The Humanitarian Times

November 21, 2000

 

- ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES USED EXCESSIVE FORCE IN SHOOTING PALESTINIAN demonstrators, based on head & thigh wounds, concluded evaluation by Physicians for Human Rights, which reviewed 1,134 casualties in W Bank & Gaza hospitals. See: www.phrusa.org/research/forensics/Israel

- PERU STRONGMAN ALBERTO FUJIMORI RELINQUISHED POWER THIS WEEK after 10 years as President, during which he assigned himself emergency powers (1992) that made Peru a military state, suppressing free news media. Over 4,000 poor peasants disappeared (killed) -- abducted by the govt during the war against rural rebel insurgents (Sendero Luminoso & Tupac Amaru), that made Fujimori popular once.

- OVER 20,000 REFUGEES FROM SIERRA LEONE HAVE BEEN FORCED BACK HOME in recent days due to fighting, detentions, killings & threats in refugee camps in Guinea that had until recently provided safety for over 450,000 refugees from S Leone & Liberia.

- EARTHQUAKE & TIDAL WAVES DISPLACED 5,000 IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA's western shores, in SE Asia last Thursday. A larger tidal wave there in 1997 killed over 3,000.

- U.N. CONVENTION AGAINST CHILD LABOR CAME INTO FORCE THIS WEEK requiring signers to outlaw child labor, child slavery, child prostitution & military conscription.

- WORLD BANK EXPERT CRITICIZES INTL. FOOD AID TO RUSSIA. The Bank's Moscow Rep. said Russia has no food shortfalls & observed that food aid depresses domestic farm production & slows progress & reform in devt of agricultural private enterprise. As in the food crisis of the 1970s, Russia will use its food surplus (including aid) to deploy grain into livestock feed. (Source: New Europe)

- EUROPEAN UNION ANNOUNCED FAST-ACTION MILITARY FORCE THIS WEEK of 60,000 troops (over 12,000 each from Germany, UK & France), deployable by 2003.

- DONORS PLEDGED $5M TO THE CAMBODIA MINE ACTION CENTER LAST WEEK allowing it to re-hire staff & begin again its removal of landmines.

- MILITARY IN BURMA SEEKS TO ELIMINATE VOICES OF DEMOCRACY like the National League for Democracy, writes the Far Eastern Econ. Rev: "The entire leadership of the NLD is under effective detention, most of the party's offices around the country have been forced shut & an eviction order slapped on its Rangoon HQ." This week the Thai govt will evacuate border villagers near attacks by the Burma govt. On the western side of Burma, conflict has stepped up in Arakan prov. where the persecuted Rohingya (Muslim) minority seeks autonomy. Last week, the Intl. Labor Org. voted to impose sanctions against Burma, effective later this month. Meanwhile, Chinese interests have moved into Burma, buying property; & China recognized the military junta & received Lt. Gen. Win Myint in Oct. The NY Times last week argued for "restricting trade & investment in areas of the economy that profit from forced labor.. ..Washington too should consider additional steps like encouraging disinvestments by American companies...Burma's people deserve intl. support in their struggle against a destructive tyranny."

- US GOV CRITICIZED UNFAIR BALLOT-STUFFING ELECTIONS IN KYRGYZSTAN where the re-election of Pres Askar Akayev benefited when he arrested his main opposition candidate.

- U.S. HOLOCAUST MUSEUM CONSCIENCE COMM. WARNS OF SUDAN GENOCIDE: calling attention to the Sudanese military's attacks against Dinka & Nuer ethnic groups in southern provinces, at symposium last week.

