Jubilee Campaign seeks improved ICC operations

July 25th, The Hague, The Netherlands – International Human Rights Non-governmental organization, Jubilee Campaign, is seeking the improvement of the International Criminal Court’s processes to expedite the handling of investigations and review of reported crimes against humanity.

After meetings with the ICC in an attempt to find out the status of preliminary examinations the ICC prosecutor had announced since last year, Jubilee Campaign Netherlands Chairperson Ann Buwalda Esq said “it came as quite a surprise to learn ICC has been conducting a preliminary examination into the situation in Nigeria since 2004. That appears to be way too long. In the meantime thousands more people have died from conflicts in that country. We have no idea when these examinations will end, if ever.”  Noting that Nigeria was among the first 60 nations to ratify the Rome Statute and join as a member of the court, the ICC first launched its investigation of violence in Jos, Plateau State in 2004. That initial examination remains open seven years later, and five states are also in this preliminary examination stage. The ICC has not yet launched an “investigation” of Nigeria or any specific incidents within five states under examination.

Jubilee Campaign had approached the ICC along with a delegation from Jos, Plateau to discuss possible areas of helping expedite the work of the ICC. However, the ICC did not meet with the Plateau State government officials on the delegation because of restrictions found within the rules of the Rome statute.  The Rome Statute allows NGOs as well as national governments more access to the ICC than local authorities including even those in whose jurisdiction crimes may have been committed. Thus, three Plateau State officials which included the Attorney General and the former Congresswoman whose constituents included victims of the 2010 violence, were excluded from today’s otherwise meaningful meeting at the ICC

“We find it worrisome that it appears local authorities whose subjects are victims of mass killings have less right to interact with the ICC than NGOs such as ourselves. While we find this both absurd and frustrating, we feel in the interim that we should help be a voice for the voiceless in this instance,” says Buwalda.

Lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, Counsel to the Plateau State delegation,  gave his view on the impact of the restrictions of the ICC governing rules on victims.  “There is definitely a contradiction in a prosecutor in the Hague aspiring to take jurisdiction over incidents that occur 10,000 miles away then not being able to collaborate with local officials who are on the scene to examine the situation. The law which says only federal governments can be liaised with does not make any investigative or prosecutorial good sense and should be changed. Anyone who is in the position to shed light on the resolution of a case should be more than welcome. That is a civic duty and that is the way most of us were brought up to be responsible citizens.”  Mr. Ogebe continued that, “It is a most unusual situation to find a state government like Plateau which is actually the size of some African nations having less right than Jubilee Campaign. It is ironic that any court would have such an unfair system of viewing interested parties. We are happy the ICC met with us and we explained the absurdity of this situation. We now hope to be able to help them be more helpful to the cause of human rights globally.”

In fact, Article 15 welcomes NGO submissions at this preliminary examination stage in which the ICC continues its receipt of information.  NGOs are encouraged to make their submissions directly to the ICC, and the contact information is given on the ICC website.  The ICC section known as the Jurisdiction Complementary and Cooperation Division reiterated that it welcomes NGO reports.  The procedural overview provided by this section was meaningful, despite the constraints that the Rome Statute imposes.

Chen Guangcheng Needs Our Help

Time Is Running Out: Join with us and sign a petition for Chen’s release

As the situation with Chen Guangcheng continues to heat up our friends at China Aid and Women’s Rights Without Frontiers have not been idle. A video they produced shows the world what is happening to Chen Guangcheng and calls for his release in poignant visual form. We urge you to watch the video and add your name to the petition seeking Chen Guangcheng’s release.

Please listen to Reggie Littlejohn who founded Women’s Rights Without Frontier’s to fight for the rights of the unborn in China.

Please add your name to the Petition
Join with us to see Chen Guangcheng Freed!

As you all know, we at Jubilee Campaign promote the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities in countries which imprison, terrorize or otherwise oppress them. You may also know that our longtime friend, China Aid, is a Christian human rights organization committed to the advancement of religious freedom and rule of law in China. You may be less familiar with Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a broad-based, international coalition that opposes forced abortion and sexual slavery in China.

