Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

China: Report of First Death in New Discipline System Censored

May 13, 2018

The secretive extra-legal shuanggui  system operated by the Party’s internal disciplinary organs attracted sustained criticism for reported abuses and lack of accountability. According to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, detainees were routinely subjected to “ and other ill-treatment including beatings, prolonged sleep deprivation, and being forced to stand or maintain uncomfortable positions for hours or even days,” leading to at least 11 known deaths since 2010. News last October of its impending abolition and replacement as part of broader supervisory reforms did little to reassure critics, however: as HRW’s Sophie Richardson commented, “putting a veneer of legality on an extra-legal detention system makes it no less abusive.”

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On Wednesday, Caixin reported the first death within the new regime of liuzhi 留置, or “retention in custody”: that of Chen Yong, the 45-year-old former driver of a Fujian official who had come under investigation for corruption. Chen’s death illustrates the expanded scope of the new system, and supports fears that liuzhi will replicate its predecessor’s abuses.

But when his family arrived last week to visit him, they were taken to a dimly lit funeral parlor, where, in a morgue refrigerator, they found him dead and “with a disfigured face,” Chen’s sister told Caixin.

[…] Chen was a driver hired by the Jianyang district government in Fujian’s Nanping city from 2006 to 2016. He was detained last month so authorities could gather information into Lin Qiang, a vice director of the district, who was suspected of corruption, according to Chen’s sister.

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[…] “I pulled his shirt up and saw a cave-in in his chest and black and blue bruises on his waist, but was stopped when I tried to check his lower body,” his sister said.

[…] When confronted by Chen’s family, the local branch of the commission admitted to certain negligence, but rejected request for access to video recorded during his interrogation, despite such requests being guaranteed by law, Chen’s sister said. [Source]

Caixin’s Chinese-language report has been removed, but remains available in Google’s cache and, thanks to Donald Clarkeat

The NGO RSDL Monitor highlighted the case in the context of similarly abuse-prone secret detentions outside the official disciplinary apparatus:

Liuzhi replaces the much feared and extremely secretive  system for CCP party members, but has expanded its reach to include all party and government workers. Theoretically, even teachers, nurses and doctors could be detained under Liuzhi. The legal framework for the system is very similar to Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), a system for secret, prolonged, incommunicado detention that has so far mostly been used on lawyers, journalists and rights defenders.

The news of this first death under liuzhi is extremely concerning. Like RSDL, the new liuzhi system will likely significantly expand cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and maltreatment. [Source]

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The group’s work includes a recent study on Chinese authorities’ use of televised confessions and a collection of RSDL accounts by former detainees.

Amnesty International’s William Nee commented:


Philippines: Human Rights Watch condemns ouster of Supreme Court Chief Justice

May 12, 2018

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday slammed the “unprecedented and nefarious” removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom President Rodrigo Duterte calls his “enemy” that must leave the Supreme Court.

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Voting 8-6 in a special en banc session, the SC on Friday ruled that Sereno, the country’s first woman chief justice, was “guilty of unlawfully holding” the top magistrate position—a move that some political watchers say undermines the independence of the judiciary.

The high tribunal only took two months to decide on Solicitor General Jose Calida’s “quo warranto” petition, which challenged the legality of Sereno’s appointment mainly on the grounds of missing wealth declarations.

In a statement, HRW said Sereno is just the latest in a growing list of institutions and individuals who have been vilified by Duterte for seeking accountability for alleged human rights violations.

“Sereno’s ouster also kicks open the door for wanton removals of members of other constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights,” HRW said.

“Ultimately, the rejection of constitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship,” it added.

Last month, Duterte vowed to do everything to remove Sereno from the SC, after the country’s top judge asked the firebrand leader to explain his repeated denial that he had no hand in any ouster moves against her even as the government’s chief legal counsel initiated the quo warranto petition.

Some say Friday’s ruling paves the way for a constitutional crisis, wherein the high court has assumed a function the fundamental law grants solely to Congress—to oust the chief justice through impeachment proceedings. The ongoing proceeding at the lower house that comes before a Senate-led trial is now invalidated.

Sereno is the first top magistrate to be ousted by her fellow justices and the second chief justice to lose the seat in the high court after her predecessor, the late Renato Corona, was impeached for failure to disclose to the public his wealth.

