Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Philippines: Amnesty International Says Changes to Duterte’s Drug War are Only a “PR” Move — Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

October 13, 2017
The recent decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to designate the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead office to conduct the war on drugs could just be a “PR” move by the government, according to Amenesty International. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — Amnesty International said on Friday that the recent decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to shift the responsibility of pursuing his ferocious campaign to eradicate narcotics to the country’s anti-drugs agency could just be a “short-term” public relations move meant to appease the growing opposition to it.

Duterte this week signed an order designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the main office in pursuing drug operations and relegated the Philippine National Police to a supporting role.

READ:  FLAG chair: Order for PDEA to lead drug war confusing

James Gomez, the watchdog’s international director of southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that the decision to put PDEA in charge of the government war on drugs was just meant to squelch public furor over the mounting number of dead people most of whom are poor and young.

The AI official said that the president had done this before when the police were temporarily ordered to cease conducting anti-drugs raids following the outrage over the discovery that cops belonging to the PNP’s anti-drugs unit were involved in the kidnapping, extortion and killing of a South Korean businessman inside its national headquarters in Camp Crame.

He added that the announcement would have little “meaningful” impact  and urged the president to discard altogether “the government’s fundamental policy of supporting extrajudicial executions of drug suspects.”

“President Duterte has pulled police off drug operations once before, in January this year, only to reinstate them a few weeks later,” Gomez said in a statement reacting to the Philippine leader’s announcement.

“We are concerned that this too may be nothing but a short-term PR move in response to growing public outrage about the drug war’s many victims, which are overwhelmingly poor, and include children,” he added.

Based on the latest survey of polling firm SWS, the president’s approval ratings plunged by 18 points in September.

The president’s office said that this plunge was because the survey was conducted just days after Duterte declared a national day of protest to allow Filipinos to air their grievances against the government.

Another survey by rival Pulse Asia however demonstrated that Duterte had maintained trust and approval ratings of 80 percent.

The announcement of the president also came in the wake of a string of police killings of teenagers in August sparked a widespread public condemnation of brutality and disrespect for due process, something that the 15-month-old administration of the former Davao City mayor had never seen.

Gomez said that what the government should do was to end its “murderous ‘war on drugs'” and adopt a policy that would respect and protect human rights.

“It is also crucial that there is accountability for the thousands of killings carried out already, many by police officers, and that those responsible are held to account,” he said.

READ:  Opposition senators: Change of lead agency not enough; shift drug policy, too

The AI official warned that the killings, which may constitute a crime against humanity, would continue as shooters just happened to be doning different uniforms.

The AI and Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights campaigner, have both released early this year excoriating reports on the government’s war on drugs that detailed police shortcuts and payments to kill drug suspects.

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Duterte in response blasted these international groups and governments for what he saw as “interference.”

On Thursday, he mistakenly blasted the European Union and threatened to cut diplomatic ties to its member-states over statements by a group parliamentarians warning the government that it risked losing preferential trade arrangements if it would continue with the campaign.


Philippines president Duterte says he could throw out EU diplomats ‘within 24 hours’ in expletive-filled tirade

October 12, 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has warned the EU and UN that he could throw out their ambassadors within 24 hours if they continue to “interfere” in his brutal war against drugs.

“You think that we are a bunch of morons here… The ambassadors of those countries learn a lesson now. Because we can have the diplomatic channels cut tomorrow, you leave my country in 24 hours, all of you,” he said during an expletive-filled tirade against colonialism in the capital, Manila.

There has been rising international outrage over a vicious crackdown on drugs users and dealers, launched by Mr Duterte after his rise to power in June 2016.

More than 12,500 Filipinos have been killed in the last year, with almost 4,000 during police operations and many more by masked assassins.

Last month the UK joined 38 other countries at the UN Human Rights Council [UNHRC] in Geneva to urge the Philippines to end the killings and allow an international investigation into the deaths. It was slammed by Manila as a “politicised” move.

Duterte appears to have been riled further this week by a suggestion by Human Rights Watch Geneva director, John Fisher, that the Philippines could be kicked out of the UNHRC, and by a visiting mission of European parliamentarians who told him publicly to “stop the killings.”

