Tag Archives: International politics

Crimes of Humanity

by Saba Brittain

On the 10th of January of 2023, the trial of 24 individuals involved in volunteering humanitarian assistance to migrants on the shores of Greece began (Kennedy 2023). This trial appears to follow the trend of European authorities targeting humanitarian workers to discourage solidarity with migrants and deter the arrival of refugees to Europe (Kennedy 2023).

The defendants face serious charges for their work at the Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), a Greek non-profit organisation that provides emergency aid in dangerous environments. Operating on the Greek island of Lesbos, the “crimes” committed at the ERCI include assisting people whose lives are at risk, searching and rescuing migrant boats in distress, assisting migrant boats on the shoreline (Kitsantonis 2023).

The defendants are accused of facilitating illegal migration to Europe, these accusations have drawn widespread criticism among international human rights organizations. Their charges include espionage, forgery, involvement in a criminal organization, people-smuggling, money laundering and other “farcical” accusations according to Amnesty International (Kitsantonis 2023).

The accusations of espionage condemn the defendants’ initiatives of monitoring local radio channels to learn the whereabouts of migrant boats in distress. (Smith, 2023). The money-laundering allegations incriminate fundraising efforts for the ERCI organization (Smith 2023).

“I am not a people smuggler”, says Sarah Mardini during an interview with BBC, a human rights activist accused of criminal activity and people smuggling following her lifesaving work at the Emergency Response Centre International (BBC 2018). She is one of the 24 defendants on trial and is herself a refugee from Syria (BBC 2018).

A European Parliament report has described this trial as the “largest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe” (Aljazeera 2023). Many other critiques have suggested this trial is indicative of the efforts to discourage the work of migrant rights defenders and organizations, and deter refugees from coming to Europe (Amnesty International 2022). Simply put, the compassion and solidarity driving the action of the volunteers has been weaponized and criminalized (Amnesty International 2022).

In addition to creating a hostile and insecure environment for human rights volunteers showing solidarity to migrants, this trial delays the work of the ERCI organization. A UN human rights expert suggested that a guilty verdict for the defendants could lead to more migrant deaths at sea (OHCHR 2021). Along with this trial in Greece, several other prosecutions have been set in motion across Europe against NGOs and individuals. Considering the thousands of migrant deaths at sea every year, the effects of these sorts of trials must not be overlooked. Many are calling upon Greek prosecutors to drop all charges against the 24 individuals. (Amnesty International 2022).

Works Cited

“Greece: Guilty Verdict for Migrant Rights Defenders Could Mean More Deaths at Sea – UN Expert.” OHCHR, 18 Nov. 2021, www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/01/greece-guilty-verdict-migrant-rights-defenders-could-mean-more-deaths-sea-un.

“Greece: Migrant Rescue Trial to Begin.” Human Rights Watch, 22 Dec. 2022, www.hrw.org/news/2022/12/22/greece-migrant-rescue-trial-begin.

“Solidarity on Trial in Europe.” Amnesty International, 6 May 2022, www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2020/03/free-to-help/.

Al Jazeera. “Drop All Charges against Refugee Aid Workers, UN Tells Greece.” Migration News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 13 Jan. 2023, www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/13/un-asks-greece-drop-charges-in-syrian-migrant-rescuer-trial.

Kennedy, Niamh. “They Saved Refugees Stranded at Sea. Now They’re on Trial.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 Jan. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/01/10/europe/migrant-aid-workers-mardini-binder-trial-intl/index.html.

Kitsantonis, Niki. “Greece Opens Espionage Trial of Aid Workers Who Helped Migrants.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/01/10/world/europe/greece-trial-migrants.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Smith, Helen. “Long-Awaited Trial of 24 Aid Workers Accused of Espionage Starts in Lesbos.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Jan. 2023, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jan/13/long-awaited-trial-of-24-aid-workers-accused-of-espionage-starts-in-lesbos.

Indian Prime Minister Modi Bans BBC Documentary While Allegations of Human Rights Violations Still Mount

by Nesane Nakanthiran

On January 17, the BBC aired a documentary detailing the rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it closely connected the political figure to the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the Western state of Gujarat, which constituted one of the worst outbreaks of religious violence in recent Indian history.  Subsequently, the Indian government imposed an emergency law which banned the documentary and any of its screenings—even in universities. Unsurprisingly, heavy policing and brutal arrests took place across several campuses as students began protesting against the ban.

As leader of the Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s largest right-wing party, PM Modi has been haunted for decades due to his inaction and complicity throughout the riots, although he still refuses to take proportionate accountability.

In fact, this was not his first time using the emergency law, nor his first time facing allegations of violating human rights. International human rights organizations and advocates have long been calling upon European leaders to address Modi’s “growing abuses and discriminatory policies” (Molander 2022). For example, BJP-led states have seen increasing illegal demolitions of Muslim properties, while Indian authorities have seen a heavy crackdown on students, journalists, civil society, human rights activists, and others who prove either critical towards the state or work to defend human rights amongst vulnerable communities (Molander 2022). Indeed, PM Modi even sanctions the increased use of intrusive technologies, such as Israeli-produced spyware, to curtail human rights and freedom of expression —a decision which proves unsurprising from the BJP leader.

The 2002 anti-Muslim riots took place in response to the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Local citizens had blamed the 59 deaths on Gujarat’s Muslims, which led to instances of religious violence claiming over 1,000 lives. At the time, Modi was the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, and thus, Muslim criticisms against the current Indian PM are substantial. Furthermore, police are accused of standing by while Modi faced such criticisms, perhaps even supporting Hindu extremists throughout the riots. Specifically, the documentary highlights an “unpublished report from the U.K. Foreign Office that claims Modi was ‘directly responsible’ for the ‘climate of impunity’ that enabled the violence” (Syed 2023), despite the leader’s supporters citing a 2013 Supreme Court ruling “insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

PM Modi is not alone in facing immense backlash for his use of censorship. By invoking emergency laws on Twitter and YouTube, Twitter CEO and self-proclaimed saviour of free speech, Elon Musk, has come under criticism for carrying out acts which proved contradictory to his public campaign against censorship throughout his Twitter takeover. To be clear, emergency laws extend government censorship over social media companies, which would explain how Twitter and YouTube had their hands tied. Yet, this does not diminish the Indian government’s violations against democracy, free speech, and human rights—rather, it only further substantiates the dangers of granting unchecked authority over media to a powerful few.

Currently, the emergency law remains enforced across Twitter and YouTube, and Indian police continue to crack down on illegal screenings of the documentary.

Works Cited

Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. 2023. “India invokes emergency laws to ban BBC Modi documentary.” The Guardian, January 23, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/23/india-emergency-laws-to-ban-bbc-narendra-modi-documentary

Hussain, Murtaza and Ryan Grim. 2023. “Elon Musk Caves to Pressure from India to Remove BBC Doc Critical of Modi.” The Intercept, January 24, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/01/24/twitter-elon-musk-modi-india-bbc/

Molander, Måns. 2022. “European Leaders Should Raise Human Rights Concerns with Modi.” Human Rights Watch, May 3, 2022. https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/03/european-leaders-should-raise-human-rights-concerns-modi

Syed, Armani. 2023. “India Banned a BBC Documentary Critical of Modi. Here’s How People Are Watching Anyway.” Time, January 26, 2023. https://time.com/6250480/bbc-modi-documentary-skirting-censors/