Peruvian ‘Jaguar people’ make urgent appeal to oil company shareholders

An Amazonian tribe has sent an urgent appeal to shareholders of Pacific Rubiales to protect the uncontacted Indians whose survival is threatened by the company.An Amazonian tribe has sent an urgent appeal to shareholders of Canadian-Colombian oil giant Pacific Rubiales to protect the lives of uncontacted Indians in Peru, whose survival is threatened by the company’s work on their land.In an urgent video message Salomon Dunu, a member of the Matsés tribe, said,"Our uncontacted brothers live in the forest, we have heard them many times so we know they exist… Tell the world that the Matsés are firm in our position against the oil company. We do not want it on our land."The Matsés and Survival International – the NGO which campaigns for the rights of tribal people – have sent the message to hundreds of shareholders including Citigroup, JP Morgan, General Electric, Blackrock, HSBC, Allianz, Santander and Legal and General urging them to divest from Pacific Rubiales.The company has already started exploring for oil in ‘block 135’, despite it lying directly over an area proposed as an uncontacted tribes’ reserve, and is planning further explorations on Matsés territory.The Matsés report that helicopters are flying over the area, and the $36 million project will see hundreds of seismic lines cut through the rainforest used by the Indians to hunt and gather.The Matsés are very concerned about the safety of the uncontacted tribes living around ‘block 135’ and have called for the area to be protected.Both the uncontacted Indians and oil company workers are at extreme risk if the work continues – the Indians are vulnerable to common outside diseases to which they have no immunity, and the workers are liable to be attacked by the Indians, who will see them as invaders of their territory.The Matsés were known as the ‘Jaguar people’ for their facial decorations and tattoos, and were first contacted in the 1960s. Salomon recalls,"Life before contact was incredible. We lived on the river, and we would travel to the other side to make our gardens. When it was time, we would abandon those gardens to the forest and make new ones in another place. That was how we lived before contact."Stephen Corry, Survival’s Director, said,"Contact between oil workers and the uncontacted Indians is highly likely to kill the tribespeople. In fact, the chances are, the tribe will be decimated. The oil company knows this. It also knows it is in breach of international law when it ploughs on with its dangerous project without the say-so of the people to whom the land belongs."[Ekk/4]

Government plans will put vulnerable workers at risk, says TUC

The TUC has warned that government plans to remove regulatory powers from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority will put thousands of vulnerable workers at risk.The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that government plans to strip the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) of powers to regulate the forestry sector, land agents and cleaning contractors operating in the food processing industry would put thousands of vulnerable workers at risk.Under the new proposals, which could be introduced later this year, agencies in these sectors would no longer have to get a GLA licence before they start operating or be subject to inspections by the GLA.The GLA will also no longer be able to protect the rights of apprentices supplied through an apprentice training agency, people employed through the government's work programme, or volunteers.With more than one in four apprentices already paid below the minimum weekly rate, removing some trainees from the GLA remit sends completely the wrong signal about apprenticeships being paid decently and offering a proper introduction to the world of work, says the TUC.Ministers also say they want"lighter regulation"when it comes to initial inspections by the GLA, which the TUC says could lead to further abuses in sectors already covered by the GLA and permit rogue operators to return.In its submission to the government consultation on changes to the GLA remit, which closed yesterday (21 June), the TUC warns that watering down the GLA will encourage bad bosses not to comply with health and safety standards, basic employment rights or tax obligations when supplying agency staff.Instead of reducing the scope of the GLA, its remit should be extended to other high-risk sectors including construction, hospitality and social care, says the TUC.TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:"We all remember the horrible events of Morecambe Bay and it defies logic for the government to scale back the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority."The GLA licence is not red tape. It provides vital safeguards for people working in high-risk industries, it ensures that people are paid the minimum wage and makes sure apprentices are not exploited. It also increases consumer confidence that workers who help prepare their food are not being mistreated."She concluded,"Rather than reducing the GLA's ability to protect vulnerable workers the government should be looking to extend its licensing powers to other industries such as construction."[Ekk/4]

