Tag Archives: Human Rights

British troops may be investigated over alleged war crimes

War crimes allegedly carried out by the British military may for the first time be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have been covered up by the state, a BBC news programme will report on Monday.

The United Kingdom’s ministry of defence denied the allegations.

But children were killed, civilians tortured, and British troops were complicit with evidence reportedly contained in a series of leaked documents sourced from within the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT).

That team, and Operation Northmoor – which investigated war crime allegations in Afghanistan – were shut down by the UK government in 2017 after Phil Shiner, a solicitor who had taken more than 1,000 cases to IHAT, was struck off from practising law amid allegations he paid people in Iraq to find clients.

But some former investigators said Shiner’s actions were used as an excuse to close down the inquiries.

No case investigated by IHAT or Operation Northmoor has led to a prosecution.

The ICC said it has taken the accusations “very seriously”, according to the BBC, whose Panorama: War Crimes Scandal Exposed will be broadcast at 21:00 GMT on Monday evening.

“The ICC said it would independently assess the BBC’s findings and would begin a landmark case if it believed the government was shielding soldiers from prosecution,” the corporation reported on Monday morning.

The ICC previously concluded it was credible that British troops committed war crimes in Iraq related to the mistreatment of detainees.

The year-long investigation claims to have found evidence of murders by a special forces SAS soldier, as well as deaths in custody, beatings, torture and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch.

A senior SAS commander was also referred to prosecutors for attempting to pervert the course of justice, the investigation found.

Palpable outrage

When allegations of troop abuses first emerged in the years after the invasion of Iraq, the outrage was palpable. In 2006, video was published of abuse being carried out two years previous – British soldiers grabbing four Iraqi boys off the street and dragging them away for a beating, goaded by the soldier filming.

In the southern city of Basra, the video sparked mass protests with the burning of Union flags. Back home, there were calls for soldiers’ prosecution, but a year later the case was dropped by prosecutors as the statute of limitations expired.

But after similar stories began to emerge in subsequent years, the media outrage shifted to focus on the prosecutions instead of the abuses. Investigations into soldiers’ actions were deemed “witch-hunts” by influential right-wing tabloid newspapers. Former prime minister Theresa May blasted “activist, left-wing human rights lawyers” for causing distress to serving and former military personnel.

When IHAT, set up under a Labour government, was shut down by a Conservative government only 20 cases were taken forward. The other 3,400 on IHAT’s books were shelved indefinitely.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/british-troops-investigated-alleged-war-crimes-191118104441860.html

Human Rights Watch responds to Trump: El-Sisi is no ‘Great Leader’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned, Thursday, US President Donald Trump’s remarks on Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, during their recent meeting at the United Nations.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the international organisation condemned Trump’s description of El-Sisi as “the great leader who has brought Egypt out of turmoil.”

HRW pointed out that Trump’s praise comes “days after widespread protests erupted in numerous Egyptian cities after an Egyptian contractor, who had worked with Egypt’s top brass for years, posted videos on social media detailing alleged corruption in El-Sisi’s inner circle.”

The organisation addressed El-Sisi’s blaming of the protests on “political Islam,” claiming: “The slogans and chants had nothing to do with Islam. The protests appeared to be sparked by allegations of corruption, harsh suppression of civil society, the military’s abusive campaign in the Sinai, the massive incarceration of dissidents and impoverishment blamed on El-Sisi’s economic policies. ”

HRW recalled the violations El-Sisi’s regime has committed since the 2013 military coup, adding: “Over the last seven years, security forces have killed more than 500 people in apparent extrajudicial killings and suspicious raids. Thousands have been convicted in unfair trials, often on bogus charges.”

“More than 20 journalists remain in jail for doing their jobs, and the government has blocked hundreds of websites (including Human Rights Watch). Among al-Sisi’s political prisoners are at least six US citizens (the number may be as high as 18),” continued HRW.

The organisation went on: “Prison overcrowding and deplorable conditions have contributed to the deteriorating health and likely the deaths of scores, including former president Mohamed Morsi. Torture is endemic.”

HRW criticised US-Egyptian relations in light of these violations, noting that “last month, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo waived the congressional restrictions on the Fiscal Year 2018 funding and authorised the release of the $300 million that had been conditioned on human rights improvements, citing national security concerns, given the state of affairs in Egypt.”

