People's Stories Justice

On anniversary of Grenfell Tower Blaze, Justice and Safe Housing still Lacking
by Benjamin Ward
Human Rights Watch
United Kingdom
11 June 2018
A year ago, the London district of North Kensington awoke to disaster. A horrific night-time fire had ripped through Grenfell Tower, a high-rise block containing mostly social housing. It killed 71 people and a stillborn baby. It injured seventy, left hundreds homeless, and traumatized thousands. The tragedy resonates far beyond the local area.
Justice has been a key demand for the families of those who died in the June 14 blaze. The UK government has a responsibility under human rights law to investigate deaths that may be the result of a failing by the state, such as poor fire safety rules, and ensure those affected can participate.
Yet progress has been slow. The government rightly established a public inquiry into the fire, but the inquiry has struggled to win the confidence of the community. The inquiry began formally in May with moving testimonies from the victimís families, and reflections on the fault-lines of race and class that intersect the tragedy. Londonís Metropolitan Police is carrying out a criminal investigation into the fire, including into possible individual or corporate manslaughter charges.
The right to safe housing for those affected, and others living in high-rise blocks around the UK with similar external cladding to that which encased Grenfell Tower Ė which has been blamed for causing the fire to spread so quickly - is another central issue. The UK government is responsible under human rights law for protecting peopleís lives, including ensuring that housing is safe to live in.
A government-ordered review of fire safety rules reported last month that the system was not fit for purpose. The government has agreed to fund the removal of all existing unsafe cladding on high rise blocks across the UK. But it has yet to commit to banning flammable cladding outright.
Those who lost their homes or were displaced by the blaze also have a right to be properly rehoused. But one year on, 72 families from Grenfell tower and the adjacent block are still in emergency accommodation. While finding permanent homes for survivors is complex, itís shocking that so many are still without a proper home.
Nothing can bring back those who died at Grenfell. But the government owes it to their memory to deliver justice and ensure that everyoneís housing is safe.

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UN sanctions ''Libyan migrant traffickers''
by CNN, Reuters, Freedom United, agencies
June 8, 2018
UN sanctions ''Libyan migrant traffickers'', by Nima Elbagir and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN
Six men who allegedly made fortunes from buying and selling vulnerable migrants have been hit by United Nations sanctions in an unprecedented response to the international slave trade exposed by CNN, the Dutch foreign ministry said Thursday.
Four Libyans and two Eritreans are accused of leading criminal networks that traffic vast numbers of vulnerable migrants through Libya to Europe. Strikingly, one of them is a commander with the Libyan Coast Guard, whose efforts to stem the flow of migrants are supported in part by funding from the European Union. He is accused of using firearms to deliberately sink boats carrying migrants.
Another is accused of having longstanding links with ISIS and is known for "cultivating relationships with terror groups," according to UN documents obtained by CNN.
Others in the group are accused of selling migrants as "sex slaves" and being responsible for some of the worst migrant boat disasters in the Mediterranean.
The motion for sanctions was filed to the UN Security Council''s Libya sanctions committee by the Netherlands, supported by France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It followed a months-long investigation by a panel of UN experts. Russia put a "technical hold" on the motion in May and requested more evidence, but dropped its objection on Thursday.
It''s the first time the committee has slapped international sanctions on individuals for human trafficking.
Dutch prosecutors describe the men as ostentatious with their wealth and acting with impunity. "The sanctioned individuals are young, mostly 30-something, and people who really want to spend their money; on their militia, their business, but also on properties and goods all over the world. They feel untouchable," the Dutch Prosecutor''s Office said in a statement.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told CNN the sanctioning of the Coast Guard commander "shows that we will go to whatever place or organization concerned in finding and punishing the people responsible, even if it is an organization that we are working together with in other fields."
Documents obtained by CNN show how the men profited from the smuggling and exploitation of migrants and refugees in a network that spanned Africa.
"This abuse has reached an unprecedented scale and level of severity, and these illicit activities have resulted in thousands of fatalities on land and sea," one of the UN documents says. "This cynical business model has enabled armed groups to accumulate vast wealth," it adds.
The sanctions imposed will freeze the six men''s financial assets including personal bank accounts and the revenue from their global business activities. The six men will also be subject to strict travel bans.
"These sanctions will help stop the flow of blood money.. It will prevent them from buying protection in Libya which in turn can destabilize the region," the Dutch National Prosecutors'' Office said.
Each year, tens of thousands of people pour into Libya -- the final transit stop before a short but dangerous sea voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe.
For those involved in the smuggling and trafficking networks, it has been a lucrative and exploitative business with revenues in the billions, according to the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC).
In 2015, migrant smuggling networks made between EUR 4.7 billion ($5.5 billion) and EUR 5.7 billion trafficking people bound for Europe, according to a 2017 EMSC report. There was a decline in 2016, with profits falling by nearly EUR 2 billion from 2015, according to the same report.
Some of those using the central Mediterranean route are refugees fleeing conflict while others are economic migrants.
A crackdown by the Libyan Coast Guard means fewer boats are making it out to sea, leaving the smugglers with a backlog of would-be passengers on their hands. As a result, there are increasing reports of migrants being sold in slave auctions before facing the most appalling conditions.
Migrant testimonies provided to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have revealed "the image of a Libya in chaos, where violence and abuse are increasingly frequent and armed groups find human beings an extremely profitable source of money."
Last year, CNN reporters went undercover at a slave market in Libya to document the violation of human rights and inhumane treatment that so many desperate migrants have suffered.
"The situation is dire," Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM director of operation and emergencies, told CNN in November. "Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ''slave markets'' for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages."
The evidence filmed by CNN was handed over to the Libyan authorities, who immediately launched investigations into the networks operating in the region. The footage also sparked international condemnation and a backlash of protests around the world.
On Friday, the UK -- one of the countries that supported the proposal for sanctions -- said it was ready to push for additional sanctions against other human smugglers. In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the UK would "work with partners" to "introduce additional sanctions against other individuals who threaten the peace, stability or security in Libya, or who undermine its peaceful political transition."
The co-designating countries highlighted CNN''s reporting on Libya''s slave trade. "It was CNN that drove the attention to this terrible slave trade that has been going on in Libya for far too long," Blok, the Dutch Foreign Minister, said.
"As Netherlands is currently a member of the UN Security Council, we proposed to them to impose sanctions on six of the worst perpetrators -- and that will mean that this crime won''t be left unpunished."

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