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Navi Pillay

Tag Archives | Navi Pillay

The Pressure is on Morocco’s PJD Party Over its Human Rights Records

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Remy Steinegger
Remy Steinegger

Remy Steinegger

Two recent events focus increased international attention on Morocco. First, nine activists from Morocco’s February 20 pro-reform movement were granted bail at their appeal hearings this week. They had been jailed last month under charges of chanting anti-regime slogans and clashing with police during a protest. The activists had been arrested on April 6, while attending a mass rally in Casablanca called by the trade unions. The rally was called in protest to the austerity measures enacted by the government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. The demonstrations were attended by some 10,000 people.

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Renewed Attention over Refugee Camps in Western Sahara

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Evan Schneider/UN Photo
Evan Schneider/UN Photo

Evan Schneider/UN Photo

International attention over precarious living conditions in the refugee camps of Western Sahara has been growing in the past few weeks. It started last month with the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. During her tour in Morocco and Western Sahara, Pillay voiced her concern in respect to ongoing practices such as the use of torture in Western Sahara. Since then, international delegations have been flooding into the desert region.

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Continued Calls for the Release of Zahid Baloch

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Protest in London calling for the release of Zahid Baloch. Source: Twitter

In 2003, Zahid Baloch joined the Baloch Student Organization (BSO). After years of working within the organization he became the chairman of BSO-Azad in 2012.

Protest in London calling for the release of Zahid Baloch. Source: Twitter

Protest in London calling for the release of Zahid Baloch. Source: Twitter

Throughout his career with BSO-Azad, Zahid Baloch has been an active member of the organization, conducting protests and delivering speeches. On March 18th 2014 multiple eyewitnesses witnessed Zahid Baloch’s abduction by Pakistani agents in Quetta. In 2013, Pakistan imposed a ban on Baloch nationalist groups. On April 22nd, BSO-Azad representatives held a press conference to announce a hunger strike by Latif Johar at the Karachi Press Club. Since then, several activists have been demonstrating for his release. During the press conference, Banuk Karima Baloch urged the UN to ensure the protection of the BSO-Azad protesters currently engaged in peaceful demonstrations.

BSO-Azad also announced a nation-wide strike from April 25th to the 27th. The strike call was supported by all the Baloch nationalist parties. Many Balochistan towns have shut down as a result of the strike. On April 27th, Baloch activists in the UK also held a demonstration to protest the abduction of Zahid Baloch outside the prime minister’s office at 10 Downing Street. An online petition has been created at Change.org by Tarek Fatah urging Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to “Intervene with the Pakistan Government and the Pakistan Army to secure the release of Zahid Baloch.” Various Baloch pro-independent parties have voiced their concern of the abduction of Zahid Baloch and continue to urge various human rights groups to play a role in his release.

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An Overlooked Crisis in the Central African Republic

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A family uprooted by the violence in Central African Republic living out of a plane at the Bangui International Airport. Photo: S. Phelps

While the world’s eyes are focusing on events in Ukraine, a small African nation is drawing less attention - despite horrific human rights abuses happening in its territory.

A family uprooted by the violence in Central African Republic living out of a plane at the Bangui International Airport. Photo: S. Phelps

In what the UN human rights body and Amnesty International have called “ethnic-religious cleansing” between the country’s Muslim minority (15 percent of the population) and Christian militiamen, more than 2,000 people are dead and nearly a quarter of the country’s population of 4.6 million has been forced to flee the country. In recent weeks, entire neighborhoods in the Central African Republic have been emptied of their Muslim populations and their property and mosques destroyed. An estimated 15,000 Muslims are now trapped in small pockets of territory in Bangui and elsewhere in the country, under international protection. In recent days, French forces engaged Christian militiamen who had been setting up checkpoints on the main exit road linking Bangui to Cameroon.

In a passionate plea for further assistance, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, recently warned that the world’s response to the ethnic-religious cleansing in the Central African Republic was alarmingly slow. At a press conference in Bangui last week, Pillay eluded, “This has become a country where people are not just killed, they are tortured, mutilated, burned and dismembered…Children have been decapitated, and we know of at least four cases where the killers have eaten the flesh of their victims.”

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Human rights in Sri Lanka: Between the UN and the US

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Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa rallying in Colombo

As the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) ends on 28 September 2012, ongoing human rights developments in Sri Lanka will undoubtedly linger in the minds of many.

Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa rallying in Colombo

Observers will look forward to the country’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review, which will take place this November, and to the National Report the Sri Lankan government has submitted for consideration. Yet it is next year’s HRC session that is particularly intriguing. At the 22nd session of the HRC, scheduled for March 2013, three things are likely to happen. First, by that time the government of Sri Lanka will not have comprehensively implemented many of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) positive recommendations. Second, the report about Sri Lanka delivered by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will be at best lukewarm. And, lastly, the HRC is not likely to pass another resolution against Sri Lanka.

Passing such a resolution would fly in the face of the history of the HRC. The fact that there is a historical precedent for inaction calls for posing new questions about Sri Lanka: what will the international community lobby for in the meantime? Is there a common set of principles or an agenda that could be agreed upon? Do people think economic sanctions are a good idea? Which LLRC recommendations must be implemented in full before March? Targeted economic sanctions might be an option, though probably not an effective one. Importantly, as long as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is in power, an independent international mechanism to investigate wartime atrocities is not a viable option.

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The Continued Militarization of Sri Lanka

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Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka.  Source: Sri Lankan Government

Led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, post-war Sri Lanka is a sad place. In May of 2009, the Sri Lankan government achieved a resounding military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka. Source: Sri Lankan Government

Most of the LTTE’s leadership was killed. For the foreseeable future, it is hard to envision another Tamil nationalist movement taking up arms against the state. Yet, if living in Sri Lanka, one might think that the conflict is still going on. In post-war Sri Lanka, the militarization of the entire country has continued unabated. This development is less significant in the predominantly Sinhalese south, where military personnel are often viewed as heroes for defeating the LTTE.

But in the mostly Tamil north and east, they are viewed as oppressors. Indeed the military’s presence in the north and east (both former LTTE strongholds where much of the fighting took place) is disturbing. State security personnel wield enormous influence over all aspects of people’s lives. Precise statistics about military employment in Sri Lanka are not publicly available, but some of the most disturbing effects of this ubiquitous military presence are often left out of statistical analyses anyway. Members of the armed forces are literally everywhere. People are living in fear, especially single Tamil women who lost their husbands during the war.

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