Qatar covered up the death of 1200 workers

Gulf News (14.04.2019) – https://bit.ly/2GtrHO2 – Several human rights groups have accused a Qatari self-styled rights advocate and his government panel of covering up the death of more than 1,200 migrant workers while building sports facilities for hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK and Europe, the African Human Right Heritage, and the Gulf Association for Rights and Freedom have said they filed a joint complaint against Ali Bin Samikh Al Marri, the secretary general of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.

They also accused Al Marri of taking advantage of his panel to whitewash Qatar’s image and wasting the small emirate’s money for “politicising” rights issues.

The complaint has been lodged with several international institutions, including the Global Alliance for Natuional Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee at the European Union and the world football body, the FIFA.

The three watchdogs have asked the Global Alliance for National Human Rights to open an inquiry on Al Marri’s complicity and ensure he and his panel will not escape punishment, they said in a press statement.

“We call for opening a transparent and impartial investigation into abuses against migrant workers in Qatar,” they added.

The three groups said they will soon give a press conference in Geneva to launch a campaign entitled “Disclosing Facts in Qatar”.

Their complaint was made public as a conference against impunity, organised by the Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, started Sunday in Doha.

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UKRAINE: Opinions about the first round of the presidential election

HRWF (02.04.2019) – The first round of the presidential election is over. Zelensky (about 30%) and Poroshenko (about 16%) will compete in a second round on 21 April. Ukrainian NGOs, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and international institutions reacted about the process.

CVU: Fair elections with no systemic violations that could affect the election results  

CVU’s Oleksii Koshel stated that in general, the election was fair and that there were no systemic violations that could affect the election results. “The election campaign was affected by the large use of negative campaigning but the conduct of the Election Day was of a high quality”, said Koshel.

“In this election, the violation of the secrecy of the vote occurred on a mass scale”, noted CVU analyst Denis Rybachok. Among the major violations CVU indicates inaccurate voter lists and wide-spread mistakes by precinct election commissions in registering voters, illegal campaigning during the day of silence and E-Day.

 

Observers also recorded a low level of performance on different levels of election commissions, with some cases of commissions counting votes before the vote was officially over and several cases of ballots being given to voters without checking for proper identification.

Voter turnout was quite low in Transcarpathia, Chernivtsi and Kherson oblasts, which is believed to be due to the high number of labor migrants from these regions living abroad and the very small-scale political campaign run in these regions. Observers also recorded some cases of protest voting and ballot spoiling in Chernivtsi and Transcarpathia regions.

“For Ukrainians abroad, there were long queues to vote, regulatory barriers and other obstacles that inhibited their ability to vote, such as the financial cost to travel to polling stations repeatedly”, said Koshel. “There is a need to reform the voting system for Ukrainians living abroad, such as by increasing the number of polling stations or by allowing a postal vote.”

Unconfirmed bomb threats against polling stations and candidate headquarters in certain regions were not that wide-spread, however observers believe that this mechanism of disrupting the election may be used more actively in the second round of the election. In this election, polling stations worked continuously despite such cases of threats being made against polling stations.

 

The full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2CLCqBu.

 

EPDE: “No politically biased election observation activities were identified” – Anton Shekhovtsov 

During the first round of Presidential Elections, EPDE experts did not identify international politically biased election observation missions’ activities. “Such missions, however, could be activated during the second round”, stated Anton Shekhovtsov, EPDE analyst.

“The chief objective of politically biased international election observation is to mislead the local and international public regarding the legitimacy of election results”, said Stefanie Schiffer, Head of the Board of EPDE. “These observation missions spread mistrust towards democratic institutions”.

 

Shekhovtsov recommended that the Ukrainian Central Election Commission should scrutinize the applications of international observers based on their potential former engagement within missions that aimed to discredit the institution of international election observation. He underlined the importance of sanctions against individuals who previously observed illegitimate elections in Crimea and in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk. “This explains, at least partially, the lack of the so-called international fake observation in this election”.