The organisation also pointed out that “long-term relations between Egypt and the United States do not justify the administration’s coddling of El-Sisi and turning a blind eye to his government’s massive human rights violations.”

“These latest protests make clear that Egyptians have not forgotten the 2011 dream of living in a country that respects and protects their basic rights. The US government should likewise be clear that it stands by Egyptians’ hopes and aspirations,” HRW concluded.

The operation room of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights received 1,909 reports of arrest and detention cases so far. About 1,841 males and 68 girls and women have been arrested and detained in 20 governorates since the beginning of recent events. It  pointed out that “investigations were carried out with 977 of them, while 924 people are left with no official information about them.”

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190927-human-rights-watch-responds-to-trump-el-sisi-is-no-great-leader/

‘Human rights violations worsening in Kashmir’

A senior Turkish lawmaker on Tuesday called on the Indian government to end the worsening human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir “as immediately as possible.”

“Human rights violations have shown a massive increase in Jammu and Kashmir since Aug. 5, 2019,” Hakan Cavusoglu, the head of parliament’s Human Rights Commission, said in a statement.

Cavusoglu mentioned how thousands of troops were deployed to the region in early August before India took the sudden, unprecedented move of revoking the region’s special status.

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has been facing a communications blackout since Aug. 5, when New Delhi stripped the disputed region of special provisions guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

“I call on the Indian government to end the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir as immediately as possible,” he said.

Cavusoglu said the recent incidents in the region “turned Kashmir into one of the most sensitive regions in the world.”

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian Constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws.

The provisions also protected the region’s citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

After New Delhi’s move of scrapping Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, it has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5.

Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

Indian authorities, however, claim that daytime restrictions have been lifted in 90% of the region.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/human-rights-violations-worsening-in-kashmir/1586307

Pakistan sees risk of ‘accidental war’ over Kashmir

Pakistan’s foreign minister warned on Wednesday that the situation in Indian Kashmir risked sparking an “accidental war,” and urged UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to visit the troubled region.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he believed both Pakistan and India “understand the consequences of a conflict.”

But with tensions soaring since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s autonomy last month, he warned that “you cannot rule out an accidental war.”

“If the situation persists… then anything is possible,” Qureshi said.

India imposed a military clampdown on Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region’s autonomy.

Mobile phone networks and the internet are still cut off in all but a few pockets.

Tensions over Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, have sparked two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.

Qureshi, who on Tuesday appealed to the Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the situation in Indian Kashmir, told reporters that he had spoken with Bachelet and had invited her to visit both the Indian and Pakistani parts of the region.

“She should visit both places and report as objectively as she can so that the world knows what the true… situation is,” he said.

The minister said Bachelet had said she “was keen to visit.” Her office could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

Qureshi meanwhile ruled out the possibility of bilateral talks to resolve the tensions.

“In this environment and with the mindset that we see in New Delhi today, I do not see any room for a bilateral engagement,” he said, adding that a multilateral forum or a third-party mediator would likely be needed.

“If the US plays a role, that can be important because they have a considerable influence” in the region, he said.

New Delhi, meanwhile, has insisted that the situation in Kashmir is an internal Indian affair, rejecting all international interference in the region.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/09/11/Pakistan-sees-risk-of-accidental-war-over-Kashmir.html

24 Million Children Living in Warzones Need Mental Health Help

Children suffer in a conflict in different ways to adults as they are physically weaker and because their physical, mental, and psycho-social development are at stake.

About 24 million children living in armed conflict zones will be in an urgent need of mental health assistance, according to a report published Tuesday by the Save the Children Fund.

“420 million children, nearly one-fifth of children worldwide, are living in a conflict zone, and 142 million in high-intensity conflict-zones,” the organization said, adding that “nearly one fifth of people living in and displaced by wars will need mental health support, with an additional five percent likely to experience a severe mental health disorder.”

According to experts, children exposed to wars situations are at a very high risk of mental and psychological disorders.

“Boys and girls in conflicts see their family and friends die and their homes and schools bombed. They are denied necessities and can be separated from those that care for them. If they experience mental health issues and distress, this is a completely normal reaction to extreme, abnormal circumstances,” Save the Children Global Campaigns, Advocacy and Communications Director, Kitty Arie, explained.

