Category Archives: human rights

Priest campaigning for Brazil’s Amazon arrested for sex crimes and extortion

Karla Mendes

March 29, 2018 | RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Brazilian priest who risked his life campaigning for the landless has been arrested for sexual harassment and extortion but his lawyer said the charges are a ruse to stop his work.

Jose Amaro Lopes de Sousa, known as Padre Amaro, is regarded as the successor to American nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in 2005, an emblematic case for the many conflicts over land use in resource-rich Brazil.

A police statement said that Amaro was arrested on Tuesday in the city of Anapu in northern Para state, home to a vast Amazon rainforest reserve, following a court order and eight months of investigations.

“For us, there is no doubt that behind this investigation there is a ranchers’ conspiracy aiming to make Padre Amaro’s work unfeasible,” the priest’s lawyer, Jose Batista Afonso, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Wednesday.

“Padre Amaro personifies nun Dorothy’s work … He has been receiving death threats for a long time.”

Stang often criticized cattle ranchers for seizing land illegally and destroying the rainforest, highlighting tensions between farmers and environmentalists in the top global beef exporter. Local landowners were jailed for ordering her death.

The ranchers’ union in Anapu said they had nothing to do with Amaro’s arrest, adding that about 400 police reports, including videos and witness testimonies, support the charges.

“(Amaro) held meetings in the dead of night, encouraging people to invade land and then had an illegal trade in these invaded lands,” Silverio Albano Fernandes, head of Anapu’s ranchers union, said by phone.

“He was making profit from these sales as he kept a percentage. Everybody knows it here.”

London-based campaign group Global Witness said that Brazil was the world’s most dangerous nation for land rights activists in 2016, with about 50 people killed.

About a dozen land activists have been murdered since 2005 in Anapu, where Amaro is based, according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), set up by the Catholic Church to combat violence against the rural poor.

Amaro’s opponents could not kill him because of the international outcry following Stang’s shooting, and because some are still in jail, said Afonso, who works for CPT.

“Of course, the way chosen to try to nullify the priest’s work would be different,” he said.

Afonso said he will file for habeas corpus, which requires Amaro be brought to court and released unless lawful grounds can be shown for his detention.

“We hope the arrest will be revoked,” he said.


Reporting by Karla Mendes; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-landrights-arrests/priest-campaigning-for-brazils-amazon-arrested-for-sex-crimes-and-extortion-idUSKBN1H52H6

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U.S. anti-trafficking measure a welcome step, activists say

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 19:30 GMT
https://news.trust.org/item/20180228193104-vhzt3/

I+am+Jane+Doe-US trafficking first step

 “It’s a great first step”

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Anti-trafficking activists on Wednesday welcomed a move in the U.S. Congress to fight the trade, saying the online world was rife with “how-to” videos for sex traffickers.

The bill – which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday – would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.

“It’s a great first step,” Jerome Elam, head of the Trafficking in America Task Force, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have been fighting for so long.”

The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on Backpage.com, a huge website which is used for sex advertising.

A spokeswoman for Backpage declined to comment on the videos or the legislation, which will head next to the Senate, where similar legislation has gained substantial support.

Backpage has said it is hosting content, not creating it, and is protected from liability by a federal law protecting free speech. The company has been hit by lawsuits saying it promotes trafficking in its ads.

Each year, some 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I hope this bill gets us closer to survivor justice and ensuring traffickers and their business associates (looking at you, Backpage) are held accountable,” said Andrea Powell, head of FAIR Girls anti-trafficking group, in a statement.

“I know it will.”

Activists said videos were freely available online that help sex traffickers use cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to pay anonymously for online advertisements on Backpage.

Earlier this week The Sunday Times newspaper in Britain said that videos on the YouTube website showed how to buy Backpage.com ads with bitcoin and other credits.

YouTube was not immediately available for comment. The Times said the most-viewed of the videos had been taken down.

“These YouTube videos showing how to use bitcoin for Backpage are ‘how-tos’ for human traffickers,” Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

“Backpage makes it easier for traffickers and pimps to use their site by accepting payments through bitcoin and other means of payment, such as retail gift cards.”

Visa Inc , MasterCard Inc and American Express Co have banned their credit cards from being used to pay for ads on Backpage.

