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Libya, Jan 27 (Canadian-Media): Warring parties in Libya, as well as foreign governments supporting them, are being urged to investigate deadly airstrikes last July which killed at least 53 migrants and refugees at a detention centre in the northwest of the country, UN news release reported today.
The aftermath of the devastating attack at the Tajoura Detention Centre, east of Tripoli, in July 2019. Image credit: IOM/Moad Laswed
The appeal was made by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN human rights office in Geneva, which on Monday published a joint report calling for accountability for the attack targeting the Daman building complex, which houses the detention centre.
“As I have said previously, the Tajoura attack, depending on the precise circumstances, may amount to a war crime,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Libyans, migrants and refugees are trapped amid violence and atrocities that are in turn fuelled by impunity. Those guilty of crimes under international law must be held to account.”
‘Tragic example’ of use of air power The Daman complex is in Tajoura, a town in the Tripoli district in north-western Libya, and comprises various facilities belonging to the Government of National Accord (GNA).
The UN-backed administration is battling the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), which is aligned with a rival government in Benghazi, located in the east.
Fighting between the two sides intensified in April 2019, after the LNA laid siege to southern Tripoli.
The attack on the Daman complex occurred on 2 July 2019 when an “air-delivered bomb” struck a vehicle repair workshop there operated by the Daman Brigade, an armed group allied with the GNA, according to the report.
Minutes later, a second airstrike hit the Tajoura Detention Centre, a large hangar which at the time held some 616 migrants and refugees. Three sections of the building were impacted.
One of the sections, which housed 126 people, sustained a direct hit. Forty-seven men and six boys were killed, and 87 other male migrants and refugees were injured.
It was one of the deadliest incidents since the start of the new round of hostilities in April.
The report found that while it appeared that the airstrikes were conducted by aircraft belonging to a foreign State, “it remains unclear whether these air assets were under the command of the LNA or were operated under the command of that foreign State in support of the LNA.”
Regardless, international humanitarian law still applied. The report recalled that parties to the conflict knew the precise location and coordinates of the detention centre, which had suffered a previous hit just months before.
Airstrikes behind most civilian casualties “The July 2019 attack at Tajoura is a tragic example of how the use of air power has become a dominant feature in Libya’s civil conflict, and of the dangers and direct consequences on civilians of foreign interference”, said UNSMIL chief Ghassan Salamé.
“This is why the commitments made in Berlin on 19 January to end such interference and uphold the UN arms embargo must take hold.”
The international community met in the German capital last Sunday in efforts to find a political solution to end the Libya crisis, which has seen increasing foreign interference.
The UN joint report found at least 287 civilians were killed and around 369 others injured last year alone, with airstrikes accounting for 60 per cent of those casualties.
New attack condemned The situation shows no sign of abating as UNSMIL on Monday condemned a missile attack against Mitiga Airport, near Tripoli’s centre. At least two civilians were injured, while the tarmac and several buildings were damaged.
“UNSMIL reiterates that attacks against civilian targets, especially public facilities, represent a blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law, and that repeated attacks against Mitiga Airport deprived two million residents in the capital of their only functioning airport,” the mission said in a statement posted on Twitter.
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New York, Jan 25 (Canadian-Media): Against the backdrop of a constant stream of attacks targeting Jews, their institutions and property, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Saturday of a global crisis of antisemitic hatred, UN News release reported yesterday.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses an interfaith gathering at Park East Synagogue in New York City (31 October 2018). Image credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
As we see a deeply worrying resurgence in antisemitic attacks around the world, “solidarity in the face of hatred is needed today more than ever”, the UN chief told an annual Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony at New York City’s historic Park East Synagogue.
He reflected upon the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists spreading venomous ideology and memes online that “poison young minds”.
While the world is revolted by the horrific details of the Auschwitz death camps, Mr. Guterres maintained that everyone must look, learn and relearn the lessons of the Holocaust, so that it is never repeated.
He said that because prejudice and hatred thrive on insecurity, frustrated expectations, ignorance and resentment, leadership that fosters social cohesion and addresses the root causes of hatred, is needed at all levels.
