Human Rights Day 2014: Rights Violations That Matter 365 Days of the Year

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Today marks Human Rights Day, observed annually on 10 December, to highlight the fundamental rights that all people are entitled to as a global community. The day marks the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations. The day was first formed in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all member states and other organizations to celebrate.

The theme for 2014, “Human Rights 365“, is a reminder that everyone is entitled to basic rights with the same ideals and values – all year round.

“I call on states to honor their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Here’s some facts about ongoing human rights violations and why it’s so vital that we strive to achieve greater equality:

★ An estimated 27 million people are currently enslaved in the human trafficking trade globally.

★ In 2012, 112 countries tortured their citizens and 101 countries repressed their people’s right to freedom of expression.

★ There are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today, which is around 27% of children, or more than one in four. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children worldwide die each day due to poverty.

★ More than 300,000 children under the age of 18 are being exploited as child soldiers in armed conflicts worldwide.

★ Women make up 80% of all refugees and displaced people and are at heightened risk of physical or sexual violence or trafficking.

★ Around 15 million girls are forced into child marriage around the world every year. One in three girls in the developing world are married by their 18th birthday, increasing their risk of isolation and violence, and limiting their chance to have an education.

★ The total number of child laborers remains high, with UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation acknowledging an estimated 168 million children aged five to 17 are involved worldwide.

★ Every 90 seconds, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable, but due to gender-based discrimination many women are not given the proper education or care they need.

★ At least 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor worldwide.

★ More than 3.2 million Syrians are currently living as refugees, in the largest displacement crisis in a generation.

Reprint: Human Rights Day 2014: Facts About Rights Violations That Matter 365 Days of the Year | IBTimes UK 

Celebrating Human Rights Day 365!

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HUMAN RIGHTS 365
On 10 December every year, Human Rights Day commemorates the date on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming its principles as the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

This year’s slogan, Human Rights 365, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

In 2014 the message from Human Rights 365 is unequivocal: The UN Human Rights Office stands by its mandate and stands with the millions of men and women globally, who risk their all for human rights.

It is as important now, as it has been at any time in recent years to declare your membership of and support for the international human rights community.

On any scale, 2014 will be remembered as a year of daunting human rights challenges. In places where only recently there had been progress in achieving human rights, there has now been retreat. Nonetheless, there have been, significant, ongoing, global advances in achieving our human rights.

Support for the Declaration continues to grow: this year the Convention against Torture reached its 30th year, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is 25. In 2015, the very first of the international agreements giving effect to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination marks its half century.

As a global community we all share a day when those milestones can be acknowledged and we can take stock of the challenges ahead: Human Rights Day on 10 December. It offers all of us the opportunity to declare our commitment to the principles and standards developed over the more than six decades since the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

#HumanRights365
Human Rights 365 on Vine

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: WRITE FOR RIGHTS

Write for RightsA History of Letter Writing
Every year around Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a message to someone they’ve never met. Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International’s work and 53 years of human rights activism shows us that words really do have the power to change lives.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of people in 143 countries around the world took a record-breaking 2,373,422 actions. Three of the Prisoners of Conscience featured in Write for Rights 2013 – Yorm Bopha, Vladimir Akimenkov, and Mikhail Kosenko – were released, and nearly all of the Individuals whose cases were featured told us that the burst of activism generated by the campaign helped to inspire and encourage them as they continue to struggle for justice.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

  • Amnesty looks at its global portfolio of cases, including Prisoners of Conscience, human rights defenders, torture survivors and communities at risk to decide who will be featured in each year’s campaign.
  • They identify 10 cases where global activism can have a huge impact, right now, and share them with Amnesty activists.
  • Amnesty grassroots leaders sign up to organize events and actions – or write on their own – on behalf of the 10 cases from December 1-17.
  • Letters, tweets, emails, faxes, text messages and petitions start arriving at government offices, in prison cells and to families all over the world.
  • Change happens. Hope Grows. As messages flood mailboxes, prisoners get better conditions or are released. Human rights defenders are better protected. Torture survivors finally get the reparations that they need to heal. People know that others, worldwide, are taking their injustice personally.
  • Amnesty receives updates about the kinds of actions people are taking and the ways in which it is making a difference. Every year, they better understand how Write for Rights changes lives.

