#AceNewsServices says `Video Released by Guardian shows destruction of `Snowden Fles’ on `GCHQ’s’ Orders’
The Guardian has released a video of the newspaper’s editors destroying hard drives and memory cards with encrypted files leaked byEdward Snowden – under the watchful gaze of experts from GCHQ, the government’s surveillance agency.
It is the first time the footage has been published on-line since The Guardian’s hard drives were demolished on July 20, 2013, in the basement of the newspaper’s London offices.
Three Guardian staff members – deputy editor Paul Johnson, executive director Sheila Fitzsimmons and computer expert David Blishen – are seen taking angle-grinders and drills to the internal components of computers to destroy information on them.
It took three hours to smash up the computers. The journalists then fed the pieces into the GCHQ-provided degausser high-tech equipment, which destroys magnetic fields and erases data, The Guardian said.
Initially, GCHQ officials wanted to inspect the material before destruction, carry out the operation themselves and take the remnants away. But the Guardian refused to let them.
The classified information was stored on four computers, none of which was ever connected to the Internet or any other network.
The UK government saw the destruction of the computers as a way to stop further publications of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. It gave The Guardian an ultimatum to either hand the Snowden material back, destroy it, or face an injunction. UK Prime Minister David Cameron sent Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to convey the message.
“We can do this nicely or we can go to law,” Heywood told The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger during one of their meetings in June and July.
“A lot of people in government think you should be closed down,” he added, The Guardian reported.
Initially reluctant to comply with the government’s demand, The Guardian eventually took the decision to demolish the hard drives with the information on them – as it was seen as the only way to protect the newspaper and its team.
The measure, however, did not stop the flow of #NSA- and #GCHQ- related revelations. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told government officials that several copies of the secret documents existed, but only one in the UK. It was known that The Guardian’s columnist Glenn Greenwald, who met Snowden in Hong Kong, had leaked material in Rio de Janeiro. There were further copies in the US, according to Rusbridger.
After the destruction of the hard drives, the paper continued to consult with the government before publishing national security stories.
#AceNewsServices says this story is about one woman who was kidnapped and forced into an abusive relationship, forced into marriage and is now trying to help others with their problems, even though she has had a brain tumour!
This story really moved me when it was sent to my news desk and l first read it!
Soon after the fall of communism,Ayshat (not her real name) was kidnapped by a stranger who wanted tomarryher. Such kidnaps are not unusual in ultra-conservativeIngushetia, or in any of the North Caucasus republics. What is rare is Ayshat’s courage in speaking out. She tells the story of her violent marriage, breaking silence in the hope of persuading other women to resist abuse.
Ayshat sits in the small basement office of a women’s NGO in Ingushetia. Pale, determined, articulate, she looks older than her 40 years. With no relatives to support her, she is raising her son alone, on her small income, which is extremely unusual in Ingushetia. Her thick hair is cut fashionably short – also a rarity in Ingushetia, where women pride themselves on their long locks. It had to be cut when she was first treated for a brain tumour. Now she has learned at the hospital that the cancer has returned, and she needs an operation in Moscow which she cannot afford. When she broke down, a kind nurse referred her to this NGO. Ayshat is clear that her tumour is the result of her ex-husband’s violence.
I’d better start with how I met my – now ex – husband. I was a nurse, working in the resuscitation department. One day a colleague said to me ‘this man’s just back from Barnaul. He’s a great guy, I’d like to introduce you’. I agreed. Next day he turned up, when I was on my shift. We talked. I didn’t like him at all, didn’t like the way he talked or behaved. I was quite clear – this was not my kind of man. I refused him, politely. I was about to take my entrance exam for medical school and I had a lot of revising to do. I wanted to study gynaecology. We only had that one conversation. He seemed to have got the point.
Next morning, I was on my way home after the night shift when he came up and asked if he could walk with me. I said I’d rather he did not, I thought I’d made my position clear – I was not looking for a husband. Suddenly this car drives up, two men leap out, drag me in, drive me off to Nazran and lock me into this fifth floor flat!
I resisted, of course. Said I’d never agree to marry him. But he took no notice. I did try to escape. I found there was a balcony – the adjoining apartment had one too. I asked my kidnappers, who were keeping guard in the next room, if I could close the door for five minutes. Then I climbed onto the neighbour’s balcony. I thought ‘I’ve done it, got away!’ Imagine – you realise you’re going to have to live with a man you don’t even like! I was in such a state, shaking from head to foot. I banged on the neighbours’ window. But there was no one there.
That was when I understood – no one was going to rescue me. I was going to have to go back. For a moment, standing on that fifth floor balcony, I thought ‘why not just throw myself off?’ I was distraught. I lay down again quickly in case they came to check up on me. When they did, I pretended I was alright. I lay there thinking how to escape. I’d got to, somehow. But I never managed it.
Then the men took me off into the depths ofChechnya, as my relations were all saying ‘Give us back our girl’. They told the elders I was fine with it. The elders said ‘Bring her here, so we can ask her ourselves’. So they thought up this wheeze. They took some other girl – none of my close relations were there, and our clan elders are so distantly connected to me that they wouldn’t have known what I looked like. The elders asked the girl ‘Have you agreed to this?’ She said yes. And the elders gave their blessing. So they – well, they married me off in my absence.
But the old men suspected something wasn’t right. They demanded the men produce the real bride. My kidnappers were very cunning. They decided to keep me overnight, in the hope they’d be able to win me round. That night they piled on the pressure; stood over me, going on and on in this monotone: ‘Come on, come on. It’ll be fine. He’s a great fellow..’
In the end, next morning, I gave in. I guess I was just worn out. I felt I was offering myself as a sacrifice. I do that. I’ve been like that since I was a child. It’s done me so much harm. This wanting to please everyone, whatever it costs me.
So that’s how it started, my married life, if that’s what you can call it.
Right away I knew he had problems. For a start, he drank a lot. After they stole me they sat in the next room and drank. The next day there they were again, getting drunk, and the day after. I hated it. But I thought maybe it would pass, that he was drinking because he was so happy.
We were married a week later. This woman from Barnaul came to the wedding. They said she and my husband were old friends. I never suspected a thing. I was very trusting. I believed, still believe, that men and women can be friends. So I welcomed her. I was so young, so inexperienced! But the way she talked, the things she said, breathed jealousy. She hated me. She’d say to my husband, sarcastically: ’Look what a beauty you’ve chosen!’ She even tried undressing me! ‘Let me see your breasts, your legs – my, what a girl!’ If I’d been more experienced I’d have realised she was his lover. I was surprised. But I didn’t suspect a thing. …
A few days later we all went to Barnaul, this lover, my husband. Me. That’s where my married life began. Awful it was. His lover wouldn’t leave him alone. She was always picking fights – even when I was there. I was so naive – even then I didn’t realise they were lovers. And because she was always on at him, he’d lash out at me.
