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Posts Tagged ‘Amnesty International’

Most slum dwellers lack titles to the land they live on

Posted by African Press International on October 8, 2013

Most slum dwellers lack titles to the land they live on and, are often faced with the risk of forced evictions

NAIROBI,  – Development projects such as new roads, or dams to boost electricity production, must ensure that the human rights of those evicted are not trampled, say campaigners, who are urging international donors to do more to insist that those affected receive adequate compensation and protection.

Population growth, urbanization and pressure on the land could make such evictions more common in Africa in the future, hence the need for a strictly implemented legal code, they say.

In a report released today, Amnesty International (AI) estimates that a quarter of the 12,000 residents of Deep Sea, an informal settlement in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, face eviction without compensation over the construction of a link road.

“Our families have lived in Deep Sea for years, but recently, we just saw government surveyors come here and they told us a road will pass through our residences. We are living in fear because we haven’t been consulted, and we don’t know when they will come to do the evictions,” Diana Angaya, who has lived in Deep Sea for the past 25 years, told IRIN.

“We are not against the road, but we are asking that those who are affected are provided with alternative land to settle.”

The Kenya Urban Roads Authority is in the process of finding a firm to build the 17km road, which will cost 27 million euros. It is hoped the European Union (EU) will fund 65 percent of the project.

In a separate incident in Nairobi in May some 400 families were evicted from the Carton City informal settlement near Wilson Airport, after a private educational institution laid claim to the land on which they were living. The eviction was carried out by hired youths under the supervision of the police.

“Development organizations like the EU which is funding the bypass expected to pass through the Deep Sea settlement in Nairobi where poor people face evictions must ensure that they pressure the government to respect human rights and uphold the basic standards on evictions as is enshrined in international laws,” Iain Byrne, head of AI’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, told IRIN.

“They have the leverage to ensure governments which they fund, including that of Kenya, uphold human rights including when doing evictions for development projects.”

“Amnesty International is concerned that the EU is not sufficiently engaged with the process for mitigating potential negative impacts of the road construction project and ensuring that the project is implemented in a manner that respects and protects human rights,” said the AI report.

“The absence of explicit policy guidelines for ensuring that projects such as Missing Link 15B do not result in human rights violations is a serious shortcoming and further heightens the organization’s concern. The EU and its member states have a responsibility to ensure that they do not support projects that cause or contribute to human rights violations,” it added.

In a statement the EU said: “Kenyan authorities will implement a comprehensive and transparent Resettlement Action Plan for people currently living or operating businesses within the project area, and that this will include `fair and legally compliant compensation’.”

Kenya’s Resettlement Action Plan, which documents how those affected will be resettled, only stipulates that transport away from the area where they currently reside will be free. Deep Sea residents appear not to have been consulted.

In Ethiopia, a World Bank inspection panel called for investigations into a World Bank funded villagization project after reports that it had violated the bank’s policies regarding respect for human rights. The project involved the forced relocation of some 1.5 million Ethiopians, including indigenous and other marginalized peoples, and has been marred by violence.

Corruption, weak laws

Experts like Aggrey Nyange, an urban planning lecturer at the University of Nairobi, told IRIN that while it is incumbent upon donors and/or governments to protect the poor against forced evictions, there is a need for countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia to enact laws that protect evictees.

International development organizations could be reluctant to call for respect for rights in evictions because they might be expected to go out of their way to pay the compensation money,” said Nyange, adding that even in cases where there are agreements between the funding organization and the recipient government on the need to follow due process, many African governments might not be honest in their dealings.

“At times a donor agency will say, you have to consult the affected community, but governments will simply send officials in the area to bulldoze the poor and claim full consultations happened. The only sure way is to enact laws to outlaw forced evictions,” he said.

According to Justus Nyangaya, head of AI in Kenya, while certain evictions are legally justified, forced evictions required legal frameworks setting out how they should be carried out.

“Some of those evictions happen following a court order and such orders have to be obeyed, but the police must do them according to the law. Such a law guiding them must be in place and put into consideration internationally accepted standards of carrying out evictions,” Nyangaya, said.

