Croatia: Locked Up and Neglected
Human Rights Watch 6 October 2014
More than 8,200 people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities in Croatia remain in segregated institutions and psychiatric hospitals with little control over decisions that affect their lives. The Croatian government should replace its guardianship regime with a system of assistance and support in decision-making that respects the autonomy, will, and preferences of the person with disability, Human Rights Watch said. The Croatian government should also financially support organizations for people with disabilities and other groups that provide community-based services and support. This week, the United Nations will review Croatia’s efforts to put into effect the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
US: Solitary confinement is cruel and all too usual. Why is it only getting worse?
The Guardian 13 October 2014
It is no wonder. Across the US, it is estimated that nearly 80,000 people are held in long-term isolation. The departments of corrections claim only prisoners who are a threat to guards or to other inmates are placed in isolation; after all other measures to control them fail. But as indicated by the tens of thousands detained, isolation cells are routinely used as punishment for minor offences such as disrespecting a prison guard or disobeying an order. The UN has called for isolation to be used only under extreme circumstances. The US should focus its energy and resources on ensuring conditions of detention are compatible with its obligations under international law and standards that the penitentiary system works for the social rehabilitation of prisoners, instead of perpetuating an abusive and cruel regime that is an affront to human rights.
UK and US: Mass internet surveillance threatens international law, UN report claims
The Guardian 14 October 2014
Mass surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies is “corrosive of online privacy” and threatens to undermine international law, according to a report to the United Nations general assembly. The 22-page report warns that the use of mass surveillance technology, through interception programs developed by the NSA and GCHQ such as Prism and Tempora, “effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the internet altogether”. “However, the technical reach of the programmes currently in operation is so wide that they could be compatible with article 17 of the covenant only if relevant States are in a position to justify as proportionate the systematic interference with the internet privacy rights of a potentially unlimited number of innocent people located in any part of the world.”
Poland: Human rights judges find for journalists in press freedom case
The Guardian 15 October 2014
Two Polish journalists and their newspaper have secured a significant press freedom judgment at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Strasbourg judges ruled that the Polish courts had breached the rights of the journalists and their paper to freedom of expression. The case concerned the publication of a story in May 2003 in Rzeczpospolita, the Warsaw-based national daily, which alleged that a senior official in Poland's health ministry had demanded a bribe from a pharmaceutical company. After the article's publication police launched an investigation in which the official was charged with bribery, but this was dropped after more than three years for lack of sufficient evidence. The Polish courts, including the appeal court and Supreme Court, found in his favour. They decided that the journalists and the paper had not observed the necessary diligence in their journalism, and ordered them to publish an apology and to pay the official's legal costs.
US: Migrants Returned to Danger
Human Rights Watch 16 October 2014
The US government’s rapid-fire screening of unauthorized migrants at the border is sending Central Americans back to the risk of serious harm, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. In recent years, US officials have apprehended growing numbers of Central Americans crossing the US-Mexico border without authorization. Migrants are fleeing for many reasons, among them rising rates of violence fueled by gangs and drug violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The vast majority of these people are placed in detention. They undergo a hasty two-part assessment by US officials with no right to appear before an immigration judge or asylum officer unless they are flagged by the Border Patrol agents who apprehended them or other immigration officers as being afraid to return to their country. The Border Patrol agents, who are responsible for the initial screening of migrants, are failing to identify asylum seekers so that they can move on through the asylum process.
US: Judge grants 30-day delay in release of Guantánamo force-feeding videos
The Guardian 16 October 2014
A federal judge has granted the Obama administration a month-long pause on the release of graphic videotapes showing forced tube feedings and cell removals of a hunger striking Guantánamo Bay detainee. The existence of the tapes was unknown until Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2009, sought in federal court to change the US military’s force-feeding practices. Guantánamo officials use the feedings to punish detainees on hunger strike, while the government insists they are medically necessary to save detainees’ lives.
