human rights violations, law, most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (136): Gang-Raped and Killed While Looking For a Place to Defecate

India Deadly Gang Rape

(source)

A few days ago, two Indian girls were gang-raped and murdered while looking for a toilet or somewhere private to defecate in the open.

Those two cousins, just 14 and 16 years old, had left their homes in the Indian village of Katra, in Uttar Pradesh, because they had no toilet at home. They were never to return, found hanging from a [mango] tree after being brutally attacked. (source)

Villagers gathered around the tree and initially blocked the police from removing the bodies. They suspected police involvement. And indeed, after a while five men were arrested, including two police officers accused of dereliction of duty and criminal conspiracy. Other suspects are still on the loose.

The father, a 45-year-old agricultural laborer from a low-ranking caste, said in a telephone interview that the two girls were last seen alive on Tuesday evening in a mango orchard, in the company of a man named Pappu Yadav. (The man’s surname is the same as his caste.)

The father said a relative saw the girls with Mr. Yadav and two of Mr. Yadav’s brothers and that, for reasons he did not explain, the relative tried to intervene between Mr. Yadav and the girls. One of the Yadav brothers pulled out a pistol “and put it to the head of my cousin-brother,” the father said, using a common term in India for a close relative. “He got scared and ran away.”

When he heard what had happened, the father said, he went to the local police station and asked that Mr. Yadav’s house be searched. But the police officers, who are members of the Yadav caste, “took the side of the culprits,” the father said. “They abused and misbehaved with us.” (source)

The girls were members of the Dalit community, India’s lowest caste once known as the “Untouchables”.

2,5 billion people in the world don’t have access to decent toilets. 1 billion of those practice open defecation. Half a billion girls and women are forced to find someplace safe to defecate outdoors, each and every day. Often they have to wander off to distant and dark places, where they are an easy target for sexual predators. And in some cases they pay with their lives. Even if they don’t, the practice endangers public health, polluting natural waterways and spreading diseases, notably diarrhea, a major cause of death in children in the developing world.

More on public defecation in India is here. Here‘s a similar story about women in Africa who are too scared to pee. Other posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (135): Arrested For Overdue Library Book

enck

A Texas man … was arrested for failing to return an overdue library. … In October [2013], police were called to Enck’s Copperas Cove, Texas, apartment on an unrelated disturbance charge, but arrested Enck after finding a past warrant for an unreturned GED study guide. He was released on a $200 bond, then requested time-served. Enck, who has since returned the book, said he couldn’t bring it back initially because he was in prison. He checked it out before beginning a 3-year sentence for robbery. … 

[M]any communities faced with shrinking budgets and rising costs have ordinances calling for fines or even arrest warrants when library property isn’t returned. In Texas alone, the issue has cost libraries an estimated $18 million. (source)

When exactly did we forget that criminal punishment in general, and incarceration in particular, are about incapacitation and the protection of society? I guess we should all feel safer now, knowing this dangerous criminal is off the streets. And while this may be a rare case, over-incarceration is an endemic problem. Scores of people who are no threat whatsoever to no one are put in jail for petty crimes. Almost one in very 100 Americans is in jail.

I personally blame misguided ideas about deterrence and retribution. A fine, community service or some other “alternative” punishment doesn’t seem appropriate to people who believe punishment should fit the crime and deter future crime. Maybe if we understand that deterrence is a hopeless ideal and retribution is incoherent can we kick our prison addiction. But I won’t hold my breath.

Other posts in this series are here

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (134): 10 Year Old Rape Victim Prevented From Aborting Twins

A 10-year-old girl [not in the image above] who is pregnant with twins after she was raped by a neighbour has been forced to continue with her pregnancy after human rights campaigners lost their fight to secure a legal route to abortion.

The plight of the girl, who is five months pregnant and lives in Ziguinchor in the south [of Senegal], highlights the heavy cost women and children are paying for a Napoleonic law on abortion that is still in force in the former French colony.

“She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy,” said Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese women lawyers’ association. “The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care.

“Senegal‘s abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years.”

Forty women were held in custody in Senegal on charges linked to the crimes of abortion or infanticide in the first six months of last year, official figures show. According to estimates, hundreds of women die every year from botched illegal terminations.

“For a termination to be legal in Senegal, three doctors have to certify that the woman will die unless she aborts immediately. Poor people in Senegal are lucky if they see one doctor in their lifetime, let alone three,” Camara said. (source)

Brings to mind this older case. Now, I personally have doubts about the permissibility of abortion in a lot of circumstances, but this is pretty clear I think, and it should be clear even to those who are more staunchly opposed to abortion than I am. Other posts in this series are here. More on abortion rights here and here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (133): Egypt Industrializes the Death Penalty

Bjhjsh-IYAAK7jw

(source)

Egypt today [Monday, March 24, 2014] sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for their roles in violent riots in Minya, in Upper Egypt, last August.

The riots broke out following a crackdown on sit-ins in support of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, which left hundreds of supporters dead.

The Minya riots left one police officer dead – a crime all 529 defendants are accused of. (source)

And it’s not just the massive number of sentences issued at the same time that evokes the image of an industrialized form of “justice”. The trial started on Saturday and ended on Monday…

More on capital punishment and Egypt. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (132): The Difference Between Life and Death is One IQ Point

Freddie Lee Hall

Freddie Lee Hall

For Freddie Lee Hall, a difference of one IQ point could be the difference between life and death.

Hall, 68, has been on the US state of Florida’s death row for 35 years for his involvement in the 1978 murder and sexual assault of a pregnant woman and the related murder of a deputy sheriff. Despite finding that Hall had been “mentally retarded” his entire life, a state trial court sentenced him to death by lethal injection.

Today, the US Supreme Court will hold oral arguments in Hall v. Florida to resolve whether Hall’s death sentence violates the constitutional ban on executing people with intellectual disabilities (the preferred term today).

In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that executing people with intellectual disabilities constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” prohibited under the US Constitution. The justices provided general guidance for defining intellectual disability but ultimately left implementation to the states, an omission that now lies at the heart of today’s arguments.

In the aftermath of the Atkins decision, Hall appealed his death sentence, but Florida’s supreme court denied his appeal. The state’s requirements for intellectual disability set a “bright line” cutoff IQ score of 70 or below. Hall, having presented IQ scores between 71 and 80, missed the cutoff by a single point.

The Supreme Court will need to decide whether this bright line cutoff violates Atkins. (source)

I wonder: is it that difficult to fake an IQ test – or several tests – and make yourself appear less intelligent than you are? Just fail to answer a few questions. Of course, even if you can’t fake an IQ test the Atkins system remains absurd. As a general rule, it’s OK to account for diminished criminal responsibility of the intellectually disabled, but in the case of the death penalty the difference between diminished and non-diminished is life and death. Criminal justice shouldn’t be about life and death. There’s no good reason for the death penalty, for anyone.

