Category Archives: HUMAN RIGHTS

The State of the World’s Human Rights: Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2022/23

… . HUMAN RIGHTS … .

Annual report of Amnesty International

* Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 2022 highlights double standards throughout the world on human rights and the failure of the international community to unite around consistently-applied human rights and universal values.

* The West’s robust response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine contrasts sharply with a deplorable lack of meaningful action on grave violations by some of their allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

* Women’s rights and freedom to protest are threatened as states fail to protect and respect rights at home.

* As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 75, Amnesty International insists that a rules-based international system must be founded on human rights and applied to everyone, everywhere.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 unleashed numerous war crimes, generated a global energy and food crisis and sought to further disrupt a weak multilateral system. It also laid bare the hypocrisy of Western states that reacted forcefully to the Kremlin’s aggression but condoned or were complicit in grave violations committed elsewhere, Amnesty International said as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.

Amnesty International Report 2022/23: The State of the World’s Human Rights found that double standards and inadequate responses to human rights abuses taking place around the world fuelled impunity and instability, including deafening silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, inaction on Egypt and the refusal to confront Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians.

The report also highlights China’s use of strong-arm tactics to suppress international action on crimes against humanity it has committed, as well as the failure of global and regional institutions – hamstrung by the self-interest of their members – to respond adequately to conflicts killing thousands of people including in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a chilling example of what can happen when states think they can flout international law and violate human rights without consequences,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created 75 years ago, out of the ashes of the Second World War. At its core is the universal recognition that all people have rights and fundamental freedoms. While global power dynamics are in chaos, human rights cannot be lost in the fray. They should guide the world as it navigates an increasingly volatile and dangerous environment. We must not wait for the world to burn again.”

Shameless double standards pave way for further abuses

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine triggered one of Europe’s worst humanitarian and human rights emergencies in recent history. The conflict not only resulted in mass displacement, war crimes and global energy and food insecurity, it also raised the chilling spectre of nuclear war.

The response was swift with the West imposing economic sanctions on Moscow and sending military assistance to Kyiv, the International Criminal Court opening an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine and the UN General Assembly voting to condemn Russia’s invasion as an act of aggression. However, this robust and welcomed approach stood in stark contrast to previous responses to massive violations by Russia and others, and to pitiful existing responses on conflicts such as Ethiopia and Myanmar.

“Had the system worked to hold Russia accountable for its documented crimes in Chechnya and Syria, thousands of lives might have been saved then and now, in Ukraine and elsewhere. Instead, what we have is more suffering and devastation,” said Agnès Callamard.

“If Russia’s war of aggression demonstrates anything for the world’s future, it is the importance of an effective and consistently applied rules-based international order. All States must step up their efforts for a renewed rules-based order that benefits everyone, everywhere.”

For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, 2022 was one of the deadliest years since the UN began systematically recording casualties in 2006, with at least 151 people, including dozens of children, killed by Israeli forces. Israeli authorities continued to force Palestinians from their homes, and the government is rolling out plans to drastically expand illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank. Instead of demanding an end to Israel’s system of apartheid, many Western governments chose to attack those denouncing it.

The USA has been a vocal critic of Russian violations in Ukraine and has admitted tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war, yet under policies and practices rooted in anti-Black racism, it expelled more than 25,000 Haitians between September 2021 and May 2022, and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment.

EU member states opened their borders to Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression, demonstrating that, as one of the richest blocs in the world, they were more than capable of receiving large numbers of people seeking safety and giving them access to health, education and accommodation. However, many kept their doors shut to those escaping war and repression in Syria, Afghanistan and Libya.

“Responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine gave us some evidence of what can be done when there is political will. We saw global condemnation, investigations of crimes, borders opened to refugees. This response must be a blueprint for how we address all massive human rights violations,” said Agnès Callamard.

The West’s double standards emboldened countries like China, and enabled Egypt and Saudi Arabia to evade, ignore and deflect criticism of their human rights record.

Despite massive human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, Beijing escaped international condemnation by the UN General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Council established a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia and an investigative mechanism on Iran in the wake of deadly protests. But it voted not to further investigate or even discuss the UN’s own findings of potential crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, and discontinued a resolution on the Philippines.

“Countries applied human rights law on a case-by-case basis in a staggering show of blatant hypocrisy and double standards. States cannot criticize human rights violations one minute and, in the next, condone similar abuses in other countries just because their interests are at stake. It’s unconscionable and undermines the entire fabric of universal human rights,” said Agnès Callamard.

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“We also need States that have so far failed to put their head above the parapet to take a stand against human rights abuses wherever they fall. We need less hypocrisy, less cynicism, and more consistent, principled and ambitious action by all states to promote and protect all rights.”.

Ruthless repression of dissent across the world

In 2022, Russian dissenters were taken to court and media houses were shut down just for mentioning the war in Ukraine. Journalists were imprisoned in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Russia, Belarus and dozens of other countries across the world where conflicts raged.

In Australia, India, Indonesia and the UK, authorities passed new legislation imposing restrictions on demonstrations while Sri Lanka used emergency powers to curtail mass protests against the spiralling economic crisis. The UK law gives police officers wide-ranging powers, including the ability to ban “noisy protests”, undermining the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

Technology was weaponized against many, to silence, prevent public assembly or disinform.

Iranian authorities responded to the unprecedented uprising against decades of repression with unlawful force through live ammunition, metal pellets, tear gas and beatings. Hundreds of people, including dozens of children, were killed. In December, Peruvian security forces used unlawful force, especially against indigenous people and campesinos, to quell protests during the political crisis that followed the ousting of former president Castillo. Journalists, human rights defenders and political opposition also faced repression including in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In response to growing threats to the right to protest, Amnesty International launched a global campaign in 2022 to confront states’ intensifying efforts to erode the fundamental right to freedom of peaceful assembly. As part of this campaign the organization calls for the adoption of a Poland were prosecuted for helping women access abortion pills.

