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Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

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.

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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.

CRS — Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy (August 8, 2014)

August 15, 2014 Comments off

Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The offensive in northern and central Iraq led by the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) has raised significant concerns for the United States and precipitated new U.S. military action in Iraq. U.S. concerns include a possible breakup of Iraq’s political and territorial order; the establishment of a potential base for terrorist attacks in the region or even against the U.S. homeland; the potential for a humanitarian catastrophe; and direct threats to the approximately 5,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq.

The crisis has raised several questions for U.S. policy because it represents the apparent unraveling of a seemingly stable and secure Iraq that was in place when U.S. combat troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011. The Islamic State offensive into Kurdish-controlled territory in early August has caused the United States to become reengaged militarily in Iraq. The Administration has said its intervention will remain limited and will not result in a deployment of U.S. ground troops back into Iraq. The Administration also has engaged in humanitarian air drops to members of minority communities in northern Iraq that fled the IS onslaught.

Iraq: Understanding the ISIS Offensive Against the Kurds

August 12, 2014 Comments off

Iraq: Understanding the ISIS Offensive Against the Kurds
Source: Brookings Institution

Caveat: As I have noted in previous assessments, it is always difficult to assess the dynamics of an ongoing conflict. It is probably the case that even the U.S. government, with its vast array of intelligence collection systems, has an imperfect grasp of the situation in Iraq. Outside military analysts without access to that information must accept an even greater degree of uncertainty. Consequently, what follows should be seen as little more than informed speculation based on limited and potentially unreliable evidence.

Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings

August 8, 2014 Comments off

Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings (PDF)
Source: World Health Organization

Reproductive health is a human right, and like all other human rights, it applies to refugees, internally displaced persons and others living in humanitarian settings. To realize this right, affected populations must have access to comprehensive reproductive health information and services so they are free to make informed choices about their health and well-being.

The provision of comprehensive and high-quality reproductive health services requires a multisectoral integrated approach. Personnel from sectors such as protection, health, nutrition, education and community service all have an important role in planning and delivering reproductive health services. Needs are best met through involving affected communities in every phase of action: from assessing needs to designing programmes, to launching and maintaining programmes and evaluating their impact.

The Inter-agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings is the result of a collaborative and consultative process engaging over 100 members from United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations that make up the Inter-agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises.

The updated information in this Field Manual is based on normative technical guidance of the World Health Organization. It also reflects the good practices documented in crisis settings around the world since the initial field-test version of the Field Manual was released in 1996, followed by the 1999 version, Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Inter-agency Field Manual. This latest edition reflects the wide application of the Field Manual’s principles and technical content beyond refugee

Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Implications for Religious Minorities – CRS Insights

August 6, 2014 Comments off

Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Implications for Religious Minorities – CRS Insights
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Conflict in Syria and Iraq is causing particular suffering for religious minorities in the countries’ diverse societies, leading some Members of Congress to call for increased action by the U.S. government.

CRS — U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit: Frequently Asked Questions and Background

August 4, 2014 Comments off

U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit: Frequently Asked Questions and Background (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

This report provides information about the early August 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, and policy issues likely to be addressed by participants in the summit and other events being held in conjunction with it. In providing background on key U.S.-Africa policy issues, the report addresses:
• Africa’s development and economic challenges;
• U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and economic cooperation;
• U.S. aid to Africa;
• Governance, democracy, and human rights issues; and
• Peace and security issues, including selected U.S. responses.

DHS OIG — Oversight of Unaccompanied Alien Children

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Oversight of Unaccompanied Alien Children (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General
From press release (PDF):

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), today issued the first of a series of reports on conditions at detention centers being used to temporarily house unaccompanied alien children.

The report is based on 87 unannounced site visits conducted by OIG agents from July 1-16 at 63 detention centers in Texas, Arizona and California, largely operated by Customs and Border Protection. The OIG’s oversight of the detention centers is ongoing and reports will be issued monthly.

The OIG’s findings are contained in a memorandum from Inspector General John Roth to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson.

OIG Agents checked the sites for sanitation, availability of medical care, food services and other factors. Sites and their staff were found to be largely in compliance with rules and regulations. Some problems were identified, including children requiring treatment for communicable diseases and DHS employees who have become ill from contact with their charges.

Why Children are Fleeing Central America

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Why Children are Fleeing Central America (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

Since last October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have fled unspeakable conditions and crossed into the United States. Most have come from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. By year’s end, that number is expected to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000. The Department of Homeland Security is preparing for more than 100,000 children to arrive in 2015. The United States is witnessing a humanitarian crisis in this situation.

Many members of Congress are focusing on detention centers and how fast the United States can send these children back to their home countries. Few are asking this question: What are we sending these children back to? Without addressing the root causes of this crisis, such as poverty and violence, this situation will continue. More and more children will be driven to flee their home countries in search of greater educational and economic opportunities, safer and more stable communities, and a path out of hunger.

