🔎 Sustainable Development Goals; UN General Assembly
Addressing the general debate at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, leaders from South American countries urged the global community for greater cooperation and collaboration in addressing a range of pressing issues – from poverty to security challenges.
Underscoring the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), David Granger, the President of Guyana, said that the Goals represent the international community’s collective desire and determination to eradicate hunger and poverty, and ensure equal opportunities in education, employment and social justice for both men and women.
However, advancement of these Goals, he noted, is obstructed by violations of human rights, as well as by conflicts and violence that is displacing many from their homes, adding that the challenge before the UN is “to resolve to reinforce respect for the rights of citizens within the governance structures of [its] Member States.”
He also underscored the need to combat the impact of climate change, and expressed his country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Climate change is not a fiction of a few extremists,” said the President, noting that most recently, Caribbean islands and North American countries had felt the devastating impact of five successive hurricanes.
Also in his remarks, the Guyanese President reiterated that humanity must continue to striving for peace and highlighted the important role the UN through the International Criminal Court and the Security Council have in ensuring peace and respect for justice.
“Peace for the world’s peoples is the mandate of the UN. It can be achieved by addressing the world’s humanitarian crises, promoting justice within and between nations and resolving long-standing conflicts between states,” he concluded.
Also speaking today, Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, the President of Paraguay, underscored the importance of the UN in confronting global challenges such as poverty and inequality, climate change, transnational crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, President Cartes Jara urged all States, and in particular those with greater responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, to take all necessary measures to preserve the planet from the consequences of global warming.
“In Paraguay, we have taken a social responsibility perspective, by fostering greater production of clean and renewable energy,” he said.
The President also informed the Assembly of Paraguay’s efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including building an innovative and inclusive institutional architecture to advance progress towards the SDGs and targets.
He also spoke of work in his country to combat poverty, build opportunities for the indigenous and rural communities, promote greater investments, as well as increase transparency and efficiency in Government processes.
Turning to the crisis emanating from the nuclear weapon development programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the President reiterated Paraguay’s condemnation of the nuclear tests conducted by the DPRK, in clear defiance of its international obligations, and urged a “firm rejection” by the UN General Assembly of such acts by the country.
Also addressing the General Assembly today, President Lenín Moreno Garcés of Ecuador said the road to achieving peace and successfully implementing the SDG’s depends on cooperation and dialogue.
Reflecting on misuse of resources, the President asked: “How could it be possible that resources allocated to implementing the SDG’s have been wasted on the absurdity of war?”
He added that fallout from conflicts extends beyond economic damages – they also rob people of “true freedom and democracy.”
For this reason, he said, it is important to respect sovereignty of States and reject the notion that militarism is the solution, which, he stressed “brings suffering, pain and death.”
Also in his remarks, Mr. Garcés informed the General Assembly of a temporary bilateral ceasefire signed just a few days ago in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, between Government of Colombia and an armed group, as an example of regional strides towards achieving peace.
In conclusion, the President expressed optimism about coexisting in “a more human, and just world,” can be attributed to the power of dialogue, political decision-making power, and collective action.
Published on UN News Centre on September 20, 2017.
By DELIA PAUL
14 September 2017: Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development, delivered his first report to the UN Human Rights Council. The report highlights the disproportionate impact of global pandemics, corruption, the energy and climate crisis, and other adverse global trends on the world’s poor and those living in Africa, least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS).
Alfarargi (Egypt) was appointed during the February-March 2017 session of the Human Rights Council. He is the first person to hold the post of Special Rapporteur on the right to development. In his first report to the Council, he laments that many people are not even aware that such a right exists, although the UN adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development more than 30 years ago. The Special Rapporteur also observes that the right to development has become politicized, with the international community failing to agree on what the right to development means or how to measure progress towards this right.
The report outlines the Special Rapporteur’s preliminary views, highlights implementation challenges and presents a preliminary strategy that will inform his work, including his approach to stakeholder engagement. Key challenges addressed in the report include politicization of the issue, lack of engagement in promoting, protecting and fulfilling this right, and adverse global trends, such as the energy and climate crisis, the increasing number of global disasters, corruption and illicit financial flows.
In his report, Alfarargi calls on development agencies to place the right to development at the center of their work. He emphasizes that the recent adoption of global agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate, financing for development, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) means that ‘the building blocks for change’ are available.
The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration in its resolution 41/128 of 4 December 1986. The 10 articles in the Declaration represent a wide range of intentions, including to bring about complete disarmament in the interests of strengthening international peace and security. The Declaration encourages states to undertake ‘all necessary measures’ for people to realize the right to development, including through providing equality of opportunity and eradicating all social injustices.
Published on IISD on September 19, 2017.
Repression of rights defenders, journalists, and opposition in Egypt has reached levels not seen in decades – from legislation effectively banning NGOs, to enforced disappearances, long-term arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings.
But the authoritarianism of President Sisi is perhaps best defined by widespread and systematic torture, inflicted upon dissidents with complete impunity. Human Rights Watch’s report this month reveals a torture assembly line in police stations and National Security Agency sites.
Former detainees told us a typical interrogation session begins with security officers shocking a blindfolded, stripped, and handcuffed suspect with an electric stun gun in sensitive places while slapping or beating them with sticks and metal bars. If dissatisfied with the answers, officers increase the duration of electric shocks. Officers then force detainees into stress positions, beating and shocking them while they are hanging in excruciating pain.
One former detainee said officers repeatedly raped him with a stick; another said they pulled out one of his fingernails. A detained lawyer said they wrapped a wire around his penis and shocked him. Three former detainees said officers threatened to torture their family if they did not confess.
In nearly every case, torture served as prelude to prosecution. Almost all detainees said they told prosecutors about their torture but saw no investigation into their allegations.
Egypt’s torture epidemic is systematic and widespread, and likely constitutes a crime against humanity. In the face of these violations, the Council’s utter silence is jarring, an insult to victims of egregious abuse. Time is long overdue for the Council to press Egypt to end its frontal assault on human rights.
Published on HRW on September 20, 2017.
By TRIP GABRIEL
Alberta Jones is the civil rights pioneer almost no one knows. She was Louisville’s first black prosecutor and negotiated the first fight contract for Muhammad Ali, her neighbor. She registered thousands of African-American voters in the 1960s and paved the way for a ban on racial discrimination by local theaters and lunch counters.
One person who was astonished she had never heard of Ms. Jones was a professor named Lee Remington, who began research for a biography four years ago. The more Professor Remington learned, the more she became desperate to discover what no one has ever learned: who was responsible for Ms. Jones’s death in 1965, when, at 34, she was brutally beaten and thrown into the Ohio River to drown.
Poring over 1,600 pages of police files, Professor Remington, a lawyer and political scientist, shifted from mere history to what she calls “a quest for justice.’’ She laid out what she believed were overlooked clues to the murder in a long letter last year to the Louisville police, who agreed to reopen the case. The Justice Department’s civil rights division also stepped in.
But even with renewed interest in the case, it is unclear whether there is any real chance — 52 years after Ms. Jones died, when witnesses are deceased and evidence has vanished — of finding out who killed her and why.
“I believe her death was directly related to the work she was doing,” said Professor Remington, who teaches at Bellarmine University in Louisville. “If there was a list of people she would have stood up to and made mad, it would be five pages long.”
The Louisville Metro Police Department said this week that there have been few breakthroughs. “We still haven’t established enough probable cause to say one person or another did it,” Sgt. Nicholas Owen, the lead investigator, said.
Ms. Jones, who never married, is survived by a sister, Flora Shanklin, now 81. She believes earlier investigators ignored clues and buried evidence because of indifference to the murder of a prominent African-American, or because the killers were protected by authorities.
Ms. Shanklin recalled her sister saying she was regularly hassled by a white court officer at work. One day Ms. Jones got frustrated, Ms. Shanklin said, and “hit him with her briefcase.”
Ms. Jones’s name is absent from the annals of civil rights martyrs of the 1960s, perhaps because there is no clear evidence that her death was racially or politically motivated. Louisville, on the dividing line between North and South, largely avoided the harshest violence of the era, like church bombings and the murder of civil rights workers by white supremacists, and today does not have the immediate resonance of, say, Birmingham, Ala.
Still, the city Ms. Jones returned to in 1959 after graduating from Howard University School of Law was deeply segregated. Blacks could not enter movie theaters or restaurants in the city’s commercial heart, Fourth Street, or try on clothes at department stores.
Ms. Jones helped establish the Independent Voters Association, which registered 6,000 African-Americans. Voting as a bloc, blacks replaced the mayor of Louisville and many of the city’s aldermen in 1961. Two years later these officials outlawed racial discrimination in businesses, the first public accommodation ordinance of its kind in the South.
“We taught the Negros how to use that voting machine,” Ms. Jones told The Courier-Journal in March 1965. It was shortly after she became a city prosecutor, the first African-American and first woman of any race in that job in Louisville. “When I got back home a lot of people said, ‘You’ve got two strikes against you: You’re a woman and you’re a Negro,’” she told the newspaper. “Yeah, but I’ve still got one strike left, and I’ve seen people get home runs when all they’ve got left is one strike.’’
Ms. Jones lived in Louisville’s majority-black West End with her mother and sister, just a couple of blocks from the young Cassius Clay. In 1960, the future Muhammad Ali hired her to represent him when he turned professional. She negotiated a contract with 11 white millionaires, the famous Louisville Sponsoring Group. Protective of her client, she insisted that 15 percent of his winnings be held in trust until he turned 35, with Ms. Jones serving as a co-trustee. Today the contract hangs on the wall of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.
Ms. Shanklin said her sister took the boxer to buy a pink Cadillac at a downtown landmark, Brown Brothers Cadillac. “He used to come by the house and take my son and daughter to school” in the car, she recalled.
On the night Ms. Jones was murdered, Aug. 5, 1965, witnesses saw two black males drag a screaming woman into the back seat of a car like the Ford Fairlane Ms. Jones was driving, according to police records. Her body, with trauma to the head and face, was retrieved from the river near an amusement park in the West End. A large quantity of blood stained the back seat of the Fairlane, discovered nearby, which she had rented while her own car was in the shop.
Ms. Shanklin believes that whoever murdered her sister was paid by others. “I don’t know who, but she stepped on some toes,” she said.
In all the years the police have investigated Ms. Jones’s murder, reopening the case twice, they have never developed a dominant theory about suspects or a motive, according to records and Sergeant Owen, the current investigator.
One theory pursued in the 1960s was that she was killed by the Nation of Islam because its leader, Elijah Muhammad, coveted the 15 percent of Muhammad Ali’s earnings that Ms. Jones managed. A black detective working the case at the time, who was interviewed by the police in the 1980s, said that when he was pursuing this angle, his wife received a death threat.
Sergeant Owen said the Nation of Islam theory has never been substantiated. “I haven’t seen any evidence to indicate that aside from hearsay,” he said.
Almost all physical evidence from 1965 has been lost. In 2008, police got what looked to be a major break: a match on a fingerprint found on the Fairlane Ms. Jones was driving.
The print, matched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, belonged to a Louisville man who was 17 at the time of Ms. Jones’s death. He admitted in 2008 to detectives that he used to hang out in a park with friends one block from where witnesses saw the woman dragged into the back of a car.
But with no more evidence, the prosecutor at the time, R. David Stengel, declined to bring charges and declared the case closed “for the foreseeable future.”
In an interview last week, the man linked to the car, now 70, said that he knew nothing of Ms. Jones’s murder. “I didn’t touch that lady,” he said. “I don’t know who did. That’s all I can say.” His explanation for the fingerprint was that he used to hitchhike as a teenager and must have been picked up by someone who had rented the Fairlane before Ms. Jones. The Times is withholding the man’s name because police do not consider him a suspect.
