Monday, July 4, 2016

UN Security Council Condemns Attack on a Café in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The United Nations Security Council has joined an international chorus condemning the terrorist attack on a café in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, for which Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) has claimed responsibility. In a press statement, the Council “condemns the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack […], which resulted in more than 20 Bangladeshi nationals and foreigners, including development workers, killed and many injured.”

The 15-member body reaffirmed that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” underscoring the need for all States to combat such threats by all means.

The Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, urging all States to cooperate actively with all relevant authorities in this regard.

The Council also reiterated that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is “criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation and wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” and “should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization, or ethnic group.”

The Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, to the people and Government of Bangladesh, as well as peoples and Governments of foreign victims, wishing speedy and full recovery to those who were injured.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

July 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN General Assembly Adopts Resolution on the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, with the aim of security peace and prosperity for succeeding generations. The 15-page resolution, adopted by consensus, “calls upon Member States, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and subregional organizations to step up their efforts” to implement, in an integrated and balanced manner, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, an instrument adopted by the Assembly in 2006 to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism. The text also “reiterates its strong and unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes.”

The Assembly reviews the Strategy every two years, and the adoption of a new resolution came on the second and last day of the fifth review held at UN Headquarters in New York, on the tenth anniversary of the Strategy.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)


July 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Attack on Bangladesh is an Attack on Freedom

Senior United Nations officials have condemned the terrorist attack in a café in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka that reportedly killed 20 hostages over the weekend.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “condemns the terrorist attack” and “hopes that those behind this crime will be identified and brought to justice,” his spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Mr. Ban “stands firmly by Bangladesh as it confronts this threat and stresses the need to intensify regional and international efforts to prevent and combat terrorism.”The Secretary General also assured the Government that the UN is prepared to assist in efforts to prevent violent extremism in all its forms, the spokesperson said.

A condemnation also came from the UN tourism agency. “UNWTO [World Tourism Organization] strongly condemns the hideous attack perpetrated yesterday in a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh,” Taleb Rifai, the agency's Secretary-General, said in a statement. "This is not an attack on Bangladesh but is once again an attack on our way of life, an attack on freedom,” he added.

Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the UN General Assembly, also condemned the terrorist attack. “We must stand together again terror,” Mr. Lykketoft said. “This deadly and cowardly act must not go unpunished,” he said. Mr. Lykketoft said he hoped that the perpetrators of this crime would be identified and brought swiftly to justice.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), reiterated his solidarity with the Government of Bangladesh in its efforts to combat all forms of terrorism and violent extremism.

The UN officials all conveyed their heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of the victims, as well as the people and Government of Bangladesh.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

July 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Human Rights Council Approves independent Expert on Violence and Discrimination Against LGBT people

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to appoint an independent expert on protection from violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people. The Human Rights Council debated the issue for nearly four hours on Thursday before adopting a resolution to create the new post. Twenty-three Council members voted for the new position, 18 members against, and six abstained.

Speaking to reporters in New York, the UN spokesperson said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the move. “I can tell you that the Secretary-General believes that the Human Rights Council marked another important step forward when it decided to appoint a UN Independent Expert to monitor and report on levels of violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally,” said Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric. “It is clear that there’s still so much that needs to be done to protect people from violence, tackle discrimination at work, end bullying in schools and ensure access to healthcare, housing and essential services,” he added.

For the first time, work on this issue will be effectively institutionalized at the Human Rights Council and there will regular reporting on these issues through the Council and the General Assembly.

The expert, to be appointed in September for an initial 3-year term, will carry out country visits, take up individual allegations with Governments and work to support and protect human rights defenders.

The position will look at issues related to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, but not intersex.

(Adapted from a UN Press Relase

July 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Expresses Support for Turkey After Attack at Istanbul's Airport

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the terrorist attack at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. According to initial media reports, at least 28 people were killed in the attack and at least another were 60 wounded.

The UN chief stands firmly by Turkey as it confronts the threat of terrorism and stresses the need to intensify regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism.

The attack also drew condemnation and condolences from other parts of the UN system. In a statement, the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the attack, describing it as “a heinous and despicable crime.” He reiterated his solidarity with the Government and people of Turkey in their efforts to combat all forms of terrorism and violent extremism, and re-affirmed the commitment of the UNAOC to promote tolerance, understanding and peaceful dialogue.