This crisis is not just about the surge of new arrivals in the United States. It is also about the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence that force children to leave their homes on a very dangerous and uncertain journey:

• 75 percent of these children are coming from three countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
• More than half of the citizens of Honduras and Guatemala live on less than $4 a day.
• About half of all Guatemalans suffer from moderately or severely stunted growth.
• Honduras has the highest murder rate per capita in the world. It is almost five times that of Mexico and twice that of Detroit.
• Residents of all ages, including children, in these countries are getting caught in gang-related violence.

A Case against Child Labor Prohibitions

July 30, 2014 Comments off

A Case against Child Labor Prohibitions
Source: Cato Institute

In my recent book, Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy, I argue that much of what the anti-sweatshop movement agitates for would harm workers and that the process of economic development, in which sweatshops play an important role, is the best way to raise wages and improve working conditions. Child labor, although the most emotionally charged aspect of sweatshops, is not an exception to this analysis.

We should desire to see an end to child labor, but it has to come through a process that generates better opportunities for the children—not from legislative mandates that prevent children and their families from taking the best option available to them. Children work because their families are desperately poor, and the meager addition to the family income they can contribute is often necessary for survival. Banning child labor through trade regulations or governmental prohibitions often simply forces the children into less-desirable alternatives. When U.S. activists started pressuring Bangladesh into eliminating child labor, the results were disastrous.

Survey | Nearly 7-in-10 Americans See Unaccompanied Children at Border as Refugees, Not Illegal Immigrants

July 30, 2014 Comments off

Survey | Nearly 7-in-10 Americans See Unaccompanied Children at Border as Refugees, Not Illegal Immigrants
Source: Public Religion Research Institute

Roughly half (49%) of Americans report hearing a lot about the growing numbers of children arriving in the United States from Central America, while 31% report only hearing a little, and 20% report hearing nothing at all.

More than one-third (36%) of Americans view the number of children now coming from Central America as a crisis, while 43% see the situation as a serious problem but not a crisis. About 1-in-5 (19%) say the situation is a minor problem.

A majority (69%) of Americans say that children arriving from Central America should be treated as refugees and allowed to stay in the U.S. if authorities determine it is not safe for them to return to their home countries. In contrast, 27% say that children arriving from Central America should be treated as illegal immigrants and deported back to their home countries.

International Religious Freedom Report for 2013

July 28, 2014 Comments off

International Religious Freedom Report for 2013
Source: U.S. Department of State

In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm.

In Syria, as in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self. After three years of civil war, hundreds of thousands fled the country desperate to escape the ongoing violence perpetrated by the government and extremist groups alike. In the city of Homs the number of Christians dwindled to as few as 1,000 from approximately 160,000 prior to the conflict. Elsewhere, in the Central African Republic, widespread lawlessness and an upsurge in sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims reportedly resulted in at least 700 deaths in Bangui in December alone and the displacement of more than one million people throughout the country during the year.

Anti-Muslim violence in Meikhtila, Burma, led to up to 100 deaths and an estimated 12,000 displaced residents from the area in early 2013. This event showed that mob violence against Muslims was no longer confined to western Rakhine State, where over 140,000 persons have also been displaced since 2012. Although the government’s overall human rights record continued to improve, organized anti-Muslim hate speech, harassment, and discrimination against Muslims continued, exploited by those seeking to divide and pit Buddhist and Muslim communities against one another, often for political gain.

All around the world, individuals were subjected to discrimination, violence and abuse, perpetrated and sanctioned violence for simply exercising their faith, identifying with a certain religion, or choosing not to believe in a higher deity at all.

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

July 24, 2014 Comments off

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion
Source: Human Rights Watch

The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

CRS — Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since FY2008, the growth in the number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras seeking to enter the United States has increased substantially. Total unaccompanied child apprehensions increased from about 8,000 in FY2008 to 52,000 in the first 8 ½ months of FY2014. Since 2012, children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Central America’s “northern triangle”) account for almost all of this increase. Apprehension trends for these three countries are similar and diverge sharply from those for Mexican children. Unaccompanied child migrants’ motives for migrating to the United States are often multifaceted and difficult to measure analytically.

Four recent out-migration-related factors distinguishing northern triangle Central American countries are high violent crime rates, poor economic conditions fueled by relatively low economic growth rates, high rates of poverty, and the presence of transnational gangs.

Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System
Source: Amnesty International

The USA stands virtually alone in the world in incarcerating thousands of prisoners in longterm or indefinite solitary confinement, defined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as “the physical and social isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day”. More than 40 US states are believed to operate “super-maximum security” units or prisons, collectively housing at least 25,000 prisoners. This number does not include the many thousands of other prisoners serving shorter periods in punishment or administrative segregation cells – estimated to be approximately 80,000 on any given day.

