Human Rights Watch
Monthly Email Update
> The Iraqi War and Its Aftermath
> Commitment to Establish Program on Sexual Abuse in Zambia
> Victory for Freedom of Expression in Chile
> U.S. Senate Appropriations Bill Expresses Concern over Egypt's Torture Record
> UN Commission on Human Rights Passes Resolutions on North Korea and Turkmenistan for First Time
> California Governor Appoints Deputy to Protect Gay and Lesbian Students
> Treason Charges Against Former Child Soldiers Dropped
> Action Alerts:
- Women's Property Rights Violations in Kenya
- Internet Dissidents
> Council of Europe Calls for International Action to End Abuses in Chechnya
> Serbian Government Officials Recognize Need to Address Human Rights Watch Concerns About State of Emergency
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The Human Rights Watch monthly email update highlights the impact of our work around the world, as well as our recent campaigns. It does not list everything we produce or on which we work. For the latest information from Human Rights Watch, please visit our home page at http://www.hrw.org. Past monthly updates are archived at https://www.hrw.org/update.
With active hostilities in Iraq on the wane, Human Rights Watch is beginning a new phase of our research and advocacy on the conflict - addressing issues of post-war reconstruction, and analyzing how the war itself was conducted so as to draw lessons for the future. Prior to the war, we alerted the media and policymakers to key human rights problems that might arise, including the need to take proactive steps to avoid possible slaughter by Iraqi government or opposition troops, to adopt specified precautions to minimize harm to civilians, to reduce the prospect of ethnic and communal conflict, to address the humanitarian needs of those displaced by the war, and to establish a justice system to bring to justice those responsible for past abuses. We helped to encourage President Bush to make repeated vows that anyone who carried out atrocities during the war would be prosecuted - an important step for convincing Iraqi troops not to carry out any orders for mass murder that might have been delivered. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in convincing the U.S. government not to proceed to war without sufficient troops to maintain the peace and prevent the looting and lawlessness that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government.
Once the war started, Human Rights Watch maintained a presence in Iraqi Kurdistan and on the borders of Iraq, where we monitored the conduct of the war as well as issues of forced displacement, the treatment of prisoners, and ethnic and communal conflict. We issued numerous background briefings on the requirements of the laws of war and posted them on our Web site in multiple languages - all in an effort to pressure the parties to the conflict to comply with these obligations. We condemned such Iraqi practices as disguising fighters as civilians and hiding military equipment and personnel in civilian areas. As for the United States and its allies, we were the first to report on their misuse of cluster bombs. We also issued numerous statements on the duties of the United States as an occupying power, the human rights considerations involved in the management of Iraq's oil reserves, and the conditions that must be met for the establishment of a credible justice system.
Human Rights Watch will remain an objective source of information about developments in Iraq. We have a long history of documenting the crimes of Saddam Hussein; we were not "embedded" as journalists with the military; and we did not take a position on the U.S. military action. Maintaining this impartial stance continues to be the foundation of our research and advocacy.
Human Rights Watch currently has three teams of researchers in and around Iraq. The team in Baghdad is investigating civilian deaths and the work being done by the occupying powers to assume their responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The team in Basra is focused on trying to prevent potential violence and reprisal killings among the large number of competing religious and political groups in southern Iraq. The third team is currently in Basra and will be traveling around the country on a detailed study of civilian casualties resulting from military operations on all sides of the conflict. All three teams will also collect newly emerging information on the horrendous atrocities of Saddam Hussein's reign.
A recently completed investigation in northern Iraq focused on trying to prevent ethnic and communal violence between Kurds and Arabs around the oil-rich town of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is where Saddam Hussein's forced Arabization policy had displaced tens of thousands of Kurds from their homes; their desire to return to houses now often occupied by Arabs makes Kirkuk an obvious tinderbox.
