2017-03-30 Update: Minority rights – Global Legal Monitor

Iran: Charter on Citizens' Rights Signed (Feb. 28, 2017) With the aim of and promoting citizens' rights," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, under his constitutional authority to the program and policies of the government," signed the Charter on Citizens' Rights in a ceremony on December 19, 2016.¬† (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding Guarantee," VOA (Dec. 19, 2016) (in Persian); Manshur-e Hoquq-e Shahrvandi [Charter on Citizens' Rights] (Dec. 2016), Hassan Rouhani website; Charter on Citizen's Rights (Charter) (Dec. 2016), Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran website (official English translation); Qanun-e Asasi-e Jomhuri-e Islami-e Iran [Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran] (1979), art. 134, Islamic Parliament Research Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran website; Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Constitution), Comparative Constitutions Project website.) The Charter, which is actually draft legislation that needs to be passed by Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament), contains no specific enforcement guarantee.¬† (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding Guarantee," supra; Mehrnaz Samimi, Will Rouhani's of Rights" Change Anything in Iran?, ATLANTIC COUNCIL (Jan. 3, 2017).) The Charter contains 120 articles, which include the right of Iranian citizens enjoy a decent life and necessities thereof, such as clean water, adequate food, promotion of health, ‚… appropriate medical treatment, access to medicines, ‚… and safe and sustainable environmental conditions. ¬†(Charter, art. 2.)¬† The Charter guarantees citizens' freedom of speech and expression the limits prescribed by law," and affords them the right to access public information, communicate in cyberspace, assemble and participate in demonstrations, and receive due process of law.¬† (Id. arts. 26, 30, 33, 46 & 57.)¬† In addition, the Charter provides for a number of women's rights, guaranteeing women's particip …

Pakistan: Sindh Provincial Assembly Passes Law to Establish Commission for Protection of Minority Rights (Dec. 19, 2016) In what Assembly-member Nand Kumar Goklani called victory for the entire province," Pakistan's Sindh Province Assembly has unanimously adopted a private bill to establish a commission to protect the rights of religious minorities. ¬†(Sindhi Assembly Stamps Commission for Minorities, NATION (Nov. 18, 2016).) ¬†The Sindh Minorities Rights Commission Bill, 2015, was passed on November 17, 2016, on the recommendation of a report of the Assembly's Standing Commission on Minority Affairs.¬† (A Bill for the Establishment of Sindh Minorities Rights Commission, 2015 (Minority Rights Commission Bill), Open Parliament website; Azeem Samar, Sindh Passes Bill to Establish Minorities' Rights Commission, NEWS INTERNATIONAL (Nov. 18, 2016).) The new law aimed to provide a platform to examine the grievances of minority communities, suggest mechanisms for accelerating the pace of their socioeconomic development, and promote and protect their identities at the provincial level. ¬†(Minority Rights Commission Bill, preamble.)¬† Kumar, a member of Pakistan's Hindu minority, stated that the law would also the values of religious harmony, tolerance, respect and peace, which were inherent in the creation of Pakistan." ¬†(Time for Inclusion: Law Passed to Establish Sindh Minorities Rights Commission, EXPRESS TRIBUNE (Nov. 18, 2016).) The Minority Rights Commission Bill defines 17 specific functions to be discharged by the Commission, including the examination of government policy and programs related to a variety of issues faced by minorities; review of laws and regulations affecting the status and rights of minorities, suggesting the repeal or amendment of existing laws or adoption of new laws to eliminate discrimination and promote minority welfare; undertaking of research and programs to raise the status, literacy, social interaction, and political participation of minorities in Sindh, and eliminate hate material and hate speech; investigation of specific complaint …

