Child Labor in Ecuador

Child Labor in Ecuador

By Sovereign Hager

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America


QUITO, Ecuador-The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Guinara Shahinian, expressed grave concern about the continued use of child labor in Ecuador. Ms. Shahinian just finished a tour of Ecuador. She concluded that child labor is a continued impediment to development in Ecuador.

Ms. Shahinian spoke with key stakeholders in the field of child rights and child labor. She also spoke with children and workers. An official report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council. Child labor is most likely to be found in banana plantations, flower farms, and garbage dumps. Child laborers lose out on education and limit their potential to earn a higher income and move their families out of the poverty cycle.

Other instances of labor exploitation observed during the visit included inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as discrimination. These situations reportedly exacerbate labor exploitation which are disproportionately encountered by refugee and asylum-seeking communities of Colombian nationals.

Special Rapporteur Shahinian praised Ecuador for a “genuine commitment to the elimination of child labor, including its worst forms, domestic servitude, forced labor, and debt bondage.”  Ecuador has worked comprehensively with the U.N. in developing initiatives, including a monitoring system.

One potential source of the difficulty in ending child labor is the income inequalities between families of indigenous or Afro-Ecuadorean decent and those of European or Mestizo descent. Children of indigenous or Afro-Ecuadorean descent have the most difficulty accessing education and are more likely to live in poverty.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits children under fifteen years of age from being employed or working dangerous conditions. The Ecuadorean constitution reaffirms these ideas.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Education Associates-Ecuador: Child Labor an Obstacle to Development-2 February 2010

SOS Children’s Village-Child Labor Impedes Development in Ecuador-2 February 2010

U.N. Radio-UN Expert Says Child Labor Still a Problem in Ecuador-2 February 2010

East Timorese Police Beat Up Man, UN Peacekeepers Watch

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

DILI, East Timor – UN peacekeepers turned the other cheek as East Timorese police they were supposed to be mentoring allegedly beat up on a young man late last year.

The East Timorese police allegedly hit, kicked and repeatedly stomped on the young man near an official ceremony.

There is growing concern about the supervision and training that the UN Integrated Mission in East Timor is providing to local police.  The UN mission is also supported by Australian Federal Police and Australian soldiers.

Officers of the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) allegedly kicked the man in the head and hit him with a rifle butt.

A film of this incident was posted on the internet and handed over East Timorese authorities this month.

The sequence of events depicted in the film shows a young man, who was standing on a beach on Atauro Island and holding a sign relating to a local fishing group, being dragged away by PNTL officers, while UN police watch in the background.

No one has suggested that East Timor President, Jose Ramos Horta, who was holding a fishing competition on the Island, observed the incident.

After being dragged away, PNTL officers attempted to handcuff the youngman while two plainclothes officers stood on him, stomping on his back.

The video then shows the officers kicking the man in the head.  Another plainclothes officer slammed the rifle-butt into his stomach.

While the beating was taken place, the video also shows uniformed UN officers looking on, just beyond the circle of PNTL officers.

According to Gyorgy Kakuk, a UN East Timor spokesperson, a joint investigation, and a separate criminal investigation, has been commenced by both the UN and the PNTL.

The spokesman also indicated that once it is established what happened and why, that there may be a separate investigation into the responsibility of police officers, other than PNTL.

“The investigation has to determine what has happened, why did it happen there and, as a result of that investigation, perhaps there will be an investigation established into responsibility of other police officers other than PNTL.”

Australian peacekeepers were not involved in the incident.

However, in a separate controversial incident, Australian soldiers allegedly ran over an East Timorese woman in early December.  The soldiers, who were apparently unaware that the woman died as a result of head injuries from the incident, made no attempts to contact the victim’s family to express their regret or to offer compensation.

Since arriving in 2006, Australian troops, contrary to the UN’s system of accountability, are not under the command of the UN.  The Timorese also believe that Australian soldiers should be placed under UN control.

The UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor became involved in rebuilding the police forces in East Timor, so that they would be capable of policing the country by 2010.

Meanwhile, the Special Representative for the Secretary-General of the UN, Ameerah Haq, has visited several East Timorese districts that are in the transition process.

She noted, “I am impressed by the level of organization and professionalism displayed by PNTL officers . . . as well as the continuing working relationship with UN police officers who now focus on monitoring and mentoring their PNTL colleagues.”

For more information please see:

The Australian – UN peacekeepers stood by East Timorese bash a young man – 29 January 2010

UN News Centre – New UN envoy assesses progress made by Timorese police force – 29 January 2010

Sydney Morning Herald – Left in lurch, says Timor family – 28 January 2010

Twelve Die in North West Suicide Attack

By Michael E. Sanchez
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KHAR, Pakistan- A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military checkpoint in a market in northwest- Pakistan on Saturday, officials said.

Senior administration official Iqbal Khattak told the Associated Foreign Press that a man wearing a vest packed with explosives walked up to the post in Khar, the main town in the restive tribal region in Bajaur, and detonated himself.  “So far 12 deaths have been confirmed, two of them were paramilitary soldiers,” he said.  Mr. Khattak also added that more than 20 others, all civilians, were wounded.  A senior military official, speaking anonymously, confirmed the blast and casualties.

The suicide bomber wanted to proceed towards the government buildings and military barracks nearby, but the soldiers stopped him.  The soldiers were killed when the bomber blew himself up.  The checkpoint resides in the town’s main bazaar which was shut down after the blast.  Mr. Khattak said three vehicles and four shops were destroyed in the bombing.

