ISIS Detainees Denied Basic Human Rights
For the past four years, thousands of prisoners, primarily women and children, from the Islamic State (ISIS), have been arbitrarily detained in camps in northeast Syria. Approximatley, 42,200 people are currently detained in the camps despite the recently increased repatriation of women and children. Recent Turkish air and artillery strikes have exacerbated the dangerous circumstances in the camps. These Turkish strikes cut off electricity and stopped the water supply. They severely impacted fuel and food deliveries and detainees’ access to medical services in the Al-Hol and Roj camps.
In 2022, many children in the camps drowned in sewage pits, died in tent fires, and several were run over by water trucks. Furthermore, hundreds died from preventable illnesses due to very limited access to healthcare. Prisoners have no legal basis or the possibility of reviewing the legality of their arbitrary detention. This severely undermines international human rights protections. The prisoner’s humanitarian situation is continuously deteriorating. They are subject to inhumane and degrading conditions with limited access to basic necessities and fundamental rights.
Background to ISIS Camps
Al-Hol and Roj are two camps in northeast Syria primarily holding the wives and children of male ISIS suspects. Among the prisoners, approximately 18,000 are from Syria, 28,000 are from neighbouring Iraq, and more than 10,000 are from 60 other countries. Shockingly, the prisoners consist of 60% children. Of these children, nearly 80% are under age 12, and 30% are age five or younger.
The conditions in the camps have created a children’s rights catastrophe. The camp conditions are deplorable, as continued violence resulted in the death of nearly 100 people in 2021.
The Political and Legal Hot Potato of Repatriation
The repatriation of women and children from camps in northeast Syria has been a very controversial and complex legal issue for countries for many years. The Committee on the Rights of the Child and numerous UN Special Rapporteurs have continuously demanded that states repatriate their nationals trapped in these camps.
Unfortunately, many countries contest these demands and make inconsistent responses to the ongoing human rights violations. However, several European countries recently began to increase the repatriation of women and children from the camps. For example, Germany and Denmark repatriated 37 children and 11 women. The Netherlands repatriated five women and 11 children. Belgium repatriated 16 children and six women. Sweden repatriated 20 children and ten women. More recently, France repatriated 35 children and 16 women.
Moreover, the table below illustrates the number of children, women and men that were repatriated by country.
Landmark Jurisprudence: HF and others v France
On September 14th 2022, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a consequential judgment in HF and others v France. In this case, two grandparents initiated proceedings at the ECtHR. The case was filed against France for their unwillingness to repatriate their grandchildren and daughter from ISIS camps in Syria.
On the one hand, the judgement laid down substantial implications and guidelines for France and other countries in similar situations. European states must now follow concrete and defined obligations flowing from this decision. Consequently, the judgement can speed up repatriation processes and force a potential political reckoning.
On the other hand, the judgement is rather disappointing. It does not order the repatriation of these individuals back to France. Moreover, it does not imply that France has the jurisdiction to protect the rights of its nationals under these circumstances.
From an international legal perspective, the ECtHR does recognize some positive obligations in the extraterritorial context in this judgment. These positive obligations stem from issues concerning the age, health, and safety of the children.
ECtHR and CRC Committee Deliver Differing Approaches in HF and others v France
Notably, the ECtHR ruling diverted from the approach used by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee). The CRC Committee went much further in recognizing the states’ jurisdiction in this case. The Committee found in 2020 that France exercised jurisdiction over the children detained in Syria camps.
“the state of the children’s nationality has the capability and the power to protect the rights of the children in question by taking action to repatriate them or provide other consular responses.”cOMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, HF and others v France (2020).
Furthermore, on a positive note, the ECtHR’s judgement addresses misconceptions about the barriers to repatriation due to national security implications. The decisions clarified that EU states have access to the Syrian camps and have previously successfully repatriated nationals without serious consequences.
The court’s decision strongly indicates that states do not have a convincing legal argument for denying repatriation requests. This explicitly applies to vulnerable children who have had their fundamental rights violated for over four years.
Repatriated Children Integrating Well in New Countries
According to a November 2022 report released by Human Rights Watch, many of the children repatriated are successfully integrating. The report illustrates the experiences of approximately 100 repatriated children between 2019 and 2022. These countries included France, Germany, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, and Uzbekistan.