The camp of Sereno already said that they will appeal the ruling.

READ: Point by point: Why Supreme Court granted ouster petition vs Sereno



Israel gives HRW director two weeks to leave country

May 9, 2018

Israel has given a Human Rights Watch director two weeks to leave the country, accusing him of promoting a boycott, in a move the rights group said sought to muzzle criticism.

© AFP/File | Israel accused Human Rights Watch’s local director of supporting the campaign to boycott the country

The interior ministry said Tuesday it had terminated the residency permit of HRW’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, over accusations that he supported a boycott of Israel.

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Omar Shakir

“Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, containing information that Shakir has been a BDS activist for years supporting the boycott of Israel in an active way, the ministry has decided to terminate (his) residence permit,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

Israeli officials have clamped down on groups seen as supporting the global campaign for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), which aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

HRW has written several critical reports about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s government, seen as the most right-wing in the country’s history, has been accused of putting pressure on both international and local rights organisations.

Shakir, who received permission to work in Israel in April 2017, months after being barred from the country, now has 14 days to leave, the New York-based rights group said.

“This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel’s rights record,” HRW said in a statement.

“Neither Human Rights Watch nor its representative, Shakir, promotes boycotts of Israel.”

Pakistan’s genocide zones: Where rule of law fears to go the Taliban from Afghanistan finds safe havens

May 5, 2018

Pakistan’s genocide zones: where minorities are subject to “ethnic cleansing” and extrajudicial killings — Where rule of law fears to go…. The Taliban is happy to find safe havens.

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By Irfan Husain
Dawn (Pakistan)

I RECENTLY received an email from a reader that made me ashamed for not having written earlier about the Hazara ethnic/sectarian cleansing taking place in Balochistan.

The young Hazara woman writes: “… in Quetta we are imprisoned to a few kilometres … we can’t go out of this confined area… I am writing to you because I want you to support us, write about us, stand by us, stand against Shia killing and the genocide of Hazaras….”

Reinforcing her perception, Human Rights Watch reported a few years ago: “There is no travel route, no shopping trip, no school, or no work commute that is safe for the Hazaras.” According to this organisation, at least 509 Hazaras have been killed in this campaign that began nearly two decades ago. Hazaras put this figure closer to 3,000.

The recent hunger strike in Quetta by Hazara women emphasised the daily horrors the community faces.

Out of the reported 900,000 or so Hazara citizens who live mostly in Balochistan, around 70,000 are said to have fled, mainly to Australia, where there are reports that hundreds may have drowned during this perilous sea journey. Those who haven’t been able to make the attempt are confined to two ghettoes in Quetta guarded by police and military check posts. But once they leave to shop or work, their lives are at risk.

The recent hunger strike in Quetta by Hazara women emphasised the daily horrors the community faces. And the fact that they called off their protest after meeting the army chief, Gen Bajwa, rather than accepting the promises of security made personally by Ahsan Iqbal, the interior minister, is an open indictment of the failure of successive governments to protect them.

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Gen Bajwa

The Hazaras have not been protesting for better living conditions, or schools, or jobs: all they are demanding is the basic human right to live. This right is enshrined in our Constitution, international law and in all religions. And yet, a spokesman for the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, while accepting responsibility for most of the Hazara killings a few years ago, added that his group was exacting vengeance for the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American commandos.

In fact, some suggest that the slaughter of Pakistani Hazaras began in earnest after 9/11 when the Afghan Taliban found safe haven in Quetta. Part of their baggage was apparently the desire to continue the genocide in Afghanistan where they had killed thousands of Hazaras for supposedly siding with the Northern Alliance.

Pakistani groups like the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan who had fought with the Taliban turned their guns on the Hazaras. Malik Ishaq, a founding member of the former group who is alleged to have masterminded the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009 from behind bars, was released on bail by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Unsurprisingly, elders of the Hazara community had expressed their apprehension at his release. Around the same time, several prominent Shia-hating extremists broke out of Mastung jail, possibly with inside help.

So when the Supreme Court chief justice conducts his suo motu hearings of the Hazara persecution in Quetta next week, I hope he will keep their fears of such collusion in mind. One possible nexus he might want to explore is the one mentioned by Jalila Haider, a Hazara lawyer and human rights activist, in a recent TV interview. According to her, Hazaras were being forced by the killings to sell their properties at throwaway prices to avoid the killers who were targeting them at their shops. Could they be acting in conjunction with some of the land mafias that thrive across the country?

