Today in Human Rights

No surprises in Tajikistan's presidential elections, as official results confirm that incumbent president Imomali Rakhmon has won another seven-year term in office. Electoral officials say Rakhmon, who’s already ruled the former Soviet Republic for two decades, won 83.6 per cent of the vote, but monitors point out there was little genuine competition. 

As Sri Lanka gears up to host the Commonwealth summit next week, the government is under increasing attack on its rights record and failure to address allegations of war crimes

Meanwhile the UK government, heavily criticized for its decision to attend the summit, vows to raise the issue of abuses.

A flawed timber trade agreement between Indonesia and the European Union does not go far enough to curb illegal logging, says Human Rights Watch. The agreement does not address whether harvesting the timber violated local community rights, nor does it address corruption, which robs Indonesia of billions of dollars in revenues annually.  

Bangladeshi authorities have begun illegitimate legal proceedings against two prominent activists with Odhikar, a leading Bangladeshi human rights group. Nasiruddin Elan, the group’s director, was denied bail and jailed in Dhaka yesterday. The activists are accused of falsely reporting human rights abuses by government security forces during mass demonstrations by the Islamist Hefazat-e-Islami movement in May.

The trial of Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi opened in Cairo this week. The country’s first democratically-elected ruler and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood members as charged with murder, attempted murder, and torture for their alleged roles in clashes outside the presidential palace last winter. But prosecutors’ failure to investigate the killing of at least seven Muslim Brotherhood supporters that night undermines the authorities’ claims of impartiality.

The daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator, who seems to be falling from political favour, is apparently now ready to “talk torture”. Gulnara Karimova has had numerous opportunities to talk about the country’s systematic torture and other serious abuses and avoided them all. 

Corruption Costs Indonesia $2 Billion, Dwarfs Climate Change Pledges

Corruption Costs Indonesia $2 Billion, Dwarfs Climate Change Pledges

Today in Human Rights

Syria has met the deadline for destroying its chemical weapons production facilities, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Still, the slaughter goes on… 

Scores have been found dead in the Sahara Desert, suspected of dying of thirst as they tried to get to Europe. The grim discovery follows the October 3 boat tragedy in the Mediterranean that killed 360 migrants on their way north. 

The UN conducted its first-ever human rights investigation into North Korea yesterday, taking evidence on gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Testimonies continue today…

While reform of the National Security Agency (NSA) is now on the American agenda, none of the proposed bills currently before Congress would see the US government accept the universality of the right to privacy or launch the full review of all surveillance that’s needed. Meanwhile, Google has expressed outrage in the wake of a new revelation that the NSA has tapped the company’s data links. 

Tony Blair is finishing up a two-year consultancy for the authoritarian government of Kazakhstan. Human Rights Watch attempted to get some answers from the former UK prime minister about what he had done to help improve human rights in the Central Asian country. The answer, it seems, is probably, “less than nothing”. 

In Indonesia, government officials have embraced thugs who preach religious intolerance and violence towards religious minorities. 

A UN committee has reviewed Uzbekistan's systematic torture, and the regime’s denials came in vigorous form… 

Indonesia’s Thug-Coddling Officials
Indonesia’s Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi finally spoke out on October 25 about one of the country’s most violent militant Islamist organizations, the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI). But rather than condemn the FPI’s 15-year-record of bigotry and criminality, Fauzi praised the group as a potential “national asset.”
An Indonesian lawmaker’s suggestion that Fauzi spoke while “disoriented” might have been unfair. But his views indicate a willful ignorance of the FPI’s long record of justifying its acts of violence, calling most non-Muslims “infidels,” and Muslims who do not adhere to Sunni orthodoxy “blasphemers.” 
Read more. 
Photo: Soldiers walk past a burned Ahmadiyah mosque in Cisalada, West Java province, which hundreds of Muslims burned along with five other houses on October 2, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

Indonesia’s Thug-Coddling Officials

Indonesia’s Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi finally spoke out on October 25 about one of the country’s most violent militant Islamist organizations, the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI). But rather than condemn the FPI’s 15-year-record of bigotry and criminality, Fauzi praised the group as a potential “national asset.”

An Indonesian lawmaker’s suggestion that Fauzi spoke while “disoriented” might have been unfair. But his views indicate a willful ignorance of the FPI’s long record of justifying its acts of violence, calling most non-Muslims “infidels,” and Muslims who do not adhere to Sunni orthodoxy “blasphemers.” 

Read more. 

