India’s agrarian crisis: sowing legislations, harvesting discontent

By  Gauthaman V

Farming is a major occupation in India, close to two-thirds of India’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Most farmers in the country are marginal, referring to those cultivating as an owner or a tenant or a share cropper on a land up to 1 hectare, and small farmers, referring to those cultivating on a land more than 1 hectare but less than 2 hectares. The last  official data on farmer’s income published by the National Sample Survey Office NSSO in 2016 shows that an average agricultural household of five members earns roughly $85 per month. 

Indian farmers have been protesting for several months now, demanding that the three Farm Acts passed by the government in September 2020 be repealed. As many as 300,000 farmers, mostly from North India, have marched to the national capital with the slogan of #DelhiChalo (meaning “Delhi let’s go”) and have occupied the roads. 

Let’s take a look at the three Farm Acts:

1.   The Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Act, 2020 allows the farmers to sell their produce to the private-sector outside the government-controlled Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMCs). It provides for a payment period, an executive-led dispute resolution mechanism and prohibits any state levies on the trades, but it will render APMCs void, which has created a sense of insecurity and tension among the Indian farmers. APMCs are marketplaces where the registered buyers and farmers meet to auction off their produce. They are run and managed by state governments and were introduced to keep the retail price in control and to safeguard the farmers from being exploited by large retailers. Moreover, APMCs also helped in price discovery. Supermarkets and other stores also set the prices of food products, roughly based on the prices that were used for procuring the food crops, in the APMCs, thereby maintaining an equitable price range. However, the government argues that invalidating APMCs will lead to a higher price discovery thereby benefiting the farmers. 

2.   The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 allows industrial companies to enter into a contract with a farmer to sell a certain quantity of farm produce at a predetermined price. It provides for a payment period, an executive-led dispute resolution mechanism, prohibits any state levies on the trade and bars civil court jurisdiction. The government promises that doing so will result in the rise of farmers’ income by placing them in the global corporate food chain. However, contracting with farmers – particularly considering the fact that a majority of them are small farmers – would mean that farmers would be left hanging at the mercy of the prices that are set by private firms. They would have no leverage or bargaining power to negotiate what they need. Contract farming has shown to have some short-term positives in India, but the monopsonist behaviour of firms is a real threat to the farmers, as pointed out by some researchers.

3.  An ordinance amending the Essential Commodities Act allows the government to delist certain commodities (including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onion, edible oilseeds, and oils) as essential, and to regulate their supply and prices only in cases of war, famine, extraordinary price rises, or other natural calamities. Further, this Act takes care of the government’s authority to impose restrictions on the stockpiling of crops. This was not allowed till now, as big players can easily hoard up crops and manipulate their prices. This will inevitably crush  common farmers with no bargaining power.

Another crucial concern of the farmers is regarding the inevitable irrelevance of Minimum Support Price  MSP. This is the minimum price  for which the government will buy off farmers’ produce. This was introduced as a safeguard against price fluctuations in the market, and it is supposed to ensure  that farmers do not have to sell off their goods at an unfair price. With an increased number of private players foraying into the agro-sector, there are concerns whether the MSP will be undertaken at all.   This is a big problem for the farmers because MSP serve as a major incentive for them. In fact, normally they would not have to worry about market conditions, confident that, thanks to MSP, they would be guaranteed a decent price for their crops regardless of them.

However, the Prime Minister and his fellow party members have stressed several times that farmers are being misled by the opposition and that the MSP are here to stay. The PM also claims that these combined regulations will ‘liberate’the farmers. Farmers’ unions have consistently argued that the main beneficiaries of these laws would be multinational agribusiness firms, as these laws for the first time would allow unbridled capitalism to encroach into the agricultural sector.

At the protest sites, the police have used tear gas and water cannons on several occasions to disperse the people. They have cut water and power supply and  temporarily blocked internet services in the area. But the farmers still stay put, as the cause continues to gain momentum. 

Eleven rounds of talks have been concluded so far between the central government and farm unions with no resolution as of now. Even though these acts potentially would strengthen infrastructure, improve tools and modernise the sector, farmers need stability in prices as well as an assured price. These Acts will cause insecurity, fluctuation and volatility and a much-weakened bargaining position for the farmers in the market.

Gauthaman V is a 2nd-year law student studying at Institute Of Law, Nirma University. He has a keen interest in public policy, constitutional law and human rights.

Weekly Roundup of Human Rights News

By Dechen D. Piya and Dan O. Eboka

In focus: Menstrual equity is a human rights issue

Menstruation is still a taboo. Women around the world face an array of obstacles and suffer severe consequences due to the ‘ignorance’ surrounding this natural process. Treating the menstrual cycle as a taboo perpetuates all kinds of injustice on women. For example, women in the West are still advocating for menstrual products to be untaxed on the basis of it being a necessity rather than being taxed as a luxury. It was only recently, in January 2021, that the UK finally abolished ‘tampon tax’. Moreover,period poverty (the inability to access sanitary products, hygiene education, toilets, and/or waste management) is a worldwide phenomenon affecting women across all cultures.

In Nepali culture, ostracisation of women on their menstrual cycle is the norm. Most households, even ‘progressive’ households in cities, hold views that women are ‘impure’ and ‘untouchable’ during their cycle. These beliefs are rooted in religious taboos. Absurd yet strict restrictions like being prohibited to enter the kitchen, temples, or sometimes even seeing male family members are imposed. In extreme cases, women are forced into ‘chhaupadi’ or menstrual huts. ‘Chhaupadi’ is a social practice prevalent in Western Nepal where individuals on their periods are banished from their homes to menstrual huts or cattle sheds. This practice was criminalised in 2017. The legal intervention has reduced the number of individuals coerced into this oppressive and violent practice. However, due to this deeply rooted patriarchal custom, chhaupadi persists. The primary concern is the individual’s safety and hygiene. Along with consistent fears of strangers attacking them at night, many women have been killed due to suffocation, unsanitary conditions, and snake bites. These practices are violence against women.

Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill/The New York Times

Pad2Go, a social enterprise that fights against gender inequality in Nepal, found a recurring pattern that forces and keeps women in poverty. When girls have their menstrual, they miss 4-5 days of school every month. They are made to prioritize household work over education which results in them being financially dependent on their male counterparts. Ultimately, they would not be able to bring their problems into the public domain and the pattern repeats. 

