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Forced Uyghur LaborForced labor stemming from human rights violations in the Xinjiang province of China has been linked to at least 83 major corporations. In a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in February 2020, companies such as Nike, Gap, H&M, Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen all have connections to the use of forced Uyghur labor in China. The report identified 27 factories in China that employ the use of labor transferred from Xinjiang.

Human Rights Violations of the Uyghur Population

Between 2017 and 2019, it is estimated that over 80,000 Uyghurs were moved out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China through labor transfer programs known as “Xinjiang Aid.”  The Chinese government refers to these job assignments as “vocational training” while maintaining that they are part of the “re-education” process assigned to the Uyghur population. These programs have all been identified in connection to the human rights abuses of the Uyghur population as a whole.

It is reported that surveillance tools are being used to monitor the Uyghur population in these programs and to restrict their freedom of movement. Additionally, it has been reported that they are subject to threats, arbitrary detainment and abusive working conditions.

Factories Identified and Company Responses

The companies identified in connection to this forced labor use include international brands that span across the technology, clothing and automotive sectors.

In the technology sector, Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, among others, have been connected to factories that utilize forced labor in China. Amazon has issued a statement saying they do not tolerate the use of forced labor and will be investigating these findings further.

The Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. Ltd has been specifically connected to forced labor of the Uyghur population. Workers at this factory also attend a night school that seems to closely resemble the “re-education camps” in the Xinjiang province. Nike is this factory’s primary customer and released a statement saying that the factory has not recruited new workers from Xinjiang since last year and that it is seeking advice on the most responsible path toward handling the employment of the remaining workers from this region.

The Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing Co. Ltd is also identified as using forced labor. This factory’s corporate website cites partnerships with the companies Fila, Adidas, Puma and Nike. Adidas specifically stated that it does not have a current relationship with the company and is investigating this claim. Nike has also released a statement that it has no current relationship with the factory.

Since the release of ASPI’s report, H&M has ended a relationship with a Chinese yarn supplier due to its ties to forced labor.

The Global Supply Chain

The complexity of the global supply chain has undoubtedly made it more difficult for global corporations to monitor the connections of their suppliers to forced labor in China, but ASPI reached out to all 83 brands included in the report to confirm details of their suppliers as listed in the report.

Unfortunately, companies and consumers are now put at risk by purchasing goods that connect to forced labor. Investors in these 83 companies are potentially at risk as well. U.S. Congress has recently introduced legislation to protect investors through the requirement of disclosure of goods sourced from Xinjiang.

The End Uyghur Forced Labor Coalition

There are several advocacy groups dedicated to spreading awareness and furthering tangible steps to end the persecution and exploitation of the Uyghur population. The End Uyghur Forced Labor Coalition has written to 17 companies regarding the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (S. 3471), which is intended to end the use of forced labor from this region in supply chains. The coalition has also issued a call to action that aims for brands to remove all connections with suppliers that have used forced labor. This has been endorsed by investor organizations from more than 35 countries as well as more than 300 Uyghur groups, trade unions and civil society groups.

Ending Forced Uyghur Labor

Though most companies were not aware of the use of forced labor of Uyghurs, along with the awareness that was brought to light, action is also being taken by these companies to show that they do not support forced labor by any means. The End Uyghur Forced Labor Coalition is doing important work to continue bringing awareness to the issue and to protect the rights of this vulnerable minority population.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

tapestry weavingIn Chile, from 1973 to 1990, systemic human rights violations swept the nation under General Augusto Pinochet, including acts of physical and sexual abuse as well as psychological damage. Consequently, many progressive young students and men “disappeared” at the hands of the regime because of their ideology. While a grim history, hope can be found in the subsequent actions of women. The Arpilleristas were able to overcome such hardships through tapestry weaving.

Chilean Women Unite

Mothers united and responded to the oppression and torture that was inflicted upon their loved ones with methods of protests that defied masculine logic, such as publicly banging pots and pans, singing and dancing to songs with political messages and weaving tapestries. These actions challenged the societal norms in Chile, which were embedded with machismo ideology and male superiority.