Photo: Soldiers walk past a burned Ahmadiyah mosque in Cisalada, West Java province, which hundreds of Muslims burned along with five other houses on October 2, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

Read more.

Today in Human Rights

Canada has blasted the secretary general of the Commonwealth, calling the leader of the 53-member group of nations, a "shill for the Sri Lankan leadership" and its record of serious and wide-ranging human rights abuses. The choice of Sri Lanka as host of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November has been met with much international criticism in recent months, with Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper declaring he would boycott the meeting due to the country’s rights record. Queen Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth, will also not attend. The list of Colombo’s abuses is long and includes the government’s failure to independently or credibly investigate allegations of war crimes during the country’s armed conflict, such as indiscriminately shelling civilians (photo).   

Presidential candidates in Afghanistan include military and militia commanders implicated in serious rights abuses and crimes against humanity. The Afghan government has failed to prosecute or disqualify those responsible for grave crimes: in fact, no major commanders have been convicted for any of the massive abuses that have taken place during the past 35 years of conflict.

Three Papuan activists broke the chokehold the Indonesian government has long held on news about human rights abuses in the region by scaling the Australian Consulate’s fence and hand-delivering a personal plea to open Papua to world scrutinyOfficial restrictions have effectively blocked foreign media from freely reporting in Papua for decades. 

Malaysian home minister Zahid Hamidi showed a gross indifference for minority rights when he endorsed a “shoot first” policy for police. 

In Yemen, five men detained unlawfully for more than two years remain in detention despite a May 2013 presidential order to free three of them immediately.

Syria’s Black Hole has countless victims, but that doesn’t mean that those disappeared by the government have no name. Meet Mohamed Atfah

Finally, today’s presidential election in Azerbaijan got off to an unusual start with the final results apparently released before voting began. A new app gave away the unsurprising news a day early: incumbent Ilham Aliyev had attained a landslide “victory.”



Indonesia’s Forbidden Island
On September 23, two officers with the Indonesian police Brigade Mobile (“Brimob”) fired into a stone-throwing crowd, killing a 17-year-old student and seriously wounding three other people.  The police posted guards at the hospital where the wounded were being treated, and required visitors to leave their mobile phones at the entrance. Police reportedly confiscated the mobile phone of a nurse who had used it to take photos of the victims’ wounds.
That’s a story that some of the thousands of correspondents on Indonesia’s island of Bali for the October 5-8 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit might want to follow up on. But that won’t happen because the incident occurred in the town of Waghete, in Indonesia’s far eastern Papua province, where foreign journalists are barred from going or reporting. 
Read more.
Photo: Filep Karma and his daughter, Audryne Karma, in the Jakarta airport, September 2012. © 2012 Private
Indonesia’s Forbidden Island

On September 23, two officers with the Indonesian police Brigade Mobile (“Brimob”) fired into a stone-throwing crowd, killing a 17-year-old student and seriously wounding three other people.  The police posted guards at the hospital where the wounded were being treated, and required visitors to leave their mobile phones at the entrance. Police reportedly confiscated the mobile phone of a nurse who had used it to take photos of the victims’ wounds.

That’s a story that some of the thousands of correspondents on Indonesia’s island of Bali for the October 5-8 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit might want to follow up on. But that won’t happen because the incident occurred in the town of Waghete, in Indonesia’s far eastern Papua province, where foreign journalists are barred from going or reporting. 

Read more.

Photo: Filep Karma and his daughter, Audryne Karma, in the Jakarta airport, September 2012. © 2012 Private

Read more.

Today in Human Rights

Diplomatic discussions to address the massive chemical weapons attacks in Syria, have continued in Geneva, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry were today joined by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, hoping also to achieve progress on peace talks. The meetings took place as new evidence emerged of killings by conventional means: the mass executions in the towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas in May are the subject of the latest report from Human Rights Watch, with survivors detailing how their unarmed relatives were mowed down in front of them by government and pro-government forces. Attacks like these are just one issue that Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to mention in his (in)famous op-ed for the New York Times yesterday.  

In South Sudan, the army has unlawfully killed civilians and committed other serious violations in the context of a counterinsurgency campaign, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and making them more vulnerable to attack from rival ethnic groups. 

In Sri Lanka, there are growing concerns about the status of human rights and the government’s inability to hold anyone accountable for war crimes during the country’s recent conflict. Sri Lanka is set to host the Commonwealth summit in November, but HRW and others are calling on leaders not to attend.

In China, a new judicial interpretation expands the law to punish “online rumous”, making it easier for the authorities to jail people for peacefully exercising their right to expression on the Internet.

