Jurist

Afghanistan: civilian casualties reach record high

Civilian casualties have reached a record high in the first half of 2016, with 5,166 civilians recorded killed or maimed, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported (PDF) July 25. More than a third of those have been children, according to the report, and the total number of civilian casualties since 2009 has now climbed to 63,934, including 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injured. Remarking on the latest figures, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said:

Bahrain: court orders opposition group dissolved

The Bahrain High Civil Court on July 17 ordered al-Wefaq, the main Shi'ite opposition group in the country, to be dissolved. The Bahraini court previously issued a three-month suspension of the group. The court found that the group has engaged in "terrorism, extremism, and violence." The dissolution order requires al-Wefaq's assets to be liquidated and transferred to the state treasury. The order has sparked criticism from many sources, such as UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as being repressive and preventing political freedom.

Congress releases details of Saudi 9-11 links

The House Intelligence Committee on July 15 released a declassified "28-pages" (PDF) detailing possible connections between Saudi Arabia and the 9-11 hijackers. Whether the "28-pages" should be released was a hotly debated matter, spanning years as victims' families and lawmakers pressed for the report to be issued. Some calling for the release of the report believed that the US had been attempting to cover up Saudi Arabia's involvement in the attacks. The document acknowledges that "some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government." But other sources, including the 9-11 Commission report, have held that the Saudi government was in no way involved in the attacks. Despite containing only leads to possible Saudi ties to the hijackers, former Sen. Bob Graham applauded the release, saying it would lead to further questioning of the Saudi government's potential involvement. He stated: "I think of this almost as the 28 pages are sort of the cork in the wine bottle. And once it's out, hopefully the rest of the wine itself will start to pour out."

UK entry into Iraq war not justified: report

The findings of the seven-year inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, into Britain's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq were delivered on July 6 in the form of a scathing verdict against former prime minister Tony Blair and his administration, stating that the war was based on "flawed intelligence and assessments" and had been launched before "peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted." Tthe Chilcot Inquiry concluded that the "judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction—WMD—were presented with a certainty that was not justified... There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein. Additionally, "[t]he planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate."

ICC will not prosecute Blair for war crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) will not prosecute Tony Blair for war crimes related to the 2003 Iraq invasion, according to The Telegraph. The ICC reportedly said July 2 that the decision "by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the Court's jurisdiction." The ICC also said that it will be analyzing the "Chilcot Report" for evidence of war crimes committed by British forces. Named after Iraq Inquiry Committee chair Sir John Chilcot, the report will not attempt to answer whether the invasion was legal. The report, seven years in the making, will be published on this week.

Kenya: officers detained in death of rights attorney

Kenyan authorities have detained three police officers for involvement in the murder of a human rights lawyer. The officers have not yet been charged, but a judge announced they will remain in detention for two weeks as investigations are conducted. The body of Willie Kimani, a Nairobi lawyer working for the human rights organization International Justice Mission, was found on July 1 along with a client and a taxi driver. Kimani had accompanied his client, Josephat Mwenda, to court after filing a complaint against a police officer for shooting him in the arm. The three went missing shortly after leaving the courthouse.

UN protests sentencing of artists in Iran

The UN experts on cultural rights and on freedom of expression, Karima Bennoune and David Kaye called June 24 for the release of artists imprisoned by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In particular, they called upon Iran to release two musicians, Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and a filmmaker, Hossein Rajabian, charged with "insulting Islamic sanctities," "propoganda against the State," and "conducting illegal activities in the audiovisual affaires including through producing prohibited audiovisual material and performing an illegal and underground music site." The three artists, after appeal, were sentenced to three years in prison and fined 50 million Rial ($1,658) each. While they acknowledged that their prison sentences had been reduced from six years, the experts called the sentences "unacceptable and in complete violation of international human rights law binding on Iran."

UN sees 'crimes against humanity' in Burma

Human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities in Burma may amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report released June 20 by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report documents abuses against minorities that include "arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restriction on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, denial of rights to health and education, forced labour, sexual violence, and limitations to...political rights, among other violations." The report states that the Rohingya and Kaman Muslims continue to live in camps for internally displaced people after approximately four years since violence began in the Rakhine state. Muslims in Rakhine state are severely restricted from accessing basic healthcare, emergency medical treatment and education. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged the government of Myanmar to take "concrete steps to put an end to the systemic discrimination and ongoing human rights violations against minorities."

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