Posts Tagged ‘disappearances’

U.N. sees signs of Mexican official involvement in wave of disappearances

May 30, 2018

The U.N. human rights office has “strong indications” that Mexican federal security forces are behind a wave of disappearances in and around the city of Nuevo Laredo, a statement from the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday.

Mexican officials did not immediately respond to the UN allegations.

The U.N. has documented the disappearance of 21 men and two women in Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas State from February until May 16 this year, the statement from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said.

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

A local human rights organization put the number of disappearances at more than 40, and the U.N. human rights office received testimonies that they were allegedly perpetrated by a federal security force, often late at night or at dawn, the statement said.

“Many of these people are reported to have been arbitrarily detained and disappeared while going about their daily lives,” the statement quoted Zeid as saying.

“It is particularly horrific that at least five of the victims are minors, with three of them as young as 14. These crimes, perpetrated over four months in a single municipality, are outrageous,” he said.

Zeid has called on Mexican authorities to end the disappearances “amid strong indications that these crimes have been committed by federal security forces”, the statement said.

The authorities had ample information and evidence but had made little progress in investigating. Relatives of those missing had so far found the bodies of at least six victims, the statement said.

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission asked the Navy and others to protect the population of Tamaulipas, but at least three disappearances had happened since then.

Zeid said the events were a litmus test of whether Mexico’s new General Law on Disappearances represented real change or a continued failure of justice.

“States have the obligation to guarantee the security of the population,” he said.

“In the case of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions carried out by public officials, it is even more urgent for the state to act to demonstrate that it neither condones nor tolerates the commission of such grave violations.”

Reporting by Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Reuters

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World failing to take action against Rohingya genocide, human rights group says

May 8, 2018

The world is failing to take real steps to fight the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, said the head of the British-based Myanmar Human Rights Network on Monday.

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Rohingya refugees protect themselves from rain in Balukhali refugee camp near the Bangladesh town of Gumdhum (AFP File Photo)

“The international community is not taking concrete actions against the Myanmar government and its army that persecutes Rakhine Muslims, and this is encouraging them to create more problems and attack people,” Kyaw Win told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview conducted while he was in Istanbul, attending a conference.

He also charged that the U.N. is not willing to take measures against a “visible genocide,” mentioning how U.N. Security Council delegations have visited Rakhine state, the site of much of the persecution.

“The UNSC is divided on deciding against Myanmar government to bring them to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

Win added that while the persecution of Rohingya Muslims began at the hands of Myanmar’s Buddhists, now people of other faiths are also involved.

He also thanked the Turkish people and government for standing beside the Rohingya in this “dreadful time.”

On the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, he warned that the monsoon season will threaten the health and safety of some 200,000 refugees.

Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised the issue at the U.N.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya, mostly children and women, fled Myanmar when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the Amnesty International.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published on Dec. 12, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

The Rohingya, described by the U.N. as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The U.N. has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, U.N. investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

https://www.dailysabah.com/asia/2018/05/08/world-failing-to-take-action-against-rohingya-genocide-human-rights-group-says

Is Pakistan clamping down on liberal academics?

April 26, 2018

A prominent academic has been accused of “spreading violence and ethnic tension” and was recently removed from his post. Critics say this is the latest example of official crackdown on liberal voices in the country.

Symbolbild Pakistan Militär Soldat (Reuters/A. Soomro)

In yet another incident of liberal voices being targeted in Pakistan, Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, who is an assistant professor of social sciences at the Punjab University, has gone into hiding fearing arrest. Earlier in April, Jan was accused of spreading violence and ethnic tensions on campus, and was barred from teaching at the university.

The university, however, contended that Jan was removed after failing to complete employment paperwork, despite having taught there for over a semester. It also specifically pointed out that Jan was “not being disengaged due to his political views,” but for administrative reasons.

On April 17, students from the Institute of Cultural and Social Sciences and other departments at Lahore’s Punjab University protested his removal, prompting the university’s administration to release a statement that Jan was barred from teaching “as the administration had received information that he was fanning anti-state, ethnic and extremist ideas.” Jan claims that he was also accused of instructing Pashtun students to continue their protests.

