Source: Amnesty International
Human rights know no borders. But Amnesty International’s 2013 report shows governments are using the excuse of ‘internal affairs’ in shameful attempts to block concerted international action to resolve human rights emergencies.
Controlled Trial of Psychotherapy for Congolese Survivors of Sexual Violence
Source: New England Journal of Medicine
Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common in survivors of sexual violence. In high-income countries, there are effective treatments for trauma related to sexual violence, but these treatments have not been adequately tested in low-income, conflict-affected countries with few mental health professionals and low literacy rates. The few studies of effectiveness have had methodologic limitations, including a lack of controls and high attrition rates.
Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is a low-income, conflict-affected region in which political and economic instability are ongoing problems and nearly 40% of women have experienced sexual violence. The development of effective mental health services has important implications for the recovery of sexual-violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo and similar countries.
We evaluated an adaptation of group cognitive processing therapy provided by community-based paraprofessionals (psychosocial assistants), supervised by psychosocial staff at a nongovernmental organization (NGO) and by clinical experts based in the United States. Cognitive processing therapy has shown efficacy in high-income countries, with effects lasting for 5 or more years. We evaluated the benefits of adding this therapy to services offered by workers trained only in case management and individual supportive counseling.
Haiti Under President Martelly: Current Conditions and Congressional Concerns (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment. During that time, economic and social stability improved considerably, and many analysts believed Haiti was turning a corner toward sustainable development. Unfortunately, Haiti’s development was set back by a massive earthquake in January 2010 that devastated much of the capital of Port-au-Prince and other parts of the country. Poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide: Haiti remains the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Haiti is the Obama Administration’s top foreign assistance priority for Latin American and Caribbean countries. Haiti’s developmental needs and priorities are many. The Haitian government and the international donor community are implementing a 10-year recovery plan focusing on territorial, economic, social, and institutional rebuilding. An outbreak of cholera that began in late 2010 has swept across most of the country and further complicated assistance efforts. While some progress has been made in developing democratic institutions, they remain weak. In May 2011, following yet another controversial election, President René Préval was succeeded by Michel Martelly, a popular musician without any previous political experience. President Martelly’s difficulty in forming a government and political gridlock, especially the lengthy and contentious delays in beginning a long overdue elections process, are hampering reconstruction efforts and frustrating international donors. Some steps toward elections have been made, including naming an electoral council and passing a political parties law.
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has been in Haiti to help restore order since the collapse of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004. It currently has 9,464 troops. The mission has helped facilitate elections, conducted campaigns to combat gangs and drug trafficking with the Haitian National Police, and played a key role in emergency responses to natural disasters, especially after the earthquake. Nonetheless, popular protests have called for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal because of sexual abuse by some of its forces and scientific findings that its troops apparently introduced cholera to the country. In February 2013 the U.N. said it would not compensate cholera victims, citing diplomatic immunity.
The main priorities for U.S. policy regarding Haiti are to strengthen fragile democratic processes, continue to improve security, and promote econom ic development. Other concerns include the cost and effectiveness of U.S. aid; protecting human rights; combating narcotics, arms, and human trafficking; and alleviating poverty. The Obama Administration granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the United States at the time of the earthquake. Congressional concerns include the pace and effectiveness of reconstruction, respect for human rights, security issues, counternarcotics efforts and trade issues. Congress is also concerned that overdue Senate and local elections be scheduled quickly and be free, fair, and peaceful.
Current legislation related to Haiti includes P.L. 112-74, P.L. 111-171, P.L. 110-246 , P.L. 109- 432 , H.R. 651, H.R. 1525, H.R. 1749, H.Res. 31, H.Res. 61, and S.Res. 12.
Source: U.S. Department of State
Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Congress took a momentous step in support of religious freedom when it passed the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing within the Executive Branch the position of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. With this measure, the U.S. government made a bold statement on behalf of those who were oppressed, those who were persecuted, and those who were unable to live their lives at the most basic level, for the simple exercise of their faith. Whether it be a single deity, or multiple deities, or no deities at all, freedom to believe–including the freedom not to believe–is a universal human right.
Freedom of religion and belief and the right to worship as one chooses fulfill a deep and abiding human need. The search for this freedom led the Pilgrims to flee Europe for America’s shores centuries ago, and is enshrined in our own Constitution. But it is by no means exclusively an American right. All states are committed to freedom of thought, conscience and belief in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been the touchstone and the global standard for the protection of human rights around the world since 1948.