Libyan asylum seekers and migrants held indefinitely in'deplorable'conditions

Libya has been told to end indefinite detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including children, solely for immigration purposes.The Libyan authorities must act immediately to end the indefinite detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including children, solely for immigration purposes, Amnesty International says in a new briefing published yesterday, 20 June 2013, World Refugee Day.The briefing,Scapegoats of Fear: Rights of Refugees, Asylum-Seekers and Migrants Abused in Libya, highlights the unacceptable treatment of thousands of foreign nationals, many from sub-Saharan Africa, who are subjected to arbitrary arrests and held for long periods in deplorable conditions at immigration detention facilities described by the Libyan authorities as “holding centres”, with no immediate prospect of release or redress in sight.Amnesty visited seven holding centres in April and May 2013 and found evidence, it says, of ill-treatment, in some cases amounting to torture. Many detainees were also denied medical care and some were slated for deportation on medical grounds.“The torture and ill-treatment we uncovered at ‘holding centres’ is unacceptable and is a stain on the record of post-Gaddafi Libya. Abuse of Sub-Saharan foreign nationals was a hallmark of al-Gaddafi’s rule and risks becoming a permanent feature of the country if the Libyan authorities don’t immediately reverse their policies,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Programme Director of Middle East and North Africa for the global NGO.Amnesty documented several cases where detainees, including women, reported being subjected to brutal beatings with water pipes and electric cables.In at least two detention centres, the organisation received testimonies from detainees being shot with live bullets during riots. One man who was shot in the foot was then tied to a bed and hit in the lower back with a rifle butt, leaving him unable to walk or stand up four months later.Yet, the European Union (EU), this year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and its member states have been assisting the Libyan authorities in tightening border security and developing “an integrated border management strategy” in order to curb “illegal migration” to Europe at the expense of human rights.Human rights advocates have repeatedly urged the EU to fully respect the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants and to ensure that its drive to prevent people from reaching the EU does not contribute to or perpetuate human rights violations.“EU funding should be used to promote and protect human rights in Libya, especially while the country is still recovering from a recent armed conflict and confronted with a legacy of abuse,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.“It is deeply troubling that EU funds appear have been used to support detention centres where thousands of foreign nationals are unlawfully held. Asylum-seekers and refugees who are entitled to international protection and should only be detained because of their status in the most exceptional circumstances are among those routinely detained and abused in detention.”Libya’s immigration detention practices not only violate the country’s international obligations under refugee and human rights law and standards, but they are also at odds with EU human rights obligations as well as EU standards concerning the detention and return of third country nationals.“Libya’s Constitutional Declaration, adopted in 2011, declares that the “state shall guarantee the right of asylum by virtue of the law”. It is urgent the authorities translate this principle into real action and adopt legislation establishing a national asylum system”.Amnesty says it will continue to press the EU, and member states, not to enter into further agreements on migration control with Libya until the government demonstrates that it respects and protects the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and puts in place a satisfactory system for assessing and recognising claims for international protection.Migrants in Libya are often perceived to be a threat to national security. Since May 2012, the Libyan authorities have deported 25,000 persons, who allegedly entered Libya “irregularly”. Thousands were held in detention for months before their deportation, without access to a lawyer or the ability to challenge their forcible removal and/or detention.“The Libyan authorities must amend their legislation by setting a maximum detention period pending deportation for migrants,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui explained.The organisation also found evidence that the Libyan authorities have resumed deporting foreign nationals diagnosed with infections such as hepatitis or HIV after compulsory medical tests were reintroduced earlier this year.“No individual should be deported on the grounds of their medical condition,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui commented. “Reintroducing compulsory testing for foreign nationals and deportation on the ground of their health status amounts to scapegoating them and only proves how inadequate Libya’s public health policies are”.At the time of Amnesty International’s visits, a total of 5,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants were held in 17 holding centres under the Ministry of Interior, in addition to an unknown number of detainees held by militias. The organisation’s delegates also met a small number of unaccompanied children, sometimes as young as 10, who had been detained in at least three holding centres for months.Many of the holding centres visited had extremely poor hygiene standards exposing those held there to the risk of disease, including chest infections and chronic diarrhoea.At the'holding centre in Sabha, where some 1,300 were being held last May, detainees were held in filthy, overcrowded rooms. The prison also lacked a functioning sewage system and piles of garbage filled the corridors. Around 80 detainees – who complained of itchiness on their hands and genitals, suggesting a scabies infection – were held in a courtyard in the sun as treatment, but became dehydrated due to extended exposure to sun.“Denying detainees proper medical care is simply inexcusable,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui concluded. “Libya’s government must show the world it is serious about protecting the rights of all individuals in Libya, whatever their status and nationality.”[Ekk/3]

G8 corporate tax resolve fails its first test

Just after the G8 agreed to support developing countries collect taxes owed to them, a parliamentary committee voted against legislation to make the task easier.Just days after the G8 agreed to support developing countries collect the taxes they are owed, a UK parliamentary committee has quashed a key piece of legislation that would have made the task easier.The Finance Bill committee voted against an amendment that would have required UK-based multinationals to report their use of tax avoidance schemes likely to have an impact on developing countries.The amendment was tabled by Labour members based on a recommendation from the Enough For Everyone IF campaign which says tax evasion by multinationals costs developing countries US$160 billion a year.IF campaign spokesperson Melanie Ward said:"It was only two days ago that the Prime Minister was telling the world that it is vital to help poor countries tackle tax dodging, and yesterday he told Parliament the same."Today's refusal by Treasury Ministers at the Finance Bill Committee to consider the impact of proposed new tax rule changes on developing countries is shocking."It seems like Treasury Ministers haven't got the memo. The government is saying one thing while doing another. The PM must urgently intervene and bring some coherence to his government's policies."The IF campaign believes tax reform and greater transparency are fundamental to the battle to eradicate acute hunger which affects some 868 million people globally.[Ekk/4]

