News Briefing and Comment

12/11/2017 12:49 PM
Justice 4 Grenfell welcomes EHRC intervention

The Justice 4 Grenfell campaign  has welcomed the intervention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which will investigate the human rights and equality dimensions of the tragedy, and determine if the State is fulfilling its duties under human rights and equality law.

As the country’s National Human Rights Institution, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has today (11 December 2017) launched Following Grenfell, to look at the human rights and equality dimensions of the tragedy, and to determine if the State is fulfilling its duties under human rights and equality law.

Following Grenfell will focus on seven key areas.

The duty to investigate 
The State has a duty to investigate incidents of deaths or inhumane and degrading treatment where they may be implicated, and ensure proper accountability. This project will examine how the State is investigating Grenfell and whether current arrangements meet its obligations.

The right to life
Following Grenfell will consider whether the State ensured the safety of the residents in Grenfell Tower and whether lessons have been learnt from previous reports.

Inhumane and degrading treatment
The harm suffered by those who survived or witnessed the Grenfell Tower fire may constitute ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’, and the experiences of those after the fire may have increased the harm they endured. The Commission will be exploring what immediate and longer-term support victims of such events can expect from the State, including medical treatment, counselling, care and housing.

Adequate housing
The State had a duty to provide adequate and safe housing to the Grenfell Tower residents. This project will particularly focus on children, disabled and older people whose needs may not have been fully respected and understood within the fire regulations. 

Access to justice
The project will consider whether victims have been able to access appropriate legal advice after the fire, but also question whether a lack of access to legal support may have affected residents’ ability to address complaints about the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower.

Rights of children
The Commission will also be examining the specific rights of children and whether they have received appropriate psychological support, housing and educational support since the fire. 

The work will also explore whether there were any policies and practices in place that disadvantaged any particular groups, such as disabled people or the elderly, and if the State met the requirement of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said, "The Grenfell Tower fire has become a symbol of the inequality that exists in our country. Seventy-one people tragically lost their lives, as well as the many people who lost their homes, possessions, families and loved ones. The first duty of the State is to protect the lives of its citizens and lessons must be learnt to avoid this happening again.

"From the right to life to the duty to provide adequate housing, there are several areas where the State fell short in its duties to its citizens and these must be properly addressed. The official public inquiry is rightly looking at the building, fire and safety measures, property management and the events of the fire itself, but we believe our expertise in equality and human rights laws is essential in determining the extent to which the State failed, not only the residents of Grenfell Tower, but also those who witnessed the fire and have endured harm, physically or emotionally, as a result of it."

Following Grenfell will hear from a variety of people who can offer insight into the events at Grenfell Tower, with a specific focus on the equality and human rights implications. The Commission will also be making public submissions, and will offer commentary on the evidence heard by the Public Inquiry.

The work is expected to last until April 2018, with regular updates on its progress published on a dedicated webpage.

As Following Grenfell concludes, a summary of the findings will also be published, as well as recommendations to ensure similar tragedies do not occur in future.  

The Justice 4 Grenfell (J4G) campaign welcomed the intervention of the Commission and released the following statement:

'J4G has consistently raised concerns that the State and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) have failed in their duties to protect life and provide safe housing.

In a press release on 15 August 2017, J4G made the following comments:

“It is disappointing that the question of social housing especially social cleansing/gentrification will not be addressed in the Inquiry as this remains a critical issue not just for the community of North Kensington but across the country and goes to the heart of a changing ideological approach to social housing and the pursuit of profit rather than provision of safe, affordable, appropriate and adequate housing”

The campaign’s application for Core Participation status has also like EHRC been refused along side many other communities, human rights and equality focused organisations. J4G’s application for core participation highlighted the different ways that the Inquiry needs to address State negligence of the communities in and around Grenfell. Issues of equality and human rights are paramount to the need for justice.

Given the appalling loss of life and suffering caused by the Grenfell Tower fire and the nationwide concern over the safety of tower blocks, J4G included in its core participation application that the following issues be included:

  • The competence, ability and willingness of public authorities to oversee, regulate and ensure safe housing nationally;
  • The competence, ability and willingness of public authorities to respond to large scale emergencies;
  • How communities (including residents) are listened to, specifically whether there is an effective response when communities/residents raise concerns to public authorities, local authorities, statutory agencies and bodies about matters that impact upon them.

Clarrie Mendy, a bereaved family member, founder of Relative Justice for Grenfell & co-founder of Humanity 4 Grenfell added,

"To ignore human rights and additionally fundamentally refuse to listen to community voices who have lived/experienced in any Inquiry about Grenfell, is not only the height of disrespect to those who died but also an overt indication that the state and RBKC (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) don’t care."

