Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine 

Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine 

HUMANITARIAN

Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine 

"no one is illegal"
Alisha Lynch

5th May 2021

 
 

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where applicable, prosecutes those accused of the world’s most severe crimes. As stated on their website, this is a“court of last resort”and one that works respectively with national courts. The ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict has been subject to this court for the Israeli government’s continuation of imposing extreme andconfining restrictionson Palestinian human rights. They have continued to restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip, and are facilitating the illegal transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

 

In February, the International Criminal Court issued a landmark judgement stating that the prosecutor of the court has the authority to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine. What was surprising about this trial was the statement made by Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, stating;“Australia has deep concerns with the ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court” and the court“should not exercise jurisdiction in this matter.”  Australia is a member of the ICC andclaims to advocate  for  humanrights. Just the month before, Australia condemned China fortheirabuses against Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. So why is Australia overlooking the human rights abuses in Palestine?Australia’s rebukeof international justice inPalestineis not really abouthuman rights but more of a geopolitical stance. Australia has consistently supported Israel in its decisions, but why are they so quick to defend them? 

 

“Unsurprisingly, Australia is an ally of the United States of America, which has been a firm supporter of Israel since the 1960s. The United States of America has prioritized the continuation of a close and supportive Israel–United States relationship. Support for Israel is nearly unconditional for the US government and remains a vital issue in domestic US politics.”

Also, Australia does not recognise the‘State of Palestine’which was part of Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s statement. Another reason is the growing tension between China and Australia causedbythetrade conflict between the two countries and most recently Australia criticising the horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims in China. Nevertheless, Australia cannot be called a supporter of  human rights if they are trying to block international justice for Palestinians, anindigenous group within the West Bank. This begs the question: is Australias defence of Israel a result of bothsettler statesdispossessingtheir indigenous populations? Australias alarming stance and supportofthe Israel government has shown that theircontinuing  and condoning behaviouris  segregating indigenous people from the wider population. Furthermore, it shows that thisnationhas yet to come to terms with its own history. 

 

Australia is home to around 15,000 Israelis and also has many pro-Israelipressure groups. One of these groups is called the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), which was established in the year 1927, in Melbourne. Although the lobby in the United States is most aggressive, Australia beingan ally,is seeing pressure from these groups and some Australian politicians like Melissa Parke havebeen falsely accused of antisemitism by groups like the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).Thefalse accusation ofpoliticianshas been utilised as aweaponof toutedanti-discriminationby those who do not recognise Palestine.Is this  weaponization silencing people, especially government officials, from speaking out against Israel’s actions? 

 

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s  statement shows  that the country has much to overcome and, most of all, Australia’s rebuke of international justice for Palestine is dangerous. For years Palestinians havebeensubject toseverecrimesand now,in the wake of a pandemic, Palestinians are victims of a vaccine segregation effort made by the Israeli government. The ICC’sjudgement to investigate Israels oppressive actions is now allowing for hope and justice. Australia claims it is an advocate for human rights, but  its  stance on Palestine shows otherwise. Australia is using this as a progression of geopolitics, where instead this should be about the safety of real people and showing supportforthe ICCs decision to bring warcriminalsto justice.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Mike Guziuk on Unsplash

 

 

The Rohingya: Myanmar’s stateless nation

The Rohingya: Myanmar’s stateless nation

HUMANITARIAN

The Rohingya: Myanmar’s stateless nation

poster states "we don't accept military coup"
Rachael Kenny

21st April 2021

 

 

Myanmar has made the headlines recently due to mass protests that have erupted because of the military coup that began on 1 February. However, the chilling story of the Rohingya people which remains ongoing has been somewhat cast away by the media. This story gathered fleeting attention back in 2017 when a military operation began involving prosecutions of the Rohingya people. The Rohingya are a stateless nation who have lived under the discrimination and repression of successive Myanmar governments for decades. 

