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An anti-drug crackdown by the Vancouver Police Department has driven injection drug users away from life-saving HIV prevention services, raising fears of a new wave of HIV transmission in the city that is already home to the worst AIDS crisis in the developed world, said Human Rights Watch. In a 25-page report released today, "Abusing the User: Police Misconduct, Harm Reduction and HIV/AIDS in Vancouver," Human Rights Watch documents instances of unnecessary force and mistreatment, arbitrary arrest, and other intimidation and harassment of drug users as part of a campaign commonly referred to as Operation Torpedo. The crackdown began on April 7 in the city's impoverished Downtown Eastside neighborhood. Though drug traffickers are the ostensible target, drug users not charged with selling drugs have been driven to places where health workers cannot reach them to ensure access to sterile syringes and other HIV prevention services.
A hidden war has been raging in Aceh since May 2003, when Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in the province. This report attempts to convey some of the reality of that war: extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and drastic limits on freedom of movement. In many incidents described to Human Rights Watch, Indonesian security forces - military and police - routinely resorted to violence against primarily young Acehnese men stopped for questioning. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch about killings of civilians during village sweeps, some while being questioned or detained, others while fleeing in fear of mistreatment.
A shroud of secrecy has enveloped Indonesia's Aceh province since the Indonesian government renewed its war there against the armed, separatist Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or GAM) on May 19, 2003. This shroud parts occasionally to provide glimpses of vulnerable civilians caught in a violent military campaign with inadequate humanitarian relief. Although information is never more important than during wartime, troubling glimpses are all that is possible right now. The Indonesian government and military have effectively barred nearly all independent and impartial observers (including diplomats), as well as international humanitarian aid workers, from the province. Those allowed into or to stay in Aceh are generally not permitted to venture beyond the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.
Thousands of Indonesians have fled to Malaysia since the start of military operations and martial law in Indonesia's Aceh province in May 2003. They are fleeing a brutal conflict marked by grave human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, kidnappings, beatings, arbitrary detentions, and strict limitations on freedom of movement. Young men, in particular, are singled out by Indonesian security forces on suspicion that they are separatist rebels or supporters. Ongoing fighting, massive internal displacement, drastic restrictions on movement, and restrictions on humanitarian assistance have made the province an unbearable place to live for many Acehnese. Braving a difficult, dangerous, and costly journey, many have fled to Malaysia to seek refuge. Upon arrival in Malaysia, Acehnese refugees face a new set of challenges. Malaysia does not have a system to provide protection for refugees and asylum seekers. It does not recognize Acehnese fleeing the armed conflict at home as refugees. As a result, the Malaysian government has arrested, detained, and deported Acehnese refugees back to the very conflict they are fleeing. Those who manage to avoid deportation frequently live in situations of extreme poverty and are regularly subject to extortion from local police.
In a 47-page report released today, After the Deluge: India's Reconstruction Following the 2004 Tsunami, Human Rights Watch examines the Indian government's response to the tsunami and documents several systemic and potentially enduring failures. Human Rights Watch applauded the Indian government's overall response to the tsunami, but found that government recovery efforts did not adequately take into account the needs of different vulnerable segments of the affected population, particularly women, children, the disabled, Dalits (so-called untouchables) and tribal groups. In India, particularly in the weeks right after the tsunami, Human Rights Watch documented discrimination against Dalits by other victims of the tsunami, who belonged to a higher caste. In many instances, the Indian government failed to enforce its existing legislation and policy to protect vulnerable groups. Human Rights Watch urged the Indian government to undertake effective training and education-both for officials and the affected communities-part of its disaster management strategy.
This report is the first comprehensive examination of the variety of human rights abuses that foreign workers experience in Saudi Arabia. The voices of these migrants provide a window into a country whose hereditary, unelected rulers continue to choose secrecy over transparency at the expense of justice. The stories in this report illustrate why so many migrant workers, including Muslims, return to their home countries deeply aggrieved by the lack of equality and due process of law in the kingdom. In an important sense, this report is an indictment of unscrupulous private employers and sponsors as well as Saudi authorities, including interior ministry interrogators and shari'a court judges, who operate without respect for the rule of law and the inherent dignity of all men and women, irrespective of gender, race, and religion.
In this 53-page report, Human Rights Watch found that New York prison officials sentenced inmates to a collective total of 2,516 years in disciplinary segregation from 2005 to 2007 for drug-related charges. At the same time, inmates seeking drug treatment face major delays because treatment programs are filled to capacity. When sentenced to segregation, known as "the box," inmates are not allowed to get or continue to receive treatment. Conditions in the box are harsh, with prisoners locked down 23 hours a day and contact with the outside through visitors, packages, and telephone calls severely restricted.
The city of Basra, with population of 1.5 million, is Iraq's main seaport and second largest city. It is situated some 550 kilometers south-east of Baghdad along the western shore of Shatt-al Arab, at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, 130 kilometers from the Persian Gulf. Basra suffered tremendously during Saddam Hussein's rule. The vast majority of the city's population are Shi`a Muslim Arabs. Shi`a Muslims comprise an estimated 55 percent of Iraq's population. Despite their numbers, Shi`a Muslims have been historically disempowered and oppressed in Iraq. As one of the chief population centers of Iraq's Shi`a Muslims, the city was a center of opposition to the Ba'th government. Basra's Shi`a residents rose up against Saddam Hussein after the rout of Iraqi forces in 1991, spurred in part by then-U.S. President George H. Bush's call to the Iraqi people to "take matters into their own hands to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside." The uprising began in Basra and quickly spread to other major Shi`a areas in southern Iraq (as well as to the predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Iraq). Throughout the south, vengeance killings took place as the population vented its anger against anyone associated with the Ba'th government, killing hundreds of Ba'th party officials, local bureaucrats, and intelligence agents. However, the Iraqi government managed to maintain its control over the country and launched a brutal campaign of reprisal when the United States failed to support the uprising. In the ensuing retaliation, thousands of civilians from Basra were killed and thousands more imprisoned or "disappeared."
Twenty-five U.S. states still permit the execution of offenders with mental retardation and should pass laws to ban the practice without delay. The United States appears to be the only democracy whose laws expressly permit the execution of persons with this severe mental disability.
The 53-page report, "Black Hole: The Fate of Islamists Rendered to Egypt," identifies some 60 individuals, mostly alleged Islamist militants of Egyptian origin, whom other states rendered to Egypt since 1994. The sending states have mainly been Arab and South Asian countries, but include Sweden as well as the United States. The Egyptian government has held many of the suspects in prolonged incommunicado detention. In some cases, Egypt has refused to acknowledge the whereabouts of those persons, and even the fact that they were in custody, raising concerns that some of the suspects have been forcibly "disappeared." Human Rights Watch said that sending wanted individuals to Egypt is a clear violation of the international law that prohibits extraditing or otherwise transferring persons to a country where they face likely torture.
In Blood, Sweat, and Fear we focus on workers' rights violations in the beef, pork, and poultry slaughtering and processing industry. The report concentrates on workplace health and safety, workers' compensation, workers' organizing rights, and the status of immigrant workers because our research uncovered systemic violations in these areas. The report draws from research, interviews, and visits in 2003 and 2004 to three geographic centers of the industry: Omaha, Nebraska for beef; Tar Heel, North Carolina for pork; and Northwest Arkansas for poultry. It also draws from research undertaken during 1999-2000 for Unfair Advantage. Although major areas of beef, pork, and poultry production exist in other parts of the United States, these three locations were selected for the geographic diversity among them and their reflection of each of the three major product segments in the industry. Human Rights Watch researchers conducted in-person interviews with dozens of meat and poultry workers and telephone interviews with several others. Most current employees did not want to be identified, fearing retaliation by their employer if their names appeared in the report. Workers who agreed to the use of their names are identified in the report. The report also draws on interviews with community organization and union representatives, workers' compensation attorneys, ergonomics experts, government officials, and other professionals with relevant experience and expertise.