She is also appealing to the government to adopt the charter for families bereaved through public tragedy as recommended by Bishop James Jones in his recent report The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power.

J4G suggests that ‘Institutional Indifference’, a term coined by survivor Joe Delaney, to define the state and local authority response to the Grenfell Tower atrocity, has been evident from 14 June – Or, put simply the term ‘Institutional Indifference’ implies that "they don’t want to find out what really happened, they don’t have to and more to the point, they don’t care!"

J4G will want to participate in the EHRC’s independent Inquiry but seek to be constructively critical and always remain independent and focused upon representing the collective concerns of the community.

Read more about Following Grenfell here

Read 'The patronising disposition  of unaccountable power’ A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated here 


* Justice 4 Grenfell


12/11/2017 08:09 AM
UN launches campaign for 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations has launched a year-long campaign to honour the foundational human rights document, which next year marks its 70th anniversary.

The United Nations has launched a year-long campaign to honour the foundational human rights document, which next year marks its 70th anniversary.

Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, “human rights have been one of the three pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and development,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in his message for Human Rights Day, annually observed on 10 December.

As “one of the world's most profound and far-reaching international agreements,” the Universal Declaration proclaimed the inalienable rights of every human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Mr. Guterres noted that while human rights abuses did not end when the Universal Declaration was adopted, the instrument has helped countless people to gain greater freedom and security, and has also helped to prevent violations, obtain justice for wrongs, and strengthen national and international human rights laws and safeguards.

“Despite these advances, the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration are being tested in all regions,” he said, citing rising hostility towards human rights and those who defend them by people who want to profit from exploitation and division.

“We see hatred, intolerance, atrocities and other crimes. These actions imperil us all,” he said, urging people and leaders everywhere to stand up for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – and for the values that underpin hopes for a fairer, safer and better world for all.

The year-long campaignl started at Palais de Chaillot in Paris on Sunday 10 December 2017, with an event also to be held on Monday at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Information Centres around the world will also launch commemorative activities.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that thanks to the Universal Declaration, the daily life of millions has been improved, untold human suffering has been prevented and the foundations for a more just world have been laid.

"While its promise is yet to be fulfilled, the very fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the enduring universality of its perennial values of equality, justice and human dignity”, he said.

The period leading up to 10 December 2018, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, will be “a year of intense and profound reflection on the continuing and vital importance of each and every one of the 30 articles contained in this extraordinary document.”

Today, as World War II and the Holocaust grow distant, that awareness appears to be evaporating at an alarming rate, and the enormous progress that has been achieved through progressive enactment of human rights principles, as laid out in the Universal Declaration, is being increasingly forgotten or willfully ignored, Mr. Zeid said.

He said it is right to honour its achievements and pay tribute to its inspired architects in the 70th anniversary year, but “we should be under no illusions: the legacy of the Universal Declaration is facing threats on many fronts.”

“We must organise and mobilise in defence of human decency, in defence of a better common future… We must take a robust and determined stand: by resolutely supporting the human rights of others, we also stand up for our own rights and those of generations to come”, he said.

* Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights here

* United Nations


12/11/2017 07:59 AM
Which? urges regulator to intervene over future of ATM network

Consumer organisation Which? is urging the regulator to intervene to ensure that consumers are not left struggling to access cash, as new proposals cast doubt over Britain’s free-to-use ATM network.

Which? is urging the regulator to intervene to ensure that consumers are not left struggling to access cash, as new proposals cast doubt over Britain’s free-to-use ATM network.

Which? is worried that LINK – the UK’s largest cash machine network – proposals to lower its interchange fee by 20 per cent could lead to widespread closures of machines across Britain. The interchange fee is paid by banks per withdrawal to maintain the free-to-use ATM network. Such a change could make many machines no longer financially viable.

Which? is calling for the Payment Systems Regulator to conduct an urgent market review to fully evaluate the impact this change could have on consumers, millions of whom rely on the free-to-use network to access cash. Which? is concerned that LINK’s proposals are driven by pressure from some banks to cut costs, rather than focusing on the needs of consumers.

Which? is also questioning LINK’s claims that Britain’s free-to-use ATM network should be reduced due to a perceived decline in demand for cash. Such an assumption stands directly against Bank of England figures, which show a 10 per cent increase in the demand for banknotes in 2016, representing the fastest growth in a decade. Cash remains the most widely used payment method in the UK, and last year, 2.7 million people in the UK were reliant almost entirely on cash.

As such, Which? is seeking assurances that all consumers can maintain access to free-to-use ATMs and can continue to use cash, which for many remains their preferred and sometimes necessary payment method.

