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Friday, October 25, 2013

Drone Strikes: Human Rights Violations?

PSA on American Drones killing Pakistani Children, Public Domain
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are calling on the U.S. to investigate reports on the legality of drone strikes. Both groups have released reports citing civilian deaths by the unmanned aircrafts between September 2012 and June 2013 in Yemen and Pakistan.

Amnesty International alleges that heavy civilian casualties in Pakistan from the drone strikes may constitute war crimes and be a violation of Geneva codes.  Drone Watch, an organization which investigates drone strikes by the U.S. in Pakistan, reported that as of last January more than 3000 people have been killed due to the strikes. Drone Watch claims that “the vast majority of them civilians.” In the same report, Drone Watch listed the names and ages of 172 of the dead –all of them children
Human Rights Watch alleged that of the 82 people killed by unmanned aircraft and other aerial strikes in Yemen 57 of them were civilian casualties.

The U.S. is standing firm against the allegations by the two groups. Jay Carney, President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, says the U.S. “would strongly agree” with claims that the U.S. acted improperly. Carney claims that all applicable law was followed with the drone strikes.

Information about drone strikes is hard to get. There is a large discrepancy with the numbers of actual drone strikes that have taken place and the real number of civilian casualties. The CIA and the Pentagon do not reveal details of the strikes, nor do they report all of them.  Those who are killed by a drone strike, if a report is documented, are listed as “enemy combatants.” 

“Enemy combatants” can be any male over the age of 12 considered to be an enemy fighter by the U.S.  This directly conflicts with the Geneva Conventions which requires all those under the age of 16 to be classified as “protected civilians.” 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

30 million people still live in slavery

Map of female trafficking, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
According to the recent inaugural Global Slavery Index report, published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, there are still 30 million people living in slavery in the world. The word "slavery" encompasses a variety of conditions from forced labor to human trafficking.

Haiti, Pakistan, India and the African nation of Mauritania have the highest number of slaves in proportion to population. China had the second highest rate in proportion to population with an estimated 3 million people living in slavery.

China's slavery index includes “the forced labour of men, women and children in many parts of the economy, including domestic servitude and forced begging, the sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage.”

The US was ranked 134th on the index. Not a good number at all. Its ranking shows that the US is worse off than Barbados, South Korea, Costa Rica and Cuba. 

16-year-old Activist Malala Yousafzai to be named honorary Canadian

Malala Yousafzai, 16, will be granted honorary Canadian citizenship. She is the sixth person in history to be awarded the honor. Yousafzai , a Pakistani activist for girls’ education, became famous after surviving a Taliban assassination attempt. She was shot in the head on her way home from school.

Instead of hiding from the limelight, Yousafzai embraced it and became an even more vocal defender of girls’ rights and education.

The other six people to hold honorary Canadian citizenship include the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Aga Khan, Nelson Mandela and Raoul Wallenberg. 

July 12, Yousafzai’s birthday, has been dubbed Malala Day by the United Nations. Yousafzai does not wish to be celebrated alone.

"Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights,” she said in a speech to the United Nations

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sri Lanka's Human Rights Commission gains power to prosecute

Judge's Gavel: Federal Govt., Public Domain
Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) will gain the power to take legal action against human rights violators. This is the first time the Commission will be able to take legal action against violators if they do not comply with recommendations by the Commission.

The current procedure for the Commission after a complaint alleging violations of human rights is made, an inquiry takes place. After the inquiry, the Commission will issue a set of recommendations to the accused parties. The accused have a two week time frame to implement the recommendations.

If recommendations were not implemented the Commission wasn’t able to do much about it. Now, the Commission can take legal action, according to Justice Priyantha R. P. Perera, Chairman of the Commission.

An amendment, approved by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to enable the Commission to take legal action against violators will be added to the Human Rights Commission Act.