... Nothing is said about what the government does to ensure that serious human rights violations are not occurring in offshore detention centres, or what it proposes to do about the allegations now that they have emerged.
Nothing is said about Amnesty International’s claims that it has been denied access to the Nauru detention centre, preventing the organisation from reviewing conditions and treatment or hearing allegations of abuse from people held there.
And nothing is said about a secret recording which captures a Nauru detention centre guard admitting to his colleague that he falsified a report of being assaulted by an asylum seeker.
The responses suggests that the government is following the “Abu Ghraib denial process” – start with denials, and until pressure builds, refuse a government investigation. ...
Kellie Tranter [Guardian - 21/8/15]
Asylum seeker falsely accused of assault by Nauru guard still being punishd by the Australian government [Brisbane Times - 21/8/15]
SUBMISSION 71 (and 71.1): Senate Inquiry Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru:
... a Wilson's guard (name withheld) with a vendetta against a male asylum seeker at camp 2, is on record admitting that he staged being beaten by the asylum seeker to get him back. I'm not sure if the asylum seeker was charged but concrete evidence of the 'set up' has been passed on to the NPF and no action has been taken. The Wilson's guard involved in this incident is now in a promoted position on island.
There is an audio recording in Wilson's possession (and that of others) of the staff member in question, confessing to "stitching up" the asylum seeker in question.
The audio also includes a detailed recount of the Wilson staff member's actions during the incident which included "pulling him down on me" and punching himself in the face so as to appear assaulted.
This audio and the subsequent investigation report which highlighted the staff member's illegal actions, including perjury, have been in Wilson's possession for over 3 months with the staff member in question still employed.
Furthermore, the NPF were not made aware of the audio recording while the asylum seeker remained on charges and in police custody.
Both sides of the issue were only presented to the NPF in the form of witness statements pertaining to the alleged assault perpetrated by the asylum seeker.
The audio was never presented to the NPF for consideration, nor were the actions of the Wilson staff member raised with the NPF for investigation.
Even without the audio evidence, the Magistrate eventually found in favor of the defendant but this was only after a prolonged period in custody in the Nauruan gaol which could have been avoided if Wilson's acted honestly and in the Asylum Seeker's best interests.
Submission 67 Nauru Senate Inquiry: ... We were expected to "manufacture" Individual Management Plans as this was what the Department of Immigration wanted. ... After the murder of Reza Barati, we were told to lie to our clients and tell them it was a "riot" to deter them from protesting. ...
Submission 74 Nauru Senate Inquiry: ... When I asked the little girl on Nauru gently, if there was anything she wanted to tell the Prime Minister of Australia..she just said in her chiming dainty voice, “ I want to be happy too, like other children in Australia..why doesn’t Australia like me?” ...
Submission 79 Nauru Senate Inquiry: ... I observed a direct correlation between DIBP messaging and self-harming and protest by asylum seekers. ...
More delays for Nauru opposition MP challenging legality of the government's seizure of his passport [RNZI - 21/8/15]
Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi meeting the President of Nauru, Mr. Baron Waqa, in Jaipur on August 21, 2015. [Sarkari Mirror]
High Court sets date for case challenging offshore detention
Human Rights Law Centre Media Release [21/8/15]:
The High Court will sit in Canberra on 7-8 October to consider the lawfulness of the Australian Government’s role in offshore detention on Nauru, in a case brought by a group of people seeking asylum.
The case, filed by the Human Rights Law Centre, raises important and untested questions about the Australian Government’s power to facilitate, fund and otherwise be involved in detention arrangements outside Australia.
HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said the case was being run on behalf of over 150 men, women and children who have been detained on Nauru previously and brought to Australia for medical treatment or to give birth.
“These families came to Australia seeking safety but their time locked up offshore has exposed them to danger and has clearly taken a toll on them and on their children,” said Mr Webb.
A case raising similar legal issues in respect of the Manus detention arrangements is also underway and has been adjourned pending the outcome of the Nauru challenge.
Ruth Hudson, Practice Group Leader at Stacks Goudkamp lawyers, is representing several of the men involved in the Manus case.
“Many of the men experienced torture and trauma in their countries of origin. They tell us that the conditions and their experiences in detention, particularly the violence and unrest they witnessed in February 2014 and the deaths of fellow asylum seekers, has caused significant deterioration in their already fragile mental states. Many of them are suffering potentially permanent physical and psychological injuries,” said Ms Hudson.
When the HRLC commenced the case on 14 May this year it contended that there was no Australian law which gave the government the necessary power to fund and otherwise facilitate the current offshore detention arrangements.
The government responded by hastily introducing one. With the support of the Opposition, the government enacted legislation which seeks to retrospectively authorise three years of offshore detention and the expenditure of several billion dollars for that purpose. The law passed through the Parliament in June within two days of it being announced.
“The Government repeatedly assures the Australian people that it is acting legally. But a Government confident its actions are lawful doesn’t suddenly and retrospectively change the law when its actions are challenged in court,” said the HRLC’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb.
Despite the legal changes, Mr Webb said that serious questions remain about the extent of the Commonwealth’s involvement in offshore detention and whether its actions are lawful.
“While the government and the opposition have tried to retrospectively authorise three years’ of offshore detention and spending, there are serious and untested questions about whether the Australian Constitution permits them to do so,” said Mr Webb.
“We know the Government has powers to detain people in Australia and powers to remove people from Australia. But it is another thing altogether to then be involved in the indefinite detention of innocent men, women and children in the territories of other sovereign nations,” said Mr Webb.
The men, women and children involved in the case are covered by legal undertakings from the Australian Government that they will not be returned to Nauru or Manus Island without notice.
In the months since the case was filed the HRLC has worked closely with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service in Sydney, the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network in Darwin and support agencies and pro bono lawyers around the country to ensure people at risk of deportation offshore have received legal advice about the case.
Katie Wrigley, Principal Solicitor at RACS, said many of the people involved in the case had been terrified that they would be sent back to Nauru without notice.
“It shouldn’t take a case in the highest court in this country for the government to promise not to deport vulnerable people – including newborn babies – without any notice and without any opportunity for those families to speak with their lawyers,” said Ms Wrigley.
“The case has provided important temporary shelter to some incredibly vulnerable individuals who, at least for now, can now go to sleep at night without fearing being suddenly woken up and secretly whisked away to offshore detention,” said Ms Wrigley.
The legal team running the case includes barristers Ron Merkel QC, Craig Lenehan, David Hume, Rachel Mansted and Stacks Goudkamp Lawyers. Assistance has also been provided by the Refugee Advice and Casework Service and Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network.
One security staff member cut his mustache to look like Adolf Hitlers and kept it that way for several days.
Submission 93, Nauru Senate Inquiry:
... Over 150 asylum seekers were arrested and taken to the prison the night of the riot. Many asylum seekers spent two or three weeks in the prison, before being released without charge, until around only 65 men with charges were left.
Eventually all men were released on bail to the newly formed ‘Bravo’ compound.
Those that were in prison reported horrific abuse, including those who were released without charge.
Men reported overcrowded cells and only having access to toilets once roughly every 24 hours. They reported that most men began urinating and defecating in the cells due to this. Others reported not consuming food and liquid so that they wouldn’t need to urinate or defecate on the floor of such a confined space.
Men also reported being deprived of water. Men reported prison guards refusing to give them water and pouring full bottles of water out onto the floor in front of their cell to taunt them.
Accounts such as these are documented in Case Notes on The Salvation Army’s SAMIS system, though much of this information may have gone undocumented even if verbally reported, as The Salvation Army were severely understaffed following the riot.
One man stated to me that what he went through in the Nauruan prison was much worse than anything he had ever faced in Iraq, even though the situation in Iraq forced him to flee as a refugee.
On July 21st 2013, I posted a Facebook status that I knew was within the scope of what I was allowed to say under the Department of Immigration Deed Poll I had signed, which restricted me sharing information about Nauru. I posted an article about the riot and said that I was still in Nauru and would continue to work with the asylum seekers.
I finished the status with ‘“A riot is the language of the unheard” - Martin Luther King Jr.’
Two hours after posting the Facebook status I was pulled out of the compound by a Salvation Army manager. I was told that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship had found my Facebook status and wanted me to know that I am “not being dismissed at this stage” for the post but that they wanted me to know that they were watching me.
I was advised to remove the Facebook status, which I did.
I later found a screenshot of that Facebook status in the downloads folder of a Salvation Army work computer. I took this as an act of intimidation, as I had not broken protocol, but I was being threatened.
I never raised my concerns of feeling intimidated for fear of losing my job.
As the message had come from The Salvation Army management, I didn’t feel comfortable talking to them about it, as it seemed that they were complicit in the intimidation.
No one I know of had their refugee claim processed in 2013, though it was stated by the minister that one claim was processed in 2013.
I can only surmise that it was this poor young man, who spent 10 months living with amongst adult men.
He was removed from the island soon after the riot. At the time he was housed in a tent of close to 50 adult males.
As a minor, on top of all else, he was forced to endure the riot, where asylum seekers needed to be defended from aggressive locals.
He should never have had to endure all of this if a correct Age Determination was made earlier. ...
Each time an asylum seeker complains about their human rights or about the conditions in the centre, they are offered an appointment with IOM to discuss voluntary return.
Submission 94, Nauru Senate Inquiry
India: Will fresh plea for justice take Gujarat riot investigation to Modi’s doorstep?
The quiet steel in Zakia Jafri’s eyes hasn’t dimmed despite her 76 years, nor has her quest for justice.
Around 13 years after her husband, former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, and 68 of their neighbours in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society were killed by a mob, her legal battle over the massacre continues to haunt Narendra Modi despite his ascendance from chief ministership to prime ministership.
Zakia Jafri is unwilling to give up even after an Ahmedabad metropolitan court’s verdict on December 26, 2013, rejected her protest petition seeking to penalise Modi, who was then the chief minister, and 59 others on charges of state-sponsored criminal conspiracy during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat that killed over a thousand people, mostly Muslims.
She has filed a criminal revision application in the Gujarat High Court. The hearings began on August 4.
The application has sought the court’s directive to reject the closure report of the Special Investigation Team of February 8, 2012. While some have interpreted this to mean that Modi has been given a clean chit, in reality the SIT said it did not have enough evidence against Modi to proceed. Her protest petition in April 2013 is the last criminal case in the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat in which Modi has been accused.
The 540-page criminal revision application offers substantive arguments and a mountain of evidence to reject Metropolitan Magistrate BJ Ganatra’s orders. It accuses the SIT of adopting a “double faced” role after the Supreme Court, which was earlier monitoring the investigation, handed it over to the Ahmedabad Crime Branch.
The crux of the arguments by Zakia’s advocates Mihir Desai, MM Tirmizi and others is that the targeted communal attacks on Muslims after the burning of a train coach in Godhra that killed 59 persons, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, on February 27, 2002, was not the result of a natural Hindu outburst but a larger conspiracy hatched at the highest political level in Gujarat.
The advocates say that the manner in which the violence played out for 72 hours, when major massacres occurred in the state, could not have been so neatly organised without an elaborate conspiracy, assignment of roles and the material wherewithal for such killings already being in place.
For over two months before this, there had been an incendiary revival of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in Ayodhya by the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.
It was not without reason that the Supreme Court was directly monitoring investigations into nine major massacre cases, including the attack on Gulberg Society. Seven cases have resulted in convictions. The Gulberg Society case and the case of Ahmedabad’s Naroda Gam are the only ones that are still in the courts.
