A closer look at a recent development in the context of bilateral security ties. Read More…

In order to succeed, Ghani’s crackdown on warlords must proceed transparently and cut a wide path across Afghanistan. Read More…

An image posted on Chinese online forums may indicate that the Chinese marine corps has been equipped with a new tank. Read More…

Meditation posture is very important; it is the first thing that I teach when explaining meditation to the people in my workshops. What is the right way to sit when you meditate and is there a right way? Below are some tips on your posture that will make meditation pleasant and lasting. Back straight Many …

Continue reading “How To Sit During Meditation?”

The post How To Sit During Meditation? appeared first on Peace Blog.

Read More…

Russia’s ambassador to North Korea suggests that a summit is upcoming. Read More…

(Beirut) – A district court of appeal in Lebanon issued a groundbreaking ruling on July 12, 2018, that consensual sex between people of the same sex is not unlawful, Human Rights Watch said.

The ruling follows similar judgments from lower courts that have declined to convict gay and transgender people of “sexual intercourse contrary to nature” in four separate rulings between 2007 and 2017. It is the first such ruling from an appeals court and moves Lebanon further toward decriminalizing homosexual conduct.

“This ruling signals a new horizon for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Lebanon, who have long been persecuted under discriminatory laws,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights at Human Rights Watch. “The court has effectively ordered the state to get out of people’s bedrooms.”

Activists in Lebanon have long fought to end the use of article 534 of the penal code to prosecute consensual same-sex conduct. The law is a colonial relic, put in place by the French mandate in the early 1900s, and punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison. It has at times been enthusiastically wielded to persecute LGBT people, often affecting particularly vulnerable groups including transgender women and Syrian refugees.

This recent ruling related to the 2015 arrest of nine people in a suburb of Beirut whom police suspected of being gay and transgender. A criminal court declined to convict them of “unnatural offenses” in 2017, when the judge said that “homosexuals have a right to human and intimate relationships with whoever they want, without any interference or discrimination in terms of their sexual inclinations, as it is the case with other people.”

Prosecutors appealed the acquittal to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Mount Lebanon, where a three-judge bench decided in a majority ruling to uphold the acquittal. The appeals court ruled that the penal code should be interpreted in accordance with “common sense” and principles of social justice. It found that consensual sex between adults of the same sex cannot be considered “unnatural” as long as it does not violate morality and ethics, for instance, “when it is seen or heard by others, or performed in a public place, or involving a minor who must be protected.”

Youmna Makhlouf, one of the lawyers representing the accused, said the case is significant because appeals court rulings carry a moral authority and are likely to serve as precedent for lower courts. While judges are not legally bound by the precedent and may still convict people of homosexual conduct under article 534, Makhlouf told Human Rights Watch that they are likely to give serious consideration to the ruling in subsequent cases.

The government has not signaled whether it will appeal to the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest judicial authority.

Georges Azzi, executive director of the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, which defends the rights of LGBT people throughout the Middle East and North Africa, told Human Rights Watch that the defense lawyers worked closely with LGBT rights organizations to make the argument that same-sex conduct should not be considered “against nature.”

“It was a very progressive ruling, [stating] that the government has no business in people’s private lives,” Azzi said. “Other courts could still convict people, but we’re very hopeful – we’re seeing that the trend now is not to criminalize homosexuality.”

In Lebanon’s recent parliamentary elections, several prominent candidates publicly advocated the repeal of article 534 for the first time. Once a new government has been established, Lebanon’s parliament should act swiftly to repeal article 534, Human Rights Watch said.

“Despite the positive developments in the courts, the reality is that same-sex couples can still face jail time in Lebanon,” Ghoshal said. “Parliamentarians should follow the courts’ lead and repeal article 534.”

Read More…

William Anh Nguyen.

© Private

(New York) – Vietnamese authorities should drop criminal charges and release a United States citizen and Vietnamese nationals arrested for their peaceful participation in protests in Ho Chi Minh City, Human Rights Watch said today. William Anh Nguyen is scheduled to go on trial for “disrupting public order” under penal code article 318 on July 20, 2018. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Video footage of the June 10 protest shows men in civilian clothes and surgical masks, believed to be undercover police, physically restraining Nguyen and dragging him away from the protest. His head is covered in blood. Other protesters said that they were beaten by plainclothes officers during the protests.

