100s of children facing terrorism charges after forced confessions – HRW

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report claims that Iraqi and Kurdish governments have imprisoned hundreds of children who have been forced, through torture, into confessing that they are Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) members.

In a damning 53-page report, released Wednesday, HRW alleges that some 1,500 children have been charged with IS terrorism offences. It says that many are based on dubious accusations and forced confessions extracted via torture.

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In addition, 185 foreign children have already been convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to prison, according to Iraqi government officials cited by HRW.

This is despite the fact that international law recognizes children, recruited by armed groups, primarily as victims.

“This sweeping, punitive approach is not justice, and will create lifelong negative consequences for many of these children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for HRW.

Many of the children claim circumstantial evidence, mistaken identity or even personal grievances are behind their detention and that they are sentenced after hastily-prepared trials which can often last mere minutes. They also fear reprisals once they are released.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in particular, has been accused of employing “beatings with plastic pipes, electric cables, or rods; electric shocks; and being forced into stress positions,” to elicit confessions.

Can we all agree on one thing at least: torturing children is wrong. New report from Iraq:

“Iraq and the KRG’s harsh treatment of children looks more like blind vengeance than justice for ISIS crimes,” Becker said. “Children involved in armed conflicts are entitled to rehabilitation and reintegration, not torture and prison.”

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Poverty Strikes Three Out of Four Children in Angola

Poverty now hits three out of four Angolan children, according to a study based on National Statistics Institute's multiple health indicators 2015-2016.

The study The Angolan Child: A Multidimensional Analysis of Child Poverty shows 74 per cent of children under 18 is poor because they suffer from three to seven deprivations, which include nutrition, health, child protection, malaria prevention (the main cause of death here), education and access to water and sanitation.

Only one percent of the infants included in the research do not have deprivations.

The study quantified poverty in that age group using the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) system, developed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

There is also an influence on poverty when living in urban or rural areas, since while in cities it affects 62 percent of children, in the countryside the proportion reaches 96 percent.

Regarding provinces, Cunene (in the south) and Cuanza Sur (in the center) have high rates, 93 and 90 percent, respectively, while Luanda (the capital) and Cabinda (the only one separated territorially from the rest of the country) have the lowest with 54 and 56 percent, respectively.

The sample included 41,647 children from all over the country.

Unicef's representative in Angola, Abubacar Sultam, called for more government and other civil society actors' efforts to benefit parents or guardians of these children and adolescents to change their situation.

According to the 2014 population and housing census, 13,791,482 people under age 18 live in the country.

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More than half of parents of sleep-deprived teens blame electronics

It's no secret that many teenagers stay up late to scroll through social media or catch up with friends on phones.

And 56 percent of parents of teens who have sleep troubles believe this use of electronics is hurting their child's shut-eye.

Forty-three percent of parents report that their teen struggles to fall asleep or wakes up and can't get back to sleep, according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan. A fourth of these parents say their child experiences occasional sleep problems (one to two nights per week) while 18 percent believe their teen struggles with sleep three or more nights per week.

Not being able to stay off electronics -- including social media and cell phones -- was the no.1 reason parents cited for sleep disturbance.

Other reasons included irregular sleep schedules due to homework or activities (43 percent), worries about school (31 percent), and concerns about social life (23 percent). Ten percent of parents say their teen's sleep problems are related to a health condition or medication, cited more often by parents of teens who experience frequent sleep problems.

The new report is based on responses from a nationally representative household survey that included responses from 1,018 parents with at least one child 13-18 years old.

"This poll suggests that sleep problems are common among teens and parents believe late-night use of electronics are a main contributor," says poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.

"Teens' hectic schedules and homework load, as well as anxiety about school performance and peer relationships, also are seen by parents as contributing to sleep problems."

Parents polled say they've encouraged their teen to try different strategies at home to help with sleep problems, including limiting caffeine in the evening (54 percent), turning off electronics and cell phones at bedtime (53 percent), having a snack before bed (44 percent), and natural or herbal remedies, such as melatonin (36 percent). A quarter of parents (28 percent) say their teen has tried some type of medication to address sleep problems.

