As the world was gripped this week by the storming of U.S. diplomatic compounds in the Middle East, another troubling event that coincided with the September 11 anniversary unfolded largely unnoticed at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. There, a prisoner found dead in his cell over the weekend was identified Tuesday as Adnan Latif, a Yemeni who had been cleared for transfer five years earlier. Latif’s death should serve as a wake-up call for the United States to change its tarnished response to 9/11 by closing Guantanamo, even as it grapples with the horrifying attacks on its missions in Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
At least 20,000 children work in Malian artisanal gold mines under extremely harsh and dangerous conditions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Malian government and international donors should take action to end child labor in artisanal mines, Human Rights Watch said. Artisanal miners rely on low-tech methods and often organize informally.
The 108-page report, “A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury, and Artisanal Gold Mining in Mali,” reveals that children as young as six dig mining shafts, work underground, pull up heavy weights of ore, and carry, crush, and pan ore. Many children also work with mercury, a toxic substance, to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and is particularly harmful to children.
“These children literally risk life and limb”, said Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They carry loads heavier than their own weight, climb into unstable shafts, and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.”
Of 33 child laborers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 21 said that they suffered from regular pain in the back, head, neck, arms, or joints.Children also suffer from coughing and respiratory disease. One boy about six years old described the pain he felt when digging shafts with a pickaxe for hours on end. Another boy said that “everything hurts” when he comes home after a day’s work underground.
Most children work alongside their parents to supplement the little income adult miners get from selling gold to local traders. Other children migrate to the mines by themselves, and end up being exploited and abused by relatives or strangers who take their pay. Some girls are sexually abused or engage in sex work to survive. Children come to the mines from other parts of Mali, as well as from Guinea, Burkina Faso, and other neighboring countries.
Figures obtained by Human Rights Watch from the Malian Ministry of Mines put the amount of artisanally mined gold exported per year at around four metric tons, worth around US$218 million at November 2011 prices. Most of this gold is exported to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular.
Syria has committed crimes against humanity, according to the UN Human Rights Council.
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution Friday condemning Syria and calling its actions against citizens “crimes against humanity.” The council called on the “main bodies” of the UN to “take appropriate action” against the Syrian regime, while the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on the council to refer Syria’s alleged crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Pillay also said she believes Syria is on the brink of civil war.
37 of the 47 countries voted in favor of the resolution, six abstained and four voted against it, including China and Russia. Syria’s ambassador to the UN Faysaal Hamwi brushed aside the resolution, blaming foreign armed gang for the country’s widespread violence and claiming the resolution was “not objective.”
The UN now estimates nearly 4,600 people have been killed during the uprising. At least 950 people were killed in November alone, making it the deadliest month since anti-government protests began in March.
[Photos: A protester marches during a protest organized by Lebanese and Syrians living in Lebanon on December 2. Credit: Omar Ibrahim/Reuters; protesters in Lebanon carry a picture depicting President Assad with a rope around his neck, on December 2. The Arabic script under the picture reads: “Very soon”. Credit: Omar Ibrahim/Reuters; a Syrian performer hangs from hooks while holding his national flag in front of a giant picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a show of endurance during a pro-regime rally in Damascus on December 2. Credit: AFP/Getty Images]
He dines at the finest restaurants. He’s a leading military official. He owns a bar, a dairy farm, and a pretty mansion. And the International Criminal Court has a warrant for his arrest. So why isn’t Bosco Ntaganda in jail?
Fishing is already one of the most dangerous occupations in the world yet EJF’s report documents crews on illegal boats working under slave like-conditions, facing daily exploitation and abuse. The new report calls for urgent international action to address illegal fishing and labour conditions, including a global ban on the use of Flags of Convenience by fishing vessels.
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing is devastating marine environments, stealing from developing nations and unsustainable. It is driven by the enormous global demand for seafood and is symptomatic of the wider crises in world fisheries.
Often forced to work at sea for months and even years, in many cases the working conditions suffered by these crews meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) definitions of forced labour.
For an hour, in the sanctum of an apartment in El Jadida, the maid was beaten with the hose of a gas cylinder. Her screams and supplications brought her aggressor, the daughter of her employer who “borrowed” her to help around the house, to a frothing rage; she repeatedly struck her over the head and face with the heel of a shoe until she collapsed on the floor she had so thoroughly scrubbed lifeless. The maid’s name is Khadija. She was eleven years old. She hailed from Tagadirt, a small village southwest of Marrakesh. According to the police report, the killer, a thirty-one year old educated Moroccan woman, was upset Khadija ruined her dress shirt while washing it.
Khadija’s path into child labor is not unique. It is the same path taken by Zainab Shtit, Najwa Bent Bouazza, and many others. Being illiterate, their parents didn’t see the added value in sending them to school; famine and disease are daily realities and survival is a primary focus. They, like many other mostly rural parents who are economically depleted, circumvent the Malthusian constraint by putting their children to work as soon as they are physically capable. For boys, the work is often seasonal menial labor in fields and construction sites or as ambulant cigarette hawkers and shoe shiners; girls are sent off to the city to work as maids and professional panhandlers. When Khadija turned nine years old, she was sent to Marrakech to work as a maid. Her father would show up once a month to collect her measly salary – less than fifty dollars. She was eventually fired from that job. Thanks to a “samsara,” a headhunter who provides maids to customers, she was soon relocated to Casablanca where she was recruited by the mother of her murderer.