The other thing to ask is how come Balochistan, the most heavily militarised province in the country, is so deadly not just for Hazaras, but for Baloch nationalists and non-Baloch workers as well. After all, if the many intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces operating there have managed to largely contain the separatist rebellion, why can’t they smash groups like the Laskhar-i-Jhangvi and the Sipah-i-Sahaba?

More than the Panamagate scandal, I blame Nawaz Sharif and his henchmen for their abject failure to implement the National Action Plan to end religious extremism in the country. Had they been even half-serious in taking the tough measures involved in cracking down on hate speech in our television chat shows, classrooms and mosques, we might have a chance to end the massacres the Hazaras are being subjected to.

Instead, we are stuck in our normal cycle of killings of minorities, crocodile tears from politicians and the media, and then business as usual.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2018

“Attack On Democracy” — Gunmen Attack Liby’s Election Commission

May 2, 2018

A deadly attack hit Libya’s electoral commission in the capital Tripoli on Wednesday, a senior security official in the city told AFP.

“We have some martyrs and people injured,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses said shots were heard and black smoke could be seen rising from the headquarters of the national election commission.

© AFP | Map locating Tripoli in Libya, where an attack took place on the country’s electoral commission

Libya’s health ministry published a “provisional toll” of three seriously wounded.

The electoral commission is considered to be one of the few credible and independent institutions in the country, which has been marred by violence since the 2011 ousting of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Elections were banned during Kadhafi’s 42-rule and after his ousting legislative polls were organised in 2012 and 2014.

But chaos has continued in Libya with rival militias, tribes and jihadists vying for power.

A 2015 UN-backed deal to set up the unity Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli failed to end the turmoil, as divisions continue with a rival administration in the east.

UN special envoy Ghassan Salame said in February he hoped for parliamentary and presidential elections in Libya by the end of 2018, but warned conditions were not yet ready for polling.

Human Rights Watch warned in March the country was far from ready in political, judicial or security terms for elections, citing harassment of activists and journalists as among the problems to be overcome.

A new constitution has to be put to a referendum and an electoral law adopted before polling.

As of March, 2.4 million Libyan voters had been registered of a population of six million.

Turkey: Cumhuriyet journalists appear in court, sentenced to jail on terror charges — “Justice did not take place. Journalism and peoples’ right to get news were sentenced.” — “It’s a shocking disgrace that with no evidence.”

April 26, 2018

Turkey again under fire for deteriorating press freedom

International rights groups criticized the case as emblematic of deteriorating press freedom in Turkey. Cumhuriyet is one of the newspapers critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

People gather outside the Cumhuriyet trial near Istanbul (Getty Images/AFP/Y. Akgul)

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced 14 staff members of the country’s main opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, to prison on charges of supporting terrorist groups.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, had sharply criticized the case amid broader fears about a crackdown on press freedom in Turkey.

Read more: European Rights Court condemns Turkey over journalist jailings

The verdict:

  • Prosecutors charged a total 17 Cumhuriyet employees with supporting groups the government has labeled terrorist organizations.Three defendants were acquitted.
  • The groups allegedly supported included the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and the Gulen movement, which the government accused of masterminding a failed coup in 2016.
  • The paper’s chairman, Akin Atalay, was sentenced to 8 years, one month and 15 days in prison, but would be set free pending an appeal. Atalay was the only defendant who was still in prison at the time of the verdict.
  • Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu and prominent investigative journalist Ahmet Sik were both sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison.
  • The remaining 11 convicted defendants received prison sentences of varying lengths.
  • The case against the former-editor-in-chief Can Dundar, who is living in exile in Germany, would continue separately.

Read more: Turkish police break up press freedom rally after ‘Cumhuriyet’ arrests

What were the reactions?

Sabuncu told DW after the trial: “These [sentences] will not hold us back from doing the profession with courage … this is Turkey’s and Turkish justice’s shame. I hope that this decision will be overturned by the high court. I call on everyone living in Turkey to be courageous.”

Caroline Stockford, the Turkey Advocacy Coordinator at International Press Institute (IPI), told DW: “It’s a shocking disgrace that with no evidence and many breaches of protocol in the courtroom that such decisions can be reached. They are absolutely baseless and ridiculous.”

