Tag Archives: human rights

Historic Sexual Offences Act: public consultation required?

Photo Above: Human  Rights and LGBT campaigner  Peter Tatchell (second from right) ©  Alisdare Hickson on Flickr

A public consultation on the bill to give an automatic pardon to gay men convicted of same-sex consensual sex crimes, has been launched in the Scottish Parliament.

Continue reading Historic Sexual Offences Act: public consultation required?

Tibet Protest March across Edinburgh

Activists from Edinburgh joined the worldwide commemorations of the Tibetan National Uprising Day on Saturday with a march through the Scottish capital.

 This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising in the country’s capital, Lhasa. The Uprising erupted on 10 March 1952, a decade after the Chinese invasion of the country.

One of the organisers of Saturday’s march explained their motivation was to denounce China’s violent regime, “China’s repressive policies since it occupied Tibet 60 years ago have created a crisis in Tibet, provoking an unprecedented wave of self-immolations by Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople. So far, 21 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet; eight since 6 January 2012. Marchers”.

Protesters departed from The Mound at 1.30pm and walked to the Chinese Consulate in Murrafyeld, where they left hundreds of flowers matching the colours of the Tibetan flag, alongside pictures of Tibetants who were killed or self-immolated since the Chinese occupation of the country.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Armed with placards, flags, flowers and megaphones, they peacefully marched over George IV Bridge, down Victoria Street, along Grassmarket, Lothian Road and Shandwick Place, calling for support to bring human rights back to Tibet. Some of the banners read: ‘Let Tibetan voices be heard’, ‘Tibet is Burning’ and called for freedom for Tibet.


Marchers also handed out leaflets holding the Chinese authorities responsible for neglecting the basic rights of the Tibetan people stating, “The Chinese authorities have engaged in wholesale abuse of human rights of native Tibetants, while embarking on a campaign to eradicate Tibetan language and culture”.

Edinburgh University Tibet society also encouraged people to gather in Bristo Square on Saturday. A spokesperson for the society expressed their support, “We need to let the world know that Scotland will always stand in Solidarity with Tibetants in Tibet and will not stop until Tibet is free”.

Equal Love: straight rights; gay rights; human rights

By Chris Melvin

The Equal Love movement is the latest campaign launched by experienced rights activist Peter Tatchell, aiming to redress the alleged discriminative legislation that causes imbalance and segregation – both legally and financially – between heterosexual and homosexual couples in regards to legal commitment.

Every week, one of eight couples will file their applications at their local registry office. Four straight couples will apply for a civil partnership, whilst four same-sex couples with apply for civil marriages. This began on November 2nd and will continue up until December 14th.

Tatchell has said: “If the couples are turned away, as we expect they will be, we plan to take legal action” – The bans on marriage and civil partnerships are violations of the Human Rights Act with respect to Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman
Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman

As predicted, the first couple – Rev. Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka Streitzel – were denied permission to have a civil marriage in Greenwich last week. Both are women of faith. Rev. Ferguson stated: “we live our whole lives in our faith. We don’t want a separate blessing and ceremony”.

Yesterday, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle helped the Equal Love movement by filing for a civil partnership at their local town hall in Islington, London. As expected, they were also refused the right to a civil partnership due to the couple being of mixed-sex.

Katherine explained that marriage “has typecast gender roles that are not part of our day to day relationship. We felt that civil partnership represented a more flexible idea of what a couple should be”. She later stated that, as the young couple only wish to be unified under a civil partnership, she and Tom “feel frustrated that [they] are excluded from the benefits of traditional marriage”.

She then commented on the refusal of her application: “it is a disappointing reminder that Britain – a country that prides itself on its progressiveness in equality and justice – is harbouring segregation at its heart. Britain has been overtaken by South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada on marriage equality, and needs to make a change to legislation soon”.

An "equal" ceremony
An "equal" ceremony

Following this comment, Marjolein Ligtvoet-Molmans and Edith Molmans-Ligtvoet, a same-sex Dutch couple married since 2003, compared the current legislation in the United Kingdom with that of Holland; the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

“We feel like civil partnerships are just a substitute so that gay couples have ‘at least got something’ instead of marriage. Straight couples should have the right to civil partnerships too, because everyone should have the right to choose for themselves – it should be equal for all couples, like it is in Holland.”