“The fact that we did not have a visible activity of fake election observers is a sign of how resilience and a strict reaction from the side of the administration can protect the integrity of elections”, said Schiffer. “Other countries may be able to learn from Ukraine’s experience”. “In the 2014 Presidential elections we identified several fake election observation missions”, added Shekhovtsov. “These included missions lead by far-right activist Mateusz Piskorski from Poland and a mission lead by Hungary’s Jobik Party, which included members of the German fair-right party Alternative for Germany (AFD)”.

Previously, EPDE members Civil Network Opora and Committee of Voters of Ukraine have reported a large number of Ukrainian politically motivated election observation groups. There were 139 domestic NGOs registered in Ukraine as election observation organizations, of which 85 have no previous experience of election observation, more than 30 NGOs had connections to a single presidential candidate, and only five observed the 2014 Presidential elections. “We can see a mushrooming of election observation here in Ukraine which has a clear political connotation and threatens to cast doubts on the credibility of election observation”, said Schiffer.

 

OPORA: Elections took place in a competitive environment and in compliance with basic electoral standards

The most frequent violations recorded by OPORA observers on election day were the attempts by members of election commissions to give out ballots to voters without checking their documents (passport, temporary ID cards for Ukrainian citizens, or military IDs). Such violations took place at 14.5% of polling stations. Breach of the secrecy of voting by voters who photographed their ballots was the most frequently recorded violation on Election day. Such cases were identified by observers in 10.4% of polling stations.

However, these and other violations of electoral legislation did not present any constraints for citizens to exercise their right to vote and be elected.

The full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2FPWLYb .

 

Interior Ministry: Police receive more than 2,000 reports of electoral violations on Sunday 

Interfax Ukraine (01.04.2019) – https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/577429.html – As of 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, the National Police of Ukraine received 2,199 appeals and reports of violations during the regular presidential election.

“As of 22:00, the police received 2,199 appeals and reports related to the electoral process. Most violations were recorded in Dnipropetrovsk region – 317, the city of Kyiv had 278 of violations, Donetsk region – 215, Odesa – 200 violations, Kharkiv – 197, and Poltava – 101. Thirty-nine criminal proceedings have been opened,” Viktoria Navrotska, the deputy director of the liaison department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine wrote on her Facebook page.

 

The ministry clarified that these facts are related to: illegal campaigning – 135; photographing ballots – 129; voters’ bribery – 45; bulletin damage – 34; a false bomb threat – 18; an attempt to remove the bulletin from the polling station – 13. Thirty-nine criminal proceedings have been opened.

Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case about an ‘anonymous’ illegal financing of  a political party: more than 70,000 EUR (Video)

 

Prosecutor General’s Office https://bit.ly/2TQEoGi– According to the procedural guidance of the Kyiv prosecutor’s office, investigators of the SSU SBU in Kiev have been notified of suspicion of a citizen of Ukraine who has paid contributions in support of one of the political parties for a total amount of more than UAH 2.2 million while remaining anonymous, that is, committed a crime.

 

The fact is that this person entered into a preliminary agreement with the head of the department of one of the Ukrainian banks, which, secured the illegal registration of payments and the selection of persons on behalf of which unlawful banking operations were carried out.

 

The suspect paid to the account of the political party, while illegally using personal data of 15 Ukrainian citizens and not indicating themselves as the owner of the funds and their payer, thus remaining anonymous person. The Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal investigation.

 

EU: Preliminary data say first round of Ukraine election “decent”

UNIAN (01.04.2109 – 12h50) – https://bit.ly/2UlTkAB – Head of the European Delegation to Ukraine, Ambassador Hugues Mingarelli, says no reports have been received so far of any significant violations of election law following the first round of Ukraine presidential election.

 

“We are waiting for the ODIHR assessment. I guess we will have the first assessment today. Up to now, we have not heard anything about serious violations of the law but again we are waiting for the ODIHR assessment,” said Mingarelli. At the same time, he noted that observers from the EU member states were present at a large number of polling stations. “We have not been told that there were major violations. Therefore, our preliminary feeling, assessment, is that the elections were carried out in a decent way,” stressed Mingarelli.

 

OSCE Mission: Elections in Ukraine were free, competitive 

The first round of the presidential elections in Ukraine was competitive and citizens had the opportunity to freely express their will, the OSCE PA Election Observation Mission in Ukraine has said.

