UPDATE: Brother of Slain Honduran Journalist Threatened After Demanding Justice

Witnesses stand by the car of television journalist Antonio 'Tony' Quintero in Honduras. Quinteros was attacked in his car by gunmen and was seriously wounded, whilst a friend who accompanied him died in the attack. In the last four years, some 33 journalist have been murdered in Honduras (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).

Witnesses stand by the car of television journalist Antonio ‘Tony’ Quintero in Honduras. Quinteros was attacked in his car by gunmen and was seriously wounded, whilst a friend who accompanied him died in the attack. In the last four years, some 33 journalist have been murdered in Honduras (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).

Back in December, Amnesty activists responded to an Urgent Action on the murder of Honduran journalist Juan Carlos Argeña. Not only has there not been any progress in this case, Amnesty has had to issue a new Urgent Action on behalf of Mario Argeñal, Juan Carlos’ brother.

Unidentified men have threatened and intimidated Mario in response to his public statements about the killing of his brother and his calls for justice in the case.


Why The New Investigation Into North Korean Human Rights Violations Matters

This posting is part of the North Korea Revealed blogging series, published in the context of efforts to establish a Commission of Inquiry at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 25 – March 22). Join the conversation through #NKRevealed.

With overwhelming support from member states, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deplorable human rights conditions in North Korea. Today’s development should be considered a milestone for international justice. While an independent investigation will not yield the ultimate impact we want—the much-needed closure of the political prison camps—it represents a crucial first step in uncovering the widespread and systematic nature of the crimes, and could ultimately lead to holding the perpetrators accountable. As an immediate impact, the commission has the potential to pressure North Korean officials to end their outright denial of the existence of the camps. We heavily campaigned for this outcome over the last few months – by putting the vast network of political prison camps on the map, uncovering a new security zone next to the infamous Camp 14, and most importantly, by sharing the powerful stories of survivors of the forgotten prisons, with the world.


Take Pride in the Latest UN Resolution

Amnesty International activists take part in Gay Pride in Paris, 28 June 2008.

This past Friday, June 17th, was a remarkable day for the advancement of international lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of LGBT persons.

All people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, enjoy the full range of human rights, without exception. But all too often across the globe LGBT people are targets of discrimination and horrific acts of violence.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity continually leads to abuse in the form of violence, imprisonment, torture, or even execution. These methods of persecution, which include criminalization in many places, violate the human rights of LGBT people.


Iran Thumbs its Nose at the World

The Iranian government has repeatedly insisted that it cooperates with the international human rights community and abides by internationally recognized human rights instruments and agreements. However, these assertions are belied by Iran’s dismal performance at its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on February 15 and 17. The Iranian delegation incredibly denied its government’s egregious human rights violations, asserting that any criticisms of Iran’s human rights record were merely politically motivated and deliberate mischaracterizations of its efforts to protect its people from “terrorism.”  The Iranian delegation also rejected important recommendations made by the UNHRC which were intended to address the deplorable human rights situation in Iran.

Even before the UPR took place, the Iranian authorities provided evidence that its position would be one of obstruction and denial rather than cooperation and commitment to universally accepted human rights standards. In its submission for the UPR process, Iran claimed full compliance with international human rights mechanisms, and that torture, forced confessions, and other abuses did not occur.  Amnesty International issued a report that thoroughly dissected Iran’s submission. The report’s conclusions were summarized by Hassiba Hadjsahraoui, the Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, who said “The Iranian authorities seem either to have lost touch with reality or are unwilling to acknowledge it.” Although it is true, as Iran’s submission claims, that Iran’s Constitution guarantees many rights such as those of freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial,  those are routinely denied in practice. Even though Iran insists that it permits religious freedom it continues to carry out a harsh campaign of repression against the Baha’i community.  Whereas Iran’s submission maintained that it cooperates with the international human rights community, Amnesty International has not been granted access to the country to carry out research there since 1979 and Iran has not permitted U.N. human rights experts to visit the country in the last several years. And while Iran has made great strides in some areas since the 1979 Revolution—most notably in literacy rates and in education for women and girls—Iran’s overall record is abysmal, as was made clear in Amnesty International’s submission to the UPR process.

At the UPR on Monday February 15, Iran was urged to fulfill many of the recommendations that Amnesty International had been promoting—such as to end execution of juvenile offenders, torture of detainees and the arrest of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly—including peaceful protesters, journalists and women’s rights activists. The response of the Iranian delegation—led by Mohammad Javad Larijani the director of Iran’s Human Rights Headquarters—was essentially complete denial. They maintained, for instance, that all of those arrested and sentenced for their involvement—alleged or real—in the post-election protests were actually guilty of terrorism, espionage and endangering national security.


International Community has an Opportunity to Send Iran’s Government a Clear Message on Human Rights

The world has watched in horror as the unrelenting violence in Iran continues to unfold several months after the disputed June 12 presidential elections. Now the international community has a tremendous opportunity to send a clear message to Iranian authorities that the massive human rights violations they have perpetrated are simply unacceptable.

This opportunity is the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) next month.  Under this process, the human rights records of all member nations of the U.N. are reviewed, on a staggered schedule, every four years. There are three sessions per year, with sixteen countries reviewed per session. This process replaces the previous Commission on Human Rights, which could decide which countries to consider, whereas in the new process, all U.N. member states are automatically reviewed. This new procedure is intended to eliminate the possibility of deciding to review certain countries for political reasons and to address the criticism of double standards which were made against the Commission.

The purpose of the UPR process is to improve the situation of human rights situation in the country reviewed; to enhance the fulfillment of each state of its human rights obligations and commitments; to share best practice in the promotion and protection of human rights among States; and to strengthen the cooperation by States with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

The outcome of the UPR process will be a report approved by the HRC, and which will include recommendations for addressing compliance with human rights obligations. Amnesty International’s goal is to insure that the resulting report and recommendations are as strong as possible. The Iranian government has persistently claimed that countries with which it has historically had hostile relations, such as the United States and United Kingdom, have been orchestrating criticism of its human rights record for political purposes. A strong report endorsed by the entire HRC would be a rebuke to the Iranian government and a signal that the international community as a whole abhors its deplorable human rights abuses.