Indigenous women continued to face disproportionately high levels of rape and other sexual violence in the USA. In Pakistan, several high-profile murders of women by family members were reported yet parliament failed to adopt legislation on domestic violence that had been pending since 2021. In India, violence against Dalit and Adivasi women, among other caste-based hate crimes, was committed with impunity.

Afghanistan witnessed a particularly significant deterioration of women and girls’ rights to personal autonomy, education, work, and access to public spaces, through multiple edicts issued by the Taliban. In Iran, the “morality police” violently arrested Mahsa (Zhina) Amini for showing strands of hair under her headscarf, and days later she died in custody amid credible reports of torture, sparking nationwide protests in which many more women and girls were injured, detained or killed.

“States’ hunger to control the bodies of women and girls, their sexuality and their lives leaves a terrible legacy of violence, oppression and stunted potential,” said Agnès Callamard.

A crowd of protesters proceeds over the Brooklyn Bridge with the New York skyline in the background. They carry a large banner with the words ‘my body my choice’.

Global action against threats to humanity woefully inadequate

In 2022, the world continued to suffer the fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Climate change, conflict and economic shocks caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further compounded the risks to human rights.

Economic crises meant 97% of the population of Afghanistan were living in poverty. In Haiti, the political and humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by widespread gang violence, left more than 40% of the population facing acute food insecurity.

Extreme weather conditions exacerbated by a rapidly warming planet triggered hunger and disease in several countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, including Pakistan and Nigeria where floods had a catastrophic impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and led to an outbreak of waterborne diseases, which killed hundreds.

Against this backdrop, countries failed to act in the best interests of humanity and address fossil fuel dependency, the main driver pushing us toward the biggest threat to life as we know it. This collective failure was another stark example of the weakness of current multilateral systems.

“The world is besieged by an onslaught of colliding crises including widespread conflict, cruel global economics with too many states burdened by unsustainable debt, corporate tax abuse, the weaponization of technology, the climate crisis and shifting tectonic plates of power. We stand no chance of surviving these crises if our international institutions aren’t fit for purpose,” said Agnès Callamard.

Dysfunctional international institutions need fixing

It is vital that international institutions and systems that are meant to protect our rights are strengthened rather than undermined. The first step is for UN human rights mechanisms to be fully funded, so that accountability and investigations can be pursued, and justice delivered.

Amnesty International is also calling for the UN’s key decision-making body, the Security Council, to be reformed to give a voice to countries and situations which have been traditionally ignored, especially in the global south.

“The international system needs serious reform to reflect the realities of today. We cannot allow the permanent members of the UN Security Council to continue wielding their veto power and abusing their privileges unchecked. The lack of transparency and efficiency in the Council’s decision-making process leaves the entire system wide open to manipulation, abuse and dysfunction,” said Agnès Callamard.

But while self-serving governments fail to put our human rights first, the human rights movement shows we can still draw inspiration and hope from the people these states should have protected.

In Colombia, the persistence of women’s rights activism and legal action contributed to the Constitutional Court’s decision to decriminalize abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. In South Sudan, Magai Matiop Ngong was released from prison, having been sentenced to death at the age of 15 in 2017. His release came after thousands of people around the world petitioned the authorities for his freedom.

Indigenous Mayan environmentalist Bernardo Caal Xol was released on parole after spending four years in jail in Guatemala on bogus charges. After years of campaigning by women’s movements in Spain, the country’s parliament passed a law placing consent at the centre of the legal definition of rape. Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea repealed the death penalty.

“It is easy to feel hopeless in the face of atrocities and abuses but throughout the last year, people have shown we are not powerless,” said Agnès Callamard.

“We’ve witnessed iconic acts of defiance, including Afghan women marching against Taliban rule and Iranian women walking unveiled in public or cutting their hair to protest compulsory veiling laws. Millions of people who have been systematically oppressed by patriarchy and racism took to the streets to demand a better tomorrow. They did so in previous years and they did so again in 2022. This should remind those in power that we will never be mere bystanders when they assault our dignity, equality and freedom.”

Amnesty International: Human Rights wins in 2022 

… . HUMAN RIGHTS … .

An article by Amnesty International

Confronted withwhat can sometimes seem like an endless cycle of bad news in the media, it’s easy to feel despondent. But, amid the gloom, there were plenty of good news stories to celebrate this year.

Throughout 2022, Amnesty’s ongoing campaigning, media and advocacy workcontributed to positive outcomes for people all over the world whose human rightswere being violated. Individualsunjustly detained were freed from prison.Human rights abusers were held accountable. Vital legislationand resolutionswerepassed by governmentsat national and international level. Progress towards the global abolition of the death penalty continued.And important advances were made both for the rights of women and LGBTI people.

Here’s a round-up of human rights wins in 2022.

Individuals freed from unjust imprisonment

Amnesty’s ongoing work for individuals helped secure the release of people across the world, delivered justice for families, and held abusers accountable.

In January, university lecturer Professor Faizullah Jalal was released after being arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Taliban.

Hejaaz Hizbullah, a Sri Lankan lawyer and Amnesty prisoner of conscience, was granted bailin February after almost two years of pre-trial detention under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).Two other detainees held under the PTA, Ahnaf Mohamed Imran and Divaniya Mukunthan, were also released on bail in August and September respectively.

In Honduras, the “Guapinol eight”, a group of water rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, were unconditionally released in February, after spending more than two years in prison for their human rights work.

The following month, in neighbouring Guatemala, IndigenousMayan environmentalist and prisoner of conscience Bernardo Caal Xol was released early after being jailed on bogus charges related to his activism. More than half a million actions were taken on his behalf during Amnesty’s 2021 Write for Rights campaign.

Elsewhere, Magai Matiop Ngong — for whom more than 700,000 actions were taken during Write for Rights 2019— was released from prison in South Sudan in March, having been sentenced to death at the age of 15 in 2017.

August saw the release of schoolteacher Hriday Chandra Mondal, who was detained for discussing the difference between science and religion in his classes. All charges against him were subsequently dropped.

In May,18-year-oldPalestinian Amal Nakhleh, who suffers from a chronic autoimmune disorder, was released from Israeli administrative detention following 16 months of campaigning by Amnesty and others.

