Stories from Quick Reads and Refugees
On Saturday, June 20, human rights expert and activist Suad Missini ended the hunger strike he started six days prior in protest of inhumane treatment of migrants passing through Macedonia. Mr. Missini issued the following statement [links added]:
While the effects of the changes of the Asylum Law are yet to be seen in practice, the conditions in the migrant center in Gazi Baba has not been improved. The refugees are still kept in the center which gains characteristics of a concentration camp, under impossible, inhuman and degrading conditions, out of the legal framework and international human rights standards which are part of the national legal system.
Authorities in Republic of Macedonia chose to remain deaf to the demands for solving of this problem by numerous international organizations and institutions. They act blind to the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture characterized the treatment of refugees in this center as torture and breach of the UN Convention Against Torture in its latest report. And all this while our country is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
On the other hand, I'd like to stress that Macedonia, as member of Council of Europe (CoE), received a visit by the CoE Committee for Prevention of Torture, which included a visit to Gazi Baba center. This summer, the president of this committee Mikola Gnatovskij visited Macedonia and also talked to the authorities about this center, among other things. I emphasize that Macedonian authorities have still not issued approval for the report of this visit to be published.
Finally, two days before the start of the hunger strike, the Ombudsman of Republic of Macedonia presented the catastrophic situation and lawlessness that rule in this center.
Today, we can acknowledge that the public in Republic of Macedonia, as well as the international public and foreign media and organizations, are fully aware and informed about the problem with this center. These days, Gazi Baba center is an international topic. If the government decided that this catastrophic problem should not be a subject of immediate reaction and subsequent solution, then this definitely puts our country among those which openly and unscrupulously conduct torture, while the authorities are legitimized as institutions lead by persons which have no respect for human lives. The lives of hundreds of people detained within this center. And finally, about my life.
Therefore, on this day I end the hunger strike. Because the limits of health risks are already surpassed, and because the potentials of this strike are fulfilled.
My demands, which are demands by an enormous part of the public in Republic of Macedonia, are partially fulfilled.
My civic act was a drop which made waves, which, I sincerely hope, together with all the other efforts, will lead to solving of this problem which turns our country into an uncivilized space.
I am immensely grateful to the thousands who sincerely and unambiguously expressed their support, making this civil act as much theirs, as it was mine.
Meanwhile, Twitter users continue sharing leaked photos showing the conditions of detained refugees.
Following Burundi President Nkurunziza's announcement of his candidacy for a third term (unconstitutional by Burundi's existing law), a massive humanitarian crisis has hit the country as at least 50,000 refugees have fled the country after scenes of violence were reported in several cities. The occurrence of violence were often posted on social media platforms first under the hashtags #burundichaos or #sindumuja. The following infographic sums up the refugees situation as of May 8:
— Jamii Forums (@JamiiForums) May 9, 2015
Peuhl minorities of Islamic confession have been trying to escape anti-balaka militia since the beginning of the civil war in in the Central African Republic. One of the camps where displaced Peuhl can find protection is the Yaloke camp by the Cameroonian border in the western region. The health situation in the Yaloke camp is critical where death rates is three times higher than other cities in the region. The refugees are not allowed to move out of the Yaloke Camp which has made it difficult for families to reunite. The Reseau Des Journalistes pour les droits de l'homme EN RCA (The Journalist Network for Human Rights in CAR) reports on the situation:
Pour Moussa Saidou, deux de ses enfants l’ont quitté et se retrouvent aujourd’hui à Gamba. « Ils sont partis le jour de l’attaque qui a conduit à la perte de nos bétails. Ils ont fui dans la brousse pour se retrouver à Gamba avant de rejoindre Goré au Tchad, où ils séjournent pour le moment»
Moussa Saidou explains that two of her children have escaped and now find themselves in Gamba. “They left the day of the attack that led to the loss of our livestock. They fled into the forest to find themselves in Gamba before joining Gore in Chad, where they stay for now”.
Facing persecution in Pakistan, many Ahmadiyya Muslims and Christians have taken refuge in Sri Lanka. These refugees are mostly held in Boossa and Mirihana detention centers and have to live on government-provided rations as they are not eligible for work.