More on capital punishment and IQ. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (131): Protester Charged With Sexual Assault After Kissing Riot Police

This photograph of Nina De Chiffre went viral on social media and was hailed as a symbol of peaceful protest in the country

This photograph of Nina De Chiffre went viral on social media and was hailed as a symbol of peaceful protest in Italy

(source)

[A] 20-year-old student was photographed kissing officer Salvatore Piccione during a protest against a planned rail link in Northern Italy. …

COISP, a union representing Italian police officers, later revealed that they had lodged a complaint with Turin prosecutors. Franco Maccari, the union’s general secretary told La Repubblica: “We have accused the protester of sexual violence and insulting a public official.

“If the policeman had kissed her, World War III would have broken out,” he said. “Or what if I had patted her on the behind? She would have been outraged. So if she does that to a man on duty, should it be tolerated?”, he added. “A kiss is a positive thing,” he said. “But in this context, between these two people, it was just disrespect.”

It later emerged that Nina De Chiffre had not only kissed the officer but had also licked her fingers and touched his mouth. According to reports the protester has since been charged with “sexual violence” and causing “offence to a public official”. (source)

Obviously not the first time the word “rape” has been redefined to fit the needs of the powerful. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (130): Being Executed Twice

hanging in iran

hanging in Iran

(source)

Iran must stop the execution of man who was found alive at a morgue a day after being hanged, Amnesty International urged today after authorities said the prisoner would be hanged for a second time once his condition improves.

The 37-year-old, identified as “Alireza M”, was hanged in Bojnourd prison in north-east Iran last week after being convicted of drug offences.

According to official state media, a doctor declared him dead after the 12 minute-hanging, but when the prisoner’s family went to collect his body the following day he was found to still be breathing.

He is currently in hospital, but a judge reportedly said he would be executed again “once medical staff confirm his health condition is good enough”. (source)

Here‘s more on botched executions. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (129): Bangladeshi Girl, 14, Lashed to Death

Hena Akhter’s last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh’s Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena’s family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter. (source)

“Adultery”, it turned out, meant that she had been raped. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (128): Child Starves in 21st Century England

Hamzah Khan

(source, source)

A mummified, stunted corpse of a four-year old boy lay undiscovered for nearly two years in his mother’s house before he was found by police resting next to his teddy bear. … Hamzah Khan’s tiny body, starved by years of neglect, was clothed in a sleep suit designed for a baby aged six to nine months when police made the discovery at his home in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

His mother, 43-year-old Amanda Hutton, who on Wednesday at Bradford crown court denied manslaughter, was discovered surrounded by empty bottles, pizza boxes and faeces when police raided the property. Upstairs, under a pile of debris which covered his travel cot, lay the body of her son. …

Paul Greaney QC, opening the case for the prosecution, accused Hamzah’s mother of neglecting the infant. “In short, he starved to death. How had a child starved to death in 21st century England? Amanda Hutton failed to provide her child with the nourishment that he needed to survive, and in so failing, she killed him.” …

The mother, the court heard, was addicted to both alcohol and cannabis. That day Hutton was found surrounded by flies and rubbish piled so high the carpet in her living room was no longer visible. Pictures of the squalor shown to the jury revealed that only her bedroom – where the decomposing body of her son had lain for years – was relatively uncluttered. (source)

Some of you may be tempted to call this a tragedy rather than a rights violation, especially since it seems that the mother wasn’t completely sane. However, children should be protected, if necessary by society. The rest of the story, which you can read at the source link above, does suggest that the local government could have seen this coming and failed to act appropriately. A failure to protect is, in my view, equivalent to a rights violation.

Something similar is here. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (127): Execution by Cannon

One from the history books this time:

Execution by cannon, in Shiraz, Iran, Mid-Late 1800s

Execution by cannon, in Shiraz, Iran, Mid-Late 1800s

Suppression of the Indian Revolt by the English, a painting by Vasily Vereshchagin c. 1884

Suppression of the Indian Revolt by the English, a painting by Vasily Vereshchagin c. 1884

Nowadays, countries that still apply the death penalty try not to make a show of it (with a few exceptions). However, it used to be the case that the show was just as important as the punishment. People have long been very imaginative in this respect and have always found ways to make executions more horrible than necessary. An infamous example was “death by elephant“. And here’s another one:

Blowing from a gun is a method of execution in which the victim is typically tied to the mouth of a cannon and the cannon is fired. George Carter Stent, in his “Scraps from my Sabretache” describes the process as follows:

The prisoner is generally tied to a gun with the upper part of the small of his back resting against the muzzle. When the gun is fired, his head is seen to go straight up into the air some 40 or fifty feet; the arms fly off right and left, high up in the air, and fall at, perhaps, a hundred yards distance; the legs drop to the ground beneath the muzzle of the gun; and the body is literally blown away altogether, not a vestige being seen.

[T]he nation most well known to having implemented this type of execution is Great Britain in its role as colonial master in India, and in particular, as a punishment for native soldiers found guilty of mutiny or desertion. The British began implementing blowing from guns in the latter half of the 18th century. (source)

And, because human imagination knows no bounds, sometimes the victim was actually put into the gun, and executed in that manner. Either way, the method wasn’t without danger for the onlookers. In one case,

precaution had not been taken to remove the sponge and loadmen from their proper station near the muzzle of the guns; and the consequence was, that they were bespattered with blood, and bruised by the scattered limbs of the prisoners—one man in particular being struck down by a heavy fragment of one of the mutilated bodies, and severely injured by the contusion. (source)

More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (126): One Hand Clapping in Belarus

scene from Twin Peaks

scene from Twin Peaks

It’s an old one, but I just found it now:

The sound of one hand clapping may be one of those proverbial mysteries, but a man was arrested and seriously punished in Minsk this week (July 2011) for allegedly doing it.

It’s a little whiff of absurdity amid a wave of unrelentingly grim news from Belarus, where “Europe’s last dictator” Alexander Lukashenko is digging in against growing public protests over a collapsing economy that’s gutted living standards and left hundreds of thousands out of work since January in the little post-Soviet country of 10 million.

In order to evade tough regulations on public rallies, protesters eschew placards and shouted slogans, and merely clap their hands to display their anger at Mr. Lukashenko’s policies. Since the weekly flash mob protests began last month, more than 1,700 people have been arrested – 400 this week alone. Most of them were fined heavily or jailed for up to 15 days on police court testimony that they were expressing a political opinion by clapping their hands in public.

But Konstantin Kaplin, an unemployed man from the western town of Grodno, says he was convicted this week of applauding in public and fined the equivalent of $200, despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence: He is officially registered as a disabled person and has only one arm.

[T]here have been similar cases amid the masses of detainees being rapidly processed through Belarusian courts. “There was one case where a deaf and mute person was accused of shouting antigovernmental slogans”. (source)

As a result, people then decided to protest by just standing together and doing nothing. To no avail: this as well has been rendered illegal

More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (125): The Chinese Eye Snatcher

doll without eyes

A six-year-old boy in China has been left blind for life after a barbaric assault in which an attacker gouged out his eyes, with the apparent intent of selling the corneas on the black market. …

The boy had been playing outside in Fenxi, in the northern province of Shanxi, when he disappeared for some three to four hours. His anxious family later found him covered in blood with his eyes missing, his father told Shanxi Television.