‘Culture of silence’

The South Asian country has recently witnessed a wave of demonstrations by the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), which is demanding security, equal rights and accountability for its ethnic Pashtun minority.

The Pashtuns have endured violence, destruction, and displacement for more than 15 years due to the country’s “war on terror,” with thousands allegedly having disappeared or targeted in extrajudicial killings. Military commanders, however, accuse the movement’s leaders of trying to destabilize the country.

“For some time now, we have been facing a situation where any kind of criticism or discussion about human rights is regarded as a threat to the state,” Jan told DW. He said that a culture of silence is deliberately being created across the country. “The state is afraid as it has run out of options. It is a sign of a weak establishment, an incapable government and inept politicians with no possibility of voicing your concerns even on legitimate matters,” Jan added.

Chaotic political landscape

Pakistan is witnessing an extremely chaotic political scenario as it prepares for general elections to be held in July this year. It started last year with the ouster of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case. The fallout from Sharif’s dismissal has continued into 2018. Meanwhile, critics say forced disappearances of liberal bloggers, activists and journalists have gained momentum.

More recently, Pakistan’s largest and most watched news channel Geo was taken off air. Another example is the lack of coverage of the PTM in almost all the mainstream media outlets. Be it Sharif’s ouster, Geo’s blackout, disappearances or efforts to undermine a civil movement, critics hold the country’s powerful military and its agencies responsible for all of these developments.

Read more: 

Pakistan’s first school for transgender students opens

Krishna Kumari — From bonded laborer to Pakistan’s first lower caste Hindu senator

Despite the allegations, it has yet to be proved that the military establishment is behind the recent events, said Kamal Siddiqui, director of Center for Excellence in Journalism at Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. “Nobody has come forward and said that he or she acted on the army’s or intelligence agencies’ behest,” he told DW.

Hasan Mujtaba, a New York-based Pakistani journalist and political analyst, told DW that there was once a situation in Pakistan when even using the word “Bengal” was prohibited. He was referring to the time when Bangladesh secured independence from Pakistan in 1971.

“Sadly, we are in a similar situation today,” said Mujtaba, adding that the PTM and Jan have both become victims of such censorship. “The state is confused. The way this movement has been endorsed by the masses, has actually highlighted the gap between democracy and dictatorship,” said Mujtaba.

Meanwhile, questioning Jan’s apparent removal and the ensuing controversy, activist Salman Haider said, “If there can be no discussion on social, political or economy related matters in the universities, then where else can it be discussed?”

Haider said that if the military establishment feels that a university is not a suitable place to talk about a political movement, then it is only trying to send the message that it should be allowed to do whatever it wants and that the intelligentsia should not question it. “No religion or society works this way,” said Haider.

 http://www.dw.com/en/is-pakistan-clamping-down-on-liberal-academics/a-43530819

Russia: Memorial human rights center attacked by arsonists, destroyed — another human rights setback in Russia

January 17, 2018

Reuters

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Memorial human rights center in Russia, after arson attack, 17 January 2018

MOSCOW (Reuters) – One of Russia’s biggest human rights groups said on Wednesday that one of its offices in southern Russia had been badly damaged in an overnight arson attack, an incident it said was part of a campaign to drive it from the region.

Pictures of the office of the group, Memorial, in Nazran, a town in the Russian region of Ingushetia which borders Chechnya, showed the blackened interior of an office strewn with fire-damaged debris.

Memorial is under pressure in the Muslim-majority North Caucasus region after police in Chechnya detained the head of its office there this month and accused him of possessing a large quantity of cannabis, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Concerns about the case of the detained activist, Oyub Titiev, who has written to President Vladimir Putin saying that he was framed and that the police planted the drugs in his car, prompted the United States and Europe to call for his release.

Memorial has angered authorities in Chechnya by reporting disappearances, torture and punitive house burnings there. Titiev’s predecessor, Natalia Estemirova, was kidnapped and shot dead in 2009. Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya, has said allegations that Chechen authorities use illegal violence are false and invented to secure foreign grants.

Memorial said it had captured some of the overnight arson attack on CCTV which showed two masked men breaking into its office with petrol cans and called on the authorities in Ingushetia to investigate the attack as an act of terrorism.