“William Anh Nguyen and others face unfair trials and long sentences before Communist Party-controlled courts for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Vietnamese authorities should immediately drop the criminal charges, release Nguyen and others arrested, and respect the fundamental rights that Vietnam has agreed to uphold.”

Nguyen, 32, is a Houston-born Yale graduate who studied for a master’s in public policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. He flew to Ho Chi Minh City on June 9 on a tourist visa. At the time, there were online calls for protests in Vietnam against two draft laws being considered by Vietnam’s National Assembly: an act to establish special economic zones that would permit foreign investors to lease land for up to 99 years, and an act severely restricting freedom of expression on the internet in the name of cybersecurity.

State media cited the prosecutor’s indictment that claimed Nguyen “joined the stream of people, videoed, and took photos to post on [his] personal Facebook and Twitter.” He was also accused of urging people to break down police fences, “climbing up a pickup truck to call people to climb over vehicles to continue their march to the center of the city,” and moving “motorbikes parked on the roadside to clear paths for protesters.” State media reported that “afterward, William Anh Nguyen was taken by the authorities to a headquarters.” On June 14, Vietnamese government spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang claimed the authorities did not use force against Nguyen.

Televised ‘confessions’ of this kind are a shameful tactic used by oppressive governments to intimidate critical voices into silence.

Phil Robertson

Deputy Asia Director

State television aired a clip a week after Nguyen’s arrest in which he admitted to violating Vietnamese law and promised that he would not participate in activities that oppose the government. According to local media, Nguyen stated, “I understand that my acts violated [the law].… I regret that I caused trouble for people heading to the airport. I blocked traffic and caused trouble to my family and friends. I will not join any anti-state activities anymore.”

The authorities have not put forward evidence that Nguyen engaged in acts of violence.

“Human Rights Watch is very concerned that Nguyen’s public statement violated his due process rights and may have been coerced,” Robertson said. “Televised ‘confessions’ of this kind are a shameful tactic used by oppressive governments to intimidate critical voices into silence and flaunt their disregard for fundamental rights.”

Vietnam does not have a specific law on public demonstrations, so authorities have used other statutes to prosecute peaceful protesters. The government recently punished a major online newspaper that reported on the need for a law on protests, showing its sensitivity to the issue. On July 16, Director General Luu Dinh Phuc of the Authority of Press under the Ministry of Information and Communications issued a decision to fine and suspend Tuoi Tre Online for three months for “providing untruthful information that caused serious consequence.” The newspaper published an article on June 19 titled “Vietnamese President agrees on issuing Demonstration Law” that “quoted President Tran Dai Quang as saying he agreed with the need for a Demonstration Law, and would report this to the National Assembly.”

Physical assaults by unknown men in civilian clothes against demonstrators has become a common practice in Vietnam. In June 2017, Human Rights Watch published a report, “No Country for Human Rights Activists: Assaults on Bloggers and Democracy Campaigners in Vietnam,” that highlighted 36 incidents between January 2015 and April 2017 in which rights campaigners and bloggers were beaten, often resulting in serious injuries. Many victims reported that beatings occurred in the presence of uniformed police who did nothing to intervene.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is endorsed by United Nations member countries including Vietnam, is generally considered reflective of customary international law. It states that everyone, not just citizens, has the right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly.

“Time and time again, Vietnamese authorities use excessive force to crack down on peaceful protesters and then cynically claim that it was all the protesters’ fault,” Robertson said. “International donors and trade partners should recognize that Vietnam’s manipulation of the rule of law does not just apply to human rights cases, but affects all aspects of life in the country.”

Read More…

A parade marks the arrival of the Asian Games torch from India ahead of the 18th Asian Games, in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia on July 17, 2018. 

© 2018 Antara Foto/Ismar Patrizki via Reuters

(Jakarta) – Indonesia’s government should promptly and impartially investigate a surge of killings of criminal suspects by the Jakarta police, Human Rights Watch said today. Jakarta police data indicates that police killed 11 suspects and wounded 41 others from July 3 to July 12, 2018, for “resisting arrest” as part of an anti-crime campaign linked to the city’s preparations to host the 2018 Asian Games next month. That campaign involves the deployment of 1,000 police personnel across Jakarta until the games’ conclusion on September 3.

