British Government Illegally Spied on Amnesty International

In an ironic twist, it has been revealed that the government of the United Kingdom has been spying on the human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the primary signals intelligence agency of the British government, had illegally retained communications it had intercepted from Amnesty International for longer than was permitted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

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Controversy continues after Bill C-51 becomes law

On June 18, 2015, Bill C-51 (Short title: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015) received Royal Assent and became the law in Canada. The bill gives expanded powers to the police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). It also allows for enhanced information sharing across government departments, despite heavily redacted CSIS documents suggesting that improved information sharing was possible within the “existing legislative framework” and that some changes created by the bill are unnecessary.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney promoted the bill’s potential to provide better protection against terrorists. However, strong opposition to the bill among the general public, legal scholars, and advocacy groups has continued, despite the passing of the bill. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have signed a petition to repeal the bill and according to a Forum Research poll, half of respondents disapproved of the bill before its passage.

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Expansion of biometric screening of travellers to Canada raises privacy concerns

On June 4, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $312.6 million over five years will go towards expanding biometric screening measures for all foreign travellers entering Canada on a visa by 2018. This funding is part of a number of security measures introduced, including new support for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service towards counter-terrorism capabilities and the Canada Revenue Agency towards targeting terrorist financing activities.

The new regulations are part of Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, an omnibus budget bill which recently passed through the Standing Committee on Finance without amendments.

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Le conflit au Yémen sous la loupe du Haut-Commissariat aux droits de l’homme de l’ONU

La guerre civile yéménite se montre de plus en plus sanglante. Depuis le mois de mars 2015, presque quatre centaines de civils ont été tuées, parmi eux 84 enfants et 25 femmes. Des dizaines de bâtiments publics, tels que des écoles et des hôpitaux, ont été endommagés à cause de frappes aériennes. Plus récemment, les combats de rue se sont intensifiés, ce qui pourra faire augmenter le nombre de victimes.

Cette semaine, le Haut-Commissariat aux droits de l’homme des Nations Unies a rappelé les parties que les attaques contre la population civile doivent faire l’objet d’une enquête et que les droits internationaux concernant la protection de l’homme doivent être respectés dans la conduite des hostilités. Il a également prévenu que les attaques qui visent directement les civils plutôt que les combattants constituent un crime de guerre.

Débuté en août 2014, le conflit oppose la communauté chiite houthis au gouvernement d’Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi. Le lourd bilan de civils tués et blessés ainsi que l’endommagement des infrastructures du pays font preuve de la violence des combats. L’Arabie Saoudite et L’Iran se sont impliqués dans la dispute, ce qui constitue un motif additionnel pour que l’ONU soit encore plus vigilante.

Jakarta paye le prix?

Le gouvernement de Joko Widodo a protesté hier contre la décapitation d’une citoyenne indonésienne condamnée en Arabie Saoudite pour le meurtre de son employeur. L’exécution de Sitti Zeineb a eu lieu à Médina mardi dernier.

Selon la lettre de protestation de la diplomatie de l’Indonésie, qui a été suivie de la convocation de l’ambassadeur saoudien à Jakarta, ni la famille de Zeineb ni l’ambassade indonésienne n’ont pas été préalablement informées de la date de l’exécution. Les autorités indonésiennes, qui ont récemment condamné et exécuté des prisonniers étrangers, avaient en vain fait appel à la miséricorde en faveur de sa citoyenne.

Le quotidien The Jakarta Globe affirme que l’Indonésie a perdu la morale pour y demander clémence et note que le pays paye le prix de sa politique de sécurité basée sur la peine de mort. Il y a actuellement 229 indonésiens condamnés à l’étranger, notamment en Malaisie et en Arabie Saoudite.

Sources :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/noticias/2015/04/150415_indonesia_enforcada_hb

Data retention law entrenches “passive surveillance”

The Australian Coalition Government and Labor Opposition joined forces to pass mandatory data retention laws Thursday morning.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 was introduced to assist authorities in combating terrorism and investigating serious crimes.

The Bill requires telecommunications companies to retain clients’ metadata for two years. For the purposes of the Bill, metadata includes phone numbers, length of phone calls, email addresses, and the time messages were sent, while specifically excluding the content of the phone calls and messages, as well as internet browsing history.

While the Senate passed the Bill with 43 votes in favour and 16 against, critics claim that the Bill fails to strike the appropriate balance between safety and privacy. Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, derided the Bill for “entrench[ing] a form of passive surveillance over 23 million Australians.”  Similarly, Nick Xenophon, an Independent Senator, argued the law would have a “suffocating effect on press freedom.”

