News (handpicked)

Canada to allow doctor-assisted suicide

Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban. In a unanimous decision, the court said the law impinged on Canadians' rights.The case was brought by a civil rights group on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, with degenerative diseases. Both have since died.The government now has a year to rewrite its law on assisted suicide. If it does not, the current law will be struck down.

Assisted suicide is legal in several European countries and a few US states. In Canada is it illegal to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, and the offence carries up to 14 years in prison.

Canada is not alone Canada is not alone in grappling  with the thorny issue of dying laws. The debate was reignited in the United States last year by campaigner Brittany Maynard. The 29-year-old was forced to travel from California, where the practice is illegal, to the Oregon where it has been legal since 1997. A legal case is now taking place in New York. Some politicians in the UK are trying to introduce similar rules, but the government does not back it. Switzerland allows "assisted suicide". This does not require a terminal illness, but must be performed by a patient and has led to "suicide-tourism" across Europe. There is a profound gulf between those who think assisted dying is a fundamental human right and those who have ethical objections and worry about the implications for the disabled and vulnerable. There are no easy answers.

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Gambia's President Jammeh asked to reject anti-gay law

Leading rights groups have called on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh not to approve tough new anti-gay legislation. Homosexual acts are already illegal in The Gambia, but MPs passed a bill on 25 August imposing life sentences for "aggravated homosexuality". The bill promoted "state-sponsored homophobia", the rights groups said. Mr Jammeh is known for his strong opposition to gay rights. He has called gay people "vermin" and once threatened to behead them. Uganda's Constitutional Court struck down a similar law last month on the grounds that it was passed by MPs without a quorum.

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Pedro Martínez quería que su caso abriera de nuevo el debate sobre la eutanasia en España y lo ha conseguido. Pedro, de 34 años, padecía una esclerosis lateral amiotrófica (ELA) y murió el lunes en Sevilla tras una sedación administrada por médicos de la asociación Derecho a Morir Dignamente (DMD). La sanidad andaluza había rechazado sedarle al entender que no se encontraba aún en "situación de agonía", el requisito que marca la ley para acelerar el final de la vida. Los médicos de DMD discrepan. Y los expertos en bioética creen que situaciones como esta dejan a la vista tantas "incongruencias" que no habría que demorar más la reforma del Código Penal.

Cinco días antes de morir, Pedro compartió con EL PAÍS su decisión, sobre la que no albergaba dudas. "Cuando ya no puedes valerte por ti mismo no es una vida digna", dijo. El doctor Luis Montes, presidente federal de DMD, ha seguido de cerca su caso y asegura que la situación ya era "insoportable". El enfermo contactó con la asociación hace más de año y medio. "Nosotros le indicamos que fuera buscándose una solución dentro del servicio público de salud. Pero le garantizamos también que cuando entendiera que el servicio público le estaba agrediendo y no atendía a su voluntad, nos iba a tener a su lado", cuenta Montes.

Pedro cumplió. Su caso siguió en manos de la sanidad pública pero, amparado en la ley estatal de Autonomía del Paciente y en la andaluza de Muerte Digna, rechazó recibir cualquier tratamiento que le pudiera prolongar la vida. Cuando su estado se agravó, pidió a los médicos de cuidados paliativos del Hospital Macarena que le sedaran, pero estos consideraron que su situación no era terminal. La consejera andaluza de Salud, María Jesús Montero (PSOE), avala la actuación de sus profesionales. "Hemos estudiado detenidamente su caso, pero todavía no estaba en las circunstancias clínicas necesarias para una sedación paliativa. Lo que él pedía era una eutanasia y eso hoy no es posible", sostiene Montero.

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Ban sends Palestinian application for UN membership to Security Council

23 September 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent Palestine’s application to become a United Nations Member State to the Security Council for its consideration after receiving the bid from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier today. Mr. Ban said he sent the application to Ambassador Nawaf Salam of Lebanon, which holds the Council presidency this month, in line with the provisions of the UN Charter. Palestine currently has observer status at the UN. Any application for UN membership is considered by the Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission to the 193-member General Assembly, which then has to adopt a resolution for the admission of a Member State. Mr. Salam said he would convene Council members on Monday to hold consultations on the Palestinian application. Members of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – met today in New York and took note of the application. In a statement issued after their meeting, the Quartet members reiterated appeals to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct bilateral negotiations without delays or preconditions. Saying it accepts that a meeting will not in itself re-establish the necessary trust for formal negotiations to succeed, the Quartet proposed a series of steps and a timetable with the aim of reaching a lasting Middle East peace agreement by the end of next year. A preparatory meeting between the two sides would be held within a month to agree on the agenda and method for negotiations, and then within three months the Israelis and Palestinians would be expected to produce “comprehensive proposals… on territory and security” and to have made substantial progress on those issues a further three months later.

To support this plan an international conference will be convened by the Quartet in Moscow, while a donor conference to generate financial support for Palestinian State-building will also be staged. Earlier, in his address to the Assembly’s annual general debate, Mr. Abbas said the application for full membership of the UN is on the basis of the so-called 4 June 1967 borders. “Palestine is being reborn. This is my message,” he said, adding that he hoped it did not have to wait long for the application to be approved. Mr. Abbas said that Israeli Government policies were responsible “for the continued failure of the successive international attempts to salvage the peace process.”
He cited the construction of settlements in the West Bank, the refusal of permits for Palestinians to build in East Jerusalem, and the extensive number of military checkpoints limiting Palestinian movement and the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip as examples of such policies.

“All of these actions taken by Israel in our country are unilateral actions and are not based on any earlier agreements. Indeed, what we witness is a selective application of the agreements aimed at perpetuating the occupation.”

