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from Andrew R.C. Marshall:

Jailing dissidents is not only a Burmese tradition

Ever heard of Tun Aung? I hadn't until researching my recent Reuters special report on Myanmar's year of reforms. Human rights activists claim his plight is proof that the country's reformist government, like the military junta it replaced, is relying on repressive laws and secretive trials to silence perceived enemies.

Tun Aung, a practicing medical doctor and Islamic leader, was arrested in June 2012 after clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State killed at least 80 people. He was accused of inciting unrest in the town of Maungdaw, although Amnesty International said credible eyewitness reports suggested that Tun Aung "actively tried to defuse the violence."

He was not allowed to choose his own lawyer, nor to meet privately with his state-appointed one, "giving him no chance of a fair trial," says Amnesty. Even so, Tun Aung was sentenced to a total of 15 years in jail.

Seven of them were for offenses under the Emergency Provisions Act (1950), one of a number of laws "commonly used to arbitrarily detain activists or criminalize dissent" under Myanmar's old junta, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). These laws, which still remain on Myanmar's books, help create "an environment conducive to politically motivated arrests," says AAPP. At least 200 dissidents remain behind bars, says the group.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Bad behavior

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"We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said today, after revelations that the world's most reclusive state showed off its latest advances in uranium enrichment. "They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We're not going to buy into this cycle."

Those are sound intentions, although analysts are already predicting the United States will find a way to restart six-party talks in the next six months or so if only as a containment strategy,  despite the fact that North Korea appears completely unwilling to talk seriously about denuclearization.

from The Great Debate UK:

Cluster munitions treaty – a milestone, but a long way to go

Bonnie Docherty is a senior researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. She is also a lecturer and clinical instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.  The opinions expressed are her own.

On August 1, the world moved a step closer to eliminating cluster munitions, large weapons that carry dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions and are notorious for killing and maiming civilians, both during attacks and long afterward.

from The Great Debate UK:

Intelligence cooperation: time to ask the hard questions

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- Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher for Human Rights Watch, has worked extensively on counterterrorism issues. The opinions expressed are her own. -

Torture is prohibited under international law, at anytime and anywhere. No exceptions are allowed. Yet the UK, France and Germany are engaged in ongoing counterterrorism cooperation with foreign intelligence services in countries that routinely use torture.

from The Great Debate UK:

The worst place to return a child?

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-Simone Troller is children’s rights researcher with Human Rights Watch and specialises in unaccompanied migrant children in Europe. The opinions expressed are her own.-

It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone reading the news that Europe’s biggest group of asylum seekers are Afghans, including thousands of children who arrive alone.

from FaithWorld:

Senegal’s Koranic “scholars” face beatings: report

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Fali Ba, 10, a Talibe or Islamic student, holds a copy of the Koran at a Dara, or Koranic school, in Pikine on the outskirts of Senegal's capital Dakar, May 7, 2008/Finbarr O'Reilly

Barefoot children in tattered clothes scramble through the dusty, trash-strewn streets of Dakar, tapping on car windows and shadowing market-goers in the hopes of a few coins or a cup of rice.

from The Great Debate UK:

Women, asylum and the UK Border Agency

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gvgGauri van Gulik is a Women’s Rights Advocate and Researcher for Human Rights Watch and author of the report “Fast-Tracked Unfairness: Detention and Denial of Women Asylum Seekers in the UK. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters will host a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. Please tune in.–

Last week, the Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour programme that the UK Border Agency ensures that very complex cases brought by women asylum seekers do not go through the UK’s so-called “detained fast-track” asylum process, a route designed for straightforward asylum claims that can be decided quickly.

from The Great Debate UK:

Time to break the silence on injustices against women

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gisellportenier- Giselle Portenier is an  award-winning documentary filmmaker who focuses on human rights abuses around the world and a member of the Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival committee. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters will host a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. Please tune in.-

Soon it will be that famous Ladies’ Day again, International Women’s Day, when the Western press packs their pages with stories—and it’s already started-- either celebrating all we have achieved, or lamenting all that still eludes us—equal pay for work of equal value, glass ceilings, balancing work and family life, domestic violence, and so on.

from The Great Debate UK:

Where schooling is sabotaged

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Kennji_KIZUKA- Kennji Kizuka was a consultant to the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch and conducted research for their new report, Sabotaged Schooling: Naxalite Attacks and Police Occupation of Schools in India’s Bihar and Jharkhand States. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Late in the evening of November 29, 2008, a group of guerrilla fighters entered the remote village of Dwarika in the Indian state of Jharkhand and detonated improvised bombs inside the village’s only school. Doors blew apart, desks and chairs splintered, and portions of the classroom walls crumbled. No longer suitable or safe for learning, the school closed.

from The Great Debate UK:

Italy forces migrants back to Libyan abuse

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Bill Frelick- Bill Frelick is Human Rights Watch's refugee policy director and the author of "Pushed Back, Pushed Around: Italy's Forced Return of Boat Migrants and Asylum Seekers, Libya's Mistreatment of MIgrants and Asylum Seekers". The opinions expressed are his own. -

On May 6, for the first time since World War II, a European state ordered its coast guard and naval vessels to intercept and forcibly return boat migrants on the high seas without screening to determine whether any passengers needed protection or were particularly vulnerable. That state was Italy; the receiving state was Libya. The Italians left the exhausted passengers on a dock in Tripoli, where the Libyan authorities immediately detained them.

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