Absent credit cards, Backpage relies heavily on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

“Without cryptocurrencies, the site would be relegated to using unreliable processors as a last resort,” Vance testified last month before a Congressional subcommittee.

Some campaigners say while the videos are disturbing, they make little difference to criminals.

“That horse got out of the barn a long time ago,” Nita Belles, founder of the anti-trafficking group In Our Backyard, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I think the people that are doing trafficking … they probably already know.”

Last December, more than 7,000 prostitution advertisements were posted on Backpage for Manhattan alone, Vance said.


(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Robert Carmichael and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

 

Forty arrested at Catholic-led DACA Protest

Catholic News Agency
By Christine Rousselle

Protesters_for_Dreamers_in_Washington_DC_Feb_27_2018_Credit_Jonah_McKeown_2_CNA
Catholic-led DACA protest in Washington, DC, Feb. 27, 2018. Credit: Jonah McKeown, CNA

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- A group of about 100 people–including Franciscan friars, religious sisters, and laity–gathered in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Building in Washington on Tuesday, and were led away in flex cuffs in a planned act of civil disobedience.

The protest was intended to pressure Congress to take action on “Dreamers,” or people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. It was organized as part of the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers, an event planned by Catholic social advocacy groups.

One of those arrested was Sr. Tracy Kemme, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. Prior to her arrest, Kemme told CNA that she considered her actions to be worthwhile to help protect the immigrant community.

“Myself, two of my sisters, and one of our associates will be doing civil disobedience,” said Kemme. She continued, “It’s a moral moment of truth and it’s worth it to us to try to raise the consciousness of our legislators.”

Registered “Dreamers” are afforded renewable protection from deportation under an Obama-era policy called the “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). President Donald Trump sought to end DACA in September of 2017 and gave Congress a six-month period to come up with a solution before the protections would expire on March 5.

Two federal courts have issued injunctions preventing the President from ending DACA.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to consider the Administration’s expedited appeal of those injunctions, ensuring that the program will remain as-is until a final court decision is made later this year.

Congressional legislators have been unable to pass compromise bills that would have codified parts of DACA into law. On Monday, the USCCB urged Catholics to call their Congressmen as part of the “National Call-in Day for the Protection of Dreamers.”

The PICO National Network, along with Faith in Public Life and the DC Catholic Coalition, organized Tuesday’s “day of action.” The day featured a prayer rally and peaceful civil disobedience, culminating with the arrests.

Kemme told CNA that she hopes Congress is able to pass a DREAM Act unconnected to other proposed immigration reforms, and that her faith inspires her passion of working with the immigrant community.

“As a Catholic, my end goal would be comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that keeps families together,” she said.

Kemme’s desires were echoed by Sr. Elise Garcia, O.P., from the Dominican sisters in Adrian, Michigan. Garcia said she was in D.C. on Tuesday to pray for the Dreamers as well as for elected leaders, and she too would like to see comprehensive immigration reform.

“Ideally, I would like to see an entire comprehensive package of immigration reform. That’s the ideal. Short of that, I’d like to see justice for Dreamers,” who have only known the United States as their home.

Before the Capitol Police attempted to disperse the protest, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, addressed the crowd. Once the crowd began loudly praying a decade of the rosary, the police started to make arrests.

A total of 40 people were arrested and charged with “Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding.”

 

 

LA SITUATION EN REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE: LA SITUATION EN REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO

Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda | Fév 13, 2018 | Afrique | 0

Le Réseau Afrique Europe Foi et Justice (AEFJN) est un réseau de plaidoyer des congrégations religieuses de l’Église catholique en Europe et en Afrique.

RDC-Press-Release-Reuters-440x264
DRC – Reuters

Nous notons, avec un cœur douloureux, le climat politique actuel, chargé et inutile, en République Démocratique du Congo. La tension a commencé à la suite du refus du président Joseph Kabila d’organiser des élections à la fin de son mandat en 2016. Il a mis de côté un accord conclu et signé le 31 décembre 2016 sous les auspices de la Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo (CENCO) à la Saint-Sylvestre pour lui donner l’opportunité d’organiser des élections en 2017. En guise de suivi, le climat politique de la RD Congo et la condition socio-économique des citoyens ont été affectés négativement. Le refus du président Kabila d’organiser des élections en 2017, comme convenu en 2016, et de démissionner, est une violation flagrante du droit du peuple à choisir son chef. Nous considérons le prétendu calendrier des élections du 23 décembre 2018 comme un écran de fumée et un moyen de prolonger le règne du président Kabila.