In another statement, the head of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) also spoke out on the attack. "On behalf of the entire international tourism community, UNWTO conveys its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and expresses its full solidarity with the people and the Government of Turkey,” said UNWTO's Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. Mr. Rifai also noted that safety and security is a priority for the tourism sector and that the sector is being targeted as a pillar of the economy and livelihoods in many countries.

Later in the evening, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft expressed anger and grief over the attack. “Once again we experience the senseless killing of innocent and peaceful civilians. Once again we mourn the lives lost and sympathise with those left behind. The international community must – through much closer cooperation – redouble efforts to contain and fight radical and violent extremism,” he said.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

July 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sweden, Bolivia, Ethiopia, and Kazakhstan Elected to UN Security Council

The 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly have elected Sweden, Bolivia, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan to serve on the world body’s Security Council for a period of two years, starting from 1 January 2017.

After rounds of voting at UN Headquarters in New York last week, only one non-permanent Council seat remains to be filled. Italy and the Netherlands had been vying for the remaining seat, but the voting yielded no clear winner. The two countries then suggested sharing the two-year term, each with a one-year period, with a decision on this proposal postponed to Wednesday.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security, with all UN Member States required to comply with Council decisions. The Council’s 10 non-permanent seats are allocated according to a rotation pattern set by the Assembly in 1963, to ensure a proportionate representation over time from the different parts of the world: five from African and Asian States; one from Eastern Europe; two from Latin American States; and two from Western European and Other States.

The General Assembly members voted by secret ballot for five seats divided by geographical grouping – two from Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, two from the Western Europe and Others Group, and one from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bolivia and Ethiopia were chosen by their regional groups and had no competitors. Kazakhstan won the seat reserved for Asia Pacific against Thailand, while Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden had competed for two seats for Western Europe.

The newly-elected countries will replace Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Angola and Venezuela.

The Security Council has 15 members, including five permanent. The five permanent members, each with the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other current non-permanent members are Japan, Egypt, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.

The Security Council is also responsible for determining the existence of a threat against peace and to respond to an act of aggression. It is also responsible for finding peaceful means to settle a conflict or a dispute between States. In some cases, the Council can resort to sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary General and the admission of new Members to the United Nations.

(adapted from a UN press release)

July 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Save the Date: Central States Law Schools Scholarship Conference in September

The Central States Law Schools Association Scholarship Conference will be held on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks, North Dakota. CSLSA is an organization of law schools dedicated to providing a forum for conversation and collaboration among law school academics. The CSLSA Annual Conference is an opportunity for legal scholars, especially more junior scholars, to present working papers or finished articles on any law-related topic in a relaxed and supportive setting where junior and senior scholars from various disciplines are available to comment. More mature scholars have an opportunity to test new ideas in a less formal setting than is generally available for their work. Scholars from member and nonmember schools are invited to attend. 

Registration will open in July. Hotel rooms are already available, and more information about the CSLSA conference can be found on the conference website at
Hat tip to Christopher Odinet.

July 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Detention, Heavy Fines, and Alleged Torture for Artistic Expression in the Islamic Republic of Iran

UN human rights experts on cultural rights and on freedom of expression have expressed concern at the imprisonment and imposition of heavy fines against three artists in the Islamic Republic of Iran earlier this month and have called for their immediate release. In a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression , David Kaye said that the conviction and sentencing of artists is entirely unacceptable and is in complete violation of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law.

They have also called for all charges to be dropped.

The expert’s call has also been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.

Musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian were sentenced to six years in prison and fined 50 million Rials (about $1,658) each for “insulting Islamic sanctities,” “propaganda against the State,” and for “conducing illegal activities in the audiovisual affaires including through producing prohibited audiovisual material and performing an illegal and underground music site.” On appeal, the prison sentence was reduced to three years.

Use of torture is also alleged against Mr. Rajabian, founder of Barg Music, an alternative music distributor in Iran. Barg Music was the main medium broadcasting alternative music in the country and had introduced a large number of songs and Iranian alternative musicians, as well as female singers, to Iranian audiences. It shut down by Revolutionary Guards in 2013.

“We take note that the sentence of the artists was reduced by the appeals court,” Mr. Kaye said. “However, this verdict is still unacceptable: detaining someone on the grounds of ‘insulting the sacred’ and ‘propaganda against the State’ is incompatible with international human rights standards.”

