Category Archives: News

02Oct/19

Nepal: Release Report on 2015 Protest Violence

A police officer faces protesters in Nepal’s Terai region in September 2015.


© 2015 Private

(New York) – The government of Nepal should make public, as pledged, the report of the commission that investigated deadly violence involving police and protesters in 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. Donors, including the United Kingdom and United States, which provide training and other security assistance to Nepal, and the United Nations which uses Nepali police on field missions, should seek to make sure that the government upholds the report’s recommendations on transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

The report covered several weeks of violence in the southern part of the country during the final stage of drafting Nepal’s new constitution. Leaks to the media in recent weeks show that it contains crucial information to provide justice to the victims and could help prevent similar violence in the future. When he presented the report to the government in December 2017, the commission chair, Girish Chandra Lal, a retired Supreme Court justice, said that it included the cases of 66 people killed during the violence, including 10 policemen.

“Selective leaks in the media are causing confusion about the findings. The government should instead release the full report and explain how it will respond to the recommendations,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “Victims and their families placed their faith in government commitments to an independent investigation, and there can be no possible justification for keeping the findings under wraps.”

The commission investigated incidents across the Terai, including the actions of protesters and security forces’ responses. Trials have gone forward for the killings of police officials, although witnesses told the commissioners that the real culprits had not been arrested.

Security forces did not fully cooperate with the commission. However, based on media articles describing leaked material, the commission found that the police “did not fulfil their important duty” to protect members of the indigenous Tharu community from mob attacks. It also concluded that the use of lethal force against protesters in the eastern Terai region could not have occurred “without the direction and orders from the local administration.” The commission said that the killing of bystanders and protesters involved excessive use of police force.

Human Rights Watch investigated 25 of the killings documented in the commission’s report, with similar findings. Human Rights Watch found that during protests in Tikapur, Kailali district, eight police officers were beaten and burned to death on August 24, 2015. Another police officer was dragged from an ambulance and killed in Mahottari district on September 11. Human Rights Watch also documented numerous instances in which police opened fire indiscriminately or without justification, killing protesters and bystanders.

In Kalaiya, Bara district, witnesses described watching a senior police officer shoot dead an injured protester, Hifajat Miya, 19, as he lay on the ground on September 1. The incident was also recorded on video, obtained by Human Rights Watch. In the nearby city of Birgunj, on the same day, police opened fire into a hospital. Witnesses said that police in Janakpur also opened fire, using live ammunition against protesters. Police dragged Nitu Yadav, 14, from where he was hiding in the bushes and shot him dead as he lay on the ground, while neighbours looked on from nearby buildings. Another protester, Sanjay Chaudhary, who was hiding nearby, was fatally shot in the back moments later as he tried to flee.

The Nepal police receive substantial donor assistance from the UK and the US, partly with the objective of improving their human rights record. The Nepal police also contribute officers to UN missions, which involves human rights vetting of personnel. The commission’s report may contain material that the Nepal government needs to disclose to credibly maintain these relationships.

The commission was set up in September 2016, and its six-month tenure was extended twice. In addition to Lal, the other members of the commission were Deputy Attorney General Surya Koirala, advocate Sujan Lopchan, former Assistant Inspector General of Police Navaraj Dhakal, and Home Ministry Joint Secretary Narayan Prasad Sharma Duwadi. They investigated 3,264 complaints registered with the commission.

“The commission, composed of highly respected senior officials, struggled to produce independent findings despite a lack of cooperation from state authorities, and Nepal needs to show that it takes the findings about human rights violations seriously,” Ganguly said. “The Nepal police’s international partners should also review the findings and satisfy themselves that basic human rights commitments are being upheld.”

01Oct/19

UNHCR welcomes new funding from the European Union to assist vulnerable displaced Iraqis

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Country: Iraq

The donation of EUR 3 million will contribute to ensure the provision of legal assistance and civil documentation to over 30,000 internally displaced people across Iraq.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes a new donation of EUR 3 million from the EU to assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. This funding will contribute to ensure the provision of legal assistance and civil documentation to over 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) across Iraq and to guarantee that camp management and camp coordination services (CCCM) are in place in all UNHCR-managed camps in Ninewa Governorate.

While Iraq recovers from conflict, the needs of its population diversify. Some 4.3 million people have returned to their homes and are restarting their lives, however the conditions for sustainable return are not yet met across all the country. Continued assistance for the 1.5 million individuals who remain displaced and the communities hosting them is essential to ensure a stable and peaceful recovery.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, said “This new humanitarian assistance will be instrumental to help the most vulnerable populations in Iraq, especially the displaced. It is essential for the stability of the country. The people of Europe stand in full solidarity with the people of Iraq in this critical phase.”

Guaranteeing access to legal assistance and the obtention of civil documentation is a key aspect of recovery as it is a basic requirement for displaced persons to establish their legal identity, access public services, return to their homes, and exercise their basic rights. The generous donation from the EU will secure that IDPs have access to these fundamental services, ensuring that returns are conducted in a safe and sustainable manner. For those living in camps, support remains critical. In Ninewa Governorate alone, over 50,000 IDPs (8,300 families) are still living in UNHCR-managed camps With the EU’s aid, UNHCR will be able to ensure adequate services and key camp infrastructures are in place to support those living in them.