Write for Rights – also known as the Writeathon – is the world’s largest human rights event, but it has humble origins. Twelve years ago, a young man named Witek met a young woman named Joanna at a festival in Warsaw, Poland. Joanna had just returned from traveling through Africa, where she’d seen activists organizing 24-hour events to write protest letters to governments.

Witek invited Joanna to join a meeting of his local Amnesty group. Together, they decided to write Urgent Action appeals for 24 hours, beginning at noon on Saturday. When they emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country. Then, their idea went viral.

They emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, and it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country,” explains Grzegorz Zukowski, from Amnesty Poland. Then, their idea went viral.

Write For Rights

No Anomaly: Police Killing Unarmed Black Men -By Jaeah Lee | MotherJones

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The killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, was no anomaly. Since Brown’s death, at least 14 other teenagers—at least six of them African-American—have been killed by law enforcement. There are many more cases from years past. As Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Missouri chapter put it in a statement of condolence to Brown’s family, “Unarmed African-American men are shot and killed by police at an alarming rate. This pattern must stop.”

But quantifying that pattern is difficult. Federal databases that track police use of force or arrest-related deaths paint only a partial picture. Police department data is scattered and fragmented. No agency appears to track the number of police shootings or killings of unarmed victims in a systematic, comprehensive way.

Here’s some of what we do know:

Previous attempts to analyze racial bias in police shootings have arrived at similar conclusions. In 2007, ColorLines and the Chicago Reporter investigated fatal police shootings in 10 major cities, and found that there were a disproportionately high number of African Americans among police shooting victims in every one, particularly in New York, San Diego, and Las Vegas.

“We need not look for individual racists to say that we have a culture of policing that is really rubbing salt into longstanding racial wounds,” NAACP president Cornell Williams Brooks told Mother Jones. It’s a culture in which people suspected of minor crimes are met with “overwhelmingly major, often lethal, use of force,” he says.

In Oakland, California, the NAACP reported that out of 45 officer-involved shootings in the city between 2004 and 2008, 37 of those shot were black. None were white. One-third of the shootings resulted in fatalities. Although weapons were not found in 40 percent of cases, the NAACP found, no officers were charged. (These numbers don’t include 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a transit authority officer at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day of 2009.)

The New York City Police Department has reported similar trends in its firearms discharge report, which shows that more black people have been shot by NYPD officers between 2000 and 2011 than have Hispanics or whites.

Shot by NYPD

When you look at the racial breakdown of New Yorkers, black people are disproportionately represented among those targeted as criminal shooting suspects, firearms arrestees, and those fired upon or struck by police gunfire.

NYPD Firearm Discharge

Often, the police officers do not get convicted or sentenced. Delores Jones-Brown, a law professor and director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Statistics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, has identified dozens of black men and women who have died at the hands of police going back as far as 1994. She notes that while these incidents happen regularly, it often takes a high-profile case, such as Brown’s, to bring other recent incidents to national attention.

“Unfortunately, the patterns that we’ve been seeing recently are consistent: The police don’t show as much care when they are handling incidents that involve young black men and women, and so they do shoot and kill,” says Jones-Brown, a former assistant prosecutor in Monmouth County, New Jersey. “And then for whatever reason, juries and prosecutor’s offices are much less likely to indict or convict.”

Between 2003 and 2009, the DOJ reported that 4,813 people died while in the process of arrest or in the custody of law enforcement. These include people who died before an officer physically placed him or her under custody or arrest. This data, known as arrest-related deaths, doesn’t reveal a significant discrepancy between whites, blacks, or hispanics. It also doesn’t specify how many victims were unarmed. According to the FBI, which has tracked justifiable homicides up to 2012, 410 felons died at the hands of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.*

Table 3

But black people are more likely than whites or Hispanics to experience a police officer’s threat or use of force, according to the Department of Justice’s Police Public Contact Survey in 2008, the latest year for which data is available. Of those who felt that police had used or threatened them with force that year, about 74 percent felt those actions were excessive. In another DOJ survey of police behavior during traffic and street stops in 2011, blacks and Hispanics were less likely than whites to believe that the reason for the stop was legitimate.

