• Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Guatemala: Poll finds 60% support “social cleansing”

    Reuters discusses a recent poll:

    Almost 6,000 people were killed last year in the poor Central American nation, a drug-smuggling corridor to the United States that is troubled by violent youth street gangs. Over 98 percent of murders in 2006 were unsolved.

    Security has become a major issue in the September presidential election with a retired general running who is second in the polls promising to use army tactics to combat crime.

    A poll published by the respected Siglo XXI newspaper found 60 percent of those surveyed supported “social cleansing” to stamp out criminals — a term referring to extrajudicial murders of criminals by police or vigilante groups.

    The poll also found that 55 percent of respondents support the death penalty as punishment for serious crimes.

    The full story has more.

    The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions visited Guatemala last year, and published a report that discussed social cleansing and made a number of recommendations on how to stop it. The report is available below.

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Report on the situation of human rights in Darfur

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Sri Lanka: IIGEP releases first report

    The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) has released its first report. The IIGEP was established by the Government of Sri Lanka to observe and advise the Commission of Inquiry it had established to investigate a number of cases of extrajudical executions.

    The IIGEP reported that “the Commission has so far made hardly any noticeable progress in investigations and inquiries since its inception in November 2006? and made a number of other specific observations.

    One of these was on the need for an effective witness protection scheme:

    We are concerned that there are no adequate victim and witness protection provisions under Sri Lankan law. We are of the view that witness protection is absolutely essential in order to investigate serious violations of human rights that are within the Commission’s mandate. Appropriate legislation that accords with international norms and standards should be enacted and implemented as soon as possible to protect victims and witnesses.

    We regret that the Commission still has no functioning victim and witness protection mechanism. In the absence of appropriate legislation, an effective scheme or functioning protection unit, we fail to understand how the Commission could have invited the public, as it did as recently as 14 May 2007, to come forward and give evidence. As the Commission is operating without witness protection legislation, it is unable to guarantee the safety and security of witnesses. Summoning and examining potential victims and witnesses may create fear in their minds about safety and security, deterring them from coming forward to give evidence.

    On the relevance of the Commission and IIGEP to proposals for international human rights monitoring:

    We regret that public statements from State officials are creating the misleading impression that the Commission and IIGEP have wide mandates and powers and the resources to address ongoing alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka . This is not the case. In the current context, in particular, the apparent renewed systematic practice of enforced disappearance and the killings of Red Cross workers, it is critical that the Commission and IIGEP not be portrayed as a substitute for robust, effective measures including national and international human rights monitoring.

    The IIGEP’s full statement is available in English below.

  • Friday, June 08, 2007

    Press release: UN experts condemn the murder of two workers of the Sri Lankan Red Cross

    Today, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, issued a press release on the recent murder of two Red Cross workers in Sri Lanka.

    We strongly condemn the abduction and murder of two workers of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society that occurred in Colombo on 1 June 2007 and offer our sincere condolences to their families.

    This is another outrageous act in an apparent trend of deliberate targeting of aid workers, which severely jeopardizes and impedes their ability to deliver humanitarian assistance in a secure environment. We note the Government’s public commitment to investigate these killings, but urge this process be expedited, with international assistance, as appropriate. We remain concerned that the killings of humanitarian workers, including the 17 workers of Action contre la Faim, in August 2006, remain unsolved.

    We urge the Government, the LTTE and other armed groups to take all measures to protect aid workers and provide a secure and conducive environment to the functioning of humanitarian assistance.