China: 'US Has No Right to Act as Human-Rights Judge'

"We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge," said China's Foreign Ministry. 

Chinese officials have slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for sanctioning public security official Gao Yan, insisting that the United States has no right to act as a "human-rights judge."

RELATED: China Releases Human Rights Report on US: 'Terrible Problems'

In March 2014, Yan was head of the Chaoyan Detention Center, in Beijing, where rights activist Cao Shunli was detained and interrogated, according to Reuters, before dying in hospital while in police custody.

Human-rights groups have said that Shunli was both tortured and prevented from receiving medical care before she died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has now issued an executive order targeting Yan, blocking the property of foreign nationals involved in human-rights abuses.

Four Russians, including the head of the republic of Chechnya, were also placed on the sanctions list known as the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law which inters the bank assets of those targeted.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said: "We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge." 

She went on to state that the Asian country's police maintain public safety according to Chinese laws and the United States should refrain from using its domestic jurisprudence to determine which foreign nationals should be sanctioned.

Beijing officials have often criticized Washington for scrutinizing China's human-rights record. Earlier this year, China's State Council released its own report, denouncing the United States for its "terrible human-rights problems."

"With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human-rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," the report said.

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US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

 
Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

 
Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

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Cuba Ratifies Commitment to Defending Human Rights in Geneva

Cuba's representatives before the United Nations in Geneva reaffirmed today the country's commitment to defending human rights for all, as a fundamental principle of the Cuban Revolution.

'Cuba will continue to fight against all forms of injustice in the world and to achieve true dignification and welfare for human beings,' the mission said in a statement on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.

According to the text, 'more than five decades of socialist revolution have allowed achieving full and universal enjoyment of all human rights for its people, so there are many reasons to celebrate this day with joy.'

The press release recalled that Cuba is internationally recognized for the progress made in strengthening its free healthcare and education systems, which are accessible to all, the struggle for gender equality and the protection of the environment, among others issues.

'The solidarity and unconditional work of Cuban healthcare collaborators have saved lives or restored the vision to hundreds of thousands of people in the world,' the communiqué said.

'All this has been achieved despite the genocidal policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, which represents not only a violation of international law, but a flagrant, mass and systematic human rights violation of Cubans,' the text pointed out.

The statement noted that the country has a long history of cooperation with all human rights mechanisms in the international arena that are applied on universal and non-discriminatory basis.

As a member State of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Cuba plays an active role that has materialized in the presentation of resolutions to defend the fundamental basic rights, demonstrating its strong commitment to the implementation of a fairer and equitable human rights system, the text said.

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57 Countries Express Support to Venezuela at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Over 50 countries around the world expressed support for the constitutional government of Venezuela against foreign threats.

During the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, 57 countries signed an expression of support of respect for the sovereignty and independence of Venezuela.

RELATED: Venezuelan Delegation Travels to Dominican Republic for Peace Dialogue

“We condemn any action that disturbs peace, tranquility, and democratic stability... and that threatens sovereignty, including the recent threats of a possible foreign military intervention,” the jointly signed document read, that was read by Cuba's ambassador to the Council, Pedro Luis Pedroso.

The nations, among whom are Cuba, China, Bolivia, Russia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Ecuador, Vietnam, South Africa, and Iran, expressed their “support for the constitutional government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in its commitment to preserve peace and maintain democratic institutions in the country.”

They expressed support for the calls and efforts of President Nicolas Maduro to political dialogue in Venezuela in order to “preserve peace and guarantee the stability of the democratic institutions."

RELATED: 'Latin America Must Be a Region of Peace’: Bolivia’s Morales on Venezuela Dialogue

Also read during the session was a declaration by the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA) that echoed the calls for respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity in Venezuela. Presented by the Nicaraguan ambassador, Hernan Estrada, ALBA repudiated the “international media campaign” against Venezuela and condemned the recent threats of the United States President Donald Trump in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The Venezuelan representative to the council, Jorge Valero, also spoke, expressing solidarity to those countries who support Venezuela's sovereignty and saying that "peace reigns" in his country due to the democratic National Constituent Assembly.

“Thanks to the National Constituent Assembly, elected through the universal, direct, and secret vote of millions of Venezuelans, peace reigns in Venezuela," he said.

The 36th session of the Human Rights Council is currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from September 11th to the 29th.

The support of ALBA and 57 countries around the world is an affirmation of the international support Venezuela has behind it, in a crucial moment as it has been subject to renewed attacks from the United States and its allied countries in recent weeks.

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Argentines protest Supreme Court ruling on Dirty War sentences

Tens of thousands of Argentines protested on Wednesday against a Supreme Court ruling that could decrease jail time for those convicted of human rights abuses during the country’s 1976 – 1983 military dictatorship that killed as many as 30,000 people.

The ruling was widely criticized, including by President Mauricio Macri, and Congress passed a law earlier on Wednesday to block future reductions of sentences for killings, torture, kidnappings and other human rights violations during the so-called Dirty War. “Judges: Never again. No free genocidists,” read banners in the Plaza de Mayo of Buenos Aires.