These children have been subjected to many years of life-threatening conditions. They had limited access to basic necessities such as food and water. They have witnessed and experienced unimaginable violence, abuse and neglect. Despite this, many of the repatriated children are doing well in school, making new friends and integrating smoothly.
Moving Forward & Recommendations
States can dramatically improve reintegration by quickly providing repatriated prisoners with birth certificates, identity cards, and other documents. The Autonomous Administration controls the Syrian ISIS camps and repeatedly urges states to repatriate their nationals. Additionally, they have requested an increase in aid to improve the prisoner’s disgraceful living conditions.
Although it is highly controversial, states must fulfil international human rights obligations. As highlighted in HF and others v France, states are responsible for protecting their citizens when they face serious harm. Children’s inhumane conditions in these camps call for governments to help end their nationals’ unlawful detention urgently.
In conclusion, the arbitrary detention of these prisoners amounts to collective punishment, which is considered a war crime under international law. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should only be detained as an “exceptional measure of last resort”. States must take responsibility by bringing detainees home, prioritizing the most vulnerable and providing rehabilitation and reintegration services.
Pakistan’s Climate Crisis: A Peek Into The Apocalyptic Future That Awaits
One-third of Pakistan Submerged By “Monsoon On Steroids”
The world has faced much climate crisis devastation over the decades. However, in August 2022, the climate carnage in Pakistan brought this crisis into a whole new ball game. The image above is from the New Humanitarian, showing people attempting to flee the floods. The climate-induced flooding has affected over 50 million people. This disaster has left one-third of Pakistan underwater, with some parts resembling “a small ocean”.
The Pakistan flooding indicates the consequences of the universal and rapacious climate crisis unravelling at unprecedented speed. However, it seems that most of the world hasn’t considered Pakistan’s epic humanitarian crisis for what it represents.
Pakistan has a famine looming, $30 billion in economic loss, 50 million people internally displaced, and a high threat of a malaria epidemic present as floodwater lies stagnant. Furthermore, an entire generation in Pakistan is deprived access to essential services in health and education. Deaths will rise with colder winter months approaching and millions left without homes.
Climate Crisis in Pakistan is Beyond Bleak
For decades, Pakistan has seen record-breaking temperatures, torrential rains, glacial melt, droughts, and floods. This current weather disaster is the most extreme torrential rainfall and devastating flash floods Pakistan has seen in 73 years. Millions have fled their homes with little more than rags to protect them from scorching high temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius. Pakistan is one of the world’s top ten most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index but only contributes to less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority updated the death toll from the crisis since mid-June to 1,545 people and 552 children. This disaster spurred the United Nations to issue its largest-ever disaster appeal, at over $2 billion.
The Plight of Pakistani Children During A Climate Crisis
The flooding has adversely affected millions of children since the crisis started. Due to the extreme flooding, children in Pakistan are battling diarrhoea, malaria, dengue fever, and painful skin conditions. According to UNICEF, 3.4 million children urgently need immediate life-saving support and humanitarian assistance.
Approximately 16 million children are without homes, lack access to safe drinking water, and live in unsanitary conditions. Millions of children are at increased risk of water-borne diseases, drowning, and malnutrition. In addition, the flooding exacerbates the threat of snakes, scorpions and mosquitoes, all of which carry life-threatening diseases.
The International Communities Response to The Climate Crisis
There has been silence from prominent international figures and western media outlets concerning Pakistan. In the first week of the floods, more newspaper articles covered the Finnish prime minister’s social life than the unfolding weather event. This questions the global outlook and prioritization concerning climate change.
The flooding has sparked an ongoing debate regarding broader issues of responsibility for loss and damage endured by nations affected by climate change. Global warming is primarily caused by the Global North’s disregard for the environment and excessive release of greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite the Global North’s overwhelming contribution to the crisis, there is still a complete disregard for the pain suffered by Pakistanis in its international response.
Double Standards and Racism in response to Various Humanitarian Crisis‘
The international response to Pakistan is minuscule compared to Ukraine, where around 12 million people were displaced. Comparatively, this figure represents a third of the displaced people in Pakistan, reaching over 50 million. World leaders criticize the international community’s focus on the war in Ukraine. The same attention is not given to crises in other parts of the world. The mass media apply double standards to reporting depending on the race and nationality of those affected by the humanitarian crisis.