An investment by all parts of society towards rooting out rising antisemitism, can be made, and done in a spirit of mutual respect, Mr. Guterres noted.
In the lead up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Monday, the UN launched a poignant photo exhibition commemorating 75 years since Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp, was liberated.
More than 1.1 million people were estimated to have been murdered in that one camp in occupied Poland, nine out of ten of them Jews.
Today, collective action against antisemitism and other forms of bias continues to be important for the dignity and human rights of all people everywhere.
Independent UN rights experts call for ‘immediate investigation’ into alleged Bezos phone hack by Saudi Arabia
#IndependentUNRightsExperts; #HackingByCrownPrinceOfSaudiArabia; #Investigation, #TheWAshingtonPost
Saudi Arabia, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): Independent UN rights experts said on Wednesday they were “gravely concerned” over allegations that in 2018, a messaging app account belonging to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was used to hack into The Washington Post owner’s mobile phone, calling for an “immediate investigation” by authorities in the United States, UN news release said yesterday.
David Kaye (left), Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Image credit: N Photo/Rick Bajornas/Loey Filipe
The two Special Rapporteurs - who do not speak on behalf of the UN overall, and operate in an independent investigative capacity - said in a statement that they had recently received information suggesting that a WhatsApp account belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was used to deploy digital spyware on the phone of Jeff Bezos, who is also CEO of Amazon, “in an effort to influence, if not silence” the newspaper’s reporting on the Kingdom.
“The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals”, said Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.
“These allegations are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims about the Crown Prince’s involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi”.
They spelled out that the alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone, and those of others, if proven, would be in contravention of fundamental international human rights standards, and demands an “immediate investigation” by US and other relevant authorities, “including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents”.
Better controls needed
The reported surveillance of Mr. Bezos, allegedly through software developed and marketed by a private company was “transferred to a Government without judicial control of its use”, said the experts.
If true, they maintained it was “a concrete example of the harms that result from the unconstrained marketing, sale and use of spyware”.
To protect against its abuse, surveillance through digital means must be “subjected to the most rigorous control”, according to the independent experts, including by judicial authorities and national and international export controls.
Moreover, they argued that “it underscores the pressing need for a moratorium on the global sale and transfer of private surveillance technology”.
“The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by US and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul”, the UN experts stated.
‘Clandestine’ online campaign
While the Kingdom was supposed to be investigating Mr. Khashoggi’s murder and prosecuting those responsible, the Rapporteurs said, “it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos.”
A 2019 forensic analysis of his iPhone assessed with “medium to high confidence”, that it was infiltrated on 1 May 2018 through a video sent from Mohammed bin Salman’s WhatsApp account.
According to the analysis, the Crown Prince and Mr. Bezos exchanged numbers the month before the alleged hack.
The forensic analysis found that within hours of receiving the video from the Crown Prince’s account, “an unprecedented exfiltration of data” from the iPhone began. After an initial spike, the unauthorized transfer of data continued undetected for months.
The information we have received suggests...an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia -- UN Experts
The analysis also assessed that the intrusion was likely undertaken through a prominent spyware that was identified in other Saudi surveillance cases, the experts said.
They added that the allegations were reinforced by separate evidence of Saudi Arabia targeting dissidents and perceived opponents.
The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, said on Tuesday night that any suggestion the Kingdom was behind the hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone, “are absurd”.
Other reported cases
The Special Rapporteurs noted that the claims regarding Mr. Bezos’ hacked phone are also consistent with the widely reported role of the Crown Prince in allegedly leading a campaign against dissidents and political opponents.
They recalled that the iPhone infiltration occurred from May to June in 2018, when the phones of Jamal Khashoggi’s associates, Yahya Assiri and Omar Abdulaziz, were also hacked, allegedly using malware called Pegasus.
In May 2018, Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent columnist for The Washington Post, writing stories that raised concerns about the Crown Prince’s rule.
That October, government officials murdered him in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The newspaper subsequently began covering extensively the disappearance and murder investigation and expanded its reporting on a number of related aspects of the Crown Prince’s rule in Saudi Arabia.
