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RUSSIA: U.S. Senators want to boot Russia from Human Rights Council

U.S. Senators want to boot Russia from Human Rights Council

By Jimmy Quinn

 

National Review (30.03.2022) – https://bit.ly/3NyR9lT – A bipartisan group of senators urged U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield to introduce a U.N. resolution expelling Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. They asked her to do so on Monday, in a letter led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez and ranking member Jim Risch.

 

“According to the membership rules of the UNHRC, states engaging in a pattern of gross and systemic abuses can be removed by a two-thirds vote of the UN General Assembly,” wrote the senators. “We implore you to introduce a resolution in the UN General Assembly to call for the removal of the Russian Federation from the UNHRC immediately.”

 

The Biden administration brought the U.S. back to the council for a term that began this year, following a 2018 Trump administration decision to withdraw from the body over the continued involvement of brutal dictatorships in its activities. In 2020, U.N. members elected China, Russia, Cuba, and other countries with unsavory human-rights records to the body, which is based in Geneva.

 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement earlier this month saying that the U.S. has assessed that Russia has carried out war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine. From indiscriminate bombings of civilians centers to disturbing new reports about rape, Russia has carried out egregious human-rights abuses.

 

U.S. officials have spoken out forcefully at the U.N about the Russian invasion. They’ve also convinced other members to support resolutions condemning Moscow’s military campaign and establishing a special commission to investigate human-rights abuses perpetrated by Russian forces. Earlier this month, Blinken even questioned how Russia could be allowed to remain on the council.

 

As the senators noted in their letter, however, the administration has so far declined to publicly endorse a resolution booting Russia from the Human Rights Council.

 

“Russia should not have an opportunity to continue to block, stifle, and otherwise distract from important conversations on the situation of human rights in Ukraine. Swift action must be taken to show the world the United States and our allies will not stand for indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks on civilians and democracies,” wrote the senators. “The time has come for Russia to no longer have a seat on the Council.”

Photo credits: Mike Segar/Reuters





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USA: Targeted Sanctions: Implications for International Religious Freedom Issues

Targeted Sanctions: Implications for International Religious Freedom USCIRF Hearing

State of play of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act

By Dr Zsuzsa-Anna Ferenczy for Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (28.10.2021) – On October 27, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) held a hearing to explore ways for targeted sanctions to be utilized to address freedom of religion violations in the world.

 

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF uses international standards to monitor violations of religious freedom or belief abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

 

The panel included

Michael Weber, Analyst at Congressional Research Service,

Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First,

Justyna Gudzowska, Director of Illicit Finance Policy, The Sentry,

Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and Annie Boyajian, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Freedom House.

 

Through the 2016 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the related 2017 executive order, E.O. 13818, the U.S. government can issue visa bans and asset freezes against foreign persons involved in “serious human rights abuses,” including violations of religious freedom. Visa bans are also possible through Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act. These tools have been used to impose consequences on violators of religious freedom in a variety of contexts, including Burma, China, Iran, and Russia. These examples represent only a small percentage of the religious freedom violations occurring globally. A more aggressive and effective targeted sanctions regimen can contribute to deterring religious freedom violators, holding perpetrators accountable, leading to a world where all are free to practice their religion or belief.

With legislative authority for Global Magnitsky sanctions expiring in 2022, the reauthorization process presents an opportunity to strengthen and expand targeted sanctions programs. The speakers in the panel explained how sanctions are utilized within the broader U.S. foreign policy strategy to address religious freedom violations and discussed ways to use these tools to curtail such violations.

In his opening remarks, Senator Ben Cardin stressed that the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act is an important tool to hold human rights abusers accountable, and US leadership in this regard is important. “We need to stand up for religious freedom for the sake of those persecuted”, he noted, stressing the need to make sanctions more comprehensive by including also those who enable the perpetrators by materially assisting and advising them.

 

Representative Jim McGovern, as one of the authors of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, stressed that if authorities fail, it falls to others, such as the United States, to make sure perpetrators bear a cost to their actions. The Global Magnitsky Act is a powerful and popular foreign policy tool, but its use must be increased to better protect religious freedom. “We must remember it is one tool in the toolkit. Sanctions are important but they are not enough”, he noted.

