Tag Archives: Liberia

At long last, cruel medical research on chimps will end

As of yesterday, Sept. 14, all chimps are listed as endangered under U.S. law — both wild and captive chimps. This day marks the official end of unrestricted invasive experiments on chimpanzees in this country — a milestone in our long-running Chimps Deserve Better campaign.

Our campaign has been multifaceted, pushing for the enactment of legislation in Congress, urging the National Institutes of Health to empanel an expert group to examine the usefulness of chimp research to the human condition, and pressuring pharmaceutical companies to significantly restrict chimpanzee research. The Human Society of the United States also led the effort to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list all chimps as endangered, including the ones living in laboratories.

There exists the possibility that a laboratory might seek to secure a permit from FWS in the future to conduct invasive research, but it is highly unlikely that labs would meet the legal requirements for such permits. Such experiments would have to demonstrate that they are benefitting chimpanzees in the wild, and we don’t see the labs motivated to reorient their work, given that they’ve been focused on human health and not chimpanzee conservation.

As a community and a nation we can now turn to the retirement of these animals who have endured so much over decades. Some of the chimpanzees were captured from the wild and are now in their late ’50s. During our Chimps Deserve Better campaign, we’ve already inspired a major transfer of chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary. All 110 government-owned chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana were moved to sanctuary, which essentially doubled Chimp Haven’s population.

But it’s no time to shutter our Chimps Deserve Better campaign. More work remains.

Today there are approximately 745 chimpanzees living in five laboratories (Alamogordo Primate Facility, MD Anderson Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine, New Iberia Research Center, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, and Yerkes National Primate Research Center). Of those 745, approximately 330 are owned by the federal government and the remaining 415 are owned by the laboratories themselves.

Chimp Haven is hoping to expand but will be relying on donors to help with this effort, including the fundraising necessary to guarantee lifetime care of the animals. At The HSUS, our eyes in the very short run are set on the 20 government-owned chimpanzees at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, a facility where we conducted an undercover investigation and that has been the site of unexpected animal deaths and various violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Every one of those 20 chimpanzees has been infected with disease and is unsuitable for any research the labs may be interested in trying to conduct.

Meanwhile, The HSUS continues to highlight the plight of more than 60 chimpanzees living in Liberia who were abandoned by the New York Blood Center. We have led a coalition of organizations and stepped in to fund continuing care for these animals, but this is a responsibility of the Blood Center, a wealthy non-profit organization, which used them in experiments for decades and then pledged to provide lifetime care after retiring them. Now it has reneged on that promise.

We hope to continue to share more news in the coming months as we roll up our sleeves and focus on achieving additional positive outcomes for chimps. If you’d like to contribute to this ongoing effort, consider donating to our Chimps Deserve Better Fund.

I look forward to the day when we can formally lay our Chimps Deserve Better campaign to rest. We’re not there yet, and we have more work ahead. But I’m confident we’ll get there if we stay focused on our goals of giving a good life to every one of these creatures.

The post Chimps Deserve Better — and Things Are Getting Better for Them appeared first on A Humane Nation.

Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

UN secretary general urges worldwide respect for LGBT rights

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opened the XXI session of the Human Rights Council this week with a call for worldwide respect for LGBT rights.

“I urge you to deepen your engagement on this issue so that protection and dignity truly reach all members of the human family,” he told the council.

He delivered the speech in Geneva on Sept. 10, also referring to the council’s work dealing with crisis in Libya and Syria, the need to respond to human rights violations in Mali, work toward a sustainable solution to the longtime Israeli-Palestine conflict and fight for the rights of women.

The following is a transcript:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I last spoke to this Council in January 2011, as momentous transformations across the Arab world were first beginning to unfold. In its response to the Arab Spring, the Human Rights Council has had an awakening of its own. You have held special sessions and expanded the use of fact-finding and commissions of inquiry.

I welcomed your decision to suspend the membership of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in response to abuses. I encourage full respect for pledges by all States that are members of this body.

Policing the Council’s standards holds members – and aspiring members – to their obligations. This is crucial to the Council’s legitimacy.

This Council must respond to all human rights violations in an even-handed manner, without disproportionately emphasizing any one situation over another. Taking a selective approach to human rights violations has the effect of damaging the credibility of the institutions concerned.

Your efforts must be universal and consistent.

I commend the Council for acting quickly in response to the crisis in Syria.

I am deeply troubled by the aerial bombardments of civilians by Government forces; by the increasing sectarian tensions; by the deteriorating humanitarian situation; and by the apparent choice of both sides to pursue a solution through force rather than dialogue.