In July, a Russian court acquittedYulia Tsvetkova of “production and dissemination of pornographic materials” over her body-positive drawings of vaginas that were published online.

Following an Urgent Action by Amnesty, Maldivian activist Rusthum Mujuthaba, who was being held on blasphemy charges in relation to a social media post,was released from prison in August.

Palestinian national Dr.Mohammed al-Khudariwas released from prison in Saudi Arabia in October after spending more than three years in arbitrary detention along with his son, Dr.Hani al-Khudari. Both men were handed down prison sentences based on trumped-up charges. Dr.Hani al-Khudari remains in prison despite the expiry of his sentence in February andAmnesty continues to campaign for his release.

Six Palestinian men who reported that they had been tortured in Palestinian Authority prisons were released on bail within two weeks ofAmnesty’s intervention in November.

Thanks to the support of Amnesty Argentina, a Ukrainian familywas able to escape the war and settle in the country in November. A short film documenting their story is available here.

In Yemen, journalist Younis Abdelsalamwas released in December after being arbitrarily detained for over ayear for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Justice for families, abusers held accountable

In Malawi, justice was served in April when a court convicted 12 men over the 2018 killing of MacDonald Masambuka, a person with albinism.

In June, partial justice was finally delivered for the 2016 murder of environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, as David Castillo was sentenced to prison for co-authoring her killing. Amnesty continues its campaign to bring others suspected of responsibility for Berta’s murder to justice.

After pressure from the US authorities, and following a visit by President Biden to Israel, the Israeli Defense Ministry agreed in October to pay compensation to the family of Palestinian-American Omar As’ad, who died after Israeli soldiers ill-treated him at a checkpoint in January.

In November, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation informed the Israeli government that it would conduct an investigation into the May killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by an Israeli soldier.

In December, a Lebanese judge indicted five State Security members on charges of torture in the case of Syrian refugee Bashar Abdel Saud, who died in custody in August.

Continued progress towards the global abolition of the death penalty

Amnesty’s campaign for the global abolition of the death penalty saw further success in 2022, as a string of countries abolished or took significant steps towards abolishing the punishment.

The abolition of the death penalty for all crimes came into force in Kazakhstan inJanuary. Papua New Guinea followed suit in April, repealing the punishment 30 years on from its reintroduction.

Via social media , Zambia’s President announced in May that the country would begin the process of abandoning the death penalty and, in June, Malaysia’s government initiated the process of removing the mandatory death sentence for 11 offences.

In September, a new law which removed death penalty provisions from the penal code in Equatorial Guinea came into effect.

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Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have not yet abolished the death penalty for all crimes, including Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, continued to carry out no executions.

Landmark national legislation and international agreements

At both national and international level, Amnesty’s work was vital in helping secure the passage of essential legislation and resolutions, as well as ensuring that companies were held accountable for their human rights responsibilities.

National

There were important wins on Refugee and Migrants’ Rights in the U.S. For example, in March, the Department of Homeland Security announced the designation of Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The move offers protection from deportation to Afghans without visa status and in the U.S. before March 15, 2022, allaying immediate fears of a return to a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Amnesty USA is Campaigning for a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for Afghans seeking safety, the Afghan Adjustment Act. 

In a win for the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of expression in May, the Supreme Court of India suspended the 152-year-old sedition law.

The government of Sierra Leone drafted a new mental health bill in June that is more aligned with international human rights standards than the outdated and discriminatory ‘Lunacy Act’ of 1902. This was a central call in Amnesty’s May 2021 report focusing on the issue.

In Niger,the country’s parliament adopted amendments to the cybercrime lawin Junethatlifted prison sentences for libel and insults. The law had been routinely used to target and arbitrarily detain human rights defenders, activists and journalists.

In the US, legislation on gun violence long campaigned for by Amnesty USA and partners was adopted, with the passage of the Safer Communities Act in June. The legislation provides an additional $250 million for community violence interruption (CVI) programmes.

Amnesty saw impact from our work on children in conflict zones in Niger, including increased UN monitoring of the situation. In July, the UN Secretary-General called on his Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict to “promote enhanced monitoring capacity in the Central Sahel region”, which would cover the tri-border region of Niger, which was one of the main recommendations ofour September 2021 report.

Throughout the year, Amnesty also saw some businesses take their human rights obligations more seriously.

Following Amnesty’s request, the authorities of Sierra Leone asked the Meya mining company operating in Kono district to respond to our concerns about the negative impact of its activities on local people. The company replied that it was engaged in various actions to improve the safety of populations and access to drinking water for communities.

Amnesty’s investigation into the aviation fuel supply chain linked to war crimes in Myanmar played a role in several companies announcing their withdrawal from jet fuel sales to the country, where shipments risk being used by the Myanmar military to carry out deadly air strikes. The companies included Puma Energy, which announced its exit less than two weeks after being presented with Amnesty’s findings. Thai Oil and Norwegian shipping agent Wilhelmsen also confirmed they would pull back from the supply chain, with more expected to follow.

International

Following Amnesty’s report, in March, UN Special Rapporteur (SR) Michael Lynk said that Israel is practising apartheid, followed by UN SR Balakrishnan Rajagopal in July, joining a growing chorusof expert assessments.

In April, the European Union reached political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), a landmark regulatory framework that will, among other things, require Big Tech platforms to assess and manage systemic risks posed by their services, such as advocacy of hatred and the spread of disinformation.

Important progress was made on environmental justice, with the passage of a resolution at the UN General Assembly in July recognizing the right to a healthy environment. The news followed a similar resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Councilat the end of 2021.

In July, ten European countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden rejected the Israeli Defense Ministry designation of seven Palestinian civil society organizations as“terrorist” and “illegitimate”. The US government expressed its concern when theIsraeli military raided the offices of the organizations in August, and UN experts condemned the Israeli attacks on Palestinian civil society in October.

