The C word : The DRC’s conflict over Coltan

“Kids in Congo are being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America can kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.” Oona King, British politician, Member of Parliament (1997 – 2005.)

How many people really know about what it takes to make our hi-tech gadgets work and what’s the price? Well, one mineral in particular that is essential to the functionally of your cell phone, laptop, or gaming device is Coltan.

Coltan along with other minerals is found and extracted from mines in the DRC; people are killed, enslaved, and women rapped to gain access and control over minerals (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining). The mining caves are controlled by different groups of armed forces that surround the mining areas and control the flow of people in and out of the mining caves. Through this control armed forces are able to tax the miners, and make a very lucrative profit. The closer you get to the center of the mining sites the more violence, rape and sexual abuse there is (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining).

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nation filled with natural resources of enormous potential wealth. Conversely, it is county torn apart by civil war in the fight to control these internationally valued minerals. Civil conflict arose in the late 90’s surrounding control and power of these resources. During 1996-2002, Congo has had two wars in which armed groups took power over of eastern Congo and they still hold that control today (http://www.raisehopefor congo.org/content/armed-groups). The current civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has devastated the country. In 2003 there was the signing of the peace accords, one of the purposes of this treaty was to have all the separate armed forces come together to form one national army (the FARDC). However, these independent groups had developed a lot of power both economically and socially through the years of war. Of course, many did not want to relinquish this power to a military they didn’t know, as a result many groups stayed independent (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/DR+Congo). The most concentrated amount of fighting is in the east of the country where the sum of minerals is greater.

The eastern Congo is one of the most unsafe places for a woman to live, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is grave. Women are targeted and rape is used as a weapon of war. Every week in eastern Congo, north and south Kivu 160 women are raped. The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has a report that 60% of rape victims in South Kivu were gang raped by armed men. During the last 15 years this conflict has been the cause of more than 5 million deaths and the rape of 300,000 women (http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org /content/sexual-violence). Many of these deaths are a result of the conditions of living produced by civil war. A large portion of these people died due to conditions of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition.
Coltan is so valued because it is a rare mineral mainly found in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining.) Coltan is highly sought after because of its use in just about every new electronic device. Uses for this mineral range from the already mentioned cell phones, laptops, and game consoles to spaceships, and jets (http://www.dominionpaper.com).

Many issues with the mining process in the DRC are the armed groups that control the miners. There are multiple independent military forces controlling the flow of people in and out of the mining caves, charging people a fee for crossing. This is a very lucrative business for the armed groups. After the minerals are extracted from the mines they are smuggled to nearby countries mainly Uganda and Rwanda (http://www.unwatchable. cc/the-true-story/what-is-happening-in-the-congo/). The armed forces control the smuggling routes out of the country. They tax or steal the goods from civilians and smuggle them out of the country illegally. This is another way in which the armed groups control and benefit from the sale of Coltan (http://www.unwatchable.cc/the-true-story/what-is-happening-in-the-congo/).
The Western World is buying Coltan, it’s sold internationally to many large tech corporations. By buying this mineral we are helping to finance the civil war in the DRC. This civil war doesn’t seem to have any inclination of ending soon and will continue as long as armed groups are able to finance themselves in combat by selling this mineral (http://www.sautiyawaku lima.net). There has been some effort to reform the issues of buying this war produced mineral, there is the Dodd – Frank Wall Street reform Act passed in the US in 2010, it obligates companies to report what country they have bought their minerals from, so that these companies will have to reveal conflict minerals in their supply chain. The difficulty with this is it can easily be manipulated. For example if the label says, “Australia-mined,” it could have been mined in the DRC then shipped to Australia (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining). International electronic companies are fueling this war by not taking responsibility of where their materials come from. Doing business with these armed groups and war lords is criminal; whether the involvement is direct or indirect the result of that business is still resulting in violations of human rights (http://www.unwatchable.cc/the-true-story/what-is-happening-in-the-congo/). There needs to be much more work done on this issue, governments and companies alike need to take an initiative. Internationally there needs to be a process in which Coltan is dealt with. “The long-term solution means global tracking of minerals” Jamie Keen of MiningWatch, Canada (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining).
Do you want to help? (http://www.dominionpaper.com)Want to stop indirectly fueling a war but can’t see life without your prized cell phone well how about you try to:
• Call your cell phone manufacturer and ask if their phones contain Congolese Coltan.
• Make sure any of your personal savings/pension money is not invested in companies doing business in the Congo.
• Support the Congolese people by raising awareness.
Sign a petition / Send a message:

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Nike: Modern Day Slavery

Imagine having to work in an environment where you were treated as less than a human; had to deal with extremely harsh working conditions and were unable to speak out without the risk of losing the only job you were able to get to survive.

This is the reality that many factory workers have to face around the world.  These workers are exploited by the factories that they work for and the companies that own or run the factories don’t regulate working conditions for many workers in developing nations.  There are multiple companies that have factories that violate humane working conditions but one of the major culprits is Nike.

Nike is one of the many companies that produce many of their items abroad.  The outsourcing that takes place is beneficial for the company but very detrimental so the workers that work in the foreign factories.   While it does provide work to those that are in need of an income, they are also underpaid, overworked, and exploited under these companies.

In Nike’s case, they have sweatshops in many places including Vietnam and Pakistan where workers are not given fair rights or wages for the amount of work they are forced to do.  Workers are routinely physically abused, mentally abused, and sexually harassed in these factories. 

On top of these already terrible working conditions, workers are:

  • Not given proper training or having the necessary safety equipment.
  • Exposed to toxic glues and chemicals.
  • Paid an average of $1.60 a day when at least $3.00 a day is needed to survive.
  • Expected to work an average of 60 to 70 hours a week.

While Nike publicly says that the conditions that these workers are working in are constantly regulated, they are usually only monitored a few times a year. During those times, sweatshops are made to fit working conditions and the monitors almost never speak directly to the workers; instead they speak only to the owners of the sweatshops who are usually the ones that are perpetuating the violence towards the workers.

Nike does not offer these workers benefits but has agreed to pay for medical expenses only by reimbursing workers for medical bills that they have paid in full.  In most cases, the workers aren’t able to afford adequate medical attention and therefore don’t receive any compensation from Nike.

Workers are also often scared of those that run the sweatshops in fear that they will be abused for wanting to use the bathroom or even taking a break.  They are at time restricted from using the facilities since that would lessen the amount of items that were produced.  Women often wear multiple sanitary napkins or refrain from using as a result of this which leads to even more unsanitary conditions and medically dangerous conditions for the workers.

Nike does not only abuse adult sweatshop workers, they are also reported to frequently hire people under the age of 18 in these sweatshops and there are no initiatives taken to monitor this.  Nike signed a pledged to stop using workers in hazardous situations in 1998 after denying any abuse that these workers faced.  Since then, Nike has not followed through with this agreement and routinely turns a blind eye to these sweatshops.  This kind promise is something that should have been kept by a company that is sincerely trying to make sure that all of the labor that goes into their products is fair and just.  Instead Nike decided to not take this issue into concern and continues to allow the unfair treatment of these workers.

They constantly boast about how these factories offer jobs to those that live abroad and how this helps them afford a better life.  In reality it forces them to work like slaves without adequate compensation and forces them to work in environments that are constantly exposed to abuse and unjust treatment.

In addition to using sweatshops that perpetuate violence and offer workers inadequate conditions to work under, Nike has also bought good from manufacturers that use child labor.  In Pakistan areas like Sialkot are known to use child labor to mass produce sporting goods.

In 1996 Life magazine published an article about a 12-year-old boy in Pakistan that stitched soccer balls for Nike for about 60 cents a day.  This was not uncommon for Pakistan which allowed children to work for low wages.  But multi-million dollar companies using this to their advantage was something that was heavily looked down upon.

This information that was leaked to the public lead to massive protest against the company from people in the United States and worldwide.  Nike had purchased soccer balls from a subcontractor in Pakistan that year which showed either the lack of concern Nike had for its workers or the lack of information that the company had about what was going on.  It wasn’t the latter.

