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Most recently contacted Brazilian Indian speaks out for first time

Fri, 2015-08-07 09:37

Ahead of UN Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, Survival International has released a unique video of one of the world’s most recently contacted Indians.

Ahead of UN Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Sunday, 9 August, Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has released a unique video of one of the world’s most recently contacted Indians.

Irahoa Awá, his mother Jakarewyj and his aunt Amakaria were forced out of their forest home in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest after being “surrounded by loggers.” In a touching video interview with Survival, Irahoa recounts how he used to hunt alone as the only man in his group, and how he was forced to flee from the loggers in their forest.

Irahoa said, “I saw strange people in the forest, and I heard them making lots of noise! I had to run away from them as they were in my forest. I was scared of them! I had to escape. I ran and I ran and that’s how I ended up here.”

Around 100 Awá are uncontacted, making them one of the most vulnerable societies on the planet. They could be wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by disease like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

The story of Irahoa’s family serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of first contact. Shortly after contact, Irahoa’s mother and aunt fell critically ill with tuberculosis, despite medical teams being on hand. According to Irahoa and settled Awá, the other members of their group had previously died in the forest of introduced diseases such as flu.

While the Brazilian government launched a major operation to evict illegal loggers, settlers and ranchers from the Awá’s central territory, other territories continue to be invaded and destroyed. Survival is calling on the Brazilian government to evict the invaders from these territories to ensure the survival of one of the world’s most threatened uncontacted tribes.

Survival has condemned recent calls by US anthropologists Kim Hill and Robert Walker to forcibly contact uncontacted tribes. The choice of whether to make contact or not must lie with the tribespeople themselves, says the organisation.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry wrote in U.S. journal Truthout that the key to stopping the annihilation of tribal peoples in South America is protecting their land rights.

Stephen Corry said today, “Indigenous rights have moved on since 50 years ago, when ranchers could get away with a court plea that they had no idea it was wrong to kill indigenous people. On UN Indigenous Day let’s remember the most important thing: it is illegal for anything to take place on tribal land without the consent of the indigenous owners. Any incursion onto the land of uncontacted tribes obviously violates this.”

See the interview with Irahoa here: http://www.survivalinternational.org/films/irahoa

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

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Categories: News syndication

Faith leaders commemorate Hiroshima bombing saying ‘never again’

Fri, 2015-08-07 09:23

Religious leaders from many faiths gathered yesterday at an interfaith commemoration service held to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Religious leaders from many faiths, including several Christian denominations, gathered at an interfaith commemoration service held yesterday (6 August) at Friends House in Central London to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The overriding message of the meeting was clear: 'Never Again'. The British faith leaders called on the international community to develop a robust plan of action designed to lead to a world that is free of nuclear weapons.

The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council said: "The use of and threat to use nuclear weapons are inherently evil. Security policies based on the threat of the use of nuclear weapons are immoral and ultimately self-defeating."

During the service Jehangir Sarosh, Director of Religions for Peace, read out a statement An end to nuclear weapons,signed by 26 faith leaders and to which others have since added their support online.

Speaking about the 1945 bombings and the lessons to be learned, Ms Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission) of the United Reformed Church, said: "As we remember the tragedy of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we remain convinced that the way to address the problems we face as a global community is by building trust and co-operation, not accumulating and threatening to use nuclear weapons.

"The use of such weapons will always have devastating humanitarian consequences and as such they violate the principle of dignity we believe all people possess as children of God. The only way we can be sure that nuclear weapons are never used again is to ensure their complete elimination.

"Many of our churches will be marking this tragic anniversary in some way in their services this weekend and, on this 70th anniversary, we join with people of all faiths and none in calling on political leaders to develop a plan of action that will free the world of nuclear weapons."

The commemorative service in London is just one of many events around the world where churches are joining with other faith and civil groups to mark the 70th anniversary.

Helen Drewery, general secretary of Quaker Peace and Social Witness said: “Quakers are reaching out to those of all faiths to come together in reflective commemoration of the lives lost to nuclear weapons in Japan in 1945. Our common belief in the preciousness of every human life is something which draws us together and strengthens our commitment to learning from the past so as to help to build a more peaceful future for the world.”

UK church representatives are attending Japanese events in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Rachel Allison, a former intern in the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland, visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in July. She said: "Having visited Japan I feel that we have lost our passion and drive to eliminate nuclear weapons and become too comfortable with their existence around the world.

