World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day, is observed annually on June 20. A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. World Refugee Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 decided that, from 2001, 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. In this resolution, the General Assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The legal definition of international refugee status applies to any person who

“is outside the country of his nationality or habitual residence owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable or unwilling to return there owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order.”

Such a person may also be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status by the contracting state or the UNHCR if they formally make a claim for asylum.
The lead international agency coordinating refugee protection is the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR has a mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of World War II. Following the demise of the League of Nations and the formation of the United Nations, when the international community became acutely aware of the refugee crisis following the end of World War II. The International Refugee Organisation was an international agency set up in 1947 to deal comprehensively with all aspects of refugees’ lives. Preceding this was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which was established in 1944 to address the millions of people displaced across Europe as a result of World War II. However In the late 1940s, the IRO fell out of favor, but the UN agreed that a body was required to oversee global refugee issues. Despite many heated debates in the General Assembly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was founded as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly. However, the organization was only intended to operate for 3 years, from January 1951, due to the disagreement of many UN member states over the implications of a permanent body.

UNHCR’s mandate was originally set out in its statute, annexed to resolution 428 (V) of the United Nations General Assembly of 1950. This mandate has been subsequently broadened by numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group. The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981. The United Nations have a second Office for refugees, the UNRWA, which is solely responsible for supporting the large majority of Palestinian refugees.

African Refugee Day was already celebrated in several countries prior to 2000. The UN noted that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day also coincides with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June. Each year on June 20th the United Nations, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and countless civic groups around the world celebrate World Refugee Day in order to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and Internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

Recent themes for the UNHCR World Refugee Day have included: one family torn apart by war is too many, 1 refugee forced to flee is too many and Home and Protection. Individuals and community groups are encouraged to mark the day by attending a local World Refugee Day event, watching and sharing World Refugee Day videos, and raising awareness for refugees on social media

Advertisements

Tiananmen Square Protest Memorial Day

The Tiananmen Square Protest Memorial Day takes place annually on June 4 in remembrance of the Tiananmen Square Protest which happened 4 June 1989. These were student-led demonstrations in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, in 1989 which called upon the Chinese Government to be more democratic. These protests were brutally suppressed by the authorities using troops with automatic rifles and tanks. Many demonstrators were killed trying to block the military’s advance towards Tiananmen Square and The number of civilian deaths has been estimated variously from 180 to 10,454.

The Tiananmen Square Protests took place During a period of rapid economic development and social changes in post-Mao China, and reflected anxieties about the country’s future in the popular consciousness and among the political elite. The reforms of the 1980s had led to a nascent market economy which benefitted some people but seriously disaffected others; the one-party political system also faced a challenge of legitimacy. Common grievances at the time included inflation, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. The students called for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, though they were loosely organized and their goals varied. At the height of the protests, about a million people assembled in the Square.

As the protests developed, the authorities veered back and forth between conciliatory and hardline tactics, exposing deep divisions within the party leadership. By May, a student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country and the protests spread to some 400 cities. Ultimately, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and other Communist Party elders believed the protests to be a political threat, and resolved to use force. Communist Party authorities declared martial law on May 20, and mobilized as many as 300,000 troops to Beijing. The troops ruthlessly suppressed the protests by firing at demonstrators with automatic weapons, killing hundreds of protesters and leading to mass civil unrest in the days following.

The Chinese government was internationally denounced for the violent military response to the protests. Western countries imposed severe economic sanctions and arms embargoes on Chinese entities and officials. In response, the Chinese government verbally attacked the protestors and denounced Western nations who had imposed sanctions on China by accusing them of interference in China’s internal affairs, which elicited heavier condemnation by the West. It made widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, suppressed other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists, strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press, strengthened the police and internal security forces, and demoted or purged officials it deemed sympathetic to the protests. More broadly, the suppression temporarily halted the policies of liberalization in the 1980s. Considered a watershed event, the protests also set the limits on political expression in China well into the 21st century. Its memory is widely associated with questioning the legitimacy of Communist Party rule, and remains one of the most sensitive and most widely censored political topics in mainland China. In the days following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, many memorials and vigils were held around the world. Hong Kong, China and the USA have all held different versions of memorials so that those who died will not be forgotten.