At its 51st session, the UN Human Rights Council released a special resolution on Afghanistan in September. Amnesty suggested the inclusion of a call for the UN Special Rapporteur to prepare a thematic report on the situation of women and girls. Several countries supported the idea, and it was included in the final resolution.

In October, the UN Human Rights Council renewed the mandateof the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela—a key independent international mechanism actively investigating and regularly reporting on past and ongoing international crimes and other human rights violations—until September 2024. And, in November, the Human Rights Council passed a landmark resolution to establish a new fact-finding mission to investigate alleged humanr ights violations in Iran related to the ongoing nationwide protests that began on 16 September 2022.

The mandate of the OHCHR’s Sri Lanka Accountability Project was extended for a further two-year period in October. The project has a mandate to collect and preserve evidence for future accountability processes — a key aspect of ensuring pressure remains on the Sri Lankan government to remedy and stop both historical and current human rights violations.

Victories for women’s rights

The year saw a number of victoriesf or women’s rights, with Amnesty at the forefront.

In the latest progress on sexual and reproductive rights in Latin America, Colombia decriminalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy in February.The news followed the legalization of abortion in Argentina in 2020 and the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico 2021.

In May, the lower chamber of Spain’s parliament passed a bill containing important measures to prevent and prosecute rape. Finland’s parliament passed similar measures in June, adopting reforms that make lack of consent key to defining rape. Finland also passed reforms in October that eased the strictest abortion laws in the Nordic region.

September saw the acquittal of Miranda Ruiz, a doctor who had been unjustly prosecuted in Argentina for having guaranteed a legal abortion.

Notable wins for LGBTIrights

Amnesty contributed to some notable wins for LGBTI rights throughout 2022.

In an important affirmation of transgender individuals’ rights to dignity, happiness and family life, South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled  that having children of minor age should not immediately be the reason to refuse to recognize the legal gender of transgender persons.

In July, same-sex marriage became legal in Switzerland, after almost two-thirds of the population voted in favour of it in a referendum. Slovenia followed suit in October, legalizing same-sex marriage after a constitutional court ruling.

A ban on the award-winning film Joyland, which features a transgender person as a central character, was reversed in Pakistan in November.

Nobel Peace Prize 2023: PRIO Director’s Shortlist Announced

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from the Peace Research Institute Oslo

The director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Henrik Urdal, announced his shortlist today for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize, with human rights activists topping the list. 
The 2023 shortlist comprises of:

1. Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj
2. Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar’s National Unity Consultative Council
3. The International Court of Justice
4. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach
5. Human Rights Data Analysis Group


Left to right: Mahbouba Seraj and Narges Mohammadi

“History has shown us that respect for human rights is intrinsically linked to peaceful societies. The non-violent struggle for human rights is therefore a valuable contribution to peace and stability, and an advancement of the ‘fellowship among nations’ as stipulated by Alfred Nobel in his will. As this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, my Nobel shortlist reflects a timely and worthy focus on human rights defenders and activists,” said Henrik Urdal.

Each year, PRIO’s director presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. He offers his opinion on the most worthy potential laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO director’s view on potential and worthy Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely recognized and has been offered since 2002. Henrik Urdal presents here his sixth list since taking up the position of director in 2017.

Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj

Oppressive regimes in Iran and Afghanistan have drastically reversed women’s rights in the past year, from executing Iranian youths for protesting gender inequality, to banning Afghan women attending university. Research shows that more gender-equal societies are more peaceful. If the Nobel Committee would like to shine a spotlight on the non-violent struggle for human rights as a contribution to peace, Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj are highly deserving nominees to share the prize, based on their tireless efforts to improve women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan.

Narges Mohammadi is a leading Iranian human rights activist and journalist who has campaigned for women’s rights and the abolition of the death penalty. She has spent multiple periods in prison in Iran and is currently serving a long prison sentence for charges including spreading ‘propaganda against the state’. Her imprisonment has been internationally denounced. Mohammadi is deputy head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which is led by the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi. She was also elected President of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Peace in Iran.

Mahbouba Seraj is a prominent Afghan journalist and women’s rights activist. After 26 years in exile, she returned to Afghanistan in 2003, and is now based in Kabul. She is a champion of children’s health, education, fighting corruption and empowering survivors of domestic abuse. She is also the founder of the nonprofit Afghan Women’s Network and the Organization for Research in Peace and Solidarity, and has pushed for women’s participation in the Peace Jirga and the High Peace Council.

Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar’s National Unity Consultative Council

Since the coup d’état on 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s military has reportedly killed over 2,800 people and detained more than 17,400. The UN has stated that the military brutality against the population amounts to crimes against humanity and possible war crimes. For their efforts to inclusively work for peace and democracy, and to end the violence by the security forces, Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) would be worthy recipients of the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun denounced the military coup soon after it occurred, calling on states not to recognize or legitimize the junta. Since then, he has represented the people of Myanmar in the UN on behalf of the National Unity Government that was formed by elected members of parliament, representatives of various ethnic groups and civil society leaders. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has used his position to convey the voices of the Myanmar people to the international community.

The NUCC aims to end all forms of dictatorship and to build a federal democratic union in Myanmar that fully guarantees democracy, national equality and self-determination. It is an inclusive body with representatives from elected members of parliament, political parties, civil society organizations, officials from the civil disobedience movement and strike organizations, and ethnic resistance organizations.

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International Court of Justice

Mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts between states are particularly important to maintain and support peace in an increasingly polarized world. The International Court of Justice (ICJ)  promotes peace through international law, akin to promoting peace congresses, another achievement highlighted in Alfred Nobel’s will. The ICJ would be a worthy recipient of the 2023 Peace Prize should the Nobel Committee wish to recognize the importance of multilateral collaboration for peaceful relations.

The ICJ was established in 1945 by the Charter of the UN to settle legal disputes between states and advise on legal questions within the UN. With all 193 UN member states party to the ICJ Statute, the Court has become a globally accepted multilateral mechanism for dispute resolution. While a Nobel Peace Prize to the ICJ would largely be seen as uncontroversial, the Court acted boldly and early on 16 March 2022 by ordering Russia to ‘immediately suspend the military operations’ in Ukraine. The Nobel Committee could emphasize this ruling as an attempt to stop an illegal war of aggression.