 

Senator Roger Wicker said that religious freedom is a foundational pillar of any free and open society, a basic fundamental right. The Global Magnitsky Act gives the US the tool to stand up for freedom loving patriots, being the most effective tool to fight against human rights abuse.

 

Nury Turkel, Vice Chair of USCIRF noted that since the passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, 243 entities and individuals have been sanctioned, including some for religious freedom violations. As such, senior Chinese officials were sanctioned for their direct participation in the surveillance and mass detention of Uyghurs. In 2020 the Biden administration used the Act to introduce sanctions, including against those responsible for the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

 

Going forward, the US government should coordinate with other countries with similar sanctions regime. “When multilateral sanctions are issued, the stigma is stronger”, he stressed.

 

Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First said that with the rising tide of authoritarianism and wide spread of aggression against entire religious communities, targeted sanctions can be a useful tool for governments to take action. Sanctions can send a unified message of condemnation, also reaffirm countries’ conviction to uphold global values. But there are limits to sanctions, he warned.

 

In the words of Justyna Gudzowska, Director of Illicit Finance Policy, targeted sanctions should be used more frequently and systematically, and should be imposed strategically, on those most responsible. For sanctions to have an impact, they must go beyond naming and shaming, they must focus on entire networks, on all the facilitators involved. Sanctions must be utilized in concert with other foreign policy tools; their efficacy can vastly increase if sanctions are multilateral.

 

Annie Boyajian, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy of Freedom House also stressed the need for sanctions to be part of a robust coordinated strategy of coordinated action. Also, clear steps should be outlined to ease sanctions if perpetrator change behaviour.

 

Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar urged targeted coordinated sanctions. But sanctions are insufficient, he also stressed. Sanctions have not impacted the ability of junta to continue atrocities, so the US government should work with allies for coordinated sanctions, and further pressure on military.

 

Overall the speakers agreed that a package of tools is needed to ensure the effectiveness of targeted sanctions, to be applied in coordination, linked all together in a focused way. In this regard, in the future the Global Magnitsky Acf can remain an important tool.

Photo: Logo USCIRF

Further reading about FORB in USA on HRWF website





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USA: Texas 6-weeks abortion ban takes effect with the Supreme Court silent

Texas 6-weeks abortion ban takes effect, with high court mum

By Jessica Gresko, Paul J. Weber and Mark Sherman

 

AP (01.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3yDbY7c – Texas law banning most abortions in the state took effect Wednesday, with the Supreme Court silent on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.

 

If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most far-reaching restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.

 

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.

 

In a statement after the law took effect, President Joe Biden said it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” And he said the law “outrageously” gives private citizens the power “to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”

 

In a phone call with reporters early Wednesday, Marc Hearron, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that “as of now, most abortion is banned in Texas.” Hearron said the abortion providers his group represents were still hoping to hear from the Supreme Court.

 

The clinics have said the law would rule out 85% of abortions in Texas and force many clinics to close. Planned Parenthood is among the abortion providers that have stopped scheduling abortions beyond six weeks from conception.

 

Abortion rights advocates say the Texas law will force many women to travel out of state for abortions, if they can afford to do so and also navigate issues including childcare and taking time off work. It is also expected to increase the number of women seeking to self-induce abortions using pills obtained by mail.

 

At least 12 other states have enacted bans on abortion early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.

 

What makes the Texas law different is its unusual enforcement scheme. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.

Abortion opponents who wrote the law also made it difficult to challenge the law in court, in part because it’s hard to know whom to sue.

 

Late into the night Tuesday before the ban took effect clinics were filled with patients, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

 

Twenty-seven women were still in the waiting room after 10 p.m. at one clinic, leaving doctors crying and scrambling over whether they would see all of them in time, she said. The last abortion at one of her clinics finished at 11:56 p.m. in Fort Worth, where Hagstrom Miller said anti-abortion activists outside shined bright lights in the parking lot after dark looking for wrongdoing, and twice called police.