I want to make clear to you why it is so vital that Chen Guangcheng be freed and why we are all pushing so hard for the release of this one man. It is always a worthy cause to advocate for the freedom of a prisoner of conscience. But in circumstances like these the fate of specific individuals rebounds to massive effect on the issues that they champion.

It would be nearly impossible to effect any change in government policy without the strategic work of homegrown human rights advocates. These people champion the causes of the weak and oppressed from inside the system. Consequently, the government seeks to silence these valiant human rights defenders. Chen Guangcheng began and led the effort to stop forced abortions in China. If the Chinese government silences him it will deal a grievous blow to all attempts to end this butchery.

Reggie states in the video, “It has taken a blind man to see the truth behind the brutal one-child policy.” By taking up the cause of the unborn, Chen Guangcheng has linked his fate to theirs. This petition is not merely about one man, however noble he may be. This petition may help save millions of children whose mothers desperately want to hold their living babies. We urge you to sign the petition and to pray for Chen Guangcheng.

Rally On Capitol Hill

Jubilee Campaign protests the persecution of the Falun Gong and other minorities by the Communist government of China
 

On July 14th, in front of the United States Capitol, Jubilee Campaign joined other activists in protesting the numerous human rights abuses committed by the Communist government of China.

Gregory Treat, our Government Relations Coordinator, condemned the government torture of both lawyers Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng and called for their immediate release from detention. Jubilee Campaign stood alongside Congressmen Chris Smith and Gus Bilirakis who have devoted significant effort in engaging China to improve their human rights record.

We were also privileged to stand alongside human rights advocates and friends like Suzanne Scholte of the Defense Forum Foundation, Faith McDonald of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. These advocates have tirelessly and relentlessly raised the plight of North Korean refugees, persecuted house churches, and the unborn, calling for China to respect its international obligations and human rights standards.

The persecution of practitioners of the Falun Gong is one of the greatest tactical errors ever committed by the Chinese Communist Party. Over the past ten years, the movement experienced rapid growth to nearly 100 million practitioners by their count. When placed alongside the tens of millions of Christians who are oppressed by the Chinese government, along with other religious groups facing various forms of restrictions, one begins to realize how large a portion of the Chinese people are disaffected from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Despite the unyielding control by the CCP of every aspect of society, the international community must continue to seek to engage the government and support jailed activities such as lawyers Chen and Gao.  Please see the full remarks below.

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Remarks Given at Rally 

Thank you, Dr. Zhang, for inviting me to speak today. I am honored to join this distinguished group in voicing my concern for those suffering in China today. I hope you will bear with my remarks. I am not an expert on the Falun Gong or conditions in China, but I am passionate about the principle behind this rally, the principle of religious freedom.

Freedom of religion is inherent in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which China is a signatory. Article 18 grants the right to practice and worship freely, without persecution. Yet over the past decade we have seen repeated and vicious persecution of the Falun Gong. Other religious groups including Tibetans, Uighurs, and Christians-have been persecuted for decades. Human rights activists, who fight for these persecuted peoples can be disappeared at a moment’s notice if their mission threatens the reputation of those in power.

You all know the story of Gao Zhisheng and the letter he wrote to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party protesting the treatment of the Falun Gong. The CCP’s response to his peaceful request was to kidnap and torture him for defending those persecuted for their faith. After disappearing for more than a year, Gao resurfaced in March, 2010. He spoke to his family for the first time since his detention and connected with friends, colleagues, and international media. Then, during a trip to see his in-laws last April, Gao Zhisheng was escorted to a plane by security personnel and disappeared once again. The world is still waiting for any word of his whereabouts.

Another advocate, Chen Guangcheng, is famous for exposing over 150,000 forced abortions in China. His work earned him an article in Time Magazine and a four year prison sentence. After being held in inhumane conditions and denied medical treatment, Chen was finally released last year. However, he was immediately placed under severe house arrest, to the point where the guards surrounding the house would not permit them to go buy food. After a video describing these conditions was released in early February, a local CCP official led a group of security personnel to Chen’s house where they tortured him and his wife for hours. After the ordeal Chen and his wife were once again denied medical treatment. They still have not fully recovered. If the CCP continues in this course Chen’s health will continue to deteriorate and he may very well die.

