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 US: Under CERD's Early Warning

In its 68th session, the UN CERD Committee issued early warning to the United States under its Urgent Action procedure after considering credible information received by the Committee alleging that the Western Shoshone indigenous peoples are being denied their traditional rights to land, and that measures taken and even accelerated lately by the United States in relation to the status, use and occupation of these lands may cumulatively lead to irreparable harm to these communities. The CERD Committee urged the US to inform about (a) reported legislative efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers; (b) information according to which destructive activities are conducted and/or planned on areas of spiritual and cultural significance to the Western Shoshone peoples, who are denied access to, and use of, such areas, in particular the reinvigorated federal efforts to open a nuclear waste repository at the Yucca Mountain; the alleged use of explosives and open pit gold mining activities on Mont Tenabo and Horse Canyon; and the alleged issuance of geothermal energy leases at, or near, hot springs, and the processing of further applications to that end; (c) the reported resumption of underground nuclear testing on Western Shoshone ancestral lands; (d) the conduct and / or planning of all such activities without consultation with and despite protests of the Western Shoshone peoples; (e) the reported intimidation and harassment of Western Shoshone people by the State party's authorities, through the imposition of grazing fees, trespass and collection notices, impounding of horse and livestock, restrictions on hunting, fishing and gathering, as well as arrests, which gravely disturb the enjoyment of their ancestral lands; and (f) the difficulties encountered by Western Shoshone peoples in appropriately challenging all such actions before national courts and in obtaining adjudication on the merits of their claims, due in particular to domestic technicalities.

Despite reminders, the US failed to submit its fourth and fifth periodic reports to clarify the situations.

The CERD Committee stated that past and new actions taken by the State party on Western Shoshone ancestral lands lead to a situation where, today, the obligations of the US under the Convention are not respected, in particular the obligation to guarantee the right of everyone to equality before the law in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, without discrimination based on race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.

Australia: at it again

In January 2006, 43 Papuan refugees managed to sail to Australia in boats with tales of human rights violations. After considering the applications on individual basis, Australia, which is infamous for risking the plight of the refugees and asylum seekers, granted temporary asylum to 42 Papuans which will allow them to stay in the country for three years. On 23 March 2006, Australian Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone informed that a decision has been pending on the 43rd asylum seeker.

Indonesia reacted angrily and recalled its Ambassador to Canberra for clarifications on the issue. It  absurdly urged that that the grant of refugee status will mean Australia's support to the separatist movement in Papua. Australia on its part decided to trim up already restrictive refugee determination process! No safe haven around.

Mexico: Indigenous children face discrimination

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its concluding observations (CRC/C/MEX/CO/3) expressed concern about indigenous children in Mexico. Indigenous children, especially those of the indigenous migrant workers, in particular have very limited access to education and health and suffer from disproportionately high malnutrition rate, and infant and maternal mortality rates. The Committee expressed comcerms about the disproportionately high number of working children among indigenous peoples. The Committee recommended that Mexico provide indigenous communities with sufficient information, in their own language as well as in a child friendly format, regarding birth registration procedures, child labour, education and health, HIV/AIDS, child abuse and neglect, including corporal punishment, and on themes covered by the Optional Protocols to the Convention. However, when there is little disaggregation of data, it can be of little help

Racism: Alive and kicking in Bangladesh

Mohammad Humayun Kabir, the Deputy Commissioner of the Khagrachari Hill district of Bangladesh in his book, "Khagrachari 2001-2005", described the indigenous peoples of the CHT as "outsiders", "anti-Bengali people", "wild and uncivilized tribes" and purposefully distributed it to various Ministers, representatives of diplomatic missions, government officials and offices of donor agencies in Bangladesh. It is racism of the highest order. If the head of the District holds such racist views, what about the illiterate plain settlers and security forces? Strangely, the government of Bangladesh failed to take any action against the errant Commissioner despite the protest from the Jana Samhati Samiti.

Bangladesh: Phulbari Coal Project displaces indigenous peoples

The proposed open pit coal mine plant of Asia Energy Corporation (AEC) at Phulbari in Dinajpur district of Bangladesh will displace around 4,70,000 people of Phulbari, Nababganj, Birampur and Parbatipur upzilas, including 50,000 indigenous peoples. It will also adversely affect the environment.

AEC is presently waiting for the approval of the government of Bangladesh to start the mining operations at the cost of US$1.6 billion to extract around 15 million tones of coal per year for 30 years.

On 30 April 2006, thousands of indigenous peoples protested against the proposed plan. Due to extraction of coal in open pit method, the affected areas will lose natural vegetation and the water level might fall with devastating effects on agriculture.  AEC has recently awarded a contract of a $50 million water management programme to a Bangladeshi company, Falgu Sandhani, signalling its readiness to start full operation from 2008.

Malaysia: Conversion by inducements

Kelantan is the only province in Malaysia ruled by the Islamic fundamentalists. The "Orang Aslis", first peoples, who traditionally do not follow mainstream Muslim religion, have been target of proselytization by the Islamists. Preachers who marry Orang Asli women will receive a lump sum of 10,000 ringgit (2,707 dollars) as well as free accommodation, a four-wheel drive vehicle and a monthly allowance of 1,000 ringgit. More than 12,000 Orang Asli reside in Kelantan and 2,902 have already converted to Islam. But the provincial government is unhappy and wants to complete the process of conversion by inducements.

India: EC experience on reaching out to the tribal communities in India

On 28 June 2006, the Delegation of the European Commission to India organised a thematic seminar focusing on its experience in reaching out to the tribal communities in India through various cooperation programmes and projects.  "There is a gap between policy intent at macro-level and actual local level delivery and implementation in tribal development schemes and plans in different parts of the country. This is observed in terms of availability, access and utilization of social services, as well as in terms of access and control of natural resources that impact livelihoods of the tribal people, who are perhaps the most disadvantaged and marginalized section of the Indian society. In order for the development plans to be effective, it is essential that tribal communities should have their say in defining their development needs. At the same time their tribal identity should not be lost in the process of development." - concluded the seminar. More than 300 participants attended the seminar inaugurated by the Head of Delegation, Ambassador Francisco Camara Gomes and Joint Secretary Mr. Farooqui, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.

Philippines: Defenders on the hit list

On 8 June 2006, Rafael Markus Bangit, an indigenous leader was gunned down by the vigilantes associated with the military. Bangit was killed while he was in transit to Baguio from his home province, Kalinga.  He was working with at the regional office of Cordillera Peoples Allaince in Baguio. He was the 682nd victim of political killing since 2001 and the 99th for 2006, according to the documentation of KARAPATAN (Philippine Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights). More than 140 activists have been abducted and remain missing.In addition, 42 journalists have been killed since 2001 - five of them since January 2006, according to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines

Those who are still on military's hit list include Pastor Vergel Aniceto, Ignacio Pangket, Leonida Tundage, Geannette Galvez, Art malecdan in addition to those in the hitlist, namely Joan Carling, Windel Bolinget, Manny Loste, Julian Gayumba, Jose Cawiding and Xavier Akien.

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