Monday, 7 April 2014

Victoria, Canada: International human rights, the Rule of Law & Cambodia’s Election Conflict: Bob Patterson & Catherine Morris | 23 April 2014

Filed under: Conferences, Events,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:33 PDT
Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Poster (.pdf)


Safeguarding the Independence and Integrity of the Bar, Courts and Tribunals

International Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Cambodia’s Election Conflict

Victoria April 23, 2014, noon to 1:15 pm
Barristers’ Lounge, Victoria Courthouse, 850 Burdett Ave., Victoria, BC
No charge. A light lunch will be available (by donation).
CPD credit available for BC lawyers.

Co-sponsored by LRWC, ICJ and the Young Lawyers Victoria Section of the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association

Robert Patterson is a former Chief Electoral Officer (1990-2002) of British Columbia, has been the Head of Party for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Cambodia since 2010. He has also served with international electoral assessment and observation missions in Malawi, Ethiopia, Yemen, The Gambia, South Africa, Nigeria, Jamaica, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia. In addition, he has served as advisor to electoral commissions in Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Liberia, Zambia and the Palestinian Territory. He will provide an overview of successes and challenges of his work with Cambodia’s government and National Election Committee (NEC) to improve election administration.

Catherine Morris is a Victoria lawyer, adjunct professor at University of Victoria Faculty of Law and a member of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC). She has been involved in conflict resolution or human rights missions in Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, Bolivia, Rwanda and Austria. She has represented LRWC at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. She will speak about LRWC’s work advocating for integrity of Cambodia’s legal system. Drawing on her work in Cambodia for the past two decades, she will discuss how lack of independence of lawyers, judges and other institutions in Cambodia is linked to persistent patterns of impunity for corruption and land-grabbing at the heart of discontent of Cambodia’s electorate.

Moderated by John Waddell, QC, a Victoria lawyer and member of the Board of Directors of the International Commission of Jurists in Canada.

UN expert alarmed at worsening human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:10 PDT

An independent United Nations expert today sounded the alarm on the deteriorating human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, adding that the evacuation of aid workers following recent attacks on the humanitarian community would have severe consequences for life-saving work in the area.

“Recent developments in Rakhine state are the latest in a long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community which could amount to crimes against humanity,” said the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana.

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Why coexistence doesn’t equal reconciliation in Rwanda

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:58 PDT

… fragments from a series of first-person accounts … collected to mark the 20th anniversary of Rwanda’s 100 days of slaughter. Taken together, they give extraordinary insight into the psychology of atrocity: how so many ordinary people – friends, neighbours, doctors, teachers, priests – could take part in the bloodletting.

They also hint at the moral complexity underlying Rwanda’s efforts to balance truth and reconciliation, justice and forgiveness…

Twenty years later, old resentments fester alongside new.

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Rwanda: Portraits of Reconciliation

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:15 PDT

Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.

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The Rise of Rwanda’s Women: Rebuilding and Reuniting a Nation

Filed under: gender,Human Rights,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:14 PDT

Twenty years ago, in 100 days of slaughter between April and July 1994, an estimated one million Rwandan men, women, and children were killed by their fellow citizens. It was one of the worst genocides in history, and its effects still ripple through Rwanda, central and eastern Africa, and the world at large.

It would be obscene to say that such a catastrophe has had even the thinnest silver lining. But it did create a natural — or unnatural — experiment, as the country’s social, economic, and political institutions were wiped out by the genocide. And in important respects, the reconstructed Rwanda that emerged over the next two decades is a dramatically different country.

One major improvement has come in the leadership of Rwandan women, who have made history with their newly vital role in politics and civil society.

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Sunday, 6 April 2014

From Fear to Freedom: Shedding light on a lesser known chapter of the Rwanda genocide

Filed under: Africa files,Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:03 PDT

Beatha Kayitesi’s story, From Fear to Freedom, on Global’s 16×9, sheds light on a lesser-known chapter of that nation’s tragedy. It is a living account of the years before the genocide and the attempts to which one person will go to achieve peace.

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UN chief urges CAR govt to prevent genocide

Filed under: Africa files,Human Rights,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:53 PDT

BANGUI (Central African Republic): UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday urged the leaders of the strife-torn Central African Republic to prevent a new genocide on the continent, 20 years after Rwanda.

“It is your responsibility as leaders to ensure that there are no such anniversaries in this country,” said Ban, in Bangui for a brief visit.

The UN secretary general will meet transitional president Catherine Samba Panza to discuss ways to end the deadly cycle of intercommunal violence that has laid waste to the country for a year and led senior UN figures to raise the spectre of genocide. Ban, who will spend just a few hours in Bangui before heading to Rwanda for the 20th anniversary of that country’s genocide, said ahead of his visit he was “deeply troubled by the appalling atrocities” against civilians in the Central African Republic.