“The work of Memorial’s representative office in Ingushetia is exclusively dedicated to human rights problems on the territory of Ingushetia and in no way linked to Chechnya,” Memorial said in a statement.

“Nonetheless, it’s obvious to us that there is a link between the arson attack with those forces who are trying to destroy the work of Memorial in Chechnya and squeeze Memorial out of the entire North Caucasus region.”

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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Unknown people set Memorial human rights center’s office on fire after arrest of Chechen branch head

Two unknown men wearing masks set the office of the human rights center Memorial in Nazran on fire on the night of January 16-17, Novaya Gazeta reports. CCTV recorded young people wearing masks and gloves.

The footage shows how the arsonists put the ladder to the roof of the building and climb to the second floor to the office with a canister. They also try to break one of the video cameras installed on the building.

It is reported that a melted plastic bottle with the smell of kerosene was found in the office of Memorial head Timur Akiev. According to Akiev, the arsonists could not leave his office, as the door was locked. So, other office premises were not damaged. Firemen arrived quickly, after 30 minutes the fire was extinguished.

Chairman of the Memorial Council Oleg Orlov relates arson to the detention of Chechen Memorial head Oyub Titiev.

Novaya Gazeta notes that Orlov, Titiev’s lawyer Pyotr Zaikin and journalists who have come to Chechnya to give coverage to the case against the human rights defender are under FSB supervision. For two days, human rights defenders and lawyer were detained five times for verification of their involvement in illegal armed groups. The arson in the Ingush office of Memorial occurred on the third day. According to Zaikin, arson should be considered a threat to human rights defenders.

https://en.crimerussia.com/gromkie-dela/unknown-people-set-ingush-memorial-office-on-fire/

United Nations Human Rights Experts Campaign to Improve Human Rights Among ASEAN Nations at Philippine Summit

November 11, 2017
Riot police prepare to push back people protesting the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump outside the main venue of the ASEAN summit meetings Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. Trump is currently on a visit to Asia with the Philippines as his last stop for the ASEAN leaders’ summit and related summits between the regional grouping and its Dialogue Partners. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Four United Nations human rights experts urged the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss “pressing” regional rights issues during the bloc’s key summit in Manila.

From November 11 to 14, 21 world leaders—along with the UN chief—will sit down for talks in Manila for the 31st ASEAN meet.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ASEAN Summit in the Philippines

In a statement dated November 10, the UN experts, while recognizing the “important work of the many active civil society organizations across the region,” expressed concern over the “worrying deterioration in the environment” where human rights defenders operate.

They also expressed dismay at the “increasing harassment and prosecutions” of bloggers, journalists and social media users.

“Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” the experts said.

“We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” they added.

“Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.”

The Philippines, one of the bloc’s founding states, chairs this year’s ASEAN summits. Members of the 10-nation bloc take turns at chairmanship.

Among the human rights issues hounding the region were the Philippines’ bloody “war on drugs,” the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the crackdown on dissenters in Vietnam and Cambodia, and junta rule in Thailand.

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi steps down from her plane upon arrival at Clark International Airport in Clark, Pampanga province north of Manila, Philippines Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Suu Kyi is one of more than a dozen leaders who will be attending the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Manila. AP/Bullit Marquez

READ: Leaders urged to bring up regional rights issues at APEC, ASEAN

According to the UN rapporteurs, the ongoing ASEAN meetings in Manila should be used by member-states as an opportunity to “make real progress” on the region’s rights issues and to show that the bloc is “fully committed to securing human rights.”

They likewise encouraged Southeast Asian governments to see human rights monitoring and reporting, not as a threat, but as a positive tool that can help them comply with these commitments.

The statement was issued by UN special rapporteurs Annalisa Ciampi, Michel Forst, Yanghee Lee, and Agnes Callamard, who has been verbally attacked by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing Manila’s deadly drug war.

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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.

Faced with strong criticism of the administration’s violent campaign against drugs, Duterte on Thursday floated the idea of calling for a global summit on human rights violations by other countries.