- CONFERENCE ON "REFUGEE PROTECTION IN 21ST CENTURY" (held last week Nov. 14 convened by the Lawyers Comm. for Human Rights, with the Stanley Fdtn) where speakers notd the intrinsic strength of the intl. Refugee Convention in allowing evolving interpretation of social group, gender, age, & sexual orientation in relation to bases for fear-of-persecution. Current issues pending intl. debate: protection in mass influx situation & practical solutions for protection. Speaking about the protection gap for internally-displaced persons, Roberta Cohen remarked that NGOs are in the forefront of using the Guiding Principles in innovative ways to monitor & enhance protection. The Lawyer's Comm. website holds papers for conf (e.g., "ensuring fair treatment of asylum seekers," & on physical security, resettlement) & soon the proceedings: www.lchr.org

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FOCUS ON PROTECTION FOR DISPLACED PERSONS

 

The new REACH OUT Initiative joins forces between NGOs, the Red Cross & UNHCR to promote protection activities among NGOs which normally orient toward mechanical distribution of relief aid. The project will operate training exercises for NGOs in over 25 countries, supported by funding from the US Dept of State's Refugee Bureau. In March 1999, UNHCR initiated the Reach Out process in New York. For more information about the Reach Out Refugee Protection Proj, contact Henk van Goethem, at the Intl Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies: Reachoutatifrc.org (fax: 41 22 733 0395). Each of the following useful texts about protection speak primarily about monitoring; each recognize the complementarities between agencies & thus supports the idea that protection is a "shared responsibility:"

- NEW: "PROTECTING REFUGEEES: A FIELD GUIDE FOR NGOS" produced by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with NGO input (1999, Geneva: UNHCR) serves as a primer to introduce protection strategies to non-profits. With many bullet points & side-bars, it summarizes recommendations for watching after refugees & refugee-like populations with attention to women, children, elderly, stateless persons & those in detention. Unlike preceding legalistic guidelines about protection, it quickly surveys relevant intl. law & focuses instead on "What NGOs do", practically. Some recommendations are general: share information across NGOs. Others take the form of referral protocols: "If individuals claim persecution, refer them to human rights agencies." Some urge the NGO to "publicly condemn" abuses, such as recruitment of refugee children as soldiers. Others promote technical intervention: "Returnees should have the right to use or to acquire legal ownership of a plot of land for either residential or agricultural purposes...If necessary, UNHCR or NGOs must intervene with authorities to ensure that returnee female heads of households have access to land on an equal footing as men." Some are simply practical such as to provide night-time lighting in refugee camps or to designate refugee women (not men) as initial point of contact for food distribution; & "use female staff when trying to elicit information from female refugees."

- "PROTECTION: TOWARD PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS" - FROM MARCH 1998 Workshop (1998 Geneva: ICRC, Carlo von Flue editor) summarizes much of the Intl. Comm. of the Red Cross' concerns about the practical difficulties of implementing protection, which, for ICRC, focuses on collecting information on rights violations to give authorities so they can prevent them. ICRC stresses ensuring confidentiality & informed consent in deposing witnesses. ICRC recognizes the value of "going public" about certain patterns of violation, & that different agencies pursue varied solutions, such as MSF which was expelled from Rwanda because it strongly denounced the 1995 Kibeho massacre (Rwanda) where a firefight killed 5,000+ in a DP camp under govt attack. The many case studies explore how to apply intl. conventions: for example, to create geographically defined, demilitarized "safe areas".

- "PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS: CHALLENGE TO HUMANITARIAN ORG's" by M Frohardt, D Paul & L Minear (1999, Providence RI: Thomas J Watson Inst.) describes how operational agencies have responded when seeing human rights violations during relief operations, such as in Liberia, where NGOs, led by Catholic Relief Serv., began conf. calls among intl. agencies, establishing a Joint Policy of Operations, to work in unison, sending consistent signals to the warlords in Liberia. The authors warn that presence alone, unaccompanied by other action, can be harmful if it "conveys the clear message that violations will be tolerated or condoned." The authors explain the Nov 1994 letter by some NGOs working in Goma, Zaire which called on the UN to take urgent action to improve security in the camps. The authors propose having a central "protection facilitator" per crisis theater, & that "an integrated approach to protection requires needs- assessment, planning & implementation."

- "HANDBOOK ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SITUATIONS OF CONFLICT" by Janelle Diller & the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (1997 Minneapolis) provides an indispensable how-to complement to the above texts, with checklists for field strategies, bibliographies of references, tools for linking conventions to action, practical notes, & directories of advocacy groups, NGOs, & country UN contact points.

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Nov. 21, 2000 The Humanitarian Times
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