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Christian Aid 'alarmed' at G7 plan for compulsory tax arbitration

Thu, 2015-06-11 09:29

G7 leaders have declared themselves "committed to achieving a fair and modern international tax system which is essential to fairness and prosperity for all."

After meeting in Elmau, Germany, G7 leaders’ declared themselves "committed to achieving a fair and modern international tax system which is essential to fairness and prosperity for all."

In a surprise move, they also backed OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) work on binding arbitration in international disputes about how particular multinational companies are taxed. The OECD had not suggested that it was consulting on compulsory arbitration – but the G7 declaration suggests otherwise.

Joseph Stead, Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Economic Justice, warned that compulsory binding arbitration could stack the international tax system yet further against people living in poverty.

“Not content with failing adequately to engage developing countries in the process of international reform of the rules on taxing multinational companies, it now seems that the G7 is keen to tell developing countries that they should also forfeit all power over how the new rules should be applied”, he said.

“The G8’s Lough Erne declaration in 2013 referred to 'restoring confidence in the fairness...of our international tax rules' and seeking 'to ensure...that developing countries are able to secure the benefits of progress'. That now looks dangerously close to being hot air”, added Mr Stead.

“Unless any new system of mandatory, binding arbitration is designed carefully, with the full participation of poor countries, this could be yet another way in which developed countries use their economic and political power against the developing world.”

He added that any arbitration process that works for poor countries will have three principles at heart: simplicity, transparency and affordability. “We hope G7 governments agree and are looking to establish new models for arbitration in full collaboration with developing countries”, said Mr Stead.

“Of course, the best way to deal with disputes is to prevent them from arising. The G7’s new support for mandatory arbitration suggests an awareness that the OECD ‘BEPS’ project to catch up with multinational tax dodgers will not prevent disputes.

“This seems realistic. Because BEPS is not looking at fundamental reform of the international corporate tax system, it will not address the root causes of problems with that system.”

Mr Stead said recommendations from the newly formed Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) were the best way forward.

“We urge the G7 to look at the corporate tax reform recommendations from ICRICT and to start the move to a proper reform of international tax rules and norms that will work for all countries, and so reduce the number of disputes.”

He added that there is increasing awareness of the problems that arbitration can cause in other fields, notably Investor State Dispute Resolution mechanisms in trade and investment treaties.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx


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Aftab Bahadur, sentenced as a juvenile executed despite evidence of innocence

Thu, 2015-06-11 09:18

Aftab Bahadur was executed yesterday in Lahore, after the Pakistani authorities refused to allow his lawyers to secure key evidence of his innocence.

Aftab Bahadur was executed yesterday (10 June) in Lahore, after the Pakistani authorities refused to allow his lawyers to secure key evidence that Mr Bahadur was innocent.

Mr Bahadur was just 15 years old when he was sentenced to death for murder, following a conviction which was overwhelmingly based on ‘evidence’ extracted under torture.

On 9 June the Lahore High Court had dismissed Mr Bahadur’s request for a stay of execution, denying his lawyers time to produce new evidence of his innocence. Aftab Bahadur was convicted in 1992 on the basis of testimony from two eyewitnesses – both of whom later recanted their statements against him, explaining that they had been given under torture and duress.

Bahadur himself had been tortured at the time of his arrest, and had spent 23 years in a death cell in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, devoting much of his time in prison to poetry and art.

In the days following the issuing of the death warrant for Aftab Bahadur – a Catholic – a number of religious leaders from around the world had written to the President of Pakistan to ask that his execution be stopped. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21773)

Pakistan proceeded with Mr Bahadur’s execution despite his having been sentenced to death when he was a child, in violation of both international and Pakistani law.

Commenting yesterday, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said: “This is a truly shameful day for Pakistan’s justice system. Aftab was subjected to almost every injustice conceivable. Just 15 years old when he was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death, he spent 23 years languishing on death row for a crime he didn’t commit before being executed in the early hours of this morning.

"To the last, Pakistan refused even to grant his lawyers the few days needed to present evidence which would have proved his innocence. This is a travesty of justice, and tragedy for all those who knew Aftab.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Millions in Iraq need greater humanitarian support, says top UN official

Wed, 2015-06-10 10:49

Millions of people in Iraq are in need of greater assistance, says the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, following a two-day visit to the country

Millions of people are in need of a greater assistance across Iraq, says Stephen O’Brien, the new Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, following a two-day visit to the strife-torn country.