 

The Rohingya are a mostly Muslim minority who originate from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, a region in the western part of the country. In 1982 a Citizenship Law stripped the Rohingya of their Burmese citizenship (Myanmar was then Burma) and subsequently denied children born to Rohingya parents thereafter the right to a nationality. To deny the Rohingya the right to citizenship and nationality was to declare them stateless. Statelessness has been described by the UN Refugee Agency as discriminative and debilitating. As stateless people, the Rohingya have no national identity. Typically, stateless people experience difficulties accessing basic human rights such as education, healthcare, and freedom of movement, amongst other difficulties. Arbitrarily stripping these people of their national identity became part of a dark and dangerous story for the Rohingya. 

 

A military crackdown on the Rohingya people by Myanmar’s armed forces and police began in August 2017. The conditions of this military clearance operation’’ led to killings, rapes and gang rapes, torture, and forced displacement. During this period villages were being burned to the ground. According to Human Rights Watch, since 2017 around 900,000 Rohingya have been living in cramped camps in Bangladesh and the estimated 600,000 still living in the Rakhine State are confined to camps and villages without access to adequate food, healthcare, and education, and are being denied freedom of movement. Sexual violence against Rohingya men, women and children became a tool of war used by the military.

 

 
 

“Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights outlines the widespread use of sexual violence against the Rohingya people as “a calculated tool of terror aimed at the extermination and removal of the Rohingya as a group”.”

 

Although the military operation only briefly made the news in 2017 it has since been described by the United Nations as almost genocide. 

 

The statelessness of the Rohingya people is a situation that remains intense and dangerous today. The United Nations has described Rohingya as ‘’the most persecuted minority in the world’’. This year, on 22 March, a fire tore through a displaced person camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh where an estimated 87,000, mostly Rohingya were caught up in the blaze. The fire has displaced more than 45,000 Rohingyas from the camp. This fire was not the first of its kind, fires often break out in over-crowded camps. The Rohingya have been forced to flee their home country and seek shelter elsewhere. However, conditions in camps they seek aid in can often be difficult and dangerous. 

 

The Rohingya people lost their national identity and right to citizenship in 1982 and have experienced countless human rights breaches and persecutions over the decades and their circumstances remain unchanged. They have lost not only their identity but their home, their loved ones, and their basic human rights. Although the news coverage of the stateless Rohingya people has somewhat subsided their situation remains critical. The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing and their horrific experiences are tough to comprehend. The rest of world has failed them by doing close to nothing to help them after decades of torment since 1982. 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Gayatri Malhorta on Unsplash

 

 

Hope for many as vaccines roll out in Europe, but refugees and asylum seekers are left in poor conditions and excluded from vaccine plans

Hope for many as vaccines roll out in Europe, but refugees and asylum seekers are left in poor conditions and excluded from vaccine plans

 

HUMANITARIAN

Hope for many as vaccines roll out in Europe, but refugees and asylum seekers are left in poor conditions and excluded from vaccine plans

dna testing machine
Elizabeth Quinn

29th March 2021

 

Refugees and asylum seekers have been exceptionally impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. It has been more difficult than usual to seek asylum due to the halting of international travel and strict border policies. 310,000 people applied for protection in the EU during the first three quarters of 2020, compared to more than 467,000 over the same period in 2019 (around a 30% drop), according to data from Eurostat. Easing of lockdown restrictions has meant a slight increase in applications, but numbers have not returned to even close to pre-COVID figures.

 

There has been a backlog of asylum cases and appeals cases, with long processing times throughout Europe. Many centres were acting at a near full capacity before the pandemic, and the lack of focus on migrant rights has meant that Government bodies have not invested in extra help for refugees and asylum seekers. This causes issues for social distancing guidelines, leaving many people extremely vulnerable. After the of Greek refugee camp of Moria was destroyed in a fire, and the new Kara Tepe camp was set up, more than 240 people tested positive for COVID-19. According to The Washington Post, “people living in crowded refugee camps on the Greek islands are three times more likely to contract COVID-19, compared with the general Greek population, and those in camps and accommodations on the mainland are 2.5 times more at risk.” In Italy, there were 239 cases in reception centres between February and June last year, and in France, migrants have been arrested and detained for refusing to take a COVID PCR test. This has been deemed “illegal” and a violation of “fundamental rights”.