 

Such conclusions were made public by the OSCE Special Coordinator, Honorary President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Ilkka Kanerva during a joint press conference of representatives of the mission of international election observers in Ukraine consisting of representatives of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the European Parliament (EP) and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA).

 

“This presidential election was competitive. Voters had a broad choice and turned out in high numbers,” OSCE Special Co-ordinator Ilkka Kanerva said. “Fundamental freedoms were generally respected. Candidates could campaign freely.”

 

“Election Day was assessed positively overall and paves the way to the second round,” he quoted a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions by the International Election Observation Mission on Ukraine’s March 31 presidential election.

 

“My personal conclusion is that this competitive election has laid the groundwork for the vibrant second round. I hope that this will encourage Ukraine to continue on its path of democratic development at peace and security within its internationally recognized borders in our community of European values,” he said.

 

Kanerva paid attention to the fact that there were many international observers at the election, which helped minimize violations.

 

He said the violations established during the day of voting, did not in general influence the result of the vote. He added that elections could not be organized in Crimea and areas of Ukraine not under Ukraine’s control.


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UKRAINE: Observation findings by CVU and OPORA of the Election Day

CVU/ OPORA (31.03.2019) – The Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) and the Civil Network OPORA reported on various incidents recorded during the Election day.

 

CVU observation

“2100 observers have been deployed across the country by CVU today”, said Oleksiy Koshel. Among the main issues identified by CVU during the vote were violations of voting procedures by the members of the precinct election commissions, inaccuracy of the voter lists, illegal campaigning, and photographing of the filled-in ballots by voters.

 

“We have registered inaccuracies in the voter lists in two thirds of the polling stations observed”, said Denys Rybachok. “We estimate hundreds or even thousands of voters who could not vote due to the fact that they were not registered in the voter lists”.

 

CVU observers reported many cases where voters came to polling stations without proper ID, many cases of spoiled ballots due to inappropriate usage of stamps by election commissioners, and several cases of protocols being filled in before the voting has been accomplished. Photographing of ballots was reported during the entire voting process as well as illegal campaigning by some candidates. “The voting was calm and peaceful”, said Koshel.

 

OPORA observation

 

OPORA’s analyst, Oleksandr Kliuzhev, stated that according to their parallel vote tabulation there was a voter turnout of 49.8% (with a 0.6% margin of error) up until 16:00, with higher turnout in Eastern regions compared to Western regions. In general, observers reported that they were provided free access to polling stations and could freely observe the elections.

 

Kliuzhev identified the illegal issuance of ballots was wide-spread on E-day. Especially in rural areas OPORA observed that voters received their ballots without providing necessary identifying documents and that the ratio of these offences was quite high. “It is important to educate the electorate about the illegality of obtaining ballots without proper documentation”, said Kliuzhev. “It is particularly important in advance of the next round of the elections.”

 

OPORA also recorded that 17% of polling stations opened earlier than 08:00, which violates electoral procedures. “This and other violations indicate that members of election commissions require more training to be better informed about procedures before the second round of elections”, said Kliuzhev. The frequent changes of election commission members have affected the performance of the election commissions.

 

Up until now the voting process was peaceful but no final statements can be made until the final count and tabulation of votes occurred and the overall Election Day procedures have been completed. No direct attempts of falsifying the vote were recorded by OPORA, such as through ballot box stuffing.


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UKRAINE: Police receive more than 2,000 reports of electoral violations on Sunday – Interior Ministry

Interfax – Ukraine (01.04.2019) – https://bit.ly/2CMXN5s– As of 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, the National Police of Ukraine received 2,199 appeals and reports of violations during the regular presidential election.

 

“As of 22:00, the police received 2,199 appeals and reports related to the electoral process. Most violations were recorded in Dnipropetrovsk region – 317, the city of Kyiv had 278 of violations, Donetsk region – 215, Odesa – 200 violations, Kharkiv – 197, and Poltava – 101. Thirty-nine criminal proceedings have been opened,” Viktoria Navrotska, the deputy director of the liaison department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine wrote on her Facebook page.

 

The ministry clarified that these facts are related to: illegal campaigning – 135; photographing ballots – 129; voters’ bribery – 45; bulletin damage – 34; a false bomb threat – 18; an attempt to remove the bulletin from the polling station – 13. Thirty-nine criminal proceedings have been opened.