Tapestry Weaving as a Form of Resistance

The weaving of tapestries was an especially impactful form of resistance that was founded in 1975. Once unified, the Arpilleristas began to construct patchwork tapestries, or arpilleras, that depicted scenes of hardship and violence that people experienced under Pinochet.

The hand-made arpilleras portrayed shantytown community kitchens, which were often families’ only means of feeding themselves, women’s laundry and bread-baking subsistence-level cooperatives, arrests and soldiers beating protesters. It was through the crafting of the arpilleras that women were granted a voice to tell their individual and collective stories.

Economic Empowerment

However, the crafting of the arpilleras was more than just an act of protest and storytelling, it was also a way to generate income. The women weaving arpilleras was a form of advocacy and also a livelihood. The Arpilleristas transformed conventional visions of secluded motherhood and domesticity, all the while eliminating submissive and passive associations regarding women.

With the return of democracy in the 1990s, the oppression f the Pinochet dictatorship has since been eradicated. All individuals are able to enjoy democracy. The women, “do so now, however, with a different consciousness. Women have not forgotten the empowerment they gained when they learned they could change things by taking to the streets and protesting the dictatorship.

It is this confidence that continues to inspire women as they face problems in Chile, however, they do so in a different manner now.

A Return to Democracy

It was only through the opression of the dictatorship and conservative gender ideology promoted by the dictatorship, Chilean women mobilized as feminists to demand a return to democracy. Though they were not self-identified feminists, the collective act of women uniting in order to defeat oppression has altered and expanded women’s rights in Chile today and recharacterized the very definition of motherhood.

The Arpilleristas’ tapestry weaving has served as an inspiring example of fighting against injustice while empowering women through economic development. By employing an accepted tradition of weaving, the women were able to capitalize and in many cases negate extreme poverty and additional hardships.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Failed statesA country is considered a ‘failed state’ when it cannot control its territory and population as well as when fails to secure its borders. A failed state has barely functioning executive, legislative and judicial institutions, which in turn, breeds corruption since the honest economic activity is not rewarded by the state. Here are 10 facts about failed states.

10 Facts About Failed States

  1. Throughout history, civil wars, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations have led to states losing the capacity to regulate and control themselves. When a state loses the capacity to implement policies throughout the country, when it cannot establish public order and equity, and when the government cannot assure the independence of institutions, instability and insecurity reign.

  2. North Korea is often called the ‘hermit kingdom’ due to its isolated nature. The country frequently receives low scores on its legitimacy of state. Aid organizations estimate that around 2 million people have died from food shortages since the mid-1990s. Part of this can be traced back to the economic institutions that prohibit people from owning property as the state collectively owns most land and capital.

  3. Another sign of a faile state is forced labor. In Uzbekistan, students are forced to pick cotton, one of Uzbekistan’s biggest exports. In September, while teachers are relegated to the role of labor recruiters. The children are given quotas of between 20 and 60 kilograms, which varies according to their age. Thus, the children are unable to break out of the cycle of poverty due to their lack of learning.

  4. Syria can be considered a failed state as it is experiencing a civil war that has claimed 100,000 lives and has no end in sight. The country receives an extremely low score for security apparatus, according to Foreign Policy magazine’s annual metric data.

  5. Egypt’s elite is monopolizing the economy to block the entry of new competitors. Under Hosni Mubarak, the military and government own large portions of the economy. According to some estimates, they collectively own up to 40 percent. Even after liberalization, the economy was privatized into the hands of Mubarak’s friends and sons’ companies. Big businesses put a stranglehold on the economy while Mubarak’s family accumulated an estimated $70 billion fortune.

  6. In most failed states, it is typical for the regime and its leaders to prey on its constituents. The regime tends to be motivated by ethnic or intercommunal hostility or even the insecurities of the elite, which lead to the victimization of their citizens or a subset demographic which is deemed ‘hostile.’ This is the case in Mobutu Seke Soso’s Zaire, where the ruling elite oppress and extort the majority of citizens while expressing preferential treatment for a specific sect or clan.