 

“This morning I woke up feeling deep sadness. I’m worried. I’m numb,” she said.

 

On the other side, Republican state Rep. Shelby Slawson wrote on Facebook after the ban took effect that it was “with great sadness that I relate to you that late into the night, some in Texas were scrambling to end as many unborn lives as they could before the clock struck midnight.” Her colleague, Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach wrote on

Twitter after the ban went into effect that “LIFE is winning in America … and Texas is leading the way!”

 

The law is part of a hard-right agenda that Texas Republicans muscled through the statehouse this year ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when Abbott is up for a third term as governor.

 

Another law taking effect Wednesday ended required firearm training and background checks to carry handguns in public in Texas, and GOP lawmakers on Tuesday approved election changes that will further tighten what are already some of the strictest voting laws in the nation.

 

Texas has long had some of the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions, including a sweeping law passed in 2013. The Supreme Court eventually struck down that law, but not before more than half of the state’s 40-plus clinics closed.

 

Lawmakers also are moving forward in an ongoing special session in Texas with proposed new restrictions on medication abortion, a method using pills that accounts for roughly 40% of abortions in the U.S.

 

Even before the Texas case arrived at the high court the justices had planned to tackle the issue of abortion rights in a major case that will be heard after the court begins hearing arguments again in the fall. That case involves the state of Mississippi, which is asking to be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

 

AP writer Paul J. Weber reported from Austin, Texas.

 

Some related articles

 

After Silence From Supreme Court, Texas Clinics Confront Near-Total Abortion Ban

 

https://www.npr.org/2021/09/01/1033171800/texas-abortion-ban-supreme-court-?t=1630530692710

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/01/texas-abortion-law-supreme-court

 

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/31/texas-abortion-law-supreme-court/

 

 

Photo credits: AP News

 





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USA: President Biden announces intent to appoint leaders to serve in key religious affairs roles

President Biden announces intent to nominate and appoint leaders to serve in key religious affairs roles

The White House (30.07.2021) – https://bit.ly/3xus42c – Today, President Biden announced his intent to nominate and appoint individuals to serve in key roles at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom:

  • Rashad Hussain, Nominee for Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
  • Deborah Lipstadt, Nominee for Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism with the Rank of Ambassador
  • Khizr Khan, Appointee for Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Sharon Kleinbaum, Appointee for Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

 

Today’s announcement underscores the President’s commitment to build an Administration that looks like America and reflects people of all faiths. Hussain is the first Muslim to be nominated to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and Lipstadt is a renowned scholar of the Holocaust and antisemitism.

Rashad Hussain, Nominee for Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Rashad Hussain is Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. He previously served as Senior Counsel at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. During the Obama Administration, Rashad served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, and Deputy Associate White House Counsel. In his roles as Envoy, Hussain worked with multilateral organizations such as the OIC and UN, foreign governments, and civil society organizations to expand partnerships in education, entrepreneurship, health, international security, science and technology, and other areas. Rashad also spearheaded efforts on countering antisemitism and protecting religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Rashad worked on the House Judiciary Committee, served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. Damon Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and was an Associate Counsel to the Obama-Biden Transition Project. Rashad received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal, and Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He has also taught as Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown Law Center and the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. He speaks Urdu, Arabic, and Spanish.

Deborah Lipstadt, Nominee for Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism with the Rank of Ambassador

Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, where she was the founding director of the Institute for Jewish Studies. She is the author of Beyond Belief: the American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945; History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier; The Eichmann Trial; Holocaust: An American Understanding and Antisemitism: Here and Now. After the British writer and Holocaust denier David Irving sued her for libel, a ten-week trial in London in 2000 resulted in an overwhelming victory for Lipstadt. Lipstadt is currently on the Boards of the Jewish Forward Advisory Committee and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and serves as a judge for the Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. She has also served in several roles at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, including twice as a Presidential Appointee to the Museum’s Council, and was asked by President George W. Bush to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Lipstadt was previously a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on Religious Persecution Abroad and was a Board Member of Hillel International, The Defiant Requiem, and The Covenant Foundation. She has received numerous awards for her research and writing and is the recipient of nine honorary degrees. Lipstadt received a B.A. from City College in New York and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University. She is fluent in Hebrew.

