In the News

News Update

February 8th, 2016

Prepared by Claire Muller, Social Media Intern

Europe

Armenia: At an annual dinner of Armenian organizations of France, French President Francois Hollande reported resuming discussions on a new bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide entrusting it to the former Chairman of the European Court of the Human Rights (ECtHR) Jean-Paul Costa. The president said: “I called Jean-Paul Costa, one of our best lawyers, to find the undeniable way that will protect the memory of the victims of the Genocide.”

European Parliament: The European Parliament passed a resolution on February 4 recognizing the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities by ISIS as a genocide and calling the atrocities by the Islamic terror group “crimes against humanity.” ISIS has systematically persecuted religious minorities in its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, kidnapping hundreds of Assyrian Christians in Syria, forcing Christians to live under its radical strand of Islam in the central Syrian city of Al-Qaryatain, enslaving and raping Yazidi women and children in northern Iraq, as well as killing Yazidi men and dumping them in mass graves.

Turkey: Turkey came under mounting pressure to open its border Saturday as tens of thousands of Syrians sought entry. According to Suleyman Tapsiz, governor of the Turkish border province of Kilis, as many as 35,000 Syrians have amassed along the closed border. He said Turkey would provide aid to the displaced within Syria, but would only open the gates in the event of an “extraordinary crisis.”

Greece and Italy: More than 74,000 people have arrived on the shores of Greece and Italy this year, a sign that the European refugee crisis shows no signs of abating in 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday. Most of the refugees are fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

France: France has carried out abusive and discriminatory raids and house arrests against Muslims under its sweeping new state of emergency law. In January, Human Rights Watch interviewed 18 people who said they had been subjected to abusive searches or placed under house arrest, as well as human rights activists and lawyers working in affected areas. Those targeted said the police burst into homes, restaurants, or mosques; broke people’s belongings, terrified children, and placed restrictions on people’s movements so severe that they lost income or suffered physically.

 

Asia

Myanmar: A Yale University Law School assessment found “strong evidence” that Myanmar is committing genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority. Government forces have reportedly arrested, raped and summarily executed protesters, while dead bodies keep turning up in the streets with their hands tied behind their backs.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen: The United Nations says that air attacks on civilians in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition could be crimes against humanity. The UN panel that monitors the conflict in Yemen documented 119 coalition attacks “relating to violations of international humanitarian law” and says that “many attacks involved multiple air strikes on multiple civilian objects.” The panel reports that in certain cases the violations by the coalition were conducted in a “widespread and systematic” manner and therefore quality as crimes against humanity.

North Korea: The UN Security Council condemned the latest rocket launch by North Korea and vowed to take “significant measures” in response to Pyongyang’s violations of UN resolutions. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters, “We will ensure that the Security Council imposes serious consequences. North Korea’s latest transgressions require our response to be even firmer.”

 

Middle East

Syria: The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that those committing crimes against humanity in Syria’s brutal war should not be let off under any deal. He told reporters in Geneva, “We do have a principled position in the United Nations that no amnesties should be considered for those suspected of having committed crimes against humanity or war crimes.”

Syria: Syria’s foreign minister warned that Saudi and other foreign troops entering his country would “return home in coffins” and asserted that recent military advances put his government “on track” to end the five-year-old civil war.

Iraq: According to a U.N. report released last week, at least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 were wounded in Iraq between the start of 2014 and Oct. 31, 2015 as Iraqi forces battled the Islamic State group. The report documented a wide range of human rights abuses, including the Islamic State group’s conscription of some 3,500 people into slavery, mainly women and children from the Yazidi religious minority captured in the summer of 2014 and forced into sexual slavery. The report said another 800 to 900 children were abducted from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, for religious and military training.

Afghanistan: US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Afghanistan to assess the fragile security situation amid reports of increased violence and a growing campaign by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) loyalists to gain a foothold in the eastern part of the country.

 

Africa

Burundi: Women are reporting being raped as part of the Burundi president’s fight to keep power. Young men suspected of participating in the anti-third-term protests have been the primary targets for systematic arrests, killings, and harassment by authorities in the capital. But in recent months, testimonies from local health workers, victims, and eyewitnesses point to a growing trend of rape and sexual assault of women in Bujumbura. In their recently-released report, Refugees International recorded 651 reported incidents of sexual assault by Burundian refugees who had escaped to Tanzania.