Filipino relatives mourn on the remains of Ephraim Escudero, who was a victim of extra judicial killing, during burial rites at a cemetery in San Pedro city, Laguna province, Philippines, 30 September 2017
Filipino relatives mourn on the remains of Ephraim Escudero, who was a victim of extra judicial killing, during burial rites at a cemetery in San Pedro city, Laguna province, Philippines, 30 September 2017CREDIT: EPA

“You are interfering in our affairs,” said Mr Duterte in a rambling address to a press conference on Thursday, switching between English, Filipino and Spanish. “We are past the colonisation stage. Don’t f*** with us,” he continued.

“You must have taken the Philippines for granted, saying that we could be excluded,” he said, although no government has called for the Philippines’ exclusion from the UN.

Mr Duterte said the Philippines was angry at the West for “stealing our resources” and denounced the US, UK and France in particular, suggesting that plundering the Middle East had led to modern day terrorism.

“You built your riches, you were ahead in the industrial race of planet earth because you stole the greatest resource of the Arabs – oil,”he said.

“You colonised there, then started to divide the Middle East – the United States, UK, France, and that is why you are paying heavily now with terrorism. May you end up happy for what you have done.”


Philippines President Duterte Tells EU Ambassadors: ‘You leave my country in 24 hours’

October 12, 2017
In this Sept. 26, 2017 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that there would be no let-up in his fight against illegal drugs, corruption and criminality. On Thursday, October 12, Duterte slammed anew the European Union in his speech during the relaunching of the Press Briefing Room at the New Executive Building in Malacañan. Simeon Celi Jr./Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday launched another profanity-laced attack against the European Union for supposedly lobbying for the Philippines’ removal from the United Nations, this time, by asking the bloc’s ambassadors here to leave the country in 24 hours.

“Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now: tell me because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours. All of you. You must have taken the Filipino for granted,” an angry Duterte said in his speech in Malacañan.

“Do not come to this country again, we do not need you. You want to expel us? You try,” he added.

EU officials in the Philippines are yet to reply to‘s request for a comment on the president’s remarks as of this reporting.

Duterte, who easily won the race to Malacañang last year on a brutal law-and-order platform, has stoked international alarm for activating his deadly anti-drug campaign.

Human Rights Watch Geneva Advocacy Director John Fisher warned over the weekend that the Philippines might be removed from the UN Human Rights Council because Manila is “seeking to evade its international responsibilities” by rejecting recommendations to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines.

READ: Palace downplays ‘revocation’ of Philippine membership in UNHRC

Meanwhile, European parliamentarians early this week visited the country and cautioned that the Philippines risks losing the General System of Preference (GSP+)—a preferential trade deal that allows 6,200 of its products to enter the EU duty free—if it fails to immediately stop the killings and supposed political persecution of critics.

But Duterte was unfazed by the EU parliamentarians’ warning as he slammed Europe anew for supposedly interfering in Manila’s domestic affairs.

He also said the Philippines could let go any trade perks that EU has granted, adding that Southeast Asian countries and China could forge a free-trade agreement.

“You are interfering in our affairs kasi mahirap lang kami. Magbigay kayo ng pera then you start to orchestrate what things should be done and which should not happen in my country,” Duterte said.

“You bullshit. We are past the colonization stage. Don’t fuck with us. We ASEAN members can export to each other. We could also have tariff-free [trade],” he added.

EU overtook the United States and Japan as being the largest destination of exports from the Philippines in March, according to the Philippines Statistics Authority.

With $901 million of total exports, this makes the EU the biggest and fastest growing export market for Philippine goods.

The Philippines was granted beneficiary country status under the EU-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing it to export 6,274 eligible products duty-free to the EU market.

The alleged cases of extrajudicial killings in the country as part of Duterte’s drug war, however, has put at risk the country’s GSP+ privileges.

The country’s beneficiary status under the GSP+ necessitates the implementation of the 27 international treaties and conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and governance.

Results of the latest GSP+ review is expected to come out in January next year.

READ: ‘No surprises’ for Philippines, EU says, as results of trade perks review loom

Early this year, the Philippine government announced that it would no longer accept grants from EU particularly those that would allow the bloc to interfere in Manila’s autonomy.

But Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia later said the decision to reject EU grants was “not a policy,” adding that Duterte, who is known to flip-flop on his statements, might “take back” his statement soon as this could only be driven by “reaction.”

READ: Philippines ends P13.8-B funding from European Union | Duterte may reverse decision to reject EU aid, Pernia says


Growing evidence detainees tortured in Turkey: HRW

October 12, 2017


© AFP/File | Activists wearing handcuffs stage a protest over the vast wave of arrests in Turkey, where HRW says torture in police custody has become a “widespread” problem

ANKARA (AFP) – Human Rights Watch claimed Thursday there was growing evidence of detention abuses in Turkey after last year’s failed coup, warning that torture in police custody had become a “widespread” problem.

