2016 review Human rights

From the ‘forgotten to publish’ material, written on March 2017

After 2015 brought court sentences to some human traffickers and Great Britain voted to exit the EU it did not end the traffic.

Police carry out spot checks for human trafficking along roads in West Flanders – ©Kurt Desplenter/BELGA

A court in Leuven heard how a gang organised 61 transports between October of 2014 and January 2015. In Autumn 2015 it sentenced a gang of 11 human traffickers to a total of 31 years in prison, with fines amounting to €942,000. The men were charged with smuggling 157 illegal immigrants and received a fine of €6,000 for each case.

In 2015 the Belgian federal government had again increased the number of places available for refugees who had not yet been processed by the Immigration Office, as the stream of asylum-seekers arriving in Belgium continued unabated, but by July 2016 it looked that the refugees declined and many more where returned to their home country after the increased security checks.

More than 20 years after Johan Leman, a well-known social worker, warned Brussels that Molenbeek would become a hotbed for disgruntlement, Belgium had to face the logistics base for IS terrorists, a place to hide and to arm themselves.

Following the attacks in Paris and Brussels Prime minister Charles Michel presented the federal government’s package of anti-terrorism measures which touch on four areas and more work was done to do a thoroughly search in Molenbeek, known as the Jihadi capital of Europe.

Hate speech and incitements to violence should not be taken lightly, said Michel, and websites carrying such messages will be taken down. Mosques with no official recognition where going to be closed and the training of imams more closely monitored, but by the middle of the year 2016 not so much had changed yet. Those preaching messages of hate and violence can be imprisoned or deported and this got less people preaching hate on the streets and asking to go to Syria to defend the Muslims faith.

Those who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight on the side of radical groups like IS were better followed and some got imprisoned on their return to Belgium. Those who are considered at risk of becoming jihadi fighters could be fitted with an electronic ankle-band to allow their movements to be monitored but this proved to no use really as in France a youngster still could kill a priest after having taken 5 people hostage in church.

A large part of the budget goes to spending on police and the justice system. The first part of 2016 everywhere in the bigger cities everywhere could be seen soldiers and at the Brussels Airport they were everywhere and tents were provided to do a pre-screening before the passengers could come into the airport. Police was also  supplied with number-plate scanners and new technology for phone-tapping and camera surveillance. At last the police could invade houses at any time of the day and had received the power to carry out search warrants around the clock, while the time allowed for a suspect to be detained without being brought before a court was extended from 24 to 72 hours.

Nine municipalities were to receive part of the €568,000 granted to help them tackle the problem of radicalisation among young people and could each appoint an official to co-ordinate the campaign against radicalisation.

Whilst home affairs minister Jan Jambon has announced he has a “global plan” for tackling terrorism, following his promise in the early days of the post-Paris crisis to “clean up Molenbeek” early in 2016 the Privacy Commission has criticised a new database of terrorist suspects and extremists, part of a package of measures agreed by the government two at the beginning of the year. The federal home affairs and justice ministers had asked the commission for advice.

According to the commission, too many services are to be allowed access to the database, with no clear indication of the limits to be applied to each service on what information it is able to consult or add to. The database also overlaps significantly with other existing systems, and no official has been designated as responsible for its overall upkeep, who would be consulted by the commission in the case of disputes.

The commission also criticised the fact that the database is being introduced as an amendment to the law on the police service, which it describes as “very strange”, since the database will be open to not only the police but also the risk analysis office, the state security service, military intelligence, the prosecutors’ offices, the penal establishment, customs, the service for foreigners and the agency charged with tackling money laundering.

The commission concludes by giving a positive advice on the general principle of the database. Bart Tommelein, secretary of state for privacy matters, will review the legislative proposal to see where it can be corrected.

In July there was a debate for suspending the oath of secrecy for social workers. It would be better if they could give signals when they notice some of the people they are helping or paying for are radicalising or active in certain domains which could endanger other citizens.

After the problems several women had at the end of year celebrations, mostly from asylum seekers, Germany and Belgium asked their citizens to report any form of abuse.   Federal home affairs minister Jambon in response to a series of MPs seeking information on the government’s reaction to events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, called on women who have suffered sexual intimidation or violence to come forward and report the offence, to allow the authorities to take effective action.