Which? is calling on the regulator to assess LINK’s decision, and not allow its proposals to go through without a wider review that considers potential alternative options for accessing cash and a full examination of the ATM market.

LINK’s proposals come in the context of wider concerns about the recent spate of bank closures across Britain, which now amount to 1,962 since 2015. This has raised huge issues around consumers’ ability to access the services they need. Which? is now urging industry not to add further strains on consumers.

Gareth Shaw, Which? Money Expert said, “With so many consumers reliant on cash payments it seems irresponsible to wave through proposals that could threaten Britain’s free-to-use ATM network.

“Significantly reducing this network could have a real impact on consumers, who might be left struggling to access the cash they need – and so we must see scrutiny from the regulator.”

In 2016, the Bank of England’s Chief Cashier Victoria Cleland said, “2.7 million people in the UK rely almost entirely on cash transactions – a number that has increased by 0.5 million since 2015. In 2016 the value of Bank of England notes in circulation increased by 10 per cent, reaching over £70 billion in the run-up to Christmas: the fastest growth in a decade.”

* Which?


12/11/2017 07:46 AM
'Henry VIII eats Parliament' stunt to highlight concern over loss of rights

Amnesty International and Liberty to stage a ‘Henry VIII eats Parliament’ stunt in Westminster to highlight concerns over how the Government is treating people’s rights in the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Amnesty International and Liberty are staging a ‘Henry VIII eats Parliament’ stunt in Westminster on Monday 11 December 2017, to highlight human rights campaigners’ concerns with how the Government is treating people’s rights in the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The stunt will see a fully-costumed Henry VIII impersonator being served and partially consuming a giant Houses of Parliament cake.

The cake, made by a specialist firm of London bakers, will be served to the famously big-appetited king on a silver platter by waiters immediately opposite the actual Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

After the formally-attired waiters have, with the appropriate ceremony, served the outsized cake, Henry VIII will carve it up – Big Ben tower and all – with large silver cutlery while drinking from a 16th-century-style goblet.

The stunt comes ahead of major debates in Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday over the wide-ranging law-making powers that would be handed to ministers under the EU Withdrawal Bill. Cross-party MPs are rallying behind amendments that would introduce greater parliamentary scrutiny of the ‘great copy and paste’ of EU law into UK law, and prevent the Government from using their powers to roll back people’s rights and freedoms.

Amnesty and Liberty have warned that, in its current form, the EU Withdrawal Bill allows ministers to take away essential existing human rights and equality protections stemming from EU membership without fully consulting Parliament.

Campaigners say the Bill’s so-called 'Henry VIII powers' would effectively hand Parliament to ministers on a silver platter, allowing them to gobble up our rights. Liberty and Amnesty are calling on MPs to back amendments to include a binding commitment on the Government, preventing it from using its delegated powers to erode rights.

Campaigners at the scene of Monday’s symbolic parliamentary carve-up will carry placards with the message “Henry VIII. Hands off!” and “Don’t gobble up our rights”.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's Director, said, “Ministers want to have their cake and eat it on Brexit and human rights.

“Ministers claim that Brexit is being properly debated, while giving themselves ‘Henry VIII powers’ that could see some of our human rights gobbled up. This Bill must be amended with a clear block on the powers being used for that purpose.

“People voted to withdraw from the European Union, not to have our own Government withdraw human rights protections from the people of this country.”

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said, “As 2017 draws to a close, we’re at very real risk of hurtling back to Tudor Britain.

“The Withdrawal Bill gives the Government sweeping powers named after Henry VIII – who’s hardly remembered for his rational decision-making. It would hand Parliament to ministers on a silver platter and let them carve up and devour our rights.

“MPs who believe in democracy and standing up for their constituents’ rights must vote to stop this power grab. We can’t stomach losing our rights when we leave the EU.”

* Amnesty International


12/11/2017 07:35 AM
Mental health patients held in police cells due to lack of hospital beds

Police forces are making decisions to hold people with mental health issues in custody beyond the statutory maximum due to difficulties accessing hospital beds.

A recent review highlights that police forces are making decisions to hold people with mental health issues in custody beyond the statutory maximum due to difficulties accessing hospital beds.

In cases where someone is brought to custody under arrest and is then diverted from the criminal justice to the mental health system as a patient, officers often have to decide to keep someone detained for their own safety, despite there being no power in domestic law to do so.

Custody sergeants report a very difficult legal dilemma in these cases – on the one hand they are obligated under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to release suspects once decisions are taken about the alleged offence or after 24 hours in custody, but they cannot continue to detain someone who is unwell unless an Approved Mental Health Professional has completed a legal application under the Mental Health Act.