Opposition lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) told DW: “Justice did not take place. Journalism and peoples’ right to get news were sentenced.”

Read more: Press freedom index: Turkey remains world’s worst jailer of journalists

What is CumhuriyetThe daily newspaper, whose name translates to “Republic,” is one of the most prominent media outlets critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is also the country’s oldest daily newspaper — it was founded in 1924, one year after the creation of the modern Turkish state.

Free press under threat: The Turkish government under Erdogan has governed the country under an emergency law passed after the failed 2016 coup. Authorities have used the decree to arrest opposition journalists and shut down several media organizations.

Read more: ‘State of emergency being used to silence dissident voices’

amp/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Iran’s foreign minister Zarif — Cherubic face of Iran’s foreign policy — Addresses New York foreign policy crowd — Macron suggests “New Deal” for Iran

April 25, 2018

Iran’s foreign minister excuses his country’s human rights abuses, says Trump should not back out of nuclear deal.

 APRIL 24, 2018 23:11


 Syrian conflict 101: A 2018 guide to the main factions

 Iran FM: No desire for regional war, Netanyahu: I put my faith in the IDF

Zarif condemns U.S. intervention in Syria, calls for ‘dialogue’

Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Zarif at the U.N.. (photo credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS)

Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif called on Monday for peace in Syria and Yemen and claimed Hezbollah was merely defending itself by intervening in Syria.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York while on a six-day trip to the US, Zarif sought to project Iran’s image as a responsible regional power. He said the region should applaud Hezbollah’s actions and condemned US intervention, blaming it for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which he said resulted in the death of a bride in a recent airstrike.

Zarif has been the cherubic face of Iran’s foreign policy since 2013 and blends a cheerful demeanor with militarist positions. He boasted in October 2017 of his support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and posed with Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani who has threatened to “uproot the child-killing Zionist regime.”

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Qassem Soleimani

Stephen Hadley, who was national security adviser under former president George W. Bush, introduced Zarif at the CFR, where the Iranian Foreign Minister spoke and took questions for an hour. Zarif’s speech came as French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington meeting with US President Donald Trump.

“President Macron is correct in saying there’s no ‘plan B’ on JCPOA,” Zarif tweeted. “It’s either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith.”

Zarif’s speech focused on the history of the Islamic regime and its worldview of victimhood, stressing that Iran seeks “regional dialogue” and merely wants to address “disparities” in the region. He focused on the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, claiming that Iran opposes intervention in the affairs of other countries and seeks to work within international principles. He asserted that the region had been driven into war by extremism and by states that seek to dominate one another. Iran, he said, was now “ready” to work on compromises.

“We need to have a strong region, not to be the strongest in the region… time to break with [past conflicts], we are big enough, old enough, mature enough to appreciate this reality.

I hope that our neighbors can appreciate it,” he said.

HADLEY ASKED Zarif about human rights abuses in Iran and Zarif responded by criticizing the US legal and prison systems. The Iranian foreign minister claimed that women jailed for not covering their hair were merely being judged by a legal system based on “Shi’ite, Islamic jurisprudence” and claimed “every society has a dress code.” He suggested that arresting women in Iran for having their hair uncovered was similar to Canada arresting people for walking naked in the street and “indecent exposure.”

The audience chuckled.

“In Iran, for a man to go in the street without a T-shirt on is indecent exposure, just as it is to go into a McDonald’s without a shirt.” He boasted that Iran has minorities, including Zoroastrians, Christians and the “largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel,” adding that Jews receive “privileges” in Iran. Zarif also sought to portray Iran as doing a better job on democracy and human rights than US-ally Saudi Arabia.

Zarif defended Hezbollah’s intervention in Iran’s civil war while condemning Saudi Arabia for its intervention in Yemen. He also said Iran supports on-site investigations in Syria for chemical weapons.

A still image taken from Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport  REUTERS TV/REUTERS

“Now we are happy they are conducting an on-site investigation of Douma, and when the report is out we will see what are the facts.”

Then he turned to Iran’s history, claiming Iran was the real victim of chemical weapons when Iraq had used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. “Having been a victim of chemical weapons, usually the culprit uses chemical weapons in desperation,” he asserted, casting doubt on why Damascus would use chemical weapons when “advancing.”