“Not zero in on me. Why just me? There are so many violations of human rights, including by the United States, including the continuous bombing in the Middle East killing civilians. Even of children… of their schools,” he said.

READ: Int’l watchdog reacts to Duterte’s plan to hold human rights summit

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/11/1757884/un-rapporteurs-raise-alarm-asean-rights-problems

Bangladeshi academic missing amid spike in disappearances

November 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Bangladeshi police say they are searching for missing academic Mubashar Hasan, who has not been seen since Tuesday, but activists fear the worst amid a spate of such disappearances in recent months

DHAKA (AFP) – A Bangladeshi professor internationally respected for his work on Islamic extremism has gone missing, police said Thursday, with activists fearing the worst amid a spate of disappearances in recent months.

Mubashar Hasan, an assistant professor of political science at Bangladesh’s North South University (NSU), has not been seen since Tuesday afternoon, his family said.

“We are very concerned. We hope law enforcement agencies will find him and return him to us,” his uncle Monzur Hossain told AFP.

Hossain said his nephew, a former journalist, had become increasingly concerned about his safety just before his disappearance.

Hasan had installed CCTV cameras around his home just last week after an unidentified man paid him a visit at home, his uncle said.

Police said Hasan’s mobile phone was switched off early Tuesday evening after the prominent professor of political Islam attended a conference.

“We are trying our best to find him. There is no shortage of sincerity on our part,” Anwar Hossain, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told AFP.

Rights groups in Bangladesh say Hasan disappearance is the ninth high-profile case since July, with opposition political figures, a businessman and journalists among others to vanish.

“He has done some research on Islamist extremism in Bangladesh. His disappearance could be linked to his work,” prominent rights activist Nur Khan Liton told AFP.

Hasan joined NSU, Bangladesh’s most prestigious private university, after completing a doctorate overseas on political Islam in Bangladesh.

His research on Islamic extremism in Bangladesh — a Muslim-majority nation plagued by homegrown militancy — has been published in respected journals and international media.

More than a dozen progressive academics, bloggers and rights activists have been murdered by militant groups in Bangladesh in recent years, most in brutal machete attacks.

Dozens of Islamist extremists have been killed and 200 suspects arrested in the government offensive against extremism since July last year, when militants killed 22 hostages, including 18 foreigners, at an upmarket cafe in Dhaka.

Opposition parties have accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government of arresting tens of thousands of their supporters and activists since 2014, when they boycotted a controversial general election amid concerns it would be rigged.

The government has also been accused of enforced disappearances and unofficial detention of critics and opponents in secret jails.

New UN Report Chronicles Abuse Against Rohinyga in Myanmar — Rape, sexual violence, torture, cimes against humanity — Atrocites like in the Philippines

February 3, 2017

GENEVA — U.N. human rights investigators have chronicled new accounts of crimes including beatings, disappearances, gang rapes and brutal killings of children as young as 8 months old by Myanmar security forces against the Muslim Rohingya minority.

A 43-page report from the United Nations human rights office released Friday says crimes against humanity were “very likely” committed, and cites accounts from “in-depth interviews” by U.N. staffers of 204 people who had fled to neighboring Bangladesh since October, when Myanmar’s military started a crackdown following attacks on border posts.

“The vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing,” rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva. “Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.”

The report is likely to raise pressure on the governing party of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Aung San Suu Kyi amid numerous allegations that soldiers have been killing and raping Rohingya and burning their homes, and targeting people based on their religion and ethnicity. The Rohingya have long faced discrimination in Rakhine state, where many Rohingya live and tensions have been high with the Rohingyacommunity.

Mosques were occupied by soldiers, used as sites for rape or burned down, the report said.

Shamdasani cited “especially revolting” accounts of children being “slaughtered with knives” and said one 8-month-old infant was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

“What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk?” U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement.

Zeid, a Jordanian prince known by his first name, deployed the team after Myanmar’s government denied repeated requests for access to the worst-hit areas of Rakhine state. The regions are also almost totally closed off to journalists.

He called on Myanmar’s government to “immediately halt these grave human rights violations.” The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said reports indicated that the intensity and frequency of security forces’ operations had declined this year, but are continuing.