“It’s imperative at this critical time we do more to mitigate the suffering of the Iraqi people. Much has been done, but the needs continue to increase and more is needed,” stated Mr. O’Brien, who assumed his post as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the beginning of June.

The humanitarian situation in Iraq is dire. Since January 2014, more than three million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes and over eight million people are in need of assistance that aid agencies cannot always provide them with, due to lack of access or because of funding challenges.

On his first mission in his capacity as Emergency Relief Coordinator,Stephen O’Brien visited Baghdad on 8 June where he met people recently displaced from Ramadi. On the following day, exactly one year after Mosul fell, causing mass displacement, he visited a camp for internally displaced people in Erbil, as well as refugees from Syria.

"All the families I spoke with had heart-breaking stories of fear, flight, loss and grief. International humanitarian law obliges all those engaged in fighting to protect civilians during hostilities, including by refraining from targeting them”, saud the Under Secretary-General.

During his meetings, he discussed progress and challenges in delivering aid with governmental representatives in Baghdad, including the Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al Jafaari, among other senior officials. In Erbil, he held similar discussions with Kurdistan Regional Government officials, including the Prime Minister Nichirvan Barzani.

“I emphasised the commitment of the United Nations and partners to work closely with the authorities in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. We are committed to meet the most urgent needs, wherever they arise,” noted Stephen O’Brien. As fighting continues, he expressed fear that the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate, encouraging the Government “to continue the generosity displayed so far”, including by ensuring the freedom of movement of all Iraqis fleeing violence.

Despite the very challenging security conditions, the United Nations and partners are delivering essential aid to people who depend on it for survival. However, without urgent and generous contributions from the international community, vital supplies and services will have to be cut.

“We urgently need $497 million to provide shelter, food, water and other life-saving services over the coming six months. This is the bare minimum to cover the most basic needs in Iraq. In actuality, the needs are far greater and we wish we could ask for – and receive – the full amount we need,” said Stephen O’Brien.

“It is my job to remind the international community that behind every statistic stands a child, woman or a man. We must not let the people of Iraq down,” he declared.

To this end, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) joined international partners and agencies in Belgium on 4 June to launch the 2015 Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan in response to critical funding shortages as the conflict in Iraq escalates, with the number of people in need of life-saving assistance over the past year having increased by some 400 per cent.

* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html


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Methodist Conference 2015

Wed, 2015-06-10 10:02
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International religious figures call for mercy for death-row Pakistani

Tue, 2015-06-09 16:53

Religious leaders from the UK, US and Pakistan have called on the Pakistani authorities to halt the execution of a man convicted as a child, who witnesses have now testified is innocent.

Religious leaders from the UK, US and Pakistan have called on the Pakistani authorities to halt plans to execute a man who was convicted as a child, and who key witnesses have now testified is innocent.

Aftab Bahadur Masih was arrested at the age of 15, and tortured by police into giving false evidence. His conviction was rushed through the court under now-discredited ‘Speedy Trials’ legislation, and was based on the testimony of two witnesses – both of who have since recanted their evidence, testifying that Aftab is innocent, and that they were tortured by police into giving statements.

Aftab is due to be executed at 04.30 Pakistan time tomorrow (00.30 BST, 10 June), having been imprisoned on Pakistan’s 8,500-strong death row since 1992.

It has been reported this afternoon that Sahiwal prison was refusing to accede to a court order allowing lawyers from Justice Project Pakistan to see one of the witnesses – prisoner Ghulam Mustafa – who wished to sign a statement exonerating Aftab. Mustafa is scheduled for execution at 04.00 local time on Wednesday morning.

In a letter sent today to President Mamnoon Hussain, Sister Helen Prejean from the US; Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and the Reverend George Pitcher from the UK, and the Pakistan-based National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, asked him to grant a petition for mercy.

The letter says: “To execute Mr. Bahadur in these circumstances would be to commit a grave injustice. In contrast, the exercise of mercy is a gracious and praiseworthy act. In the light of the above, we the undersigned respectfully request that Your Excellency utilise your power under Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan to immediately stay Mr. Bahadur’s execution and to grant him mercy.” The mercy petition was submitted last week by Aftab’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan and he human rights organisation Reprieve.

The clerics’ letter follows a separate plea to the President from Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi and the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference. In a letter sent on Saturday, they say they “would like to plead your Excellency to defer the execution date… and grant him a fair and just investigation and trial.”