The right to religious freedom is inherent in every human being. Unfortunately, this right was challenged in myriad ways in 2012. One of the basic elements of the International Religious Freedom Act is the requirement that the Department of State publish an annual report on the status of religious freedom in countries around the world, and the record of governments in protecting–or not protecting–this universal right.
This year’s report tells stories of courage and conviction, but also recounts violence, restriction, and abuse. While many nations uphold, respect, and protect religious freedom, regrettably, in many other nations, governments do not protect this basic right; subject members of religious minorities to violence; actively restrict citizens’ religious freedom through oppressive laws and regulations; stand by while members of societal groups attack their fellow citizens out of religious hatred, and fail to hold those responsible for such violence accountable for their actions. The immediate challenge is to protect members of religious minorities. The ongoing challenge is to address the root causes that lead to limits on religious freedom. These causes include impunity for violations of religious freedom and an absence of the rule of law, or uneven enforcement of existing laws; introduction of laws restricting religious freedom; societal intolerance, including anti-Semitism and lack of respect for religious diversity; and perceptions that national security and stability are best maintained by placing restrictions on and abusing religious freedom.
This comprehensive report comprises almost two hundred individual reports on countries and territories. Each report sets forth the laws, policies, and practices of governments; describes the nature of societal respect for religious freedom; and highlights the specific efforts that the U.S. government made in each country to promote respect for religious freedom. Some reports document religious bigotry, hatred, and oppression. Others describe examples of religious freedom, societal respect, and interfaith dialogue. Whatever the case, the Secretary of State has been clear that these reports should be accurate, objective, detailed, and frank.
For 2012, some common themes regarding the status of religious freedom around the world emerged. In general, these themes reveal negative trends, and often cut across national and regional boundaries. The individual reports provide the details, but these worrying trends–and the authoritarian governments that restrict their citizens’ ability to practice their religion–merit highlighting.
“Swept Away” — Abuses against Sex Workers in China
Source: Human Rights Watch
This 51-page report documents abuses by the police against female sex workers in Beijing, including torture, beatings, physical assaults, arbitrary detentions, and fines, as well as a failure to investigate crimes against sex workers by clients, bosses, and state agents. The report also documents abuses by public health agencies, such as coercive HIV testing, privacy infringements, and mistreatment by health officials.
USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report on the State of International Religious Freedom Identifies World’s Worst Violato rs
Source: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal advisory body created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad, today released its 2013 Annual Report. The Report highlights the status of religious freedom globally and identifies those governments that are the most egregious violators.
The 2013 Annual Report recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight nations as “countries of particular concern” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. USCIRF finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)
The uprising that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, at the outbreak of the uprisings that swept several Middle Eastern leaders from power, has not come close to changing Bahrain’s regime into a constitutional monarchy. However, the mostly Shiite opposition shows no signs of ending its campaign to achieve that goal or, at the very least greatly increased political influence and rights. The crisis has demonstrated that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by reform efforts instituted since 1999.
Even though demonstrations against the government continue, the two sides have engaged in dialogue as well. A “national dialogue” held in July 2011 reached consensus on a few modest political reforms. Hopes for resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government’s actions against the unrest. The government asserts it implemented most of the 26 BICI recommendations, but outside human rights groups assessed that overall implementation was modest and incomplete. In January 2013, the perception within the government and the opposition that the political system could split apart entirely caused both sides to restart that dialogue. The two sides remain far apart, but the new, ongoing dialogue could produce some additional modest reforms and potentially represent incremental progress toward a solution to the crisis.
