China charging Uighurs with “looking for an argument”

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Uighurs in China’s mostly Muslim Xinjiang province are receiving long prison terms for charges like “looking for an argument,” according to Human Rights Watch, with is claiming the legal attitude amounts to systematic persecution.

Claiming a ned to impose quick and severe sentences in the name of counter-terrorism, Chinese police and prosecutors are arresting and sentencing people who have not committed any real offense, according to the human rights organization. “Despite appearances of legality, many of the people in Xinjiang prisons are ordinary people who have been sentenced for going about their lives and practicing their religion,” said HRW Researcher Maya Wang in a statement.

More than 250,000 people in the northwestern region have been formally imprisoned since 2016, reported HRW, adding it has noted a dramatic increase in the lengths of prison sentences. Since 2017 the number of sentences for 5 years or more has risen from 11% to 87%. There are also an estimated one million Uighurs in “political education” camps in Xinjiang, according to HRW.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Myanmar: Union Election Commission revokes 2020 election results

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YANGON, Myanmar – The UEC revoked election results when it met with political parties in Naypyiday Feb. 26. The current election commission was established by the military after it took power in early February, replacing the previous election commission which had validated the presidency of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Among 91 political parties in Myanmar, 53 political parties attended the meeting. “We have to abolish the 2020 election result because of election fraud,” the chairman of the UEC explained.

In the 2020 election, the National League for Democracy party (NLD) won by a landslide, but the military complained that the NLD had committed fraud.

Under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD was the most popular and famous political party in mainland Myanmar.

By Htay Win
Featured image photo credit: Wutyi Ma

Facebook deletes main page of Myanmar military

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Under a policy not to allow the platform to be used to incite violence, Facebook announced that the Myanmar military’s “continued spread of misinformation” violated its use policies and that Facebook was “treating the situation in Myanmar as an emergency” and acting to “significantly reduce the distribution of all content” on pages and profiles run by the that military.

By Milan Sime Martinić

Angola has decriminalized homosexuality

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The Southern African country also passed a law criminalizing discrimination based on sexual orientation, which will come into play when a person tries to get a job or receive services.

Only a handful of African nations have laws to protect homosexuals, and many criminalize the lifestyle with potentially heavy punishments — sometimes even a death sentence.

Angola has been revising its 1975 penal code which was interpreted to ban homosexuality through its “vices against nature” provision.

By Milan Sime Martinić

Proud Boys join al-Qaeda, ISIS, and al-Shabab on Canada’s Terrorist Entity List

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The far-right American group famous for its participation in the January 6th insurrection in Washington is now officially a terrorist organization in Canada, based largely on the events at the U.S. Capitol.

Public Safety Canada detailed the group’s inclusion in their terrorist list: “Members of the group espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or white supremacist ideologies and associate with white supremacist groups. The group and its members have openly encouraged, planned, and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs. The group regularly attends Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests as counter-protesters, often engaging in violence targeting BLM supporters.”

Canadian Criminal Code requires businesses and individuals to immediately disassociate from groups on the Entity List.

By Milan Sime Martinić

Attempt to secretly revise human rights program in Brazil – HRW

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Human Rights Watch has raised alarm about Brazil’s exclusion of civil society from discussions about changing the country’s human rights policies, suspecting a secret plan to undermine what has for decades been regarded as a critical achievement in the defense of human rights in Brazil.

“The Bolsonaro administration, which has promoted an anti-rights agenda, has announced it is planning to change the National Human Rights Program in absolute secret, and without the participation of anyone who disagrees with its policies,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch.

By contrast, the last revision to the program under President Lula involved some 14,000 people in the discussions and a widely regarded transparent process. The National Human Rights Programs (PNDH) follow the guidelines of the 1993 Vienna Convention, and Brazil was one of the first countries to promote this formulation (PNDH-1, in 1996, PNDH-2, in 2002, and PNDH- 3, in 2009). PNDH establishes a benchmark to assess the effectiveness of government efforts to improve the human rights conditions in Brazil.

Since 2019, Bolsonaro has eliminated the government committee in charge of coordinating the implementation of the National Human Rights Program, now the group proposing new changes is made up solely of members of his administration.

The approach is an affront to the democratic rule of law, the Constitution, and the National Human Rights Programs built in Brazil, say some 211 Brazilian NGO stakeholders in calling for the immediate revocation of the administration’s new regulations that created the working group for the PNDH-3 review.

By Milan Sime Martinić

Colombia offers protection to Venezuelan migrants, for 10 years

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Colombian President Iván Duque announced that temporary protection status will be granted to Venezuelan migrants residing in Colombian territory. During the announcement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, was present.

Thanks to the measure adopted by the coffee-growing country, Venezuelans located in the Colombia will be able to work legally. According to data compiled by various agencies, the estimated number of illegal Venezuelans, or those without legal status, is around 1 million.

The main consequence of the uncontrolled migration of Venezuelans to Colombia is the oversaturation of education and health systems, particularly in border locations.

During a press release, President Iván Duque mentioned that the process “marks a milestone in Colombia’s migration policies.”

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the decision can be seen as the greatest gesture of solidarity in decades.

Details of the temporary protection measure for Venezuelan migrants

The new migratory status will have a duration of 10 years, which will also provide greater comfort to migrants who are already legalized. This was stated by the President.

It should be noted that migrants who entered Colombia before January 31 are eligible for the new protection measure. However, they must register to acquire the new immigration status. Otherwise, they may be deported.