In 1990, on the first anniversary of the massacre, Reuters quoted an estimate of 15, 000 people who took part in the demonstration. Organizers from the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Democracy in China (also known as Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China) provided an estimate of 30,000. Southerland, Daniel (6 April 1990). “Massed Beijing Police Oversee Conformist Day of Mourning”. “The Washington Post” (1974-Current File; Pg. A5/ref> Attendees chanted “Long live democracy” and “Rescue those who live”.

Tensions were high in 1996, which marked the seventh anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. Residents were not sure whether or not the annual demonstration would continue after the upcoming 1997 sovereignty handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Many Hong Kong natives feared they would lose the legal right to demonstrate after the handover, which made it so that the annual demonstration’s fate was in potential jeopardy. One demonstrator, Yeung Sum, voiced his support for continued demonstrations as he shouted out “this kind of demonstration must be publicly held after 1997”. According to the Globe and Mail, more than 20,000 attended. In the park there was a cenotaph, which was a replica of Heroes’ Monument (also known as the Monument to the People’s Heroes) in Tiananmen Square, and near this monument stood a reproduction of the highly symbolic Goddess of Democracy. Many Attendees “carried large funeral wreaths” to the base of the replicated Heroes’ Monument. When the floodlights dimmed, people passed several minutes of silence by raising thousands of candles.

The eighth anniversary, in 1997, was just before the handover (also known as the Transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong). People in the demonstration speculated that it might turn out to be the last vigil. Organizers estimated a total of 55,000 people, which was a record breaking number up to this point. According to the Associated Press the “demonstrators cut across many divisions” and included groups of people such as youth, business professionals, senior citizens, and workers City Hall approved the demonstration, as well as a “controversial three-story high sculpture”. This piece was called “The Pillar of Shame” and was lit up during the night.It portrayed “twisted bodies with agonized faces”. “The Pillar of Shame” was “controversial” partially because City Hall refused to allow the sculpture to be shown in public during the Hong Kong handover ceremony.

The ninth anniversary, in 1998, was significant because they were the “first protestors permitted to mourn the trauma of Tiananmen on Chinese soil”. This memorial service was also centred on the “controversial Pillar of Shame”. Demonstrators hung “large black banners” that read “reverse the verdict on June 4”, while other banners swore to “fight to the end” and to “never forget June 4”. Wei Jingsheng “sent a pre-recorded video message” that was broadcast through loud speakers and Wang Dan “spoke live from New York”.

The tenth anniversary, in 1999, also featured the controversial “Pillar of Shame” and according to the South China Morning Post, the sculpture included a column that read “the spirit of democracy martyrs will live forever”. The participants also sang “pro-democracy” songs and “chanted slogans”. Wang Dan’s mother, Wang Lingyun, “spoke to the crowd from a mobile phone after her line at home was cut off at 5 pm”. From San Francisco, Wang Dan also spoke to the crowd. During the fifteenth anniversary, in 2004, activists handed out leaflets, which encouraged mainland tourists to go to the vigil. Organizers reported that 82,000 people attended, which was up from last year’s count of 50,000.

The twentieth anniversary, in 2009, had about 150,000 attendees, according to organizers. This was the largest turnout since the first vigil nineteen years earlier, according to organizers. Police, however, recorded the number of attendees to only be about 62, 800. Attendees held candles and played traditional Chinese instruments, While chanting “Vindicate the student movement of 1989!”. China’s Ministry of Public Security issued a “written statement” about “security measures” taken prior to the beginning of the anniversary.This statement read “it’s one of our Public Security authorities’ important responsibilities to maintain and ensure social stability”.

