Tag: human rights

EU-China agreement invites criticism for its hasty giveaway and overlooking Beijing’s human rights record
Asia Pacific Focus

EU-China agreement invites criticism for its hasty giveaway and overlooking Beijing’s human rights record

Members of European Parliament MEPs criticized the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CIA) and the hurried manner in which it got formalized. Many slammed German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for her determination to secure the deal, overlooking not only Beijing’s questionable human rights record but also risking the EU’s ties with Washington. The agreement was seen by US and UK officials as nothing less than a geopolitical blunder. The Union pressed for the deal to be finalized by the end of 2020.

The report, presenting the complete analysis of the agreement, called it the worst negotiated deal as it provided the EU with the minimum additional market access along with “next to no means” to force Chinese authorities for the eradication of forced labor. The report published by the Institut Montaigne highlighted that the European Commission oversold the deal, mainly due to persistent pressure from Merkel. 

The report’s author François Godement said that the agreement could spur tensions between the bloc and US over its differences with regard to China’s human rights situation. Washington strongly slammed Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim minority community, Uyghur. On Tuesday, the newly appointed secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told the Senate that US needed to toughen its stand against China as the communist nation was committing genocide in Xinjiang province. His statement hinted at US adoption of tough trade approach towards Beijing.

Europe still has some hope, as MEPs hold the right to ratify the agreement but it would take about a year’s time to do so. European Parliament, which is currently reviewing the agreement, would be passing a motion next week condemning the way the agreement was processed hurriedly, reducing the EU’s support towards global human rights.

With regard to the motion, Godement said that the EU would “regret the fact that the decision for a political conclusion of the comprehensive agreement on investment (CAI) has not reflected the European parliament’s requests in previous resolutions on Hong Kong for using investment negotiations as a leverage tool aiming at preserving Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as well as its basic rights and freedoms”.

Godement objected to the deal on the basis that it permitted China “to build on Europe’s claims to have advanced its values while escaping enforcement and remedies on the issues that are at the heart of current public debates: environment and labor”.

He added: “Given China’s track record, it is impossible to rely on goodwill to implement commitments and unwise to believe that on key issues, a top-down political process between both parties can be substituted to legal arbitration… On WTO-plus issues, the deal fails to put a secure mechanism of implementation in place”.

Denmark toughens its Rape Law, criminalizes sex without consent
Europe

Denmark toughens its Rape Law, criminalizes sex without consent

Denmark toughens its Rape Law: In a landmark decision on Thursday, Denmark toughened its rape law. The law now has criminalized sex without ‘explicit consent’, emerging as a long awaited victory for human rights activists and sexual assault survivors. 

The law, which will be coming into effect January 1 onwards, was unanimously approved by lawmakers. Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said, “Now it becomes clear that if both parties do not agree to sex, then it is rape.” 

The original law was required to present a proof of violence, threat or an evidence that the victim was unsuccessful in resisting the assault, in order to bring a rape charge. But the revised legislation has defined the clauses more explicitly. 

On a global scale, Denmark has been a clear leader on gender equality and justice access indices. The country’s already existing laws against sexual assault have criminalized marital rape, and also the legal explanation of rape to include acts “other than sexual intercourse”. But the women in Denmark have long accused the country’s lawmakers and justice department of lacking in offering victim protection. Moreover, last year Amnesty International called Denmark’s law “a pervasive rape culture and endemic impunity for rapists.” 

The “revised legislation” has been welcomed by women rights groups and assault survivors. Kirstine Holst, a freelance journalist said, “Rape is violence in itself. You shouldn’t need other types of violence to prove it.” 

The “consent based clause” in the law was initially opposed by few politicians, but now they have changed their standpoint and welcomed the law amid right groups campaigning for the law. Pape Poulsen, a conservative lawmaker, was initially against the “unpractical” law, but came out in its support last year after hearing plight of an assault survivor. 

He tweeted in March 2019, “Dear @amnesty. Thanks so much for putting this on the agenda. We must ensure that Danish legislation reflects the fact that sex shall always be voluntary. It is utterly important to bring justice to sexual assault victims.”

Amnesty International’s women’s rights researcher Anna Blaus said, “This is a great day for women in Denmark as it consigns outdated and dangerous rape laws to the dustbin of history and helps to end pervasive stigma and endemic impunity for this crime.” 

Amnesty reports that with this law, Denmark has become 12th European country to criminalize non-consensual sex and consider it as rape. 

Bangladesh ships out Rohingya refugees to remote island without their consent
Asia Pacific Focus

Bangladesh ships out Rohingya refugees to remote island without their consent

Rohingya refugees: Rights group raised the issue regarding thousands of Rohingya refugees being relocated by Bangladeshi government to a remote island without their consent. Reuters reports that the state has already sent over 1,600 Rohingya refugees on Friday, from the country’s southern port of Chittagong to a far island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal. A naval officer said that the refugees were transported through seven boats, with two extra for carrying the supplies. 

