Tag Archive | "Amnesty International"

Buddhist monks in Meiktila, Myanmar

Myanmar religion law restricts conversion and criminalizes adultery

International organizations are outraged over proposed legislation being negotiated in the Myanmar Parliament which would require individuals to obtain government approval before converting to, or adopting, a new religion. Myanmar (Burma) is a primarily Theravada Buddhist nation of 54 million people with a generally poor, but improving, human rights record. President Obama has visited Myanmar twice in recent years, placing an international spotlight on the country as it begins its path to reform. Although Myanmar President Thien Sein has introduced increased governmental transparency, the inaugural elections under the new democratic system upcoming in October are already marred in controversy. Myanmar parliamentarian and famed pro-democracy advocate Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi claimed in November that domestic reforms had stalled.

Burmese Parliament

The Burmese Parliament in Naypyidaw with Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi center. Photo: Reuters, irrawaddy.org

Human Rights Watch reports that the proposed legislation would also prohibit Buddhist women from joining an inter-faith marriage, criminalize extra-marital affairs, and penalize women who have multiple children within a 3-year period. Amnesty International (AI) insists that Parliament reject or revise the laws, which they claim would “risk fueling further violence against religious minorities,” and contribute to the already widespread discrimination against women. The proposed legislation also prescribes discriminatory obligations on non-Buddhist citizens, particularly effecting Muslim minority populations.

Concerns with the proposed legislation focus on four draft bills, which are opposed by AI and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on the grounds that they violate international law and have dire human rights implications.

  • The Religious Conversion Bill requires anyone who wants to convert to a different faith to apply through a state-governed agency. It establishes “registration boards” who “approve” conversions. It is a clear violation of the ICCPR.
  • The Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill exclusively regulates marriage between Buddhist women and men from other religions. It discriminates against women and non-Buddhist men. It is a violation of CEDAW.
  • The Population Control Healthcare Bill establishes a 36 month “birth-spacing” interval between allowed child births. It does not have a clear enforcement mechanism and could lead to forced reproductive control.
  • The Monogamy Bill is aimed at consolidating existing marriage and family laws, but most notable criminalizes extra-marital relations.
Undocumented Muslim immigrants gather at the Immigration Detention Center during Ramadan

Undocumented Rohingya Muslim immigrants gather at the Immigration Detention Center during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand on July 10, 2013. Photo & Caption Credit: Reuters, HRW.org

Ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar have been subjected to ongoing and systematic discrimination for years. Recent reports from Rakhine state show that discrimination against the ethnically Muslim Rohingya population is pervasive and is only likely to increase if public sentiment generated by the proposed laws encourages the discrimination. Non-Buddhist women in Myanmar are subject to widespread discrimination and the law would increase the potential for legally sanctioned abuse. AI’s Asia-Pacific Director, Richard Bennett, is particularly concerned that the language of the laws plays into the “harmful stereotypes about women and minorities, in particular Muslims, which are often propagated by extremist national groups.”

Racial and religious tensions in the country are rising; heightened by the election and the November 18th arrest of a Burmese ISIS member following an accidental blast in bordering Burdwan, India.

Buddhist monks in Meiktila, Myanmar

Buddhist monks in Meiktila, Myanmar, where violence between Muslims and Buddhists left 43 dead in March 2013. Photo Credit: CNN

Some Buddhists in Myanmar feel the laws are necessary to prevent further violence. Myanmar Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann urged Parliament to pass additional legislation establishing and protecting a national religion. Political activist Monk Ashin Parmouhka told a Democratic Voice of Burma reporter “If you want to see peace and an end to religious and racial conflict in Burma, [the religion legislation] must be adopted. If you want more conflicts and unrest in the country, then don’t adopt the laws.”

While Myanmar is not party to the International Covenant on Cultural and Political Rights, it is a party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In a joint statement, AI and the ICJ claim the laws are in violation of the country’s existing international treaty obligations. They fear that these draft laws are discriminatory and will result in human rights violations, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to privacy, children’s rights and the right to freedom of expression. The legislation is currently tabled in Parliament, no date has been set for a vote.

Jeremy Goldstein is a 2L law student at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Jeremy GoldsteinComments (0)

Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

Critical Analysis: Will the Crimes Against Humanity perpetrated in North Korea be prosecuted in the ICC?

October 28, 2014

Speaking before the UN General Assembly on Oct. 28, 2014, Marzuki Darusman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) encouraged action to stem the ongoing human rights abuses in the country.  Specifically, Mr. Darusman encouraged submitting the Commission of Inquiry’s report to the Security Council to “send an unequivocal signal” to the DRPK that serious follow up would be taken.

The report itself found systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations amounting in some cases to crimes against humanity.  The human rights violations are unsurprising to most members of the international community.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both reported on the many egregious conditions imposed upon the people of the DRPK.  One example are prison camps for political offenders that impose ‘collective punishment’ (imprisoning entire families, including the children of offenders).  According to the US State Department, the political prisoners number in the tens of thousands and may exceed 80,000 individuals.

Although Mr. Darusman’s recommendation before the General Assembly made headlines, the statement is a reiteration of the findings of the Commission.  Specifically, the Commission stated that:

The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Rebublic of Korea are held accountable.  Options to achieve this end include a Security Council Referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations.

