Obama Bans Use Of Solitary Confinement For Adolescents In Federal Prison

By Samuel Miller
Desk Reporter, North America and Oceania

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States of America — On Monday, President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, stating the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences. President Obama said he came to his decision after a review by the Justice Department determined the practice reduces the chances that prisoners can be rehabilitated into society.

President Obama Announces Changes to the Federal Prison System. (Photo Courtesy of US News & World Report)

The reforms would affect about 10,000 inmates who are serving time in isolation in the federal system.

The department review yielded a series of recommendations and 50 guiding principles, which officials have said would aim to ensure solitary confinement was an increasingly rare punishment, to be used only as an option of last resort when inmates posed a danger to staff, other inmates or themselves. The new rules also dictate that the longest a prisoner can be punished with solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days, rather than the current maximum of 365 days.

Obama said he would take a number of other executive actions, including banning the use of confinement as a punishment for inmates who commit low-level infractions. The president is also directing federal wardens to expand out-of-cell time for all inmates and ensure those in protective custody are housed in less restrictive conditions.

“The United States is a nation of second chances, but the experience of solitary confinement too often undercuts that second chance,” Obama wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “Those who do make it out often have trouble holding down jobs, reuniting with family and becoming productive members of society. Imagine having served your time and then being unable to hand change over to a customer or look your wife in the eye or hug your children.”

The President’s decision follows similar actions in some states, as leaders rethink their correctional practices for the first time in decades.

For example, California settled a landmark lawsuit last year by agreeing to an overhaul of its prison system that included strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates. Additionally, Colorado and New Mexico have reduced the number of people in solitary confinement.

In recent weeks, Illinois and Oregon have announced they will exclude seriously mentally ill inmates from solitary confinement, and last month New York State reached a five-year, $62 million settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, in which it pledged to significantly cut the number of prisoners in solitary as well as the maximum time they could stay there.

Said President Obama: “We believe that when people make mistakes, they deserve the opportunity to remake their lives. And if we can give them the hope of a better future, and a way to get back on their feet, then we will leave our children with a country that is safer, stronger and worthy of our highest ideals.”

In his final year in office, Obama has said that he’d redouble his efforts on criminal justice reform, including improving conditions in federal prisons and encouraging states to adopt new rules that hew more closely to updated research on corrections facilities.

The executive order will only apply to federal prisons; most inmates in the US, however, are held in state prisons.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles and low-level offenders – 26 January 2016

CNN — Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prison – 26 January 2016

Daily Caller — Obama Bans Solitary Confinement For Juvenile Prisoners – 26 January 2016

Washington Post — Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons – 26 January 2016

NY Times — Obama Bans Solitary Confinement of Juveniles in Federal Prisons – 25 January 2016

The Hill — Obama bans solitary confinement for federal juvenile inmates – 25 January 2016

US News and World Report — Obama Bans Solitary Confinement for Kids in Federal Jails – 25 January 2016

USA Today — Obama restricts use of solitary confinement – 25 January 2016

Security Council votes to monitor Colombia cease fire

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

NEW YORK, United States — The United Nations Security Council, led by the delegation of the United Kingdom, has approved a 12 month long mission to monitor the cease-fire between the Colombian government and FARC Rebels. The resolution was unanimously adopted, and had been requested by both parties.

The United Nations Security Council votes to create UN mission to oversee Colombia cease-fire at UN Headquarters, New York City. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was reportedly “pleased by the strong commitment Council members had shown to the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in Colombia.

Both parties have pledged safety for the members of the mission, who will be unarmed. The mission will include experts from Latin America and Caribbean States.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will present details of the mission within 30 days of a final agreement being signed. He will then report every 90 days on the progress of the mission.

After the initial 12 month period, the mission may be extended with the consent of the Colombian government and FARC leadership.

The move was welcomed by Colombian officials. “The Security Council’s decision means we are no longer going alone, but hand in hand with the U.N., with the entire world, toward the end of this war,” said Colombia President Juan Manual Santos.

The disarmament is tentatively scheduled to begin on March 23, though it is uncertain if a final agreement will be reached before that time. The parties have so far reached agreements in the areas of drug trafficking, land rights, and punishment for human rights violations.

Although the Colombian government has agreed to hold a public referendum to allow Colombians to vote for or against the final agreement, FARC representatives have expressed concern over this method.

The violence between government forces and FARC rebels in Colombia is said to be the longest running conflict in Latin America – lasting for over fifty years. Over 220,000 people have died and 5 million others displaced throughout the conflict.