 

Many NGOs and refugee rights campaigners have stressed the need to vaccinate refugees and asylum seekers as soon as possible. “Including refugees in the vaccine rollout is key to ending the pandemic” says Mike Woodman, Senior Public Health Officer at the UNHCR. The UNHCR has stated that of 133 countries, 81 have finalized their vaccination strategies and only 54 have included explicit provisions to cover populations of concern such as refugees, asylum seekers and stateless and internally displaced people. There are currently 80 million displaced people in the world. Not only is refugee immunisation important from a humanitarian perspective, but also from a safety perspective. Unfortunately, the rise in far-right nationalism in Europe and further afield has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and along with the virus has come a rhetoric of ‘support your own’, with many believing that citizens should be prioritised. Professor of Government and Global Studies, Jennifer Yoder predicted that the far-right would “use the coronavirus’ spread to stoke fears about foreigners bringing disease, government’s inability to protect the Nation, and shadowy global conspiracies.” This has emerged as anti-asian sentiment in many countries, and there has been evidence of xenophobia and anti-immigrant attitudes of all types across the globe. According to the Irish Network Against Racism, last year there were a record number of racist incidents reported to the Gardai, the majority of which were related to the pandemic.

 

“people living in crowded refugee camps on the Greek islands are three times more likely to contract COVID-19, compared with the general Greek population”

 

The Irish Government has included a plan to vaccinate those living in Direct Provision centres under group 9 of the provisional vaccine allocation groups plan. Group nine includes those “aged 18-64 years living working in crowded accommodation where self-isolation and social distancing is difficult to maintain”. Ireland has currently been working on vaccinating groups 1 – 4 of the plan, a total of 487,466 people in the Republic of Ireland had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 181,063 had received their second dose as of 19th March 2021. The temporary pausing of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine has meant an even slower rollout of the vaccine to the Irish population.

 

Last year, more than 30 residents of the Cahersiveen Direct Provision Centre went on hunger strike in protest at the conditions that they were forced to live in after a major outbreak of COVID-19 in the centre. Cahersiveen centre eventually closed, but there are still currently more than 7,000 people living in Direct Provision centres across Ireland. Although the Government has announced plans to introduce a new system that will replace direct provision, this will not be brought in until 2024. Leaving people living in conditions in which they are unable to social distance or isolate, and will not receive a vaccine until group 9 of the vaccine rollout will have untold effects on individual’s physical and mental health. Asylum seekers should not have to go on hunger strike for their basic safety needs to be met. Unfortunately, the situation with refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland is reflective of what is happening in the wider E.U. and globally. Research has shown that asylum seekers are “isolated, but without the possibility to self-isolate” and “will continue to live in unsuitable, overcrowded accommodation at high risk of contracting the virus.” The Irish Government have stressed the importance of ‘protecting our most vulnerable’, clearly demonstrating who is considered vulnerable, and who is considered part of ‘us’.

 

Children living in direct provision have always faced isolation from their peers and the wider society due to their living conditions. A report by the Ombudsman for Children revealed that this has been exacerbated by schools being closed, and lack of social contact. Most direct provision centres have not provided laptops and electronic resources to facilitate the children keeping up with their schoolwork or staying in contact with their teachers and classmates. Children who had already faced social isolation are now facing issues of educational poverty as a result of the government failing to recognise the specific needs of children living within the direct provision system. The Ombudsman report also found that children living in direct provision were “extremely worried” about returning to school as they were confused about their ability to social distance and remain safe. Many children and adults living in direct provision have experienced trauma in their lives and journey to Ireland, and the instability and lack of routine that lockdown in direct provision brings may have untold consequences for their wellbeing.