According to the media, the Sri Lankan government is preparing to deport about 1,450 Pakistani and 50 Afghan refugees who have apparently fled to rural areas in Sri Lanka. More than 1,400 of the targeted refugees have been registered as asylum seekers at the UN refugee agency office in Colombo.
Human Rights Watch has requested the Sri Lankan government not to summarily deport these minorities. Meanwhile, Pakistan has disowned these refugees and an uncertain future awaits for them if they are deported.
W3Lanka English blog opines:
The practice of deporting them is very unethical. They can be economic migrants per se the claim of the Pakistan government. What if they are actually threatened people?
On June 15, 2014, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a joint-military operation involving Pakistan against armed insurgent groups such as the Taliban (TTP), al–Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
The operation started exactly a week after the terrorist attack on the Karachi airport. Kashif Aziz at Chowrangi fears that innocent people will suffer and seek refuge elsewhere to avoid the military attacks and the backlash of the militants:
This offensive in Waziristan will bring a fresh wave of IDPs [internally displaced people] to other parts of Pakistan. They need to be accommodated with care.
Hope the operation will end swiftly and without much collateral damage.
POINT, the international conference on political accountability and new technologies in Sarajevo, has used its skills to aid in relief of the ongoing disaster affecting three Balkan countries – Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia. BosniaFloods.org, the first tool developed by the participants, specifically targets Bosnia, because the situation in this country was made particularly abysmal because its government structure hindered disaster coordination.
In Bosnia, the floods and landslides directly affect over 1.36 million people, about 1/4 of the population, and lack of information in English inhibits people abroad who would like to help. The multinational team congregates and translates bits of information currently spread around the web. It addresses their credibility, mindful that in Serbia and possibly elsewhere there were attempts to swindle prospective donors via false bank accounts. Money is probably the easiest kind of aid to send. The people affected also need food, clothes and medical aid that can be delivered from other European countries, as well as volunteers who could coordinate such efforts within their countries.
As Rwanda pays tribute to the victims of the genocide 20 years after the tragedy, President Kagame states again that France must “face up to the difficult truth” of its role in the 1994 genocide [fr]. As a result of this statement, France has pulled out of the commemorative events and former Foreign Affairs Minister of France demands that president Hollande defends the Honor of France and its army. Rémi Noyon at French site Rue 89 lists the reasons why Rwanda accuses again France of aiding the genocide [fr] :
1) La France va « de facto » prendre le commandement de l’armée rwandaise face au rebelles du Front patriotique rwandais (FPR).
2) La France craint alors que l’offensive tutsi ne soit télécommandée via l’Ouganda par les Anglo-saxons, et ne vise à enfoncer un coin dans l’influence de la France sur la région
3) La France ne semble pas s’intéresser outre mesure aux négociations de paix.
4) Les soldats n’embarquent pas le personnel tutsi présent à l’ambassade de France (sauf une personne). Ils seront tous massacrés.
5) Quant à l’opération Turquoise, elle continue à diviser : elle a certainement permis de sauver des vies tutsi, mais l’armée est accusée d’être restée passive – et donc complice – face aux atrocités.
1) France commanded some branches of the Rwandan army against the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
2) France feared that the Tutsi offensive was remotely piloted via Uganda by anglophone countries and was intended to drive a wedge into the influence of France in the region.
3) France did not seem overly interested in peace negotiations before the conflict.
4) The soldiers did not evacuate any of the Tutsi staff present at the Embassy of France (except for one person). They ended all being killed.
5) As for Operation Turquoise, it continues to divide: it certainly saved Tutsi lives, but the army is accused of having remained passive – and therefore was accomplice – to the atrocities.
Andrew Harding on Africa Review reports on the courageous acts of a congregation in the shabby town of Boali, Central African Republic and notably one Father Xavier Fagba. The St Peter's Parish church has sheltered Muslims seeking sanctuary from ethnic cleansing perpetrated by anti balaka gangs:
“Now is the time for men of goodwill to stand up and prove the strength and quality of their faith,” said Father Fagba, [..] “When I did this, nobody in the community understood me. They attacked and threatened me.” The Muslims – about 650 in all – arrived at the church on January 16 and 17. “The Muslims discovered in our church that the God we worship is the same as their God,” said Father Fagba.
