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Volume 11 Number 4
New Delhi, Winter 2004

Around the Commonwealth
Compiled by Vaishali Mishra
Media Officer, CHRI


Racial discrimination in the police force has been rampant in Canada with the police forces refusing to file cases of missing persons of indigenous races. Amnesty International terms this as a gross violation of human rights and has chronicled cases where the police failed to file cases even after the mandatory 48 hours of the person going missing. In most of these cases parents put out posters without any help from the local authorities.

Says a family member of 16-year-old Felicia Solomon who went missing in early 2003, "When something happens to someone else's child, whether they are white or from any other kind of race or culture, the police do everything. It's completely different when an Indian person goes missing."


Pregnant women in Fiji are being tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases without their consent. A number of officials from within the Health Ministry admitted to the news website 'Village News' that women are being tested for HIV/AIDS without consent, but refused to divulge further information.

One woman, pleading anonymity, said she was outraged to discover that tests were conducted without her being informed. She has threatened to take the matter up with the Fiji Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile Human Rights activists across the country have termed the incident as a violation of basic human rights to conduct tests without consent.


Over 1,000 people have been murdered in Jamaica since 1 January 2004. At least nine police officers have been charged with murder. In 2003 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force killed at least 113 people.

Human Rights activists remain concerned at the frequent reports of killings by members of the security forces, many of which appear to constitute extra-judicial executions, and by very high reported rates of violent crime.

The Chief of Staff of the Jamaican Defense Force in a statement to Amnesty International assured the international community that human rights abuses by his soldiers would not be tolerated and that all allegations of abuses would be thoroughly investigated.


Even though the government of the Maldives has released 62 people who were arrested after mass pro-democracy demonstrations, human rights activists expressed grave concerns on the plight of the 8 demonstrators who are still under detention. All are detained without charge or access to lawyers, and their family visits are severely restricted.

The government has persistently alleged that the prisoners were involved in criminal activity during the demonstrations, but has not produced any credible evidence to
support this.

New Zealand

Instances of child trafficking in New Zealand in the form of sex trade has increased over the past one year admit the police. The Human Rights Commission has received a number of telephone calls from health personnel reporting incidents of Thai girls, less than 18 years of age, seeking medical attention, who had been subjected to sexual violence. However, by the time the Police have become involved it has been discovered that the addresses given are false or the girls have been moved to a new location.

The Police say it is difficult to protect witnesses who are returned to their own country. Current policy in New Zealand is to return the trafficked person to his or her own country as soon as possible. As a result, many victims will not agree to provide evidence, for fear of the repercussions from the traffickers that they, or their family, will experience when they return home.


State security agents have raided the offices of two independent publications confiscating equipment and arresting editorial staff. The publications in question are the "Global Star" and the "Insider Weekly" who have been accused by the state of "attacking, disparaging and humiliating" the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and other "notable people in the government."

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, human rights activists and journalists have borne the brunt of the government's crackdown, including harassment by the police, physical assaults and attempts at censorship on several occasions.

South Asia

The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), a platform of journalists of the region, plans to organise a hunger strike at the time of the next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in Dhaka demanding that the `right to information' be included on the agenda at the meeting.

"The right to know should be an agenda at the SAARC meeting to be held in January next. We have already prepared the draft proposal and made representations to different governments. We may go for a hunger strike if our demand is not met," said Mr. Imtiaz Alam, SAFMA Secretary General.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Tamil separatists LTTE, alledgedly gunned down reporter Iyer Balanadarajah, of the Tamil weekly Thinamurasu. The newspaper had reportedly been harassed by the LTTE. This is the second assassination of a journalist in Sri Lanka in the year 2004.


The court in Tonga ruled that the Media Operators Act 2003 and the Newspapers Act 2003 would be void. This landmark ruling is being hailed as a victory to the freedom of the press in the Kingdom affirming that a basic human right such as freedom of expression cannot be legislated against in a free society.
"The historic ruling now clears the way for newspapers and periodicals that have been banned by these legislations to be distributed again in the kingdom to give the public more access to information and to comment freely," said Faumuina Lance Polu, President, Pacific Islands News Association (PINA).


Amnesty International is calling for a full and independent inquiry into the deaths of at least ten people since 2nd September 2004 at Porta Farm, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Harare.

Riot police, "war veterans" and members of the youth "militia" reportedly went to Porta Farm to forcibly evict some 10,000 people, many of whom have been living there since 1991. The police were acting in defiance of a court order prohibiting the eviction. According to eyewitness testimony, the police fired tear gas directly into the homes of the Porta Farm residents. Firing tear gas into a confined space is completely contrary to international human rights standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials because of the danger posed to those exposed.


CHRI Newsletter, Winter 2004

Editors: Vaishali Mishra & Clare Doube, CHRI;
Design: Print: Anshu Tejpal, Electronic: Jyoti Bhargava, CHRI; Web Developer: Swayam Mohanty, CHRI.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to all contributors

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The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent international NGO mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth.