Letter: Accountability on US funds to Nigeria

In this joint letter, Jubilee Campaign called for accountability for the Nigerian government. The United States reveres Nigeria as one of its greatest African partners. The US government must ensure that the funds it provides to the Nigerian government are in no way used to harm the people.

Joint NGO letter on sale of Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria

Chairman Bob Corker
Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Ranking Member Ben Cardin
Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Chairman Ed Royce
House Foreign Affairs Committee

Ranking Member Elliot Engle
House Foreign Affairs Committee

May 10, 2017

Dear Chairman Corker, Senator Cardin, Chairman Royce and Representative Engle,

We the undersigned organizations are writing to convey our concerns regarding reports that the Trump administration is moving forward with plans to sell A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, with mounted machine guns and related parts and logistical support to the government of Nigeria. We believe that given the Nigerian government has not taken adequate action to protect human rights and enforce accountability in the military, this transfer runs a substantial risk of resulting in serious human rights violations.

In June of 2016 many of us expressed concerns over the same proposed sale to President Obama, citing the lack of adequate safeguards and accountability mechanisms to ensure that the Tucano aircraft would be used consistently with international human rights and humanitarian law by the Nigerian military. Those concerns took on a tragic reality with the Nigerian government’s bombing of an Internally Displaced Person’s camp in early 2017 – that bombing effectively scuttled plans to move forward with the sale under the Obama administration. We reiterate those concerns now and ask that you take steps to limit the risks that equipment supplied by the US will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The Nigerian government must first agree to implement a comprehensive plan to protect human rights and enforce accountability

Our message to the Obama administration was that the US should insist on securing robust, binding end use/r guarantees, post-delivery monitoring to verify all recipients
are operating consistently with full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, and end user certificate restrictions are being honored, safeguards against further serious human rights violations, and other credible and measurable progress on accountability within the Nigerian security forces. These recommendations were offered with the aim of ensuring that the United States did not inadvertently facilitate the commission of human rights violations in Nigeria and to ensure that the US is doing everything it can to end the culture of impunity within the Nigerian military with respect to human rights.

In our earlier letter, we listed several incidents of serious human rights violations that indicated a systemic failure to respect human rights and enforce accountability within the Nigerian security forces (see attached). Unfortunately, to date there has been no progress towards investigating any of those past incidents or bringing persons responsible for those violations to justice. Indeed, the Nigerian Air Force bombing of a remote displaced persons camp in Rann in January 2017 demonstrates the urgency of implementing safeguards and monitoring with respect to human rights. The bombing of that camp, close to the Cameroon border, killed at least 126 people (and possibly as many as 200).

Although a panel appointed by the Nigerian Air Force to investigate the tragedy presented its report to the Chief of Air Force in April, the report is yet to be made public and speculations about the bombing are rife. The Chief of Air Force has stated that the bombing was a human error. However, witnesses claim that the fighter jet circled the camp at least twice before it bombed the camp.

In view of the continuing patterns of abuse and potential for misuse of US-supplied equipment, the U.S. Congress should insist that the Nigerian government undertake independent investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by the military. Any such reports on human rights violations by the military in northeast Nigeria should be made public, including on the Rann bombing. Further, all victims should receive full reparation, including financial compensation.

Before approving the intended transfer of the Tucano aircraft, Congress should ensure that Nigerian military personnel involved in its operation and command will be rigorously vetted in order to screen out those responsible for past human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. Moreover, steps should be taken to ensure that personnel operating the equipment are adequately trained to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.

Furthermore, we ask you as Congressional leaders to insist on binding guarantees from the Nigerian government that the equipment will be used in conformity with US and international law. Likewise, Congress should seek guarantees from the Trump Administration that the Department of Defense will effectively monitor the use of these aircraft for compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

Just a few weeks ago, Ambassador Nikki Haley made well-publicized comments drawing attention to the connection between widespread human rights violations and the breakdown of peace and security. Without strong human rights structures in place, the transfer of the Tucano attack aircraft armed with heavy machine guns could exacerbate the conflict, or fuel new ones.

This is already an established pattern in Nigeria and demonstrates that the hoped for outcome based on the sale may not be achieved. The US must take seriously its responsibility to ensure that the transfer of these arms and equipment does not result in a further deterioration in the respect for human rights in Nigeria. From your position of leadership in the US Congress, we urge you to convey these concerns to the Administration and seek guarantees that all precautions will be taken.

Sincerely,

Amnesty International USA
Peace Action
Peace Direct
Friends Committee on National Legislation.
21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
Jubilee Campaign USA

Pastor Abducted in Malaysia

Jubilee Campaign covers a wide range of countries and human rights issues, and I’d like to inform you of a new project that we are undertaking in Malaysia. Malaysian religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists have experienced increased persecution in recent years. Malaysia has been known for being a fairly moderate Muslim-majority country and one that people often point to as a model for other Muslim-dominated countries. However, developments on the ground are troubling and reveal a less than moderate environment for religious minorities.

