• Fifteen years of Israel's security closure of Gaza;
  • Rwanda is NOT a safe country;
  • Mass trial for political opposition in Cambodia;
  • Oversight needed for US arm sales;
  • Kazakhstan's crackdown on freedom of expression;
  • Dangerous anti-LGBT bill in Romania;
  • A victory for disability rights in Europe.


Get the Daily Brief by email.

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the Israeli government’s closure of the Gaza Strip, which effectively confines more than 2 million people into a 40-by-11-kilometer strip of land. In a new report, Human Rights Watch describes how it affects every aspect of people's lives, from freedom of movement to the ability to pursue educational or professional opportunities, seek medical care, or visit family elsewhere. In addition to devastating Gaza's economy and helping to fragment the Palestinian people, the closure is part of Israeli authorities’ crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians. Israel must lift the generalized closure and permit free movement to and from Gaza.

As the UK government is planning to proceed today with its plan to expel asylum seekers to Rwanda, Human Rights Watch provides more evidence that Rwanda isn't a "safe third country" to send asylum seekers. A prominent Rwandan YouTube commentator just accused prison authorities of torturing him and other jailed critics. Many journalists and opposition activists are currently behind bars in Rwanda, mostly convicted after politically motivated trials, sometimes arrested after speaking out about security force abuse or for criticizing the ruling party and its human rights record. Taking all of this into account, the UK should stop its plan to expel asylum seekers there, and other Commonwealth government leaders meeting in Kigali next week should speak out about the human rights situation in Rwanda. 

Dozens of Cambodian members of a now-dissolved opposition party were convicted of treason and sent to prison for five to eight years today, on politically-motived charges of indictment and conspiracy. The trial was the latest move to tame all opposition to the  rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen and shows, according to Human Rights Watch's Phil Robertson, "the government’s fear of any vestige of democracy" in the country. With these draconian prison sentences, Hun Sen creates a political dynamic that relies on intimidation and persecution of government critics, demonstrating his total disregard for democratic rights.

For years, Human Rights Watch and others have warned that US-made weapons sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE may be being used to commit war crimes in Yemen and that US officials could be implicated. But, as President Joe Biden plans to travel to Saudi Arabia, a new internal report from the US Government Accountability Office found serious gaps in US government oversight of how arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are being used. To avoid risks of complicity in the crimes committed in Yemen, and to protect civilians, Congress needs to get more involved in these weapons sales.

In January, people in Kazakhstan peacefully protested over concerns about economic and political issues. Law enforcement forcibly dispersed protesters, and, the event resulted in 232 deaths and hundreds of allegations of torture and ill-treatment of protesters arrested. While authorities still have to set up an independent investigation to establish what happened and hold those responsible to account, they are bringing baseless criminal charges against an opposition leader for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Zhanbolat Mamay, a former journalist and opposition politician is now facing up to 10 years in prison. Not only should the Kazak government ensure justice for the January abuses, it should also stop prosecuting political and civil activists for peacefully exercising their right to free speech.

 Lawmakers in Romania are attempting to limit discussions of sex and gender, focusing specifically on children in schools, to prohibit educational materials that discuss homosexuality and gender transition. It isn't the only country portraying LGBT people as a threat to children. In Europe and around the world, reactionary movements are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools. But these laws actively hurt children, cutting them off from information about the world around them and stigmatizing young LGBT people. Rather than shying away from discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, lawmakers should affirmatively embrace them, and develop curricula that cover these topics in an inclusive, age-appropriate way.

Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have welcomed a decision from the Council of Europe to press pause on a Draft Mental Health Protocol. The work on this treaty was temporarily suspended as the draft promoted a framework that allows governments to maintain or pursue practices in the area of mental health such as forcing people into treatment and placement into psychiatry without consent. The decision to pause is a real opportunity for countries to come up with practical solutions that honors the core principles of disability rights, including the right to autonomy and full legal capacity when it comes to mental health.