On twitter, a hashtag #CARKindness reports the local acts of kindness amidst the unspeakable wave of violence that plagues the country. Here is another instance of such kindness:
— Alexis Masciarelli (@amasciarelli) February 18, 2014
Horrible stories about North Korea is nothing new. But this may be one of the most extensive reports worth-reading on the country's abysmal human rights condition. A new report by a UN Commission of Inquiry reveals unspeakable crimes against humanity carried out by the North Korean regime against its own people which include systematic murder, torture, rape, forced abortions, deliberate starvation, and even infanticide. The Human Rights Watch post a short video version of the report on its Youtube channel and it seems rapidly gaining traction.
The growing migration crisis has recently also affected countries in southeastern Europe, with new issues arising almost daily. Reacting to the inhumane treatment of migrants who pass through Republic of Macedonia, renowned human rights activist Suad Missini started a hunger strike in front of the Parliament building in Skopje. He began the strike immediately after publishing his three demands in a Facebook post on Sunday, June 14, which garnered almost 300 likes and over 90 shares in just the first day.
I am just starting a hunger strike.
In front of the Parliament.
I demand urgently and immediately:
- Urgent adoption of the changes of the Asylum law, that would enable safe transit or temporary stay of refugees passing through the Macedonian territory, as well as free use of all publicly available means of transport.
- Concrete and publicly announced measures by the Ministry of Interior in view to safeguard the life, security and possessions of refugees passing through Macedonia.
- Immediate liberation of all refugees and migrants detained in the Gazi Baba center and its immediate closure.
The strike will not end unless these demands are fulfilled.
Thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and other war zones pass through Macedonia, traveling from Greece towards Serbia on a path to try to reach Germany or other well-off EU countries. The migrants used to follow the railway tracks on foot, suffering horrific “accidents.” Lately the migrants buy bicycles, reportedly at inflated prices, in southern Macedonian towns and cycle on the main highway. Many of them fall victim to human trafficking rings and gangs of robbers. Some of the refugees are held as “witnesses” in the Reception Center for Foreigners “Gazi Baba” in Skopje in what Macedonian Ombudsman Idzhet Memeti has called “inhuman, unhealthy, and undignified” conditions.
The Government is supposed to discuss the amendments to the Asylum Law on June 16.
Former French Defense Minister Finds Excuses for the Alleged Rape of Central African Children by French Soldiers
Afrique Info reports that JP Chevènement, a former defense minister of France, stated on public radio Europe 1 on May 3 that the challenging conditions that French soldiers face in the Central African Republic could explain “behavior of that kind” (see video above). Chevènement was referring to the allegation of child sexual abuse by French troops posted in the Central African Republic. The allegations surfaced after disciplinary proceedings were taken against a United Nations employee accused of leaking the allegations to the French authorities.
“Europe is fighting its own make-believe enemy”: This is the message that a dozen of associations in defense of migrants wanted to convey when they organized a human chain between the tramway station “Droits de l'Homme (Human Rights)” and the EU Parliament station in Strasbourg on November 26. In order to put Human Rights back at the core of Europe” and oppose the policy adopted by the European Agency of Border Control Frontex, protesters held signs that narrate the tragic plight of migrants trying to reach Europe. For the past 20 years, more than 20,000 migrants have died or disappeared trying to make the journey from their hometowns into Europe.
Here are a few photos of the event :
Abidjan and other regions of Côte d'Ivoire have been plagued by heavy downpour and floods for the past weeks [fr]. Local residents got organized on social networks to bring relief to stranded citizens. On twitter and facebook, #CIVSOCIAL is the hashtag for emergency humanitarian reliefs. It was created in 2011 in the aftermath of the post-electoral crisis. The hashtag was revived again as floods marred Abidjan and the rest of the country. The facebook page CIVSOCIAL has collected images, videos and testimonies as well as calls for donations for each afflicted borough. Here is a video of one of the flooded borough :
Djouma and Amadou Moussa are Ibrahim's parents. Djouma and Ibahim are the two lone survivors of an incredibly violent attack by militiamen that took the lives of 5 of Ibrahim's siblings in the Central African Republic, near the border with Cameroon. The militiamen came while Amadou Moussa was away. Djouma, 30, recalls the attack :
They found me with my children in the house; they gathered all the small children and slaughtered them with machetes. They killed six people, including five children in my presence [..] Ibrahim was among the six children they took. When they hit him with the machetes, they thought he was dead.