In past evictions in Kenya only those with title deeds to the land they lived on received any government compensation.

ko/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Kenya: “Police reforms are vital and it would be disastrous if they were diluted at the 11th hour,” said Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa Sarah Jackson

Posted by African Press International on September 27, 2013

  • BY PETER  MUKABI (RADIO PRESENTER SAHARA FM KENYA)

Human rights violations will worsen if the Government persists with attempts to amend key laws that regulate the police, a watchdog has warned.

Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday said proposed amendments by Inspector-General David Kimaiyo to the reform package, which has been approved by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku, will weaken it and eliminate safeguards that regulate the force.

“Police reforms are vital and it would be disastrous if they were diluted at the 11th hour,” said Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa Sarah Jackson.

“The police have been acting as if they are above the law for years and the Government must honour the commitments it made after the post-election violence and carry through these reforms,” she added.

The National Police Service (Amendment) Bill 2013 and National Police Service Commission (Amendment) Bill 2013, which are meant to clarify the responsibilities of the IG and National Police Service Commission, give the Inspector-General more powers.

The Bills are likely to be tabled in Parliament this week. However, Amnesty has warned this would put the powers of the police boss at greater risk of political interference.

The police boss will not be obliged to act on the recommendations of an oversight authority if the Bills pass.

The NPS Act required the police boss to act on the recommendations of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.

However, that section has been deleted in the proposed amendments. “This really is a case of one step forward, two steps back. What promised to be a badly needed shake-up is unlikely to deliver on the key goal of a professional and accountable police service,” said Mrs Jackson.

She said the amendments would affect the independence of the IG as the police boss would be appointed by the President and Parliament.

The Bills also seek to allow police to use firearms to protect property and to stop someone charged with a serious crime from escaping or stop anyone helping them to escape, a proposal which has alarmed AI.

“These additional grounds are contrary to international standards on use of force and may facilitate unlawful killings,” said Mrs Jackson.

Kenyan police have been on spotlight since the 2007/8 post-election violence despite the amendment.

 

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Parliamentary polls in Togo. The ruling party’s victory could stifle reforms, analysts warn

Posted by African Press International on August 15, 2013

Parliamentary polls in Togo. The ruling party’s victory could stifle reforms, analysts warn

LOME,  – Togo’s July legislative polls extended the dominance of President Faure Gnassingbé’s party, which has been in power since 1967, despite opposition claims of malpractice. These results could narrow the chances for reforms and presage the results of the 2015 presidential election, analysts say.

The ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party broadened its parliamentary majority, winning 62 of 91 seats in the 25 July vote, which had been repeatedly postponed. The often divided opposition cried foul, but the constitutional court confirmed the outcome.

The small West African country has seen persistent protests since Gnassingbé’s 2010 re-election – which the opposition also said was flawed – and an increase in political violence. Last year, security forces clamped down on a series of opposition demonstrations.

“The ruling party’s majority win re-emphasizes, one time too many, the overwhelming grip of the Gnassingbé family in Togo,” said Kamissa Camara, a West Africa political analyst.

The Gnassingbé family has “consolidated power through manipulation, corruption schemes, terror, etc… and have managed to control key institutions, which should in practice be totally independent from the state. This has created a totally biased and unfair democratic playing field, which translates into the way the country is run,” Camara told IRN.

Opposition fears

Gnassingbé came to power in 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who had ruled Togo for 38 years. The army-backed succession sparked deadly unrest and international condemnation that forced him to step down and call elections, which he then won.

An ensuing political tension necessitated dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party, which resulted in a broad political accord that included a consultative platform for political and other reforms as well as a truth commission over the poll violence and other past atrocities. Most of the truth commission’s recommendations have not yet been implemented.

“The ruling party’s victory is merely a sign of continuity. I don’t believe it adds anything to the country’s democracy. There is no progress for Togo’s democracy, and the election disputes only add to the country’s fragility,” said Aimé Tchamie, Amnesty International’s director in Togo.

Opposition coalition Let’s Save Togo (‘Collectif Sauvons le Togo’ – CST), which won 19 seats in last month’s elections, and other groups led protests in 2012 to press for reforms, key among them a presidential term limit as well as electoral and other institutional changes.

