News Briefing and Comment
Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:57:26 +0200
US Catholic religious sign letter in support of refugee resettlement
A letter, signed by 4,000 Catholic priests, religious brothers and sisters and deacons has called on elected officials and citizens alike to fulfill the moral responsibility to welcome and protect those displaced from their homes, fleeing from war and other forms of violence.
A letter, signed by 4,000 Catholic priests, religious brothers and sisters, and deacons and disseminated by the Franciscan Action Network, has called on elected officials and citizens alike to fulfill the moral responsibility to welcome and protect those displaced from their homes, fleeing from war and other forms of violence.
Quoting Matthew 25, and pointing to the teachings of Jesus, the letter cites the strong Catholic faith tradition of welcoming the stranger. Additionally, it reminds elected officials of the strict vetting process currently in place and rejects any proposal which "prioritize refugees of certain religions over others."
Text of the Letter:
March 27, 2017
We, 4000 priests, religious brothers and sisters, and deacons of the Catholic Church, appeal to our President and political leaders to continue broad support for United States' refugee resettlement program.
As leaders in the Church, we are deeply committed to Jesus' teaching to welcome the stranger and to protect those who are marginalized and vulnerable. With some sixty-five million people worldwide displaced from their homes due to war and other forms of violence, the United States has a moral responsibility to remain a safe haven for children, women, and men fleeing persecution and possible death. Our nation has long prided itself on providing refugee families an opportunity to start a new life and the chance to contribute to the continued flourishing of our country. Now, when the need is so great, is not the time to waiver in our commitment to this tradition of welcome.
Furthermore, while the Catholic Church in the United States is deeply concerned with the persecution of religious minorities, we strongly reject any proposal to prioritize refugees of certain religions over others. We understand and support the need for a safe resettlement program, however, we remind our leaders that the vetting in place currently is quite stringent and has proven very successful, and that we must always balance the need for security with the need to protect and welcome the most vulnerable among us. Doing so is fundamental to our religious tradition: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me." (MT 25:35). We call on our elected officials to ensure that refugees of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have equal access to the U.S. resettlement program.
Our Catholic community will continue to stand with refugees and other marginalized migrant populations. We will continue to advocate for the recognition and protection of the human dignity of all. And we will recommit to work with our government in order to ensure that our resettlement program is both secure and accessible to the vulnerable refugees in need of our compassion, welcome, and support.
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me..." Matthew 25: 35-40
* Franciscan Action Network https://www.guidestar.org/profile/26-2015539
Wed, 29 Mar 2017 09:04:04 +0000
Boris Johnson refuses help for death-row Briton
The Foreign Secretary has refused to support the last appeal of a 78-year-old Briton, who has spent three decades in a US prison for a crime his lawyers say he did not commit.
British businessman Kris Maharaj was arrested in Florida in 1986 and sentenced to death for murder, despite compelling evidence of his innocence. Since Mr Maharaj’s conviction, human rights organisation Reprieve has established – through six people affiliated with a Colombian drug cartel – that the cartels committed the crime.
Mr Maharaj has filed a final appeal against his original conviction in the US federal courts, asking the court to consider the new evidence of his innocence. Clive Stafford Smith, founder of Reprieve and Mr Maharaj’s lawyer, has asked Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to submit an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief from the British Government.
However, in a recent letter to Reprieve, Mr Johnson confirmed that the Government would not submit such a briefing. His letter said that the Government’s position “still stands” – referring to previous correspondence in which ministers said it would not be “appropriate” to support Mr Maharaj’s case.
Mr Johnson’s predecessors have previously intervened with amicus briefs for British prisoners and businesses. Three years ago, the Foreign Office commissioned four lawyers from an international law firm to intervene on behalf of BP in litigation surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, saying the case “implicates the rights of one of the United Kingdom’s largest companies.” (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23671)
The Foreign Secretary’s refusal to intervene in the case comes amid fresh concerns for Mr Maharaj’s wellbeing. Already confined to a wheelchair, Mr Maharaj was recently hospitalised after contracting a potentially fatal flesh-eating bacteria, due to unsanitary prison conditions.
Speaking to BBC Five Live in an interview broadcast yesterday (29 March 2017), Kris Maharaj's wife Marita said the couple had received “very little help” from ministers. She urged Mr Johnson to “do something” to support him, saying: “We are nearly 80 years old. Time is passing – we have the hope that everything is going to be okay, but we had that hope so many times. It’s a horrible feeling. We’ve been disappointed so many times.” She added that she believed the authorities in Florida “know he is innocent.”
Senior Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley has supported Mr Maharaj’s request for a fresh hearing.
Clive Stafford Smith, Kris Maharaj’s lawyer at Reprieve, said: “It’s deeply disappointing that, while the UK Government will intervene in a case involving a British firm, Boris Johnson won’t support an elderly, innocent Brit who has been through a 30-year ordeal in prison. Kris Maharaj doesn’t have much time left – all he and his family want is one last chance to reverse decades of injustice. Mr Johnson must meaningfully support Kris’ final bid for freedom.”
Wed, 29 Mar 2017 08:44:55 +0000
Call for Russia to release peaceful protestors
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and all peaceful protesters detained after the mass anti-corruptiondemonstrations across the country on 26 March must be released immediately, said Amnesty International, after Mr Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and all peaceful protesters detained after the mass anti-corruption demonstrations across the country on 26 March 2017 must be released immediately, said Amnesty International, after Mr Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
After being detained on Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow and spending a night at a police station, Navalny was fined under one set of charges (organising the protest) before then being presented with a new charge while in court (disobedience to police for purportedly resisting his arrest) for which he was jailed.
Meanwhile, officers from the Investigative Committee have appeared in a number of Moscow police stations where the protesters are held, suggesting that criminal charges against some of them are being initiated or considered.
A monitor for Amnesty witnessed the arrest of dozens of peaceful demonstrators in Moscow's Pushkin Square yesterday, observing numerous instances of excessive use of force by the police. In particular, riot policemen surrounded people standing on the staircases of the cinema theatre Rossiya and then began to push them down the stairs, provoking a stampede and causing more people to fall. Amnesty also saw teenagers beaten by police, and bystanders and journalists arbitrarily detained.
While Amnesty had not witnessed any incidents of violence on the part of demonstrators, one policeman in Moscow reportedly became unconscious after being beaten up and one protester was detained for kicking a policeman in the city of Volgograd.
Altogether, according to independent monitors' estimates, more than 1,000 people were taken into custody in Moscow, 130 in St Petersburg and hundreds in other cities. According to media reports, detentions also took place during rallies in Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Krasnodar, Makhachkala, Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhny Novgorod, Pskov, Samara, Tambov, Vladivostok, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and other cities.
Anti-corruption protests took place on Sunday in Moscow and several dozen Russian cities. Out of more than 80 rally authorisation requests across Russia, only 21 were granted by the local authorities. In Moscow and St Petersburg, the protesters took to the streets despite the de facto bans in place.
Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International Russia, said: "By detaining hundreds of protesters, the Russian authorities have demonstrated their profound disdain for the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Russia has broken its own sad record for mass detentions by arresting more than one thousand people on the same day in Moscow alone.
"All the peaceful protesters must be immediately released; no one should be imprisoned for merely exercising their rights to expression and peaceful assembly."
* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/
Tue, 28 Mar 2017 08:13:27 +0000
UK complicit in the destruction of Yemen say campaigners
The UK has licensed over £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of a bombing campaign intended to influence the outcome of the civil conflict in Yemen. It has created a humanitarian catastrophe. Campaign Against Arms Trade is awaiting verdict of legal action against arms exports being used by the Saudi regime in Yemen
The UK has licensed over £3.3 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of a bombing campaign intended to influence the outcome of the civil conflict in Yemen. It has created a humanitarian catastrophe. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is awaiting verdict of legal action against arms exports being used by the Saudi regime in Yemen
The morning of March 26 marked two years since the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen began. Since then, 10,000 people have been killed and millions have been left without access to vital infrastructure, clean water or electricity. An estimated 17 million people are food insecure and require urgent humanitarian assistance.
For decades now, Saudi Arabia has been by far the largest buyer of UK arms. The Royal Saudi Air Force is using UK licensed fighter jets, bombs and missiles in its ongoing bombardment of Yemen.
Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed:
- £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
- £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
- £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)
These weapons have underpinned an intimate political and military relationship, causing the UK to make excuses and look the other way while atrocities have taken place, says CAAT. They have also had devastating consequences in their own right, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among those that have linked UK bombs to attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Andrew Smith of Campaign against Arms Trade said: "For two years now, Saudi forces have unleashed a brutal humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen. The response from Whitehall has been to keep arming and supporting the Saudi regime, irrespective of the destruction it has caused. Ten thousand people have been killed, yet the message being sent out is that their lives are less important than profits for arms companies.
The legality of these arms sales is currently the subject of a Judicial Review, following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade. The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation. The verdict is still pending.
Andrew Smith concluded: "We are always being told that the UK enjoys a strong influence over Saudi Arabia. If that is true then it needs to use it to call and work for a meaningful and lasting ceasefire. It must also end its own complicity and stop the arms sales. Forging lasting peace from a conflict zone is never easy, but as long as governments like the UK continue to prioritise arms company interests then it will be civilians who pay the price."
*Campaign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/
Tue, 28 Mar 2017 07:57:55 +0000
UN agrees roadmap to women’s economic empowerment
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has agreed on a roadmap to women’s full and equal participation in the economy as a vital step to achieving sustainable development as the body concluded its two-week session.
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has agreed (24 March 2017) on a roadmap to women’s full and equal participation in the economy as a vital step to achieving sustainable development as the body concluded its two-week session.
“This Commission has engaged strongly, comprehensively and constructively over the last two weeks in considering the most effective ways in which to bring about change for women in the world of work,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, formally known as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
The outcome document, consisting of a set of agreed conclusions, highlights barriers that women face, such as unequal working conditions, women’s over-representation in the informal economy, gender stereotypes and social norms that reinforce women’s concentration in certain sectors, such as health and social sectors, and the uneven share of unpaid care work that women do.
This year’s Commission drew the attendance of 162 Member States, including 89 representatives at the Ministerial level. More than 3,900 representatives from 580 civil society organisations came to New York from 138 countries, attesting to the growing strength and unity of women’s voices around the world.
Member States expressed concern over the gender pay gap and the persistently low wages paid to women, which are often below decent living wages.
In the final agreement, they commit to the implementation of equal pay policies through social dialogue, collective bargaining, job evaluations and gender pay audits, among other measures.
“There has never been any excuse for the inequality that exists. Now we are seeing a healthy intolerance for inequality grow into firm and positive change,” said Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Underlining that women’s careers should not experience any disadvantage because of pregnancy and motherhood, the outcome document stresses the need to ensure that both women and men have access to paid parental leave and to promote men's usage of such allowances.
For the first time, the transition of informal and domestic workers into the formal economy was a key issue of discussion for the Commission, whose members agreed on the need of promoting decent work and paid care in the public and private sectors; increasing the provision of social protection and wages that guarantee an adequate standard of living; and ensuring safe working conditions for women.
This comes as a matter of concern as many migrant women employed in the informal economy and in less skilled work are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The Commission recognised the positive contributions of migrants and called for gender-responsive migration policies that promote migrant women’s economic empowerment.
It also calls for strengthened efforts in both public and private sectors to retain women in the workforce and seek more gender balance in managerial positions.
Member States further called for an end to the practice of gender-based price differentiation, also known as the ‘pink tax’ – whereby goods and services intended for or marketed to women and girls cost more than similar items marketed to men and boys.
With the empowerment of indigenous women being the emerging theme of this session, the outcome document urges the full inclusion and development of indigenous women in economic life, including through the establishment of indigenous-owned businesses.
* More on the Commission on the Status of Women here
* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html
Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:36:21 +0000