UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Thursday that there have been a high number of human rights violations against journalists covering the ongoing civil war in Yemen.
The conflict began in March 2015. Since that time, the UN Human Rights Office has documented 357 human rights violations and abuses against journalists, including killings, disappearances, death sentences, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.
Since the beginning of April, the UN Human Rights Office has documented an assassination, an abduction, arbitrary arrests and detentions, death sentences in violation of international human rights law and jailing, physical assaults, and physical violence threats, all done by participants in the armed conflict.
Bachelet said that these violations may amount to war crimes, because journalists are protected as civilians under international humanitarian law. She noted:
The safety of journalists is essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of us all, and in the context of armed conflict they play a vital role in uncovering the truth and holding the parties to the conflict to account publicly.
Because journalists should not be penalized for carrying out their “legitimate activities,” she urged that de facto authorities set aside death sentences currently imposed on four journalists. She called for the release of detained journalists and the investigation and punishment for those responsible for the violence and threats of violence against journalists.
The Foshan Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Canadian citizen Ye Jianhui to death Friday for manufacturing and transporting drugs. It was the fourth death sentence imposed on a Canadian by a Chinese court since Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies Company, was arrested in Vancouver in 2018 on a US warrant.
The death penalty came just a day after another Canadian, Xu Weihong, was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court for making drugs. According to a local report, police found 218 kilograms (481 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy in the room used by Ye and five other men. Among the five Chinese nationals, one of them has been sentenced to death while the others have been sentenced to imprisonment.
Wang Wenbing, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said “[d]rug-related crimes are considered serious crimes worldwide. Chinese law retains the death sentence and controls its application strictly.” He also said, “Chinese law stipulates that every criminal is equal in the application of the law and China’s judicial authorities handle cases involving criminals of different nationalities in accordance with the law.”
John Babcock, the spokesperson of the Canadian Foreign Ministry, said: “Canada requests clemency for all Canadian citizens who have been sentenced to death, and calls on China to grant clemency to Mr Xu.” While tensions between China and Canada over sentencing have risen since Meng’s arrest, China has denied that the cases are linked.
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Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) ordered the government on Wednesday to adopt measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in indigenous communities. The decision came hours after Aritana Yawalapiti, a leader of the Yawalapiti ethnic group in the Upper Xingu River region, passed away after contracting the disease.
The judges unanimously declared that the indigenous groups must be isolated by the creation of sanitary barriers. The majority voted that 30 days must be provided to the government to formulate a strategy. They also agreed with the view of the rapporteur of the Fundamental Precept Failure Statement (ADPF) 709, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, that invaders of indigenous lands must be removed. Barroso said in the first session of the case held on Monday that “[i]t is unacceptable for the government to inaction [sic] – perhaps everyone, up to now, to some extent – in relation to the invasion of indigenous lands, especially because of the serious risk it poses to the practice of environmental crimes.”
The action was brought by Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), a group for indigenous communities, and six opposition parties in June. Last month, President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed portions of a bill formulated to protect indigenous groups during the pandemic. The President argued that the provisions were unconstitutional as they created expenses without generating revenue.
APIB lawyer Luiz Eloy Terena said that “[t]his action is the voice of indigenous peoples in the Court (of the STF) and is a historic action because for the first time the indigenous people come to the judiciary in their own name.”
According to the latest APIB tally, 639 indigenous people have died after contracting the disease, and 22,656 individuals out of the 850,000 indigenous persons in Brazil are infected.
The Egyptian cabinet has approved a draft bill protecting the identities of sexual assault and harassment victims as part of a national campaign to end sexual violence. The campaign aims to encourage women to report sexual crimes without fear of retaliation.
Cabinet members drafted the bill in July following the arrest of a man who raped and blackmailed multiple women, which prompted activists to push for harsher laws protecting women’s identities in sex crimes. Pending Parliament approval later this month, President Abdel Fattah al–Sisi will review the bill for final approval. If Sisi enacts the bill into law, perpetrators face up to six months in jail.
Lawmaker Magda Nasr told the Thompson-Reuters Foundation that the bill will help protect women’s rights because it will encourage women to “report cases of sexual assault.”
Attorney Reda Eldanoubki, Director of Egypt’s Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, also welcomed the legislation.
Despite constitutional amendments and voluminous laws criminalizing gender–based violence, Egyptian society is plagued by sexual violence. Though Egypt has not published any official sexual abuse statistics, the United Nations issued a 2013 report showing that 99.3% of respondents reported having suffered sexual harassment. To date, NGOs continue to receive sexual assault and rape cases that occurred during the 2011 and 2013 uprisings.
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The High People’s Court of Jiangxi in China has declared Zhang Yuhuan, 53, the country’s longest-serving wrongfully convicted person not guilty in a retrial after almost 27 years in prison.
Zhang’s wrongful conviction and subsequent release stem from a 1993 murder case where two boys were found dead in a reservoir in Jinxian, Jiangxi Province. State officials had detained Zhang and arrested him on murder charges.
A court found Zhang guilty of murder two years later and imposed the death penalty. However, the court allowed the sentence to be reduced if Zhang served the first two years without committing any crimes.
Zhang repeatedly denied involvement in the killing. After a failed appeal in 2001, he successfully convinced the Jiangxi High Court for a retrial in March 2019, and the case was finally adjudicated in July. “After we reviewed the materials, we have found there is no direct evidence that can prove Zhang’s conviction. So we accepted the prosecutors’ suggestion and have declared Zhang innocent,” judge Tian Ganlin stated after delivering the decision on Tuesday.
Zhang’s lawyer indicated that he will be seeking relief for Zhang through the state compensation fund. He is also wanting to hold those responsible for his original sentencing accountable.
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