The speech at CFR was Zarif’s second appearance at the important forum in a year.

He last spoke to the council in July of 2017. However, this year is more important for Tehran because it is trying to get European Union countries on its side in discussions of the Iran nuclear deal and now feels confident of victory in Syria.

Online, Zarif was mocked for his appearance, with one tweet showing him in a hijab and accusing him of running a “theocratic dictatorship.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Division, also criticized Zarif, tweeting that he deflected questions on Assad’s human rights abuses, protests in Iran and forced head coverings for women.


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Trump-Macron Friendship Can’t Mask Stark Differences On Iran, Syria

France Wants a New Deal For Iran

“We therefore wish from now on to work on a new deal with Iran,” Macron said. “I would like us to commit to that effect in the weeks and months to come.”

 APRIL 24, 2018 21:12



 Macron to tell Trump there is no ‘plan B’ to replace Iran deal

 Trump warns Iran against restarting nuclear program

The French proposal would keep the existing nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in place. That agreement reached in 2015 between Iran and world powers was designed to address Tehran’s short-term nuclear work, Macron stated.

“We have nuclear in the short-run, and we have nuclear in the long run” to deal with, he continued. “We have ballistic activity. We have regional activity by Iran.

“The JCPOA is the first pillar we just described,” he said.

“What we have to work on, obviously, with Iran and the different parties in the region, the P5 and our allies, is to find a fair deal where we can fix the overall situation.”

Macron’s initiative would appear to save the nuclear deal in its current form past a May 12 deadline set by Trump for European powers to negotiate “fixes” to the accord.

French, British and German diplomats have been working with their US counterparts to accommodate the president’s deadline.

Speaking alongside Trump at the White House, Macron said the two leaders initially approached the agreement from different perspectives.

“Neither you nor I have a habit of changing our stances,” he quipped. But they are beginning to “overcome” their disagreements “by deciding to work toward an overall deal.”

An hour-long, one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office earlier in the day seemed to mark a breakthrough in dialogue between the two men, who have built a strong personal relationship since Macron assumed office less than one year ago.

“We therefore wish from now on to work on a new deal with Iran,” Macron said. “I would like us to commit to that effect in the weeks and months to come.”

Macron, who is in Washington as the guest of the first state visit of Trump’s presidency, traveled with Iran top on his mind, and entered their joint press conference sounding optimistic that the US president would go along with the plan.

“You know, in life you have to be flexible,” Trump said, stating he would be open to “a new deal with solid foundations,” but not explaining whether such a deal would be negotiated in or outside of JCPOA.

“This is a deal with decayed foundations,” he said, declining to say what he would do on May 12, but joking that Macron already knew.

Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders joined Trump in their meetings.

Earlier in the day, Trump said before the press that the two men were “fairly close to understanding each other.”

The leaders had dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate on Monday night, and were to enjoy a formal dinner with more than 100 guests in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday night.

“WE’RE LOOKING forward to doing something, but it has to be done and it has to be done strongly,” Trump said.

“They’ve [the Iranians] very much been butchers, and we can’t allow that to happen.”

The president also responded to threats from Tehran that it would restart its nuclear program and abandon the UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty should the US scrap the accord next month.

“It won’t be so easy for them to restart it. They’re not going to be restarting anything. If they restart it, they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they ever had before. And you can mark it down,” he told reporters in the Oval Office, later repeating the threat: “They will pay a price like few countries have ever paid.”

The Iran deal was negotiated by the US, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and Iran to provide sanctions relief to the Iranians in exchange for them halting their enrichment of uranium.

They partially dismantled the program, but retain an enrichment capacity and can increase its size and efficiency over time under the JCPOA’s terms.

The agreement also does not address Iran’s ballistic missiles, which are designed to be vehicles for nuclear warheads, as well as its regional behavior, which the US, Israel and the Arab world fear have been emboldened by the legitimacy and finances the nuclear deal bestowed.

Macron said he was prepared to acknowledge the deal does not address many of Trump’s concerns– “France is not naive when it comes to Iran,” he said– but proposed “combining” views on the deal that up until this point had been seen as in conflict.