For more information, please see:

New York Times – U.N. Can Seal the Peace in Colombia – 23 January 2016 

Reuters – UN Security Council creates mission to verify Colombia peace deal – 25 January 2016

TeleSur – UN Agrees to Supervise Colombia Peace Deal – 25 January 2016

The City Paper – UN Security Council votes to monitor Colombia in post-conflict – 25 January 2016 

UN News Centre – UN Security Council approves mission to monitor peace deal between Colombia and FARC – 25 January 2016

Washington Times – Colombia, FARC rebels nearing peace deal amid worries about aftermath – 25 January 2016

Jurist – UN Security Council approves peace mission in Colombia – 26 January 2016

Latin America News Dispatch – UN Agrees to Oversee Future Ceasefire Deal Between Colombia, FARC Rebels – 26 January 2016

The City Paper – Striking a peace deal with Colombia’s forests and fields – 26 January 2016

Latin American Herald Tribune – UN Approves Sending Mission to Colombia to Verify Cease-Fire – 27 January 2016

Latin Post – Colombia-FARC Peace Talks to End 50 Years of Conflict – 27 January 2016

Tribunal Finds Canadian Government Discriminated Against First Nation Children

By Samuel Miller
Desk Reporter, North America and Oceania

OTTAWA, Canada — The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled on Tuesday the federal government has discriminated against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere. In its ruling, the tribunal found First Nations are adversely impacted by the services provided by the government and, in some cases, denied services as a result of the government’s involvement.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Located in Ottawa. (Photo Courtesy of National Post)

The government is committing to “significantly increase” funding for First Nations child welfare programs.

In its ruling, the tribunal found that funding formula used by the federal First Nations Child and Family Services Program and related agreements with the provinces and territories have resulted in the denial of child welfare services on reserves. The tribunal also found cases in which there was a financial incentive for the government to remove children living on reserves from their parents’ care and place them in foster care, even though that’s not the standard of care off reserves.

The decision was hailed as a “win not only for First Nations but for all of Canada” by Carrier Sekani Family Services director Mary Teegee.

“If you don’t give a child a good start at life, they don’t have that good of a chance to become strong adults…and if we are not providing what they need to live up to their human potential, that’s a loss not only for Canada but for the world,” Teegee said.

The decision goes on to state the government must cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it. Furthermore, it calls for the redesign of the child welfare system and its funding model, urging the use of experts to ensure First Nations are given culturally appropriate services.

The quasi-judicial body was ruling on a 2007 complaint from the Assembly of First Nations and The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCSC), who had argued the federal government failed to provide First Nations children the same level of services that exist elsewhere.

Funding for on-reserve child welfare services has been pegged at 22 to 34 per cent lower than for provincially-funded off-reserve counterparts, the FNCFCSC said in a press release.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the tribunal’s ruling presents an immediate opportunity to fix the system. He said he expects to see the funding gap addressed in the upcoming federal budget.

“In this great country there is no room for discrimination and racism. To all the young children that have gone through the failed system, we want to ensure them they’re not forgotten.” Bellegarde said during a news conference.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Canada short-changed First Nation children – court ruling – 26 January 2016

CBC News — Canada discriminates against children on reserves, tribunal rules – 26 January 2016

CTV News — Ottawa to increase funding for First Nations children after human rights ruling – 26 January 2016

National Post — Federal government discriminated against First Nations children through welfare funding: human rights tribunal – 26 January 2016

Prince George Citizen — Tribunal rules in favour of First Nations on child welfare complaint – 26 January 2016

Reuters — Canada government discriminated against aboriginal children: tribunal – 26 January 2016

Toronto Sun — Federal government discriminated against First Nations children: Tribunal – 26 January 2016

Police Kill Three Protestors in Nepal

By Christine Khamis

Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia



Police shot and killed three ethnic Madhesi protesters in Rangeli, Nepal last week. The killings occurred amidst continuing political discord over Nepal’s new constitution.

Madhesi protesters during a November 2015 protest over Nepal’s new constitution. (Photo courtesy of Voice of America)

Protesters disrupted a pro-constitution rally run by the Youth wing of Nepal’s governing Communist Party last Thursday, according to Toyam Raya, the chief district officer of the region. The event was organized to honor Nepal’s current prime minister, K. P. Oli.

The United Madhesi Front, a group that has organized most of the Madhesi protests, reportedly warned the Youth wing of the Communist Party not to have its rally. The United Madhesi Front also said that it would disrupt any attempt to honor Prime Minister Oli.

Protesters began to throw stones at police, at which point the police fired tear gas at them and attempted to use batons and blank shots to control the crowd. When those tactics did not work, the police then opened fire on the protesters.

