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Venezuela: ‘A worrying destabilizing factor in the region’, Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Venezuela: ‘A worrying destabilizing factor in the region’, Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Expressing deep concern at the “magnitude and gravity of the human rights impact” of Venezuela’s current crisis, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Wednesday that the country had become “a worrying destabilizing factor in the region.”

Amid a protracted crisis from a faltering economy, political instability and violent anti-Government demonstrations, a technical team of five OHCHR staff members are currently touring the country, which rights chief Michelle Bachelet, described as “a positive first step”.

She highlighted “dramatically” deteriorating “economic and social rights”, exacerbated by the recent electricity blackout and expressed concern about the “continued criminalization of peaceful protest and dissent”.

The UN rights chief cited reports of numerous violations and abuses by security forces and pro-Government armed groups, including the excessive use of force, killings, arbitrary detentions, torture, threats and intimidation.

She said her Office was continuing to investigate reports of “possible extrajudicial executions by security forces”, naming the Special Actions Force or FAES, as reportedly responsible for killing “at least 205 persons. A further 37 were reportedly killed in the course of January 2019 in Caracas”, she added.

“It appears that some of these killings have followed a similar pattern. They take place during illegal house raids carried out by the FAES, which subsequently reports the death as resulting from an armed confrontation – although witnesses report the victims were unarmed,” said Ms. Bachelet.

I am also concerned about increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and of the press in Venezuela,” she said, “and the allegations that the authorities have arbitrarily used the law against hatred, adopted in November 2017, to prosecute journalists, opposition leaders and anyone expressing dissenting opinions.”

Divisions are exacerbating an already critical situation” the rights chief said, arguing that there was “a need for common agreement on a political solution by all stakeholders, with actions to improve a wide range of urgent human rights issues. I call on the authorities to take steps to demonstrate their real commitment to addressing the many challenging issues reported across the country.”

Minimal progress on accountability in Sri Lanka

Turning to Sri Lanka, Ms. Bachelet said that despite progress on some issues, “there has been minimal progress on accountability” including on setting up a special judicial mechanism to deal with the worst crimes committed during the 2009 conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country.

“Continuing impunity risks fuelling communal or inter-ethnic violence, and instability”, she spelled out, calling for the establishment of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a vetting process to remove officers with questionable human rights records.

“This Council continues to have an essential role in accompanying the Government and people of Sri Lanka in their journey towards realizing the dignity, and rights of all members of society, irrespective of their sex, ethnic origin or belief”, she concluded.

A ‘glimmer of hope’ in Yemen’s ‘dire situation’

On Yemen, Ms. Bachelet noted that while the fragile ceasefire in Hudaydah presents “a glimmer of hope”, the situation across the rest of the country is “dire’.

More than 24 million people need aid, with 14.3 million in acute need, she told the Council. Moreover, basic resources have become “a luxury that few can afford”.

“Salaries of teachers, doctors, nurses and other public employees have gone unpaid for years” she stressed.

Meanwhile, “periodic airstrikes, shelling and landmines continue to kill and maim civilians” and children continue to be conscripted or enlisted into armed forces or groups, she added.

The UN rights chief expressed particular concern about a recent escalation of hostilities in Hajjah governorate, where preliminary reports indicate that 22 people were killed earlier this month and thousands of families displaced.

“All States, including those not involved in the armed conflict, have the obligation to take measures to ensure that parties to a conflict respect the Conventions”, she stated, calling “conditioning, limiting or refusing arms transfers” one such measure.

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iran human rights lawyer jailed for 38 years, say family

Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iran human rights lawyer jailed for 38 years, say family

A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in jail and 148 lashes in Tehran, her family say.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was charged with several national security-related offences, all of which she denies.
Rights groups strongly criticised the “shocking” sentence against the award-winning human rights activist.
Ms Sotoudeh is known for representing women who have protested having to wear the headscarf.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women’s rights and speaking out against the death penalty,” Philip Luther from Amnesty International said.
“It is utterly outrageous that Iran’s authorities are punishing her for her human rights work.”

Ms Sotoudeh’s husband confirmed her sentence on Facebook, after a brief phone conversation with her from prison, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Her lawyer said she was charged with spreading information against the state, insulting Iran’s supreme leader and spying.

Who is Nasrin Sotoudeh?

She is among at least seven human rights lawyers who were arrested in Iran last year.

Prior to her arrest in June, she represented a number of women arrested for appearing in public without a headscarf, or hijab – a punishable offence.

She reportedly faced nine charges in two trials – one was held without her being present. She has been given the long prison term and the sentence of lashes as a result.

Ms Sotoudeh is also a former political prisoner – she was jailed between 2010 and 2013 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security.

