Tag - USA ( 17 )

News | UN rights experts urge lawmakers to stop “alarming” trend to curb freedom of assembly in the US

Mar 30 2017

GENEVA – Two UN human rights experts are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Since the Presidential Elections in November, lawmakers in no fewer than nineteen states have introduced legislation restricting assembly rights by various degrees. The moves come just as the United States is seeing some of the largest and most frequent protests in its history. “Since January 2017, a number of undemocratic bills have been proposed in state legislatures with the purpose or effect of criminalizing peaceful protests,” the experts said. “The bills, if enacted into law, would severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in ways that are incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law and with First Amendment protections. The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech.” Concerns about the implication of these bills were recently raised by the experts in a recent communication sent to the US authorities on 27 March 2017. The bills come amid a wave of US protests over the past few years... Continue reading →

News | Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s Testimony to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – March 21, 2017

Mar 21 2017

Hearing theme: “Closing civic space and the threat to the future of global democracy” Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 Location: Washington, DC, United States of America The Honorable Co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you for inviting me to address this body on the subject of “closing space for civil society” – in other words, the increasingly restrictive and hostile environment that civil society faces throughout the world. I have served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association since May 2011, with a mandate to examine, monitor and publicly report on these rights across the world. I have been reflecting a great deal on how much the world has changed since the UN Human Rights Council created my mandate in October 2010, which was sponsored by the US. Back then, the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were sometimes overlooked in the pantheon of rights, and the phrase “closing space for civil society” was way less common. Since then, however, these rights have underpinned some of the most momentous political events of the 21st century: The Arab Awakenings in the Middle East and North Africa; mass protests that forced out... Continue reading →

News | Native Americans facing excessive force in North Dakota pipeline protests – UN expert

Nov 15 2016

GENEVA – A United Nations human rights expert has accused US security forces of using excessive force against protesters trying to stop an oil pipeline project which runs through land sacred to indigenous people. Law enforcement officials, private security firms and the North Dakota National Guard have used unjustified force to deal with opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline, according to Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Some of the 400 people held during the demonstrations had suffered “inhuman and degrading conditions in detention,” Mr. Kiai added. Protesters say they have faced rubber bullets, teargas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds while expressing concerns over environmental impact and trying to protect burial grounds and other sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Tensions have escalated in the past two weeks, with local security forces employing an increasingly militarized response to protests and forcibly moving encampments located near the construction site,” the rights expert said. “This is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity,” he noted. “The excessive use of State... Continue reading →

News | UN rights experts urge U.S. court to hear activist’s claims in surveillance case against Ethiopia

Nov 03 2016

IRVINE/NAIROBI/PARIS – A group of United Nations human rights experts is urging a U.S. appeals court to grant an Ethiopian American activist the right to sue the Government of Ethiopia for secretly monitoring his online activity for almost five months. The Court’s decision on whether it will hear the activist’s claims will have major repercussions for the ability of individuals to seek redress for human rights violations in domestic courts. Amici Curiae Brief for Appellant Kidane Motion for Leave to File Amici Curiae Brief The activist, who uses the pseudonym “Kidane” in order to protect himself and his family, was born in Ethiopia and granted asylum in the United States in the early 1990s. He currently lives in Maryland and is now an American citizen, but he continues to support members of Ethiopia’s democratic opposition movement. In 2012, Ethiopia reportedly infected Kidane’s computer with malware and, from October 2012 to March 2013, secretly intercepted and recorded his online activities, including his Skype calls, e-mails and web-browsing history. These allegations are part of broader trend of digital attacks targeting human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other vulnerable groups, both in Ethiopia and abroad. The group of experts – UN Special Rapporteurs David... Continue reading →

News | Kiai to present final report to General Assembly, on assembly and association rights in the workplace

Oct 19 2016

NEW YORK – United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai will appear before the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly on October 20 to present his final report to the body – a study examining the exercise of assembly and association rights in the workplace. Kiai, who is has served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association since 2011, is scheduled to present at the General Assembly’s 71st Session on October 20, at 12 p.m. noon local (EST) time. The session will be broadcast live on http://webtv.un.org/. Kiai’s report – which is available here – scrutinizes the exercise and enjoyment of assembly and association rights in the context of labour, with a focus on the most marginalized workers, including global supply chain workers, informal workers, migrant workers, domestic workers and others. Although labour rights are sometimes seen as distinct from more general human rights, the Special Rapporteur emphasizes at the outset of the report that this thinking is false. The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in fact the foundation for the exercise of all labour rights, since are the vehicle that protects workers’ ability to meet, organize and have a collective voice. “Labour rights are human rights, and the... Continue reading →

News | North Dakota: “Indigenous peoples must be consulted prior to oil pipeline construction” – UN expert

Sep 23 2016

GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today called on the United States to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline as it poses a significant risk to the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and threatens to destroy their burial grounds and sacred sites. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has endorsed her call, along with a number of other UN experts. Ms. Tauli-Corpuz’s call comes after a temporary halt to construction and the recognition of the need to hold ‘government-to-government consultations’ made by the US Departments of the Army, Justice and of the Interior. The 1,172 mile (1,890 km) pipeline is being built by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Energy Transfer LLC Corporation. “The tribe was denied access to information and excluded from consultations at the planning stage of the project and environmental assessments failed to disclose the presence and proximity of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” the expert stressed. “The United States should, in accordance with its commitment to implement the Declaration on the rights on indigenous peoples*, consult with the affected communities in good faith and ensure their free, and informed consent prior to the approval of any project... Continue reading →

Report | Country visit: United States of America (A/HRC/35/28/Add.2 – coming June 2017)

Jul 12 2017

Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai undertook an official mission to the United States of America July 11-27, 2017. The visit was carried out pursuant to his mandate to assess the situation of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association in the country. At a press conference at the end of his visit on July 27, 2016, the Special Rapporteur called the United States "a nation of struggle and resilience," but noted that the country was currently "struggling to live up to its ideals on a number of important issues." The most critical of these issues, he said, were racial, social and economic inequality. Although the focus of his mission was not race or discrimination, the Special Rapporteur said that it was impossible to discuss assembly and association rights without issues of racism pervading the discussions. “Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it, affect the enabling environment for the exercise of association and assembly rights,” Kiai said, noting that understanding its context means looking back at 400 years of slavery and post-Civil War Jim Crow laws which “enforced segregation and marginalized the African-American community to a life of misery, poverty and persecution.” In more recent times, the Special Rapporteur noted, “old philosophies of... Continue reading →

News | USA: Inequality casts dark shadow over exercise of assembly and association rights, UN expert says

Jul 28 2016

GENEVA / WASHINGTON, DC – The United States of America is struggling to live up to its ideals in the area of racial, social and economic inequality, which is having a negative impact upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, United Nations human rights expert Maina Kiai said at the end of his first official fact-finding mission to the country. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association singled out race as a particularly pernicious issue. He emphasised that while his mandate does not cover racial discrimination, it was impossible carry out his mission “without issues of racism pervading the discussions.” “Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it, affect the enabling environment for the exercise of association and assembly rights,” Mr. Kiai said, noting that understanding its context means looking back at 400 years of slavery and post-Civil War Jim Crow laws which “enforced segregation and marginalized the African-American community to a life of misery, poverty and persecution.” In more recent times, the Special Rapporteur noted, “old philosophies of exclusion and discrimination were reborn, cloaked in new and euphemistic terms,” such as the so-called “War on... Continue reading →

News | Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association at the conclusion of his visit to the United States of America

Jul 27 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – First let me thank the Government of the United States of America for inviting me to undertake this official mission here from 11 to 27 July 2016. I would also like to thank the Government for its cooperation in organizing the mission, which was extremely fruitful, illuminating and timely. I had productive exchanges with numerous officials at the federal, state and local levels. I appreciate their contributions and inputs which have greatly assisted me in better understanding the situation regarding the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the United States today. Let me also thank the US Government for the crucial role it played in establishing and renewing my mandate and its consistent support for it at the UN Human Rights Council. I also commend the US for the key role it has played at the Council in general, including in relation to the adoption of resolutions on peaceful protests, civic space, LGBT rights and many more issues. During my visit, I have met with hundreds of activists and individuals representing a wide range of perspectives, observed a number of protests at the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and more. I want to thank everyone who took the time to meet with me and share their stories. The diversity, energy and dedication... Continue reading →

News | Freedoms of assembly and association: UN expert announces first official visit to the USA

Jul 07 2016

WASHINGTON / GENEVA – United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai will visit the United States of America from 11 to 27 July 2016 to make an in-depth assessment on the extent to which the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are enjoyed in the country. Mr. Kiai’s visit will be the first information-gathering mission to the United States by an independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and promote the realization of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association worldwide. “The United States was the main driving force behind the establishment of my mandate in 2010, and its recent renewal for another period of three years,” the expert noted. “This visit will give me an unique opportunity to gather first-hand information on any good practices developed at the federal and state level in relation to the exercise of the rights falling under my mandate, but also to examine existing challenges in this regard, and advise the authorities how to overcome these”, he said. During his sixteen-day visit, at the invitation of the Government, the Special Rapporteur will travel to Washington DC; New York, NY; Baltimore, MD; Ferguson, MO; Cleveland, OH; Phoenix, AZ; New Orleans, LA; Jackson, MS; and Philadelphia, PA, where he will meet with... Continue reading →