As seen in the video, Ibrahim bears the scar of the machete attack on his head. But Ibrahim came through, against all odds. Ibrahim's story epitomizes the ongoing plight of refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon. 20,000 refugees have crossed the borders since the beginning of the war. A petition was sent to US secretary of State John Kerry to remind him to take the “necessary steps to ensure that the peacekeeping operation is fully funded in FY2015.”
L'Express Mada reports that the entire village of Andranondambo in the South of Madagascar was destroyed [fr] during an inter-village conflict that stems from a dispute over land rights. The civilian conflict, which lasted from May 20 to 22, left no residents of the village alive. One of the military police officers recalls [fr]:
A notre arrivée, un chien errant était en train de dévorer un bras arraché d’ un corps. Dans une maison anéantie par les flammes, nous avons mis la main sur une dépouille. L’air était irrespirable [..] Même l’école publique et l’église d’Andranondambo ont été ravagées. Les toitures en tôle ont été arrachées avec tous les mobiliers.
When we arrived, a dog was eating what was left of a corpse. In a nearby home destroyed by fire, we found more corpses. The stink was unbearable. Even the public school and the church were ravaged. All the materials from houses were taken apart.
The land dispute started in 1991 when an important source of sapphire and mica was discovered in the Andranondambo. The rush of land miners pushed local villagers away to another village Ambatotsivala. Since then, the two villages have been at odds over land rights but the conflict has never reached such a harrowing level of violence until recently.
Sharna Jade Bremner probes the situation of asylum seekers in East Timor:
Asylum seekers have been arriving in Timor since the early 2000s, however the exact number that are still in the tiny half-island nation remains unclear. Fear and anxiety are rife in the asylum seeker community, and many people are reluctant to identify themselves in a way that may see them targeted by authorities.
The 2014 Forum for Francophone Women [fr] Opens today in Kinshasa, DRC. This is the second installment of the forum following the initial one in Paris in 2013. While the first forum focused on reducing violence against women in conflict areas, The objective of the 2014 forum will be dedicated to the role of women in development. Three workshops will be held [fr]: women and education, women and power, women and peace. A focus group will address the issue of girls education up to 16 years old.
Gary Sauer-Thompson pulls no punches in his assessment of the latest crisis at Papua New Guinea's Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre. It is part of the so-called Pacific Solution. In a post for his blog Public Opinion, it's getting real ugly, he calls it a
concentration camp… designed to be cruel and that asylum seekers are going to suffer. The Conservative base [in Australia] demands that the asylum seekers live a bare life–a life exposed to death.
“Bring All the Culprits of Ethnic Cleansing to Justice” Says a CAR Citizen of Muslim and Christian Descent
Here is Moussa Tanko–Tchaibou's take on the ethnic cleansing that is underway in his country, the Central African Republic and what should be done to stop it [fr]:
Je suis centrafricain de confession musulmane avec cette particularité illustrative de la cohésion sociale, celle d’avoir un père de confession musulmane et une mère d’origine chrétienne [..] Alors que la maison commune est en train de bruler qu’apportent-ils comme contribution afin de mettre fin à cette situation? Rien à part se préparer pour les prochaines échéances électorales, à attiser à distance cette haine contre une certaine catégorie de population [..] il faudrait que les choses avancent vite, car ne pas traduire les coupables de ces crimes horribles devant la cour pénale internationale laisse la porte ouverte à d’autres massacres.
I am a Central African Republic citizen who happens to be muslim. In what used to be an illustration of the social cohesion of the past in my country, my father is Muslim and my mother is Christian. [..] While the house of Central Africa is now burning, what did that they (political leaders) do to put an end to this situation? Nothing but prepare for the next elections and stir up hatred against a certain group of people [..] The world needs to move quickly (with identifying the culprits), because if we do not bring the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to the International Criminal Court rapidly, we will leave the door open for other massacres to occur.
Hayes Brown unpacks why it is important to better understand the two-way atrocities in the region and whether the use of the term genocide in the media is appropriate. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch states that without prompt action, the country will be emptied of its Muslim population [fr].