Ms. Bennoune expressed “dismay” at the allegations that the artists were forced to make self-incriminating televised “confessions” to the charges of producing prohibited audiovisual materials, and apologize for broadcasting the voice of female singers. She said that the action of the authorities against the artists has serious repercussions for others in the country and that it results in unjustifiable restrictions on the right of all persons in Iran to have access to and enjoy the arts. “Artistic expression is simply not a crime,” Ms. Bennoune concluded.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

(UN Press Release)

June 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Following the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the United Nations looks forward to continuing to work with both “important partners.”

“The Secretary-General expects the European Union to continue to be a solid partner for the United Nations on development and humanitarian issues, as well as peace and security, including migration. He also expects that the United Kingdom will continue to exercise its leadership in many areas, including international development. He very much hopes that this will continue,” said a statement released by the office of Mr. Ban's spokesperson. “When we work together, we are stronger,” the statement also said.

In the statement, the Secretary-General said he has closely followed discussions surrounding the referendum in the UK, and that the vote to leave the EU came at the end of “intensive deliberations and rich discussions,” not just in the UK, but across Europe. “Now, as the United Kingdom and other EU Member States embark on the process of charting a way forward, the Secretary-General trusts in Europe's well-proven history of pragmatism and common responsibility in the interest of European citizens,” the statement said. “At the UN, we look forward to continuing our work with the United Kingdom and the European Union – both important partners,” the Secretary-General also said in the statement.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

Meanwhile, in the United States, the U.S. television news agency Fox News erroneously reported the that United Kingdom had voted to leave the United Nations.



June 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Security Council Condemns North Korea's Launch of Ballistic Missles

The United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned the ballistic missile launches conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 21 June, noting that these repeated acts are in grave violation of obligations under the relevant resolutions adopted by the Security Council.

In a statement issued to the press, the Council deplored that these activities contribute to the development of the country’s nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension, and regretted that DPRK is diverting resources to the pursuit of ballistic missiles while its citizens have great unmet needs. Expressing serious concern that DPRK flagrantly disregarded the body’s repeated calls, the Council urged the country to refrain from further actions, including nuclear tests, that violate the relevant Council resolutions.

The Council called upon all Member States to redouble their efforts to implement fully the sanctions imposed on the DPRK by the Council, especially the measures set out in its most recent resolution.

Reiterating the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in North-East Asia at large, the Council agreed to continue monitoring the situation closely and take further significant measures in line with its previously expressed determination.

The text of the UN Security Council Resolution will be available on the Security Council's website.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)


June 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colombia Signs Ceasefire Agreement with FARC-EP

The Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) have signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement and laying down of weapons.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the historic event as an exemplary implementation of peace. “On this day, in a world beset by seemingly intractable wars, the peace process in Colombia delivers on a key commitment: an agreement on a ceasefire and the laying down of weapons,” the Secretary-General said. “Today the Colombian peace process validates the perseverance of all those around the world who work to end violent conflict not through the destruction of the adversary, but through the patient search for compromise,” he added.

Since 2012, the FARC and the Colombian Government have been in talks hosted in Havana, Cuba, seeking to end a 51-year conflict. Throughout the discussions, negotiators have reached agreement on key issues such as political participation, land rights, illicit drugs and victims’ rights and transitional justice.

Mr. Ban expressed admiration for the negotiating teams, which he said have demonstrated that it is possible to “achieve peace with dignity for all concerned.”

“They have overcome tense moments and challenging issues to arrive at an historic achievement,” he stressed.

Congratulating the Governments of Cuba and Norway for devoting “considerable diplomatic skills” to the peace process, the Secretary-General said that they, together with the accompanying countries, Chile and Venezuela, have shown how national peace efforts can be supported faithfully, discreetly and effectively. He also recalled that six months ago, the UN Security Council and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) had responded to the call of the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP, and made a commitment to support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the laying down of weapons.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)


June 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Human Rights Experts Highlight Need to Protect LGBTI People from Violence and Torture in Detention

Ahead of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (Sunday, June 26, 2016), UN human rights experts highlighted the lack of policies and methods to recognise people’s self-identified gender, and the need to carry out proper risk assessments in order to protect LGBTI people from stigmatization and violence in detention.