The experts warned that not only the tragic memories of events underwent by the children or the loss of their families can have negative impacts on their mental health, but also the delay in diagnosing and treating these mental health problems.

“When children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity without adequate caregiver support this can have serious and enduring negative consequences on cognitive development and emotional regulation, potentially resulting in a life-long impact on a child’s mental and physical health,” the report added.

The report then gives the example of Wafa and her sister Shadia respectively aged four and two who were badly injured in an airstrike in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah last year. Their parents died and the two girls who have difficulty sleeping may never fully recover and may carry physical and mental scars for the rest of their lives affecting their wellbeing.

This example is one among millions of others of children deeply traumatized by conflicts and in need of urgent mental health assistance. The consequences on children may, in turn, lead to negative impacts on their community and their country.

The organization also showed that the 10 worst conflict-affected countries for children are located in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South-Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. While the gravest violations children face are killing and maiming, recruitment and abuse, sexual violence, abduction, and attacks on schools and hospitals.

Children suffer in a conflict in different ways to adults as they are physically weaker and because their physical, mental, and psycho-social development are at stake. The harm done to them in armed conflict is not only often more severe than that done to adults but has longer-lasting implications and their societies, the report warned.

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/24-Million-Children-Living-in-Warzones-Need-Mental-Health-Help–20190910-0035.html

UN Human Rights Chief Cites Continued Abuses in Venezuela

The United Nations’ chief human rights official said Monday that millions of Venezuelans continue to suffer rights violations, including dozens of possible extrajudicial killings carried out by a special police force.

Nongovernmental organizations report that the Special Action police force carried out 57 suspected extrajudicial killings in July alone within Caracas, Michelle Bachelet said in an oral presentation on Venezuela to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Bachelet’s presentation followed a scathing written report issued in early July that drew a government backlash. It found a “pattern of torture” under the government of President Nicolas Maduro and citing violations like arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

Bachelet’s latest presentation noted some areas of progress, while pointing to more cases of human rights violations and declining conditions as more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled a country beset by hyperinflation that leaves monthly minimum wages equal to $2.

While Bachelet said she had called for officials to dismantle the feared Special Action police force, the unit has actually received ongoing support from the highest levels of the government, she said.

Bachelet raised concern that groups that collaborated with her in the earlier report have since come under criticism and threats by senior officials.

“Reprisals for having cooperated with the United Nations are unacceptable,” she said. “I urge the authorities to take preventative measures.”

Bachelet said she worried about a proposed law criminalizing the activities of human rights organizations that receive money from abroad, which could further erode democracy in Venezuela, a once wealthy oil nation.

Areas of progress
 
Highlighting advances, Bachelet said a member of her team recently was allowed to visit the Ramo Verde Military Center — a prison commonly used to hold what opposition leaders consider political prisoners — with an agreement for visits to come. The government also has released 83 people whose arrests human rights observers considered arbitrary, she said, adding that officials have agreed to consider another 27 cases, expecting action soon.
 
The only way to overcome Venezuela’s human rights crisis is for Maduro’s government and the opposition led by National Assembly President Juan Guaido to return to negotiations overseen by Norway, Bachelet said, and renewed her offer to support all such efforts.

Maduro’s government didn’t immediately respond to Bachelet’s latest comments, but officials rejected earlier criticism as biased and demanded she make corrections.

https://www.voanews.com/americas/un-human-rights-chief-cites-continued-abuses-venezuela

Nigeria: Xenophobic Attacks – Nigerian Govt Summons South African Ambassador

Geoffrey Onyema, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, has summoned Bobby Moroe, the South African high commissioner in Abuja.

The summon comes as Nigerians in South Africa are facing deadly attacks and destruction of their properties and businesses across South Africa.

Mr Moroe is expected to explain what South Africa has been doing to curb the attacks, which have escalated in recent weeks.

The meeting would hold at 11:00 a.m. on September 3, according to The Nation which first reported it based on a WhatsApp message from a senior Nigerian diplomatic official.

A senior foreign affairs official told PREMIUM TIMES details of the meeting would be made public, urging for restraints amongst all parties.

On Monday, several Nigerian businesses were looted in a violent rampage by South Africans, who have long complained of increased foreign domination in their country.

Several other nationals asides Nigerians were also being targeted in the attacks, which have been reported in Johannesburg, Pretoria and other major South African cities.