  7. Failed states can often be identified by weak infrastructure. As the rulers or ruling class becomes more and more corrupt, there are often fewer capital resources available for road crews, equipment and raw materials. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, refurbishing navigational aids along aerial waterways was not prioritized.

  8. In order to have a successful economy, a country must have a strong, centralized nation-state. Without this, it becomes exceedingly difficult to provide law and order as mechanisms to solve disputes and provide basic public goods. Somalia exemplifies this failure to exercise control over territories beyond its capital. This can be attributed to the traditional social structure in Somalia where clans made decisions according to the adult males as opposed to adhering to a central authority figure. This persisted in the colonial era and into the modern day with Mohammed Siad Barre’s dictatorship failing to change it.

  9. An economy based on extreme extraction breeds political instability as it incentivizes the non-elites to depose the ruling class and take over. In Sierra Leone, Siaka Stevens and his All People’s Congress (APC) party ran the country from 1967 to 1985 as a dictatorship until he handed control to his protege Joseph Momoh. This invited would-be strongmen such as Foday Sankoh to plunge the country into a vicious civil war in 1991. He was only interested in power in order to steal diamonds. The government revenue went from 15 percent of national income to essentially zero in 1991.

  10. Corruption flourishes on a governmental, nationwide level. Examples include benefitting from anything that can be put to fake tender (medical supplies, bridges, roads, textbooks), wasteful construction projects and licenses for non-existent activities. The corrupt ruling elites mostly invest their ill-gotten money overseas, which worsens the economic situation domestically. Military officers too are guilty of profiting off these corrupt regimes.

In an earlier era where the world was less connected and globalized, it might have been possible to isolate the effects of a failed state from the others. However, in the connected state of today’s global economy and political system, the failures of one state poses grave threats to the security of others. These 10 facts about failed states shed a little more light on sign to look out for when identifying states that have failed or are going in that direction.

Maneesha Khalae

Photo: Flickr

8. Internet Censorship in Russia and China
Internet access has become a vital source of information and awareness around the world in the past decade. While more than 50 percent of the world’s population remains without internet access, countries with large populations such as India and China have a massive and growing user base. 

While theoretically advancing their countries not only technologically but politically and socially as well, government restrictions on the right to post or access certain types of information can seriously curtail these benefits. Technology has long been a catalyst for change; however, when restricted, technology can quickly become a tool used for the suppression of human rights such as freedom of expression, free speech and freedom of assembly. 

Studies have determined three key points for promoting internet access across the globe: foreign investment, a focus on the community rather than individual access and no government monopolization of the newly emerging market. Today, government monopolization has the potential to become synonymous with internet censorship. 

Internet Censorship in China

China has more than 750 million internet users, and every user deals with internet censorship. Known as the ‘Great Firewall,’ China’s series of internet filters is one of the most comprehensive systems in the world, restricting citizens’ access to hundreds of internet sites.

Prior to 2017, many internet users in China were able to circumvent the Great Firewall using Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which provide users with browsing capabilities private from their internet providers. However, within the past year, the number of VPNs able to slip through China’s restrictions has decreased substantially. 

Government monopolization of news outlets in China has led to internet censorship, sometimes to the point of misinformation. In 2017, new legislation in China required all online news sources to be fully monitored by government-approved editors and writers. This enables the government to block legitimate news stories that run counter to the government’s position while also allowing them to push misinformation and propaganda through news websites, giving them complete control of the country’s narrative. 

Internet Censorship in Russia

Russia, another country suffering from serious internet censorship, followed closely behind China in banning VPNs so as to further restrict access to web pages not approved by the government. Without their own Great Firewall, Russia focused on banning specific sites. In 2017, approximately 244 web pages were blocked every day. 

Beyond blocking individual sites, or even entire categories such as news outlets, both Russia and China enforce severe internet censorship on individual citizens. For example, in newly enforced restrictions, China requires internet users to register for online communication sites with their real names. This enables them to hold individuals accountable for what is said in previously private settings. 