Khizr Khan, Appointee for Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Khizr Khan, founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project, is an advocate for religious freedom as a core element of human dignity. After immigrating to the United States in 1980, he attended Harvard Law School and obtained his LL.M degree. He is licensed to practice law before the Supreme Court of the United States, various Federal District Courts, and Washington, DC and New York State courts. In his law practice, he devotes a substantial amount of his time to providing legal services to veterans, men and women serving in uniform, and their families.

Khizr Khan is a Gold Star parent of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan. Capt. Humayun Khan was a University of Virginia graduate who was killed while serving in Iraq as he stopped an attack on his camp and saved the lives of scores of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery Section 60 with full military honors.

Khizr Khan lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is author of three books, including An American Family-A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice, Founding Documents of the United States of America, and This is Our Constitution.

Sharon Kleinbaum, Appointee for Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum serves as spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York City. She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership. She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as Senior Rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. Rabbi Kleinbaum has long been involved in the fight for human rights, including religious freedom. She previously served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2020. For many years Rabbi Kleinbaum has been ranked by Newsweek among the 50 most influential rabbis in America. Rabbi Kleinbaum is also a Commissioner on New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, serves on Mayor de Blasio’s Faith Based Advisory Council, and serves on the boards of the New York Jewish Agenda and the New Israel Fund.

Sharon Kleinbaum’s longtime leadership of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah and her outspoken activism have made her a powerful voice for religious freedom, LGBTQ rights and other human rights in America and around the world.

 

Photo : sundayguardianlive.com

Further reading about FORB in USA on HRWF website





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USA: Presbyterian Church takes first vote on banning ordination of openly gay men

USA: Presbyterian Church in America takes first vote on banning ordination of openly gay men

By Anugrah Kumar

 

The Christian Post (04.07.2021) – https://bit.ly/2SNNbhP – The Presbyterian Church in America has voted to change a rule in its governing document that would disqualify all gay men from serving in its ministry.

 

The resolution to change the rule, “Overture 23,” was passed 1,400-400 at the denomination’s 48th annual convention in St. Louis, Missouri, last week.

 

“Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, ‘gay Christian,’ ‘same-sex attracted Christian,’ ‘homosexual Christian,’ or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same-sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office,” the amended rule states.

 

The amended rule will go to local church bodies for a vote before the second round of convention balloting next year following which the language would be placed in the PCA’s “Book of Church Order.”

 

The Washington Times quoted Chris Norris of the Calvary Presbytery as saying during the debate: “Sanctification begins with one’s identity as a new creation in Christ. … Taking a gay identity flies in the face of the new creation.”

 

The denomination also affirmed “Overture 37,” which refers to pastoral candidates.

 

“…Careful reflection must be given to his practical struggle against sinful actions, as well as to persistent sinful desires,” it states.

 

“The candidate must give clear testimony of reliance upon his union with Christ and the benefits thereof by the Holy Spirit, depending on this work of grace to make progress over sin. … While imperfection will remain, he should not be known by reputation or self-profession according to his remaining sinfulness (e.g., homosexual desires, etc.), but rather by the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus,” it adds.

 

During the annual convention, the PCA also endorsed Lifeline Children’s Services as its “preferred adoption and orphan care ministry” due to its “commitment to the sanctity of life” and not Bethany Christian Services, which recently announced it would be offering its services to LGBT couples.

 

The endorsement of Lifeline came three months after the Michigan-based group Bethany, which is the nation’s largest Protestant adoption and foster agency, announced it would begin placing children with adults who identify as LGBT.

 

In a statement to The Christian Post at the time, Nathan Bult, senior vice president of the historically evangelical organization, said that faith in Jesus is at the “core” of their mission,” but they were “not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians may disagree.”

Photo credits: Getty Images


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