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The Upstream Journal

A magazine on social justice since 1975

  • The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

    The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

  • Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

    Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

  • More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

    More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

The Upstream Journal

Journal

Eye on Ottawa: When Canadians get into trouble abroad

Several Canadians have, for one reason or another, been captured or imprisoned abroad. These include Amanda Lindhout, Brenda Martin, Mohamed Kohail, Huseyin Celil, Abousfian Abdelrazik, Bashir Makhtal, Ratnarajah Thusiyanthan, and Suaad Hagi Mohamud.

The government has intervened in the cases of Martin, Kohail, Celil, Makhtal, but has been reluctant to help in others.

When Abousfian Abdelrazik was imprisoned in Sudan in 2003 and again in 2005, the government refused his repatriation, even after his release, because of alleged ties to terrorism (he is the only Canadian on the UN no-fly list). He was returned to Canada in 2009, after the Federal Court ordered the government to provide him assistance.

Suaad Hagi Mohamud made headlines in 2009 when a Canadian embassy official in Kenya declared her an imposter and she was jailed and charged. She was granted bail, and then returned to Canada after the government was pressured into doing a DNA test that confirmed she is who she says she is. Continue Reading

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Journal

Mass murder’s paper trail:The Guatemalan police archive’s documentation of death and disappearance

Fire in Guatemalan police archive

An explosion and fire nearby led officials to explore an abandoned munitions building in Guatemala City, where written, audio, and photographic documents on a wide range of police matters from as early as the 1900s were stored. A Guatemalan team funded by Switzerland, Spain, and Germany is cleaning, organizing and making digital copies of the documents, many of them disintegrating with age and exposure to moisture. The files can be used as evidence in the victims’ legal cases, and their discovery contributes to fighting impunity in a country where human rights abuse and corruption are still common.
Photos courtesy the Guatemalan National Police Archive Project

More than twenty-five years after Edgar Fernando Garcia, labour leader and father of a one-year-old girl, disappeared from outside his relatives’ house in Guatemala City, suspects in his abduction have been identified and detained.

In March 2009, senior police officer Héctor Roderico Ramírez Ríos and retired policeman Abraham Lancerio Gómez were arrested as suspects in Garcia’s disappearance. The arrest was based on evidence accidentally discovered five years ago in an old munitions dump in Guatemala City. The abandoned building contained 75 million pages of secret national police documents, many of which provide information on police actions during Guatemala’s violent civil war. It is estimated that 400,000 people disappeared and 200,000 were killed between 1960 and 1996.

Documents among the stacks of decomposing and mouldy paper indicate that Garcia was abducted as part of the state-sponsored violence that mainly targeted community leaders, most of them Mayan, and trade unionists that the government perceived as threatening.

The day Garcia disappeared, he left his house to go to a market in Guatemala City. He and his family planned to celebrate his aunt’s wedding anniversary in that afternoon in February, 1984. He never showed up. Instead, soldiers arrived to take his belongings away. No official explanation followed. No government investigation took place to find out what had happened.
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Journal

The “walking dead”: Tanzania’s trade in the body parts of albino people

Albanism

Photos by- Rick Guidotti for Positive Exposure (photoexposure.org)

 

Known locally as the ‘walking dead,’ people with albinism are regarded with suspicion in Tanzania. Occult beliefs in the magical properties of albino body parts – used by witchdoctors for rituals thought to bring wealth and prosperity – have given rise to a series of albino murders.

The rapidly growing trade in albino body parts, which also targets children, is lucrative. Traders can sell albino limbs on the black market for $500 to $2000. It is estimated that this trade resulted in 60-70 murders in Tanzania in 2009.

Although the Tanzanian government has pledged to crack down on the gruesome industry, it admits that action has been slow because most of the attacks happen in rural areas where police forces are understaffed. As well, failure of the court system has meant that dozens of accused people have not been tried for the murders.

Peter Ash is the founder of the Canadian NGO “Under The Same Sun,” which provides advocacy and support for albino people in Tanzania. He says that of 57 reported murders, and 6 attacks in which victims lost limbs, in the last two years, there were convictions in only 2 cases. In neighbouring Burundi there were convictions in 12 of 14 cases. Government officials have blamed the slow progress on lack of funds, but Ash is not convinced.

“We are unaware of other capital murder cases that have been stopped due to lack of funds, we’ve never heard of that happening before,” he said. “We believe that it is due more to a lack of political will.” Continue Reading

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Journal

Assassinating the rights defenders

World mapfinal
In the early morning of July 15, 2009, leading human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was abducted from her home in Gronzy, Chechnya. Several witnesses heard her scream “I’m being kidnapped” as she was pushed into a car. Her body was found along a roadside several hours later with multiple gunshot wounds. Continue Reading

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Orphanage corruption in Ghana: For the benefit of children?

ghana
While volunteering in Ghana, 22-year-old Jenna Macdonald from Tiverton, Ontario, was asked to buy 250 chickens and a coop for the children of Good Shepherd Orphanage. She had already paid an $800 “volunteer fee” and seen the orphanage administration refuse to pay fifty
Ghana cedis ($37 Cdn) for a young staff member’s malaria treatment, which resulted in his death.