 

COVID-19 has desvastated people around the globe. However, the unique challenges faced by those seeking refuge during a pandemic that has inspired far-right xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric cannot be understated. It is vital that we encourage Governments to facilitate their safety for the health of the global community.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Mortaza Shahed on Unsplash

 

Swiss Muslims will fight results of vote to ban full facial coverings

Swiss Muslims will fight results of vote to ban full facial coverings

 

HUMANITARIAN

Swiss Muslims will fight results of vote to ban full facial coverings

bring back our girls protest in nyc
Elizabeth Quinn

21st March 2021

 

Swiss Muslims will fight the results of the recent vote to ban full facial coverings in public places, according to the Islamic Central Council for Muslims in Switzerland (ICCS.)

 

Janina Rashidi, press officer for the organization, says about the results “This decision opens up old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority.”

 

“There is no doubt that the basic attitude of the voting population has deteriorated even further since the minaret referendum in 2009.”

 

”The ICCS has opened a donation pool to pay the fines of those women that will be affected by the ban and to take every possible legal remedy to fight against this law – if necessary until the European Court for Human Rights.”

 

Twelve years ago, in 2009, Switzerland voted to ban the building of minarets, a slender tower in a mosque from which the Muslim call to prayer is issued.

 

“[ICCS] said the recent vote was a result of Islamophobia growing in the country since 2015, the same year one million Syrian refugees were taken in by neighbouring country Germany.”

 

ICCS say they assume that the ban cannot be enforced until laws have been implemented at a “canton”, or county, level. They say that until then nothing will change for women who wear the niqab or burqa.

 

In a press release on Monday the organization said the recent vote was a result of Islamophobia growing in the country since 2015, the same year one million Syrian refugees were taken in by neighboring country Germany.

 

The University of Lucerne in Switzerland put the number of women in Switzerland who wear the niqab at between 21 and 37.

 

Jasmina Kid of the Muslim Sisters of Eire says “The ruling will stigmatise and create a divide between Swiss Muslims and the general population. This very policy will undermine the European values of freedom, democracy as well as women’s rights after the world has recognized international women’s day.”

 

“The absurdity of banning any face veil, masks or coverings during a pandemic is allowing identity politics to monopolize on health policy and determine what a ‘socially acceptable’ face veil is.”

 

The ban passed by a slim majority. 51.2% of voters, or 1.4 million, voted in favour of the ban. 18 of Switzerland’s 26 counties had a majority ‘yes’ result.

 

Niqabs and burqas will still be allowed in places of worship.

 

The ban was proposed by Switzerland’s national-conservative, right wing populist party, the SVP (Schweizerische Volkspartei) or “Swiss People’s Party” in English.

 

Photo by yc4646 on Flickr

The issue of Chinese Uighur camps

The issue of Chinese Uighur camps

 

HUMANITARIAN

The issue of Chinese Uighur camps

uighur protest in china
Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy

20th February 2021

 

On 2 February, the BBC released an article which consisted of numerous testimonies of alleged systemic rape of Uighur women in Chinas ‘re-education’ camps. The article also included reports of alleged beatings at the hands of prison guards as well as multiple forms of electrocution endured by detainees. Despite the atrocities detailed in the report, there seems to be very little backlash at all, anywhere in the world, and only a few days later, the news seems to have slipped into the collective subconscious. Reports like these are not new, we have been hearing rumours since late 2018, so why has nothing been done? Why does no one seem to care?

 

The Uighur are a Muslim Turkic minority based primarily in the Xinjiang, a region in northwestern China, that borders Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and five other countries. It is an autonomous region, which means, in theory, that it has some self-governance powers. However in reality the area is faced with major restrictions from China. Despite being briefly independent in the early 20th-century, the region has been under the control of the Chinese communist party since 1949.