Workers in the U.S. meat and poultry industry endure unnecessarily hazardous work conditions, and the companies employing them often use illegal tactics to crush union organizing efforts. In meat and poultry plants across the United States, Human Rights Watch found that many workers face a real danger of losing a limb, or even their lives, in unsafe work conditions.
West African governments are failing to address a rampant traffic in child labor that could worsen with the region's growing AIDS crisis, Human Rights Watch charged in a new report released today. The 79-page report, "Borderline Slavery: Child Trafficking in Togo," highlights Togo as a case study of trafficking in the region. The report documents how children as young as three years old are exploited as domestic and agricultural workers in several countries.
The devastating eleven year civil war in Sierra Leone, which lasted from 1991 until 2002, was characterized by unspeakable brutality and serious crimes. Forces failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Families were gunned down in the street, children and adults had their limbs hacked off with machetes, and girls and women were taken to rebel bases and subjected to sexual violence. The civil war was notable for the systematic use of mutilation, abduction, sexual violence, and murder of civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and up to one-quarter of the population was displaced. The majority of crimes were perpetrated by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). However, government forces and their allies, including the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), also committed serious crimes, albeit on a smaller scale and of a different nature than those by the rebel alliance. Following the end of the conflict, the Sierra Leone justice system lacked the capacity to hold perpetrators of the crimes accountable. Corruption and political manipulation plagued the judiciary. Hundreds of criminal suspects suffered from extended and unlawful detention, many without the due process guarantees stipulated in the constitution. The numbers of judges, magistrates, and prosecutors were inadequate and numerous courtrooms and police stations were destroyed during the war. Prompted by a request from Sierra Leone President Tejan Kabbah to the United Nations, a national-international court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (Special Court or SCSL), was established in 2002 by agreement between the Sierra Leone government and the United Nations to prosecute serious crimes committed during the war. The Special Court's mandate is limited to prosecuting those who "bear the greatest responsibility" as opposed to those "who bear responsibility." The Special Court's authority is also restricted to prosecuting crimes committed during less than half of the conflict. Whereas the Special Court has so far indicted thirteen individuals and is not expected to issue more than a few additional indictments at most, the ICTR has indicted over seventy individuals, while the list of indictees at the ICTY tops one hundred.
Between 300,000 and 350,000 Serbs left their homes in Croatia during the 1991-95 war. This report describes the continued plight of displacement suffered by the Serbs of Croatia and identifies the principal remaining impediments to their return. The most significant problem is the difficulty Serbs face in returning to their pre-war homes. Despite repeated promises, the Croatian government has been unwilling and unable to solve this problem for the vast majority of displaced Serbs. In addition, fear of arbitrary arrest on war-crimes charges and discrimination in employment and pension benefits also deter return. Human Rights Watch believes that these problems are a result of a practice of ethnic discrimination against Serbs by the Croatian government. The report concludes with a list of recommendations to the government of Croatia and the international community to deal with these persistent problems and finally make good on the promise of return.
This 71-page report documents the experiences of HIV-positive detainees in immigration custody whose HIV treatment was denied, delayed, or interrupted, resulting in serious risk and often damage to their health. The investigation included interviews with current and former detainees, DHS and detention facility officials, and an independent medical review of treatment provided. Detention facilities which housed immigrants with HIV infection failed to consistently deliver anti-retroviral medications, conduct necessary laboratory tests, ensure continuity of care, and ensure confidentiality or protection from discrimination.
A crisis of serious proportions is brewing in northern Iraq, and may soon explode into open violence. Since 1975, the former Iraqi government forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from their homes, and brought in Arab settlers to replace them, under a policy known as "Arabization." With the overthrow of that government in April 2003, the Kurds and other non-Arabs began returning to their former homes and farms. Ethnic tensions between returning Kurds and others and the Arab settlers escalated rapidly and have continued to do so, along with tensions between the different returning communities-particularly between Kurds and Turkomans-over control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. In the absence of a speedy implementation of plans to address the conflicting land and property claims and the needs of the different communities, ownership disputes may soon be settled through force.