"Chatting to young people here I have been struck by their astonishment that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki we in the UK still have not learnt that nuclear weapons have a devastating human cost which affects us all."

Read the statement An end to nuclear weapons here: http://www.endnuclearweapons.org.uk/

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Categories: News syndication

Members of Northern Ireland Assembly warned over possible surveillance

Thu, 2015-08-06 10:06

Amnesty International has written to all members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to warn that their communications may be under surveillance from GCHQ.

Amnesty International has written to all members of the Northern Ireland Assembly warning them that their communications may be under surveillance from the UK spy agency GCHQ.

The move follows reports that GCHQ is no longer applying the so-called 'Wilson doctrine' to members of devolved legislatures in the UK.

The Wilson doctrine, named after former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, protects MPs’ phones and electronic communications. GCHQ has previously also applied it to the communications of MLAs and MEPs. However, recent reports have suggested that this is now no longer the case following a change in policy by the spy agency.

Before March, official guidelines to GCHQ staff said: “As a matter of policy, GCHQ applies the principles of the Wilson doctrine to Members of the House of Commons, Members of the House of Lords, UK MEPs, and Members of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies.”

It has recently been revealed that a policy change now means that members of devolved administrations and MEPs no longer have these protections. The new guidelines simply state: “The doctrine does not apply to ... the interception of communications of Members of the European Parliament or devolved assemblies.”

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said: “The change in GCHQ’s interpretation of the Wilson doctrine illustrates why mass surveillance is so damaging to a free society. If our elected representatives are not safe from the spies, who is?

“For the rules on spying on elected representatives across the UK to change without any sort of public scrutiny or accountability is outrageous. We need to know from the Northern Ireland Executive, what – if anything – they knew about this change.

“Amnesty International fought through 18 months of litigation at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and a wall of denials to get confirmation that we were also subject to mass surveillance by the UK Government via GCHQ.

“They finally admitted that not only had GCHQ been spying on us, but what’s more that it had acted illegally, breaking its own policy on storing our data and communications.

“As human rights campaigners, this is a matter of very serious concern. We work with victims of government abuses who are understandably afraid that their confidential communications with us might be read by hostile governments.

“Like MPs and MLAs, the people Amnesty talk to rely on and trust that confidentiality, and so GCHQ’s behaviour puts at risk our ability to do our jobs well and safely.

“Our inadequate surveillance laws are failing to keep the spies in check and must be urgently reviewed and reformed. That’s why we’re calling for an independent inquiry into how the UK intelligence agency has been spying on human rights organisations. We hope that elected representatives in Northern Ireland will now join with us in making that call.”

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

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''Through Young Eyes' exhibition of art by Gaza teenagers opens in London

Thu, 2015-08-06 09:56

'Through Young Eyes', a series of drawings by Palestinian teenagers who lived through last year’s Israel-Gaza conflict will be exhibited at London’s P21 gallery, from 7-22 August.

'Through Young Eyes', a series of drawings by Palestinian teenagers who lived through last year’s Israel-Gaza conflict, will be exhibited at London’s P21 gallery, from 7-22 August as part of Gaza on Gaza, a wider exhibition of work by Palestinian artists.

The 51 day conflict claimed over 1,500 civilian lives and displaced 500,000 people from their homes. The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 children require some form of mental health support to cope with the events they witnessed or experienced over the summer of 2014.

The young artists participated in a project run by Christian Aid partner Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA), an organisation which provides therapeutic activities for children and young people.

After the ceasefire the teenagers, supervised by CFTA, went out to shelters to meet other children and listen to their stories. These stories and discussions, their own experiences and what they heard on the news and from within their communities, inspired the illustrations on display.

Lama Shakshak, aged 16 from Gaza explains : “My paintings express the rights of Palestinian children to live in an environment that is safe, without conflict and violence. Palestinian children still stand despite the difficulties and destruction surrounding them. CFTA has really helped me by giving me pencils and paints to draw my suffering. I feel when I draw that something in my heart is released.”

CFTA provides vital support to young people giving them the opportunity to learn, play and grow their talents in as safe a space as can be provided. The organisation encourages them to express themselves and fulfil their dreams to become artists, writers, musicians or actors – and to join together and use their skills to ensure that their voices are heard.