Sergeant Owen said he was at a loss for new leads. He had hoped, as he interviewed old suspects as well as people who had been overlooked in the 1960s, that time would have loosened their tongues.
“I really don’t have a theory,” he said. “It could be anybody. I was hoping for guilt to weigh on somebody and have them confess. That hasn’t happened yet.”
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Lauren Ehrsam, confirmed that its civil rights office was reviewing the issues raised by Professor Remington about the case. Sergeant Owen said he had heard nothing from Washington.
Next month a Louisville civic group plans to hang a giant banner with Ms. Jones’s portrait on a bank building on Muhammad Ali Boulevard. It will join other portraits downtown honoring prominent people with Louisville roots, including Diane Sawyer and Colonel Harland Sanders of fast-food fame.
Professor Remington hopes the banner will prick someone’s memory — or conscience — about what happened to Ms. Jones 52 years ago. “She spent her whole life fighting for others,’’ she said. “It’s time somebody started fighting for her.”
Published on The NY Times on September 19, 2017.
The United Nations Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to end its ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims, Human Rights Watch said today. Since August 25, 2017, after attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), Burmese military forces have carried out mass arson, killing, and looting, destroying hundreds of villages and forcing nearly half a million Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
World leaders gathering in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly should make the crisis in Burma a priority and condemn the ongoing atrocities and obstruction of humanitarian aid to those desperately in need. The Security Council should urgently place a travel ban and asset freeze on those responsible for grave abuses and impose a comprehensive arms embargo against Burma, including prohibiting military cooperation and financial transactions with key military-owned enterprises.
“Burmese security forces are committing ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya and disregarding the condemnation of world leaders,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director. “The time has come to impose tougher measures that Burma’s generals cannot ignore.”
The Security Council should also demand that Burma allow humanitarian aid agencies to access people in need, permit entry to a UN fact-finding mission mandated to investigate violations in the country, and ensure the safe and voluntary return of those displaced.
As a first step, the Security Council should hold an open meeting to discuss council responses. The council should invite UN Secretary-General António Guterres to brief on the crisis in western Burma’s Rakhine State, which the UN high commissioner for human rights has referred to as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The council should also discuss measures to bring those responsible for serious abuses to justice, including before the International Criminal Court.
Concerned governments should not wait for Security Council action to address the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burma. They should impose travel bans and asset freezes on security officials implicated in serious abuses; expand existing arms embargoes to include all military sales, assistance, and cooperation; and place a ban on financial transactions with key Burmese military-owned enterprises.
The United States government should place the senior leadership of the Burmese military, notably commander-in-chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, on the US Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, which cuts off access to US financial institutions, restricts travel to the US, and freezes US assets. The European Union and its member countries should expand or impose similar targeted economic and travel sanctions, and extend the existing EU arms embargo against Burma to include all forms of military assistance. Similar measures should be taken by other concerned governments, including Japan, Norway, South Korea, Canada, and Australia.
“Burma’s senior military commanders are more likely to heed the calls of the international community if they are suffering real economic consequences,” Sifton said. “It hits those responsible for ethnic cleansing where it hurts.”
Human Rights Watch analyzed a series of satellite images recorded between August 25 and September 16 that showed over 220 villages destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine State since the violence started. Rohingya villagers who have fled to Bangladesh have described Burmese security forces shooting villagers and setting fires to homes. The Burmese government alleges that ARSA fighters and Rohingya villagers are responsible for the buildings burned, but has so far failed to provide evidence of this claim.
Any ARSA commanders who are credibly implicated in serious abuses should also face sanctions.
Published on HRW on September 17, 2017.
Human rights defenders, citizens’ movements, unionists and journalists critical of the government are facing growing danger as the government increasingly uses repressive laws and intelligence service to muzzle critics and hamper their work, Amnesty International reveals in a new report published today.
