By Dr. Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt, Director, Human Rights in Business Program, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law
Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They are in your mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras, and even power electric cars. But did you know that cobalt is a key component of those batteries? Where does cobalt come from? More than half of the world’s cobalt is supplied by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The DRC and conflict minerals probably rings a bell. It’s well-known that the global trade in the 3Ts (tin, tungsten, tantalum) and gold has financed abusive armed groups in the DRC and fueled conflict. While cobalt is not a conflict mineral, artisanal miners mine cobalt in the southern part of the country under extremely dangerous and abusive work conditions, which are similar to the conditions in eastern DRC where conflict minerals are extracted. A new Amnesty report, This is What We Die For, traces the cobalt supply chain from the artisanal miners to the big brands selling electronic devices, and exposes all the governments and companies along the way that have turned a blind eye to the human rights violations suffered by the miners. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child laborers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published today.
The report, This is What We Die For: Human Rights Abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Power the Global Trade in Cobalt, traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children as young as seven and adults work in perilous conditions.
“The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” said Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Groom and underage bride during a mass marriage in Malda, India. March 2, 2006. Child marriage, which is illegal under international law and prohibited in many countries, still impacts 15 million girls each year. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
In Malawi, Kalinde* was 15 years old when she was forced to marry due to her family’s poverty. She was told to respect her husband and never to deny him sex. Her husband’s work takes him away from their home for long periods of time, leaving her and their two children with nothing to live on. Kalinde’s husband also physically abuses her and has affairs with other women. As a result, Kalinde contracted HIV. In Kalinde’s words:
“Marriage is not good for girls. There is no happiness. I want change for girls and that is why I want my story to be heard by all girls out there thinking of marriage.”
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Sean Gallup/Getty Images))
Following in the steps of Russia’s draconian 2013 anti-LGBT law, Kazakhstan’s Senate has passed a similar law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation.”
This new legislation – the Law on the Protection of Children from Information Harming their Health and Development – now awaits President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s signature.
Amnesty International calls on President Nazarbayev to reject this discriminatory law. While the legislation’s complete text has not been made available to the public, and while Kazakhstani authorities have not responded to Amnesty International’s request for a copy of the full law, the local media have quoted members of Parliament referring to provisions that clearly discriminate against LGBT people in Kazakhstan. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Around 100 children, women and men, forcibly evicted from their homes by the Romanian government six years ago, continue to live in dirty, inhumane conditions. With nowhere else to go, they are stuck in small, overcrowded metal shacks that stand next to a large sewage plant. A sign outside the plant warns of “toxic danger”, yet the authorities have failed to heed this warning and the Roma families are suffering.
The Roma families are from the Romanian town of Miercurea Ciuc, and despite the fact that authorities told them the movie was only temporary, six years have passed and there are still no plans to relocate them. The 75 people remaining are living with only 4 toilets between them, 1 tap for water, and shacks that do not provide protection from the elements, which is of serious concern for the winter season when temperatures drop below -25 °C (-13 °F). In addition, the families are also living within 300 meters of toxic waste, which is prohibited under Romanian law. Many Roma have expressed concern about their health, and the health of their families, reporting an awful stench that constantly lingers in the air.
Yesterday, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (of which Amnesty International is a member) issued a briefing paper on children affected by the recent conflict in Sri Lanka. The paper details how children in the military-controlled internment camps for displaced civilians are being abducted for ransom, for forced recruitment into pro-government armed groups or due to suspected links with the opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In May of this year, the Sri Lankan government completed its offensive against the LTTE, recapturing all the territory formerly held by the group and killing their senior leaders, thus ending the 26-year-old conflict. The LTTE had been fighting for an independent state for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island. Both sides committed gross human rights abuses, including war crimes, during the course of the conflict.
Hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians were displaced earlier this year by the fighting. By the end of the hostilities, over 280,000 civilians (included a reported 80,000 children) were being held in overcrowded, military-run camps. Most of the civilians are not allowed to leave the camps. The Sri Lankan government has said that they must be screened first to determine the presence of any suspected LTTE combatants.
The Sri Lankan government should tighten security at the camps so that children are no longer at risk of abduction. But they should also allow all the civilians in the camps freedom of movement, a right they’re entitled to as citizens of Sri Lanka. Those who wish to leave the camps should be immediately allowed to do so. Haven’t the displaced children and their relatives suffered enough already?
I read some shocking news this morning. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (of which Amnesty International is a member) said yesterday that children are being abducted from refugee camps in northern Sri Lanka by Tamil paramilitary groups allied with the government. It’s not clear what the motives are for the abductions. Some children may have been taken due to suspicion of links with the opposition Tamil Tigers, while others appear to be kidnapped for ransom. The abductions are happening at night when security at the camps is reduced.
The Sri Lankan government recently completed its military offensive against the Tigers, recapturing all the territory held by them and reportedly killing their leaders. The Tigers had been seeking an independent state for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island. About 270,000 civilians were displaced by the fighting in recent months and are now in overcrowded camps in the north which they’re not allowed to leave.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said recently that she was negotiating with the Sri Lankan government to send a special envoy to assess the situation of children in Sri Lanka first hand. The Sri Lankan government has reportedly agreed in principle to such a visit.
It’s urgent that the Sri Lankan government provide adequate security immediately at the camps to protect the children. We can’t wait for the UN special envoy to arrive in Sri Lanka. The people of Sri Lanka have suffered enough during the war between the government and the Tamil Tigers. No more parents should experience the anguish of losing their children.
Sir John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, said he was said he was shocked by “the systematic nature of the destruction” in Gaza.
Equally troubling are the reports about shooting and killing of children by Israel during the conflict. The BBC reports:
One of the most alarming features of the conflict in Gaza is the number of child casualties. More than 400 were killed. Many had shrapnel or blast injuries sustained as the Israeli army battled Hamas militants in Gaza’s densely populated civilian areas. But the head of neurosurgery at the El-Arish hospital, Dr Ahmed Yahia, told me that brain scans made it clear that a number of the child victims had been shot at close range. Samar’s uncle said the soldier who had shot his niece was just 15m (49ft) away. ”How could they not see they were shooting at children?”
There are othere reports that suggest that some parents were lined up and shot in front of their children. The Telegraph writes
One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.
Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.
He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.
A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a “massacre”.
In a powerful video, the Guardian documents some of the horror experienced by children in Gaza. Clip here to watch the video.
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