Other potential candidates for a prize focused on peace through international law are the International Criminal Court (ICC), or regional bodies such as the European Court for Human Rights or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach

Discrimination and injustice against indigenous peoples stokes tensions between communities that can lead to violence and armed conflict. The non-violent struggle to protect and strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples is a laudable rationale for being awarded the Peace Prize. Two worthy campaigners for the rights of indigenous peoples are Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach. This would also be an environmental prize for conservation action and the fight against climate change.

Philippine-born indigenous rights activist Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has worked for many years to advance the rights of indigenous peoples across the world. She served as the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Tauli-Corpuz founded and heads Tebtebba, the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education. She has also worked extensively with tropical forest conservation and against destructive development projects, climate change, social justice issues and the advancement of indigenous peoples’ and women’s rights.

Similarly, the Ecuadorian indigenous leader Juan Carlos Jintiach has played a key role in elevating the voices of indigenous peoples. He is a democratically elected leader of COICA (the federation representing Indigenous organizations in the Amazon Basin) and an active member of multiple indigenous rights groups. He served as the co-chair of the global indigenous caucus in the international indigenous forum on climate change within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Jintiach has worked to connect the concerns of communities on the ground with global policy arenas, and has served as a consensus-building voice among these actors.

Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Research and knowledge can play an important role in promoting peace. A Nobel Peace Prize for organizations working to mobilize research and education in the service of preventing conflict would highlight the importance of truth-seeking and facts in the face of the propagation of divisive disinformation.

One such organization that would be a worthy recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize is the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Based in the United States, HRDAG systematically documents and analyses data on human rights abuses. Founded by Patrick Ball, the organization aims to promote accountability for human rights violations through rigorous, non-partisan science.

Other worthy candidates for a prize focused on documenting human rights violations include the research agency Forensic Architecture, and the investigative journalism groups Bellingcat and Lighthouse Reports.


Background on the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize is arguably the most prestigious prize in the world. It is awarded annually by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to persons or organizations for their efforts to promote peace. The Norwegian Nobel Committee  bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 31 January deadline. Anyone can be nominated. Indeed, history has presented us with a few rather dubious nominees, including Hitler. The right to nominate  is reserved for members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts.

The five committee members have until their first meeting after the deadline to add nominations of their own. Urdal abstains from using his right to nominate, given his active role in commenting on the prize. He has no association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The laureate will be announced in October.

Iran: Key Labor Sectors Launch Major Strikes Amid Anti-State Protests

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from Iran Human Rights

More than three months into anti-state protests across Iran that state security forces have been unable to crush despite the use of lethal force, oil workers, truckers, public transportation workers, and factory workers are joining other labor groups now waging strikes across the country.

“These workers are the backbone of the Iranian economy,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “The fact that so many workers are striking even while labor leaders are among the thousands who’ve been arrested since September speaks to the level of discontent against the government.”

While strikers’ demands have primarily focused on the longstanding issue of unpaid wages, chants of “Death to the dictator” can be heard in video footage  of truck drivers on strike at the Akbarabad Terminal in Tehran on November 22, echoing the anti-state slogans that have characterized the ongoing protests in Iran.

While strikers’ demands have primarily focused on the longstanding issue of unpaid wages, chants of “Death to the dictator” can be heard in video footage  of truck drivers on strike at the Akbarabad Terminal in Tehran on November 22, echoing the anti-state slogans that have characterized the ongoing protests in Iran.

Solidarity with Iran’s Protest Movement Expressed by Strikers

On November 23, 2022, the Union of Truck Owners and Drivers of Iran issued a statement  calling for nationwide strikes as of November 26 to protest the government’s lack of response to the problems facing its members.

“How can we ignore the plight of our innocent colleagues and other people in Kurdistan, Baluchistan and Izeh and other blood-stained cities?” said the statement, referring to the ongoing lethal state crackdown  on protests in multiple provinces, in which security forces have killed at least 451 people, including women and children, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency.

“The strikers, who along with the young women and men who have been protesting against the Islamic Republic’s tyranny, have shown incredible bravery in the face of the state’s ongoing violence, and they require meaningful international solidarity,” said Ghaemi.

“This includes ejecting the government of Iran  from the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) governing board, and expelling the Islamic Republic from the UN Commission on the Status of Women,” he added.

“As long as Islamic Republic security forces continue to gun down peaceful protesters and throw labor leaders behind bars, governments around the world should employ all diplomatic means of condemnation,” Ghaemi said, “including recalling ambassadors for consultations and summoning Iran’s diplomats for censure.”

(Article continued in the right column)

Question(s) related to this article:
 
What is the contribution of trade unions to the culture of peace?

The right to form and join trade unions, Is it being respected?

(Article continued from the left column)

Since mid-September, when the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini in Iranian state custody sparked nationwide anti-state protests, strikes have occurred in the following industries according to social media postings by Iranian labor rights groups:

Oil and Gas
Trucking
Public Transportation
Auto Manufacturing
Steel Manufacturing
Home Appliance Manufacturing
Petrochemical
Food and Snack Manufacturing

November saw an uptick in labor strikes, with at least 20 reported in cities across at least 12 of Iran’s 31 provinces, including Tehran; Yazd; Kerhmanshah; Kurdistan; Isfahan; Hormozgan; Fars; Khuzestan; Bushehr; Qazvin; Alborz; and East Azerbaijan.

According to Article 27 of Iran’s Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

Yet peaceful labor activism is treated as a national security offense in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where independent labor unions are not recognized, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms. These actions are all in profound violation of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles.