The Supreme Court’s May 3 decision ruled in favor of Luis Muiña, who was sentenced in 2011 to 13 years in jail for kidnapping and torturing five people during the dictatorship. The court said a law known locally as “two for one” that allows every day spent in jail before a final sentence to count for two days when more than two years have been served, could apply for human rights cases.

“I would like to congratulate the Congress for the speed at which it resolved the legal vacuum left by this unfortunate 2-for-1 law,” Macri said in a press conference earlier on Wednesday. “I am against any tool that is in favor of impunity, more so when this tool is applied to crimes against humanity.”

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UN Report Describes Humanitarian Crisis in the Gaza Strip

United Nations, Apr 7 (Prensa Latina) A UN report reflects today the daily hardships faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a territory under a decade of the Israeli blockade and devastating bombings in recent years.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 70 percent of the 1 880 000 people living in the 365 square kilometer strip are registered as refugees and 47 percent are considered to be food insecure.

Power outages reach 12 to 16 hours daily and unemployment affects four out of every 10 Palestinians in Gaza, being women and young persons the most affected, with 65.3 and 61 percent of them unemployed, respectively.

In respect to water, OCHA warns that 97 percent of the liquid that reaches people through pipes is not suitable for human consumption.

In addition to the permanent Israeli blockade in place, the small Palestinian territory still remains suffering the consequences of the 51-day aviation bombings carried out by Tel Aviv, which in summer of 2014 destroyed much of the housing and living infrastructure there.

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US Pulls Funding for UN Population Fund

The UN Population Fund rejects state department's claim that agency backs "coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization".

The U.S. State Department announced that it is discontinuing its funding for the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA is an organization that focuses on family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries worldwide. This marks U.S. President Donald Trump's first step in reducing funding for United Nation organizations. This move has raised some concerns since the U.S. is the major contributor to the UN.

RELATED: No Top Position at UN for Palestinians, Says US Envoy

The State Department revealed that it withheld $32.5 in funding because the UNFPA "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." In January, Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which withholds U.S. funding for international organizations that perform abortions or provide information about abortion. One of Trump's recent executive orders, which references all global health assistance, withheld at least half a billion dollars in U.S. funding. Trump's proposed 28 percent budget reduction for diplomatic and foreign aid, specifically, included reduced financial support for the United Nations and its agencies.

UNFPA stated that it regrets the U.S. government's decision to end funding, which it said is based on an "erroneous claim" that the agency supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China. The agency added that its mission is "to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled." The statement from UNFPA also declared, "The support we received over the years from the government and people of the United States has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises."

The State Department said the funds will instead be transferred to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities.

UN officials have warned that abrupt funding cuts could trigger more global instability and argued that dollars for diplomacy are more effective than military spending in combating terrorism. President George W. Bush had also defunded the UNFPA, from 2002 to 2008, arguing that its presence in China constituted participation in the country’s "one-child" family planning policy. At that time, the U.S. government had pulled $34m of funds.

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Hundreds of Mosul civilians killed by airstrikes were told not to flee by authorities – Amnesty

Hundreds of Mosul residents were killed by airstrikes in their homes following repeated instructions from Iraqi authorities not to leave, Amnesty International says. It adds coalition forces should have known they were likely to result in civilian deaths.

Citing numerous testimonies given by survivors and eyewitnesses, Amnesty said many people did not attempt to flee during the US-backed operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) due to Iraqi authorities’ instructions. 

FILE PHOTO. © Khalid al Mousily

“Evidence gathered on the ground in east Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” said Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser who carried out field investigations in Mosul.

She noted the increasingly high civilian death toll “suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

The fact that the Iraqi authorities repeatedly told civilians not to flee the war-ravaged city in the midst of fighting, “indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties,” the organization said, adding that “disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes.”

Wa’ad Ahmad al-Tai, a resident of eastern Mosul, said these instructions were delivered via radio and through leaflets dropped from military aircraft.

“The government … told us [to] stay in our homes and avoid displacement,” he added.

Amnesty has also noted IS resorts to using civilians as human shields, which amounts to a war crime.

READ MORE: Civilian deaths in Mosul are miscalculations & mistakes – Iraqi President

“However, the IS’s use of human shields does not absolve Iraqi and coalition forces from their obligation not to launch disproportionate attacks,” said Rovera.

Amnesty has urged the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition to “immediately launch an independent and impartial investigation into the appalling civilian death toll resulting from the Mosul operation.”

The statement comes as the US-led coalition faces allegations that one of their airstrikes on March 17 killed dozens of civilians.

READ MORE: 307 civilians killed, 273 wounded in western Mosul since February 17 – UN human rights chief  

The US declared that its forces are not planning to change the way they conduct airstrikes despite the battle for Mosul entering more densely-populated areas in the western part of the city.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi president told RIA Novosti that “there is coordination between the US coalition and Iraqi security forces, but sometimes it fails,” civilian deaths being the result of “miscalculations” and “unintended mistakes.”

UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein made a statement on Tuesday condemning the “massive loss of civilian lives in western Mosul,” where at least 307 people have been killed and 273 wounded in just over a month.

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