Coca-Cola held the ground-breaking ceremony for its new $100 million production facility at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone yesterday, which when completed in 2016 will double the beverage behemoth’s Cambodian output over the next six years.
Coke’s new investment will hopefully lead other companies to explore the Cambodia’s potential as a growth market, said Julie Chung, charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Cambodia. ... [Phnom Penh Post - 21/8/15]
Call on the UN Human Rights Council to address deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia: Joint NGO Letter [FIDH - 20/8/15]
Rainsy slams Australia-Cambodia refugee exile deal [Khmer Times - 20/8/15]:
Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), yesterday slammed the deal the government made with Australia to take in asylum seekers detained on the Pacific island of Nauru to Cambodia.
“We don’t support that move [and] that decision we regret. We would prefer that Australia solves this issue without using Cambodia as a dumping site for refugees,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Mr. Rainsy made the comments in Australia where he is seeking funding from the Cambodian community there to start a CNRP TV station.
Cambodia has been widely criticized by rights groups and the CNRP for taking $40 million in development assistance in exchange for the asylum seekers detained on Nauru Island.
On June 4, the first four refugees – three Iranians and one Myanmar Rohingya – arrived in Phnom Penh and were provided with cash and villa-style accommodations. Australia hoped the move would encourage more asylum seekers to consider relocating to Cambodia.
“Cambodia does not respect the rights of refugees. The current Cambodian government has sent back to Vietnam and China refugees who had sought asylum in Cambodia. So I am very concerned for the fate of those refugees from Australia,” Mr. Rainsy told ABC news.
Cambodia: Opposition Senator arrested for Facebook post [Cambodia Daily - 15/8/15]
The Japanese government on Thursday said it would ask the World Trade Organization for a ruling on South Korea’s ban of Japanese seafood imports following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, after talks failed to reach a settlement. ... [Japan Today - 21/8/15]
Japan's Defence Attaché meets with Sri Lankan navy commander [Tamil Guardian – 20/8/15]
Congratulating Sri Lanka's new prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe on his party's election victory, China said "it stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to consolidate the traditional friendship, strengthen mutually-beneficial cooperation, and elevate China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperation partnership to a new level." ... [Tamil Guardian - 19/8/15]
Arrests of journalists do not mean media is being muzzled in Bangladesh, says home minister [BD News 24 - 19/8/15]:
... Sikdar went to police after getting death threats over his writings.
But when police refused to take his complaint, he wrote about the threat to his life and blamed, among others, Minister Hossain on Facebook.
He said the minister and the others would be responsible for his death.
A government lawyer in Faridpur filed a case against Sikdar late on Sunday, hours after his detention in Dhaka.
On Tuesday, journalist union leader Mahmud was arrested at Panthapath on his way to a pro-BNP citizens’ programme.
“He, too, has been arrested on specific charges,” the home minister said.
Mahmud has several cases over violence during protests, but the home minister could not specify he was arrested on what charges. ...
Militia say Kiev forces' grouping of troops in Donbas built up to 90,000
On Thursday, August 20 the grouping of pro-Kiev armed units in eastern Ukraine totaled 90,000 men and officers, 450 tanks, 203 salvo artillery units, and five Tochka-U missile complexes, Eduard Basurin, a top official at the Defense Ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic told the Donetsk News Agency.
The troops are concentrated in four sectors - Mariupol, Donetsk, Debaltsevo, and Luhansk.
"A total of five separate mechanized brigades, two separate tanks brigades, and air mobile brigade, an artillery brigade, and a salvo system brigade have been deployed ... to advance to Mariupol," the official, Eduard Basurin said. "All in all, this grouping has 22,500 men and officers, more than 130 tanks, more than 560 armored cars, fifty-five salvo artillery units, about 200 artillery guns and mortars, and about 720 antitank weapons."
According to the data available to the Defense Ministry, the pro-Kiev forces have concentrated thirteen brigades one tank brigade, one air mobile, one artillery, one salvo system brigade and two air mobile brigades in the Donetsk sector. A brigade equipped with Tochka-U tactical missiles has also been deployed there.