'Generation rent'locked out of property market, says Shelter

An independent report commissioned for Shelter finds that young people are locked out of the property market for years and have little hope of owning their own homes.Up and down the country, young people are finding themselves locked out of the property market for years – leaving them with little hope of owning their own home.The findings, from an independent report commissioned for the housing and homelessness charity Shelter, show the toll the housing crisis is taking on people across England.Would-be first-time buyers with families could face a wait of more than a decade before they can get themselves on the property ladder. The wait rises to a staggering 14 years for single people.These long waits for ‘generation rent’ to get on the housing ladder mean a significant shift in the way young people are living their lives and will have an impact on families all over the country, says Shelter.Many young people will be left trapped in uncertain private renting, facing years of soaring rents, short-term lets, and unexpected letting agent fees. Others will have to live up to the reality that living with their parents – even into their mid-thirties – might be the only option left.Shelter Chief Executive Campbell Robb said,"This research reveals the harsh reality that young people today are facing because of our shortage of affordable homes. These shocking results show that when it comes to saving up for a home of your own, things today just aren’t what they used to be."It’s right that people work hard and save up if they want to own a home, but the Government has to start meeting people halfway."Unless we see radical action to tackle our chronic shortage of affordable homes, the next generation of young people will find it even harder to find a place to call their own."The charity has created an online calculator to show how long it takes to save up for a home in different parts of the country[Ekk/4]

Supreme Court criticises Government over unnecessary use of secret courts

The UK Supreme Court has criticised Government lawyers over their unnecessary use of secret courts – known as Closed Material Procedures.The UK Supreme Court criticised Government lawyers yesterday (19 June) over their unnecessary use of secret courts – known as Closed Material Procedures (CMPs).In a judgement handed down in Bank Mellat v Her Majesty's Treasury, the Court’s President, Lord Neuberger, said that “the closed material procedure” for which the Government had pushed “added nothing.” He also backed the conclusion of his colleague Lord Hope, who found that the Government’s “approach fell far short of what was needed to show that it was necessary for this procedure to be resorted to.”CMPs – which were recently pushed through Parliament by Ken Clarke as part of the Justice and Security Act – are controversial as they see the state’s opponents shut out of the court, leaving them unable to challenge or even see the evidence used by the Government against them. In today’s judgement, Lord Neuberger described such procedures as “offensive to [the] fundamental principle” of natural justice.Today’s case concerned the shutting down of a bank’s activities by the Treasury. But the Government has also made clear that it intends to attempt to use CMPs in the case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an anti-Gaddafi dissident who was kidnapped and ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya along with his pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar in 2004 – an operation in which MI6 played a central role.Mr Belhaj has offered to settle his case in return for a token payment of £1 from each of the defendants – the Government, then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former MI6 Director of Counter Terrorism Mark Allen – along with an apology and an admission of what happened. However, the Government has refused to accept his offer, instead choosing to fight the case in the courts. Mr Belhaj is being assisted in his case by the human rights charity Reprieve.Commenting, Reprieve’s Strategic Director Cori Crider said: “If the government was prepared to fib about how necessary these secret courts are in a financial case, the risk is tenfold worse when the case involves UK involvement in kidnap and torture. We have already seen Government lawyers arguing that they should also be used in the Belhaj case - in short, to cover up the way in which the UK handed Gaddafi his enemies, as part of Tony Blair’s dirty ‘deal in the desert.’ This is a powerful cautionary tale for any court asked to judge torture cases behind closed doors.”[Ekk/4]

CND welcomes Obama's call for cuts to nuclear arsenals

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has welcomed President Obama's"vital"call for cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals.The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has welcomed President Obama's'vital'call for cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals.Speaking today (19 June) at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, Barack Obama said"we may no longer live in fear of nuclear annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist we are not truly safe."He committed to nuclear stockpile reductions of"up to one third"and to working for"negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."The move builds on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) – a bilateral agreement between the US and Russia, which has had some successes in reductions of their respective nuclear stockpiles.Obama's speech also included a call for"bold reductions in US and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe", a push for US ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the announcement of a US-hosted nuclear security summit in 2016.Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, said,"We welcome President Obama's call for further reductions in US and Russian nuclear stockpiles. His proposals, which echo his speech against nuclear weapons in Prague in 2009, give voice to the concerns of billions around the world who wish to see a world without these catastrophic weapons."Too often, global insecurities are cited as the reason for the development and modernisation of nuclear arsenals. In April of this year, Prime Minister David Cameron shallowly demonstrated this by stoking fears over North Korea in order to promote replacement of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system. But it is clear that nuclear weapons fuel such insecurities and contribute to further nuclear proliferation: it is dead-end thinking."Today's proposals for reductions in the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world are a vital step towards a world without nuclear weapons. But in contradiction to the spirit of this initiative, both the US and Russia are modernising their nuclear forces."She concluded,"The only way to create genuine peace and security for future generations is to follow up these admirable words with concrete actions."[Ekk/4]

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