The Obama Administration has not called for an end to the Al Khalifa regime, but it has criticized the regime’s human rights abuses, urged it to undertake further political reform, and advanced ideas to narrow government-opposition differences. The U.S. criticism has angered some Al Khalifa officials but it has also been insufficient for human rights activists who assert that the United States is downplaying regime abuses because of U.S. dependence on the security relationship with Bahrain. Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests—particularly the containment of Iran—by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years. The United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain a “major non-NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Partly to address criticism from human rights advocates and some Members of Congress, the Administration put on hold a proposed sale of armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons. However, in mid-May 2012 the Administration announced a resumption of other arms sales to Bahrain that it can potentially use to protect itself and support any military effort against Iran. Consumed by its own crisis, Bahrain has joined with but deferred to other GCC powers to resolve political crises in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies and therefore lacks the resources to significantly improve Shiite standards of living. In 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest has further strained Bahrain’s economy.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)
Ten years after the March 19, 2003, U.S. military intervention to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, accelerating violence and growing political schisms call into question whether the fragile stability left in place after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will collapse. Iraq’s stability is increasingly threatened by a revolt—with both peaceful and violent components—by Sunni Arab Muslims who resent Shiite political domination. Sunni Arabs, always fearful that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would seek unchallenged power, accuse him of attempting to marginalize them politically in part by arresting or attempting to remove key Sunni leaders. Sunni demonstrations have grown since late December 2012 and some have led to protester deaths. Iraq’s Kurds are increasingly aligned with the Sunnis, based on their own disputes with Maliki over territorial, political, and economic issues. The Shiite faction of Moqtada Al Sadr has been leaning to the Sunnis and Kurds, and could hold the key to Maliki’s political survival. Adding to the schisms is the physical incapacity of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has served as a key mediator, who suffered a stroke in mid-December 2012 and remains outside Iraq. The rifts have impinged on provincial elections on April 20, 2013, and will likely affect national elections for a new parliament and government in 2014. Maliki is expected to seek to retain his post in that vote.
The violent component of Sunni unrest is spearheaded by the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQ-I). The group, apparently emboldened by the Sunni-led uprising in Syria, is conducting attacks against Shiite neighborhoods and Iraqi Security Force (ISF) members with increasing frequency and lethality. The attacks are intended to reignite all-out sectarian conflict, and some fear that goal might be realized. Should the violence escalate further, there are concerns whether the ISF—which numbers nearly 700,000 members—can counter it now that U.S. troops are no longer in Iraq.
U.S. forces left in December 2011 in line with a November 2008 bilateral U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. Iraq refused to extend the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, seeking to put behind it the period of U.S. political and military tutelage and arguing that the ISF could handle violence on its own. Since the U.S. pullout, many observers assert that U.S. influence over Iraq has ebbed significantly. Cornerstone programs of what were to be enduring, close security relations—U.S. training for Iraq’s security forces through an Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (OSC-I) and a State Department police development program—have languished. The U.S. civilian presence in Iraq has declined from about 17,000 to about 10,500 as of March 2013, and might fall to 5,500 by the end of 2013. However, the Administration—with increasing Iraqi concurrence—has asserted that the escalating violence necessitates that Iraq rededicate itself to military cooperation with and assistance from the United States. In December 2012 signed a new defense cooperation agreement with the United States.
Although recognizing that Iraq wants to rebuild its relations in its immediate neighborhood, the United States is seeking to prevent Iraq from falling under the sway of Iran. The Maliki government has built close relations with the Islamic Republic. Apparently fearing that a change of regime in Syria will further embolden the Iraqi Sunni opposition, Maliki has joined Iran in supporting Bashar Al Assad’s regime. However, the legacy of Iran-Iraq hostilities, and Arab and Persian differences, limit Iranian influence among the Iraqi population. Another limitation on Iranian influence is Iraq’s effort to reestablish its historic role as a major player in the Arab world. Iraq took a large step toward returning to the Arab fold by hosting an Arab League summit on March 27-29, 2012.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012
Source: U.S. Department of State
I am proud to present the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the first time as Secretary of State. When I served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, my colleagues and I depended on these reports for an accurate assessment of human rights conditions around the world. I know how valuable they are to those in the State Department and other federal agencies who carry out U.S. foreign policy as well as to members of Congress, the academic community, activists, students, journalists, lawyers, judges, foreign governments, and concerned citizens everywhere.
The pages that follow document the often difficult march forward of human freedom around the world. Significant progress is being made in some places, but in far too many others governments fall short of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ vision of a world where people live “free and equal in dignity and rights.”
We report on the world’s newest country, South Sudan, and its efforts to ensure a peaceful future for its people. We cover the horrifying violence in Syria, historic elections in Egypt, Georgia, and Libya, and the promising democratic opening in Burma. The reports also reveal the courage of individuals, including netizens, activists, workers, and journalists who advocate for universal human rights. The reports make clear that many of our most pressing foreign policy challenges are, at their core, about the universal and undeniable human quest for freedom and dignity.
Our world is complex and increasingly influenced by non-state actors – brave civil society activists and advocates, but also violent extremists, transnational criminals, and other malevolent actors. In those places where human rights and fundamental freedoms are denied, it is far easier for these negative destabilizing influences to take hold, threatening international stability and our own national security.
It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous. They are better neighbors, stronger allies, and better economic partners. Governments that enforce safe workplaces, prohibit exploitative child and forced labor, and educate their citizens create a more level playing field and broader customer base for the global marketplace. Conversely, governments that threaten regional and global peace, from Iran to North Korea, are also egregious human rights abusers, with citizens trapped in the grip of domestic repression, economic deprivation, and international isolation.
