Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Andy Hall, British labour labour rights defender, flees Thailand

November 7, 2016

 

British rights activist Andy Hall leaves the Bangkok South Criminal Court
Andy Hall – Image copyright REUTERS

On 7 November 2016, the BBC, Reuters and other media reported that labour rights defender Andy Hall has left Thailand after a three-and-a-half year legal battle with a pineapple processing company accused, in a report he contributed to, of abusing its workforce. The dismissal of one set of charges against the British activist was confirmed by Thailand’s Supreme Court last week. But he was convicted in September on two other counts under sweeping criminal defamation and computer crimes laws and was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He also faces civil complaints by the pineapple company, Natural Fruit, which is demanding around $12m in damages.

But it was mostly the prospect of further criminal charges over another group of workers he is supporting that persuaded Mr Hall that he should leave Thailand and not returner the time being. He and the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar – who have alleged abusive treatment at the hands of a farm which supplied the big Thai poultry processor, Betagro, with chickens – recently had defamation lawsuits filed against them. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/andy-hall/]

Before he left Thailand Mr Hall told the BBC that he felt that the prospect of having to contest continuous lawsuits filed against him would make it impossible for him to defend migrant workers’ rights effectively. The situation for human rights defenders, he said in a statement made as he prepared to depart, has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand, with significantly increased risks.

The challenge confronting Mr Hall is one faced by many Thai activists as well. Defamation is a criminal charge that can carry a two-year prison sentence, often used alongside the even tougher Computer Crimes Act, which mandates a sentence of up to five years in prison.

  • Two years ago, the editors of a small newsletter, Phuketwan, were prosecuted by the Thai navy for an article in which they quoted a Reuters news agency report alleging Thai military involvement in human trafficking. They were finally acquitted last year, but the effort of defending themselves contributed to the newsletter being shut down.
  • In June this year three prominent human rights defenders were prosecuted under the same two laws by a unit of the Thai military over a report they took part in which alleged the use of torture against military detainees in southern Thailand.

On Thursday 3 November, the U.N. Human Rights office in Bangkok issued a statement praising the Supreme Court’s decision. But it also called on the Thai government “to drop charges against all human rights defenders who have been charged with criminal offenses for reporting human rights violations in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.

On 6 October EU Trade Commissioner Cecilie Malmström had strongly backed the British labour rights activist who helped expose labour abuses in Thailand, for which he received a three-year suspended jail sentence. Andy Hall met Malmström in Strasbourg, where MEPs also passed a strong resolution condemning Hall’s treatment under the military junta now running the country.

Sources:

Thai Supreme Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Labor Activist – Malaysia Sun

 Andy Hall, British labour rights activist, flees Thailand – BBC News

Malmström backs EU whistleblower over Thai labour rights

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws after MEA Laureate discovers hacking attempt

August 29, 2016

Ahmed Mansoor, the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2015, was the target of a major hacking attempt. Fortunately it received global coverage on 26 and 27 August 2016 and Apple has immediately issued a security update to address the vulnerabilities. [For those with Iphones/Ipads, you may want to update your IOS software to 9.3.5!]


Ahmed MansoorImage copyrightAP – human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor

The flaws in Apple’s iOS operating system were discovered by Mansoor who alerted security researchers to unsolicited text messages he had received on 10 and 11 August. They discovered three previously unknown flaws within Apple’s code that meant spyware could be installed with a single tap. Apple has since released a software update that addresses the problem. The two security firms involved, Citizen Lab and Lookout, said they had held back details of the discovery until the fix had been issued.

The texts promised to reveal “secrets” about people allegedly being tortured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s jails if he tapped the links. Had he done so, Citizen Lab says, his iPhone 6 would have been “jailbroken”, meaning unauthorised software could have been installed. “Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” said Citizen Lab. The researchers say they believe the spyware involved was created by NSO Group, an Israeli “cyber-war” company.

Text message
The spyware would have been installed if Mansoor had tapped on the links. Image copyright CITIZENLAB

For more on Mansoor: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/ahmed-mansoor/

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37185544

https://citizenlab.org/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/  (from the researchers who identified the vulnerabilities. Good summary followed by full technical analysis)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3758671/Apple-boosts-iPhone-security-Mideast-spyware-discovery.html

U.N. Rapporteur on Myanmar called “whore” by radical Buddhist monk

January 21, 2015

Myanmar monk's U.N. whore rant
Wirathu:”Just because you hold a position in the United Nations doesn’t make you an honourable woman. In our country, you are just a whore,”

For those who think that hate speech has no place in peace-loving Buddhism, this is sobering item:

A radical Myanmar Buddhist monk, Wirathu,  called the U.N. human rights envoy – Ms Yanghee Lee –  a “whore”, and accused Lee of bias towards Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine. Wirathu denounced Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar before a cheering crowd of several hundred people, in a speech in Yangon on Friday, after she questioned draft laws that critics say discriminate against women and non-Buddhists. “You can offer your arse to the kalars if you so wish but you are not selling off our Rakhine State,” he said. Kalars is a derogatory word for people of South Asian descent.

His speech was condemned by Thawbita, a leading member of the progressive Saffron Revolution Buddhist Monks Network in Mandalay, where Wirathu is also based. “The words used that day are very sad and disappointing. It is an act that could hurt Buddhism very badly,” Thawbita told Reuters. But he is unlikely to face censure. A senior official at the Ministry of Religious Affairs told Reuters there were no plans to act against Wirathu. This is the more remarkable as in December a New Zealander and two Burmese were charged with insulting Buddhism. The arrest was triggered by a complaint by an official from the country’s religious department. [see: http://news/world-asia-30527443]

 

Rapporteur Lee in a statement released by her office on Monday said:  “During my visit I was personally subjected to the kind of sexist intimidation that female human rights defenders experience when advocating on controversial issues“.