Menstrual equity therefore is not a girls’ or women’s issue; it is a human rights issue. Women and girls must be able to handle their periods safely and with dignity. Governments must be more proactive in preventing violent social practices and making menstrual products accessible for everyone. Furthermore, to destigmatise menstruation, it is essential for people of all genders to receive menstrual education. Violence against women materialise in different forms. Nevertheless, our fight to end violence against women in all forms must be more resilient than any oppressive social constructs and practices. 

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A Gender Lens is Warranted – COVID and its ramifications on women’s work

By Sravishtha Reddy

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has pushed India into the throes of an economic recession. The impact has been widespread and has been particularly damning for the workers employed in informal sectors. The pandemic has not only plunged millions back into extreme poverty but has also sharpened the inequalities that exist amongst the poorest in India. 

The impact of any crisis is never gender neutral and has profoundly different outcomes for both men and women in India. A clutch of early studies had revealed that the economic crises precipitated by the pandemic has severely hit women’s employment when compared to their male counterparts. This is predominantly because labour markets have always been characterised by gender-disparities. It took a pandemic as severe as Covid to uncover neglected hard-truths and fault lines that thrive in the economic system. 

Before embarking on the myriad of reports that illustrate the gender-parity of the crisis, it is pertinent to take cognisance of the data and studies released before the onset of the pandemic. The monster salary Index stated that the median gross hourly wages for women in India stands at Rs.196.30 for women, whereas for men, the total estimate stands at 242.49.Conforming the trend, The OXFAM report on mind the gap state employment stated that “women on an average are paid 34 less than similarly qualified male workers for performing the same tasks.” These reports reveal that despite the active involvement of feminists and reformists in advocating for gender parity, there has been no tangible progress made towards bridging the wage gap between men and women. 

It is also imperative to delve deeper in order to understand the implications on women’s employment, post the pandemic. The data released by McKinsey Global Institute revealed that women are more vulnerable to pandemic associated economic effects due to centuries of discrimination and patriarchal ideologies that pervade our society. Ipshita sen, founder of the NGO Engenderedstated that there are an array of studies, which show how every four out of ten women have been laid off from their jobs subsequent to the lockdown. The OXFAM India report stated that the economic loss from women losing their jobs during Covid stands at 216$ billion, a staggering 8 percent fall in the country’s GDP. This situation serves as a stark reminder to critically relook at the structural inequalities and systems that perpetuate gender inequalities on a daily basis. 

In India, 94 percent of women are engaged in the informal sector. In this sector, workers are usually deprived of social security benefits and receive an abysmal share of wages, even if they perform a lion’s share at work. The Institute of Social Studies and Trust  perfectly captured the impact of Covid on women. The survey had indicated that women bear a disproportionate toll due to their primary responsibility as care-givers and the lockdown has further amplified their work and saddled them with domestic duties. Further, around 83 percent of women workers are suffering from a major income drop. This survey also allows us to come into grips with the fact that women’s work in the economy is undervalued and grossly underpaid, despite the skill intensity involved. Owing to this, women are usually more prone to dismissal from their jobs, since they are considered to be “less productive” than men. 

The principle of equal pay for equal work isn’t explicitly stipulated under the Indian Constitution to be a fundamental right. However, its spirit is clearly seen under Article 14 and 15 of the constitution. This is because equality forms the bedrock of our constitution. It is regarded as the foundation stone of India’s democratic-socialist republic. The effect of this provision is to prevent and prohibit inequalities, unfairness and arbitrariness. 

A thorough examination of the above, pushes us to describe equal pay for equal work as the cornerstone of our constitution, which needs to be recognised and accomplished through enactments in India. Similarly, this discourse prods us to question the need for wages for care work, due to its significant contribution to the economy. 

A recent study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development proclaimed that household production forms an important part of economic activity. The report further stated that  to cordon off care work from the purview of paid work, would mean an underestimation of women’s contribution to the economy. This could further be understood through an illustration. Male sweepers employed in a restaurant, receive timely wages while female sweepers performing identical work at home are denied access to wages. This illustration makes it abundantly clear that denial of wages for housework on the pretext of love and marriage, is regarded as one of the most egregious human rights violations. 

The avalanche of domestic duties falls on women alone, and yet care work and household chores are seldom counted as productive. This is because the deeply entrenched patriarchal set up has wired individuals to believe that it is women’s inherent duty to perform household chores and lavish care on children and the elderly. The continuous availability of unpaid care work provides a substantial subsidy to the economy, since care is vital for the sustainability of the economy. The blatant failure of data and studies to capture various facets of women’s work as work has disentitled them from a host of benefits such as decent and timely wages, social security schemes and better work conditions. The Covid-pandemic, has once again, reminded us to create policies that aim at gender parity. 

RELIEF PACKAGES ANNOUNCED BY THE GOVERNMENT (DRAWBACKS AND SOLUTIONS).

Nirmala Seetharaman, India’s finance minister had announced a relief package which accounts for less than 0.5 percent of the GDP. One of main contents of this programme for women include extra food rations and a shockingly low cash assistance with bank accounts linked to the government’s financial inclusion programme titled “Pradhan Mantri Jhan Dhan Yojana”. The survey data has indicated that only half of India’s destitute women have bank accounts tied to Jhan Dhan Yojana. While these measures implemented by the government can be lauded for stepping up in the right direction, it should also be criticized for its inadequacy. The cash transfers, offered to women, are extremely pitiful and worrisome since they fail to satisfy even the minimum requirements for survival. These benefits are more or less transient in nature. The only meaningful outcome that can come out of this relief package is if the government is ready to multiply the current cash transfers by 5 times or more. This would significantly relieve the woes of women labourers, who are either bereft of any income or paid extremely minute wages. The government had also announced that one of the first claimants of the cash transfers would be widows. However, the central government provides a meagre amount of 200 rupees in order to curtail the financial burden of the target group. This is an extremely redundant measure, given that it hardly eases the financial distress of women labourers. The government should increase the amount to Rs.2000 at least. 