Nike continues to use sweatshops in countries primarily in Asia and still does not regulate these sweatshops.  Their “mission” of offering jobs to those in developing nations or nations that has higher poverty rates is just a façade for saving the company money.

It’s not only Nike that puts up illusion of wanting to help others.  Many companies like Nike are constantly allowing sweatshops to abuse their workers and does nothing to make sure that this injustice doesn’t occur.  Unlike what these companies want us to believe, they are doing nothing more than continuing repressive cycles which in result benefits them.

— Ifath N. Iftikhar

Diamonds, will it ever be your best friend?

Diamond is a word that originated from the Greek word “Adamas”, which means “the unconquerable”. It is a cubical crystal structure that shines in every direction and the moment you see it, it captures almost everyone’s heart. May be that’s the reason for a diamond to be known as a symbol of love, commitment and joyful new beginning. But have you ever thought who and how those diamonds shine?!? Of course we would not be so naive, just to imagine that beautiful piece of diamond to be popping out of the grounds in perfect shape, cut and shine. There are thousands of children and adults who are facing the severe consequences to make the diamond worth its beauty.

Diamond had not always been so popular and precious stone as it is now, in today’s world. The first history of diamond started 3,000 years back in India. At that time it was just used for decorative and superstitious purpose. Then in the Dark Age it took a different form, it was then used as a medical aid, believing that it contain power to cure illness. It was then the Middle age, who discovered the worth of this very shinning stone (http://www.costellos.com.au/diamonds/index2.html).The greed in human took a new form; the precious stone which was known for its mystical powers were now the causes of, all forms of brutality and conflicts that is still happening around the diamond producing countries. And Africa is one of the largest diamond producing continent, the people especially the mineworkers are suffering a great deal of torture and are baffled between the conflicts for diamonds.

“It’s more like a cure than a blessing for people in rich diamond countries” (http://www.brilliantearth.com/confict-diamond-trade/)

Such terrorizing moments gave birth to a new name for the precious stone, it’s called ‘Conflict Diamonds’ also known as ‘Blood Diamonds’. As the name speaks for itself, Conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those the governments or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council” (http://www.brilliantearth.com/confict-diamond-trade/).

The role of diamond is very powerful and we can definitely say that, Diamonds are conflicts/wars best friend. There are many ways how diamonds have helped conflicts to generate; the words would have no limit to describe it. So these are some important and few of the ways how diamonds have created conflicts all over the world, but mainly in Africa.

1.       Civil War for Diamonds

  • There was blood bath everywhere, different rebel groups were fighting amongst each other as well as with the government and military forces to take over or to control the diamond rich territory.
  • Most of the African countries suffered a great deal of prolonged civil war (http://www.brilliantearth.com/confict-diamond-trade/) like,

Sierra Leon

–          A fierce and a brutal fighting took place between the Sierra Leon government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

–          RUF supported their whole revolution by selling those Blood Diamonds

–          They became well known for their child soldiers.

   

Angola

–          The civil war in Angola lasted more than two decades.

–          The war was between the Popular Movement for liberation of Angola (MPLA) who used oil of the coast of Angola to arm their soldiers

–          In response to that, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) took over 60-70% of Angola diamond mines. (https://townipproject.wikispaces.com/Blood+Diamonds)

“It has been said that war is the price of peace… Angola and Sierra Leone have already paid too much. Let them live a better life.”- Ambassador Juan Larrain

2.       Diamonds were funding the illegal and unlawful operations of rebel military and terrorist groups.

  • They were selling the conflict diamonds in high prices and raising money to carry out their illegal operations.
  • Some were selling; some were buying where they made a lot of profit which helped the terrorist acts and plans to be successful.
  • One of the most known and horrifying terrorist act which shook America and turned so many people’s live upside down, no other than 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda was also funded by Conflict Diamonds.

3.      Selling or exchanging of diamonds in return to get arms and weapons for the conflict/war.

  • Many of the rebel groups, terrorist and the government sell the conflict diamonds in order to buy arms and weapons.
  • Some may not even sell those diamonds. They make the process short by just exchanging diamonds with weapons.
  • For example, in case of UNITA the weapon dealers would come to them to trade diamonds for weapons. There were no flow of cash just flow of weapons.

4.       Human rights abuses and millions of deaths

  • Not only the rebellious groups but also the government was equally participating and practicing beating, killing, rape and child labour as well as child soldiers in the diamond producing countries.
  • Children being of small size were asked to go to more dangerous mining areas that the adults would not fit in through. Many lost their hands, arms and legs in accidents during mining, while many of theirs were cut off by the mine-owners to torture and bring fear within the works leaving them disabled for the rest of their lives.
  • Millions of people have been killed; the deaths from diamonds fuelled civil war are greater than the US military deaths.

It’s frightening to see how a beautiful stone like diamond has such a dark story of its birth. Would anyone have thought the shinning piece of rock lay out and sold expensively in the jewellery stores were the reason behind all of these terrorizing acts mentioned above. To make our relationships and bonds tight with our loved ones we gift them diamonds, but what have those diamonds gifted the miners back?? Just misery and separation from their loved ones and families, in most the cases the separations are forever (deaths).

 “The fellow who gives diamond ring to a lover should know that probably because of that diamond a girl of 10 has been raped, a boy of two has lost a limb”. – Dr. Dennis Bright

As of today knowing all the past and present condition about diamonds, I could never imagine myself to be indulged with diamonds, even after the fact that it is one of the most popular stones to symbolize emotional commitments (marriage rings) and the amount of love. I am a girl, but I can proudly say, Diamonds can never be my best friend! So before wearing those diamonds ask yourself, are those diamonds worth presenting only your outer beauty? What about your inner beauty, beauty towards humanity?

“Diamonds are forever” it is often said. But lives are not.
We must spare people the ordeal of war, mutilations and death for the sake of conflict diamonds.”-
Martin Chungong Ayafor

Rape Axe: Bite the Penis that Rapes You

Rape axe is a revolutionary new product designed to literally bite the penis that tries to rape you. This female condom was designed by a woman from South Africa, Dr. Sonnet Ehlers. Dr. Ehlers said that what inspired her to create this product was when she met a rape victim who said “If only I had teeth down there”, to which she promised that someday she would do something to help people like her. This proclamation led to the creation of Rape Axe, which, if it ever becomes available for buying, I think that it would seriously help a lot of people, particularly within war zones.

The actual product works when the woman inserts the female condom into her vagina (it’s inserted much the same way that a tampon is inserted). Once it is secure, if a man’s penis penetrates the vaginal opening sharp barbs latch on to the penis and once he pulls out, the whole Rape Axe is stuck to his penis and cannot be removed by anything but a surgeon without causing great harm. A pretty good virtual video of this can be seen here. My first thought was, wouldn’t this hurt the  woman inserting it? But apparently the way it’s designed maintains that it does not cause any harm to the woman wearing it.

Dr. Ehler’s vision is to be able to identify men who attempt rape because the device cannot be removed from the penis safely without surgical help. Within countries that have effective police enforcement, this device would work very well I think, though with nations who are in a period of war and can’t effectively arrest every man who has this device attached to them (especially since many of the men would be members of the government’s military most likely) this device loses it’s effectiveness.

While this product is not quite up for sale just yet, it has opened up a large discussion on women, war, and rape. There are several articles out there both criticizing and applauding Dr. Ehler’s invention. My views on this product? Genius. I think that not only would these be incredibly useful in war zones, but in everyday life as well. This product would inflict fear within every rapist’s mind every time he thought about violating a woman. I would think that the fear of injury to his penis would be enough to decide against rape, and that’s Dr. Ehler’s thought as well.

It’s no secret that within war zones rape is a very common and powerful tool used by men to humiliate and abuse their enemies. When thinking about this product, I decided looking at a particular country riddled with war and conflict would be the best way of thinking about the usefulness of this product. Within the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape is a very common occurrence and is used by the different militias and government troops (as well as by husbands and other non-war affiliated men). Many different articles have different statistics, which makes sense if you know anything about how many women who experience rape actually report it. I think that if this product was introduced to women in this area, once several men had their junk “bitten”, word would spread and many less men would be tempted to rape and use rape as a tool of war. Dr. Ehler doesn’t think that her device more than likely would make the rapist very angry and may end up injuring or killing the victim. She says,

“No, he is ‘tagged’ and cannot remove Rape-aXe. If he kills or further harms his victim he will be in double trouble.  The possibility that your rapist will kill under normal circumstances is positive; with Rape-aXe he is tagged. Your serial killer, kills up to ten women before the police catch him. This was the answer I got from rapists in prison.”