The US-based watchdog cited “credible evidence” of 11 cases of serious abuse including severe beatings, sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault as well as threats and being stripped naked.

But it said the 11 cases represented a fraction of the credible narratives reported in the media and on social media.

“Such reports indicate that torture and ill-treatment in police custody in Turkey has become a widespread problem,” HRW said in its latest report.

The alleged victims are suspects accused of links to terror organisations, it said, or those authorities believe are linked to the failed coup.

Some detainees had reported ill-treatment to prosecutors or during court hearings, allegations which HRW said were not investigated “effectively”.

The group accused Ankara of failing to act to “stamp out the sharp rise in abusive practices in police custody over the past year”.

“As evidence mounts that torture in police custody has returned to Turkey, the government urgently needs to investigate and call a halt to it,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, urged in a statement.

HRW said victims were scared to complain for fear of reprisals against their family.

– Abductions –

The group also said there were five cases of abductions in Ankara and the western city of Izmir between March and June “that could amount to enforced disappearances”.

In one alleged case cited by HRW, Onder Asan, a former teacher, was “abducted” in April and was missing for 42 days before he turned up in police custody and was then sent to pretrial detention.

The Turkish government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last month, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said Turkey had “zero tolerance for torture”, noting the government’s commitment to human rights.

HRW said the “greatest risk” was for suspects detained over alleged links to the coup-plotters or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ankara blames the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organisation it has dubbed the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).

Gulen strongly denies Turkey’s accusations and insists his movement promotes peace.

Since July 2016, over 50,000 people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen.

The group also warned of the pressures on lawyers who face “obstacles and risks” as well as the fear of reprisals while representing their clients.

Rwanda military uses torture to force confessions: HRW

October 10, 2017


© AFP/File | Soldiers march during Kagame’s swearing-in ceremony in August
KIGALI (AFP) – Rwanda’s military has used asphyxiation, electric shock and mock executions to torture confessions out of detainees, Human Rights Watch said in a report published Tuesday.The rights watchdog confirmed 104 cases of people being illegally detained and tortured in Rwandan military detention centres between 2010 and 2016, according to the 91-page report, which estimates the true figure is much higher.

It said that systematic torture by the military was often ignored by judges and prosecutors whenever complaints were made.

 Location of  Rwanda  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)– in the African Union  (light blue)

“Research over a number of years demonstrates that military officials in Rwanda can use torture whenever they please,” said Ida Sawyer of HRW, a US-based global watchdog.

The group’s research found that most victims were detained on suspicion of being members of the FDLR – a predominantly Hutu rebel group based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo – with some of its members suspected of participating in the 1994 genocide.

Others were suspected of having ties to the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile composed mainly of former members of Rwanda’s ruling party, or to the jailed Victoire Ingabire, president of a banned opposition party.

– ‘I was going to die’ –

One former detainee told HRW how soldiers placed a plastic bag over his head so he could not breathe.

“I accepted (everything they told me to accept) because I was going to die. Then they stopped. I signed a document they put in front of me,” he said.

The report comes just two months after a HRW investigation showed security forces, including soldiers, executed at least 37 petty offenders instead of prosecuting them.

A government press conference to address the previous report was due to be held Tuesday, however was cancelled at the last minute.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been in power since 2000 and won a third term in August with nearly 99 percent of the vote, after amending the constitution to remove term limits.

He is hailed for economically transforming Rwanda after a genocide in 1994 that ravaged the country, but is criticised for clamping down on media freedom and the opposition while rights groups accuse his government of ruling through fear.

Earlier this month Diane Rwigara, a prominent critic of Kagame who was blocked from running in the election, was detained and charged with inciting insurrection against the state. She is due back in court on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch: International groups concerned about “murderous war on drugs” in the Philippines

October 9, 2017
John Fisher, a senior official of Human Rights Watch based in Geneva, in an interview in the newsroom in Manila in October 2017. Ocampo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should expect greater international involvement and scrutiny if it continues to ignore concerns over Manila’s “murderous war on drugs,” according to an official of Human Rights Watch in Geneva.

