The Commonwealth Wire


UK puts UN human rights council 'on notice' after continued anti-Israel activity

The United Kingdom’s delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) announced Friday that it will vote against all future anti-Israel resolutions if the council persists in its disproportionate focus on the Jewish state. Last week’s UNHRC resolutions concerning Israel were imbalanced and unfair, the British diplomatic team said. While Her Majesty’s government itself had criticisms for the Israeli government, they noted that the world “must also recognise the continuing terrorism, incitement and violence that Israel faces…Neither ‘terrorism’ nor ‘incitement’ were a focus of this week’s Council discussions and resolutions. This is not acceptable.”

'Freedom of speech key to democracy'

Addressing students at a training programme on 'Human right awareness', organised by School of Law and Governance, Central University of South Bihar here on Sunday, national convenor of Lok Samiti K G Anand said freedom of speech and expression is a must to have a healthy democratic process in the country. The programme was sponsored by National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi.

Tanzanian albino children, attacked for body parts, seek care in U.S.

Four Tanzanian children with albinism, who lost limbs in brutal superstition-driven attacks, arrived in the United States on Saturday for medical treatment and respite from a homeland where they are persecuted and feared.

Opinion: What Australia needs to ask when China visits

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will land in Australia for an official visit later this week. On the eve of his visit, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop delivered an unusually sharp warning to China on its need to move towards democracy. Chinese authorities are cracking down harshly on civil society groups and democracy activists, with many now languishing in prison for peaceful dissent, like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti.

Human rights agency calls emergency hearing on concerns under Trump administration

A pan-American commission will hold an emergency hearing in Washington to investigate the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders on human rights in the country. Tuesday’s hearing by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was prompted by the requests from advocacy groups in Canada and the United States to review what they called “ongoing and deteriorating” conditions faced by asylum-seekers and other migrants under the Trump administration.

Human rights still a bridge too far

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Tuesday said basic human rights still remain “a bridge too far” for many fellow South Africans and likewise our African counterparts. “Fedusa believes that basic human rights still remain a bridge too far for many fellow South Africans and likewise our continental African counterparts who remain trapped in hunger, domestic violence, dread diseases, rural poverty, xenophobic attacks and poverty wages.”

Whanganui river in New Zealand awarded human rights

A river in New Zealand has been granted the same legal rights as a human in an effort to enshrine the waterway’s ancestral status of a local Māori tribe. The country’s parliament granted the legal rights to the river, which lies some 445km south of Auckland, on Wednesday.

Arrest of women's rights advocate prompts social media warning from JCF

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) last evening warned social media users to be responsible in their use of the various platforms and to be mindful of the law. The warning comes on the heels of the arrest and charge of Latoya Nugent, co-founder of women’s advocacy group Tambourine Army, under the Cybercrimes Act.

Councillors move separate motions on same-sex marriage

Deputy mayor Steve Toms and Cr Lillian O’Connor moved the motions amid spirited debate with some councillors arguing that it was not the place of council to take a stance. Cr Toms, who has previously described himself as a proud openly gay man, said polls indicated that 70 percent of Australians supported same sex marriage.

Rights group reveals Ugandan forces killed many, and even kids

More than 155 people died in deadly encounters last year between Ugandan forces and people loyal to a tribal king who has since been charged with treason, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, urging an independent investigation into the killings that shocked this East African country.

Nigeria's bishops call on government to defend human rights

At a recent meeting, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gave a bleak summary of the state of their country, lamenting humanitarian crises including violence at the hands of Boko Haram and other extremist groups, poverty, government corruption, and a lack of respect for human rights or dignity.

Draft resolutions requests full implementation of UNHRC resolution

A follow-up draft resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ had been submitted to the ongoing 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by five main sponsor nations on Monday requesting the Government of Sri Lanka to fully implement the measures identified in UNHRC resolution 30/1 of 1 October 2015.

Oxfam Nigeria advocates equal access to land for women

At the commemoration of the 2017 International Women Day (IWD) across the globe last week, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), Oxfam Nigeria, while appraising the poverty index of women in Nigeria, re-emphasised its earlier position that women’s deprivation of access to land has a significant contribution to their poverty level. Citing the United Nations (UN) Report that ranked Nigeria high in terms of gender inequality, Oxfam specifically pinpointed lack of access to land allocation as a major indicator.

Fiji defers candidacy for UN Human Rights Council

Fiji is putting off its run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. In October the government said it planned to seek a seat on the council during the 2018 to 2020 term. In a speech today however the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Fiji was a small country and its foreign policy resources needed to be focused on climate change and its presidency of COP23.

