Buhari's First Challenge: Military Mass Killings

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

NIGERIA - Amongst the feeling of hope and a fresh start in the air from President Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration, Nigeria was slammed this week with a report from Amnesty International that claims the Nigerian military is tied to over 8,000 deaths in the country.

The research for the report has been conducted since 2009, in alignment with the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency. While the rise in violence by the military was driven by Boko Haram, the report finds that the majority of those 8,000 deaths have nothing to do with Boko Haram members.

This process was started through widespread rounding up of boys and young men, over 20,000 of them, based on often unreliable informants and poor intelligence. The report states that one could be arrested based on the word of a single unidentified informant. Upon arrest, the thousands of prisoners were placed in detention centers where they were commonly cramped into overcrowded cells in abysmal condition.

Many died from starvation, dehydration, suffocation and preventable diseases, as the prisoners were kept from adequate water, food and basic hygiene and sanitation. In one case, a detention center survivor told Amnesty, they were denied water for two days and 300 inmates died. In these dire situations, they were often forced to drink urine.

Those who were able to survive these terrifying living standards were still at risk of the brutal treatment by the military commanders, which included extrajudicial killings, torture, electrocution, and a myriad of other horrifying tactics. On March 14, 2014, after a Boko Haram attack on the Giwa barracks (and detention center), the military killed at least 640 men and boys who were imprisoned there. Satellite analysis has confirmed the presence of multiple mass graves in the area shortly after this date.

More worrisome is that this system of detainment and mass murder was widely known through all levels of the Nigerian military, including senior officials, Chief of Army staff and Chief of Defense Staff who regularly received reports of military activity in these regions of war-torn Northern Nigeria.

As stated in Amnesty's report, "A high ranking military officer...further said: '...people were not strong enough to stand...They keep them to die. They are deliberately starved. The effect is devastating. You have massive deaths. I believe close to 5,000 [in total] have died like that. It increased after the state of emergency.'" This behavior indicates that the Nigerian military's strategy to fight Boko Haram included murdering thousands of boys and young men without giving them fair trials or even the slightest confirmation that they were tied to the terrorist organization. Through this tactic, they managed to make the Boko Haram insurgency more detrimental to their country and its citizens.

Since the report has surfaced, the Nigerian military has rejected the findings as "concocted and biased," and even called Amnesty International an "irritant" in a Premium Times' article. Regardless of their response, the international community is up in arms over the findings and it is increasingly evident that new President Muhammadu Buhari must address these atrocities as soon as possible. If he wants to keep his promises of tackling human rights violations, it is imperative that he holds those who are guilty accountable and pave a new, morally upright pathway forward. The future of the country depends on it.

The entire report can be found here. 

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
LinkedIn: Jessamy Nichols

LGBT Progress Overshadowed by Abuses

United Nations general assembly hall

United Nations general assembly hall

NEW YORK - The second report ever released by the United Nations on protecting LGBT rights was published today by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report outlines steps for governments to take in stopping LGBT discrimination.

There are 80 countries in the world today that criminalize consensual same-sex relations. The punishments vary, including prison sentences, torture, and the death penalty.

The report represents the gradual progress being made by governments in protecting LGBT people around the world. Since the first report released in 2011, 14 countries have adopted or strengthened laws that protect LGBT rights. These changes often extended protection of sexual orientation, gender identity and introduced legal protections for intersex persons.

But it is clear that the progress is overshadowed by abuse. The report states that “since 2011, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more injured in brutal, violent attacks” because of their LGBT identity.

This violence is in part fueled by anti-LGBT rhetoric issued by regional, national, and international leaders.

In May the president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh at a rally said that he would “slit the throats of gay men” in the West African nation. In 2014, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, said that gay people were “disgusting” after being asked if he personally disliked homosexuals in a BBC interview.

Even in 2012, the Nobel peace prize winner and president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended the current law that criminalizes homosexual acts by saying, “We like ourselves just the way we are.”

Although these leaders have not changed their opinion on supporting legislation that criminalizes LGBT persons, the UN report published today is meant to outline international obligations that leaders like these have in protecting their LGBT citizens.