Shamdasani said the allegations in the report had been presented to Myanmar authorities, but she declined to indicate what the response was, deferring to government officials.

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Myanmar army killed and raped in Rohingya ethnic cleansing – U.N.

 

Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burned their villages since October in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing, the U.N. human rights office said on Friday.

Witnesses had testified to “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food”, the report said.

Some 232,000 Rohingya Muslims were already living in Bangladesh before another 65,000 fled a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. AFP photo

One woman told U.N. investigators how her eight-month baby boy had had his throat slit. Another was raped by soldiers and saw her five-year-old daughter killed as she tried to stop them.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in a statement.

“The ‘area clearance operations’ have likely resulted in hundreds of deaths,” the U.N. report said.

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Around 66,000 people have fled from the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine State to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military launched a security operation in response to attacks on police border posts on Oct. 9, the U.N. report said. The U.N. humanitarian office has recently put the figure at 69,000.

The U.N. report was issued in Geneva after the investigators gathered testimony last month from 220 Rohingya victims and witnesses who fled the “lockdown area” in Maungdaw in Rakhine for the Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh.

The plight of the stateless Rohingya, of whom some 1.1 million live in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, has long been a source of friction between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Myanmar has denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses in northern Rakhine and says a lawful counterinsurgency campaign is under way.

While denying observers and independent journalists access to the conflict area, officials have accused Rohingya residents and refugees of fabricating stories of killings, beatings, mass rape and arson in collaboration with insurgents who they say are Rohingya terrorists with links to Islamists overseas.

Zeid called for a robust reaction from the international community and said Myanmar must accept responsibility for committing grave human rights violations against its own people.

“What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk? And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this?” he asked.

“What national security goals could possibly be served by this?”

Bangladesh is determined to relocate Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar to an island in the Bay of Bengal, a Bangladeshi minister said on Wednesday. Critics say the island is uninhabitable. The minister said the move was temporary and Myanmar would ultimately have to take the Rohingyas back.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles and Kevin Liffey)

Related:

Rohingya refugees report violent abuse

Philippines

© AFP/File / by Nina LARSON | Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he has personally killed people in the past

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

“The killings committed by Mr. Duterte, by his own admission, at a time when he was a mayor, clearly constitute murder,” he said.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa (R) during a press conference at the Malacanang palace in Manila on January 30, 2017. © NOEL CELIS / POOL / AFP

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Philippines: Filipino’s killed by police without a court warrant or hearing in President Duterte’s “war on drugs.”

Amnesty International accused the Filipino police of murdering defenceless people or paying others to kill as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war

Amnesty International accused the Filipino police of murdering defenceless people or paying others to kill as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war ©NOEL CELIS (AFP/File)

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

 (December 23, 2016)

Gambia Leader’s Term Extended as Tourists Are Evacuated — Obama Was Urged To Take Action on Gambia in 2014 for Torture, Killings, Human Rights Abuses

January 18, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal — Gambia said Wednesday its legislators have voted to extend President Yahya Jammeh’s term by three months, just hours before his mandate was set to expire. The president-elect has vowed to take office regardless of whether Jammeh leaves. Amid the uncertainty, tourist evacuations began.

In a sign of mounting international pressure, Nigeria confirmed a warship was heading toward Gambia as a “training” exercise as regional countries prepared a possible military intervention.

As the crisis deepened, more than 1,000 mainly British and Dutch tourists were evacuating the tiny West African nation on specially chartered flights. Hundreds were streaming into the airport, seeking information on departures.

On Tuesday, Jammeh declared a three-month state of emergency as he seeks to stay in power despite losing elections in December. President-elect Adama Barrow has vowed to be sworn in Thursday, with the backing of the international community. Barrow was in neighboring Senegal for his safety, and it was not clear how an inauguration would be carried out.

Jammeh has challenged the election results, citing voting irregularities, and the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS has threatened to send in troops to make him leave.

Nigerian Navy spokesman Capt. Dahun Jahun said his country’s air force was contributing 200 supporting troops for the standby force for Gambia. He said 11 pilots, 11 crew members and 80 “supporting troops” already had deployed. Senegal and Ghana also are contributing to the force.