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The 1915 Armenian genocide: Finding a fit testament to a timeless crime

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:49 PDT

The very last Armenian survivors of the 1915 genocide – in which a million and a half Christians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks – are dying, and Armenians are now facing the same fearful dilemma that Jews around the world will confront in scarcely three decades’ time: how to keep the memory of their holocausts alive when the last living witnesses of Ottoman and Nazi evil are dead?

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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Myanmar activists launch anti-‘hate speech’ campaign

Filed under: Human Rights,Media and Conflict,Myanmar,Peaceworkers in the news,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:58 PDT

BANGKOK – A group of Myanmar activists, including former political prisoners, are launching a campaign on Friday to tackle the ‘hate speech’ against Muslims that has engulfed social media and spread into Burmese society.

Panzagar, literally “flower speech”, is a movement set up by Nay Phone Latt, a blogger and executive director of Myanmar ICT For Development Organization (MIDO) who spent nearly four years in jail for writing about the monks’ protests in 2007 that ended in a bloody crackdown.

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Thailand in 2014: A Democracy Endangered by Juristocracy?

Filed under: Human Rights,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:06 PDT

Since 2005, Thailand has been a divided country, witnessing resurgent waves of political pandemonium. The latest resurrection of such acrimony surfaced in November 2013, when once again, the country began to suffer mass demonstrations and it appeared the military might soon stage a coup. Of course, all of these pluralistic activities took place under a monarchy that seems to stand above politics.

The Rise of Thailand’s Juristocracy

Perhaps a less visible trend, which has grown over the last decade, has been the rise of Thailand’s judiciary. Indeed, Thailand today possesses a weakly-developed democracy with a strong, monarchically-endowed juristocracy that is undergirded by the armed forces. An embedded democracy possesses elections, political rights, civil liberties, and checks and balances as well as effective control over the military.

In such democracies, courts represent the rule of law and the ability of civilians to legally redress grievances. A juristocracy, on the other hand, comes to exist in a country where the judiciary achieves near or total supremacy over other political actors in a country. In Thailand, contemporary courts exert great power and are generally the tool of senior arch-royalists. This same judiciary is the final interpreter of the law. As such, it has been used to delegitimize recalcitrant political foes.

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Canadian genocide?

Filed under: Human Rights,Indigenous Peoples,International Law: War,Middle East,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:44 PDT

There is something inherently perverse about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the as-yet-unfinished landmark rising from the plain between a parking lot and a baseball stadium at Winnipeg’s Forks. When you get right down to it, this $351-million dream of the late media mogul Izzy Asper is being built to document evil…

The museum, which opens in September and is one of only two national museums located outside Ottawa-Hull, has been taking shape for more than a decade. In that time, disputes have almost constantly overshadowed what its promoters would prefer to highlight…

The Ukrainian community, for example, lamented that exhibits on the Holodomor (the 1932-33 starvation engineered by Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin) were going to be too close to the washrooms; Palestinians objected to being left out entirely; even Jews — whom Asper envisioned as central to the museum — were reportedly upset that the founding of the state of Israel was not going to be commemorated.

But the nascent museum’s most heated controversy is the growing insistence that exhibits depicting the story of First Nations peoples carry the word “genocide” in their titles. So far, the museum has resisted doing that…

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Friday, 14 March 2014

Myanmar: The systematic repression of the Rohingya minority continues | by Maung Zarni

“What can we do, brother? There are too many. We can’t kill them all.”

He said it matter-of-factly—a former brigadier and diplomat from my native country, Myanmar, about Rohingya Muslims.

We were in the spacious ambassadorial office at Myanmar Embassy in an ASEAN country when this “brotherly” conversation took place. I am familiar with Myanmar’s racist nationalist narrative. I have also worked with the country’s military intelligence services in pushing for the gradual re-engagement between the West and our country, then an international pariah. Apparently, knowledge of my background made the soldier feel so at ease that he could make such a hateful call in a friendly conversation on official premises in total candor: Islamophobia normalized in the highest ranks of the bureaucracy and military in Myanmar.

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Monday, 10 March 2014

Debunking some myths about Israel’s water politics

Filed under: Dispute resolution and negotiation,Environment,Human Rights,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 05:10 PDT

In his speech to Israel’s Parliament on February 12, Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, spoke of our shared responsibility to stand up for freedom and dignity at all times. He acknowledged Israel’s success at realising a dream shared by many people: To live “in freedom and dignity” in “a homeland of their own”, noting that Palestinians also have the right to “self-determination and justice”.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Central African Republic: Ethnic cleansing and sectarian killings

Filed under: Africa files,children and youth,Human Rights,International Law: War,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:30 PDT

International peacekeepers have failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians in the western part of the Central African Republic, Amnesty International said in a report issued today.

To protect the country’s remaining Muslim communities, international peacekeeping forces must break the control of anti-balaka militias and station sufficient troops in towns where Muslims are threatened.