Ivory Coast: The International Criminal Court (ICC) trial for the former Ivory Coast President Gbagbo has begun for his alleged crimes during the war that began in the Ivory Coast in 2011 in which more than 3,000 people were killed. Gbagbo, the first head of state to be tried by the ICC, pled ‘not guilty’ of crimes against humanity.

Uganda: A former Ugandan rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been accused of ordering his child soldiers to degenerate into cannibalism and turning children into sex slaves.

UNICEF: UNICEF released a new report that at least 200 million girls and women around the world have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with nearly a quarter of them being under the age of 14 when they were cut. Historically, incidence was mostly concentrated in Africa, but UNICEF’s new data shows that FGM is done more globally than previously thought, occurring in several Middle Eastern countries as well as Central and South Asian countries. Cases have also been reported in North America, Australia, and Latin America.

Darfur: In the last two weeks, a new escalation of violence in Darfur has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes in the Jebel Marra area. According to UNAMID, the UN Assistance Mission in Darfur, up to 21,338 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into North Darfur state and 15,000 others have fled into Central Darfur state.

Sri Lanka: The UN’s top human rights official has arrived in Sri Lanka amid concerns that the country’s president is backtracking on promises to investigate war crimes. Sri Lankan troops are accused of killing at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the civil war in 2009.

 

North America

United States: Twitter has suspended over 125,000 accounts over posts that might be promoting “terrorist” activity and is examining other accounts related to those flagged for possible removal. Al Jazeera reports that Twitter’s efforts to automatically identify tweets supporting terrorism reflect increased pressure from the US government for social media companies to respond more proactively to abuse.

United States: The US Department of Defense has disclosed nearly 200 previously unreleased photographs pertaining to torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners carried out by US forces. Despite an overwhelming amount of public evidence, to date, senior US officials have escaped investigation or prosecution by US authorities even when they themselves have disclosed information about their own or other’s culpability in the use of torture.

South and Central America  

Guatemala: Guatemalan police have arrested 18 ex-military leaders for crimes against humanity during a decades-long war against Guatemala’s indigenous communities. The military leaders face charges of ordering massacres and forced disappearances during the conflict, which led to an estimated quarter-million deaths. Many of the arrested former military leaders were backed by the United States, including Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, who had worked closely with U.S. military officials to develop a system of attacking the highlands where Guatemala’s indigenous Mayan communities reside. The system involved decapitating and crucifying people.

Legislative Update

 

Crime and Violence:

H.R.4383 : DHS Human Trafficking Prevention Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep Sanchez, Loretta [CA-46] (introduced 1/13/2016)      Cosponsors (1)
Committees: House Homeland Security; House Judiciary
Latest Major Action: 2/3/2016 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

H.R.515 : International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders
Sponsor: Rep Smith, Christopher H. [NJ-4] (introduced 1/22/2015)      Cosponsors (15)
Committees: House Foreign Affairs; House Judiciary; Senate Foreign Relations
Latest Major Action: 2/4/2016 Presented to President.

 

International Peace and Security:

H.R.158 : Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep Miller, Candice S. [MI-10] (introduced 1/6/2015)      Cosponsors (93)
Committees: House Judiciary; House Homeland Security
House Reports: 114-369 Part 1
Latest Major Action: 12/9/2015 Received in the Senate.

H.R.4314 : Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep Zeldin, Lee M. [NY-1] (introduced 1/5/2016)      Cosponsors (7)
Committees: House Foreign Affairs; House Homeland Security; House Judiciary
Latest Major Action: 2/3/2016 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

H.R.757 : North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep Royce, Edward R. [CA-39] (introduced 2/5/2015)      Cosponsors (36)
Committees: House Foreign Affairs; House Ways and Means; House Judiciary; House Financial Services; House Oversight and Government Reform; Senate Foreign Relations
House Reports: 114-392 Part 1
Latest Major Action: 2/2/2016 Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 359.