One disturbing development is the rise in abductions of religious leaders and social activists. One of the first in a series of abductions was the kidnapping of Pastor Raymond Koh right outside of the capital, Kuala Lumpur on February 13. He was stopped on the road while driving, swarmed by a convoy of SUVs, and forcibly driven away. Mr. Koh had previously been accused of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, and he faced significant online criticism due to these rumors. There is suspicion that this is linked to his abduction. Often in abduction situations, the family of the abductee will be contacted soon after for ransom. However, Mr. Koh’s family has heard nothing about him since his kidnapping. Other mysterious kidnappings have also taken place since his disappearance.

In addition to abductions of religious leaders, non-Muslims have been faced with heightened efforts by Islamic groups and leaders to increase the jurisdiction of Islamic law. Already in Malaysia, many states have adopted apostasy laws that prohibit or limit people’s ability to convert away from Islam.

With intolerance and persecution rising in Malaysia, Jubilee Campaign has joined with other religious liberty organizations as well as Malaysian activists to raise these issues before the Malaysian government and the international community. We ask for your prayers as we begin this advocacy work that we may be guided by the Lord to work for His glory and the good of the Malaysian people.

Religious Liberty Partnership Convenes in Brazil

RLP

Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign, Ann Buwalda, is on the leadership team for the Religious Liberty Partnership. Please read the following press release of the RLP annual conference that recently took place in Brazil.

PRESS RELEASE:

Religious Liberty Partnership Holds First Ever Consultation in Latin America; Meets with Brazilian President and Foreign Minister

(Brasilia, Brazil) The Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) just concluded its annual consultation last week in the Brazilian capital city of Brasilia, with 80 key leaders from 24 countries participating. Having held previous international consultations in Europe, South Asia, Turkey, North America and South East Asia, this was the first time in its 11-year history the RLP consultation was in Latin America.

“One reason we came to Brazil was data showing it as the best country for religious liberty policy.,” said Brian O’Connell, Facilitator of the RLP. “We wanted to come, celebrate that fact, learn from what Brazil is doing, and continue to encourage the country in that direction.” (Note: documentation released by the Pew Research Center has showed Brazil with the fewest religious restrictions in the world.)

Hosted by the Brazil-based organization, ANAJURE (the National Association of Evangelical Christian Lawyers), the event included closed plenaries for the planning of joint actions in defense of international religious liberty and a public seminar held at the Brazil Federal Senate on the protection of religious freedom for all faiths.

Speakers at the RLP Consultation included Federal Deputy Leonardo Quintão, President of the Parliamentary Coalition for Refugees and Humanitarian Aid of the Brazilian National Congress; Dr. Gerardo Amarilla, former chairman of the House of Representatives in Uruguay; Dr. Davi Charles Gomes, Chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University, and Russell Stendal, a key player in the recent peace agreement in Colombia. The group also had audiences with Brazil President Michel Temer; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chancellor Aloysio Nunes; the Federal Senate and Chamber of Members.

“Thanks to the efforts of ANAJURE and Deputy Leonardo Quintao, we were able to have significant meetings both with Chancellor Nunes and President Temer,” said RLP Chairman Mervyn Thomas of Christian Solidarity Worldwide in the UK. “Both men showed a deep understanding of the issues surrounding international religious freedom, and indeed appeared to be fully committed to playing their part in promoting it”

“It was amazing to sense God’s presence, the moving of His spirit, the oneness of mind, and the resolve to collaborate and work together, stated Godfrey Yogarjah, Deputy Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance. “I have no doubt that this partnership comprising CEOs of over 60 organizations from 25 nations – each committed to advancing freedom of religion and belief – is only possible because God brought it together.” (Note: RLP Members include the WEA Religious Liberty Commission and the International Institute for Religious Freedom (a WEA Initiative). Many other RLP members are also WEA Global Partners or Associate Members.

In the meetings with the Brazilian President and Foreign Minister, religious freedom reports were presented. Among them was the report of ANAJURE given at the Organization of American States (OAS), entitled Religious Freedom in the Inter-American System of Human Rights, launched at the opening of the RLP Consultation. “We were proud to stand arm in arm with our international colleagues in demonstrating our commitment to international religious liberty,” said Dr. Uziel Santana, President of ANAJURE and another speaker at the consultation. “In delivering these reports we showed that in places like Cuba, Mexico and Colombia, we have serious religious liberty violations in Latin America as well. For example, ANAJURE is currently serving 500 families who have been expelled from their homes merely because they converted to Christianity.”

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(For further information contact Brian O’Connell, RLP Facilitator: +1 425.218-4718; Brian@RLPartnership.org)

About the RLP:
The Religious Liberty Partnership is a collaboration of Christian organizations from 25 countries focused on international religious liberty for all faiths. It seeks to promote intentional work together on advocacy, research, training, and assistance, as well as raising the awareness of religious liberty violations worldwide.