The number of injuries is unclear at this time. Mr. Raya states that eight protesters and 13 police officers were wounded during the conflict, while the Madhesis say that 35 people were injured.

The Madhesis have repeatedly called for changes to the new constitution, primarily because it redraws the boundaries of Nepal’s provinces. The redrawn districts, according to the Madhesis, deny them adequate political power and representation. They have called for the districts to be redrawn so that electoral constituencies are based on population and proportional representation. Members of the Madhesis have held talks with Nepali authorities on the issue, but those talks have failed to end in agreement.

Nepal’s parliament proposed a constitutional amendment in an attempt to quell the protests, but the Madhesis rejected the amendment this week. Laxman Lal Karna, a member of the United Democratic Front, says that the amendment was incomplete and failed to address the Madhesis’ concerns.

Since the introduction of the new constitution in September 2015, over 50 people have been killed in confrontations between police and protesters. Protesters have also blocked supplies coming in from India, leading to a severe fuel shortage in Nepal.


For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Nepal Police Fire on Madhesi Protesters, Killing at Least 3 – 21 January 2016

Voice of America – Police Fire on Protesters in Southern Nepal; 3 Killed – 21 January 2016

Business Standard – 3 Killed in Police Firing as Madhesis Clash with CPN-UML – 21 January 2016

ABC News – Ethnic Protesters in Nepal Reject Constitutional Amendment – 24 January 2016

Press Release- Measuring the Hate: The State of Antisemitism on Social Media

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27th) the Online Hate Prevention Institute has released a groundbreaking report “Measuring the Hate: The State of Antisemitism on Social Media”. The report tracks over 2000 items of antisemitism reported to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The items were tracked over 10 months and at the end of the period, only 20 per cent has been removed.

The response by social media platforms is unacceptable given the a sharp rise in violent hate crimes against Jewish people around the world. Last year, we saw four French Jews killed in an attack on a Jewish supermarket, a community security volunteer killed outside a Synagogue in Denmark, multiple knife attacks on Jews in Israel and a range of other serious antisemitic incidents. Rampant online antisemitism is also playing a significant role in self-radicalisation and the spread of violent extremism in parts of the Arab world and within some Muslim communities.

The new report examines the spread of antisemitism across Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It also explores the spread across four categories of antisemitism. In both cases the removal rates over time are presented. This report is a world first in empirically examining these issues the responses of the world’s three largest social media platforms.

The four categories of antisemitism explored are:  the promotion of violence against Jews; traditional antisemitism such as conspiracy theories, racial slurs, and accusations such as the blood libel; Holocaust denial; and New Antisemitism which relates to the State of Israel. Traditional antisemitism accounted for almost half the items reported.

The report also outlines where each type of antisemitism occurs, with content promoting violence against Jews far more likely to be found on Twitter, while content promoting Holocaust denial was most likely to be found on YouTube. There was also evidence of significant variations in way the social media companies responded to online antisemitism.

Within each company there was a significant variation depending on the category of antisemitism. The best response rates came from Facebook where content promoting violence against Jews showed a 75% chance of eventually being removed. The worst case was YouTube videos containing New Antisemitism, that is, antisemitism related to the State of Israel, where only 4% has been removed after more than 10 months.

Online hate speech is fuelling hate crimes around the world. Governments are starting to respond to the inadequate response by social media companies to this problem. Last year, German prosecutors launched a criminal investigation against senior Facebook executives in response to growing incitement on the platform against immigrants, and Facebook, Google and Twitter have since agreed to remove hate speech reported in Germany within 24 hours and to use the definition of German law rather than their own standards. Facebook has since announced a one million dollar project to tackle online hate in Europe.

Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute warned that, “time is running out for social media platforms to improve their response to the crisis of dangerous content their technology is helping to spread through society. Governments around the world are demanding better regulation of hate, incitement and radicalisation material. This report shows that some platforms are doing more to meet this challenge than others, but all have a long way to go. The current situation is simply not good enough.”

The full report is available at: http://ohpi.org.au/measuring-antisemitism/


The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) is an Australian charity dedicated to tackling the problem of online hate including antisemitism, online extremism, cyber-racism, cyber-bullying, online religious vilification, online misogyny, and other forms of online hate attacking individuals and groups in society. OHPI aims to be a world leader in combating online hate and a critical partner who works with key stakeholders to improve the prevention and mitigation of online hate and the harm it causes. Ultimately, OHPI seeks to facilitate a change in online culture so that hate in all its forms becomes as socially unacceptable online as it is in “real life”.