She denied those charges and while in prison the European Parliament gave her the Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought for her work representing opposition activists.

Armed Police Break Up Mozambique Children’s March

Armed Police Break Up Mozambique Children’s March

Authorities in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, shut down one march and initially blocked another in the latest onslaught against free expression in the country. On March 1, police officers armed with rifles disrupted a marchorganized by a local primary school to mark the city’s annual carnival. Four days later, the mayor of Maputo rejected plans for Mozambique’s leading women’s rights group, Forum Mulher, to march against domestic violence on International Women’s Day.

An organizer of Nyoxani Primary School’s children’s carnival told Human Rights Watch they had asked for police protection prior to their event, but after receiving no response from the mayor’s office, decided to proceed. To their surprise, as soon as the two lines of 300 children moved off the school premises, police vehicles blocked them. The school principal says an officer then produced a document stating the mayor had refused to authorize the march because it was taking place on a weekday and could cause “excessive noise.”

Meanwhile, Forum Mulher first wrote to the mayor’s office on February 12, requesting a police escort for their march. The reply, on March 4, said that the march could not take place during normal working hours because it could cause traffic congestion and excessive noise. But after criticism on social media, the mayor on March 7 – just a day before International Women’s Day – let the protest go ahead, without explaining his change of mind. 

The authorities’ heavy-handed approach comes weeks after police tried to stop a campaign against Mozambique’s secret debt, launched by the country’s anti-corruption group, CIP (Public Integrity Center). On January 21, police officers began confiscating campaign T-shirts of people leaving the CIP’s offices in Maputo, alleging they could “create agitation.”

Under Mozambican law, public marches do not need any authorization and only require local authorities to be notified four days prior to allow for police protection and traffic arrangements.

Stopping women and children from demonstrating not only violates people’s freedom of expression, but also shows how just repressive Mozambican authorities have become. 

Guatemala: Reject Amnesty for Atrocities

Guatemala: Reject Amnesty for Atrocities

(New York) – The Guatemalan Congress should comply with a March 12, 2019, Inter-American Court order to suspend consideration of legislation that would provide amnesty for genocide and other past atrocities, Human Rights Watch said today.

The proposed legislation would free dozens of military officials convicted of grave abuses and prohibit all future prosecutions of human rights crimes committed during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict, which ended in 1996. A UN-sponsored truth commission found that Guatemalan security forces had committed hundreds of massacres of civilians during the conflict, including acts of genocide. 

“The fight for justice in Guatemala has faced many obstacles over the years, but this amnesty for genocide might be the most brazen assault on the rule of law we’ve seen,” said Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director at Human Rights Watch. “If it approves this law, Congress will be violating Guatemala’s legal obligation to ensure justice for the worst atrocities and openly defying a binding order from the Inter-American Court.”

The proposed bill would amend the 1996 Law of National Reconciliation, which established that there would be no amnesty for genocide, torture, and forced disappearances. The Guatemalan Congress has already twice voted to advance the amnesty bill. A third and final vote is expected this week.

In a March 12 ruling, the Inter-American Court ordered Guatemala to shelve the proposed legislation. The ruling is legally binding on Guatemala.

Children with Disabilities in Kazakhstan Are Missing Out

Children with Disabilities in Kazakhstan Are Missing Out

Currently the majority of children with disabilities in Kazakhstan are excluded from mainstream schools, segregated into special schools or taught at home, isolated from their Communities. Philippa Stewart spoke to senior researcher Mihra Rittmann on why there aren’t more children with disabilities in mainstream schools, the progress Kazakhstan has made on the issue, and what more needs to be done.

Why did you focus on Kazakhstan for this report?

The Kazakh government has committed to improving education opportunities for children with disabilities, but so far we haven’t seen that commitment lead to meaningful change. We wanted to better understand why children with disabilities aren’t accessing the same education opportunities as their peers, to be able to provide concrete recommendations on ways the government can ensure all kids have the access to the inclusive education they deserve.

What commitments has the government made already?

Kazakhstan has pledged to make 70 percent of schools inclusive by 2019. It also ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2015. It’s an international treaty that requires Kazakhstan to change its own laws and practices to make sure the rights of people with disabilities are respected. The government has also taken some steps domestically to address the issue, for example, by increasing the number of special education teachers in some mainstream schools.

Why is inclusion important for children?

Inclusion in school is the first step to inclusion in society and to combatting discrimination. We talked to several parents whose children are in inclusive education, and all of them were very positive about their children learning and playing with other children, with and without disabilities. They talked about better communication skills and how children learn by watching each other. Even with the problems that exist, parents felt that being in an inclusive environment was having a positive impact on their children, and they were excited about that.