These restrictions are typically put in place under the guise of stemming extremist speech, but they can be, and often are, used to block or discourage any speech that the government wishes to suppress. Russian citizens have seen a drastic increase in threats, physical assaults and imprisonment associated with internet censorship on the individual level. Writing, posting or sharing information and opinions on topics such as Russian-occupied Crimea, religious freedom or Syria can result in up to 12 years in jail. 

Censorship: A Human Rights Violation

Those dealing with internet censorship in both Russia and China are in fact experiencing human rights violations. In China, freedom of expression in one of the last safe places—online communities—is closely monitored and used against individuals; in Russia, freedom of expression has become unsafe and restricted to a point worse than anything seen since the Soviet era.  

While technology is often viewed as a large component of a nation’s ability to improve the lives of its citizens, internet censorship creates an environment of control and misinformation. More vital to the wellbeing of people and, by extension, the country they live in, are necessary freedoms such as freedom of expression and speech.

Through the restrictions Russia, China and other countries place on their citizens access to information on the internet, governments have the opportunity to trap people in a cycle of misinformation and silence, thereby negating the once-positive effects of internet access. 

Overcoming Internet Censorship

Citizens in these restrictive countries are growing stronger in their opposition to this violation of their rights. In Russia, the number of protests concerning freedom of speech, religion and assembly has continued increasing. In China, many citizens continue to find ways to circumvent the Great Firewall.

The freedom of internet access has the potential to overtake the negative effects of internet censorship, so long as individuals, communities and countries continue to work towards honesty and open communication across the globe. Simply through our knowledge of internet censorship in countries such as Russia and China, the growing issue of human rights violations is being more openly discussed, and thereby, empowering many people in those countries to continue to fight against the oppression.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, often known as just Saint Vincent, has made an active effort to alleviate human rights infringements. However, residents are still subject to infractions of their basic rights. Women and children often bear the brunt of these infractions, but the government is working toward passing legislation to help the nation sustain its “free” status given by the Freedom House.

2015 in particular was a year of major violations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country’s political election elicited many peaceful protests that were met with brute force by the police. Media outlets reported that adversaries of certain politicians were harassed and physically abused. Some were even subject to misdemeanor charges or property confiscation. Once the election was finished, these rough and unreasonable acts by the police diminished.

Human rights in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have been upheld as far as laws against sexual assault. According to precedent, the government has followed through on reports of rape, with a starting punishment of at least 10 years. Furthermore, spousal rape has been condemned and is considered an illegal act.  Unfortunately, some victims are paid off by perpetrators for not reporting the violations, thus hindering justice.

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and human trafficking are three major issues in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Both sexual harassment and domestic violence have yet to be criminalized by the government, and prostitution of girls under the age of 18 is rampant. Many young girls are forced into pursuing sexual relationships with tourists or older men by their mothers in order to make a contribution to the family income. After government effort, the nation was able to go from tier three to tier two on the Watch List for Human Trafficking.

Lastly, child labor is also a primary concern for residents of Saint Vincent. Children under the age of 18 have no legal restriction on the number of hours that they can work while enrolled in school. Furthermore, there are no restrictions about workplace environment and safety.

While Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are clearly in need of major overhauls regarding human rights, the government is indeed taking action. However, quicker and more severe punishments for violations of rights are necessary in order to make living conditions better for the nation’s inhabitants.

Tanvi Wattal
Photo: Flickr

Libyan Refugees
The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year 2016. While only one was from Libya, the North African nation is among the seven countries included in President Donald Trump’s controversial refugee ban.

Thousands of refugees and migrants leave the coast of Libya for other nations every week. The majority of Libyan immigrants and refugees are traveling to the EU. Here are 10 facts about Libyan refugees:

  1. The route Libyan refugees and migrants take to Europe is dangerous and often deadly. Boats can easily wreck or capsize as they cross the Mediterranean Sea. According to the U.N., more than 5,000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in 2016. The majority of these fatalities were on the route from Libya to Italy.
  2. The Libyan government receives funds to stop migrant boats leaving the country as part of a deal with leaders of the EU. Authorities have already stopped about 2,000 Libyan refugees and migrants en route to Europe since the start of 2017.
  3. When migrants fleeing on boats are stopped by Libyan authorities, they are held in detention centers. Libyan detention centers are overcrowded and are notorious for human rights violations. The amount of time that detainees are held can stretch to weeks and even months. People who have been held in these detention centers have reported instances of poor sanitation, little food or water, beatings from guards and coercion into hard labor.
  4. The number of people migrating to Europe from Libya has quadrupled since 2013, following an increased presence of Libya’s Islamic State militant group and lawlessness after the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Rival groups have fought for control of Libya since rebel fighters killed Qaddafi in 2011.
  5. Refugees and migrants from all across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia depart from Libya. The route to Europe from Libya has become more popular after the passage to Greece from Turkey was cut off by an agreement between the EU and Turkey. Under the agreement, Turkey and Greece were to turn away all refugees or migrants that entered Greece through irregular routes from Turkey. In exchange, the EU agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkish refugee camps for every migrant or refugee turned away. However, the deal only lasted from March to September 2016.
  6. Aside from the short distance from the Italian island of Lampedusa to Libya, the route also became popular because of Libya’s lack of a centralized government. These conditions made it easy for smugglers to carry out operations however they chose.
  7. Smugglers often take advantage of refugees and migrants, holding those unable to pay for the passage hostage as slaves. They may also maintain control by stealing passports and holding refugees and migrants for ransom, especially targeting unaccompanied children.
  8. Most Libyan refugees and migrants leave the country on crowded boats. Libyan authorities who stopped more than 2,000 people fleeing the country by boat in May 2016 reported that each boat held about 500 people.
  9. Although countries in the EU have increased efforts to stop the flow of Libyan refugees and migrants, international laws prohibit countries from sending them back to places in which they could be in danger, according to human rights groups.
  10. With rival groups and Libya’s Islamic State militant group fighting for power in Libya and human traffickers taking advantage of the chaos, it is likely that those sent back to Libya would be in danger.

For the thousands of Libyans for whom remaining in their home country has become untenable, the best response is a compassionate one. Safe, stable nations must respond with humanity rather than seeking ways to reject these desperate people.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

African Prisons Project
The African Prisons Project (APP) is an organization that works alongside prisoners in Africa in order to improve prison conditions, assist with legal counsel and educate inmates.

The African Prisons Project was founded in 2007. The organization works with both prisoners and prison staff in order to create a more humane and rehabilitation based approach to incarceration. The group focuses its work on four areas: leadership, access to health, life skills and access to justice.

The APP provides leadership training through its legal education program with the University of London. This is extremely useful to prisoners who are unable to afford legal representation. It has empowered many prisoners to work on their own cases and that of their fellow inmates.

The APP works to improve prison healthcare by providing classes on healthcare, offering clinical services and building health infrastructure. The group also provides human rights training to prisoners and prison staff in order to inform and empower both prisoners and staff members to protect human rights. In addition, the organization also works to facilitate dialogue between the officials and policy-makers who legislate prisons, and the staff and prisoners who are affected by these policies.

Their work is extremely helpful to inmates all across Africa, many of whom would never see a lawyer without it. Most prisons in Africa are 300% full, which leads to the spread of diseases and inevitable human rights violations. The APP’s work across these fields seeks to minimize these risks and other risks to prisoners. In Uganda, 11.3% of all prisoners are HIV positive. This is almost twice the national rate, and it makes the healthcare work that the APP does even more necessary.

The education that the group provides is also extremely valuable. At APP targeted prisons, 67.3% of all inmates are illiterate. Of these prisoners, four out of five cannot afford a lawyer. In Uganda and Kenya, this rate is 90%, and it is common for inmates to wait a decade for a trial.

The APP has made great strides in providing protection and education to these inmates. Their rehabilitative approach has been acknowledged by the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Summit, and the group hosted the first-ever TEDx conference to take place inside a prison in Africa. The group has succeeded in overturning 57 convictions, 12 death sentences and gotten 298 cases dismissed.

