International Human Rights Weekly News Roundup

by Lauren Ng and Pauline Canham

This week’s stories in focus

Protests against Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank as Coronavirus cases rise again

00a34a9b-8dba-4d9a-a2bc-66fe9f1eed93Thousands rallied in Jericho on 22 June to protest against the plan by Israel to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.  Those protesting included Nickolay Mladenov, the Middle East UN peace envoy and diplomats from several nations including Britain.  More than 1,000 European MPs, including 240 from the UK, have signed a letter opposing Israel’s plans, which would result in the extension of Israeli authority to 30% of the West Bank, including  235 Israeli settlements considered illegal under international law.  The West Bank and Gaza are those areas considered by Palestinians as a future independent state and if the annexation goes ahead, it would leave Palestinian areas significantly fragmented and some Palestinians effectively living in Israeli enclaves with no rights.

47 human rights experts have released a joint statement calling on the international community to oppose what they call “a 21st century apartheid” that “incites wars, economic devastation, political instability, systematic human rights abuses and widespread human suffering.”  Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is emboldened in his plans by the support of the Trump administration and is trying to push it through before the possibility that the White House might change hands later this year.

Meanwhile, cases of coronavirus are on the rise again in the West Bank, since restrictions were lifted in May.  This week saw the number of cases double as the Palestinian Health Minister warned that a second wave could be “more dangerous than the first.”  As a result of a jump in cases and fears of a new emergence of the virus, some areas including the city of Hebron have gone back into lockdown.   Israel have so far reported 308 fatalities and 3 in the Palestinian territories.  Netanyahu is urging people to adhere to social distancing guidelines and has given the police the power to impose a fine, equivalent to $146, to anyone not wearing a mask in public

US Supreme Court bans LGBTQ employment discrimmination

LaurenPicOn June 15 this year, the US Supreme Court made a sweeping decision prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity under federal law. The title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex among other things, now protects LGBTQ employees in its discriminatory clause. The decision was written by Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominated by the Trump administration, and will undeniably cause tensions among the judicial conservatives and Republican nominees.

While the bill has expanded LGBTQ civil rights protection in some states, it is expected to face challenges in the Republican-controlled Senate. Although 33 states offer some form of protection against LGBTQ workers, only 22 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This leaves 17 states with no protection at all and thus, vulnerable to harassment and abuse in the workplace.

Nevertheless, this ruling remains significant – it is the first time the court has spoken about legal protections for transgender rights.  This issue comes shortly after Trump confirmed his administration would continue to rollback health care protections for transgender people, which is due to take effect on August 18th and will undoubtedly become a legal battlefield in the upcoming months.  Following the court’s ruling, and as per tradition, Trump immediately went to Twitter to thunder back, avowing:

These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”

It is expected this decision will have ramifications for the health discrimination rule of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The HHS has maintained that the implications of the court’s new ruling will likely not affect their rule as the “binary biological character of sex… takes on special importance in the health context”, which “might not be fully addressed by future [job discrimination] rulings”.  However, legal scholars have countered and stated that the HHS’s argument holds little weight as the legal opinion confirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity is included in category of ‘sex’; thus, leaving the healthcare rule on shaky ground.

 

Other stories making the headlines around the world

 

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