5 Things You Should Know About Enforced Disappearances

Activists hold lighted candles during a vigil on International Day of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, where some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the U.N. since the 1980s (Photo Credit: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images).

Activists hold lighted candles during a vigil on International Day of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, where some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the U.N. since the 1980s (Photo Credit: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images).

Every year in dozens of countries around the world, thousands of men, women and children are detained by state authorities for no reason, never to be seen again. They are the “disappeared.” In 2012 alone, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries.

Here are five facts you should know on August 30, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

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Child Soldiers: Will the Real Obama Please Stand Up?

Child soldier with adults, Sanghe, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2002.

Child soldier with adults, Sanghe, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2002.

By Angela T. Chang, Advocate, Crisis Prevention and Response Team, Amnesty International USA

When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family—girls my daughters’ age—runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.
– US President Barack Obama, September 2012

Despite these strong words by President Obama against the use and recruitment of child soldiers a few months ago, he got reprimanded earlier this week for falling flat in delivering on tangible actions to address this issue.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a new report on Tuesday, calling out the U.S. and the Obama administration for failing to adhere to its international human rights obligations by continuing to waive sanctions on military assistance, per the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act, to countries that are known to recruit and use child soldiers – a clear violation of children’s rights and a war crime if the children are under the age of fifteen. Yes, you read that right. Seems confusing and backwards? That’s because it is.

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Mali Intervention Called a Success…Corpses of Civilians Poisoning Wells.

Idrissa Maiga, a Malian farmer, prays among the graves of his wife and three of his children in a cemetery behind the Konna school on January 27, 2013 who were reportedly killed by French army air strikes on January 11. Maiga's second wife, 41, and two boys and a girl aged from 10 to 14 allegedly perished on the morning of the 11th during the air raid and were buried the same afternoon.  (Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Idrissa Maiga, a Malian farmer, prays among the graves of his wife and three of his children in a cemetery behind the Konna school on January 27, 2013 who were reportedly killed by French army air strikes on January 11. Maiga’s second wife, 41, and two boys and a girl aged from 10 to 14 allegedly perished on the morning of the 11th during the air raid and were buried the same afternoon. (Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

For background information on the French intervention and human rights situation in Mali, see here.

The French Defense Minister on Thursday said publicly that the “French intervention has succeeded.” Insofar as armed opposition and armed Islamist groups have either abandoned areas in the north of the country or tactically retreated—and this is a measure of success—that statement may be true.

Also released Thursday were initial findings from a ten day research mission in Mali by Amnesty International. In an unfortunate confirmation of the realization of  Amnesty International’s fears raised in December, the findings from this mission tell of the executions and disappearances of civilians, arbitrary arrests, beatings and ill-treatment, inter alia.

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Mali, Algeria and the Arms Trade Treaty: A Parable for US Security?

© YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

© YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Could the NRA’s opposition to an arms trade treaty have consequences for US security?

There are many confusing messages coming from the National Rifle Association with regard to the effort to forge a global arms trade treaty. The NRA poo-poos arguments that point to the incredible human suffering the unregulated global arms trade is causing, including the thousands of children who are forced to become soldiers. The NRA also continues to deliberately and falsely claim that the treaty will undermine gun rights in the United States, in spite of the fact that the draft treaty text from the July United Nations conference reiterates that the treaty’s ambit is the arms trade between nations, not within them.

Underpinning the NRA’s view of the treaty and the world is that any effort to restrict small arms and conventional weapons is bad, as it undermines individual security, which can only be safeguarded by arming the “good guys.” If this is the case, then what does the NRA have to say about the recent events that transpired in Algeria and are still unfolding in Mali?

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3 Things You Should Know about Mali and the International Criminal Court

The ICC has announced it will open an investigation into crimes under international law committed in the year-long Mali conflict.© ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/GettyImages

The ICC has announced it will open an investigation into crimes under international law committed in the year-long Mali conflict.© ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/GettyImages

Mali is currently facing its most serious humanitarian and human rights crisis since its independence in 1960, with myriad rights abuses rampant, amounting to what may become charges of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. Cue the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The legal requirements have been met, we will investigate.”-ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

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Far From New, Far From Over: The Crisis in Mali

France has deployed some 550 soldiers to Mali© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty

France has deployed some 550 soldiers to Mali© Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty

(For a helpful cheat sheet of armed groups in the north of Mali, see the end of this post.)

The notion that Mali faces crisis is not new. For the better part of a year, Amnesty International has been documenting and reporting the long catalogue of abuses and outright atrocities committed in the country, by the Malian military and Junta government, and the various armed opposition groups in the North: amputations and other gruesome corporal punishment, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual violence, child soldiering, torture, stoning, disappearances, and arrests and killings based on ethnicity, to name just the most egregious.

Indeed, on this very blog, as early as May 2012, the situation in Mali was described as a “forgotten crisis” and by July, an “urgent crisis.” There are many human rights situations that could be called a crisis, to be fair. But with the catalyzed attention as a result of French intervention at the request of the Malian government last week, recognition of the crisis in Mali warrants an urgent appeal to stave off a disastrous worsening of the conditions and abuses faced by Malians, in the north and south, as well as those displaced to neighboring countries.

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Mali: Alarming New Reports Of Amputations And Child Soldiers

Explore the human rights and humanitarian situation in Mali

Armed conflict and political instability led to a human rights and humanitarian crisis

A few months ago, I blogged about the forgotten human rights crisis in Mali, where armed conflict and political instability created a severe vacuum for human rights protection. Today, the situation remains dire. While world leaders are discussing the situation at the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, a quick fix seems elusive.

Civilians keep bearing the brunt of the current conflict: Amputations and other corporal punishments, sexual violence, daily harassment with the aim of imposing new moral codes, child soldiers, extra-judicial executions are ongoing violations against civilians.

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Horrific from North to South: Mali’s Urgent Human Rights Crisis

Supporters of the Military Junta in Mali

Mali military junta supporters (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

The gruesome and horrific stoning of a man and woman in northern Mali is the latest event to remind the world of the crisis that has engulfed the West African country Mali. Since a military coup overthrew the democratically elected government in March, armed groups have taken control of the north of the country, committing abuses in an attempt to change behavior in accordance with a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

In the south of the country, political instability is compounding the abject human rights situation, where soldiers loyal to the Junta (the so-called “Green Berets”) have carried out egregious crimes, especially following an attempted counter-coup on April 30. The ECOWAS-supported transitional government appears to exercise little control in the south, and in a report released yesterday, Amnesty International detailed findings from a 10-day mission documenting likewise horrific crimes and disappearances.

In May, my colleague Christoph Koettl was among those sounding the alarm to the forgotten crisis that was Mali at the time. Three months later, brutal executions such as the couple stoned to death in the North continue to add to the list of grave abuses, including torture, extrajudicial executions, rape and sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, and many others that have engulfed the whole of Mali. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Child Soldiers, Rape, Displacement: Is Mali A Forgotten Crisis?

mali

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in northern Mali © Amnesty International

I am sure that many of you have recently heard or read about the armed conflicts and humanitarian crises in Syria and the Sudan (the latter thanks to some serious attention from celebrity actors and journalists). Less attention is being given to a country that is facing its worst human rights crisis in half a century: Mali.

The regional organization ECOWAS has been very invested in mitigating the crisis and is even preparing to send in troops. While these regional efforts are backed by the United States and other international actors, Mali’s crisis is not getting the attention it deserves and rarely makes the headlines.

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