Gambia, a country of 1.9 million people, is estimated to have just 900 troops.

Thousands of people have been fleeing to Senegal, including a number of Jammeh’s former government ministers, who resigned this week.

Travel group Thomas Cook said it planned to bring home nearly 1,000 vacationers, and four flights were being added Wednesday. The evacuation was not mandatory, but offered those who want to leave the option.

Many tourists continued to enjoy lying on the beach. While Jammeh’s government has been accused by human rights groups of arbitrary detentions and torture of opponents during his 22-year rule, the government has promoted Gambia as “the smiling coast of Africa.”

In the Netherlands, travel company Corendon said it was sending planes to Gambia to bring home tourists. The company said 831 Dutch tourists were on Corendon vacations there.

Another Dutch tour operator, Tui, was sending five aircraft to repatriate Dutch and Belgian tourists. Tui said it had 815 Dutch tourists and 228 Belgians in the country.

Tui spokeswoman Petra Kok said the company was making it clear to tourists that if they decide to stay, it is their own responsibility. The Dutch government has a negative travel advisory in place for tourists wanting to visit the country.

Gambia’s new state of emergency bans people from “any acts of disobedience” or violence, and it tells security forces to maintain order.

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Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed to this report.

Related:

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US should act against Gambia’s dictatorship

Ending Yahya Jammeh’s rampant human rights abuses requires more than press statements and finger wagging

By Jeffrey Smith
Al Jazeera

December 17, 2014 2:00AM ET
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Enough blood has been spilled in Gambia and too many voices already silenced by Jammeh’s brutal regime. US taxpayer money should not contribute to this escalating repression.

There are a number of steps that the U.S. should immediately consider. First, all U.S. aid to Gambia should be reviewed to ensure its intended effectiveness and nondiscrimination in its disbursement. Humanitarian programs that are currently funneled through the Gambian government should be redirected to third parties, preferably civil society groups that guarantee consistent service to all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation or political beliefs. The U.S. should halt military assistance to Jammeh’s government, which has routinely violated the rights of its citizens.

Second, the U.S. can hit Jammeh where it hurts by restricting his travel and barring individuals implicated in corruption and human rights abuses from traveling to the U.S. and its territories. Relevant U.S. agencies should freeze assets in the United States held by Jammeh, his immediate family and members of his inner circle — for example, Jammeh’s $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Maryland.

Third, the U.S. can pull Gambia from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which grants trade incentives to African countries for opening their economies. Jammeh’s administration has clearly failed to make “continual progress toward establishing … the rule of law, political pluralism and the right to due process, a fair trial and equal protection under the law,” as required by the act. The U.S. has done this before with Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, often because of undemocratic rule, and most recently in Swaziland over serious concerns over the lack of workers’ rights.

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Finally, the U.S. and its regional allies should organize an all-inclusive national conference, consisting of a broad spectrum of Gambian society — including opposition parties, civil society groups, press unions, the bar association and the diaspora — to draw up a road map for the country’s transition to democracy, good governance and respect for human rights.

Our elected leaders should not shake hands with dictators and merely issue occasional press statements. Jammeh’s onslaught against LGBT people is part of a much broader spectrum of human rights abuses that have been perpetrated with impunity for two decades. U.S. taxpayer money should not contribute to this escalating repression. Enough blood has been spilled in Gambia and too many voices already silenced by Jammeh’s brutal regime.

Jeffrey Smith is a senior advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/12/yahya-jammeh-thegambiahumanrightsdemocracy.html

More than 700 Iraqi men and boys missing from Fallujah: UN

July 15, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | Members of the Iraqi pro-government forces patrol streets of the city of Fallujah on June 30, 2016 after recapturing it from Islamic State group jihadists

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – A total of 738 men and boys remain missing after they were detained by militias backing the Iraqi government offensive to retake Fallujah from Islamic State jihadists, a UN envoy said Friday.

Jan Kubis told the Security Council that the UN mission in Iraq had received credible reports of torture, killings and disappearances by the militias and Iraqi security forces during the Fallujah offensive.