The report outlined five standards and obligations that every state has in protecting the human rights of LGBT persons.

The report calls on countries to protect LGBT individuals from violence, torture and ill-treatment. This includes condemning “conversion” therapy for LGBT persons, forced and otherwise involuntary sterilization and treatment performed on intersex children.

The report also demands states to “decriminalize homosexuality and to repeal other laws used to punish individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

States also have the “obligation to address discrimination against children and young persons who identify or are perceived as LGBT or intersex.” This means that states are obligated to protect children in schools from harassment, bullying, and in addition to protecting all LGBT people from lack of access to health information and services.

The report also outlined the obligation that countries have to “protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and to take part in the conduct of public affairs.” This means that states must protect the rights of LGBT persons and LGBT allies to assemble and advocate for their rights.

In much of the world these standards and obligations are not followed and support for LGBT rights is often cited as a western construct meant to destroy autonomy and “traditional cultural values” that exist in sovereign nations.

However the United Nations has made it clear once again that this view is not acceptable.

The report states that “All human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, are entitled to enjoy the protection of international human rights law.”

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan
LinkedIn: Austin Drake Bryan

South Korea's Abysmal Record of Disability Rights Despite Economic Prosperity

Salt works on the west coast, Jeollabuk-do Province, Korea, Photo by Bruce Stainsby

Salt works on the west coast, Jeollabuk-do Province, Korea, Photo by Bruce Stainsby

SINAN COUNTY, South Korea – Though South Korea’s record of human rights abuse is not as heinous as its neighbor North Korea, it still grapples with abuse of the weakest members of its society. Prior to the latest exposé, there have been several studies and reports on the targeting of poor women and runaways who are approached by brokers with offers of domestic work, only to find themselves forced to work in the commercial sex trade.

Recently, it was reported by a number of news outlets that salt farmers have been using disabled men to perform the arduous work in the salt farming industry. These men are treated inhumanly and most are physically abused by their ‘employers.’ These men work to produce an estimated "two-thirds of South Korea’s sea salt on more than 850 salt farms on dozens of islands in Sinan County, including Sinui island, where half the 2,200 residents work in the industry. (Source: National Post)

According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine, the “latest National Survey on Persons with Disabilities estimated 2,683,400 persons with disabilities in South Korea, of whom 58% were men and 42% were women. People with physical disability represent approximately 50% of the entire population with disability. Disability-related policies and services to improve the participation of persons with disabilities have been expanded in the last decades, guided by 5-yr plans.” (Source: Pubmed.gov)

In 2009, the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) published a report that stated that The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (‘NHRCK’) issued a number of “key decisions on protecting the rights of people with disabilities.” (Source: APF) Yet, 5-years later the issue of wage inequality and equal protection under the law is still problematic. Until the 2014 expose by the Associated Press (AP) the issue of enslavement of the disabled on salt farms, which had previously been reported on, had slipped quietly from the public’s eye.

Though South Koreans and the rest of the world were outraged by these abuses, like many atrocities that don’t directly affect us, these concerns became “those peoples’ problems,” and we assuaged our conscience with the belief that some organization has now intervened to correct the problem. However, as with many human rights abuses in the Asian manufacturing sector, we as beneficiaries turn a blind eye because of the affordability of the items that are produced. Many of us cannot afford to boycott low cost items sold by Walmart and other megastores because it has a direct impact on our budgets. But, these savings come at the cost of enslavement or barely subsistence level wages paid to the people who spend long, back-breaking days producing the products we use.

With a population of 50.22 million, of which 632,000 are international residents, and the ubiquity with which salt is used in cooking and other processes, a great number of people are benefiting from the enslavement of disabled South Koreans who unfortunately find themselves caught up in this industry. AP and other news outlets published extensive interviews with people who were beaten, tortured, starved, and otherwise abused but knew there were no viable alternatives available to them.