“While the situation in Iraq has notably improved during the past years and the country is steadily transitioning and advancing into a new post-conflict phase, we need to continue supporting its people in their recovery and reconstruction efforts. Particularly the more than 1.5 million Iraqis still affected by displacement and wishing to rebuild their lives. This generous contribution by the EU enables us to be responsive and compassionate with those that continue relying heavily on humanitarian assistance. With ongoing support, we will stand with the people of Iraq until complete recovery is achieved” said Ayman Gharaibeh, UNHCR Representative in Iraq.

For more information contact:
Firas Al-Khateeb khateeb@unhcr.orgkhateeb@unhcr.org +961 300 9940 (Baghdad)
Imene Trabelsi trabelsi@unhcr.orgtrabelsi@unhcr.org +964 772 616 3724 (Erbil)
Rasheed H Rasheed rasheedr@unhcr.orgrasheedr@unhcr.org +964 750 713 0014 (Dohuk)

01Oct/19

Marathoners Wilt in Qatar’s Oppressive Heat

Italy’s Giovanna Epis is pushed in a wheelchair during the women’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships, in Doha, Qatar, September 29, 2019.


© 2019 Grigory Sysoev / Sputnik via AP

Nearly half the athletes participating in the women’s marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha on Sunday pulled out of the race in what The Telegraph described as “shocking scenes of multiple athletes collapsing in distress.” Despite starting the race at midnight, runners were battling 30 Celsius temperatures and humidity levels above 80 percent.

“The humidity kills you,” said one runner who did manage to cross the finish line.

In response, the IAAF said they had done everything possible to minimize heat-related risks, including recruiting leading medical experts to monitor weather conditions, more medical staff on site, and increasing the number of refreshment points along the course. Organizers also proudly proclaimed no athlete succumbed to heat stroke following the race.  

Watching this unfold, it is impossible not to reflect on the thousands of migrant construction workers in Qatar who do grueling work in similar weather conditions for up to 12 hours a day for six, and sometimes even seven, days a week, with woefully less protections in place.

Two years ago, Human Rights Watch released a report on the failure of the government to implement adequate heat regulations to protect the lives of workers toiling away outdoors. The report also documented the government’s lack of transparency on migrant worker deaths.

Today, despite repeated warnings of potentially fatal heat-related illnesses and precise recommendations on how to improve working conditions for migrant workers, heat protection regulations for workers in Qatar still only prohibit outdoor work at midday hours during the hottest summer months of the year. Authorities are also still refusing to report how many migrant workers died since 2012 and to seriously investigate why.

Will images of elite runners tumbling to the ground in exhaustion and being wheeled off course by medical teams spur athletes, journalists, event organizers, and international spectators to pressure Qatar to finally make migrant workers’ lives a priority? It should. Could that prompt Qatar to do so before the next and by far the biggest sports event in the world takes place in Doha in three years – the 2022 FIFA World Cup? After all, it is migrant workers who continue to shoulder the burden of building and delivering the mega event – and they are doing so, day after day, in the same oppressive heat that brought down the runners.

01Oct/19

Polish Police Protect Pride March Amid Anti-LGBT Crackdown

Thousands of people take part in the Equality March in Lublin city, Poland, September 28, 2019.


© 2019 Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/Sipa USA via AP Images

Police in Lublin, Poland took action to protect participants in a pride march last Saturday from anti-LGBT protesters, who, according to a media report, tried to stop the march and attack the marchers with eggs. Such action should stand as an example of how Polish authorities need to defend free and assembly rights as anti-LGBT rhetoric reaches a fever pitch ahead of national elections.

Much of the vitriol in recent months has been driven by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has a history of scapegoating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and sexual and reproductive health activists, under the rubric of “gender ideology.” The party made countering “LGBT ideology” part of its platform for the October 13 elections. Senior party members have misrepresented efforts to advance gender equality and end discrimination as attacks on “traditional” family values, and used such arguments to undermine women’s and LGBT rights groups.

But “centering the election campaign on LGBT issues has resulted in the mobilization of both hate and solidarity,” wrote Lukasz Szulc, a lecturer in Digital Media and Society at the University of Sheffield. Indeed hundreds of thousands of #JestemLGBT (#IamLGBT) tweets have been sent out in recent months – many in domestic and international solidarity with queer and trans people in Poland. The police behavior in Lublin over the weekend illustrates a clear message as well: basic rights should triumph over bigotry – and the state is obligated to side with the rule of law.

In a 2016 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association specified that governments have “a positive duty to protect those exercising their right to peaceful assembly, even if they are promoting unpopular positions (e.g., rights for LGBTI persons or those of a minority religion).”

The police in Lublin appear to have upheld this duty. And as the election approaches and PiS supporters try to attack LGBT people as a cynical rallying cry, all Polish authorities have an obligation under the country’s constitution, human rights law, and EU law to ensure equality for everyone in society.