‘Between recession and repression . The rising cost of dissent in Chad’ documents how the authorities have over the recent years responded to growing public discontent, with ever greater restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
“Instead of recognizing the important and entirely legitimate work of activists who take a brave stand against injustice and undertake peaceful action to improve human rights, authorities in Chad have been particularly active in enacting laws and regulations which remove the right to protest, place activists under surveillance, and targeting them with harassment, threats and physical attacks,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director.
“Security forces and intelligence agency are overseeing a brutal crackdown which has made criticism of government increasingly dangerous over the past two years and now threatening to steer the country back to dark days of repression”.
Since early 2016, ahead of the April presidential election, the authorities have intensified their efforts to repress human rights. Peaceful demonstrations have been systematically banned.
In 2016 alone, Amnesty International documented at least 13 ministerial decrees banning peaceful protests. More than 65 associations told Amnesty International they had not been granted permission to organize a protest between 2014 and 2016.
Unregistered social movements and platforms have been declared “illegal” by the Chadian Minister of Public Security and Immigration, and this has been used to justify the arrest of civil society leaders such as Nadjo Kaina and Bertrand Solloh of Iyina.
At the heart of much of this repression is the national agency for security (ANS) which has often acted in defiance of Chadian law. The ANS’s mandate was expanded in January this year allowing its agents to target and arrest human rights defenders on the grounds of national security.
The ANS had already been illegally arresting people and detaining them in unofficial detention facilities, without allowing access to families and lawyers.
“This sinister role highlights the ANS’s unchecked power to crackdown on human rights defenders and must be stopped. To reduce the chance of gross human rights violations and impunity occurring, the authorities must ensure there is a clear chain of accountability within the ANS and that it is subject to judicial oversight,” said Alioune Tine.
Human rights defenders told Amnesty International that they are also subjected to threatening anonymous phone calls and surveillance. Of the 45 activists interviewed by Amnesty International, only two said they had never received such calls.
One human rights lawyer said:
“I would receive unidentified calls early in the morning, around five or six, and also at night. Calls are either silent, or someone would say ‘just try speaking and you will see’.”
The authorities have not denied using surveillance and the Minister of Security told Amnesty International in a meeting: “You can be listened to and spied on - it's the job of security services”.
In 2016, ahead of the election, the government banned social media platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook for much of the year. At least 10 websites critical of the government remain blocked in the country until March 2017.
Online activist Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri, known as Mahadine, has been detained since 30 September 2016, after having posted several videos on Facebook criticizing the government’s management of public funds. Charged with undermining the constitutional order, threatening territorial integrity and national security, and collaborating with an insurrection movement, he awaits trial and if convicted, he could face life imprisonment.
Journalists are also paying a high price for merely doing their job. Sylver Beindé Bassandé, a journalist and director of community radio Al Nada FM in Moundou, was also sentenced to two years in prison and fined US$180 on 20 June 2017 for complicity in contempt of court and undermining judicial authority.
“Chad is at a crossroads. The authorities must choose whether they would continue to stifle political opposition and muzzle critics, or honour the promises made by President Idriss Déby upon his assumption of power,” said Alioune Tine.
“We call on them to amend restrictive laws regulating public gatherings, associations and the right to strike, reform the ANS, and immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.”
Published on Amnesty International on September 14, 2017.
The apparent extrajudicial executions by Philippine police of two children over a three-day period underscores the need for a United Nations inquiry into President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive “war on drugs,” Human Rights Watch said today. While several dozen children under 18 have died in drug war-related killings since June 2016, circumstances suggest that the Philippine National Police (PNP) deliberately targeted the two children.“The apparent willingness of Philippine police to deliberately target children for execution marks an appalling new level of depravity in this so-called drug war,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “These killings demonstrate that Duterte’s rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential ‘drug-war’ victims, no matter how young.”
On September 6, 2017, a passerby spotted the body of Reynaldo de Guzman, a 14-year-old Grade 5 student from Pasig City, floating in a creek, 20 days after he was reported missing. A pathologist report indicates that de Guzman died from at least 30 stab wounds after his assailants wrapped his head in packing tape. Packing tape has been a gruesome hallmark of many drug-war killings under Duterte. De Guzman had last been seen alive on August 18 in the company of his friend Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, who the police shot to death later that day after they accused him of robbing a taxi driver in Manila’s Caloocan City.
