Posts Tagged ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’

China urged to release scholar Liu Xiaobo

December 24, 2008

Liu Xiaobo has been detained for over two weeks

Liu Xiaobo has been detained for over two weeks

© Private

Amnesty International, 23 December 2008

After more than 14 days in detention it now appears that Chinese authorities intend to seriously prosecute the dissident literary scholar, Liu Xiaobo, for signing up to a campaign for political and rights reform.

Liu Xiaobo has been detained for over two weeks without the Chinese authorities releasing information about his arrest. Anyone held for longer than 14 days without formal arrest is considered a “major suspect” by Chinese criminal procedure law.

Charter 08, initially signed by approximately 300 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials, proposes a blueprint for fundamental legal and political reform in China, with the goal of a democratic system that respects human rights. Since the Charter 08 launch, Chinese authorities have questioned and harassed numerous signatories, but Liu Xiaobo remains the only known signatory in detention.

Amnesty International has urged China’s authorities to release Liu Xiaobo immediately. Liu Xiaobo is one of China’s best-known dissidents. He was arbitrarily detained twice previously for his writings and his support of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing, when he spent several years in detention.

“If Liu Xiaobo is to ultimately be charged with state security crimes, it would be yet another example of how Chinese authorities are using the criminal law to squash pleas for reform,” said Roseann Rife, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Programme.

Chinese authorities seized Liu Xiaobo at his home in Beijing on 8 December, two days before the Charter 08 planned launch, which was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Amnesty International has called on the authorities to make public any information about his alleged crimes, the charges against him and his current whereabouts. Liu Xiaobo should also be allowed full access to legal counsel of his choice.

The police failed to give Liu Xiaobo’s family information about where he was detained or to provide a detention notice within 24 hours. These are both violations of the Criminal Procedure Law and the public security regulation regarding the procedures for handling criminal cases. Liu’s family-appointed lawyer has been unable to speak with Liu Xiaobo.

“The Chinese authorities must stop the ongoing harassment, detention, prosecution and imprisonment of Chinese human rights defenders and activists who peacefully exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association,” said Roseann Rife. “We urge that that they free Liu Xiaobo immediately.”

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Online petition for release of Liu Xiaobo

UN adopts key economic, social and cultural rights instrument

November 20, 2008

The flags of member nations fly outside of United Nations headquarters in New York.

The flags of member nations fly outside of United Nations headquarters in New York.

© APGraphicsBank

Amnesty International, 19 November 2008

The international community has taken a step towards strengthening human rights protection, particularly for the world’s most marginalised people, with the adoption of a key United Nations instrument.

Amnesty International has welcomed the adoption by consensus of the ‘Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.

The Optional Protocol will enable those who suffer violations to their rights to education, adequate housing and health and other economic, social and cultural rights to access justice at the international level, where it is denied in their countries.

Fifty-two member states from all regions have so far co-sponsored the resolution, adopting the Optional Protocol. Amnesty International has continued to call on states which have not yet co-sponsored the resolution to do so before its final adoption by the General Assembly in plenary session on 10 December

The adoption of the Optional Protocol will be a fitting way to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 15 th anniversary of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights.

The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. Broad-based global support for the Optional Protocol at the General Assembly will be an unequivocal step to give effect to the agreement of all states in Vienna that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.

After the adoption by the General Assembly plenary, the Optional Protocol will then be opened for ratification.

Saudi Arabia: Free Political Prisoners

October 16, 2008

Many Criminals Granted Amnesty, but Activists Remain in Prison

Source: Human Rights Watch

New York, October 3, 2008) – The Saudi government should free unlawfully detained political activists, including Professor Matrook al-Faleh, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading advocates of reform, Human Rights Watch said today. Although Saudi prison officials said that they had amnestied 1,000 convicted criminals during Ramadan in September, dozens of political activists remain behind bars or are subject to arbitrary travel bans.

" Peaceful dissidents continue to be locked up for speaking out, while convicted criminals get amnesty. Apparently the government considers reform advocates a greater danger to their authority. "
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

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“Peaceful dissidents continue to be locked up for speaking out, while convicted criminals get amnesty,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Apparently the government considers reform advocates a greater danger to their authority.”