 

Situation on 1 April at 9.42 am.


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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: MEPs pass ‘watershed’ resolution calling for action against racism

By Jennifer Rankin

 

The Guardian (26.03.2019) – https://bit.ly/2UiaAq8– The European parliament has called for action to tackle the “structural racism” facing millions of Europeans of African descent in an unprecedented resolution that was overwhelmingly approved by MEPs.

 

The resolution calls on European Union member states to develop national anti-racism strategies to deal with discrimination in education, health, housing, policing, the justice system and politics.

 

Although non-binding, campaign groups hailed the resolution as a watershed moment because it was the first time the parliament has focused specifically on the discrimination facing by an estimated 15 million people of African descent.

 

The text was approved by 535 MEPs, with 80 votes against and 44 abstentions.

 

The resolution was crafted by the British Labour MEP Claude Moraes and is based on the experiences of Italian socialist MEP Cécile Kyenge, who experienced a torrent of racist abuse when she was Italy’s first black government minister. It calls on the European commission to fund programmes to support people of African descent in the EU’s next seven-year budget and set up a dedicated team to focus on “Afrophobia”.

 

It also calls on member states to declassify their colonial archives and consider “some form of reparations” for crimes of the colonial era, including public apologies and the restitution of artefacts from museums. “Some member states have taken steps towards meaningful and effective redress for past injustices and crimes against humanity – bearing in mind their lasting impacts in the present,” the resolution states.

 

The EU institutions and other member states are called on to follow this example.

 

“Histories of injustices against Africans and people of African Descent – including enslavement, forced labour, racial apartheid, massacre, and genocides in the context of European colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade – remain largely unrecognised and unaccounted for at an institutional level in EU member states,” the text states.

 

It also calls for the EU institutions to adopt “a workforce diversity and inclusion strategy” to redress the underrepresentation of black and minority ethnic officials. The EU civil service has been heavily influenced by French bureaucratic tradition, which means data on race, ethnicity or religion is deemed contrary to equality.

 

This meant the European commission’s latest diversity strategy had no targets for promoting minority ethnic people, although it promised action to help women, disabled people, the LGBTI community and older employees.

 

The resolution comes after the EU’s fundamental rights agency warned last year that black Europeans faced “a dire picture” of discrimination in housing, the workplace and everyday life. Black people in the UK were among the least likely in the EU to report racial harassment, according to the survey, with the highest level of offensive gestures, comments and threats reported in Finland.

 

Amel Yacef, the chair of the European Network Against Racism, said the vote was “a historic, watershed moment for the recognition of people of African descent in Europe”.

 

She added: “The European parliament is leading the way and sending a signal to EU member states to tackle structural racism that prevents black people from being included in European society. The ball is now in their court: we need concrete action plans and specific measures now.”


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AZERBAIJAN: Foreign policy context of Azerbaijan’s major pardoning act

By Rahim Rahimov

 

Eurasia Daily Monitor (17.03.2019) – https://bit.ly/2JKGxU7 – Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree, on March 16, pardoning 51 persons, who were described as “political prisoners” by international organizations and human rights watchdogs. Although pardons in Azerbaijan are not inherently unusual, the numerical scale of the collective pardon in this case was unprecedented for the country. The Azerbaijani government has refused to acknowledge any political motivation behind its action, and asserts that it was operating based on humanitarian principles. Opposition figures and critics, meanwhile, attribute the pardon to domestic and international pressure and have sought to portray it as the government’s retreat meant to relax domestic tensions.

While the authorities’ humanitarian argument is being rejected by opponents, attempts to credit the decision to domestic political pressure are also not persuasive. First, there is indeed domestic pressure on the government, but it is mainly of a socio-economic nature—the result of declining global oil prices and, relatedly, two difficult devaluations of the national currency in 2015. The pardoning decree came amidst the government’s ongoing social measures to address the situation through increases to salaries, pensions and stipends, the state’s partial coverage of troubled bank loans to Azerbaijani citizens, and other popular steps.