Jayathi Gosh, an Economics Professor at JNU expressed caution over the scheme implemented by the government. She stated that the centre needs to understand that there is a complete cessation of economic activity, and therefore, individuals will be forced to relinquish their personal or household savings to manage their expenses and those bereft of savings will be left in destitute.  

The State has doled out piecemeal welfare mechanisms to the poor such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, while actively thwarting and avoiding measures like wages for housework and other incentives such as better pay and working conditions for women. Our government should garner inspiration from Venezuela, where homemakers receive 80 percent of the minimum wage for housework(180$). This should act as a precedent and propel courts to enact legislations that monetise housework as well. To borrow from the words of Silvia Federici, “to not see women’s work in the home is to be blind to the work and struggles of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population that is wage-less.” 

Sravishtha Reddy is a second year student at Jindal Global Law School. She is interested in the fields of Human Rights, Feminist theories and Marxism.

Yemen at a tipping point after 6 years of war, political failure and a pandemic

By Pauline Canham

As Yemen enters a seventh year of war and unimaginable suffering, Saudi Arabia has announced a new peace plan, which suggests a UN-negotiated ceasefire and, very importantly, the partial re-opening of some sea and air ports. This would allow in vital aid and supplies for the millions who are starving and dying.

The Houthi rebels, who now control the majority of northern Yemeni provinces, including the capital, Sanaa, initially rejected the deal, saying it offered nothing new. Then on 25 March 2021, the leader of the Houthi rebels, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, claimed the group was ready for an “honourable peace” on the condition that Saudi Arabia ends its attacks and lifts its blockade. 

When I visited Yemen in 2014, I saw beaches packed with local families enjoying their time together; young men playing football on the sand, and children swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Aden.  The military checkpoints and empty hotels didn’t surprise me, since the security situation in Yemen had put foreign visitors off travelling there for some time.  But there were few indicators that the country was on the brink of entering a civil war that would draw in international powers and become what the UN has called “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster”. 

Just a few months later, on 26 March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched “Operation Decisive Storm”, to defend what it called the “legitimate government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi” against a rebel group who had taken Sanaa and forced the President to flee to Riyadh.

One month in, Saudi coalition leaders announced that the offensive had “achieved its military objectives” against the Iran-backed Houthis and they would begin a new phase labeled “Operation Restoring Hope”.  They expected this to achieve some sort of politically negotiated solution.

6 years later, with almost a quarter of a million dead, President Hadi is still in Riyadh and Yemen’s special envoy to the UN has said that the “war is back in full force”.

The Saudi-led coalition has stepped up its air strikes on Houthi held areas in recent days, the UN reporting that grain stores in the port of Salif had been hit along with the living quarters of a food production company.  This comes after the Houthis are reported to have targeted a Saudi Aramco facility with six drones.

This tit-for-tat has gone on for six years while Yemeni children continue to die either as a direct consequence of the conflict or indirectly through disease, hunger and a complete lack of basic needs.  Both sides have been responsible for killing innocent civilians and disrupting aid supplies to the millions who need them. 

The blockading of ports means that humanitarian aid and fuel ships have been stuck waiting to dock for more than 80 days, depriving Yemenis of the energy supplies they need to transport food and keep hospitals running.

The statistics of suffering in Yemen are staggering but figures are likely to be conservative, given the difficulty in accessing accurate information.

The Yemen Data Project puts the number of civilians who have been directly killed or injured in the conflict since March 2015 at 18,500.

UNICEF estimates that almost 250,000 have died through both direct and indirect causes of the conflict.  In addition, 1.71 million children have been internally displaced, 2 million children are acutely malnourished and 80% of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance.

A Human Rights Watch 2021 country report estimates that 20 million Yemenis require food assistance and 10 million children don’t have access to clean water and sanitation.

Yemen, then, is one of the few countries with bigger problems than Covid 19, which for them is just another impossible burden to bear.  Covid 19 statistics are sketchy at best with the Houthi-run government on the ground in Sanaa playing down the pandemic.  Official figures at the time of writing suggest there are 3700 cases of the virus with 800 deaths but, given that testing is almost non-existent, the true picture is likely to be a great deal worse.

How the international community has let Yemenis down

The pandemic has focused the minds of the international community on more pressing matters closer to home and the economic impact has seen many countries tighten their belts, particularly around the area of international aid.  As a result, Yemen, already far from high on the world’s agenda, has slipped further down, further exacerbating the day-to-day suffering of millions.

The international community has and is letting Yemenis down in a number of specific areas:

In 2020, UN agencies called for $2.4 billion in funding in order to keep its Yemen operations running.  Only £1.35 billion in humanitarian aid was pledged by international donors, meaning that a third of the UN’s humanitarian programs were shut down, just at the time they were needed most.   Another UN donor conference on 1st March this year raised less than half its targeted $3.8 billion. 

The UK recently announced it would cut aid to Yemen, citing a “difficult financial context” resulting from the pandemic.   Meanwhile, Britain continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, despite a ruling by the Court of Appeal that the government had not properly assessed the risk to Yemeni civilians from Saudi airstrikes.

Oxfam says UK arms sales are helping to prolong the war as critical elements, such as airborne refuelling equipment, bomb components and air-to-surface missiles, are among the items exported.  While the US and Italy have cancelled sales that could be used against the people of Yemen, Oxfam have accused the UK of “putting profit before Yemeni lives.”

A UN Report in 2019 suggested that the UK was among those governments complicit in war crimes in Yemen, stating “The legality of arms transfers by France, the UK, the US and other states remains questionable”. They added, “the continued supply of weapons to parties involved in the conflict in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population.”

However, in 2020, in a move that angered rights groups, the UN made the decision to remove the Saudi coalition from its blacklist of countries that violate the rights of children, despite the fact that children still continue to be killed and injured.

Is there any hope of a solution?

Those who see the conflict in Yemen as a straightforward ideological struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’a Iran, are wide of the mark.  It is both much more complex and much more simple than that.  For all sides, there are broad long-term strategic goals, which require pragmatic alliances. 

The UAE, for example, allied with the southern secessionists to build a power base in the southern port city of Aden.  Iran, meanwhile, took advantage of a long-held tension that already existed in the north of Yemen between the Houthis and the Yemeni government. 