Deadly sectarian violence erupted in the seaside village of Puger, Indonesia, this week - the result of a long-simmering dispute between two Muslim communities. For HRW’s Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono, the violence hit close to home…

In India, a judge today handed down death sentences to four men convicted of the gang rape and murder of a New Delhi woman in December.

And in Tunisia, state prosecutors ordered the arrest and detention of activists and journalists for criticizing the government. 

Read more.

Today in Human Rights

US President Barack Obama may have “stumbled into a possible resolution of the Syria showdown”, as an apparently unscripted comment by US Secretary of State John Kerry set in motion a new diplomatic initiative by Moscow to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision. The UN floated a plan to destroy the stockpiles, and Obama said he could pause his domestic push to get support for a Congressional vote on military strikes. China apparently backs the Russian proposal, and France is supportive of the move provided Damascus acts quickly and that the International Criminal Court gets involved so that those responsible for the August 21 incident face justice. Paris is reportedly preparing a draft resolution for the UN Security Council, but the exact details are not yet known.

This surprising and fast-developing course of events comes as new evidence and analysis are emerging of the chemical weapons attacks in suburbs around Damascus on August 21. A new report by Human Rights Watch has concluded that available evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces were responsible for the attacks, which killed hundreds of civilians including many children.

The trial of Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, and his co-defendant, the radio broadcaster Joshua arap Sang, has begun today at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The men face crimes against humanity charges for their alleged roles in murders, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and persecution during Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence that brought the country to the brink of civil war.
In Iran, hundreds of thousands of Afghans face imminent expulsion after their visas were set to expire on September 6. Afghans make up the world’s largest refugee population, and people are leaving Afghanistan in droves as security conditions there continue to deteriorate.
Last week, a military court in Indonesia sentenced 12 members of the Special Forces Command to prison for their roles in the execution-style killings of four men in police detention on March. The guilty verdicts marked an important departure from the usual impunity given military personnel implicated in serious crimes, but the sentences imposed on the three soldiers found most culpable did not appear to match the gravity of the crimes.

Read more.



Sufi Muslims Feel the Heat of Indonesia’s Rising Intolerance
The plight of the Al-Mujahadah Foundation madrassa in southern Aceh illustrates the perils of rising religious intolerance for Indonesia’s religious minorities. The school, a private institution that instructed dozens of students 8 to 25 years of age in the principles of Sufism — devotion to more mystical interpretations of Islam — lost its dormitory on July 5 due to an apparent arson attack. Less than a month later, on Aug. 1, the wall surrounding the school compound was destroyed in what the school authorities believe was an act of vandalism. Police are investigating the alleged arson attack, but say the school’s wall collapsed due to faulty construction.
Suspicions that the school has been singled out for harassment and intimidation aren’t unwarranted. In February, Aceh’s Ulama Consultative Council (MPU), a government entity that advises the government on Islamic affairs, demanded the school’s closure on the basis that it was “strange” and its teachings “false and misleading.”
Read more.
Photo: The Al Mujahadah’s dorm was partly burned on July 5 due to an apparent arson attack. Aceh’s Ulama Consultative Council, a government entity that advises the government on Islamic affairs, demanded the school’s closure in February, declaring that it was “strange” and its teachings “false and misleading.” © 2013 Ahmad Barmawi
Sufi Muslims Feel the Heat of Indonesia’s Rising Intolerance

The plight of the Al-Mujahadah Foundation madrassa in southern Aceh illustrates the perils of rising religious intolerance for Indonesia’s religious minorities. The school, a private institution that instructed dozens of students 8 to 25 years of age in the principles of Sufism — devotion to more mystical interpretations of Islam — lost its dormitory on July 5 due to an apparent arson attack. Less than a month later, on Aug. 1, the wall surrounding the school compound was destroyed in what the school authorities believe was an act of vandalism. Police are investigating the alleged arson attack, but say the school’s wall collapsed due to faulty construction.

Suspicions that the school has been singled out for harassment and intimidation aren’t unwarranted. In February, Aceh’s Ulama Consultative Council (MPU), a government entity that advises the government on Islamic affairs, demanded the school’s closure on the basis that it was “strange” and its teachings “false and misleading.”

Read more.

Photo: The Al Mujahadah’s dorm was partly burned on July 5 due to an apparent arson attack. Aceh’s Ulama Consultative Council, a government entity that advises the government on Islamic affairs, demanded the school’s closure in February, declaring that it was “strange” and its teachings “false and misleading.” © 2013 Ahmad Barmawi