Meanwhile, on April 10, Human Rights Watch testified before the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on the need to have an international tribunal prosecute past human rights abuses committed in Iraq. Several days later, the U.S. Congress passed a supplemental appropriations bill. One provision of the bill sets aside $10,000,000 for an international tribunal, as well as related investigations, on the Iraqi government's genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Read the text of the testimony at https://www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/iraq041003tst.htm
Human Rights Watch would like to thank the many individuals who responded to our emergency appeal on Iraq. Your contributions have made possible this urgent, ongoing work.
For more news and information on Iraq, visit https://www.hrw.org/campaigns/iraq
HRW recently received a letter from the office of the President of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, stating that following his review of our report on sexual abuse of girls in Zambia and how this exposes them to HIV infection, he ordered the establishment of an interministeral program on the sexual abuse of girls. HRW will be closely following up on this commitment by monitoring if, when and how the program will be established. Read the report at https://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/zambia/
Chilean television panelist Eduardo Yáñez was unanimously acquitted by the Santiago Appeals Court on April 2. Yáñez was facing a suspended prison sentence for allegedly insulting the judiciary on a television chat show. Human Rights Watch had condemned Yáñez's prosecution, citing the case frequently in its campaign for the repeal of Chile's law on "insult to authority" (article 263 of the Criminal Code). A bill for the law's repeal is currently before the Chilean Congress. Read more about human rights in Chile at https://www.hrw.org/americas/chile
Human Rights Watch remains concerned about people detained - and in some cases severely beaten - in sweeps directed against anti-war demonstrators in Egypt. Hundreds have apparently been arrested since March 20, 2003. The Egyptian media reported on March 30 that, by order of the Public Prosecutor, seventy-one persons charged before prosecutors were to be released on bail, although all charges would still stand.
After pressure from Human Rights Watch, the report for the Senate version of the supplemental appropriations bill, granting Egypt $300,000,000 in bilateral economic assistance, included language that expressed concern regarding the "recent crackdown on Egyptian demonstrators, including the reported use of torture by police officials." In addition, the State Department was required to submit a report to the Appropriations Committees on Egypt's progress in meeting its obligations as a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment of Punishment.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Please send letters to Egyptian authorities calling on them to release information about all those detained in connection with anti-war demonstrations since March 20, 2001, as well as any charges against them; free any persons arrested in connection with the demonstrations who are still detained unless they are promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence; conduct a full investigation into charges of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and bring to justice those responsible. For more information, talking points, and sample letters, visit https://www.hrw.org/campaigns/egypt/protest/
For the first time ever, the UN Commission on Human Rights, which was meeting in Geneva, adopted a resolution condemning abuses in North Korea and calling for access by UN and private human rights monitors. HRW pushed for this resolution over a period of months, beginning with the publication of HRW's report last November on North Korean refugees in China. The report included action in Geneva as one of its key recommendations. HRW worked with the EU, chief sponsor of the resolution, South Korea, Japan, the United States and other key players to suggest text and urge adoption of a strong, constructive measure. The resolution passed 28-10 with 14 abstaining (and South Korea present but not voting). Read the report and HRW briefing paper on North Korea for the Commission on Human Rights at https://www.hrw.org/asia/north-korea
Human Rights Watch also pressed successfully for the Commission to adopt a first-ever resolution on Turkmenistan, another closed and repressive regime. The resolution was adopted 23-16 with 14 abstaining. It expressed "grave concern" about serious abuses of human rights in Turkmenistan, and pressed the Turkmen government to undertake systemic reforms to fully comply with its international human rights obligations. It "deplore[d]" the due process violations and other serious abuses suffered by those detained in relation to the November 25 assassination attempt of the country's president, and called on the Turkmen government to urgently grant independent bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, access to those detained. It also called on the Turkmen government to ensure that those found guilty of human rights violations be brought to justice; to lift restrictions on the operation of civil society groups; to cooperate with and implement recommendations from various international rights officials. Read the HRW briefing paper on Turkmenistan for the Commission on Human Rights at https://www.hrw.org/un/chr59/omnibus.htm
The Commission on Human Rights session was disappointing, however, on many other important issues. For further information, including HRW's assessment, please read: https://www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/unchr042503.htm