Days to the July elections, the opposition and the government reached a deal that included opposition representation in the electoral body, party funding and the release of detained opposition members, but the accord came too late to have a meaningful effect on the opposition’s electoral chances.

“The July legislative elections basically shattered all hopes for serious constitutional and institutional reforms to take place within the short-to-medium terms.”

“The strategy of going for elections first and later undertak[ing] constitutional and institutional reforms, as called for in the 2006 political agreement, leads one to believe that the government is taking advantage of [the] parliamentary majority to block reforms it doesn’t like,” said Magloire Kuami Kuakuvi, a Togolese academic and human rights specialist.

“Redrawing the voting zones is the minimum of reforms before legislative polls. It is ironic that with just 70,000 votes, UNIR won 62 seats against 25 taken by the CST and Arc-en-ciel [another opposition group] combined,” Kuakuvi explained.

Amnesty International’s Tchamie noted that Lomé, the capital city, is home to a fifth of the country’s six million people and has 10 deputies while certain upcountry constituencies with 50,000 people have three members of parliament.

“With 62 [ruling party] members, it will be difficult to adopt constitutional reforms because the president will want to consolidate power with this majority. That is what is likely,” Michel Goeh-Akué, a lecturer at the University of Lomé, told IRIN.

Togo has no presidential term limits and the president is elected in a single round of voting with no run-off – a provision that makes it possible to be elected even without garnering the majority.

“A series of constitutional and institutional reforms are indeed needed for Togo to join the cohort of democratic states,” Camara said. “The July legislative elections basically shattered all hopes for serious constitutional and institutional reforms to take place within the short-to-medium terms.”

She argued that Gnassingbé remains the strongest candidate for the 2015 presidential race. “It will be quasi-impossible for another candidate to be elected to the presidency. Indeed, Faure has not shown any indication that he would be willing to step down and let the elections take place without him.”

Rights abuses

Human rights groups and other observers have also denounced violations of freedoms such as arbitrary arrests, widespread torture, and restrictions on political gatherings and the right to free expression.

“UNIR’s parliamentary majority is not very reassuring for press freedom in Togo. This government was repressive and voted laws that curbed liberties,” said Maxime Domégn, the secretary general of Togo’s independent journalists’ union, citing the raiding and closure of a private radio station on 25 July.

Tchamie said: “We remain concerned about human rights in Togo. Many opposition leaders are still in detention.”

The analysts called for a stronger engagement by the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) in Togo to help implement reforms agreed in 2006.

“We are worried that this [political] tension may persist up to the 2015 elections. International actors should not wait up to 2014 to help start a political dialogue [between the opposition and the ruling party],” said Tchamie.

“For democratic development and progress to occur, actors need to be renewed on a regular basis. The Togolese regime is a dilapidated one. I believe the ECOWAS involvement in the Togolese decade-long political crisis has been so far very timid and could certainly become more forceful,” Camara noted.

ob/ai/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Lives being destroyed inBlue Nile State, Sudan – AU and the UN expected lead by example

Posted by African Press International on June 13, 2013

Lives destroyed (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – The UN and the African Union must step forward and take decisive action to stop Sudan from committing war crimes against civilians in Blue Nile State, says a new Amnesty International report, dismissed as “false” by Khartoum.

“There has been no acknowledgement by the [UN] Security Council of the fact that Sudan is carrying out indiscriminate aerial bombardment. They need to press Sudan to stop,” Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, told IRIN.

He said the international community had a responsibility to press Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted President Omar al Bashir and six others over crimes committed in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Impunity

“Much of what we are seeing in Blue Nile and South Kordofan follows a similar pattern to the Darfur conflict and Sudan’s decades-long conflict with South Sudan. The people responsible for government policy in those conflicts – President Bashir, Defence Minister Abdel Rahman Hussein and Ahmad Harun, who is now [the] Southern Kordofan governor – are still in charge, and unless the ICC’s arrest warrants are implemented, there is little deterrence for present crimes,” he said.

The conflict in Blue Nile State is closely linked to – and started soon after – the 2011 conflict in South Kordofan between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese government. The SPLM-N objects to the marginalization of the region’s people and delays in “popular consultations” to determine the future of the two states; these consultations had been agreed to in 2005 under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement(CPA).