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International slammed the government’s move questioning the habitability of the destination island. Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s south Asia campaigner, said: “It is crucial that the Bangladeshi authorities let the UN, rights groups and humanitarian agencies carry out independent assessments of Bhashan Char’s habitability first before taking any steps to relocate people there. No relocation plan, either to Bhashan Char or to another location, can be undertaken without the full and informed consent of the individuals involved.”

Human rights agencies have urged Bangladesh government to immediately halt the relocation operation, till the island was investigated and approved for its living conditions. Bangladeshi authorities have already transported about 1000 Rohingya refugees and has set a target to move 2500 families soon, despite their lack of consent.

The Rohingya refugees had been stuck between a rock and a hard place as they escaped Myanmar ethnic cleansing in 1990s and crossed border for a better life but now have been pushed to a remote island with extreme weather conditions. Besides, the Bhasan Char island, formed on a collected silt of Bay of Bengal is far from mainland, which would make it difficult for relief workers to provide supplies on time in case of any emergency. Besides, Bangladeshi authorities have been coaxing refugee group to relocate to the island, assuring them about the facilities including better housing, mosques, madrasas, markets, along with aid and support from the UN and other humanitarian agencies.

UN was quick to release a statement on Wednesday, clarifying that it didn’t agree to work on the island. UNHCR added it was not part of the relocation drive and asked Bangladeshi government to permit UN officials to conduct an urgent examination of the island.

Among the refugees who spoke to the rights groups, most of them said that they did not want to go to the island. Another refugee from the camp in Kutupalong said, “We don’t believe they can force this many people to relocate against their will under the watch of the international community. Our demand is only rational and that is to get us back to Myanmar, we don’t want to be refugees all our life”

EU imposes sanctions on Belarus President and 14 others for abuse of power
Europe

EU imposes sanctions on Belarus President and 14 others for abuse of power

Union member nations, the bloc finally took a call to unanimously impose sanctions on Belarus President, Alexander Lukashenko, and 14 other members of the regime for their involvement in the brutal crackdown on the country’s post-election protests. On Wednesday, 27 EU members decided to impose visa bans and freeze the assets belonging to Lukashenka and the 14 others. Inside sources revealed that the bloc would make official confirmation over the matter on November 6.

Belarus has been rocked by nation-wide protests challenging the 26 year-long rule of the country’s strongman, Lukashenko. People of Belarus have take to the streets demanding his exit from the President’s office. The protestors, who have been protesting for past 12 weeks, since Lukashenko took over as the country’s official head in August, claimed that he got in power through rigged elections.

AFP reported that the EU would also be imposing sanctions on Lukashenka’s son Viktar, who is the national-security adviser in Belarus.

Lukashenko, who categorically clarified that he has no intention to resign, with response to the surge in protests recently said that any protestor who lays hands on any official patrolling the protests, should “at least leave without hands”. He incorporated various steps to suppress the ongoing protests including, installing armoured off-road vehicles equipped with machine guns, along with water cannon vehicles and other anti-riot equipment. These armed vehicles were placed for the first time in last three months of continuous protests. 

The 66-year old Belarus leader, who is currently serving his sixth consecutive term as the country’s President has been trying his best to wipe out any dissent from his state. On his orders, authorities have detained over 15000 demonstrators protesting against the state head since he won elections in August. Human rights activists claimed that out of the total detainees more than 100 have been political prisoners. Most of Lukashenko’s political opponents have either been put behind the bars or have flee the country. Even the Belarus’s recent presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was considered the rightful winner of the latest election, moved to Lithuania due to pressure from the authorities.

Lukashenka is “responsible for the violent repression by the state apparatus before and after the 2020 presidential elections,” according to the sanctions report viewed by AFP.

He ordered, “arbitrary arrests and the ill-treatment of peaceful demonstrators, as well as intimidation and violence against journalists.

As per the earlier sanction agreement, EU formulated a list containing 40 Belarusian officials who it intended to blacklist, freezes assets of and impose travel bans on for their role in running the presidential elections and subsequent crackdown. But the list did not include Lukashenko. The EU has finally included his name and denounced the August election as “neither free nor fair” and refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as Belarus’s rightful president.

Tikhanovskaya during her recent Skype interview with Current Time said, “Lukashenka is losing the last element of legitimacy on November 5. And if some countries may still believe that he still has some kind of legitimacy, that now it is over too… We see how the regime is disintegrating before our very eyes; mistakes are being made. And you all know that only together we will win.” 

Tsikhanouskaya added, “I would like democratic countries to pay even more attention to how human rights in Belarus are infringed upon, on the violence taking place in our country. And that they talk about it and take all possible appropriate measures“.

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