More than 500 crimes were committed in the city, 40% of them sexual assaults by asylum seekers and other men of foreign descent. The attacks have sparked a wave of debates across Europe as to the cultural situation of the refugee crisis.

“Sexual violence is not acceptable, never was acceptable and never will be,”

said Jambon.

“The equality between men and women is one of our society’s fundamental values, and no one can call that into question.”

The protection of personal integrity will be a priority in the government’s security plan, he told MPs, which means it will be granted increased police personnel and resources. Reporting all offences is important, he said, to allow the extent of the situation to be better evaluated.

“That will allow us to bring that dark number into the light – the only way police services and others involved can take effective action.”

That the public was more alert and took care to protect others was shown at the Sfinks Mixed festival (Boechout) in Summer when 25 asylum seekers were detained by police, after they were alarmed by festival visitors.

In 2016 the European Parliament, having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other UN human rights instruments, having regard to the Geneva Conventions and other legal instruments on international humanitarian law (IHL) and to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court had now to react to the Council conclusions of 10-11 December 2015 on the World Humanitarian Summit preparatory process, and to the Updated European Union Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law.

Since the Yemen uprising providing a wave of pro-democracy protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, unseating leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and leading to sustained unrest in other countries, including Libya, Syria, and Bahrain, instead of bringing a better world to the inhabitants of those countries they got worse conditions than under their dictatorial leaders.

Yemeni President Hadi Before Bilateral Meeting in Saudi Arabia.jpg

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, Yemeni Field Marshal and politician, President of Yemen since 27 February 2012

The humanitarian situation in Yemen, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of nine states intervening in the Yemen conflict in support of President Hadi’s internationally recognized government launching a campaign of air strikes on areas controlled or contested by Houthis (or Huthis) and their allies, including Sana’a and Sa’da governorate, having sent ground troops into southern Yemen and having imposed a sea and air blockade, while many coalition attacks were directed at military targets, others were indiscriminate, disproportionate or directed against civilian homes and infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, markets and factories, as well as vehicles carrying civilians and humanitarian assistance, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. By the end of the year 2015, the conflict had caused the deaths of more than 2,700 civilians, including hundreds of children, according to the UN, and the forcible displacement of more than 2.5 million people, creating a humanitarian crisis.

A Zaidi Shia-led religious-political movement that emerged from Sa’dah, northern Yemen in the 1990s and has fought against the government of the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh on and off since 2004 – Houthis – Ansar Allah fighters or “Supporters of God” in Yemen, August 2009

On 14 April, in Resolution 2216, the UN Security Council demanded that Houthis withdraw from Sana’a and other areas and surrender weapons seized from government sources. It also called for all states to prevent arms transfers to former President Saleh and the Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, and pressed all parties to the conflict to abide by previous agreements, including the outcomes of Yemen’s national dialogue and the Peace and National Partnership agreement of September 2014.

In July, forces opposed to the Houthis, supported by ground troops from the United Arab Emirates and coalition air strikes, regained control of Aden. In September, President Hadi’s government partly relocated to Aden from Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented more than 70 unlawful coalition airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, that have killed at least 913 civilians and deliberately targeted civilian objects, caused dispro­portionate harm to civilians and civilian objects, or failed to distinguish between civilians and military objectives. Mwatana, one of Yemen’s leading human rights organizations, documented 59 airstrikes between March 2015 and April 2016 which they deemed unlawful.

Coalition airstrikes, even with the use of at least seven different types of internationally banned cluster munitions in at least 19 attacks, have repeatedly hit homes, hospitals, markets, civilian factories and schools. An August airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF/AZG) hospital, the fourth during the 18-month long war, prompted MSF to withdraw its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen and declare their

“loss of confidence in the Coalition’s ability to avoid such fatal attacks.”

More than 20 million civilians were in desperate need of humanitarian aid, having a loss in Yemen’s production capacity and shortages of food, medicine and other critical needs of Yemen’s civilians.

Multiple parties to the conflict were also recruiting and deploying child soldiers. The United Nations Secretary-General attributed 72 percent of 762 verified cases of child recruitment to the Houthis.