When they cannot get a conviction overturned, the APP finds other ways to improve prisoners’ lives. Sometimes, this is through a legal education. Other times, they help by providing musical instruments to prisoners or recording a CD for inmates on death row. The African Prisons Project embraces many different roles in their efforts to create a more rehabilitative approach to incarceration in Africa.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

 

Violence Fuels Honduran Refugees
While many in the U.S. have begun focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis and the horrors committed by the Islamic State (IS) and the Assad regime, the U.S. still has a major refugee crisis along its southern border.

For decades, millions of migrants have traveled from South and Central America to the U.S. in search of better work opportunities and social benefits for themselves and their families. Recently, however, the migrant crisis has transformed into a refugee crisis, with many also traveling to the U.S. to escape the dangers of their home countries.

With the U.S. as the world’s biggest customer, a thriving drug market worth more than $300 billion has fueled the violence between gangs, each fighting for territory and the rights to sell drugs. In countries dictated by drug trades, government corruption also becomes inevitable, with police sometimes working hand in hand with gangs.

Especially in Honduras, these drug wars have displaced thousands, destroying neighborhoods and forcing their inhabitants to move north. Thousands of Honduran refugees have traveled to the U.S. in search of new lives.

In the past few years, however, U.S. investment in countries like Honduras has helped reduce violence. The American government has put money and resources into programs that dissuade youth from joining gangs and replenish impoverished neighborhoods.

Here are 10 facts about Honduras and Honduran refugees:

  1. One hundred and seventy-four thousand people, four percent of the country’s households, have been displaced because of violence.
  2. In 2011, Honduras was the murder capital of the world, with 91.6 murders per 100,000 people. In 2014, that number dropped to 66.
  3. In 2014, 18,000 unaccompanied Honduran children arrived at the U.S. border.
  4. This year, the U.S. has sent between $95 and $110 million in violence prevention funding to Honduras.
  5. In one pilot program, participants were deemed 77 percent less likely to commit crimes or abuse drugs and alcohol after a year of counseling, according to Creative Associates International.
  6. Because of fear and corruption, 96 percent of homicides do not end in a conviction in Honduras.
  7. There are about 23,000 gang members involved in police shootouts and turf wars daily.
  8. About 15,000 Hondurans applied for refugee status in 2015, double that of 2014.
  9. In 2014, 64.7 percent of unaccompanied minors received the asylum they applied for.
  10. For 2016, the U.S. has 3,000 refugee slots for applicants from Latin America and the Caribbean even though 9,000 people may be eligible.

While there is a lot of potential in the U.S. funded pilot programs, more money is necessary to enact change on a large scale. Although many may criticize the foreign aid the U.S. already gives as being too charitable, they must keep in mind the costs of receiving these refugees illegally and the cost of them making the journey north. By fixing the roots of the problem, the U.S. can prevent the symptoms from reaching its borders.

Because Honduras is filled with human rights violations, many would see the funding completely cut. This summer, government officials tried to pass a bill in Congress that would do so.

However, responding to the human rights issue by cutting funding to violence prevention may be most impractical and harmful. Although expensive, the best solution may be to continue funding violence prevention programs while beginning separate programs that address government abuse and corruption.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

Fleeing EritreaSince 2012, one in every 50 Eritreans (nearly twice the ratio of Syrians fleeing from civil war) has sought asylum in Europe. According to the U.N., 5,000 Eritrean men and boys are leaving their families and fleeing Eritrea each month.

High Rates of Fleeing

The U.N. estimates that 400 thousand Eritreans, or nine percent of the population, have fled in recent years. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly one-quarter of the 132 thousand migrants arriving in Italy between January and September of 2015 were Eritreans.

Poverty in Eritrea is extreme. The CIA World Factbook reports the nation’s GDP purchasing power as $8.7 billion, ranking Eritrea 162nd in the world. Unemployment in the country is estimated at just 8.6%, but the poverty rate is estimated at 50%. More specific numbers are nearly impossible to acquire due to Eritrea’s secretive nature.

Reasons for Leaving

Why are people fleeing Eritrea? In June 2015, the UNHCR released a 500-page report detailing the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations going on in Eritrea, violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled. The report found that a large proportion of the population was being subjected to forced labor and imprisonment.