 

There have been reports of China’s suppression of Uighur rights and rumours of growing tensions since 2013. The region that the Uighurs inhabit is the home to numerous development projects which have brought with them great economic prosperity. Xinjiang has therefore become very attractive to young, well-educated Han Chinese who migrate from the eastern regions. These economic migrants have become prosperous in Xinjiang, and rumours that they are given preferential treatment when applying for jobs has fueled resentment among the two groups. These tensions gave rise to increased support for anti-imperialism, pro-separatist movements. Under the guise of restoring peace and quashing the ‘terrorist’ movement, the Chinese government began imposing strict regulations and infringing on Uighur rights. In 2017, the government passed laws forbidding women from wearing veils or face coverings, men from growing beards, and began the demolition of dozens of mosques. The Chinese government also began implementing “residential surveillance” in many areas of Xinjiang as well as increasing the presence of armed guards and mandatory checkpoints.

 

Since 2017, more than 85 camps housing at least one million Uighurs have been discovered in the autonomous zone. China originally denied the existence of the camps however they later acknowledged them as “re-education centres” when images of camps with watchtowers and barbed wire fences emerged. This was met with mixed responses. The U.N. Human Rights Council penned a letter in which 22 countries condemned the Chinese leadership and the “large-scale arbitrary detention of Uighurs”. Four days later 37 countries, many of whom are Muslim majority defended China’s “achievements in the field of human rights” and their dedication to protecting the nation from “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism”. In February 2019, President Xi Jinping stated that the Chinese Communist Party should have absolute control over the legal system. The government then legalised ‘arbitrary and secret detention’ and created new legislation which would exempt police from any legal responsibilities for damage that may be caused to the private property or interests of individuals and organizations while they carry out duties.

 

Tursunay Ziawudun, the key interviewee in a BBC article describes some of the brutal acts inflicted on her and other inmates during the nine months she spent in the camp. It is incredibly rare to acquire a first-hand account from a former staff member or detainee, and because there is strict security surrounding the camps it is almost impossible to completely confirm the allegations made, however, the account given by Ziawudun is extremely similar to accounts given by other former detainees. Details given in her testimony are corroborated by immigration records and travel documents and her description of the camp in Xinyuan county match analysed satellite imagery. In her interview with the BBC, she stated that detainees were forced to watch propaganda programmes, forcibly injected with a “vaccine” which brought on numbness and nausea every 15 days and implanted with IUDs against their will. Later in her interview, Ziawudun stated that she had been gang-raped on three occasions and on one occasion officers took her to a room without surveillance and tortured her by pushing an electric stick inside her genital tract and electrocuting her.

 

“It is incredibly rare to acquire a first-hand account from a former staff member or detainee, and because there is strict security surrounding the camps it is almost impossible to completely confirm the allegations made”

 

Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, a former language teacher in the camp who has publicly stated since fleeing China that she was informed by a female police officer in the camp that the rape in the camp had become a culture. The officer also told her that it was commonly gang rape and electrocution. Sedik testified to the Uighur Human Rights Project that screams were often heard echoing through the buildings, and that she was aware of four forms of electric shock that were used. These included “the chair, the glove, the helmet and anal rape with a stick”. According to the Associated Press women in the camps were forcibly sterilised allegations the Chinese government have stated are “completely unfounded”. An anonymous camp guard who spoke to the BBC said that food deprivation and beatings were administered as punishment for failure to memorise book passages or patriotic songs.

 

On his last day as president, Donald Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo released the statement “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systemic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state”. The current Biden administration has echoed this statement. The UK and Australian government ministers have issued calls to action with MP Nus Ghani stating “These horrifying stories add to the huge and growing body of evidence detailing atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang – atrocities which may even be genocidal.” In January, Canada and Britain announced a ban on goods which they suspect were made using forced labour in Xinjiang. The UK has also revoked the broadcasting licence of CGTN, a Chinese state-owned broadcaster. Ofcom, the UK regulator, has said that this decision was reached because the corporation was controlled by the Chinese communist party. The Chinese government have responded by banning BBC World News both in retaliation and as a result of the networks reporting on Covid-19 and the Uighur genocide.

 

We have been aware in one form or another of the Chinese Communist party’s treatment of Uighurs since at least 2014, it is high time that we do something to end this atrocity. It is baffling to me that no government has intervened prior to the latest allegations. We cannot allow this recent revelation to disappear from our minds. If we do, the abuse and torture will only continue.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Malcolm Brown on Flickr

 

The pharmaceutical industry – a wasted chance at redemption?

