Tag Archives: human rights violations

Alarm Signals are Flashing Red (yet again): Burundi

burundi

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned on January 15, 2016 that deeply worrying new trends are emerging in Burundi, including cases of sexual violence by security forces and a sharp increase in enforced disappearances and torture cases. He also called for an urgent investigation into the events that took place in Bujumbura on 11-12 December,2015  including the reported existence of at least nine mass graves.

“We have documented 13 cases of sexual violence against women, which began during the search and arrest operations that took place after the December events in the neighbourhoods perceived as supportive of the opposition. The pattern was similar in all cases:  security forces allegedly entered the victims’ houses, separated the women from their families, and raped – in some cases gang-raped – them,” Zeid said…

“Despite these allegations of large-scale arrests, my Office is finding that only a small proportion of them appear to be in official places of detention,” said the High Commissioner. “The increasing number of enforced disappearances, coupled with allegations of secret detention facilities and mass graves is extremely alarming,” he said……In addition, he said, witnesses had reported the existence of at least nine mass graves in Bujumbura and its surroundings – including one in a military camp –containing more than 100 bodies in total, all of them allegedly killed on 11 December 2015. …“My Office is analysing satellite images in an effort to shed more light on these extremely serious allegations,” Zeid said. “All the alarm signals, including the increasing ethnic dimension of the crisis, are flashing red,” he added.

According to information gathered from inhabitants of various neighbourhoods, some of the victims of human rights violations during the search operations that followed the 11 December, 2015 events were targeted because they were Tutsis.

Excerpts from Press Release, Alarming new patterns of violations emerging in Burundi – Zeid , Jan. 15, 2016

Ingrained Sexual Violence in Sudan

Dinka girl by Richard Buchta late 19th century

Women in South Sudan have suffered unprecedented levels of sexual violence in the last two years, including abduction, rape, forced marriage and murder as civilians became targets of merciless ethnic warfare, the head of the Red Cross mission there has said.  “We went to one village to distribute aid and (our teams) were told they had been attacked some days earlier and 90 women had been abducted. After several days only about 60 of them came back,” said Franz Rauchenstein, the outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation.The latest turbulent chapter in South Sudan’s four years of independence erupted in December 2013, after a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, revived tensions between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer people.

“Civilians have been directly targeted. The people are collateral damage of the attacks. Houses are burnt, properties destroyed and so the people are literally running for their lives,” Rauchenstein said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London.  “What is new in this conflict is that women have been attacked while they have been seeking refuge on the islands,” said Rauchenstein, referring to the remote hideouts in swamps where traumatised civilians hide during attacks….Human rights groups have also pointed to cases of gang rape, of pregnant women being cut open and of women being raped using wooden sticks or plastic bottles.

Scale of South Sudan sexual violence is unprecedented – Red Cross, Reuters, Oct. 8, 2015

Green Dams that Kill

Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam in Guatemala, image from wikipedia

A planned mega-dam in Guatemala, whose carbon credits will be tradable under the EU’s emissions trading system, has been linked to grave human rights abuses, including the killing of six indigenous people, two of them children.  Several European development banks and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) have provided funds for the $250m (£170m) Santa Rita dam.

But human rights groups back claims from the Mayan community that they were never consulted about the hydro project, which will forcibly displace thousands of people to generate 25MW of energy, mostly for export to neighbouring countries.  The issue has become a focus of indigenous protest in Guatemala – which has led to a march on the capital and severe political repression.

“At the moment our community is living under the same conditions as they did during the war,” Maximo Ba Tiul, a spokesman for the Peoples’ Council of Tezulutlán told the Guardian. “Our civilian population is once again being terrorised by armed thugs.”  Around 200,000 Mayans died or were “disappeared” during the civil war of the early 1980s, leading to the conviction of the country’s former president, Efraín Ríos Montt, in 2013 on genocide charges.

Augusto Sandino Ponce, the son of a local landowner who community leaders allege worked as a contractor to Montt’s junta during the civil war, is at the centre of new accusations of human rights violations. Last April Ponce and his bodyguards allegedly opened fire on a Mayan community ceremony in which families asked the Earth for permission to plant their crops. One local man, Victor Juc, was killed and several were injured. Ponce reportedly claims he was acting in self defence…

In a letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) clean development mechanism (CDM) executive board,  the People’s Council of Tezulutlán outlined a litany of human rights abuses in the region, including kidnappings, evictions, house burnings, attacks by men wielding machetes and guns, and the arrest of community leaders.  The council also says that an environmental impact assessment for the dam suggests that it would create a 40ft-high wall, flooding local communities and depriving them of access to water, food, transport and recreation.  In approving projects, the CDM board pursues a narrow remit focused on emissions reductions. The reign of terror in the Alta Verapaz region, falls outside it – as did similar events in Honduras….

Perhaps the most shocking incident took place on 23 August 2013, when two children were killed by an allegedly drunken Santa Rita hydroelectricity company worker looking for David Chen, a community leader in the Monte Olivo region.   Chen was meeting with the rapporteur of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights at the time. When the worker could not find him, he is said to have lined up two of Chen’s nephews, David Stuart Pacay Maaz, 11 and Haggai Isaac Guitz Maaz, 13, and killed them with a single bullet to one child’s head that continued through the throat of the other. The killer has since been killed himself.  The annual report of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights implicitly blamed the approval of the dam project for the killings….

Eva Filzmoser, the director of Carbon Market Watch said: “We want the CDM board to take responsibility and establish a grievance and redress mechanism for local communities to appeal, ask for problematic decisions to be rescinded and gain redress. We will be pushing for this at the Paris climate summit to apply to all forms of climate finance in the future.”Efforts to reform the CDM were boosted last month, when 18 countries signed a “Geneva declaration” calling for human rights norms to be integrated into UNFCCC climate decisions….Signatory countries to the declaration include France, Sweden, Ireland, Mexico, Uruguay and Peru.

Excerpts Green’ dam linked to killings of six indigenous people in Guatemala, Guardian, Mar. 26, 2015