Those who were brave enough to report the abuse by the salt farmers routinely discovered that their complaints were not taken seriously, and in fact, the legal system (police and courts) routinely disregarded or dismissed these allegations. When a plaintiff was successful in getting their case to court, most salt farmers were given a small fine which they quickly paid. This tacit approval of these human rights abuses only serves to reinforce the farmer’s heinous behavior, while demonstrating to the ‘salt farm slaves’ that their plight will go unchanged.

Thus, many of the enslaved disabled eventually returned to the salt farms and greater abuse because they were unable to support themselves otherwise. Salt farm owners refuted the claims of abuse and slavery with the assertion that able bodied people don’t want these jobs and if they didn’t provide employment to people with disabilities then these individuals would become a burden on society and would likely die from starvation. This argument is specious and self-serving, our outrage then complacency is deplorable, but the real culprit is the South Korean government.

Many reported on this story at the beginning of this month, and just as many have claimed that the government has investigated and brought the slavers to justice. The arrest of a few or the scapegoating of more does not address a systemic problem of the abuse of the disabled. South Korea must face the fact that it benefits from its position as a rising global economy and the political echelon would do well to remember that “...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped." ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

Meet Our Journalists

blogger-photo-by-amick-man.jpg
Ayanna Profile PicAyanna Nahmias is the Editor-in-Chief. She is passionate about international affairs, geopolitics, and human rights and writes articles with an emphasis on women's rights and child advocacy. She is working on her first novel and was interviewed about growing up in Africa as the daughter of a radical, Islamist expatriate on Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Click to hear interview.

Twitter: @AyannaNahmias

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorMichael Ransom is a Contributing Editor. He is a recent graduate of The College of William + Mary, where he studied English. Michael enjoys exploring new cultures and learning languages. In the future, he hopes to merge his love for international travel with his writing career. His interests include intercultural exchange, environmental justice, criminal justice topics and all forms of equality.

Twitter: @Mandrewranson

Sarah Joanne JakubowskiSarah Joanne Jakubowski is our Africa Correspondent. Currently, living and working in Accra, Ghana, she reports directly from the Continent.Upon her return, she will resume her studies in English, Philosophy and Anthropology at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Sarah is dedicated to combining these interests to make world issues and scientific findings more accessible to the public. She is passionate about human rights issues, global health issues, and art. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in international journalism.

Twitter: @SJJakubowski

Oliva ElswickOlivia Elswick is a Contributing Journalist and Asia Correspondent. Most recently she worked in India at a rehabilitation center for former child laborers. She is currently employed in Yanji, China, on the border of North Korea where she has been reporting on events in the region.She is passionate about art, literature, traveling, and social justice. A recent graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina, she studied Writing & Publication Studies, and Communications.

Twitter: @OCElswick

Vineeta Tiwari, NCR JournalistVineeta Tiwari is our Middle East Correspondent. She is Indian by nationality but travels and works in the Middle East. She is a professional writer and blogger with a passion for issues facing emerging economies and employment markets. She is a computer science graduate who chose to become a writer because of her interest in global economic initiatives and world affairs.

Her area of expertise focuses on immigration challenges facing many countries, especially in the Gulf region. Vineeta writes about the Middle East and other Gulf countries to inform and expose readers to the fact that these countries have become major players in social and economic development.

Twitter: @vinita1204

Allyson CartwrightAllyson Cartwright is our Contributing Journalist. She is a third-year student at the University of Virginia where she is studying English with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. She is passionate about human rights issues, specifically surrounding women's rights in the Middle East. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career in journalism with a focus on the Middle East region.

Twitter: @allysoncwright

Chrycka HarperChrycka Harper is our Poet & Social Commentator. She is currently living and studying in South Africa where she will report on events occurring on the Continent, and continue to provide social commentary through poetry and prose.Chrycka Harper was born and raised in Wichita, KS, and is a Psychology Bachelor of Science candidate attending Howard University. Her interests include writing about significant personal issues and observations through poetry and prose, reading, eating/cooking, learning more about the unknown. After undergrad, she plans to pursue a research career in the Neuropsychology.

Twitter: @Chrycka_Harper

Jessamy NicholsJessamy Nichols is our Africa Correspondent and a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with majors in Global Studies and Political Science, and a minor in African Studies.She has traveled throughout East Africa the international affairs realm after recently moving to Washington, DC. Her interests include global human rights issues, international conflict resolution, African politics, regional instability, and multilateral institution behavior.