Myanmar monk’s U.N. whore rant “could hurt Buddhism” | Asia-Pasific | Worldbulletin News.

How the mighty fall in Uzbekistan: Gulnara Karimova asks human rights protection

August 22, 2014

Gulnara Karimova

Gulnara Karimova (pictured above), the glamorous daughter of Uzbekistan’s president, used to be one of the more powerful people in Central Asia. But now, in secret recordings obtained by the BBC, she says she and her teenaged daughter are being treated “worse than dogs” and need urgent medical help since she has fallen out with her dictator father President Islam Karimov. The BBC news correspondent Natalia Antelava on 21 August reports on this exceptional story.  Natalia Antelava reports that in March 2014, she received and authenticated a handwritten letter from Karimova, in which she said she and her daughter had been placed under house arrest and now the short audio recordings were smuggled out of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has a history of human rights violations and Karimova has fully played her role in this sorry state of affairs (see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/daughter-of-uzbek-dictator-loses-defamation-case-in-paris/. Stroehlein of Human Rights Watch (which will publish next month a report on wrongfully imprisoned people in the country) is understandably cautious when it comes to Karimova’s recent concern for human rights in Uzbekistan, since it follows a decade-long period when the woman known as “Googoosha” wielded immense power in the country. “She almost certainly had top-level regime access to critical information regarding serious and systematic rights abuses in Uzbekistan, and she has had many opportunities to hand that information over to journalists and human rights groups,” he says . “She hasn’t.” 

Read the rest of this entry »

Where is it (il)legal to be gay?

February 6, 2014

The BBC has produced a map which shows the broad legal status of gay people living in UN member states, according to data provided by the UN’s human right’s office, who built on information from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association.

The legal status of people in same-sex relationships depends very much on where they live. At one end of the spectrum there are those countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – as well as in parts of Nigeria and Somalia. At the other end, there are those countries where gay couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples. However, the categorisation of countries according to their approach to gay rights is not without problems. Some states have conflicting laws on same-sex relationships, simultaneously having laws that punish and protect, while other countries have different laws in different regions. This is reflected in the key. Countries have been categorised by their most progressive or regressive laws, apart from where laws are contradictory. Countries where gay rights vary between states have been coloured by their most progressive or regressive law. [The map does not reflect day-to-day experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and intersex people. In many places where anti-discrimination laws exist, gay people continue to be persecuted by state authorities and wider society.]

There is also an interesting timeline, pulled together by the UN, which uses 1789 – the date of the French Revolution – as its starting point. It was chosen by the UN as a baseline, as it was a time when homosexuality was criminalised in many countries.

BBC News – Where is it illegal to be gay?.

Russia publishes report on human rights in the EU

January 17, 2014

On 14 January 2014 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its report “On the situation with human rights in the European Union” (posted on the ministry’s website ) in which it claimed that the EU was struck by “serious human rights illnesses.” A large part of he report relies on information from international human rights organizations, such as AI. In the document the Russian Foreign Ministry Read the rest of this entry »

UN criticises China’s rights record at Geneva UPR meeting

October 23, 2013

On 22 October the BBC and others reported that many member states of the UN Human Rights Council expressed concern at the arrest of dissidents, the continued use of the death penalty and the use of torture in prison, but Chinese officials maintained major progress had been made in improving social and economic rights.  Julie de Rivero, of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC that China’s focus on economic progress was a way of avoiding the real issues: “The question is why does China continue to torture people in prisons and why is it systematic? Why do they not allow human rights defenders to raise questions that party members are even raising, about corruption? When it comes from the mouth of a human rights defender it earns them a place in prison”. Members of the UN panel also expressed concern about the treatment of a number of Chinese human rights activists in recent weeks.

Students for a Free Tibet banner
(Activists from Students for a Free Tibet defied security to display a banner
on scaffolding in front of the United Nations (via BBC))

Under the UPR system, all UN member states undergo the review by the UN once every four years. [The UN panel – with a rotating membership of 47 states that does not currently include China – has no binding powers.]  The report on China is expected later this week.

via BBC News – UN criticises Chinas rights record at Geneva meeting.

 

Malala Receives another award: the RAW – Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 5, 2013

Malala Yousafzai has been declared the winner of an award for female defenders of human rights in war and conflict. The 16-year-old from Pakistan was due to accept the 2013 RAW in WAR Reach All Women in WAR Anna Politkovskaya Award at a London-based ceremony on 4 October. The award is named after Politkovskaya, a Russian human rights journalist and outspoken government critic, who was murdered in October 2006 – and whose assassin has still not been brought to justice. Named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in April 2013, Malala began blogging for the BBC in 2009 about her life in Pakistan’s Swat Valley region and her desire to attend school freely and safely, reported the BBC. Her increasingly public profile led to her being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on her way home from school in October last year. She was then flown to the U.K. for treatment and currently lives in Birmingham, where she continues to campaign for education for girls and boys.

via Malala Yousafzai Receives Women’s Human Rights Award | TIME.com.

 

BBC Outlook talks with Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

April 4, 2013

Français : Logo de la station de radio britann...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under the heading “Navi Pillay: My fight for Human Rights” Matthew Bannister meets the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. A bus driver’s daughter from a poor Indian section of Durban in South Africa, Navi grew up and began her human rights work during the apartheid era and became the first non-white woman to establish her own law practice and to be appointed as a High Court Judge in South Africa. She has become on e of the most remarkable personalities in the worldwide human rights movement.