The drawings are accompanied by a series of images of the devastation by award-winning photographer Heidi Levine, who travelled to Gaza with Christian Aid in 2014 to document the aftermath of the Israeli bombardment.

Gaza on Gaza is curated by the Gaze on Gaza campaign, Christian Aid and the Palestinian Arts Festival in partnership with P21 Gallery.

The exhibition also features an installation by Gaza artist Majdal Nateel. If I Wasn’t There, was inspired by her experiences volunteering with the UN and working with children in their shelters during last year’s conflict. The work consists of 400 drawings imagining the dreams and aspirations of the children who died.

Majdal Natel said: “I am dedicating my artistic tools to talk on behalf of the children who lost their voices simply because they were here, or there...If I Wasn’t There is about this: if I hadn't been here, then maybe my mother would now be brushing my hair or making my favorite food, maybe my clothes size would have changed and maybe I wouldn’t be just a statistic broadcast on the news.”

Gaza on Gaza opens on 6 August 6:30pm – 9:00pm with a Q and A from Majdal. Throughout the exhibition there will be a programme of talks, events and film screenings, including a Christian Aid event highlighting the work of CFTA on 19 August .

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

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Categories: News syndication

CND commemorates Hiroshima Day

Thu, 2015-08-06 09:40

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament ((CND) will today be commemorating the 70th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament ((CND) will today be commemorating the 70th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by US air forces. This was the first time a nuclear weapon had ever been used; it killed up to 180,000 people and destroyed 13 square kilometres of the city.

Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, killing between 50,000 and 100,000 people. Many were killed immediately by the direct impact of the blast and firestorm and countless more in subsequent months and years by the radiation released by the bombs.

As well as arranging events across the country, CND is represented in Japan, where Chair Dave Webb will be paying the organisation's respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. He will be joining the Japanese peace movement and international disarmament campaigners all calling for the same thing – a world free of nuclear weapons.

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: "We mourn the loss of those who died as a result of these horrific attacks, and remember those whose lives have been blighted by their effects. On this poignant anniversary we must reaffirm our determination that this should never happen again. The British Government can play its part by scrapping Trident and kick starting global abolition.

"Senior military figures say that Trident is militarily useless and the British public thinks it's immoral and exorbitantly expensive. Today of all days we should remember what the effects of a nuclear bomb are and realise the only way to stop another detonation – by accident or design – is by getting rid of all of them."

*CND http://www.cnduk.org/home

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Categories: News syndication

The reason for the silence

Wed, 2015-08-05 14:55
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Execution of Shafqat Hussain 'a deeply sad day' for Pakistan, says Amnesty

Wed, 2015-08-05 09:48

Amnesty International has called for Pakistan to impose a moratorium on the death penalty after the execution of a man who was a juvenile at the time of his crime.

Pakistan must immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty after the execution of a man who was below 18-years-old at the time of the crime, according to his lawyers, and who was tortured into a 'confession' by police, says Amnesty International.

Shafqat Hussain, who was sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter in 2004, was hanged yesterday( 4 August)in Karachi Central Jail.(http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21958)

He was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act of Pakistan despite no known links to any terrorist organisation. His execution had been stayed four times since Pakistan lifted the moratorium on executions last December.

Amnesty International’s South Asia Research Director David Griffiths said: “This is another deeply sad day for Pakistan.

“A man whose age remains disputed and whose conviction was built around torture has now paid with his life – and for a crime for which the death penalty cannot be imposed under international law.

“The government has shown a callous indifference to not just human life, but also to international law and standards. It has even ignored recommendations by one of its own bodies, the Sindh Human Rights Commission, to request the Supreme Court to consider the evidence relating to his juvenility and ‘confession’ extracted through torture.

“It is too late to save Shafqat Hussain’s life, but there are still thousands of others on death row in Pakistan who are at risk. The government has taken at least 200 lives already over the past eight months – this must end immediately. Authorities must impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual repeal.”

Since Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions in December 2014, Amnesty has recorded at least 200 executions.

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

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Those with mental health problems bear brunt of benefit sanctions in Wales

Wed, 2015-08-05 09:36

A new report by a group of Christian churches shows that people with poor mental health are bearing the brunt of one of the government's policies aimed at getting people back to work.