Egyptian Coptic Church hit by Terrorist Attack Palm Sunday

Good Friday and Easter services took place in Egypt without incident, following the twin bombings and massacres within two Coptic Orthodox churches on Palm Sunday. Reportedly, during the Good Friday and Easter services police surrounded Coptic churches in battle gear and blocked off streets in front of churches in an effort to thwart any further attacks.

The Bible Society of Egypt reported, “As with previous attacks, the sense of revenge is minimal as families embrace martyrdom as a gift from and to God. What is happening in Egypt is not a 2000-year-old legend, but a modern, living testimony to the power of the Christian faith. Please pray for the Church of the Martyrs, as they seek to faithfully apply the teachings and example of Jesus to forgive and carry on. Pray for patience in the midst of sorrow and grief. Pray for victory over bitterness and anger. Pray for our church and government leaders.”

On Palm Sunday, April 9, two Coptic church congregations in Egypt were targeted by terrorist attacks as church members gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday. These attacks killed at least 49 people and injured over a hundred others. The first attack occurred in Mar Girgis (St. George’s) Coptic Orthodox church in Tanta, Gharbiya when a bomb exploded amid the congregation killing at least 27 on site. A few hours later a suicide bomber approached St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the town of Alexandria, detonated his bomb, and killed at least 18 on site. ISIS has claimed responsibility for these attacks.

Coptic Christians in Egypt have long been victims of discrimination and have faced rising violence against their communities, including targeted murders and deadly attacks.

We ask for your prayers for these communities and the families of the victims. Please pray for their comfort and perseverance in the Lord. As terrorism continues to plague Egypt and surrounding regions, please pray that the church would stay united and firm in Christ.

The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros stated, “These acts will not harm the unity and cohesion of the people.”

The Egyptian spokesman on foreign affairs also tweeted: “As we grieve the tragic & heartbreaking loss of Egyptian lives, it is still a failed attempt against our unity. #united_on_PalmSunday”

We know that unity is only possible through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amidst the violence and pain, may this truth permeate these desperate circumstances and strengthen the hearts of His people.

Jubilee Campaign & North Korean defectors testify at the UN

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On March 17, Executive Director, Ann Buwalda, and staff delivered remarks at an event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, co-sponsored by Jubilee Campaign. The event was titled North Korean Women: Destitution and Human Trafficking in China.
The event featured three North Korean women defectors: Grace Jo, Lim Hye-jin, and Lee So-yeon. Each woman shared a powerful testimony of the horrible abuse they faced in North Korea and in China.

 

Ms. Jo is one of three family members who survived from her large North Korean family. During the panel Ms. Jo explained that the three primary reasons women flee from North Korea to China are to make money, to obtain health care, and to find freedom because these things are critically lacking in North Korea. She described the heroism of the North Korean women she remembers from her childhood who risked their lives and faced humiliation to provide for their families. Many women go to China hopeful they will find opportunities to improve their live, but most get exploited by Chinese brokers and repatriated to North Korea by Chinese authorities. Grace herself experienced repatriation and torture. She recounted, “I remember when Chinese officials sent me back to North Korea; both times people were suffering, being tortured, and starving. The only memories I have from North Korea are fear, hunger, and sorrows. I don’t have any happy memories from my home country.”

Ms. Lim escaped North Korea three times. The first two times that she escaped to China, she was sent back to North Korea by Chinese authorities. She said, “They searched my body for hidden money and goods and undressed me.” She described the horrid conditions in the prisons and detention centers. Authorities make women strip naked, as they did with Ms. Lim, and force them to do squats continuously trying to find money that may be hiding in their bodies’ cavities. Ms. Lim also told the story of how a woman who shared a room with her in prison gave birth to a baby while they were in the prison after being impregnated by a Chinese man. The woman was transferred to another prison and forced to leave her baby behind. A few days later, a security guard killed the child.

Ms. Lee explained the trafficking of North Korean women is worse than ever with the developments of cyber trafficking. Chinese brokers typically sell North Korean women to unmarried Chinese men, but now they are also forcing them to perform for internet pornography. Ms. Lee said, “Brokers in China are putting them in apartment rooms, locked up, and are forcing [them to be] sex slaves…In that locked up room, the women are selling their bodies through the internet site, and they don’t even get paid by the brokers.”

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After the panel of witnesses told their stories, our expert panel consisting of Jubilee Campaign Executive Director, Ann Buwalda, and the Executive Director of The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Greg Scarlatoiu, gave further analysis and recommendations. Mr. Scarlatoiu explained that his organization’s research has revealed that North Korean prison camps have expanded for the sole purpose of accommodating more North Korean women who have been repatriated by China. Ms. Buwalda explained that if China would simply adhere to its international obligation to protect refugees the desperate North Korean women who continue to pour over its borders could find assistance rather than destitution and exploitation. She described the necessity for the international community to pressure China into protecting these refugees.

After the event, the panelists, attendees, and press went to the Chinese mission to deliver a letter requesting China to stop repatriating North Korean refugees. Then select members, including Jubilee Campaign staff participated in a meeting with the South Korean ambassador to discuss strategies for dealing with North Korea’s human rights abuses.

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