John Fisher, the advocacy director of the human rights watchdog in Geneva, Switzerland, said that the Philippines could see investigations by United Nations-appointed probers and special rapporteurs to look into the mounting number of drug-related killings in the country if would not take sufficient steps to stop these deaths and to hold people to account.

Aside from the visits of probers from the international body, the bilateral relations of Manila with some countries could also be affected as more and more states express their concern over human rights violations in the name of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, Fisher noted.

Economic sanctions can also be imposed, but these depend on individual nations, according to Fisher, as he called on the government and Duterte to end violence and impunity in their campaign to eradicate narcotics in the country.

“If the government continues to reject and deny that there is extrajudicial death and the president continues to reinforce the calls for these kinds of killings, I think we will seen an increase of strong measures at the United Nations,” Fisher told in an interview over the weekend.

The International Criminal Court can also step in as HRW and some nations think that the spate of killings of drug suspects amounts to a crime against humanity, according to the official.

Human rights groups and workers claim that the Duterte’s war on drugs has claimed between 7,000 to 12,000 lives since its start last year.

However, the government disputes this and claims a much lower figure, noting that many of the so-called extrajudicial killings are still being investigated.

Gradually holding officials accountable

Since Manila has signaled that it will not take adequate measures to end the crisis by rejecting the practical recommendations of countries that will essentially put a stop to the killings, the Philippines should expect a “graduated increase in steps” to hold officials and people accountable, Fisher said.

Fisher stated that it’s the responsibility of the international community to ensure that the international law is “complied with” and many tools are available at its disposal.

The Philippines recently rejected 154 of the record 257 recommendations by UN member-states to help the country address the rising number of alleged extralegal killings, saying that the suggestions were “sweeping, vague and even contradictory” especially in the context of its democratic processes.

READ:  UPR: Fast facts on the UN review of Philippine human rights

Fisher said that this rejection showed that government officials were not serious in addressing the issue which has alarmed both local and international human rights groups and advocates.

“If the government were in fact sincere about investigating the deaths and holding people to account, it would not have rejected those UPR recommendations calling for exactly that,” he said.

Fisher said that most of the recommendations that the Philippines rejected were those that could make a “practical real difference” and end the drug-connected killings.

“[I]f you look at which ones the Philippines rejected, it was all of the most fundamental ones about ending violations of the right to life,” he said.

It also could not use its acceptance of 103 of the recommendations as proof that it was taking steps to uphold the human rights situation in the country, he said.

Rare international response

Fisher stated that it was “quite extraordinary” for 39 countries to respond to Manila’s rejection of more than half of the recommendations.

He said that this was a “very, very strong message” from these nations that they were not satisfied with Manila’s response to calls to address their concerns, to end violence and to hold those responsible accountable.

These nations felt that the Duterte government’s answer was inadequate, Fisher said.

Iceland, reading a statement on behalf of 38 countries, expressed concern over drug-connected killings in the country and urged the government to take steps to end and investigate these.

The 39 signatories represented an increase from the 32 nations which signed on a similar statement delivered at the Human Rights Council in June.

False sense of victory

It was also incorrect for government officials to claim “victory” UN Human Rights Council following the body’s adoption of its report, according to Fisher, saying that all reports are accepted and adoption simply means that the process has been completed.

The investigation of the Philippine National Police of drug-related deaths has also been inadequate, according to Fisher, as he noted the dismal pace and record of the probe so far.

“How many people have been held accountable or prosecuted as a result of these killings? I think that the number is about zero,” he said sardonically.

Fisher said that the Philippine government should heed the calls of concern of the international community and treat these, not as a form of denunciation, but as an invitation to the country to respect its international human rights obligations.

The government’s recent statement to UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres that the Philippine government was ready to accept a human rights probe was a welcome development, according to Fisher.

However, he noted that it remains to be seen if the Philippines will honor this pledge to the UN secretary general.

“The government is feeling the pressure, and it has to be seen to be saying the right things if not doing them. We would challenge the government to stand by its commitment to the sec gen to allow UN monitors into the country,” he said.

He added that the government should not be afraid of these investigators if it was not really involved in the killings.

Most Filipinos Believe Drug War Kills Poor People Only, Survey Shows

October 2, 2017

MANILA — Most Filipinos believe only the poor are killed in their country’s war on drugs, and want President Rodrigo Duterte to reveal the identity of alleged narcotics kingpins and charge them in court, a survey released on Monday showed.

The survey of 1,200 Filipinos by Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted late in June also showed public opinion was split over the validity of police accounts of operations against illegal drugs that resulted in deaths.