She’d be there every day, asking me these questions, about how things were in bed. I was so naive I’d tell her. She was forever bringing me presents, cakes. When I ate them I’d feel terrible. Yes, it sounds weird, but it’s true. After eating anything she brought me I’d feel bad. I couldn’t understand it. Nor could he – I was so healthy. Maybe it was something to do with her jealousy. I lost 10 kilos in three months. I got so weak, though usually I was full of energy, racing round the house, cooking, never sitting down, trying to please my husband. That’s how I was brought up. I wanted to be a perfect wife.
Today, I wonder how I could have behaved like that. It goes back to my childhood, I suppose. I grew up in a very conservative family. Our father was very strict. Maybe – even despotic. Sometimes he was nice, of course, but he was always criticising us. Never praised us, however much we tried to please him. So my sisters and I grew up believing we had to please everyone.
My husband soon clocked that, and made use of it. I was afraid of him right from the start. He’d get this terrible look in his eyes, start shouting, throwing things at me. For no reason! Saucepans, ashtrays, watches, anything that was around. Once he threw a pan of hot fat. He’d grab these big knives. I’d burst into tears, I could see he was sick. I was scared. When the rage had died down he’d be sorry: ‘I’m a fool, I don’t know why I do these things. I love you more than anything in the world.’ Then I’d forgive him. I pitied him – poor man, what must they have done to you to make you like this!
Pity. My capacity for pity – it’s a bad joke. It’s played a fatal role in my life. I should have looked after myself better.
I was a long way away from my parents. If they been there, maybe I’d just have run away when he started beating me up. But I didn’t know how to. For a start, he never gave me money. Maybe he was afraid I’d… It wasn’t that he was mean. But he never left money at home. And considering how he lived – the lovers, the restaurants – he must have felt he needed it, just in case. He’d never let slip an opportunity. After spending the whole evening with one woman, on the way home he’d manage one more bit of skirt. By the time he got home at two o’clock in the morning I’d be worn out. Then he’d start on me. That’s what he was like. Relentless. A compulsive womanizer.
When he beat me I would not say a word. Then he’d beat me because I did not say anything. He didn’t know why he was doing it. He just beat me. Then he’d be sorry. At other times he’d yell: ‘You’re a nobody!’ He didn’t mean it – he’d say anything to make sure I didn’t leave. He wanted me to feel dependent, vulnerable. As time when on, I got bolder – I’d yell at him, try to stand up for myself. We’d have huge rows. I had a temper too.
After five or six years I got pregnant. Then he left. Made some excuse about having to earn money. Was gone for months, with his lover. I didn’t hear a word from him. Then he turned up, when I was eight months gone. That same day he beat me up so badly I had to escape. I scrambled out of the window, barefoot. It was August. We were living in Alma-Ata [ed: now Almaty] then. It’s a very big city. I kept walking and walking. I had no idea where I was going. Then I reached this wood. I never wanted to see that man again. I wanted to die. I’d come to this wood to put an end to my life. I was furious. How could he beat me up, knowing that I was with child?
I didn’t do it, obviously. I sat there for twenty minutes or so, thinking it through. And realised I was wrong – I didn’t have the right to kill another life. I pulled myself together and set off in the direction of home. Barefoot. Finally a car stopped and gave me a lift. I had this neighbour, Aunt Katya. Russian. A very good woman. I went to her. She knew about my life. She was always telling me to leave. She put me to bed, prayed over me and went to bawl out my husband. He was all smiles, denied we’d had a row, though it was obvious he’d been really worried – I’d been gone all day, it was dark. I refused to talk to him. I was hurting all over.
A month later, when I was about to give birth, he left again. He had this very young lover in Barnaul. He went to her, left me without a ruble. Throughout my pregnancy I hadn’t had enough money to feed myself properly, to buy nappies, pay the doctor. I’d had to turn to his brothers for help.
After the birth I came home. I had no milk. I spent these sleepless nights alone with the crying baby, who was very weak. I cried too. I was afraid for the baby. He was having convulsions – we were always calling the ambulance. The brothers would bring food. But then they’d expect me to cook for them. They’d be there every day with their friends and I’d be cooking with one hand, holding the baby with the other. Round midnight Aunt Katya’d come and take the child. And I’d run out to the bathhouse and wash the nappies. The child was having diarrhoea. So I had to keep changing him. I was like a robot. I will forever be grateful to that woman.
My husband turned up again when the child was two months old. To be honest I was very happy to see him. I took him into the child’s room ‘Here he is – our son!’ He’d told me more than once that if I gave him a son he’d cover me in gold. But now he took one look and said: ‘He’s not very like me!’ I was hurt. That he could say that, after everything I’d been through during the pregnancy and after, when he was away! How ashamed I’d been to have to leave the maternity ward without paying the doctors. Of course, I could not pay them back later, as I had no money for a long time.
Something broke in me at that moment – this man could not even share our joy at having a child. It was as if he was saying the child wasn’t his. Had his lover put the idea into his head? I don’t know. Well, he spent two months at home and in all that time, though he could see how much the baby was suffering, from pain, from illness, how wretched I was, he never once came and helped.
In common with their Chechen neighbours, the Ingush population was accused by Stalin of colluding with the Nazi enemy during the Second World and deported to Kazazhstan. Although many returned under Khruschev, the links between Ingushetia and Kazakhstan remain strong to this day.
When the child was four months old he got convulsions so badly we went to the hospital. He was at death’s door. I rang my husband and asked him to talk to the doctor and pay him. I lost 7 kilos that night. The doctor managed to save him. But my husband went to his lover. Just ran away, leaving us to handle the crisis on our own. He didn’t even leave me any money. I didn’t see him again ‘til the child was 10 months old. We’d travelled home to Ingushetia for my husband’s brother’s wedding. The baby was more grown up – he stroked him, played with him. Then left again for Barnaul.
Did I already say that my husband was an addict, as well as alcoholic? At first he only smoked weed, then he got onto prescription drugs. One of his lovers was a nurse – she got them for him. Then they did this check at her hospital and found that a lot of medicines with these drugs were missing. They suspected her. It was going to court. Well – she hung herself. My husband showed no regret at all. He didn’t know what compassion was. It was the drugs, I suppose. I know addicts become cruel, and that gets worse with time.