As many as five separate mechanized brigades, a tank brigade, three artillery brigades, and a salvo system brigade are currently located in the Debaltsevo sector. This grouping has up to 19,500 men and officers, about 70 tanks, 45 salvo artillery systems, and about 230 artillery guns and mortars.
A grouping of four separate mechanized brigades, two artillery brigades and a salvo artillery system brigade is poised to advance towards Lugansk. It has a combined 18,000-strong manpower, about 60 tanks, about 530 infantry combat vehicles and/or armored personnel carriers, 30 multiple-launch (salvo) systems, close to 230 artillery guns and mortars and more than a thousand antimech weapons, Basurin said.
Reconnaissance data available to the DPR defense officials suggests the Ukrainian Army commanders have pooled a considerable reserve of forces consisting of two tank, four air mobile, three artillery brigades, one airborne and one salvo artillery system brigade.
More than two dozen civilians have been killed and scores of others injured after Saudi military aircraft launched a series of airstrikes in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta'izz.
Saudi fighter jets bombarded residential buildings in the Salh district of the province, situated approximately 350 kilometers (217 miles) south of the capital, Sana’a, late on Thursday, leaving 29 civilians, mostly women and children, dead, Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Ahed news website reported.
An unspecified number of people also sustained injuries in the airborne attacks.
Additionally, Saudi warplanes carried out three airstrikes against al-Ja’malah area in Yemen’s northwestern and mountainous province of Sa’ada. There were no immediate reports of possible casualties and the extent of damage inflicted. ... [Press TV - 21/8/15]
Afghan forces killed 118 "militants" in past two days [Khaama - 20/8/15]
Advisor to Chief Executive (CE) Officer has warned that with the help of international community Afghanistan will directly hit militants’ hideouts on the other side of Durand Line if Pakistan fails to dismantle terrorists’ sanctuaries. ... [Pajhwok - 20/8/15]
Pakistan military launches ground operation after conducting airstrikes killing 43 "militants" in tribal region [Yahoo - 20/8/15]
United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
US Department of Defense [20/8/15]:
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Airstrikes in Syria
Bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted eight airstrikes in Syria:
-- Near Hasakah, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL communications repeater and an ISIL staging area.
-- Near Aleppo, four airstrikes struck four ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.
-- Near Kobani, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL fighting position.
Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter and fighter-attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 21 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with the Iraqi government:
-- Near Rutbah, three airstrikes struck two ISIL staging areas and an ISIL vehicle bomb facility.
-- Near Beiji, two airstrikes struck two ISIL large tactical units and two ISIL buildings and destroyed 22 ISIL buildings and nine ISIL vehicles.
-- Near Makhmur, one airstrike struck one ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL checkpoints.
-- Near Mosul, five airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL bunker, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL tunnel entrance.
-- Near Ramadi, two airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL buildings and an ISIL armored personnel carrier.
-- Near Sinjar, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun.
-- Near Tuz, seven airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, two ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL staging area, an ISIL vehicle storage area an ISIL vehicle bomb.
@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [20/8/15]:
Dohouk: News agencies: Turkish warplanes renewed bombing on Birwari Bala area in Amediya district in Dohouk province which is located near the border of Turkey today...................
Baghdad: News agencies/security source : A person was killed and 8 wounded as a roadside bomb exploded near popular cafe in Mashtal area in east of Baghdad today evening................
Baghdad: News agencies:10 persons were either killed or wounded as a roadside bomb exploded near popular market in Abu Ghreib ditrsict in west of Baghdad.................
Baghdad: News agencies/security source: A policeman was killed and three wounded as a roadside bomb exploded targeting their patrol in Wihda neighbourhood in south of Baghdad today noon.....
Diyala: News agencies: 3 persons were either killed or wounded as a roadside bomb exploded in Muqdadiya district in northern east of Ba'aquba....................