In a joint statement, the Chair of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the Chair of the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture called on Member States to redouble their efforts to prevent the ill-treatment and torture faced by LGBTI people in places of detention.

Underscoring the risk of torture and ill-treatment that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons are at, particularly where they may be deprived of their liberty, Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture, said “The Committee is striving to protect LGBTI people from being forcibly sent back to countries where, based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, they may face torture, criminalization, detention, ill-treatment and even murder.”

“For transgender women and men, for example, it is often a situation of complete abandonment, resulting in some transgender women being placed in male-only prisons, where they are exposed to a high risk of rape, often with the complicity of prison personnel,” said Sir Malcolm Evans, Chair of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. In its ninth annual report, the Subcommittee identified measures for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI people in detention.

Drawing the attention of countries to their obligations under international human rights law and standards, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez said, “LGBTI people are often stigmatized and dehumanized, leaving them particularly vulnerable to violence and ill-treatment, that in many cases amounts to torture.”

“Breaking the silence on torture and ill-treatment endured by LGBTI people is critical,” said Gaby Oré Aguilar, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the UN Fund for Victims of Torture, calling for increased support for the rehabilitation of victims, including LGBTI people. “The UN Fund for Victims of Torture thus supports programmes providing specialized assistance to LGBTI victims of torture,” added Ms. Aguilar.

“It is crucial that LGBTI people are fully involved in discussions and decisions concerning how detention systems can respond most effectively to their needs and respect their human rights,” the experts stressed.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)


June 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thailand to Vote on New Constitution on August 7th; U.N. Secretary General Express Support for Thailand's Return to Democracy

In a telephone call with the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reaffirmed the UN’s readiness to support Thailand as the country prepares to vote on a final draft Constitution.

“The Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s readiness to support Thailand during this critical juncture to facilitate a swift return to democracy,” said a statement released by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

Referring to reports about restrictions on the freedoms of expression, opinion and assembly ahead of the 7 August referendum on the draft Constitution, the Secretary-General stressed that an open and inclusive debate would be essential to ensuring the legitimacy of the constitution and achieving national unity, according to the statement.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

June 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bahrain Urged to Respect Freedom of Peaceful Assembly; Human Rights Defenders Arrested Again

Noting the new protests and increased tensions in Bahrain triggered by the revocation of the citizenship of a prominent Shia religious leader, a senior United Nations human rights advisor called on the Government to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is fully respected and that any response to the protests is in accordance with the country’s obligations under international human rights law. Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide also called on the protestors to exercise their rights peacefully and to avoid any act of violence, as well as on all decision-makers, in the country and at the regional level, political parties and groups, military, religious, tribal and community leaders to exercise restraint and to take all possible measures to prevent the further increase of tensions.

According to a statement by his office yesterday, the Special Adviser noted that the 20 June action by the Interior Ministry of Bahrain to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Issa Qassem, a Shia religious leader, is the latest in a series of actions by the authorities in recent weeks that have further restricted space for public participation and the enjoyment of human rights in the country.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed concerns at crackdown on human rights and political opposition groups including the action against the Shia religious leader, the re-arrest of Nabil Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, the dissolution of Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest opposition political grouping, the interrogation of five Shia clerics, and the travel bans on a number of human rights defenders. Moreover, on 16 June, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern at the situation in the country and noted that such actions by the State authorities could potentially damage the human rights situation in the country as well as undermine the reforms undertaken by King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa.

In his view, Mr. Dieng said, “the country and the region are facing a critical moment. It is now even more crucial for the authorities and for all relevant parties to recommit to an inclusive national dialogue in the interest of all people of Bahrain.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

June 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

International Criminal Court Sentences former Congolese Vice President to 18 Years Imprisonment for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in the Central Africal Republic

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced the former Congolese Vice-President, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, to 18 years of imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.

In a ruling issued in March, the United Nations-backed ICC had found Mr. Bemba guilty beyond reasonable doubt as a military commander responsible for two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

Mr. Bemba had been the commander-in-chief of the former Congolese rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, as well as a vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the 2003-2006 transition.

ICC Trial Chamber III delivered the sentence today in an open hearing, where Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner read a summary of the decision.