A new report by a group of Christian churches shows that people with poor mental health are bearing the brunt of one of the Westminster Government's policies aimed at getting people back to work.

The Welsh Data Supplement to the report Time to rethink Benefit Sanctions will be launched in the churches' tent at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod today (5 August) at 1pm. The event will hear the stories of some of those who have suffered from sanctions.

Benefit claimants who fail to keep appointments or fulfil their other conditions can be sanctioned, losing all benefit for periods of weeks or months at a time. The Welsh Data Supplement shows that two-thirds of those sanctioned in Wales are unfit for work because of mental health problems – more than in the rest of the UK. It is likely that the sanctions add to the worry and stress which already cause such difficulty for these people.

In his Preface to the report, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan says, "The results are shocking: large numbers of people, particularly those judged unfit for work due to mental health problems, are being punished ... by the withholding of their income."

Chair of Synod Cymru of the Methodist Church, the Rev Jennifer Hurd, said, "Over a third of those who are told they may be sanctioned in fact find their sanction is cancelled because of a bureaucratic error. But in the meantime, they will have suffered additional unnecessary stress and anxiety, waiting to find out if their support is to be cut off."

The Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales, the Rev Simon Walkling, said, "This is a shocking report, and confirms what churches find in their work on the ground with Foodbanks, debt counselling services and other projects helping those in need in their communities. That is why our churches have said that in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, it is time to rethink benefit sanctions".

* The report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions was produced in March 2015 by Church Action on Poverty and the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland, in partnership with the Church in Wales. Read it here: http://cinw.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Sanctions-Report...

*The Welsh Data Supplement was published in July 2015 by the same churches and may be read here http://cinw.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Sanctions-Report...

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Christian Aid welcomes Sustainable Development Goals deal

Tue, 2015-08-04 09:44

Negotiations between 193 countries have produced an agreement which will open a new era in the fight against poverty, inequality and environmental destruction, says Christian Aid.

Intense negotiations between 193 countries have produced an agreement which will open a new era in the fight against poverty, inequality and environmental destruction, Christian Aid said yesterday (3 August).

Speaking after negotiators in New York reached agreement on new Sustainable Development Goals, Christian Aid's Helen Dennis said the deal would put fresh momentum behind work to build a better world.

"These negotiations overran dramatically, because the questions at stake have been so controversial and important: from the rights of women, girls and minorities to addressing climate change, conflict and much more", she said.

"Inevitably, there are some disappointments in the final text but we now have in our hands a powerful vision of a better world, which will underpin and create momentum for the achievement of these new global goals.

"Once Heads of State sign up to the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations General Assembly next month, communities around the world will be able to hold their governments accountable and demand they are doing all they can to achieve all goals and targets by 2030.

"Far from the new agreement marking the end of the process, the real work starts now."

Negotiators worked all weekend at the United Nations in New York to reach agreement. Their latest round of talks started on 20 July and was due to end on Friday 31 July.

Governments will start to implement the new goals from 1st January 2016, when the existing Millennium Development Goals come to an end. The new goals and targets will last until 2030.

Ms Dennis added that the new goals will apply across every country, from the richest to the poorest. "The goals are relevant to everyone, whether in the UK, Brazil or Kenya”, she said.

“They mark a new era in thinking about international development – one which binds people together to address pressing global challenges such as gender injustice, increasing economic inequality and climate change.

"This was illustrated by Friday’s intervention from the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. She emphasised President Obama’s view that the new goals and targets will apply within the US, citing America's efforts to combat inequality and reduce its carbon emissions. We hope to see a similar commitment from the UK."

The weekend's talks covered two issues of particular concern to Christian Aid – the idea that no goal or target can be met unless it is met across all groups in society ('Leave No One Behind') and the need to tackle climate change in order to end poverty, for current and future generations.

Ms Dennis added: "The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promise to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and leave no one behind, yet some countries have resisted the idea that this must apply to "all social and economic groups". Christian Aid fought strongly for this language and it is disappointed that it has not made it into the final agreement."

She continued: "Climate change was another sticking point. Some negotiators argued that this historic deal could pre-empt the pivotal climate talks in Paris at the end of the year. Christian Aid believes the goals and targets themselves must be low-carbon and climate-resilient and we are pleased that the final text recognised the need “for the widest possible international cooperation” to keep the global average temperature rise well below two degrees.