Australia: Police Response to Aboriginal Death in Custody and Ensuing Riot Ruled Discriminatory (Dec. 9, 2016) On December 5, 2016, the Federal Court of Australia found in favor of an Aboriginal community from Palm Island, Queensland, in a class action case involving claims that officers of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) engaged in racial discrimination in responding to a riot that took place in 2004 following the death of an Aboriginal man in police custody. (Wotton v State of Queensland (No 5) [2016] FCA 1457, Federal Court of Australia website.) The applicants also claimed that the QPS had contravened the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (Federal Register of Legislation website)¬†in its handling of the investigation of the death in custody.¬† (Id.) Background Cameron Doomadgee (commonly called Mulrunji), a 36-year-old Aboriginal man, died in police custody on Palm Island on November 19, 2004. That morning, he had been arrested near the police station after yelling out what the arresting officer,¬†Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, considered to be abuse directed at Hurley and an Aboriginal police liaison officer who was also on duty. Mulrunji was affected by alcohol and struggled with Hurley, leading to a fall near the door to the police station. He was then dragged and unresponsive" into a cell and died within the next hour. (Federal Court of Australia, Wotton v State of Queensland (No 5) [2016] FCA 1457: Summary (Mortimer J, Dec. 5, 2016), Federal Court of Australia website.) Mulrunji's autopsy showed that he died of major internal injuries. The coroner's preliminary report found that Mulrunji died after falling over a step. When the autopsy results were released, about a week after his death, Lex Wotton, an indigenous activist, angry residents on a riot through the town." (Palm Island Riots: Federal Court Finds Police Acted with in Racial Discrimination Lawsuit, ABC NEWS (Dec. 5, 2016).) The police station was burned down during the riot, along with the courthouse and Hurley's home. (Palm Island Death in Custody Timeline, SYDNEY MO …

Pakistan: National Assembly Passes Hindu Marriage Bill (Nov. 15, 2016) On September 26, 2016, the Hindu Marriage Bill was unanimously passed in Pakistan's National Assembly, after three previous failed attempts to pass the bill in 2008, 2011, and 2012. (Kalbe Ali, NA Finally Passes Hindu Marriage Bill, DAWN (Sept. 27, 2016); Hamza Ameer, Why Is Pakistan Afraid of Passing the Hindu Marriage Bill? QUINT (July 13, 2015).) The bill had been tabled by Human Rights Minister Kamran Michael and was approved unanimously, despite objections" from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Party Member of the National Assembly Lal Chand Malhi. (NA Finally Passes Hindu Marriage Bill, supra.) Background¬† The Hindu minority in Pakistan is estimated to be about 1.6% of the population, and they are mostly concentrated in Sindh Province. (Kaleem Dean, The Long Awaited Hindu Marriage Act, DAILY TIMES (Oct. 4, 2016).) After the adoption of the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution in April 2010, it is now within the jurisdiction of provincial assemblies to pass legislation regarding marriage and minority affairs in their respective provinces. (Id.; The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (as amended up to Feb. 28, 2012), as amended by Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010, Section 101(3), National Assembly website.) The National Assembly can still pass such legislation within the constitutionally defined territories of the federal government or within the provinces with their consent. ¬†(Id. arts. 142(d), 144.) The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken note of the absence of a Hindu marriage registration law more than once. (Nasir Iqbal, SC Wants Draft of Hindu Marriage Bill Approved in 2 Weeks, DAWN (Jan. 14, 2015).) In 2012, a bench headed by then-Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry took suo moto (its own motion") notice of ¬†a similar issue mentioned in a newspaper column that highlighted problems Pakistani Hindus faced in obtaining passports and Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs). ¬†(Id.)¬† A report …

Nepal: New Constitution Amended (Jan. 27, 2016) By a two-thirds vote on January 23, 2016, the Parliament of Nepal accepted an amendment of the country's new Constitution. The Constitution had been adopted just a few months ago, in September 2015. (Nepal Parliament Amends New Constitution, INDIA.COM (Jan. 24, 2016); Wendy Zeldin, Nepal: New Constitution Approved, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 1, 2015); Constitution Bill of Nepal 2015: Revised Draft, INSECONLINE.ORG; Constitution of Nepal Final, Legislature Parliament of Nepal website (last visited Jan. 26, 2016) (in Nepali) (click on PDF link to view).) The amendment was designed to help resolve the issues raised by the minority Madhesi community, comprising people living in southern Nepal who share cultural and family ties with India. They had demanded a new demarcation of provinces, proportionate representation, and allocation of seats in the legislature based on population. The Constitution as adopted in 2015 had a federal structure of six provinces, which the Madhesis felt did not meet their needs for representation. Articles 42, 84, and 286 of the 2015 Constitution were amended by the recent legislative action. (Nepal Parliament Amends New Constitution, supra.) According to the draft English translation of the Constitution, these articles covered social justice issues (specifically naming the Madhesis among other groups), the composition of the legislature, and parliamentary hearings on high-level judicial appointments, respectively. (Constitution Bill of Nepal 2015: Revised Draft.) The number of parliamentary seats from the 20 districts in the southern region of the country has now been increased. The government has said that these changes should meet the Madesi requests on proportionate representation and allocation of legislative seats. (Nepal Parliament Amends New Constitution, supra.) The members of the Parliament from the political parties representing the Madhesi boycotted the amendment vote, calling its revised provisions inadequate. (I …