Breaking it down
According to the forensic analysis, after Mr. Bezos’ mobile was hacked, the Crown Prince sent him WhatsApp messages in November 2018 and February 2019, “in which he allegedly revealed private and confidential information about the billionaire publisher’s personal life that was not available from public sources”, said the experts.
“During the same period, Mr. Bezos was widely targeted in Saudi social media as an alleged adversary of the Kingdom. This was part of a massive, clandestine online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon, apparently targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post.”
Ms. Callamard and Mr. Kaye “expect to continue investigating the murder of Mr. Khashoggi and the growing role of surveillance in permitting the unaccountable use of spyware to intimidate journalists, human rights defenders and owners of media outlets”, concluded the statement released by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
Independent experts’ role
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
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Bangladesh, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): An independent human rights expert said she has not given up hope for a democratic transition in Myanmar even though the country has yet to address “grave allegations” of international crimes, including possible genocide, UN news release said today.
Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré. Image credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre
Yanghee Lee was speaking in Bangladesh on Thursday at the end of her last official visit to the region as the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.
“I have lost my optimism”, she said. “How could I be optimistic with ongoing credible allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide having been committed in Myanmar, and with justice and accountability still not yet within reach?
“But I still hold out hope that the promised democratic transition will proceed, as it is not too late for the Government to change the course it is currently set to. The Myanmar Government must face up to its responsibilities, obligations and duties.”
Ms. Lee was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 and will deliver her final report in March.
Her mandate falls under what is known as the Council’s Special Procedures, an independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanism to address specific country situations or thematic issues.
Special Rapporteurs are not UN staff, serve in their own capacity, and are not paid for their work.
She had conducted biannual visits to Myanmar until being denied entry from December 2017 onwards.
As she was again barred from entering for her final visit, Ms. Lee travelled to Thailand and Bangladesh to gather information about the situation in Myanmar.
The end of her mission coincided with a decision by the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ordering Myanmar to protect its Rohingya population from genocide.
More than 700,000 members of the mainly Muslim minority group fled Rakhine state in northern Myanmar nearly three years ago following a reported crackdown by the military, known as the Tatmadaw, in response to deadly attacks against police and security posts carried out by separatists known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
Ms. Lee has welcomed the ICJ decision.
Refugees want to return During her final mission, the rights expert met with scores of refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, who spoke of the horrors they had suffered.
“I met with male survivors of sexual violence. They told me of the rape and gang rape that they endured at the hands of the Myanmar military and security forces in Rakhine”, said Ms. Lee. “I also met Rohingya Christians who told me they were persecuted by the Myanmar Government due to their religion.
“Refugees I spoke to were firm about their deep desire to return home. However, I was informed of ongoing violence, continuing restrictions on movement, forced imposition of National Verification Cards, and people being killed and injured by landmines in northern Rakhine. Conditions remain unsuitable for their return.”
Intensifying conflict between the separatist Arakan Army in Rakhine and national armed forces is having a devastating impact, she said, which has been worsened by Government restrictions that include internet shutdown and blocking aid in some townships.
“I am also very worried about both sides engaging in disturbing tactics including abductions and mass arrests, and how this is instilling fear in the civilian population”, she added.
Hopes for free and fair elections Ms. Lee observed that while the Myanmar authorities have taken steps towards international justice and accountability in recent years, more action is still needed.
With elections slated for this year, she called on the Government to ensure the vote is peaceful, credible, free and fair, and that all people can participate in the process.
“Some people told me they are worried that polling may not be allowed in parts of Rakhine and Shan for security reasons”, she said.
“If that occurs, distrust towards the next government and community grievances and marginalization that already exist are only going to grow stronger, and this will further hamper efforts to move forward in the democratic transition and peace process”.
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Myanmar, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): Myanmar must take steps to protect its minority Rohingya population, the top UN court unanimously ruled on Thursday, UN News release said today.
Judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague consider the case against Myanmar. Image credit: ICJ-CIJ/Wendy van Bree
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) also ordered authorities to prevent the destruction of evidence related to genocide allegations.
