MINELRES: Minority Rights Group International - e-bulletin

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Fri Apr 29 10:54:43 2005

Original sender: Graham Fox <GRAHAM.FOX@mrgmail.org>

Minority Rights Group International - e-bulletin

Welcome to the minority Rights Group International (MRG) email bulletin.
Simply click on the links below in order to access the full news story
or publication on MRG's website, or alternatively visit our site at:

In this e-bulletin: 

International Criminal Court to investigate Darfur, but more is needed 
Cameroon questioned over minority torture case acquittal 
In Larger Freedom: Annan calls for results from reformed UN 
Botswana must amend discriminatory tribal policies, states UN Committee 
Dutch Declaration excludes minorities from minority rights Convention 
Security Council must act now to end Darfur ‘hell on earth’ 
New guide helps minorities and indigenous peoples claim neglected rights 
Filling the knowledge gaps on traditional customary laws and indigenous
peoples in Asia 
MRG backs genocide prevention role for UN anti-discrimination committee 
Focus on: the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration 
Events and Advocacy: International Roma Rights Day - 8 April 2005 
Worth a closer look: 
Events for your diary 
Publications -  
- Traditional Customary Laws and Indigenous Peoples in Asia 
- Key Issues for Religious Minorities' Rights in Asia 


International Criminal Court to investigate Darfur, but more is needed 
The UN Security Council has referred the situation of Darfur to the
International Criminal Court (ICC) in its most significant action
to-date to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities and end impunity in the
region. While welcoming the move, Minority Rights Group International
(MRG) cautioned that this step must not be considered as an end in
itself, but will be a long process requiring the cooperation of many
governments to bring those guilty to justice. MRG stated that killing
continues in Darfur and the need remains for measures to be put in place
to effectively ensure security and stop government and Janjaweed militia
attacks in the region. 


Cameroon questioned over minority torture case acquittal 
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has raised serious concerns
with the government of Cameroon regarding its respect of the due process
of law following the acquittal of a Military Police Captain on charges
of arbitrary arrest and torture of a member of the Mbororo pastoralist
community. The rights group has complained directly to the government
about the actions of a Military Tribunal and called for an independent
appeal hearing, highlighting a list of judicial irregularities, which
cast doubts over the validity of the acquittal.

In Larger Freedom: Annan calls for results from reformed UN 
UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has unveiled an extensive package of
reforms aimed at turning the UN into a more effective instrument for
development, security and human rights and confronting increasing
criticism. The reforms were presented as part of a five-year progress
report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, yet omitted
reference to minority rights and enhanced minority protection
mechanisms, seen by Minority Rights Group International as vital to
achieving his stated goals. Key to Mr Annan's vision for the future is a
message of cooperation and collective action by states, and greater
cohesion within the UN system itself.

Botswana must amend discriminatory tribal policies, states UN Committee 
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has
maintained its pressure on the government of Botswana over what it
considers to be the discriminatory effects of legislation and elements
of the countries Constitution against minority tribal groups. In a
letter to the government, the Chair, Mr Mario Yutzis, stressed
Botswana’s obligations under the terms of the Convention and the fact
that it prohibits direct as well as indirect discrimination. Tribal Acts
recognize only the Tswana-speaking tribes while non-Tswana speaking
groups including the Wayeyi and Basarwa/San peoples suffer from
cultural, social, economic and political exclusion.

Dutch Declaration excludes minorities from minority rights Convention
A Dutch government 'Declaration' has excluded minorities from protection
under the provisions of a Convention expressly designed to protect their
rights. The Declaration aims to restrict the application of the Council
of Europe's (CoE) Framework Convention for the Protection of National
Minorities (FCNM) only to the Frisian minority and should be rejected as
invalid, states MRG. According to the rights group, the most
discriminated against groups in the Netherlands, including the Roma,
will be excluded from the protection of the Convention as applied by the

Security Council must act now to end Darfur ‘hell on earth’
The UN Security Council Member States must authorize immediate measures
to bring real security to the people of Darfur, including referral to
the International Criminal Court (ICC). Minority Rights Group
International (MRG) today urged decisive action and called for the
Security Council to move beyond diplomatic and monitoring measures. Such
actions have proved wholly ineffective in stopping attacks and
displacement in Darfur, which Kofi Annan yesterday called 'little short
of hell on earth'.