That all sounds great, so what are the problems?

For a start, not very many kids with disabilities are actually enrolled in mainstream inclusive schools.

A key barrier to inclusive education is a body of medical workers and education specialists, called Psychological-Medical-Pedagogical Consultations (PMPK), which I know is kind of a mouthful. The PMPK assesses kids with disabilities and makes recommendations about what kind of education they should get. Our research found that many children are still not able to access quality, inclusive education in mainstream schools, because PMPKs usually recommended home education or education in segregated schools for kids with disabilities.

Kids who are able to enroll in mainstream schools face other challenges, including physical accessibility and a lack of qualified staff. It’s not enough for Kazakh authorities to designate a school as “inclusive.” Children need to be able to access the individual supports they need to participate and succeed in school.

Tell me more about the PMPK?

Our concern is that these commissions are determining whether children have access to schools through a medical lens, rather than focusing on what supports each individual child would need to succeed in a mainstream school environment. The commission’s default position should be that kids belong in school. Sadly, and wrongly, it’s not. Instead, the commission currently serves as a gatekeeper, deciding whether a child can go to school in the first place, not what is needed to support them so they can go to school. That’s just not right.

The authorities should take a holistic approach when assessing a child’s abilities, and invite the perspectives of people who know the child well to determine what accommodations a child needs in order to go to school and get an education on an equal basis with others.

What are the assessments like?

Many parents described assessments as rushed, and in some cases superficial or even hostile. For example, experts only asked the child or parent a couple of questions or tried to see if children could do one simple task before making a determination. In an extreme case, one child was assessed for only about five minutes.  

We also heard that parents had to queue – sometimes for hours at a time – before they were seen by the commission, so there was chaos in the queue. The parents didn’t really have any way to engage their children, so by the time they were actually invited in to see the commission, the kids were agitated or tired. Their parents were concerned that affected the assessment.

There are other issues as well. There was a woman called Irina whose 10-year-old son Andrey has autism. He spent the first grade being taught at home. Irina told me ‘no one [at the PMPK] told us anything about inclusive education. [Had we known] we would have requested inclusive education for him, of course.’ Andrey is in mainstream school now, but it wasn’t even raised as an option in his first assessment.

Another mother told us that assessors would say insulting things like “He can’t do anything” in front of the children.

There is tacit acknowledgement that there are problems with the PMPKs, and the government is currently expanding the network of PMPKs. But that doesn’t get at the fundamental problem, which is that the PMPK takes a medicalized approach to assessing children with disabilities, and it serves as a barrier for accessing inclusive education.

What’s the underlying cause of these issues?

A comment that we’ve heard from a number of experts is that authorities don’t seem to understand what it means to access an inclusive education. That’s something I hope this report will help articulate, showing how the government can provide reasonable accommodations for children to be included in their communities, and in their neighborhood schools, to have the best prospects for their future.

There’s another problem in that historically in Kazakhstan, as part of the Soviet Union, children with disabilities were almost entirely hidden away from society. Kazakhstan is moving away from that attitude, which is incredibly important. But there’s still broad stigma.

What is being done to create change?

Parents are advocating to get the best for their children, including by fighting to get their kids into mainstream schools. It was really a privilege to meet parents all over the country who had organized groups to support their children, sometimes by setting up resource centers offering a range of services. A number of the parents we interviewed also spoke about how it was difficult to get basic information about their child’s disability from medical workers, and how they turned to other parents for information.

Did anyone you meet stand out to you?

There was one young man we interviewed who made a lasting impression. “Madiyar” was 23 when we talked to him. Madiyar has cerebral palsy and was home educated, which is not unusual for children with cerebral palsy in Kazakhstan. He didn’t come from economic privilege, but had parents and older siblings who made sure to include him in routine activities, like when they went out, for example. After he finished school, he decided he wanted to attend university, just like his siblings had. So, he did.

 
Christians in Kazakhstan Fined for Praying Without Permission

Christians in Kazakhstan Fined for Praying Without Permission

Anti-terrorism officers assisted by local police raided two Baptist house churches in Taraz, Kazakhstan, during worship services on Feb. 10 and 17, fining the worshippers for conducting prayers without government permission.

Three people were fined between one and two months’ worth of average wages and two other worshippers were also fined different amounts  The Express reported. 

Those attending the churches were warned against publicly practicing their faith – or risk further punishment. 
 
It’s the latest suppression of religious freedom in the former Soviet republic, according to the newspaper – and an example of the unrelenting crackdown on Christianity in the Muslim-majority country.