Cambodia: Protest Supports Villagers Challenging Foreign Forest Concession (Sept. 25, 2015) On September 22, 2015, a group of approximately 100 Cambodians from the Phnong ethnic group rallied to support five members of the group who were questioned in court and then released. The issues involved were claims of illegal logging and a land dispute in Kratie Province of eastern Cambodia. The provincial court had called the five individuals to answer questions about a dispute with a Vietnamese rubber company. (Chin Chetha & Men Sothy [in Khmer], Joshua Lipes [in English], Ethnic Villagers Protest Cambodian Court Questioning of Forest Activists, RADIO FREE ASIA (Sept. 22, 2015).) The villagers argued that the company had destroyed forest areas that they had traditionally used. According to Set Seb, one of the protestors, since the Doty Saigon company began clearing the forest last year, her family can no longer harvest the fruits, vines, and resin on which they had relied from the forest. Those at the rally want their government to uphold their rights to the land; they traditionally used the forest sustainably, without cutting down trees. (Id.) The use of forest areas in Cambodia by foreign companies given concessions by the government has been controversial for several years. It was one of the issues motivating anti-government protestors in December 2013. (Thomas Fuller, Rally Draws a Diverse Group of Protesters in Cambodia, NEW YORK TIMES (Dec. 29, 2013).) The area in question, 15,900 acres, had been granted as a concession to Doty Saigon by the Council of Ministers of Cambodia in March 2007. The area is adjacent to the 1,235 forest acres the Phnong claim. (Lipes, supra.) Local rights group Adhoc provided legal defense to the five villagers; an official of the group, Suos Vannak, said there was no evidence to support claims that the villagers took part in illegal logging. Hum Ngor, one of the five questioned in court, asserted that the concession to the rubber company had negatively impacted his communities customs and culture and that the …

United Arab Emirates: New Law Banning Discrimination (July 22, 2015) On July 20, 2015, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnic identity. The law also bans discrimination on the grounds of caste, doctrine, color, or race. (Steven Wildberger, UAE Issues Religious Tolerance Law, PAPER CHASE (July 21, 2015).) The Attorney-General of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (one of the components of the UAE), Ali Mohammed Al Balushi, described the law as attempting to prevent divisions in the UAE's diverse society and to protect all the people of the UAE in a manner consistent with international human rights law as well as with Arab civilization and Islamic civilization. (Anti-Discriminatory Law to Thwart Any Attempt to Sow Seeds of Division in Country's Cohesive, Diverse Society, Says Abu Dhabi Attorney-General, WAM (Emirates News Agency) (July 20, 2015); United Arab Emirates, WORLD FACTBOOK (last updated July 15, 2015).) The new law, issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, makes it a crime to spread religious hatred or to insult religion, whether through speech, written media, or online. It punishes forms of hate speech that include calling other religious groups or persons infidels. In addition, it penalizes vandalism aimed at religious rituals, holy sites, and symbols. (Anti-Discriminatory Law to Thwart Any Attempt to Sow Seeds of Division in Country's Cohesive, Diverse Society, Says Abu Dhabi Attorney-General, supra.) The penalties that may be imposed for all the actions considered crimes in the law include imprisonment for from six months to over ten years and fines of from AED50,000 to AED2 million (about US$13,600-$544,500). (UAE Law Combats Religious and Ethnic Intolerance, STAR (July 20, 2015); New UAE Law: 10 Years' Jail for Hate Crimes and Discrimination, GULF NEWS (July 21, 2015).) The law also targets groups or other entities designed specifically to provoke hatred and provides for punishment of such groups or their supporters if they are a …

Brazil: National Council of Justice Sets Quota for Blacks
(June 15, 2015) The Brazilian National Council of Justice issued a resolution on June 9, 2015, that establishes that 20% of the available positions in public exams designed to select people to enter the bodies of the judiciary, including exams to become a judge, must be filled by black people. The rule is mandatory when the number of positions available is equal to or greater than three. (André Richter, CNJ Aprova Cotas para Negros em Concursos para Magistratura , AGÊNCIA BRASIL (June 9, 2015).)