His eyes were discovered nearby but the corneas had been removed, according to reports, suggesting that the assailant may have been a trafficker supplying the lucrative but brutal organ trade. (source)

More on organ “trade” here. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (124): The Death of Billy Slagle

Billy Slagle

(source)

You don’t have to be an opponent of capital punishment to see how terribly wrong this is:

Billy Slagle … was sentenced to death for a crime he committed at 18, when there was no option for LWPOR [Life Without The Possibility of Release]. The chief prosecutor for Ohio, Ted McGinty, recommended to the parole board that he shouldn’t be executed, which is pretty extraordinary. In yet another surprising twist, given that parole boards and Governors usually do whatever prosecutors tell them to, both the board and the Governor’s office rejected his plea for clemency and continued on with the death sentence. Three days before his scheduled execution, early Sunday morning, Slagle said “enough” and hung himself. 44 years old, having spent the last 26 years in jail, he took his own way out.

That’s bad enough as it is, but then there is this:

County prosecutors had offered Slagle a plea deal at his original trial 26 years ago. If he pleaded guilty, he would serve 30 years and be eligible for parole. However, Slagle’s attorneys at the time did not inform him of the deal; instead, he received the death penalty. … Billy Slagle died without ever knowing that he was offered a plea deal of 30 years. Billy Slagle died without ever knowing that there was a good chance that he’d have to hang on for just another four, or ten. (source)

Even if you believe in capital punishment – which you shouldn’t – there’s no way you can call the actual application of this punishment in the U.S. a system of justice: there’s no justice when your race or the quality of your defense team decide whether or not you live.

More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (123): Choked by Cops Over “Dehumanizing Stare”

Jack Nicholson staring

Jack Nicholson staring

Police in Miami say they had no choice but to forcefully restrain a 14-year-old boy who was playing on the beach with his friends because he was giving them “dehumanizing stares.” Tremaine McMillian was roughhousing with another teen in the water when he was approached by Miami-Dade Police officers and ordered to stop fighting.

Despite quickly realizing that no actual fighting was taking place, the officers still asked McMillian to point out his mother to them. Tremaine says he complied, but Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta claims the boy refused to cooperate and tried to walk away.

“When he started to leave the beach area, officers had to get off their ATVs to detain him. He had closed arms, clenched fists and pulled his arm away,” Zabaleta told CBS Miami. Sensing an imminent “threat” from Tremaine’s body language and “dehumanizing stares,” the officers placed the teen in a chokehold.

“He started choking me, and as he was choking me, I urinated on myself because I couldn’t breathe,” Tremaine later told a juvenile court judge.

According to Tremaine, it would have been impossible for him to be clenching his fists because he was holding his six-week-old pit bull mix puppy Polo at the time and feeding him with a bottle.

He says the puppy was injured when police slammed him on the ground.

“At that point we are not concerned with a puppy,” Zabaleta told the CBS affiliate. “We are concerned with the threat to the officer. (source)

Unsurprisingly, Tremaine is black. More police brutality here. More posts in this series are here. Some real dehumanization here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (122): State Sponsored Exploitation, in the US

Elisabeth Shue as Sera in Leaving Las Vegas

Elisabeth Shue as Sera in Leaving Las Vegas

That’s what this is:

A woman has been charged with prostitution in Connecticut after calling police to complain about how she was being treated by a pimp. Police say they did not find the pimp when they arrived at a Super 8 Motel in West Haven on Sunday, but they did find 35-year-old Jennifer Lowery with a man they describe as a customer.

Police charged Lowery with prostitution and 60-year-old Richard Burford of New Haven with patronizing a prostitute.

Police say Lowery told them she thought it would take police longer to show up, so she decided to conduct some business while waiting. (source)

Really, if you’re a legislator and you want to perpetuate exploitation of and violence against sex workers, please do make prostitution illegal. Sex workers will not call the police if they are in danger, and pimps will be safe. Makes me think of this.

More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (121): Unconscious Deportation

A group of illegal Mexican laborers from the northern Indiana and Illinois region walk to board a train in Chicago, Ill., to be deported to their native Mexico, July 27, 1951

A group of illegal Mexican laborers from the northern Indiana and Illinois region walk to board a train in Chicago, Ill., to be deported to their native Mexico, July 27, 1951

(source)

The AP is out with an incredible report detailing the stories of undocumented immigrants who were deported by American hospitals, while they were unconscious.

Two of the immigrants profiled, Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana, were unlucky enough to be involved in car accidents and their punishment was being flown to Mexico while still in a coma.  The kicker is, they had health insurance, because they had solid jobs, but without documentation proving legal immigrant status, the hospital took it upon themselves to deport Cruz and Rodriguez-Saldana. ….

When the men awoke, they were more than 1,800 miles away in a hospital in Veracruz, on the Mexican Gulf Coast. (source)

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (120): The Crime of Carrying Condoms

superbigboy-condom

(source)

The NYPD can arrest you for carrying condoms … Trans and carrying condoms? You must be a prostitute, and condoms are the proof! Wearing a tight t-shirt and carrying condoms? You must be a prostitute, and condoms are the proof! A sex worker who is trying to keep herself safe in her work? You are actually a prostitute, so go to jail, or at the very least get your condoms taken away so your work is more dangerous. The condoms-as-evidence policy serves absolutely no one. (source)

Here’s an excerpt of the supporting deposition:

supporting deposition loitering for prostitution

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (118): The Commodification of Children

child marriage map

(source, click image to enlarge)

Taj Mohammad tries hard to hold back his tears as he describes the most painful decision of his life.

“I had to sell my six-year-old daughter Naghma to a relative to settle an old debt,” Mr Mohammad says, staring blankly at the tattered tarpaulin roof of his small mud shelter.

A shy girl with a smiling face, Naghma is now engaged to a boy 10 years older than her. Mr Mohammad says his daughter may have to leave for the boy’s home in Helmand‘s Sangin district in a year.

His wife and mother-in-law sob inconsolably as they try to protect Naghma and her seven siblings from the harsh Afghan winter outside.

“Everyone in the family is sad,” says Naghma’s grandmother, who was herself a child bride. “We cry. We are in pain. But what else could we do?” she asks. …

“To keep my family alive, I took a loan of $2,500 [about £1,600] from a distant relative,” Mr Mohammad says. …

He says he was struggling to come to terms with the loss of his three-year-old son and an uncle, both of whom died in the cold earlier this month, when the distant relative sent a message demanding his money back.

“He wanted his money back. But I couldn’t pay. No-one would lend money to me,” he says.

“Then a relative suggested that I give my daughter in lieu of money.” (source)

More on child marriage and commodification. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (117): Segregation of HIV-Positive Prisoners

prison rape

(source)

South-Carolina is now the only US State where HIV-positive prisoners are segregated in separate housing units with unequal program opportunities, inferior mental health care and fewer work options.