A review by 21 police forces found 264 cases involved the police feeling obliged to keep someone safe by holding them in custody beyond the period allowed by custody law because of delays in finding a hospital bed. This likely represents a small fraction of the real picture – professional estimates suggest there could be more than 2,000 cases every year.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Mental Health and Policing, Chief Constable Mark Collins said, “Police officers have a duty to ensure that anyone brought into custody facing a mental health crisis is directed to a medical professional as soon as possible – it is a real concern that this is not happening quickly enough in potentially thousands of cases and each case potentially represents a violation of that person’s fundamental human rights.

“This is a legal problem that is emerging more frequently across the country so we want to work closely with the statutory regulator the Care Quality Commission to collect more accurate data and secure timely admission for people when they need it most.

“Recent figures have shown good progress by all police forces to reduce the number of cases in which a police cell is used as a place of safety under Section 136 so it is absolutely vital that we work closely with our partners to address this legal gap and work together to protect vulnerable and mentally ill people.”

Data was gathered from 21 police forces in England and Wales.

Of the 374 cases of arrests which led to a mental health assessment and a decision to admit the patient under the Mental Health Act:

  • 264 cases involved detention which exceeded the PACE 24 hour statutory maximum period without an application under the Mental Health Act being completed and a bed found.
  • 50 cases involved more than two hours to identify the bed, but the process was complete within the overall 24 hour period.
  • 60 cases involved a bed being identified in less than two hours of it becoming required.

A further 132 cases that were collected were not considered because of data quality problems due to this being the first time this data has been requested.

The study also flagged examples of deep concern where an individual had been detained for 97 hours (four days) and another of an adult with learning disabilities who was held for 137 hours (six days) before a specialist bed was identified.

* National Police Chief's Council


12/11/2017 07:30 AM
WTO Summit 'illegitimate from day one'

As the World Trade Organisation Summit begins, Global Justice Now says, "We've never before seen such a silencing and censoring of civil society voices."

Global Justice Now has released the folowing statement on the World Trade Organisation’s 11th Ministerial Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which takes place from 10-13 December 2017.

On the summit:

“President Macri has excelled in his draconian approach to this summit. We’ve never before seen such a silencing and censoring of civil society voices. His attempts to block over 60 experts and campaigners from the host country are unprecedented, with observers now being returned home from the airport. This disgraceful display of power shows that Argentina should not host the G20 summit next year – Macri is unfit for that responsibility.”

On food and agriculture:

“The WTO’s rules on agriculture are pretty much the definition of double standards. We support India in standing up for its right to reduce poverty through protecting the food prices paid by its citizens. All countries should have this right. We absolutely reject the position of the US and EU in trying to clamp down on these poverty-reducing policies – but especially so when they show such hypocrisy. No one protects agriculture more than the US and EU. It’s time to end a system which means one rule for the rich and another for the poor.”

On e-commerce:

“The big new issue this year is e-commerce – supposedly making it easier to trade online across borders. But the e-commerce agenda is really about the power of Amazon, Google and the big tech companies. These gigantic corporations profit from data, the ‘new oil’ of the global economy, and they want rules to ensure they can use and abuse this data as they wish – moving it around the world without restriction or responsibility. This stops countries being able to adequately tax and regulate these companies so that all can benefit from new technology. It is also a disaster for our privacy and ability to control our data.”

On fisheries:

“Overfishing is a massive, global problem, but the approach of rich countries to simply lay down blanket rules on subsidies isn’t the answer. This is likely to reduce support for small, artisanal fisherfolk, who are not part of the problem at all, while continuing to allow industrial scale scouring of the ocean floors.”

On development:

“Agreement at the WTO broke down over 15 years ago because rich countries passed everything they wanted and ignored the needs of everyone else. If we’re to have global trade rules they need to work for the poorest most of all. In fact, they have simply become a way for big business to tell everyone else how to behave. We absolutely reject the opening of any new issues at the WTO before the development promises of a previous generation have been fulfilled.”

Members of the Global Justice Now delegation are among the 63 civil society actors from 20 organisations who were last week banned from attending the summit by the government of Argentina. Petter Titland from Attac Norway has already been deported from the country.

* Global Justice Now


12/11/2017 07:12 AM
Many criminal record checks unnecessary, say researchers

New research finds that nearly three quarters of convictions revealed to employers each year in criminal records checks related to offences that were more than a decade old. 

A report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies reveals new evidence on the extent of unnecessary criminal record checks. Based on Freedom of Information Act requests, Criminal record checks: is the volume of disclosures proportionate?, finds that nearly three quarters of the million or so convictions revealed to employers each year in criminal records checks related to offences that were more than a decade old. 

