with an affiliated party, it would then flood the market with the bonds to create the impression of panicked selling. The presentation also described a public relations drive to “add more fuel to the fire” and suggest Qatar might be struggling to access U.S. dollars.
  • Within weeks of the plan being sent to Tricks, the riyal—under pressure since the beginning of the blockade in June 2017—went into freefall and hit a record low. The yield on Qatar’s 10-year bonds also soared, as did the cost of insuring the country’s debt against default. The currency didn’t recover until November of that year, after the Intercept reported on the Banque Havilland plan.
Ed Webb

Alaa Abdel Fattah undergoes medical intervention by Egyptian authorities amid hunger st... - 0 views

  • The family of Alaa Abdel Fattah, the British Egyptian political prisoner on a hunger and water strike in prison, was informed by Egyptian officials Thursday that he has undergone “a medical intervention with the knowledge of a judicial authority,” they said.
  • The United States is a close ally of Egypt and provides more than $1 billion in military aid to the country each year, but has repeatedly criticized its human rights record. Abdel Fattah’s family has made repeated public appeals to the White House to intervene in the case.
  • Abdel Fattah, who is 40 and a once-prominent activist in the 2011 revolution, has been in and out of prison for the past decade on charges human rights groups decry as attempts to silence dissent. He was sentenced to five years in prison last year after he was found guilty of “spreading false news undermining national security.”
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  • His case has become a central topic at COP27 — especially after an Egyptian lawmaker confronted his younger sister, Sanaa Seif, at a news conference discussing his case.
  • a lawyer in Cairo has since filed a case against Seif, accusing her of “conspiring with foreign agencies hostile to the Egyptian state” and “spreading false news,” among other allegations. The filing alone does not ensure the case will be pursued, but the family said it amounts to an intimidation tactic after Seif’s outspoken support of her brother at the international conference, where Egypt hoped human rights issues would not take center stage.
  • the message #FreeAlaa has spread throughout the conference, garnering support from climate activists. On Thursday, some attendees dressed in white — the color of prison uniforms in Egypt — and gathered for a protest over climate justice and to express solidarity with political prisoners here.
  • The protests would be unthinkable anywhere in Egypt outside the U.N.-controlled zone at COP27 due to tight restrictions on public gatherings.
  • On Thursday, the siblings’ mother — who has waited outside each day this week for a letter from her son — was asked to leave the area of the Wadi el-Natrun prison complex outside Cairo where he is being held.The family’s lawyer, Khaled Ali, then announced on social media that he has been approved to visit Abdel Fattah and was on his way to the facility — his first visit since early 2020. When he arrived, he said, prison officials refused him entrance to the facility — saying the permission letter he received that morning was dated the day before.
  • The family, who last heard from him in a letter last week that he would stop drinking water on Sunday, has repeatedly warned that he could die before the conference ends next week. Seif said Wednesday that she does not know if he is still alive.
  • Several world leaders, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, raised his case directly with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi. Under the terms of his sentencing, the presidency is the only office with the authority to pardon him. But despite days of demands, his family has still not had proof of life or seen any indication he may be released.
  • U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Türk called on Egypt to immediately release Abdel Fattah. “No one should be detained for exercising their basic human rights or defending those of others,” he said. “I also encourage the authorities to revise all laws that restrict civic space and curtail the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.”
Ed Webb

The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama, by Tom Junod - Esquire - 0 views