He stressed that over the past two years Palestinian authorities have worked hard to implement a programme of building up State institutions, as well as strengthening civil society, increasing government accountability and promoting the participation of women in public life. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the Assembly today, saying that lasting peace in the Middle East will only be achieved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and not through any UN resolutions.

More efforts are needed to strengthen human rights protection

“Some significant steps have been taken to address the human rights consequences of the March 2008 events, but more needs to be done to promote reconciliation in society and reinforce public trust towards the authorities”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, releasing today a report on his visit to Armenia carried out in January 2011. The report focuses on human rights issues related to the March 2008 events, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association, and the human rights situation in the army.

The Commissioner considers that the use of force on 1-2 March 2008 was excessive and that the investigation into the ten deaths has not been effective. “None of the perpetrators have been identified to date. Command responsibility of senior officials within the police and the security services appears not to have been seriously considered. The Armenian authorities should pursue vigorously these investigations and bring all those responsible to account. The families of the ten victims should receive adequate compensation for the loss of their relatives and should be fully associated to and informed about the investigation.” The Commissioner welcomes the recent instruction from President Sargsyan with regard to the investigation into the death cases and hopes that this will be translated into concrete progress in identifying and punishing those responsible.

While welcoming the release of many of those deprived of their liberty in connection to the March 2008 events, three of whom were released after his visit, the Commissioner continues to have serious concerns about the situation of remaining imprisoned opposition activists and urges the Armenian authorities to release them.

The report also pays particular attention to freedom of expression, including freedom and diversity of the media. While welcoming the decriminalisation of libel and insult through last year’s amendments to the Criminal Code, the Commissioner remains concerned about the increase of cases brought against media outlets on the basis of amendments to the Civil Code. He stresses that unreasonably high fines in civil cases relating to media should be avoided. At the same time, ethical standards for journalism and a system of self-regulation should be encouraged.

Expressing alarm over the attacks and pressure on journalists that have taken place in the past two years, the Commissioner calls upon the country’s leadership to firmly condemn such incidents and to take measures to prevent their recurrence.

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Despite 20 years of progress, Turkey remains a dangerous country for journalists

"We came to Istanbul to express our concern about the state of press freedom in Turkey. Even if progress has been made since the 1990s when journalists were being imprisoned in their hundreds, there is a lot still left to do. Turkey is still not a country that respects press freedom. Journalists need to have plenty of courage to do their job. It is a dangerous profession which exposes them to the risk of prison, threats and physical violence. It is worrying to note that all journalists are under threat, no longer just those who cover the army or Kurdish issues as was the case 15 years ago. We call on the Turkish authorities to make the defence of press freedom a national priority. The prime minister should demonstrate his commitment to defending the right of journalists to express themselves freely. Until now, he has not done so", said Reporters Without Borders at the conclusion of a six-day investigative visit to Turkey.

The organisation went to Istanbul from 13-19 April to investigate recent arrests and detention of journalists and to review the state of press freedom in the country. Reporters Without Borders met journalists of all kinds, independent reporters, lawyers for journalists facing court proceedings, members of professional bodies, as well as leading figures from civil society currently campaigning for press freedom. The organisation's representatives also met with the family and legal representatives of Ahmet Sik, who has been imprisoned since 3 March 2011, and of Hrant Dink, who was murdered on 19 January 2007.

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Bulgaria: Amendments to criminal code can curb media freedom



Amendments to Bulgaria's criminal code can threaten media freedom, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said today.

The changes, adopted by Parliament last week, introduced the possibility for prison sentences of one to four years for journalists convicted of instigating hatred, discrimination or violence based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, marital or social status, or disability.

“It is very important to find effective ways to address hate speech without endangering free expression, and to ensure that legitimate criticism can be expressed,” Mijatović wrote in a letter to Foreign Minister Nickolay Evtimov Mladenov. “Imprisoning journalists for their reports is excessive and violates international standards on free expression.”

Mijatović stressed that though governments have a legitimate need to fight discrimination and violence, criminalization of speech should be restricted to intentional incitements to violence. She also said she regretted that the amendments had been adopted without public debate or the involvement of relevant media organizations.

“The OSCE participating States, including Bulgaria, have affirmed that everyone has the right to hold opinions and receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. If journalists fear imprisonment for their reports, it can lead to self-censorship and hinder media pluralism,” Mijatović said.

She also noted that the law did not provide clear definitions of some terms, such as "discrimination", making it difficult to interpret and opening ways to differing interpretations of the law.

Lula dice que la detención de Assange "atenta contra la libertad de expresión

El presidente brasileño se muestra "espantado ante la falta de manifestaciones" de apoyo al fundador de Wikileaks.- Para el primer ministro ruso, Vladímir Putin, la detención del 'ex hacker' demuestra que Occidente no puede dar lecciones de democracia a Rusia

El presidente saliente de Brasil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, ha demostrado hoy su total solidaridad al australiano Julian Assange, fundador de WikiLeaks. Más aún, Lula se ha mostrado "espantado ante la falta de manifestaciones" en el mundo contra la prisión de Assange y también ante las críticas a la divulgación de los papeles del Departamento de Estado. "Quiero manifestar mi protesta contra ese atentado a la libertad de expresión", ha añadido el presidente brasileño en la que ha sido la primera muestra de apoyo explícita a Assange de un mandatario de máximo nivel. En Moscú, el primer ministro ruso, Vladímir Putin, también ha cuestionado hoy que la detención de Assange sea una medida democrática, en respuesta a los cables que caracterizan su Gobierno como corrupto y poco democrático.

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