World News Digest October


Migration and Refugees

Common Dreams news portal reported on 5 October that more than 10,000 people were rescued on 3 and 4 October from vessels attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Italy. Many didn’t survive: AFP reported on Wednesday that 28 bodies had been recovered. The BBC reported on 12 October on the large number of unaccompanied migrant children missing in Europe. Telesur carried a story on 18 October noting that a staggering 71 percent of migrants fleeing war and insecurity in North Africa have been victims of exploitation and human and organ trafficking. Reuters reported on 17 October that Egypt had passed legislation to crack down on people traffickers linked to a major surge in the numbers of migrants departing from the country’s Mediterranean coast on often disastrous sea journeys to Europe. CBS News carried an article on 18 October about the recovery of a ship that sank on 18 April 2015. Twenty-eight people survived. Hundreds more were locked below deck. The Japan Times reported on 21 October that some 1,400 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean had been rescued off the coast of Libya, according to the Italian coast guard, which coordinated the operations conducted mainly by aid ships. Radio New Zealand reported on 25 October that 2,200 migrants were rescued and 16 bodies were recovered from the Mediterranean on 24 October. On 25 October, Relief Web carried a story on the International Organization for Migration’s report that 328,225 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 23 October, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy. Reuters reported that more than 90 migrants were believed to be missing after their boat sank off the coast of western Libya on 26 October. A Libyan coastguard spokesman said coastguards had rescued 29 migrants some 26 miles off the shore east of Tripoli, and that survivors said 126 people had been on the rubber boat before one of the sides was ripped and it started taking on water. The Washington Post carried an article on 27 October analyzing the very high mortality rate of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, stating that the number of people who have died this year trying to reach Europe via smuggling routes has surpassed last year’s total.

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Reuters reported on 14 October that Da’esh had crushed a rebellion plot in Mosul, led by one of the group’s commanders who aimed to switch sides and help deliver the caliphate’s Iraqi capital to government forces, according to residents and Iraqi security officials. On 18 October Amnesty International published an article on paramilitary militias and government forces in Iraq who had committed serious human rights violations, including war crimes, by torturing, arbitrarily detaining, forcibly disappearing and extra judicially executing thousands of civilians who have escaped areas controlled by Da’esh. Iraqinews reported on 18 October that Al-Hashd al-Shaabi Command in Anbar Province had announced the discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of 80 members of Da’esh west of Ramadi, and said the group is trying to hide the size of losses inflicted on it during recent fighting. Fox News reported on 19 October that as the assault on Mosul moves forward, members of the minority Ezidi community wait with grim anticipation to learn the fate of loved ones trapped or enslaved in Iraq’s second-largest city. Ezidi hostages, sex slaves and even young men brainwashed and conscripted into the black-clad jihadist army are inside the city. The International Business Times reported on 22 October that US Defense Secretary Ash Carter had arrived in Baghdad to assess the offensive to recapture Mosul amid reports of mass executions by militants in the region. The Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) issued an urgent appeal on 26 October calling on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to take immediate action to investigate the disappearance of 643 individuals from Saqlawiya (Al Anbar province, Iraq), on 2-5 June 2016 following the offensive launched in May 2016 to retake the city of Fallujah from Da’esh. The Guardian carried an article on 31 October on how the Ezidi community’s shattered trust serves as a bleak warning of challenges ahead for the Mosul region.


CNN reported on 25 October that US military officials have received a tip that the remains of one or more American hostages killed by a Da’esh operative known as “Jihadi John” may be buried in Dabiq, Syria.


CajNewsAfrica reported on 4 October that a new wave of forced disappearances at the hands of the Egyptian Homeland Security, and a consequent refusal by authorities to provide information or recognize the abductions, has worsened the country’s political crisis. The Guardian carried an in-depth analysis on 4 October of the murder of Italian academic Giulio Regeni in Egypt earlier this year. CajNewsAfrica reported on 14 October on what it says are two more cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt. On 25 October, The Middle East Monitor reported that there were 23 cases of enforced disappearances in Egypt between early July and the end of September, including the death of 20 people in prison, according to the Arab Organization for Human Rights. Reuters reported on 27 October that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has promised to amend a law that human rights groups say has severely restricts protest rights.