Nous avons également noté avec une grande préoccupation les autres violations des droits humains RD Congo, contraires à la déclaration du gouvernement Kabila. Selon l’ONU, il y a eu 1176 exécutions extrajudiciaires en 2017; 30% de plus qu’en 2016. Le 31 décembre 2017, le gouvernement de Kabila a ordonné aux fournisseurs de télécommunications de couper les services Internet et SMS à travers le pays avant les manifestations antigouvernementales planifiées. Le 31 décembre 2017, au moins sept personnes ont perdu la vie. Les forces de sécurité ont tiré et blessé des douzaines d’autres alors qu’elles envoyaient des gaz lacrymogènes pour disperser des manifestations pacifiques organisées par l’Eglise catholique. Au moins 600 personnes sont en prison! Les enlèvements, les meurtres, la torture, le viol et le déplacement de personnes sont devenus une décimale récurrente, portant le nombre de personnes déplacées à 4,25 millions en 2017. La manifestation organisée par l’Eglise catholique le 21 janvier 2018 et soutenue par d’autres communautés chrétiennes et musulmanes dans différentes villes n’a pas eu lieu sans pertes. Rien qu’à Kinshasa, selon des rapports, six personnes ont été tuées par les forces de sécurité, une cinquantaine blessées et plusieurs autres arrêtées. L’histoire n’est pas différente à Goma et Bukavu où, selon des rapports, environ 50 personnes ont été blessées, arrêtées ou tuées. La liste s’allonge encore et encore, mais les attaques de plus en plus violentes contre les travailleurs humanitaires et les forces de maintien de la paix forcent les organisations humanitaires à retarder la livraison de l’aide ou à suspendre leurs activités.

Nous condamnons ces suppressions violentes des droits humains fondamentaux et appelons le président Kabila à faire preuve de retenue, à libérer inconditionnellement tous les prisonniers politiques qui ont été détenus alors qu’ils participaient à des manifestations pacifiques et à organiser immédiatement des élections libres et équitables. Nous affirmons que c’est sa responsabilité constitutionnelle de protéger les vies et les biens du peuple de la RD Congo. Nous recommandons fortement la reconstitution de la Commission électorale du Congo CENI pour inclure les acteurs de la société civile et de l’Église et les autres parties prenantes. Nous condamnons également en termes très forts le projet de loi présenté à l’Assemblée nationale congolaise pour réglementer les ONG et les défenseurs des droits humains. Nous appelons les honorables parlementaires à rejeter le projet de loi et à assumer leur responsabilité de protéger les droits du peuple.

Si nous nous abstenons d’un jugement hâtif sur le silence de l’Union Européenne et des États membres sur la situation au Congo, il n’en demeure pas moins très préoccupant. En conséquence, nous implorons l’UE, ses États membres et la communauté internationale de s’opposer à ce comportement insensé et de tenir le président Kabila pour responsable de ses violations des droits humains. Nous nous félicitons à cet égard de l’utilisation de sanctions ciblées par l’UE et de l’utilisation de moyens supplémentaires, comme le prévoient les lois internationales en vigueur, si les progrès vers une solution pacifique restent insaisissables.

L’UE dispose d’un immense espace pour démontrer son engagement ferme à soutenir la démocratie et la protection des droits humains dans la région. C’est une valeur qui constitue une véritable valeur ajoutée de la coopération européenne par rapport aux autres partenaires internationaux de la RD du Congo. En ce qui concerne le soutien technique au processus électoral, nous demandons à l’UE de réitérer sa volonté de collaborer avec des partenaires internationaux pour s’assurer qu’un plan clair et complet soit mis en place pour financer les élections congolaises et de communiquer largement ce plan. L’UE devrait également être convaincue qu’il existe un calendrier crédible et une volonté politique claire de tenir les élections. L’objectif est de voir qu’un manque de ressources ne fait pas dérailler les plans pour les élections.