Excessively severe drug laws have deprived thousands of children of their parents, Human Rights Watch said today. Governor Pataki and New York politicians in Albany are now debating legislation to reform these drug laws.Releasing a new report with the first statistics on the number of children in New York who have had parents sent to prison for drug offenses, Human Rights Watch said the statistics should spur a swift agreement on major reform of the state's drug laws.Human Rights Watch has consistently urged New York to eliminate harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to authorize judges to tailor criminal sanctions that reflect the individual offender's conduct and other relevant factors.
In 2002, India experienced its greatest human rights crisis in a decade: orchestrated violence against Muslims in the state of Gujarat that claimed at least 2,000 lives in a matter of days. On February 27, 2002, in the town of Godhra, a Muslim mob attacked a train on which Hindu nationalists were traveling. Two train cars were set on fire, killing at least fifty-eight people. In the days following the Godhra massacre, Muslims were branded as terrorists by government officials and the local media while armed gangs set out on a four-day retaliatory killing spree. Muslim homes, businesses, and places of worship were destroyed. Hundreds of women and girls were gang-raped and sexually mutilated before being burnt to death. In the weeks that followed the massacres, Muslims destroyed Hindu homes and businesses in continued retaliatory violence. According to one official estimate, a total of 151 towns and 993 villages, covering 154 out of 182 assembly constituencies in the state, were affected by the violence.
Country on a Precipice: The Precarious State of Human Rights and Civilian Protection in Côte d'Ivoireby Human Rights Watch
The 35-page report, "Country on a Precipice: The Precarious State of Human Rights and Civilian Protection in Côte d'Ivoire," documents recent military incidents that demonstrate the precariousness of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire. The report also shows how the continued proliferation of militias and the government's practice of using hate speech to incite violence puts civilians at continued risk. The report examines the government offensive against the rebel-held north in November, which was followed by widespread anti-French riots in Abidjan and ethnic clashes in Gagnoa. It also details how the February 28 attack by government-backed militia on the rebel-held town of Logouale sparked ethnically motivated attacks between indigenous groups and immigrant farm workers that resulted in some 16 deaths, caused more than 13,000 villagers to flee, and left several villages in flames. Human Rights Watch found that government forces in the first three months of the year were training and equipping militia forces, including Liberian mercenaries, to renew the war against the rebel New Forces (Forces Nouvelles). The government has been making increasing use of thousands of poorly-trained and ill-disciplined militias that have committed serious crimes with impunity, particularly targeting northerners, Muslims and West African immigrants. The report also notes recent abuses committed by the New Forces rebels against perceived government opponents, including torture and summary execution.
This 20-page report publicly reveals this practice for the first time. It also shows that the practice is not only cruel, but wholly unnecessary as there are safer, more humane alternatives that corrections officers can use - and most across the country do use - to remove prisoners from their cells.
This 136-page report provides an in-depth look at the abuses and neglect suffered by girls confined in two remote New York State juvenile facilities known as Tryon and Lansing. The facilities are operated by the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and are the only two higher-security facilities in New York State holding girls.
The government of Sudan is responsible for "ethnic cleansing" and crimes against humanity in Darfur, one of the world's poorest and most inaccessible regions, on Sudan's western border with Chad. The Sudanese government and the Arab "Janjaweed" militias it arms and supports have committed numerous attacks on the civilian populations of the African Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Government forces oversaw and directly participated in massacres, summary executions of civilians-including women and children-burnings of towns and villages, and the forcible depopulation of wide swathes of land long inhabited by the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa. The Janjaweed militias, Muslim like the African groups they attack, have destroyed mosques, killed Muslim religious leaders, and desecrated Qorans belonging to their enemies.
This 73-page report documents how government inaction and misinformation from high-level officials have undermined the effectiveness of South Africa's program to provide rape survivors with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) -- antiretroviral drugs that can reduce the risk of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive attacker.
This 57-page report found that routine police harassment and arrest - as well as the lasting effects of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's 2003 drug war - keeps drug users from receiving lifesaving HIV information and services that Thailand has pledged to provide. The report also documents how drug users face discrimination from health care workers, who continue to deny antiretroviral treatment to people who need it based on their status as drug users.