The United States stands with people and governments that aspire to freedom and democracy, mindful from our own experience that the work of building a more perfect union – a sustainable and durable democracy – will never be complete. As part of this commitment, we advocate around the world for governments to adopt policies and practices that respect human rights regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability; that allow for and honor the results of free and fair elections; that ensure safe and healthy workplaces; and that respect peaceful protests and other forms of dissent. The United States continues to speak out unequivocally on behalf of the fundamental dignity and equality of all persons.
I hereby transmit the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 to the United States Congress.
John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
US Department of Labor releases toolkit to help businesses combat child and forced labor in global supply chains
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs today introduced Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor: A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses, the first guide developed by the U.S. government to help businesses combat child labor and forced labor in their global supply chains.
"Encouraging businesses to reduce child and forced labor in their supply chains helps advance fundamental human rights that are at the core of worker dignity, whether here in the U.S. or abroad," Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a video message announcing the toolkit.
The free, easy-to-use toolkit was unveiled during an event at Labor Department headquarters for representatives of government, industry, labor and civil society organizations that are at the forefront of efforts to prevent labor abuses in the production of goods. Speakers included Carol Pier, acting deputy undersecretary of ILAB; Eric Biel, acting associate deputy undersecretary of ILAB; and David Abramowitz, vice president of policy and government relations at Humanity United.
The toolkit highlights the need for a social compliance program that integrates a company’s policies and practices to ensure that the company addresses child labor and forced labor throughout its supply chain. It provides practical, step-by-step guidance on eight critical elements that will be helpful for companies that do not have a social compliance system in place or those needing to strengthen existing systems. An integrated social compliance system includes: engaging stakeholders and partners, assessing risks and impacts, developing a code of conduct, communicating and training across the supply chain, monitoring compliance, remediating violations, independent review and reporting performance.
Source: Open Society Foundation
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency embarked on a highly classified program of secret detention and extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects. The program was designed to place detainee interrogations beyond the reach of law. Suspected terrorists were seized and secretly flown across national borders to be interrogated by foreign governments that used torture, or by the CIA itself in clandestine “black sites” using torture techniques.
Globalizing Torture is the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. It details for the first time what was done to the 136 known victims, and lists the 54 foreign governments that participated in these operations. It shows that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit.
More than 10 years after the 2001 attacks, Globalizing Torture makes it unequivocally clear that the time has come for the United States and its partners to definitively repudiate these illegal practices and secure accountability for the associated human rights abuses.
Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
Imprisonment of journalists worldwide reached a record high in 2012, driven in part by the widespread use of charges of terrorism and other anti-state offenses against critical reporters and editors, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ identified 232 individuals behind bars on December 1, an increase of 53 over its 2011 tally.
Large-scale imprisonments in Turkey, Iran, and China helped lift the global tally to its highest point since CPJ began conducting worldwide surveys in 1990, surpassing the previous record of 185 in 1996. The three nations, the world’s worst jailers of the press, each made extensive use of vague anti-state laws to silence dissenting political views, including those expressed by ethnic minorities. Worldwide, anti-state charges such as terrorism, treason, and subversion were the most common allegations brought against journalists in 2012. At least 132 journalists were being held around the world on such charges, CPJ’s census found.
Eritrea and Syria also ranked among the world’s worst, each jailing numerous journalists without charge or due process and holding them in secret prisons without access to lawyers or family members. Worldwide, 63 journalists are being held without any publicly disclosed charge.
Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia rounded out the 10 worst jailers. In two of those nations, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, the authorities used retaliatory charges such as hooliganism and drug possession to jail critical reporters and editors. In 19 cases worldwide, governments used a variety of charges unrelated to journalism to silence critical journalists. In the cases included in this census, CPJ determined that the charges were fabricated.
U.S. Sanctions on Burma (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Existing U.S. sanctions on Burma are based on various U.S. laws and presidential executive orders. This report provides a brief history of U.S. policy towards Burma and the development of U.S. sanctions, a topical summary of those sanctions, and an examination of additional sanctions that have been considered, but not enacted, by Congress, or that could be imposed under existing law or executive orders. It also discusses recent easing of some of those sanctions and provisions under which additional sanctions could be waived or removed. The report concludes with a discussion of options for Congress.