In China Police are kept on alert during many of the anniversaries in order to guard against public displays of mourning. According to The Washington Post, Beijing “banned any mourning by groups not specifically authorized”. Similarly, during the third anniversary there was a sign in the centre of the Square that “warned visitors not to lay mourning wreaths”, unless the government had given the visitor consent at least five days in advance.

Several people have been arrested, or at least taken away for questioning, for attempting to mourn the victims publicly. One man was questioned for wearing a button that had the V-for-Victory sign and the word “Victory” on it in 1990. According to the New York Times, another man, in 1992, named Wang Wanxin “was dragged away after he tried to unfurl a banner calling on Deng Xiaoping to apologize for the 1989 army crackdown”. Some other modes of commemoration included 50 dissidents staging a 24-hour hunger strike in 2000 and private memorial services in people’s houses. In 1999, Su Bingxian lit a candle for her son who was killed in the massacre, while others lit ten symbolic candles.

On June 4, 2016, Taiwan held the island’s first ever commemoration in parliament of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown as lawmakers urged the new government to address human rights issues in its dealing with China. It comes weeks after China-sceptic Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in as president, succeeding Ma Ying-jeou who oversaw an unprecedented eight-year rapprochement with Beijing. In the past, Taiwan’s government has repeatedly urged China to learn lessons from the Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, in which more than 1,000 were killed according to some estimates. A day ahead of the June 4 anniversary, senior lawmakers from the DPP and the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) were joined by human rights activists and exiled Chinese dissident Wu’er Kaixi as they observed a minute’s silence. They also signed a motion proposed by DPP lawmaker Yu Mei-nu to demand the government “express Taiwan’s serious concerns over redressing the June 4 incident at the appropriate time” in future interactions between the two sides.

In the United States, the first memorial was organized on the 100th day of June 4, 1989 by the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars, and the second memorial service was organized also by the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in the Capitol Hill. Since then, Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars has been organized annual memorial services in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC. In San Francisco, for the fifth anniversary, the city erected a 9 ½ feet bronze statue that was modeled after the original Goddess of Democracy. It is located in the edges of Chinatown, on a small park. Fang Lizhi and Nick Er Liang were at the unveiling. The designer, Thomas Marsh, used photographs of the original Goddess of Democracy as a model for his statue. Two Chinese students of his formed the torch, and another formed the face.

There are also many online memorials. For example, the organizers of the annual candlelight vigil, The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, have a website where people can sign the “Condolence Book for the victims of Tiananmen”. This is an online condolence book to be “burnt in front of the statue of democracy at the June 4 Candlelight vigil”. This website provides information about details of past anniversaries. There is also information about the June 4 massacre and gives information about other commemorative events.

Malcolm X

African-American Muslim minister and human Civil rights activist Malcolm X was Born 19th May in 1925. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence. Malcolm X’s father died—killed by white supremacists, it was rumored—when he was young, and at least one of his uncles was lynched.

When he was thirteen, his mother was placed in a mental hospital, and he was placed in a series of foster homes. In 1946, at age 20, he went to prison for breaking and entering. In prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation of Islam and after his parole in 1952 he quickly rose to become one of its leaders.For a dozen years Malcolm X was the public face of the controversial group, but disillusionment with Nation of Islam head Elijah Muhammad led him to leave the Nation in March 1964. After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the United States, where he founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. In February 1965, less than a year after leaving the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated by three members of the group. Malcolm X’s expressed beliefs changed substantially over time. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam he taught black supremacy and advocated separation of black and white Americans—in contrast to the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration. After breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964—saying of his association with it, “I was a zombie then … pointed in a certain direction and told to march”—and becoming a Sunni Muslim, he disavowed racism and expressed willingness to work with civil rights leaders, though still emphasizing black self-determination and self defense.

