Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Bachelet’

Canada should break silence on Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs

September 14, 2018
It will come as news to nobody that the Communist regime in Beijing lies through its teeth about the state of human rights in China, but nothing comes close to the lies Beijing tells to cover up its mounting persecution of Muslims. Those lies have been getting harder to tell, ever since Xi Jinping’s police state embarked upon measures so extreme and tyrannical that it’s become harder for the regime to keep the truth from getting to the outside world.
Commentary
By TERRY GLAVIN
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An in-depth Human Rights Watch investigation published on Monday found that in the far western expanses of Xinjiang, a region nearly as big as Canada’s prairie provinces, “the government’s religious restrictions are so stringent that it has effectively outlawed Islam.” Last month, the head of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told a UN human rights panel in Geneva that Xinjiang’s Uighur autonomous region has been turned into “a massive internment camp.”

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs , perhaps a million people in all, have been detained for weeks and sometimes months at a time in a network of indoctrination camps. At first, the Chinese government denied that the camps even existed. But as evidence has mounted – eyewitness accounts, the Chinese government’s own documents, satellite photographs, construction blueprints – the party line has changed.

Chinese officials are now describing the camps as “vocational education facilities,” training centres and residential schools where petty criminals are housed while undergoing“rehabilitation and reintegration.” Former inmates who have managed to escape China describe the camps as hellholes of torture and forced labour. Internees are required to learn Mandarin, sing patriotic songs, memorize government propaganda and recite florid loyalty oaths.

Xinjiang’s Uighurs, Tajiks and Kazakhs have tended to see themselves as peoples apart from the Han Chinese cultural hegemony that the Communist regime has imposed in the region in recent years. Separatist sentiment has waxed and waned, and radical Islam has occasionally found a place for itself in the region. The Communist Party line is that extraordinary measures have been necessary to eradicate “ideological diseases” in the region, particularly among the 10 million Uihgurs. Devout Muslims are classified as mentally ill.

In Xinjiang’s towns and cities, population movements are closely controlled. Surveillance is ubiquitous. The Communist administration is employing biometric data, experimental voice-recognition and facial-recognition technology, house arrest, DNA data banks and digital tracking to closely monitor and control the public. Cameras are everywhere. Travel is severely restricted. Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of special police have been deployed to newly-built stations and temporary checkpoints.

As grim as all this is, the gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang are at least beginning to emerge as subjects of closer global scrutiny. On Monday, in an unusual move, Michelle Bachelet, in her first speech as the UN’s new High Commissioner for Human Rights, singled out Beijing’s mistreatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs for special notice. The former Chilean president specifically referred to “deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang”.

Bachelet called on Beijing to reverse its closed-door policy and allow the UN Human Rights office complete access to Xinjiang and all other regions of China. That would be a good start.

In Washington, meanwhile, a bipartisan initiative in Congress has begun to push the Trump White House to “swiftly act” and trigger the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction Chinese government officials and entities directly complicit in the Xinjiang abuses. On Monday, the Australian opposition Labour Party followed suit, calling on Canberra to draw up a similar list for sanctions. A petition drawn up by a group of Australian imams asking parliament to start ramping up pressure on Beijing managed to gather 10,000 signatures.

Canada, predictably, has been quiet, even though Ottawa could have been out in front inholding Beijing to account for its cruelties in Xinjiang. It’s been 12 years since the Canadian Uighur Huseyin Celil, who fled China as a refugee in 2001, was arrested while visiting family in Uzbekistan. Celil was extradited to China and chucked into prison, and in 2012 Celil was given a life sentence without a proper trial on trumped up terror charges. Celil’s sentence was later reduced after being subjected to a “re-education” program.

Canada could make some use of itself taking the lead in backing UN human rights investigators’ efforts to gain access to Xinjiang, and and Ottawa’s own Magnitsky law would serve perfectly well in a collaboration with Australia and the United States to sanction the tormentors of Xinjiang’s Uighurs.

Canada has neither reason nor excuse not to do so.

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https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/glavin-canada-should-break-silence-on-beijings-treatment-of-uighurs
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Italy calls U.N. rights chief’s remarks on migrants unfounded, unjust

September 11, 2018

Italy on Tuesday rejected remarks by U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet about its treatment of migrants, calling them “inappropriate, unfounded, unjust”.

The foreign ministry, in a long and sharply worded statement, was responding to a speech in which Bachelet, the former president of Chile, accused the populist government of “political posturing” by denying entry to NGO rescue ships.