More than 3,800 people have been killed during Duterte’s 15-month-old crackdown, all during police operations.

Human rights group say the death toll is much higher and the official figures overlook murders attributed to shadowy vigilantes. Some activists say unknown gunmen have collaborated with police to kill drug dealers and users.

Police and the government vehemently reject those allegations and accuse critics of exaggerating the death toll for political gain.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

The high death toll in Duterte’s fight against crime and drugs, a key election plank, has stoked international alarm, although domestic polls have shown Filipinos are largely supportive of the tough measures.

The crackdown has come under heavy scrutiny of late, prompted largely by the police killing of a 17-year-old student on August 16. Two witnesses on Monday told a senate inquiry they saw police officers kill another teenager arrested earlier in the same area for robbery.

In both teen killings, however, police said the victims had violently resisted arrest. A third teenager arrested with the second victim was found dead with 30 stab wounds in a province about a three-hour drive away from the capital.

Duterte has several times brandished what he called a file on 6,000 alleged druglords at the center of the country’s trade. In the SWS survey, 74 percent of respondents said they wanted him to make that list public.

The survey also showed 60 percent agreed with the statement that only poor drug pushers were killed.

Duterte, who enjoys huge support among working class Filipinos, has been angered by critics who characterized his campaign as a war against the poor.

The survey also showed nearly half of respondents were undecided whether police were telling the truth when saying that drugs war deaths happened only when suspects refused to go quietly.

Twenty-eight percent said the police were lying but a quarter believed they were being honest.

The Philippines, extremely sensitive about foreign criticism of its drugs war, last week accused the West of bias, hypocrisy and interference after 39 nations, most of them European, expressed concern about the drug-related killings.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)


Thirty-nine countries alarmed by rising “climate of impunity” in the Philippines as numbers of drug-related killings rise

September 30, 2017
Thirty-nine countries, including the United States, have expressed alarm over what they described as a rising “climate of impunity” in the Philippines as drug-related killings continue to increase. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — Thirty-nine countries, including the United States, have expressed alarm over what they described as a rising “climate of impunity” in the Philippines as drug-related killings continue to increase.

In a joint statement delivered by Iceland through representative Högni Kristjánsson on Thursday, the countries noted that the human rights situation in the Philippines continues to be of serious concern, particularly in the light of killings associated with the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

The states called on the Philippines “to cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents, in keeping with the universal principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”

They also expressed concern over threats against human rights defenders and urged the government to ensure they are accorded full protection.

They also called for a safe environment for journalists and indigenous communities.

The joint statement came as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines was adopted at the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last week.

Thousands of drug-related killings have been recorded by non-government organizations since the Duterte administration took over in July last year.

According to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, some 54 minors have been killed in connection with the administration’s war on drugs during the same period.

The Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into the recent surge of police killings, including those of minors.

Aside from the US, the countries that signed the joint statement were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

The Philippines did not fully accept more than half of the recommendations it received during the 36th session of its UPR at the UNHRC.

R. Iniyan Ilango of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) said the Philippine government’s failure to fully accept and implement nearly 60 percent of the recommendations it received during its UPR is “deeply concerning,” especially given that these include most of the recommendations by over 40 states on its so-called “war on drugs.”

“A growing chorus of voices is speaking out at the United Nations’ top human rights body to condemn the thousands of killings in the Philippines perpetrated in the name of President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs,” John Fisher, Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, said.

“The Philippines has so far shown itself unwilling to heed the calls to end this murderous campaign and hold those responsible to account. The Human Rights Council should step in and do all that it can to end the violence, support an international investigation into the deaths and demand accountability for all unlawful killings,” he added.

More than 3,800 Filipinos have been killed by police in anti-drug operations since President Duterte came to office 15 months ago and launched what he promised would be a brutal and bloody crackdown on drugs and crime.

Human rights groups say the figure is significantly higher and accuse police of carrying out executions disguised as sting operations, and of colluding with hit men to assassinate drug users.

Opinion polls show Filipinos are largely supportive of the war on drugs as an antidote to crime the government says is fueled by narcotics.

