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Dec 18 International Migrants Day, end criminalization of irregular migration

18 Dec

Zimbabwean migrants at a temporary shelter in South Africa. Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN


18 December 2012 – On International Migrants Day, United Nations independent experts have joined forces with regional counterparts to highlight the human rights of migrants, while expressing renewed concerns over the criminalization of irregular migration by some countries and calling for an end to the administrative detention of migrants.

“Crossing a border without the required documentation or overstaying a visa is not per se a crime, but rather at most, an administrative offence,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, and the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW), Abdelhamid El Jamri, in a joint statement with other human rights experts.

Adding their voices to the statement were the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, Felipe Gonzalez, and the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of the African Union, Maya Sahli Fadel.

According to UN figures, the total number of international migrants has increased over the last 10 years from an estimated 150 million in 2000 to 214 million persons today – the numbers are such that migrants would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world.

Taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants, in 2000 the UN General Assembly proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day. The choice of date marks the day on which the Assembly adopted, in 1990, the treaty known as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

In their joint statement, the human rights experts said that even though migrants have contributed greatly to societies around the world, millions of them are victims of discrimination, xenophobia and a myriad of violations against their human rights – simply for being migrants.

“It is because of this that today, on International Migrants Day, we reaffirm that human rights are rights for all persons,” they said. “In this sense, a real commitment by States regarding the human rights of migrants requires the full recognition of migrants as rights holders. Human rights are derived from human dignity and not from national origin or migratory status.”

According to the experts, measures that criminalize irregular migration include the enactment of laws that penalize migrants in an irregular situation and persons that assist migrants; the use of excessive and disproportionate force during migration control operations; the detention of migrants in an irregular situation; deportations without procedural guarantees; and also xenophobic statements in which authorities and the media encourage the stigmatization of migrants.

“In addition to being contrary to human rights and increasing the vulnerability of migrants, these measures have not been proven effective in deterring irregular migration,” the experts said.

In relation to their concern over the increasing use by some countries of detention against migrants, the four experts noted that “this situation is of even greater concern” because detention is often applied to children.

“Respect for the right to liberty and security of person implies that liberty is the rule and detention, the exception. States have the obligation to establish a presumption in favour of liberty in domestic law,” they said, adding the automatic, mandatory or punitive use of migrant detention violates migrants’ right to liberty, as well as the human rights of others.

“The exceptionality of administrative detention of migrants also applies to asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and other persons in need of international protection,” they said in their joint statement. “We call on States to gradually abolish the administrative detention of migrants and establish alternative measures to detention, applying a human rights-based approach.”

In addition, the four experts called on States to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as other international and regional human rights treaties.

“In parallel to ratifying these instruments, States should guarantee that their policies, laws and practices on migration conform to their international human rights obligations,” they added.

UN independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Mr. Crépeau, are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Headed by Mr. El Jamri, the CMW is a body of 14 independent experts that monitors the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families, as laid out in the International Convention. It meets in Geneva and normally holds two sessions per year.

United Nations News Centre


Two Russians, Italian kidnapped in Syria

18 Dec
Russian Italian Kidnapping Syria


The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed today that two Russian citizens and an Italian have been kidnapped in Syria late on 17 December.

According to the available information, the three men were abducted on the way from the town of Homsa to Tartus, in the western part of the country.

The ministry announced that one of the kidnapped men had a dual citizenship: Russian-Syrian. It also said that the three men worked for a private company, named ‘Hmisho & Co’.

The unknown abductors of VV Gorelov, Abdessattar Hassoun and Mario Belluomo demanded over the phone ransom whose amount was not specified by the Russian MFA.

The Russians concluded by saying that their embassy in Damascus ‘has immediately began taking the necessary proactive actions and was in contact with the Syrian side’ in order to accelerate the rescuing of the kidnapped Russian and Italian citizens. New Europe.

Pirate Party Presses Charges Against Banks For WikiLeaks Blockade

18 Dec
Barbed wire, symbolizing blockade

Today, the Swedish Pirate Party filed formal charges against Swedish banks for their discrimination against WikiLeaks, which has been systematically denied donations by payment providers since 2010.