While it is unknown how many laborers have been arrested in total, at least 12 labor rights activists have been arrested since September, according to research by CHRI:

Davoud Razavi – Tehran
Erfan Kahzad- Karaj
Neda Naji – Tehran
Abed Tavancheh – Tehran
Mozaffar Salehnia – Sanandaj
Lotfollah Ahmadi -Sanandaj
Zanyar Dabbaghian – Sanandaj
Khabat Dehdar – Sanandaj
Amir Chamani – Tabriz
Hossein Koshi – Tabriz
Kamran Sakhtemangar – Sanandaj
Salah Zamani – Sanandaj

Meanwhile, imprisoned labor activist Reza Shahabi was transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Imam Khomeini Hospital for spinal issues on November 27, according to the Free Workers Union of Iran’s Telegram channel.

The channel had previously reported on November 24 that imprisoned labor activist Nasrin Javadi, also in Evin, was suffering from severe influenza. It is not known whether she was allowed to receive proper medical treatment.

“The Islamic Republic is making a mockery of the international institutions to which it belongs by violating every one of their most basic principles,” said Ghaemi. “To maintain their credibility these institutions should take immediate action against the government of Iran.”

Read this article in Persian

Revealing He Too Had Manning Leaks, Ellsberg Dares DOJ to Prosecute Him Like Assange

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by Jessica Corbett in Common Dreams

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on Tuesday dared U.S. prosecutors to come after him like they have Julian Assange by  revealing  in a BBC News interview that the WikiLeaks publisher sent him a backup of leaked materials from former military analyst Chelsea Manning.

“Let me tell you a secret. I had possession of all the Chelsea Manning information before it came out in the press,” Ellsberg said to BBC’s Stephen Sackur in the on-camera interview. “I’ve never said that publicly.”

Assange had sent him the materials—which include  evidence  of U.S. war crimes—in case “they caught him and they got everything,” the 91-year-old explained. “He could rely on me to find some way to get it out.”

Australian-born Assange is currently detained in London and  fighting  in British and European courts against his extradition to the United States, where he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted under Espionage Act charges.

Inviting action by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Ellsberg said that “I am now as indictable as Julian Assange and as everyone who put that information out—the papers, everybody who handled it.”

(Article continued in the column on the right)

Question related to this article:
 
Is Internet freedom a basic human right?

Julian Assange, Is he a hero for the culture of peace?

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from the column on the left)

“Yes, I had copies of it and I did not give them to an authorized person. So, if they want to indict me for that, I will be interested to argue that one in the courts—whether that law is constitutional,” he continued, referring to the Espionage Act.

Highlighting that the highest U.S. court has never held that it is constitutional to use the Espionage Act as if it were a British Official Secrets Act, Ellsberg said that “I’d be happy to take that one to the Supreme Court.”

The Espionage Act, “used against whistleblowers, is unconstitutional,” he asserted. “It’s a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

Ellsberg’s public confession comes after editors and publishers at five major media outlets that collaborated with WikiLeaks in 2010 for articles based on diplomatic cables from Manning  released  a letter late last month arguing that “it is time for the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.”

“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” the letter states. “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

The new Ellsberg interview also follows the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) confirming earlier this month that 51-year-old Assange has asked the tribunal to block his extradition to the United States.

Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton  told  Reuters last week that “I would imagine the U.S. wants to avoid” a case going before the ECHR for “trying to extradite a publisher from Europe for publishing U.S. war revelations when the U.S. is asking Europe to make all sort of sacrifices for the war in Ukraine.”

The Western Sanctions That Are ‘Choking’ Syria May Be Crimes Against Humanity

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by Benjamin Norton in Agencia Uruguaya de Noticias

The United Nations special rapporteur said the “outrageous” sanctions the West has imposed on Syria are “suffocating” millions of civilians and “may constitute crimes against humanity.” The country’s economy contracted 90%. Nine out of 10 Syrians live in poverty.

“The entire [Syrian] population is in life-threatening conditions with severe shortages of drinking water,” electricity, fuel and food, the UN special rapporteur reported on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan.


Foto: Syrian children walk past ruins on their way home from school / UNOCHA / Ali Haj Suleiman 

The United Nations special rapporteur said the “outrageous” sanctions the West has imposed on Syria are “suffocating” millions of civilians and “may constitute crimes against humanity.” The country’s economy contracted 90%. Nine out of 10 Syrians live in poverty.

“The entire [Syrian] population is in life-threatening conditions with severe shortages of drinking water,” electricity, fuel and food, the UN special rapporteur reported on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan.

She wrote about the “enormous negative effect of unilateral sanctions”, which have “a devastating effect on the entire population” and “a devastating effect on almost all categories of human rights”.

“Maintaining unilateral sanctions amid the current catastrophic and still deteriorating situation in Syria may amount to crimes against humanity against the entire Syrian people,” the UN expert said.

Douhan, a respected international law professor, visited Syria for 12 days in October and November to investigate the impact of sanctions on the country. On November 10, she released a preliminary report that “calls for the lifting of long-standing unilateral sanctions that ‘suffocate’ the Syrian people.”

The UN special rapporteur described a medieval-style blockade, in which sanctions have “eroded to the level of complete extinction the purchasing power of households, which are in a prolonged state of survival.”

“The sanctions imposed have shattered the state’s ability to respond to the needs of the population, particularly the most vulnerable, with 90% of people now living below the poverty line,” she wrote.

(continued in right column)

(click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Are economic sanctions a violation of human rights?

How can war crimes be documented, stopped, punished and prevented?

(continued from left column)

Prices have risen more than 800% since 2019, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and sanctions block the importation of “food, medicine, spare parts, raw materials, and items necessary for the country’s needs and economic recovery,” she said.

While Western governments claim to have humanitarian exceptions to their sanctions regimes, the UN expert stressed that “secondary sanctions and over-compliance” by international financial institutions prevent Syria from importing necessary goods, and have even made it very difficult for UN institutions and international humanitarian aid organizations to operate in the country.

Today, more than half of Syrians suffer from food insecurity. Furthermore, 24% of Syrians are disabled and 14.6% suffer from diseases.

The sanctions have also prevented the government from rebuilding damaged infrastructure, and have caused a “shortage of electricity and drinking water”, leading to daily blackouts, including in hospitals, contaminated water and even a cholera outbreak.