The plans to execute Aftab come just hours after a last-minute stay of execution was granted to Shafqat Hussain, who was also illegally convicted as a juvenile, on the basis of one piece of evidence – a ‘confession’ extracted from him after several days of police torture. International and Pakistani law prohibit the use of evidence obtained through torture and the handing down of death sentences to juveniles, as well as protecting the right to a fair trial.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “The President has just hours to save the life of a man who even the key witnesses at his trial now say is entirely innocent. The problems with Aftab’s case are shocking, from his arrest and torture as a child, to the torture of witnesses in order to secure a conviction, 23 years spent on death row – and now, the authorities’ attempt to prevent his exoneration. These religious leaders are right to plead for mercy on Aftab’s behalf, and we must sincerely hope that the President answers their call.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Rana Plaza compensation fund finally meets target

Tue, 2015-06-09 09:44

The international fund set up to compensate victims of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh has now met its target of $30m after a significant anonymous donation.

The international fund set up to compensate victims of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, in which 1,137 people died, has now met its target of $30m (£19.63m) after a significant anonymous donation.

For the last two years, campaigners have been demanding that brands and retailers provide compensation to the injured workers and the families of those who died. More than a million consumers around the world have publicised the high street companies whose products were made in one of the five factories housed in the structurally unsafe building.

Bennetton was the last major western fashion retailer to donate, contributing $1.1m (£740,000) in April this year.

Owen Espley, Sweatshops campaigner at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: “Finally, two years on since the Rana Plaza disaster, the victims and their families will receive the compensation to which they are entitled. This is great news and shows what can be achieved when people from across the world come together to fight injustice.

"However, this is not the end. We will not rest until the exploitative global garment industry is held accountable and the people who make our clothes are paid a living wage, enjoy safe conditions and are free to join a trade union.”

The Clean Clothes Campaign, which has been campaigning since the disaster in April 2013, is calling for changes which will ensure those affected by future disasters receive more timely support. It has welcomed a new initiative by the Internaional Labour Organisation in Bangladesh to develop a national workplace injury scheme for the country’s 4 million garment workers and has urged European politicians to develop better regulation of supply chains.

* War on Want http://www.waronwant.org/
*The Clean Clothes Campaign http://www.cleanclothes.org/


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TUC urges MEPs to vote against Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Tue, 2015-06-09 09:16

The TUC has written to MEPs calling on them to vote to enure the European Parliament resolution on TTIP clearly opposes Investor-State Dispute Settlement.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has written to MEPs calling on them to vote to make sure the European Parliament resolution on the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) clearly opposes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

The letter from TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady also calls for MEPs to back protections for public services and labour standards during the debate in the European Parliament on 10 June.

The TUC is opposed in principle to a special court system solely for foreign investors, and therefore opposes ISDS and any 'alternatives' – such as those proposed by European Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmström – which provide privileged access to dispute settlement for one group alone, rather than domestic courts and state-state dispute settlement.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The European Parliament must use this resolution to send a clear signal to the TTIP negotiators in the Commission that trade must be in the public interest, not for private profit.

“There must be no ISDS or any special court system for investors, clear protections for public services and no lowering of standards for workers, consumers and the environment. If the resolution does not contain these protections, MEPs must vote against it.”

Full text of the letter from TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady to UK MEPs:

Dear MEP

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - plenary vote

You will be aware that international trade is an important issue for trade unions in the UK. We have a long tradition of supporting free and fair trade, and we are therefore particularly concerned about TTIP, which our annual Congress last year voted to oppose, while seeking improvements and protections for working people.

This week in the European Parliament, you have the chance to give the European Commission and the Governments of Europe a clear indication of what the representatives of Europe's people want them to do, and I hope you will cast your votes in the public interest.

The most important votes will concern Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS.) The TUC is opposed in principle to a special court system solely for foreign investors, and we therefore oppose ISDS in particular but also any 'alternatives' - such as Commissioner Malmström’s - which provide privileged access to dispute settlement for one group alone, rather than domestic courts and state-state dispute settlement. I know that trade unionists across Europe and in the United States are united in opposition to ISDS, and that there is growing opposition among your counterparts in the US Congress.

I urge you to vote for Amendment 27, but also to support Amendments 114 and 115. Should the final report include ISDS I would urge you to reject it in the final vote, but if the final report excludes ISDS then MEPs should definitely support the report in the final vote, to send a clear mission to the EU's TTIP negotiators.

Secondly, we are of course concerned to protect public services, especially the NHS and health and education services generally, but also other public services. We think that voters should decide what is and is not part of the public sector, through their democratically-elected governments. The best way to do this is to use the 'positive list' approach, and I urge you to vote for Amendment 13 and support any other moves which replace 'hybrid' or 'negative' lists with 'positive' lists.

The TUC also wants the European Parliament to express support for no lowering of regulatory protections for workers, consumers or the environment, as well as binding and enforceable ILO standards, as already provided for in the INTA report you will be voting on.

It is vital that the European Commission and EU member state governments hear the voice of European citizens through the European Parliament, and I would welcome your assurance that you will be voting as suggested above. If you have any questions please get in touch.

Yours sincerely

Frances O'Grady

*TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/


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Pakistan schedules hearing in juvenile case for 4 hours after execution

Mon, 2015-06-08 17:28

The Pakistan Supreme Court has admitted an appeal filed by Shafqat Hussain's legal team, scheduling a hearing for 9am tomorrow, four hours after he is due to be executed.

The Supreme Court in Pakistan has this afternoon admitted an appeal filed by Shafqat Hussain's legal team and scheduled a hearing on the case for 9am tomorrow (9 June), four hours after he is scheduled to be executed.

Shafqat was sentenced to death having been tortured into ‘confessing’ while still a child; however, the Pakistan Government has so far refused to carry out a proper investigation into either his age or his mistreatment, despite calls from UN experts and rights NGOs to do so. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21764)

Today, the Supreme Court marked the case before the Chief Justice of Pakistan for a hearing at 0900 tomorrow morning, Pakistan time. Although Shafqat is scheduled to be hanged at 0430 Pakistan time, the Supreme Court has not made any moves to stay the execution pending the hearing.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said:
“As it stands, this hearing will obviously come far too late to provide justice for Shafqat. So far, Pakistan’s system has failed him at every turn. He was tortured into ‘confessing’ and sentenced to death when he was under-age, yet there has been no proper investigation into either of these grave injustices – despite calls from the UN and others in the international community. We hope that the Sindh Government or Federal authorities take steps to ensure that Shafqat finally sees justice before it’s too late.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Pax Christi celebrates women peacemakers

Mon, 2015-06-08 16:20

At its Annual General Meeting in London on 6 June, Pax Christi celebrated women peacemakers and the work of its General Secretary, Pat Gaffney over 25 years.

At its Annual General Meeting iwhich took place in London on 6 June, Pax Christi celebrated women peacemakers and the work of its General Secretary, Pat Gaffney.

Anna Kobayashi from Brentwood Diocese, Sue Scott from Birmingham Diocese and Sheila Gallagher from Westminster Diocese received the 2015 Pax Christi Peace Award. The award, which was presented by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, National President of Pax Christi, is given to affirm the work of grass roots peace activists.

Anna Kobayashi campaigned for many years against the arms trade, joining the blockade at AWE Aldermaston in prayerful witness at the Tadley Gate. She is an active member of Pax Christi, CND and CCND, Trident Ploughshares, the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp and supporter of Catholic Worker groups. Anna takes part in the Pax Christi Ash Wednesday witness at the MOD in London.

In her parish in Wickford in Essex she was a prominent supporter of the Traveller community at Dale Farm, situated next door to the Catholic Church and has been instrumental in dispelling the unjust and prejudicial feelings towards travellers and promoting peace in that respect.

She is a central figure in the organisation preparing and celebrating the annual peace service on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Sue Scott has been a Pax Christi member for many years. She was also a founding member of the Midlands branch of the Neve Shalom - Wahat al Salam support group.

She has been a supporter of the Palestinian cause as well as of the beatification of Franz Jaegerstaetter. She has made two exposure visits to Palestine with Pax Christi, most recently the 2015 World Assembly in Bethlehem

She keeps in contact with a group of people similarly concerned with peace issues, informing them by email of news of conferences, lectures and other events. Sue has been part of the Birmingham Circle of the Newman Association and a local choir performing at charity fund raising events.

Sheila Gallagher was nominated for the Peace Award because of her involvment with peace and justice issues since the early 80s. She was a founder member of the North London J+P (Justice and Peace) Network, for some years as its Co-ordinator. The Network lobbied for a J+P Commission for the Westminster Diocese and was a founding member.

A few years ago Sheila became aware of the need for food banks and founded the Chipping Barnet Food Bank together with her ecumenical contacts in the area.