The case against Myanmar was brought to the ICJ in November by The Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), arguing that the mainly-Muslim Rohingya had been subjected to genocide.
The Rohingya primarily reside in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country.
More than 700,000 members fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following a reported military crackdown in August 2017 during which numerous alleged human rights abuses were committed.
According to news reports, around 600,000 Rohingya remain inside the country, and remain extremely vulnerable to attacks and persecution, said the court.
In its ruling, the ICJ imposed “provisional measures” against Myanmar, ordering the country to comply with obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Myanmar is urged to “take all measures within its power” to prevent the killing of Rohingya, or causing bodily or mental harm to members of the group, including by the military or “any irregular armed units”.
The country also has to submit a report to the ICJ within four months, with additional reports due every six months “until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.”
Aung San Suu Kyi testimony Last December, Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, testified at the start of court proceedings on behalf of her country and described the case as “an incomplete and misleading factual picture” of events in Rakhine state.
She told the court military leaders would be put on trial if found guilty, stressing that “if war crimes have been committed, they will be prosecuted within our own military justice system.”
Thursday’s ruling amounts to a rejection of those arguments, and the ICJ’s orders are binding on Myanmar, despite being provisional.
The court’s orders are subject to assessment by the UN Security Council., although a final judgement in the case is expected to take years, according to news reports.
Court decision is binding: UN Secretary-General UN chief António Guterres has welcomed the court decision, his spokesman said in a statement.
"The Secretary-General strongly supports the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes. He further recalls that, pursuant to the (UN) Charter and to the Statute of the Court, decisions of the Court are binding and trusts that Myanmar will duly comply with the Order from the Court," it said.
The Secretary-General will transmit the notice about the provisional measures to the UN Security Council.
Role of the Court The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and is commonly known as the world court.
It settles legal disputes submitted by States and gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred by UN entities.
The Court is composed of 15 judges, elected to nine-year terms, and is based in The Hague, in the Netherlands.
Myanmar rights expert concludes mission Relatedly, an independent human rights expert on Thursday concluding her final mission as the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.
Yanghee Lee’s last request to enter the country was denied by the Government, and she visited Thailand and Bangladesh to gather information about the situation in Myanmar from both sides of the border.
"Myanmar's denial of access has not dissuaded me from doing everything I can to impartially report to the international community accurate first-hand information that has been provided to me during my visits to the region,” she said.
“My mission and the end of my tenure come at a critical time for human rights in Myanmar and I will continue to strive to do my utmost to improve the situation.”
Ms. Lee was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 and conducted biannual visits to Myanmar until she was denied entry from December 2017.
She will deliver her final report to the Geneva-based Council in Geneva in March.
#UN; #HolocaustSurvivors; #Poland; #AuschwitzConcentrationCamp; #HistoryConnectsTruth
United Nations, Jan 21 (Canadian-Media): Seventy-five years ago, when soldiers of the Soviet army entered the Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland, they were “stunned into silence” by what they saw, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recalled on Tuesday, media reports said.
The exhibit "75 years after Auschwitz - Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice" reflects the continued importance of collective action against antisemitism and other forms of bias to ensure respect for the dignity and human rights of all people everywhere.
Image credits: UN News/Elizabeth Scaffidi
While the Nazis had attempted to hide evidence of mass murder, “millions of clothing items and tons of hair told their own appalling story”, the UN chief said, opening an exhibit at UN headquarters in New York marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The closure of the camps marked the end of the Holocaust itself, but it was just the beginning of efforts to ensure that such crimes never happen again.
Understanding our history connects us to the essential human values of truth, respect, justice and compassion – UN chief
“I will never forget my visit to Yad Vashem two years ago”, Mr. Guterres recalled, referring to The World Holocaust Remembrance Center located in Jerusalem. “I was shocked once again by the ability of antisemitism to reinvent itself and re-emerge time and again, over millennia”.
Pointing to “a frightening upsurge in antisemitic attacks” over the past few years, the Secretary-General spelled out: “We can never lower our guard”.