There’s absolutely no reason to do that, unless you want to maintain the reign of sexual terror that is still widespread in US prisons. AIDS is almost exclusively transmitted by way of sexual intercourse and needles. Segregating HIV-positive prisoners makes it easier for prison rapists to pursue their hobby. If you don’t know who’s positive and who’s not, you’ll think twice about raping someone. In the “HIV wards”, since they contain only HIV-positive prisoners, there’s also no more reason to refrain from rape.

Things like this make it hard to believe that legislators and prison authorities are not intent on making prison as horrible as possible.

More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (116): Gendered Bicycle Policy in North Korea

North Koreans ride bicycles past a propaganda poster in Kaesong, North Korea Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Kaesong, which sits just north of the Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea and South Korea, was the ancient capital of the Koryo Dynasty for 500 years until 1392. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

North Koreans ride bicycles past a propaganda poster in Kaesong, North Korea Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Kaesong, which sits just north of the Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea and South Korea, was the ancient capital of the Koryo Dynasty for 500 years until 1392. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

(source)

It’s now illegal (again) for women to ride bicycles in North Korea. The country’s leader Kim Jung Un reinstated his father’s absurd law, but only after he lifted the ban last year.

The late Kim Jong Il decreed in the mid-90s no woman should ride a bike after the daughter of a top general, the vice-chair of the National Defense Commission, was killed riding a bike in Pyongyang. (source)

Hardly the worst North Korean rights violation, but absurd enough. And part of a mindset. Transportation restrictions have always been popular in totalitarian regimes. They prevent people from socializing, forming groups and realizing that they’re not the only ones living in misery. They also help to impoverish people, focusing their attention on their own individual survival and away from politics.

More about the Koreas. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (115): Detection of Homosexuality in Malaysian Children

gay tinky winky

(source)

The Malaysian government has begun holding seminars aiming to help teachers and parents spot signs of homosexuality in children, underscoring a rise in religious conservatism in the country.

So far, the Teachers Foundation of Malaysia has organised 10 seminars across the country. Attendance at the last event on Wednesday reached 1,500 people, a spokesman for the organisation said.

“It is a multi-religious and multicultural [event], after all, all religions are basically against that type of behaviour,” said the official.

The federal government said in March that it is working to curb the “problem” of homosexuality, especially among Muslims who make up over 60% of Malaysia’s population of 29 million people.

According to a handout issued at a recent seminar, signs of homosexuality in boys may include preferences for tight, light-coloured clothes and large handbags, local media reported.

For girls, the details were less clear. Girls with lesbian tendencies have no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women, the reports said. …

Official intolerance of gay people has been on the rise. Last year, despite widespread criticism, the east coast state of Terengganu set up a camp for “effeminate” boys to show them how to become men.

The latest seminar for the teachers and parents was run by deputy education minister Puad Zarkashi, his office confirmed.

Zarkashi wasn’t immediately available for comment but national news agency Bernama quoted him as saying that being able to identify the signs will help contain the spread of the unhealthy lifestyle among the young, especially students.

“Youths are easily influenced by websites and blogs relating to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] groups,” he was quoted as saying.

“This can also spread among their friends. We are worried that this happens during schooling time.” (source, source)

Ominously, the story doesn’t tell us what they plan to do with the detected children, apart from sending them to a reeducation camp. I’m afraid it may involve something like this.

More on LGBT rights here. More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (114): Child Starves to Death in the UK

banksy beggar

banksy’s beggar

(source)

The government has been warned it must urgently fix flaws in its support system for successful asylum seekers, after a destitute child starved to death in temporary accommodation in Westminster. … [T]he family had become dependent on “ad hoc” charitable handouts despite a successful asylum claim because of “significant problems” transferring the family from Home Office to mainstream welfare support services. The family of three was forced to “actually become homeless” before local authorities could offer official help. (source)

Brings to mind this older post. More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (113): If You Don’t Bite or Kick Your Rapist, It Isn’t Rape

consent

(source)

[T]he Connecticut State Supreme Court overturned the sexual assault conviction of a man who had sex with a woman who “has severe cerebral palsy, has the intellectual functional equivalent of a 3-year-old and cannot verbally communicate.” The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason … physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court ruled that that victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies. (source)

This is outrageous. Lack of physical resistance is not evidence of consent, nor should it be. If you require rape victims to fight back you’ll only cause more violence and more harm since attackers will answer violence with violence. Rape victims should not be asked to go to such lengths in order to prove that they did not consent. And in any case, one has to assume lack of consent in the case of people with a mental defect, as in the example above. The same is true for people under the statutory age of consent.

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (112): The Tagging of Prisoners With HIV

Jew in Paris, wearing the star

Jew in Paris, wearing the star

(source)

You can’t tell by looking at someone whether he or she is living with HIV. That is, unless you catch a glimpse of a man who’s living with HIV in the state of Alabama’s prison system.

There are over 200 male prisoners living with HIV in Alabama. The Alabama Department of Corrections requires each of them to wear a white armband at all times, making their health status obvious to other inmates, prison staff, and visitors. The practice is a huge affront to prisoners’ privacy and confidentiality. (source)

Let’s list some of the other things that are wrong with this:

  • Why on earth would anyone want to protect prison rapists? Or is it true that the modern day prison system is merely a sanitized front for the perpetuation of medieval punishment?
  • Measures such as these nourish the stigma of HIV patients.
  • They promote false beliefs about HIV transmission.
  • Etc.

More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (111): In Jail For Something That is Not a Crime

woman in Afghan jail SHAH MARAI AFP Getty Images

woman in Afghan jail, photo by SHAH MARAI AFP Getty Images

(source)

Around 70 percent of Afghanistan’s female prisoners are in jail for running away from home despite the act not being a crime under the law (source). Another absurd prison story from Afghanistan is here.

More on the rule of law and on domestic violence. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (110): An Execution Nobody Wants

Terrance “Terry” Williams

Terrance “Terry” Williams

Child advocates, former prosecutors, mental health professionals, former jury members, and the victim’s widow are asking for clemency for a survivor of child sexual abuse who killed his abuser and is scheduled to be executed October 3. Terrance “Terry” Williams was raised by a physically violent mother and was first raped at the age of 6, before being raped repeatedly by his school teacher. As a teenager, he was sexually abused by two adult men, one of whom used his position as a church leader to prey on teenagers and boys. Three months after turning 18, Terry killed one of his abusers, the day after he had raped him.

But the jury had no idea about this abuse. Terry was too ashamed to bring it up. The prosecution, which knew about the abuse, didn’t share it with the defense lawyer, who was so incompetent he met with his client for the first time the day before the trial started. Terry’s co-defendant  didn’t testify about the abuse because, as  he now states in a sworn affidavit, the police and prosecution pressured him not to because they wanted to present the murder as a robbery.

Since the abuse has been revealed, jurors have come forward to say they would not have opted for a death sentence.  Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not require the judge to instruct the jury that a life sentence means life without the possibility of parole, and jurors have also said they would not have voted for the death penalty if they had known that parole was not a possibility.

The death penalty in itself is barbaric, but it’s especially disturbing when there are mitigating circumstances. And sadly, Pennsylvania is a huge death penalty state. It has executed more than 400 people since the death penalty was reinstated, and has the fourth largest death row in the country. A bipartisan Senate task force in Pennsylvania is reviewing the state’s death penalty. Let’s hope they recommend a moratorium or, even better, abolition.