Ms. Steiner indicated that the Chamber found the crimes of murder, rape, and pillaging to be of “serious gravity,” the ICC said in a press release.

The Chamber also found that two aggravating circumstances applied to the crime of rape: it was committed against particularly defenceless victims, and with particular cruelty.

In addition, the Chamber found that one aggravating circumstance applied to the crime of pillaging, which the majority of the Chamber considered to be the particular cruelty with which the crime was committed.

The Chamber further found that Mr. Bemba’s culpable conduct was of serious gravity. Lastly, the Chamber was satisfied that no mitigating circumstances existed in the case, the ICC said.

In light of his conviction, Mr. Bemba was sentenced to the following terms of imprisonment: 16 years of imprisonment for murder as a war crime; 16 years of imprisonment for murder as a crime against humanity; 18 years of imprisonment for rape as a war crime; 18 years of imprisonment for rape as a crime against humanity; and 16 years of imprisonment for pillaging as a war crime.

The Chamber considered that the highest sentence imposed, namely, 18 years for rape, reflected the totality of Mr. Bemba’s culpability, and decided that the sentences imposed shall run concurrently.

The entire time Mr. Bemba has spent in detention in accordance with an order of the ICC, since 24 May 2008, will be deducted from his sentence.

The ICC also noted that the prosecution and the defence may appeal the sentence on the grounds of disproportion between the crime and the sentence.

Further, the ICC said that the issue of reparations to victims under article 75 of the Rome Statute will be addressed in due course.

The ICC Trial Chamber III is composed of Ms. Steiner (Brazil), Judge Joyce Aluoch (Kenya) and Judge Kuniko Ozaki (Japan).

(UN Press Release)

June 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 20, 2016

World Refugee Day 2016

320-WRDIn light of the current refugee crisis, we could not let this day pass without recognizing World Refugee Day.  In honor of this day, here are a few United Nations resources - pictures, stories, and appeals for help - that tell this sad story far better than we could.

Sign the petition to show that you stand with refugees or make a donation at United Nations Refugee Day Website.

To learn more about the record high 65 MILLION men, women and children who have been driven from their homes due to conflict and persecution, visit the UN High Commissioner for Refugees website.  According to the UNHCR, 24 persons are displaced from their home every minute due to conflict and persecution. 16 million qualify as refugees due to persecution.



June 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community

The U.S. Supreme Court has just issued its 4-3 decision in RJR Nabisco Inc. v. European Community, No. 15-138 (June 20, 2016), on the question of whether Congress intended to provide a cause of action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") for injuries suffered outside the United States. Here's a link to the decision reversing the Court of Appeals. Justice Alito wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Thomas. Justice Ginsburg concurred in part, dissented in part, and dissented from the judgment. She was joined by Justices Breyer and Kagan. Justice Sotomayor took no part in this decision.


June 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Myanmar Urged to End Human Rights Violations Against Minority Communities

Issuing a new report on the situation of minorities in Myanmar, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has urged the Government to take concrete steps to end the “systemic discrimination” and ongoing human rights violations against minority communities, particularly the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

The report requested by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2015, documents a wide range of rights violations, including arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, denial of rights to health and education, forced labour, sexual violence, and limitations to political rights. It also notes that for those formally charged, fair trial guarantees are often not respected.

The report also raises the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity Among the report’s findings is that in northern Rakhine state, ‘arbitrary arrest and detention of Rohingya remains widespread. Arrests are often carried out without grounds, formal processing or charges, until release is secured by payment of a bribe. For those formally charged, fair trial guarantees are often not respected.’

Rakhine has one of the lowest literacy rates in the country, and non-citizens, including Rohingya, are excluded from studying certain professions including medicine, economics and engineering. Some 30,000 Muslim children in IDP camps depend on temporary learning spaces supported by humanitarian organizations. “The consequences of lost years of education are devastating for future livelihood opportunities and the ability of Rohingya and Kaman youth to contribute to Myanmar’s development,” the report states.

According to a news release issued by the his Office (OHCHR), Mr. Zeid said Myanmar’s new Government had inherited the situation where laws and policies are in place that are designed to deny fundamental rights to the minorities and where impunity for serious violations has encouraged further violence against them.

Noting that it will “not be easy to reverse such entrenched discrimination,” he urged the Government to accord priority to halt ongoing violations and prevent further ones taking place.

