Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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No Justice = Get Lynched?!

Kia Roberts-Warren

When a community feels that there is no justice, what should they do? In the United States, citizens’ have taken to protesting. We’ve had the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation Movement, Black Lives Matter, and the recent Women’s March. However, what happens when a country’s citizens are constantly disappointed in their government and police authority? When they have lost trust and faith in the judicial system? Traditionally, in many Latin American countries people have taken up vigilante justice. However, this vigilante justice is not a man/woman dressed in a costume fighting to keep their neighborhood safe; it is lynchings. Lynchings are acts of violence against individuals that usually result in death.[1] These lynchings are not being committed by criminals, nor crazed individuals, but by normal citizens/communities that come together as vigilante groups.[2] Lynchings started back in 2007 in many Latin American countries.

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Serving Some Good Old Fashion Vigilante Lynchings

Today, it has been reported that Guatemala, Bolivia, and Peru are dealing with an increase of vigilante lynchings.[3] Also, the Côte d’Ivoire has seen a rise in vigilante lynchings.[4] The victims are usually tortured, in order to force them to reveal the names of any accomplices.[5] They are beaten, mutilated, stoned, shot, or burned alive before being hung.[6] These victims are taken after being suspected of committing a crime, with many  victims  taken from home or the workplace.[7] In Latin America, men are mainly the victims but there have been a few cases involving women and children.[8] However, in the Côte d’Ivoire, children are mainly the victims due to their association in street gangs.[9]

In countries like Bolivia and Guatemala, there has been an argument that vigilante lynchings can be linked to indigenous people (there is a high population of indigenous people). However, many experts have attacked this argument because “indigenous justice” rarely includes death as a punishment.[11] ItIndigenous justice tends to focus on “righting the wrong” committed by the wrongdoer through manual labor and in extreme cases expulsion from the community.[12]

Cash Me Ousside, How Bow Dah?

In Guatemala, for example, from 2008 to October 2015, 297 died and 1,043 people were injured from lynchings.[13] The National Civil Police (PNC) reported that, of the 84 people who died at the hands of lynch mobsfrom January 2012 to May 2015, 76 were men and 8 were women.[14] Often vigilante lynchings are linked to the corruption and ineptitude of the police authorities.[15] A robbery, for example, often illicits no response or slow and ineffective response from the authorities and, therefore, the crime is never solved.[16] In the Côte d’Ivoire, violent crimes committed by street gangs have sparked vigilante lynchings of suspects.[17] In Bolivia, impunity of government officials responsible for human rights violations are the reason for vigilante lynchings.[18] In March 2016, a mentally disabled man was burned then lynched because a mob had suspected him to be a criminal.[19]

One major  problem with vigilante lynchings is that often many of the victims are innocent. For example, in Bolivia, a 54-year-old grave worker was mistaken for a grave robber by five Bolivian men visiting a grave.[20] He was tied, beaten, and hung, and, by the time he arrived at the hospital, he was declared dead.[21] In Peru, a local prosecutor’s son, was beaten, burned, and hung to death after being mistaken for a thief.[22]

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What Can Be Done?

A big problem is that lynchings usually go unpunished. This is due to the many different actors involved and the code of silence the community takes once the lynching is done.[23] In Bolivia, the prosecutor’s office is still investigating 12 lynchings from 2013.[24] There have only been a minimal number of lynching cases that have been resolved by the judicial system.[25] The idea of “People’s Justice” seems to control. [26]  Therefore, the government must do more to restore the people’s confidence that the authorities and judicial system can and will resolve crimes.

Guatemala recently submitted its country report to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. The Commission’s recommendations were underwhelming and not very helpful. It stated:

“The Commission urges the State to adopt a comprehensive policy for preventing   and combating lynchings. The State must provide a prompt, coordinated and interinstitutional response in places where lynchings could be committed. There must be a rapprochement between the State and the communities, and the Government must have with a prevention policy, and the political will to enforce it. There must also be collaboration with municipal authorities, traditional indigenous authorities, and the Ombudsman’s Office.”[27]

 

This vague recommendation doesn’t help to guide Guatemala. It is merely a reiteration of things that Guatemala should be doing. The Organization of the American States is a regional legal organization. Its influence and presence could help countries like Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia and make them more accountable. It would also let the people know that there is somewhere they can put their trust in besides themselves. In the Côte d’Ivoire, the government has taken steps to remove the word “microbe” (“germ”) to describe children in gangs.[28] However, it has not come up with an effective and comprehensive strategy to put this change into effect.

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Alejandra Maria Torres sits bloodied on a street after being beaten, doused with petrol and set on fire during a lynching in Guatemala City

In the case of Latin America, it seems that a more international presence is needed to help reduce corruption and train police authorities in resolving crime. A great way to do this is to use the Organization of the American States since it is a regional organ. The same can be suggested of the African Union with the Côte d’Ivoire. These regional organizations are a part of the international community. Therefore, if they help these countries with vigilante lynchings it gives them more legitimacy and validity, but also helps to promote international law and security.

An example of the Organization of the American States taking lead would be to have the Inter-American Human Rights Court take a case on the vigilante lynchings since a case has yet to go before the court. However, the lynchings are being committed by non-State actors who are not acting under the State’s control or permission. Therefore, police officers who are in the crowd and fail to act can be tried. The police officers are State actors who are failing to act when they have a legal duty to do so. So, the omission of acting would be attributable to the State.

