Monday, March 31, 2014

529 Egyptians Sentenced to Death in Killing of One Police Officer

A relative of a supporter of Egyptian ousted Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, cries outside the courthouse on March 24, 2014 in the central Egyptian city of Minya, after the court ordered the execution of 529 Morsi supporters after only two hearings. (AFP Photo/STR)

MINYA, Egypt — A crowd gathered outside a courthouse in the town of Matay erupted in wailing and rage last Monday when a judge sentenced 529 defendants to death in just the second session of their trial, convicting them of murdering a police officer in anger at the ouster of the Islamist president. Here in the provincial capital just a few miles away, schools shut down early, and many stayed indoors fearing a riot, residents said.

But the crowds went home, and soon the streets were quiet.

After nine months of escalating repression that culminated in the extraordinary verdict, the military-led government that removed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have finally cowed his supporters into near-silence here in Minya, perhaps their greatest stronghold. The city was the heart of a fierce Islamist insurgency just two decades ago, and threatened to rise up again, against the new government.

“They want to scare us so we don’t go out into the streets against them, to show us that could be the justification for another death sentence,” said Mohamed Hafez, whose brother was among those sentenced to death. So rather than give them the pretext, he said, the families consoled themselves that mass sentence was in some ways “a good thing,” because it showed that the trial itself was “a farce” and “illegitimate.”

Excerpt, read more here.

Related: In Egypt, One Step Up and 529 Steps Back -By Robert Mackey | NYT

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

IHRC: World Can No Longer Ignore North Korea's Appalling Human Rights Record

Members of the International Human Rights Committee have long been concerned with the human rights situation in North Korea (DPRK). In 2012, the Committee submitted a proposal for a program at the London Fall 2013 meeting to explore whether human rights violations in the DPRK amounted to crimes against humanity. With the help of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea that program occurred. David Hawk, former executive director of Amnesty International and seasoned human rights investigator, summarized his findings on the DPRK concentration camp system including years of research showing the torture, execution and other gross human rights violations which occur within the camps. His presentation was supported by satellite imagery which showed the location of and changes within the camps – even though the DPRK persistently denies their existence. 

Based on the work of Hawk and others, the situation in the DPRK earned the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council. On February 7, 2014, it released its Report on the Detailed Findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/25/CRP.1) The Report was issued after the Council established a Commission of Inquiry in March of 2013 to investigate the human rights abuses that have occurred in the DPRK. In addition to meeting with the representatives of various governments, the Council conducted public hearings and more than 240 confidential interviews. 


The Report documents, among other violations, mass suppression of freedom of expression, widespread discrimination, torture, forced abortion and infanticide, monopolization of food access, public executions and enforced disappearance and the maintenance of political prison camps. In its report of nearly 400 pages, the Council concluded what many working on the DPRK problem already knew, namely that human rights abuses have been occurring in that country on a mass scale for decades. The Report concludes that “Systemic, widespread and gross human rights violates have been, and are being, committed by the [DPRK], its institutions and officials. In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the Commission constitute crimes against humanity.” The Council also concluded:

The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world. 

The Council propounded lengthy recommendations to the DPRK and other states, including China. In particular, the Council recommended that China cease the policy of forcibly repatriating individuals to the DPRK and that it and other states extend asylum to those from the DPRK that are within its borders. The Council recommended that the Security Council refer the DPRK situation to the International Criminal Court and adopt targeted sanctions against the perpetrators. 

For those suffering in the DPRK, the Report is a long awaited recognition by an international body of the long-standing human rights violations in that State. The International Community should not continue to ignore the human rights situation in the DPRK and should not allow the DPRK’s nuclear bluster to force attention away from these problems. The International Community should follow the recommendations of the Report and support a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). As a world power, China should recognize its ability to exercise leadership in this situation. It should take the first step by extending asylum to DPRK citizens who escape into China and the next by supporting a referral of the matter to the ICC. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should break the cycle of abuse created by his grandfather and perpetuated by his father and immediately initiate reforms. 

The suffering of the DPRK population tests the strength of international law and the limits of sovereignty. It is difficult to imagine how a State could violate fundamental human rights worse than what the DPRK has done with impunity for decades. If international law cannot affect a change for the people of the DPRK, one can’t help but wonder whether it has any teeth at all. 

-Gregory W. MacKenzie, Esq.

Gregory W. MacKenzie is a Partner at Hurley, Toevs, Styles, Hamblin & Panter, P.A. (Albuquerque, NM) and an active member of the ABA Section of International Law, International Human Rights Committee.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Woman Behind The Whistleblower: Human Trafficking and a Culture of Corruption

A non-CLE Teleconference Panel Discussion proudly presented by

ABA Section of International Law Women's Interest Network

By Teleconference Only 
Monday, March 17, 2014 
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT 

★ Kathryn Bolkovac, formerly employed with DynCorp as UN International Police Force Monitor 

★ Olufunmi Oluyede, Co-Chair, Women's Interest Network 

★ Linda Strite Murnane, Vice-Chair, Women's Interest Network 

Kathryn Bolkovac worked as a United Nations International Police Force Monitor under contract with DynCorp in the Balkans, following years as a police investigator in Nebraska. In 2001, she filed suit against DynCorp when they terminated her employment after she reported the involvement of many of her co-workers in human trafficking and in procuring prostitution services. Ms. Bolkovac won a unanimous decision from a British employment tribunal finding that the actions of DynCorp were illegal. During her time in Bosnia as an investigator, Ms Bolkovac uncovered evidence of girls who refused to have sex being beaten and raped in bars by their pimps while peacekeepers stood and watched. She discovered that one UN policeman who was supposed to be investigating the sex trade paid £700 to a bar owner for an underage girl who he kept captive in his apartment to use in his own prostitution racket. Ms. Bolkovac will discuss her experience and her efforts to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation in this one hour non-CLE teleconference in honor of International Women's Day. 

$15 - Section of International Law Members 
$25 - SIL Non-Members 

Urban Justice Center Webinar: NYC Council Human Rights Report Card

On Tuesday, March 25th, the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center will release its sixth annual New York City Council Human Rights Report Card The Report Card is the only comprehensive assessment of New York City Council members' legislative records across a range of human rights areas including housing, workers' rights, justice, health, disability rights, government accountability, and voting rights. It brings a human rights framework to the examination of City Council, which has the power and responsibility to address the inequities that plague New York City. It is a tool to hold Council members, and the Council as a legislative body, accountable and to help us move toward a City in which all have their human rights fulfilled.

Please join us on March 25, 2014 at 3:00 P.M. EST for an hour-long webinar on this important publication. We look forward to your participation! The Report Card is only as strong as its audience.

The hour-long webinar will discuss:
★ The human rights framework, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
★ Report Card methodology;
★ The top scoring Council members in 2013;
★ The legislative trends of human rights bills;
★ The implications of Council's land use and budget work on human rights.

Read the Report Card, Spread the Word!

Please note that this webinar is not sponsored, co-sponsored or in any way affiliated with the ABA, SIL IHRC. However, we do support work of other human rights defenders and announce relevant events upon request.

One Photo Captures the Depth of Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

Hundreds of men, women and children fight to get to the front of the queue as a refugee camp in Damascus receives food parcels after being cut off for months. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) called on rebel forces and Al-Assad’s troops alike to allow ‘safe and unhindered humanitarian access to thousands of civilians in Yarmouk, a Palestinian district in the Syrian capital. Yarmouk has seen some of the worst fighting in the capital, leading to severe food shortages and widespread hunger.

The organization is predicting that the number of displaced Syrians will pass four million by the end of 2014. Opposition activists say more than 140,000 people have died in the conflict, which enters its fourth year next month. The U.N. says 9.3 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. The number of Afghan refugees was 2.6 million at the end of 2012, UNHCR says. Syrians, with nearly 2.5 million registered as refugees, should overtake that long before the end of the year. About one-half of the refugees are children.

‘It breaks my heart to see this nation that for decades welcomed refugees from other countries ripped apart and forced into exile itself,’ Guterres told the U.N. General Assembly. Just five years ago, Syria hosted the world's second-largest number of refugees, he said.

Syria's neighbors now plead for assistance as hundreds or thousands of people flee into their countries every day. The number of Syrian refugees now registered in far smaller Lebanon, for example, is the equivalent of having 71 million of them registered in the United States or almost 15 million in France, Guterres said.

See Daily Mail UK for more images.

Image credit: © AFP/Getty Images