"While the process proposed for following up on commitments is weaker than we would have hoped, we are encouraged and excited by the energy of citizens and organisations around the world which are determined to hold their governments accountable and ensure these goals are delivered by 2030.”

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

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Pakistan executes Shafqat Hussain, sentenced to death as a juvenile

Tue, 2015-08-04 09:16

Shafqat Hussain was executed in Pakistan this morning despite widespread calls both within and outside the country for a stay.

Shafqat Hussain was executed in Pakistan this morning (4 August), despite widespread calls both within and outside the country for a stay. The governments of the Sindh and Azad Kashmir regions, the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), UN experts, and international NGOs had all called for the hanging to be halted in order for an investigation to take place into Shafqat’s young age when he was sentenced, and the reliance by prosecutors on a 'confession' extracted through torture. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21925)

Despite the calls, the Pakistan authorities have never undertaken a proper, judicial investigation into either issue, says the legal charity Reprieve, instead seizing and refusing to release key evidence such as Shafqat’s school record, which could have provided proof that he was under 18 when he was sentenced to death.

The SHRC, headed by a former Supreme Court judge, questioned how he could “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking,” and declared the only inquiry carried out by the government into his age to be “inadmissible.”

Some of Shafqat’s final words, provided to CNN via his lawyers, were published earlier today. He described what it was like to have been told he was going to be executed seven different times, and the process of waiting for the hanging to take place.

“When the jailer tells me that my execution date has been set, he separates me immediately from the other prisoners. I spend all seven days by myself in a cell in the barracks for prisoners about to be executed. They conduct a physical exam every one of those seven days. They weigh me every day, take my blood pressure and temperature as well. On the last two days they also measure my height, my neck and my body for the clothes I am to wear when they hang me. One day before my hanging, they tell me about my final visit with my family and that I need to execute my will. I cannot really say what I am thinking in those last seven days. My brain is thinking all sorts of things.”

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: “Shafqat’s execution speaks to all that is wrong with Pakistan’s race to the gallows. He faced a catalogue of injustice, sentenced to death while still a child after being tortured by the police until he produced a so-called confession. The government’s decision to push ahead with the execution despite calls to halt it from across Pakistan and around the world seems to have been more a show of political power than anything to do with justice. It is hard to see how anyone can now believe their claims that their enthusiastic resumption of hangings is anything to do with the safety and security of the country.”

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

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Senior UN officials condemn West Bank killing of Palestinian child

Mon, 2015-08-03 10:04

The UN Secretary-General and the UN special envoy on the Middle East have strongly condemned the arson attack in the West Bank that killed a Palestinian child.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN special envoy on the Middle East have strongly condemned the 31 July arson attack in the West Bank that killed a Palestinian child and left the child's parents severely injured.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns today's murder of a Palestinian child in the West Bank and calls for the perpetrators of this terrorist act to be promptly brought to justice,” reads a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.

Continued failures to effectively address impunity for repeated acts of settler violence have led to another horrific incident involving the death of an innocent life, adds the statement, saying, “This must end.”

The absence of a political process and Israel's illegal settlement policy, as well as the harsh and unnecessary practice of demolishing Palestinian houses, have given rise to violent extremism on both sides, the statement continues.

“This [situation] presents a further threat to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for statehood, as well as to the security of the people of Israel. The Secretary-General urges both sides to take bold steps to return to the path of peace.”

Mr. Ban reiterated his call on all parties to ensure that tensions do not escalate further, leading to more loss of life, the statement concludes.

The United Nations special envoy on the Middle East also expressed his outrage over what he called a “heinous murder” and a “terrorist crime.”

“I am outraged by today's vicious arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the Occupied West Bank village of Duma, near Nablus, which killed Palestinian toddler Ali, critically injured his mother and father, and injured his four-year old sibling”, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said.

Joining in the “strong condemnations” issued by Israeli and Palestinian Governments and political leaders, the Special Coordinator also called for a “full and prompt investigation” to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“This heinous murder was carried out for a political objective. We must not permit such acts to allow hate and violence to bring more personal tragedies and to bury any prospect of peace. This reinforces the need for an immediate resolution of the conflict and an end to the occupation.”

The Security Council issued a statement to the press, condemning “in the strongest terms” the “vicious terrorist attack,” and underlining the need to bring the perpetrators of this “deplorable act” to justice.