Enfin, nous saluons avec beaucoup de gratitude la contribution de l’Union Européenne aux résolutions des conflits et impasses internationaux. Alors que nous attendons l’intervention de l’Union Européenne dans l’impasse qui fait rage dans la République Démocratique du Congo, AEFJN reste attaché à tous les efforts pour accorder à chaque personne humaine les droits inaliénables et continuera inlassablement à exposer les structures économiques et sociales injustes.

Chika Onyejiuwa

Executive Secretary
chykacssp@hotmail.com
http://aefjn.org/en/home/

Document en PDF

Le Réseau Afrique Europe Foi et Justice (AEFJN) est un réseau de plaidoyer des congrégations religieuses de l’Église catholique en Europe et en Afrique. Nous travaillons pour la justice dans les relations économiques entre l’Europe et l’Afrique et notre Secrétariat international est au 174, rue Joseph II, à Bruxelles.

The Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda | Feb 13, 2018 | Africa |

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RDC-Press Release (Reuters)

Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) is an advocacy network of Catholic Church Religious Congregations in Europe and Africa.

(Press Release – February 13, 2018) We note, with painful hearts, the present charged and unhelpful political climate in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tension began as a result of President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to organise elections at the end of his mandate in 2016. He has set aside an agreement that was reached and signed on December 31, 2016 under the auspices of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) at Saint-Sylvester to give him an opportunity to organise elections in 2017. As a follow-up, the political climate of DR Congo and the socio-economic condition of the citizens have been adversely affected. The refusal of President Kabila to organise elections in 2017 as agreed in 2016 and to step down from office is a gross violation of the people’s right to choose their leader. We consider the purported scheduling of election on December 23, 2018 a smokescreen and a device to prolong President Kabila’s rule.

We have also noticed with great concern the other human rights violations in DR Congo contrary to the declaration of Kabila government. The UN has it on record that there were 1176 extrajudicial killings in 2017; 30% higher than the record of 2016. On December 31, 2017, the government of Kabila ordered telecommunications providers to cut off internet and SMS services across the country ahead of planned anti-government demonstrations. On December 31, 2017, at least seven people lost their lives. Security forces shot and wounded dozens of others as they fired tear gas to disperse peaceful demonstrations organised by the Catholic Church. At least 600 people are in prison! Kidnapping, killings, torture, rape and displacement of people have become a recurrent decimal, bringing the record of displaced people to 4.25 million in 2017. The protest called by the Catholic Church on January 21, 2018 and supported by other Christian and Muslim Communities in different towns did not take place without casualties. In Kinshasa alone, six people were reportedly killed by security forces, about 50 wounded and several others arrested. The story in not different in Goma and Bukavu where about 50 people were reported wounded or arrested or killed. The list goes on and on, but the height of it is the increasingly violent attacks against aid workers and peacekeeping forces thus forcing humanitarian organisations to delay the delivery of aid or suspend their activities.

We condemn such violent suppressions of Fundamental Human Rights and call on President Kabila to show restraint, release unconditionally all political prisoners who were detained while engaged in peaceful protests and organise free and fair elections immediately. We affirm that it is his constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and properties the people of DR Congo. We strongly recommend the reconstitution of the Congo Electoral Commission CENI to include the Civil Society and Church actors and the other stakeholders. We also condemn in very strong terms the draft law introduced in the Congolese National Assembly to regulate NGOs and Human Rights Defenders. We call on the honourable lawmakers to throw out the draft law and live up to their responsibility to protect the Rights of the people.

While we refrain from a hasty judgement about the silence of the European Union and Member states on the situation in Congo, it is nonetheless very worrisome. Accordingly, we implore the EU, its Member States and the international community to stand up against this senseless behaviour and hold President Kabila accountable for his Human Rights abuses. We welcome in this regard, the use of EU-targeted sanctions, and considerations of employing additional means, as provided by extant International laws if progress towards a peaceful solution remains elusive.

A huge space is available to EU to demonstrate its firm commitment to supporting democracy and the protection of human rights in the region. It is a value that constitutes a truly added value of European cooperation in comparison to the other international partners to Congo DR. Regarding technical support for the electoral process, we call on the EU to reiterate its willingness to collaborate with international partners to ensure that a clear and comprehensive plan is put in place to finance the Congolese elections and to communicate this plan widely. The EU should also be satisfied that there are a credible timeline and a clear political will to hold the elections. The aim is to see that a lack of resources does not derail the plans for the elections.