Marjolein highlighted the financial aspects, saying: “I specifically married my partner because we wanted to buy a house.  Since I already had children, my partner wouldn’t have had any rights to my money if I died leaving her basically on the streets”.

Once the eight couples are refused, the Equal Love campaign will use the results as evidence and turn to the courts. The legal case is being prepared by professor of human rights law at King’s College London, Robert Wintemute.

Burmese pro-junta party wins elections

AP Photo/ Khin Maung Win - A Burmese polling station. International election observers and foreign media was banned from monitoring the elections
AP Photo/ Khin Maung Win - A Burmese polling station. International election observers and foreign media was banned from monitoring the elections

The first elections since 1990 have been won by the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The voting took place on Monday the 8th of November.

The elections have been widely criticised by human rights organisations. The biggest opposition party, the National League for Democracy, which won the only elections in 1990 has been banned from the elections, with Aung San Suu Kyi the nobel peace prize winner opposition leader under house arrest during the elections.

“That Myanmar continues to hold more than 2,200 political prisoners exposes the government’s contempt for human rights in these elections,” said Salil Shetty Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “Their self-described ‘Roadmap to Democracy’, of which these elections are meant to be a significant part, seems to lead only to continuing political repression.”

Elections observers and foreign journalists were not permitted to go to the country, as they were banned from monitoring the elections.

“These elections presented an opportunity for Myanmar to make meaningful human rights changes on its own terms.  “Instead, throughout the run up to the polls, the government has attacked the rights necessary for holding meaningful elections” stated Salil Shetty.

The legitimacy of the elections have been questioned by almost all major human rights organizations with many politicians joining the condemnation of the ‘fake’ elections. US President Barack Obama has claimed that the elections were ‘neither free or fair’. However, in contrast with the remarks of US President Barack Obama, China has welcomed the election results, and believe it is a step towards democracy Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman as Hong Lei said on Tuesday.

Riots broke out during the elections in the southern parts of Burma, as a border town to Burma has been seized by breakaway militant group  called  the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). Approximately 15,000 refugees have been have fled the region for Thailand.

‘The UN Refugee Agency is coordinating efforts to provide shelter, food and water for thousands of refugees who have crossed into northern Thailand to escape fighting between ethnic Karen rebels and Myanmar government troops’  a UN Refugee Agency press release states. Some of the refugees have already started to return to Burma.

European court ruling means prisoners will get vote

By Kerry McGinty and Sylvie Metcalfe

European Parliament has passed a human rights legislation that enables prisoners to have the same voting rights as law abiding citizens. The PM David Cameron has admitted that the coalition government will have no choice but to allow prisoners the right to vote. Constitutional reform minister Mark Harper  declared “this isn’t a choice, it’s and obligation”. The decision is has caused much anger and outrage within parliament and the public as this decision has been forced upon UK Law.

The case was brought to the European court by John Hirst in October 2005 it has been a long legal battle but the ban on votes for prisoners, that has been around for 140 years, has finally been overturned. John Hirst a convicted murderer who spent 25 years in prison for hacking his landlady to death with an axe posted a “celebratory” video on Youtube where he is quoted saying;

“Finally won out. I’m now going to celebrate for the 75,000 prisoners who will be getting the vote – that includes murderers, rapists, paedophiles, all of them will be getting the vote because it’s their human right to have the vote. You can’t start moralising and say which ones can and can’t have the vote.”

However not all offenders are said to be getting the opportunity to vote. It is unclear at this stage but it is being discussed whether or not voting privileges will depend on the length of the offender’s sentence.

Prime minister David Cameron is said to be “exasperated and furious” but it appears that our government is somewhat powerless at this stage. The decision has been made and there is no choice but to abide by the law set by the European Court of Human Rights.  Prisoners who have no respect for the human rights of others have ironically been bestowed with a vote by Human Rights law. This is all in spite of public and parliamentary outrage.

No means “not yet” for Sakineh Ashtiani’s execution

by Sandra Juncu

Sakineh Ashtiani

Iran denies plans to execute Sakineh Ashatiani today, as Manouchehr Mottaki, Iranian Foreign Minister, declared to his French counterpart during a phone conversation.