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India Today reported on 1 October that the Baloch Republican Party Representative to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Abdul Nawaz Bugti, had criticized the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) saying the project is a threat to the existence of the indigenous people of Balochistan. The Express Tribune from Pakistan reported on 3 October that the Sindh High Court has instructed the relevant authorities to provide a list of detainees whose whereabouts have been established. The court is hearing several petitions seeking the recovery of various citizens allegedly taken into custody by law enforcement. The Daily Times, from Pakistan, reported on 4 October that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over human rights violations in Karachi, aggravated by new problems in recent months. The Daily Times reported on 5 October that Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar had expressed deep concern over continuing incidents of enforced disappearances and dumping of mutilated bodies, particularly in Balochistan, warning of disastrous consequences if the issue is not addressed. On 7 October The Express Tribune reported that the Islamabad High Court on Thursday expressed strong concern over the lack of progress shown by state authorities in investigating an enforced disappearance case in Islamabad. The Daily Times reported on 11 October that out of 17 missing persons cases referred to the provincial task force by the Sindh High Court and the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance, only two persons had been traced, according to a report submitted to the Court. Balochwarna News reported on 19 October on a Voice for Baloch Missing Persons statement that abducted persons are being killed in staged encounters. The Express Tribune reported on 22 October that while denying any involvement in the abduction of an Islamabad resident, the Ministry of Interior suggested that the Islamabad High Court direct the petitioner to approach the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances to trace the missing person. On 30 October, The Pakistan Observer reported that a memorandum had been submitted at 10 Downing Street for British Prime Minister Theresa May “highlighting the gross human rights violations committed by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir”.

Sri Lanka

The Island carried an analysis on 3 October on the slow pace of reconciliation efforts. The Colombo Gazette on 7 October carried a statement by Amnesty International noting that Sri Lankans are still waiting for the legislation that would make enforced disappearances a crime under Sri Lankan law. The UN News Centre reported on 20 October that in her first information-gathering visit to Sri Lanka, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, called for “a comprehensive, well-planned and well-coordinated truth, reconciliation, healing and accountability process”, which “cannot be done overnight”. The Sri Lanka Guardian reported on 27 October that even as Sri Lanka drafts a new law to counter terrorism, human rights activists and lawyers in the country fear it might be worse than the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) they want repealed and replaced.


BBC News reported on 13 October on an alarming rise in the number of forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh this year. Benar News, a news portal from India, reported on 20 October that the number of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh is rising.


The Punjab Express reported on 5 October that the mystery of 60 persons missing from Nawanshahr district in Punjab during the last 21 months has raised serious questions about the “deteriorating law and order situation in the state”. The Business Standard carried a story on 27 October saying that at least six persons, including three women, from a district on the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border where 28 Maoists were killed in a battle with police on 24 October are reportedly missing. Villagers say the missing were abducted by Maoists.


The NDTV news portal from India reported on 9 October on the thousands of elderly people who go missing in China every year. On 20 October Eurasia Review reported that Human Rights Watch has called on the Chinese government immediately to release Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who disappeared from Thailand a year ago and reappeared in custody in China.

Hong Kong

SBS reported on 18 October on the case of the five booksellers who disappeared last year, with many suspecting the involvement of the Chinese authorities.


The Sri Lanka Guardian reported on 3 October that despite President Joko Widodo’s repeated commitments to address human rights violations committed in 1965 – such as extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture – more than five decades later, millions of victims and their families are still waiting for truth, justice and reparation.


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) on 26 October called on the authorities in Laos immediately and unconditionally to release two former pro-democracy student leaders who have been arbitrarily detained for 17 years and disclose the fate or whereabouts of two others.


