It is the beginning of summer and the humidity is stifling. Yesterday’s rain still lingers underfoot, serving as a reminder of the dismal surrounds. The tent - a shelter if you could call it shelter at all - is a constant reminder of the misery to be found here in this forsaken place.
Rows upon rows line the grounds with some holding with up to 14 people inside. As night draws closer, so too do the storms of the rain season. The tents offer little resistance to the almost nightly torrents thrown down from above. The bedding is damp, the surrounds are bleak, and hope begins to fade. This is Nauru as Amnesty International’s Dr Graham Thom has described seeing on his recent visit. This is the Pacific Solution.
A delegation from Amnesty International has recently called on the Australian Government to rethink its Pacific Solution, describing conditions in the Nauru detention camp in no uncertain terms as “completely unacceptable”.
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Last year, thousands of Azerbaijanis spontaneously took to the streets of Baku shouting and chanting. None of the demonstrators were arrested. They were celebrating Azerbaijan’s triumph in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest.
Only a few weeks earlier, you would have witnessed an entirely different spectacle – partly fascinating, mostly disturbing, entirely incomprehensible. The Azerbaijani government’s response to demonstrations they don’t agree with.
Teenage girls shouting “freedom!” chased and knocked to the ground by police, manhandled onto buses and driven to the outskirts of town. Elderly men shouting “resign” muffled and gagged. Younger ones punched, kicked and dragged into the back of police vans; facing the prospect of days, months or even years in an Azerbaijani prison cell.
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Any relief we may have had when Libya was finally suspended from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March has certainly been short-lived. It appears Syria, another terror state, is set to take its place.
Syria is one of four candidates vying for four seats on the 47-member body that will go to Asian nations when the General Assembly votes on new members on 20 May.
Unless another Asian country nominates, which seems unlikely at this stage, Syria will win a three-year term on the UN body charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.
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Australia’s immigration detention system is at breaking point.
Events on Christmas Island over recent weeks are a clear expression of the frustration and despair felt by asylum seekers, some of whom have spent over two years behind bars in remote, overcrowded centres, waiting for their claims to be processed.
The escalation of turmoil follows months of increasing unrest in detention centres around the country. Incidents of self-harm, including hunger strikes and attempted suicide, have been steadily rising.
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Yesterday, after rampant speculation, Prime Minister Gillard announced the Australian Government’s new approach to asylum seekers.
This speech could have been used for yet another disappointing political point scoring exercise, but Amnesty International was hoping that the Prime Minister would use this opportunity to reframe the debate and remind Australians that seeking asylum is not a crime but a basic human right.
At 11:03 Julia Gillard started well by announcing an end to inflammatory politics about asylum seekers.
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Each year Amnesty International releases an assessment of the human rights realities in the majority of countries around the world, and each year it is a sobering reminder of how governments are failing to deliver on their human rights promises.
Our 2010 report shows that torture or other ill-treatment were practised last year in at least 111 countries, there were unfair trials in at least 55 countries, restrictions on free speech in at least 96 countries and prisoners of conscience imprisoned in at least 48 countries. 18 countries executed their own citizens. And the list goes on.
The achievement of universal human rights relies on the world’s governments being held accountable for their actions. It relies on the international community enforcing international law and seeking justice for the victims of human rights violations. All too often, however, powerful governments stand above the law on human rights and act only when it is politically expedient.
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In light of last Friday’s announcement that the Australian Government has implemented a blanket suspension on the processing of new asylum claims by Afghan and Sri Lankan nationals, it is worth going back to basics and taking a moment to consider the human rights reality for many people living in those countries.
It may not be pleasant to read, but it certainly places the government’s announcement in the international context in which it should rightly be considered, and gives an insight into the reasons people are fleeing.
On 24 January Sri Lankan journalist and political analyst Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared shortly after leaving work at the Lanka-e-News office in Homagama, near the capital Colombo. He has not been heard from since. In the lead up to his disappearance, Prageeth Eknaligoda had been actively reporting on Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, had been critical of the Sri Lankan Government and had received threats.
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