The international communities’ weak response is either a form of racism and ideology that terrible things happen in places like Pakistan or an utter failure of compassion.
Climate Change Discriminates Against Women and Girls
Women and children are facing a dangerous downwards spiral of hunger and malnutrition. In Pakistan, there are 650,000 pregnant women and girls. Moreover, 73,000 mothers are expected to deliver in the coming weeks. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says many women lack access to health-care facilities and support to deliver their children safely.
Climate change continues to exacerbate maternal and newborn health inequities. Aid groups report that many mothers are anaemic and malnourished and deliver very low-weight babies. In addition, mothers are too ill to breastfeed their children.
Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in South Asia. The majority of Pakistani women give birth at home. However, with millions of homes destroyed, many women do not know where they will deliver their babies in the coming months or years.
The Pakistani crisis highlights how climate change disproportionately impacts women and girls. In Sindh province, more than 1,000 health facilities have been fully or partially destroyed. In Balochistan province, flooding damaged 198 health facilities.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change, that has severely impacted vital health systems leaving millions vulnerable”World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Political Instability in Pakistan
In August 2022, Pakistan had a 27% inflation rate. The Pakistani rupee crashed, and net foreign reserves fell to $8 billion. Pakistan continues to face political instability due to a showdown involving the government, the military, and ex-prime minister Imran Khan. This makes it difficult to carry out an effective flood response and begin rebuilding people’s lives.
Furthermore, political instability has resulted in food insecurity and electricity and fuel shortages.
Government Inaction and Lack of Disaster Preparedness
The government should have done more in the past few decades to flood-proof communities within Pakistan and prepare.
Climate scientists warned that this situation would arrive. Moreover, it will take years to rebuild infrastructure and homes in Pakistan. The damage is worse than the 2010 flooding, which killed 1700 people. The death toll is expected to be higher, indicating that the Pakistani government did not learn anything from the 2010 flooding.
While climate change is the critical driver behind Pakistan’s extreme weather, policy experts held that the flooding was exacerbated by government inaction and mismanagement, structural inequalities in marginalized areas, and poor policy-based decisions.
Thousands of villages saw broken drainage systems and swamped roads. Although raising climate awareness is essential, we must shift the discourse to climate preparedness. Pakistani officials place much blame on climate change but use this as a scapegoat for their incompetence. Developed countries should be helping poorer nations to prepare for climate change disasters. This is the responsibility of more prosperous nations in the Global North, who are responsible for the level of greenhouse gas emissions currently in the atmosphere.
This humanitarian crisis has shown us that we must develop an impactful, inclusive, and holistic climate preparation plan to address future flooding. International assistance is essential to help Pakistan’s fragile political and economic environment.
This climate crisis should also serve as a wake-up call for world leaders in the Global North to reduce emissions drastically.
UN secretary-general António Guterres held that the world should stop “sleepwalking” through this climate crisis. We must start thinking more seriously about how to prevent such disasters in the future.
Today it is Pakistan, but tomorrow it could be your country.
Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians Reveals West’s Double Standards
Ceasefire Following Three-day Israeli Bombardment in Gaza
A ceasefire on Sunday, 7th August 2022, ended another unjustified three-day Israeli bombardment in the besieged apartheid Gaza strip. Devastating figures reveal the civilian cost of the escalation and the impact of crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced operation “Breaking Dawn” on Friday, 5th August 2022. Israel fired shots at targets it claimed were linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), killing a senior commander in the PIJ. The operation caused inconceivable damage to local civilians and infrastructure with a complete disregard for human life.
The UN Human Rights Office held that 49 Palestinians were killed, including 17 children, with more than 360 people injured. Nearly two-thirds of those injured were civilians, including 151 children, 58 women and 19 older people. Furthermore, 19 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied Palestinian territory in the past week. There were no serious injuries to report from Israel.
Most Severe Flare-up Since May 2021
Last week’s hostilities were the most severe flare-up on the Gaza strip since May 2021, when Israel attacked Gaza killing 256 Palestinians, including 66 children. In Israel, 13 people were killed, including two children. Israel has imposed tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza since 2007. The 15-year blockade has left the occupied territory of Palestine teetering on the edge of a humanitarian disaster. Following the ceasefire, the aftershock of trauma sets in for Palestinians, leaving millions of lives shattered.
