International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Corporate Crimes in Malaysia?

Workers for McDonald’s in Malaysia have released statements claiming they are victims of labour exploitation, as seen in an article from The Guardian. The restaurants in Malaysia are not franchises like in other parts of the world, but owned directly by the company. The workers are not only being exploited by McDonald’s, but by a labor supply company, Human Connection HR. Among the many issues these workers are experiencing, McDonald’s pays them extremely low wages, and in most cases have withheld employee’s salaries, refusing to pay the employees on time. Because of this, workers have not been able to support themselves and their families with necessities such as food. The workers reporting these incidents were contracted to work for McDonald’s in Malaysia, from Nepal, by Human Connection. Since the workers are directly employed through Human Connection, McDonald’s managers have failed to address their concerns, stating that they can do nothing since Human Connection is their employer.

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Many workers have come forward with claims that Human Connection takes their passports once they arrive in Malaysia, refusing to return them. This system is illegal; however, for Human Connection it enforces the workers’ contracts to McDonald’s. In an interview with one of the victims he said that “Even those who finished the three-year contract cannot go home because they don’t have their passports.” Many requests for their passports to return home have been denied. Accommodations for the workers provided by Human Connection have also raised concerns. In many situations 10 to 18 employees are forced to live in an extremely small space in poor conditions. Attempts to get a response from Human Connection HR, by The Guardian, regarding this situation failed.

Monsanto Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity?

Monsanto, an agricultural company specializing in the development of GMO seeds and inorganic pesticides, was put on trial at the Hague back in October of this year. This trial was not legally binding, meaning they could not be charged with crimes against humanity at the time; however, according to Arnaud Apoteker, “The witnesses were presenting real cases to real judges. The lessons from this event can be used in ensuing local battles.” This particular case is a great example of the lack of legal responsibility and justice transnational corporations hold. In a report released by AlterNet, “Victims and witnesses described how, over the past 50 years, Monsanto has duped, assaulted, injured and killed farmers, farmworkers, rural villagers and urban consumers.” The hope with this trial is that it will provide enough evidence to the judges to carry out justice for corporate crimes and develop international law to include ecocide as a crime.

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Monsanto has been known to silence farmers who speak out against their products. They often impose on local farming traditions, with the argument that their GMO crops will help provide enough food for the world’s growing population. Despite this argument, food sustainability can increase drastically just by eliminating the world’s food waste. One witnesses’ account stated that “Before the introduction of glyphosate and other agrochemicals, I did not see our people suffer from sickness like this.” Highly toxic pesticides are required to grow the genetically modified crops produced by Monsanto and other Big Agri companies. Not only do these chemicals negatively impact human health, causing many serious issues, but it impacts the environment as the chemicals seep into the ground to in turn pollute water systems. Depleting the nutrients in the soil will effect crop yields as well, impacting our food production. Will the pressure from civil society finally push international courts to hold these transnational corporations accountable for their crimes?

Thousands of Rohingya Minorities in Burma Displaced

Human Rights Watch and France International News both released statements regarding the displacement of the minority group, Rohingya, in Burma. This forced displacement was spurred on by the deaths of nine police officers earlier in October. Some government officials believe that the armed attackers belonged to a Rohingya rebel group. Although journalists and humanitarians have not been allowed access to these areas, reports are estimating that 18,000 civilians have been displaced thus far, the majority of which are Rohingya. Many victims are claiming cases of forced removal, looting, burning, rape, and executions among the crimes being committed by the Burmese government.

Not only has the government denied access to journalists and humanitarians, but aid efforts as well. The displaced have limited resources and food available to them, and are in dire need of relief efforts.  According to the Human Rights Watch report, “Under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, all authorities “shall grant and facilitate the free passage of humanitarian assistance and grant persons engaged in the provision of such assistance rapid and unimpeded access to the internally displaced.” Human rights groups are calling upon the Burmese government to provide aid for the displaced, or allow aid efforts to move freely.

 

South Africa Withdraws from ICC

France International News released a report today stating that South Africa constructed their “Instrument of Withdrawal” to leave the International Criminal Court.  This event follows Burundi’s request for withdrawal just this week.  Warnings have been issued by the UN Human Rights council that Burundi has committed crimes against humanity, which may lead to genocide in the near future.  zuma-and-bashirSouth Africa’s government said that their withdrawal would be the last course of action following their refusal to arrest President al-Bashir of Sudan.  They failed to acknowledge their legal responsibility of arresting President al-Bashir after the ICC released a warrant for his arrest, instead assisting him in leaving their country back to the safety of Sudan.  President al-Bashir is guilty of crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict.  South Africa has yet to formally submit their withdrawal to the UN Secretary General, but plan to submit it soon. Their withdrawal most likely falls in line with the African Union’s disagreement of the ICC wanting to prosecute state leaders.

