The Harassment of Tep Vanny, in Defense of Her Community Around the Lake

Boeung Kak Lake, or what used to be the largest body of water in the city at the center of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, is now gone. Over the past years, the lake has been filled completely with sand. Unfortunately, the lake is part of a development project to establish new condominiums and office buildings, which led to its ultimate destruction. The construction of the project started in 2007 and thousands of families have been illegally evicted, which turned the Boeung Kak area to a focal point for human rights defenders in Cambodia.
Tep Vanny who is a housing and land rights activist is one of those defenders. Vanny has spent the past decade defending her community around the lake peacefully. Her resistance to the construction work that is destroying the lives of the inhabitants around the lake has never been associated with violence. However, she has been a target of the authority showering her with political criminal charges as she has been arrested at least five times in the past four years. Moreover, she has been harassed and beaten. Vanny is one of 20 human rights defenders that are currently behind bars in this country, which we all should be calling for their release.



Singer Ed Sheeran Joins the Line Up of 1,000 Artists Playing Refugee Solidarity Concerts

Sofar Sounds and Amnesty International have announced that Ed Sheeran has approved to play in the global concert series Give a Home. The concert is taking place in cities all over the world on the 20th of September, 2017. In Ed Sheeran’s comment on the announcement of him joining the lineup, he said, “We all deserve a home, not just the memory of one.’’ He also added that is quite honored to join Amnesty International, and Sofar’s Give a Home campaign to raise awareness for the global refugee crisis.
Give a Home concert gathers music fans from all over the world to unite people in an attempt to show solidarity with refugees. Sheeran will play in Washington D.C., USA. Jean-Jean Bashengezi (‘JAJA’) who is not only a guitarist and singer but also a refugee, will be playing beside him. Bashengezi now lives in Washington; however, his music is influenced by his roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo as he was forced to flee in 1994 when his country got into a deadly conflict following the Rwandan genocide.
Sadly, over 22 million people worldwide are affected by the refugee crisis. Wealthy nations need to help more in hosting people who have been stranded away from their homes.


Is the G20 Deliberately Neglecting the Global Refugee Crisis?

The G20, the leading forum that deals with the global challenges that face our world today, will be holding a summit in Hamburg that coincides with the world’s refugee crisis that sadly got out of control. It is expected of the summit to assume responsibility in all the areas that disturb the global peace, in addition to displacement and migration in order to build on the efforts exerted in the previous years to protect refugees.
Unfortunately, there is so little progress to build on in the refugees’ case as the G20 progress with the refugee crisis around the globe has been met by failure. Although last year, the G20 promised to tackle the refugee crisis, out of 27 countries in the world with programs for providing assistance for refugees, only nine are in the G20. Now it is obvious that they did not keep their promise, as the USA, UK, and Australia, that are part of the G20 countries, are rated at the bottom when it comes to solving the refugee crisis.
Initiatives are most needed now as 2017 has been marked to be the deadliest year for people crossing the central Mediterranean with approximately 2000 people reported having drowned in their journey to freedom. Sharing responsibility of the citizens of the world is needed now more than ever.


Grenfell Fire Victims Deserve Two-Year Amnesty

The British Red Cross has demanded the UK government to grant two years amnesty to undocumented immigrants who were caught up in the Grenfell Tower fire. Unfortunately, hundreds of people who were living in the 24-storey tower were killed by last month’s fire, which is believed to have killed at least 80 people. However, many of them are now staying in hotels until the government arranges permanent accommodation for them.
The Red Cross is currently assisting people who were affected by the fire, but states that some survivors with a jeopardized immigration status — for instance, people whose visas have expired or were about to apply for asylum — are sadly still hiding from the authorities, and not receiving the proper medical care because they are concerned that they will be deported.
Theresa May, UK prime minister, announced last week that the government would “not use this tragic incident as a reason to carry out immigration checks on those involved or on those providing vital information to identify victims or those assisting with the criminal investigation”. She stated to MPs that all victims of the fire would be able to access vital services, including “healthcare and accommodation”, regardless of their immigration status. However, it is not guaranteed that victims will not be deported.


Hungary’s Fight against NGOs


Although the Law on the transparency of organizations receiving funds from abroad carried by the Hungarian parliament might appear benign, it is quite dangerous. The parliament claims that the title of the law sends the message that it is aimed at increasing transparency whereas authorities claim that it is vital in the fight against money laundering and international terrorism. This new law is another attempt to silence critical voices. “We must repress these NGOs with all available tools, and I think, they should be swept up.”, said Szilard Nemeth, who is one of the MPs who later submitted this proposal back in January.
Unfortunately, the law is a masked attempt to stigmatize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive foreign funding to do their vital work. Not only will the new law force NGOs that receive more than 24,000 EUR per year to re-register as “civic organization funded from abroad,” but also they will have to put this scornful label on every written work they publish. The claim behind this is obviously that NGOs funded from abroad may be serving foreign interests “endangering the sovereignty and national security of Hungary,” as the authorities have announced. However, NGOs will not stand still, as this disguised assault on civil society will be resisted on all levels.


643 Iraqi Men Missing for a Year

No less than 643 men and boys from Saqlawiya in the Anbar governorate in Iraq are still missing more than a year after they were abducted by Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militias. The abduction took place during military operations were attempting to retake
Fallujah and surrounding areas from the hostile armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS). The families of the victims have lived in agony ever since, not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or dead.
How Did It Happen?
While thousands of men, women, and children were fleeing from the area of Saqlawiya on 3 June 2016, armed individuals carrying machine guns and assault rifles met them. According to testimonies gathered by witnesses and relatives of those forcibly disappeared, the kidnappers were identified as members of the PMU, based on emblems on their uniforms and flags.
They took the victims to buildings, garages and abandoned shops in the nearby area, stole their identity documents, phones, rings and other valuables. Later, armed men bound their hands behind their backs, and took them away.
Where Is The Iraqi Government?
The families stated that they still have not heard anything about the fate of their loved ones. They also added that representatives of Iraq’s central government had not approached them since last year regarding any steps taken to bring their family members back.



Ortom Grants Pardon to 43 Prison Inmates


Governor Samuel Ortom, a Nigerian industrialist, farmer, and businessman has granted pardon to 43 inmates serving a number of jail terms at the Makurdi prison. The Governor made the pronouncement during the 2017 democracy day celebration in Makurdi. He stated that he granted the amnesty in line with the powers given to him by the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, adding “The beneficiaries must at all times be at the righteous side with God so that they would be able to enjoy the full benefits of living a good life.”.
The governor also made use of the event to flag off the sale and distribution of fertilizers in the state. In his speech, he also stressed that to achieve this sale; the State Executive Council has approved the availability of 7,500 metric tons of assorted brands of inorganic fertilizers and 5,000 liters of liquid plant health promoters for supply to Benue farmers at surprisingly affordable prices for the 2017 cropping season. The Fertilizer Blending plant has also been revamped to boost supplies to help farmers grow their crops.
To gain the favor of his people, the governor priced the bag of the subsidized fertilizers to be sold at N4,000 as against the market price of between N5,500 and N8,500.