UN-brokered peace talks took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 15 to 20 December, accompanied by a temporary ceasefire, but ended without any significant breakthrough.

US forces continued to carry out drone strikes against the armed group al-Qaeda (al-Qa’ida) in the Arabian Peninsula in central and southeastern Yemen, mainly in the governorates of Marib and Hadramawt.

In the countries where people fought against ISIS often many people had to suffer because they were unlawfully thought to be helping ISIS and therefore got imprisoned, tortured, raped like those who protested against such atrocities. The 20-year-old student Mahmoud Hussein, who spent more than two years detained in Egypt, without trial after being arrested at the age of 18 in 2014 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” belonged to the lucky ones who could be released  after the governement could not resit the international pressure and the 145,000 people who took action for his release worldwide as part of the Amnesty International Stop Torture campaign.

World Humanitarian Summit WHS logo.pngEntitled ‘One humanity, shared responsibility’ the first World Humanitarian Summit being held in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016 had the UN Secretary-General drawing attention to what he calls

‘the brazen and brutal erosion of respect for international human rights and humanitarian law’

in armed conflict situations, which threatens to cause a regression to an era of war without limits; whereas the report notes that the failure to demand and promote respect for our shared norms and to support the existing enforcement, monitoring and accountability mechanisms contributes to this erosion.

The Summit convened 9000 participants from 173 countries (or 173 Member States), including 55 Heads of State and Government, hundreds of private sector representatives, and thousands of people from civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

Many NGO’s where attacked and in several countries we could find hospitals and schools under attack destroyed like they were part of military bases though it was proven there not being any military or rebel people. Whereas hospitals and medical personnel are specifically protected under IHL and any intentional attack against civilians and civilian infrastructure is considered a serious violation of IHL none of the fighting parties seemed to have any human feelings for injured and facing distress citizens. Whereas the Rome Statute stresses that intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, or historic monuments, is a war crime, at no site of the fighting parties was there any intention to take this in account. At several places in the world we could see all participating parties being guilty of war crimes and and crimes against humanity.

Whereas, as of 14 March 2016, 52 states, including several but not all EU Member States, having endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration following the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools, held in May 2015 and whereas the Foreign Affairs Council, when adopting the EU Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law, emphasised the importance of dealing effectively with the legacy of serious violations by supporting appropriate accountability mechanisms, and underlined the important role the International Criminal Court (ICC) can play in cases where the state or states in question are unable or unwilling to exercise their jurisdiction; whereas the EU Guidelines commit the ‘appropriate Council working groups’ to monitoring situations where IHL may apply and, in such cases, to recommending action to promote compliance with IHL (paragraph 15(a)); the world had to ascertain that there was no respect at all for human dignity nor for ethic agreements in the years 2015 and 2016.

The European Union Deeply regretted the loss of respect for IHL and expressed its shock and grave concern about the deadly attacks against hospitals and schools that are occurring at an increasingly alarming rate in armed conflicts around the world, with patients, students, medical and teaching staff, humanitarian aid workers and family members becoming targets and victims, while international condemnations rarely lead to independent investigations and genuine accountability. The EU calls on the EU Member States, the EU institutions and the Vice-President / High Representative (VP/HR) to recognise the true extent of this emergency, and to prepare without delay a concrete time-bound action plan to use the influence of the EU and the Member States to its full extent to ensure implementation of preventive measures and to halt such violations and abuses; condemning attacks on hospitals and schools, as prohibited under international law, recognising that such acts may constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and war crimes under the Rome Statute; expresses its conviction that the preservation of health and educational facilities as neutral, protected spaces during armed conflict situations depends on the outcome of transparent, independent and impartial investigations into the brutal attacks that have occurred and on achieving genuine accountability for the crimes committed.

UN-Sicherheitsrat - UN Security Council - New York City - 2014 01 06.jpg

United Nations Security Council

2016 saw the requests that the EU and its Member States put on the agenda of the UN and the UN Security Council the removal of the artificial hierarchy and distinction between international and local staff as regards strengthening protection for all humanitarian workers. There also was an encouragement of the EU and its Member States to fully support the UN Secretary-General’s call for all UN member states to seize the opportunity of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to recommit to protecting civilians and ensuring the human rights of all by respecting, implementing and promoting the rules that they have already agreed upon; emphasises the importance given by the UN Secretary-General to the strengthening of international investigative and judicial systems, including the ICC, to complement national frameworks, in order to bring an end to impunity for IHL violations.