Sheila planned and established a Peace Garden in the grounds of St.Peter's church, acknowledging the financial support from the Christian Peace Education Fund.

She frequently takes part in marches and demonstrations for peace and justice related issues and also takes part in the Ash Wednesday witness in Whitehall, London. Her example is, to many people, the embodiment of Christ's message to "do unto others as we wish done to ourselves."

The meeting also celebrated the 25th anniversary of Pat Gaffney's work with Pax Christi. Pat began working with the organisation in 1990. Jose Henrique, General Secretary of Pax Christi International who attended from Brussels, said that the British Section brings light into the international movement. Pax Christi International recently celebrated its 70th anniversary with a World Assembly in Bethlehem, Palestine. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21706)

* Ekklesia sends warm wishes and congratulations to Pat Gaffney on her 25 years of witness for peace and non-violence.


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Fears that US may site nuclear weapons on UK soil in 'new cold war'

Mon, 2015-06-08 15:48

Reports have emerged that the US government is considering deploying land-based nuclear missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy Russian weapons.

Reports have emerged over the weekend that the US government is considering deploying land-based medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy Russian weapons.

This 'counterforce' option is among the possibilities under consideration as the US reviews its policy toward Russia in light of Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine and its annexing of Crimea.

Russia is alleged to be flight-testing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by a cold-war era nuclear treaty, although it denies violating the treaty and claims violations by the United States in erecting missile defences.

The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had said he does not rule out these weapons coming to Britain but added: “We would look at the case. We work extremely closely with the Americans. That would be a decision that we would make together if that proposition was on the table. We would look at all the pros and the cons and come to a conclusion.”

When asked if he would back plans to re-introduce US missiles to Europe, Hammond said: “We have got to send a clear signal to Russia that we will not allow them to transgress our red lines. At the same time, we have to recognise that the Russians do have a sense of being surrounded and under attack and we don't want to make unnecessary provocations.”

The General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Kate Hudson, said: "Frankly, these proposals are a disaster, which would risk the lives of millions of people. The US government seems intent on harking back to Cold War means of resolving their disputes, rather than pursue diplomatic methods.

"We welcome Hammond's note of caution yesterday, when he warned against making 'unnecessary provocations' against Russia, highlighting that Moscow has a 'sense of being surrounded and under attack'. Now he needs to categorically rule out hosting US nukes.

"The UK government needs to remember the huge protests of the 1980s against bringing US cruise missiles to Britain – including demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people and peace camps at Greenham Common and elsewhere. A majority of the British people do not even want us to have nuclear weapons ourselves, let alone receive new American ones which will put us on the front line in any future US conflict. CND and its supporters will forcefully object and resist any attempt to bring US nuclear missiles here."


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David Cameron 'wrong' on Mediterranean migrants, says Amnesty

Mon, 2015-06-08 10:03

Amnesty International has said David Cameron was “completely wrong” to say that “the vast majority of Mediterranean migrants are not asylum-seekers”.

Amnesty International has said the Prime Minister David Cameron was “completely wrong” to say at Prime Minister’s Questions on 3 June that “the vast majority of Mediterranean migrants are not asylum-seekers” in answer to a question about the UK’s refusal to take part in an EU refugee quota system on the issue.

Amnesty and other monitoring groups have said that the single largest group by nationality attempting the Mediterranean crossing in recent months have been people from war-torn Syria, nearly all of whom will be internationally-recognised refugees. Estimates from various sources suggest this group constitute up to a third of those attempting the perilous crossing.

The next single largest group comprises Eritreans - with the great majority of these also very likely to be refugees. Although numbers fluctuate, during last year Eritreans and Syrians alone amounted to nearly 50 per cent of those boarding boats in the Mediterranean, with the two groups also constituting the largest number during the first four months of 2015.

Meanwhile, significant numbers of Somalis, Iraqis and Afghanis attempting to reach safety in southern Europe are also likely to include a large proportion of refugees.

Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director Steve Symonds said: “David Cameron was completely wrong to say the vast majority of Mediterranean migrants are not asylum-seekers.

“At least half of those risking their lives in the Mediterranean are fleeing persecution in places like Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.

“We all know that PMQs is a political knockabout, but the Prime Minister has a duty to stick to the facts – not least on an issue where tens of thousands of people’s lives are at stake.”

