Some of the villagers had previously been harassed by local government officials who told them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes. Now, after eight months, the Sampang district administration has agreed to the demands from anti-Shi’a groups to forcibly evict the Shi’a community from their shelter in a sports complex and remove them from Madura Island in East Java.
In February 2013, 40-year old poet and Amnesty International activist Ericson Acosta has more reason to celebrate other than his freedom from his unjust detention. A few days after the Philippine Justice Department decided to drop the trumped-up charges against him, Ericson witnessed the awarding of a silver medal to his only son, 10-year old Emmanuel, who won in a division-wide Math competition in Pasig City, Metro Manila.
Arrested by military troops in February 2011, Acosta was interrogated for 44 hours on 2 hours sleep and threatened with death. He was then charged with being a member of the once banned Communist Party and later, with the illegal possession of explosives. In August 2011, Amnesty International called for the release of Acosta as a Prisoner of Conscience. In his statement after being released, Acosta thanked his supporters, including Amnesty International, and called for the release of the rest of political prisoners in the Philippines.
At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.
As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.
Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Busy streets usually teeming with crowds remained eerily deserted and all petrol pumps were closed preventing city residents from leaving their homes. Pakistani television reported that many with small children or elderly relatives are suffering owing to the inability to obtain food and supplies.
Uncertainty and tensions in the city have been exacerbated by the “shoot on sight” orders given to security personnel patrolling city streets. The order leaves Karachi’s citizens vulnerable not only to the ethnic violence ravaging the city but also to excesses by security forces posted around the city who can now kill with impunity.
Human Rights Watch has released a statement insisting that the Bangladeshi government take action without delay to enforce the orders from the Supreme Court to stop illegal punishments such as whipping, lashing, or public humiliations of women.
The issue became especially urgent when a local self-appointed group in Shariatpur district in the Dhaka division ordered 100 lashes in January 2011 for Hena Akhter, an adolescent girl, for an alleged affair, though by most accounts she had reported being sexually abused instead. She collapsed during the lashing and ultimately died. Since Akhter’s death, the local media has reported at least three suicides of girls following similar punishments.
The High Court division of the Supreme Court issued its judgment in the case on July 8, 2010, criticizing the Bangladesh government for not protecting its citizens, especially women, from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. Saying that the punishments contravened constitutional guarantees of the rights to life and liberty, the court directed the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible and to take preventive steps with awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, and madrasas. It instructed the Ministry of Local Government to inform all law enforcement and local government officials that extrajudicial punishments are criminal offenses.