In the mean, time, you can sign this petition urging Governor Tom Corbett, the PA Board of Pardons, and the District Attorney to grant clemency for Terry. (source)

More on capital punishment is here. More posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (109): Excessive Sentencing in the U.S., Ctd.

escape scene from O Brother Where Art Thou

escape scene from “O Brother Where Art Thou”

(source)

“[T]hree-strike laws” impose a life sentence on persons who have been convicted of three or more serious crimes. However, the definition of serious crimes depends on the each state. In most states, all three must be violent crimes. But in some states, this is not the case. California law mandates the life sentence for any third felony conviction so long as the first two were deemed “violent” or “serious.” Moreover, an individual can receive multiple strikes from a single incident, leading to unexpected life sentences.

In Rummel v. Estelle, the Supreme Court upheld a life sentence with the possibility of parole for William James Rummel for a felony fraud crime amounting to $120.75. On his third offense, Rummel refused to return money received as payment for unsatisfactory repairs of an air conditioning unit, resulting with a life sentence. In Lockyer v. Andrade, Leandro Andrade received a mandatory sentence of 25 to life for stealing a total of nine videotapes at two different K-mart stores. (source)

Other examples are here. Some incarceration statistics are here. And more posts in this series are here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (108): Fatwa for Opposing Ban on Premarital Sex

premarital sex

A cleric has issued a fatwa calling for the death of the editor of Morocco’s Al-Ahdath Al-Maghribia daily newspaper, Moktar el-Ghzioui, after he went on television proclaiming his opposition to article 490 of the Moroccan penal code, which criminalizes premarital sex. The BBC reported last Thursday that Ghzioui is in fear for his life following his controversial public statements in defense of sex before marriage, which is still taboo in many countries and religions.

A Moroccan imam told the BBC that if the code prohibiting premarital sex was removed, “we will become wild savages. Our society will become a disaster.” (source)

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (107): Excessive Sentencing in the U.S.

Utah prisoners circa 1885

Group of polygamists in the Utah Penitentiary, circa 1885

(source)

[T]he state of Texas … sentenced Willie James Sauls last week for … the crime of stealing a purse. Sauls was sentenced to 45 years in prison. The prosecutors in the case justified the long sentence by pointing out that Sauls has prior convictions and that he “already had chances to address the issues with his behavior.” And with that, they decided this purse snatcher should be locked in prison until he’s 82.

Also in Texas, in 2010, Larry Dayries stole a tuna sandwich from Whole Foods while wielding a knife. He had prior convictions for burglary and theft, so the sandwich incident landed him a 70-year sentence. Larry will be 111 at the end of his sentence.

Down the road in Mississippi, Anthony Crutcher is serving a 60-year sentence for selling $40 worth of cocaine. Anthony was sentenced under Mississippi’s habitual offender laws; his two prior convictions were also nonviolent, minor drug crimes. Anthony is due out of prison a month after his 101st birthday. (source)

That should deter potential criminals. Except that is doesn’t:

A 2003 review of the research on sentence severity and crime rates concluded that “sentencing severity has no effect on the level of crime in society.” And in 2005, researchers at California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded that the state’s notoriously punitive three strikes law, which will send a third-time felony offender to prison for 25 years to life even for a nonviolent offense, has no clear effect on crime rates in the state. (source)

Similar cases are here, here and here.

More on deterrence, on “tough-on-crime” policies and on prison population rates. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (106): Honor Killing in Open Court

Javed Iqbal Shaikh

Javed Iqbal Shaikh used his lawyer’s coat to smuggle the firearm into the courtroom and kill his sister, Rahila. He was arrested at the scene and charged.

(source)

[T]he gunning down last week of a woman by her brother, a lawyer, in front of dozens of witnesses in a packed courtroom in the bustling city of Hyderabad [Pakistan] marks an alarming new low.

The family of 22 year-old Raheela Sehto had already made their fury at her marriage to Zulfiqar Sehto – a love match struck without their permission – abundantly clear. They reacted by filing a claim with local police that their daughter had been kidnapped by her 30-year-old husband, a life-long neighbour who had wooed Raheela over the years, although largely through clandestine mobile phone conversations.

Her uncle had tried to throttle her with a scarf at an earlier appearance at the high court in Hyderabad in July. The couple had petitioned the court for its protection and to try and have the kidnapping charges thrown out.

But Sehto, a university graduate working for the local electricity company, said they felt they had no reason to fear for their lives in court, even when in the earlier part of the morning he was sitting almost directly in front of his wife’s eventual killer, Javed Iqbal Shaikh, her brother.

Shortly after the two judges had returned to their seats after a break, Shaikh, dressed in the black suit and tie of his profession, produced a gun he had smuggled into court, lunged at Raheela and shot her point-blank in the left side of the head.

“Before she fell to the ground, my wife was looking straight at me,” said Sehto. The gunman, Shaikh, then tried to shoot Sehto, but was overpowered by police.

According to the latest survey of violence against women by the Aurat Foundation, a rights group, there were 2,341 honour killings in 2011 in Pakistan – a 27% jump on the year before. The report also said there were more than 8,000 abductions and 3,461 rapes and gang rapes.

But the figures were just “the tip of the iceberg”, it warned, saying researchers relied on those cases that were reported in the media only. (source)

More about honor killings. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (105): The Boiling-in-Oil of Ishikawa Goemon Along With His Son

Ishikawa Goemon (1558-1594) was a semi-legendary Japanese outlaw hero who stole gold and valuables and gave them to the poor. Goemon is notable for being boiled alive along with his son in public after a failed assassination attempt on the civil war-era warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The boiling-in-oil of Ishikawa Goemon along with his son, after the failed assassination of Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi

(source)

Another version:

Ishikawa Goemon

The boiling-in-oil of Ishikawa Goemon along with his son, after the failed assassination of Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi

(source)

More here. More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (104): Homosexuals Suffering the Egg Test in Lebanon

egg

(source)

First of all, the state has no business criminalizing and prosecuting people for homosexual behavior. And secondly, even if it does it shouldn’t force doctors to commit anal rape in order to detect such behavior.

The Lebanese Order of Physicians has rounded on a controversial practice in which chicken’s eggs are inserted in the anus of suspected homosexuals and banned doctors from carrying out the so-called egg tests.

Doctors participating in the “test” have been warned by the order that they face disciplinary measures.

The “test” was conducted on 36 men who were arrested during a raid on a gay porn cinema in Beirut.

The men were charged with “acts against nature” and forced to undertake the “tests of shame”, according to Lebanese magazine L’Orient-Le Jour. ….

The Justice Ministry reissued instructions that prosecutors had to obtain consent before the tests took place. It added that refusal by a suspect to comply with the test could be used as “evidence of homosexuality”. (source)

Furthermore, why would people even believe that the egg test can prove homosexuality?