Rising concern

Mr Onyeama expressed sadness over the attacks on Monday, promising that Nigeria would respond firmly this time.

“Received sickening and depressing news of continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises in #SouthAfrica by mindless criminals with ineffective police protection. Enough is enough. We will take definitive measures. @NigeriaGov @DigiCommsNG @GovernmentZA @DIRCO_ZA,” he wrote on his Twitter handle.

t was unclear what measures Nigeria would take to force the South African government to act.

Nigeria approves spectrum for 5G trial

Both countries have enjoyed extensive diplomatic ties for decades, and Nigeria played a major role in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Nigerians have called for a robust response from President Muhammadu Buhari, including possible sanctions on South African business interests in Nigeria.

The president has yet to publicly comment on the attacks, but his meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at a summit in Japan last week reportedly included concerns about the xenophobic crisis.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201909030587.html

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa’s Adviser Disgusted Over Continued Abductions

Presidential Advisor and Cleric, Shingi Munyeza Thursday morning took to social media to vent out his disgust at the continued reports of abductions of opposition and civil society members.

The outspoken businessman, who is part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Advisory board called for the prosecution of perpetrators of abductions.

Zimbabwe has, in recent weeks, witnessed an increase in the number of people being abducted and most of them are either opposition members or CSO leader who are critics of the Mnangagwa regime.

Posting on his Twitter, Munyeza said he was alarmed by the rate at which the crimes are happening without action being taken.

“Abductions, beatings, torture must stop. 1.I’m totally disgusted and alarmed by an unprecedented trend of abductions in our country

“2. It’s worrying that the State has not come up with a position on stopping this, 3. The State must protect its citizens and culprits brought to book,” he said.

The European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) have also raised alarm bells at the abductions and issued a joint statement last week in the wake of police brutality on opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party supporters during a foiled demonstration.

“Intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives, and opposition politicians – prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August – are cause for great concern.

“The Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to personal security from violence and prohibits physical or psychological torture. The Heads of Mission urge the authorities to respect these fundamental rights and to hold perpetrators of violence legally responsible,” reads part of the statement issued last week.

The government has continuously denied any involvement while saying it was disturbed by the reports of torture on citizens.

President Mnangagwa yesterday said CSOs and pro-democracy activists should stay in their lane and respect the dictates of the constitution.

“May I urge civil society to restrict themselves to their mandate. The rule of law observance is not needed for the purpose of pleasing other countries, we need it because it is proper for ourselves,” warned Mnangagwa.

The EU Ambassador, Timo Olkkonen called on Mnangagwa’s government to respect people’s fundamental rights of expression.

“People’s civil rights, such as their rights to assembly and their right to peaceful demonstrations and petition, and also their right to acquire legal processes when they are suspected of crimes must be respected.

“Zimbabwe should show that it genuinely has made a break from the past,” said Olkkonen.

Late last night, comedian, Samantha Kureya, better known as Gonyeti in the entertainment circles, widely known for producing satirical skits was allegedly abducted by armed men who beat her together with other family members.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201908230781.html

Zimbabwe: MDC Organising Secretary Amos Chibaya Arrested Over Failed Demonstrations

Harare police late Thursday arrested MDC national organising secretary Amos Chibaya over the recently banned demonstrations that had been planned by the party in five cities across Zimbabwe.

Chibaya was convener of the protests that the opposition says were aimed at forcing the government to address the country’s socio-economic challenges as well as force President Emmerson Mnangagwa to agree to dialogue with opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

In a statement, MDC deputy information secretary Luke Tamborinyoka said by 6pm Thursday, Chibaya who had handed himself over in the company of human rights lawyer Obey Shava was still being interrogated by detectives at the CID Law and Order division in Harare.

“The MDC national organiser Hon. Amos Chibaya has been arrested and has been charged for failing to take steps to stop demonstrations.

“Upon hearing that the police were looking for him, the Mkoba MP handed himself over to Harare Central Police Station at around 4pm today in the company of his lawyer, Obey Shava,” said Tamborinyoka.

The MDC deputy spokesperson said Chibaya’s arrests signalled the beginning of an effective State of emergency in Zimbabwe.