More than 200,000 people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have fled into South Sudan and Ethiopia, according to the UN. The fighting has displaced or severely affected some 275,000 people in government-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and another 420,000 in rebel-held areas, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Amnesty’s new report – “We had no time to bury them”: War Crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State – contains new satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas of the state that allegedly prove that the Sudanese Armed Forces has used scorched-earth tactics to expel the civilian population.

Scorched earth tactics

“The Ingessana Hills, the birthplace of rebel leader Malik Agar, have been particularly hard hit. During the first half of 2012, the Sudanese government carried out a deliberate scorched earth campaign of shelling, bombing and burning down civilian villages in the area, and forcibly displacing many thousands of people. Some civilians who were unable to escape were burned alive in their homes; others were reportedly shot dead,” the report states, adding that “now, the only signs of life in these villages are Sudanese military positions”.

Amnesty urged the Sudanese government to “immediately cease indiscriminate aerial bombings and deliberate ground attacks on civilian areas” and “initiate prompt, effective and impartial investigations into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

In a statement to the government-run Sudan News Agency, SAF spokesperson Col Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said Amnesty’s allegations were “false and lacking evidence”.

The statement said the “reality of the situation on the ground” contradicted Amnesty’s report, which it said was geographically inaccurate, out of date and lacking in “scene of the crime” evidence.

This was because “there was no scene of the alleged crime” the statement cited Saad as saying, adding that the Sudanese military had in fact provided security to citizens and farmers in Blue Nile to protect their harvests.

Rebel-held areas are cut off from humanitarians (file photo)

Media reports indicated that on 11 June, Sudan’s oil ministry ordered oil companies to block the export flow of South Sudanese oil on orders from al-Bashir over South Sudan’s alleged support of the SPLM-N. The government of South Sudan denies any support to the rebels.

Matthew Leriche, a Sudan expert who visited Blue Nile in December 2012 and says he found civilians there “living in constant fear”.

“The most apparent [crime] is the use of what is essentially a terror campaign to freeze the population and render them unable to take care of the basics of daily life. This terror campaign is causing persistent hunger and suffering and has been the direct cause of displacement of populations and prevented people from returning to their homes,” he told IRIN in an email. “This massive displacement appears to be a clear tactic, that is to clear any peoples in any way connected to opposition groups from Sudan.”

He added: “The rudimentary nature of these aerial bombers – basically rolling makeshift explosive devices out the back – means the targeting must be of a general nature. That is to say, they are dropping them on populated areas and any areas with any buildings; this means schools, markets, and such. This kind of indiscriminate attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty’s Gallopin said they had noted some violations by SPLM-N, especially the use of refugee camps to forcibly recruit men into their ranks and to divert food aid, but “the scale of the crimes committed by the Sudanese government can be considered war crimes and might be crimes against humanity”.

In May, Valerie Amos, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, said she hoped direct talks between the government and the SPLM-N would “resume soon and that they will lead to a resolution of the conflict so that people can return to their homes and start to rebuild their lives”.

Demanding peace, access

Leriche says the AU and UN should demand that Khartoum abide by its existing obligations under the CPA. “There was a clear agreement that has been consistently flouted by the government in Khartoum. As key guarantors of the CPA, the UN and AU need to press Khartoum to stop accosting and terrorizing its own people,” he said.

“A transformation of the state, as the CPA should have brought about, is what is needed for there to be real peace. The various opposition political parties and groups have to be allowed to be a part of the power structure in Khartoum, and people need to be allowed to live without consistent attack and harassment,” he added. “As a minimum starting point, the government should allow humanitarian access not just to areas it controls but to the entire state.”

As the conflict continues, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain without access to humanitarian support. An August 2012 Memorandum of Understanding among the Khartoum government, the SPLM-N, and a tripartite mediation group of the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States and the UN failed to secure safe passage of relief supplies to areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the rebels.

The Amnesty report noted that in the interim, and as a matter of urgency, UN agencies and international agencies needed to be allowed access to civilian populations in need in all areas of Blue Nile “to facilitate the provision of all necessary assistance to civilians affected by the conflict, including food, shelter and medical care”.

kr/aei/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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