Kia Roberts-Warren is a 3L at UB Law. She is concentrating in international law. Kia graduated from Temple University receiving a BA in East Asian Studies during that time she spent a semester in Tokyo, Japan. Kia has an interest in international trade and human rights. She is also interested in fashion law and art law in the international context. Last year, she held the position of Career Development Director of the International Law Society and participated in the 2016 Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition. She recently attended UB’s Aberdeen Summer Abroad Program. 

[1] http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Guatemala2016-en.pdf

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-24/lynching-still-common-practice-across-latin-america

[4] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/cote-divoire

[5] http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Guatemala2016-en.pdf

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/cote-divoire

[10] https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-24/lynching-still-common-practice-across-latin-america

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Guatemala2016-en.pdf

[14] Id.

[15] https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-24/lynching-still-common-practice-across-latin-america

[16] Id.

[17] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/cote-divoire

[18] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/bolivia

[19] Id.

[20] https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-24/lynching-still-common-practice-across-latin-america

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-24/lynching-still-common-practice-across-latin-america

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] http://www.worldcrunch.com/culture-society/lynching-in-latin-america-why-colombia-vigilante-mobs-are-spreading

[27] http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Guatemala2016-en.pdf

[28] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/cote-divoire

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The Bahrain Blues

Elizabeth Hays

Bahrain, its name meaning “two seas,” is a small island nation located on the eastern coastline of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.[i] Dating back to the time of the Romans, Bahrain was an important trading center.[ii] Centuries later, the Al Khalifa tribe rose to power in 1820 and established a treaty relationship with Great Britain.[iii] Bahrain became an independent state in 1971.[iv] Considered a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislative assembly, Bahrain has been ruled by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa since 1999.[v] When he first became Head of State in 1999, King Khalifa released all political prisoners and gave women the right to vote.[vi] Lately, however,  the Bahrain government has been accused of major human rights violations and has seen an increase of low level unrest between security forces and protestors.[vii]

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On February 21st 2017, Bahrain’s Council of Representatives voted 31-1 on a proposed amendment to Bahrain’s Constitution that would enable military courts to try civilians.[viii] The Council of Representatives is the elected lower house of Bahrain’s National Assembly and is made up of 40 seats.[ix] Next, the proposed amendment will go to the upper house of Parliament,[x] the Consultative Council, which is made up of 40 members that are appointed by King Khalifa.[xi] Article 120 of Bahrain’s Constitution states that proposed amendments to the Constitution require the approval of 2/3 of both chambers of Parliament and approval of King Hamad.[xii] If approved there and by King Khalifa, the amendment is implemented and could have detrimental effects on the Bahraini people.[xiii]

Currently, Article 105(b) of Bahrain’s 2002 Constitution states that “the jurisdiction of military courts shall be confined to military offenses committed by members of the Defense Force, the National Guard, and the Security Forces.”[xiv] If approved, this bill effectively removes limitations on military courts by expanding their jurisdiction to civilians[xv] This change would further empower security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at a level not seen since the 2011 Arab Spring protests.[xvi] Yet, Brig. Gen. Yussef Rashid Flaifel, head of the country’s military courts, said the change is necessary to fight rampant terrorism in the nation.[xvii] The explanatory note on the proposed amendment confirms this intent by citing that the spread of terrorism in the region and the military courts flexibility and speed in investigations and sentencing justifies removing the restriction.[xviii]

Despite the national security concern, activists are outraged over this potential amendment.[xix] “The Bahraini king is effectively creating a police state with this de facto marital law” said Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.[xx] The last time military courts prosecuted civilians was in 2011 in state of emergency in Bahrain. During that three-month time frame, the courts convicted approximately 300 people of political crimes in prosecutions designed to punish those in the opposition and to deter political opposition [xxi] Doctors, nurses, and the Bahrain 13 (a group of political leaders and human rights defenders sentenced to between five years and life imprisonment) were among the 300 convicted.[xxii] In June and August 2011, King Hamad transferred these cases to civilian courts, which upheld the results of the convictions, which were based on exercising basic rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.[xxiii]

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Furthermore, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (“BICI”), an international panel appointed by the King to investigate abuses, determined that the fundamental principles of a fair trial, including prompt and full access to legal counsel and inadmissibility of coerced testimony, were not respected in the courts.[xxiv] This has been an ongoing trend as civilian criminal and military Bahraini courts have been a part of the subpar fair trial standards in the wake of political dissent.

For instance, Bahrain civilian courts have routinely convicted defendant’s purported crimes that involved merely a defendant’s expression of political views.[xxv] To justify sentencing prominent opposition activists to long prison terms, a civilian court found that while unlawful means, such as the use of force, must be employed to qualify an act of terrorism, the force need not necessarily be military because terrorism can be the result of moral pressure.[xxvi] The increase of more speed and flexibility into an already unjust justice system in Bahrain is the wrong direction to go in.[xxvii]

Besides the clear and obvious unfairness, international human rights bodies have determined that trials of civilians before military tribunals violate the right to be tried by a completely independent and impartial tribunal.[xxviii] Civilians should be tried by military courts only under exceptional circumstances and only under conditions that genuinely afford the full due process.[xxix] Leading Bahraini legal experts expressed fear that civilians will be prosecuted and denied fair trials and access to lawyers.[xxx]

