|U.S. Vows to Improve Prisons|
The U.S. has
agreed to a broad review of its prison policies in response to more than
225 proposals from U.N. member nations. Among the issues raised
before the U.N. Human Rights Council were detainee treatment at Guantanamo
Bay and discrimination in U.S. law enforcement. U.S. delegates also
affirmed the country’s stance against the use of torture.
Threatened in Canada’s North
Canada’s north are being overshadowed by the government’s
focus on military and diplomatic strategies for national security,
according to a report from the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre
for the North. The organization is calling for renewed emphasis on
the needs of Arctic communities, including economic development, housing
and social services.
Detains Dissidents in Mental Wards|
Source: The New York Times
The Chinese government
continues to wrongfully confine Chinese citizens in mental wards as a way
to silence complaints against the government. Once confined in the
mental wards, the dissidents have almost no legal recourse to challenge
their confinement. The government meanwhile maintains that the
petitioners are mentally ill and are rightfully detained.
Frees Opposition Leader
The ruling military junta
in Burma, following an election victory in early November, granted an
unconditional amnesty to the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi,
who had been under house arrest for more than seven years. Both the
regime and the Nobel laureate expressed their hopes for peace and
stability in the country.
|Education in a Disaster’s
Source: The New York Times
After the January 12 earthquake,
Haiti’s advocates for education reform saw an opportunity.
Though the Inter-American Development Bank approved a $500 million project
to reconstruct the education sector, the larger $4.2 billion five-year
education reform plan remains largely unfinanced. This is worrisome in
light of Haiti’s poor record for turning strategic planning into
Colombia Urges Massacre
In response to the eight massacres that took
place across the country in early November, Colombia's Ombudsman Volmar
Perez expressed concern. He urged Colombia’s prosecutor
general to urgently move forward on investigations to clarify the sources
of the massacres and punish those responsible for the violence.
Closures Cause Worry|
The plan to close internally displaced
persons (“I.D.P.”) camps in northern Uganda has
H.I.V.-positive residents worried they may lose access to vital health
services. Many argue there are no health or distribution centers in
the villages to which they will return despite government plans to build
additional health centers and improve existing ones.
Sudan Referendum Increases
A referendum proposing independence for
Southern Sudan has caused violence to escalate between the Sudanese army
and Darfuri rebel groups. A vote on the referendum is scheduled for
January and there are accusations that the Sudanese government wishes to
eliminate the Darfuri rebels in the meantime.
Reforms Legal Aid|
Source: B.B.C. News
After budgetary cuts, civil legal aid funding
in England and Wales will only remain available where life or liberty is at
stake. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke introduced a means-test for
contributions in legal aid cases. Critics voiced concerns over the
protection of the poor in the judicial system after the cuts in legal
Dissident Quits Council Post
a key anti-communist, quit her post on the Czech Republic's human rights
council over the government's lack of prioritizing human rights.
The council has not met since the chairperson, Michal Kocáb, was
controversially dismissed by Prime Minister Neĉas. Neĉas has
received increased criticism over his track record on human rights
|Saudi Arabia Overturns Witchcraft Conviction
Source: Khaleej Times
The death sentence of a Lebanese man convicted of witchcraft has
been overturned by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia. The man was
arrested for telling fortunes and giving advice on a television talk-show,
which Saudi authorities consider polytheistic. Witchcraft is not
clearly defined in the Saudi legal system, which is based on Islamic law.
Following a provision of the penal code, the Federal
Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates recently authorized men to
“chastise” their wives and children, as long as their acts of
physical violence did not leave any marks. Human Rights Watch urged the
U.A.E. to repeal this provision because of discrimination and the dangers
of domestic violence.
|Child Labor in
German human rights official Markus Löning issued a statement criticizing Uzbekistan’s child-labor practices. Human rights monitors have reported that Uzbekistan continues to rely on forced child labor to harvest cotton. Many large retailers are boycotting Uzbek cotton due to the country’s use of child labor.
Azerbaijan Court Continues Wrongful
Human Rights Watch reported that the
Azerbaijan Supreme Court ignored an order by the European Court of Human
Rights to immediately release a wrongfully imprisoned journalist.
The Supreme Court’s act of defiance is one of numerous instances
where the country has limited freedom of expression.