Sadly On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated, as he prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, after a disturbance broke out in the 400-person audience. As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man seated in the front row rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired semi-automatic handguns, hitting Malcolm X several times.The funeral was held on February 27 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem and Malcolm X was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history and is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. He is largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the black community in the United States. Many African Americans, especially those who lived in cities in the Northern and Western United States, felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than the mainstream civil rights movement did.

Martin Luther King Jnr

American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther King Jnr. Was Born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He grew up in Atlanta & attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he skipped both ninth and twelfth grade and entered Morehouse College at age fifteen without formally graduating from high school. In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old, in 1954. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and got his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman”. Civil rights leader, theologian, and educator Howard Thurman was an early influence on King and While studying at Boston University, King often visited Thurman. inspired by Gandhi’s success with non-violent activism, King visited Gandhi’s birthplace in India in 1959, which deepened his understanding of non-violent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin also studied Gandhi’s teachings and taught King the principles of non-violence.

In March 1955, a pregnant, unmarried fifteen-year-old school girl named, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in compliance with the Jim Crow laws, then on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat. In response Nixon and King orchestrated the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted for 385 days, and became so tense that King’s house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. In 1957, King, Ralph Abernathy, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to organise non-violent protests to bring about civil rights reform. As the leader of the SCLC, King maintained a policy of not publicly endorsing a U.S. political party or candidate. He also expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. On September 20, 1958, while signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom King was stabbed in the chest with a letter opener by Izola Curry, a deranged black woman, and narrowly escaped death. King used Gandhi’s nonviolent techniques to change the civil rights laws in Alabama & applied non-violent philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC believing that organized, nonviolent protest against southern segregation was more effective

imageMany Americans believed that the Civil Rights Movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s. King organized and led marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labour rights and other basic civil rights. Most of which were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Albany Movement was formed in Albany, Georgia to organise nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. In April 1963, the SCLC began a campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice in Birmingham, Alabama, using nonviolent but intentionally confrontational tactics, developed in part by Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker. Black people in Birmingham, organizing with the SCLC, occupied public spaces with marches and sit-ins, openly violating laws they considered unfair. King and the SCLC also held demonstrations in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964, marching nightly through the city suffering violent attacks from white supremacists. Hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed. In December 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama to secure voter registration. This led to A local judge issuing an injunction that barred any gathering of 3 or more people affiliated with the SNCC, SCLC, DCVL, or any of 41 named civil rights leaders, however King defied it by speaking at Brown Chapel on January 2, 1965.

King was also among the leaders of the so-called “Big Six” civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were Roy Wilkins from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer, Jr. of the Congress of Racial Equality. The march highlighted the desperate condition of blacks in the southern U.S. and brought peoples concerns and grievances to the attention of the Federal Government And also aimed to Safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks and bring an end to racial segregation in public schools; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for Washington, D.C.then governed by congressional committee. King also delivered a 17-minute speech, later known as “I Have a Dream”.

————————————

The march was a resounding success and more than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington, D.C.’s history. Malcolm X however, called it the “Farce on Washington,” and the Nation of Islam forbade its members from attending the march.Throughout his participation in the civil rights movement, King was criticized by many other groups. This included opposition by more militant blacks and such prominent critics as Nation of Islam member Malcolm X. Stokely Carmichael was a separatist and disagreed with King’s plea for racial integration because he considered it an insult to a uniquely African-American culture. Omali Yeshitela urged Africans to remember the history of violent European colonization and how power was not secured by Europeans through integration, but by violence and force.