“Anti-balaka militias are carrying out violent attacks in an effort to ethnically cleanse Muslims in the Central African Republic,” said Joanne Mariner, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

“The result is a Muslim exodus of historic proportions.”

Amnesty International criticized the international community’s tepid response to the crisis, noting that international peacekeeping troops have been reluctant to challenge anti-balaka militias, and slow to protect the threatened Muslim minority.

(...more)

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Where is the public outrage on Syria?

Filed under: Human Rights,Humanitarian work,International Law: War,Media and Conflict,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:38 PDT

Visiting Damascus last week I saw for myself how local and international relief workers are engaged in heroic, dangerous and often life-saving work in Syria. However, the successful evacuation of civilians from some neighbourhoods of Homs will not end the continued provocation against basic human decency that is happening on our watch. Of Syria’s many besieged civilians, 99% are not in Homs. The conflict in Syria has put back the clock on humanitarian progress by decades, and if the UN security council cannot agree on a basic resolution on humanitarian access then the future is even bleaker.

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Thursday, 6 February 2014

Op-Ed: Boycotting settlements is not anti-Israel

Filed under: Human Rights,Middle East,Peace and health — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:34 PDT

NEW YORK (JTA) — On her way out the door to defend the SodaStream company, the suddenly political Scarlett Johannson threw a grenade at her erstwhile cause, the international aid organization Oxfam.

According to her spokesperson, “she and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

Full stop. The global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which harbors more than a few people who want to put the entire project of a Jewish homeland out of business, is not the issue between Ms. Johannson and Oxfam. SodaStream has its main factory in the occupied territories. The company is contributing to the health and prosperity of the occupation while providing income for the settlement enterprise — an enterprise that is corroding Israeli democracy, deemed “illegitimate” by the American government and considered illegal under international law.

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Monday, 3 February 2014

USA | Esta Soler: How we turned the tide on domestic violence

Filed under: gender,Human Rights,Media and Conflict — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:50 PDT

When Esta Soler lobbied for a bill outlawing domestic violence in 1984, one politician called it the “Take the Fun Out of Marriage Act.” “If only I had Twitter then,” she mused. This sweeping, optimistic talk charts 30 years of tactics and technologies — from the Polaroid camera to social media — that led to a 64% drop in domestic violence in the U.S.

In 1994, Esta Soler convinced Congress to pass a law to combat the devastating effects of violence against women.

Uganda: President’s NRA apology late, says Bigombe

President Yoweri Museveni should have long rendered his apology for the spate of abuses committed during the anti-insurgency campaign in the north and north-eastern part of the country by some reprobate elements in NRA/UPDF, state minister for water resources, Betty Bigombe has said.

Museveni made the apology at the NRA/NRM 28th Liberation Day anniversary in Mayuge district headquarters, expressing shock at the “shameful” atrocities that sullied the reputation of an army whose near impeccable disciplinary record had been integral in its successful guerrilla war…

When asked what the apology meant given her role in various peace initiatives, Bigombe said the move is a good gesture because those affected by the atrocities “always demand for justice to be done”.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Cambodia claims progress on rights amid escalating turmoil

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,Nonviolence,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:31 PDT

Late Tuesday night Cambodia wrapped up a review of its human rights record by assuring the United Nations and member states that it was taking pains to improve its rights record and maintain peace amid ongoing political turmoil.

“I promise you that we will make our efforts on human rights in Cambodia, develop progress and improve… even though we find our challenges, even though we just came from the civil war, we will do our best to be in line with your recommendations,” Mak Sambath, deputy chair of the government’s Human Rights Committee, told scores of delegates who had gathered for the Univeral Periodic Review which is held once every four and a half years.

Just hours after Sambath concluded his remarks in Geneva, dozens of riot police and district security guards in Phnom Penh stalked a small group of activists around town. Their offence was that they were going to embassies and UN offices to drop off a petition calling for the release of 23 activists and protesters believed to have been wrongfully imprisoned.

In spite of Sambath’s pledges to the contrary, Cambodia has shown little interest in aligning its rights record with international standards. The past month has seen a startling backslide on human rights and the worst government sanctioned violence in 15 years.

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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Despite conflicts, the bells ring on in Bethlehem

Filed under: Art of Peacework,Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:32 PDT

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — A Palestinian college student is one of the last keepers of a fading tradition: ringing the bells of Bethlehem.

Twice a week, Khadir Jaraiseh climbs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. He pulls the ropes of four bells in a rooftop tower a total of 33 times, the number of years Jesus was believed to have lived…

His rooftop perch offers a view of old stone houses and cobblestone alleys in the center of Bethlehem.

On Sunday, patches of snow were left on rooftops, remnants of a rare storm that hit earlier this month. Much of the church was covered in scaffolding, as part of urgent repairs of a leaking roof — the first facelift in 600 years. Below, Manger Square was filled with tour groups, including visitors from India and Africa.

But the postcard-like vista is disrupted by Israel’s West Bank separation barrier in the background.

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