Whoever declares themselves to be black or brown (pardo) according to the definition of color or race used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística) during the application process for the public exam is entitled to fill slots under the quota. (Id.)

These criteria will be valid until June 9, 2024, the date when Law No. 12,990 of June 9, 2014, which establishes the same quota for positions in the executive, expires. (Id.; Lei No. 12.990, de 9 de Junho de 2014 , PLANALTO.)

The first census of the judiciary, which occurred in 2013, indicated that only 4% of the judges declared themselves to be brown, 1.4% percent declared themselves to be black, and 0.1% declared themselves to be of an indigenous race. (Richter, supra.)

United Nations: Website Seeks to Address Discrimination Against People with Albinism (May 12, 2015) On May 5, 2015, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched a website designed to discredit myths about albinism and advocate for legal and practical steps to protect albinos. The website notes that the rare condition is profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically." (Ghosts But Human Beings:' UN Rights Office Launches Website on Albinism , UN NEWS CENTRE (May 5, 2015).) According to the website, it is estimated that between 1 in 5,000 and 1 in 15,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone are affected by albinism, while the rate in Europe and North America is about 1 in 20,000. (Albinism, PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM: NOT GHOSTS BUT HUMAN BEINGS, OHCHR website (last visited May 8, 2015).) People with the condition have been the objects of brutal attacks in a number of African countries; in some cases they have been killed due to the belief that their body parts have magical powers. (Joseph Kayira & Sinikka Tarvainen, Albinos Like Animals' for Body Parts in Malawi, NEWS 24 (Mar. 3, 2015).) The website describes the kinds of discrimination faced by people with albinism, including: repudiation by their husbands of women who give birth to albino children; abandonment or killing of children with albinism; discrimination related to the physical disabilities that may co-exist with albinism; belief that such persons may be a source of misfortune; prejudice that makes it difficult for persons with albinism to access health care, social services, legal protection, and redress for abuses they have suffered; and difficulty obtaining education, and thus employment, due to lack of assistance with the vision impairment sometimes associated with their condition. (People with Albinism Face Multiple Forms of Discrimination Worldwide, OHCHR website (last visited May 8, 2015).) The website goes on to state that the to freedom from discrimination requires states to adopt comprehensive strategies to ensure that p …

Indonesia: Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People to Forests (Apr 29, 2015) On April 18, 2015, Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, issued the Declaration," named after the capital of the province of West Nusa Tenggara. The Declaration is part of the government's response to a May 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court giving indigenous groups control of forested areas in which they live; that decision amounted to a relinquishment of state claims to those areas. (Kennial Caroline Laia, In Mataram Declaration, Belated Recognition of Indigenous Rights, JAKARTA GLOBE (Apr. 23, 2015); Decision of the Constitutional Court 35/PUU-X/2012 (May 16, 2013) Constitutional Court website [in Indonesian]; Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Forest Rights of Indigenous Peoples Affirmed, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 3, 2013).) Government PlansBakar noted that Indonesia is making efforts to involve stakeholders, especially indigenous groups, in crafting policies to improve environmental protection and help local communities. policies are really important. ‚… President Joko Widodo's government has indicated that the citizenship concept is a democratic one, in which we seek to bring welfare to the people," she stated. (Kennial Caroline Laia, supra.) Indonesia has a 2015-2019 Mid-Term Development Plan under which nine million hectares of land will be set aside for agriculture and 12.5 million hectares will be labeled for forestry." The agricultural land would be taken from former logging concessions and be cultivated largely by subsistence farmers. The forestry areas would be used by indigenous groups and local communities for sustainable forestry. (Id.) Bakar added that system will be no longer like the past, when government didn't put the people at the front of its development plans. Now, we must use dialogue in our approach to developing the economy of this country." (Id.) Reaction of NGOs Groups working to promote the rights of the indigenous population are pleased with the Declaration …

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