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                                                    News & Views - Monday 14th January to Sunday 20th January 2013

Removal Of Sri Lanka Chief Justice 'Serious Setback'
The United Nations human rights chief today spoke out against the impeachment and removal of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice, saying it is a "calamitous setback" for rule of law in the South Asian nation, as well as for accountability and reconciliation.

Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was served notice of her dismissal and removed from her chambers and official residence on Tuesday, in spite of a Supreme Court ruling that the parliamentary procedure to remove her violated the Constitution, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

"The removal of the Chief Justice through a flawed process – which has been deemed unconstitutional by the highest courts of the land – is, in the High Commissioner's view, gross interference in the independence of the judiciary and a calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka," Rupert Colville, spokesperson for High Commissioner Navi Pillay, told reporters in Geneva.             Read more: UN News Centre 18/01/13

EDM 915: All-Party Group On International Religious Freedom
That this House reaffirms its commitment in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to defending the right of individuals to enjoy religious freedom; notes with profound concern that around the world today growing numbers of individuals are denied this fundamental right by totalitarian regimes and/or religious extremists of a different faith; welcomes the recent coming together of members of both Houses, all political parties and of all faiths and none to inaugurate the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom; and supports the Group in its mission to highlight religious persecution wherever in the world it may occur in order to stem the rising tide of religious intolerance, which threatens the life and freedom of individuals and the cohesion of whole societies.

Sponsors: Bruce, Fiona / Bottomley, Peter /bDurkan, Mark / Meale, Alan / Russell, Bob                  House of Commons: 15/01/2013

Early Day Motion 914: New Family Immigration Rules
That this House notes that the new family immigration rules impose a minimum earnings requirement of 18,600, with an additional 3,800 for the first child and 2,400 for each additional child, in respect of partners and children from outside the EU seeking to join their partners and parents resident in the UK; further notes that the sponsoring partner is subject to enforced separation in that she or he is required to work in the UK for at least six months before the application can be made; further notes that the new immigration rules are to be challenged in the Administrative Court in Birmingham from 5 to 8 February 2013; believes that the new immigration rules are irrational and discriminate against British citizens, those settled in the UK and those with refugee or humanitarian protection leave on grounds including gender and race-ethnicity; further believes that the new rules are preventing British and settled families on lower incomes from being reunitedand enjoying family life with their non-EEA family members contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments; and calls on the Government immediately to withdraw that aspect of the new family immigration rules which impose the minimum earnings requirement reverting back to the predecessor rule which adequately ensured that there was no recourse to public funds.

Sponsors: Galloway, George - House of Commons: 14/01/2013

EDM 909: War In Kachin State, Burma
That this House condemns the Burma Army's military offensive against the ethnic Kachin; expresses grave concern over the recent use of aerial bombardment in the offensive; notes with serious concern the significant escalation in the conflict, including a major increase in Burma Army troops and use of landmines on the frontlines; further condemns the continuing use of rape as a weapon of war; expresses serious concern about the displacement of over 100,000 people and the humanitarian crisis developing as a result of restrictions imposed by the government of Burma on international aid to the affected areas; calls on the government of Burma to stop attacks immediately and to engage in a meaningful political dialogue with the Kachin Independence Organisation to establish a peace process; further calls on the Government to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs arising from the conflict by increasing humanitarian assistance to internally-displaced people in Kachin State via local community organisations on the ground; and further calls on the Government to work within the EU to halt relaxation of economic sanctions and new trade and investments in Burma if there is not an immediate cessation of attacks.

Sponsors: Vaz, Valerie/ Bottomley, Peter / Bruce, Fiona / Russell, Bob

House of Commons: 14/01/2013

United Nations Bans Female Genital Mutilation
The United Nations General Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. This significant milestone towards the ending of harmful practices and violations that constitute serious threat to the health of women and girls was taken by the 194 UN Member States, who approved five General Assembly resolutions today on advancing women's rights, including one on intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations (FGM).
Read more: UN Women, 20/12/12

Citizens UK – For The People Or The State?

Is a human rights charity working too closely with UKBA?