Nearly half of those who crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 were prima facie refugees. According to the EU’s frontier agency Frontex, Syrians and Eritreans accounted for 46 per cent of the 170,000-plus people who reached Italy by boat in 2014. Other large numbers come from Sudan, Afghanistan or Iraq. Overall, a record 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in smugglers’ boats in 2014, and 3,500 died. Around half of these people were refugees fleeing war and persecution. So far in 2015 some 62,500 people have made the crossing, and at least 1,800 have already died.

* Read Amnesty's Sinking Shame report here: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/webfm_send/1345

*Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/


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Four million people now work from home with more wanting to join them

Mon, 2015-06-08 09:33

New analysis from the TUC shows the number of people regularly working from home has increased by more than 800,000 since 2005.

The number of people regularly working from home increased by more than 800,000 since 2005, taking the total to 4,218,699. The findings are from Trades Union Congress (TUC) analysis published on 5 June to mark the tenth National Work from Home Day, which is organised by Work Wise UK.

The TUC’s analysis of unpublished data from the ONS Labour Force Survey Shows that the number of regular homeworkers has increased by 800,601 since 2005. The total number of people in employment has increased during the past decade, but this has been outstripped by the growth in homeworking, which has increased from 12.0 per cent of the workforce in 2005 to 13.7 per cent in 2015.

Using figures from the government’s official Work-Life Balance Survey 2013 and the ONS Labour Force Survey, the TUC estimates that a further 1.8 million people would like to work from home.

Although the South East has the most homeworkers, London has seen the greatest growth during the past decade, (+193,859), while the South West has the highest percentage of homeworkers (18.3 per cent).

At the other end of the scale, homeworking in Northern Ireland has dropped by 10,000 in the past ten years, down to 74,000, and there has been negligible growth in Wales.

The findings also show that homeworking is disproportionately taken up by men (62.8 per cent), partly because they outnumber women in self-employment, where more than two-thirds of workers are men (68.1 per cent).

Homeworking is less common in the public sectors than might be expected, with just 8.0 per cent in health and 7.1 per cent in education working from home for example. Unsurprisingly, the wired-up information and communications industry has above average homeworking (17.7 per cent), while other white collar industries like the professional, scientific and technical sector (16.0 per cent) and real estate (14.4 per cent) also do well.

In contrast, only 7.0 per cent of retail staff work from home. The growth of online shopping has replaced counter staff with warehouse workers.

The ability to work from home is also strongly associated with occupational seniority, with one in five managers working from home (20.1 per cent) compared to about one in fifteen workers in the elementary occupations (6.7 per cent).

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These figures show millions of British workers have adopted homeworking and are enjoying a better work-life balance, while saving time and money on costly commuting that benefits no-one.

“Although organisations that have embraced homeworking often say that it has improved retention and productivity, there are still too many employers who are afraid to let their staff try out this way of working. The TUC estimates that there could be as many as another 1.8 million people who would enjoy the benefits of working from home.

“As the labour market tightens, National Work from Home Day is a useful reminder for employers to think about keeping their employees engaged by introducing more employee-friendly forms of flexibility for those who want to change how and where they perform their work.”

Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said: “While there has been a significant increase in regular homeworking since 2005, clearly more needs to be done to convince some employers that implementing new working practices can result in a win-win situation for both their business and their employees.

“Thanks to modern technology, introducing efficient flexible working processes can be done both quickly and easily, but trust in transition remains a major issue. Work is something you do, not somewhere you go, and adopting a flexible culture has been proven to cut down on wasted time and cost. Trust, and perceived impact on culture, are however the main barriers to change, not technology.

“Many organisations have already woken up to the fact that they can attract and retain talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work, and that a healthy work-life balance contributes to individual motivation and performance, business success and growth. In addition, developments in technology help support a multiplicity of working arrangements such as working from home”.

*More information about National Work from Home Day is available at www.workwiseuk.org

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/


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Rights groups urge Pakistan to call off juvenile execution

Mon, 2015-06-08 09:17

Leading rights groups have called on the President of Pakistan to grant clemency to Shafqat Hussain, who is due to be hanged tomorrow despite being convicted as a juvenile

Leading rights groups Amnesty International, Child Rights International Network, Defence for Children International, Human Rights Watch, Redress and the legal charity Reprieve have called on the President of Pakistan to grant clemency to Shafqat Hussain, who is due to be hanged tomorrow (9 June 2015) – despite being convicted as a juvenile and on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21685)

In a letter sent today to President Mamnoon Hussain, the organisations ask him to halt the execution of Shafqat, whose ‘black warrant’ was handed down last week. The groups detail how Shafqat’s torture and juvenility at the time of his arrest – which previously prompted the President to order a stay of execution, and an inquiry – have not been fully investigated; and ask the President to grant a petition for mercy submitted by Shafqat’s lawyers earlier this week.