Telecommunications companies and internet service providers have until 2017 to implement the new laws.

La précaire démocratie du Venezuela encore un peu plus menacée

Cette semaine, le président Nicolas Maduro a demandé au Parlement vénézuélien des pouvoirs spéciaux pour légiférer seul en matière de sécurité nationale. Selon lui, cette mesure est nécessaire en vertu de la menace extérieure des États-Unis, qui a récemment déclaré le pays de l’Amérique du Sud un danger aux citoyens américains.
La chute du prix international du pétrole et l’instabilité politique font le Venezuela vivre un scénario chaotique. L’économie voit de sérieux problèmes, spécialement en ce qui concerne la production et l’inflation, la violence ne cesse pas d’augmenter et les institutions démocratiques sont de plus en plus faibles.
Des politiciens de l’opposition ont depuis peu été arrêtés, incluant le maire de la capitale Caracas. En outre, des analystes affirment que le Parlement et la Cour suprême sont soumis au contrôle de Maduro, dont la popularité a atteint le niveau le plus bas depuis qu’il a succédé Hugo Chavez en 2013.
Selon des informations publiées par certains députés sur Twitter, le pouvoir de légiférer par décret sera accordé à Maduro pour une période de six mois. L’opposition croit toutefois que le président pourra utiliser ses nouvelles attributions contre des manifestants civils.
La session parlementaire qui analysera le projet de loi « Anti-impérialiste » aura lieu dimanche prochain. Ce sera la deuxième fois que le chef de l’Exécutif recevra des pouvoirs législatifs spéciaux, puisque depuis 2013 il peut adopter des lois économiques et fiscales sans l’accord des députés.

Source et photo revista Veja, Brésil: http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/mundo/maduro-governara-por-decreto-em-materia-seguranca-por-seis-meses/

Annual Amnesty International Report Released: Human Rights Situation in South Africa “Pretty Grim”

Amnesty International released its annual report on International Human Rights this week. The report details the status of human rights in countries around the world and highlights areas with room for improvement. The report on South Africa points to access to treatment for people living with HIV, decline in maternal deaths, increase in life expectancy, and improved action against hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity as areas where progress was made in 2014. Unfortunately, there are many areas where human rights are being ignored and progress is stagnant.  Amnesty International South Africa regional director, Deprose Muchena, has stated that the report’s findings about South Africa are “pretty grim.”

 

Problem areas for South Africa include excessive use of force, poor treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and harassment of human rights defenders.  2014 saw the end of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the fatal police shootings of 34 striking mine workers in Marikana in 2012. The Inquiry exposed serious excessive use of force by police and indications of officers attempting to conceal and destroy unfavourable evidence. Conditions for refugee and asylum seekers in South Africa continued to deteriorate with numerous instances reported of threats and violence against refugees and asylum seekers and many being displaced. Human rights activists and defenders faced significant harassment and threats as well.

 

To see the full Amnesty International report on South Africa click here.

 

Bill C-51 to receive further scrutiny

The Conservatives have agreed to hold an additional 6 days of meetings on Bill C-51 at the public safety committee of the House, tripling the amount of time the Conservatives originally allocated for hearings on the controversial bill.

The move comes in response to an NDP filibuster and significant criticism (see here, here and here) from academics, terrorism and security experts, and former Prime Minsters and Supreme Court justices regarding the bill’s expansion of surveillance powers and creation of new, vaguely worded criminal charges.  Bill C-51 may also be contrary to previous Supreme Court rulings.

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Balancing Civil Liberties and Community Safety in the “Era of Terror”

Following the recommendations of the counter-terrorism review from August, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is scheduled to announce changes to national security later today.

The anticipated changes include: developing an anti-extremism strategy, appointing a terrorism coordinator, and simplifying the terror threat alerts system.

To justify the changes, Prime Minister Abbott is expected to reference the rising number of Australians returning home from conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Prime Minister Abbott has stated that “[t]housands of young and vulnerable people in the community are susceptible to radicalisation.”

Prime Minister Abbott has warned that the new “Era of Terror” means that Australians must reconsider “where it draws the balance” between civil liberties and community safety.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten noted that while Australians’ safety is a top priority, he is concerned that the Government may be going too far. To this end, he stated: “I don’t believe our nation can only be safe if we get rid of the liberties of people, nor do I believe that the liberties of people in every sense should trump national security.”

A well-known human rights lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, took a more cynical approach to the proposed changes. While questioning the Prime Minister’s motivation, Mr. Burnside stated that “there’s a real risk that he’s [Prime Minister Abbott] doing this in order to play on community fears and thereby gain a bit of political popularity.”

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