A similar practice is common in Turkey. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (103): Stoning of Gays is OK According to Bulgarian Priest

Sofia's first gay parade in June 2008 was attacked with Molotov cocktails. Photo by BGNES

Sofia’s first gay parade in June 2008 was attacked with Molotov cocktails. Photo by BGNES

(source)

There was an LGBT Pride Parade planned for June 30th in Sofia, Bulgaria, and it seems that some have yet to take the view that these things are inherently harmless and boring:

On June 6, Father Evgeni Yanakiev of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was quoted in the newspaper Standart as saying: “Our whole society must, in every possible way, oppose the gay parade that is being planned. For this reason, today I appeal to all those who consider themselves Christians and Bulgarians. Throwing stones at gays is an appropriate way.” On June 12, Father Yanakiev confirmed his statement in an interview on Bulgarian national radio. … It is all the more chilling given that two previous pride parades, in Sofia, have been marred by violent attacks on participants. …

After Father Yanakiev made his statements about this year’s parade, the Holy Synod – the highest authority in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – was urged to denounce his call for violence. But in a statement on June 13, the Holy Synod did not even address the incitement to hatred and violence. Instead, it said that homosexuality is “an unnatural lust that unconditionally harms both the personality of those who commit it and the society as a whole” and confirmed the church’s firm opposition to such “immoral manifestations” as the pride parade. (source)

Fortunately, the event took place without disturbances. More on gay rights, stoning and incitement. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (101): The Horrible Crime of Alcoholism

execution in Iran

execution in Iran

(source)

Amnesty International is urging Iran – a country known for its unemcumbered use of the death penalty- to halt the execution of two men (not in the image above) convicted for the third time of consuming alcohol. The men already have received 80 lashes for two previous convictions.

Article 179 of Iran’s “exotic” Penal Code provides for a mandatory death sentence following a third conviction for drinking alcohol.

What’s next? Life imprisonment for picking your nose in public? Forced labor for speeding? Decapitation for sorcery? Oh, I see …

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (100): Lex Talionis in Kindergarten

bully

(source, source)

A Texas teacher will lose her job after ordering more than 20 kindergartners to line up and hit a classmate accused of being a bully … The teacher at a suburban San Antonio school is accused of orchestrating the slugfest after a younger teaching colleague went to her last month seeking suggestions on how to discipline the 6-year-old [not in the image above] …

The police report alleges the teacher chose to show the child “why bullying is bad” by instructing his peers to “Hit him!” and “Hit him harder!” … “Twenty-four of those kids hit him and he said that most of them hit him twice,” Amy Neely, the mother of 6-year-old Aiden …

The mother added — and the police report confirmed — that some of Aiden’s classroom friends told him they didn’t want to hit the boy but did so because they were afraid not to. (source, source)

More on lex talionis and corporal punishment. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (99): Private Prisons in the U.S.

buster keaton in jail

Buster Keaton in jail

As if the incarceration rate in the U.S. isn’t high enough already, the partial privatization of U.S. prisons creates some perverse incentives: the prison industry’s goal is to extract as much public money as possible by locking up the maximum number of people; this in turn fuels “tough on crime” policies and the insane war on drugs. Some examples:

The private prison industry was secretly involved in drafting Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law to boost demand for its immigrant detention centers. The Corrections Corporation of America has offered to help relieve the fiscal crises of 48 states by buying their prisons—provided the states sign a contract to keep them 90 percent full for the next twenty years, regardless of the crime rate. (source)

Not long after 11 September 2001, Steven Logan, the CEO of Cornell Companies (now part of the for-profit prison corporation GEO Group Inc) had good news for its shareholders. In a quarterly earnings call, Logan enthusiastically talked about tighter border control and a heightened focus on (immigrant) detention in the wake of the attacks. As he put it, “more people are gonna get caught. So I would say that’s a positive.” (source)

Note that more than 120,000 of America’s record 2 million prisoners are in private jails, plus a large number of illegal immigrants.

More on the problems created by excessive reliance on financial incentives here. More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (98): Free Speech in Taiwan

Olivia de Havilland and Dirk Bogarde in the 1959 movie Libel

Olivia de Havilland and Dirk Bogarde in the 1959 movie "Libel"

(source, source)

Taiwan National University (NTU) Department of Agricultural Economics professor Wu Pei-ing, aged 53, was handed a final sentence of 10 days in prison or a fine by the High Court on Thursday for calling a fellow professor “worthless.”

At 8am on March 3 last year, when Wu was speaking with department head Hsu Shih-hsun, fellow professor Jerome Geaun approached her and said he felt compelled to “severely protest” that she was speaking too loudly. He asked Wu to lower her voice.

Wu at first said “Keep out of matters that don’t concern you,” but Geaun insisted that she keep her voice down, prompting Wu to say: “Go report it to the police, to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for noise pollution, OK?”

While Hsu attempted to mediate the dispute, Wu said to Geaun: “Who do you think you are? You’re a worthless nobody,” despite a previous warning from Geaun’s that her comments came very close to a personal insult.

Geaun later sued Wu for libel and defamation of character… The High Court ruled that Wu was guilty of publicly insulting Geaun for calling him “worthless”. (source, source)

More on libel. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (97): Free Speech in Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe as a young man

Robert Mugabe as a young man, photo by JP Laffont / Sygma / Corbis

(source)

Richmore Mashinga Jazi, a self-employed carpenter, was watching live coverage of Mugabe’s birthday bash last Friday while drinking with friends when he allegedly suggested that the 88-year-old president had sought help to blow up the balloons. …

“Who helped Mugabe blow up his birthday balloons, does he still have the energy?” is the statement that got Mugabe’s loyalists mad, resulting in the arrest of Jazi.

Jazi is now before the Mutare magistrates court on allegations of undermining the authority of the President. …

Mutare prosecutor Truman Joma … told the court that Jazi made the statement knowing that there was real risk or possibility that the statement was false and that it could cause hatred or contempt of the person of the President.

He alleged that Jazi was mocking and insulting the President by referring to his age and health. Trouble for Jazi started when he asked where prominent Mutare resident Penjeni Gwinyai, who had just entered into the bar, was coming from.

Gwinyai, the state alleged, informed Jazi that he had been at Sakubva stadium to witness Mugabe blow up his birthday balloons, prompting Jazi to query if Mugabe still had the energy to do so. Gwinyai informed the police leading to Jazi’s arrest. (source)

More on Mugabe and Zimbabwe. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (96): No Rest for the Dead in Russia

Oliver Cromwell's Head

Oliver Cromwell's Head

(source, read the story here)

Russian police are taking the unusual step of filing new tax evasion charges against lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in their custody two years ago.

The trial of the defendant … would be the first posthumous prosecution in Russian legal history, according to a statement by the former employer, Hermitage Capital.