Iraqi Citizen [VIDEO]: A government that comes in the name of democracy is a government of colonisation that has destroyed agriculture, industry and everything in the country.
Basra: The demonstrators have attached Abadi's photo to waste container because he has visited Basra to support international oil companies not to respond to the demands of the protesters.....
Israeli army attacks Syrian town after "alleged" rocket attacks [Al Jazeera - 20/8/15]
Aussie arselickers beg Uncle Sam to be included in the bombing of Syrian civilians as embassy posts details of Picnic at Hanging Rock screenings.
Australian drone pilots begin killing Syrians remotely from Nevada [Sydney Morning Herald - 14/8/15]
Pratap Chatterjee, Is Drone Warfare Fraying at the Edges? [Tomdispatch.com - 5/3/15]:
… Back in the United States, a combination of lower-class status in the military, overwork, and psychological trauma appears to be taking its mental toll on drone pilots. During the Vietnam War, soldiers would desert, flee to Canada, or even “frag” -- kill -- their officers. But what do you do when you’ve had it with your war, but your battle station is a cubicle in Nevada and your weapon is a keyboard?
Is it possible that, like their victims in Pakistan and Yemen who say that they are going mad from the constant buzz of drones overhead and the fear of sudden death without warning, drone pilots, too, are fleeing into the night as soon as they can? Since the Civil War in the U.S., war of every modern sort has produced mental disturbances that have been given a variety of labels, including what we today call PTSD. In a way, it would be surprising if a completely new form of warfare didn’t produce a new form of disturbance. …
US Army General Martin E. Dempsey lectures Irish officers about warmongering Russians, Chinese, Iranians and the evils of the internet [US Department of Defense Media Release - 18/8/15]
... The US State Department urged Pyongyang to avoid provoking any further escalation and said it remained "steadfast" in its commitment to defending ally South Korea. North Korea's Kim Jong-Un puts frontline troops on war footing [Yahoo - 21/8/15]
As many as 80,000 U.S. and South Korean forces are taking part in the computer-generated Ulchi Freedom exercise, which simulates a response to a military invasion by the North. ... [VOA - 17/8/15]
The Republic of Korea – United States Combined Forces Command will conduct the annual exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2015 Aug. 17 to Aug. 28.
UFG is a routine and defense-oriented exercise designed to enhance CFC readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula. UFG is planned months in advance and it is not connected to any current world events. U.S. forces will join ROK military forces representing all services, and ROK government participants.
There are seven United Nations Command Sending States scheduled to participate in UFG 2015, including Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. In addition, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission will monitor the exercise to ensure it is in compliance with the Armistice Agreement. ... Australia participates in another provocative military exercise with the United States [USFK Media Release - 14/8/15]
… There is no "migrant" crisis in the Mediterranean.
There is a very large number of refugees fleeing unimaginable misery and danger and a smaller number of people trying to escape the sort of poverty that drives some to desperation. …
Barry Malone is an online editor at Al Jazeera [20/8/15]
Pro-active search and rescue essential to save lives [MSF – 21/8/15]:
In the past 100 days, Médecins Sans Frontières has contributed significant resources to saving lives on the Mediterranean Sea and has rescued 11,482 people at risk of drowning through its search and rescue operations onboard the Bourbon Argos, Dignity I and MY Phoenix (the latter operated in partnership with MOAS).
Since operations began on 2 May, Médecins Sans Frontières has encountered many boats dangerously close to sinking, where lives have only been saved because the rescue boat was in the right place at the right time.
Médecins Sans Frontières’ rescue data shows that almost all rescues occur in two main areas off the Libyan coast near Tripoli and Zuwara.
The search and rescue vessels operated by Médecins Sans Frontières and MOAS focus their entire attention on patrolling these waters proactively, with the sole mission of rescuing people from boats in distress.