He maintained that this was “part of a troubling increase in xenophobia, homophobia, discrimination and hatred of all kinds”, adding that even Nazism itself was threatening to reemerge – “sometimes openly, sometimes in disguise”.
Keep telling the story
The UN chief cited “remembrance and education” as essential parts of prevention efforts, “because ignorance creates fertile ground for false narratives and lies”.
“‘Never again’ means telling the story again and again”, he stated.
Mr. Guterres paid tribute to Holocaust-survivor-in-attendance, Zoltan Matyash, as well as all other survivors “who inspire us with their strength and their example”.
“As survivors grow older, it is essential that we keep their memories alive and carry their testimony forward in new ways for new generations”, emphasized the Secretary-General.
The exhibit 75 years after Auschwitz - Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice, underscores the continued need for collective action against antisemitism and other forms of bias.
“And that is why exhibitions like this are so important”, maintained Mr. Guterres. “These portraits of Holocaust survivors speak to us of the dignity, humanity and interconnectedness of each unique member of our human family”.
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Syria, Jan 16 (Canadian-Media): Nearly nine years of conflict in Syria have robbed boys and girls of their childhood and subjected them to “unabated violations of their rights”, including being killed, maimed, displaced, forced to fight or subjected to torture, rape and sexual slavery, UN reports said.
Children stand in the courtyard of a school-turned shelter in Ar-Raqqa, in Syria.
Image credit: ©UNICEF/Bakr Alkasem
The findings come in the latest report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, released on Thursday.
“Iam appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.
“While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the country’s future generation.”
The three-member Commission was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law related to the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011.
Its latest report is entitled: They have erased the dreams of my children - a quote taken from a 2012 interview with a woman discussing attacks on her village in Idlib.
The study is based on approximately 5,000 interviews conducted between September 2011 and October 2019 with Syrian children, but also eyewitnesses, survivors, relatives of survivors, medical professionals, defectors, members of armed groups, healthcare professionals, lawyers and other affected communities.
I realized that my brother was shot in the head and neck. I witnessed how his soul left his body - Boy, al Houla, witness to the execution of his entire family, 2012
The Commission said the use of cluster munitions, so-called thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons by pro-Government forces, have caused scores of child casualties.
Additionally, children’s experiences in the conflict “have been deeply gendered.”
Women and girls worst affected
Women and girls are “disproportionally affected” by sexual violence, and the threat of rape has led to restrictions in their movements. Girls have been confined to their homes, removed from school or faced obstacles to access health care.
Meanwhile, boys, particularly those 12 and over, have been arrested and kept in detention facilities, and targeted for recruitment by armed groups and militia.
“The younger ones are very good fighters. They fight with enthusiasm and are fearless. Fighters who are 14 -17 years old are on the frontline”, a person associated with an armed group told the authors.
The war has also had an impact on access to education, with more than 2.1 million children not regularly attending classes of any form.
“Urgent efforts are required by the Syrian Government to support as many children as possible to return to education. Armed groups holding territory also need to act with haste to facilitate access to education,” said Karen AbuZayd, one of the commissioners.
The report also expresses concern over the severe impact the conflict has had on children’s long-term physical and mental health.
Large numbers of young Syrians now have disabilities as well as devastating psychological and development issues. Additionally, fighting has displaced some five million children.
As the mother in Idlib stated: “They have erased the dreams of my children. They have destroyed what we have built during our whole life; my daughter was so depressed when she found out that our house was burnt down. My other child, a three-year-old boy, is traumatized by the crisis. He is continuously drawing tanks.”
The Commission members called on all sides to “commit in writing” to granting children special protection during wartime, in line with international law.
Other recommendations include ending child recruitment and taking child rights into consideration during military planning.
They stressed that displaced children also require protection, which includes the obligation to repatriate children with family ties to ISIL extremist fighters.
“States have well defined obligations to protect children, including from statelessness. Failing to abide by such fundamental principles would be a clear derogation of duty,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally.