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This prediction stems from the execution of three torture victims in January 2017 after civilian criminal courts convicted them and sentenced them to death under a broad anti-terror law.[xxxi] Judges dismissed the credible reports of torture and denied defendants access to legal counsel. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings investigated and determined that executions were, in fact, extrajudicial.[xxxii] Also in January 2017, the king reinstated the Bahrain National Security Agency’s (“NSA”) power to arrest. NSA is Bahrain’s intelligence service, that was involved in a systematic arbitrary detention and torture in 2011, resulting in death of at least one detainee.[xxxiii] The re-empowerment of the NSA began exercising its renewed power in February 2017 with the arrest of medical professional for providing treatment to a protestor.[xxxiv]

The unconditional support provided by its allies in London and Washington has influenced and increased these dictatorial efforts, which ultimately harms the people of Bahrain.[xxxv] With important allies like United States ignoring such human rights violations and preparing to sell arms without reform conditions, the problem will only worsen without a strong international censure of this move. This is exactly why President Trump’s deal to approve a sale of fighter planes to Bahrain without any conditions is concerning.[xxxvi] Instead of giving aid to countries unconditionally, the United States should be using that leverage to promote basic human rights. It is even more necessary to promote this for allies, such as Bahrain, in order to continue international progress and ensure human rights are respected worldwide.

Elizabeth Hays is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Baltimore, where she majored in Jurisprudence. Her legal interests include administrative law, national security law, and maritime law. Elizabeth has previously interned with the U.S. Army JAG Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard JAG Corps. Additionally, she participated in the winter study abroad program in Curaçao in 2015/16. She is currently the Co-President of University of Baltimore Students for Public Interest (UBSPI) and a Staff Editor for University of Baltimore Law Forum.

[i] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, NGOs to Bahrain: Do Not Allow Military Courts to Judge Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 6, 2017.

[ii] Bahrain, Word Atlas, (2017).

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Bahrain Country Profile, BBC News, Sept. 1, 2017.

[vi] Bahrain, World Atlas, (2017).

[vii] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[viii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[ix] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[x] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xi] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Id.

[xv] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xvi] Id.

[xvii] Id.

[xviii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xix] Jon Gambrell, Bahrain Lawmakers Approve Military Trials for Civilians, Yahoo News, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xx] Id.

[xxi] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xxii] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain: Constitutional Amendment Frees Military Courts to Try Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xxiii] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xxiv] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain: Constitutional Amendment Frees Military Courts to Try Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xxv] Bahrain: proposed military trials of civilians, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 23, 2017.

[xxvi] Id.

[xxvii] Id.

[xxviii] Id.

[xxix] Id.

[xxx] Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain: Constitutional Amendment Frees Military Courts to Try Civilians, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Feb. 21, 2017.

[xxxi] Id.

[xxxii] Id.

[xxxiii] Id.

[xxxiv] Id.

[xxxv] Id.

[xxxvi] Josh Rogin, The Trump’s team deal with Bahrain could ignore its human rights abuses, The Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2017.


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From the Age of Big Brother, [TITLE CONTENT CENSORED (and that *might* not be a terrible thing…)], Greetings!

Margie Beltran

 

 

The mystique of a dystopian society has maintained a consistent intrigue across the history of mankind.  The imagination of man runs wild when he thinks about the “what ifs” and how they would affect the way we live.

The Time Machine; 1984; Brave New World; Planet of the Apes; The Giver; The Hunger Games; The Divergent Series; and, of course, that paramount episode of The Twilight Zone when all that poor man wanted to do was read his books – he becomes the last man on Earth and can finally sit on the remains of the post-apocalyptic library, reading for the rest of his days. And then, he accidentally steps on his glasses and yells, “That’s not fair, there was time now!”

We have seen the same theme time and again: mankind begins to self-destruct and in the bout of chaos and anarchy, a powerful leader/governing body rises from the ruins and reshapes society into a peaceful and balanced ecosystem.  Beautiful, no? So, what’s the catch? To have order and peace, one must forego the right to freedom and privacy.

My friends, hold on to your Mockingjay pins, for the dawning of the dystopian society may be upon us.

On November 29, 2016, The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) was passed in the UK set to be enforced in January 2017.[i]  Not the first of its kind among the EU Member States, the IPA was satirically dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter” by those who opposed it. The Act grants law enforcement easier access to the private communications of UK citizens.[ii]  Some of the major provisions[iii] include, but are not limited to:

  1. Power to issue warrants for intrusive surveillance granted to ministers.
  2. Easier access for the government to retain browser history from popular websites.
  3. Ability to collect bulk communications data and to hack suspect’s electronic devices.

Over the past few years, terrorist attacks have become a consistent and troubling threat throughout Europe.[iv]  Although aware of the threat posed by terrorism, many within the EU are concerned since allowing the government into their phones and personal computers was not quite what many had in mind, as far protective measures go.[v]  Amnesty International (AI) criticized the UK, a nation considered to be a fierce protector of human rights, for setting such an example to other EU-Member States.[vi] According to AI, the Snooper’s Charter is “a modern twist of the Orwellian ‘thought crime,’ [in which] people can now be prosecuted for actions that have extremely tenuous links to actual criminal behavior.”[vii]

I sympathize and empathize with this issue under two lenses: the first, my rose-colored-goggles human rights activist perspective, in which I feel the rights of the people should be staunchly protected and the foremost concern of the governing body to any nation because it is what is just and humane; and the second, as a young American adult who remembers being a nine-year old, enveloped with gut-wrenching fear for reasons I could not even comprehend, living just minutes from Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, and seeing the glazed-over eyes and clenched jaws of my peers whose parents worked downtown trying to hold back their tears in school for weeks following the attack.

