Human Rights

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 17:32 Geneviève Beaudet and Pierre Beaudet Editorial Dept - Human Rights
The blossoming of the Idle No More movement signals the return of native resistance to the political and social landscape of Canada and Quebec. With its origins in Saskatchewan in October 2012, this mass movement has taken on the federal government and more specifically the adoption of Bill C-45.

Its origins lay not in the work of established organizations such as The Assembly of First Nations (although the AFN fully supports the initiative), but in a grassroots mobilization that has arisen in several parts of the country.  This process echoes other recent citizen mobilizations such as the student carrés rouges in Quebec and the worldwide Occupy movement.

Bill C-45 is perceived by native people as an attempt to further weaken their already limited powers to resist the invasion of their lands and the continuing exploitation of their natural resources. In the eyes of these communities, this adds to a long list of initiatives and legislation put forward to undermine their autonomy.

In neo-conservative circles, the existence of First Nations peoples is seen as an anachronism, best relegated to the past. Their future, if indeed they do have one, lies in assimilation into Canadian society.

Even though this attempt at social erasure began prior to the election of the present government, the process of destruction of native culture and identity has intensified under the Harper government.

Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:22 Roger Annis Editorial Dept - Human Rights
A social and political rights movement of Indigenous people is rising across Canada and making international headlines. Protests by the 'Idle No More' movement began last month and continue to grow.

The movement has rallied daily across the country in shopping malls, at U.S. border crossings and on major railway lines. Three days ago, it compelled Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to climb down from his refusal to meet with Indigenous leaders to discuss the very deep concerns of Indigenous people. He has agreed to meet a delegation on Friday, January 11.

It remains to be seen if anything will issue from this gathering, but it is a significant political victory nonetheless. Protests will continue in the meantime, including an international day of solidarity action called for the day of the planned meeting. 

The social conditions and concerns that have given rise to this movement in Canada are strikingly similar to those in Haiti. In both cases, a long history of political interference, violations of national sovereignty and failed or harmful social policies are sparking firestorms of protest.

Omnibus Legislation Bulldozes Democratic Consultation

Two overriding concerns have sparked the Idle No More movement. One is the “omnibus” federal budget legislation, Bill C-45, that was approved by the Conservative Party-controlled Parliament and Senate last month.

Saturday, 12 February 2011 00:00 Human Rights Watch Editorial Dept - Human Rights

President Mubarak steps down: Foreign Aid to Military Should Depend on Immediate Reform, End to Emergency Rule - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's speech to the nation on February 10, 2011, failed to address the human rights crisis fuelling the popular protests, Human Rights Watch said today.

Egypt's international partners, including the United States and European Union members, should make clear that continued assistance to Egypt's security forces depends on immediate progress towards full respect for human rights and a democratic transition.

In a televised address to the nation on February 10, Mubarak suggested he is delegating some unspecified powers to the vice president but did not announce any changes that would enable a genuine democratic transition. He referred vaguely to possible reforms to several repressive articles of the constitution, including sections that affect anti-terrorism powers and emergency regulations in place since 1981, and another that severely limits candidates for the presidency.

"Mubarak's speech is far from the needed break with the abusive system of the past 30 years," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Cosmetic changes are not enough to meet the Egyptian people's demands for democracy and human rights. The US and EU governments should use their influence and their aid to encourage real reform."

Friday, 11 February 2011 15:11 Human Rights Watch Editorial Dept - Human Rights

Army and Navy Abuses, Cover-Ups Should be Prosecuted in Civilian Justice System - Military and police officers were implicated in a series of deaths and disappearances in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, Human Rights Watch said today. Federal and state prosecutors should take immediate steps to prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch said.

In a recent fact-finding mission to Nuevo Leon, Human Rights Watch investigated eight killings during 2010 that evidence indicates were the result of unlawful use of lethal force by army and navy officers. Human Rights Watch also documented more than a dozen enforced disappearances in Nuevo Leon since 2007 in which the evidence points to the involvement of the army, navy, and police.

"Failing to prosecute soldiers and police officers who kill, carry out enforced disappearances, and commit other grave violations sends a message that these abuses are acceptable tactics for combating organized crime," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "While it is true Nuevo Leon is experiencing unprecedented levels of violence, such abuses only undermine public security efforts and worsen an atmosphere of lawlessness."

Victims' families told Human Rights Watch that they had complained to state and federal authorities, and that in most cases investigations had been formally opened. But no one has been held accountable for any of the crimes Human Rights Watch documented in Nuevo Leon, according to the families.

Sunday, 06 February 2011 00:00 Human Rights Watch Editorial Dept - Human Rights

Democracy Advocate in his Mid-70s Detained - Syrian authorities should immediately free Ghassan al-Najjar, leader of a small group called the Islamic Democratic Current, Human Rights Watch said today.

Security services arrested him at his home on the morning of February 4, 2011, and detained him. Al-Najjar, who is in his mid-70s, had issued public calls in the last week for Syrians in Aleppo to demonstrate to demand more freedoms in their country.

His arrest comes amid other measures by security services to pre-empt any public gathering after Syrian activists issued calls on Facebook and Twitter for large protests in the country on February 4 and 5. Syria's security services have summoned more than 10 activists in the last 48 hours, to pressure them not to demonstrate, a Syrian activist told Human Rights Watch.

Security officials also detained three young demonstrators for a few hours on February 3 after the youths took part in a Damascus protest against corruption and high cell phone communication costs.

Friday, 04 February 2011 00:00 Peter Bouckaert Editorial Dept - Human Rights

When my translator and I arrived at the main morgue in Alexandria on Saturday morning to try and figure out how many people had died the previous day in the violent clashes that engulfed the city, officials held us back. We needed official permission, they said, and couldn't give us any information without that.

As we walked around looking for the hospital director, his colleagues whispered to us that he was hiding, afraid of the consequences of letting a foreigner into the morgue.

But the relatives of the dead had had enough. They shouted at the officials, grabbed us by the arms and pushed us inside.Suddenly we were in the cold room surrounded by corpses. A woman pulled back the bloodstained sheet from her son's body, wailing, "Look at my Mustafa, look at how beautiful he was. My dear Mustafa, show them, let them hear your beautiful voice. Oh my darling, my darling, how you always looked after your mother." Mustafa Shaaban, just 21, we learned, had been shot in the stomach as he came to the assistance of a wounded protester on Friday.

The room was full of corpses, 13 in all, killed, we were told, on the previous day in the clashes. I saw men with massive head wounds from tear-gas canisters we were told had been fired directly at their heads at close range, men with fatal bullet wounds and bodies with marks of brutal beatings. A room filled with grief.


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