The Houthis are Zaydi Shi’a and have different beliefs from Iranian Shi’a, particularly around the Prophet’s succession, which is a fundamental ideological split.  They don’t make for natural allies but as is often the case in Yemen, pragmatism and long-term interests have driven them together. 

So far the arrangement is working, with Iran more than happy to keep Saudi Arabia bogged down and frustrated in an endless conflict.  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s arrogant and short-sighted assumption of a quick win has turned into a six-year quagmire with no end in sight.

With Iran’s desire for hegemonic power across the Middle East, having a foothold in such a strategic location in the region is not something it will let go of easily.  The Bab-el Mandeb strait is a stretch of water just 20 miles wide, between the west coast of Yemen and the east coast of Djibouti. 

It is the gateway to shipping routes between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, via the Suez Canal.  Its importance is evident in the history of the region, with the British East India Company capturing a small island in the strait to use as a refuelling station for ships transporting goods from India to Britain in the 19th Century.  

Saudi Arabia and its allies are not about to roll over and allow Iran such a presence on its doorstep, particularly given that their own energy interests have already been attacked by the Houthis on several occasions.   But it’s not just oil that is under threat from Iran’s proxy presence. 

Saudi Arabia has 21 desalination plants along its Red Sea coast, some very close to the border with Yemen.  One of these, in Al Shuqaiq city, was hit by a Houthi cruise missile in 2019.  A consistent threat to these plants would be catastrophic to the desert Kingdom’s population, who rely on desalination for clean drinking water.

With Trump gone and Biden now US President, there is perhaps a little more room for optimism.  But in reality, with the stakes as high as they are, prospects for a lasting peace are slim.  Talk of political solutions makes a lot of assumptions about the reasonableness of the players.  Both have committed war crimes over the last six years, killing thousands of civilians and starving Yemen’s population through blockades and aid disruption, and both are led by regimes that have shown themselves to have scant regard for human rights.

Perhaps it will take the influence of another external power, using its economic influence to encourage a path to peace, one whose interest lies in Yemen’s stability.  China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative will rely on a secure trade route through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and Chinese leaders have already pledged investment in a post-war reconstruction of Yemen.  China has also been very careful to build relationships with all warring parties behind the scenes, whilst quietly and officially recognising the Hadi Government.

Wherever the solution lies, Yemenis need one now.  Yemen’s Oxfam Director has warned that a second wave of coronavirus is emerging and, with all of the other factors at play, the country is “at a tipping point”.   He said “millions of people are already teetering at the edge of a precipice, now Covid, cholera and an intensification of the conflict threatens to push them over.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pauline Canham is a freelance writer/editor with a Masters Degree in Human Rights and 20 years experience working on large change projects in the broadcasting industry, most recently with Al Jazeera in Doha and the BBC in London. Her areas of interest are colonialism, counter-terrorism and the policies of the War on Terror.

Originally published by the International Observatory of Human Rights

Weekly Roundup of Human Rights News

By Andrea Vremis

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Muay: A Fierce Woman Human Rights Defender

By Sarah Mui 

Who is Muay?

Houayheung (“Muay”) Xayabouly is not only a mother, small business owner and the primary breadwinner of her family, but she has also been breaking down stereotypical gender roles by being a fierce human rights defender and environmental activist in Laos. She is viewed as a public figure among her community because of her work to shed light onto the countless human rights violations that she and fellow Lao people have endured at the hands of the national government. In 2019, the Lao government decided to make an example out of Muay and unjustly sentenced her to five years in prison, for which she was stripped of all fair trial guarantees. In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I urge all who read this to remember her name, learn her fight and spread awareness to demand that all charges be dropped and Muay be set free.

Photo courtesy of Manushya Foundation

What is Muay Fighting For?

TO STOP Excessive Tolls Charged by Private Companies 

In 2017, Muay began raising awareness on social media over the excessive tolls that she along with other people in her community were being charged when crossing a bridge on the border of Laos and Thailand. The cost of the toll was equivalent to several meals, but Lao people relied on it to travel to and from work each day, including Muay herself. It turned out that the Lao government had given the private international company, Duangdee, the concession to charge the toll when it constructed the bridge in the first place. This concession left her community in an impossible situation where they were perpetually indebted to this private company who took advantage of the bridge’s necessity. Muay’s video about the toll deeply resonated with the Lao people, who agreed that the government benefited from the financial relationship with Duangdee. This made Muay realize the importance of using her voice to speak up for Lao people, and it was then that she made the decision to dedicate her life to fighting for them.   

The Lao government did nothing in response to their people’s outcry over the excessive tolls, but rather chose to focus attention on finding ways to intimidate Muay. Soon after the video went viral, the police were sent to her location to warn her to not criticize it. 

TO STOP Corrupt Hiring Practices for Public Sector & Governmental Positions

In 2018, Muay challenged the Lao government over the corrupt hiring practices of public sector and governmental positions in that they were being appointed on the condition of bribes instead of through proper hiring procedures. This was quite personal for Muay because her own brother had been deeply impacted by this practice. He had always aspired to become a police officer but was cheated out of money and the position of his dreams due to these dishonorable practices. Muay’s video discussing the topic received over 320,000 views as of July last year. 

Soon after Muay’s widely viewed video, she was fired from her job as a tour guide for “unknown” reasons other than the fact her employer had been mysteriously pressured to do so. 

TO STOP Basing Children’s Access to Education on Bribes

Muay was not going to let the government deter her from helping Lao people. Later that year, she decided to create a school for Lao children to address the dire inequalities that they faced in accessing education. The current practice was for parents to pay a bribe to secure a spot for their children, otherwise they could not provide them an education. She started multiple fundraisers to accomplish this goal, including selling shirts that said, “I don’t want to buy government positions,” referencing the Lao government’s corrupt hiring practices in addition to holding a concert featuring a number of local performers. 

Again, instead of actually listening to the suffering of its people, the government chose to continue to try to intimidate Muay by shutting down the fundraising concert and prohibiting the selling of shirts. 

TO STOP Indifference Towards Lao People in Wake of Natural Disasters 

The year 2018 was also troubling because that summer a dam collapsed in Attapeu Province, which led to numerous deaths, disappearances and displacements of Lao people. The government purportedly underreported the impact of the collapse and restricted access to the scene by the media and independent aid organizations. Muay decided to take matters into her own hands and post her own videos of the disaster and its significant effect on the community. 