The Myanmar Times reported on 25 October that two weeks after a series of deadly attacks on border guard posts in northern Rakhine State, authorities say the whereabouts of Muslim residents who fled following the assault remain unknown.


The Manila Times reported on 13 October that President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an administrative order creating a presidential task force that will address the killing of journalists, according to a statement from the Presidential Palace. On 17 October, The Guardian reported that President Duterte had referred to innocent people and children as “collateral damage” in his war on drugs because police use automatic weapons when confronting criminals. Biometric Update reported on 21 October that the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration will deploy a facial recognition system that connects to Interpol, according to a report by The Daily Tribune. On 21 October The Manila Times carried a story saying that the Philippine National Police-National Operation Center (PNP-NOC) had reported at least 29 casualties from super Typhoon Lawin (international code name: Haima).


The Diplomat reported on 5 October that after a two-year investigation, Amnesty International has documented 74 cases of torture in Thailand. The Bangkok Post reported on 31 October that this year’s World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranked Thailand 64th out of 113 countries.

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SkyNews carried a story on 9 October saying that a mass grave had been unearthed in a field in northern Mexico, according to a group representing the relatives of missing persons. Bones, teeth, pieces of clothing and shoes were discovered in the 16-hectare paddock in San Pedro, west of the Coahuila state capital of Saltillo, according to Grupo VIDA. The ranches of San Pedro were the preferred mass killing sites for criminal groups active in the area years ago, when Torreon municipality was listed as one of the most violent cities in the world. On 10 October, Latin America Press reported  on the second anniversary of the abduction of 43 students in Iguala. On 10 October, Fox News Latino carried a statement by the Coahuila State Attorney-General’s office saying that 3,800 bone fragments found in the state belong to just three individuals, a conclusion which one association of families of the missing described as “a joke”, suggesting that the number of bone fragments indicates a higher number of victims.  Telesur reported on 11 October that Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez had said that another search for the missing students from Ayotzinapa was to be launched in the towns of Iguala, Cocula and Guerrero. Telesur reported on 12 October that the governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, had announced that he would take an immediate leave of absence to address a criminal investigation into allegations that he had embezzled or misspent as much as US$2 billion since he took office nearly six years ago. Prensa Latina, a news agency from Cuba, reported on 16 October that Mexico had reported 14,000 homicides in 2016, according to Julio Hernandez, chairman of the Executive Commission of Attention to Victims (CEAV). In addition, there are more than 26,000 missing persons as a result of organized crime, he added. The Bueno Aires Herald reported on 24 October that Mexican officials had arrested Felipe Flores, the former police chief of the town of Iguala, where the 43 students disappeared in 2014.


CNN reported on 3 October  that Colombians had narrowly rejected a referendum on a peace deal between the government and the FARC rebel group that took over four years to negotiate and would have ended five decades of war. The OHCHR released a statement on 3 October saying that Colombia is due to be reviewed for the first time by the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), which was scheduled to meet in Geneva from 3 to 14 October.


Telesur reported on 5 October that the Argentinian human rights group Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo had announced that they had found another child stolen during the 1976-83 dictatorship.


ABC News, reported on 10 October that as the death toll from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti rose to 1,000 and cholera spread in the devastated southwest, the nation had started to bury its dead in mass grave.


The Link, a newspaper from Quebec, published a story on 4 October about the Centre for Gender Advocacy highlighting injustices facing Canada’s indigenous women.

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Human Rights Watch released a statement on 6 October on the UN Human Rights Council’s increased attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi, particularly since its Special Session of December 2015. The Mail Online reported on 12 October  that Burundian lawmakers had overwhelmingly voted to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), taking the nation a step closer to being the first ever to quit the tribunal. Reuters published an article on 18 October on President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, who signed the decree taking his country out of the ICC, after parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove the country from the court’s jurisdiction.