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United Nations, Jan 14 (Canadian-Media): Each year, at least 55 million children in Europe suffer some form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological violence, the UN health agency (WHO) said on Tuesday, UN reports said.
A young boy rides his bicycle inside the Kara Tepe accommodation site, on the Greek island of Lesvos. Image credit: © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
And despite the magnitude of this figure, “it is well established that incidents of interpersonal violence are widely underreported”, according to the World Health Organization’s European Region office.
Accounting for underreporting, WHO estimates that of the 204 million children under the age of 18 across the region, 9.6 per cent experience sexual exploitation, 22.9 per cent physical abuse and 29.1 per cent emotional harm. Moreover, 700 are murdered every year.
High cost of violence“The cost of violence against children adds up”, WHO maintained, highlighting that an estimated $581 billion is spent annually on treating victims.
“But the financial cost pales in comparison to the toll on individuals’ health”, said the agency.
Violence against children is chilling and distressing – WHO spokesperson
Studies reveal that children who experience violence are at higher risk of mental illness, drug use, alcohol use and obesity, but also for chronic disease later in life.
“Violence against children is chilling and distressing”, said Bente Mikkelson, WHO Europe’s Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health.
“Child trauma has a terrible cost, not only to the children and the adults they become, whose lives it wrecks, but to every country’s well-being and economy”.
Laws to protect, on the rise
Governments are showing an increased appetite to tackle the scourge. Overall, the political will to combat violence against children has risen, with 66 per cent of regional countries having prohibited corporal punishment in all settings.
However, passing laws is only part of the solution.
While 83 per cent of countries in the region have developed a national action plan to stop child maltreatment, fewer than half are being sufficiently funded.
WHO Europe’s INSPIRE package is an evidence-based resource that supports countries committed to preventing and addressing assaults against children by identifying seven successful strategies to reduce levels of violence.
The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children designates “Pathfinder” nations that have made a formal and public commitment to comprehensive action to end all forms of violence against children.
Ending “abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children” is also part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
INSPIRE strategies promote
Along with technical experts, parliamentarians and policy-makers in health, social affairs, education and justice the workshop is share good practices linked to the implementation of WHO’s INSPIRE technical package.
“With political will, we can all tackle this”, concluded Ms. Mikkelson. “Every sector and part of the community can make a difference in making society safer for children. But we need to speed up”.
#UN; #OHCHR; ##UNHumanRightsOffice; #HumanRights; #KillingsInColombia
Columbia, Jan 14 (Canadian-Media): The UN human rights office, OHCHR, is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia” last year, its spokesperson said on Tuesday.
A wide range of human rights activists have been targeted in Colombia, especially those living in rural areas. Image credit: UN Colombia
“The single most targeted group was human rights defenders advocating on behalf of community-based and specific ethnic groups such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians”, Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva, adding that the number of women human rights defenders killed increased “by almost 50 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018”.
According to OHCHR, 107 activists were killed last year. And staff in the country are still in the process of verifying 13 additional cases reported during 2019 which, if confirmed, would raise the annual total to 120 killings.
Attacks on human rights defenders during 2018 had already intensified, with 115 killings confirmed by the UN.
Vicious cycle of violence ‘must stop’
“This terrible trend is showing no let-up in 2020, with at least 10 human rights defenders already reportedly killed during the first 13 days of January”, Ms. Hurtado lamented.
The UN office renewed its call on the Government to “make a strenuous effort” to prevent attacks on those who are defending fundamental rights, investigate each case and prosecute those responsible, including those aiding and abetting the deadly attacks.
“The vicious and endemic cycle of violence and impunity must stop”, the spokesperson spelled out. “Victims and their families have a right to justice, truth and reparations”.
The vast majority of last year’s killings happened in rural areas, 98 per cent of which occurred in municipalities with black market economies, and where criminal groups or armed groups hold sway.
And around 86 per cent of the deaths took place in villages with a poverty rate above the national average.
Although more than half were recorded in the four provinces of Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca and Caquetá, 21 other provinces also saw fatalities.
While the figures reflect the gravity of the problem, Ms. Hurtado pointed out that “they conceal the structural causes that sustain violence against human rights defenders”.