All of this complicates our efforts to facilitate a transition and promote the peace the Syrian people deserve. I urge all involved to unite behind the diplomatic efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi.

While the Security Council has been divided on the situation, the General Assembly and this Council have acted. I welcome this stepped-up engagement. I regret that your recommendations were not followed-up by other relevant United Nations organs.

I encourage this Council to maintain its vigilance on Syria, including on the question of accountability.

We must ensure that anyone, on any side, who commits war crimes, crimes against humanity or other violations of international human rights or humanitarian law is brought to justice.

This is a shared responsibility for this Council, for United Nations Member States, for the international community as a whole.

We must use all our many tools to shine the light of human rights everywhere.

The critical human rights situation in the Sahel is also cause for concern.

The crisis in Mali has worsened conditions there. Grave violations are being committed against the population in the North.

I share the High Commissioner’s deep dismay about reports of abuses against civilians. I count on this Council to respond.

Later this month, a high-level meeting on the Sahel will take place on the margins of the General Assembly debate. The African Union, ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and European Union, will participate, along with governments from the region and key donor countries.

Our goal is to advance a comprehensive strategy for dealing with an already urgent and complex crisis before it escalates further still.

I also remain concerned about the unfulfilled human rights of the Palestinian people, in particular the right to self-determination.

A sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a negotiated agreement that ends the 1967 occupation and results in an independent, sovereign, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.

This objective must be supported by developments on the ground, including respect for human rights and international law, and concerted efforts to build the foundations of a future Palestinian state.

The situation in Gaza remains tense and troubling, with indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes and incursions. Serious human rights, humanitarian and socio-economic problems only add to the immense human suffering.

I urge Israel to lift its harsh restrictions in order to ease the plight of civilians and bring an end to the closure. Keeping a large and dense population in unremitting poverty is in nobody’s interest except that of the most extreme radicals in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me turn now to five clear challenges that warrant your attention.

First, we need to do more to ensure that the output of this Council and other United Nations human rights mechanisms shapes policy-making across the United Nations.

I remain strongly committed to mainstreaming human rights throughout the Organization. This is especially important as we embark on efforts to define the post-2015 development agenda and to implement the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.

Second, States have a responsibility to protect those who courageously advocate and risk their lives to defend human rights and the values of the Charter.

I welcome the panel discussion you will be having on this issue on Thursday. I urge you to send a strong signal that there can be no impunity for reprisals and intimidation against those who advocate for human rights, including through cooperation with the United Nations.

States have an obligation to create an environment where human rights defenders can carry out their critical work safely, without fear.

Third, I commend the progress made by the Council in various thematic debates.

In particular, I welcome the groundbreaking, first-ever intergovernmental discussion, in March this year, on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This should not be a one-time event. I urge you to deepen your engagement on this issue so that protection and dignity truly reach all members of the human family.

Fourth, we must fight for the rights of women, including their reproductive rights and their political, social and economic empowerment. Unleashing the power of women will usher in a new era of respect for human rights.

Finally, I wish to express my full support for Ms. Pillay and her team. Her ability to speak out on violations and systemic human rights concerns is one of the international community’s most important early warning tools. With the growing dynamism of this Council, demands on her office will continue to grow. I urge you to give her your complete support while fully respecting her independence.

I also appeal to all United Member States to increase budget allocations for human rights so that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has the resources it needs to carry out its critical work.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My action agenda for the next five years stresses a preventive approach to human rights. By investing in human rights, you invest in the peaceful, prosperous, sustainable future we want.

We have a solid framework for action: the special procedures, United Nations treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review. The time to act is particularly ripe, as we have just entered the second cycle of Universal Periodic Review, which focuses on exactly that – implementation.

Here I want to make a strong call to all States:

First, engage and cooperate with all United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the special procedures and investigations of the Human Rights Council.

I urge governments to see the special rapporteurs as indispensable sources of expertise and as valuable partners in building more just, equitable and secure societies.

Second, do not break the virtuous cycle of 100 per cent participation in – and cooperation with – the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. The Universal Periodic Review is both a national framework and an international process that can strengthen human rights protection everywhere.

And finally, devote as much attention to economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, as we do to civil and political rights.

It is an affront to our conscience that millions of people still struggle against poverty, hunger and disease. These conditions violate their fundamental human rights.

You must be in the forefront in upholding the indivisibility and equal treatment of all human rights. I count on you to rise to the challenge.

That is what the Charter demands, and it is our collective responsibility to act to make this world better for all.

I thank you very much for your leadership.