This disregard for basic human rights is typical of the CCP. Under this oppressive government Christians are forced underground if they dare to leave the state-controlled churches. Uighurs and Tibetans face the extermination of their traditional cultures. And of course the Falun Gong continue to count the roll of their dead. Dozens of their practitioners have already been killed since January and the year is barely halfway through. The CCP seems determined to pursue the extermination of any group that they cannot control.

Perhaps that explains their treatment of the North Korean refugees. On the verge of starvation these refugees risk their lives to cross the border into China. But the Chinese government classifies them as economic immigrants and the Korean regime views them as defectors and traitors. Caught between these two legal definitions the Korean refugees, many of them women, are left legally destitute. Sex trafficking rings snap these women up, knowing that if they try to escape or draw any official attention they will be repatriated to face worse living conditions, torture, or even death. The Chinese government continues this policy despite its international obligations to protect asylum seekers under the 1951 Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol and Article 3 of the Convention against Torture.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those feeling the lash of this oppression-the Falun Gong, the Uighurs, the Tibetans, the Christians, as well as the Korean refugees. You all deserve the opportunity to participate in your nation. We echo the position of the U.S. government in the House Resolution passed last March and the resolution introduced this week by Senators Menendez and Coburn calling on the CCP to “cease and desist” its persecution of the Falun Gong. The CCP must reconsider the value of giving its citizens freedom to hold political and religious beliefs that are rich in diversity, to exercise the rule of law, and to embrace the variety that exists within its borders whole-heartedly. For in the end it is that freedom and diversity which makes merely a powerful government into a truly great nation, and that is what we want for China. Thank you.

Mob Boss on the Police Force: The D.P.R.K and the UN Conference on Disarmament

To the Member States of the United Nations and the Human Rights Community:

Permitting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) to chair the United Nations Conference on Disarmament makes a mockery of this once noble institution. The Conference on Disarmament was established in 1978 to create a single negotiating forum for the purpose of international disarmament. It allows the nations of the world to have one place where they can discuss policies and hash out deals relating to disarmament. Attempting disarmament negotiations with the D.P.R.K. leading the Conference is similar to attempting to stamp out gang violence with a local mob boss leading the task force on organized crime. Besides its infamous reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights violators, the D.P.R.K. has twice tested nuclear weapons in violation of international bans and the United Nation’s own Security Council Resolutions. It is a leading proliferator of nuclear technology to Iran and Syria and was forced to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty after it became obvious that they were in violation of its terms. Since then North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program, including alternative bombs based on highly enriched uranium.

Even now, the D.P.R.K. threatens to put South Korea in a “sea of fire” and in the first half of 2011 it carried out multiple, unprovoked attacks on South Korea. The D.P.R.K.’s communist regime is so obsessed with its nuclear program that it has diverted essential resources toward missiles and bombs, while millions of its own people starve. This is just the tip of the massive iceberg of human rights violations that the D.P.R.K. commits every day. Any position which gives prestige to a government guilty of such egregious human rights violations should draw the ire of the international community. When the criminal nation in question is especially guilty of arms proliferation allowing them to chair a disarmament body is both sad and absurd.

This comes at a time when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called upon the Conference to pay special attention to its core responsibilities. In a speech before the Conference on January 26, 2011 the Secretary-General recognized that “the Conference’s record of achievement has been overshadowed by inertia that has now lasted for more than a decade. The very credibility of this body is at risk. Continued inaction will only endanger its future as a multilateral negotiating forum.” He then called upon the Conference to “start substantive work” and warned them that “It is for you, the members, to decide whether it will live up to the expectations of the international community or face the consequences.”

If the member states of the Conference believe that substantive work is possible with an infamous arms proliferator at the helm then it is no wonder that they have failed to accomplish anything for over a decade. To add insult to injurr over this decade the biannual funding of the Conference has increased from $3.3 million to $4.6 million. At a time when pundits are talking about the UN budget crisis, over $24 million has been spent on this Conference and its attendent bureacratic support, without any results whatsoever. There are those who say that we are making much out of little. They say that the presidency of the Conference is on a permanent rotation, and it will not change anything. Such a statement only proves that the Conference on Disarmament has become a meaningless excuse to spend millions of dollars a year. This goes beyond mere inaction and now, as the Secretary-General said, they must “face the consequences.”