“His arrest is testimony of the closure of democratic space in Zimbabwe. In fact, the country is under a de facto State of emergency, judging by the abductions, torture and arrests of innocent Zimbabweans in the past few days,” the statement said.

Chibaya is currently out on bail on a subversion case connected to the violent and deadly January protests that left 17 people dead and dozens injured following a 150% fuel price hike.

State security agents have been on a blitz to arrest opposition party officials thought to be behind plans to continuously demonstrate “until there is a legitimate government in Zimbabwe.”

Tamborinyoka, in an update after his statement, said Chibaya was to be detained overnight and will appear in court Friday.

The MDC had planned five demonstrations in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare but police issued prohibition orders in all cities.

However, in Harare, suspected MDC supporters poured out onto the streets of the capital last Friday triggering running battles with police.

A number of people were injured in the ensuing melee while over 120 activists were arrested.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201908230477.html

Zambia: What Govt Should Do to Clean Up Poisonous Soil, Dust in Kabwe

Johannesburg — Thousands of children in Kabwe are developing lead poisoning because of growing up in contaminated neighborhoods due to exposure around a former lead and zinc mine. Twenty-five years after the mine’s closure, children living in nearby townships continue to be exposed to high levels of toxic lead in soil and dust in their homes, backyards, schools, play areas, and other public spaces.

Human Rights Watch is urging the Zambian government to promptly clean up the contamination and ensure proper treatment for all who need it. HRW also found that government-run health facilities in Kabwe have no chelation medicine for treating lead poisoning or lead test kits in stock, and no health database has been established to track cases of children who died or were admitted to hospital because of high lead levels. allAfrica’s Sethi Ncube spoke to Joanna Naples-Mitchell, children’s rights fellow at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

What measures could be taken to pressure govt to acknowledge full responsibility of the lead contamination caused by Kabwe mining?

The government has already acknowledged that it has the legal responsibility to address this issue, this actually builds into the agreement when the mine was closed in 1994,  it’s a government-owned investment holding company ZCCM Investments Holdings PLC that retained the legal liabilities for the environmental and social impact of the mine even though the mine itself was privatised.

The government has acknowledged that it has this responsibility, the question is whether it will take  the full responsibility to really address the legacy of this mine. It has taken some measures now and some are underway but the question is whether it will really take measures that will be needed adequately clean up the lead and protect future generations in Kabwe from lead poisoning and as of now that’s not clear.

How effective have the past govt clean-up projects been?

Depending on how you measure effectiveness but if your measure of effectiveness is whether on not the lead levels in the soil were safe after the clean up projects, then the projects were not adequate and therefore were of limited effectiveness.

The only large scale clean-up effort that the government undertook was under the last World Bank-funded project to address Kabwe, which was from 2003 to 2011. It was called the Copperbelt Environment Project. Under that project the government was addressing its environmental, social problems related to mining in Kabwe and Copperbelt province.

The actual clean-up that the government did as documented by the World Bank mainly involved planting grass and providing some clean soil. There was very limited removal of contaminated soil that was done. The main part of the project was actually planting grass and creating this new water infrastructure in Kabwe. It was a UK company called Water Management Consultants that designed this clean-up model. That raises this question of why is this company specialising in water designing a clean-up programme in an area where the water has not been found to be contaminated. It’s the soil and the dust that’s contaminated. There was this effort to plant grass as well as trees in homes and some schools.

After the project was over there was further testing that was done by academics and NPOs and they found that the soil was still extremely contaminated. To me, this shows that the government’s past clean-up projects, the main one, have not been effective. It did not achieve its intended goal.

What do you think should be done to solve this problem?

The government should adopt a comprehensive and sustainable approach to clean up. Which means, they need to address all the different sources of contamination, that is homes, schools, health centres, unpaved roads that go through the areas that are affected and those roads are covered in dust. Whatever method that the government uses to clean up the lead needs to be sustainable, it needs to be something that could last for years or at least be maintained. Something like planting grass everywhere if people can not afford to water will not be sustainable.

Is the government aware of the extent of damage caused by the exposure to lead and that health facilities don’t have any means to help affected people?

Yes, the government should be aware of the extent of damage because they have been doing testing of children and adults since the 1990s, they have data from hundreds, probably thousands of people that they have tested, that show how high lead blood levels are and regardless of whether or not these people don’t show obvious symptoms medical experts would say that the levels that are there are really dangerous and they could be doing all sorts of damage internally to people even if they don’t seem to be showing symptoms.

