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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mexican Court Invalidates Laws Restricting the Rights of People with Disabilities

The Supreme Court of Mexico sided with Ricardo Adair, a mexican adult with Asperger’s, today in Adair’s bid to deprecate legislation which ceded Adair’s rights to his parents. Implemented to shield people with disabilities from potentially disastrous choices, laws which required any contract or agreement to be signed by the parents or legal guardians were often more burdensome than protective. Adair’s mother, Leticia Robles aptly described the problems inherent in these overly broad proscriptions, “Many children have different levels of disability. Some need more support, some need less. This should be about giving to each one what they need.”

Adair and his lawyers argued that Mexican legislation which makes a number of straightforward tasks, like buying a mobile phone, enrolling in university, or applying for a driving license, very difficult for people with Asperger’s syndrome or other forms of autism, ran afoul of Mexico’s international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Justices agreed, 4 to 1, and will appoint a judge to evaluate which sort of choices Adair will be allowed to make without the direct oversight of legal guardians. What bearing this ruling will have on broader human rights campaigns for people with disabilities in Mexico and Latin America remains to be seen. While many celebrated the decision, Adair was cautiously optimistic saying only, “they have asserted our rights and I believe this is a great step forward.”

Violence in CAR Surges

A report released late yesterday by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) indicates government forces in the Central African Republic have launched coordinated attacks against civilians. “In the last month, we have treated more than 60 people in Bossangoa for injuries that are the result of violence, largely gunshot and machete wounds, including women and children,” said MSF surgeon Erna Rijinierse. “More than 80 percent of surgeries have been for wounds that are conflict-related. MSF is horrified by what we are seeing, including burnt villages and appalling scenes of murder. Those who are fleeing are in desperate need of assistance, as well as the sense of protection that the presence of aid agencies brings.”

According to U.N. estimates, more than 310,000 people have been displaced by growing violence along the Rwandan border alone. Along with last month’s Human Rights Watch report on Seleka forces moving through rural villages, a dire picture has begun to emerge in the Central African Republic.

U.N. Leader Demands International Campaign Against Al-Shabaab

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote to the assembled U.N. Security Council, suggesting that the U.N.-backed military force in Somalia must launch a new offensive against Somalia’s al-Shabaab immediately, if the Somali government is to survive. Ban asked the 15-nation Security Council to provide thousands of additional troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), specifically mentioning the need for attack helicopters and intelligence equipment. “The deterioration in the security situation threatens to undermine the fragile Somali political process,” he wrote in the letter, which has not yet been made public. “In order to regain momentum and avoid further reversals, there is an urgent need to resume and strengthen the military campaign against al-Shabaab.”

Al-Shabaab’s recent successes in striking the Westgate mall in Nairobi and repelling the U.S. SEAL team that famously executed al-Qeada leader Osama Bin Laden, has a number of world leaders on edge. The U.N.’s special envoy for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, suggested the world’s next steps in Somalia would be “precarious.”

Union Square Evacuation

Police have lifted the evacuation of San Francisco’s Union Square, less than two hours after it was ordered today after a suspicious package was found. It was determined that the package posed no harm to the popular tourist venue. Police spokesperson Officer Gordon Shyy said the backpack, which was ‘not a hazardous device’, was taken into evidence by the bomb squad.

Nearly 30 Million are Enslaved Globally

Despite the international abolishment of slavery in 1926, a new report by the Walk Free Foundation suggests that roughly 29.6 million people still live in various states of forced servitude, including sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced marriage. “Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia,” the report states. “Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through ‘marriage,’ unpaid labor on fishing boats, or as domestic workers,” the report continues. “Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education.”

India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh lead the world in the highest number of enslaved and exploited workers, but small countries like Haiti and Mauritania have hundreds of thousands of people toiling in enslavement. And despite a number of prohibitions against slavery, “the relative wealth of Canada and the United States, their demand for cheap labor and relatively porous land borders, makes them prime destinations for human trafficking.” Walk Free estimates there are 59,000 people enduring exploitation in the United States.

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