The day the government is definitively tracking every communication we send and receive will be a disturbing one for sure.  Even if they have nothing to hide, many people are bothered knowing a third party is always reading, analyzing, and judging everything they type or say.

While freedom of speech is of the utmost importance, I continually find myself reverting to the lenses of nine-year old me.  If the ones I love are at risk of being hurt, I would give up my right to privacy within the confines of this act.  Maybe not permanently – and that is a risk that holds high with a law challenging a fundamental freedom – but at least until this state of emergency in Europe eases.

Think about The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (far more commonly known as The USA PATRIOT Act) enacted during the George W. Bush Administration in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks which enabled law enforcement to detect and prevent terrorism attacks by expanding the scope of their investigatory practices.[viii]  The USA PATRIOT Act passed in Congress across the bipartisan margins.[ix]  In the Senate, the act passed with nearly a unanimous at a 98-1 vote, while the House voted in favor with a 357-66 vote.[x]

Regarding terrorist attacks, the US has not faced an attack of the magnitude of 9/11 since the act was decreed.  While the USA PATRIOT Act has its flaws, as most laws do, the original purpose for introducing the bill has generally been satisfied.  The UK appears as if the IPA has received the same treatment by Parliament.[xi]  According to London-based journalist, Ewen MacAskill, the bill passed “with barely a whimper.”[xii]  Further, he said the marginal resistance to the bill did not come from outside of the parliament’s four walls, indicating the people of the UK and Parliament are both in support of the IPA.[xiii]  If the citizens of the UK are not complaining about the new law and choosing to exercise their right of privacy by foregoing their right of privacy, then so be it.  They have the right to invite Big Brother into their lives.

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone – to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone…from the age of Big Brother – greetings!” – George Orwell, 1984[xiv]

 

Margery Beltran is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Candidate for J.D., May 2017).  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Science with a minor in Psychology from Towson University.  Her interests include mental health and disability law and international alternative dispute resolution. Margie currently serves as the Volume V Comments Editor for the University of Baltimore’s Journal of International Law. She participated in the 2016 Summer Abroad Program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Aberdeen, Scotland.  She is currently an intern in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alternative Dispute Resolution Division.

[i] http://www.natlawreview.com/article/uk-investigatory-powers-act-2016-how-to-prepare-digital-age

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/17/uk-counter-terror-laws-most-orwellian-in-europe-says-amnesty

[v] Id.

[vi] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/01/eu-orwellian-counter-terrorism-laws-stripping-rights-under-guise-of-defending-them/

[vii] Id.

[viii] https://www.justice.gov/archive/ll/highlights.htm

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] 1984 by George Orwell

 

 


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The 21st Century and Witchcraft; A Human Rights Disaster from a Bygone Age

Alexander Ayer
Witchcraft. The very word congers up a myriad of different images, thoughts, and ideas. From popular fiction series about children learning spells to the older fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, our culture is inundated with tales of magic and those who practice it. However, there was a time in the past when people lived in fear of those they believed possessed malevolent powers. Most people in America today see the idea of witches as the realm of pure fantasy. Further, the days of people accusing each other of actually being witches, and carry out hunts to purge these perceived threats have surely long past. This must have been the product of a darker and more ignorant time in human history.

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Well, witch trials are not just the product of a bygone era where angry mobs dragged oddly hatted women into the center of town claiming she turned someone into a newt. More than 2,000 people have been killed in witch hunts between 2000 and 2015 in India alone.[1] Even more troubling, the practice of witch burning has surfaced in both Asian and African nations.[2]
The Problem
This problem has manifested in several countries around the world, particularly in central and south-east Asia, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. However, this post will be restricted primarily to India, because there has been some fairly reliable reporting on the frequency of these allegations as well as some recent developments.

Troublingly, just as in the darker days of old, witchcraft allegations are primarily aimed at the most vulnerable in a society; women, the old, the young, the disabled, and those who are too different.[3] Women, just as in the days of Europe’s witch hunts, are particularly vulnerable to these accusations due to ingrained social views in more rural and isolated areas.[4] Of the approximately 2000 people killed in India in recent years most have been women.[5] One particular trend aimed at landed women has been using witchcraft allegations to seize property. Land-owning women are accused of witchcraft, and then firewood for a pyre is gathered in view of their homes. The older women who are usually the targets of these scheme will then flee and their land will be seized.[6]

However, witchcraft allegations are not always used as a thinly veiled cover for privet gain. There are people who genuinely believe in witchcraft and its potential for harm.[7] Worse, there are people who are accused of witchcraft who come to believe it themselves. Some individuals think that they are possessed by evil spirits, or are under the sway of demons and thus might be capable of inflicting magical harm on their neighbors even if they don’t understand how.[8]

Fear and lack of knowledge seems to be the fuel that causes witch frenzies to burn the brightest. Many communities which have seen a rise in witch hunts lack sufficient medical care and education.[9] When confronted with deadly and infectious deceases or other misfortunes many of these communities have turned on each other and blame the already weak or disenfranchised.[10] However, witchcraft has been blamed for other problems as well, including cancer, the death or a child or other family member, or a poor harvest.[11]

Accused witches can face a number of problems. Once branded a witch an individual may be shunned, beaten, banished, beheaded, or even burned alive.[12] These trials and hunts are notoriously lacking in due process. In one incident in 2014, an Indian athlete attended a village meeting after the deaths of four village members, once there she was accused of witchcraft, trapped with a net, and beaten until she lost consciousness.[13] In some cases treatment may even rise to the level of torture; where in addition to suffering severe physical harm, accused individuals may be forced to consume poisonous liquids, animal blood, or human waste.[14]

Just How Bad Is It?
It has been hard for authorities to get a sense of how wide spread the problem has become. Apart from incidents going unreported or being reported as something else, one particular issue has been the fact that most incidents have been occurring in rural or isolated areas.[15] However, the UN estimates that the number could be as high as the tens of thousands killed, and millions harmed in other ways worldwide.[16] Further, just because most of these incidents have occurred in more remote areas, some have not. The U.N. Human Rights Council has been receiving reports from neighboring Nepal that witchcraft allegations are spreading to more developed areas.[17]

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How Did I Not Know This Was Happening!
One of the major difficulties is the unwillingness of some countries to acknowledge these witch hunts are even happening. UN officials have been pushing various governments to acknowledge and address the problem, but there has only been moderate successes thus far.[18] Many governments and local authorities have traditionally been reluctant to intervene, viewing most of it as cultural in nature and thus not wanting to get involved. In other cases, authorities simply lack the resources to fight the poverty and lack of knowledge that spreads much of the witch hunt zeal.[19]

Is There Hope?
Hope does endure. This problem has been defeated before. Witch hunts where far more common in Europe during the 16th century and even occurred in America for a time during the 17th century. They ended, and witch hunts around the world can end as well.

Ignorance and fear are the cause, and poverty is an exacerbating problem. These are factors which can be addressed. South Africa has done as much, stemming a witch hunt pattern in their country by launching an education program about the scientific and medical causes of many diseases such as HIV and AIDS.[20]  South Africa has also begun holding tribal leaders responsible by warning that, if a person is accused and is killed for witchcraft, the South African authorities would get involved and my hold the leaders themselves responsible.[21]

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Action has begun to take place in India as well. In the Indian state of Assam, where witch hunts have been a serious problem, a law was passed in recent years banning witchcraft accusations and making such accusations punishable with possible imprisonment.[22] In The five years between 2001 and 2006 Indian police authorities believe that approximately 300 people were killed in witch hunts in Assam, now advocates are hoping the law will help end this nightmare.[23]

The UN is still determined to get countries to acknowledge and address witch hunting practices. The U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights stated in relation to witch trials in Liberia that “… human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights principles.”[24]

My Thoughts
I think this is a practice which can be beaten once and for all. It is not enough to simply go to these places and explain that the accused are not witches, this has been ineffective in the past.[25] The first step in solving this disaster is to acknowledge that it is happening. The UN has been trying to push more governments to publicly acknowledge that these events are happening in their boarders.[26]  I think this is where the solution has to start. It is hard to address a problem while simultaneously ignoring it.

South Africa’s policy of education is great idea. If people understand the scientific causes behind their misfortunes they are less likely to attack the vulnerable. There is genuine concern due to the spread of infectious disease, possible crop failures, and loosing loved ones. However, it is a lack of understanding which leads to people seeking their own answers by turning on their neighbors. Let us use knowledge to kill ignorance.

There must also be more social help for the accused. The accused must feel as though going to the authorities will help them, and that means the authorities must be willing to get involved to end this heinous practice. India’s law, providing some legal protection for the accused by making it illegal to openly carry out witch trials, is an excellent way to start. Further medical support and economic development would probably also help these already stressed communities from descending down the dark road of the witch hunt.

This human rights nightmare can be ended. We know what it will take, and we have existing models to work from, both from history and the present day. We have ended this scourge before, let us do so again.

Alexander Ayer  is a third year (3L) law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. His undergraduate studies were completed at Hood College, where he majored in history and graduated cum laude in 2014. Alexander is expected to graduate from the University of Baltimore School of Law in the Spring of 2017. As part of his international law background he took part in a study abroad program at the University of Aberdeen School of Law in Scotland. Alexander is drawn to international law by the comparative approach of seeing how different societies solve similar problems in different ways, as well observing how history has effected the laws and policies of various nations, and the behaviors demonstrated by counties interacting with each other on the world stage. In addition to international law, Alexander is also interested in disability law and copyright law.

 

[1]http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[2] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923, http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/, & http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16904&LangID=E

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[6] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35975360 & http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35975360, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[9] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[10] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35975360

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0 & https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[12] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29655662

[13] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-29655662

[14] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[15] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

[16] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[17] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[18] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[19] http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16904&LangID=E & http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[20] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[21] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[22] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/world/asia/india-assam-state-witch-hunts.html?_r=0

[23] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923

[24] http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16904&LangID=E

[25] http://nationalgeographic.org/news/witch-trials-21st-century/

[26] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-witchcraft-idUSTRE58M4Q820090923