Due to the occupation of Syria’s oil-rich regions by the US military and its Kurdish allies, government oil production is only 10% of its pre-2010 levels, and with Western sanctions making the oil importation nearly impossible, the Syrian people face a chronic shortage of gasoline and fuel.

Douhan called for the unilateral sanctions that the United States and Europe have imposed on Syria to be lifted immediately, stressing that they are illegal under international law.

The UN expert has also previously traveled to Venezuela and reported that illegal Western sanctions had similar devastating effects on the civilian population there, while depriving the government of 99% of its revenue.

Most of the sanctions imposed on Syria came after the West launched a proxy war against the country in 2011. But the UN expert noted that Washington has imposed sanctions on Damascus since 2004.

Aggressive US sanctions imposed against Syria in 2011 and 2012 expanded to a de facto blockade in 2019, with the passage of the Caesar Act, which Douhan noted “authorized secondary sanctions against non-US persons anywhere in the world who provide financial resources.” , materials or technological support to the Syrian government or that carry out transactions with it”.

The European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada and Australia have imposed similar sanctions, along with the Arab League, which is dominated by the Persian Gulf monarchies.

As part of her trip, Douhan met with representatives not only of the Syrian government but also civil society organizations, health clinics, financial institutions, humanitarian groups, businesses, universities and religious bodies, as well as other UN entities. that operate in the country.

Douhan will present the final version of her report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023.

…………………..

*Benjamín Norton is a journalist, writer and filmmaker. He is the founder and editor of Multipolarista, and lives in Latin America.

2022: Nobel Committee Gets Peace Prize Wrong Yet Again

. HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by David Swanson in World Beyond War

The Nobel Committee has yet again awarded a peace prize  that violates the will of Alfred Nobel and the purpose for which the prize was created, selecting recipients who blatantly are not “the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”


With its eyes on the news of the day, there was no question that the Committee would find some way to focus on Ukraine. But it steered clear of anyone seeking to reduce the risk of that thus-far relatively minor war creating a nuclear apocalypse. It avoided anyone opposing both sides of the war, or anyone advocating for a ceasefire or negotiations or disarmament. It did not even make the choice one might have expected of picking an opponent of Russian warmaking in Russia and an opponent of Ukrainian warmaking in Ukraine.

Instead, the Nobel Committee has chosen advocates for human rights and democracy in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. But the group in Ukraine is recognized for having  “engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population,” with no mention of war as a crime or of the possibility that the Ukrainian side of the war was committing atrocities. The Nobel Committee may have learned from Amnesty International’s experience of being widely denounced for documenting war crimes by the Ukrainian side.

(Article continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Nobel Prize for Peace: Does it go to the right people?

When does human rights become a tool of propaganda?

(Article continued from left column)

The fact that all sides of all wars have always failed and always will fail to engage in humane operations is possibly why Alfred Nobel set up a prize to advance the abolition of war.  It’s too bad that prize is so misused. Because of its misuse, World BEYOND War has created instead the War Abolisher Awards.

– – – – – – –

Adding here some thoughts from Yurii Sheliazhenko:

NGO Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) recently was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize  with Russian and Belarussian human rights defenders.

What is the Ukrainian secret of success? Here are some tips.

– don’t rely on support of local citizens, embrace international donors with their agendas, like the U.S. Department of State and NED;

– support NATO membership of Ukraine, shame those who seek compromise with Russia  and ask the West to engage in war against Russia on Ukrainian side by imposing no-fly zone and delivery of armaments;

– insist that war is necessary for survival and no negotiations are possible;

– insist that international institutions are worthless and therefore human rights activists must ask for weapons for the Ukrainian Armed Forces;

– insist that only Putin violates human rights in Ukraine, and only the Ukrainian army are real human rights defenders;

– never criticize Ukrainian government for suppression of pro-Russian media, parties, and public figures;

– never criticize Ukrainian army for war crimes, for violations of human rights related to war effort and military mobilization, like beating of students by the border guard for their attempt to study abroad  instead of becoming cannon fodder, and nobody should hear from you even a word about human right to conscientious objection to military service.

Albinos: “Human rights apply to them too!!! “

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by Rijanirina J. Randrianandrasana

A 6-year-old child, his lifeless and mutilated body, was found in the town of Berano in Amboasary on March 4, 2022. Another 4-year-old (See minutes 11-13 of the report), but with a less tragic outcome, kidnapped in Ambilobe, is located and found by the police in Tuléar with his kidnappers on July 21. What these two children have in common is that… they are people in Madagascar with albinism.

Albinism is a congenital, rare and non-contagious hereditary disease, caused by the absence of a pigment, affecting both men and women, regardless of their origin. Under international human rights law, people living with albinism are considered persons with disabilities.

However, these people are ostracized. They are often subject to direct and indirect discrimination, particularly in the areas of health, education and work. Attacks on people with albinism can vary from verbal aggression to physical aggression.. Wrong beliefs and superstitions endanger their lives and safety.

The attitude of society towards them has not changed and these people and their families are still at risk of being attacked. This is contradicted by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified in 1976, that stipulates that every human has the right to life and that this right is protected by law (Part III, art. 6.1) and that everyone has the right to freedom and security (art. 9.1).

(continued in right column)

(click here for the original article in French.)

Question related to this article:

How can we protect the human rights of persons with disabilities?

(continued from left column)

But the worst part is that we are all responsible for these atrocities. We, their classmates, harass them with our words and gestures. We, co-workers, devalue them given their handicap situations even if this hardly defines their aptitudes. We, their own family, are ashamed of the appearance of one of our own. We, members of society, remain silent in the face of these insults and violence. We, the decision-makers, do nothing to improve their living conditions by establishing adequate supports. We are all guilty because we do not act properly.

But, fortunately, all is not lost. We can fight against forms of violence, discrimination and stigmatization towards people with albinism. Due to their alarming situation, it is essential to make certain changes so that they can enjoy the same rights as others. The right to equality and non-discrimination does not mean that everyone must always be treated the same; sometimes distinctions have to be made. Thus, we have a duty to sensitize society on the rights of these people and to abolish discrimination and violence against them.