Iraqi forces seized control of Fallujah, a longtime jihadist bastion, in late June, a month after a vast operation was launched.

Author linked to snatched Hong Kong booksellers was detained in mainland China in 2012 — “If China doesn’t like what you are doing, you can simply disappear”

March 8, 2016

By Oliver Chou and Phila Siu
South China Morning Post

Mainland security agents snatched and detained a Hong Kong author from Causeway Bay Books for 38 hours in Shenzhen in 2012, forcing him to give them information on writers of publications banned across the border, thePost has learned.

The revelation by Woo Chih-wai, who worked at the bookstore until five of his associates disappeared last year, came as the Post also obtained an email by one of them, Lee Po, saying he feared his missing colleague, Gui Minhai, was “taken away by special agents from China for political reasons” last October.

That was before Lee himself went missing in December. He and Gui later surfaced on the mainland, claiming they had crossed the border of their own free will.

Woo, 75, who assisted Lee in managing the bookstore specialising in publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party, told the Post that the disappearances were all too familiar.

“I was taken away during my visit to a dentist in Shenzhen,” an agitated Woo recalled.

He remembered clearly that the agents snatched him in March 2012 and interrogated him for 38 hours.

“A group of security agents took turns asking me for information on who’s who in the Hong Kong literary circles and they handed me of a list of pen names and asked me to identify them,” the author of numerous biographies said.

“I told them if I had known I wouldn’t have worked so hard as a writer to make ends meet.”

He recalled that a senior officer identified himself as the duty officer responsible for the case of Ching Cheong, the reporter for Singapore’s Straits Times who was detained in Shenzhen and later jailed on espionage charges.

“The officer said he could easily accord me the same prison term like Ching if I didn’t co-operate,” he said. Woo clarified that the agents treated him in a “mild” manner. He was not yelled at or beaten up, he said.

He was not worried about his own safety, he said, and saw the need to speak up.

“The real story will be told when Lee Po returns to Hong Kong,” he added.

That mystery has deepened as it now turns out that Lee sent an email to Gui’s daughter, Angela, on November 10, saying: “I write to you concerning the whereabouts of Michael (Gui’s English name).

“I wonder if you have known that he has been missing for more than 20 days, we fear that he was taken by special agents from China for political reasons.”

“We last talked to Michael by email on 15 October, and after that day, nobody could contact him. He was then staying in his apartment in Thailand. According to [Gui’s family]’s words told by the watchman of the building, he left the apartment with several men who claimed to be his friends,” the email reads.

“It’s very little we can do to help Michael because we are not his next of kin. I then think of you, perhaps you can do something, and there are a lot of Michael’s friends [who] are ready to help if you need them. Do tell me what you think and what you want us to do.”

The email contradicted Lee’s story, which he gave weeks after he disappeared. In a letter to his wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping, Lee blamed Gui for his predicament, describing him as a “morally unacceptable person” who had a “complicated personal history”.

In October, Gui went missing under mysterious circumstances in Pattaya, Thailand. In the same month, Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee also vanished while on the mainland.

At the end of December, Lee went missing from Hong Kong, with no record of him crossing the border.

Their disappearances led to fears they had been kidnapped by mainland agents because the publishing house and bookstore they ran specialised in publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

Throughout the episode, the Hong Kong government has maintained that there is no evidence of cross-border law enforcement related to the disappearances.

In January, Gui was paraded on state television, claiming he had surrendered himself to the mainland authorities over a 2004 drink-driving accident in Ningbo (寧波), Zhejiang (浙江) province.

He was later accused of ordering his associates to deliver about 4,000 banned books across the border since October 2014.

“I definitely think that he was pressured to say the things that he said. Because I have never heard of these things, these claims at all,” Angela Gui said from the UK.

The 22-year-old said her father’s “confession” on CCTV “definitely seems scripted”, and she hoped to see him as soon as possible.

“It isn’t a plan as much as it is a hope at the moment because there is so much going on with the case.

“So I can’t make any concrete plans for the time being. I, of course, hope to be able to see my dad as soon as possible. It would be absolutely fantastic to go and meet him,” she said.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/1922553/author-linked-snatched-hong-kong-booksellers-was-detained