Numerous payment service providers, including Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, have blocked donations to WikiLeaks and other legal operations since 2010. Banks have been a part of the network of these service providers, which means that the banks actively participate in stopping donations without legitimate grounds. The Swedish Pirate Party says that this behavior is unacceptable and cause for grave concern, and has filed charges against the Swedish banks in question to try this behavior in court.

The charges were filed eariler today with the Swedish Finansinspektionen, the authority which oversees bank licenses and abuse of position. This follows an earlier initiative from the Pirate Party to regulate credit card companies on the European level in order to deny them the ability to determine who gets to trade and who doesn’t.

“The blockade is a serious threat against the freedoms of opinion and expression”, says the Pirate Party’s Erik Lönroth, who has been preparing the formal charges. “It must not be up to the individual payment provider to determine which organizations are eligible for donations. At the same time, these charges will bring clarity as to whether the bank regulations of today are sufficient, or if regulations need to be tightened to protect freedom of expression.”

It’s not just WikiLeaks that has been hurt by the randomness of the payment service providers. Swedish entrepreneurs such as sex toy shops and horror movie stores have also been denied payment services arbitrarily, which has effectively been a death sentence for the fully-legal companies.

Johan Terfelt, who oversees the Finansinspektionen unit for payment providers, confirms that the authority has received the filed charges, writes the Dagens Nyheter:

“We will now investigate what has happened and evaluate the reasons, if any, for us to intervene”, Terfelt tells the Dagens Nyheter. He also states there’s no room at all for arbitrary randomness, and gives a careful hint at a possible outcome: “The law states, that if there aren’t legal grounds to deny a payment service, then it must be processed.”

More in ye Swedish Oldemedia: the Dagens Nyheter, the Göteborgs-Posten.

Falkvinge on Infopolicy.

Offline Prisons Silence Online Critics

18 Dec

Before autocratic regimes fully grasped the democratic nature of the internet, netizens basked in the sunshine of global intercommunication. But in a backlash against digitally driven uprisings, such as those of the Arab Spring, tyrants are now maneuvering to bring users’ online and mobile activities under the shadow of outdated and arbitrary legal restrictions. One sign of this crackdown is the alarming number of digital activists behind bars around the world.

Of the 47 countries analyzed in its Freedom on the Net 2012 study, Freedom House found that 19 had passed new laws or policies that could violate users’ rights to free expression and privacy during the period under review. In 25 countries, at least one blogger or other netizen was arrested for content disseminated via some form of information and communication technology (ICT). These figures seem to grow worse with each passing month.

For imprisoned netizens in the states that were rated worst in the report’s category for violation of user rights—Bahrain, Syria, Iran, and China—there are abundant examples of torture and even death at the hands of government forces. In certain other countries rated Not Free—such as Cuba, Ethiopia, and Vietnam—or identified in the report as “Countries at Risk”—such as Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and Russia—internet users and content providers have been targets of allegations ranging from blasphemy or insulting the royal family to threatening national security. Alternatively, they are detained on bogus charges like evading military service or drug possession to mask the fact that they are being punished for their political opinions, religious beliefs, or desire for more freedom.

As the world’s governments wrap up discussions in Dubai this week on regulating the global internet, they should keep in mind the dozens of individuals who languish in prison because their rulers will not tolerate an open internet within their borders. The delegates should reaffirm the UN Human Rights Council resolution that human rights, including freedom of expression, should be promoted, protected, and enjoyed online in all member states. Let the stories of the following 10 netizens serve as a solemn reminder that internet freedom should change the way authoritarian countries are governed, not the other way around.

Worst of the Worst


Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been repeatedly arrested and sentenced to prison terms, most recently on July 9, for having “insulted Bahrainis” in a Twitter message. A month later, the court added a three-year sentence for protest-related charges. On December 11, an appeals court reduced his sentence to two years, clearing him of a charge of insulting police, but upholding the conviction for encouraging “illegal gatherings.”

 Photo Credit: Bahrain Center for Human Rights



On March 15, Bassel Khartabil, an open-source software specialist, was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. The website campaigning for his release reported this week that he has been transferred from a civilian jail to a military prison, where he is denied a lawyer. His family heard reports from a released detainee that Bassel has suffered torture and other abuse. He was included on Foreign Policy’s list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012 for “insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”


Photo Credit: Joi Ito


Mahsa Amrabadi, an independent multimedia journalist who reports on human rights issues, has faced repeated arrest and solitary confinement since the postelection protests of 2009. She was last detained on May 9, 2012, and is now serving a two-year sentence for “activities against the regime” and “insulting the president.” Amrabadi and her husband, Masoud Bastani, are part of a growing group of Iranian journalists held in deplorable conditions. Concern for their well-being intensified after blogger Sattar Beheshti died from suspected torture in Iran’s notorious Evin prison last month, less than a week after his arrest for alleged “actions against national security on social networks and Facebook.”


Photo Credit: Iran Watch Canada


On November 1, internet cafe owner Cao Haibo was sentenced to a prison term of eight years under the charge of “state subversion,” after being held for almost one year without trial. It is unclear what alleged offense the Kunming resident was punished for in his closed trial, but human rights groups believe it is related to content published on a chat group about Chinese politics that he founded in September 2011. Cao’s lawyer has filed an appeal, but China’s notoriously politicized court system offers little hope of justice.

Other Not Free Countries and Partly Free “Countries at Risk”


Laritza Diversent was arrested on November 7 alongside dozens of other bloggers and civil society advocates arbitrarily detained in consecutive government raids for denouncing human rights abuses in Cuba and protesting against the recent wave of detentions of journalists. A well-known attorney and blogger at Jurisconsulto de Cuba (Cuban Legal Adviser), Diversent is a prominent figure in the human rights community in Havana. Although many of the other detainees have been released, she remains behind bars without charges.


Eskinder Nega, a prominent Ethiopian journalist, was sentenced on July 13 to 18 years in prison under the country’s Antiterrorism Proclamation of 2009. Twenty-three other journalists and opposition politicians were sentenced in the same court ruling. Eskinder was detained in September 2011 after publishing an online column that criticized the government’s use of the antiterrorism law to silence dissent. The website campaigning for Eskinder’s release calls him the face of internet censorship in a country that is among the world’s leading abusers of free speech online.


Blogger Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his penname “Dieu Cay,” is a founding member of the Club for Free Journalists in Ho Chi Minh City. He and other members were charged with “spreading antigovernment propaganda,” and on October 4 he received a sentence of 12 years in prison for “seriously affecting national security and the image of the country in the global arena.” Dieu Cay was first arrested on April 20, 2008, and charged with tax evasion.


Human rights defender Taleh Khasmammadov was arrested on November 12, 2011, and sentenced on April 20, 2012, to four years in prison for alleged hooliganism, disorderly conduct, and resisting the authorities. He worked in Ujar district to document human rights abuses, often posting YouTube videos of interviews with victims of gang violence, organized crime, and human trafficking in which local police are allegedly involved. The judge’s decision is currently being appealed, but the police have asked to extend his jail term.


On August 10, blogger Amizudin Ahmat was sentenced to three months in prison for contempt of court after breaking an order not to criticize the minister of culture, information, and communications, Rais Yatim. Amizudin, a member of the opposition People’s Justice Party, was sued for defaming the minister and required to pay exorbitant damages. Currently the prison sentence is deferred pending an appeal.


On July 31, a Moscow court found anticorruption activist and prominent opposition blogger Aleksey Navalny guilty of embezzlement, and while he is still awaiting sentencing, the conviction could carry a prison term of up to 10 years. Navalny’s detention for two weeks in December 2011, following postelection protests, garnered international media attention, and Navalny suspects that now, rather than risk making him a political prisoner again, the Kremlin is attempting to force him to flee the country.

Freedom House.

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