This is not the case for many other vessels involved in search and rescue efforts which have other mandates to fulfill and are not stationed in this area unless specifically called upon for an operation by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC). In 2014, commercial vessels carried out 40% of all rescues, but recent attacks on commercial ships off the Libyan coast have meant that captains are now reluctant to enter this area for security reasons.
“Increasingly, we see that we are required to carry out multiple rescues from multiple boats within a matter of hours”, said Lindis Hurum, Médecins Sans Frontières Emergency Coordinator on board of the Bourbon Argos.
“Our teams have also encountered boats with people who had already died from dehydration or asphyxiation during the journey. To me this suggests that despite the EU response supposedly being ‘bigger and better’ than last year, there are not enough boats available and in the right spot to adequately respond to the needs of those crossing the Mediterranean.”
@MSF_Sea [20/8/15]: Ibrahim worked for MSF on malnutrition in Darfur. It was very emotional to meet him again after rescuing him at sea.
Athens accommodation site opens for new arrivals in Greece [UNHCR Media Release – 20/8/15]
UNHCR welcomes the joint Franco-British declaration to address the situation in Calais [Media Release – 20/8/15]
... these acts of inhumaneness aren’t happening in a battlefield. These are not unsystematic or all of a sudden random acts of individual or communal violence in their very ‘nature of occurrence’—but are precisely methodical, systematic and state-backed executions of unprecedented cruelty and cold-bloodedness, being manifested in Burma, ‘every-night-and-every-day, in an unceasing way’.
“These longsuffering ‘stateless’ and ‘restless’ entities—the Rohingyas and their desperate children—are on their knees before the collective conscience of the world—the international community—the UN, the governments and the entire humanity.”
“These glimmering flowers are being reduced and converted to dusky coffins, floating on the Andaman Sea.” ... SAARC-ASEAN academics observe World Humanitarian Day - 19/8/15]
Channel News Asia [20/8/15]:
Myanmar's parliament passed two controversial bills proposed by hardline Buddhist nationalists, MPs said on Thursday, completing a package of legislation that activists fear will curb religious freedoms as anti-Muslim tensions fester.
The bills regulating religious conversion and polygamy were approved by parliament on Thursday, according to a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition, who said his party had voted against the proposed legislation over fears that it was detrimental to human rights.
"The bills were approved by parliament. We are just minority party, so things do not always happen like we suggest," National League for Democracy MP Win Myint told AFP.
Full details of their content have yet to be released but the legislation was proposed by radical monks who have risen to prominence in recent years, claiming that the majority Buddhist religion is under threat.
Their influence has grown in tandem with simmering anti-Muslim sentiment that has occasionally spilled into waves of deadly bloodshed.
While there were scant details on the bills, the polygamy law reportedly includes a provision to criminalise extra-marital affairs, while the conversion law will apparently make it harder for people to change religion.
Two other bills that campaigners say are an affront to women's rights and religious freedoms, curbing inter-faith marriage and family size, have also been approved in recent months.
They come as Myanmar prepares for crucial Nov 8 elections that are seen as a key test of its democratic transition after decades of military rule.
David Mathieson of watchdog Human Rights Watch said the legislation "champions an ultra-nationalist agenda" and could fuel religious instability. "This could be used in the lead up and after the election to crack down on religious minorities," he said.
Nationalist monk Wirathu welcomed parliament's decision on Thursday. "All citizens are safe if we have these laws. They are very important for peace and national security," he told AFP.
The monk has earned international notoriety for his firebrand speeches, including calling the UN rights envoy Yanghee Lee a "whore" earlier this year over her advocacy for the rights of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Buddhist Women's Special Marriage bill, which was approved by parliament in July, is the most controversial of the bills and has not yet passed into law.
A draft published in December laid out a web of rules governing marriage between Buddhist women and men of other faiths. It included a rule that the couple must apply to local authorities for permission to marry. Failure to comply was punishable by a two-year jail term.
Population control legislation, allowing regional governments to introduce regulations to lower birth rates became law after receiving presidential approval in May.