The death of Mr. Magnitsky, a lawyer, in November 2009 drew international criticism over Russia’s human rights record, especially after accusations arose that he had been denied proper medical care. …

Police officials reopened the case against Mr. Magnitsky last summer, saying it would provide a chance for relatives and supporters to clear his name. Relatives, though, said they had not asked for that, and executives at Hermitage said the motive was something else entirely: to vindicate the officials Mr. Magnitsky had accused of corruption. Magnitsky’s original arrest on charges of tax evasion came shortly after he testified against two interior ministry officials, accusing them of embezzelement. …

Does anyone know of a precedent anywhere in the world for a posthumous prosecution? According to Hermitage, it’s never been done in Russia, even during the Soviet period. Even Adolph Hitler wasn’t posthumously prosecuted, though there was some discussion of the idea at Nuremburg. Oliver Cromwell was posthumously executed in 1661, three years after his death, but I can’t come up with any examples in modern times –particularly not for a crime like tax evasion. (source)

Maybe it’s wrong to label this a human rights violation; the dead probably don’t have rights. Still, it can be seen as the continuation after death of a very real violation of a living person’s rights. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (95): Don’t Say “Blow Away” When You’re a Muslim

islamophobia

(source)

A casual text message to work colleagues encouraging them to ”blow away” the competition at a trade show allegedly plunged a Muslim man into a terrorism probe.

Telecommunications sales manager Saad Allami says the innocent message, aimed at pumping up his staff, has had devastating consequences on his life.

The Quebec man says he was arrested by provincial police while picking up his seven-year-old son at school. A team of police officers stormed into his home, telling his wife she was married to a terrorist. And his work colleagues were detained for hours at the U.S. border because of their connection to him.

Those are the allegations Allami makes in a lawsuit filed last month.

The Moroccan native is seeking $100,000 from the Quebec provincial police force, one of its sergeants, and the provincial government. The six-figure sum is being sought for unlawful detention, unlawful arrest, loss of income and damage to his reputation. (source)

More on islamophobia and the war on terror. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (94): Virginity Tests in Egypt

virginity test

(source)

Egypt’s army has devised an original method to defend itself against possible allegations of rape by women “in its care”:

By now, almost everyone has heard the about the 18 women protestors in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who this past spring were detained, beaten, given electric shocks, strip searched and forced to submit to “virginity tests“. (source)

May I suggest that trying to protect yourself against potential charges of rape by violating women’s bodies isn’t really very smart? Of course, the real reason for these tests is torture and intimidation. Women will probably think twice before participating in protests if they know what may happen if they are detained. The tests themselves are horrific, but they can also entail future harm: if the tests are negative, women risk prostitution charges, jail sentences and social stigma.

The tests involve an inspection of a female’s hymen, on the mistaken assumption that her hymen can only be torn as a result of sexual intercourse. This is one account of the way in which the tests were conducted:

[T]he female detainees were separated into two groups, the married and unmarried. The seven unmarried women were given a medical checkup during which the “virginity test” was done. …

“They took us out one by one … they took me to a bed in a passageway in front of the cell. There were lots of soldiers around and they could see me.

I asked if the soldiers could move away and the officer escorting me teased me.

A woman prison guard in plainclothes stood at my head and then a man in military uniform examined me with his hand for several minutes. It was painful. He took his time”. (source)

Fortunately, an Egyptian court has now ruled that virginity tests on female detainees are illegal, referencing the human rights guaranteed in the Egyptian Constitutional Declaration of 2011 as well as Egypt’s obligation under international law. Which of course doesn’t mean the tests will end. Virginity tests in general have not been outlawed, only those taking place in military detention premises. And it remains to be seen if the military will respect the ruling.

More on gender based violence. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (93): Witchcraft in Saudi Arabia

danziger saudi witchcraft execution

(source)

Witchcraft is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia. Recently, another person was executed:

the Saudi Interior Ministry announced on Monday that it had beheaded a woman named Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser for practicing “witchcraft and sorcery.” The London-based al-Hayat newspaper, citing the chief of the religious police who arrested the woman after a report from a female investigator, claims Nasser was tricking people into paying $800 per session to have their illnesses cured. (source)

How do prosecutors prove that someone is in fact a witch?

[T]he bar for proving someone guilty isn’t very high. Witch hunting is fairly institutionalized in Saudi Arabia, with the country’s religious police running an Anti-Witchcraft Unit and a sorcery hotline to combat practices like astrology and fortune telling that are considered un-Islamic.

But institutionalized is not the same thing as codified. A top official in the kingdom’s Ministry of Justice told Human Rights Watch in 2008 that there is no legal definition for witchcraft (Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a penal code) or specific body of evidence that has probative value in witchcraft trials.

Instead, judges have wide latitude in interpreting Sharia law and sentencing suspected criminals. And Amnesty International claims these judges use witchcraft charges to arbitrarily “punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion.” A Human Rights Watch researcher tells The Media Line that foreigners in particular are often the targets of sorcery accusations because of their traditional practices or, occasionally, because Saudi men facing charges of sexual harassment by domestic workers want to discredit their accusers.

The evidence arrayed against witchcraft suspects typically revolves around statements from accusers and suspicious personal belongings that suggest the supernatural, in a country where superstition is still widespread. (source)

In 2007

Saudi authorities beheaded an Egyptian pharmacist who had been accused by neighbors of casting spells to separate a man from his wife and placing Korans in mosque bathrooms. “He confessed to adultery with a woman and desecrating the Koran by placing it in the bathroom,” the Saudi Press Agency reported, adding that books on black magic, a candle with an incantation “to summon devils,” and “foul-smelling herbs” had been found in the pharmacist’s home. (source)

Here’s an alternative verification procedure:

More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (92): When Hate Speech Laws Go Too Far

Woman making racist comments on tram MyTramExperience

I’ve often defended hate speech laws, especially when they are designed in such a way that they can curb speech that risks violating the rights of people who are targeted by hate speech. (For instance, cross burning can restrict people’s freedom of residence and movement). However, I also admit that many hate speech laws go way too far and punish speech that, as vile as it may be, doesn’t harm anyone’s rights. Here’s a recent example:

A woman who was filmed allegedly shouting racial abuse at fellow passengers on a tram in south London will spend Christmas in prison after she was remanded in custody during a court appearance. She has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

Emma West, 34, from New Addington, south London, cried as magistrates watched a video of the incident, which has been viewed more than 11m times since it appeared online on 27 November. She was arrested after the footage was posted on YouTube. (source)

The video footage, which sparked a Twitter trend with the hashtag #MyTramExperience on Monday, shows a woman complaining about ethnic minorities living in Britain. She starts by saying: “What has this country come to? … with loads of black people and a load of fucking Polish. You ain’t English either. None of you are fucking English. Get back to your own fucking, d’you know what?

“Sort out your own countries. Don’t come and do mine. Britain is nothing now. Britain is fuck all.”

One of the passengers on the tram asks her to mind her language, saying: “There are little kids on the tram.” The woman points to the child on her lap and says “I’ve got a little kid here.” (source)

The woman is obviously vile and disturbed, but as I understand it from the reporting, her speech doesn’t harm anyone. It’s not like in John Stuart Mill’s example of the mob in front of the corn dealer’s home, being told that corn dealers are starvers of the poor. Hence no reason to prosecute her, let alone put her in prison.

