Human Rights Flashpoints – September 29, 2009

What’s Up This Week:

  1. Crackdown in China
  2. Food Crisis in Africa
  3. Upcoming Dates

China: Crackdown in Preparation for 60th Anniversary Party
In preparation for the October 1st celebration of the 60th anniversary of Communist rule, China has initiated a crackdown of human rights activists, press and private citizens in an effort to eliminate disruptions or protests that would reflect negatively on the country’s message of social harmony. The repression has included the increased surveillance, harassment and imprisonment of activists, students, religious practitioners, and ethnic minorities. An estimated several hundred individuals are either under surveillance, house arrest or are being forcibly removed from Beijing. We have received reports that petitioners are being held in informal jails or detention centers outside of the city.  Similar to arrangements made for the 2008 Olympic Games, up to one million volunteers are assisting police in security efforts throughout the capital to ensure that there are no threats to security or displays of dissent.   As a precautionary measure, tourists have also been denied access to Tibet until after October 8.

Local government and security forces have also been tasked to prevent the entrance of activists to the capital prior to this week’s festivities. These measures are accompanied by an internet crackdown, targeting mainly free web-based online tools, in the hopes of preventing access to websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Some foreign media and human rights organizations have also been targeted by email viruses.

Must Reads

Overheard

The Chinese government wants to celebrate the country’s success while ensuring that no dissenting view or complaint is heard. As a result, what the Chinese government is highlighting is its own fear of giving the Chinese people a real voice to talk about the reality of their lives, good and bad. – Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific deputy director

There is definitely a pattern of virus attacks in the run-up to important dates on the Chinese political calendar. Whether the government is behind it, closes its eyes to it, supports it or has nothing to do with it is unclear. There are also patriotic hackers, so there is no way to know for sure who is behind it.- Nicholas Bequelin, Human Rights Watch

Food Crisis in Africa
The food crisis in Africa is getting worse every day, as has been reported over the past few days. The World Food Programme (WPF) is currently facing an unprecedented $3 billion gap in funding, forcing them to cut rations in programs throughout the world. These cuts are leaving millions of vulnerable people without stable access to food. The World Bank is predicting that a historic high of 1.02 billion people will be left hungry this year.

Last week for instance, the BBC reported that the WPF would soon be closing 12 feeding centers for mothers and children in Somalia because they had run out of money to run these programs . Meanwhile, in Kenya, the WPF will be forced to start reducing food rations to almost four million people next month. And in the Central African Republic, a dangerous combination of high poverty levels, insecurity in the north of the country and a drop in diamond production due to falling demand for gems is leading to an alarming rate of malnutrition, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Sadly, these are just a few examples of the dire need for humanitarian aid throughout the continent.

CARE International, in noting that more than 20 million in the Horn of Africa are in need of emergency food assistance, warns that the international community must act now in order to avoid a full-blown humanitarian disaster. In countries embroiled in conflict, such as Somalia or the Central Africa Republic, or in countries just recently recovering from internal turmoil, like Kenya, humanitarian aid agencies are often the only way that people can have access to food. The combination of rising world food prices, climate change and continuing violence and instability throughout the region will have serious repercussions on people’s ability to feed themselves.

Overheard

There is more than enough food in the world, yet today, more than one billion people are hungry. This is unacceptable […] the food crisis is far from over. Ever more people are denied the food they need because prices are stubbornly high, because their purchasing power has fallen due to the economic crisis, or because rains have failed and reserve stocks of grain have been eaten. – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, September 26, 2009

Hunger is on the rise. More than a billion people wake up each day without enough to eat. The threat of continued record high food prices in the developing world and global recession have devastated poor nations and left populations weak and facing severe malnutrition and even starvation – Josette Sheeran, WFP Executive Director, September 26, 2009

Repeated drought, failed rains and harvests, and ongoing conflict and insecurity are destroying people’s coping mechanisms. If you have one bad year, people can survive. They sell some assets to buy food and make it through the hard times, and hope to make it back the next year. But three bad years? People can’t recover. – Mohammed Khaled, CARE Regional Emergency Coordinator for East Africa, September 23, 2009

Must Reads

Upcoming

  • September 28: Press Conference with Ms. Josette Sheeran, Executive Director, World Food Programme; and Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, Millennium Villages Project
  • September 28: Fourth round of U.N. Climate Change Talks in Bangkok (to Oct. 9).
  • September 29: U.N. Human Rights Council debates Goldstone report on war crimes in Gaza in Geneva
  • October 1: 60th Anniversary of Communist Party rule over mainland China
  • October 4: Deadline for militants in Niger delta to disarm in exchange for amnesty
  • October 5: Official celebrations for World Habitat Day will be held in Washington, DC. Amnesty International to launch campaign on Forced Evictions in Africa

Jennifer Ferreri and Juliette Rousselot contributed to this post.

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team.

This entry was posted in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and tagged , , , by Christoph Koettl. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christoph Koettl

Christoph Koettl is the Emergency Response Manager at Amnesty International USA and works on urgent human rights situations such as armed conflicts. In his work he focuses on exploring the intersection of technology and human rights, specializing in utilizing satellite imagery or citizen video for human rights research and advocacy. He previously worked and studied in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His expertise is in International Humanitarian Law, conflict analysis, crisis mapping, video validation and social media forensics and he is a regular speaker on technology and human rights. He has testified on war crimes in Sri Lanka before the United States Congress and his work is covered regularly by numerous national and international media, including Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Reuters.
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