The report also found that the vast majority of criminal record checks are potentially unnecessary. Out of a total of 4.2 million requests for disclosure of criminal records made in 2015, only six per cent produced criminal record information.

The number of sexual offences disclosed under the 'enhanced checks' scheme – intended for those jobs where applicants might be in direct contact with vulnerable groups such as children – was also tiny. Of nearly four million enhanced checks applications made by employers in 2015, only 707, or 0.018 per cent, resulted in a sexual offence disclosure.

The Centre's Research Director, Dr Roger Grimshaw, who authored the report, said, "We were really struck that hundreds of thousands of disclosures related to historic offences. A lot can change in a decade or more. It’s really important that mistakes of the distant past do not prejudice people’s chances of employment and rehabilitation.

He also spoke about the risks of complacency among employers who were overreliant on criminal record checks as a mean of protecting potentially vulnerable groups, saying, "Employers are making a big mistake if they simply rely on criminal records checks to protect clients and vulnerable groups. Most abusers have clean records. It’s really vital that all employers have good systems for reporting concerns and acting on them."

Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock, an independent charity for people with convictions, has called for urgent reform to the criminal records disclosure system. The current system, he argues, "unnecessarily anchors people in their past" and puts them off applying for jobs. The enhanced checks system, he points out, would "affect somebody who stole two chocolate bars when they were 14 and who is now in their fifties".

While it is necessary for some offences to be disclosed to some employers, he argued, "we should not be unnecessarily blighting the lives of people who are trying to move on, by disclosing old, minor or irrelevant information that holds them back and stops them from reaching their potential."

* Read the report, Criminal record checks: is the volume of disclosures proportionate? here

* Centre for Crime and Justice Studies


12/10/2017 07:52 AM
Peacemaking 'a great and compelling life task', says WCC chief

In a sermon at the Trinity Church in Oslo, Norway on 9 December 2017 , the World Council of Churches General Secretary, the  Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, reflected on peacemakers: those who create trust and foster good relations, those who try to bring out the best in us, those who attempt to solve conflicts.

In a sermon at the Trinity Church in Oslo, Norway on 9 December 2017 , the World Council of Churches General Secretary, the  Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, reflected on peacemakers: those who create trust and foster good relations, those who try to bring out the best in us, those who attempt to solve conflicts.

“Peace is wellbeing, health, happiness, and life”, he said. “We need peace to live in community. It pertains to what we ask for when we pray for the ‘daily bread’. This is a great and compelling life task: to protect our peace, to act in a way that enables us to be one – even though we are different.”

Tveit’s sermon was part of an ecumenical prayer service for peace held the same weekend Oslo is hosting the awards ceremony for the Nobel Prize. The congregation included representatives from churches in Norway as well as from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recipient of a 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. (

The Church of Norway’s presiding bishop, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, and Mission Covenant Church of Norway's General Secretary Øyvind Haraldseid led the liturgy.

In his sermon, Tveit said we can all contribute to peacemaking. “We need encouragements, such as this year’s peace prize, to see that it is possible. It is possible for ICAN – it is possible for all of us.”

Everyone needs peace, continued Tveit. “We need it in our closest relations, on a local level, nationwide, worldwide, between different groups and peoples, between different ethnic groups and races, and between different religions and convictions.”

We need words that can unite us, he reflected. “We need words that can establish norms and agreements about how things should be, even though things are not actually so. Not yet”, he said. “The world needs international agreements, but not when everyone is finally in agreement and every problem has been solved – we need them now.”

Every nation can contribute to the creation of a world without nuclear weapons, concluded Tveit. “Survival of the fittest is not the sole mode of operation that shall prevail”,  he said. “Several paths towards peace must be attempted.”

Kiriaki P. Samuelsen (Greek Orthodox Society), Marit Kromberg (Quakers) and William Cochrane from The Salvation Army participated in the service as well as many other church leaders. Music was led by Ulf Nilsen.

The service offered time to listen, to pray for peace, and receive greetings from Linnet Ng’ayu of the African Council of Religious Leaders - Religions for Peace, who is also on the international board of ICAN.

The congregation prayed together: “Terror and tears, wounds without healing, hearts without feeling mirror our fears: life without trust, greed and high prices, conflict and crisis grind us to dust.”

They continued: “God, in your grace, God, in your mercy, turn us to you to transform the world.”

* The service was  streamed live at and via

* Read Olav Fykse Tveit's sermon here

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches


12/10/2017 07:37 AM
Human rights investigation into corporate responsibility for climate change

The world’s first ever national inquiry into the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry for the human rights impacts resulting from climate change is reaching an important milestone in the Philippines. 

