"Open Invitation to Human Self-Annihilation": Daily Brief

Fear and hatred rising in Europe; Saudi criminal justice system tramples the rights of Pakistani defendants; Degrading "virginity tests" in Indonesia; Facing prison for protest in Algeria; Horror in Syria's Eastern Ghouta...


  1. In Indonesia, senior military and police officers with knowledge of a “virginity testing” policy told HRW that security forces continue to impose these cruel and discriminatory procedures. Medical associations should publicly denounce so-called these obligatory tests for female applicants to the Indonesian National Armed Forces and National Police.
  2. Tomorrow is International Women's Day. Despite continued threats to women's rights, there are some exciting reforms happening in the Middle East and North Africa. Positive changes in the region are a credit to the women human rights defenders who have faced harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment for their efforts.
  3. The Sri Lankan government has imposed a state of emergency following violence that erupted into anti-Muslim riots around the country. Multiple reports point to a country-wide shutdown of social media following the announcement. As security forces respond to continued ethnic clashes, the government should ensure that its emergency powers are not used to facilitate abuses.
  4. Good News! Equitorial Guinea cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé is finally free after spending nearly six months in prison for work critical of the government. The government should now ensure his safe return to his family and that he will be able to continue to work without fear of further persecution.
  5. From earlier today: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, this morning delivered his annual report on the state of human rights in the world, warning against the "open invitation to human self-annihilation" offered by political leaders who would put ethnic and other differences above our common humanity and who would limit the universal application of human rights. He went on to highlight the "apocalypse" in Syria and possible "acts of genocide" in Myanmar among many other serious abuses around the world - in the Philippines, Cambodia, Turkey, Russia, Venezuela, the United States, Yemen, Israel/Palestine, the DR Congo, the EU's approach to migrants... It was a long list...
  6. Zeid also noted how xenophobia was dominating the political landscape in many countries now, including in Italy during the election campaign. Yesterday, the UN rights chief made waves by blasting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over his call for ethnic purity, asking: "Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity?" Frighteningly, racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim speech is now a part of everyday politics in Europe. Leaders aren't challenging it; they're encouraging it.
  7. The Saudi criminal justice system tramples the rights of Pakistani defendants to due process and fair trials, Human Rights Watch and Justice Project Pakistan said in a report released today. The glaring defects in the criminal justice system are especially acute for Pakistanis, who face substantial difficulties finding legal assistance, navigating Saudi court procedures, and getting consular services from Pakistani embassy officials.