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Kenyan Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesting Children
by Associated Press, agencies
January 19, 2015
Kenyan police have fired tear gas at a crowd of children protesting the seizure of their school playground by a property developer on Monday.
Some 100 children between eight and 13 years old from Langata Road primary school in Nairobi, along with a smaller group of parents and activists, converged in front of a newly built wall that separated their school building from a playing field, which had been built over a holiday.
As the children tried to access the playground, about 40 police officers who responded to the scene fired tear gas canisters at the crowd, forcing them to disperse. Officers also reportedly brought police dogs to help them break up the crowds.
Agence France-Presse reported that the dozens of children who were caught choking in the fumes ran to take shelter on a pedestrian bridge nearby.
Activist Boniface Mwangi told Al Jazeera, "The children were peaceful and all they wanted was access to their playground during break time. The children walked peaceful to the gate that has been set up by the land grabber and police responded with tear gas. A few of them were injured."
According to Mwangi, the developer who seized the playground is a powerful politician. "The governor, the senator and other government officials are all scared of the politician, they cannot do anything to stop the playground from the being taken," he told the Associated Press. The playground is reportedly due to be paved into a parking lot.
Charges of land grabs by Kenyan officials has become a controversial issue in the country.
Macharia Njeru, chairman of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, told AFP that the police would be investigated for their actions. "Tear gassing children is inexcusable," she said.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga told AP, "This is brutality beyond words and greed beyond description. It is difficult to believe that police can actually deploy against primary school children and lob tear gas at them to defend a land grabber. This image of a nation determined to steal forcefully from its own children cannot be what we aspire to. It cannot be the legacy we want to bequeath the children."
Committee against Torture, Human Rights Committee have repeatedly called for abolition of flogging
by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
15 January 2015
The top United Nations human rights official has issued an appeal to the Saudi Arabia to halt the punishment of Ra’ef Badawi, an online blogger sentenced to public flogging for “peacefully exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression,” according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
“Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a press release issued earlier today.
“Such punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified,” he added.
According to OHCHR, Mr. Badawi, an online blogger and activist, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and a fine of $266,000. He was publicly flogged 50 times last Friday and is reportedly due to be flogged again tomorrow and every Friday until his sentence of 1,000 lashes has been fully carried out, the agency said.
Mr. Badawi’s case is one of a succession of prosecutions of civil society activists in the Gulf State. Just last Monday, an appeals court upheld the conviction of his lawyer and brother-in-law, Waleed Abu Al-Khair, who was arrested on 15 April 2014 in relation to his human rights advocacy activities.
Charged with several offences, including inciting public opinion against the State and its people, undermining the judicial authorities, inciting international organisations against the Kingdom with the intent of ruining its reputation, establishing a non-registered organisation and with gathering and publishing information, under the 2011 Law for Combatting Cyber-crimes, Abu Al-Khair’s sentence was extended from 10 to 15 years following his appeal.
“I appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr. Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty,” continued Mr. Zeid.
The UN Committee against Torture – which oversees the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – and the Human Rights Committee have repeatedly voiced concerns about the use of flogging as punishment by Member States and have called for its abolition. Saudi Arabia’s report on its implementation of the Convention is up for review by the Committee against Torture next year.
17 Jan 2015
Saudi Arabia postpones blogger lashing
Saudi Arabia has postponed the next round of flogging for a blogger sentenced to 1000 lashes because his wounds from last week''s beating have not yet healed, his wife says.
The public flogging of Raef Badawi, who is also serving a 10-year jail sentence, has sparked an international outcry and a campaign by Amnesty International and other rights groups to free him.
His wife Ensaf Haidar told AFP: "We only knew today that Badawi''s case was referred by the royal court to the supreme court nearly a month ago," possibly paving the way for an appeal.
Badawi received the first 50 lashes of his sentence outside a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on January 9.
He is expected to undergo a total of 20 flogging sessions until his punishment is complete, but Haidar said the second round of lashes had been postponed on Friday.
"The prison doctor saw Badawi''s health does not allow his flogging today," she told AFP by telephone from Canada where she has sought asylum with her three children.
"The wounds caused by the flogging last time do not allow flogging him this time as well," she said. "But it will probably still take place next Friday."
Amnesty said the doctor had recommended the flogging be postponed until next week.
"Not only does this postponement... expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its inhumanity," said Amnesty''s Said Boumedouha.
"The notion that Raef Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous."
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