The world’s first ever national inquiry into the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry for the human rights impacts resulting from climate change hits an important milestone in the Philippines on 11 December 2017 –  one day after Human Rights Day (10 December). Companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Suncor and Repsol, are being asked to explain their role in making climate change worse.

The investigating body, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, sent Notices in October requesting the companies to attend the 11 December meeting to discuss and agree on how the investigation will be conducted, as well as evidence submission and witnesses. The investigation will intensify in 2018 and has the potential to shift global understanding of corporate responsibility for climate change.

“Many homes were destroyed during typhoon Yolanda and people died – including some I knew,” said Isagani Serrano, president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), an organisation that provides support in the aftermath of disasters and one of the petitioners. “We hope CEOs of these companies look deep within their hearts and see how their profit harms people and the planet.”

Filipino typhoon survivors, other communities suffering the impacts of climate change, and civil society organisations, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines), petitioned the Commission for the investigation in 2015, two years after super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) claimed the lives of more than 6,300 people and affected millions of others who have yet to recover.

“International Human Rights Day should remind these companies why it’s important that they participate in the national inquiry. Extreme weather fuelled by climate change is making life worse for people on the frontlines of climate change”, said Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, who is also a petitioner in the investigation.

“Their basic rights to food, water, shelter, health, and even life are under threat. People have rights, states have duties, and companies have responsibilities to respect these rights. No oil, gas, or coal company has a right to pollute the climate, and those that undermine, threaten, and violate human rights must be held accountable.”

“The national inquiry in the Philippines is an opportunity to set the record straight on climate change and make sure these companies are as committed as society needs them to be to phasing out fossil fuels and ensuring that our future is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy”, said Saño.

The Philippines national inquiry is one of a wave of people-powered legal actions taking place around the world. Greenpeace Nordic and Nature and Youth in Norway, young people in the US, senior women in Switzerland, a Peruvian farmer in Germany, a law student in New Zealand, and many others, are taking legal action to seek protection from climate change.

The day before the Manila meeting is a very important day for all of humanity. 10 December is International Human Rights Day and the start of the one-year lead up to the 70th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

* Greenpeace International


12/09/2017 07:58 AM
'Shameful inequalities' in later life revealed

A new report highlights huge disparities in health, financial security, social connections, and housing, with negative impacts for those who are worse off that accumulate as they grow older.

Older women are more vulnerable to financial difficulties than older men, with both their employment history and family circumstances impacting on pension income and ability to save, according to a report from the Centre for Ageing Better.

The report, Inequalities in later life, highlights huge disparities in health, financial security, social connections, and housing, with negative impacts for those who are worse off that accumulate as they grow older.

The review highlights that severe inequalities for older people are largely a product of poverty and disadvantage throughout life. Poor education and work opportunities, along with lack of social connection can have long term consequences, often made worse by factors such as reduced income in retirement and the impact of having many long-term health conditions.

Whilst women suffer these inequalities more than men, people from BAME backgrounds and some from LGBT backgrounds are also disproportionately disadvantaged.

Ageing Better calls for action to tackle these shameful inequalities. Government policies and employers’ practises need to change to enable women to stay in or return to the labour market. This should mean increasing the quality, affordability and availability of childcare, and helping carers stay in work. State pension and auto-enrolment schemes should not penalise those without an uninterrupted, full time employment history.

Amongst other areas, the report highlights inequalities in:

  • Physical and mental health: older people with the least wealth are more likely to have one or more health problems, including angina, diabetes, depression, osteoarthritis and cataracts. Poorer people in later life are up to 4.2 times more likely to have diabetes and up to 15.1 times more likely to have osteoarthritis. Older people who live in poorer areas are significantly more likely to be frail than those who live in richer areas and have more wealth.
  • Financial security: powerful evidence exists of gender inequalities in later life, with more older women financially insecure than older men. Only 36 per cent of women aged 65-69 years received the full state pension in 2014. Female part-time workers or women with low grade jobs are at greater risk, and women who have spent most of their lives working part-time are no better off in retirement than women who have never worked. There is also evidence which suggests that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to have adequate pension savings, with women from ethnic minority backgrounds at particular risk.
  • Social connections: higher education and wealth are associated with better social connections in later life. Older BME adults show no difference to white British older adults in terms of getting and giving informal social support, but older lesbian, gay and bisexual people can experience challenges that others do not face in later life – for some the impact of losing a partner can be worsened if their networks perceive their bereavement as loss of a ‘friend’.
  • Home and living environment: many older people in socially deprived areas worry about safety, security and mobility in their living environment. As well as avoiding some areas for fear of assault, older people who have physical mobility issues also express fears about crowded areas or falling without anyone to help. Whilst studies focus on the neighbourhood environment, a lack of research in housing inequalities for older people creates a real problem in understanding fully how poor housing affects those in later life.