The pharmaceutical industry – a wasted chance at redemption?

 

HUMANITARIAN

The pharmaceutical industry – a wasted chance at redemption?

sign that says 'big pharama'
olivia moore

Sarah McKeon

17th February 2021

 

Like any business, pharmaceutical companies need to make a profit in order to grow, succeed, and compete in their industry. However, due to the nature of their business, pharmaceutical companies are commonly demonised and portrayed as modern-day villains that use and manipulate illness to make a profit. There was hope when such companies began manufacturing covid-19 vaccines that they would be able to salvage their image through good-natured actions. There was even hope that such companies may use the vaccine as a springboard to tighten the gap on global healthcare inequality. But, has this opportunity been wasted?

 

‘Big Pharma’ has a dire public image, and it is understandable why. In 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its HIV treatment medication from $13.50 to $750 per pill in America. Another common source of outrage in America is the cost of insulin, where some are forced to choose between managing their diabetes or feeding their family. There are countless more examples of medication being sold at extortionate prices, making it practically impossible for those in impecunious situations to overcome treatable diseases. These actions have caused severe distrust from the public, with many believing in what is known as the ‘Big Pharma conspiracy theory.’ This conspiracy encompasses a belief that pharmaceutical companies ‘operate for nefarious purpose and against the public good by withholding treatments for cancer and other diseases in order to maximise their profits.’ Although a cynical and unfounded theory, it all stems from the actions taken by pharmaceutical companies to date.

 

Given the severe global impact of covid-19, many had hoped that pharmaceutical companies would act with benevolence by putting their profit-earning nature aside temporarily, which would in turn improve their public image. However, this hope has proven to be overly optimistic. BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna have opted for a for-profit model during the pandemic. Pfizer in particular expects €12.5bn in covid vaccine revenue this year. They do not expect the profits to stop here however, with Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, stating that it was an ‘increasingly probable scenario’ that people will require boosters, or different vaccine formulations to keep up with new variants of the virus. He then added, with perhaps a hint of hopefulness, that this would result in a ‘durable’ revenue stream.

 

It is morally questionable at the very least to earn, and hope to continuously earn, such a high profit in critical times like these. We have placed a higher burden on pharmaceutical companies to act more altruistic in covid-19 times than we have on other industries. However, this is not an unfair expectation and the reasoning behind this is simple: the vaccine is not an optional purchase. You would not be in danger should you be unable to afford that new fiction book from Amazon or those new Levi jeans that just got released. You will however live in fear for your health, and ultimately your survival, if you happen to live in a poorer nation which does not have the means to purchase this vaccine, as well as an indefinite amount of boosters and newer vaccines. As encapsulated by Stephen Lewis, former United Nations envoy, ‘drug companies are deciding whether people live or die.’

 

“It is morally questionable at the very least to earn, and hope to continuously earn, such a high profit in critical times like these.”

 

It is important to recognise that some pharmaceutical companies have opted to be not-for-profit for the duration of the pandemic, specifically Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. This is definitely admirable and the beneficial impact this will have in poorer nations must not be overlooked. However, as the vaccines produced by these companies have a lower efficacy rate and are therefore are the less popular choice, it should be expected that this charitability will be overshadowed by the actions of other more rapacious companies.

 

It is a common perception that being ruthless is the key to having a successful business, and the pharmaceutical industry unfortunately serves to further prove this point. Although this may be how many businesses operate, the simple fact is we expect more compassion and humanity coming from an industry that deals with life or death situations. The way in which pharmaceutical companies operate essentially promotes and encourages the devastating effects that wealth inequality has on the world.

 

Essentially, the pharmaceutical industry has not redeemed its image during this pandemic, but instead has regretfully cemented its image in the public’s eye as being unmerciful and opportunistic.

 

 

Featured photo by Bart Heird on Flickr