The Commonwealth Wire


India's Rohingya refugee community fights deportation threat

Mohammad Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee living in the Indian capital New Delhi, is again living in fear. Having fled Myanmar more than 14 years ago to escape persecution, Salimullah now lives in a makeshift Rohingya settlement, where he owns and operates a small general store. On Tuesday, India's supreme court will consider a case brought on behalf of Salimullah against the deportation of the more than 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India.

African Human Rights Bureau calls for UN intervention in Kenya

The UN Security Council has been urged to intervene and save Kenya from sliding into anarchy. The African Human Rights Bureau has noted that the unfolding political activities are similar to those that preceded the post-election violence in the country in 2007/2008.

BSF pushes back 4 Rohingya from Tripura

The Border Security Force (BSF) recently pushed back four Rohingya Muslims who were trying to cross over an unfenced stretch on the Bangladesh border in Tripura. This is the first instance of Rohingya being pushed back since the Home Ministry circular on August 19 to identify and deport them. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has opposed the government’s move to deport and push back the Rohingya and sought a report from the Ministry.

Human Rights Reflected Through Art

An exhibition at the Johanness Stegmann Gallery in Bloemfontein featured the works of renowned artists, poets and social activists to create a collection of thought provoking images which reflect and respond to the values and ideals instilled in the South African Bill of Rights. which is found in Chapter Two of the Constitution. The Art of Human Rights Print Portfolio is an of Art for Humanity (AFH) initiative.

Falana asks UN to investigate attacks on judges in Kenya

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has asked the UN high commissioner for human rights to investigate reports of attacks on judges in Kenya. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the August presidential election, judges have faces threats and criticism. In a letter to Diego Garcia Sayan, UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Falana said he was concerned that the attacks were coming at a time when the country’s courts were hearing 399 petitions. The human rights lawyer also said he was concerned that apart from violating the rights of the judges to personal dignity and security. The attacks also constitute a threat to the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the entire justice system.

Human Rights Commission slams police violence in Hout Bay

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) condemns the attack by police on a 14-year-old boy during a violent protest in Hout Bay on September 12. The commission finds it disturbing that police brutality during public protests continues to be so prevalent. The commission welcomes the decision by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to investigate the matter on its own accord.

Magarini residents decry human rights violations

Magarini sub county residents have petitioned the Kilifi county government and the national government to address alleged massive violation of human rights in Magarini by salt companies including forceful evictions, pollution that is posing a health risk to the community, and sexual abuse of those working in the salt companies.

Is the term ‘human rights’ outdated?

The term “human rights” may have reached the end of its lifespan, it was suggested at this year’s Global Compact Network Singapore Summit on Tuesday. Instead, progressive companies are committing to specific issues such as gender equality, children’s rights and water conservation. During a panel discussion on the intersection between human rights and business, sustainability consultant Ken Hickson proposed that it was a “mistake in this day and age” to use the term human rights. He suggested that with business taking the lead in talking about specific issues like child labour and gender equality it would be better off to forget the terminology of human rights and focus on specific areas like gender, race, inclusiveness and equality.

As Rohingyas flee Myanmar, India needs to drop religious criteria in its refugee law

The government of the prime minister of India has announced that 40,000 Rohingya refugees are to be deported. A plea against this decision, made by two Rohingya asylum seekers in Delhi, is being reviewed by India’s supreme court. To counter such flows, the Indian government developed a new strategy last year, a new bill that would benefit people belonging to Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian and Sikh faith, which are considered minority religions in their countries of origin, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, but not Muslims persecuted in their countries of origin, such as the Burmese Rohingyas.

A ‘New India’ of empowered women? Not as long as the Centre resists making marital rape a crime

Marking India’s 71st Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on August 15, said promoting the advancement of women was key to his vision of creating a “New India” by 2022. Yet, in the same month, his administration defended in the Supreme Court a clause in the Indian Penal Code that essentially prevents a man from being prosecuted for raping his wife if she is 15 years of age or older. The government, in response to a petition filed by a non-governmental organisation challenging the clause, said the clause was meant to “protect the institution of marriage”. Marital rape is a grave, yet widespread form of violence against women in India. 

CHRR says Kenya presidential re-run lesson for Malawi to reform electoral laws

The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has said the courageous decision by Kenyan Supreme Court to nullify the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta is a win for democracy and that Malawi should learn lesson and avoid chaotic elections in 2019. The decision is the first time in African history that a supreme court has upheld an opposition challenge in a presidential election and ordered a re-run. “CHRR trusts the historic Kenyan Supreme Court decision will reverberate across African countries still embroidered in chaotic electoral laws and systems,” said CHRR executive director, Timothy Mtambo.