Saudi secret police arrested al-Faleh, a professor of political science at King Saud University in Riyadh, on May 19, 2008 at the university. The arrest came two days after he publicly criticized conditions in Buraida prison following a visit to two fellow human rights activists being held there.

For six days, the secret police denied holding him, and even after they acknowledged that he was in detention, officials allowed his family just one visit during the first 60 days.

Saudi officials have not charged al-Faleh with a crime, though the criminal procedure code adopted in 2002 requires the authorities to charge detained suspects and take their statement within 48 hours. Officials have not interrogated him during his five months in prison, and al-Faleh has not been allowed to see the evidence, if any exists, on which the Investigation and Public Prosecutions Bureau is holding him. He is being held in solitary confinement next to suspected militants at the secret police’s al-Ha’ir prison.

Al-Faleh, denied the right to see his lawyers, started a hunger strike. During that time, prison guards taunted him with food and also shined a bright light in his cell around the clock. He has since broken off his hunger strike. His lawyers, Ibrahim Mubaraki and Khalid al-Mutairi, still have not been allowed to visit him.

Officials said they released at least 1,000 prisoners during the holy month of Ramadan, Saudi newspapers Al-Riyadh, Okaz, and Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported between September 14 and 29. In November 2007, 1,500 suspected militants held in separate prisons run by the secret police were released after undergoing a reeducation program in prison. These detainees had never faced charge or trial.

In February 2007, Saudi secret police arrested nine dissidents in Jeddah, who remain in prison without charge or trial. In December 2007, the secret police detained for almost five months without charge or trial Fu’ad Farhan, a blogger who had written in support of the release of the Jeddah group. Mansur al-‘Awdha, a reform activist from Jawf, has been in al-Ha’ir prison without charge since December 2007.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out the rights to free expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest. Closely mirroring the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), articles 14 and 32 of the Arab Charter of Human Rights, which the Saudi Shura Council (an appointed parliament) ratified in March 2008, guarantee freedom from arbitrary arrest and freedom of expression. Saudi Arabia has not signed the ICCPR.

The kingdom has no penal code, and there are only a few statutory offenses, such as drug smuggling and embezzlement. Saudi Arabia implemented a Criminal Procedure Code safeguarding due process rights in 2002; articles 34 and 116 oblige the authorities to charge detained suspects within 48 hours.

Torture As Official Israeli Policy

August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman | ZNet, August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman’s ZSpace Page

The UN Convention against Torture defines the practice as:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”

The US and Israel are the only two modern states that legally sanction torture. An earlier article covered America. This one deals with the Jewish state, but let there be no doubt:

Although its language in part is vague, contradictory and protects abusive practices, Section 277 of Israel’s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture:

“A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years: (1) uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; (2) threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property of anyone in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.” However, Israel clearly discriminates against Palestinians, (including Israeli Arab citizens), denies them rights afforded only to Jews, and gets legal cover for it by its courts. More on that below.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws banning the practice. It’s thus accountable for any violations under them to all its citizens and persons it controls in the Occupied Territories.

US statutes leave no ambiguity on torture. Neither do international laws like The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War). It states:

They “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….(these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation….”

Third Geneva’s Article 17 states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war” for any reasons whatsoever.

Third Geneva’s Article 87 states:

“Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 27 (on the treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War) states:

Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”

Fourth Geneva’s Articles 31 and 32 state:

“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.”

“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”

Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms,” to be treated humanely at all times.

The (1966) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 states:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Its Article 10 states:

” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”

The (1984) UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is explicit in all its provisions. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment of all kinds against anyone for any purpose without exception.

Various other international laws affirm the same thing, including the UN Charter with respect to human rights, 1945 Nuremberg Charter on crimes of war and against humanity, the (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the (1988) UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN (1955) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and (1990) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So does Article 5 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute with regard to crimes of war and against humanity. Torture is such a crime – the gravest of all after genocide.

Continued . . .

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