The latest survey by Social Weather Stations, however, suggests that Filipinos are not convinced of the validity of official police accounts of the killings, with about half of 1,200 people polled doubtful that victims were involved in drugs, or had violently resisted arrest as police maintain. – Rhodina Villanueva


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France Wants Compromise on U.N. Yemen Inquiry as Saudi Pressure Mounts

September 28, 2017

PARIS/GENEVA — France is pushing for a compromise over a proposed resolution by the U.N. human rights body that would establish an international inquiry into atrocities in Yemen despite repeated opposition from Saudi Arabia, officials said on Thursday.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has asked for three years running that the 47 countries in the U.N. Human Rights Council set up an independent investigation into Yemen’s war, which has killed thousands of people, destroyed the economy and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

Despite his pleas, member states have twice endorsed a Saudi plan to let Yemen investigate by itself. Rights groups fear Saudi pressure is leading France, Britain and the United States to water down the latest effort, due to be voted on Friday.

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A man checks damage in a residential area one day after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen. Reuters FILE PHOTO

“We are working in particular to narrow positions on the international dimension of the investigation mechanism on the violation of human rights committed in Yemen,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters, when asked if Paris would support a Dutch-Canadian resolution calling for an international and independent investigation.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been bombing the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since the Houthis seized much of the country’s north in 2015.

The U.N. human rights office has said Saudi-led air strikes have caused most civilian casualties. Earlier this month, however, a panel set up by the coalition to investigate civilian casualties found a series of deadly air strikes were largely justified, citing the presence of armed militiamen at the homes, schools and clinics that were targeted.

Diplomats said negotiations continued on Thursday to try to strike a consensus between the Dutch-led resolution and a rival Arab group resolution. France is not a voting member but has significant sway on the Geneva-based council.

The French statement appeared to echo Britain and the United States, which want to see consensus around a single resolution.

The second resolution makes no mention of an international investigation, but requests that the U.N. dispatch a team of three experts to “carry out a comprehensive assessment into all alleged violations” and exchange information with the national commission of enquiry.

“We believe that there is room to satisfy everybody,” said a French diplomatic source, denying that Paris was seeking to weaken the text. Two diplomatic sources said the Dutch were under great pressure to back down.


In a letter seen by one of the diplomats, Saudi Arabia – the world’s biggest oil exporter – has warned some states of possible consequences should they support the Dutch-Canadian resolution.

The Saudi ambassador in Geneva declined to comment on the negotiations. Saudi Arabia, which leads an international coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen, has said the time is not right for an international inquiry.

The new French administration has drawn criticism over its stance in light of a ringing appeal by President Emmanuel Macron to defend human rights during his inaugural speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 20.

Six major international groups, including Amnesty International, have published columns in the French press over the last week calling on Macron to do more on Yemen.

“By refraining from supporting efforts to advance justice in Yemen, President Macron would betray his own pledge to uphold human rights values and place lucrative arms deals with Saudi Arabia above the shattered lives of ordinary Yemenis who have endured years of war crimes, cholera and near famine,” Louis Charbonneau, United Nations-based director at Human Rights Watch, said by phone.

“It’s not too late…to finally support an international investigation on Yemen and show Macron’s commitment to human rights is more than mere words.”

(Additional reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Thousands of Qatar World Cup workers ‘subject to life-threatening heat’ — Blockading nations critical of Qatar on human rights grounds….

September 27, 2017

The Guardian

Tuesday 26 September 2017 

Image may contain: one or more people and people standingQatar’s Supreme Committee opened Khalifa International Stadium, the first completed 2022 World Cup venue, in May 2017. Photograph: Neville Hopwood/Getty Images for Qatar 2022

Many thousands of migrant workers on construction sites in Qatar, including those building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, are being subjected to potentially life-threatening heat and humidity, according to new research on the extreme summer conditions in the Gulf. Hundreds of workers are dying every year, the campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a strong statement, but they claim that the Qatar authorities have refused to make necessary information public or adequately investigate the deaths, which could be caused by labouring in the region’s fierce climate.

HRW argues that millions of workers are in jeopardy, including those in the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – because statutory work breaks imposed during summer midday hours do not protect them sufficiently. An analysis of the weather in Doha last summer has also shown that workers on World Cup construction projects were in danger, despite the more advanced system used by the tournament organiser, Humidex, which measures safety levels of heat and humidity.

“Enforcing appropriate restrictions on outdoor work and regularly investigating and publicising information about worker deaths is essential to protect the health and lives of construction workers in Qatar,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said. “Limiting work hours to safe temperatures, not set by a clock or calendar, is well within the capacity of the Qatari government and will help protect hundreds of thousands of workers.”

