During the 38th session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva, IFOR organized a side event, co-sponsored by War Resisters International, focusing on the causes of migration from Eritrea and the struggles of Eritrean refugees.
The event was well attended and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, offered a valuable contribution to the discussion.
Among the speakers was Father Mussie Zerai, a well known advocate for the rights of refugees and chairman of the Habeshia Agency. In addition to his participation on the panel, Father Zerai offered an additional statement calling on European governments to respond to migration in humane ways.
On June 12, the rescue ship Aquarius was prevented from docking in Italy after it had rescued migrants who were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The Aquarius is one of the ships operated by of SOS Mediterranee and is actively supported by IFOR and by our local branch MIR Italia. On June 25th, IFOR's Representatives in Geneva delivered the statement below about the humanitarian crisis during the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council.
During the 38th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, IFOR joined a group of organizations calling attention to the repeated violations of international law through the ongoing occupation of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco. The coalition of nongovernmental organizations submitted a report calling for the following:
All High Contracting Parties to ensure that the Kingdom of Morocco respects the Fourth Geneva Convention in Western Sahara;
The Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in Western Sahara;
The Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the Human Rights of the Sahrawi people, including their right to self-determination and independence, in conformity with UNGA resolution 1514 (XV);
The Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the Principles of International Law, including the Principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and the principle that States shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the Charter;
The members of the Human Rights Council to create the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights violations in the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara.
During the 38th session of the Human Rights Council IFOR delivered an oral statement addressed to the Human Rights Commissioner condemning the targeting of conscientious objectors in Turkey and Russia. IFOR maintains a connection to the Turkish Conscientious Objector’s Organization VR-DER Vicdani Ret Dernegi, through our partners, the European Bureau of Conscientious Objection, and War Resisters International. In 2016, VR-DER held an event in honour of those that have refused, on grounds of conscience, to be recruited into the armed forces,. This led to the co-Chair of the organisation being summoned to answer charges of “making propaganda for terror”. IFOR denounced this and similar aggression directed towards nonviolent movements by the Russian Federation.
Lithuania reintroduced conscription to military service in 2015 for males 19 years of age and older. Although the government provides alternative to service, IFOR submits a report to the Human Rights Committee expressing concern about the ways these alternatives are militaristic in nature. These alternatives illustrate the way government institutions often circumvent the international right to conscientious objection.
On Friday, May 18th, A special session of the Human Rights Council on the current situation in Gaza took place at the United Nations in Geneva. High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein denounced the violence and called for the creation of a Commission Of Inquiry. Many states condemned the attacks in Gaza. IFOR joined several NGOs condemning the attacks. In IFOR’s statement, our representative spoke in support of Israeli conscientious objectors and condemned the Israeli Defense Force, and the U.S. Government, holding them as the most responsible for the atrocities that were committed.
Every four years, IFOR's members send delegates to an International Council to discuss priorities, strategies, and ideas for coordinating our global movement in the years to come. The 2018 International Council will be held hosted by IFOR's branch in Italy, Movimento Internazionale della Riconciliazione (MIR).
The International Council will be held in the Sicilian city of Catania, November 4-11, 2018. IFOR member organizations have been notified about the upcoming council and will continue to receive information in the coming months.
Preceding the Council, the International Secretariat is organizing an event to address an area of concern for many of IFOR's members, Migration. The conference will be shaped around three themes that are consistent with the experience of our movement: The Violence that Causes Migration, The Experience of Migration, and The Compassionate Response.
The Violence that Causes Migration: We plan to discuss the impact that armed conflict; global economic policy and climate change have on migration.
The Experience of Migration: We plan to allow refugees to speak for themselves and share their experiences. We will discuss pressing challenges, concerns, and opportunities to provide concrete support.
The Compassionate Response: those working tirelessly to show hospitality to the influx of refugees will tell their stories and provide encourage the movement of hospitality and welcome.
The conference is open to the public. More information about registration for the conference and upcoming council will be provided soon.
IFOR submitted a report on the status of the right to conscientious objection in Israel to the attention of the Country Report Task Force on Military Service in Israel for the 123 Session of the Human Rights Committee.
From the report: "The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is organized as a citizen's militia. In principle, men and women alike are required to perform obligatory military service, almost always starting on leaving school at the age of 18, and subsequently to report for one month's active reserve duty, until the age of 40 for men and for women until marriage, pregnancy or age 38. In practice, only Jewish Israelis and men from the Druze community are affected. Other "Arab Israelis" are not called up and the Ultra-Orthodox have also in the past benefited from a variety of exemptions. There is however no effective legal provision governing cases of conscientious objection to military service."
Saturday, April 21st, a controversial law about the electoral code which was adopted at the beginning of last April, lead to trouble among the deputies of the House of Commons in Madagascar. Of the 152 deputies, 79 voted FOR and 73 AGAINST this law. The 73 deputies of the opposition denounced the abnormal way in which the law was passed, which they called fraudulent and corrupt. These 73 deputies decided to publicly denounce the actions of their colleagues in parliament before the population of the Capital (Antananarivo) on the 21st of April. The army forbid them access to the Main Square of Independence, where they planned to hold a public rally. The incident ended with violent clashes between the protestors and the army. Four people were killed and many were injured.
On April 14th, The United States, Britain, and France launched air strikes against Syria in retaliation for the suspected chemical weapons attack. The delegates to the EUFOR meeting held a silent circle in Turin's main square honoring the victims of war and making a stand for peace and nonviolence. They drafted and released the following statement in response to the air strikes:
IFOR's International Secretariat is looking for a new part time Administration and Communications Assistant to support IFORs global network of people working for a more peaceful and just world. Location is negotiable but the person will need to come to IFOR's administrative office in Utrecht regularly. If you are interested, please send a CV and cover letter to Adminposition@ifor.org. The application deadline is March 19th.
IFOR's Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva worked closely with the dedicated international observation program supported by several IFOR branches known as FOR Peace Presence, to describe ongoing attacks on conscientious objectors and human rights defenders in Colombia. On February 2, they submitted a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council about the ongoing situation in Colombia.
IFOR's representatives to UNESCO participated in the 39th General Conference, held in Paris 30 October - 14 November 2017. The resolutions of the General Conference have just been published in January, 2018.
During the General Conference, IFOR's Main Representative to UNESCO, Maria Antonietta Malleo, delivered a much appreciated speech where she called called upon the global community to invest in peace building. Assessing the conditions of the world today, she said our priorities must be to:
Move towards institutionalization of peace and human rights education.
Confront the cultural aspects of contemporary violence.
Implement knowledge-sharing on theory and practice of nonviolent conflict resolution
Denounce a widening international trend to the criminalization of humanitarian action
The IFOR Secretariat joins FOR Peace Presence and IFOR members around the world in expressing alarm and concern regarding assissination attempt on members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartado, including German Graciano, Legal Representative.
The Justice and Peace Program organized by Dr. Suseela Mathew was a part of the continued efforts of IFOR's branch in India to provide support and training for those seeking to address social and political challenges in the country. This program was for teachers in the higher secondary schools from throughout the state of Kerala. The teachers participating in the program are trained counsellors and deal with students directly at schools. Dr. Mathew described the situation in schools facing students and teachers:
"Schools are hot beds of unrest and violence and this is observed as the overflow of the social and political currents generally. With the influence of media and usage of mobile apps students are being increasingly swayed to resort to display of intolerance and often violently. Often what is seen as assertion of rights by one section is equally an assault of the rights of another section. Dialogue is being substituted with hate filled rhetoric."
The program was designed to enable the teachers to deal with the variety of issues they confront by addressing the way that our emotions can sometimes distract us from the more strategic choices including pursuing legal redress for the concerns and grievances faced. Dr. Mathew pointed out that
"There are provisions of the law which deal with abuse of all kinds and laws which are enacted to protect the child. An effort was made to encourage teachers to use the laws and also to "conscientise" students about what was acceptable and unacceptable. All problems and solutions must face the test of justce and fairplay."
On October 26th 2017, eleven LGBTIQ Faith Leaders came before the world at United Nations Headquarters in New York City to tell their stories. They came together under the auspice of the Ethics of Reciprocity project and with great courage poured their hearts and souls on that international stage. Long before that, however, they came to know each other as members of the same family.
It is with great sadness and disbelief that we, members of the Ethics of Reciprocity family, mourn the passing of one of our own. On December 11th, 2017, Abubakar Sadiq Yussif passed away.
On Thursday, Oct 26 from 11:30am – 3:00pm, IFOR is hosting an unprecedented gathering of conservative & progressive religious leaders, diplomats and human rights experts in a project called the Ethics of Reciprocity (EOR).
IFOR has a long history of engagement at the intersection of gender and peace building and has a long history of advocacy against violence and discrimination on the basis of gender. With millions of people around the world suffering increasing amounts of violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, IFOR is proud to host this important conversation. EOR was envisioned by IFOR's representative to the United Nations Dr. Patricia Ackerman.
IFOR's Branch in Madagascar, Fikambanana Entanin’ny Fampihavanana eto MADAGASIKARA (FIEFA) celebrated its 25th anniversary recently. The anniversary was held in the village of St. François of Antananarivo. The association chose as it's theme "La force ne vaut pas la vertu" or "force is not worth the cost of virtue." The anniversary was an opportunity for members of FIEFA to consider the moral importance of the movement's values and to renew the commitment to promote active nonviolence and peace.
Stacey Mitchell of IFOR's International Committee joined leaders from FOR-USA in Charlottesville this weekend as they gathered with thousands to send a message of love in opposition to the expressions of hatred and bigotry that permeated the U.S. city. White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville to demonstrate their opposition to the removal of a statue honoring the general that lead the army of the Southern States during the U.S. Civil War.
Several national and international media outlets covered the events in Charlottesville and FOR-USA posted several images and videos to it's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FORUSA/
Dr. Cornel West and Stacey Mitchell during an organizing meeting in Charlottesville Virginia