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Muslim Reformists, Female Citizenship and the Public Accommodation of Islam in Liberal Democracy

September 25, 2014 Comments off

Muslim Reformists, Female Citizenship and the Public Accommodation of Islam in Liberal Democracy (PDF)
Source: University of Toronto Faculty of Law

The European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”), in a trilogy of cases involving Muslim claimants, has granted state parties to the European Convention on Human Rights a wide margin of appreciation with respect to the regulation of public manifestations of Islam. The ECHR has justified its decisions in these cases on the grounds that Islamic symbols, such as the hijāb, or Muslim commitments to the shari‘a – Islamic law – are inconsistent with the democratic order of Europe. This article raises the question of what kinds of commitments to gender equality and democratic decision-making are sufficient for a democratic order, and whether modernist Islamic teachings manifest a satisfactory normative commitment in this regard. It uses the arguments of two modern Muslim reformist scholars – Yūsuf al-QaraÃāwī and ‘Abd al-Íalīm Abū Shuqqa – as evidence to argue that if the relevant degree of commitment to gender equality is understood from the perspective political rather than comprehensive liberalism, doctrines such as those elaborated by these two religious scholars evidence sufficient commitment to the value of political equality between men and women. This makes less plausible the ECHR’s arguments justifying different treatment of Muslims on account of alleged Islamic commitments to gender hierarchy. It also argues that in light of Muslim modernist conceptions of the shari‘a, there is no normative justification to conclude that faithfulness to the shari‘a entails a categorical rejection of democracy as the ECHR suggested.

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Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States 2013-2017

September 16, 2014 Comments off

Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States 2013-2017 (PDF)
Source: Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

This report was developed by the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, in partnership with the member agencies of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and other federal agencies. The plan discusses goals and objectives and the actions that federal agencies will take to ensure that all victims of human trafficking in the U.S. are identified and have access to the services they need to recover.

An Emerging Fact-Finding Discipline? A Conceptual Roadmap for Social Science Methods in Human Rights Advocacy

September 3, 2014 Comments off

An Emerging Fact-Finding Discipline? A Conceptual Roadmap for Social Science Methods in Human Rights Advocacy
Source: Social Science Research Network

Human rights advocates seek to find, interpret, and communicate facts about rights violations amidst some of the most complex social, economic, and political circumstances. To meet these challenges, fact-finders have developed research procedures that increasingly draw on a wide range of interdisciplinary tools and perspectives — with a notable expansion in the use of qualitative and quantitative methods from social science during recent years. Yet there is little discussion of investigative principles, research components, and methodological standards in the human rights field — a reality that often fuels tension and uncertainty over the extent to which social scientific research standards can and should inform evolving fact-finding conventions. As a result, fundamental questions about such standards remain unaddressed. To fill this gap, this chapter offers three core contributions. First, this chapter contextualizes the discussion by presenting data concerning the methods and conventions used by researchers at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in the years 2000 and 2010. Second, this chapter interrogates the nature of social scientific inquiry and the degree of overlap between social science research and human rights fact-finding by comparing investigative principles, research components, and methodological standards. These comparisons reveal that social scientific research and human rights fact-finding share many common foundations and suggest that there is great potential for further convergence — especially in relation to methodological transparency. Third, drawing on some of the key distinctions between social science research and human rights fact-finding, this chapter highlights some of the methodological trade-offs that human rights investigators will likely confront when more directly considering social scientific strategies. This chapter ultimately cautions against the creation of a social science of human rights fact-finding, given the unique challenges and irreducible ethical commitments of human rights fact-finding. It instead calls for open and inclusive conversations about the most promising and appropriate standards for the evolving practice of human rights fact-finding.

UN OHCHR — Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (PDF)
Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The findings presented in the present report, based on 480 interviews and evidence collected between 20 January and 15 July 2014, establish that the conduct of the warring parties in the Syrian Arab Republic has caused civilians immeasurable suffering.

Government forces continued to perpetrate massacres and conduct widespread attacks on civilians, systematically committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance amounting to crimes against humanity. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of murder, hostage-taking, torture, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and targeting civilians. Government forces disregarded the special protection accorded to hospitals and medical and humanitarian personnel. Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling led to mass civilian casualties and spread terror. Government forces used chlorine gas, an illegal weapon.

Non-State armed groups, named in the report, committed massacres and war crimes, including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking, violations of international humanitarian law tantamount to enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and attacking protected objects. Medical and religious personnel and journalists were targeted. Armed groups besieged and indiscriminately shelled civilian neighbourhoods, in some instances spreading terror among civilians through the use of car bombings in civilian areas. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) committed torture, murder, acts tantamount to enforced disappearance, and forcible displacement as part of an attack on the civilian population in Aleppo and Ar Raqqah governorates, amounting to crimes against humanity.

Social media freedom in Turkey

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Social media freedom in Turkey
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

After a two-month ban, the Turkish government restored access to the video-sharing website YouTube in June 2014. This move was necessary to comply with a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling, which judged blocking the site as a breach of freedom of expression. In April Turkey’s highest court had ruled in a similar case, overturning the controversial ban on the micro-blogging site Twitter. While Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Erdogan criticized the judgment fiercely, Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, commended the CC for “safeguard[ing] rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The two social media court cases illustrate the widening gap between an increasingly authoritarian government and the judiciary in Turkey.

CRS — Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (August 7, 2014)

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since the 1980s, Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America with a population of 15.5 million, has continued its transition from centuries of mostly autocratic rule toward representative government. A democratic constitution was adopted in 1985, and a democratically elected government was inaugurated in 1986. A violent 36-year civil war ended in 1996.

This report provides an overview of Guatemala’s current political and economic conditions, relations with the United States, and several issues likely to figure in future decisions by Congress and the Administration regarding Guatemala. With respect to continued cooperation and foreign assistance, these issues include security and governance; protection of human rights and human rights conditions on some U.S. military aid to Guatemala; support for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala; combating narcotics trafficking and organized crime; trade relations; intercountry adoption; and unaccompanied children at the U.S. border.

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan

August 18, 2014 Comments off

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan
Source: Amnesty International

Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 by international forces, and thousands more have been injured. This report examines the record of accountability for civilian deaths caused by international military operations in the five-year period from 2009 to 2013. In particular, it focuses on the performance of the US government in investigating possible war crimes and in prosecuting those suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes. Its overall finding is that the record is poor.

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