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Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Human Rights Council 39th regular session on 10 September 2018. U.N. photo

In her first address in her new position in Geneva, Bachelet also announced a U.N. team was being sent to Italy to assess “the reported sharp increase in acts of violence and racism against migrants, persons of African descent and Roma”.

The foreign ministry statement rejected what it called the “presumed negligence by Italy in the area of human rights of migrants” and said it had for years borne much of the responsibility for saving thousands of lives in the Mediterranean.

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Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Interior Minister has become the “bad boy” of human rights groups

The ministry statement followed sharp criticism of Bachelet on Monday night by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League party.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet, Larry King

Reuters

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© AFP | Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has marked the first 100 days of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government
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IGC Ubaldo Diciott — Migrant rescue ship

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Migrants disembarking from the IGC Ubaldo Diciott

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UN urges Egypt to reverse ‘unfair trial’ death sentences

September 9, 2018

 

An Egyptian court’s confirmation of 75 death sentences was not based on a fair trial and should be reversed to avoid an “irreversible miscarriage of justice”, the UN said Sunday.

New United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “extremely concerned” at the decision handed down by the Cairo Criminal Court Saturday in one of the largest mass trials since the 2011 uprising.

“The evident disregard of basic rights of the accused places the guilt of all those convicted in serious doubt,” she warned in a statement.

© AFP | Mahmoud Abu Zeid mimics taking a photograph during his trial at the Cairo Criminal Court on September 8

Bachelet, who took the reins of the UN rights office less than a week ago, urged Egypt’s appeals court to “review this verdict and ensure that international standards of justice are respected by setting it aside.”

The 75 people who initially received their death sentences in July were among 739 defendants on trial in the same case — most of them facing charges of killing police and vandalising property during clashes in 2013 between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

“The 739 people were tried en masse, and were not permitted individual legal representation before the court,” Bachelet noted out in a statement.

“In addition, the accused were not given the right to present evidence in their defence, and the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to prove individual guilt,” she said.

In light of the obvious unfairness of the trial, she warned that “the 75 death sentences affirmed yesterday, if implemented, would represent a gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice.”

In addition to the death sentences, 47 people were sentenced to life behind bars, while the remainder were handed prison terms of varying length.

They included award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who was sentenced to five years behind bars.

On August 14, 2013, one of the bloodiest days in Egypt’s modern history, a month after the army ousted Morsi, police moved to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo.

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FILE – Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood run away from tear gas during clashes with Egyptian riot police close to Rabaa al-Adawiya square, Nov. 22, 2013.

The military crackdown “is alleged to have led to the killing of up to 900 mostly unarmed protesters by members of the Egyptian security forces,” the United Nations said.

Despite the large death toll, the United Nations noted that no state security personnel have ever been charged in relation to the so-called Rabaa massacre.

Bachelet pointed to the stark contrast between the many mass trials since then and a law passed in July effectively bestowing complete impunity on security personnel for offenses committed in the period after the overthrow of Morsi’s government on July 3, 2013.

“Justice must apply to all, no one should be immune,” she insisted.

“Attempts to bestow immunity from prosecution for crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces merely promotes impunity,” she warned.

AFP

Pinera poised for presidential comeback in Chile

November 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Paulina ABRAMOVICH | Chile’s Sebastian Pinera delivers a speech ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, in which he is expected to garner the most votes — but perhaps not enough to win without a run-off

SANTIAGO (AFP) – Sebastian Pinera, one of Chile’s richest men, looks likely to prevail in the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, confirming his frontrunner status to succeed Socialist leader Michelle Bachelet.If the 67-year-old billionaire does ultimately become head of state, it would be his second chance to run Latin America’s fifth-biggest economy — confirming a tag team for power that he and Bachelet, 66, have been performing for the past decade.

Chile’s constitution does not permit consecutive terms for its president. But re-election after a skipped term is permissible, and that quite possibly is what is in store after this weekend, thus swinging the pendulum of Chile’s national politics from left back to right again.

Voter intention surveys credit the Harvard-educated Pinera, who was president from 2010-2014, with a comfortable lead in the race — but not enough to win the presidency outright on Sunday.

“It’s not very likely” he will get the 50 percent or more of ballots needed to avoid a run-off, said political analyst Mauricio Morales of Talca University.

In that case, a second-round showdown would be held between the top two candidates on December 17. The winner takes over in March next year.