The letter says “to continue with [Mr. Hussain’s] execution would be in direct contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations” and adds that “You alone have the power to see justice done in this case, Your Excellency, and we urge you to use that power in the name of justice, grace and humanity.”

The groups echo the concerns of four senior UN experts, made public last Friday, over a government-ordered inquiry into the case by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA). The FIA’s inquiry relied almost exclusively on an incorrect trial record in making an assessment that Shafqat was not a juvenile at the time of his arrest, and ignored school records (which have been withheld from Shafqat, his lawyers and the general public) which showed him to have been under 18 at the time.

Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Benyam Mezmur, chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child last week said that “To proceed with Mr. Hussain’s execution without proper investigation into the allegation that his confession was coerced under torture, and in spite of evidence that he was a child at the time of his alleged offence and of his possible innocence would be utterly unacceptable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “In its rush to execute Shafqat and many hundreds of others on Pakistan’s death row, the government has consistently failed to answer the many troubling questions raised by his case – not least, the concerns over his torture and bogus ‘confession’, and his young age at the time of his arrest.

"It is unconscionable that the authorities have set a date for his hanging when there are still so many unanswered questions. To hang Shafqat would be to commit a grave injustice and show wanton disregard for the rule of law. It is our sincere hope that the President will intervene to save Shafqat’s life, and put a halt on this rash and bloody wave of executions."

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Pakistan reaches 150 hangings amid plans for juvenile execution

Fri, 2015-06-05 22:14

Figures collated by human rights organisation Reprieve suggest that 150 people have been executed by the Pakistani authorities since December 2014.

Figures collated by human rights organisation Reprieve suggest that 150 people have been executed by the Pakistani authorities since December 2014, when the government lifted a long-standing moratorium on the death penalty.

Ministers in Pakistan have indicated that they plan to execute hundreds of those on the country’s 8,500-strong death row – the largest in the world – despite concerns over the use of police torture to extract forced ‘confessions’, and the fact that many were convicted as juveniles, breaching Pakistani and international law. Pakistan’s total for executions this year has already surpassed those of Saudi Arabia (90) and in the US (14).

On Wednesday 3 June, a torture expert called for an independent medical assessment of one such prisoner, Shafqat Hussain, who was a juvenile when he was tortured into a ‘confession’ and sentenced to death. This week, Shafqat was handed an execution warrant setting his hanging for next Tuesday (9 June), following a flawed inquiry into his age by the government’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) – an organisation which the Interior Minister said earlier this month requires a “clean-up operation… to weed out corrupt elements.”

The FIA’s inquiry relied almost exclusively on an incorrect trial record in making an assessment that Shafqat was not a juvenile at the time of his arrest, and ignored school records (currently confiscated by the government) which showed him to have been under 18 at the time. A significant number of inconsistencies and errors in government statements regarding the case have yet to be resolved – including an admission by the Interior Minister himself that the jail’s doctor and jail authorities contradicted one another on Shafqat’s age. A Pakistani court has described the FIA inquiry as "prima facie illegal". (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21685)

Shafqat Hussain's lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan have submitted a petition to the Sindh Human Rights Commission, calling on the regional legal body to use its powers to initiate a full, independent inquiry into multiple violations of his rights by Pakistan’s government.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “With 150 executions in less than six months, Pakistan is racing to become one of the world’s most prolific executors – overtaking even Saudi Arabia and the US. Yet more worryingly, it appears that many of those slated for imminent execution may have been arrested as children, and convicted on the basis of forced ‘confessions’ extracted through torture.

"Shafqat Hussain is one such example – the Pakistani government is hellbent on executing him, despite questions over both his innocence and juvenility. In the interests of justice, the Pakistani government should stay Shafqat’s execution, and allow a proper and independent inquiry into the facts of this case – and of the thousands of others potentially tortured into false ‘confessions’ or convicted as children on Pakistan’s death row.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/


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Science magazine criticised for editorial on uncontacted tribes

Fri, 2015-06-05 09:30

An editorial in Science magazine which calls for isolated tribes to be contacted for their own benefit has been slated as “dangerous and misleading” by Survival International

An editorial in Science magazine which calls for isolated tribes to be contacted for their own benefit has been slated as “dangerous and misleading” by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

The authors, Professors Robert S. Walker and Kim R. Hill, maintain that “a well-designed contact can be quite safe,” but the examples of contact they choose to illustrate their point were in fact catastrophic, and left many of the tribespeople dead.