“Any attack against human rights defenders is unacceptable and constitutes an assault against democracy, undermining participation and people’s access to their human rights”, she underscored.
There were a number of other contributing factors including the penetration of criminal groups and armed groups linked to illicit economies in areas vacated by FARC-EP rebels, and the favouring of a military response from the Government to control the violence.
Any attack against human rights defenders is unacceptable and constitutes an assault against democracy – OHCHR spokesperson
In November 2016, the Secretary-General welcomed the signing of an historic UN-backed peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP group, ending an armed conflict that had been ongoing since 1964.
However, continuous challenges in implementing the peace agreement have also played a role in the violence, especially the dismantling of paramilitary linked-groups; the security situation in conflict-affected communities; land restitution, illicit crop substitution programmes and the fulfilment of victims’ rights.
While OHCHR has acknowledged some positive steps, such as a recent meeting of the National Commission on Security Guarantees convened by the Government early this month, to tackle this problem, the number of killings clearly shows much more needs to be done.
“We call on the authorities to redouble their efforts to ensure a free and secure environment for civic engagement and to increase the presence of civil State authorities in rural areas to provide basic services, such as health and education”, asserted Ms. Hurtado.
She concluded by stressing the need to urgently tackle disparities in the enjoyment of all rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights – especially in rural areas, saying that “measures of a collective nature aimed at protecting geographical areas or communities must be further developed.”
#UN; #HumanRights; #UNJHRO; #UNHumanRights; #DRC: #CrimesAgainstHumanity; #HemaCommunity
DR Congo (Africa), Jan 10 (Canadian-Media): The targeting of the Hema community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with violence, including killings and rape, may amount to crimes against humanity, said the UN on Friday, UN reports said.
A helicopter form the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo touches down in Djugu in Ituri province in December 2019. Credit: MONUSCO
An investigation carried out by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC, found that at least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured following attacks involving the Hema and Lendu communities in the country’s northeast province of Ituri, between December 2017 and September last year.
“In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence” the report said, “most of them members of the Hema community.”
Since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have become increasingly organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups such as the Alur, the investigators said.
Among their objectives is to take control of the land of the Hema communities and their associated resources, they added.
The report documents numerous cases of women being raped, of children - some in school uniforms - being killed, and of looting and burning of villages.
Rape and beheadings
On 10 June last year in the district of Torges, a Hema man who was trying to prevent armed assailants from raping his wife witnessed his 8-year-old son being beheaded.
"The barbarity that characterizes these attacks, including the beheading of women and children with machetes, the dismemberment and removal of body parts of the victims as trophies of war, reflects the desire of the attackers to inflict lasting trauma to the Hema communities and to force them to flee and not return to their villages," the report said.
"The violence documented... could contain some elements of crimes against humanity through murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillage and persecution."
Schools and health clinics have been attacked and destroyed. The report said that most attacks occurred in June around the harvest period, and in December during the sowing season. "This makes it more difficult for the Hema to cultivate their fields and exacerbates their lack of food.”
As the violence has intensified, for the past two years around 57,000 have taken refuge in neighbouring Uganda, and more than 556,000 have fled the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, in Ituri, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Several camps and villages where the Hema have taken refuge, have been “stormed, burned and destroyed” by Lendu armed groups, the report details.
Investigators have also documented acts of reprisal by some Hema community members, including village-burning and “isolated attacks” targeting the Lendu.
Army and police units deployed since February 2018, have failed to stop the violence, the report states, adding that the security forces themselves have also committed abuses such as extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention.
So far, two police officers and two soldiers, have been convicted in the Congolese courts.
UN recommendations The joint rights office, UNJHRO, is recommending now that the DRC authorities properly address the root causes of conflict, including access to resources – including the contentious land issue – and that they maintain “ongoing reconciliation efforts between the two communities and their peaceful cohabitation.”
The report urges an independent and impartial investigation be carried out by the Government, into the years of violence, as well as “ensuring the right to reparation for victims and their access to medical and psychosocial care.”