Forty percent of parents of teens with frequent sleep problems, and 22 percent of parents of teens with occasional sleep problems, say they have talked to a doctor about sleep struggles. Parents who have consulted with doctors say the top recommendations from experts included turning off electronics and cell phones at bedtime (72 percent), adhering to a regular sleep schedule (64 percent), limiting caffeine (47 percent), and taking natural remedies (42 percent).

When doctors recommended medication for teens' sleep problems, it was twice as likely to be prescription sleep medication rather than over-the-counter sleep or "nighttime" medicine, parents recalled. Yet parents rated over-the-counter sleep medicine as safer for teens than prescription sleep medicine.

"Parents whose teens continue to have frequent sleep problems, despite following recommendations for healthy sleep hygiene, may want to talk with a health care provider, particularly when considering which type of medication to try," says Clark.

"Inadequate or disrupted sleep can have long-lasting health effects that go beyond moodiness and irritability for teens," Clark adds.

"Sleep-deprived teens may have difficulty concentrating in school and those who drive have an increased risk of auto accidents. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to health problems ranging from obesity to depression.

Thai Cave Mission: All 12 Boys, Coach Have Been Rescued

Sunday's mission, the second rescue, was completed over nine hours and resulted in four boys being removed from the complex cave network.

Thai officials have confirmed that all 13 members of the Wild Boar soccer team have been successfully rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. A team of 19 divers undertook the third and final mission, entering the flooded cave to retrieve the final four members of the team and their coach, who had been trapped underground for more than two weeks.

Sunday's mission, the second rescue, was completed in less than 10 hours and resulted in four boys being removed from the complex cave network. The mission mirrored Saturday's successful attempt to rescue the first group of four but reduced the task by some two hours.

“The first day we spent 11 hours, yesterday we spent nine hours, [today] we hope we can do it faster or the same as yesterday. If everything goes right, we will see four kids and a doctor and Seals that have stayed with the kids will all come out,” head of the joint command center, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said.

“Four plus one coach, so it’s five.”

The rescue parties will also extract a doctor as well as three Navy SEALs who had been monitoring the members of the soccer team.

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U.S.: Children's Crying and the Power of Collective Anger

The immigration policies of the current U.S. government frequently provoke criticism and condemnation, but collective anger at these practices reached a new level when thousands of children became its most visible victims.

Reports of the increasing separation of families in the U.S. southern border began weeks ago, as a result of the implementation of the 'zero tolerance' policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, which came into force the following month.

The policy, aimed at prosecuting those who illegally entered U.S., had a collateral damage that caused great indignation: while parents waited to face criminal charges, their children were taken from their side and sent to centers with other kids.

Data released in recent days indicate that there are more than 2,300 infants separated from their parents as a result of the Donald Trump administration's measure.

Meanwhile, On June 18, condemns increased as a result of a recording released by ProPublica News Agency, in which'the desperate crying of ten Central American children separated from their parents one day from last week'is heard, according to the media.

Immoral, shameful, cruel or heartrending were some of the adjectives used by Democratic and Republican legislators, immigrant rights groups, religious leaders, pediatricians, officials of previous administrations and users in social networks to qualify this practice.

The four former first ladies of the country who still live -Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama- were among the voices of condemnation, which even the current President's wife, Melania Trump, joined.

We need a country where all the laws are followed, but also where leaders rule with the heart, expressed the current first lady in a statement, seen by several sources as an unusual positioning somehow opposed to his husband's position.

While Melania called to govern with the heart, the Republican ruler used the strategy of blaming Democrats for the separation of families, due to what he considers obstructionism in approval of new immigration laws by the blue partymembers.

What is happening is 'very sad,' but it is Democrats' fault, said the head of State noting that if the members of the opposing force sat down to negotiate, 'instead of obstructing', they could quickly do something about it.