The current U.S. sanctions on Burma were enacted, for the most part, due to what the U.S. government saw as a general disregard by Burma’s ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), for the human rights and civil liberties of the people of Burma. The actions of the new quasi-civilian government in Burma have led the Obama Administration to waive some of the existing sanctions in an effort to promote further reforms and to support perceived pro-reform Burmese government officials. The easing of U.S. sanctions has been generally timed to correspond with a significant political development in Burma-U.S. relations.
Burma-specific sanctions began following the Burmese military’s violent suppression of popular protests in 1988, and have continued through several subsequent periods in which Congress perceived major human rights violations in Burma. The result is a web of overlapping sanctions with differing restrictions, waiver provisions, expiration conditions, and reporting requirements. The United States currently imposes sanctions specifically on Burma via six laws and five presidential documents. These sanctions can be generally divided into several broad categories, such as visa bans, restrictions on financial services, prohibitions of Burmese imported goods, a ban on new investments in Burma, and constraints on U.S. assistance to Burma. Past Congresses have considered a variety of additional, stricter sanctions on Burma.
In addition to the targeted sanctions, Burma is currently subject to certain sanctions specified in U.S. laws based on various functional issues. In many cases, the type of assistance or relations restricted or prohibited by these provisions is also addressed under Burma-specific sanction laws.
The functional issues include the use of child soldiers, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, failure to protect religious freedoms, violations of workers’ rights, and threats to world peace and the security of the United States.
On March 30, 2011, SPDC formally dissolved itself and transferred power to the new Union Government, headed by President Thein Sein, ex-general and prime minister for the SPDC. On six separate occasions since his appointment, President Thein Sein has ordered the release of prisoners, including a number of political prisoners. The Union Government has also initiated ceasefire talks with various ethnic-based militias, and altered laws that allowed opposition parties to participate in parliamentary by-elections held on April 1, 2012. However, the continuation of serious human rights abuses has raised questions about the extent to which there has been significant political change in Burma.
The 112 th Congress may consider either the imposition of additional sanctions or the removal of some of the existing sanctions, depending on the conduct of Burma’s new Union Government and other developments in Burma. This report will be updated as conditions warrant.
See also: Burma’s Political Prisoners and U.S. Sanctions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Under the rule of populist President Hugo Chávez, first elected in 1998, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and unicameral legislature, and even a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of expression under the Chávez government. President Chávez won reelection to another six-year term on October 7, 2012, by a margin of 11%, capturing about 55% of the vote compared to 44% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. While Chávez’s continued popularity and use of state resources helped his reelection, high rates of crime, inflation, and other economic problems eroded his support somewhat as did an energetic campaign run by Capriles. Looking ahead, Venezuela is schedule to hold state elections on December 16, 2012. Henrique Capriles will run for reelection as governor of the state of Miranda against former Vice President Elías Jaua. At this juncture, Chávez appears to have bounced back from two bouts of an undisclosed form of cancer, although his health status raises questions about Venezuela’s political future.
The United States traditionally has had close relations with Venezuela, a major supplier of foreign oil, but there has been friction and tensions in relations under the Chávez government. Over the years, U.S. officials have expressed concerns about human rights, Venezuela’s military arms purchases, its relations with Cuba and Iran, and its efforts to export its brand of populism to other Latin American countries. Declining cooperation on anti-drug and anti-terrorism efforts has been a major concern. The United States has imposed sanctions: on several Venezuelan government and military officials for allegedly helping the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with drug and weapons trafficking; on three Venezuelan companies for providing support to Iran; and on several Venezuelan individuals for providing support to Hezbollah. Despite tensions in relations, the Obama Administration remains committed to seeking constructive engagement with Venezuela, focusing on such areas as anti-drug and counter-terrorism efforts. In the aftermath of President Chávez’s reelection, the White House, while acknowledging differences with President Chávez, congratulated the Venezuelan people on the high level of participation and the relatively peaceful election process.
As in past years, there have been concerns in the 112 th Congress regarding the state of Venezuela’s democracy and human rights situation and its deepening relations with Iran. H.R. 3783, approved by the House on September 19, 2012, would require the Administration to conduct an assessment and present “a strategy to address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.” H.R. 2542, approved by the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere December 15, 2011, would withhold some assistance to the Organization of American States unless that body took action to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter regarding the status of democracy in Venezuela. H.R. 2583, approved by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs July 19, 2011, includes a provision that would prohibit aid to the government of Venezuela. Other legislative initiatives include H.Res. 247, which would call on the Secretary of State to designate Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism; and H.R. 6067, which includes a section imposing restrictions on U.S. nuclear cooperation with any country assisting the nuclear program of Venezuela or Cuba or transferring advanced conventional weapons or missiles to Venezuela or Cuba.