King, James Bevel, the SCLC and SNCC, originally Tried to March from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, on March 7, 1965 but were prevented my Mob Violence and Police Violence against the demonstrators. This day has since become known as Bloody Sunday And was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, demonstrated the potential of King’s nonviolence strategy. In 1966, after several successes in the South, King and others in the civil rights organizations moved to a Chicago slum to show their support and empathy for the poor And several marches took place in Bogan, Belmont Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park, Marquette Park. In Chicago they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, charge of their organization and Jackson continued their struggle for civil rights. In 1965 King began to publicly express doubts about the Vietnam War and

On April 4, 1967 he appeared at the New York City Riverside Church delivering a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”. In which He opposed the U.S.’s role in the Vietnam war because it took money and resources that could have been better spent in the United States. this cost him significant support among white allies, including President Johnson, union leaders and powerful publishers.King also began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation and a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice and oN the day after President Johnson’s State of the Union Address, King called for a large march on Washington against “one of history’s most cruel and senseless wars”.

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic injustice. And King assembled“a multiracial army of the poor” that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an ‘economic bill of rights’ for poor Americans which ensured economic aid to the poorest communities in the United States and to invest in rebuilding America’s cities. He envisioned a change that was more revolutionary than mere reform, and cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”.The Campaign proved controversial even within the civil rights movement. On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of the black sanitary public works employees, represented by AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. On April 3, King also addressed a rally and delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address at Mason Temple, the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ.

Sadly King was shot in the chest on April 4 1968 while staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis by James Earl Ray. Despite emergency chest surgery, King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 p.m. The assassination led to a nationwide wave of race riots in Washington D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, and dozens of other cities. Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was on his way to Indianapolis for a campaign rally when he was informed of King’s death And President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7 a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended King’s funeral. Two months after King’s death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd on his way to white-ruled Rhodesia. He was extradited to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969, though he recanted this confession three days later. On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, and was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. However Ray’s lawyers maintained he was a scapegoat similar to the way that John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is seen by conspiracy theorists.

Soon after King’s assassination, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was seen as a tribute to King’s struggle in his final years to combat racial discrimination in the U.S. Internationally, King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 and received the Nobel Peace Prize. King’s legacy influenced the Black Consciousness Movement and Civil Rights Movement in South Africa. King’s work served as an inspiration for South African leader Albert Lutuli, another black Nobel Peace prize winner who fought for racial justice in his country. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, followed in her husband’s footsteps and was active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006. The same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, she established the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide. Their son, Dexter King, currently serves as the center’s chairman. Daughter Yolanda King, who died in 2007, was a motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an organization specializing in diversity training.

International day of remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is a United Nations international observance which takes place annually on 25 March. The event was created in 2007 by the United Nations in remembrance of those who suffered and died as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade, which has been called “the worst violation of human rights in history”, in which over 400 years more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims.

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was first observed in 2008 with the theme “Breaking the Silence, Lest We Forget” The theme of 2015 is “Women and Slavery”. The International Day also “aims at raising awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today. With 2015 marking the start of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent, a permanent memorial has been unveiled at the UN headquarters in New York, entitled “The Ark of Return” and designed by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon, who also designed the African Burial Ground National Monument.

International day against Police Brutality

The International Day Against Police Brutality takes place annually on March 15th . Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members and is considered a violation of Civilian Rights. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.

For instance Many have been viciously beaten by police in Bangladesh. Various protesters were beaten with bats and sticks while protesting to insult of Islam. Recently, a young man named Shamim Reja was killed by police in Sonargaon police station. The victim’s father claimed that his son was brutally tortured in the police station as the police wanted 6 lakh taka (BDT 600,000). Police investigated this and found the officer in charge Arup Torofar and SI Paltu Ghush and ASP Uttam Prashad guilty as charged.

The Police in Brazil also have a history of violence against the lower classes, which dates back to the nineteenth century, when it served primarily as an instrument of control over the mass of slaves. Later with the abolition of slavery, in a largely rural country, the police forces came under strong influence of local large landowners known as ‘colonels’ and the practice was subsequently carried on by many.