“When I met with the orphanage owner, Bishop Kwaku Addei, he wanted me to give him $350 cash for the coop. I was apprehensive about that, but it always seemed to be money first and action later in Ghana.”

seated group
re there to help with the kids.”  The Good Shepherd Orphanage founder and director is Kwaku Addei, a bishop in the Great Word of God Church, which he also founded. He denies that the orphanage misuses volunteer funds and maintains that volunteers are generally happy with their experience. “There are good volunteers who come to the orphanage without any problems,” he said. “And there are some who only come here to criticize the work we are doing. Nobody gives me money for the upkeep of the children. Only some individuals and churches donate to support the children.

We pay electricity bills, teachers, and internet bills without any volunteer contributions. Young volunteers should not condemn what we are doing here.” However, Ian Nowosad is another volunteer like Jenna, who is concerned about mishandling of volunteers’ donations. While he was at Good Shepherd Orphanage, he gave the children’s primary caregiver, “Mama,” an extra five dollars every day so that she could buy them nutritious food. Ian worked at the orphanage for over six weeks and he never saw the kids’ meals improve. Continue Reading

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Uzbekistan after Andijan: Repression and the façade of communal solidarity

Uzbekistan

Bordered by Afghanistan to the south and Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan is ranked by Freedom House as among the worst in terms of civil and political liberties in a region already known for its human rights abuses. A product of the post-Soviet break-up in 1991, Uzbekistan has struggled since its independence with religious factionalism, economic inequality and a repressive ruling regime.

“Thousands upon thousands waited in Andijan’s main square, waiting to talk to their president, their leader, and instead the military started shooting.” Bakhtiyor Nishanov, now a staff member of Freedom House, a human rights NGO based in Washington, no longer feels comfortable returning to Uzbekistan, concerned for his own security and that of his family. In fact, he is one of many human rights defenders from Uzbekistan whose work has forced him to leave the country.

In Andijan, the forth-largets city in the country, what began as a demonstration by some 10,000 people gathered to protest poverty and government corruption on May 13, 2005 quickly descended into violence. Armored military trucks, tanks and security-forces responded, shooting men, women and children alike. Continue Reading

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  • 2010 / Mar
  • By Shazia Khan
  • 0
Journal

Government rights organization in turmoil

The Montreal-based government agency Rights and Democracy has been confronted with a controversy after the group’s President, Remy Beauregard, died of a heart attack following a disruptive board meeting on January 7th. The death of Mr. Beauregard occurred during a time of turmoil and division among the staff and board members.

Former President of the Rights and Democracy group, Warren Allmand, spoke with me regarding the recent controversy of Beauregard’s death and tension between board members.

“The members of the board and the President are appointed by the government in power and they are suppose to appoint people who have different political backgrounds and are committed to the mandate which is to promote and defend all human rights,” Mr. Allmand said. “They cannot pick and chose, or defend and shield some countries and go after other countries. It should be an objective and non-partisan approach”. Continue Reading

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  • 2010 / Mar
  • By Sarah Babbage
  • 0
Journal

CIDA’s NGO partners face uncertain future as agency cuts funds, delays contracts

Government minister alienates NGOs with charge of anti-Semitism

Canadian NGOs who receive funding from CIDA are worried about the state of their partnership. Many NGOs suspected change was in the air at CIDA as they experienced increasing wait times for responses on proposals. Their suspicious grew as the ministry announced new policy, such as its new countries of focus, without consulting them. “Serious issues are emerging about how CIDA’s partnerships are managed,” said Gerry Barr, President of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC). “They are basically removing ‘partnership’ from the term “partnership organizations.””

Kairos funds cut

The latest signal of change came on November 30, 2009, when KAIROS, an ecumenical non-governmental organization that had previously enjoyed a productive partnership with CIDA, was told that its funding would not be renewed. No explanation was offered at the time. Continue Reading

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Journal

Assassinating the rights defenders: The Philippines

Dr. Claver

Dr. Constancio Claver fled the Philippines after an assassination attempt in which his wife was shot to death.

On July 31, 2006, Dr. Constancio Claver and his wife, Alice, were taking their daughter to school when two masked men wielding high-powered rifles confronted them. He and his wife were shot thirteen times. Fortunately their seven-year-old daughter only suffered a scratch on the head, but his wife later died on the operating table of seven gunshot wounds.

A surgeon, he was no longer able to work in hospitals and clinics for security reasons following the incident. He had to leave his children under the care of his relatives, and moved from one place to another to remain hidden from the attackers. Even so, he managed to continue working for the people’s rights organizations in which he was a member. Continue Reading

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Journal

Canada resists expansion of economic, social and cultural rights mechanism

The United Nations has created a new international mechanism through the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Optional Protocol (OP) aims to enable those whose economic, social and cultural rights are violated to seek justice if they are denied a remedy in their countries. The OP was opened for signature and ratification in September 2009. Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan. India, Egypt and Saudi Arabia oppose the OP. Countries from the poorer regions of Africa and the Americas are the most supportive of it.

Here are two perspectives, for and against, the Canadian government position.

Dana Cryderman (DC) is a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Bruce Porter (BP) is a member of the Steering Committee of the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, Toronto. (BP) Continue Reading

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