“I believe we can both combine our common views and our differences, because we are not in a vacuum,” he said. “I always said we should not tear apart the JCPOA and have nothing else… that would not be the good solution.  But once we are placing ourselves in a momentum, the purpose of which is to put together a broad agreement covering the four topics I just mentioned, it’s very different because, first of all, we take on board the concerns and the criticism of President Trump regarding this deal.”

“It’s not about tearing up an agreement and having nothing,” he added, “but about building something new.”

Ending the civil war in Syria that began in March 2011 should be a part of this broader deal, Macron said. And indeed, Trump seemed open to this idea, which Macron has convinced him might require a continued US presence there.

“We want to leave a strong and lasting footprint ” in Syria, Trump said, while noting he would still love to withdraw completely. “We don’t want to give Iran open season to the Mediterranean.”

Trump continued to rip into the nuclear accord as one of the worst agreements ever negotiated on behalf of the United States, insisting that Iran’s nuclear work is inextricably tied to its regional designs.

“That regime must end its support of terrorism,” he said. “All over, no matter where you go in the Middle East, you see the fingerprints of Iran behind problems.”


U.S. Chief Complaints With The Philippines Remain: Extrajudicial Killings, Impunity, Rule of Law, Human Rights Abuses

April 21, 2018
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Photo: Journalists and photograpphers have documented thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during the Duterte administration. AP/Bullit Marquez, File photo
State Department report: EJKs still ‘chief’ human rights concern in Philippines

Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – April 21, 2018 – 11:21am

MANILA, Philippines — The alleged cases of summary execution in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war remains a major human rights concern in the Philippines, amid rising impunity following a dramatic surge in police killings, the US State Department said in its global rights report for 2017.

“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017,” read the report released Friday (Washington time).

Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure and rejection of criticisms on his rights record, easily won the race to Malacañang on a brutal law and order platform.

Human rights monitors say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotic drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops taking a frontline role in the lethal campaign and unknown assailants.

But the force had vehemently denied executing suspected drug traffickers in cold blood, saying deaths in police shootings were done in self-defense.

Amid the mounting death toll, critics say Duterte is waging a “war on poor,” making him liable for crimes against humanity for giving cops the “license to kill.”

Citing the 900 drug-related deaths reported by media from January to September last year, the State Department said concerns about police impunity “increased significantly.”

The US government also expressed doubt over the accuracy and legitimacy of Duterte’s list of alleged drug personalities.

“Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings,” the report read in part.

“Some civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings,” it added.

Aside from the drug war, the report likewise flagged other “most significant” human rights issues in the country, including life threatening prison conditions, warrantless arrests, the state’s “disregard” for due process, violence against the free press and rights activists, and forced labor, among others.


The report’s release comes at a time of improving Manila-Washington ties, as US President Donald Trump cozies up to Duterte, whom the American leader said was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

In a departure from previous policy of past American leaders to call out human rights violators, Trump had also reportedly said that “Filipinos don’t have drug problem [because] they just kill them.”

Asked how the State Department report is consistent with the human rights policies of Trump—who has been criticized for his apparent affinity for leaders accused of being authoritarian like Duterte—senior State Department official Michael Kozak maintained that the report is “factual.”

“Now, does that mean that the President should never speak to these people? We’re trying to keep the report as the factual baseline for what we’re going to do in policy terms or sanctions as the secretary was mentioning. So we can learn a lot from this, and we can use it to formulate a policy,” Kozak, who helped oversee the report, said in a press conference.

“But usually part of your policy is engaging with the people whose behavior you’re trying to change at some level. And I don’t think those two things are in distinction,” he added.

“The fact is, these other governments and their populations do read the report… And when the President speaks to their leader, often he’s talking about these issues, so it’s – it’s complementary, it’s not a – two things that are in conflict.”




 (Includes FT Op-Ed)


Duterte’s drugs war lieutenants get key posts in Philippine police reshuffle

April 19, 2018

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds a Galil sniper rifle next to outgoing Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Bato Dela Rosa during the National Police chief handover ceremony in Camp Crame, Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines, April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi TawataoREUTERS


MANILA (Reuters) – Police at the helm of the Philippine war on drugs were given top posts in the national force on Thursday, indicating no let-up in a brutal crackdown that has caused international alarm, and defined Rodrigo Duterte’s 21-month presidency.

The job of national police chief was given to Oscar Albayalde, a strict disciplinarian who has been in charge of Metro Manila, where the vast majority of the thousands of drugs war killings have occurred.