Other examples of Police brutality include, 21 year-old Jens Arne Orskov Mathiason who died while in police custody and on the way to prison. The incident raised concerns over the behaviour of the officers involved, the thoroughness of the subsequent investigation and the willingness of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ to hold the officers accountable for their alleged failings. As a result, Amnesty International has called for the establishment of new mechanisms to investigate human rights violations and to enforce compliance with obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2016, another man died in police custody after being arrested by seven officers from the Copenhagen Police.

In August 2009, police in Copenhagen were heavily criticised for their response to an attempt to dislodge Iraqi refugees who were living in a city church.Amateur video allegedly showed the police using violence against the refugees and their supporters. Between 12,000 and 20,000 people subsequently protested against these actions.

In 2012, the Danish Court of Appeal held that the Danish Police had violated Article 3 (against abusive treatment and torture) and Articles 5, 10 and 11 (dealing with the right to liberty, the right to information about the accusation and the freedom of peaceful assembly) of the European Convention of Human Rights, when, in 2009, they had made mass arrests during protests at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. In April 2016, video emerged of officers hitting people with batons and violently detaining a man, despite onlookers saying he couldn’t breathe.

There has been a notable lack of commitment to addressing the violation of civilians’ rights in Austria, with Amnesty International reporting that in 1998/1999 very few people who committed a violation of human rights were brought to justice. This was worsened by the fact that many people who made a complaint against police were brought up on counter-charges such as resisting arrest, defamation and assault. In 2014-2015, there were 250 accusations of police misconduct made against officers in Vienna, and not a single person was charged – however 1,329 people were charged with ‘civil disorder’ in a similar time period. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)’s 2014 report included a number of complaints of police using excessive force with detainees and also psychiatric patients. The culture of excusing police officers for their misconduct has continued well into the present day, and any complaints of mistreatment are often met with inadequate investigations and judicial proceedings

The International Day against Police Brutality first began in 1997 as an initiative of the Montreal based Collective Opposed to Police Brutality and the Black Flag group in Switzerland. Acceptance of March 15 as a focal day of solidarity against police brutality varies from one place to another. In the United States, the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, a group mounted by the RCP, has succeeded in building support for October 22 (also known as O22) as National Anti Police Brutality Day since 1995.

Peter Benenson (Amnesty International)

British lawyer and the founder of human rights group Amnesty International Peter Benenson passed away 25 February 2005, at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, aged 83 Born 31st July 1921 in London. Benenson was tutored privately by W. H. Auden before going to Eton. At the age of sixteen he helped to establish a relief fund with other schoolboys for children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. He took his mother’s maiden name of Benenson as a tribute to his grandfather, the Russian gold tycoon Grigori Benenson, following his grandfather’s death.He enrolled for study at Balliol College, Oxford but World War II interrupted his education. From 1941 to 1945, Benenson worked at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking centre, in the “Testery”, a section tasked with breaking German teleprinter ciphers.It was at this time when he met his first wife, Margaret Anderson. After demobilisation in 1946,

Benenson began practising as a barrister before joining the Labour Party and standing unsuccessfully for election. He was one of a group of British lawyers who founded JUSTICE in 1957, the UK-based human rights and law reform organisation. In 1958 he fell ill and moved to Italy in order to convalesce. In the same year he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.In 1961 Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom during the autocratic regime of António de Oliveira Salazar – the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, and anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson’s article, entitled “The Forgotten Prisoners”, was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students.

To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International was founded in London in July 1961 at a meeting of Benenson and six other men, which included a Tory, a Liberal and a Labour MP.The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries.Initially appointed general secretary of AI, Benenson stood down in 1964 owing to ill health. By 1966, the Amnesty International faced an internal crisis and Benenson alleged that the organization he founded was being infiltrated by British intelligence. The advisory position of president of the International Executive was then created for him. In 1966, he began to make allegations of improper conduct against other members of the executive. An inquiry was set up which reported at Elsinore in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI.While never again active in the organization, Benenson was later personally reconciled with other executives, including Seán MacBride and also received the Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2001.