In response to the shocking video, Muay was called to the police station and was told to cease all criticism of the Lao government. 

Around the same time, Muay had learned that donations for the impacted families of the dam collapse were being sold by Lao police for their own monetary gain. She could not allow her community to suffer so she started collecting donations for them herself. She documented and shared this all on social media.

Within a few days, the Lao government issued a press statement advising the public against reading “unofficial news” about the collapse. 

In the autumn of 2019, the Lao people who lived close to the dam were again harmed after a tropical storm caused major flooding, leaving over 100,000 displaced from their homes. Again, disturbed by the Lao government’s indifference towards its people, Muay posted another video calling the government out for its slow response and its lack of preventative measures which could have mitigated the storm’s impact.  

Around the same time, the Lao government sent police to arrest Muay without a warrant while she was dining at a restaurant. She tried to post a video about what had happened, but she was forced to delete it. She was then placed in pre-trial detention long before her hearing and was denied an impartial lawyer and the ability to challenge her detention. She was subject to repeated long interrogations where she was coerced to confess to “spreading propaganda against the Lao government.” She was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison, for which she visitation has been limited and closely monitored. She has not been able to see her young daughter but a handful of times and international NGOs have been completely barred.

Photo courtesy of Manushya Foundation

The Lao Government is Using Muay as an Example to Silence Dissent 

Muay is a strong and dedicated woman human rights defender and environmental activist who has fought endlessly for her community. Instead of taking accountability and listening to the suffering of its people, the Lao government has instead chosen to turn a blind eye to its human rights obligations and punish Muay for her significant contributions to her country. Until now, Muay’s story has only been made available by a few NGOs working hard to shed light onto her fervent advocacy and now wrongful detention. To spread the word about her fight, please share this blog, follow #FreeMuay and visit this link to demand that Muay be set free!

About the Author: Sarah Mui is an American human rights lawyer currently in the LLM for International Human Rights Law program at the University of Essex. She is also a research assistant with the Manushya Foundation located in Bangkok. Sarah hopes to work in the field of women’s rights upon graduation. 

A transformative human rights future for Scotland

By Luis Felipe Yanes

Today marks a historical day in Scotland as the Scottish Government has announced its commitment to incorporate into Scots Law the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This commitment comes after Scotland’s National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership recommended the incorporation of all four treaties, as well the right to a healthy environment, and equal protection for older and LGBTI people. The Taskforce also recommended some key features that are instrumental in guaranteeing the effective implementation of human rights, such as improved access to justice, pre-legislative assessment, obligation of tribunals to pay due regards to international law standards (such as general comments produced by treaty monitoring bodies), among many others.

The benefits of incorporation  

Although for many of us in the human rights community the benefits of incorporating international human rights treaties are self-evident, it is important to highlight three overarching and crucial benefits: 

1. Make a fairer Scotland 

It will provide citizenship to all individuals. As Paul Hunt had argued in the 1990’s, people without full protection of social rights cannot become full citizens of a democratic society. You don’t care about voting or community engagement when you don’t know if you’ll be able to eat tonight, or where to sleep. 

It will empower and inspire people across the country. Human rights are not just about law and regulations, they can be transformative, and can have a unique mobilising effect. This empowering effect is clearly demonstrated in examples such as the work of the Scottish Human Rights Commission in its Human Rights in Practice Project in Leith. In this video produced by the SHRC, you are able to see the empowering effect of people coming together to transform their living situation.

In this sense, incorporation provides power to the vulnerable and marginalised, as it can make authorities accountable for all members of our society, it can enable people to advance their interests through an enforceable judgment.

2. Strengthen rights 

As Virginia Bras Gomes has argued, non-incorporation (specially of economic, social and cultural rights) weakens the status of and scope of non-incorporated rights. This is evident in the UK, as often when people talk about human rights they are thinking of civil and political rights (such as life, freedom of expression, freedom from torture) but not economic, social and cultural rights. 

How would incorporation change that? 

            2.1  Authority acknowledgment 

The complexities of international law, the misconceptions towards human rights, and the UKs usage of a dualistic approach (this is  – that international law obligations are not directly applicable if they are not incorporated into domestic legislation) often results in local authorities not taking human rights seriously. 

            2.2 Authority accountability 

Challenging power using human rights is incredibly important, but substantially more difficult when these rights are not incorporated in domestic legislation. This is evident in many countries across the world, where there was no accountability for human rights violation (despite having ratified several international instruments) until there was a process of incorporation into the domestic legislation. 

3. Ensuring progressive realisation 

It seems that the continuous obligation to improve the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights has come to a standstill in the UK. The lack of a clear domestic obligation for duty-bearers to continuously improve the protection, and the provision of services and goods has had an effect in people’s lives. This is clear in the in the shortcomings of medical services, education, and social housing in the UK. 

Progressive realisation means that there is no goal for the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights, and that conditioned to available resources, the state always need to strive for more, to guaranteed the continuous improvement of people’s livelihoods.

The journey only begins

There is still a long path to go, and today only marks the beginning of a journey to the full incorporation of these treaties into Scots Law. There are also some big questions that remain unanswered, questions that are fundamental for the effective enjoyment of these rights. 

Incorporation could become a meaningless exercise if some of the key recommendations of the Taskforce are not taken seriously. For example, the obligation of all duty-bearers to pay due regard and to comply with the legislative framework will be of paramount importance. Some of the unfinished business of the Taskforce is key, such as the considerations regarding  specific duties being placed upon front-line complaint handling mechanisms and scrutiny bodies; and considerations regarding how accessible, affordable, timely, and effective remedies and routes to remedy will be provided for under the framework.

Mostly importantly, Incorporation is not, in it of itself, the panacea. However, comparative examples across the globe show that it is the first step to ensuring a fairer and more equitable society. 


Luis Felipe Yanes is a PhD candidate at Essex’s Human Rights Centre. He is also the Legal Policy Development Officer for the Scottish Human Rights Commission. This blog is written in a personal capacity.

