Amnesty International has been documenting cases of segregation of Roma in Slovak schools since 2006

© Amnesty International

“This landmark judgment is a signal to the authorities, including the Ministry of Education, that segregation of Romani pupils on the basis of ethnicity violates the right to equality and Slovakia’s international obligations to end discrimination.”
–Marek Marczyński, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International

A historic Slovak court ruling that the segregation of Roma in schools is unlawful sends a strong signal to the authorities that separate education based on the ethnicity of the pupils is unacceptable, said Amnesty International.

The Regional Court in Prešov, eastern Slovakia on Tuesday ruled that by segregating Romani pupils in separate classes, the elementary school in the village of Šarišské Michaľany had violated the law.The decision is final.

The complaint against the school was submitted by the NGO, Centre for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa pre občianske a ľudské práva) in 2010.

“This landmark judgment is a signal to the authorities, including the Ministry of Education, that segregation of Romani pupils on the basis of ethnicity violates the right to equality and Slovakia’s international obligations to end discrimination,” said Marek Marczyński, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International..

Amnesty International has been documenting cases of segregation of Roma in schools since 2006 and showing that the practice affects thousands of pupils throughout Slovakia.

The segregation takes various forms. In some cases, such as in Šarišské Michaľany, Romani children are placed in separate classes. In others, Romani pupils are segregated in special schools or classes which provide inferior education.

The case of Šarišské Michaľany is not unique in Slovakia. Amnesty International, along with Romani parents, has been campaigning against segregation of pupils in Roma-only classes in the elementary school on Francisciho Street in the town of Levoča, also in the eastern region of Prešov.

Succumbing to pressure from non-Roma parents, the school had placed Romani first graders into separate classes.

Although a small number of pupils were transferred to the mixed classes in the current school year, the school continues to run Roma-only classes.

The person I interviewed was Don Mertz. He worked at the job for four and a half years. He was an operations analyst for the United States government and the Air Force. The qualities to be this type of worker is, to have interest in history, sociology and have knowledge of cultures and religions and have a little knowledge in anthropology. Their base of operations is in Suffolk, Virginia. This person’s job was a communications specialist. The social media website for this organization is Apan.org and now anybody can access the network and see what exactly is happening in the world. Their job was to send in troops if the United Nations didn’t act quick enough to help the world; which happened a lot according to him. His organization holds cultural awareness seminars and has actual people from that place telling their life stories.

What people don’t understand is that some of these warzones, such as Iraq could have been worse because the tyrants could have been killing innocent people during that time we were at war. He believes that the United States is too much involved in the United Nations. The United States contributes about 25 percent of the United Nations budget. His view on the United Nations is that they take too long on the decision making process.

Aside  —  Posted: October 29, 2012 in The United Nations

Brazilian authorities have met delays in their process to demarcate ancestral indigenous lands.

© Amnesty International

“The Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay have made themselves clear that being forced off their ancestral lands again would be tantamount to their very cultural extinction – the eviction order must be suspended immediately”
–Átila Roque, Director of Amnesty International Brazil

The Brazilian authorities must immediately suspend a court order to evict 170 Guarani–Kaiowá indigenous people from a portion of their ancestral lands, Amnesty International said after the community pledged to die together rather than be forced off their territory.

Some 170 people – including 70 children – from the Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay community near Iguatemi in southern Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state are at risk of eviction following the order, which a regional federal court upheld on 17 September.

The community has been occupying a two-hectare tract of forest along the Hovy River for almost a year, after gunmen razed their previous settlement to the ground.

Carrying out the eviction order would force community members to camp by the side of a road, exposing them to extremely dangerous conditions and cutting them off from their ancestral lands and way of life.

“The Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay have made themselves clear that being forced off their ancestral lands again would be tantamount to their very cultural extinction – the eviction order must be suspended immediately,” said Átila Roque, Director of Amnesty International Brazil.

The Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay community reoccupied their ancestral lands – now claimed by soya and sugar cane farmers who moved into the area – in November 2011, after a truckload of gunmen launched an assault on their previous encampment by the side of a dirt track. The attackers fired rubber bullets at community members and burnt their huts and belongings.