Which, in a lot of ways makes sense in most circumstances. I’m not sure this is the case as much with war and rape, as I think that men who rape in times of war are just looking to humiliate their enemies and their enemies’ wives, daughters, and sisters and are not necessarily looking to kill them. Being in “double trouble” in areas of conflict doesn’t seem to apply, as men are likely not to be arrested even if they do present themselves in a hospital with this condom latched onto his penis. Within our country, for example, I think this product would be incredibly useful, but for staying on topic’s sake I won’t go into depth as to why. While this product wouldn’t likely get many arrests in the DRC, I do think that it would lower the amount of rapes that happen, and not to mention at least the rapist would end up with a large amount of pain in his nether region. It seems at least a little rewarding to think that if a man is going to try and inflict such pain and humiliation on a woman, he ends up with a large amount of pain and humiliation himself.

Rape Axe has also been criticized as being a “medieval contraption” and a “torture device“. To which she replies,

“my response, quite frankly is that a medieval deed deserves a medieval consequence. It’s the twenty first century, man has supposedly evolved into a more civilised being… yet rape statistics are on the rise! Child and infant rape has increased 400% over the last decade!”

This criticism has apparently been strong enough to keep the sale of Rape Axe out of convenience stores and away from any major commercial sales. When trying to look up where I could purchase Rape Axe on the internet, I didn’t come up with anything promising. I think the thought of women being able to fight back and resist rape has been scary enough for men to prevent this awesome product from coming out.

Why do you think it hasn’t been commercially produced for the public so far? And do you think that this product would benefit women in areas of conflict and war?

UN Women, Building a Road Towards Peace

The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (also known as UN Women) is a United Nations group that is focused on helping women and building peace in places full of conflict. This special entity was created in July 2010 and merged several existing groups together, such as UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), DAW (Division for the Advancement of Women), INSTRAW (International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women), and OSAGI (Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women) (www.unwomen.org). Within UN women, there are different focus groups, which include: violence against women, peace and security, leadership and participation, economic empowerment, national budgeting and planning, and millennium development goals. For the purpose of this blog, I’m mainly going to be focusing on peace and security, as this pertains to global peace and conflict the most.

The peace and security focus on the site stems from several of the UN security council’s resolutions.

  • The first set of these resolutions are: resolution 1325 and 1889 which “calls for strengthening women’s agency as peacemakers and peacebuilders, including their participation in conflict prevention and peace processes, early recovery, governance and in peace operations.” So basically this first resolution is a declaration and a call for women to make a stand towards the peace process globally and make sure that they demand to be part of it. This resolution can be seen as particularly important in the context of women and globalization because it recognizes that women are important to the global peace process and that to make true progress, women must be part of it. As the site recalls, “Resolution 1889 (2009) complements 1325 by calling for the establishment of global indicators to measure progress on its implementation.” So while the first resolution does not mention globalization per se, this second resolution makes it clear that to truly see if women are involved in the process, there will be global indicators and that women’s involvement can be measured by these indicators.
  • The next set of resolutions is resolution 1820 and 1888, which “calls for an end to widespread conflict-related sexual violence and for accountability in order to end impunity. Resolution 1888 (2009) focuses on strengthening leadership, expertise and other institutional capacities within the United Nations and in member states to help put an end to conflict-related sexual violence.” This next set focuses mainly on the widespread violence aimed towards women throughout the world and the call to end it. The UN sees this as a large enough injustice to call for an end to it, and recognizes that sexual violence within areas of conflict are prevalent enough to call it out as a force that needs to be stopped.
  • The last resolution is resolution 1960, which “mandates the Secretary-General to list those parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of sexual violence in situations on the Council’s agenda.” This last resolution makes people and countries who perpetrate and allow sexual violence to prevail in their communities accountable under the UN Secretary-General.