At one point he’d overdosed badly. A friend had brought heroin, they’d both shot up and gone out like lights. I was too embarrassed to call the neighbours – they respected us, I didn’t want them to know he was an addict. I was in such a panic I never thought of ringing his friends. At last his friend recovered and we dragged my husband onto the bed. He wouldn’t let me call an ambulance, it wasn’t the first time it had happened, he said. My husband lay there for days. I bought medicine – I’m a medic, I knew what to get. When he came round he couldn’t remember much. Forgot names. I nursed him through that.
After two years away, he came back to Ingushetia, where we were now living. For a couple of months he did not touch a drop – because of his parents. He’d become all quiet, quite unlike himself. I was worried about him – now he was ill I couldn’t just walk out him.
We went back to Barnaul and for a while we lived quietly, no quarrels, no fights. Then one day a friend came by with drink and that was it. Over night my quiet husband lost it, started having hallucinations, saying these unbelievable things. I went to the doctors. They said he was past helping, that after such a heavy overdose the damage was usually irreparable. I begged them, said that I couldn’t leave him in trouble, after 20 years together They looked at me as if I were mad. One of them took pity on me and prescribed some medicine. When I gave it to my husband he shouted at me, said it was me, not him, that was sick.
Still, he was getting worse all the time. He was having hallucinations. He’d tell his brothers -we were back in Ingushetia – that people had seen mesitting in a car late at night, that I was being unfaithful. His brothers laughed at him. But he was beating me up, tormenting me, mocking the child. It got so bad that his brothers had to take me to his parents. It got to the point where his brothers took my mobile, went to the police and went through all the calls and texts I’d made. I knew he was ill, that it was pointless arguing with him. If I hadn’t been a medic myself I’d have left, but I knew he needed help, so I tried to tell his relations. But no one would listen.
The last two months were a nightmare. I kept my phone in my pocket, my finger on the emergency button. His youngest brother and I agreed that I’d call if he attacked me. So when he started I’d press the button and in ten minutes the brother’d be there and take me to his parents’. After a few days, I’d go back. I don’t know why. I felt guilty, I couldn’t leave him in that state.
Once my husband outwitted me. I was asleep with the child late one night when he knocked at the door. He asked for my phone, said he had to make a call. Stupidly, I gave it to him. He looked at me with this mad smile and put the phone under the pillow. He took me out on the balcony and started hitting me, trying to make me confess – that I’d been with someone. I tried to reason with him, but he kept hitting me harder and harder. I became so afraid he was going to kill me that I admitted everything. I shouted for help, but he just hit me harder. At some point passers-by heard my shouts, saw me standing by the window in my nightdress, being hit. They started whistling, so he left off. When they’d gone he asked me where I’d hidden my wig. When I said I’d never had one, he punched me in the stomach. I doubled over from the pain and he started kicking my head. The first blow was so hard I thought he cracked my skull. I knew he’d done something serious. He kicked me like a ball, so I bounced against the balcony door. He must have realised he’d gone too far. He told me to go to sleep, that he’d kill me if I breathed a word.
Luckily, his brother rang in the morning. He took us to his relations. Then the elders decided we should get a divorce. They decided that I should stay in the flat with the child, and he would go to his parents. That’s how our marriage ended.
When I got back to the flat with the child, I found this huge kitchen knife wedged in the sofa when I was cleaning. My husband must have hidden it, in order to kill me. What if I’d gone back to him one more time!
After that, although the elders had agreed I should have the flat, his relations would not let me live there. I agreed to leave. I just wanted to forget it all. I’d been having these awful headaches. They found this tumour on my brain. Now I’m facing a very serious operation. That’s where the heedlessness of youth led me. Now I am the invalid, the one who needs help.
I’d like to make this appeal to all women. My dears! Don’t put up with it. Run away from men like that!
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#AceWorldNews says following the resignation of the Central African Republic’s two interim leaders, the top United Nations official in the crisis-riven country called for calm today, urging the authorities to mobilze around the speedy election of new transitional leadership.
In a statement issued by his office in Bagui, Babacar Gaye, Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Peace-building Office for the Central African Republic (BINUCA), took note of the resignation yesterday of President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye.
“He calls on members of the National Transitional Council (CNT) to mobilize around the urgent election of a new transitional executive, as agreed at the extraordinary summit of Heads of States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) yesterday, 10 January 2014, in N’djamena, Chad.” Armed attacks between ex-Séléka and Christian anti-balaka militias have escalated significantly in the past two weeks, despite the creation of a transitional government following the attack a year ago by mostly Muslim Séléka rebels which forced President François Bozizé to flee.
Since then, thousands of people are estimated to have been killed, nearly 1 million driven from their homes, and 2.2 million, about half the population, need humanitarian aid.
Delivering a message on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the ECCAS Summit on Thursday, Mr. Gaye stressed that the past year’s events have profoundly damaged the relationship between Muslim and Christian communities in the CAR, and warned that there is a real danger of further upheaval along religious lines.
“The horrific cycle of violence and retaliation between communities must stop immediately,” he said. “Distrust is high and violence has fuelled anger and a thirst for revenge,” he added, highlighting the need to prioritize reconciliation efforts. Disarmament of combatants in accordance with international standards is essential, Mr. Ban stressed, noting also the importance of demobilization and reintegration of the former fighters.
Today, Mr. Gaye called on the people and the leaders of the CAR to maintain calm and show maturity following the leaders’ resignations. “Along with the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), French forces, SANGARIS, have made important progress in securing Bangui,” he said, adding that their efforts must be supported, especially as numerous threats persist.
“The entire UN System and our humanitarian partners are fully mobilized to assist approximately two million people who are in urgent need of assistance across the country,” he said.
To that end, yesterday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) issued an appeal for $40.2 million for CAR. That request, which is for the period to the end of March, follows appeals launched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in late December for $152.2 million in immediate support needs for a 100-day plan for CAR.
UNHCR’s supplementary appeal for CAR aims to support more than 1 million people, including 86,400 refugees in neighbouring countries and 958,000 internally displaced persons.
#AceWorldNews says The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) announced today that as it continues to gain access to besieged areas, the number of people killed in the current round of fighting in the world’s youngest country “must be much higher” than the 1,000 figure given earlier in the conflict, which erupted nearly a month ago and continues to grind on.
In a news release from Juba, UNMISS notes fresh media reports, including in the New York Times, estimating that up to 10,000 people may have been killed since the conflict started on 15 December 2013, after President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to former vice-president Reik Machar, dismissed from office in July, launched an attempted coup.
