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Archive for May 16th, 2013

Norway: Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime – Minorities under Pressure in Europe and Beyond

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2013

“The final Chair’s Summary of Conclusions from the Oslo Conference on Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime: Minorities under pressure in Europe and beyond, which took place in Oslo 14-15 May 2013.”

Based on the discussions at the Oslo Conference on “Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime: Minorities under Pressure in Europe and Beyond” (14-15 May 2013), which brought together more than 150 representatives from over 25 European countries and 70 organisations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, UN special rapporteurs and independent experts, members of national human rights institutions, academics, and representatives of civil society organisations and minority groups, we present the following summary of conclusions:

1. We reaffirm the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, and as reflected in the international human rights conventions, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights;

2. We further reaffirm the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 and resolution 22/6 on protecting human rights defenders, the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality as well as the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, which have provided a solid foundation on which to build a framework for addressing manifestations of hatred while protecting fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression;
3. We welcome the positive and necessary steps taken in all regions to address right-wing extremism, hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance against minorities, including efforts to study, analyse and document such incidents, legal reforms, trust-building, public awareness and sensitivity campaigns, as well as the provision of support for activities aimed at protecting and promoting the fundamental rights of minorities, and to respond to hate speech with open and inclusive debates;
4. We express deep concern at the right-wing extremism, hate crime and hate speech directed towards minorities in Europe and beyond, and we are alarmed by the continued serious instances of derogatory stereotyping and stigmatisation of different minority groups, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about minorities, in particular when ignored or even condoned by governments and political leaders;

5. We also express concern about the current situation in Europe, which remind us of the links between economic crisis, unemployment, and political and social instability, and we encourage States, when adopting coping-strategies, to enhance levels of trust and inclusiveness and to build upon broader definitions of identity, according to which, inter alia, political, ideological, cultural and/or religious affiliation would not be mutually exclusive, neither at the individual level nor as a community;
6. States, international organisations and other stakeholders should take effective measures to address and combat hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance. States should in this regard allocate adequate resources, as well as swiftly investigate and effectively sanction such incidents, and provide access to justice and the right to remedy when appropriate, while at the same time fulfilling their obligations under international human rights law to respect, protect and promote fundamental rights and freedoms, including protection against violence and discrimination, of all persons without distinction;
7. States should in a coherent manner enact legislation to combat and prevent intolerance, discrimination and violence against minorities, including through the Internet and social media, while at the same time safeguarding other fundamental rights, particularly the freedom of expression and opinion;
8. Any related legislation should be complemented by sustained and wide-ranging efforts to tackle the root causes and various facets of intolerance, especially in the educational field, as we recognise that the problems of right-wing extremism, discrimination and negative stereotyping of minorities are deeply rooted in socio-economic and political factors;
9. States should provide the mechanisms and institutions needed to guarantee the systematic and recurrent collection and analysis of standardised, comparable and comprehensive data on the nature, extent and trends, as well as challenges and opportunities pertaining to extremism, hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance against minorities, in order to ensure informed public debates as well as decision- and policy-making based on sufficient and reliable information;
10. We call upon civil society organisations to contribute to the monitoring and reporting of incidents of discrimination and hate crime against minority groups, and to make use of their position to stand up and act as a voice for victims of hate crimes, through serving as intermediaries with the authorities, and providing practical assistance, such as legal advice, counselling and other services, while at the same time invite and meet opponents with tolerance and respect for democratic principles. States should provide the legal and political framework conducive for civil society organisations to carry out the afore mentioned activities;
11. We encourage States and other stakeholders to adopt positive and preventive measures, inter alia, by nurturing social consciousness, tolerance and understanding through education, training, social dialogue and awareness-raising about human rights, other cultures and religions, and the value of diversity:

a. States should, in cooperation with civil society actors and representatives of various minority groups, develop educational and awareness-raising programmes to inform the population at large about the situation of different minorities and their human rights, while at the same time strengthening the voice of members of minority groups;
b. States, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations should in consultation with different minority groups further encourage, support and facilitate intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, in order to foster mutual respect, trust and understanding;
c. States and other stakeholders should further promote media literacy and make use of the opportunities presented by the Internet and social media to promote equality, non-discrimination and respect for diversity;
d. States should encourage and support platforms for debate, partnerships and the dissemination of knowledge between policymakers, civil society organisations, media organisations and other relevant experts and stakeholders in order to facilitate cooperation on emerging issues and opportunities, as well as exchange of best practices;
12. We further encourage States and political leaders to demonstrate consistent and inclusive leadership, and to develop and implement national action plans to combat discrimination, hate crime and related forms of intolerance targeting minorities, as national action plans are vital in providing a comprehensive and transparent approach and roadmap regarding national-specific issues, while at the same time establishing benchmarks against which progress might be measured both nationally and regionally;
13. We call upon governments, politicians, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to engage in debate on these issues through all possible channels, and in a clear and consistent manner to publicly condemn manifestations of hate in public discourse and acts of violence based on bias, as well as to refrain from making discriminatory statements.
14. We recommend that all media, in enacting their moral and social responsibility, and through ethical journalism and self-regulation, play a role in combating discrimination and in promoting cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and acceptance of differences in communities, including by considering the following:
a. Taking care to report in context and in a factual and sensitive manner, while ensuring that acts of discrimination are brought to the attention of the public;
b. Being alert to the danger of discrimination or negative stereotypes of individuals and groups being furthered by the media;
c. Avoiding unnecessary references to nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and other group characteristics that may promote intolerance;
d. Raising awareness of the harm caused by discrimination and negative stereotyping;
e. Reporting on different groups or communities in a balanced and inclusive manner;
f. Strive to ensure inclusive media, in ownership and organisation, in order to reflect the diversity of the society they serve.
15. We further recommend regional and international coordination and cooperation in the search for new and more effective measures to counter right-wing extremism, hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance, especially by;
a. Building on the good work of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union, and ensuring continued and enhanced engagement in this field through coordination and collaboration both between these regional organisations and with the United Nations;
b. Reaffirming the responsibility of the United Nations, particularly the UN Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, the UN special rapporteurs and independent experts and the treaty bodies to address human rights violations against all persons, regardless of their perceived or real nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion or belief, or any other status.
16. We all share the goal of working together towards a world where no-one faces violence or discrimination on any ground, and we commend the willingness of all stakeholders to participate in the discussions to this end, and look forward to working with all parties in an open, including and transparent manner to take concrete and practical steps to address violence and discrimination against different minorities, and to help ensure that those who face violence and discrimination are treated with equal dignity and with the fundamental respect to which all human beings are entitled.


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ICC: Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto addresses the Status Conference in the Hague

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2013

The Status Conference which was scheduled to take place Tuesday the 14th and 15th of May 2013 started with Ruto and Sang being Present in person in the Internationa Criminal Court.

Ruto has told the court that he is a victim of falsehood. This is not far from the truth because those who have come forward to witness against him have been promised incentives – money and high class lifestyles in Western rich countries, on condition they help the prosecution convict Deputy President Ruto.

Some of the witnesses, however, have started getting cold feet, withdrawing themselves from the witness list and revealing that they were induced.

On the Wednesday, the second day of the Status Conference both accused were not rewuired by the court to be present, so with the leave of the court, they were absent. Ruto had told the court that he had scheduled to be in the Hague only one day but that he had no problem attending the proceedings on the second day if the court so ordered.



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Corruption trumped building code: Need for “building-oriented disaster management”

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2013

Analysis: “Wake-up call” for Bangladesh’s building industry

Nothing natural about this disaster


  • Corruption trumped building code
  • Need for “building-oriented disaster management”
  • Business representatives to identify unsafe factories
  • Planning authority unclear

DHAKA,  – Corpses are still being recovered from Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster ever – a factory building collapse on 24 April that killed at least 600 workers near the capital. Government experts are scrambling to prevent a repeat.

“This is a wake-up call for us because a lot of construction is going on in Dhaka [the capital] and other cities, so we are definitely trying to find out the solution,” said Abdus Salam, a senior research engineer in the government’s Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI).

One government explanation for the accident is that shoddy construction combined with vibrations from inappropriately placed heavy machinery brought down the eight-story building, known as Rana Plaza, filled with hundreds of textile workers.

An early damage assessment (still unpublished) by NGO Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) conducted on the day of the collapse revealed how a building intended for retail merchants was being used for industrial purposes. It housed five garment factories that employed at least 3,000 workers and placed weight on the floors (including four huge electrical generators on the third and fourth floors) almost six times greater than the building was intended to bear. Support columns were erected haphazardly. Building materials and methods were below par.

Experts say the building was but one example of a broken system for authorizing, carrying out and monitoring construction; tens of thousands more buildings – and millions of people inside them – face the same fate, said Anisur Rahman, an urban planner with ADPC’s office in Bangladesh.

“We are looking at the foundation for a big disaster.”

Lack of clear planning authority

Legislation from the 1950s gave the Ministry of Housing and Public Works authority to regulate town planning, while a 2009 Municipality Act transferred that power to local governments. Since then each of the capital’s five municipalities (including Savar, the site of the industrial accident 30km outside Dhaka) has handled its own planning.

“It’s a management mess,” admitted K.Z. Hossain Taufique, an urban planner and director of town planning for the government’s Capital Development Authority, explaining how since the 1980s, as more businesses and people located in cities, responsibility for town planning has been divided between the Housing Ministry and the Ministry of Local Government, creating a patchwork of authorization – and leaving deadly gaps.