Finally, we commend with high regards the input of the European Union in the resolutions of international conflicts and impasses. While we await the intervention of the European Union in the raging standoff in the Congo DR, AEFJN remains committed to all efforts to accord every human person the due inalienable rights and will tirelessly continue to expose unjust economic and social structures.

Chika Onyejiuwa
Executive Secretary
Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network
chykacssp@hotmail.com
http://aefjn.org/en/home/
Document in pdf
Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) is an advocacy network of Catholic Church Religious Congregations in Europe and Africa. We work for justice in the economic relations between Europe and Africa and our International Secretariat is at 174, Rue Joseph II, Brussels.

Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says

Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says
by Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
November 28, 2017

PAPAL VISIT MYANMAR BANGLADESH
Pope Francis greets clergy before celebrating Mass at Kyaikkasan sports ground in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) November 28, 2017 — Jesus’ love “is like a spiritual GPS” that guides people past the everyday obstacles of fear and pride and allows them to find their way to a relationship with God and with their neighbors, Pope Francis said.

Christ’s message of “forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable,” the pope said Nov. 29, celebrating his first public Mass in Myanmar.

According to the Vatican, 150,000 people attended the Mass at the Kyaikkasan sports ground. Thousands of them had traveled hundreds of miles to be at the Mass, and many of them camped out on the sports field the night before the liturgy.

Pope Francis acknowledged the sacrifices made by the people as well as the struggles Catholics face as a tiny minority in Myanmar and as citizens of a country struggling to leave violence behind and transition from military to democratic rule.

“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” the pope said in his homily. “The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom” or to think that “healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus.”

Pope Francis prayed that Catholics in Myanmar would “know the healing balm of the Father’s mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory. In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community.”

Father Francis Saw from St. John Cantonment Church in Yangon said he had 400 guests at his parish. “Many people came from the hill towns. I welcomed them and fed them and then they came here at 10 p.m.” the night before the Mass.

“We are very happy and encouraged by the pope’s visit,” he said. “It is good for our country and for our church.”

Some people had reserved seats close to the altar. “Every parish got some VIP tickets for those who are very involved in the parish, very poor or sick,” said Noeli Anthony, a ticket-holder from the Myanmar Catholic community in Perth, Australia.

Salesian Father Albert “Sam” Saminedi, pastor of the Perth community, said the immigrants he ministers to “love their country” and “are very strong, very loud and full of faith.” More than 100 of them traveled home to be with the pope.

The “VVIP” section at the sports field was reserved for government officials, diplomats and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions.

The Rev. U Chit Toe Win, chair of the Myin Thar Baptist Church and deputy chairman of an interfaith dialogue group in Yangon, sat with the Anglican, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim members of his group in the very front row.

Like any Baptist minister, Toe Win said, “I believe in Jesus first,” but “these are my brothers. We are for unity.”

“Every Day Is a Nightmare”

By Naimul Haq
IPS News Agency

In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.
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A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Nov 29 2017 (IPS) – Parul Akhtar,* a Rohingya woman in her mid-twenties, may never wish to remember the homeland she and her children left about three weeks ago.

Too scared to speak out, Parul, the mother of two young children, rests inside the makeshift tent she now calls her home in Kutupalong in southeastern Bangladesh, which is hosting thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.

But it is still fresh in her mind as she recalls the violence she and her family endured day after day when truckloads of army soldiers, along with local Buddhist men, came to violate women, loot valuables and burn homes while picking up young men in her village in Rajarbil in Maungdaw district in Myanmar.

“My body shivers when I recall those days,” says Parul, visibly upset by the horrifying memories.

Standing in front of her tent in Modhuchhara camp in the vast and so far the biggest Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, about 35 kilometers from the nearest city of Cox’s Bazar, Parul, narrates the ordeal of escaping the atrocities.

“It was a nightmare trying to escape and dodge the embedded informers, army and of course, police,” Parul says.

“When I came back to consciousness, I found my brothers and husband missing. My children were also not spared.” –Nasima Aktar

Continue reading “Every Day Is a Nightmare”