He was succeeded as commander of the capital police by Camilo Cascolan, the architect of the controversial operational plan of the anti-drug campaign, “Double Barrel”.

About 4,100 people have been killed by police in the Philippines since July 2016 in what the authorities said were shootouts during anti-narcotics operations. At least 2,300 drug-related deaths have occurred separately, at the hands of what police say are unknown assassins.

Human rights groups believe the death toll has been understated, and accuse the authorities of executing suspects and staging crime scenes. Police deny that and say their more than 130,000 arrests prove their intent to preserve life.

Cascolan is the latest officer promoted to a top command post having served in the Davao region during the 22 years Duterte was a mayor there. The outgoing police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, also served in Davao.

Cascolan’s position as head of operations will go to Mao Aplasca, also from the Davao region.

Albayalde vowed no relent in the campaign and to ensure continuity of its “remarkable accomplishments”, including arresting or convincing tens of thousands of people to surrender, and the “neutralizing” of drug suspects.

“We will not relent on our war against illegal drugs and other forms of criminality. The drug menace, we must all understand, is a worldwide phenomenon,” Albayalde said in a speech.

“We will help and support each other to fight and win this war.”

The outgoing police chief, Dela Rosa, will head the bureau of corrections.

He is leaving behind a police force with “a sordid human rights record”, according to Carlos Conde, a researcher for the New York based Human Rights Watch.

In his departure speech, Dela Rosa lauded Duterte’s for his courage to order an all-out war on drugs, and pledged his “unquestionable loyalty” to him.

“It was an order I certainly could not refuse. I shared the same sentiments as the president and would not let pass the opportunity to do my share,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown — Vietnamese wonder if Facebook is helping the government to harass, detain, prosecute and imprison

April 12, 2018


HANOI (Reuters) – Courts in Vietnam handed prison sentences to two activists on Thursday, as the communist-ruled government widens its crackdown on dissent.

A court in Nghe An province sentenced 32-year-old Nguyen Viet Dung to seven years in prison for posting “anti-state propaganda” on his Facebook account, police said after a trial that lasted a few hours.

Despite sweeping economic and social reforms in Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. It has been stepping up sentencing and arrests of activists and handing them longer jail terms.

Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown

Activist Nguyen Van Tuc, center, stands trial in Thai Binh, Vietnam, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Nguyen Van Tuc is accused of the same charges as Nguyen Viet Dung (The Duyen/ Vietnam News Agency via AP)

Dung was charged with posting information on his Facebook account last year that distorted the policies of the party and the state and defamed state leaders, the police said, citing the indictment.

Dung, who was jailed for a year in 2015 for causing public disorder, will also face five years of house arrest after serving his latest prison term, police said.

“These trumped up charges, used to attack peaceful activists like Nguyen Viet Dung and many other dissidents before him, show just how easy it is for the government to harass, detain, prosecute and imprison any person,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.


He said Vietnam should heed calls from the United Nations and foreign diplomats demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Dung.

Separately, a court in the nearby province of Ha Tinh on Thursday jailed Tran Thi Xuan for nine years after she was convicted of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration”, police in the province said.

Police said Xuan was a member of a group called the Brotherhood for Democracy, whose other members were jailed at other trials this month.

Lawyers for Dung and Xuan could not be reached for comment on Thursday.


Their trials followed heavy sentences for at least seven other activists convicted of attempting to overthrow the people’s administration.

This month, a Hanoi court sentenced human rights lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai to 15 years in prison on the grounds that he “aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”.

Five other activists affiliated with Brotherhood Democracy were jailed for seven to 12 years.

On Tuesday, a court in the northern province of Thai Binh handed a 13-year prison sentence to another activist, Nguyen Van Tuc, accused of the same charges.

Vietnamese human rights activists and independent media groups wrote this week to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc’s chief executive, questioning whether the social media platform was helping suppress dissent in Vietnam.

The letter, released on Tuesday by U.S.-based human rights group Viet Tan and signed by nearly 50 other groups, said Facebook’s system of automatically pulling content if enough people complained could “silence human rights activists and citizen journalists in Vietnam”.

Facebook said its community standard in Vietnam was in line with that elsewhere.

“There are also times when we may have to remove or restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our community standards,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Darren Schuettler