15th Annual Succession Management Conference

15th Annual Succession Management Conference

Succession Management Conference
NOVEMBER 05 – 06, 2019 | WESTIN NEW YORK AT TIMES SQUARE | NEW YORK, NY

About the Conference

Never in our history, has there been such an intense need for agile, high impact succession practices and methodologies. The world of work is changing faster than ever before. For the first time in history we have 5 generations in the workplace and technology and speed of change make it tough for CHROs to build succession into the organizational culture.

As organizations compete more intensely than ever for a shrinking global talent pool, robust succession planning is more vital than ever. For the 15th Annual Succession Planning Conference, we will focus on practical ways to execute succession planning in today’s complex environment to meet tomorrow’s business needs, ultimately elevating your organization’s ability to achieve integrated succession practices that deliver superior results.

Our emphasis this year will be on leveraging the complexity in our businesses to create a stronger talent bench. You will discover new and innovative approaches to succession planning, coupled with meaningful ways to bring them to life. Please join our thought leaders, companies, and your peers for this transformational look at the future of succession planning.


 Who Should Attend

SVPs, VPs, and Directors in the following groups responsible for succession management:

  • HR
  • Succession Management
  • Leadership Development
  • Talent and Global Talent Management
  • Training and Development
  • Employee Development
  • Diversity
  • Learning and Development
  • Workforce Planning
  • Executive Development
2nd Annual Human Capital Analytics Conference

2nd Annual Human Capital Analytics Conference

Human Capital Analytics Conference
OCTOBER 15 – 16, 2019 | WESTIN NEW YORK AT TIMES SQUARE | NEW YORK, NY

About The Conference

Increasingly businesses are relying on data and analytics when making decisions. This shift is having a profound impact on HR – it represents nothing short of a transformation of the practice of HR, it’s relationship with the business and the impact and influence that HR leaders can have on the business.

And while the field has grown in recent years, analysts now predict a rapid increase in activity in this area with greater investment of people and resources, but also higher expectations of the results.

This year’s event therefore will focus on three key areas:

  1. How to organize and grow the HCA function
  2. Examples of analytical interventions that have had an impact on the business
  3. Future trends, challenges and opportunities including the rising use of social analytics, sentiment analysis and AI as well as bias and employee privacy concerns

Who Should Attend

Vice President and Directors of:

  • Human Capital Analytics
  • HR Business Analysts
  • Workforce Analytics
  • HR Strategic Analytics
  • Human Resources and Global Human Resources
  • HRIS
  • HR Technology
  • Workforce Planning
  • Talent Management
  • Human Capital Data
  • Human Capital
Annual Sustainability Summit

Annual Sustainability Summit

How Corporate Superstars Generate Impact
JULY 16 – 17, 2019 | THE CONFERENCE BOARD | NEW YORK, NY

About the Summit

This is the year where sustainability shifts to an intense focus on impact. Companies will be judged according to their success in tangibly improving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) conditions. These rapidly intensifying expectations are coming from all quarters. Investors want to see real results. NGOs are getting increasingly impatient. The bold targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are just a little more than a decade away. The latest research from the IPCC makes an urgent call for action to reduce carbon emissions. Even CEOs and Boards expect to see impact that ties improved ESG performance to enhanced financial performance.

 

The 2019 Sustainability Summit will provide a unique opportunity for sustainability practitioners at leading companies to enjoy a safe space to learn how the best in the business are able to generate ESG impact. The Summit will enable peer-to-peer exchange and engagement with leading practitioners and subject matter experts to work in a collaborative way through the process of setting and achieving bold ESG goals, designing and delivering ambitious ESG programs, and measuring the benefits for society as well as the bottom line. The Conference Board’s Sustainability Summit will concentrate on key lessons and create sessions that enable attendees to learn and support one another.

The Summit will include presenters that have found ways to break through and generate inspiring results at scale. Which include:

  • Creating bold carbon reduction solutions
  • The Conference Board’s new research on generating social impact
  • Scaling up circular economy approaches
  • Reducing plastic ocean waste
  • Improving health, well-being, and sustainability
  • Transforming the supply chain: making it more productive, higher quality, more sustainable, and more responsible
  • Delivering and measuring impact
  • Getting results from Impact Investing
  • Making and measuring the business case

Key takeaways will include:

  • Moving from strategy to action
  • Going beyond compliance and reporting to action and results
  • Designing and delivering effective ESG programs and partnerships
  • Making and delivering the ESG business case
  • Measuring impact

Register before June 1 and save $100!

Who Should Attend

Vice Presidents, Directors, and Senior Managers of:

  • Sustainability
  • Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Environment, Health, and Safety
  • Corporate Giving / Foundation
  • Public Affairs / Government Affairs / Corporate Affairs
  • Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Strategy
  • Marketing