Twitter: @JessamyNichols

Ty ButlerTy Butler is the Sr. Correspondent on International Development and Conflict. He possesses a Master’s in International Affairs from Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs.

Ty has previously worked with the non-profit Ag2Africa as a technical editor and as an economic policy staff intern with the US Dept. of State, Bureau of African Affairs. Ty’s interests include gender studies, conflict & terrorism, and economic development with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Twitter: @TyWButler

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report
Twitter: @nahmias_report
Facebook: The.Nahmias.Cipher.Report

Becker Sentenced to Life for Cutting off Penis

b-is-for-blood-photo-by-klm.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 27 June 2014

B is for Blood, Photo by KlmLOS ANGELES, California -- In August 2011, Catherine Kieu Becker, a Vietnam-born woman also known as Que Anh Tran, brutally attacked her husband severing his penis. At that time they resided in Grove Garden, California. Today, nearly three years later, Becker has been convicted and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after seven years.

Now 50, the infamous ex-wife has supplanted Lorena Bobbitt as the new face of women who castrate their husbands. Unlike, Lorena, Catherine Kieu, had not been abused, but instead appears to have been driven to violence by jealousy.

Kieu and her then husband married in December 2009, but in May 2011 he filed for divorce, which was granted in August 2011, according to Orange County court records. Despite the fact that she and her ex-husband had no children, it seemed that Kieu was not ready to relinquish the relationship.

According to other reports, shortly before the incident, the couple argued over a friend staying with them. Apparently, her husband thought little about the incident, or at least he didn't fear for his safety because he and Kieu enjoyed a dinner together.

It was during this meal that according to prosecutors, "Kieu laced her husband's dinner with the sleep medication Ambien, and once he fell asleep, Kieu tied his legs and arms to the four corners of the bed. She waited until he awoke before pulling down his pants  and cutting off his penis with a knife."

Once again the similarities between Bobbitt and Kieu are striking, but in the case of Lorena, she drove off in her car and threw her husband's severed penis out the window. She later led the authorities to the general area where she had thrown out 'his member,' whereupon it was located and later surgically reattached.

In Kieu's case, she seemed intent on her husband never being able to perform as a man again, as she threw his severed penis into the garbage disposal, turned it on and mangled it. After this vicious assault, Kieu called 911 to say that her husband was bleeding and required attention. Upon the paramedic's arrival they saw the severity of his injuries and immediately took him to the hospital for emergency surgery.

The victim is a battered man, and if not for his physical castration people may have scoffed at his predicament. But, the abuse perpetrated against him by Kieu cannot be healed with psychotherapy. Her ex-husband, 60, according to the prosecutor's office, described the trauma in an impact statement during Friday's sentencing.

'The convicted (person) viciously deprived me of part of my life and identity," the ex-husband told the court. "Then, as is routine in cases of violence that involve something sexual, the victim must endure, at the hands of the defense, a second attack. This was a cruel and calculated violation of a person's body and mind. I now struggle with what is before me. She has torn off my identity as a man. She has caused doubt in my belief in good. She has betrayed my trust in people." Source: CNN

Kieu's defense team's strategy seemed to rely on the success of the outcome of Bobbitt's acquittal on the grounds of temporary insanity. However, despite their claim that Kieu suffered from mental health issues, including depression, it was a stretch to claim that she was a victim of the battered woman's syndrome or acted in defense of her life.

Her claims do an injustice to the many women in this country and around the world who are abused physically and mentally by their partners until they break and either harm themselves or their victimizer. Fortunately, for women's rights, the jury didn't buy into Kieu's defense and today, she was sentenced to life in accordance with the April 29th jury verdict of one felony count of torture, one felony count of aggravated mayhem, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Capitalism vs. Water Rights in Detroit City

highland-park-detroit-michigan-photo-by-inafreeland-dan.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:45 p.m. DST, 26 June 2014

Hotel Granwood, Detroit, Michigan, Photo by  无忌 王伟

DETROIT, Michigan -- Despite numerous plans initiated by Detroit to encourage its residents to remain in the city, the once great Midwestern city of Detroit has done an about face.