Two days earlier, on August 16, police anti-drug officers in Caloocan City killed 17-year-old Kian delos Santos. Police said they shot delos Santos after he fired on them during an anti-drug operation. However, both witness accounts and close circuit television camera footageindicate that police executed an unarmed delos Santos while he was in police custody and dumped his body in an alley.
The killings of delos Santo and de Guzman bring to at least 54 the number of children killed by police and “unidentified gunmen” in the “war on drugs” since July 2016, according to data from the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center. Most of those children had been shot while in the company of adults who were the apparent target of the shooting. Both Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II have dismissed those killings as “collateral damage.”
Duterte’s government has also imperiled children by approving a plan for mandatory drug testing for all college students and applicants. The order permits local governments, the police, and other law enforcement agencies to “carry out any drug-related operation within the school premises” with the approval of school administrators. This will effectively allow the police to extend their abusive anti-drug operations to college and university campuses, placing students at grave risk.
A public uproar over the killings of delos Santos and de Guzman has prompted Duterte, the Justice Department, and the Philippine National Police to promise thorough investigations into their deaths. In August, the Public Attorney’s Office filed murder and torture chargesagainst the police officers implicated in the delos Santos killing. But on September 8, Duterte described de Guzman’s killing as a deliberate act of “sabotage” to “discredit” the police.
There are major concerns about the willingness and capacity of the Philippine authorities to conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into drug war-related killings. In July, police officials allowed the police officers facing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. to return to work.
The officers were reinstated even though twin inquiries by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Senate reached the conclusion that the officers had committed “premeditated murder” when they shot Espinosa to death in a Manila jail cell on November 5, 2016. Espinosa had surrendered to the police following public accusations by President Duterte that he was a drug trafficker. Both investigations rejected the officers’ assertion that Espinosa died in a firefight in his cell after brandishing a concealed pistol.
Duterte has also systematically sought to vilify, harass, and intimidate those carrying out domestic and international accountability efforts that have challenged his drug war. The targets of the harassment campaign include human rights organizations and activists, lawyers, United Nations officials, journalists, and Philippine lawmakers.
Concerted action by the UN Human Rights Council to address Duterte’s abusive drug war is crucial. The council should press the Philippines government to accept an independent international investigation into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to hold those responsible to account. The council should also press the government to cooperate with the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, grant unfettered and unconditional access to the rapporteur, and immediately stop all official incitement and instigation of drug war killings.
“A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them,” Kine said. “Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows a UN-led international probe, child-killers among the police will continue to get away with murder.”
Published on HRW on September 9, 2017.
The activities of Israeli banks in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank raise serious human rights concerns. By providing services to and in settlements, which are illegal under international humanitarian law (IHL), and partnering with developers in new construction projects, Israeli banks are making existing settlements more sustainable, enabling the expansion of their built-up area and the take-over of Palestinian land, and furthering the de facto annexation of the territory. All of this contributes to serious human rights and IHL abuses.
When faced with such concerns over their banking activities in and with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli banks have said that they are required by Israeli law to provide those services.
However, Human Rights Watch can find no Israeli domestic law that requires Israeli banks to provide many such settlement-related activities. In other words, Israeli banks could stop many of their settlement-related activities – notably financing new construction, providing mortgages, and operating service points -- branches and ATMs – without necessarily incurring adverse domestic legal consequences.
Even if that were not the case, Israeli banks would have a responsibility in all circumstances to seek ways to honor the principles of internationally recognized human rights.
