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Business and Human Rights

    July 27, 2012

    The prospect of reaching a historic global deal to end the devastation caused by the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade moved a step closer on Thursday, Amnesty International said.

    A final draft of an Arms Trade Treaty [ATT] text was published at the UN in New York that addressed a number of potentially serious flaws contained in a previous text.

    The White House and other major powers, including the United Kingdom and France are understood to have been closely involved in making the changes.

    The month-long negotiations are due to conclude on Friday, in what is expected to be an intense final day of talks.

    “This is a positive step forward in achieving an ATT that, with genuine political will, can protect human rights,” said Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager at Amnesty International.

    “Several major loopholes that would have severely undermined the effectiveness of the treaty have been addressed, but a few serious concerns remain. We are calling on governments that have stated they want a robust treaty to do all they can on the last day to ensure the strongest possible deal is reached.”

    July 27, 2012
    As reports of civilians being targeted in Syria continue to make headlines, China, Russia and the US acted to delay what could have been a landmark agreement to end the irresponsible trade in arms, Amnesty International said on Friday.   “With one person dying every minute because of armed violence, there is an imperative for powerful states to lead.  President Obama has asked for more time to reach an agreement.  How much more time does he want?” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.   However, campaigners remain optimistic that an effective Arms Trade Treaty [ATT] is within reach as a significant majority of governments have indicated they will continue to work for a strong treaty that protects human rights.   The four week long negotiations at the UN in New York ended with more than 90 countries joining a statement reiterating their commitment to see the process succeed as soon as possible.   The call by the US, joined by Russia and China, to delay comes on a frantic final day of the negotiations.
    July 18, 2012

    As London prepares to host the Olympic Games, Amnesty International examines its connection to one of the biggest industrial disasters in history.

    Deep in the heart of east London, surrounded by an incongruous mixture of gleaming glass towers, and industrial units, lies the Olympic stadium.

    It’s a pristine white circle, so large it stands out like a sore thumb on Google Earth.

    Surrounding the 80,000 seat arena, regarded as the jewel in the crown of London’s Olympic village, is a controversial �7m fabric wrap provided by one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturers,� Dow Chemicals.

    The wrap came after Dow signed a lucrative deal in 2010 to become one of the 11 Worldwide Olympic Partners.

    While the wrap itself, a series of triangular white panels, looks plain and inoffensive, the chemical giant has a somewhat darker legacy.

    Almost 30 years ago, in December 1984, the Indian city of Bhopal was the scene of one of the biggest industrial disasters in history, when a toxic gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant.

    July 12, 2012

    United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Fifth Session, 9-13 July 2012

    Joint submission by Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Treaty Four First Nations, Haudenosaunee of Kanehsatake, Indigenous World Association, First Peoples Human Rights Coalition, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

    Our organizations welcome the Expert Mechanism’s consideration of the Follow up report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making, with a focus on extractives. This is an important opportunity for the United Nations human rights system to more deeply engage with one of the most pressing concerns facing Indigenous peoples around the world.

    June 27, 2012

    On the eve of United Nations negotiations, supporters of the Arms Trade Treaty urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to champion strong and comprehensive rules on the international trade in weapons and ammunition.

    Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Québec, Amnesty International Canada, and Project Ploughshares called the July 2-27 treaty conference in New York “a unique opportunity to keep weapons from reaching terrorists, criminals and human rights abusers and to curb the terrible human toll caused by armed violence.”

    Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada said: “A robust Arms Trade Treaty would help stop states from fuelling the violence and abuses we are seeing in Syria today. There is strict global regulation on trade in bananas but no global rules on the multi-billion-dollar business of buying and selling conventional arms and ammunition.”

     The absence of international regulation facilitates illicit arms trafficking and conflict, the groups said. “More than 2,000 people will be killed today by armed violence, nearly all of them in poor communities,” said Lina Holguin of Oxfam-Quebec. “The global flood of weapons is a disaster that must be contained.”

    June 22, 2012

    (Rio de Janeiro, June 22, 2012) – Global economic troubles are being matched by a recession in human rights with worryingly minimal commitments coming out of the United Nations Rio+20 conference on Sustainable Development, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for International Environment Law (CIEL) said today on the close of the conference.

    Rio+20 aimed to renew political commitments to sustainable development that were made at the original conference 20 years ago, through assessing progress and implementation gaps and discussing new and emerging issues.

    “The G77 countries, the Holy See, and Canada formed a shameful alliance against making a commitment to human rights, on occasion aided by the US,” said Jan Egeland, deputy executive director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite opposition, rights language has survived in the outcome document – but it does not go far enough.”

    May 25, 2012

    The traditional lands of the Sarayaku – a Kichwa Indigenous People numbering some 1,200 – lie in a remote area of eastern Ecuador’s Amazon region.

    “Living in Sarayaku is living in freedom, harmony and peace – we’re all united,” Noemí Gualinga, a representative of the community, told Amnesty International.
    But that sense of harmony was shattered in 2002 when Ecuador’s government failed to consult with the community before allowing a foreign oil company on their land to explore the potential for despoiling it of fossil fuels.

    The Sarayaku managed to resist those explorations, but since then they have been mired in a legal battle to seek redress and hold the Ecuadorian state to account, as well as to ensure that no decisions affecting their lives are made without their agreement.

    May 16, 2012

    Amnesty International Canada is deeply disappointed by the Canadian government's unilateral decision to ignore the 15 May 2012 deadline stipulated in Canadian law for tabling in Parliament of a report on the human rights impacts of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

     The document tabled by the government yesterday does not attempt any analysis of the human rights impacts of Canadian promotion of trade and investment in this war-torn country, claiming “sufficient trade data is not available”.  Instead, the document provides only a cursory outline of steps the government plans to follow in order to prepare future reports, promising that the first will be completed a year from now in 2013.