On 26 December, 10 days into the crisis, the Mission estimated that 1,000 people may have been killed in the fighting. “This was based on UNMISS’ initial monitoring and investigations in Juba and other relatively more stable locations where its Human Rights Officers and other staff were able to access, investigate and document the unfolding developments,” the Mission said today.
Yet, after two weeks of subsequent violence, characterized by sometimes intense fighting with heavy weapons, there are now clear indications that the casualty count must be much higher, says UNMISS, adding that while it has continues to closely monitor the human rights situation, interviewing witnesses, and following leads, it “is not at this stage in a position to establish and verify the exact numbers of casualties.”
The Mission recalls that on 9 January, Hervé Ladsous, the head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, speaking to reporters in New York following a three hour briefing to the Security Council on the situation in South Sudan, said: “We are not able to provide final figures. We know it will be very substantially in excess of the 1,000 figure”.
Meanwhile the Mission says that despite serious security constraints due to the fighting in Bor and Bentiu, which has restricted access by its Human Rights Officers, during the course of last week, UNMISS began interviewing victims and eyewitnesses among displaced people from Bor who have arrived in Juba and Awerial County in neighbouring Lakes State. UNMISS Human Rights Officers have also been able to return to Bor on 9 January.
“Preliminary indications from these interviews and investigations in Bentiu and Malakal contain horrific allegations of atrocities by anti-Government forces against civilians and surrendering soldiers, including summary executions, torture, sexual violence and ethnically targeted killing,” the Mission says in the news releases, deploring these horrendous acts of violence and utter disregard for human life and dignity.
UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson called on all parties to cease hostilities immediately, and respect and protect civilians. “She reiterates Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon’s] reminder that those who commit such heinous acts will be held accountable,” the news release adds.
UNMISS vowed to continue investigating and documenting atrocities committed by both sides, in all affected areas and called on the Government and the anti-Government forces to cooperate with “these important investigations and to facilitate unhindered access by the Mission’s Human Rights Officers to all affected areas.”
In addition, this past Friday, Mr. Ban that announced that he would dispatch UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, to South Sudan this weekend to look into cases of violations believed to have been committed during the conflict, which has displaced some 230,000 people, more than a quarter of whom are seeking refuge on UN bases.
#AceWorldNews says the United Nations human rights office today expressed concern about a decision by the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs to declare illegal a coalition of 54 mainly non-Islamic civil society groups focused on human rights known by the acronym COMANGO.
“We call upon Government of Malaysia to amend the Societies Act 1966, maximize the space for human rights activists and organisations to operate freely, and ensure that they can conduct their legitimate activities without intimidation or harassment,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, told journalists in Geneva.
The COMANGO coalition submitted joint reports to both the UN Human Rights Council’s 2009 and 2013 Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of the situation in Malaysia.
Since its submission to the second cycle of the UPR, which took place on 24 October 2013, the coalition has reportedly been subjected to a series of harassment and threats, allegedly by both State and non-State actors. The coalition has been accused of attacking Islam and of spreading beliefs that do not conform to Islamic teachings.
The Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs declared in a press statement on 8 January that COMANGO promotes rights which are not in line with Islam, and is therefore illegal.
The statement also noted that only 15 of the 54 organizations are registered under the Societies Act 1966.
“We are concerned by what appears to be an act of reprisal against COMANGO for its engagement with international human rights mechanism,” the spokesperson added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner Navi Pillay and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council have persistently called for the protection of individuals and members of groups that cooperate with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights from acts of intimidation or reprisal.
Between Common Core & UN 21: your kids are nothing but stated owned human capital I know a bunch of folks still believe UN Agenda 21 is pure conspricacy theory.. You can’t blame them, the entire concept sounds like the dream of the mad scientist in a scifi movie….
…Dictators have long realized the need to use their countries education system to indoctrinate the young… As horrible as that sounds, it goes much deeper. Several months ago months ago Gretchen from the Missouri Education Watchdog showed showed me some documents from the George Bush administration that looked an awful lot like Common Core.. In fact the was a Common Core for the Middle East, and one for Africa..
Among the things the documents talked about was a system of education that would allow for the movement of Human Capital from location to location to meet the needs of Corporate and…
#AceGuestNews says according to a recent article in RFS the authorities have used the issue of national security to expand Web monitoring and censorship – even while continuing to promote and develop Internet access for the population at large. The Web has played a key role in the political debate prompted by legislative and presidential elections and in the post-election mobilization of the opposition and civil society. These developments provoked a strong official response. The blogosphere has grown stronger and better organized in the face of state attacks.
Government anti-“extremism” campaign hits Internet content and access
Prime Minister (now President-elect) Vladimir Putinsaid on 9 February 2012: “Negative phenomena exist everywhere, including on the Internet, and should not be used as a pretext to limit Internet freedom.” However, the authorities have used the justification of preventing violence to reinforce their control of the Internet, with the Federal Security Service (FSB) taking steps to close a number of online organizations in late 2011. Most of these groups have clearly called on their members to respect the law and not to let themselves be provoked into violence.
The government list of “extremist” content, as well as the boundaries of the category itself, keep growing. It now includes everything touching on religion and issues of ethnicity, which have become taboo subjects on RuNet – as the Russian Internet is known. That list is the basis of official demands to take down content, and of actions to block site access (see the Russia chapter in the 2011 report on Enemies of the Internet).
The process of domain name registration could affect freedom of expression online by leading to closure of more sites. New rules promulgated by Nic.ru, the biggest Russian domain name-registration company, allow the cancellation of domain names for inciting violence, “extremist” activity, advocating overthrow of the government, activity in conflict with human dignity or religious beliefs. The rules reflected new official regulations. Domain name-registration companies are authorized to suspend names in the .ru and .rf (pΦ) domains upon written notification from “agencies conducting an investigation.” That provision would potentially authorize prosecutors, the FSB, the police, or the drug enforcement agency (FSKN) to order such a move.
In Tomsk, Siberia, the broadcast arm of Roskomnadzor, the federal mass communications supervisory agency, has recently pressured the regional television network TV-2 to stop transmitting two news programs by Dozhd, the first Internet TV network in Russia, whose content is critical of the government.
Anatoly Baranov, owner of the forum.msk.ru discussion platform, states that the Yandex search engine filtered out news items from his site on Yandex.News searches.
Danger of the spread of online monitoring and censorship
Roskomnadzor, whose regulatory authority extends to information technology and mass communications, has announced that it has installed on-line software to detect “extremist” material. The sites identified through this process will be given three days to take down content that meets this ill-defined standard. If a site does not comply, two additional warnings will be sent. The site will then be shut down.