In this paper, Human Rights Watch analyzes Israeli domestic law governing banking activities, including recent amendments to anti-discrimination and consumer protection legislation and a law addressing calls to boycott Israel or its settlements. This paper outlines which activities Israeli law does and does not require banks to undertake in settlements, and makes recommendations to Israeli banks, their investors, the Bank of Israel, the Israeli government and third-party states. It also addresses the human rights responsibilities that foreign institutional investors in these banks have and provides recommendations for how they might meet those responsibilities. The analysis in this paper is limited to the activities of Israeli banks in and with settlements and does not address other kinds of activities undertaken by Israeli banks.
Human Rights Watch does not believe it is possible for businesses to operate in the settlements in compliance with their international responsibilities, due to the inherent IHL and human rights violations that characterize settlements. Human Rights Watch is calling for banks, like other businesses, to comply with their own human rights responsibilities by ceasing settlement-related activities.
Under Israeli banking, consumer, and anti-discrimination law, banks cannot reject customers based on their place of residence, which could be interpreted by Israeli courts to include residence outside of Israel, in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But it is Human Rights Watch's assessment that banks can, under domestic law, avoid providing many services that support settlements and settlement activity, and that doing so is necessary to fulfill their human rights responsibilities. Banks are not obliged to provide their services everywhere and are not prohibited from refusing to offer services based on business or other considerations, regardless of where a would-be customer lives. Israeli law prohibits discrimination against an individual based on the individual's place of residence, not differentiation based on the geographic location where services will be provided or other substantive elements of a service or transaction. Indeed, Israeli consumer protection law allows businesses to refrain from offering goods and services in settlements, provided they notify customers in advance of this choice and apply the policy to all customers, irrespective of their place of residence. Israeli anti-discrimination law forbids banks from discriminating in services or goods provided in the place of business, based on the client's place of residence, but does not bar declining financial services in a certain area based on other considerations.
For these reasons, Human Rights Watch believes that while banks cannot, under Israeli law, reject settlers as customers, they do not have to provide financial services that involve settlements, such as financing construction projects or mortgages for settlement properties, when the grounds for refusal are not the place of residence of the customer but rather the business and human rights considerations stemming from the location of the activities, for example the nature of the property rights in the housing unit and the construction's implications on Palestinians’ human rights.
Based on Human Rights Watch’s analysis of Israeli law and the international humanitarian and human rights standards applicable to businesses and settlements, this means that banks can refuse to offer many services that “touch” settlements, as long as they disclose that policy and as long as the grounds for the refusal are perceived by courts not as relating to the clients themselves, but as stemming from the special business and other implications that arise from the nature of the transaction. For example, banks could refuse to offer a service if that transaction originates, terminates or passes through a settlement as long, as they disclose that they decline to provide services in settlements and apply that policy to all customers. Israeli regulatory law also provides banks a kind of safe haven by allowing them to propose policies of this type to the Bank of Israel for approval. This is just one of the many steps that Israeli banks can and should take to fulfill their human rights responsibilities and cease doing business in or with settlements.
Published on HRW on September 12, 2017.
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More than four years after the United Nations (UN) voted to adopt a landmark treaty to regulate the international arms trade, major arms exporters including the UK and France are effectively ignoring their treaty obligations by continuing to supply arms even where there is a real risk they could contribute to serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.
Diplomats will meet in Geneva today for the start of the third Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT sets out prohibitions to stop the international transfer of arms when it is known they would be used for war crimes, or where there is an overriding risk that they could be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations.
“About half a million people are killed every year by firearms, and millions more are trapped in brutal conflicts fuelled by reckless arms sales. The Arms Trade Treaty promised to save countless lives by reigning in this massive, secretive industry, but at the moment weak implementation and a lack of transparency are threatening to undermine it,” said James Lynch, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“We are urging States Parties to double down on their commitments under the treaty, and to hold each other to account for reckless and potentially unlawful arms transfers. There is no time to waste - people around the world are being killed, maimed and terrorized by weapons which should never have been transferred in the first place.”
Ignoring their obligations
Under the ATT, exports of conventional weapons cannot take place if there is an overriding risk they could contribute to serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law. Amnesty International has highlighted several examples where States Parties appear to have broken their obligations under the treaty.