Stranded by a pandemic and a political crisis: Fighting for democracy in Myanmar from afar

By Khin

For me and many other Burmese students already stranded in the UK due to Covid-19, Myanmar’s military coup has put indefinite hold on our chances of returning home.   Now stuck in limbo, and struggling with the uncertainty of our own situation and the plight of our families back home, we are using our voices to contribute to the fight for democracy and human rights in our country.

After completing my master’s degree in human rights last year, I had been waiting for a seat on one of the few coronavirus repatriation flights arranged by the Myanmar embassy.   In the early morning of February 1st, all hopes of returning home were lost when military leaders overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi ‘s democratically elected government.

How the political crisis unfolded

The military had detained members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, along with other politicians, activists and students.  Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, absurdly charged with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law.  

The NLD claimed an overwhelming victory in the elections of 8 November 2020, with 396 out of 476 seats; six more than at the previous election in 2015.  The military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), obtained just 33 seats.

Concerned about losing control of the country’s legislative decision-making powers, the military claimed the NLD’s election win was tainted by irregularities and after staging the coup, declared a one-year state of emergency.

How have the Burmese people responded?

The military coup brought an immediate end to a decade-long democratic opening that had improved freedoms for citizens, civil society and independent media in Myanmar.   Within 24 hours, the Military had installed a new unelected president, spreading a feeling of fear and uncertainty about our future.

The Burmese people have experienced much political turmoil since gaining independence from Britain in 1948; most notably a military coup in 1962, riots and anti-government protests in the 1980s and thwarted elections in the 1990s.  The ‘Saffron Revolution’ of 2007 eventually led to the dissolution of the military junta in 2011, the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the 2015 election that brought her to power.

After the immediate shock of the coup, a response of defiance began to emerge, first by doctors in Mandalay who refused to turn up for work.  They were soon joined, in their show of civil disobedience, by others, including engineers, teachers and transport workers, and supported by mass public protests.

Yangon filled with candlelights and the sound of clanging pots and pans, as a sign of resistance.  People spontaneously demonstrated their abhorrence towards the military dictatorship, and their admiration for their elected members of parliament and legitimate government.

MPs released a signed statement acknowledging the outcome of the 2020 Myanmar elections and demanding the release of all politicians and government members, including the president and the state counsellor. 

Human rights violations under the military regime

Since the military seized power in Myanmar, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated.  There have been widespread reports of human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and brutality against peaceful protestors, with the use of water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas.  The lethal use of live rounds, including some reports of the use of machine guns, resulted in the killing of a teenage boy in Mandalay and dozens more in recent days.

The military shoot during the day and kidnap at night, as they go house-to-house, arresting doctors, teachers, nurses and other civil servants.   Approximately 2000 have so far been arbitrarily detained.

The city of Yangon is just one where people live in fear, staying awake at night to defend themselves against gangs of military-backed thugs who terrorise them with knives and other weapons.  Those who are known to have joined the protests are particularly targeted, and people no longer feel safe.

There are reports that the military released thousands of those detained, only to order them to set fire to other civilian homes and poison the drinking water.  

The military regime has arranged repetitive internet shutdowns, and obstructed access to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other messaging platforms.  They have also closed down independent media outlets and arrested journalists. Disrupting access to information is a violation of international human rights law.   

Additionally, the right to freedom of expression and the right to association and assembly are being prevented.  The military have amended laws allowing them to arrest citizens without a warrant, search houses with no authority, and detain people for more than 24 hours.

Reaction of the international community

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has condemned the violence against protestors, saying “The use of lethal force against peaceful protestors and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable.” 

In the last few days, the UN Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on the ruling junta in Myanmar, but China and Russia used their veto to block the release of a statement condemning the coup outright.

The US, Australia and the UK governments have imposed new targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s military generals, and the European Council has condemned the coup, saying they “stand with the Burmese people”, demanding an immediate end to the state of emergency and restoration of the legitimate civilian government.  The council called on military authorities to release President U Win Myint, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all those who have been detained or arrested in connection with the coup.

Civil Disobedience Movement at home and abroad

The Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) has been joined by people from all walks of life: medics, nurses, teachers, students, writers, artists, poets, housewives.   On 22nd February, tens of thousands joined the ‘22222’ general strike in Myanmar.  In towns and cities around the country, anti-military regime protesters gathered to participate and show their solidarity against the military coup. 

In the UK, and around the world, the Burmese diaspora has been adding their support to the movement both virtually and in person.   Many of us in the UK have joined the peaceful protests; lighting candles for those who sacrificed their lives on the streets of Myanmar, reading poems and statements online and creating a memorial to the deceased outside the Myanmar Embassy.

What we want to see is the following:

  1. Peace and democracy restored
  2. Military leaders brought to justice for the human rights abuses committed against protestors
  3. The 2008 constitution, which provides the military with authority and discriminates against ethnic minorities, should be abolished
  4. A new constitution that fosters freedom of religion and culture and enables decentralisation of authority to regional communities
  5. The new government should practice a non-discrimination policy, allowing equal political participation for all

We are also urging the British government to support those Burmese students stranded in the UK, through a petition sent to the House of Lords.

I am deeply concerned that if the military prevail, Myanmar will return to the dark ages, depriving me, and the young generation, of our dreams for the future.  However, I am hopeful that people power will win, and we will continue the fight until that hope becomes a reality.

Should the Law Prohibit Class Discrimination?

A copy of this first appeared in the Middle Temple Student Association March 2021, Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

By Geraldine Van Bueren QC 

It is an extraordinary lacuna, that to discriminate on the basis of someone’s class, is lawful in the United Kingdom. 

When a student informed me that she had been shortlisted for an interview with a firm of solicitors and during the interview, she was informed that there was too much of a social gap between her and her fellow solicitors, she had no legal remedy. Such an interview rejection would not have been without remedy in relation to any of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 

This prompts the question of whether there ought to be a tenth protected characteristic in the Equality Act and whether class discrimination ought to be prohibited under human rights law.

This article enquires what is it about the nature of that student’s background, my background and other working class backgrounds, which although fundamental to our identities and sense of self, makes working class heritage invisible to law?

In focussing on class discrimination, I am referring to a richly intersectional concept of class not the one portrayed by the media. Class, embraces race, religion, gender, rurality, as well as all the protected characteristics under the Equality Act and international and regional human rights treaties. 