The software was to go into operation in test mode in December, 2011. Its full deployment has beenpostponed indefinitely. Nevertheless, it carries the risk of system-wide monitoring of the Russian Weband could lead eventually to the taking down of all content that displeases the authorities.
The justice ministry, for its part, has invited bids to create its own monitoring system of content on the Internet. Such a system would allow close examination of all content touching on Russian government and justice systems, and any European Union statement concerning Russia.
Bloggers under pressure
Prison sentences and violent attacks were less frequent in 2011, except during the election campaign period. Yet legal proceedings and pressures of all kind continue – above all when the activities of netizens focus on sensitive topics and powerful interest groups.
Maj. Igor Matveev of the interior ministry garrison in Vladivostok has been prosecuted on charges that seem to have been prompted by his revelations last June of practices in the military region where he served. He reported that troops were served dog food in cans falsely labelled as containing beef stew. He faces a possible 10-year sentence.
Yuri Yegorov, a former employee of the regional government of Tatarstan’s human rights ombudsman’s office, received a six-month suspended sentence last June, as well as two years of probation, for defamation. He had revealed a case of alleged corruption in the ombudsman’s office, headed by Rashit Vagiov, that took place from February to July 2007.
Leonid Kaganov, a prominent blogger, was forced last May to house his site abroad. In 2009, the FSB had demanded, through his hosting service, the removal of an anti-Semitic poem that was on his site because he had mocked it.
Roman Hoseyev is the target of administrative action for having quoted from “Mein Kampf” on a site in 2005, before the 2010 banning of the book in Russia. He had drawn comparisons between statements by US President George W. Bush and Hitler.
No information has been received about the fate of a Navy conscript who blogged under the nameVasily, publishing on Twitter under the name Sosigusyan. He denounced hazing and poor living conditions in his unit. His Twitter account was hacked and the content about the military taken down, except for the last three posts, which were written by another person.
Propaganda and cyber-attacks
In addition to mounting a campaign of repression against on-line oppositionists, the Kremlin deploys its own cyber-weapons. Several thousand Twitter accounts were hacked at the end of 2011 in order to flood social media with pro-government messages, using hashtags popular with oppositionists (notably, #navalny, from the name of the well-known political activist and anti-corruption bloggerAlexei Navalny, and #триумфалънпая, from Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow).
Many Russian bloggers have pointed to a wave of “bots” unleashed against the LiveJournal social media platform. Oleg Kozyrev, an opposition blogger, has counted more than 2,000 of these software weapons.
Oppositionist Navalny’s e-mail inbox has been hacked, with the contents displayed on a site called navalnymail.kz. According to several bloggers, this action could be part of a government-organized campaign to discredit Navalny.
The wave of cyber-attacks peaked at the time of the legislative elections last December. A series of Distributed Denial of Service attacks paralyzed sites critical of the government before and during the vote, apparently to silence the dissidents. Access to LiveJournal, which hosts blogs critical of the Kremlin, was blocked for three days, starting on 1 December 2011. The site had already suffered a DDoS attack the month before.
Among other Web targets are:
Echo of Moscow radio’s site, Echo.msk.ru
The independent daily Kommersant’s site, komersant.ru
The election-monitoring NGO’s site, golos.org
KartaNarusheniy.ru, an interactive map created by Golos to track reports of election fraud
Gazeta.ru, an independent news site
Lenizdat.ru, a Saint Petersburg-based independent news site
Slonl.ru and Newtimes.ru, opposition sites which posted the Golos map after Gazeta.ru took it down
Ridus.ru, a citizen-journalism site
Doshdu.ru, the site of Dosh, an independent news magazine about the Russian Caucasus
Zaks.ru, a news site on the northwest region.
Some media organizations and opposition groups, having anticipated these developments, migrated to social networks and called on their readers to follow them on Twitter and Facebook in the event that their sites went down.
Disputed elections, attempted control of online political debate
Most traditional media organizations, notably television networks, are under Kremlin control, genuine political discussions have been possible only online. Any measure deemed necessary to uphold the country’s strongman, Putin, has been considered appropriate.
Even before and during the legislative elections, debates had been hindered by cyber-attacks and by the arrests of journalists and bloggers. Those detained included Alexey Sochnev, the editor of the independent news site Besttoday.ru; Maria Plieva, a prominent blogger in Ossetia; and the president of Golos, Lilia Chibanova.
Golos’ interactive election-fraud monitoring map proved to be a great success as the elections unfolded. Thousands of videos showing irregularities at voting places were posted to the site, prompting Russians to take to the streets in great numbers to denounce election fraud. Navalny and many journalists were arrested during these post-election demonstrations,
The great majority of traditional media organizations – especially television networks – ignored these events. Instead, they provided largely favourable coverage of Putin’s party, United Russia, which swept the legislative elections.
The social media site Vkontakte, which has more than 5 million members in Russia, found itself in the government spotlight. The FSB told the site’s founder and director, Pavel Durov, to shut down seven groups calling for demonstrations last December (including a group rallying to defend the ruling party). A Russian blogger estimated that up to 185,000 netizens subscribed to protest-organizing groups. A spokesman for Vkontakte said publicly that the site would not practice censorship and would not carry out the FSB order. Following the statement, Durov was summoned to appear before prosecutors in Saint Petersburg on 9 December.
Regional discussion forums, very popular at the provincial level, with most participants anonymous, have become a favourite resource for political debate among Russian netizens, and a nightmare for the authorities. However, these sites are less powerful than the national media and easy to censor, though that has not prevented netizens from migrating to other sites, hosted abroad. At least three forums were closed or suspended during the months leading up to the early December elections.
One of these sites is the Kostroma Jedis regional forum, which was targeted following the posting of two satirical videos criticizing Igor Slyunyaev, governor of the Kostroma region, some 300 km northwest of Moscow. In November, other forums were shut down or purged of all political content by their administrators. One such case occurred in the Arzamas, a city 410 km east of Moscow, affecting the mcn.nnov.ru site. Another took place in the west-central city of Miass, 95 km west of Chelyabinsk, affecting the forum.miass.ru site. It is not clear if these were cases of official action or self-censorship. In either case, the closing of these forums signifies a narrowing of the possibilities for political debate on the Russian Web.
In the run-up to the presidential election in March, Golos, the election-monitoring NGO, put up a new version of its interactive map to track election fraud, with stronger defences against cyber-attack. Navalny, the activist and blogger, mounted a site, Rosvybory.org, to assist citizens in becoming presidential election observers.