Combating COVID-19

Finally, Iván Duque reiterated the call to the international community to contribute more funds to the fight against COVID-19. In this way, they will be able to use the funds to vaccinate Venezuelan migrants living in Colombian territory.

By Luis Alejandro R.


Abortion legalized in Argentina

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Previously in the country abortion was only legal in rape cases and when the mother’s health was in danger, but now it’s legal as a choice until 14 weeks into a pregnancy. Just two years ago the Argentinian senate most recently voted against legalizing abortion. Abortion had been illegal in the country since 1921.

The senate vote was a split decision, 38-29-1, taken after a 12-hour debate. During the debate large crowds of campaigners on both sides of the issue assembled outside Congress in Buenos Aires.

The Latin Church opposed the Catholic country’s move, but Argentinian center-left President Alberto Fernández had made reintroducing the abortion bill one of his campaign promises, stating at one point “I’m Catholic but I have to legislate for everyone.”

The president also commented on the health facet of the issue, stating that 3000 women had died in the past 40 years due to clandestine abortion procedures, and almost 40,000 women each year make trips to the hospital as a result of such procedures.

The vote was also noteworthy because several Congresspeople, who had been undecided or who had voted against previous legalization bills, voted in favor of legalization this time. One such, Senator Silvina García Larraburu, stated “My vote is in favour of free women, of women who can decide according to their own conscience.”

Arguing for the other side, senator Inés Blas said, “The interruption of a pregnancy is a tragedy. It abruptly ends another developing life.”

The change in law was brought about largely by the country’s grassroots “green wave,” part of Argentina’s growing women’s movement. These activists have been working toward abortion legalization for 15 years and have introduced seven similar bills over that time to Congress without success.

In legalizing abortion on request, Argentinia follows in Latin America Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico, some Mexican States, and most recently Uruguay, who legalized abortion in 2012.

Many have noted that pro-abortion activists in other Latin American countries, where similar abortion laws exist, will see the Argentinian vote as a possible precedent for change.

Chinese Still Executing Prisoners for Their Organs, Human Rights Lawyers Say

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China has been harvesting organs from prisoners, including prisoners of conscience (those jailed for nothing more than practicing a religion that is not state-sponsored), for years, and despite saying they have reformed the practice in 2015, China is still doing it, according to human rights workers David Matas and Ethan Gutmann.

According to the lawyer and investigator, China “obviously has got a lot of people sitting around waiting to be killed for a transplant, and they’re just picking the right person to be killed depending on who the patient is.”

Chinese businesses profit from transplant tourism — people coming from other countries to get quick organ transplants — as well as meeting local needs. There aren’t enough organs volunteered to meet demand, so China takes them from prisoners. Prison officials coordinate with doctors in China to make this happen.

According to authorities around the world who keep track of people going to China for transplants, the numbers have markedly reduced, indicating that China has made serious efforts, but it has not stopped.

China executes thousands of people per year — around 3 times the amount of the rest of the world combined, although stats are hard to get because China blocks publication of them (it’s currently a state crime), even though Amnesty International and other groups keep track of all executions in all countries.

Many of those executed come from populations China doesn’t like very much, like religious and ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Egyptian Street Children’s Help Group Founders Released from Prison

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In the wake of the events of the Egyptian Arab Spring, a couple who founded an organization to work with street children found themselves charged with sex crimes and human trafficking and thrown in prison for 3 years.

According to the couple, one day a father came to them looking for a child they said they had not seen, and after the father became abusive, they went to file a report at the police station, but found themselves charged with human trafficking.

American politicians, including Obama, Ted Cruz, and most recently Trump (who met with the Egyptian president 6 weeks ago) lobbied to try to get them out of prison. Half of the couple, the woman Aya Hijazi, is American.

The acquittal came as a total surprise to the couple who heard about it from the judge as they attended a court hearing in the cage. Shortly thereafter, Hijazi met Trump in the White House.

North Korea Agrees to First Ever UN Rights Expert Visit

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According to the UN statement, the special rapporteur on disabled people’s rights will be the first ever visit to the country by an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council.

The rights council has accused North Korea of committing crimes against humanity and detaining up to 120,000 people in brutal prison camps.

Trump Bans Major News from White House Press Briefing, Says All News Sources Should Be Named

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President Donald Trump today continued his battle against American media.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” said Trump at CPAC, and several mainstream news organizations, including the New York Times, the LA Times, and CNN, were banned from a press briefing Friday.

Trump advisor Steve Bannon yesterday also spoke aggressively with regard to the media, saying, ““It’s going to get worse because [Trump is] going to continue to press his agenda, and as economic conditions get better and jobs get better, they’re going to fight. If you think they’re going to give the country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day, every day is going to be a fight.”

The Associated Press and Time Magazine boycotted the press briefing in solidarity. Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press later told PBS NewsHour, “We felt today was different” from any other time in the past decades of their fight for access to the White House. “When there are news organizations that are being deliberately excluded, I think that’s different.”

She said that it was “really a struggle to get information about what the government is doing,” but that the AP would “do what they always do, which is … fight like mad to find out what is going on in terms of facts and … report that to the public. And we are going to do that every single day and we are not going to stop.

She told Judy Woodruff at PBS that they used unnamed sources when they knew the information was fact, not spin, and the person was in a position of authority to speak on the subject, and the information could not be printed otherwise, although they always tried to get sources to agree to use their names as a “gold standard.”

The move by Trump caused some to raise the issue of Americans’ constitutionally protected right to a free press.