Council members encouraged all sides to work to lower tension, reject violence, avoid all provocations, and seek a path toward peace.

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

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UK Government defeated in Court of Appeal rendition and torture case

Mon, 2015-08-03 09:54

The Court of Appeal in London has ruled against the Government in a case brought by a victim of rendition and torture.

The Court of Appeal in London has ruled against the Government in a case brought by a victim of rendition and torture. Yunus Rahmatullah was snatched by UK forces in Iraq, handed over to the US and rendered to Bagram prison in Afghanistan in 2004. During his ordeal, he was subjected to torture, as well as being detained at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq before his rendition.

Mr Rahmatullah has taken the UK Government to court over the part it played in his ordeal. So far, Government lawyers have argued that the case should not be heard at all by British courts, but the Court of Appeal ruled on 3 July that it should continue.

The court held that the full facts of the case must be heard before lower courts determine whether the UK government should be held liable. The case was being heard alongside another claim brought by Serdar Mohamed over UK involvement in his mistreatment in Afghanistan.

Mr Rahmatullah is being represented by the legal charity Reprieve and lawyers at Leigh Day & Co.

Commenting, Kat Craig, legal director at Reprieve said:

“The Government is trying every trick in the book to ensure that torture victims do not get their day in court, but today they have been thwarted. Yunus Rahmatullah suffered horribly at the hands of US and UK personnel, and his case deserves to be heard. The Prime Minister is fond of saying that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant’ – it is disturbing that his Government seems to be following the opposite course in this case.”

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

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Bishop of Dover criticises Cameron over Calais migrant comment

Sun, 2015-08-02 22:10

The Church of England has intervened in the Calais migrant crisis, backing the Bishop of Dover who rebuked the Prime Minister for his "unhelpful" rhetoric.

The Church of England has intervened in the Calais migrant crisis, backing the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, who rebuked the Prime Minister for his "unhelpful" rhetoric.

“We’ve become an increasingly harsh world, and when we become harsh with each other and forget our humanity then we end up in these standoff positions,” said the bishop. “We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters.”

On Thursday (30 July), David Cameron described migrants trying to reach Britain as a “swarm” and promised to provide extra sniffer dogs and security fencing at Calais.

Two days later, the government announced it had made an agreement with the French authorities to provide additional reinforcements to the 200 guards already on patrol and that more CCTV cameras, infra red detectors and floodlighting would be funded.

Bishop Willmott said: “To put them [migrants and refugees] all together in that very unhelpful phrase just categorises people and I think he could soften that language – and that doesn’t mean not dealing with the issue. It means dealing with the issue in a non-hostile way.”

The Church's criticism has added to a growing backlash against David Cameron's response to the crisis. The Refugee Council accused the Prime MIister of "inflammatory ... irresponsible, dehumanising language". Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary-General's special representative on international migration, said: “Many of those in Calais are refugees, just as the Jewish people were in 1939. They can prove they were – and are – persecuted and would be persecuted if they were returned.” Philippe Mignonet, the deputy mayor of Calais, said the comment was "racist".

The Prime Minister's words were also criticised by Andy Burnham, the Labour leadership candidate and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron.

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Beijing 2022 Olympics 'a test for human rights', says Amnesty

Sat, 2015-08-01 20:34

The IOC should ensure that the 2022 Winter Olympics do not cause or exacerbate human rights abuses in China, says the Sport and Rights Alliance.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should ensure that the 2022 Winter Olympics do not cause or exacerbate human rights abuses in China, the Sport and Rights Alliance said yesterday (31 July) after the capital, Beijing, won its bid to host the event.

Beijing beat a rival bid from the Kazakh city of Almaty after the Norwegian capital, Oslo, dropped out earlier in the race. The announcement was made at the IOC’s 128th session in Kuala Lumpur.

The Sport and Rights Alliance is a coalition including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, FIFPro – World Players’ Union, Football Supporters Europe, Terre des Hommes, and Transparency International Germany. The Alliance seeks to ensure that host countries of mega-sporting events respect human rights, child rights and labour rights, the environment, and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process – from bidding through construction and preparations to host events as well as during events themselves.

The decision comes at a particularly worrying time for human rights in China. More than two hundred human rights lawyers and activists have been rounded up in the last few weeks, as the authorities launched an unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression. Some of those detained face up to 15 years in prison.

When Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics, the authorities forcibly evicted many people from their homes, censored the internet, banned protests, and cracked down on dissidents. Migrant workers building venues and infrastructure for the event were exploited, forced to work in dangerous conditions and denied access to health services.

Eduard Nazarski, director of Amnesty International Netherlands, a member of the SRA, said: “In view of the human rights violations that were committed as a result of the Olympics in 2008, safeguards must be put in place to prevent a repeat. If anything the risks could be greater this time around, with the recent crackdown on human rights lawyers setting a dangerous precedent of things to come as 2022 gets nearer.”

China ranks 100 (36 points out of 100) in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency International

“With serious corruption concerns in China, a strong compliance system and transparency are needed to limit the costs and prevent criminal acts.” Says Sylvia Schenk from Transparency International Germany.

Last year the IOC introduced new standards, as a result of the 'Agenda 2020', for the Olympic Games, which include human rights – specifically on discrimination, labour rights and anti-corruption measures.

Eduard Nazarski said: “Ensuring transparency and respect for human rights from bidding to hosting of the Olympics, will be the key to how seriously the IOC takes its responsibility. How it handles the very serious human rights concerns in China will be a true test.”

In the run-up to yesterday's decision on the 2022 Winter Games, the SRA called on the IOC to require in all legal documents pertaining to the hosting of the games that Host Cities uphold human rights throughout all stages of the hosting process and to develop, together with the Host City, a ‘human rights risks and mitigation’ plan for the event.

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

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Filipino priest to call for church action on climate change at Greenbelt

Fri, 2015-07-31 10:24

A Filipino priest who witnessed the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan is a guest speaker at this year’s Greenbelt Festival.

A Filipino priest who witnessed the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan is a guest speaker at this year’s Greenbelt Festival.

Father Herbert Fadriguela will speak at the Christian Aid venue on site about the role his church in the Philippines played following the storm which killed more than 6000 people in 2013. His key message will be that the global church must step up to the role it can play in helping tackle climate change.

He said: “In the Philippines our church developed the FAITH project, which stood for Food Always In The Home. Most farmers in my parish are tenant farmers with their landlord dictating what crops they can grow. But back in their own home gardens they are free to be part of the FAITH organic farming system.

“This approach not only helps mitigate the risks of climate change by cutting out synthetic fertilisers and promotes carbon storage by increasing the organic content of the soil. It also encourages biodiversity and with a diversified crop local people are more resilient to cope with future food shortages.

“We do not just do things for the poor, we do things with the poor. This was not just about providing food for the poor, but about empowering the marginalised and giving them dignity and respect.”

Fr Fadriguela will be joined at this year’s festival by fellow cleric Canon Giles Fraser, Dr Paula Gooder and Katharine Welby-Roberts, the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Music will be provided by the likes of the Polyphonic Spree, Grace Petrie and Duke Special and there will be the usual mix of faith, arts and social justice in action.

Other attractions at the Christian Aid venue include music by Andy Flannagan on the Friday evening, reflections on social justice with Gogglebox’s the Rev Kate Bottley and an exclusive performance by theatre group Riding Lights before they take their climate change inspired Baked Alaska show on tour around the UK.

Greenbelt takes place between August 28 to 31 at Boughton House near Kettering in Northamptonshire. Tickets are available from www.greenbelt.org.uk.

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

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UN and UK experts call on Pakistan to halt all executions

Fri, 2015-07-31 10:14

A group of UN experts and a leading UK legal body have called on Pakistan’s government to halt all planned executions.

A group of UN experts and a leading UK legal body have called on Pakistan’s government to halt all planned executions, including the hanging next Tuesday (4th) of Shafqat Hussain, who was tortured by police and convicted as a juvenile. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21939)

In a statement released last night, the UN Special Rapporteurs – including experts on torture, summary executions, and children's rights – called on Pakistan to stop all further executions, and to commute the sentences of those on the country’s 8,500-strong death row – the largest in the world.

The statement raises concerns about the cases of several prisoners next in line for hanging, including Shafqat, Abdul Basit – who is paralysed and uses a wheelchair (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21943) – and Khizar Hayat, who is severely mentally ill. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21796)

The experts said that “most” of the hangings scheduled for the coming days “fall short of international norms”, and called on Pakistan “to continue the moratorium on actual executions and to put in place a legal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”

The UN call follows the release of a report issued on 29 July raising similar concerns from a leading group of British human rights lawyers, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC). In a statement, BHRC chair Kirsty Brimelow QC said: "The Government of Pakistan should halt all executions pending a full and impartial evaluation of the cases of all condemned persons.”

