Haiti: Concern for Yvon Neptune

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed grave concern over the health of former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, jailed without charge since last June, the Haitian news agency AHP reported. Neptune has been on hunger strike since mid-April to demand his release from prison, and his condition is reportedly critical.

The IACHR said the former Lavalas leader has not even appeared before a judge to determine the legality of his arrest. It said the interim government has yet to respond to its three written inquiries about the legal status of Neptune’s case and about his health.

The IACHR said that during its visit to Haiti last month, it found that only nine of 1,045 detainees at the National Penitentiary had been convicted of any crime. It urged the Latortue government to protect Neptune’s right to life and to effective judicial protection.

S. Africa: COSATU to picket retailers

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) announced May 14 that it will launch a campaign against clothing retailers who have refused to commit to a “buy local” campaign. The union federation is calling on retailers to set a target of 75 percent local content for clothing on their shelves, to save or create new jobs, according to Business Report.

COSATU’s Executive Committee will consider an action plan when it meets May 23-25.

“Our actions will include pickets of retailers and shopping malls, human chains, sit-ins, boycotts of foreign goods and mass attendance at the annual general meetings of all retailers,” said the federation’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

The union federation says over 40,000 jobs have been lost since 2003 in the clothing, textile and footwear industries.

Iraq: Child labor is rampant

Over 1 million Iraqi children work, often in hazardous conditions, as well as being vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence, the UN’s IRIN news agency said last week.

A nationwide survey by UNICEF and several Iraqi ministries found that nearly 1.3 million children between the ages of 8 and 16 were working, with over a quarter putting in over eight hours daily.

Officials said the number of children dropping out of school in order to work is likely to increase as poverty deepens in the country.

“The lack of security and political uncertainties have left economic activities stunted and social safety nets disrupted, while unemployment and poverty have deepened,” said UNICEF spokeswoman Ban Dhayi. She noted that child labor was present in Iraq before the war, but socioeconomic circumstances following the U.S. invasion two years ago “are seen to have pushed more children onto the streets and worksites.”

Nepal: Parties unite for democracy

Seven political parties, including the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), announced earlier this month they will work together to restore democracy and resolve the long-standing armed Maoist insurgency through dialogue. They demanded King Gyanendra give up the direct power he assumed in February, reinstate parliament, release all detainees and restore civil liberties.

The seven parties plan nationwide protests starting May 22.

In a statement May 12, Nepal’s Maoist leader offered to join the opposition campaign. But the seven parties said they would not cooperate until the Maoists renounce violence.

On Feb. 1, King Gyanendra declared martial law and imprisoned many political and trade union leaders, on the pretext that the government had not dealt with the armed Maoist insurgency. Though the state of emergency was officially ended April 30, and a number of detainees have been released, others are still reported held.

Global: Over 12 million enslaved

At least 12.3 million people around the world are trapped in forced labor, with some 2.4 million of them victims of human trafficking, the International Labor Office (ILO) said in a study released May 11.

The ILO estimates the profit generated from trafficked labor reaches $32 billion annually, or $13,000 from each trafficked worker. The study found forced labor in all regions and all types of economy, with the highest number, 9.5 million, in Asia.

Forced commercial sexual exploitation involves almost entirely women and girls. Some 40 to 50 percent of forced workers are under 18 years of age.

The ILO called on governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, development agencies, international financial institutions and others to form a global alliance to end forced labor and trafficking.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org). Libero Della Piana, Tim Pelzer, and Susan Webb contributed to this week’s notes.