While US authorities have always been able to segregate prisoners for their own protection or as a penalty for disciplinary offences, super-maximum security facilities differ in that they are designed to isolate prisoners long-term as an administrative control measure. It is a management tool that has been criticized by human rights bodies, and is being increasingly challenged by US penal experts and others, as costly, ineffective and inhumane.

NCSL — Child Migrants to the United States

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Child Migrants to the United States
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

The U.S. is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children arriving on the southern border, gaining humanitarian and political attention and challenging federal and state resources and management. As of June 14, 2014, more than 52,000 children have been apprehended, a doubling of arrivals compared to last year.

Federal responsibility for unaccompanied children is divided between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Children in DHS custody who are under age 18 without a parent or guardian must be screened and transferred to HHS within 72 hours. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in HHS reunites the child with family or a friend, or in approximately 10 percent of the cases, places them in foster care, pending court review of their immigration claims. After being placed either with a sponsor or in foster care, every child is put into deportation proceedings. The children may then be granted permission to stay (for example, through family visas, special immigrant juvenile visas or asylum); choose to leave voluntarily; or be removed from the United States.

The surge in children crossing the border has placed an immense strain on federal agencies to process and care for them. The agencies have responded by identifying shelters and processing facilities, redirecting staff and funds, and activating an interagency group coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have assigned more staff to apprehend and process children and families crossing the Texas border. ORR has requested approval from Congress to address a budget shortfall for unaccompanied children by shifting funding from state-administered refugee programs.
Potential state impacts include: budget shortfalls in state administered refugee programs and implications for state services; state licensing and oversight of care providers for unaccompanied children; and communication/coordination of federal enforcement and emergency response with state law enforcement.

In a June 30, 2014 letter to congressional leaders, the president provided an update on the administration’s response to the humanitarian crisis and a request for support for an emergency supplementation appropriation. The request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding, submitted July 8, 2014, would provide an additional $3.7 billion in emergency funding: $1.6 billion to DOJ and DHS; $1.8 billion to HHS; and $300 million to the Department of State.
This brief highlights recent trends in arrivals of unaccompanied children, an overview of the federal unaccompanied minor program, federal budget proposals to respond to the increased arrivals, and benefit eligibility for unaccompanied migrant children.

CRS — Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The scope of aliens’ right to counsel in removal proceedings is a topic of recurring congressional and public interest. This topic is complicated, in part, because the term right to counsel can refer to either (1) the right to counsel of one’s own choice at one’s own expense, or (2) the right of indigent persons to counsel at the government’s expense. A right to counsel can also arise from multiple sources, including the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), other federal statutes, and federal regulations. Further, in some cases, courts have declined to recognize a “categorical” right to counsel, applicable to all aliens in removal proceedings, but have found that individual aliens could potentially have a right to counsel on a case-by-case basis because of their specific circumstances.

CRS — Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) arriving in the United States has reached alarming numbers that has strain the system put in place over the past decade to handle such cases. UAC are defined in statute as children who lack lawful immigration status in the United States, who are under the age of 18, and who are without a parent or legal guardian in the United States or no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody. Two statutes and a legal settlement most directly affect U.S. policy for the treatment and administrative processing of UAC: the Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997; the Homeland Security Act of 2002; and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

Several agencies in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) share responsibilities for the processing, treatment, and placement of UAC. DHS Customs and Border Protection apprehends and detains UAC arrested at the border while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handles the transfer and repatriation responsibilities. ICE also apprehends UAC in the interior of the country and is responsible for representing the government in removal proceedings. HHS is responsible for coordinating and implementing the care and placement of UAC in appropriate custody.

UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict Documents Continued Child Suffering in 23 Conflict Situations

July 2, 2014 Comments off

Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict Documents Continued Child Suffering in 23 Conflict Situations
Source: United Nations (Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict)

In 2013, children were recruited and used, killed and maimed, victims of sexual violence and other grave violations in 23 conflict situations around the world. These are some of the findings unveiled today in the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.

“We have documented the cases of children recruited and used by 7 national armies and 50 armed groups fighting wars in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and in 11 other countries.” said Leila Zerrougui, UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict. “But there is also progress to report. No violations were recorded in Chad in 2013 and the country’s National Army has fulfilled all the requirements of its action plan. They are no longer on the list for recruitment and use of children.”

War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing

July 1, 2014 Comments off

War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

All across the country, heavily armed SWAT teams are raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. It should enrage us that people have needlessly died during these raids, that pets have been shot, and that homes have been ravaged.

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies. Any yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color.

As our new report makes clear, it’s time for American police to remember that they are supposed to protect and serve our communities, not wage war on the people who live in them.

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