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Business and Human Rights

    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

    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 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 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.  
    March 07, 2012

    The Indian authorities must release Soni Sori, an activist and school teacher imprisoned and allegedly tortured for speaking out against human rights abuses, Amnesty International said in a call to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March.

    The Amnesty International prisoner of conscience was arrested after she criticised Maoists as well as state forces for human rights violations in the armed insurgency in central India.

    Her father was shot in the leg by Maoists, while her husband has been in jail for one year on charges of having collaborated with the left wing group.

    “On International Women’s Day, Indian authorities should be applauding the work of brave women like Soni Sori, who dare to speak up for human rights,” said Amnesty International’s India researcher Ramesh Gopalakrishnan.

    Indian activists have criticized the authorities for their treatment of Soni Sori and, in collaboration with Amnesty International, have launched a video campaign featuring activists holding up symbolic garlands with the words "shame" on them. 

    February 16, 2012

    It is extremely disappointing that Olympic organisers continue to side with Dow Chemical Company while refusing to listen to legitimate concerns over the company’s sponsorship of the London games, Amnesty International said today.

    On 16 February, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected the India Olympic Association’s (IOA) call to terminate Dow Chemicals' sponsorship deal with the IOC and for 2012 London Games. 

    “Unbelievably the IOC says Dow is committed to ‘good corporate governance’, shocking when you consider all the facts and that the company refuses liability for a corporate disaster the scale of Bhopal, creating a toxic legacy for London 2012,” said Seema Joshi, Amnesty International's Head of Business and Human Rights.

    “London Olympic Organisers have failed to make a fair assessment of the issues surrounding Dow’s responsibility to the victims of Bhopal,” said Joshi. "They have repeatedly refused our requests to a meeting."

    “Instead, they take a one-sided approach and rely on Dow’s position.”

    February 09, 2012

    Arms sales from China and Russia are fuelling serious human rights violations in Darfur, Amnesty International said today. These arms transfers highlight the urgent need to strengthen the existing ineffectual UN arms embargo and for governments to agree an effective Arms Trade Treaty.

    A briefing, Sudan: No end to violence in Darfur, documents how China, Russia, and Belarus continue to supply weapons and munitions to Sudan despite compelling evidence that the arms will be used against civilians in Darfur. Exports include supplying significant quantities of ammunition, helicopter gunships, attack aircrafts, air-to-ground rockets and armoured vehicles.  

    An estimated 70,000 people were displaced from eastern Darfur in 2011 in a wave of ethnically targeted attacks against the Zaghawa community by Sudanese government forces and militias.  

    “China and Russia are selling arms to the Government of Sudan in the full knowledge that many of them are likely to end up being used to commit human rights violations in Darfur,” said Brian Wood an expert on military and policing for Amnesty International.

    January 26, 2012

    London 2012 Olympic organisers must admit their mistake in awarding a lucrative contract to the Dow Chemical Company, Amnesty International said today after the Games' ethics commissioner quit over human rights concerns about the company.

    Meredith Alexander, appointed by London's Mayor Boris Johnson to monitor the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), resigned in protest at the sponsorship deal with Dow due to its connection to the Bhopal disaster.

    Dow owns US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), the company that held a majority share in the Indian subsidiary that owned and operated the UCC plant responsible for the 1984 gas leak disaster, which killed thousands of people.

    January 24, 2012

    Amnesty International has called on the Brazilian authorities to urgently address the needs of some 1,600 families made homeless by a forced eviction in a settlement in São Paulo state, Brazil.

    The eviction, which has been ongoing since Sunday, was carried out without prior warning, while negotiations were still under way and without provision of alternative housing.

    Violent clashes between police and residents continued into Monday after a state judge ordered almost 2,000 police officers into the Pinheirinho settlement on the outskirts of São José dos Campos. Police authorities say the eviction will finish tomorrow.

    “This eviction violates a raft of international standards," said Atila Roque, the director of Amnesty International, Brazil.

    “The operation was carried out in a deeply inappropriate manner: early in the morning on a Sunday and without any adequate warning. It was pushed through even though negotiations with authorities to find a peaceful way out were ongoing,” he said.

    January 20, 2012

    Indian authorities should order the immediate clean-up of Vedanta's alumina refinery in the state of Orissa, Amnesty International said today after a court dismissed the mining company's plea for a six-fold expansion of the plant.

    The High Court of Orissa on Thursday dismissed a plea from Vedanta Aluminium, a fully owned subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources, to review a similar court order from July 2011. Vedanta has promised to challenge the decision in India’s Supreme Court.

    The July 2011 order had upheld the Indian government's August 2010 decision to reject Vedanta Aluminium's plans for the expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery after finding that the project violated the country's environmental laws.

    Research by Amnesty International and other local and international groups documents the serious and continuing pollution caused by the refinery’s operations. Despite the string of decisions against Vedanta, the company has failed to remedy the pollution.

    January 05, 2012

    The Nigerian authorities must immediately end excessive use of force against protesters, Amnesty International said today after at least one person was killed in Kwara state during protests over fuel price rises.

    Witnesses say a student, 23-year-old Muyideen Mustapha, was shot by police attempting to disperse protesters in the state capital of Ilorin on Tuesday.

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