  • "President Bush would never have been able to scale this up the way President Obama has because he wouldn't have had the trust of the public and the Congress and the international community," says the former administration official familiar with the targeting process. "That trust has been enabling."
  • It is only human to have faith in the "human intelligence" generated by the agents, operatives, and assets of the CIA. But that's the point: What's human is always only human, and often wrong. America invaded Iraq on the pretext of intelligence that was fallacious if not dishonest. It confidently asserted that the detainees in Guantánamo were the "worst of the worst" and left them to the devices of CIA interrogators before admitting that hundreds were hapless victims of circumstance and letting them go. You, Mr. President, do not have a Guantánamo. But you are making the same characterization of those you target that the Bush administration made of those it detained, based on the same sources. The difference is that all your sentences are final, and you will never let anybody go. To put it as simply as possible: Six hundred men have been released uncharged from Guantánamo since its inception, which amounts to an admission of a terrible mistake. What if they had never even been detained? What if, under the precepts of the Lethal Presidency, they had simply been killed?
  • Collateral damage used to be anyone killed who was not targeted. Now the term "collateral damage" applies only to women and children. "My understanding is that able-bodied males of military age are considered fair game," says the former administration official, "if they're in the proximity of a known militant."
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  • This is what Senator Carl Levin, who receives regular briefings on "clandestine activities" as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki: "My understanding is that there was adequate justification." How? "It was justified by the presence of a high-value target."This is what his aunt says about his death in an e-mail: "We were all afraid that Abdulrahman would get caught up in the turmoil in Yemen. However, none of us thought that Abdulrahman will face a danger from the sky. We thought that the American administration, the world leader and superpower will be far and wide from such cruelty. Some may say Abdulrahman was collateral damage; some said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We say that Abdulrahman was in his father's land and was dining under the moon light, it looked to him, us and the rest of the world to be the right time and place. He was not in a cave in Waziristan or Tora Bora, he was simply a kid enjoying his time in the country side. The ones that were in the wrong place and time were the American drones, nothing else."
  • You have been free to keep the American people safe by expanding the Lethal Presidency — by approving the expanded use of signature strikes in Yemen and by defying an edict of the Pakistani parliament and continuing drone strikes in Pakistan. You have even begun thinking of using the Lethal Presidency as an example for other countries that want Lethal Presidencies of their own.
  • the danger of the Lethal Presidency is that the precedent you establish is hardly ever the precedent you think you are establishing, and whenever you seem to be describing a program that is limited and temporary, you are really describing a program that is expansive and permanent. You are a very controlled man, and as Lethal President, it's natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidency. It's even natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidencies of other countries, simply by the power of your example. But the Lethal Presidency incorporates not just drone technology but a way of thinking about drone technology, and this way of thinking will be your ultimate export. You have anticipated the problem of proliferation. But an arms race involving drones would be very different from an arms race involving nuclear arms, because the message that spread with nuclear arms was that these weapons must never be used. The message that you are spreading with drones is that they must be — that using them amounts to nothing less than our moral duty.
Ed Webb

EU human rights envoy denied access to prisoners - Daily News Egypt - 0 views

  • EU Special Representative was turned away days after Ministry of Interior issued a statement welcoming prison visits from human rights representatives
  • Amid mounting allegations of torture inside prisons and places of detention, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement Tuesday welcoming requests from NGOs wishing to visit prisons.The ministry denies any wrong doing.
  • Lambrinidis met with Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Tuesday to discuss torture and detention conditions. He also addressed the “overpowering police response to protests” and the arrests of peaceful political activists, journalists and human rights defenders.
Ed Webb

Formula One reverses human rights stance in runup to Bahrain Grand Prix | Global Develo... - 1 views

  •  
    Bernie Ecclestone: "I keep asking people, 'What human rights?' - I don't know what they are. The rights are that people who live in the country abide by the laws of the country, whatever they are." I'm surprised Mr. Ecclestone would make such a statement given the violent government crackdown on protestors leading up to the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix. You'd think he'd at least have a financial interest in showing some concern for human rights issues.
Ed Webb