Since the reoccupation, local farmers have blocked off entry points to the land, denying community members access to schooling, healthcare and delivery of food supplies. The Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay have complained of dire living conditions and ongoing threats in this virtual state of siege.

“The authorities must immediately ensure the Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay community has access to basic services, including food, water and healthcare. Any allegations of threats against them must be fully investigated,” said Roque.

Federal prosecutors have challenged local farmers’ efforts to use the courts to seek the community’s eviction. They assert the judge failed to take into account a March 2012 technical report by Brazil’s indigenous agency (Fundação Nacional do Índio, FUNAI) which clearly shows that the community are living on lands traditionally occupied by Guarani –Kaiowá Indigenous People.

The community has reaffirmed their rights to their ancestral lands and vowed to resist any attempts to remove them.

Community members sent an open letter to the Brazilian government and judiciary, saying:

“We know that we will be driven out from the side of the river by the courts, but we have decided that we will not leave. As a native, historically indigenous people, we have decided that we will be killed here together.”

Amnesty International urged the Brazilian authorities to live up to their obligations under international agreements and their constitution to complete all outstanding land demarcations to define the extent of territories traditionally occupied by Indigenous Peoples.

The Guarani–Kaiowá

Mato Grosso do Sul state contains some of Brazil’s smallest, poorest and most densely populated indigenous areas.

Some 60,000 Guarani-Kaiowá Indigenous people live a precarious existence – social breakdown has led to high levels of violence, suicide and malnutrition and life is plagued by ill-health and squalid living conditions.

Frustrated at the slowness of the land demarcation process, the Guarani-Kaiowá people have begun reoccupying ancestral lands, but have been subjected to intimidation and violent evictions.

In November 2007 the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, FUNAI and 23 indigenous leaders, signed an agreement (Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta, TAC) which committed FUNAI to identify 36 different Guarani-Kaiowá ancestral lands – including Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay land – by April 2010.

The process has still not been completed due to lack of resources and legal challenges.

Meanwhile, several Guarani-Kaiowá communities have ended up living beside highways. They have been exposed to threats from security guards hired to prevent them from trying to reoccupy land, health problems related to living in inadequate temporary shelters and lack of medical assistance. A large number have been killed and injured in traffic accidents.

A Syrian boy looks on in a newly built refugee camp.

© AFP/Getty Images

By Charlotte Phillips, researcher on refugee and migrants’ rights at Amnesty International.

On 26 September 2012 at the United Nations General Assembly, David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, accused the United Nations of inaction over the Syria conflict, stating: “The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations.”

A few months earlier in June 2012, the European Council “strongly condemned the brutal violence and massacres of civilians and urged the Syrian regime to stop immediately its attacks against the civilian population”.

The human rights crisis in Syria is a major test for the EU in its own neighbourhood. In light of the recent announcement that it has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the European Union and its member states have an opportunity to live up to this recognition by taking decisive action to ensure that refugees fleeing Syria are protected.

However, despite widespread condemnation, lofty talk and finger pointing, the, international community – including the European Union – has thus far failed to place any effective pressure on the parties to the conflict in Syria to end the large-scale human rights and humanitarian law violations.

Nineteen months after the initially peaceful pro-reform protests erupted and were met with brutal repression, spiralling into an internal armed conflict, the UN Security Council remains paralysed by the prospect of Russia and China’s vetos and the inaction of its other members.

And while the international community dithers, civilian casualities – many of them children – continue to mount.

Estimates indicate that well over 24,000 people have died since the crisis began. In addition, over one million people have become displaced from their homes within Syria.

More than 350,000 refugees have registered or are awaiting registration in Syria’s neighbouring countries- namely Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

The UN predicts that by the end of the year 700,000 refugees will have fled to Syria’s neighbours. By contrast, the EU has only received 16,500 Syrian asylum seekers.

While Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq have, on the whole, allowed large numbers of refugees to enter and remain on their territories, the sharply rising numbers crossing borders as the conflict worsens, makes it imperative for the international community to act decisively to share responsibility with neighbouring countries hosting them.