Claire Turner, Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said, “A good later life is something we should expect for everyone. It should not be conditional on where we live or how much money we have, nor on our gender, race, disability or sexuality. But cumulative poverty and disadvantage throughout life mean that many people will suffer poor health, financial insecurity, weak social connections and ultimately a shorter life. These inequalities – with richer older people living around eight years longer than those with less advantage – are shocking and have sustained over time, despite policy and practise designed to reduce them.

“This problem is particularly acute for women. Most women age 65-69 do not receive the full state pension. Government policies and employer practises need to change to enable women to stay in or return to work in later life, and state pension and auto-enrolment schemes should not penalise those without an uninterrupted full-time employment history.

“Helping current older people and protecting future generations from this shameful level of inequality in health and wealth should be at the heart of policy making across health, housing, work and pensions.”

Professor Thomas Scharf, lead author from Newcastle University Institute for Ageing, said, “Our research confirms the persisting nature of inequalities affecting people in later life. This means that, as people age, not everyone has the same access to good health and wellbeing, decent incomes and housing, or supportive social relationships.

The fact that evidence of inequalities is consistent over time points to the need for a stronger focus on addressing the causes of disadvantage in later life. This is a challenge not only for government, but for society as a whole.”

Read the full report, Inequalities in later life here

* Centre for Ageing Better


12/09/2017 07:49 AM
Mexico 'should reject more militarised law enforcement'

The Mexican Senate should reject legislation that would enshrine the role of the Mexican armed forces in law enforcement activities, Human Rights Watch has said.

The Mexican Senate should reject legislation that would enshrine the role of the Mexican armed forces in law enforcement activities, Human Rights Watch has said.

On 30 November 2017, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved the Law of Internal Security, which authorises military involvement in domestic law enforcement activities. But the bill does nothing to increase the transparency of the military operations or accountability for military personnel who commit abuses. The Senate could vote on the bill as early as this week.

“Mexico has relied heavily on its armed forces to fight organised crime for more than a decade, and the results have been disastrous,” said Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director at Human Rights Watch. “The country desperately needs to improve its law enforcement capabilities, but turning the job over to a military with a terrible human rights record is not the answer.”

Between 2006 and 2016, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission received almost 10,000 complaints of abuse by the military – including more than 2,000 during the current administration. Human Rights Watch and other rights advocates have also documented numerous cases in which military personal ostensibly involved in law enforcement activities were implicated in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence. Impunity remains the norm for these abuses. 

Since Mexico launched its “war on drugs” in 2006 – with major deployments of the armed forces to fight organized crime – more than 100,000 people have been killed and more than 30,000 have gone missing. Homicide rates dropped in 2014 and 2015, but have climbed steadily since, with 2017 on track to be the deadliest year in Mexico for two decades.

The proposed law grants the Mexican military broad authority to engage in 'internal security', including in gathering intelligence “by any legal means possible.” The National Human Rights Commission has said that the law’s vague definitions and lack of objective criteria for what constitutes 'internal security' mean that the law can apply to any situation. For example, the military would be authorised to engage in crime prevention and investigation. 

The proposed law does not include measures to strengthen civilian police institutions, nor an exit strategy for ending the use of the armed forces in law enforcement. The law also includes no measures to ensure independent civilian control and oversight of military operations, or to ensure that civilian authorities properly investigate and prosecute military abuses.

“There needs to be a much more serious debate about security issues in Mexico”, Wilkinson said.  “It’s remarkable that after more than 10 years of terrible and tragic results, the Mexican Congress wants to double down on a militarised law enforcement strategy that has proven to be such a costly failure.”

* Human Rights Watch


12/09/2017 07:26 AM
Israel 'exploiting the West Bank to process waste produced in Israel'

A new B’Tselem report reveals that a significant portion of Israel’s waste treatment system is located outside its sovereign borders, in the West Bank.

A new B’Tselem report released on 5 December 2017 reveals that a significant portion of Israel’s waste treatment system is located outside its sovereign borders, in the West Bank.

Because Israel has set out less stringent environmental regulations for industrial zones in settlements and even offers financial incentives such as tax breaks and government subsidies, it is now more profitable to build and operate waste treatment facilities in the West Bank than inside Israel. The lax regulatory standards there increase potential environmental and health hazards for West Bank residents.