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Greed Over Life

Christian Kim

kim_blog2_photo1

The air was tense as the wind softly fluttered a weather-worn flag on top of a pole.  A deep thud echoed in the air as a tribal elder slammed the ground with his staff.  A quiet echo of “mni wiconi, mni wiconi” (“Water is Life,” in Lakota) accompanied each thud from the elder’s staff.[1]  A static crackle came a hundred or so meters from the group.  Suddenly a loudspeaker blared, “Please disperse.  You are disrupting progress!”  The slow chants of “mni wiconi, mni wiconi” progressively grew louder as another cackle from the loudspeaker echoed, “This is your final warning, please disperse!”  What was meant to quiet the chants seemed to fuel it even more as the chants of “MNI WICONI, MNI WICONI” made the loudspeaker inaudible to those near the protestors.  Then, a bang, accompanied by smoke, filled the air and silence immediately descended on the arid Dakota soil.  The tribal elder, fell to the ground in unison with his staff.  Shrieks of anger and outrage rang as the protestors ran towards the aid of the tribal elder.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,170 mile long pipeline that could potentially transport over 570,000 barrels of fracked crude oil daily.[2]  It is not uncommon to stumble upon a news report showing footages of rescuers picking up seagulls or sea otters drenched in thick black sludge.  Like many oil pipeline projects, the danger of an oil leak isn’t a far-fetched concern.  The concern here is that this pipeline, which is less than half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s drinking water source, has the potential to leak.  For many months, Native American protestors occupied land across the Missouri River to show their outrage at the Dakota Access Pipeline.  These protestors, who would rather be called “Water protectors”, attempted to stop construction through united tribal gatherings.  In order to continue with the construction, North Dakota and six other states sent police officers to arrest and even to attack the “Water Protectors” often leading to disastrous results.  Many of those arrested were sent to the Morton County Correctional Center and placed in cramped cages.  Some, were even placed in makeshift dog kennels to follow the sudden demand of prisoners.  In prison, many of these “water protectors” received food, water, and medical attention in an extremely delayed manner.  In an attempt to stop the construction, some of the “Water Protectors” even chained themselves to construction equipment.  As a result, officers water boarded these individuals to quell the protests.[3]

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Under the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Regarding Treatment or Punishment (UN Convention), all of these treatments can fall under Article 1 which states

“Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person …or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind.”.[4]

Article 1 is even more applicable in the situation at hand since most of these “water protectors” are of Native American descent, a historically discriminated group even before the creation of the United States.

In addition, the construction violates one of the basic rights that a human could have, the right to water.  Clean drinking water is an indispensable necessity to sustain life.  Although it is common knowledge that drinking oil contaminated water is deadly, not many individuals are aware that drinking even post-treated water that was contaminated by oil is unsafe to drink due to chemical residue.[5]  Since the Dakota Access Pipeline spans for more than a thousand miles, it is foreseeable that it will leak at one point or another.  The recent Alabama pipe explosion which killed a pipeline worker demonstrates the dangers of oil pipeline projects.[6]In the 29th Session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, general comment 15 stated that “the human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.”[7]  Although Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living “including adequate food, clothing and housing,”[8] general comment 15 clarified that the use of the word including means that the list was not exhaustive.  The Committee stated that within this category, “water clearly falls within the category of essential for securing an adequate standard of living.”  “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity.  It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.”[9]  The General Comment also clarified the obligation of states and also international obligations which include: respect the right to water by refraining from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right, protect the right to water by preventing third parties from interfering in any way with enjoyment of the right to water, fulfill the right to water by adopting the necessary measures directed towards the full realization of this right.  Although the U.S. signed but did not ratify the ICESCR, the signing of the treaty expresses the willingness to refrain in good faith, from acts that would defeat the purpose of the treaty.

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Recently, a UN Group stated that they would investigate the human rights abuses going on in South Dakota.[10]  With the election season over, it is time for the United States to take charge and address this situation right away before it plays out as an international embarrassment. Even though the United States is not a party to the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, it should make strides to improve the quality of this historically discriminated group.[11]   Sadly, the ill-treatment of Native Americans is not a novel concept in our nation’s history.  Countries with terrible record of human rights would often reflect U.S. official’s criticisms of their country human rights violations by pointing out various human rights violations going on in the United States.  Some fall in the form of discrimination within our country, the continued use of capital punishment, and now these countries can point to the Dakota Access Pipeline as another.  Even though the United States only signed but did not ratify the ICESCR and UN Convention, as a global leader on human rights, the United States has to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and stop the terrible treatment of these “water protectors.”

Christian Kim is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law with a concentration in International and Comparative Law.  He graduated from the University of Maryland (2012) with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.  He served as the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and is currently the Chief of Staff for the Student Bar Association.  His interests are East Asian politics, international conflicts, and human rights.  Before law school, Christian worked for the Korean Ministry of Education as a TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) Scholar and Coordinator for two years.  He is currently a legal researcher for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and a law clerk for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[1] http://www.walkinbeauty-bethechange.com/mniwiconi.html

[2] http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-dakota-pipeline-the-human-right-to-water-at-standing-rock/5555110

[3] http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/28/standing-rock-water-protectors-waterboarded-while-the-cleveland-indians-romped/

[4] http://wrweb.org/legal/cat.html

[5] http://en.hesperian.org/hhg/A_Community_Guide_to_Environmental_Health:Oil_Spills

[6] http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2016/11/alabama_pipeline_explosion_fir.html

[7] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/water/docs/CESCR_GC_15.pdf

[8] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx

[9] http://www.righttowater.info/progress-so-far/general-comments-2/

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/31/dakota-access-pipeline-protest-investigation-human-rights-abuses

[11] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx


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South Africa’s Opposition to LGBTI Watchdog

 

John Rizos

“It would turn back the clock on the progress made globally in relation to LGBTI rights.” The Director for ARC International lamented in response to the opposition for denouncing the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution to monitor and investigate LGBTI rights violations more closely[1]. Although the resolution is not binding, by merely calling upon and encouraging State cooperation[2], the protections it offers cover basic human rights and treatment.

On June 30, 2016 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted the resolution, establishing an independent expert for the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity[3].  The UNHRC recommended the position of an independent expert after reports of widespread violence and deaths in the LGBTI community[4]. It mandates the expert with the responsibilities to assess implementation of international instruments, to raise awareness of discrimination, to work in cooperation with States, to address forms of violence, and to conduct advisory services[5]. Vitit Muntarbhorn was appointed as the independent expert on September 30, 2016[6]. However, the resolution is currently receiving strong opposition with a call for cancellation from a coalition of African states. .

Through a separate resolution to the General Assembly, the African bloc is seeking to suspend and subsequently repeal the independent expert position and the UNHRC’s resolution altogether[7]. Sierra Leone initiated a resolution on behalf of the Group of African States to “defer consideration” of the position[8], to delay monitoring and to suspend activities pursuant to a determination of the legality of the HRC’s resolution[9].

The African States are claiming that the UNHRC’s resolution violates international law. They claim that it delves into matters reserved for domestic jurisdiction, that it gives priority to sexual orientation discrimination while it ignores other types of African discrimination and development[10], and that it lacks universal support[11]. Further, the African Group claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to international human rights instruments[12]. Amongst the countries of the African opposition is South Africa, which had also abstained from voting in the UNHRC’s resolution[13].

The opposition’s reaction is not a surprise. However, South Africa’s stance is surprising as it has contributed to and upheld the development of progressive jurisprudence[14]. It is also surprising due to the country’s discrimination struggles, Constitutional guarantees to universal rights, and recent actions regarding protection of LGBTI rights[15]. South Africa abstained from voting during the UNHRC’s resolution because of alleged “unnecessary divisiness”[16]. It currently appears to agree with the African States’ stance that the UNHRC resolution jeopardizes “the entire international human rights framework as [it] create[s] divisions” and that it does not fit within international law[17].

Even recently, the South African Department of Justice has worked to protect LGBTI rights and the Department of Home Affairs was in the center of controversy by refusing entry to a pastor who had made homophobic hate speeches[18]. So, why did South Africa choose to side with the rest of Africa? Initially abstaining from the vote, but then agreeing with the rest of Africa may be the result of strategic appeasement. South African officials have been criticized for aligning with “Western” beliefs and for persuading the rest of Africa in aligning its politics pursuant to such beliefs[19]. Further, South Africa still owes a large debt to certain African countries for aid during the apartheid and trade to the rest of Africa accounts for $20 Billion of Africa’s trade[20].

The claims that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be included in international law mechanisms are unjustified. Orientation and identity are not outside of international law as they are protected in the principles of universality and non-discrimination established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights[21] [22] [23]. Also, the claim that UNHRC’s agenda on sexual orientation and gender identity overlooks issues relating to racism is frivolous. The UNHRC resolution’s purpose is to support a broad agenda, to strengthen mechanisms, and to address issues of racism, discrimination, and related intolerance in any form[24]. Further, claims that the UNHRC resolution violates sovereignty and non-intervention purport a misunderstood role of the appointed expert. The expert is not a decision-making or enforcement body, but instead its purpose is to address issues, raise awareness, engage in dialogue, and to work in cooperation with States for any recommended implementations[25]. Lastly, the unprecedented suspension of the UNHRC resolution would hinder the Council’s institutional architecture and autonomy[26], which would render it “toothless” to future oppositions[27].

If the African bloc’s resolution is put forward for a vote to the General Assembly, South Africa will likely abstain in order to appease Western Countries and to be in accordance with its constitutional guarantees. The backlash from voting against the UNHRC resolution would be too damaging to the State’s reputation and politics as the champion of anti-discrimination following the end of apartheid. It would receive criticism from governments and NGOs alike. South Africa’s stance is most likely a “bluff” in order to appease other African countries until the issue has lost its “steam.”

US officials strongly support the UNHRC resolution and warn that re-opening the resolution to opposition could undermine the council’s ability to function and enforce their mandates. They noted that such review will weaken the Council, as it has never been subject to intervention by the UN General Assembly[28]. Further, a representative from the EU reminded that the States must “protect the human rights of all individuals without distinction of any kind.”[29] The representative emphasized that they have an international obligation to uphold the UNHRC resolution and the opposition lacks legal foundation to oppose it.[30] Amidst Western warnings, the African bloc’s resolution has a good chance of obtaining the necessary 97-vote simple majority to pass,[31] with the support of the African States and almost every State in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.[32]

The vote on the African States’ resolution in the General Assembly was scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016. However, the UN has delayed talks and voting on canceling the independent expert and amending the UNHRC resolution until later this month, November 2016.[33]

John Rizos is a 3L at the University of Baltimore School of Law with a concentration in International Law. He has an interest in human rights and international criminal law. In addition to being a CICL Fellow, John has served as the Secretary for Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and is currently enrolled in HarvardX’s online course, “Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster.” In June 2016, John was a member of the CICL Fellows team that, under the supervision of Professor Moore, assisted in drafting an amicus brief to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which was later approved and published. John graduated with honors from Towson University with a BA in International Studies (2013). He has interned at the Press Office of the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the International Civil Advocacy Network (ICAN), a non-profit organization advocating for women’s rights in the Middle East.

[1] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[2] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/RES/32/2

[3] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[4] http://afkinsider.com/134853/african-countries-oppose-new-un-gay-rights-envoy-world-bank-appoints-lgbt-promoter/

[5] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/RES/32/2

[6] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[7] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[8] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[9] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[10] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[11] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-african-and-islamic-states-reject-western-led-lgbt-human-rights

[12] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[13] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/RES/32/2

[14] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[15] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[16] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[17] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[18] http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-07-sa-backs-africa-groups-view-that-lgbti-rights-have-no-place-in-international-law

[19] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[20] http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-11-11-gender-discrimination-sas-about-turn-appeases-african-countries-that-do-not-protect-gay-rights/#.WCpgncndlMF

[21] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[22] http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[23] http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

[24] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[25] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[26] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/un-african-and-islamic-states-reject-western-led-lgbt-human-rights

[27] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[28] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[29] http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ at Article 2.

[30] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article112741003.html

[31] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/07/anti-lgbt-nations-seek-to-end-u-n-advocacy-of-lgbt-rights/

[32] http://afkinsider.com/134853/african-countries-oppose-new-un-gay-rights-envoy-world-bank-appoints-lgbt-promoter/

[33] https://76crimes.com/2016/11/10/opposition-and-delay-confront-anti-lgbt-push-at-u-n/

 


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Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia – Where is the International Community?

Paul Gora

 

Ethiopia is facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude, yet its government and Western enablers refuse to acknowledge the depth of the crisis. The nation-wide protest, which started in the Oromyia region, is one that threatens to degenerate into a full-scale social explosion.[1] These protests  are an extraordinary display of defiance by Ethiopia’s people against a repressive government.

While protests began in small villages and towns in 2014, the protests erupted in early July 2016 after a development plan was released that sought to expand the territorial limits of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in to Oromyia villages and towns. This was seen as a move to further accelerate the Oromo farmer evection from their ancestral land.[2] The government dismissed the protesters as “anti-peace” elements and accused them of acting in collaboration with a terrorist group, a common tactic used by Ethiopian government to crackdown on dissident opposition.

Although, these protests are triggered by recent events, they actually represent a more enduring and deeper crisis of political misrepresentation and systematic marginalization suffered by other ethnic groups in Ethiopia.[3] Historically, this tension exists because the government is tribal oriented ( i.e.Tigryan ) and they pushed out all other non-Tigrayan peoples, marginalizing them in their own country and deeming them unworthy of respect and consideration. In particular, the Oromos’ culture and language have been banned, their identity stigmatized, rendering them virtually invisible because their voices are not heard in the political process. When the current government came to power a quarter century ago, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), presented itself as the only political movement in the country that could provide stability to Ethiopia. As a result, the country gained greater support from the regional and global powers, who seem to have a vested interest in the region.

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The US-led “War on Terror” provided the Ethiopian government with a political and legal instrument with which the government justified severe restriction on freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation enabled the government to stretch its power of prosecution and punishment beyond what is permissible under criminal and constitutional law. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, the regime exiled and prosecuted several opposition leaders, journalists, bloggers, and activists.[4]

The government used overwhelming force to crush the protesters, killing hundreds of protesters and arresting thousands. Human Rights Watch criticized the excessive and lethal force used by security forces against the mostly peaceful protesters. Although the death toll is estimated at over 400, some activist groups think it is actually much higher. The protesters are demanding the international community to respond and openly condemn the regime in Addis Ababa and to withdraw its support for the repressive government.[5]

It remains unclear as to why IGAD, a regional body, or the UN, or the international community  as a whole have yet to condemn the atrocities being carried out by Ethiopian government on its own people. Even now, the international community is still funding the government, who is brutally kill unarmed peaceful demonstrators.

  The role of the international community

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Most recently, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Fiyesa Lilesa crossed the finish line of the men’s Marathon with his arms cross over his head in a gesture of solidarity with the Oromos to symbolize the protest against the government’s policies that targeted his ethnic group.  The Oromos have been using this gesture as symbol of protest against the Ethiopian government for the last two years.

The international community seems to have ignored what is happening in Ethiopia. Back in 2012, when uprising began in Benghazi, Libya, the international community reacted quickly to condemn the Libyan government for the use of excessive forces against unarmed protesters. Some countries cut-off their diplomatic relations with the Libyan government and the UN Security Council passed a resolution that stated the situation in Libya is a threat to international  peace and security under Chapter VII of UN Charter.

The current crisis in Ethiopia is clearly a threat to the region and beyond.  The African Union, its International Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the international community should condemned it openly. The Security Council should pass a resolution calling upon the Ethiopian authorities to stop the use of force against peaceful protesters, to protect human rights, and promote rule of law. Furthermore, the international community should take steps to impose sanctions on the Ethiopian government and stop financially supporting the government.

Perhaps the actions of Fiyesa Lilesa will have opened the world’s eyes. Unfortunately, Ethiopians do not have too long to wait.

Paul Obang Gora is an LL.M. student in the Law of the United States (LOTUS) program at UB Law. He has an LL.B. from the Ethiopian Civil Service College, Addis Ababa (2000) and a certificate for six-months’ training for judges and prosecutors. He served as an assistant prosecutor in Ethiopia from 2001-2003, but fled to Kenya because of political persecution. He was a community organizer in the refugee camps in Kenya and then served in the new South Sudan Ministry of Justice as legal counsel from 2008-12, prior to emigrating to the U.S. Paul is on the Elective Concentration Track, specializing in International Law, and working as an intern with the International Rescue Committee. 

[1] http//: http://www.humanrights watch /Ethiopia crisis /report

[2] http//: http://www.hrw.org/world –report/2015/country-chapters/Ethiopia

[3] www.voanews.com/a/ethiopia – ethiopia-dismisses-human-rights-watch-report

[4] http//:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/human_rights_in_ethiopia 

[5] http://www.refworld.org/docid/3aeba8af24.html