Unenforced building codes

The National Building Code from 1993 and building construction guidelines (2008) are rarely – at best weakly – enforced, say government experts. The UN’s highest official for disaster risk reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, called in 2012 for an update of the building code (a process then under way for one year) to protect the seismically active country from widespread devastation.

But Mohammed Abu Sadeque, director of the governmental Housing and Building Research Institute (which is spearheading the building code’s revision), said with the recent industrial disaster, the problem was not the code (which is “good enough” and “fairly safe and sound”), but rather its lack of enforcement.

Corruption and lack of integrity at all levels – from dishonest architects and engineers to profiteering owners and government officials – means “cutting corners” said Bashirul Haq, an architect in Dhaka who recently served on a government committee revising the building code.

“Dhaka has limited space. Developers are in this market for money and want to squeeze as much as they can into any space. Yes, we have a law, but who is implementing it?” he asked.

Police have arrested the building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, as well as the engineer who approved the building’s design.

Low professional standards

Haq has advocated a professional registry of architects and engineers to weed out unethical ones and to boost standards. “Design needs to be more rigorous, especially these days,” said the near-retiring architect, referring to the country’s high risk to natural disasters, as well as the steady pace of factory construction in cities.

The current process of signing off constructions as safe is haphazard and ill-informed, he added. Though companies should submit detailed plans to their local planning officials, which are then approved by an architect and engineer, mostly only rough sketches and outlines are required now, said Haq.

Local government may not have engineers or architects qualified to give approval, he added.

Death toll 616 and counting

“Overall, building-oriented disaster management needs strengthening,” he concluded. By shaving off 0.3 metre of a staircase’s width, designers can help prevent a stampede during an emergency as only two people are able to fit through at once, which is “only a detail, but an important one”, said Haq. Suggested revisions to the building code are now before parliament.

Poor land use

The building collapse highlighted the dangers of unplanned development, said ADPC’s Rahman. According to the 20-year Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan, effective until 2015, extra attention was to be paid to construction in Savar due to three fault lines that pass through the municipality, making it the “most severe” earthquake zone nationwide.

“That plan has essentially been ignored, something that everyone shares blame [for], starting with the `Rajuk’ [Capital Development Authority],” said Rahman.

But due to the 2009 Municipality Act, the Capital Development Authority cannot intervene in municipal planning, the group’s chairman, Nurul Huda, told IRIN. “If I were to come over [to Savar’s municipal government] asking questions about land use, they would ask me, ‘Who are you to come here?’”

He said his office has requested the Ministry of Housing and Public Works to “clarify the controversy” surrounding conflicting laws in an effort to regain control of the capital’s planning.

Also needed is a re-evaluation of ways to disperse industrial development to prevent over-construction in any one area, said Rahman. “There are vacant industrial zones to re-locate new factories,” he said, mentioning the southwestern city of Khulna (formerly a jute industrial zone) as one way to spread the risk of buildings collapsing in an earthquake.

Change interrupted

“Finding a regulatory body to prevent a similar tragedy – that is our goal,” said Salam with the Housing and Building Research Institute. He said proposals are circulating on boosting local officials’ expertise on construction standards and safety monitoring, as well as creating high-level district committees that will bring together architects, engineers, health officials and representatives from local government and the Ministry of Housing and Public Works.

Meanwhile, the Urban Development Directorate, part of the Housing Ministry, is seeking government approval to draft a national urbanization plan up to 2021 which would centralize planning power in the Housing Ministry once again.

The country’s Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association has asked garment factories in the capital to submit structural drawings, while the labour and employment minister is heading another committee to investigate factories outside the capital.

As of 2011, there were some 5,100 garment factories nationwide employing 3.6 million people, according to the trade organization.

The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology is supposed to conduct risk assessments to find the most vulnerable buildings in the capital. Halfway completed is a visual seismic assessment by the government’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme of some 400,000 buildings, also in the capital area.

Altogether, there are some 1.26 million residential and commercial structures there, according to the Capital Development Authority.

There are already some 5,000 cases against owners occupying unsafe buildings in Dhaka, but without court orders city officials have not been able to evict them, said the chairman, Huda. Since 2010, processing time has improved somewhat due to three mobile courts handling the backlog, he added.

Rahman from ADPC remains skeptical about pledges to reform the building industry. He heard similar promises following a 2005 commercial building collapse in Palash Bari (near the Savar disaster) that killed near 70 and left dozens more missing; a 2010 chemical explosion in a residential area of the capital caused by improperly stored chemicals, which killed 120; and most recently, a fire in a garment factory in November 2012 that killed at least 100.

But Dhaka’s development authority chairman, Huda, said efforts to change have been under way. Since 2010, his request for more engineers and architects has gone through six departments in three ministries for approval. “We hope to be able to recruit more experts soon.”

pt/cb  source


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