Today still EU and its Member States have continually to urge the UN Security Council to use all available tools, such as targeted measures, the establishment of fact-finding missions or commissions of inquiry, or judicial mechanisms, such as referrals to the ICC, to refrain from using the veto in Security Council decisions on issues related to humanitarian action and to enhance respect for international law norms which provide for the protection of humanitarian workers, and to ensure that acts which could constitute violations of these norms are systematically investigated and that those suspected of being responsible for such acts are brought to justice.

It is a shame that not enough is done for the legal obligations and condemnation of those who do not impose targeted measures on persistent violators while making sure that the lines between political, military and humanitarian objectives are not blurred in peace negotiations and peacekeeping mandates.

India for 2016 did not yet manage to come away form its bad position, being of the least performers in the world when it comes to realisation of fundamental human rights guarantees to all its citizens, irrespective of their economic, religious and social status. The country performs poorly by comparison to rest of the world democracies, concerning the actualisation of remedies to human rights abuses.

One of the most serious concerns affecting the realisation of adequate and effective remedies to human rights abuses to victims is the enormous delay in adjudications. A litigation to complete in India could take often more than a decade. According to a statement made by the Prime Minister of India in the Lok Sabha in 2010, India has the largest backlog of cases in the world. This situation has not improved, since today, the country has an estimated 30 million cases pending disposal. Of this a substantial number of cases are more than a decade old. An estimated four million cases are pending before the country’s High Courts and the Supreme Court itself has an estimated 65,000 cases pending before it. {India: Remedies to human rights violations a mirage}

Human rights violations affected 22,000 families at Rio Olympics, says report

The Olympics was not celebrated by everybody in Rio Credit: WWW.Childrenwin.Org

The Olympic and Paralympic Games may still get lots of international attention and be loved by many. Though again many lifes where seriously affected in a bad way. There had been “a devastating impact” on communities while human rights “violations” affected 22,000 families in Rio de Janeiro.

According to official data from Terres Des Hommes, 22,000 families were evicted from their homes since Rio was chosen as the host city for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

Many were moved to a Government social housing programme – notably Minha Casa and Minha Vida – more than half of which were at one point controlled by militia gangs, according to the report.

Terre des Hommes details “the devastating impact of the 2016 Olympic Games on thousands of children and young people in Rio”.

In a briefing entitled Breaking Record: Child rights violations during Rio 2016 Olympics, violations committed before and during the Games are documented in full.

The evidence, which includes statistics and moving video testimonies, explains a legacy of Olympic evictions, police abuse of children and adolescents living on the streets, which increased leading up to and during the Games, and included severe beatings.

Since Colonel Qaddafi’s death during the upheaval of the 2011 Arab Spring, not only Libya has been racked by instability and violence, further undermining the rule of law and increasing corruption, that hopeful view the “Spring” would bring was shattered into pieces in many countries which followed the example of the Libyan youngsters.

2016 saw the continued violation of any decent human decency in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Angola, Libya, Iraq, and Venezuela as the only country in the Americas included among the list’s most corrupt governments.

Several civilians who protested against religious extremism, were gunned down like the social activist Khurram Zaki was.

Again we could witness how the most commonly utilized counter-terrorism tactics, such as extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, and political imprisonment are themselves acts of terror which still too many allow to happen.

Political activist Noam Chomsky stated that

“counter-terrorism is terrorism by another name.”

All human beings that name worthy, should raise their voice and must counter counter-terrorism – in order to uphold human rights and give weight, resources, and priority to it.

Military and clandestine agencies unilaterally function from a consequentialist point of view, with a modus operandi that denotes that their goals – professedly productive – be accomplished by any means necessary, even if those means are themselves directly counterproductive. The ends do not justify the means. We cannot justify criminal means to fight crime; we cannot terrorize to fight terrorism. We cannot devalue human life in the name of preserving it. {Fighting Terrorism Without Violating Human Rights}

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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