The campaign of repression mounted for the legislative elections illustrated the official attitude toward protest. And the official response was designed to create a deterrent to popular action in the presidential election period. Tensions grew during the months between the two elections. On 17 February, Reporters Without Borders denounced a wave of intimidation aimed at national independent media. Major targets included Echo of Moscow; Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper, and Dozhd, the online television operation. The latter organization received a fax on 16 February from the Moscow prosecutor’s office, demanding detailed information on the “network’s financing for coverage of mass demonstrations on 10 and 24 December.”
These barely veiled accusations against Dozhd track precisely with statements by Prime Minister Putin, who had publicly accused demonstrators of having acted at the encouragement of the US state department. Roskomnadzor, the mass communications authority, had already required Dozhd to defend its coverage of the December protests. After examining in detail the images that the network had transmitted, the agency finally concluded that they contained nothing objectionable.
Journalists were again arrested and beaten during the post-election demonstrations of 5 March 2012. The clear goal was to prevent coverage of the demonstrations. However, contrary to what was seen in December, cyber-attacks seem to have been set aside – for now.
Export of the Russian model of Web control?
Russia has played a leading role on the international scene in promoting its vision of the Internet and exporting its Web control strategy. Moscow has proposed to the UN, together with China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, an Internet conduct code designed to provide “information security.”
The impact of the Kremlin’s policy is all the greater because the RuNet sphere of influence extends throughout the region, influencing countries such as Belarus and Kazakhstan in their Internet monitoring and censorship programs.
#AceWorldNews says the British Prime MinisterDavid Cameron flew into China saying he wanted to lay the groundwork for a multi-billion-dollar free trade deal between Beijing and the European Union, despite growing unease about his own country’s membership in the bloc.On a three-day visit with a delegation of around 100 business people, the largest-ever British mission of its kind, Cameron said he wanted his country to play an important role in China’s expansion as the world’s second biggest economy is talking about opening up its markets.“China’s transformation is one of the defining facts of our lifetime,” Cameron wrote in Caixin, a Chinese weekly news magazine, on the eve of the visit.
“There is a genuine choice for every country over how to respond. They can choose to see China’s rise as a threat or an opportunity. Britain’s answer is clear. We want to see China succeed,” continued Cameron.
Cameron’s push for an E.U.-China trade deal will irritate the European Commission, which is understood to be strongly opposed to such a move on the grounds that it risks flooding the bloc with cheap Chinese imports and comes as the bloc is embroiled in a dispute with Beijing over solar panel exports.
It is also likely to be seized upon by political opponents, as he has put a question mark over Britain’s continued membership of the 28-nation E.U. by promising Britons an in/out referendum on leaving the bloc if re-elected in 2015.
“I now want to set a new long-term goal of an ambitious and comprehensive E.U.-China Free Trade Agreement,” Cameron wrote.
“And as I have on the E.U.-U.S. deal, so I will put my full political weight behind such a deal which could be worth tens of billions of dollars every year,” promised Cameron.
Cameron is expected to raise the subject in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday. His office said he was the first European leader to champion such a deal in this way.
He had already discussed the idea of an E.U.-China trade deal with other E.U. member states, it added. Such a deal would address services liberalization and better intellectual property rights protection.
Cameron told reporters on the plane to Beijing he was aware the idea was not universally popular among E.U. member states, but said it could be a chance to tackle Beijing on intellectual property rights and trading standards.
“It’ll be the normal thing in the EU which will be a discussion where there will be some skeptics. There will be some enthusiasts and I think the enthusiasts have the wind in our sails,” said Cameron.
British finance minister George Osborne opened the door to further Chinese investment in Britain during a visit to Beijing last month, during which he announced less stringent rules for Chinese banks operating in London in a push to make the British capital the main offshore hub for trading in China’s currency and bonds.
He also paved the way for Chinese investors to take majority stakes in future British nuclear plants.
Campaigners have often accused Cameron of putting trade before human rights. On this trip, activists want him to raise what they say are rights abuses in Tibet.
A senior source in his office said before the trip that Britain had turned the page on a rift with China over Tibet, adding that Cameron had no plans to once again meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader-in-exile, after their meeting last year angered Beijing.
Asked on the plane whether he would be raising Tibet, Cameron was non-committal, but said nothing was “off limits” in Britain’s relationship with China.
As permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Cameron said the two countries would also discuss Iran and North Korea.
Cameron visited a training academy for Jaguar Land Rover sales staff in Beijing on Monday to mark its official opening as the carmaker unveiled a deal worth 4.5 billion pounds to provide 100,000 cars to the National Sales Company in China.
England’s Premier League is also expected to announce an agreement with the Chinese Super League to develop football in China and boost the Premier League’s profile.
The business delegation also includes Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline. The company was drawn into a bribery case in China earlier this year which resulted in police detaining four Chinese GSK executives.
Peter Humphrey, a British man running a risk advisory group, was also detained and is still being held.
#AceHumanRightsNews says reiterating its strong condemnation of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its use of children in armed conflict, the Security Council today demanded that the group immediately cease all hostilities, release all abductees’, and disarm and demobilize.
Issuing presidential statement the Council urged the United Nations Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the UN political and peacekeeping missions in the region, and the Organization’s other relevant presences, to enhance their support for the implementation of the UN Regional Strategy to address the threat and impact of the activities of the LRA. It called on the international community to support the implementation of the Strategy where possible.
The LRA, notorious for carrying out massacres in villages, mutilating its victims and abducting boys for use as child soldiers and forcing girls into sexual slavery, was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged it. It then exported its activities to Uganda’s neighbours, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.
The 15-member body reiterated its strong support for the African Union Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA, commending the “significant” progress by the African Union Regional Task Force. It urged all regional Governments to fulfil their commitments under the Initiative and provide basic provisions for their security forces.
Welcoming steps taken to deliver an enhanced, comprehensive and “more regional” approach to the humanitarian situation, the Council underlined the primary responsibility of States in the LRA-affected region to protect civilians. In that context, it welcomed efforts by the DRC, South Sudan, Uganda and the CAR, in coordination with the African Union, to end the LRA threat, urging additional efforts from those countries, as well as others in the region.
Further, the Council expressed serious concern that the increased security vacuum in the CAR continued to negatively affect counter-LRA operations. As LRA attacks have reportedly taken place outside the Task Force’s principal area of operations, it emphasized the need for strong coordination among the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), the Task Force, and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) in the context of protecting civilian activities and counter-LRA operations.
Regionally, the Council encouraged the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) to reinforce efforts to address the LRA through improved responsiveness to imminent civilian threats, training and capacity-building of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement programme to encourage further LRA defections.