The Justice Department has investigated possible systemic abuse of power by police in at least 15 cities.

Feeling the Heat

Police shootings of unarmed black people aren’t limited to poor or predominantly black communities. Jones-Brown points to examples where police officers have shot unarmed black men and women in Hollywood, Riverside (California), and Prince Georges County—a Maryland suburb known as the most affluent US county with an African-American majority. “Part of the problem is that black people realize that you don’t have to be poor, you don’t have to be in your own community…and this can happen to you,” she says. These killings occur against black people of varying socioeconomic backgrounds: “Actors, professional football players, college students, high school grads. They happen to black cops, too.”

Yet, the lack of comprehensive data means that we can’t know if there’s been an upsurge in such cases, says Samuel Walker, a criminal justice scholar at the University of Nebraska in Omaha and author of The Color of Justice: Race, Ethnicity, and Crime in America. “It’s impossible to make any definitive statement on whether there were more incidents in the last 5 to 10 years than in the past,” he says. “We just don’t have that kind of data.” But what is certain, Walker says, is that the fatal shooting in Ferguson “was just the tip of the iceberg.”

Reprint: Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men? -By Jaeah Lee | MotherJones


Related: 10 Hours in Ferguson: A Visual Timeline of Michael Brown’s Death and Its Aftermath -By Julia Lurie | MotherJones

This Is What Darren Wilson Told the Grand Jury About Shooting Michael Brown -By Jaeah Lee and AJ Vicens | MotherJones

Michael Brown’s Parents Speak Out: The Full Conversation (Nov. 26, 2014) | Charlie Rose (Video)

White Rage, the Hunger Games, and the Lack of Justice for Eric Garner | Olivia A. Cole

Beyond Trayvon: Black and Unarmed -By Jenée Desmond-Harris | The Root 

The Marshall Project 

PRIVATE VIOLENCE

Private Violence

On Halloween night 2008, Deanna Walters and her two-year-old daughter, Martina, were herded into her estranged husband Robbie’s 18-wheel truck. For the next four and a half days, Deanna endured a horrifying cross-country trip, suffering relentless brutality at his hands.

Robbie severely battered Deanna during the journey from North Carolina to California and back to Oklahoma, where a highway patrolman finally stopped them. Despite the severity of her injuries, police did not arrest him.

Presented during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, PRIVATE VIOLENCE emphasizes the stigma domestic violence still carries for its victims, telling the stories of two women: Deanna, a victim turned survivor, and Kit Gruelle, a survivor who advocates for justice on behalf of Deanna and other battered women. Highlighting the complex, frustrating realities of the abuse women suffer every day at the hands of intimate partners, as well as the difficulties of prosecuting domestic violence cases.

The most dangerous place for women in America is their own home: One in four women experiences violence there at the hands of an abusive husband or boyfriend every day. Moreover, 1,700 American women are murdered every year when they leave or try to leave abusive relationships, and 48% of the women killed in domestic violence homicides are murdered after they leave or are in the process of leaving.

Women in abusive relationships face the grim reality that leaving is a dangerous prospect. Not only are they choosing to uproot their lives, and the lives of their children, but leaving may result in the direst consequences.

In Deanna’s case, police took her and Martina to a hospital, where she finally revealed what had happened on the cross-country trip. But Deanna found it difficult to press charges because the abuse happened across state lines, and while she was badly beaten, she wasn’t harmed enough to satisfy the law.

A North Carolina prosecutor explains to advocate Kit Gruelle that because Deanna had no broken bones or internal injuries, her abuser might only face charges of “misdemeanor assault against a female” and 150 days in jail. However, the attorney suggests that a federal prosecutor could pursue kidnapping charges against Robbie, since there is “a clear case of him transporting a woman across state lines with the purpose of terrorizing her.”

