CHINA SENTENCES OLYMPIC DISSIDENT — Two events that occurred within hours of each other on March 24 highlighted a disconnect between the spirit of the Olympic Games and China’s human rights record. Shortly before dignitaries gathered to light the Olympic torch in Olympia, Greece, and launch the flame’s around-the-world journey to Beijing, a Chinese court sentenced human rights campaigner Yang Chunlin to five years in prison. Yang was convicted of subverting state authority. The unemployed factory worker’s crime was to have circulated a petition in 2007 protesting government land seizures that included the statement: “We want human rights, not the […]

U.N. URGES AFGHAN ACTION ON RIGHTS — United Nations officials are urging Afghanistan to address rampant human rights abuses and an accompanying culture of impunity for those who commit them. “At a minimum, there needs to be the space for a national dialogue that acknowledges the injustices and suffering that have occurred. The voices of victims need to be heard,” Norah Niland, chief human rights officer for the U.N.’s Afghan mission, said March 18. “Building an environment that is conducive to respect for human rights is fundamental to a peaceful and democratic society.” A top priority, U.N. officials said, is […]

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Since independence, Malaysia has been the kind of feeble democracy where elections have been held regularly, but where it is usually quite clear beforehand who will win — and win big. However, the latest vote, on March 8, surprised everyone, with the opposition gaining 37 percent of parliament’s 220 seats and winning control of five of the federation’s 13 states — namely Kelantan, Perak, Kedah, Penang and Selangor. After the previous election, held in 2004, the opposition controlled only Kelantan and had just 9 percent of the seats in parliament. Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto leader of […]

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OBSERVERS QUIT SRI LANKA MISSION — A group of 11 international observers assigned to oversee a Sri Lanka presidential inquiry into 16 human rights cases resigned en masse March 6, citing undue government interference in the process, on the same day Human Rights Watch released a scathing report branding Sri Lanka as the disappearance capital of the world. “The proceeding of inquiry and investigations have fallen far short of the transparency and compliance with basic international norms and standards pertaining to investigations and inquiries,” the panel said in a statement released to the press. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited […]

GROUP SLAMS SCANDALOUS NIGERIA JUSTICE SYSTEM — The state of Nigeria’s criminal justice system represents a complete failure of the Nigerian government to address the needs of its people and is a national disgrace, Amnesty International said in a report released Feb. 26. Amnesty investigations found that only 35 percent of those serving time in Nigerian prisons are there as a result of any semblance of due process. Mentally ill patients handed over to police by family members unable to care for them, accused individuals who have not formally been charged and relatives arrested in place of suspects police were […]