Watching the Shadows
Gitmo

UN experts condemn Gitmo on grim anniversary

A group of United Nations experts have condemned the US Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, calling it a site of “unparalleled notoriety.” The statement came on the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the first terrorism suspects at Guantánamo. The independent experts, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, said: “Twenty years of practicing arbitrary detention without trial [and] accompanied by torture or ill treatment is simply unacceptable for any government, particularly a government which has a stated claim to protecting human rights.” In the 20 years the detention center has been operating, a total of 780 prisoners have been held there, with 39 detainees remaining today. Of those, only nine have been charged or convicted. (Photo via Jurist)

Europe
syria-refugee-denmark

Denmark: ex-minister gets prison for family separation

The Danish Court of Impeachment, or Rigsretten, sentenced former immigration minister Inger Støjberg to 60 days in prison following a rare impeachment trial in which she was found to have ordered the illegal separation of married asylum-seeking partners while in office. The court determined that Støjberg’s actions were in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as general principles of Danish administrative law. (Photo: Joe Johansen/The New Humanitarian. Current immigration minister Matt Tesfaye is facing protest over his policy of detention and refoulement of asylum-seekers, and establishment of third-country “offshore asylum centers.”)

Central Asia
beijing olympics

Corporate sponsors of Beijing Olympics under pressure

Human Rights Watch accused the corporate sponsors of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics of ignoring China’s crimes against humanity in its far western region of Xinjiang, thus “squandering the opportunity” to pressure China to address its “appalling human rights record.” Coca-Cola, Intel, Toyota and Airbnb are among the 13 Olympic Partners accused by name of overlooking China’s mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs and members of other Muslim ethnicities, as well as repression of free speech in Hong Kong. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Central Asia
Ilshat Kokbore

Podcast: Ilshat Kokbore on the Uyghur struggle

In Episode 96 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Ilshat Kokbore, former president of the Uyghur American Association and current director for China affairs with the World Uyghur Congress. Kokbore relates the story of his exile from his homeland in East Turkistan, known to its current Chinese rulers as Xinjiang, for petitioning against the purge of the Uyghur language from the educational system in 2003. Since then, of course, the situation has escalated to mass detention and even, in the opinion of many international legal experts, genocide. Kokbore discusses the history of the independence struggle in East Turkistan and the current campaign to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

North Africa
libya

Crimes against humanity in Libya?

At least six people were killed and dozens more wounded by guards who opened fire at asylum seekers and migrants attempting to escape en masse from an overcrowded detention center in Tripoli. This came after Libyan authorities rounded up and detained at least 5,000 asylum seekers and migrants in the capital. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council said it believes “crimes against humanity” have been committed in Libya’s detention centers. So far this year, more than 26,000 migrants and asylum seekers have been intercepted by the EU-backed Libyan Coast Guard and returned to the centers, where they face a well-documented cycle of abuse. Despite human rights concerns, the EU executive body, the European Commission, is preparing to deliver new patrol boats to the Libyan Coast Guard. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Central Asia
Uyghur

Uyghur Tribunal in UK hears testimony on abuses

The Uyghur Tribunal, an “independent people’s court” convened by exile and human rights groups, concluded after months of hearings in London. Following a request from the World Uyghur Congress, the Tribunal was organized last year by Sir Geoffrey Nice­, the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal heard testimony from some 500 witnesses, including survivors of the detention camps in Xinjiang, on torture, sexual abuse, coerced labor, and forced sterilization. (Photo via Coda)

Oceania
Nauru

Pact indefinitely keeps open ‘Australia’s Gitmo’

A new memorandum of understanding was signed allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center, which was found to be illegal by the PNG Supreme Court in 2016. Most of those held there are now to be transferred to Nauru. Both the Manus Island and Nauru facilities have been criticized by rights groups as “Australia’s Guantánamo.” (Photo of Nauru facility via Wikipedia)

North Africa
Libya detention

Migrants ‘disappearing’ in Libya

Of more than 24,000 asylum seekers and migrants intercepted at sea this year by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard, only 6,000 are accounted for in Libya’s official detention centers, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told the Associated Press. The fate of thousands of others returned to the country remains unknown. The situation has been worsening for months. The IOM warned last year of returnees vanishing from Interior Ministry “data-collection facilities,” and said it suspected that thousands are being sold to human traffickers. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Syria
Idlib displaced

Syria unsafe for refugees to return: UN report

The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated that Syria is “not fit for safe and dignified returns of refugees.” The report found that between July 2020 and June 2021, armed conflict increased in the country. The report documented 243 civilian deaths, but estimated that the total number of fatalities is actually far greater. The report also stressed the humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Conditions were also found to be precarious for the 6.7 million displaced persons within the country. The report estimated that 40,000 children are being detained in camps for suspected ISIS collaborators in the Kurdish-controlled east of the country. Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Commission of Inquiry, said that these conditions indicate that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being “completely forgotten.” (Photo: UNHCR)

Syria
Saydnaya

US imposes sanctions on Syria prisons, rebels

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of Assad’s regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians. (Image: Syria Untold)

North America
Fort Bliss

Migrant kids languish at Fort Bliss

Advocacy groups for migrants on the US southern border are protesting conditions at Texas’ Fort Bliss, an Army base that the Biden administration has opened as an emergency holding facility. Nearly 5,000 minors who crossed the border without a parent or guardian are currently being held in large tents at the base. This is about a quarter of the total number of minors in the care of the US Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. As of late May, nearly 600 of these had spent 40 days or longer at the “megasite.” Nearly 1,700 minors had been there for at least a month, according to government data. Unlike traditional HHS shelters for migrant children, Fort Bliss and other emergency “influx” sites are not licensed by state authorities to care for minors, and have lower standards of care. (Photo via Border Report)

Watching the Shadows
Gitmo

Gitmo ‘forever prisoner’ petitions United Nations

Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah, who has been held for 19 years without charges or a trial, filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (UNWGAD) requesting intervention in his case. Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks and was held and tortured by the CIA in various top-secret “black sites.” The CIA originally believed that Zubaydah was a close associate of al-Qaeda, but after four years of interrogation, they concluded that he was not linked to the group. He was then moved to Guantánamo in 2006. The US government has justified Zubaydah’s continued detention by asserting its broad authority under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Under the AUMF, passed after 9-11, detainees can be held until the “cessation of hostile activities,” But Zubaydah asserts in his complaint that this “law of war” rationale is in conflict with international human rights laws. (Photo: Wikimedia)