According to the report, the people of Eritrea are not ruled by law, but by fear. The Eritrean government denied repeated requests by the commission for information and access to the country. To gain insight into the situation, the commission conducted 550 confidential interviews with Eritrean witnesses in eight countries and received an additional 160 written submissions.

Conscription for 18 months is required of each Eritrean adult but is often extended indefinitely and carried out for years in harsh and inhumane conditions. Thousands of conscripts are subjected to forced labor that effectively abuses, exploits and enslaves them.

According to the UNHCR’s report, women conscripts are at extreme risk for sexual violence during national service. All sectors of the economy rely on forced service, and all Eritreans are likely to be subject to it at some point during their lives. The commission concluded that, “forced labor in this context is a practice similar to slavery in its effects and, as such, is prohibited under international human rights law.”

Mandatory conscription has not remedied poverty in Eretria. Instead, it has exacerbated it. Commission chair Sheila B. Keethrauth urged commitment from the international community to end the climate of fear in Eritrea.

“Rule by fear — fear of indefinite conscription, of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, of torture and other human rights violations — must end,” said Keethrauth.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr

Human-Rights-Violations
Of the 197 countries of the world, there are 20, including three territories, considered to be the most societally repressive. Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea and Sudan are at the top of the global list for countries that are among the worst abusers of human rights. To be deemed an abuser of human rights, civil liberties and political rights are the violations assessed, and these particular countries mentioned above have concurrently been on such lists in the previous years.

In North Korea, human rights abuse is plentiful. Prisoners, mostly consisting of impoverished individuals locked up for committing petty crimes in their efforts to survive, are subject to horrific treatment. In 2011, 120,000 prisoners were held in gulags, starved and later publicly executed by firing squad. North Korea’s appalling human rights record is no secret throughout the world. The political figurehead, Kim Jong-Un, is more ruthless than his father: he regularly inflicts mass atrocities, publicly and purposefully, against his population. He ordered women to drown their own babies in buckets, for example, and also ordered the execution of his uncle and former girlfriend despite the fact that there was no tangible evidence of either of them ever having committed crimes.

In September 2012, a UN investigation that collected responses from a study of North Korean defectors compared life in North Korea to that of the German-run concentration camps in World War II. Firing squad executions occur at unprecedented levels. To date, there are still over 100,000 people awaiting their public execution in the gulags.

In South Sudan, bloody massacres occurred, claiming the lives of 100,000 refugees. Later, evidence of mass graves and violent attacks on U.N peacekeepers were unearthed. Despite the independence given to South Sudan in 2011, internal conflict in 2013 emerged with abundance, resulting in numerous human rights atrocities and the targeting of the poor for extrajudicial killings. Almost 100,000 people have been displaced as a result of the violence.

It is also said that countries such as Syria, Somalia, Turkmenistan, Libya, Cuba and Saudi Arabia are more places where people suffer from some of the most severe, systematic abuses of human rights. Countries consumed by overwhelming, audaciously rampant violence and sexual abuse against women are considered guilty of crimes against humanity — these actions display pervasive humanity.

In Saudi Arabia, political prisoners are held in detention, and democracy is silenced by threats of intimidation and arrests, all while women continue to face major oppression. It is said that 2013 was one of the worst years for human rights in Saudi Arabia. Females and the poor are considered to be at the bottom of the totem pole, often denied legal rights and knowingly oppressed by the country’s political entities. Women are not allowed to drive or vote, despite the fact that there is no express law making it illegal.

The way that the governments of global powers have responded to the atrocities is disappointing, illuminated by a lack of transparency and accountability and the acceptance of both blatant malevolence and a disregard for human life. Many countries have been criticized for failing to refer these matters to the International Criminal Courts to rectify human rights violations. The UN has deployed peacekeeping troops in such countries to bolster its efforts to protect civilians. Despite such efforts, UN compounds have been targeted and raided as recently as this year — an indication of the prolonged continuation of human rights violations.

Erika Wright

Sources: Alternet, Huffington Post, VOA News
Photo: Occupy