Based on its total disregard for its responsibilities we conclude that the Conference on Disarmament is defunct. The nation of Canada has already withdrawn from the Conference, at least for the period during which the Democratic People’s Republic of China will be presiding. We ask all those NGO’s who are dedicated to human rights to call their governments to follow Canada’s example in withdraw in protest. A forum which does not give prestige and the appearance of legitimacy to nations guilty of such heinous crimes. We, ourselves, call upon all member states who are concerned about arms proliferation, dedicated to disarmament, and committed to human rights to withdraw from the Conference and call for either a serious restructuring or the creation of a new body which can actually pursue the goal of disarmament.

We are writing as a member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition to express our grave concern over the North Korea’s appointment to chair the U.N. Conference on disarmament, and to call all concerned Member States as well as the human rights community to action. The North Korea Freedom Coalition is a nonpartisan coalition founded in June, 2003 to work for the freedom, human rights, and dignity of the North Korea people. We believe that promoting human rights for North Korea must be the central focus of any and all policy towards North Korea.

Jubilee Campaign promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities; advocates the release of prisoners of conscience imprisoned on account of their faith; advocates for and assists refugees fleeing religious based persecution; and protects and promotes the dignity and safety of children from bodily harm and sexual exploitation. Jubilee Campaign holds special consultative status with ECOSOC at the United Nations.

Iranian Pastor Required to “Repent” of His Faith

Greetings

Over the past several years we have been greatly concerned for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani. Pastor Yousef has been viciously persecuted by the Iranian government. He was thrown in jail, tortured and his wife and children were threatened. Finally the Iranian government put him on trial for apostasy. After a lower court sentenced him to death, the Iranian Supreme Court took the case. When they released a verdict which appeared to reverse the death sentence we, along with many others in the human rights community, were overjoyed. However it appears that our celebration was premature. The verdict requires that Pastor Yousef “repent” in order to escape the death penalty. Such a requirement has ominous overtones in Iran.

There has been some debate about the meaning of the verdict. Pastor Yousef’s lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that “Because apostasy is not mentioned in Iran’s penal code, and apostasy is not considered a crime, then the court has to consider Mr. Nadarkhani’s case in the context of [the crime] ‘insulting the Prophet of Islam.’ In this respect, since my client has not made any insults, he can tell the same to the court.”

Mr. Dadkhah is deeply committed to human rights and has sacrificed much to defend Pastor Yousef. He faces a nine year prison sentence and a ten year ban on his law practice for defending an innocent man. However, from the beginning the Iranian government has been on a campaign to break Pastor Yousef’s faith. It will take a miracle for them to be satisfied by a continuing statement that Pastor Yousef has done nothing wrong. Instead, it is likely that the Iranian government will take ‘repentance’ to mean the denial of Pastor Yousef’s Christian faith, despite Mr. Dadkhah’s hopes.

At this critical time, we are pleased to be able to report to you that the U.S. State Department is putting pressure on the Iranians. The statement below is a strong indication of official U.S. support for Pastor Yousef. But merely because the secular powers have mobilized does not mean that we have any less responsibility. We ask you to take time, and even inform your churches, and pray with us.

Pray for:

· Clear annulment of the death sentence for Yousef Naderkhani

· Acquittal and release of all other Christians held in prison.

· Five specific prisoners to pray for are: Vahik Abrahamian; Farshid Fathi; Abrahim Firouzi; Masoud Delijani; and Noorollah Ghabitzadeh.

· The end of the hostility towards Christians from the Iranian government.

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The U.S. State Department

Persecution of Religious Minorities in Iran

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 6, 2011

We are dismayed over reports that the Iranian courts are requiring Youcef Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith or face the death penalty for apostasy – a charge based on his religious beliefs. If carried out, it would be the first execution for apostasy in Iran since 1990.

He is just one of thousands who face persecution for their religious beliefs in Iran, including the seven leaders of the Baha’i community whose imprisonment was increased to 20 years for practicing their faith and hundreds of Sufis who have been flogged in public because of their beliefs.

While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing.

We join the international community in continuing to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them.