What U.N. Human Rights mission found about Samoa

The United Nations Human Rights Council Independent expert group recently visited Samoa to assess the country’s performance on the issue of discrimination against women. During their 10-day mission, the expert group’s delegation, shared the following preliminary findings. The full enjoyment of human rights by all Samoan women requires a comprehensive approach that would include the development of adequate social and economic policies in order to address the root causes of discrimination against women, including gender-based violence, in Samoa. One of the most important steps in addressing the root causes of violence against women involves creating a wave of mind-set change with regard to cultural perceptions about women and their place in society.

Forced Evictions, Rights Abuses of Maasai People in Tanzania

Indigenous Maasai people in Loliondo region,Tanzania have been facing new cases of forced evictions and human rights violations, International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) warned. Asked who ordered the evictions and why, IWGIA told IPS that it is not entirely clear who ordered the eviction. Reportedly there was no consultation at either District Council or Village Government level, nor with the people directly affected, which means there was no agreement on the evictions either. The people are subjected to serious human rights violations including forced evictions, burning of houses, loss of property and livestock and serious harassment.

UN Bodies Denounce Threats To Igbo In Northern Nigeria

Two organs of the United Nations (UN) have denounced an ultimatum issued by members of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum for demanding that Igbo resident in all parts of northern Nigeria vacate the area by October 1, 2017. The two UN bodies also condemned death threats targeting members of Nigeria’s Igbo ethnicity. The UN experts who issued the report on the plight of the Igbo also voiced concerns over an anti-Igbo hate song and audio message that had gone viral on social media. The hateful message, which is spoken in Hausa, encourages northerners to destroy Igbo property in the north and kill Igbo who fail to leave by October 1.

Opinion: How the "Business Case" for Gender Equality Sidelines Human Rights

The case for gender equality at work is increasingly being made with economic arguments. Economic arguments for gender equality effectively commodify women and their labor. They imply that women's rights to work are only useful because there are quantifiable economic returns. This is a shift away from a human rights perspective under which rights to work are an inherent part of women's dignity that cannot be bargained or traded away.

What U.N. Human Rights mission found about Samoa

The United Nations Human Rights Council Independent expert group recently visited Samoa to assess the country’s performance on the issue of discrimination against women. During their 10-day mission, the expert group’s delegation, comprised of Kamala Chandrakirana and Eleonora Zielinska, held meetings in Apia, Poutasi, Vavau and attended consultations with representatives of Salani, Sapoe, Utulaelae, Siuniu, Salesatele, Salelesi. “One of the most important steps in addressing the root causes of violence against women involves creating a wave of mind-set change with regard to cultural perceptions about women and their place in society,” the group concluded.

Civil right lawyer condemns human rights abuse by NPF officers

CIVIL Rights Activist, Pelumi Olajengbesi has condemned the high rate of human rights violation by men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). Olajengbesi, who is the Convener, Office of the Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria said the law which established the police allows it to conduct search operation and arrest suspects but not to arbitrarily use their power. He said as a result of this, about 40 persons have been killed within the last 12 months in Lagos, Edo and Osun States.

Human Rights Commission dodges rights complaint

According to this report, the Australian Human Rights Commission is yet to accept a complaint about the New South Wales (NSW) government’s anti-corruption agency despite a finding in an independent report that the agency may have breached international human rights.

Suhakam: Human rights defenders do not protect criminals

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has put forth a definition of human rights defenders, two days after the deputy prime minister called them “wolves in sheep’s clothing who protect criminals”. Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said such individuals were people who work towards the realisation of rights and freedoms contained in the Federal Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments through non-violent means. On his words, “the efforts of human rights defenders contribute to positive societal change and play an important role in the establishment of the rule of law”.

Human rights lawyer condemns attack on Charly Boy, others, calls for Femi Adesina’s resignation

Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Femi Aborisade, has condemned the various attacks on a popular Nigerian entertainer who has been the face of the pro-masses #OurMumuDonDo movement in Nigeria, Charles Oputa (Charly Boy), and protesters and journalists during the #ResumeOrResign protest in Abuja. In a statement released on August 16, Mr. Aborisade also called for the resignation of the special adviser on media and publicity to the President of Nigeria, Femi Adesina.

Rapists in prison for decades get human rights hearing at United Nations

The cases of two long-jailed sex offenders are due to go under the spotlight at the United Nations human rights committee in October. The committee has invited Wellington lawyer Tony Ellis and a government representative to Geneva for a rare chance to speak about the cases of two men serving preventive detention terms. Allan Brian Miller was sentenced to the open-ended term of preventive detention 26 years ago, and Michael John Carroll was sentenced 29 years ago. Both have multiple rape convictions, and both are still in prison. Their arguments about the independence of the Parole Board, and the way preventive detention is served, have already been through the New Zealand court system.

Dell EMC boss backs push for LGBTI rights

Dell EMC’s president Enterprise APJ David Webster used the vendor’s annual Sydney talkfest to show support for the rights of the LGBTI community in Australia. As the debate over diversity and human rights issues such as gay marriage continues to rage across the country, Webster encouraged attendees to participate in the postal vote on same-sex marriage later in the year.

India plans to deport thousands of Rohingya refugees

Human Rights Watch (HRW) South Asia chief criticises the government plan to send back an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar, including those registered with a UN agency. Deputy Interior Minister Kiren Rijiju has said that India is not a signatory to the accord on refugees, argues the 40,000 are illegal immigrants with no basis to live in India, and must be deported. HRW South Asia slammed the plan, noting that India as a member of the UN Human Rights Council was aware of the risks Rohingya refugees faced if deported.

Opinion: Does Canada Deserve Its World-Class Reputation On Human Rights

On August 14-15, 2017, the eyes of the world will turn to Canada as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) reviews its record on combating racial discrimination. Many of the NGOs hope that the CERD Committee will call on Canada to develop and implement a new National Action Plan on Racism to address systemic racial issues and to facilitate the collection of disaggregated data across all government departments.

Nigeria: Long overdue judicial commission to probe human rights violations is set up

Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria welcomed the setting up of the judicial commission and its mandate to investigate alleged acts of violation of human rights by Nigeria’s security agencies. Although the judicial commission is  described as long overdue it is also said to be an opportunity to finally bring justice to victims of human rights violations across parts of Nigeria affected by conflicts

Child Trafficking- an unending plight

Economic deprivation and other reasons including make child trafficking a profitable business. Exploiting children’s vulnerability in addition to porous borders with Bangladesh and Nepal make India a hub for child trafficking.

Human rights activist wants law to protect house-girls

The Executive Director of Facilitation for Peace and Development, Eunice Apio Otuko, has requested government to put in place a law that ensures the safety and welfare of house-girls.  She argued that most house girls were working under undesirable conditions, which increased their vulnerability and also exposed them to human traffickers.

Landlord under fire for rejecting woman because of her ethnicity

The Fiji Humans Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission has condemned the alleged action of a landlord in refusing a woman to rent his Nadi flat because of her ethnicity.  Commission director Ashwin Raj deplored the incident, saying discrimination of any kind was against the law of the country.

Making Transgender Rights a Reality in India

“While there is no shame in being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex or even straight,” says Ramesh Bais, a member of parliament from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, “there is most certainly shame and dishonor in being a homophobe, a transphobe and a bigot.”  This strong public acknowledgement of the LGBT community, long marginalized in India, introduces and sets the tone for a new report on transgender rights by parliament’s Social Justice and Empowerment Committee. The report, presented to parliament last week, examines a draft bill on transgender rights – the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill – introduced in parliament in August last year.

UN notes not enough progress in Sri Lanka on rights issue

The United Nations (UN) noted that Sri Lanka has not made enough progress on addressing human rights issues and the issue on missing persons was a concern. UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that during his recent visit to Sri Lanka Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, had also discussed the matter with the Government.

Rwandan artists, journalists mobilised on child rights protection

Rwandan journalists and artists are undergoing specialized short training on understanding the protection of children rights just as they are involved in campaigns on violence against children.  Organised by Rwanda Civil Society Human rights organizations Umbrella (CLADHO) for the Child Rights Coalition, the training has brought together 30 artists and journalists.

Right to Information Bill must be passed now

Many years down the lane, Ghana is still struggling to pass the Right to Information (RTI) Bill. This bill, which will ensure enhanced transparency in the governance process, has remained on the drawing board and all efforts to get it passed into law continue to be a mirage.  The right to information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s 1992 Constitution and recognised as a right under international conventions on human rights.