Second, the domestic opposition does not represent a significant political challenge to the ruling party. Aliyev’s critics have sought to use current social discontent to shape their political agenda. As such, they are motivated by international examples of how dissatisfied populations may turn to an opposition in protest to social problems even when they may not wholly embrace the opposition’s political program. While Azerbaijan’s opposition forces blame the government for failing to resolve many issues at the national level, their popular appeal is limited due to several long-standing internal issues, inter alia: the lack of a democratic transition or succession within the opposition political parties; the absence of a clear vision, solid strategy or sound program of reforms; the precedence of personal/group ambitions and intrigues over common interests, and related disunity; the habit of boycotting elections instead of exhausting the legitimate platform to reach out to the electorate; and failures of the main opposition actors to maintain their own power let alone to resolve the Karabakh conflict and other national problems in the early 1990s, when they were in office.

Regarding international pressure, it is true that Azerbaijan consistently faces large amounts of it. The latest US Department of State report critical of Azerbaijan’s human rights situation is another case in point. Nonetheless, international pressure did not directly bring about the pardoning act. It rather helps to contextualize the authorities’ decision to pardon the 51 individuals: the issue of political prisoners adversely affect Azerbaijan’s reputation in the West, leaving it in a position of vulnerability vis-à-vis other assertive players in the region. Such players can try to manipulate the domestic vulnerabilities of the country, especially when its partnership with the West is not in the best shape .

In particular, as Baku and Brussels enter the decisive phase of negotiations on a new partnership agreement, Moscow has been sending covert warnings against Azerbaijan’s participation in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drills in Georgia as well as overt warnings against Russians traveling to Azerbaijan. Additionally, recent statements from Russian officials threatening to send criminal bosses (kingpins) to their countries of origin and raids on Azerbaijani labor migrants and businesses are another source of concern for Baku. Moreover, high-profile Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Zatulin has called on Iran to take a more active role in the South Caucasus. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have tried to initiate projects such as the Iran–Armenia–Georgia–Russia energy project, circumventing Azerbaijan, which would limit Baku’s regional space for maneuver. Additionally, Tehran has needled Baku in its own ways, including with sharp nationalistic rhetoric, diplomatic faux pas, and attacks on Iran’s Azerbaijani minority.

The pardoning act was welcomed by international (Western) organizations as a positive step. This has implications for addressing the country’s foreign policy issues: Having failed to win the argument on Karabakh in international forums by stressing self-determination over territorial integrity, Armenia is now attempting to make its case on human rights grounds. But the clemency granted to the 51 Azerbaijani prisoners may curb such efforts. The release of the political prisoners may also contribute to finalizing negotiations on the EU-Azerbaijan strategic partnership agreement.

Baku’s hopes that Moscow was shifting its position on the Karabakh conflict have been fading; there is no sign that the positive statements from various Russian figures might turn into real deeds. But Azerbaijan is seeing positive signals from Washington, Berlin, Brussels and elsewhere, and that is partly due to Armenia’s troubled foreign policy. In this light, the pardoning act can be regarded as a goodwill gesture toward the West rather than a bowing to international pressure.

In the meantime, there are expectations that over 74 remaining “political prisoners” might also soon be pardoned or released through legal proceedings. That said, pardoning acts are positive but of a tactical nature. Therefore, the government will need to shape political, legal and judicial circumstances to ensure that politically implicated imprisonments are prevented in the future. President Aliyev has stated before and after the pardon that political and judicial-legal reforms will be launched soon, as “there is no alternative to reforms”. This is a significant indicator of Baku’s understanding of the need for reforms. However, genuine reforms could lead to domestic and external challenges to the ruling elite. Therefore, it is yet to be seen whether that understanding will translate into substantial systemic transformations.

Statement by the Spokesperson on the pardoning of prisoners in Azerbaijan to mark Novruz Holiday 

 

EEAS (17.03.2019) – https://bit.ly/2OzYUtX –  On 16 March, to mark Novruz Holiday, the President of Azerbaijan pardoned over 400 people.

 

Among those pardoned are also representatives of political parties, NGOs, bloggers and journalists, which is a welcome step.

 

The European Union expects that further similar steps will follow in future in line with Azerbaijan’s international commitments.

 

The EU will continue its engagement with Azerbaijan to step up the cooperation, including on human rights, which constitutes an essential element of our relationship.


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