In an otherwise tragic situation, some might say that rapacious forces now endeavor to further disenfranchise the hardscrabble, poorest of the poor who have toughed out the deteriorating living conditions in what was once known as Motor City.

In recent months the City of Detroit has gradually cut off public water access to its most impoverished and vulnerable residents. Since the water was shut off, "sick people have been left without running water and working toilets, and people recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages, nor can parents prepare food for their children to eat."

Water rights groups are calling the move calculated and designed to enable the city to shed its books of impoverished consumers who are unable and likely for the foreseeable future, remain unable to pay their water bills.

Technically, the Detroit Water Department is within its legal right to disconnect service for non-payment, but many of the people who have been impacted were not given notice of their impending water disconnection. The net effect was that thousands of people have lost access to public water.

In May and June when the disconnections began and water dried up around the city, a collective of human rights and water rights activists began to protest for Detroit to open up water pipelines, calling the move an attack on basic human rights. Multiple organizations in the community appealed to the United Nations to condemn these practices and bring international attention to the plight of these citizens.

Their efforts bore fruit, when news reports announced today that the U.N. has condemned the city of obstructing water rights which is a human rights violation. This is a clear cut case of blocking fair access to water rights by the poor, and puts America on par with other countries that have chosen to 'commoditize' water thus making it cost prohibitive and unaffordable for its poorest citizen.

Examples include, Bolivia, India, and Tanzania among others as detailed in an article by Anup Shahin, titled Water and Development. The statistics on this global problem of inadequate access to water and corporate greed is one that will only worsen.

Clearly, water termination disrupts basic health and wellness at a fundamental level. That an American city is subjecting its citizenry to these horrendous conditions is at odds with the perception that is promoted about the United States, both internationally and domestically. One which promulgates an image of equality for rich and poor, and that this country is free from many of the ills which plague developing nations.

This paradoxical move to cut water when the city is engaged in a campaign to encourage inbound migration, gentrification, and renovation of the iconic city only highlights the fact that its interests lies not with the populace but with the privileged. The infusion of millions of dollars into the city coffers from corporate developers as the city seeks to move out of bankruptcy, makes Detroit's squabbling over a few unpaid months of water bills all the more ludicrous.

Although, around 5,000 Detroiter's water has been cut off already, the city has plans to cut water access to 30,000 more households this year. Like so many cases in American politics and economics, the people at the top are quick to look down on the people at the bottom and assign blame and inflict upon them an untenable burden.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Related articles

Libyan Human Rights Activist Brutally Murdered | Salwa Bugaighis

7534206630_8f1bfbea28_z.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 18:15 p.m. DST, 26 June 2014

"LIBYA/" Photo by: BRQ NetworkBENGHAZI, Libya -- The progress in Libya took a hit yesterday, 26 June, when Salwa Bugaighis was shot dead in her home. Bugaighis was a successful lawyer in Libya and she also was a prominent advocate for human rights. She was a vocal opponent of totalitarian rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

Since the ousting of Gaddafi, Bugaighis had played an important role in the process of political transition in Libya. She served on the National Transitional Council, which was an acting political body in Libya in the years after Gaddafi's rule. Bugaighis also oversaw a council to encourage national discussion and synergy. Essentially, Bugaighis was an important and powerful woman helping Libyans to discern their identity in the aftermath of the Gaddafi regime.

She is also credited with bringing greater democratic feelings to the transitional government, and also acting as a tireless advocate for the women of Libya.

The attack took place in the hours after Bugaighis casted her vote in the Libyan national election. After she voted, Bugaighis proudly posted images of her at the general election to social media. Seemingly, the assassination was an attempt to silence her political voice, as well as create a culture of fear in which other people will be afraid to champion human rights and political progress.

Also troubling, Bugaighis' husband has been missing since the assailants stormed the couple's home yesterday. According to reports, the activist's husband was at home with her when the invasion occurred.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom