June 2018 — CANVAS

Hypocritical (Non-)Commitment to Human Rights Plagues White House

Avi Selk, Washington Post The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Tuesday amidst growing criticisms against Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies. This move, which US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has defended as an act of support for global human rights, has aligned the United States with Eritrea, Iran and North Korea, three of the world’s worst human rights offenders and the only other countries that have refused UNHCR membership. In the past six weeks, American customs officials have separated more than 2000 children from their asylum-seeking parents at America’s southern border. Many of these children are now housed in tent cities and converted warehouses, unable to see or communicate with their parents. In early June, the UN deemed these separations illegal under international law and called for their immediate halt. The US has since accused the UN of political corruption and incompetence and has withdrawn their membership from the Human Rights Council (HCR) as a whole. This decision is just the latest of many by the Trump Administration which disregard international treaties and human rights standards, setting an alarming precedent for the remaining years of Trump’s presidency. Ambassador Haley endorsed the withdrawal, stating “the United States will not sit quietly while this body, supposedly dedicated to human rights, continues to damage the cause of human rights. In the end, no speech and no structural reforms will save the members of the Human Rights Council from themselves.” However, the US’ departure from the world’s leading humanitarian organization arguably limits, rather than enables, the country’s ability to positively impact human rights. In her speech, Ambassador Haley cited...

Increasing Hate Crimes against Journalists threaten Indian Democracy

Photo: Translation: ‘The government’s hand on the common man’s face’, Aseem Trivedi A rising tide of intolerance threatens journalists in India. The killing of a journalist is not just a crime but also a human rights abuse as it stifles free speech and freedom of expression. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, journalists have been facing greater threats from an increasingly polarized environment in India. From the death of Gauri Lankesh, a known critic of Hindu right-wing extremism, last September to the recent hate crimes against Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar, there is a lack of press freedom and a growing assault on constitutional and democratic values. Complementing the death threats are increased instances of online abuse. In the case of journalist Rana Ayyub, a pornographic video with her face superimposed on one of the actors was sent to her. The case reflects on the problem of sexism in Indian society where threats of sexual nature are used to shame and silence female journalists. “Islamist”, “Jihadi Jane,” and “ISIS sex slave” are some of the epithets which have been hurled at Ayyub as she is one of the few female Muslims who speaks out against an alleged Hindu nationalist government. While some journalists, like Barkha Dutt, have been able to afford enhanced security and get their houses debugged, many local and less affluent journalists face increased death threats while uncovering cases of corruption and local crime. Correspondingly, India’s ranking in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2018 has fallen two places since last year to 138th, augmenting the problem is the increased impunity of these...

Weekly Report: 15 June 2018

Photo: A Nicaraguan demonstrator stands next to graffiti reading “Ortega Out”. Reuters. Malaysia The Malaysian government seeks to receive reparations from companies like Goldman Sachs that contributed to the IMDB scandal resulting in enormous debt. Financial minister Lim Guan Eng stated that he intends to “seek some claims” from Goldman Sachs and eventually have the money returned. In other news, Malaysia’s top two judges, Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin have resigned and will officially step down on July 31. Their resignations occurred amidst Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ongoing removal of senior government officials with close ties to the previous administration. Muhammad bin Ibrahim, the Central Bank Governor, also resigned in June, having only completed two years of his five-year term. Venezuela After months of medicine shortages in the country, polio appears to have made a disturbing comeback in Venezuela nearly three decades after its eradication. A case was reported in a child from the state of Delta Amacuro: health care officials and the WHO are awaiting final confirmation from lab results. The case was allegedly reported over a month later than international health regulations require. The lack of basic vaccinations in the country has also sparked an increase in other formerly eradicated diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles, and malaria: malnutrition from food shortages has only served to compound Venezuelans’ vulnerability to these diseases. Annual inflation has reached 24550%, and Venezuelans are unable to buy a meal with one day’s salary. The country’s economic collapse continues to deepen as oil production deflates and Venezuela is unable to meet its contractual exports of...

Georgian Prime Minister Resigns Amidst Protests Against Corruption

Photo: Protest leader Zaza Saralidze speaks to demonstrators and journalists. Source: RadioFreeEuropeRadioLiberty Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday following several weeks of popular protest and political disagreements with Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream. Kvirikashvili has been prime minister since 2015. Kvirikashvili stepped down in the midst of other resignations by global officials following protests condemning government corruption. On April 23 Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned after 11 days of popular protest, as did Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki on June 4. The protests began on May 31st in reaction to the killing of two teenagers in December and the allegedly improper sentencing of their killers. According to protest leader Zaza Saralidze, whose son was one of December’s victims, the two subjects put on trial for his son’s death were not the real culprits, and those truly responsible escaped prosecution because of their relatives who worked in the Prosecutor-General’s Office. Protesters originally called for the resignation of chief prosecutor Irakli Shotadze; however, their demands grew into broader calls against government corruption after Shotadze’s resignation. On June 11, police dismantled protestor tents and detained several members of the political opposition. Saralidze’s protests follow earlier demonstrations in May against excessive force used by police in anti-drug raids at nightclubs in Tbilisi. In his resignation speech, Kvirikashvili stated that “we had a number of fundamental disagreements with the party’s leader” Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is the richest man in Georgia.   Kvirikashvili went on to state that “today is the moment when the party’s chairman should have the opportunity to form a team on the basis of his own views.” According to...

Weekly Report: 8 June 2018

Photo: Protesters outside the prime minister’s office in Amman, Jordan. Raad Adayleh, Associated Press Malaysia Malaysian Central Bank Governor Muhammad Ibrahim officially resigned from his position this week after speculations of a multi-million dollar scandal. The scandal involves the 1MDB, a strategic development company,  that has been under investigation since 2015. Ibrahim’s resignation was announced by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on June 6. Ibrahim denies any relation to the scandal, however, claiming “…Bank Negara Malaysia will never be party to any such activities that would betray the public trust in us”. The new administration’s Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng, has suggested that a land sale made by the recent Prime Minister Najib Razak to the Negara Bank is being used to pay off debts to 1MDB. Bank Negara states that the transaction made with Najib Razak was “fair” and in alignment with “relevant laws.” Attorney General Tommy Thomas highlighted the importance of the case, stating his number one priority is to “nab the culprits responsible for the 1MDB scandal.”  Thomas has announced that his department is requesting help from United States, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Singapore to ensure that the money involved in the scandal is rightfully returned to Malaysia.   Cambodia Cambodia’s ruling party announced official plans to monitor and control online content intended to “cause instability” leading up to the July election. Cambodia’s Ministries of Information, Interior, and Posts and Telecommunications will work jointly on “controlling all dissemination of information.” Following a recommendation from the National Electoral Council, the regulation also bans journalists from including personal opinion or bias in their reporting. Violations will be punishable with fines...