Scotland's disabled people's human rights highlighted at UN

The United Nations has been told more must be done to protect the rights of disabled people in Scotland. It comes after the UN warned that UK government welfare reforms had led to "grave and systematic" violations of disabled people's human rights.

Empowering youth through human rights education

Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network (CYHRDN), Commonwealth Secretariat, organised a day long workshop on “Empowering Youth through Human Rights Education” in partnership with Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI). The workshop held on March 4, 2017 at ASA University Bangladesh.

App takes human rights education to Nigerians

The fear many Nigerians exhibit when they have any form of contact with law enforcement agents has inspired a human rights/international law expert to launch #KnowYourRightsNigeria app. Adeola Oyinlola, who is also a UN Peace Ambassador, says the app is meant to raise awareness about human rights issues, as well as help provide users with access to legal services on a pro bono basis.

Intersex groups in Australia have called for the immediate criminalised of deferrable surgeries on intersex infants

Co-executive director of Organisation Intersex International Australia, Morgan Carpenter, told BuzzFeed News the statement was a “huge” and “very significant” development for the community. “It’s the first time that anything like this has happened, where organisations have gotten together and reached a common platform in Australia and New Zealand,” he said. “This will be guiding our work for the next few years.”

HRI says Shams, co-defendants innocent

Human Rights International (HRI) has asserted in a letter to the Prime Minister that Lambirds Academy CEO and his three co-defendants are innocent. The four are facing charges of human trafficking. Barrister Monwar Hossain, the HRI Secretary General, said the international human rights group is yet to fathom and the Saint Lucian Government to find out, the reason for the accusations against Shams and his colleagues

Sri Lanka seeks two more years to deliver war prob

Sri Lanka has asked the United Nations for two more years to investigate war crimes as a previous deadline lapses, Colombo said Monday, fuelling international concerns of a ‘worryingly slow’ probe. A UN Human Rights Council resolution in October 2015 granted Sri Lanka 18 months to establish a credible investigation into abuses committed during the island's 37-year ethnic war.

Women’s day addresses gender justice

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Belize commemorated the event with a forum taking a critical look at the women’s movement and gender justice. Two areas of discussion are the Women’s Domestic Act and the Gender Policy. One of the co-organizers of the event is PETAL – a local organization that lobbies for equality for lesbian and bi-sexual women.

Sri Lanka asks UN to delay human rights inquiry

Sri Lankan foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera plans to present a resolution to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) requesting two years to prepare a “mechanism” to investigate war crimes and human rights violations during the military offensives against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

NGO faults government anti-corruption campaign

Nigeria's anti-corruption campaign appears hobbled by a lack of legislation backing the efforts as well as concerns that the crusade is skewed against the opposition, a local NGO’s report said Wednesday. “Evidence is yet to be seen under the present administration of punitive measures meted to public officials who are non-compliant to procedures of declaring their assets and liabilities with constituted authority,” according to the report by Buharimeter, a prominent NGO dedicated to tracking the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari.

New human rights training for PNG police

A new human rights training programme for police in Papua New Guinea emphasises the responsibilities of police during this year's general election. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights contributed to the programme which was launched last week at the police training college in Vanimo.

Human rights, cyber security to play role in possible Canada-China free trade dea

The federal government wants Canadians to air their concerns about China’s human rights record as part of broad consultations on a possible free trade deal. Business leaders are also being asked to weigh in on a major cybersecurity issue: how to minimize the possibility of the Communist government prying into their commercial dealings in China. The Liberal government served notice in recent days that it wants to hear from a broad range of Canadians on the proposed free trade deal.

Circulation of naked images worries human rights' defenders

Malawians are reacting with distaste to the continued circulation and sharing of obscene pictures via social media. The tendency has slowly but surely taking root in the society, a development that is raising fears that it could have a negative bearing on children with access to such platforms. Last week, nude pictures of a female police officer went viral on social media, a development that shocked the public. The female police constable has since been interdicted from duty.

Malayagam Tamils seek rights recognition

While many Tamils from Europe were concerned at ongoings at UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, others hoping to promote another agenda met under the banner, “Solidarity for Malayaga Tamils” held at Sudbury Methodist Church, London on 4 March 2017.