France: Bobigny forced eviction set to leave Roma families homeless
Amnesty International 20 October 2014
Dozens of families will be left homeless if French authorities go ahead with the forced eviction of a Roma camp in a Paris suburb this week, Amnesty International warned today. More than 200 Roma living in an informal settlement near Bobigny will be forcibly evicted from their homes within the next 48 hours, but many have not have been offered alternative housing. According to international human rights standards, evictions should not render people homeless or vulnerable to other human rights violations. The eviction is set to take place imminently despite Bobigny’s High Court decision in July that the eviction would constitute a violation of the right to family and private life. The Bobigny eviction, if carried out in the absence of genuine consultation and without the provision of adequate alternative housing, will result in a forced eviction which is prohibited under international human rights law.
US: Submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture
Human Rights Watch 20 October 2014
The issues raised in this submission are linked to research undertaken by Human Rights Watch since the Committee’s review of the United States in 2006. The US continues to struggle with implementing its obligations under the Convention against Torture. The United States has failed to adequately tackle the need for accountability for abuses, including torture, committed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. In this submission, Human Rights Watch addresses concerns about US implementation of obligations under the Convention against Torture in the fields of national security, criminal justice, policing, and immigration enforcement. We discuss the continued use of indefinite detention without trial and fundamentally flawed military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the continued lack of accountability and transparency on issues connected to torture and other ill-treatment. We discuss the use of solitary confinement in US prisons as well as the egregious cruelty of recent executions.
UK: Lawyers urge peers to reject judicial review restrictions
The Guardian 20 October 2014
Peers have been urged to reject restrictions on judicial review that will make it harder to challenge government and local authority decisions. The criminal justice and courts bill, which lawyers claim will have a “chilling effect” on those seeking justice, goes before the House of Lords this week. Judicial review is an important tool to stop dodgy decision making by public authorities. It is fundamental to our system of justice and the rule of law that members of the public, including the weakest and most vulnerable, have an effective means of scrutinising and checking executive power. Responding to criticism, the justice minister, Shailesh Vara, said: “We have seen a huge surge in judicial review cases in recent years. Many judicial reviews are weak or ill-founded and can be expensive and unnecessarily time-consuming. “We want to make sure judicial review continues its crucial role in holding authorities and others to account.
US: Widespread water shut-offs in US city of Detroit prompt outcry from UN rights experts
UN NEWS Centre 21 October 2014
Disconnecting water from people who cannot pay their bills is an affront to their human rights, a group of United Nations experts said today, amid reports of widespread water shut-offs in the United States city of Detroit for non-payment. Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” the experts stated in a news release. If these water disconnections disproportionately affect African-Americans they may be discriminatory, in violation of treaties the United States has ratified,” she noted. Under international human rights law, it is the State’s obligation to provide urgent measures, including financial assistance, to ensure access to essential water and sanitation.
Spain: Excessive Force in Melilla
Human Rights Watch 21 October 2014
Spanish authorities should investigate the beating and pushback of a man by Guardia Civil officers in Melilla on October 15, 2014. Spain should immediately halt summary returns to Morocco from its enclaves. The migrant rights group Prodein captured the violence on video, which shows the agents carrying the man, who appears unconscious, through a gate in one of the fences that separate the two countries. The video shows the man, whom Prodein identified as a 23-year-old Cameroonian named Danny, climbing alone down a ladder propped up against the Spanish side of the fence as several Guardia Civil officers beat him with their batons. He falls to the ground and appears to be unconscious as officers prod him with their batons, try to put him in a sitting position, and struggle to move him several times. Under international human rights and refugee law and European Union law, Spain is obliged to refrain from refoulement – the forcible return of anyone to a place where he or she faces a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment – and to guarantee the opportunity to seek asylum to anyone claiming they have a well-founded fear of persecution if returned. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed concern on October 20 that violence in the context of border control in Melilla could prevent asylum seekers from reaching Spanish territory.
US: US ordered to explain withholding of Iraq and Afghanistan torture photos
The Guardian 21 October 2014
The Obama administration has until early December to detail its reasons for withholding as many as 2,100 graphic photographs depicting US military torture of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, a federal judge ordered on Tuesday. It’s disappointing that the government continues to fight to keep these photographs from the public. The American people deserve to know the truth about what happened in our detention centers abroad. Yet the government is suppressing as many as 2,100 photographs of detainee abuse in Iraq and elsewhere.
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