June 2018 — CANVAS

Weekly Report: 29 June 2018

Nelson Gabriel Lorio Sandoval kisses the hand of his late baby son, Teiler, who was shot during clashes, in Managua, Nicaragua, June 24, 2018. Reuters, Andres Martinez Casares. Cambodia Cambodia’s National Electoral Council announced that over 50,000 international observers will monitor the election next month, including some from China, Singapore, and Myanmar. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), who declined to participate in the election process, urged international actors to rethink their involvement in an election where the opposition party was dissolved and barred from running. The US and the EU have reiterated their threats to impose sanctions and cancel tariff-free deals on Cambodian imports if the country does not reinstate the dissolved opposition party CNRP before the election. Five former lawmakers of CNRP were denied access to visit 15 political prisoners despite having filed the appropriate paperwork. According to Head Human Rights Investigator Am Sam Ath of the rights group LICADHO, there are no clauses in the Cambodian Prison Law that permit denying visits for political reasons. This dispute comes as Prime Minister Hun Sen cracks down on media and opposition leading up to the general election. A report over 200 pages long from Human Rights Watch highlights the “Dirty Dozen,” 12 of Hun Sen’s generals who are deeply involved in rights denial and “form the backbone of an abusive and authoritarian political regime.” The report emphasizes Hun Sen’s need for loyal personnel who will support his power grabs, and that the international community must hold them all accountable for their actions. Cambodian officials dismissed the report for lack of evidence.   Mexico As...

Weekly Report: 22 June 2018

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo and his daughter are escorted by police during a court hearing in Yangon, Myanmar on June 18th. Reuters, Ann Wang. Cambodia Sam Rainsy, former president of the now-dissolved opposition party CNRP, has been summoned by a court for allegedly violating the country’s le?se majeste? law, which prohibits insulting the royal family. Sam Rainsy had posted on his Facebook that a letter recently published by the king endorsing the elections was either fabricated or written under duress: he is now the fourth person to be facing charges for violating the le?se majeste? law. The third arrest was made over the weekend when a citizen wrote an article making death threats. The court order directs the opposition member, who is living in self-exile to avoid ten other possibly politically motivated court cases, to appear “in a timely manner” before the court. Rainsy dismissed the summons in another Facebook post, reiterating his belief that the letter “has no legal value” and that “[the] present king is being held hostage by Hun Sen, who is forcing him to support an autocratic and traitorous regime.” Indonesia has announced it will send two groups to Cambodia to observe the July 29 general elections. Transparency International Cambodia has joined two other international observer groups to announce it will not be participating in the election process as the political situation in the country has made it so they cannot mobilise enough resources to properly monitor the elections. Another electoral watchdog released a pre-election report calling the conditions “not free and fair,” which the government dismissed. A report by a local NGO has...

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...