The idea that contact with such tribes will end happily as long as there are adequate safeguards is dangerously naive, says Survival. Brazil has more expertise in this area than any other country, yet right now two recently contacted Awá women are critically ill with tuberculosis because they were left for months without proper healthcare after contact occurred.

Walker and Hill have also decided that isolated populations are "not viable in the long term.” At the same time, they acknowledge that there are about 50 such peoples in South America (in fact, there are more). Quite how these peoples aren’t “viable” isn’t explained, as many of them appear to be thriving.

The anthropologists’ statement would certainly come as news to perhaps the most isolated tribe in the world, the Sentinelese of the Indian Ocean, who have lived on their island for at least 15,000 years, and are visibly both “viable” and healthy.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “Walker and Hill play straight into the hands of those who want to open Amazonia up for resource extraction and ‘investment.’ That they claim this is for tribes’ own benefit is dangerous and misleading nonsense.

“Perhaps their most offensive justification for forcibly contacting isolated tribes is that ‘surviving indigenous populations rebound quickly from population crashes.’ The casual tone with which the authors dismiss the deaths of scores of men, women and children is deeply disturbing.

“Let there be no doubt: isolated tribes are perfectly viable, as long as their lands are protected. To think we have the right to invade their territories and make contact with them, whether they want it or not, with all the likely consequences, is pernicious and arrogant. The decision as to whether to make contact or not has to be one for the people themselves, not for outsiders who think they know what’s in the Indians’ best interests.”

A Guajajara Indian man fighting to protect the territory of his neighbors the Awá said: “It is simple: the uncontacted Awá need their forest. This is their home and nobody has the right to take it away from them, or to remove them from it. Without their land, our uncontacted relatives will not survive.”

And Wamaxua, a recently contacted Awá man, told Survival: “When I lived in the forest, I had a good life. Now, if I meet one of the uncontacted Awá in the forest, I’ll say: ‘Don’t leave! Stay in the forest… There’s nothing in the outside for you.’”

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/


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Fighting in South Sudan’s unity state suspends aid delivery

Fri, 2015-06-05 09:15

Increased fighting in South Sudan’s Unity State has forced a Christian Aid partner in the area to stop temporarily giving aid to those in desperate need.

Increased fighting in South Sudan’s Unity State has forced a Christian Aid partner in the area to stop temporarily giving aid to those in desperate need. There are reports of targeted attacks on civilians, rapes and child abduction as the conflict heats up once more.

People are fleeing their homes again and moving into swampland to escape the violence. They are compelled to eat wild food and drink dirty swamp water, says Christian Aid. The risk of disease, malaria and malnutrition is high.

Relief agencies fear that distributions of emergency supplies may simply bring the people out of the swamps and make them vulnerable to attack, and are working desperately to find a way of getting supplies through. Airdrops to safe locations are one option under consideration.

Christian Aid’s partner working in Unity State is planning its response to deliver emergency life-saving assistance as soon as is possible.

It will distribute mosquito nets, plastic sheeting for shelter and water purification tablets, along with fishing nets. Vegetable seeds and tools will also be provided to those able to cultivate land.

A new report from Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (the international standard for classifying food security) shows an increase in the number of people facing severe food insecurity from 2.5 million people in January to March this year to around 4.6 million people from May onwards.

The deteriorating economy is affecting people countrywide, with a recent statement from the South Sudan Council of Churches highlighting the concerns of the church leaders about the hardship this will trigger and demanding an end to this senseless conflict.

The fighting has meant production of food in the north is dwindling and trade routes have been disrupted. Cultivation in Greater Upper Nile is down 80 per cent this year.

The UN has warned there will be hyperinflation in the coming months – already a plate of food that would normally cost five South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) is now up to 20SSP.

Jolly Kemigabo, Christian Aid country manager in South Sudan, said: “The situation here is now critical. The fighting is directly affecting certain areas in the north but it is also having an impact throughout the country. Household food stocks have run out, cultivation is down and our currency has lost value so now people are spending 80 per cent or more of their income on food.

“It seems the world has ignored South Sudan for 18 months but with no sign of an end to the conflict, we desperately need more funding to respond to this humanitarian crisis”.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx


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