Liberal peace transitions: a rethink is urgent | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • It is widely accepted among those working in, or on, international organisations, from the UN to the EU, UNDP, NATO or the World Bank, that statebuilding offers a way out of contemporary conflicts around the world: local, civil, regional and international conflicts, as well as complex emergencies, and for developmental issues. Most policymakers, officials, scholars and commentators involved think that they are applying proven knowledge unbiased by cultural or historical proclivities to the conflicts of others. This is not the case.
  • The broader idea has been that liberal democratic and market reform will provide for regional stability, leading to state stability and individual prosperity. Underlying all of this is the idea that individuals should be enabled to develop a social contract with their state and with international peacebuilders. Instead - in an effort to make local elites reform quickly, particularly in the process of marketisation and economic structural adjustment - those very international peacebuilders have often ended up removing or postponing the democratic and human rights that citizens so desired, and which legitimated international intervention in the first place. A peace dividend has only emerged for political and economic elites: the vast bulk of populations in these many countries have failed to see much benefit from trickle-down economics, or indeed from democracy so far.
  • this liberal peace is itself in crisis now
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  • What began as a humanitarian project has turned into an insidious form of conversion and riot control which has had many casualties. It has been profoundly anti-democratic in many cases, including in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. From the ground, for many of its recipients, the various iterations of this liberal peace project have taken on a colonial appearance. It has become illiberal
  • local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests.
  • Talk of ‘human security’, ‘responsibility to protect’, ‘do no harm doctrines’ and ‘local ownership’ seems very empty from the perspective of most of the peoples these concepts have been visited upon. This in turn has often elicited from subject communities a 'post-colonial response', criticising peace interventions as self-interested, imperialistic, orientalist, and focusing on the interveners' interests rather than local interests. A local (transnational and transversal) attempt is under way to reclaim political agency and autonomy from the new post-Cold War 'civilising mission', which has over the last twenty years, shown itself unable to provide for basic needs, rights, security (state or human) at levels local actors expect, or to respect or understand local differences and non-liberal, and even non-state patterns of politics. Non-liberal and non-western forms of politics, economics, society, and custom, are clamouring for discursive and material space in many post-conflict zones, with mixed implications for sustainability and for the purpose of achieving a normatively (to liberals at least) and contextually acceptable, locally sustainable peace.
  • In some cases, as in Kosovo and Timor Leste this has led to a modified form of state emerging, heavily influenced by both liberal norms and local customs, practices, identities, and national agendas. Very difficult issues arise here for 'international planners' of peace and world order, not least in how they respond to such confrontations between very different political systems, customs, and agendas. But, it is also the case that synergies may arise, where these are sensitively handled and properly understood.
  • peace requires well-being via human needs stemming from rights defined by their contexts, (where context may mean local, customary, state, market, regional or international, not merely the 'local' it is often taken to mean). These contexts are of course connected to the ambit of liberal state and international institutions, but they are not defined by them. As a result, millions of people around the world do not have adequate rights or needs provision, nor proper access to representation, despite the best intentions of liberal peacebuilders.
  • To achieve this the ethically and methodologically dubious privatisation of security and peacebuilding and its connection to neoliberal marketisation strategies in the context of a classically sovereign state should be abandoned. The privatisation of peacebuilding means that no accountability is possible until after a specific development project has failed, and only then by refusing funding often to those who need it most. Such strategies have attracted to this sector a dangerous fringe of arrogant bureaucrats, 'ambulance chasers' and 'cowboys' rather than imbuing peacebuilding with the dynamics of grounded reconciliation.
  • democracy is rarely resisted other than by the most extreme of actors, but it is often criticized for being distant in outcome to local communities.
  • At the moment the impulse appears to be to illiberalise, to postpone democracy, to open markets further, and to depoliticise because a lack of local agency is seen to be the cause of these failures, rather than faulty international analytic and policy approaches and mistaken idealism.
Ed Webb

Bahraini military court imposes harsh sentences on dissenters | McClatchy - 0 views

  • Britain’s Foreign Office decried the outcome. “It is deeply worrying that civilians are being tried before tribunals chaired by a military judge, with reports of abuse in detention, lack of access to legal counsel and coerced confessions,” Minister Alistair Burt said. The U.S. State Department was more cautious, saying it was “concerned about the severity of the sentences handed down” and about the use of military courts to try civilians. Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s most outspoken human rights advocate, told McClatchy that all 21 people “were targeted for their opinions and their political views, for opposing government policy.” He said all “were tortured, many subject to electric shock, many sexually harassed and all were deprived of the normal access to lawyers and families.”
  • At least 31 people were killed in the violence on the island, and more confrontations seem likely after the sentencing, putting an enormous question mark over a national dialogue between government and opposition that's due to begin July 1.“These sentences today are another indication that the ruling family of Bahrain are completely non-serious about this dialogue,” said Joe Stork, who follows Bahrain closely for Human Rights Watch, the independent U.S. human rights watchdog group. “There are people (in this group) who represent a portion of the political spectrum. Their views should be represented.”Rajab, a one-man human rights watchdog in Bahrain, concurred. “A big part of the people who should be at the table have been sentenced to many years,” he said. “With whom will you have a dialogue?”
Ed Webb