More absurd human rights violations. More on hate speech.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (91): Marry Your Rapist and Get Out of Jail

get-out-of-jail-free

After the attack, [Gulnaz] hid what happened as long as she could. But soon she began vomiting in the mornings and showing signs of pregnancy. It was her attacker’s child.

In Afghanistan, this brought her not sympathy, but prosecution. Aged just 19, she was found guilty by the courts of sex outside of marriage — adultery — and sentenced to twelve years in jail.

Now inside Kabul’s Badam Bagh jail, she and her child are serving her sentence together.

Sitting with the baby in her lap, her face carefully covered, she explains the only choice she has that would end her incarceration.

The only way around the dishonor of rape, or adultery in the eyes of Afghans, is to marry her attacker. This will, in the eyes of some, give her child a family and restore her honor.

Incredibly, this is something that Gulnaz is willing to do. …

We found Gulnaz’s convicted rapist in a jail across town. While he denied raping her, he agreed that she would likely be killed if she gets out of jail. But he insists that it will be her family, not his, that will kill her, “out of shame.” (source)

Similar cases here, here and here. And then there’s this:

Last year, … in Morocco, a judge ordered a 16-year-old girl named Amina Filali to marry the man who raped her. She committed suicide in March, prompting widespread outrage and condemnation of article 475, which allows a rapist to marry his victim in order to escape jail. (source)

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (90): Prohibiting People From Standing Together and Doing Nothing

No Belarus not for sale

Some old-fashioned, Soviet style anti-imperialist propaganda: "No, Belarus not for sale"

(source)

President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus … drafted a law that would prohibit a “joint mass presence of citizens in a public place that has been chosen beforehand, including an outdoor space, and at a scheduled time for the purpose of a form of action or inaction that has been planned beforehand and is a form of public expression of the public or political sentiments or protest.” The measure, which in the words of the New York Times “prohibit[ed] people from standing together and doing nothing,” was proposed in response to a series of weekly protests that had begun a month earlier, whereby citizens gathered in public parks or on street corners each Wednesday night and did nothing more than clap their hands or synchronize their cell phones to ring at an appointed time. … There was nothing overtly political about these protests. … There was no mention of the name “Lukashenko.” Not even the word “freedom,” which has gained a new global currency in the wake of the Arab upheavals, crossed anyone’s lips. (source)

The image seems to have been inspired by this one:

More absurd human rights violations here.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (89): A Sentence of 5 Years for Using a Contraband Cell Phone in Prison

Justin-Walker

Justin Walker in a picture posted to his Facebook page from inside his prison cell using a smuggled-in cell phone

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[P]arole commissioners tacked on five more years to the sentence of Dwayne Kennedy [not in the image above] — for using a contraband cell phone in prison. Kennedy, who has been incarcerated since 1990, wasn’t using the phone to order a hit on someone on the outside or to organize a drug ring. He was excitedly calling his family to let them know that he had been granted parole and was being released.

Kennedy willingly admitted his choice to use the phone was “just stupid,” but his excitement at the prospect of going home got the best of him. Still, the parole board revoked his parole grant after the cell phone was found. Thanks to a 2008 ballot measure, he must spend another five years behind bars until he can go before the parole board again. Kennedy’s parole commissioners were all too eager to enforce the measure, claiming his eagerness to violate the prison’s cell phone ban makes him an “unreasonable risk of danger to society.”

For the last seven years, Kennedy has displayed good behavior behind bars. He also has a job and stable home waiting for him upon his release, two major factors that greatly reduce the likelihood he will reoffend and return to prison. But never mind those details. As the L.A. Times points out, prison officials would rather spend $250,000 from taxpayers over the course of the next five years to keep Kennedy locked up, clinging to fear-driven tough on crime policies that have made California this incarceration-loving country’s prime example of egregiously overcrowded prisons. (source)

More on tough on crime policies, on overcrowding in prisons, and on incarceration rates. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (88): Gendercide Leads to Trafficking and Wife-Sharing

polygyny wife sharing

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Gendercide has a number of harmful consequences that aren’t limited to selective abortion and infanticide, but I hadn’t heard of this one yet:

When Munni arrived in this fertile, sugarcane-growing region of north India as a young bride years ago, little did she imagine she would be forced into having sex and bearing children with her husband’s two brothers who had failed to find wives.

“My husband and his parents said I had to share myself with his brothers”, said the woman in her mid-40s, dressed in a yellow sari, sitting in a village community centre in Baghpat district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

“They took me whenever they wanted – day or night. When I resisted, they beat me with anything at hand”, said Munni, who had managed to leave her home after three months only on the pretext of visiting a doctor. …

Social workers say decades of aborting female babies in a deeply patriarchal culture has led to a decline in the population of women in some parts of India, like Baghpat, and in turn has resulted in rising incidents of rape, human trafficking and the emergence of “wife-sharing” among brothers. (source)

I used to believe that the shortage of women resulting from gendercide could in the longer term have a silver lining, in the sense that it could improve women’s bargaining positions relative to men and could therefore also improve their wellbeing and the protection of their rights. But it seems I have to change my mind. More on gendercide here. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (87): You Can’t Do What I told You to Do

Banksy Frisk

Banksy, Frisk

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Critics say that as part of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy, officers routinely tell suspects to empty their pockets and then, if marijuana is displayed, arrest them for having the drugs in public view, thereby pushing thousands of people toward criminality and into criminal justice system. (source)

More on the war on drugs. More Banksy. More absurd human rights violations.

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The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (86): “We Inflict an Injustice Upon You, and Then We Make You Pay For It”

Two horrible cases of government officials treating people unjustly and then making them pay for it:

1.

According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, “A Las Cruces woman has been charged $1,122 by a local hospital for a forcible body cavity search ordered by the Metro Narcotics Agency that did not turn up any illegal substances.” The search was conducted pursuant to a search warrant, based on what the police said was “‘credible information from a reliable source’ that the woman was concealing up to an ounce of heroin”…

Fortunately, a story a couple of days later relates that the county did indeed pay — which I think they’d have to do, since I see no legal basis for holding the woman responsible for a procedure that she didn’t seek and didn’t benefit from. The involvement of a lawyer, though, suggests that it took some work and expense to get the county to pay, work and expense that the woman shouldn’t have been put through (even assuming the search itself was justified). (source)

2.

The Arizona Department of Corrections is charging people money to visit their loved ones in prison. … New legislation allows the department to impose a $25 fee on adults who wish to visit inmates at any of the 15 prison complexes that house state prisoners. The one-time “background check fee” for visitors, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, has angered prisoner advocacy groups and family members of inmates, who in many cases already shoulder the expense of traveling long distances to the remote areas where many prisons are located.

An Arizona official confirmed that these “background check fees” will not actually pay for background checks, but are instead intended to make up part of the state deficit. This policy not only places an unfair burden on those who wish to visit prisoners, but is bad for public safety. According to the ACLU’s David Fathi: We know that one of the best things you can do if you want people to go straight and lead a law-abiding life when they get out of prison is to continue family contact while they’re in prison…Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish. (source)

And for those of you who think incarceration isn’t inherently unjust, read this, this and this. More absurd human rights violations here.

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