However, the media and other sources maintained that Trump falsely blamed Democrats for his government's decision to criminally accuse every adult immigrant.

Under Barack Obama's administration (2009-2017), families were only referred to the immigration courts for deportation proceedings or for asylum applications to be heard, and they were released with supervision, CNN recently recalled.

The Washington Post said the situation had become a moral test for Trump and his mandate and that, despite his insistence on blaming Democrats, he had the power to immediately order the border agents to stop separating families.


The truthfulness of The Post and other media's statements was confirmed on June 20, when pressured by the increasing demands coming from several groups and places, Trump signed an executive order to put an end to family separation.

The anger expressed by so many voices seems to have forced the head of the White House not to wait for the action of Congress, which he intended to make responsible in the matter, especially five months to the mid-term elections of November to come.

The immigration issue must have an important weightfor those elections, in which Republicans will try to maintain control of the two legislative chambers.

When signing the document in the Oval Office, the Republican leader told the media his government'sdecision to continue with the 'zero tolerance' policy that gave rise to the situation.

The only change of his decree isthat the parents awaiting trial will be able to stay with their children, instead of being taken to different facilities, as it was happening until now.

The order states that although the administration will 'strictly' enforce immigration laws, it's also part of its policy to respectfamily unit, including the detention of family members in a united manner when appropriate and consistent with the law and available resources.

However, since the head of State signed the text, alarms about its content have appeared, and the controversy on the matter seems far from over.

One of the widely debated issues is that the order does not apply to families already separated, but to those that will arrive in the future; therefore, the 2,300 children who are currently heldin custody by the Health Department will not meet immediately with their parents.

The executive decree also pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security will be in charge of the new families during the period required for their process in court, which can last for months or even years, although Trump decided to give priority to cases with children.

This decision conflicts with the legal agreement known as Flores, of 1997, which prohibits the government from keeping children in detention for more than 20 days, even with their families.

That's why the document states that the U.S. Attorney General must quickly submit an application to the Central District Court of California to modify that ruling so that it allows the authorities to retain foreign families while proceeding with prosecutions.

Given the content and conditions of the new order, immigrant rights advocacy groups are expected to take legal action.

Leaders of some entities have already spoken about it, such as the director of Movimiento Puente in Phoenix, Arizona, Francisca Porchas, who said in a press conference that what Trump approved 'is not family reunification, it is family imprisonment.'

According to Cesar Espinosa, executive director of Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle, based in Houston, Texas, they oppose the order because many children will be still detained while the text is only used as a political trick to appear more 'compassionate.'

US Should Stop Detaining Migrants, Separating Children: United Nations

Geneva: The United Nations called on the United States on Tuesday to stop detaining irregular migrant families and separating children on its frontier with Mexico, saying this broke the law.

Several hundred children crossing the southern U.S. border have been held in custody since October 2017 following an executive order issued by President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2016, it said.

"The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalising what should at most be an administrative offence - that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.," U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.

"Entering a country without the relevant papers should not be a criminal offence...so these people should not be detained," she said, adding that some children were very young, including a one-year-old infant.

Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try to cross the U.S. border illegally or seek asylum in the country.

The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said a week ago, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.

Shamdasani, asked about comments by senior U.S. officials that it was normal to remove children from parents in custody, said: "There is nothing normal about detaining children.

"Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation," she said.

The United States - the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - still has obligations as a signatory to that treaty and as a party that has ratified other rights treaties, Shamdasani said

"Our position is that preserving family unity is a fundamental tenet of refugee protection," U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler said.

Most crossing the U.S. southern border are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador where there is rampant violence and persecution targetting children and youth, he said.

"The fact that you have people coming from countries experiencing violence and might be subject to persecution by gangs and other criminal violence, would certainly ... give them the right to receive international protection," Spindler said.

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Cuba Exhibits Tangible Human Rights Achievements

Havana, Dec 8 (Prensa Latina) Cuba is showing today tangible human rights achievements by guaranteeing access to education, health and social security amid the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States more than 50 years ago.

More than 1,750,000 students were enrolled only in the 2017-2018 school year, about 68,000 students are in boarding schools and other 755,000 are in semi-boarding schools.

There are currently about 10,698 schools, of them, 26 are teacher training centers. These institutions have more than 23,000 students.

In terms of social security, the Caribbean island ensures retirement pensions to 1,672,000 people and about 245 million pesos for maternity leaves.

Regarding expenses, the State had 36.5 million pesos for public health, social assistance, culture, sports, public administration, among other sectors.

In sports, the Caribbean nation reached from 1900 to date about 77 gold, 68 silver and 75 bronze medals at Olympic Games, Granma newspaper said.

Cuba has been since January 1, 2017, for fourth time one of the eight representatives of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Human Rights Council, with more votes in its election (160) than any other country in the region.

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2017 ‘didn’t look good’ but 2018 will bring more wars, famine & extremism – NGO

Violence and pockets of fighting in Syria and Iraq, near-famine in Yemen, and Islamic extremists steadily gaining ground in Afghanistan will make humanitarian crises around the world much worse next year than they were in 2017, an NGO predicts.

The ‘Humanitarian Overview: An Analysis of Key Crises into 2018’ by Geneva-based think tank ACAPS looks at major trends that will shape the face of the world next year. It specifically focuses on countries going through deteriorating or ongoing crises, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen, Venezuela, among others.

Internally displaced people wait to collect food aid, Somalia. File photo. © Ismail Taxta

Aross these countries, food security, displacement, health, and protection are expected to be the most pressing humanitarian needs in 2018,” the researchers said. “Most humanitarian crises in this report are driven by conflict, with a spread in violence and shifts in tactics this year in several countries.

“If 2017 did not look good, predictions for 2018 are no better: violence and insecurity are likely to deteriorate in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and Syria next year,” ACAPS Director Lars Peter Nissen wrote in the report.

Islamic extremism will also continue to cause violence and conflict in various hotspots across the globe, the study said. In Afghanistan, where there is no let-up in 16-year war against the Taliban, “the security situation is likely to continue to deteriorate in 2018 leading to greater health, food security, and protection needs.”

The Islamic group is gaining ground over rural areas, particularly in the north and south of the country, as well as in territories used for opium poppy cultivation, which rose by 67 percent compared to 2016, with the production of opium rising by 87 percent.

Despite the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in its main redoubts in Iraq, the terrorist group is expected to continue fighting against the government, “shifting toward the use of non-traditional conflict strategies and improvised attacks.”

In neighboring Syria, there will be pockets of insecurity, especially in Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, and Deir-ez-Zor provinces, the study predicts. The report noted that “the Astana agreements [brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran] over de-escalation zones have been a major political development in 2017, contributing to the perception of an improving security situation in Syria.”

@ACAPSproject The #HumanitarianOverview2018 report is now out: an analysis of key crises into 2018 with likely developments and corresponding #humanitarian needs. Download it here: http://humanitarianoverview.acaps.org and please share it!

Next year is likely to be “decisive for the Syria conflict,” as any real or perceived progress in establishing de-escalation zones would change perceptions of the conflict. “This would likely affect third country policies on refugees, and potentially prompt more spontaneous returns,” ACASP said.

In Yemen, ravaged by civil war and the Saudi-led intervention, “civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting.” ACASP says that over 3.3 million Yemenis have been displaced since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, and 17 million people are estimated to be food-insecure. The conflict has also prompted aid agencies to fight “one of the worst cholera outbreaks in history affecting more than 910,000 people.”

Despite all efforts, the cholera outbreak is likely to continue due to lack of infrastructure and health systems. “Continuation of the import blockade is likely to deteriorate the situation even further,” it said, adding, “food insecurity is likely to get worse, and most conflict affected areas, particularly the south and west coast, are likely to fall into famine if food access does not improve.”

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