Kit knows intimately what women in Deanna’s situation face. A survivor herself, she’s been an advocate for women for more than 25 years, following the accidental death of her abusive husband. Only his death freed her from a cycle of violence.

“People asked me why I didn’t leave,” she says. “He was trained by the U.S. Marine Corps to hunt people down and kill them, and he told me that he would hunt me down and kill me. That’s why I didn’t leave.”

Motivated by her own experiences, Kit has advocated for hundreds of women and built an extensive network of professionals across the country to help support women in violent relationships. In addition to following her work with Deanna, the documentary shows how Kit provides support to other women and their families, including a woman who is in prison for killing the man who beat her so badly, for so long, that he blinded her in one eye.

When U.S. attorney Kimlani Ford sees the horrifying images of Deanna after her abuse, she recognizes the potential to prosecute Robbie for violation of the federal Violence Against Women Act. “It seemed if we didn’t do it, no one else would. Something had to be done,” says the prosecutor. The kidnapping charges brought against Deanna’s estranged husband, not the violent assault, carry far harsher penalties in federal court.

At trial, the defense creates the impression that Deanna took the trip willingly, and never tried to escape her abuser. Despite her status as a victim, Deanna is forced to defend her actions to keep herself and her daughter safe. PRIVATE VIOLENCE reveals the flawed system that she and many women face when taking legal action against their abusers.

“After Robbie kidnapped her, and almost killed her, she had to listen to the police, the DA and even her own family ask her why she didn’t just leave him,” Kit says. She then points out that it was because Deanna had left the relationship that her husband kidnapped her and nearly beat her to death. Many battered women face this dilemma and must wonder how their abuser will retaliate if they leave.

“There were lots of ways I thought of getting away,” Deanna admits. But she also had to face the possible consequences of her escape, and wanted to do nothing that would place her daughter in jeopardy. “I thought he would see it and kill me, and I was worried what would happen with Martina.”

Deanna’s fears were not lost on Kit, nor was the importance of her testimony. Robbie was convicted of interstate domestic violence, in violation of the Violence Against Women Act, and kidnapping. He is currently serving a 21-year sentence.

Today, Deanna is a survivor, renting a home in the mountains of North Carolina for herself and Martina, and attending college full-time. Kit continues her work advocating for women who are enduring similar struggles and training others to do the same.

“I’m always astonished and moved by the people who want to come into this work, because it’s not easy,” says Kit. “You see things that you couldn’t make up…and witness victims shedding that skin, and finally leaving the violence behind. It’s just wonderful. It can be heartbreaking and frustrating, but it can be unbelievably uplifting.”

PRIVATE VIOLENCE is Cynthia Hill’s fourth feature documentary. Her other credits include “Tobacco Money Feeds My Family,” “The Guestworker,” “February One” and “A Chef’s Life.”

PRIVATE VIOLENCE is directed & produced by Cynthia Hill; cinematography by Rex Miller; edited by Tom Vickers; composer, Chuck Johnson; special advisor, Kit Gruelle; co-producers, Malinda Maynor Lowery, Rex Miller; associate producers, Jenn Cromling, Un Kyong Ho; executive producers, Cindy Waitt, Gloria Steinem, Regina K. Scully, Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, Judith Helfand, Lilly Hartley. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

RESOURCES

SCREENING GUIDE

Source: Private Violence, HBO


Related: Petition to Protect Victims of Military Sexual Assault

Mad World: A Child Is Killed by Violence Every 5 Minutes

Killing of Children

An abandoned shoe sits beside drying blood at a United Nations-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that police said was hit by an Israeli shell, in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2014. At least 15 people were killed and many wounded when a shell struck the school. The Israeli military said an investigation into the attack on the school showed that a single errant mortar shell landed in an empty courtyard, denying it was responsible for the deaths. (Photo: Reuters/Finbarr O’Reilly)

Every five minutes, a child is killed by violence, a new report by UNICEF UK said. A majority of these deaths occur outside of war zones.

The report, published this week by the UK branch of the United Nations children’s agency, said that violence kills more than 340 people under the age of 20 every day around the globe. Seventy-five percent of these deaths are reportedly caused by interpersonal violence, rather than war.

According to UNICEF UK, children who live in poverty or who live in conflict-affected regions face a greater risk of violence. An adolescent boy in Latin America, for example, is said to be 70 times more likely to be murdered than a boy in the U.K.

However, violence against children is ultimately a global “epidemic,” affecting millions of kids around the world, the agency said.

Take the U.K., for instance, where 7 percent of children are victims of violent crime. Or the U.S., where almost a quarter of adolescent girls report they have been sexually abused, assaulted or harassed in the last year.

“We are uncovering the fact that children experience extreme violence in everyday life, everywhere,” Susan Bissell, global head of child protection for UNICEF, told Reuters, adding that a child’s mental and physical health can be “permanently damaged” by the violence they experience.

The report said that children who are victims of violence exhibit brain activity similar to soldiers exposed to combat, and that 30 percent of victims are “are likely to develop enduring post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.”

UNICEF UK said they hope their new report, which was launched to mark the start of its “Children in Danger” campaign, will challenge world leaders to take the steps necessary to provide children with the protection they need.

With only 41 countries having explicit legal bans on violence against children, UNICEF said that widespread international action to end all forms of violence, including abuse, exploitation, trafficking and torture, is desperately — and immediately — needed.

“[None of this violence] is inevitable: it is preventable,” Bissell told the Guardian. “The wake-up call is to say this is happening in your backyard, this is happening around the corner, this is happening across the ocean and we need to take charge and do something about it.”

Children in Danger: Act to End Violence Against Children | UNICEF UK (Full Report)

Recommended: Accountability for Gaza’s Children | Al Jazeera (Photo Gallery)

Twin Bombings Near Syrian School Kills 32, Including 10 Children

Syria School Bombing

BBC reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway filmed the aftermath of the playground bombing.

DAMASCUS, Syria — Twin bombings near an elementary school in Syria killed at least 32 people on Wednesday, including at least 10 children, with the second blast going off as screaming parents frantically searched for their sons and daughters in a street littered with school bags and body parts.

Syrian children are frequently among the victims of attacks in the country’s civil war, but on Wednesday they appear to have been the target. The first vehicle exploded as children were leaving school, and the second struck as adults carried away bodies, sending a new wave of panic through the crowd.

The attack occurred outside the Ekremah al-Makhzoumi elementary school in a government-controlled area of the central city of Homs dominated by minority Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which President Bashar Assad’s family belongs. It was one of the deadliest incidents in the area in months.

The SANA state news agency said at least 32 people were killed and 115 wounded in the attacks. A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said immediately after the bombings that at least 10 of the dead were children.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Britain put the death toll in the twin attacks at 39, including 30 children under the age of 12. It said the second blast was caused by a suicide bomber.

The discrepancy in the casualty figures could not be immediately reconciled, but tolls frequently differ in the chaotic aftermath of attacks.

In footage of the bombings posted on a pro-government Facebook page, one man shouts “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Take him to the hospital!” as another man appears to drag away a child by his arms. Two little girls and a boy scream and cry as they are carried away.

Other people rush about, narrowly avoiding a child’s severed head lying on the pavement. Smoke billows from a burning vehicle. As one boy tugs on a man’s hand, another blast goes off. A young girl covers her ears as others scream and run away. “Oh God! Oh God!” one man hoarsely shouts.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad have carried out numerous bombings in government-held areas of Homs.

All sides have carried out horrific attacks on civilians during the conflict — now in its fourth year — but rarely have children appeared to be the direct target.

In May, Syrian government forces bombed a complex in the northern city of Aleppo that housed a school alongside a rebel compound. At least 19 people, including 10 children, were killed in that incident.

Meanwhile, the Observatory reported Wednesday that militants of the Islamic State group beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women, captured in clashes near the Syria-Turkey border. Dozens of militants and Kurdish fighters were killed in the fighting, it said.

Reprint: Syrian Blast at School Kills 32 | AP