Protecting the human rights of sexual minorities in Ghana

Defence Network for Democracy(DEFNED) has critically monitored and observed with keen interest concerning previous and the recent controversies surrounding the sexual reproductive rights and freedoms of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Ghana, and wish to strongly make its candid position legally clear on the matter in question in totality in accordance with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the African Union Human Rights Conventions and the Charter of the United Nations and International Human Rights Law.

Australia called on to lead on human rights

The Human Rights Law Centre has filed a submission on a new Foreign Policy White Paper, saying it's important for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to develop a comprehensive strategy for promoting human rights in its work.

Still no rights for sex workers

Having fought for decades to be accorded the basic human rights, sex workers are taking another stand on Sex Worker's Day to 'Amend and Stop Abuse of all Sorts of Punitive Laws against Sex Workers.'

Celebrate your basic human rights

South Africa will commemorate Human Rights Day on 21 March 2017, in Ginsberg, King William's Town, in the Eastern Cape. Themed "The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights", the day will be used to raise awareness and promote respect for basic human rights.

Jamaica to host Inter-American Human Rights conference

Representatives of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the Caribbean will meet here on Friday to participate in the high level regional consultations on the development of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan.

No transport for prisoners delays justice

The lack of vehicles to transport prisoners between Correctional Centres and the Courts leads to delays in the judicial process and unnecessary jail time for prisoners. The Director of Human Resources of the Correctional Service, Dennis Harmann, said, “Though the government has provided magistrates in the various districts, speedy trials for accused persons remains a problem.

Army outrage on Amnesty report

With the release last week of Amnesty International Report 2016/2017 “The State of The World’s Human Rights”, the Nigerian Army has disputed the aspect touching on Nigeria which alleged extrajudicial killings and torture of 240 people in the North-east and 177 pro-Biafran agitators.

No evidence no appeal plight of 4 Kenyans in South Sudan jail

Today marks 638 days since four Kenyans were detained in South Sudan over allegedly defrauding the Office of the President of Sh20 billion. On the rare and brief occasion their families were allowed to visit them, they found they had lost a lot of weight. Now it seems hope is lost as well, following their conviction.

Australia’s refugee policy is a crime against humanity

Two weeks ago, a veritable who’s who of human rights lawyers, coordinated through Stanford Law School’s human rights clinic, lodged a 108-page brief with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, urging her to investigate alleged crimes committed by Australian officials and the Australian government’s private contractors. As the brief indicates, Australian officials have knowingly enabled the commission of crimes against humanity.

Afghan LGBT asylum seekers in UK among most vulnerable

To be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in Afghanistan is to risk abuse, even death. Despite this, lawyers working with Afghan refugees in the United Kingdom have told Human Rights Watch that they find themselves pushing back against British immigration officials unwilling to accept even these refugees, among the most vulnerable of asylum seekers.

An Elusive Justice: Holding parent companies accountable for human rights abuse

Recently, the UK High Court threw out a case brought against oil giant Shell by two impoverished communities in the Nigeria Delta. It is a blow to the communities in their struggle for justice after suffering years of devastating oil spills. But the judgement also has wider implications for corporate accountability, making it more difficult to bring future legal cases against UK companies that abuse human rights abroad. 

US affirms commitment to supporting prison reforms in Ghana

Mr Robert Jackson, the US Ambassador to Ghana, has affirmed the commitment of the US Government to supporting the reformation and rehabilitation agenda of the Ghana Prisons Service.Mr Jackson said such a course, remains one of the surest ways of preventing crime in Ghana.Speaking during a courtesy call on him by Ambassador Extraordinaire of Prisons, Mr Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, Mr Jackson said the Embassy has supported the Prisons Service in building the capacity of its officers, provided skills training for some inmates in the country’s Prisons and would continue to support it in areas that would promote its ideals

Human rights group welcomes postponement of debate on “Spy Bill”

The Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association (GBHRA) has welcomed a decision by the Perry Christie government to postpone debate on the controversial Interception of Communications Bill (ICB) saying “the decision marks the dawn of a great new day for civil society and public interest activism in the Bahamas.

Edmonton woman wants size discrimination included in Human Rights Act

Connie Levitsky is petitioning the NDP government to rewrite the provincial Human Rights Act to protect overweight Albertans from discrimination. Levitsky made international headlines last April when she was fired from plus-sized women's retailer Addition Elle in Edmonton, for writing an online post about her experience helping "fat ladies," like herself, find clothing.

A space for LGBTIQ youths

The Fiji Constitution which was promulgated in 2013 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 bans discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. The anti-hate speech law bans references to sexual orientation or gender identity.