15-year Land, Air and Sea Blockade in Gaza
The Gaza Strip, home to 2.1 million people, has been under an Israeli-imposed land, sea and air blockade for the past 15 years. The map below shows where the Gaza strip lies in relation to Israel and the main refugee camps.
Israel continues to launch airstrikes into densely packed cities and neighbourhoods filled predominantly with civilians. Shockingly, since 2008, Israel has initiated four conflicts in Gaza, killing approximately 4000 people, including 600 children.
Israel’s Systematic Apartheid Against the Palestinians
Israel’s apartheid of the Palestinian people is a cruel system of domination and crimes against humanity. Moreover, Israel commits unlawful killings, forcible transfers and drastic movement restrictions on Palestinians. Additionally, due to the blockade, Gaza lacks access to food, water, essential medicines, and commodities. Palestinians must smuggle food and medicines through illegal tunnels, which the IDF regularly bomb. Israel continues to carry out massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, defying international law.
Furthermore, Israel denies nationality and citizenship to Palestinians. These listed elements of the brutal Israeli system amount to apartheid under international law.
Amnesty International published a report titled “Israel’s apartheid Against Palestinians” in February 2022. The report calls out Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians as ‘apartheid’. The report concludes that Israeli laws and policies of segregation, exclusion, and dispossession constitute “the crime against humanity of apartheid” as defined in the Rome Statute and the Apartheid convention.
In addition to this, there have been calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate apartheid in Palestine.
The West and the United Nations Impose “Double Standards” of Crimes Against Humanity
The west reveals “double standards” of crimes against humanity compared to the reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the context of Ukraine, world leaders used solid and robust language to describe Putin’s crimes against humanity. However, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people is not met with the same strength of language.
In the video below, Richard Boyd Barrett captures the utter hypocrisy of the west’s “double standards” when it comes to imposing sanctions on Israel the same way they have sanctioned Russia.
Moreover, Israel’s position of an apartheid system weakens any prospect of establishing an independent Palestinian State. Moreover, despite the UN’s willingness to act decisively on other issues, the Council’s inability to act against Israel illustrates the persistent double standards through its selectivity on which principles apply to certain states.
Putin is Holding Up a Mirror to Israelis
Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist and author, compared Israel and Russia as essentially interchangeable. Levy writes how Israel has behaved precisely like Russia more than just once. Israel and Russia use the same demonization strategy. The Ukrainians are depicted as Nazis, and the Palestinians are labelled as terrorists who wish to destroy Israel. With the assistance of Egypt, Israel has essentially turned the Gaza strip into an open-air prison.
International Finacial Aid Focused on Ukraine
The world will soon be on the edge of a global recession due to the financial constraints arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Skyrocketing inflation rates in the United States and other major European economies make obtaining international financial support for Palestinians very difficult at these times.
How Much Blood Must Be Shed Before We Take Collective Action?
Israel treats Palestinians living in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, as an inferior racial group and systematically deprives them of their fundamental human rights.
There is a persistent lack of accountability for Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel commits recurring violations of international human rights law and the law of occupation of the West Bank while persistently using unnecessary and disproportionate use of force.
We must hold Israel accountable by urging the ICC to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation of Palestine. Furthermore, the UN Security Council has the ability to impose an arms embargo on Israel to cover all weapons and munitions. The UN Council can impose targeted sanctions such as freezing the assets of Israeli officials heavily involved in perpetrating the apartheid.
The war and persecution of the Palestinian people will continue while the climate of impunity prevails.
The real question now is whether the world will apply economic sanctions to Israel just as it did to end apartheid in South Africa and restrict Russia’s power in its invasion of Ukraine. Or will we continue to impose double standards on crimes against humanity?
Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia Reflects Deep-Rooted Gender Inequality
Background: Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Somalia reflects a deep-rooted gender inequality. Somalia has a 99% prevalence rate among women aged 15-49 years. Most girls are subject to FGM between five and nine years old. Thus, Somalia has the highest rate of FGM in the world. These were the latest statistics from the Somali Health and Demographic Survey 2022.
There is an international consensus that FGM is a violation of human rights. The prevalence of FGM in Somalia represents one of the most extreme forms of discrimination against girls and women. Consequently, this traditional practice has a catastrophic impact on women’s health. FGM results in high health care costs for countries where it is practised. Additionally, women and girls subjected to this practice are vulnerable to mental health problems, reduced opportunities for growth, early marriages and early school dropouts.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or another injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Additionally, FGM can be divided into four subcategories. The most severe form is the total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the intersection of the labia majora. Additionally, the sides of the labia majora are typically sewn together, leaving only a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass through.
Moreover, Somalia is not the only country carrying out this harmful cultural tradition. Hence, the map below illustrates where FGM occurs worldwide based on four different severity categories. These categories are based on FGM media reporting, research and surveys conducted in different countries.
FGM Has No Health Benefits & Poses Many Serious Risks
FGM poses many short and long-term harmful complications for those subjected to the practice. Moreover, FGM does not have any health benefits for girls or women. Some short-term complications include bleeding, pain, fever, infection and urinary problems. However, some of the long term-complications include:
- chronic pain,
- urinary problems,
- extreme bleeding,
- menstrual problems,
- sexual problems,
- increased risk of complications in childbirth,
- permanent disability,
- psychological problems,
- and possible death.
Eradicating This Harmful Cultural Tradition Through Self-Empowerment
The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is marked every year on the 6th of February. The UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA) continues to lead the UN in eradicating FGM worldwide.
The Ministry for Women and Human Rights Development, the UNFPA and Ifrah Foundation’s “Dear Daughter Campaign” have taken a radically different approach to end FGM in Somalia. Thus, this campaign aims to change the FGM narrative in Somalia through education and dialogue. Furthermore, Dear Daughter targets rural and urban individuals and communities. Therefore, the principle of self-empowerment is central to their unique approach.
The campaign aims to encourage mothers to pledge not to cut their daughters. Accordingly, through letter-writing, Somali mothers pledge to protect and support their right to govern their bodies. When other families witness these pledges, it inspires them to follow in the same footsteps.
“Dear Daughter” engages in advocacy, media and grassroots campaigning nationally in Somalia. The campaign empowers women to promise their daughters a future free from FGM in Somalia.
Real-life Insights Into the Life of Halima
Halima, aged 50, is a mother of five daughters and five sons, living in an internally displaced camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Hamlia works as a camp gatekeeper and is an influential community member. Therefore, she is an ideal person of interest for the Dear Daughter campaign to help advocate against FGM’s dangers. Furthermore, Halima has not disclosed her real name while being interviewed for safety reasons.
FGM put her life and millions of other women in Somalia’s lives at severe risk. When Halima reached adolescence, passing menstrual blood was difficult, and as a newlywed, sex with her husband was a painful experience. When Halima became pregnant, childbirth was excruciatingly painful, with her labour lasting for several days.
“The procedure was painful, with no anesthesia. I bled for days. I was in bed for more than three months and urinating was a problem”Hamila (victim of FGM).
Halima subjected her first daughter to be cut despite her suffering, just like her mother had done.
FGM Reflects A Deeply Rooted Gender Inequality
Female Genital Mutilation represents a need for men to have sexual control over girls and women. FGM occurs across different religions, ethnicities, races and social classes.
Evidently, FGM represents a manifestation of deeply entrenched gender inequality within society. Consequently, girls and women who decide not to follow the social norm are likely to face condemnation from friends, family and potential husbands. Men often ridicule and reject girls and women who have not undergone the procedure.
Many girls and women continue to be subject to FGM despite its harmful impacts. Consequently, many perceive the social benefits of FGM outweigh the disadvantages. It is difficult for families to abandon the practice without support from the wider community.
Changing the Future of FGM for Women in Somalia and Worldwide
According to the WHO, an estimated 200 million girls and women living today have been subjected to FGM across 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Furthermore, UNICEF stated that an additional 68 million are at risk of being subjected to FGM by 2030.
Somalia has widespread conflict, political instability and resource scarcity. In addition to this, Somalia has a fragile government and is currently suffering from one of the most severe droughts the country has witnessed in 40 years.
Ultimately, despite the obstacles, we must take action to help women and eradicate FGM in Somalia and worldwide. This requires a holistic and multi-sectoral collaboration in addressing structural drivers of FGM and the social norms surrounding its practice.
FGM is a violation of girl’s and women’s fundamental human rights.
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