Boko Haram Releases Female Students

The Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has begun releasing the girls abducted in a school located in the town of Chibok. This mass abduction is what sparked the public protest of many celebrities back in the year 2014.  There have been clashing reports about the abuses carried out on these girls.  The chairman of the Chibok Development Association, Pogu Bitrus, told The Guardian that the girls were “used as domestic workers and porters, [but] they were not sexually abused.”  Other reports have been issued over the years claiming sexual abuse for those abducted, and a commander of Boko Haram released a claim saying those who were abducted were forced to marry the group’s leaders.

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Despite the Nigerian government working on the release of the abducted girls, many are refusing or afraid to return home to Chibok.  There is a huge stigma placed on these girls leading to poor reception once they return home.  People from their community shame them for being “Boko Haram wives” viewing them as tained and impure, even those who were abducted and forced to join the group. Bitrus stated that it would be ideal for the released victims to receive the remainder of their education abroad in order to avoid the discrimination from their community.

The rise of Boko Haram started with their original leader, Mohammed Yusuf.  Yusuf grew up in poverty, begging on the streets in order to survive.  The name Boko Haram translates to english as “Western education is forbidden.” According to an article published by The Guardian, Boko Haram’s many crimes include, “killing police and soldiers, they slaughtered scores of civilians who were caught out in the open, slitting their throats like animals.” Even though Yusuf was eventually killed, the group continues to commit atrocities directed towards the government and civilians. Thousands have been killed, leaving millions displaced.

 

Is Maldives’ Democracy in Jeopardy?

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The state of Maldives only recently turned democratic in 2008.  Its recent withdrawal from the Commonwealth along with accusations of human rights violations could lead to a collapse of their democratic system. The Guardian released an article stating the Commonwealth’s concerns over Maldives’ corruption.  There have been accusations of money laundering and “further evidence of curbing fundamental rights, targeted persecution of opposition leaders [and] misuse of state institutions (including the judiciary, legislature and the police) to restrict, crush and punish dissent” found by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.  Many opposing individuals of the current government have been detained or prosecuted.

News outlets and NGOs located in Maldives have been raided by government officials after negative reports were released about the current president, Abdulla Yameen. Journalists who publish allegations against the president are often accused of crimes such as terrorism.  The current editor of The Maldivian Independent stated in her interview, “We’ve had one of our journalists disappear, a machete attack on our door, and our security cameras vandalised, so we’ve had to relocate once before. It’s not a safe place for journalists at all.” This type of media reporting is now considered a criminal offense in Maldives, which has been criticized by the UN as limiting their freedom of expression. With such strict government control and corruption, as well as a growing number of individuals leaving the country to join the fight in Syria, the democratic government could collapse.

Crimes Against Humanity in Burundi

France International News released an article explaining that Burundi has committed crimes against humanity, and could potentially result in genocide in the near future. President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi is going to be seeking a third term in office, which is the main reason for the recent increase in violence. Experts authorized by the UN human rights office have been examining the crimes being committed in Burundi that are mainly done by state officials protecting the current regime. The crimes committed include the torture, killing, sexual abuse, and disappearance of thousands.  A major concern of the experts, is that this increasing violence will escalate to an ethnic war due to the history of Burundi and its surrounding nations.  International intervention and aid is being called upon in order to prevent another mass genocide. 

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The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) is warning the international community that surrounding states are struggling to appropriately accept the some 300,000 refugees that have fled from Burundi. The surrounding countries need aid in providing proper shelter, education, and health care for the refugees, many of which are children and women.  The count of 300,000 refugees has just recently been surpassed and will continue to rise if nothing is done to resolve the tension in Burundi. The UN Human Rights Council, which Burundi serves on, is questioning whether or not Burundi should remain an active member. 

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Turkey’s Request for US to Arrest Gulen

France International News released a report today stating that the Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, formally requested President Obama to arrest Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in Philadelphia since 1999. The failed military coup that occurred back in July 2016 in Turkey is the event that lead to Erdogan’s request of the US government. The failed coup targeted parliament and infrastructure in the name of the Gulen movement.  The Gulen movement has Turkish-Muslim ties, but is not related to politics.  Their main focus is to push for positive changes in society including democracy.  Turkey has already found and suspended thousands of police and soldiers linked to the failed Gulen coup. President Erdogan has gone so far as to say that, “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.” Despite Turkey’s request for Gulen’s arrest, US lawyers have stated that the process could take years to finalize if the US government decides to follow through with the Turkish request.