The fact that they sought this funding from the World Bank both in 2003 and again in 2016 for this new project signifies that they are aware that this is a serious problem and they are taking steps to try and address it, which is positive. The question is if their response is really going to address the crisis that it really is, if it really addresses the scope of the problem and if not what else would they do to fill in any gaps in this clean up effort that they are undertaking.

In terms of the question of the health facilities not having any means to help the affected, it’s not clear to us whether different government ministries all have the same information about the means health facilities have, we didn’t always get consistent information about what was available in health facilities from government officials in Lusaka but in Kabwe we found out that the health facilities didn’t have any ability to even do blood tests anymore and that ZCCM Investments Holdings Plc had run out of test kits in 2016. And they stopped doing c helation treatment, which is for children who have lead levels threshold which removes lead from the body, they stopped doing that in 2011 after the last World Bank-funded project ended. There are at least some government officials who are aware that, that’s the case.

Are people aware of the situation, and are they willing to follow any channels to make sure government does right by them?

Most of the people we spoke with were aware that there’s lead in the soil and dust and most of them who were in the community had children who’ve been tested for lead.

I think it’s a real challenge in Kabwe, there’s a lack of accountability in part because a lot of people are just trying to get by. They have a lot of concerns on their minds, lead may not even be the most important thing on their minds. We spoke to people who hadn’t worked since the mine closed and who wanted livelihood opportunities and we spoke with people who work at the old mine dump. There are a lot of pressing concerns that are competing for people’s attention, making it very hard to push government on this issue.

Is anything being done to help children with learning abilities that have been affected by the contamination?

We spoke with the District Assessment Centre which evaluates children for disabilities and learning challenges in the classroom and they said that at the time they were not actually testing children for lead and it is not something that they could remember that they had done in recent years and so something very practical would be for them to start testing children for lead when assessing them for disabilities and trying to determine where these challenges are coming from.

We looked at the bit of whether children are getting extra support in the classroom if they have disabilities and again we have no way of knowing if a disability is related to lead or not. We spoke to several families who said their children were not getting any extra support in the public schools they attended but we can not make a definitive statement that this is an issue throughout Kabwe but what we say in the report is that the government should dig deep in its efforts to address that associated disabilities are learning barriers in light of the fact that there is widespread lead poisoning in Kabwe because there are more likely to be these kinds of problems because of the lead.

Why isn’t the media making enough noise on the subject?

I think that it’s challenging because this has been a problem for so many decades, the mine closed 25 years ago. The first government testing of the soil was in the 1990s, the first ever public study in lead in children and the soil in Kabwe was actually in the 1970s, there was British researcher who wrote a thesis on Kabwe and actually documented the only publicly known cases of children that were hospitalised or died from lead poisoning and he found high levels of lead.

The sense of urgency around the issues has been lost around the crisis because this has been going on for too long. Also, the effects of lead are invisible and that makes uneasy to build up stories around this tragedy when so much of it is hard to see, even though it’s unfolding all the time in Kabwe.

As I’ve been saying that there is this World Bank-funded government project that launched in December 2016 and I think the fact that it’s been delayed may also make it hard to sustain interest. There have bureaucratic ways so the government says, that’s why there hasn’t been results on the ground yet.

Inviting all households in contaminated townships to participate in voluntary clean-ups might help…

As far as I know, this has not been tried before on a large scale in Kabwe, but under the pilot clean-up programme that was done in 2015-2016 by Pure Earth NGO and the Kabwe municipal council and the local NGO Environment Africa, they basically did that. But it was only for 120 homes because they had limited funding. What they did was, invite people voluntarily to participate in these efforts, all the households they invited participated.

Has govt received support to enhance its efforts to address lead poisoning in Kabwe?

It’s their responsibility to address the problem because it did take ownership of the mine in 1970 and when the mine closed and its assets were privatised, it officially took on the responsibility for the environment and social liabilities related to the mine. We would encourage donors to support the government’s efforts, this is a problem that requires a lot of different actors for it to be solved effectively. What we recommend in the report is that donors all support the government in its efforts to address the lead poisoning but it really is the job of the government to implement any projects designed to improve the health of the residents and clean up the lead.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201908230134.html