The statement followed world-wide outrage caused by information broadcasted by the International Committee against Stoning and The International Committee against Execution, which stated that the highest court in Iran has sent the order for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s execution to Tabriz prison; following this decision she could face the death penalty at any moment.

”Manouchehr Mottaki assured me that the Iranian authorities have not yet reached a verdict in the affair relating to ( Ashtiani) and that the information regarding her alleged execution did not correspond to reality”, Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43 year old Iranian woman, mother of two, has become a symbolic icon in the global fight for Human Rights. Her story stirred world-wide indignation, protests and relentless campaigns, as both international organisations and politicians are trying to prevent her brutal execution.

The Iranian woman was imprisoned in early 2006 after alleged claims of adultery, punishable with death by stoning under the Islamic law inforced in 1979. Even after the accusation did not stand up in court, after receiving multiple lashings and spending 5 years in prison, the Iranian authorities refuse to release her and are said to go ahead with execution plans. They have also arrested her son and lawyer and two German journalists following the case without giving explanations on the legitimacy of this act.

International human rights organisations are speaking out for Sakineh Ashtiani, as Amnesty International is making an appeal for citizens to get involved and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is also providing relevant information and asking for a global effort to bring equality in Iran.

” We ask that people continue their protests, exerting pressure on governments and The Islamic Republic of Iran and highlighting her situation, until her execution is officially rescinded and she is released along with her son, Sajjad, her lawyer Houtan Kian and the two German Journalists arrested on 10 October 2010″, Mina Ahadi, on behalf of the International Committee against Stoning and The International Committee against Execution

Detention without access to a solicitor maybe modified

By Elizabeth Ting

The Scottish Supreme Court rule refusal will allow the suspects to have access to a solicitor in police interviews.

Question suspects

In the past over 25 years in Scotland, suspects had no rights to apply for lawyers when detained, which was incompatible with law in England and in most of the European countries.

In the judgment of Cadder v HMA, the case relates to whether an accused person should have access to legal advice where they are detained by the police for questioning, published on 26 October 2010, the Supreme Court decided this practice was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2005, the report of The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), emphasized the importance of suspects having access to a lawyer from the very outset of their detention. The Supreme Court and police simply ignored the recommendations and became overly dependent on confession evidence.

“As a Scottish lawyer I am proud of many aspects of our system but this anomaly was not one of them.” said by John Scott, a solicitor advocate and the vice-president(crime) of the Society of solicitor advocates. According to Mr Scott, the appeal court in Scotland missed a final opportunity at the end of 2009 to address the problem. That will have to change.

“It is a significant moment for fairness in the Scottish criminal justice system that a detained person can now receive the advice of a solicitor and be represented in police interviews as a result of the Guidelines.” according to the responses of JUSTICE.

However, Alan Miller, chairman of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, fears there are legal loopholes and elements open to interpretation, which could expose Scots Law to further challenges in the Supreme Court. “If the legislation allows access to a lawyer to be diluted to a telephone call, especially in circumstances where the lawyer may not have adequate information about the circumstances, that may give rise to a challenge.” he said.

Student president candidate withdraws from race

Nathan Sparling

A candidate for the Edinburgh Napier Student Association presidential election has withdrawn from the contest.

Nathan Sparling issued a statement this morning indicating that he felt unable to continue due to the ‘inappropriate actions’ of the NSA.

Mr Sparling also outlined his concern that he had received a ‘First and Final Warning’ from the elections committee without right of reply, saying: “It was the first I had heard of the complaint submitted to the Elections Committee, and I had not been given the right to respond.

“As you will be aware, it is also within my Human Rights to be given the right to respond to a complaint where disciplinary action could be taken.”

The warning was received after Mr Sparling had previously contacted Programme Representatives to inform them of an Emergency Senate.

Mr Sparling went on to register his disgust at the removal of The Journal by the NSA form all university campuses without the authority of the university, calling it a severe breach of Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In a new development it has been revealed that until last night all students were able to view up-to-date election results. Visable were details of who voted, for whom and in what preference.

Mr Sparling has requested that the returning officer, Finlay MacCorquodale, transfer all votes cast for him to RON (ReOpen Nominations).

Students protesting the censorship of The Journal have already been urging people to vote RON in protest at the newspaper’s removal.

The NSA  has not commented so far on Mr Sparling’s withdrawal, the allegations within his statement or on The Journal protests.