So what does UN Women do with all these resolutions? After all, having resolutions and saying that we need an end to violence against women globally is excellent but what really needs to be focused on is what action do we take against this violence and where do women come into the peace-making process? The UN Women entity focuses on four areas, Peace-building, Security  and Justice, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, and Post-Conflict and Humanitarian Planning.

  • Within the area of Peace-building, UN Women have been actively involved in supporting the role women have played in peace negotiations in Uganda, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as “supporting initiatives aimed at strengthening the presence and capacity of female officers in peace operations, such as in Afghanistan”. So as these examples point out, they have been actively involved in getting women to be a major player in the peace process globally.
  • UN Women have also made significant waves within their Security and Justice focus, such as “providing gender expertise and technical assistance to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the Commission of Inquiry for Guinea”, as well as “supporting local Afghan initiatives to strengthen the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives in transitional justice mechanisms”. So we can see that UN Women helped to provide their advanced knowledge of gender and gender issues in order to receive justice for large groups of women in different areas of the world.
  • They have also done a lot with their Sexual and Gender based violence, such as “co-hosting a Colloquium on Sexual Violence & Peace Negotiations, which brought together eminent mediators, thematic experts, peace activists and leaders of women’s organizations from conflict-affected countries to help overcome the absence of provisions on sexual violence in most mediation processes”. I think this is a very great thing for UN Women to have done, as it helped to establish an area where women who need help can receive it from people who want to help. Sometimes a little guidance goes a long way with activists.
  • Within Post-Conflict and Humanitarian Planning, UN Women “has supported the integration of gender into post-conflict needs assessments and conducted research on whether policies and programmes on gender translate effectively into budget allocations.” This is incredibly important, as many programs that go into effect in a post-conflict area may seem to be generally useful to the area, but may harm women in unintentional ways, and so to integrate policies to make sure women are not harmed in the post-conflict time period is a great step forward.

UN Women has done a lot to ensure that women are an active participant in the peace-making process as well as speaking out against the global atrocity of sexual violence that occurs against women. They have been actively involved in many different countries and have made important changes benefitting women. While all this is said and done and has definitely been a good step in the right direction, it is only a  small step in a long road that needs so much more work to be done.

-Amanda Kothen

Human Rights Watch — Promoting Peace and Justice in Times of Conflict

Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) is an independent organization that works around the world to help promote and defend human rights.  They have offices all over the globe that work both locally and with the other regional offices to prevent government as well as social oppression.  They do this by challenging laws that are set by national governments and by making sure that fair practices are carried out within these national governments.  They advocate freedom and try to further this through activism.  There are petitions for basically every issue they associate themselves with and are always looking for people to support their mission to protect human rights.

 

Human Rights Watch started in 1978 as Helsinki Watch which originally monitored the way citizens in the Soviet Block were being treated by their governments.  There was initiative taken to call out these governments and publicize the injustices that were taking place.  The organization grew as the Civil Wars in Central America were taking place and was known as the Americas Watch.  Like Helsinki Watch and Americas Watch, more branches formed around the globe as conflicts arose in places like Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In 1988 these branches combined as Human Rights Watch which allowed them to advocate their agenda in different areas of the world while being interconnected.

Human Rights Watch is not affiliated with any single human rights issue; they have branches that deal with oppressive governments, sexual violence, combat violence, and many issues like these that prevent people from rights they should have.

While they are continuously working to make sure that people around to world are allowed to exercise the rights and are constantly trying to work with governments to ensure that the citizens of their countries have the rights that they deserve, Human Rights Watch has been successful in doing so in some cases.

Burma

A recent victory for Human Rights Watch involved putting pressure on the Burmese government to free political prisoners.  While there are at least 200 prisoners that were confirmed to be released, there are still many more that are being imprisoned for criticizing the government.  Human Rights Watch continues to advocate for their freedom and understands that the root of the problem is oppressive government.