The language used in the Commission’s report demonstrates a clear call for justice on the international stage.

Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, Michael Kirby, spoke at U.N. headquarters, urging action on the report. Photo Credit: Salvatore Di Nolfi / European Pressphoto Agency, http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/17/world/la-fg-un-north-korea-20140218.

Non-cooperation has been an ongoing problem for the Commission, as is noted in the report, but recent developments must have caught the attention of the DRPK officials.  Mr. Darusman was “unexpectedly” met by four North Korean diplomats who sought to discuss a potential visit to the DPRK.  The meeting was the first contact with a UN inspector regarding the human rights situation in the last 10 years.  Reaching out may be a good sign, but it remains to be seen whether North Korea will allow Mr. Darusman access to the political prisons much less acknowledge their existence.

Equally unclear is whether the issue would withstand the veto powers of Russia or China if it reaches the Security Council.  Both nations have aligned with North Korean interests in the past.  Russia itself currently faces significant political pressure in the international arena, but that is certainly no predictor of how the delegation will vote.

Jordan Edmondson is a 3L at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Jordan EdmondsonComments (0)

Critical Analysis: Proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The “Knotted Gun” sculpture, by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward, on display at the Visitors’ Plaza at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Amnesty.org)

The “Knotted Gun” sculpture, by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward, on display at the Visitors’ Plaza at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Amnesty.org)

Governmental leaders began meeting the week of March 18, 2013, to once again discuss the possibility of a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (Arms Treaty) that would regulate the $60 billion global arms trade.  The desire to create regulations governing the global trade of conventional arms arose in 2006.  The General Assembly of the United Nations began negotiating such a treaty in July 2012 at a U.N. conference held in New York. In December of 2012, the General Assembly voted to continue negotiations on an Arms Treaty.

If passed, the treaty would require all signatory countries to create national regulations to control the trade of conventional arms and the conduct of arms brokers.  Provisions in the current draft of the Arms Treaty do not control domestic use of weapons in each signatory country “except when the trade of conventional weapons would violate arms embargoes or promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.”  The Arms Treaty, as proposed, calls on each country to determine whether an exported weapon would be used to violate international human rights, humanitarian laws, or be used for corrupt practices including terrorism or organized crime.

The proposed Arms Treaty follows a number of horrific human rights violations and crimes in countries all over the world.  As Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, explained, “Syria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sri Lanka are just a few recent examples where the world bore witness to the horrific human cost of a reckless global arms trade steeped in secrecy.”  However, there is hope as some 108 countries show their support for the Arms Treaty.  Mexico even made a joint statement saying, “the overwhelming majority of (U.N.) Member States agree with us on the necessity and the urgency of adopting a strong Arms Trade Treaty. Our voice must be heard.”

Amnesty International urges that a treaty will only be passed if the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom—sign on to the Arms Treaty.  The human rights group fears that because the five countries account for more than 60 percent of the global conventional weapons trade, their economic interests in an unregulated global arms market are too high.  Furthermore, the United States serves as the largest arms manufacturer in the world, and pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association fear potential Second Amendment violations that could result from an international arms treaty.  In addition, pro-gun groups in the United States question the effect such a treaty will have on ammunition, a provision missing from the current draft of the Arms Treaty.  But as Salil Shetty opined, “they have this historic opportunity to save lives – they need to seize it and stop arms from fueling atrocities.”

The United States and other U.N. Security Council members have an opportunity to make great strides for international human rights the Arms Treaty would serve as a sigh of relief for many governmental activists who have been lobbying for international arms regulations for decades.  As Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights, explained, “around the world, people are now watching this process hoping their political leaders will not fail them – survivors of armed violence and their communities are crying out for a strong Arms Trade Treaty with clear, universal rules for human rights protection at its core.”

Stacy Harper is a 2L at Denver University Law School and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Stacy HarperComments (3)

The Taliban

Kudos to Amnesty Int’l for Holding Non-State Actors to Task

The Taliban

The Taliban

I was pleased to see an article in which Amnesty International calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I have long felt that non-state actor groups that wage military style campaigns that intentionally target civilians get more lenient treatment in international criminal law circles.   For example, many international law commentators have called for an investigation into Israel’s three-week military campaign in Gaza Operation Cast Lead.  However, less frequently do have I seen the argument that Hamas should be investigated for the eight years preceding Cast Lead in which it fired thousands of missiles indiscriminately at Israel as a war crime or crime against humanity – except when added as a concession in an call to investigate Israel.

I find the similar is true with Sri Lanka, where there are calls for an investigation into Sri Lanka’s 2009 military campaign against the Tamil Tigers.  Prior to that campaign, I rarely saw arguments that  the Tamils should be investigated for their targeting of civilians, use of child soldiers, assassination of two world leaders, ethnic cleansing campaigns and abuse of prisoners of war in contravention of customary international law.

Should states be held to a higher standard than non-state actors?  Should a protracted terror campaign should be viewed less critically than a state military campaign?

 

 

 

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, David AkersonComments (0)


University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Posts by Date

January 2018
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  
Resources