The Standard Digital reported on 3 October that police had rounded up a group of young men accused of being Al Shabaab followers or sympathizers. AllAfrica reported on 5 October that, according to the Kenyan authorities, allegations linking police to systematic extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of suspects are “a biased, palpable misrepresentation of facts and lack objectivity”. On 25 October, The Standard reported that one out of three Kenyans has experienced torture and ill treatment by the police in the last five years. MediaMax, a news network from Kenya, reported on 31 October that Kenya National Human Rights Commission Vice Chair George Morara had said the agency will present a report to the National Assembly after investigating matters of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests and brutality by police officers and security forces in Kwale County on the country’s south coast.


The Nation reported on 11 October that members of the #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG) advocacy group had issued a statement marking the third consecutive International Day of the Girl Child without the Chibok girls. On 13 October, the BBC reported on the release of 21 schoolgirls by Boko Haram. YNaija reported on 18 October that the Senate had been told that more than 1,000 persons were being held captive by Boko Haram. All Africa carried an article on 27 October about what it says is confusion in the Nigerian military following a major attack by Boko Haram in the northeast of the country.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 1 October, The Scotsman published a report from Srebrenica where the identification and burial of thousands of victims “were only possible because of the painstaking work carried out by forensic experts at the International Commission on Missing Persons, which has devoted the past 20 years to piecing together and testing body parts in the hope of identifying the dead”. Glasgow Live carried a story on 6 October about Glaswegian Alison Anderson, who was one of a team of experts who helped identify victims of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina who had been buried in mass graves. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement on 5 October regarding the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which concluded its consideration of the initial report by Bosnia and Herzegovina on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, from Switzerland, published a profile on 12 October in German focusing on Nura Begovic, who in July 1995 saw her brother for the last time, in Srebrenica.  The Oxfordshire Guardian carried a report on 20 October  about a recent return to Srebrenica by forensic specialists who worked there in the 1990s and early 2000s. Balkan Insight reported on 25 October that the remains of seven victims of the 1992-95 war had been discovered during an exhumation at a cemetery in Modrica Municipality in norther Bosnia.


Tornos News reported on 9 October that Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades was to travel to Athens to attend an event to commemorate Greeks who went missing following the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The Famagusta Gazette reported on 11 October on comments made by President Anastasiades in Athens. “No matter how many years go by, we will continue to seek answers for the missing persons.” On 15 October, The Cyprus Mail reported that by next year, the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) laboratory might not have any remains for identification.  On 19 October, The Cyprus Mail carried a story saying that a number of testimonies concerning missing persons have not yet been assessed even after 42 years, according to Commissioner for Humanitarian affairs Fotis Photiou. The Greek Reporter carried a statement by Mr Photiou on 22 October on what he said was Turkey’s responsibility for the humanitarian issue of missing persons in Cyprus. The Cyprus Mail on 29 October called for the CMP to be granted free and unlimited access to all data regarding missing persons, such as burial sites or sites where remains have been moved.


The Malta Independent reported on 25 October that Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela has confirmed that 530 people have been reported missing in Malta in 2016, 15 of whom are still missing.


The Times of Israel reported on 3 October that Slovenian authorities had begun transferring the remains of some 800 people killed and dumped in a mine by Communist forces in the aftermath of World War II. Stars and Stripes carried a story on 27 October on the reburial in Slovenia of the remains of these victims.


The Mail Online reported on 3 October that a mass grave filled with the skeletons of men and women executed during the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing dictatorship of Francisco Franco had been uncovered.

United Kingdom

The Daily Telegraph reported on 15 October that up to 300 unaccompanied children from the Calais “Jungle” camp were expected to arrive for resettlement in Britain. BBC News carried an article on 19 October about several unaccompanied children who have arrived to join relatives in the UK – amid suggestions they could be adults. Monmouth MP David Davies said mandatory teeth checks would reassure people, but the British Dental Association said this was unethical.


The Kyiv Post reported on 25 October that some 109 Ukrainian citizens are being held hostage, while 495 people are reported missing, according to adviser to the chief of the SBU Security Service of Ukraine Yuriy Tandit.