– Voter apathy –

Apart from Pinera, Sunday’s field counts seven candidates.

His closest rival is Alejandro Guillier, a former state TV anchor turned senator who presents himself as an independent but who has the backing of Bachelet’s Socialists.

Guillier is credited with 25 percent of voter support, against 44 percent for Pinera.

With the outcome weighted heavily in Pinera’s favor, voter apathy could be an issue.

Compulsory voting was dropped in 2012, and since then a growing proportion of the 14-million-strong electorate has decided to stay away from polling stations.

“People don’t want to vote because, really, nobody believes there will be any significant change anywhere. Also, they see who will be president as a foregone conclusion,” said Catalina Gascone, a 19-year-old student.

Analysts predict abstention could be as high as 40 percent on Sunday, and that Pinera has more motivated voters who will turn out.

Chileans living abroad have already begun casting their ballots, beginning with those living in New Zealand. Some 40,000 registered to take part in the election.

– No majority? –

Pinera’s first presidential victory in 2009 elections signified a break from the center-left politics that had reigned in Chile since democracy was restored with the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1990.

But a comeback by him was not seen as a rejection of the overall economic and social model erected in the Bachelet years, during which Chile posted 1.8 percent in annual growth and saw tax and labor reforms, an introduction of free education, and the right to abortion.

“Chileans don’t want to tear down the model, just fix its structure,” Morales said.

Pinera has promised modifications to Bachelet’s reforms, as well as vowing to have Chile join the club of developed nations within the next eight years.

His effectiveness, though, could be hobbled by a shortfall in legislative support.

“He is not going to have a majority in Congress,” another analyst, Marta Lagos, founder of Latinobarometro and MORI Chile, predicted.

Sunday’s balloting also includes legislative elections for many of the congressional seats. Electoral forecasts suggest the right will increase its representation, but likely will not have the majority in either chamber.

by Paulina ABRAMOVICH

Palau Makes Most Of Its Coastal Waters a Marine Sanctuary

October 22, 2015

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Palau Dive picture looking through the fish in Palau, Jim Caldwell Redondo Beach

By ELAINE KURTENBACH
Oct. 22, 2015
The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Lawmakers in the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau passed a law Thursday to make almost all its coastal waters a marine sanctuary in the latest move to expand ocean protections.

A news release said Palau’s president plans to sign the legislation next week. Friday is a national holiday in Palau.

The Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act designates 80 percent of the nation’s maritime territory as a fully protected marine reserve in which no extractive activities, such as fishing or mining, can take place.

At 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), or slightly larger than the U.S. state of California, the sanctuary will be the sixth-largest fully protected marine area in the world.

The measure also seeks to prevent illegal fishing by tightening rules for vessels passing through Palau’s waters.

About 20 percent of Palau’s waters will be reserved as a domestic fishing zone for local fishermen and small-scale commercial fisheries with limited exports. There will be a five-year transition as the number of commercial licenses issued to foreign commercial fishing vessels will be reduced and phased out.

A shark in Palau. There are more than 13,00 species of fish and 700 species of coral around Palau’s hundreds of tiny islands. Photograph: Richard W. Brooks/AFP/Getty Images

President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. described the measure as essential.

“We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations,” he said in a statement.

The country created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, but until recently had only one patrol boat to help protect its great hammerheads, leopard sharks and more than 130 other species of shark and rays from extinction.

Earlier this year, the government set fire to several vessels caught fishing illegally to underscore its commitment to protecting its seas.

Palau, about 600 miles (970 kilometers) miles east of the Philippines, is one of the world’s smallest countries, its 20,000 people scattered across a tropical archipelago of 250 islands that is a biodiversity hotspot.

The Pew Charitable Trusts provided technical support for establishing the shark sanctuary and the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.

A spotted black grouper in the waters of the Kermadec Islands off of New Zealand’s northeast coast. Photograph by MALCOLM FRANCIS, AFP, Getty Images

New commitments made this year would protect more than 2.5 million square kilometers of the world’s ocean territory.

Britain plans to establish the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve in the South Pacific. On Sept. 28, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced plans for a fully protected ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) northeast of his country’s North Island.

Earlier this month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet promised to support efforts by the indigenous Rapa Nui community of Easter Island to create a fully protected marine park.

Easter Island. Photograph by Kashfi Halford, Bertarelli Foundation

Palau is home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral. AP photo

Palau boat burn. Distress signals—on behalf of the fish. (The Pew Charitable Trusts, Richard Brooks)