B’Tselem research has found that there are at least fifteen Israeli waste treatment facilities in the West Bank. Most of the waste they process is produced in Israel. Six of the facilities handle hazardous waste which requires special processes and regulatory supervision due to the dangers it poses.

The report reveals that, whereas polluting plants located within Israel are subject to progressive air pollution control legislation, polluting plants in the industrial zones of settlements are subject to virtually no restrictions. They are not required to report on the amount of waste they process, the hazards their operations pose, or the measures they adopt to prevent – or at least reduce – these risks.

Israel is effectively having it both ways, says B'Tselem: seemingly increasing the amount of waste it treats, it actually does so by diverting the risks and pollutants onto Palestinian land and people. When asked, at a conference at Ariel University in June 2017, whether these legislative gaps are ever exploited to transfer waste from Israel to the West Bank, Mr. Shoni Goldberg, Director of the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Jerusalem District, which covers most of the West Bank, replied, “Yes. There are certainly wastes, especially hazardous waste and expensive waste, that Israelis transfer to the West Bank to get rid of.”

Unlike other Israeli practices in the West Bank that make a distinction between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers, environmental hazards make no such distinction. There is, however, one difference. The settlers are Israeli citizens who have access to, and influence over, decision-makers. Palestinian residents of the West Bank, on the other hand, live under military rule. They were never asked – to say nothing of having agreed – to take in hazardous waste. Prior informed consent is not even an option in their case. They have no influence over what types of plants operate in settlements’ industrial zones, or the legislation that determines what environmental rules apply there. They have no access to information about what goes on in these plants, whether any accidents have occurred, or what risks they pose to water sources, air quality and local residents’ health.

The international principles governing hazardous waste management are based on values of environmental justice, public consultation and transparency. An expression of basic human decency, they strive to codify the simple notion that military, political or economic power disparities should not be abused by the powerful in order to dump their pollution and waste in their disempowered neighbors’ backyards.

When contrasted with these values, the reality Israel imposes on the West Bank in terms of waste management is unimaginably callous. Israel, taking into account its own needs alone, treats its waste in the West Bank and completely ignores its legal and moral obligations toward the Palestinian population there. Israel has turned the West Bank into a sacrifice zone, exploiting and harming the environment at the expense of the Palestinian residents, who are completely excluded from the decision-making process.

* Read the report Made in Israel: Exploiting Palestinian Land for Treatment of Israeli Waste here 

* B'Tselem


12/09/2017 07:03 AM
Howard League responds to Wormwood Scrubs prison inspection

The Howard League says the report into Wormwood Scrubs which found “persistent and intractable failings”, "lays bare the reality of what is happening behind bars".

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Wormwood Scrubs prison, published on 8 December 2017.

Inspectors visited the London prison in July and August and found that despite “very serious concerns” raised by inspections in both 2014 and 2015, the prison was still suffering from “persistent and intractable failings”.

Violence was high and serious violence resulting in significant injuries was of particular concern. There had been a ‘dramatic’ increase in violence against staff, with more than 90 assaults in the six months to July. Two out of three prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some point whilst being in Wormwood Scrubs.

The report describes a prison in poor physical condition and with a failing regime. Too many prisoners were locked up in their cells, some for as long as 23 hours. A total of 44 per cent of prisoners were found to be locked in cells during the day and drugs were described as being “very accessible”.

Despite 60 per cent of prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs being black and minority ethnic, equality and diversity work was found to be “neglected” and “poor”.

Resettlement and offender management work was “fundamentally failing” and the quality of public protection work preparing prisoners for release was also not good enough.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said, “We are expecting the Secretary of State for Justice to outline his plans for prisons before the end of the year and this report into Wormwood Scrubs lays bare the reality of what is happening behind bars.

“It is not new to say that overcrowded and under-resourced prisons are failing to provide safe and productive regimes. But what is frankly staggering about this report is that it is the third in four years to say that Wormwood Scrubs is a failing prison.

“This is not a failure of the prison’s staff or management. This is a failure of government. It is time ministers levelled with the public and took the bold but sensible action needed to reduce pressure on prisons such as Wormwood Scrubs.

“We cannot expect such torrents of violence and human misery to flow unchecked without serious consequences for our communities. By reducing the prison population, we can prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

Read the full inspection report here

* Howard League for Penal Reform


12/08/2017 07:02 PM
Attentive waiting, beauty and hope: trying what Advent will do

Attentive waiting, beauty and hope: trying what Advent will do

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12/08/2017 05:42 PM
Shared values do matter: a response to Tim Farron

Shared values do matter: a response to Tim Farron

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