In arguing for the prohibition of class discrimination, I am not arguing that only working-class discrimination should be prohibited, but that all forms of class discrimination is unacceptable for democratic societies based on dignity, and that a prohibition on class discrimination would reinforce existing prohibitions rather than compete with different identities.

The central core of my argument is that, although there is sufficient space in much domestic legislation and in regional and international human rights treaties for governments, courts and human rights fora to read class into the existing prohibited categories of prohibited discriminations, this has not occurred. 

The European Convention on Human Rights, for example, provides in Article 14 a right not to be discriminated against in being able to exercise the Convention’s Rights on ‘any ground such as, social origin, property, birth or other status’. This non-exhaustive list is repeated with differences in the major global and regional human rights treaties. It is also found in domestic legislation through the incorporation in the Human Rights Act and in many European states, which have incorporated the Convention and the other human rights treaties. Hence, it is possible to read into social origin, birth and other status – class discrimination. In fact, I would argue that its non-exhaustive nature, together with the context of property, social origin and birth positively invites such an interpretation. However, this has not generally been the approach of courts in the United Kingdom.

Further, on the basis of historical and existing jurisprudence, it is unlikely to occur for a long time and the effects of class discrimination are too significant to depend on chance and waiting.  Therefore, I argue, that the time is now overdue for the inclusion of an express prohibition against class discrimination in law; national, regional and international, because the reliance upon existing standards has proven grossly inadequate.

There is, for example, a significant and unacceptable difference in life expectancy in the United Kingdom between different classes, even in boroughs of the same city, as was reported in a World Health Organisation study of Glasgow.  This is a clear case of inequality affecting the right to life. However, the class aspects of the right to life, are currently very difficult, to litigate and to hold a government accountable in the courts under the existing Human Rights Act and the Equality Act.

The avoidable tragedy of Grenfell Tower starkly raised the issue of class. Race, asylum status, disability and age also played significant roles, however, in the Royal Borough of Kensington, Bourdieu’s ideas of cultural, economic and social capital played out clearly. Residents were perceived of having little economic, cultural and social capital and their justifiable concerns were ignored in such a way that I have argued elsewhere that it breached the Human Rights Act.

Because class remains an important facet of identity the question which requires addressing, is whether the prevention of class discrimination is appropriate for a legal remedy or ought class discrimination to be left exclusively to the political spheres?

The Victorians regarded the overcoming of specific aspects of class discrimination as appropriate for law. The Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 was designed to improve housing conditions, although the statute is a rare example of an inclusionary approach to class.  

Historically, legislation in Europe, including during the Roman period, as well as in Asia, and during Colonial America focussed on class. In England, for example, the sumptuary laws such as the Statute Concerning Diet and Apparel 1363,prescribed who could wear specific styles of clothing and eat specific foods drilling down into the   regulation of the most fundamental aspects of medieval personal life. This is a medieval example of law as a tool for social engineering. 

It was not until the twentieth century that class eventually became formally invisible in the electorate with the passage of the Representation of the People Act 1928. Hence law is capable of dealing with class issues although within the United Kingdom there has been a significant difference, because, with rare exceptions, traditionally laws were intended to reinforce rather than remove class barriers – excluding those from poorer backgrounds. 

I am arguing that the situation should be reversed. As successful as law has been in reinforcing class exclusions, law can be equally successful in including the excluded.

© Professor Emerita Geraldine Van Bueren QC, Doughty Street Chambers, and Bencher of the Middle Temple.

She is writing Class and Law (Hart), she Chairs the Association of Working Class Academics and is a Visiting Fellow Kellogg  College Oxford.

A copy of this first appeared in the Middle Temple Student Association 2021.

Weekly Roundup of Human Rights News

In focus: European women may enjoy higher levels of gender equality, but they still lack adequate protection from gender-based violence and covid-19 has highlighted this

By Vittoria Lucchese

Covid-19 pandemic triggered, and continues to, a global spike in violence against women and girls. With prolonged lockdowns imposed on everyone to stay at home, women and girls found themselves trapped with their abusers without any available protection. Just in a few months, many cases of domestic violence escalated into feminicides.

The rate of feminicides has been increasingly higher during the covid-19 pandemic all over the world. However, in European countries, which usually show higher rates of gender equality, the figures have been particularly worrying. In Italy, during the national lockdown enforced between the 9th of March and the 3rd of June 2020, the number of feminicides has tripled: 44 women died, meaning that every two days a woman was killed at home. In the UK, between the 23rd of March and the 12th of April, the number of feminicides, which had already seen a woman becoming a victim of domestic abuse killing approximately every three days, has doubled. In France, 98 women were murdered by their partners in the course of 2020. 

Picture: via Pixabay

These numbers show that European countries, like many other countries across the world, still lack appropriate mechanisms not only to prevent these atrocities, but also to protect potential victims from gender-based violence. In the UK, the government has allowed victims of domestic violence to overlook lockdown restrictions and leave their accommodation if needed, but this concession ignores that these women may be unable to leave the house if their abusers live there as well. In France, the government has set out hotlines for victims of domestic violence and accommodations for them to seek refuge, but, similarly, these may be unable to take action if they are abusers are at home with them.

Gender-based violence is not a new phenomenon in Europe: adequate measures and consideration for current or potential victims have been missing for years. In Italy, for example, the authorities regularly fail to take timely action against it, which has caused a rise in the number of feminicides being committed in the country. More specifically, they fail to adequately deal with cases of stalking, despite it being officially recognised as a crime. Just a month ago, in Faenza, a woman named Ilena Fabbri was brutally murdered by her ex-husband, whom she had repeatedly reported for domestic abuse and stalking, accusations which had clearly not been treated with the urgency they required.

The fact that European states are failing to tackle these women rights violations shows that there is still a systematic discrimination on the basis of gender that needs to be addressed. Two days have been chosen to raise awareness on these issues every year: the 25th of November for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and International Women’s Day, which has occurred earlier this week. Hopefully, this year on the 8th of March governments did not simply wish women a good day and gave them flowers, but actually committed to treat them and their issues with the necessary consideration.