UN opposes Liberian bill increasing punishment for same-sex sex

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has taken a stand against a proposed measure in Liberia that would make consensual same-sex sex a second-degree felony.

Punishment under the proposal would result in a fine and prison for up to five years.

Currently – and also objectionable to human rights advocates – Liberia classifies consensual same-sex sex as a misdemeanor that can result in a year in jail.

An August statement from the UN said, “Legislation criminalizing homosexuality can have a seriously negative impact, not only on gay and lesbian people, but also on the most vulnerable populations, such as people living with HIV, sex workers, refugees and internally displaced populations, who might be in need of special attention but will not come forward due to the high risk of stigmatization, discrimination and possible violence.”

The anti-gay measure is before Liberia’s House of Representatives. The senate passed the bill earlier this year.

Liberia is led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

She promotes democracy, but she also defends the country’s laws criminalizing homosexuality.

In March, during a taped exchange with Britain’s Tony Blair, Sirleaf said in regards to Liberia’s anti-gay laws, “We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve. We’re going to keep to our traditional values.”

Activists in Africa, Europe and North America have suggested that Sirleaf, if she supports the pending anti-homosexuality bill, should lose her 2011 peace prize, which she won for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Anti-gay group circulates ‘hit list’ in Liberia

An anti-gay group in Liberia distributed fliers over the weekend with a hit list of people who support gay rights, and one member of the group threatened to “get to them one by one.”

The fliers mark the latest development in an increasingly hostile national debate about gay rights in this country on Africa’s western coast.

Lawmakers in February introduced two new pieces of legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by possible jail time. And a vow by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month to preserve an existing law criminalizing “voluntary sodomy” prompted a statement of concern from the U.S. State Department.

The fliers distributed over the weekend in parts of Liberia’s capital were signed by the Movement Against Gay’s in Liberia, or MOGAL. The group said those involved in promoting gay rights “should not be given space to get a gulp of air.”

“Having conducted a comprehensive investigation, we are convinced that the below listed individuals are gays or supporters of the club who don’t mean well for our country,” the fliers read. “Therefore, we have agreed to go after them using all means in life.”

No individual members of MOGAL signed the flier. But Moses Tapleh, a 28-year-old resident of the main community where the flier was distributed, said he was affiliated with the group and stressed that its threats should be taken seriously.

“We will get to them one by one,” Tapleh said. “They want to spoil our country.”

Asked what specific action might be taken against those on the list, he said they could be subjected to “dangerous punishments” including “flogging and death.”

A relative of one of those targeted, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the person on the list already had received threatening phone calls.

Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said the emergence of the hit list should put pressure on Liberia’s president to take a stance in support of gay rights. Simply refusing to sign the new anti-gay laws, he said, was insufficient.

“She cannot sit on the fence when there’s this kind of provocation taking place. She needs to take a clear and unequivocal stance on this issue,” Reid said.

Robert Kpadeh, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Information, said the ministry had not heard about the fliers but that it would be open to receiving complaints.

The list includes two men who launched a campaign in January to legalize gay marriage, and who have since been subjected to protests by angry mobs and threats of violence.

That campaign began one month after the United States announced a new government-wide policy to push for the decriminalization of homosexuality overseas. As in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where homosexuality remains a largely taboo topic, the announcement drew swift condemnation from Liberian officials and media outlets.

Liberian law currently does not explicitly address homosexuality. “Voluntary sodomy” is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

One of the two new bills would make same-sex sexual practice a second-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The other anti-gay bill would make same-sex marriage a first-degree felony, with sentences ranging up to 10 years in prison. Both bills are being reviewed in committee.

The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia has kept quiet throughout Liberia’s gay rights debate. In an interview last week, David Bruce Wharton, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, said by phone from Washington that the department was wary of being seen as “seeking to impose Western values on more conservative African societies.”

Homophobia is rife in many African countries. Last year, Nigeria’s Senate voted in favor of a bill that would criminalize gay marriage, gay advocacy groups and same-sex public displays of affection. A newly added portion of the bill levels 10 years in prison for those found guilty of organizing, operating or supporting gay clubs, organizations and meetings.

And in 2009, a Ugandan legislator introduced a bill that would impose the death penalty for some gays and lesbians. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year, though its author has said the death penalty provision will be dropped.

Even in South Africa, the only African nation to recognize gay marriage, gangs carry out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

The flier distributed in Liberia warned that the group would begin taking action shortly. “Let these individuals be aware that we are coming after them soon,” the flier reads. “We urge them to also begin saying their Lord’s prayers.”

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