The European Union last month warned that taken together the legislation could "undermine the transition towards national reconciliation and an open democratic society".
... Myanmar authorities began collecting temporary identification documents from minority groups, mainly the displaced Rohingya in western Rakhine state, in April -- a move which takes away their voting rights. ... [Yahoo - 20/8/15]
... Elsewhere in Asia, Woodside said preparations are underway to drill the Hongge-1 well offshore South Korea and the Shwe Yee Htun well offshore Myanmar in the fourth quarter of this year. Woodside's 1H 2015 Net Profit After Tax Falls 39% to $679M on Lower Revenue [Rigzone - 19/8/15]
Students who made Holocaust jokes on Facebook have apologised after the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) contacted their schools. ... [Australian Jewish News - 20/8/15]
Judges will reopen a hearing into whether to take action against Kenya over allegations it obstructed investigations into its President Uhuru Kenyatta, after an appeals court ordered them on Wednesday to reconsider their rejection of the case.
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused Nairobi last year of failing to send in evidence linked to charges Kenyatta orchestrated a wave of deadly violence after 2007 elections.
He denied the charges and the case collapsed. The prosecution asked judges to refer Kenya to the United Nations, which could impose sanctions, or the court's overseeing body. ... [Reuters - 19/8/15]
New Matilda lays bare Labor for Refugees' shallow cynicism [New Matilda - 24/7/15]:
... Speaking to New Matilda today, Co-Convenor of Labor for Refugees Shane Prince, refused to confirm whether the group would even move a motion calling on the party to take an anti-turn back stand.
Instead, Prince argued that as turn backs were a breach of international law the party platform was in fact already opposed to them. The draft platform prepared for the conference says Labor will treat asylum seekers in accordance with Australia’s international obligations.
“Something we have to weigh up is whether we have to move such a motion to make something abundantly clear which we say is already abundantly clear,” Prince said.
“We’re not in the business of moving motions just for the sake of doing it. What we do not want to do, for obvious reasons, is to move a motion that then fails.
“Because that will confuse the party, it will lead to internal divisions on an ongoing basis, and it will be used as an argument to say that the platform allows turn backs and we say it doesn’t. We don’t want division within the party.” ...
Australian media, human rights establishment and lawyers associations MUTE.
Evidently they're more interested in partisan point scoring for the ALP than rights and justice for refugees on Manus and Nauru?
"Failed" Manus refugee forcibly returned to Iran in unjust process, or was he? [Guardian - 21/8/15]:
Friends in #Manus. Please remember that Immigration lies. We don't know yet if ***** was deported. PNG immigration have to show documents to the PNG High Court tomorrow to show where he is. If he is in Iran Immigration have to show documents to prove if he was deported or signed to go voluntarily. We will tell you after court tomorrow. Please tell someone who is in contact with Ben Lomai your full name and ID if you are negative especially if you have a removal notice. via Refugee Rights Action Network WA [20/8/15]
Papua New Guinea has forcibly returned an asylum seeker to Iran, even as a court case was under way to stop his removal.
The 27-year-old man – whose name Guardian Australia has chosen not to publish – had been held on Manus Island for more than two years.
He was removed from the detention centre’s Oscar compound last Thursday and put in solitary confinement.
The man deported is one of more than 300 asylum seekers for whom Lomai is acting.
“I am very disappointed, very angry, that this is being done in this covert way. The government should be dealing with these asylum seekers in a manner which is transparent and fair, not secretly deporting them,” Lomai said.
“The case is already on foot, the government should respect the process.”
The PNG constitution guarantees “liberty of the person”, “right to freedom of movement” and “freedom from inhuman treatment”, as well as the right of access to PNG courts and to a lawyer.
Lomai argues asylum seekers have been denied these fundamental rights, and the state is required to release the men and compensate them.
He said the government’s decision to deport a man while his case was under way could be in contempt.
The case continues before the PNG Supreme Court on Friday.
21 August 2015