Mr. Zeid further noted the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement last year as both a significant step and also a starting point. He called on the authorities to initiate a comprehensive programme of legal and policy measures to address the scope and pattern of violations against such communities. Acknowledging the complexity of the situation, he added: “We stand ready to support the Government of Myanmar in ensuring a successful transition to a society based firmly on the rule of law and the protection of human rights for all.”

The report outlines human rights violations and abuses against other minorities, including in the context of armed conflict. These include deliberate targeting of and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, use of child soldiers, forced labour, sexual and gender-based violence, violations of housing, land and property rights, and restrictions on freedom of religion or belief.

It also calls for a comprehensive inquiry into the situation of minorities in Myanmar, and independent investigations into all alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including those committed by law enforcement officers.

The report also notes that Government has taken some initial steps, including creating a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs, proposing a national peace conference, and establishing a central committee on the implementation of peace, stability and development of Rakhine state.

(UN Press Release)

June 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

European Islamophobia Conference Convenes in Sarajevo

The first European Islamophobia Summit will convene June 24-26, 2016 in Sarajevo, Bosnia, bringing together participants from 17 European nations and different faith communities. Confirmed participants include:

  • former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,
  • Chairman of Bosnia’s Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic,
  • Founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Bernard Kouchner,
  • international media anchor, Mehdi Hassan and
  • the Grand Mufti of Sarajevo, Husein Kavazovic.

Key outputs to come from the Summit will include the following:

  • Establish best policy practices to combat Islamophobia from across European countries - delivered by leading international academics. These will be compiled into a report that is made available to European policy-makers after the Summit.
  • Deliver country-specific case studies on the extent of Islamophobia and suggested approaches to tackling it across 17 European nations.
  • An inter-faith Ramadan Iftar dinner that will convene over 400 guests in Sarajevo’s Bašcarsija (old bazaar and cultural centre).
  • A panel discussion on how communities can work together to combat different forms of prejudice and bigotry.
  • The signing of a joint Istanbul-Sarajevo Declaration on Islamophobia, reflecting a renewed commitment and effort to tackling anti-Muslim hate crime and bigotry by both cities.

Other confirmed summit participants include:

  • Civil society organisations such as British counter-racism group, Hope Not Hate, the European Forum of Muslim Womenand Turkish Think-Tank SETA.
  • Political figures including Member of the European Parliament, Afzal Khan and British MP, Naz Shah;
  • Civil society figures including American female basketball player,Indira Kaljoand creator of Islamic super-heroes comic The 99’, Naif Al Mutawa;
  • Academic figures including George Town University Research Director, Nathan Lean, and senior Berkley University lecturer, Hatem Bazian.

The European Islamophobia Summit was founded to address the manifold increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and hate crime across Europe, including in France, Spain and Britain – particularly in light of the refugee crisis and terror attacks like those that recently took place in Orlando. The Summit will also focus on combatting the increased mainstreaming of Islamophobia and racism in political discourse, which has led to the 

Academic Advisor to the Summit, Dr. Farid Hafez of Salzburg University said “Islamophobia represents a major challenge to European democracy, freedoms and its values of tolerance and pluralism.” He also said that: “Against the backdrop of calls by US Presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the USA and Hungary’s Prime Minister and upcoming EU President and Slovak Prime Minister both stating Islam has no place in their countries, the need for a Summit uniting political, academic, media and civil society leaders against Islamophobia is timelier than ever.”

In response to recent terror attack on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Muddassar Ahmed, a member of the European Islamophobia Summit Advisory Panel and Patron of the Faiths Forum for London said: “The European Islamophobia Summit condemns the recent horrific attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando and offers its deepest condolences and thoughts to the families of the victims.”

“The recent killing of British MP, Jo Cox, is yet another reminder of how damaging the effects of hateful and divisive rhetoric can be.”

“All forms of bigotry and prejudice are abhorrent and share the same pernicious structure. This is why at the European Islamophobia Summit, we will discuss fostering cross-community unity against not just Islamophobia, but all forms of prejudice and bigotry.” He also added that “the choice of Sarajevo, Bosnia as the location for the first European Islamophobia Summit is notable because Bosnia’s history is an example of what can happen when anti-Muslim and racist rhetoric goes unabated. Not far from Sarajevo in Srebrenica, the 21st anniversary of the massacre of 8000 Muslims will be commemorated just days after the European Islamophobia Summit.”

