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UK government backs Dubai police equipment fair despite UAE torture record

Sun, 2014-11-02 16:50

The UK Government has been criticised over its backing for an equipment fair hosted by police in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The British Government has been criticised over its backing for an equipment fair hosted by police in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), due to the frequent use of torture by UAE police to extract ‘confessions’ – including from several British citizens in recent years.

Questions were raised for UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) – a division of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – this week as the Emirates Security Exhibition & Conference (EmSEC) took place in Dubai. An advertisement on the UKTI website describes the two-day security industry event as designed “to support and encourage UK exports” to “law enforcement and security markets.”

The fair was organised by the Dubai Police and ADS Group, a UK arms trade body with close links to UKTI; on the eve of the event, UKTI and the UK embassy in Dubai hosted a reception for all participating UK firms and consultants.

Specific concerns have been raised by the legal charity Reprieve regarding the list of ‘required products and services’ released by Dubai Police ahead of the event, which includes the category “Public Order Equipment – Electronic.”

Over the last two years, Qatar has been identified by UKTI as a 'priority market'. for arms sales and during that time, the UK has licenced £14 million worth of weapons to the regime, £12 million of which were licenced in the last 12 months. This included assault rifles, gun mountings and machine gun components.

Police torture in the UAE is widespread and well-documented. A recent study conducted in Dubai by Reprieve found that 75 per cent of prisoners experienced some form of abuse following arrest. A British student, Ahmad Zeidan, whom Reprieve is assisting, was jailed earlier this year in Sharjah, near Dubai, narrowly avoiding a death sentence; his conviction rested on a bogus ‘confession’ he was forced to sign in Arabic – a language he cannot read – after he was subjected to torture including beatings, hooding and threats of rape. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20873)

Other British victims have previously described being subjected to electric shocks from batons or taser-like devices and have also been threatened with sexual assault.

David Cameron has told Reprieve that the Government takes Mr Zeidan’s reports of torture “extremely seriously”, but failed to intervene directly in his case ahead of an appeal hearing last month, at which the Emirati court upheld his conviction and refused to consider evidence of his torture and forced ‘confession.’

Clare Algar, Executive Director at Reprieve, said: “The UK government’s enthusiasm for this event is utterly shocking given what we know about the current epidemic of police torture in the UAE. It’s well-documented that the Emirati police regularly torture British citizens, among others, into signing bogus ‘confessions’ – and one of those Brits, Ahmad Zeidan, is still in prison, begging for help from his government. Instead of supporting the sale of torture tools to the UAE, the UK should be pushing for an end to police torture and calling for Ahmad’s release.”

Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), said: "Qatar is an authoritarian state with an appalling human rights record.The UK government should not be supporting or promoting any arms sales to to the Emir or working hand in glove with arms companies that are looking to profit from the oppression taking place."

[Ekk/4]

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Remembrance, conscience and conformity

Sat, 2014-11-01 10:13
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Christian Aid turns to biblical prophets for climate change hope

Fri, 2014-10-31 16:51

As tackling climate change increasingly becomes not just an economic and political issue, but also a moral one, a new paper from Christian Aid draws inspiration from the biblical prophets.

As the question of how we set about tackling climate change increasingly becomes not just an economic and political issue, but a moral one too, a new paper from Christian Aid draws inspiration from the biblical prophets.

Song of the Prophets: A global theology on climate change reflects the views of theologians from the global south where climate change is having its greatest impact.

The paper says that the manner in which a number of Biblical prophets confronted opposition in their own times, gives hope in a demoralised and demotivated world.

It coincides with latest synthesis report on the impact of global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is expected to warn that time for effective action against climate change is fast running out. The IPCC report comes out on Sunday, 2 November, six days before the anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan which devastated parts of the Philippines last year.

The paper’s author, the Rev Dr Susan Durber, said: “We all need those who will help us to see the truth from which we might be tempted to turn, to face things we can hardly bear, and to find a source of hope that is real. We have often called the people who can do this for us ‘prophets’. They help us to discern the truth and to act upon it.

“Prophets are sometimes unpopular, especially with those who have much to lose if things change. But they consistently, and without fear, speak out. Sometimes people think them mad. Sometimes they are indulged as though they are naïve. All this happened to the prophets in the Bible, and it happens still to truth-tellers in the world today.

“Prophetic voices, whether from the Scriptures, from climate science, or from people living in poverty today, sing a powerful song. We need to hear the challenging voices and the calls to repent and change, for the sake of those who are suffering now and for the sake of future generations.

"But we also need to imagine a redeemed and restored world, one marked by justice and hope and built on new foundations, for such a vision will overcome our fears and give us strength to change.

“It takes courage to listen to voices that go against our immediate and pressing self-interest, but if we shut down in the face of the challenge to ‘repent!’ we shall also shut down the possibility of receiving the gift of hope for a renewed earth. It is this gift that we need above all, a gift that faith can offer, in humility, to the world. Prophets are the ones who can reveal that ‘it doesn’t have to be like this.”

Over the weekend of October 18-19 hundreds of churches around the UK took part in a weekend of prayer and action urging MPs to tackle climate change, and praying for their sisters and brothers around the world.

As Christians around the world increasingly begin to grapple with the moral questions raised by climate change Christian Aid hopes that this paper may prove a useful tool in shaping a theology of climate change full of justice and hope.

* Read the paper Song of the Prophets here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/song-of-the-prophets-a-global-theo...

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Number of low-paid workers across Britain hits record high

Fri, 2014-10-31 08:19

The proportion of employees in low-paid work across Britain increased from 21 to 22 per cent last year, a Resolution Foundation report has revealed.

The proportion of employees in low-paid work across Britain increased from 21 to 22 per cent last year – to just over five million people – a Resolution Foundation report has revealed.

Low Pay Britain 2014, the Resolution Foundation’s annual audit of low pay across Britain, finds that the number of people earning less than two-thirds of median hourly pay, equivalent to £7.69 an hour, rose to 5.2 million, an increase of 250,000 on the previous year.

The increase in the absolute number in low pay in part reflects the rapid growth in the jobs market, with the number of employees rising by around 340,000 between April 2012 and April 2013.

But the research shows that the proportion of employees earning less than £7.69 an hour rose slightly, reversing a small improvement in the previous year.

With the economy recovering, the report will send a challenge to employers, government and all political parties to prevent people getting stuck in low pay and help them to move out of in-work poverty.

The report also highlights that:

* The ‘stickiness’ of low paid work is a serious problem. Almost one in four minimum wage employees who have been in work over the last five years have been stuck on the minimum rate for the entire time.

* Women are still far more likely to be low-paid than men. More than one-in-four (27 per cent) female employees earned less than £7.69 an hour last year, compared with 17 per cent of men. This gap has slowly but steadily narrowed over the last three decades. Back in 1983, one-in-three (33 per cent) women were low paid, compared with eight per cent of men. However, the steady decline in the proportion of women in low paid work halted last year (rising by one percentage point).

* The UK has among the highest proportion of full-time low-paid workers across the OECD. Although the proportion remains higher in the US, employees in Britain are likelier to be low paid than those in other broadly comparable economies like Germany or Australia; twice as likely to be low-paid as workers in Switzerland; and four times as likely as those in Belgium.

Matthew Whittaker, Chief Economist at the Resolution Foundation, commented: “While recent months have brought much welcome news on the number of people moving into employment, the squeeze on real earnings continues. While low pay is likely to be better than no pay at all, it’s troubling that the number of low-paid workers across Britain reached a record high last year.

“Being low paid – and getting stuck there for years on end – creates not only immediate financial pressures, but can permanently affect people’s career prospects. A growing rump of low-paid jobs also presents a financial headache for the government because it fails to boost the tax take and raises the benefits bill for working people.

“All political parties have expressed an ambition to tackle low pay. Yet the proportion of low-paid workers has barely moved in the last 20 years. A focus on raising the minimum wage can certainly help the very lowest paid workers in Britain, but we need a broader low pay strategy in order to lift larger numbers out of working poverty.

“Economic growth alone won’t solve our low pay problem. We need to look more closely at the kind of jobs being created, the industries that are growing and the ability of people to move from one job or sector to the other, if we’re really going to get to grips with low pay in Britain today,” concluded Dr Whittaker.

* Read the report: http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/low-pay-britain-2014/

[Ekk/3]

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Half of financial consumers consider ethical switching

Fri, 2014-10-31 07:43

Investment in companies that perform poorly on some responsible or ethical finance concerns is a big public concern, survey finds.

Investment in companies that perform poorly on some responsible or ethical finance concerns can be almost as strong a motivator in choosing to switch financial provider as poor customer service, or a better deal elsewhere. These are the indications of the findings from an Ipsos MORI national consumer survey commissioned by leading global responsible investment research firm EIRIS.

The importance of responsible or ethical concerns in finance is supported by EIRIS’ estimate that the amount of money invested in the UK’s green and ethical retail funds reached over £13.5 billion in 2014.

EIRIS (Ethical Investment Research Information Service) commissioned Ipsos MORI to undertake a national online poll of 2,010 adults aged 16-75 across Britain.

Among the 1,837 of those who have ever personally bought or taken out a financial product or service around a half (51 per cent) are likely to consider switching from their main financial provider if they have reason to believe their financial activities (e.g. lending, insuring) contribute to harmful social activities, such as human rights abuses, child labour or forced labour.

Similarly, if these same consumers have reason to believe their main financial provider has faced potential fines for activities that breached financial regulations (such as money laundering regulations, mis-selling products or manipulation of interest rates), 47 per cent are likely to consider switching, against just 13 per cent who are unlikely to consider doing so.

These concerns are almost as strong switch factors as another main financial provider offering better rates, fees or conditions for a similar product or account (55 per cent) or dissatisfaction with the customer service provided (62 per cent).

The poll also explores which investment strategies consumers would like to see their providers pursue on different issues as a first course of action, and any actions consumers are prepared to take themselves.

* More at: http://www.eiris.org/media/press-release/financial-consumers-ethical-con...

[Ekk/3]

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Oxfam launches global campaign against inequality

Fri, 2014-10-31 07:36

Oxfam has announced the launch of 'Even It Up', a major new international campaign and report tackling global inequality and its causes.

Oxfam has announced the launch of 'Even It Up', a major new worldwide campaign against global inequality and its causes.

The initiative has been kick-started by a new report from the internationally recognised NGO, entitled 'Time to end extreme inequality'.

From Ghana to Germany, Italy to Indonesia, the gap between rich and poor is widening. In 2013, seven out of 10 people lived in countries where economic inequality was worse than 30 years ago, and in 2014 Oxfam calculated that just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

Extreme inequality corrupts politics and hinders economic growth.

It exacerbates gender inequality, and causes a range of health and social problems. It stifles social mobility, keeping some families poor for generations, while others enjoy year after year of privilege. It fuels crime and even violent conflict. These corrosive consequences affect us all, but the impact is worst for the poorest people.

In Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality Oxfam presents new evidence that the gap between rich and poor is growing ever wider and is undermining poverty eradication.

If India stopped inequality from rising, 90 million more men and women could be lifted out of extreme poverty by 2019.

This report delves into the causes of the inequality crisis and looks at the concrete solutions that can overcome it. Drawing on case studies from around the world the report demonstrates the impact that rising inequality is having on rich and poor countries alike and explores the different ways that people and governments are responding to it.

Graça Machel, founder of the Graça Machel Trust, comments: "This report from Oxfam is a stark and timely portrait of the growing inequality which characterises much of Africa and the world today... It contains many examples of success to give us inspiration.

"I hope that many people from government officials, business and civil society leaders, and bilateral and multilateral institutions will examine this report, reflect on its recommendations and take sustained actions which will tackle the inequality explosion."

Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of From Poverty to Power adds: "For me, the most striking killer fact from the launch report is: ‘The number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis, as inequality spirals out of control. In the same period, at least a million mothers have died in childbirth due to a lack of basic health services.’

"Although ‘In South Africa, the two richest people have the same wealth as the bottom half of the population’ runs it pretty close."

* Read the report 'Time to end extreme inequality': http://www.oxfam.org/en/research/time-end-extreme-inequality

* Sign up for the the campaign: https://act.oxfam.org/great-britain

* Duncan Green's From Poverty to Power: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/from-poverty-to-power-2...

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Digital platforms and communications rights

Fri, 2014-10-31 07:22

Globethics.net has announced publication of a new book that examines how the world of digital technology is reshaping communications and the implications for society, culture and politics.

Globethics.net has announced publication of a new book that examines how the world of digital technology is reshaping communications and the implications for society, culture and politics.

More or Less Equal: How Digital Platforms Can Help Advance Communication Rights” is edited by Philip Lee and Dafne Sabanes Plou. Lee is World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) Deputy Director of Programmes and Plou is a communicator with the Rights for Women programme at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

The book notes that today's digital platforms offer the tantalising possibility of learning and taking into account opinions from the margins that contradict the dominant voices in the public sphere. The concept of citizen journalism has radically altered traditional news and information flows, encouraging greater interaction and interdependence.

More or Less Equalasks what challenges this development poses for societies worldwide. What ethical questions does it raise? The publication explores these questions against a background of rapid technological change and with the aim of strengthening the communication rights of all people everywhere.

The book’s essays include such topics as ethical challenges and social media, communication networks in Latin America, women’s access to social media networks, media ethics and citizen journalism, and the gender dimensions of communication rights.

In the introduction, the editors note that the publication “argues that equality, accessibility, and diversity are watchwords in building and maintaining societies and communities based on principles of justice, sustainability and peace.”

* The book is available as a free download here: http://www.globethics.net/web/ge/publications

* Print copies can be ordered from www.globethics.net

[Ekk/4]

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WCC expresses concern over latest in Bibi blasphemy case

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:25

The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned about the rejection of an appeal against the blasphemy death sentence for Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi.

World Council of Churches General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has expressed profound concern over the rejection of an appeal against the death sentence for a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, convicted under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

To promote tolerance, religious harmony and protection of the rights of religious minorities, Dr Tveit said it is important that justice is ensured in cases like that of Asia Bibi.

“The alleged circumstances of the incident which led to the blasphemy charges against Ms Bibi are highly questionable, and the imposition of the death penalty in this case is totally inappropriate.

"Apart from the issues of religious freedom, the charges, on-going imprisonment and threat of execution seem to have infringed Ms Bibi’s basic human rights,” Dr Tveit said in a statement issued from the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in the past few days.

Calling the blasphemy law "prone to abuse", Dr Tveit expressed his hope that the Pakistan Supreme Court will reverse the decision from the lower court in Bibi’s case.

“I look forward to encouraging people of good will, both in Pakistan and in the wider world, to work together to encourage the amendment in the blasphemy law under which such charges have been made against Asia Bibi,” Dr Tveit said.

Over a number of years the WCC has expressed concern on the abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, along with its member churches in the country.

In 2009, the Central Committee, a chief governing body of the WCC, issued a statement on the misuse of the blasphemy law and the security of religious minorities in Pakistan.

* Full text of the statement from the WCC General Secretary: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/statem...

[Ekk/3]

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Government to release secret policy on surveillance of lawyers

Thu, 2014-10-30 09:57

In response to a case brought by rendition victims, the government is to release previously secret policies governing eavesdropping on communications between lawyers and clients.

The Government yesterday (29 October) agreed to release its previously secret policies governing how and when it eavesdrops on confidential communication between lawyers and their clients, in response to a case brought by victims of rendition and torture.

The concession was made ahead of a hearing of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) – a highly secretive quasi-court which considers complaints brought against the intelligence services – in response to a claim brought by two families who were ‘rendered’ by MI6 and the CIA to Col Gaddafi’s prisons in 2004.

The IPT case concerns whether the Government had spied on confidential communications between the victims – the Belhadj and al Saadi families – and their legal teams, concerning a separate, ongoing claim which they brought against the UK Government in the High Court. If the Government has spied on these communications, it will have breached the long-established principle that each side is allowed confidential communication with its legal team. Doing so would give the Government an unfair advantage, and threaten the victims’ right to a fair hearing.

Today, the Government conceded shortly before a rare public hearing of the IPT that it would release its policies on the interception of legally privileged material, although only in redacted form. It has been given until 17:00 GMT tomorrow (Thursday 30 October) to do so.

However, lawyers for the Government refused to either confirm or deny whether the Government has in fact ever misused legally privileged material which it has obtained through its surveillance programmes. A further IPT hearing, scheduled for next Thursday (6 October) will consider whether the Government should disclose this information. It will also examine whether the Government should be required to release training material issued to the intelligence services on how to handle privileged material which they have intercepted.

Commenting, Reprieve Director Cori Crider, who along with solicitors Leigh Day is representing the Belhadj and al Saadi families, said: “This evidence is welcome but long overdue. It's plain the government hopes to avoid the central question in this case: has private lawyer-client material improperly made its way into the hands of officials or lawyers involved in the torture claim? Time will tell, and we will just have to see what emerges from the documents tomorrow to find out whether the policies are worth the paper they are printed on.”

[Ekk/4]

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The only way to stop Ebola is at its source, says UN chief

Wed, 2014-10-29 09:17

The UN Secretary-General has urged countries not to close borders or impose travel bans as a response to the Ebola outbreak, but to deploy the essential human resources.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged countries that have imposed travel bans or closed their borders in response to the Ebola outbreak of the need to convey a sense of urgency without inciting panic, saying “the only way to stop Ebola is to stop it at its source.”

Mr. Ban spoke to reporters alongside African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, where they had discussed how the three organisations and their partners can help efforts to stop the Ebola epidemic unfolding in West Africa.

Meanwhile, the Geneva-based UN World Health Organisation (WHO) welcomed the approval by Swissmedic – the Swiss regulatory authority for therapeutic products – for a trial with an experimental Ebola vaccine at the Lausanne University Hospital, saying “this marks the latest step towards bringing safe and effective Ebola vaccines for testing and implementation as quickly as possible.”

Yesterday (28 October) the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) reported that its Chinese peacekeeping contingent will assist in the construction of an Ebola Quarantine and Control Centre in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. The project is expected to take 21 days to complete.

The UN continues to work with its partners to ramp up efforts to tackle all aspects of the outbreak, and in Addis Ababa yesterday, Mr Ban said: “Ebola is a major global crisis that demands a massive and immediate global response. No country or organisation can defeat Ebola alone. We all have a role to play.”

In that regard, the Secretary-General said he was very heartened to learn of the pledges by African nations, most recently Ethiopia, Burundi and Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to deploy medical personnel to assist the victims of the disease that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“I am particularly encouraged by the decision of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to deploy medical personnel, and of Senegal to serve as a logistics hub for the response, following success in containing their own outbreaks,” he said.

The UN chief said he is in constant contact with world leaders “to help us create dedicated medical facilities for in-country treatment of responders and to put in place medical evacuation mechanisms.”

“We have a long way ahead to contain and curb the Ebola outbreak and to help the affected countries rebuild their health systems to better withstand future shocks,” he said.

According to WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic, the agency has 176 health personnel on the ground, while 700 had been deployed and rotated since the beginning of the outbreak. At any given time, he said there were about 200 people on the ground. In addition, medical teams from other organisations including medical teams from Cuba, China, and other countries.

Mr. Jasarevic stated that 230 more burial teams are needed, to ensure 70 percent of safe burials. Eight to 10 people are needed for one burial team.

In response to a question about the politicians in Australia and the United States calling for restrictions on people returning from affected countries, Mr Jasarevic said mandatory quarantine was not recommended, as people were not contagious until they were showing symptoms.

The Secretary-General in Addis Ababa drew attention to travel bans and border closures imposed by some countries, saying such measures will only isolate the affected countries, and obstruct response efforts.

“The only way to stop Ebola is to stop it at its source,” Mr Ban said.

“I thank the African Union (AU) for its strong and consistent position on this point,” he said, and asked the AU to continue to appeal to its member states not to impose travel restrictions or close their borders, but rather to deploy the essential human resources.

“We urgently need more trained foreign medical teams to deploy to the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) noted that the spread of Ebola was disrupting food trade and markets in the three affected countries. In Geneva, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said that in Sierra Leone, local weekly markets were banned. In Monrovia, the price of cassava flour had more than doubled after the closure of the border with Sierra Leone, and in Liberia prices for imported rice had continued to increase beyond the summer pattern, Ms Byrs said.

“Should the Ebola epidemic last another four to five months when farmers would begin to prepare their lands, there would be a real concern that planting for the 2015 harvest could be affected,” she said.

[Ekk/4]

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The challenge of remembrance

Tue, 2014-10-28 11:25
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UN questions for US and Yemen over ‘disappeared’ American citizen

Tue, 2014-10-28 09:54

A UN body that tracks forced disappearance has reiterated its call to Yemen to produce a US citizen missing from a prison in the country for nearly nine months.

A UN body that tracks forced disappearance has reiterated its call to Yemen to produce a US citizen who has been missing from a prison in the country for nearly nine months.

Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by lawyers from the legal charity Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana'a's central prison. When they returned three weeks later, they were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s family and lawyers to trace him have since failed.

Further questions were raised in July about a possible US role in the disappearance, when US diplomats in Yemen admitted to Reprieve that they had been in contact with Mr Mobley, but refused to reveal where he is being held. In August, the Yemeni court heard – in comments that the judge subsequently ordered to be struck from the record – that Mr Mobley may have been transferred to face trial before the Specialised Criminal Court, a secretive, US-funded body that has been criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for failing to meet international fair trial standards.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has submitted a dossier of facts on the case to Yemen and the US regarding Mr Mobley’s disappearance. The submission, made earlier this month, follows the group’s launching of an investigation in May, and a request that Yemen ensure Mr Mobley would not be detained arbitrarily, or subject to unfair legal proceedings.

Mr Mobley's ordeal began in January 2010 when he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from outside his house in Sana'a, shot in the leg and held incommunicado for several months. Logs released under a US Freedom of Information request revealed that two US agents interrogated Mr Mobley in secret detention. Since mid-2010, he has faced charges relating to the death of a Yemeni police officer in the course of an alleged escape attempt from hospital, where Mr Mobley was being treated after a beating in detention.

Mr Mobley disappeared on the eve of a court hearing at which his Yemeni lawyer was due to present evidence of the US authorities' role in his original disappearance. The judge in the trial is thought to be deliberating over the legality of Mr Mobley's original arrest, shooting and secret detention, which violated several provisions of Yemen’s laws and constitution.

Cori Crider, Mr Mobley’s lawyer and Strategic Director at Reprieve, said: “It’s hard to believe that, nine months on from Sharif Mobley’s disappearance, we are no closer to the Yemeni government admitting where they have taken our client. Mr Mobley’s family and lawyers need immediate access to him to determine how he has been treated, and why he disappeared on the eve of a crucial hearing. We can only hope that this ongoing UN intervention spurs the US and the Yemenis to reveal their role in this murky affair.”

[Ekk/4]

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Chinese consulate in Northern Ireland will be focus for human rights protest

Tue, 2014-10-28 09:41

Amnesty International has said that a Chinese consulate in Northern Ireland will become a focus of protest for those concerned with China's human rights record.

Amnesty International has said that a Chinese government consulate in Northern Ireland will become a focus of protest for those concerned with China's atrocious human rights record.

The human rights organisation called on the Northern Ireland Executive to raise concerns about human rights abuses in China – including the country's continuing crackdown on freedom of expression in Hong Kong and the use of the death penalty, in any discussions about the new consulate.

The announcement of the new Chinese consulate was made yesterday ( 27 October) by Northern Ireland Junior Minister, Jonathan Bell MLA.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director for Amnesty International said: "The opening of the Chinese consulate is to be welcomed as an opportunity for the Northern Ireland Executive to share its concerns about human rights violations in China including the use of torture, execution – in which China is world leader – and repression of religion and dissent.

"As the Northern Ireland Executive continues to grow its relationship with China, building both educational and economic links, we must ensure that it does not do so at the expense of human rights and the lives of people in China.

"Even if Northern Ireland politicians are unwilling to speak out, it is certain that an official Chinese government office here will provide a focus for ordinary people to demonstrate their concern with China's atrocious human rights record."

In its recently published annual report on global executions, Amnesty International highlighted China's use of the death penalty which sees it execute more people than the rest of the world put together. Due to its secretive practices surrounding capital punishment – data on the death penalty in China is a state secret and the true extent of China's judicial killing is unknown. However, figures leaked last week suggest that 2,400 people were executed in China last year.

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Christian Aid distributes emergency food aid to Ebola ‘hotspots’

Tue, 2014-10-28 09:29

Christian Aid is delivering emergency food and hygiene kits to some of the most vulnerable families under quarantine in two of Sierra Leone’s Ebola ‘hotspots’.

Christian Aid is delivering emergency food and hygiene kits to some of the most vulnerable families under quarantine in two of Sierra Leone’s Ebola ‘hotspots’ in order to prevent families from starving.

Pregnant women, single mothers, people living with HIV, the elderly and young children are among the 2,100 quarantined residents being targeted in the eastern Kailahun district and in the rural Freetown suburb of Waterloo.

The kits contain enough food to give a family a balanced diet for two weeks, including oil, tinned fish, rice, onions and powdered milk. They also include essential hygiene materials such as soap, female sanitary items, chlorine, disinfectant, latex gloves and infra-red thermometers.

With the national death rate now exceeding 1,000 and the infection rate rising sharply, Christian Aid is working with local health teams to identify the ‘at-risk’ households in quarantined areas.

Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid’s Sierra Leone country manager, said: “With the recent surge of cases in Sierra Leone’s hotspot areas, the demand for hospital beds still far outstrips supply. The welcome escalation of international assistance will take time to translate into trained medical personnel and treatment centres. Until then, effective medical treatment is no longer an option for most people. More and more homes are being quarantined for 21 days and many are not receiving enough food to sustain them.

“These emergency kits contain some basic necessities that are essential if quarantine measures are going to be humane and effective. We are giving priority to female-headed households and homes with vulnerable residents in some of the worst-affected areas.

Jeanne Kamara, who is based in Freetown, continued: “We estimate that around a million people nationwide are either in isolated districts or quarantined homes, but sadly, a significant number are going hungry. There have been some notable failures in the coordination of the quarantine process, which has meant food aid has not always reached those who need it the most. The outbreak has hindered people’s ability to earn a living, so tensions are rising as they become increasingly desperate.

“The issue of food security is becoming a very real concern – for some, an even greater concern than the risk of catching the virus. This was demonstrated by a recent stampede during food distribution in the outskirts of Freetown. It’s an unbearable situation for people who live hand-to-mouth, are facing rising food prices and are struggling to sustain already fragile livelihoods.

“The packs we are distributing this week will only feed a family for a fortnight. We desperately need to scale up our response. That’s why Christian Aid needs funds in order to reach more vulnerable households.”

Since the outbreak began, Christian Aid partners have trained hundreds of local volunteers to reach 1.2 million people in Sierra Leone with life-saving advice on Ebola preventative measures. Community health teams have been given vital hygiene supplies, including 200,000 pairs of disposable gloves and over 360kg of powdered chlorine.

To donate to Christian Aid’s Ebola response visit www.christianaid.org.uk/ebolacrisis

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