For example, many States Parties including France, the UK and Italy have supplied Egypt with a range of conventional weapons that could be used for internal repression including light arms and ammunition, despite the Egyptian government’s violent crackdown on dissent which has resulted in thousands of protesters being killed, tortured and injured.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), from 2012-16, the period in which Egypt experienced an unprecedented crackdown, 80% of Egypt’s imports of major conventional weapons came from the US (a signatory to the ATT) or France.
Several governments have also continued to lavish weapons on Saudi Arabia, despite overwhelming and credible evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, during which time the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has bombed schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, the UK has approved exports of licences worth over £3.7 billion to Saudi Arabia.
According to SIPRI, Saudi Arabia is the US and UK’s largest trading partner for heavy conventional weapons. Exports to Saudi Arabia made up 13% of the US’s total military exports and 48% of the UK’s arms exports in 2012-16. Just under 80% of all Saudi Arabia’s imports of major conventional weapons in 2012-16 came from the US and the UK.
In May 2017, the US agreed $110 billion worth of potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The deals include $4.6 billion worth of guided air-to-ground munitions - a total of 104,000 bombs of the type that have been used routinely in the Yemen war. Recent deliveries in 2015-16 include 13,726 anti-tank missiles; 3,870 guided bombs; 60 combat helicopters and 1,279 armoured vehicles and 4 fighter ground attack aircraft.
In the same period the UK delivered 20 Fighter Ground Attack Typhoon Block 20 aircraft worth $1.15 billion; 2,400 guided Paveway bombs worth $48 million; 50 Storm Shadow/ SCALP cruise missiles worth $70 million; and two Air Refuelling systems worth $20 million.
According to SIPRI data, other significant suppliers of heavy weapons to Saudi Arabia since the start of the conflict in Yemen include France ($218 million); Spain ($196 million) and Switzerland ($186 million); Italy ($154 million); Canada ($115 million); and Turkey ($91 million).
Transparency saves lives
Under the ATT, all States Parties are required to submit annual reports on their arms imports and exports – something that is vital to shed light on the international arms trade, which has long been shrouded in secrecy.
As the ATT has no independent verification mechanism to ensure compliance with the rules regarding transfers, public annual reports on imports and exports are crucial for allowing parliaments, media and civil society to scrutinize the conduct of governments.
However, so far only 48 out of 75 States Parties have submitted an annual report on their 2016 arms imports and exports, and 13 governments, including Iceland and Nigeria, still have not even submitted a report for their 2015 arms exports and imports.
Many reports are also full of inconsistencies and gaps:
“One of the key aims of the ATT is to make the arms trade more transparent; yet states are still leaving out crucial information about who they are selling weapons to and how many, and what type of, arms they are importing,” said James Lynch.
“This is not just an administrative concern. The fact that some states are choosing to leave huge gaps, or simply not submit their reports at all, raises disturbing questions about what they are trying to hide.
“With transfers of major conventional weapons at their highest volume since the end of the Cold War, and weapons continuing to flow into conflict zones and countries rife with internal repression, States Parties need to remember the purpose of this treaty: to reduce human suffering. They must use this week’s meeting as an opportunity to ensure that all exporters and importers are held accountable to that aim.”
After more than 20 years of campaigning by Amnesty International and partner NGOs in the Control Arms Coalition, the UN General Assembly voted decisively to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) text in April 2013. The treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014.
The ATT is a global treaty that sets out, for the first time, prohibitions to stop the international transfer between states of weapons, munitions and related items when it is known they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. States Parties must conduct an assessment of the ‘overriding’ risk that potential arms exports could contribute to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
130 states have now signed the treaty, with 92 of those having ratified it, including five out of the top ten arms exporters: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. However, major arms traders Russia and China have not yet joined the ATT. The US has signed but not ratified. By signing the ATT governments agree not to take any action that would undermine the treaty’s object and purpose.
Global spending on arms
Global exports and imports of major conventional weapons
Transfers to the Middle East
Small Arms and Light Weapons
Published on AI on September 11, 2017.