In Burma people can be convicted if they speak negatively about the government in any way, shape or form.  This has led to the large amount of political prisoners in Burma’s incarceration system.  These prisoners spoke out against the Burmese government and criticized them for many.  A specific instance where many Burmese citizens were arrested was following Cyclone Nargis where many people criticized the government for not accepting enough aid to help those that were seriously affected.  Many activists as well as prominent figures in Burma were thrown in jail for publicly speaking about this and were used as examples for the rest of the country.  Human Rights Watch has been trying to end this injustice and believes that citizens should have the right to call out their governments without there being a penalty.  They have been pressuring the Burmese government to release these political prisoners through grassroots petitions and by communicating directly with the Burmese government.

You can sign the petition to free Burmese political prisoners here:

http://www.kintera.org/c.nlIWIgN2JwE/b.6079759/k.2578/Free_Burma

Egypt

Human Rights Watch was also heavily involved with the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.  They were there to support protestors and the citizens of Egypt that wanted Mubarak’s regime to come to an end.  They were also there to help release journalists that were arrested during the revolution and were sometimes successful in doing so.  Human Rights Watch had bloggers and journalists that they supported throughout the revolution to help spread information about what was happening.  In result many of the journalists were arrested by the Egyptian government causing Human Rights Watch to put pressure on the government to release them.  They supported Egypt through the entire process of putting an end to an oppressive government and are still trying to make sure that human rights are being valued even after the fall of Mubarak.

Human Rights Watch is concerned about women’s roles in Egypt and their right to be a part of the new Egyptian government.  They acknowledge that after times of conflict women’s rights have been forgotten and they are working to make sure that this doesn’t happen in Egypt.  They want to make sure that every citizen of Egypt has rights and is able to exercise their rights without a struggle.

Uganda

In Uganda, Human Rights Watch has worked feverously to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army which is a rebel group that has caused havoc on Ugandan citizens.  The Lord’s Resistance Army has had a track record of extreme violence towards Ugandans.  This violence ranges from beatings, killings, kidnapping, rapes and more atrocities.  Human Rights Watch documented this from Ugandans that have dealt with the Lord’s Resistance Army.  These documentations were in forms of letters addressed to the United States government to help them against this violence that they were facing.  Human Rights Watch translated the letters and the documentation of these injustices and presented them to the Obama administration in hope that they would get involved.  They urged the Obama administration that this needed to be stopped and that the United States needed to do everything in its power to make sure these people did not continue to be the victims of this violent rebel group.

The Obama administration signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament Act as well as the Northern Uganda Recovery Act in result.  Human Rights Watch continues to work with those that live in Uganda as well as the United States government to help protect the citizens of Uganda from being attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Linked is the Press Release documenting the violence committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army: http://www.hrw.org/node/89324

Human Rights Watch works with people all over the globe to advocate and ensure that everyone has rights.  They operate around the globe which allows them to keep up with issues locally and also tie it into the global system as well.  Instead of having citizens of countries or nation-states that are oppressed deal with these issues themselves, Human Rights Watch believes that is up to everyone to make sure that human rights around the world are being protected.

All of the information and media used is from www.hrw.com.  You can get involved with Human Rights Watch at www.hrw.com by signing petitions, donating, or keeping up with the issues by subscribing to the newsletter.

– Ifath N. Iftikhar

Amnesty International- Pursuit of Human Rights

Amnesty International got its start in London in 1961, with one campaign lead by founder Peter Benenson. Benenson was upset after hearing of two Portuguese students imprisoned for raising a toast to freedom. As a result of his indignation about this he decided to publish an article, “The Forgotten Prisoners” in the Observer newspaper.

This article initiated the “Appeal for Amnesty 1961”, it became a worldwide campaign. Motivating a significant reaction from people, the story was reprinted in newspapers all over the world. This resulted in the first international meeting held that year in July to establish a permanent international movement. Countries like Belgium, the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the US attended (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/history.)
Amnesty International is a non-governmental human rights organization devoted to ended human rights abuses. The objective of the organization is not only to motivate action to help prevent and bring an end to severe abuses of human rights, but also to demand justice for the people who’s rights have been abused. It is made up of over 3 million people including supporters, members and activists that are located in over 150 countries (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/about-amnesty-international.) Worldwide it has 1,800 employees and hundreds of volunteers that make the work they do possible. They work to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all people around the world. The organization runs free from any governmental, religious or economic influence and is mainly funded by their members and public donations. Amnesty International believes that when there is a human rights abuse anywhere in the world it should be a concern for people universally. Amnesty works to join people together from across the globe to mobilize, bring public pressure and demonstrate international solidarity. Amnesty International strives to shape international solidarity through the work they do and with all their members who work for global human rights.
Amnesty international puts together campaigns for the protection of womens rights, the abolition of the death penalty, demands for freedom of expression, justice for crimes against humanity, and corporate accountability when companies have abused human rights (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/about-amnesty-international.) They deal with these campaigns with many different tactics. One way they do this is to start a dialogue with multiple different agents including governments, intergovernmental organizations, armed political groups, companies and other non state actors (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/accountability/statute.)

Another way in which Amnesty handles campaigns is by using their research of individual cases of countries and people with patterns of human rights abuses. The organization will make records of the abuses and then publish them. After the information goes public Amnesty members and supporters start building public pressure (on governments and others that have the power to end abuses.) In addition, Amnesty International works to get all governments and other agents of power to comply with the rule of law, and to put into action the human rights standards. Also Amnesty has multiple human rights educational activities; and encourages the general support of human rights (http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/accountability/statute.)
There are many issues/campaigns that Amnesty international is involved with that have a focus on peace and conflict. There is a list of some of the most recent examples:
• Demand for the “Three Freedoms” for Myanmar campaign: Myanmar will soon be holding its first national elections in 20 years which has been a atmosphere of harsh political repression. Amnesty is working to apply pressure to Myanmar’s neighboring countries to talk about and stand against the country’s military government.
• Sudan: Conflict in Darfur: Arms sales from China and Russia are fuelling serious human rights violations in Darfur, Amnesty International said today. These arms transfers highlight the urgent need to strengthen the existing ineffectual UN arms embargo and for governments to agree an effective Arms Trade Treaty.China, Russia, and Belarus keep on supplying weapons and munitions to Sudan regardless of that fact that these weapons will be used against the civilians living in Darfur. Some of these arms include significant amounts of ammunition, helicopter gunships, attack aircrafts, air-to-ground rockets and armored vehicles (http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/darfur-new-weapons-china-and-russia-fuelling-conflict-2012-02-08.)

A large part of Amnesty international’s work is devoted to working to prevent and end armed conflict. Amnesty International stated that where there is conflict and war there will inevitable be suffering for many and conflict reproduces massive amounts of human rights violations. Many of these include unlawful killings, torture, forced displacement and starvation. In these conflicts all over the world groups armed with weapons and governments habitually perform violence against civilians, committing war crimes and abusing human rights.

Although there are rules during war that every person, government is suppose to be following. This comes from the International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the laws of armed conflict or the laws of war. It was developed in order to lessen the consequences of war and conflict. What it does is sets restrictions on the resources and methods of executing armed maneuvers. The rules of the International humanitarian law are set in place to compel the fighters to leave civilians alone and unharmed. Also, to spare those who are no longer involved in the fighting. These people would include soldiers who have been injured or who have surrendered. The IHL applies during armed conflict only and human rights law applies in war and peace (http://www.amnesty.org/en/armed-conflict.)

Amnesty International continues to battle armed conflict in many ways, here is a list of a few more things they continue to do:
• Campaign for the end to impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity
• Campaign to lessen the amount of small arms that fuel the conflict and abuse
• Lobbying for the adoption of a global Arms Trade Treaty.
• Campaigns for International peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad, and has urged its supporters across the world to write to Sudanese MPs, calling on them to take a stand against the atrocities happening in their country.
• Campaigning to end the recruitment of child soldiers and to ensure that they are demobilized and reintegrated into society.
• Lobbying the UN for strengthened protection of civilians, including strict adherence to human rights and humanitarian law in peacekeeping efforts.
(http://www.amnesty.org/en/armed-conflict)

-Kristine Stull

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