Summit moderator and Director of Development at the Center for Global Policy, Haroon Moghul, said “Counter-Islamophobia efforts are crucial to counter-extremism efforts. ISIS attacks intend to divide western societies by establishing the ‘grey zone’; the destruction of peaceful co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims. An Islamophobic reaction is precisely what ISIS terrorists and Far-Right Islamophobic activists hope for in order to realise their clash of civilisations narratives.”

“In addition to protecting the rights of innocent people, this is yet another reason for why the west must remain vigilant against Islamophobic backlash and why the efforts of the European Islamophobia Summit are so important and timely.” 

The European Islamophobia Summit will take place across various Sarajevo landmarks including the Sarajevo National Library (within Sarajevo’s City Hall), the Sarajevo National Theatre and Sarajevo’s old bazaar. The summit will be held in partnership with the city Government of Sarajevo.

(Adapted from a press release from the Islamophobia Summit.)

June 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More than 83,000 People Have Fled Fallujah

More than 83,000 people have fled the besieged city of Fallujah and surrounding areas as of this past Saturday, and thousands more could still be on the move amid ongoing fighting, the United Nations relief wing has reported. In a humanitarian update, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlighted that since military operations led by Iraqi security forces to retake Fallujah in Anbar from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) began on 22 May, people have fled Fallujah in rapidly increasing numbers.

Most people initially fled outlying areas of Fallujah, but on 7 June, reports were received of some families leaving Fallujah city itself, as military operations began to enter the city centre. In the past few days, tens of thousands of people have been allowed to leave the centre of town, OCHA said. “The sudden increase in displacement in early June follows both increased opportunities for families to flee as well as hundreds of other families demonstrating a willingness to take extremely high risks to try to escape, sometimes with grave consequences,” OCHA noted in the bulletin.

There are reports of people drowning as they tried to escape, or being injured or killed by snipers or improvised explosive devices. Many families are separated during their escape, with men and teenage boys being separated from their families for security screening, OCHA said. The families still trapped inside Fallujah are thought to have only limited, if any, food, and there appear to be few sources of safe drinking water. The risk for disease outbreaks is high, OCHA noted.

While it is not clear how many civilians remain in the city, OCHA said that UN estimates indicate there could still be thousands of families. “Nothing is more important than ensuring that civilians are protected and have access to life-saving assistance. The UN and partners continue to call on all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law,” OCHA said in the update.

Emergency response is ongoing in multiple locations

Most displaced people from Fallujah have been taken to Ameriyat al Falluja, a town located about 30 kilometres south of the city, where the Government of Iraq and partners had previously prepared tents as well as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. These camps are now full, although the Government and humanitarian partners are working to quickly set up others, including in the nearby towns of Khalidiyah and Habbaniyah Tourist City, OCHA said. People are also fleeing areas north of Fallujah towards the east, and are being hosted in local schools and in the Al Ahal camp.

OCHA said that major efforts are being made to provide emergency assistance to the newly displaced, including shelter, water, food, basic household items and health care. Specialized activities for children and women are being established and mobile teams are providing psychological support.

The UN has not been able to access Fallujah since it came under the control of armed opposition groups in January 2014. Humanitarian partners have worked with about 50,000 civilians remaining in Fallujah, although OCHA stressed that the number of displaced people is well above that planning figure and that the scope of the crisis has outpaced humanitarian capacity. “Contingency stocks are nearly depleted, every agency requires funds and there are few frontline partners,” OCHA stressed. “With rising temperatures and lack of shade and clean drinking water, outbreaks of communicable diseases are likely.”

OCHA also emphasized that there is only limited support for newborn babies, and nearly all of the children who have been outside Government control have not yet been immunized. The low level of antigens, coupled with poor hygiene and substandard sanitation, raises the risk of disease outbreaks further.

Before the most recent military operation, more than 75,000 displaced people from other locations within Anbar were already residing in camps near Fallujah in Khalidiyah, Habbaniyah and Ameriyat al Falluja. Humanitarian partners also continue to provide emergency assistance to other conflict-affected people, including in the transit sites Al Wafaa and Kilo 18 in western Anbar, OCHA said.

(Adapted from a UN press release)


June 20, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)