In addition, the Council urged MONUSCO and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to enhance their cooperation with the Regional Task Force to coordinate operations, patrols and protection of civilians strategies, and to provide logistical support within their existing mandates and resources. It took note of reports of a LRA base in the disputed enclave of Kafia Kinga, on the border of the Central African Republic, and between South Sudan and Sudan.
#AceSecurityNews says UN human rights committee unanimously passed a ‘right to privacy‘ resolution sponsored by Germany and Brazil that protects the right to privacy against illegal surveillance, following revelations about NSA spying.
The resolution states that surveillance and data interception by governments and companies “may violate or abuse human rights.”
This is the first document that establishes protection of human rights in the digital sphere, Brazil’s Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota told the AP. It “establishes for the first time that human rights should prevail irrespective of the medium, and therefore need to be protected online and offline,” Patriota said.
The resolution is concerned with the “the negative impact” that surveillance, “in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.”
German Ambassador Peter Wittig added, “Is the human right to privacy still protected in our digital world? And should everything that is technologically feasible, be allowed?”
France, Russia and North Korea were among the 55 countries that co-sponsored the resolution that only made indirect references to US global spying techniques.
The fact that the resolution was unanimously passed by the committee seems to guarantee that it will get the votes of all 193 members of the General Assembly in December. Although the resolution will not be legally binding, it will have some political weight.
The US did not go against the measure, though it did lobby the ‘Five-Eyes’ intelligence sharing alliance of UK, Britain, Australia and New Zealand to water down the language of the resolution. By the end of the day, language stating that foreign spying would be a rights violation was weakened, according to AFP.
#Human Rights Watch specialist Philippe Bolopion lamented that the language had been watered down. But, Bolopion still believes that it was “a vital first step toward stigmatizing indiscriminate global surveillance.”
Brazil and Germany introduced to the UN General Assembly their draft resolution in early November, calling for internationally recognized rights to privacy. The document further urged an end to global electronic espionage and the extension of internet freedom.
The resolution comes amid international scandal over #NSA spying over much of the world’s population and eavesdropping on a number of foreign leaders, including Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
NSA spying revealed by former intelligence contractor #Edward-Snowden revealed that Washington has spied on at least 35 world leaders besides the exposed the mass surveillance against private citizens and business.
According to Snowden’s leak intelligence agencies from all signatories of the ‘Five Eyes’ agreement – the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – collaborated with the #NSA
Since Snowden’s leaks surfaced in June, protests demanding more privacy protections have emerged in countries around the globe, with thousands of people worldwide having joined in recent Million Mask March rallies organized by the amorphous Anonymous movement.
#AceWorldNews says the UN Rights Experts Urge Malaysia to Reverse Decision to Restrict Use of ” ALLAH’ TO MUSLIMS”
Several independent United Nations human rights experts today urged the Malaysian Government to reverse its decision to ban a Catholic publication from using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for religious minorities in the country.
The Bahasa Malaysia, or standard Malay, translation for one God is ‘Allah’, which entered the language from Arabic and has been used by Christians in the region for many centuries, according to the press release.
In January 2009, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered the newspaper Herald-The Catholic Weekly to stop using the word ‘Allah’ or face losing its publication permit. The newspaper argued the ban was unconstitutional and won an appeal in the Malaysian High Court.
However, last month, the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that non-Muslims cannot use ‘Allah’ to refer to God. It stated that the usage of the name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity.
“Such usage, if allowed, would inevitably cause confusion within the community,” the appeal court judges ruled. The case is currently pending consideration at the Federal Court level.
Mr. Bielefeldt cautioned that “the current case may affect the right of all non-Muslims in Malaysia to use the word ‘Allah’ while referring to God.”
Also speaking out is Rita Izsák, the Independent Expert on minority issues, who said discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in this instance is a breach of the rights of a religious minority to freely practice and express their faith.
“Such actions may present an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between faith communities,” she warned.
The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, called on the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Malaysian Government to take steps to immediately secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the newspaper and withdraw unconditionally from further litigation on this issue.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Two reports by the UNHCR detailed continuing concerns voiced several times over the past 15 months with the centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where Australia has sent thousands of refugees who have braved the dangerous sea crossing from Indonesia after fleeing conflict, persecution or poverty in the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
“While UNHCR understands Australia’s determination to respond robustly to the challenges of people smuggling and to dissuade people from undertaking dangerous irregular travel by sea, those responses must not neglect the compelling protection needs, safety and dignity of the individuals affected,” the agency’s Director of International Protection, Volker Türk, <“http://www.unhcr.org/52947ac86.html“>said in Geneva.
“These reports must be seen in the context of what UNHCR has observed to be a sharp deterioration, during the course of the year, in the overall quality of protection and support available to asylum-seekers and refugees who come to Australia by boat.”
The reports (available at: http://unhcr.org.au/unhcr/) called for pre-transfer assessments in Australia to consider the specific needs of vulnerable individuals, including the elderly, survivors of torture or trauma and the disabled. A realistic assessment must also be made of the actual quality of support and capacities of service providers at the centres. No children or families should be sent to PNG and unaccompanied children already there should be returned to Australia.
“In both Nauru and PNG, UNHCR was deeply troubled to observe that the current policies, operational approaches and harsh physical conditions at the centres not only do not meet international standards, but impact very profoundly on the men, women and children housed there,” UNHCR Regional Representative, Richard Towle, said on releasing the reports in Canberra, Australia’s capital.
He stressed that they do not provide a fair and efficient system for assessing refugee claims, do not provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention, and do not provide for adequate and timely solutions for recognised refugees.
The centres, Australia’s so-called ‘Pacific solution’ to the influx of refugees, were first opened in 2001, but closed at the end of 2007. The policy was resumed again last year.
The report on Nauru acknowledges some positive developments since UNHCR’s last visit in March but also cites significant setbacks in processing and worsening reception conditions. Despite a processing system being in place under Nauru law, only one decision has been handed down in the 14 months since the centre reopened.
In PNG no decisions at all have been finalised, the report on Manus said. While some improvements were observed since the last inspection in June, physical conditions, slow processing and lack of clarity regarding safe and sustainable solutions are likely to have a serious negative effect on the refugees’ health and welfare.
UNHCR called on all three states not to transfer children, particularly those who are unaccompanied, unless and until there has been a marked improvement in conditions in both centres.
#AceNewsServices says at a recent ” Historic Meeting UN Officials Urged Renewed Efforts To Rid The World of a NUCLEAR THREAT in New York, on Sep 26 2013 at 11:00AM Senior United Nations officials called on Member States to take renewed steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons, during what was the first high-level meeting ever held by the General Assembly devoted to this issue.