In action on FY2013 foreign aid appropriations, the report to the House Appropriations Committee bill, H.R. 5857 (H.Rept. 112-494, reported May 25, 2012), directs that $5 million in Economic Support Funds be provided for democracy programs in Venezuela, the same amount appropriated in FY2012, and $2 million more than requested by the Administration. In contrast, the report to the Senate Appropriations Committee bill, S. 3241 (S.Rept. 112-172, reported May 24, 2012), recommends $3 million for democracy programs in Venezuela to be administered by the National Endowment for Democracy.
Source Human Rights Watch
This 58-page report details the final hours of Muammar Gaddafi’s life and the circumstances under which he was killed. It presents evidence that Misrata-based militias captured and disarmed members of the Gaddafi convoy and, after bringing them under their total control, subjected them to brutal beatings. They then executed at least 66 captured members of the convoy at the nearby Mahari Hotel. The evidence indicates that opposition militias took Gaddafi’s wounded son Mutassim from Sirte to Misrata and killed him there.
Under the laws of war, the killing of captured combatants is a war crime, and Libyan civilian and military authorities have an obligation to investigate war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
U.S. policy toward the Central Asian states has aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism; proliferation; and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons. Other U.S. objectives have included promoting free markets, democratization, human rights, energy development, and the forging of East-West and Central Asia-South Asia trade links. Such policies aim to help the states become what various U.S. administrations have considered to be responsible members of the international community rather than to degenerate into xenophobic, extremist, and anti-Western regimes that contribute to wider regional conflict and instability.
Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, all the Central Asian “front-line” states offered over-flight and other support for coalition anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan hosted coalition troops and provided access to airbases. In 2003, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also endorsed coalition military action in Iraq. About two dozen Kazakhstani troops served in Iraq until late 2008. Uzbekistan rescinded U.S. basing rights in 2005 after the United States criticized the reported killing of civilians in the town of Andijon. In early 2009, Kyrgyzstan ordered a U.S. base in that country to close, allegedly because of Russian inducements and U.S. reluctance to meet Kyrgyz requests for greatly increased lease payments. An agreement on continued U.S. use of the Manas Transit Center was reached in June 2009. In recent years, most of the regional states also participate in the Northern Distribution Network for the transport of U.S. and NATO supplies into and out of Afghanistan.
Policymakers have tailored U.S. policy in Central Asia to the varying characteristics of these states. U.S. interests in Kazakhstan have included securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear and biological weapons materials and facilities. U.S. energy firms have invested in oil and natural gas development in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and successive administrations have backed diverse export routes to the West for these resources. U.S. policy toward Kyrgyzstan has long included support for its civil society. In Tajikistan, the United States focuses on developmental assistance to bolster the fragile economy and address high poverty rates. U.S. relations with Uzbekistan—the most populous state in the heart of the region—were cool after 2005, but recently have improved.
Congress has been at the forefront in advocating increased U.S. ties with Central Asia, and in providing backing for the region for the transit of equipment and supplies for U.S.-led stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Congress has pursued these goals through hearings and legislation on humanitarian, economic, and democratization assistance; security issues; and human rights. During the 112th Congress, the Members may review assistance for bolstering regional border and customs controls and other safeguards to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), combating trafficking in persons and drugs, encouraging regional integration with South Asia and Europe, advancing energy security, and countering terrorism. Support for these goals also has been viewed as contributing to stabilization and reconstruction operations by the United States and NATO in Afghanistan. For several years, Congress has placed conditions on assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan because of concerns about human rights abuses and lagging democratization (the Secretary of State may waive such conditions). Congress will continue to consider how to balance these varied U.S. interests in the region.
Growing Up Locked Down – Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States
Source: American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch
Every day, in jails and prisons across the United States, young people under the age of 18 are held in solitary confinement. They spend 22 or more hours each day alone, usually in a small cell behind a solid steel door, completely isolated both physically and socially, often for days, weeks, or even months on end. Sometimes there is a window allowing natural light to enter or a view of the world outside cell walls. Sometimes it is possible to communicate by yelling to other inmates, with voices distorted, reverberating against concrete and metal. Occasionally, they get a book or bible, and if they are lucky, study materials. But inside this cramped space, few contours distinguish one hour, one day, week, or one month, from the next.
A new report from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.