There is no doubt that Citizens UK has made some very important political interventions but now it appears to be succumbing, like a number of other voluntary sector groups, to state blandishments. Other examples include Barnardo's, which provides welfare services at Cedars, the family friendly detention centre for families with children in Crawley and Refugee Action, which runs the Choices Assisted Voluntary Return Service. This new contract culture into which charities are being beguiled raises important questions about the nature of charitable organisations and their demarcation from state agencies.
Read more: by Harmit Athwal for IRR, 10/01/13


Zimbabwe: Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders before Elections
Citing arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment, the United Nations human rights arm today condemned recent attacks against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe ahead of elections expected later this year.

"We are concerned about the crackdown on non-governmental organisations and dissenting voices seen as critical of President Robert Mugabe's rule and apparently politically motivated prosecutions," Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said at a briefing in Geneva.
Read more: UN News Centre 1/01/13

Human Rights: Iran
Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about Iran's human rights record, which is an absolute disgrace. The record of the clerical regime's 34-year rule includes the execution of 120,000 of its political opponents, yet the world remains silent. It also includes the catastrophic repression of women, oppressed nationalities, and followers of various religions; the destruction of the majority of the middle class; the obliteration of the private sector; the falling of at least 40 million people below the poverty line; unemployment standing at 35%—an absolute disgrace—and a 40% inflation rate; and the plunging of the nation's official currency.
Read more: House of Commons / 16 Jan 2013 : Column 990

UKBA Country of Origin Information Report - Jamaica

UKBA: Operational Guidance Note: Kuwait

UKBA: Operational Guidance Note Syria

E-Petition: Recognition of Genocide Against the Kurds in Iraq

Government response to - 26,331 signatures

As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:

The Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein systematically persecuted and oppressed ethnic and religious groups over many years. No group suffered more than the Iraqi Kurds. This year we will remember, in particular, the atrocity of the attack on Halabja in 1988, when Iraqi planes used poison gas to kill thousands of Iraqi Kurds.

It remains the Government's view that it is not for governments to decide whether a genocide has been committed in this case, as this is a complex legal question. Where an international judicial body finds a crime to have been a genocide, however, this will often play an important part in whether we will recognise one as such.

Whether or not the term genocide is applicable in this particular case, however, it is a clear reminder of the suffering of Iraqi Kurds under Saddam, whose final conviction was for his crimes against humanity. It is also a reminder that any use of chemical or biological weapons is abhorrent and that responsible countries consider their ongoing production, stockpiling or use to be completely unacceptable.

The UK is committed to our friendship and partnership with the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including those who are resident in the UK, and to work with them for a secure and prosperous future. We also continue to call at every opportunity for all countries to respect minority rights, and for the full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This e-petition will remain open to signatures until the published closing date and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.

Campaign Alert for Marius Betondi: RDs Friday 18th January 2013
Marius is under suicide watch in detention, after he took an overdose of painkillers before the first removal attempt in November, he says, "I feel suicidal and I am getting nervous breakdown. I am so much depressed, especially when I think about the way I was rough handled at the airport. I got sleep disturbances, diminished concentration, memory loss and feel emotionally disturbed. I feel insecure here all the time. I have just been treated for TB and am losing weight."
How you can help go to Maruis's campaign page @ NCADC here . . . .

Garden Court Chambers - Immigration Law Bulletin – Issue 307

Assessment Of Good Character In Citizenship Applications

From 13 December 2012 changes were made to the Nationality Instructions that affect anyone applying for citizenship on or after that date. The main changes deal with criminality and how it is assessed in terms of the good character requirement in citizenship applications. Some of the main amendments are summarised below:

Applications made on or after 13 December 2012 which feature a criminal conviction will no longer be assessed against the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Instead they will be measured against a new set of sentencing limits.

Where an application features a sentence of 4 years or more in prison this can never fall outside a sentencing threshold. Such an application for citizenship will likely be refused.

Police cautions will be looked at in determining whether someone meets the good character requirement.

There will be greater scope to discount some disciplinary military offences when deciding nationality applications from serving and former members of HM Forces.

For full details of the changes that have been made in terms of the assessment of good character, please see the following updated guidance on this website.