New MRG guide assists minorities to claim economic, social and cultural
Not enough has been done to consider fully and systematically the
economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights of minorities and indigenous
peoples, suggests MRG. However, these, too often neglected rights are
essential to help establish conditions of equality, bring people out of
poverty, and prevent conflict and instability. MRG seeks to encourage
minority and indigenous peoples to claim their rights and to bridge the
gaps in the current literature on ESC rights. A new MRG guide to
economic, social and cultural rights is aimed at educating and
empowering communities to claim their rights in the areas of food and
water, housing, health, education, work and cultural rights.

Filling the knowledge gaps on traditional customary laws and Indigenous
peoples in Asia 
Among the most distinctive features of indigenous peoples are their
unique ‘cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems’. These
features vary in different parts of the world according to different
social and political systems. The system of government of the states
within which indigenous peoples live, whether at the local or the
national level, varies enormously in Asia, from highly centralized
unitary systems to decentralized federal systems. 

MRG backs genocide prevention role for UN anti-discrimination committee
MRG has lent its support to efforts by the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to take a greater role in
international efforts to prevent genocide. In a statement made during
CERD’s thematic discussion on the issue, MRG highlighted the potential
for CERD to use its experience, mechanisms and procedures to identify
and act upon the early warnings of genocide. MRG has identified key
areas in which CERD may be effective, as well as pointing out practical
and procedural shortcomings, which may need to be addressed in order for
it to fulfil its potential.

Focus on: the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration

In April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights will decide on whether
to adopt a Sub-Commission resolution appointing two of its members as
Special Rapporteurs to undertake a study into discrimination based on
work and descent, commonly known as 'caste based discrimination'. This
landmark decision is the culmination of years of work by numerous
national organizations and a growing international civil society
network, to establish caste based discrimination on the international
agenda as an issue of global concern. In November 2004, representatives
of caste affected communities from countries as diverse as India, Japan
and Senegal met in Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss how to establish Dalit
rights in the contemporary world and the role of governments, the United
Nations and the private sector in helping to achieve this. The
International Consultation was organised by the International Dalit
Solidarity Network (IDSN) and the Dalit NGO Federation-Nepal and was
attended by more than 100 participants. The consultation provided the
basis for constructive exchange between key stakeholders and amassed a
wealth of  information, research and analysis on the global phenomenon
of caste-based discrimination in general and the specific situation in
Nepal. An unprecedented collection of recommendations for measures to
eliminate caste-based discrimination was achieved, covering a range of 
sectors and addressing a number of stakeholders. The recommendations are
presented in the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration. The reports from the
Consultation are available through the following link:
http://www.idsn.org/ICCBD.html to the IDSN website. The papers presented
at the consultation will be made available at the IDSN web-site in their
full length in due time. With thanks to IDSN. 

Events and Advocacy

International Roma Rights Day - 8 April 2005 
On the occasion of International Roma Rights Day, Minority Rights Group
International calls upon all states with Roma/Gypsy and traveller
communities within their national territories to fully uphold their
obligations to equality, non-discrimination and human and minority
rights under national, regional and international human rights law. MRG
further calls on the media and political parties and organizations to
fulfil their responsibilities to fair, impartial, and non-racist
portrayals of individuals and communities. MRG supports the European
Roma Information Office, European Roma Rights Center and Open Society
Institute in their letter to the Commissioners' Group on Fundamental
Rights, Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities, asking them to take
urgent measures meant to curb the rampant Anti-Gypsyism and social
exclusion issues affecting Roma communities.

MRG Treaty Body Training - San Jose, Costa Rica - 12 -18 March  2005 
MRG have provided a training to 25 participants from Guatemala, Costa
Rica and Nicaragua on UN treaty monitoring bodies, minority & indigenous
peoples rights and advocacy strategies. The training aimed to initiate
participants’ national & international advocacy plans based on work with
the UN treaty bodies. The training included a session on gender and
introduction to MRG's work on intersectional and multiple forms of
discrimination against minority and indigenous women.  

MRG Training on the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities - Strasbourg - 24-27 Feb 2005

At the end of February MRG provided 22 participants with training on the
Council of Europe's (CoE) Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities, which included training on shadow report writing
skills and advocacy strategies. Attendance at the training also allowed
advocacy opportunities for the participants with CoE officials,
government representatives, and Advisory committee members. The aim of
the training is to help participants engage in improved advocacy with
their governments using CoE mechanisms, including shadow reports.

Call for Participants 

Minority Rights Group International (MRG), the European Roma Rights
Centre (ERRC) and the Swedish Ombudsman Against Ethnic Discrimination
(SO) are presently calling for participants resident in the Czech
Republic, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden, for their upcoming
Pan-European Training for Lawyers that will take place in Budapest on
May 19-21, 2005. A half day optional session will also be available on
May 22 for those wishing to obtain additional advice or assistance on
litigation strategies in this area of law. The training will focus on
the content and practical applications of the EU Article 13
Anti-Discrimination Directives, which are binding on all EU Member
States and Candidate Countries. More specifically, participants will
explore key concepts such as the shifting of the burden of proof, direct
and indirect discrimination and dissuasive sanctions. Additional
concepts to be explored include multiple discrimination.

MRG Training of Trainers - Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzogovina - 26 June -
3 July 2005 
As part of the Southeast Europe Diversity and Democracy Partnership
Programme, this Training of Trainers is intended for individuals
affiliated with NGOs and other institutions from Southeast Europe
working on minority and human rights who wish to acquire or enhance
their skills in training on minority rights and advocacy. Eligible
countries and entities include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo/a, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.

For further information about the events above and details of many
additional MRG programmes and advocacy activities, please visit MRG's
website or contact us directly.


MRG strives to be an equal opportunities employer. MRG occasionally has
opportunities for internships and voluntary work and those interested in
applying for such positions should initially contact MRG with a brief
curriculum vitae (resume) and covering letter.

Worth a closer look
Live Coverage of Commission on Human Rights at ngochr.org 
CONGO, The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relations with the United
Nations ( CONGO) will be coordinating event monitoring and analysis of
this years UN Commission on Human Rights on their website at
http://www.ngochr.org.  Please bookmark it for the latest information on
what is happening in the CHR. Many thanks to CONGO for this valuable
initiative once again in 2005.

Information contained in external websites does not necessarily reflect
the views, policies or opinions of MRG and its staff.

Events for your diary

Other Upcoming Events: 

8 April: International Roma Day 

11-22 April 2005: Commission on Sustainable Development, New York 

13-15 April 2005: WFUNA Seminar on the International Criminal Court. 
Palais des Nations, Geneva. Open to member UNAs, diplomats, jurists and
lawyers, postgraduate students and non-governmental organizations. For
more information, please contact wfuna@unog.ch or visit

25 -29 April: Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant
Workers and Members of Their Families - 2nd ordinary session. Geneva

25 April - 13 May: CESCR - 34th ordinary session Geneva 

2 - 20 May: Committee Against Torture - 34th ordinary session - Geneva 

16-27 May 2005: UN Fifth Forum on Forests, New York 

29 May -1 June 2005:  Forum International Montreal conference "Civil
society: visions and strategies towards global democracy." Montreal.


Traditional Customary Laws and Indigenous Peoples in Asia 
For years, traditional laws - or customary laws - in Asia have been
eroded. This report argues that remaining customary laws should be
retained and discusses the extent to which their erosion can be
reversed. The report focuses primarily on two types of customary law
systems - personal or family law, and land and resource rights law - and
considers the complex situation, which is far from uniform throughout
Asia. In some areas, customary law systems and procedures are generally
respected, while in other parts of Asia customary law has been so eroded
that it is virtually non-existent and unrecognized by governments. Click
below to download the full text of this report.

Key Issues for Religious Minorities' Rights in Asia 
A brief overview of the situation of religious minorities in Asia
reveals complexity and diversity in the identity of religious
minorities. However these minorities have issues in common too: many are
subject to severe physical, political, social, economic and cultural
oppression and violation of rights within their community and by their
nation-states. Denial of religious minority rights in Asia is often
half-hidden and subtle. This MRG workshop report, based on consultation
with participants from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Nepal and Pakistan, sheds light on major issues affecting religious
minorities and considers strategies for change.

MRG welcomes your comments on this e-bulletin and our work in general,
and greatly values your opinions and information. We hope that you will
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the subject line.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental
organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and
linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote
cooperation and understanding between communities. 

MRG is a registered charity no. 282305, and has consultative status with
the United Nations Economic and Social Council and observer status with
the African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights.

Contact MRG: 
54 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LT, UK. 
Tel: 020 7422 4200      Fax: 020 7422 4201 
email: minority.rights@mrgmail.org