In 2012, the Qatari government revealed 520 people from Bangladesh, India and Nepal – whose citizens travel in their hundreds of thousands to do construction work in the Gulf – had died. Of these, 385, or almost three-quarters, had died “from causes that the authorities neither explained nor investigated”, HRW said. Last year the Qatari government told HRW that 35 workers died, “mostly from falls, presumably at construction sites”, but this did not take into account hundreds more people who died from heart attacks and other “natural causes”, patchily reported by their countries’ embassies and unexplained by the authorities.

The “Supreme Committee” organising the 2022 World Cup, which Fifa originally voted in 2010 could be played in the summer but has since been moved to winter, is striving to enact higher welfare standards than those generally applied for the two million migrant workers in Qatar. It has disclosed that 10 workers on World Cup projects died between October 2015 and July this year, classifying eight of these, three of them men in their 20s, as “non-work related” because they resulted from cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. HRW argues that these classifications are meaningless, effectively only a statement that the person has died because their heart and breathing stopped.

HRW said in its statement that such descriptions “obscure the underlying cause of deaths and make it impossible to determine whether [the workers’ deaths] may be related to working conditions, such as heat stress.”

One World Cup construction worker who died, Jaleshwar Prasad, 48, was stated by the Supreme Committee to have suffered cardiac arrest, with the hospital reporting that “work duties were not a contributory factor”. The temperature in Qatar the day before Prasad died, 26 April 2016, peaked at 39C, HRW said.

Nicholas McGeehan, who carried out the research for HRW, accused the Qatari government and the Supreme Committee of a “wilful abdication of responsibility” for the health and safety of workers.

“Their heat protection system is inappropriate and data shows that its enforcement is seriously deficient,” McGeehan said. “That means they are putting stadium workers’ lives at risk.”

Outdoor workers generally in Qatar must not be made to work between 11.30am and 3pm from 15 June to 31 August, according to a government decree issued in 2007. HRW describes that measure, which it said is broadly reproduced by the other GCC countries, as “rudimentary” because it does not relate breaks to the actual working conditions outside those hours.

Analysis of the UK Meteorological Office climate record for Doha last year, seen by the Guardian, showed that according to the Humidex measure, it was not safe for an acclimatised person to do even moderately strenuous work outside, for 1,176 hours, including night time. The statutory government break added up to only 273 hours last summer, while the Supreme Committee, using the Humidex system, said that it imposed only an additional 150 hours of breaks to that government total.

HRW has called on the Qatari and other Gulf country authorities, including the Supreme Committee, to use a different heat stress measure, the wet bulb global temperature (WBGT), which also takes sunlight into account, to avoid “potentially fatal heat-related illnesses.”

The extreme climate in the Gulf, measured against the WBGT and the Humidex system, makes working at almost any time of day or night in July, August and the first half of September dangerous, McGeehan said.

Approximately two million immigrants do the overwhelming bulk of manual work in Qatar, where the indigenous population, the world’s wealthiest on average due to the country’s vast reserves of natural gas, numbers only around 300,000. Approximately 800,000 men from the poorer south Asian countries work on the country’s huge construction projects, including 12,000, expected to rise to 35,000, building the World Cup stadiums. During the hot months, migrant workers are frequently the only people seen spending any extended time outside the country’s air-conditioned buildings and vehicles.

The HRW statement criticises the Qatari government for failing to implement the recommendations of a 2014 report by the law firm DLA Piper, which the government itself commissioned. The report followed an international outcry over the number of workers dying in Qatar just as the massive new infrastructure programme was being commissioned.

It noted that the number of deaths in Qatar attributed to cardiac arrest was “seemingly high” and called for transparent publication and investigation, including a legal reform to permit postmortem examinations in cases of sudden deaths. That recommendation has also not been implemented and legal constraints continue. HRW argues that this has prevented inquiries being conducted into how workers are dying and adequate measures being put in place to protect their health and safety.

“We need data on deaths, new laws on heat protection and immediate investigations, otherwise the death toll will continue to rise,” McGeehan said.

The Supreme Committee sent the Guardian a detailed explanation of how its breaks system works using the Humidex measure, and of the restrictions on postmortems in Qatar, but has not yet responded to the criticisms.

A spokesman for the Qatari government said it is committed to labour reforms, and confirmed that it did make public last year deaths and injuries that were “work-related”.

“The government investigates all migrant worker deaths in Qatar and coordinates with the embassies of labour-sending countries to repatriate the deceased,” the spokesman said.