Other stories making the headlines around the world

World:

UN highlights transformative power of equal participation, marking International Women’s Day (UN News)

International Women’s Day: Five women human rights leaders demand a more equal post-pandemic world (OHCHR)

Countries failing to properly prosecute killers of human rights defenders, UN expert says (UN News)

Anti-Muslim hatred has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ says UN rights expert, urging action by States (UN News)

Proportion of women parliamentarians worldwide reaches ‘all-time high’ (UN News)

Over 168 million children miss nearly a year of schooling, UNICEF says (UN News)

Athletes with disabilities should enjoy the same level of support as all other athletes, High Commissioner tells Human Rights Council (OHCHR)

Impunity for killings of human rights defenders remains a key driver for more murders, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders tells Human Rights Council (OHCHR)

Counter-Terrorism Laws Compromise and Weaken Family Life, Warns Special Rapporteur on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism (OHCHR)

UN expert calls on States to end counter-terrorism policies and practices that harm women, girls and family (OHCHR)

COVID-19 Pandemic May Lead to a ‘Cultural Catastrophe’, Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights Warns in Dialogue with the Human Rights Council (OHCHR)

UN expert: Water crisis is worsening, urgent response needed (OHCHR)

States must prevent COVID-19 cultural catastrophe: UN expert (OHCHR)

This Week at UN: Growing Crises in Myanmar and Tigray; Getting to Know the US  Envoy; Will the UN’s Top Humanitarian Job Go to the UK Again? (PassBlue)

Africa: 

First Person: ‘If I die fighting for justice, I will not have regrets’ (UN News)

Amidst ‘conflict, blanket denials and finger-pointing’ UN rights chief calls for probe in Ethiopia’s Tigray (UN News)

Zimbabwe: Thousands of Villagers Facing Eviction (Human Rights Watch)

Ethiopia: Eritrean Forces Massacre Tigray Civilians (Human Rights Watch)

Ethiopia: UN human rights chief underscores urgency of impartial, international investigation into Tigray atrocities(Amnesty International)

Americas: 

Canada vowed to protect its Indigenous women. But they are still being blamed for their own deaths (CTV News)

‘It just doesn’t make sense’: Advocates frustrated over ongoing criminalization of sex work (CTV News)

Permanent state of emergency cannot be used as a justification or ground for unilateral sanctions (OHCHR)

Anti-Trans Laws Would Risk Georgia’s World Cup Dreams (Human Rights Watch)

US: ‘New’ Dream Act Not Full Reform (Human Rights Watch)

US Has a Chance to Protect Forests Worldwide (Human Rights Watch) 

USA: Iowa prosecutors must drop criminal charges against journalist Andrea Sahouri (Amnesty International)

Former detainees call on Biden to release transgender people from ICE custody (The 19th*)

First anti-LGBTQ+ bills of the year are close to becoming law (The 19th*)

Federal judge dismisses legal effort to recognize Equal Rights Amendment (The 19th*)

House Democrats pass major legislation on voting rights and government ethics (The 19th*)

Will Biden’s return to multilateralism extend to the ICC? (Al Jazeera)

US opposes ICC war crimes probe, citing support for Israel (Al Jazeera)

Mexico: Authorities used illegal force and sexual violence to silence women protesting against gender-based violence(Amnesty International)

Mexico: Abuses Against Asylum Seekers at US Border (Human Rights Watch)

Asia:

Japan: Adopt LGBT Equality Act Before Olympics (Human Rights Watch) 

China’s Dangerous Game Around Covid-19 Vaccines (Human Rights Watch) 

‘Patriots’ only: China moves to overhaul Hong Kong elections (Al Jazeera) 

Hopes for UN Security Council action against Myanmar military coup ‘waning’ fast, warns Special Envoy (United Nations News) 

Myanmar: Signs of ‘shoot to kill’ strategy to quell opposition (Amnesty International) 

Stop murdering and jailing protestors, UN human rights chief tells Myanmar military (United Nations News) 

Myanmar coup: The young rebels risking their lives for the future (BBC News) 

Cambodia: Scrap Abusive Covid-19 Prevention Bill (Human Rights Watch) 

Bangladesh: UN rights chief urges transparent probe into writer’s death, review of law under which he was charged (United Nations News) 

South Asia’s Women’s Rights Activists Should Be Heard (Human Rights Watch) 

Taiwan court case of fraudulent labour agency shows plight of migrant workers (Business and Human Rights Resource Center) 

Europe:

France: Pass Bill Enabling Return of Stolen Assets (Human Rights Watch) 

The UK Supreme Court Has Failed Shamima Begum (Human Rights Watch) 

UK: NGOs Condemn appointment of William Shawcross and announce civil society-led review of Prevent (Amnesty International)  

Road out of lockdown must not ride roughshod over our rights (Liberty) 

Liberty demands westminster council end harassment of rough sleepers (Liberty) 

How Europe Can Help End Death and Despair in the Mediterranean Sea (Human Rights Watch)

Witness: “If You Scream, They Will Beat You More” (Human Rights Watch) 

Joint Letter to Russia’s Prosecutor General on Unfounded Charges against Yulia Tsvetkova (Human Rights Watch)  

Russia responsible for Navalny poisoning, rights experts say (United Nations News)

Belarus human rights situation deteriorating further, warns UN rights chief  (United Nations News) 

Pope Francis and top Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani discuss plight of Iraq’s Christians (BBC News) 

Middle East:

Israel/ OPT: Historic breakthrough as Prosecutor confirms initiation of ICC investigation in Occupied Palestinian Territories (Amnesty international) 

Human Rights Watch Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the United Arab Emirates (Human Rights Watch) 

Iran: Unlawful killings of destitute fuel porters must be independently investigated (Amnesty international) 

Saudi Arabia: Latest findings reinforce need for accountability over Khashoggi killing (Amnesty international) 

Saudi Arabia commutes three death sentences, UN experts call for charges to be dropped (United Nations News)

ICC Prosecutor opens probe into alleged crimes in occupied Palestine (United Nations News) 

Lebanon: Sexual Harassment Law Missing Key Protections (Human Rights Watch) 

‘Limited’ progress in closing Syria chemical weapons file, UN Disarmament Chief tells Security Council (United Nations News)