It is not too late for us, discriminating, ignorant people, profiteers, traffickers, to become agents of change and to organize ourselves to protect people with albinism; The fight has only just begun!!! With that, we’ll end this article with the quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “We can never know what the results of our actions will be.” But if we do nothing, we will get no results. »

Bibliography

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL & OSISA. (2021). Promoting & Protecting the Human Rights of Persons with Albinism: A Handbook for National Human Rights Institutions. Amnesty International Ltd.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL. (2016, March 8). Urgent action: Malawi, danger for people with albinism.

DIDR-OFPRA. (2018, May 14). People living with albinism. Democratic Republic of Congo.

(Thank you to Jay Ralitera for sending this article to CPNN)

Honduras: A massive march cries out for peace in Olancho

. HUMAN RIGHTS .

An article from La Tribuna

JUTICALPA, Olancho. Representatives of public and private institutions joined the “Walk for Peace 2022”, through the main streets of this departmental capital.

Marchers called for an immediate ceasefire in the face of criminal acts that affect municipalities, delabdubg the authorities for greater security, and for the investigation and punishment of those responsible materially and intellectually for the violent acts.


The march concluded in the Municipal Plaza of Juticalpa.

The authorities, teachers, administrative staff and students of the North-East Regional University Center, CURNO, joined the “Walk for Peace 2022”.

(Click here for the original article in Spanish about this event)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

Students from the “Francisco Morazán” National Pedagogical University, UNP-FM, and from primary and secondary schools also participated.

The activity also had the organizational support of the Network of Families Living Together in Peace, with the intention of developing a culture of peace and a resounding no to violence among children and young people.

Educational institutions of all levels participated. They were supported by the authorities of CURNO, the Political Government of Olancho, the mayor of Juticalpa and the Departmental Directorate of Education of Olancho.

The “Walk for Peace 2022” was a desperate call to Olanchana society to eliminate violence and strengthen peace.

The department of Olancho, with 24,000 square kilometers ,is the largest in Honduras, similar in size to countries like El Salvador and Israel.

The department is whipped mercilessly by crimes and threats of all kinds, but the most serious thing is the environment of impunity with which those responsible for these criminal acts act, the march condemned.

According to official sources, the population in the department of Olancho is approximately 600 thousand people, almost 50 percent concentrated in the municipalities of Juticalpa and Catacamas.

Official statistics show that the municipalities of Juticalpa, Catacamas Patuca and Dulce Nombre de Culmí have the highest number of homicides between men and women.

Africa confronts linguistic imperialism with Kiswahili

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from the Monitor

The move by the African Union — the apex organisation for African states — to adopt Kiswahili as one of its official working languages, is not only culturally and political significant, but a shot in the arm in its global spread.

This comes just three months after the United Nations on November 23, 2021 designated July 7 as the World Kiswahili Language Day.

It becomes the first African language, which is spoken by more than 200 million people, to be honoured by UNESCO.

Kiswahili, mainly spoken in the East African region, is a fusion of the dialect born of Bantu and Arabic languages, has earned its place of pride as one of the world’s top 10 most spoken languages and Africa’s most widely used native lingua. It enjoys official status national in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is also widely spoken in parts of DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

Officially, it was being used in the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional blocs before AU’s adoption.

Over the years, Kiswahili has spread south of the continent, to parts of Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, while Burundi, Madagascar and the Comoros islands have also adopted it.

In June 2020, South Africa introduced Kiswahili as an optional subject in the hope that the language could become a tool to foster cohesion among Africans.

And it’s in this light that the AU move to adopt Kiswahili is a milestone in mainstreaming it– and eventual launch globally.

Proponents of a single language for Africa are hoping that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA) will be the catalyst required to launch Kiswahili as Africa’s language of trade and continent-wide communication.

“Aside from fostering shared identity, Kiswahili as a language is a very important tool in the geopolitics of things. It will unite Africa just as other languages like French, Spanish or English have united those who speak them,” said Prof Macharia Munene, a history lecturer at the Nairobi-based United States International University Africa.

(continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Is language a human right?

(continued from left column)

“Although it will take a few decades before Kiswahili gains a foothold in every African state, the recent developments are important catalysts.”

An expression of culture 

According to him, language is intrinsic to the expression of culture, arguing that’s why American culture is quite dominant in the world.

It is on that premise that he argues China is doing everything to promote mandarin, hoping it will use it to stamp its cultural influence in the world.

Kenya, Uganda and South Africa are some of the states where China has made initiatives to popularise mandarin.

But China and France –– which also announced plans to make French the language of Africa –– encounter a continent increasingly conscious about its identity.

The diplomatic use of Kiswahili in Africa, and its subsequent introduction into schools’ curricula across the continent is expected to help forge friendships, cultural and economic relationships.

According to Global Voices—an international multi-lingual organisation of writers, translators, academics and digital rights activists—currently, there are more than 7,100 languages spoken around the world, 28 per cent of which are spoken on the African continent.

Despite the existence of some 2,140 local languages in Africa, English, French and Arabic reign supreme.

English on the other hand dominates online spaces in the region.

But this has shrunk to between 51-55 per cent as opposed to 80 per cent on online dominance two decades ago. Projections indicate that Kiswahili, which is now online, will become an increasingly important instrument of trade.

Renowned author Stanley Gazemba asserts that the language has the potential to forge strong trading ties between the people of eastern, central and southern Africa and to promote cultural cohesion.

“If widely promoted in these regions, the language can single-handedly remove the artificial barriers and boundaries imposed by imperial powers,” he wrote in The Elephant.

“There are an estimated 2,000 languages spoken on the continent. Colourful as this may appear, it also poses a challenge in marshalling all these diverse cultures into thinking and working towards a collective goal, which necessitates the creation and promotion of a lingua franca that can be used seamlessly across political and administrative borders, and which can ultimately allow the African people to speak in a single voice.”

“Kiswahili has proved to be a useful tool in unlocking the potential of this sleeping giant in the regions south of the Sahara.”

Kiswahili is taught in universities around the world, including in China, while in the USA, an estimated 100