Bajaur lies in Pakistan’s volatile tribal belt region bordering Afghanistan.  Since the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime from Kabul in late 2001, Bajaur has become a stronghold for hundreds of Islamist extremists.

The attack came a day after Pakistani security forces killed at least 24 suspected militants in air strikes and clashes in Bajaur.  One paramilitary soldier was killed and three wounded in Friday’s clash.

Helicopter gunships and jets have pounded suspected militant hideouts since Tuesday, as the military step up operations in the region, the scene of a major anti-militant operation launched in August 2008.

In February 2009, the army said Bajaur had been cleared of Taliban militants following the August 2008 operation.  But security situation has been deteriorating.  The BBC’s Islamabad-based Aleem Maqbool says the numerous attacks over the last six months show the militants still possess a significant presence in the area.

Close to the Afghan border, Bajaur has been suspected of being the hiding-place of top al-Qaeda leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Pakistan’s military has been focusing on a major offensive, launched in October, nearby throughout the Talibban stronghold of South Waziristan.

For more information please see:

BBC News- Suicide Bomber Attacks Checkpoint In Pakistan -30 January 2010

AFP- 12 Killed In NW Pakistan Suicide Attack: Officials– 30 January 2010

The Long Way Journal-  Suicide Bomber Kills 12 Pakistanis In Bajaur– 30 January 2010

Hong Kong Legislators Resign Over Universal Suffrage

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HONG KONG, China– Thousands of people gathered outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to show support for pro-democracy lawmakers who resigned recently over “the slow pace of democrati[z]ation” in Hong Kong.

The five pro-democracy politicians who resigned were told by the head of Hong Kong’s Executive Council last week that their plan to push for a referendum on universal suffrage was unconstitutional.

Pro-Beijing media and Chinese authorities have also claimed that the referendum would be unconstitutional because it is not stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law agreed to between Chin and the United Kingdom before Hong Kong was returned to China.

This referendum was in response to the government’s proposal on electoral reforms, which pro-democracy parties opined did not sufficiently address the issue of direct representation.

Tanya Chan, one of the resignees, said she hopes the resignation will result in universal suffrage so that Hong Kong’s chief executive and legislators are elected and functional constituencies eliminated.

Pro-democracy proponents have criticized functional constituencies because they allow some voters to vote twice, first in a direct election and then again in functional constituencies.

A former British colony, Hong Kong currently directly elects only half of its 60 legislators and popular vote is not allowed for the chief executive position.  Thus, some feel that despite Hong Kong’s efforts in fighting for democracy for the last two decades, one-person-one-vote is still far away.

Another lawmaker, Alan Leong Kah-kit, said in his resignation speech that the current voting system in unfair and should be changed to “protect human rights and the rule-of-law as well as provide for better governance and quality of life.”

Religious groups have also organized a forum on constitutional reform.  Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, said, “I’m angry at the local government’s political reform proposal which offers neither progress nor any direction.  It gives people no choice….”

A recent survey showed that 60% of Hong Kong residents support universal suffrage.

For more information, please see:

AsiaNews – Card Zen calls for referendum to decide Hong Kong’s democracy – 18 January 2010

Monsters & Critics – Top Hong Kong adviser warns against democracy referendum – 22 January 2010

Spero News – Five democratic lawmakers resign to allow ‘referendum’ on universal suffrage – 28 January 2010

Australia Screens Asylum Seekers for HIV, UN Disapproves

By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s “discriminatory” policy of screening asylum seekers for HIV has been criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR’s regional office has requested that Australia end their health requirement for asylum seekers.  “The present operation of the health requirement is discriminatory in effect and endangers a number of human rights norms.”

Its submission to an inquiry into this practice accuses Australia of “fall[ing] short of its international obligations.”

According to the UNHCR, the health requirements prevent any migrant, who is found to have AIDS or HIV, from entering Australia, unless the individual receives a waiver from the Immigration Minister. Waivers are granted infrequently.

Under the law, asylum seekers with active tuberculosis are banned from entering the country.  However, some individuals, typically partners of Australian citizens are not subject to the same ban and are allowed into the country even if they fail a health test, on grounds of compassion.

The ordinarily strict health rules have been loosened for migrants, allowing any chronically ill foreign workers and families to immigrate, in order to solve the skills shortage.

Changes in the rules would encourage those with work visas to move to Australia, as they or their dependants were previously were turned away for health reasons.

Sources have reported that Australian taxpayers will spend approximately $60 million on healthcare for 288 asylum seekers who were granted these “health waivers” last year.

The Immigration Department rejected applications from more than 1500 individuals who failed the health tests.

Further, the department extended the waiver recently so that some skilled foreign workers and their families would qualify. But the department has not yet announced whether any skilled permanent migrants were given waivers.

An immigration spokesperson verified that all states and territories, with one exception, agreed to extend the waiver to certain categories of skilled worker visas last year.

New South Wales, the state to which most migrants flock, has not yet accepted the extension of the waiver due to the impact on their hospitals.

He added that “if some applicants fail the health requirement, there is the option for a health waiver to be considered.”

For more information please see:

The Australian – United Nations blasts HIV tests on asylum-seekers – 29 January 2010

Visa Bureau – Migrants with HIV/Aids will be allowed to emigrate to Australia – 29 January 2010

Global Visas – Chronically ill foreign workers allowed to move to Australia – 28 January 2010