    The human rights situation in Colombia remains dire. More than 259,000 people were driven from their homes and lands in 2011 alone because of violence associated with political and economic interests. Afro-descendent and peasant farmer communities, as well as trade unionists and those who question economic megaprojects, continue to face deadly attacks.

    May 11, 2012

    With the anticipated release of the Canadian government’s human rights impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Amnesty International Canada urges that the human rights emergency affecting Indigenous Peoples in the South American country is given the priority attention it deserves.

    “As Amnesty International testified to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012, there have been few tangible improvements in the overall human rights situation in Colombia despite commitments made by the Colombian government,” said Kathy Price, Amnesty Canada’s Campaigner on Colombia.  “The crisis facing Indigenous Peoples, many of whom live in areas of economic interest, requires special attention.”

    May 09, 2012

    Al-Jazeera English has been forced to close its Beijing bureau after reporter Melissa Chan was expelled from China, prompting Amnesty International to call on the authorities there to immediately renew her visa and press credentials.

    The channel has voiced its disappointment at the situation and says it will continue to request a presence in China.

    Chan is reportedly the first accredited foreign journalist to have her press credentials and visa revoked since 1998, when Yukihisa Nakatsu of the Yomiuiri Shimbun and Juergen Kremb of Der Spiegel were expelled. China’s foreign ministry has not given any explanation for the decision not to extend her documents.

    “The expulsion of Melissa Chan is part of a wider pattern of attempted intimidation of foreign journalists which is preventing them from reporting on subjects seen as ‘sensitive’ by the authorities,” said Corinna-Barbara Francis, Amnesty International’s China researcher.

    April 16, 2012

    Several shareholders have filed a resolution with Goldcorp Inc asking the company to commit to the full costs of closure of the Marlin mine in Guatemala, and to fully disclose current closure plans. They indicate that to do otherwise puts the health of local communities at long-term risk and could expose the company to liability through potential litigation for damages.

    Studies show the company’s currently estimated costs of closure are grossly underestimated. An independent team of US-based engineers calculate a US$49 million price tag for closure and post-closure costs for the Marlin mine in Guatemala while the company’s current posted surety bond for the mine is a mere $1 million. Indigenous peoples whose futures are at stake have not been meaningfully involved in the process to develop a closure and post-closure plan.

    The mine is expected to close in 2018 when mineral reserves are exhausted. It is likely that pollution from toxic heavy metals, erosion of infrastructure, sedimentation and disturbances to the landscape will prevent the land from returning to its pre-mine condition and uses.

    April 10, 2012

    A prominent Chinese housing activist jailed today on spurious charges must be released immediately, Amnesty International said.

    Ni Yulan, who is disabled, was handed a two year and eight-month sentence for "picking quarrels and making trouble" and "fraud." Her husband, Dong Jiqin, has been jailed for two years for "picking quarrels and making trouble".

    Ni Yulan, a lawyer who has campaigned against forced evictions and other housing rights violations in China, has been detained for the past year.

    The lawyer has been in a wheelchair for the past decade after being beaten by police in detention in 2002.

    “These sentences are completely unacceptable and have been imposed solely because Ni Yulan has campaigned for the past decade, at great risk to herself, to protect human rights in China,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Asia Pacific.

    "The authorities must release her and her husband, Dong Jiqin, immediately and unconditionally.”

    Police detained Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin on 7 April 2011. Before their trial, authorities only allowed them to meet with their lawyers two or three times.

    March 15, 2012

    The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command this afternoon insisted that a cargo of weapons with explosives on the ship MV Schippersgracht's en route to Port Said would not be off-loaded in any Egyptian port.

    The statement came after Amnesty International raised concerns earlier today that if the weapons ended up in Egypt there was a substantial risk they would be used by security forces to commit serious human rights violations.

    The US authorities did confirm that the Dutch ship is carrying US military cargo. But the US refused to confirm the final destination or recipient of the weapons, citing security reasons, nor did they give assurances the cargo would not be end up in country where the weapons are likely to be used to commit gross human rights violations.

    This episode is a clear example of the urgent need for the establishment and implementation of an effective global Arms Trade Treaty, so that there can be transparency in arms transfers and rules to ensure that arms are not transferred from any country to forces who pose a substantial risk of using them to commit gross human rights violations.

    March 15, 2012

    A ship with a cargo of weapons with explosives en route from the USA to Egypt must not be allowed to offload because of a substantial risk the weapons will be used by Egyptian security forces to commit human rights violations, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

    The organization has tracked the Dutch-flagged ship, MV Schippersgracht, for the past two months. It is currently in the Mediterranean Sea and due to arrive in Egypt early next week.

    The vessel had previously arrived at the US Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), Southport in North Carolina, USA on 24 February 2012.

    MOTSU is the largest ammunition port in the US and is the Department of Defense’s key Atlantic Coast ammunition shipping point.

    On 3 March 2012 the ship left Sunny Point, a military-only port, carrying a class of dangerous goods that covers cartridges for weapons, fuses, and other ammunition. The ship has a cargo capacity of 21,000 tons and 1,100 twenty foot containers. The captain reported the ship’s next destination as Port Said in Egypt.  

    March 14, 2012
    The United Nation’s highest body for combating racism is urging Canada to take comprehensive action to end discrimination against Indigenous peoples.   In a report released this week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern over Canada’s failure to properly respect the land and Treaty rights of Indigenous peoples, noting “the rigidly adversarial positions taken by Canada” in land negotiations and that decisions over resource development are often made without proper consultation or the consent of the affected peoples.  


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