After all, if governments are really concerned about the fate of civillians in Syria, surely they are equally concerned for those forced to flee the country to seek safety. Assisting and protecting those who have managed to escape the bloodshed is the very least that the international community can do.

For this reason, Amnesty International is appealing to the European Union and its member states to take practical measures to assist those fleeing Syria.

Amnesty International proposes the EU takes the following concrete measures:

•    Ensure access to protection and fair asylum procedures for all Syrian asylum-seekers arriving in the EU

•    Ensure no refugees are returned to Syria until the situation has stabilised and their safety can be assured

•    Agree a common EU approach towards determining refugee claims

•    Adopt a generous interpretation of international protection

•    Lift obstacles to safety, such as visa requirements and overly burdensome family reunification procedures

Amnesty International is also calling on EU member states to share the responsibility and show solidarity by resettling refugees out of Syria, which is still hosting a large number of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, as well as significant numbers of Somali, Afghan, Sudanese and Yemeni refugees.

Non-Iraqi refugees in particular face significantly increased exposure to protection risks during the current period of unrest due to their lack of documentation and/or visibility as foreigners.

The UN Refugee Agency is appealling to countries to provide resettlement places for these refugees and Amnesty International urges EU states to respond generously to this appeal.

European countries, as well as other donor countries, must also donate generously to the United Nations (UN) Syria Regional Response Plan. The UN, with its partners, has appealed for US$487.9 million to support the Syrian refugee operation. To date, the appeal is only 29 percent funded.

The rapidly growing numbers of refugees and the onset of winter mean even harsher conditions for refugees in neighbouring countries.

The need to support the humanitarian appeal has become all the more urgent.

I have just gotten off the phone with Jaclyn Lesch who is the Department Head of the Student Mobilization Team within IJM (International Justice Missions). She started her career at the Department of Justice where she was a spokesperson for the criminal division. While working there, she began to hear reporters talk a lot about the work being done with children around the world. This shocked her, interested her, and made her want to help. She has now been working for IJM since December of 2008 (4 years) and has put the number of college chapters at an all-time high of 150.

Lesch’s main job is to engage college students in the movement to end slavery, mainly in third-world, or developing, countries. She does this by raising awareness and going to college campuses to hold speaking events. She states, “It all starts with awareness, then financial support, support through advocacy & prayer, and finally, wanting the public to speak out and let elected individuals know that it is something the public is concerned about.” So, when Lesch goes to college campuses, she tends to leave students with something tangible that they can do – having each person sign a car to the senator saying they care and want the human trafficking law passed.

IJM as a whole is based more on the casework that they conduct in their field offices. Just this past year (2011), they were able to bring relief and rescue to 2,473 people & make 120 convictions. Within a period of 3 years, their office in Cebu (Philippines) saw an 80% of reduction in the minor’s commercial sex trade. The organization’s goal for the next few years is to open more field offices, to reach more people, and to mobilize those people. Their long-term goal, or overall goal, is “To rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible.”

Mrs. Lori DuVal’s Interview

Posted: October 20, 2012 in Poverty

I just finished my interview with Mrs. DuVal, and I couldn’t help but feel relieved. Just knowing that there are people in this world that want to do good and  help and organization as wonderful as Habitat for Humanity. Mrs. DuVal, is a Special Events Chair Member for Habitat for Humanity and she has personally put together several festive events; some of which include a Casino night and a Massacred Ball. In addition to putting together these events, she has contributed auction items, money, and several hours of her personal time to Habitat for Humanity. I can tell that this woman works very hard to help raise money for the homeless and impoverished people around her community, but knows that “there is still a lot of work to be done for these people” in her area.

What My Research Has Shown Me…

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Poverty

Today I learned that human rights is not an international concept. While most if not all countries recognize that each person has rights that should not be violated, some choose to ignore their rights. However, one of my sources (Ci, Jiwei) implies that if the establishment of human rights were to be installed in governmental laws and rights, then the countries (and their people) would know exactly what their rights are.