She added: "According to international law, countries that continue to use the death penalty may only impose the sentence for the most serious of crimes and only after all guarantees of fair trial rights have been respected.”

Pakistan has hanged some 192 people since lifting its moratorium on the death penalty in December, and has overtaken Saudi and the US in rate of executions. The Pakistani government’s claims that it is executing ‘terrorists’ was called into question this week by a Reuters report finding that the vast majority of those executed – an estimated 70 per cent – had no links to militancy.

Concerns over Shafqat’s scheduled execution were raised in Pakistan recently by a statutory human rights watchdog. In an opinion, the Sindh Human Rights Commission – headed by a retired judge – called for a halt to plans to execute Shafqat, and for a full examination of his allegations of police torture and his young age at the time of sentencing. The Commission criticised the inquiry into his age carried out by the Government’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as “not admissible”, and said: “We fail to understand why [there was] such a careless handling of a serious case where [the] life of a human being is at stake.” It also questioned whether Shafqat can “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking.”

Commenting, Kate Higham, Pakistan caseworker at human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “This is a clear call to the Pakistani government, from both outside and within Pakistan, to stop its senseless wave of executions. With nearly 200 killed, the UN is right to condemn Pakistan for its appalling plans to hang yet more, including Shafqat Hussain next week, as well as mentally ill and disabled prisoners. Pakistan must urgently listen and halt all executions, before more lives are needlessly lost.”

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

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TUC says 1.7 million people are missing out on their paid holidays

Thu, 2015-07-30 10:18

New figures published by the Trades Union Congress indicate that 1,669,000 employees are missing out on their minimum legal entitlement to paid holidays.

New figures published today (30 July) by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) indicate that 1,669,000 employees are missing out on their minimum legal entitlement to paid holidays.

The TUC’s analysis of unpublished figures from the 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) shows that on average, 6.4 per cent of employees across the UK are losing out on their holiday rights.

In Northern Ireland this figure rises to 9.5 per cent and in Wales it is 7.6 per cent. English regions most affected are London (7.5 per cent) and the West Midlands (6.9 per cent). In contrast, the figure for the North East of England is 5.1 per cent and for Scotland it is 5.2 per cent.

In terms of job sectors, the greatest concentration of missed holiday entitlements is found in arts and entertainment (13.9 per cent), accommodation and food (12.5 per cent), administration and support services (9.2 per cent) and construction (8.1 per cent). In contrast, the figure for the finance and insurance sector is only 1.9 per cent and for public administration and defence it is only 2.8 per cent.

In November 1998 the introduction of the EU Working Time Directive extended the right to paid leave to all workers for the first time. Up to six million workers in the UK, who had less leave than the minimum standard of four weeks, benefitted from the new Working Time Directive holiday allowance. Entitlement in the UK was increased in 2007 and 2009 following a campaign by the TUC which showed many workers were forced to use paid leave on bank holidays.

The TUC warns that it has become easier for bad employers to get away with denying workers their full holiday pay since employment tribunal fees were introduced. The TUC also argues that rather than putting the entire onus on the worker, HM Revenue and Customs should also enforce holiday rights.

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady said: “As people head off on their holidays, spare a thought for those still stuck at work with bad bosses who break the law by denying staff their full holiday.

“Some employers deliberately stop staff from taking the leave and holiday pay they’re entitled to, whereas other workers lose out from poor management and failure to keep up with the law.

“Workers should not be cheated out of their holidays through illegal and unfair practices by employers. We are in danger of seeing a burnout Britain where workers feel pressured to give up their holidays and increase their hours. Workers who are worried about not getting their holiday entitlements should join a union, so that their voice is heard and their interests are properly represented.

“We are worried that David Cameron’s EU renegotiation may take away our statutory holiday entitlements by opting-out of the Working Time Directive. These figures on the number of people missing out on their holiday rights clearly show that the rules need to be strengthened rather than weakened further.”

* Details of the TUC’s methodology for calculating the number of people missing out on their holiday rights are available here: www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Holiday-pay-methodology.pdf

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

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