“The fatal shooting of 11 criminal suspects in just 10 days suggests that Jakarta police have interpreted ‘firm actions’ against crime as a license to kill,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The upsurge in killings soon before the start of the Asian Games points to a possible policy that needs an urgent and impartial investigation.”

The shootings follow a directive from Jakarta Police Inspector General Idham Azis on July 3 for police personnel “to take firm actions” against suspects who pose a public threat. That same day, the Jakarta Police spokesman, Sr. Comr. Prabowo Argo Yuwono, announced that, “If there is resistance [from the muggers and thieves], our chief has ordered us to act firmly and quickly [to shoot]. It is not negotiable.”

The Asian Games are overseen by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the governing body of sports in Asia that includes 45 National Olympic Committees (NOC) across the region. The OCA’s president is Sheikh Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. The OCA’s Constitution and Rules commit the body to apply and uphold “Olympic principles as defined in the Olympic Charter.” The International Olympic Committee charter enshrines human dignity as a value the Olympic movement should uphold across all sporting federations.

“The Asian Games are intended to celebrate human achievement, not provide a pretext for a police ‘shoot to kill’ policy in the name of crime control,” Kine said.

The Jakarta police have not provided comparative data for killings of criminal suspects by police and the Indonesian National Police does not maintain public databases of such statistics. However, Indonesian police have long been linked to summary killings of criminal suspects. A University of Melbourne analysis estimated that more than one-third of the killings of illegal drug suspects by Indonesian police from January to June 2017 occurred after suspects had surrendered to police. And Azis in August 2017 announced that when dealing with suspected drug dealers, “sending them to God” would take priority over arrest and prosecution.

Other Indonesian officials have made similar calls in the name of combating crime. Over the past two years, numerous officials have repeatedly encouraged the killing of criminal suspects as a legitimate police response to crime. Several have publicly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs” as a model for crime control despite extensive evidence of police involvement in an unlawful killing campaign that has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people.

Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency head, Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, in September 2016 called for Indonesian police to adopt Duterte-style “drug war” methods. Waseso sought to justify such illegal law enforcement tactics by stating that “the life of a [drug] dealer is meaningless.” He reiterated that stance in July 2017 with praise for Duterte’s anti-crime campaign, saying that it “shows he is taking care of his citizens.” That week, the National Police chief, Gen. Tito Karnavian, made an explicit reference to Duterte’s campaign when unveiling a new approach to combating drugs in Indonesia: “shooting drug dealers.” In February 2018, Karnavian awarded former Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa its highest honor, the Medal of Honor. Karnavian praised dela Rosa, who is implicated in possible crimes against humanity, for his role in “drug war” extrajudicial killings, for his “rock star-like inspiration to the Indonesian national police” on how to combat illegal drugs.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Personnel, police may only use firearms to protect human life from imminent threat of death or serious injury. Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made “when strictly unavoidable to protect life.” The principles also provide that governments and law enforcement agencies should establish effective reporting and review procedures in cases of death or serious injury, and that prosecutorial authorities are able exercise jurisdiction as appropriate. The government needs to ensure that superior officers are held responsible if they know, or should have known, that law enforcement personnel under their command have resorted to the unlawful use of force and firearms and did not take all measures in their power to prevent, suppress, or report such use.

“Senior Indonesian government and police officials have communicated to police officers that the killing of criminal suspects will reap praise rather than punishment,” Kine said. “That messaging raises the risk of more killings by police as part of the Asian Games anti-crime campaign unless the authorities walk back that murderous rhetoric and provide accountability for those deaths.”

Read More…

Judge Kavanaugh on abortion: Rehnquist as “judicial hero” and the case of Jane DoeDuring his campaign for the presidency, then-candidate Donald Trump announced that he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case establishing a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. Other presidents have made similar promises before, but they have not always come to pass. For example, in 1981 […]

The post Judge Kavanaugh on abortion: Rehnquist as “judicial hero” and the case of Jane Doe appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Read More…

The report offers a comprehensive assessment of the national commitments states … Continued

The post FMWG and Arms Control Association Release New Report Assessing Nuclear Security Summits appeared first on The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Read More…