“Its success would strengthen international peace and security. It would free up vast and much-needed resources for social and economic development. It would advance the rule of law. It would spare the environment and help keep nuclear materials from terrorist or extremist groups. And it would remove a layer of fear that clouds all of human existence.”
In particular, Mr. Ban appealed to nuclear-weapon States to intensify their efforts to cooperate with the international community and move towards disarmament.
Having entered into force in 1970, the NPT aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the General Assembly in September 1996 but has not yet entered into force.
Mr. Ban stressed that he would continue to explore ways to advance disarmament efforts and support existing ones, including the five-point plan he put forward in 2008 that includes recommendations on increasing security, verification, establishing a legal framework for nuclear disarmament, transparency and conventional weapons.
“As we put time, resources and energy into maintaining and expanding this ever-increasing weaponry complex, we divert resources from education, healthcare, poverty reduction, and the overall goal to move towards more sustainable development,” he said.
“I urge you to devote part of the resources made available by the implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements to economic and social development.”
Mr. Ashe noted that while the General Assembly has repeatedly stated its commitment to nuclear disarmament through numerous resolutions, treaties and initiatives, concrete and meaningful progress has not been achieved yet. In this context, he urged Member States to renew and strengthen their commitment to achieve this goal.
“Today’s historic high-level meeting provides an opportunity to honour the vision of the Millennium Declaration and to renew our commitment to a world free of fear,” he said. “Building on today’s meeting and the work many of you are already doing, we can make significant progress – to advancing the agenda before us and to creating a world that honours what we all truly value: security, prosperity and peace and human well-being.”
Unveiling Rodney Leon’s “‘Ark of Return”, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the memorial “will serve as a reminder of the bravery of those slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who managed to rise up against an oppressive system, fight for their freedom and end the practice.”
The ceremony, held on the eve of the General Assembly’s annual debate, was also attended by the President of the body’s 68th session, John Ashe, who commended all participants in the competition for “being a voice of change and hope” whose ability to create meaningful artwork “deepens our faith in human goodness and decency, and for this, we are all grateful.”
The piece by Mr. Leon, a designer and architect of the African Burial Ground National Monument in lower Manhattan, features a “symbolic spiritual space and object where one can interact and pass through for acknowledgement, contemplation, meditation, reflection, healing, education and transformation,” according to its creator.
UNECO Director-General Irina Bokova, who also participated, said she was “moved” to be participating in the event given she just returned from Haiti where the memory of slavery and the slave trade carries precious significance not just of suffering but also of “victorious fight from oppression for freedom”.
The design had to be created around the theme of “Acknowledging the Tragedy; Considering the legacy; Lest we forget “. It was to be not only a symbol, but part of an educational process in memory of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, and to architecturally embody each affected region of the transatlantic slave trade – Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas.
It also had to artistically complement to the landscape of the UN Headquarters, described by UNESCO as “an iconic site that will deepen, both visually and spiritually, the visitor’s experience of this important environment.”
The winning design was unanimously chosen by a committee of five international judges who met at UN Headquarters in August. Ahead of the judging, they spoke with UN Television about how their decisions were shaped.
UN Television about how their decisions were shaped.
Ashfar Isahq is the Chairman of the International Children’s Art Foundation. He said he founded the organization to harness children’s imagination for positive change.
“At the end of the day, I and my work with children means that I have to look at an inner voice that tells me that this is what children and future generations will like,” Mr. Isahq said. “I listen to that inner voice to make my choice.”
Curator and artist Dominique Fontaine said she was looking for a certain aesthetic value, one “that will appeal to the viewer.”
From New York University, Michael Gomez, a professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies who specializes in the African Diaspora, said he was primarily interested in identifying a piece that spoke directly to the experience of the transatlantic slave trade and the significance of that trade.
“I was interested in finding a project that would in some way give expression to that experience, and would allow those who would visit the memorial to have a good sense of what that experience was about and its ongoing implication for various societies,” Mr. Gomez told UN Producer, Mary Ferreira.
Meanwhile, David Boxer, a former curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica said the real challenge for him was to find a piece that both spoke to the tragedy itself – which he said required a memorial in a “more traditional sense” – and something that is inspirational.
Mr. Boxer said he was looking for a piece “that looks to the future, that deals with the whole question of hope. That things are going to improve, that things are going to become better. So it’s how do you combine those two sentiments into a single monument.”
Completing the jury, Nadia Bakhurji, and architect, women’s empowerment advocate and former Board Member of Saudi Council of Engineers, said she knew the winning design right away.
“I had emotional reactions to some of the sculptures and I knew which one would be the right one because it has to be the one that will really inspire thought-provoking ideas, make you step back and say – oh my God, is that really what happened and how can we prevent that from happening again,” Ms. Bakhurji said.
She added that she was also looking for a design that bridged educational and spiritual experiences.
Renowned United States actor, film maker and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Global Justice Nicolas Cage recently called for greater efforts to assist human trafficking victims, stressing the international community cannot “stand quietly on the sidelines” while this scourge persists across the globe.
“We cannot stand quietly on the sidelines, while humans are being shipped and traded across the globe,” he said.
Human trafficking affects every country in the world. Victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour. A recent UNODC report found that women and girls make up 75 per cent of detected victims, with girls constituting two out of every three child victims.
“A person stripped of their documents, their rights and their dignity needs specialized help. They need to rebuild their lives brick by brick. Your contribution tonight can provide vital help to these victims,” Mr. Cage told the attendees at the event, which was organized by Austrian businessman and philanthropist Ali Rahimi and held under the auspices of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
A specially designed “Blue Heart” carpet – an international symbol increasingly adopted in the fight against human trafficking – was auctioned at the event. Proceeds from the event will go the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which supports grassroots organizations that rescue, shelter and reintegrate victims into society.
“Since 2010, $1.5 million have been contributed to the Trust Fund. Thanks to this money, 11 grass-roots organizations around the world have been able to support victims and survivors of trafficking, especially women and children,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.
“But we need to do more. We need to join forces – the UN, Governments, NGOs, the private sector, community leaders and ordinary citizens, to stop this terrible crime. We have a shared responsibility to end this cruel exploitation and abuse of human rights.”
While in Vienna, Mr. Cage, who has starred in more than 60 movies and won an Academy Award for Best Actor in for the film Leaving Las Vegas, renewed his appointment made in 2010 as UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, saying it was a title and position he was “very proud to hold. Of all the experiences I have had in my life this has been the most humbling and challenging of responsibilities.”