They can't sail for Europe - so what's happening to migrants trapped in Libya? | Middle... - 0 views

  • the group were first taken to an official centre in Zawiya. “There were 1,200 of us, stacked in hundreds in each room,” she says. “We were so tight that we could not lie down, we had to take turns to sleep."
  • “Once we were inside the detention centre, they started to blackmail us. They used the phones they had taken away to contact our friends in Libya and ask for money in exchange for our release or else directly called our relatives, threatening to kill us if they did not find a way to send money."
  • Libya has become the preferred destination for migrants and refugees heading for Europe. In the first half of 2017, at least 2,030 people died or went missing while crossing the Mediterranean for southern Europe. The greatest number set off from Libya.
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  • armed Libyan groups are receiving payoffs to stop boats leaving Libya, in exchange for aid, aircraft hangars and money
  • Laura Thompson of the International Organisation for Migration told AFP on Wednesday that there “are somewhere around 31 or 32 detention centres, and around half are controlled by, or are in the areas controlled by, the government”. She said that nobody knew how many people were being kept in the facilities, where conditions were "extremely bad”.
  • illegal facilities, directly run by armed militias involved in human trafficking and fuel smuggling, often with the complicity of members of the coastguard service
  • Male captives are frequently beaten until they can somehow get relatives to send more money to Libya, or else set to work in factories or oil refineries. Women may end up being trafficked sexually.
  • a UNICEF report released in February, "detention centres run by militias are nothing but forced labour camps, armed robbery prisons. For thousands of migrant women and children, prison is a hell of rape, violence, sexual exploitation, hunger, and repeated abuses."
  • "Europeans think the problem in Libya is politics,” he says, “but we cannot build a government of national unity without a national army."
  • “When the centres are overflowing, migrants are taken out, there is no money to feed them all,” Ibrahim says. “Some guards are good people, but some of them are corrupt.”He hints at the tangled relationship which exists between centre personnel, smugglers, militia and human traffickers, which pass desperate migrants between themselves like a resaleable human commodity.The guards at detention centres may take money from the traffickers, then hand the migrants over.Or smugglers tip off the coastguard when their migrants are due to sail to Europe so that they will be captured and passed to militias.Or militias will seize migrants in the streets on the grounds that they do not carry the necessary documentation, a requirement in Libya. “They pretend to arrest illegal migrants and then keep them in their centres without food and water, take their money, exploit them, abuse women,” Ibrahim says.
  • The coastguard has repeatedly denied that its members are involved in the people-trafficking trade.But a UN report has found that:"Abuses against migrants were widely reported, including executions, torture and deprivation of food, water and access to sanitation. The International Organisation for Migration also reported enslavement of sub-Saharan migrants. Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in such grave human rights violations."
  • Happiness and Bright's mother - I am never told her name - took all the money that their families could spare, then crossed the Sahara, reached the Libyan coast and paid smugglers to take them to Europe. It was then they were captured and brought to Surman.Happiness says that her friend became ill after Bright was born but received no medical aid. “Now her body is in the nearby hospital. It can’t be sent back to her family. She lost her documents at sea, and her family does not have the money to send the corpse.”
  • “They use us as slaves, and when we are no longer needed, they throw us away,” he says. "Humanitarian organisations do not come here. Sometimes some locals come to us with soap and bread. But no international."
  • She too crossed the Sahara, this time to escape Boko Haram. She was determined that her children would not grow up afraid, fearing every day that they would die."I do not care if they [the coastguards] have stopped me, I will try again," she says, looking at her newborn children. "I know it's dangerous. Nigeria is also dangerous. If war does not kill you, hunger will kill you, and here we are prisoners, the same hell. It's worth trying to cross the sea again.”Princess has yet to learn: she will be lucky to escape Libya.
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