#Talibanmilitants; #Afghanistan; # journalists’rights; #UNAMA; #UNESCO
New York, Jun 28 (Canadian-Media/UN): Following last week’s public threats by Taliban militants to deliberately target media outlets in Afghanistan, the United Nations (UN) mission chief in the country reiterated his call on Thursday for journalists’ rights to be protected, underlining the power of press freedom to advance peace, justice and human rights, UN media reports said.
Journalists at an event in Kabul, to mark the Afghan National Journalists Day (March 2019), in support of media freedom and solidarity with journalists in Afghanistan/Credit: UNAMA/Fardin Waezi
HNoting that “words must never be met with violence”, Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), called on the threat to be rescinded, adding that “the only acceptable challenge to words is to advance a better argument”.
Mr. Yamamoto underlined that “international humanitarian law - which applies to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including the Taliban - prohibits attacks against civilians at any time and in any place”.
And affirming that media workers are also civilians, he highlighted the importance of protecting their “fundamental rights to operate in an environment free from any threat, intimidation or undue pressure by any outside entity, including governments”.
The UNAMA’s chief’s statement, in response to the public threats by Taliban to turn media outlets into military targets, highlighted two fundamental principles: that freedom of the press is critical, and that civilians should never be deliberately targeted with violence.
In the context of repeated threats by the Taliban, Mr. Yamamoto said that “press freedom in Afghanistan is earned at an unbearable cost”. The United Nations recognizes that Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work. Official figures from cultural agency UNESCO’s observatory of killed journalists, shows that 16 died last year, and four so far this year.
The most recent UN report on protection of civilians during conflict in Afghanistan, shows that over 3,800 civilian women, children and men were killed over the 12-month reporting period.
Congratulating Afghanistan’s media workers for their reporting and continuing with their duties in the face of escalating threats, Mr. Yamamoto added that the UN “remains steadfast in collaborating with national and international partners to protect journalists and to fight against impunity”.
He also reiterated the UN’s support to the Afghan government, “consistent with its international human rights obligations, to implement measures that improve journalist safety and that foster an open media, where no voice is silenced through fear.”
A new presidential election is scheduled for 28 September, which will be a “key moment to reaffirm the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s democratic political structure”, Mr. Yamamoto told the Security Council last week.
Last Wednesday, UNAMA’s chief told the UN Security Council he was “encouraged” by signs of progress during international mediation efforts which could lead to a lasting political settlement between the Afghan Government and the fundamentalist Taliban movement, which controlled the country prior to the 2001 invasion by coalition forces.
Tackle ‘tsunami of hatred’ across the world urges Guterres, to counter anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance
#Anti-semitism, #racism, #intolerance
The “multi-headed monster” of intolerance, has created a visible and violent “tsunami of hatred” that is gathering speed across the world, said Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday, United Nations (UN) media reports said.
Combating Antisemitism and Other Forms of Racism and Hate, Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
The UN chief was speaking at an event organized by the President of the General Assembly in New York on the Challenges of Teaching Tolerance and Respect in the Digital Age.
He told those gathered he had recently viewed an exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage called “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away”.
“It is an apt title”, said the UN chief, noting that the Holocaust was “indeed not long ago – only as far back as a single average human lifespan”, and certainly “not far away – it happened at the heart of Europe, and it remains at the centre of our awareness as we fight anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance today”.
Mr. Guterres recounted a study that revealed a 13 per cent rise in violent anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, compared to the year before, and observed that attacks on synagogues, graveyards and individuals in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, “continue to make many Jews feel insecure”.
Pointing to assaults on synagogues, massacres at mosques and bombings at churches he maintained that “this age-old hatred is showing grim staying power”.
And refugees and migrants continue to face hostility as “white supremacists and neo-Nazis are emboldened by elections showing the appeal of their racist messages”, continued the UN chief, flagging that in today’s digital realm, “we have new vectors of venom, algorithms that accelerate the spread of bigotry, and new platforms where far-flung extremists can find each other and spur each other on”.
An acute moment
While the UN “fights these ills as a matter of our very identity, founded as we were in response to genocide”, he acknowledged that “today we have reached an acute moment in this struggle”.
Mr. Guterres spoke of the recently launched UN system-wide strategy to combat hate speech, which “if left unopposed can erode democratic values, social stability and peace”.
“We need to treat hate speech as we treat every malicious act: By condemning it and refusing to amplify it” to incite discrimination, hostility and violence, he spelled out.
The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations is also finalizing an Action Plan on what more the Organization can do to support the safety and sanctity of religious sites.
“Our efforts need to step up most urgently in the digital space, where hatred is thriving”, he underscored, watchful that social media “provides a conduit for hatred on an enormous scale, with virtually no cost and no accountability, making them particularly appealing to those with evil intent”.
Moreover, it is being used to “polarize societies and demonize people, often targeting women, minorities and the most vulnerable”.
On remedying the situation, he signaled that a new report of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation urges social media to respond to concerns about the “growing threat to safety and human rights”, and that the Christchurch Call spurs governments and technology companies to tackle online extremism.
Mr. Guterres pushed for an investment in social cohesion so all of society “can feel that their identities are respected and that they have a stake in the future”, saying that UN offers a platform to discuss the way forward.
Staring into gun barrel, Rabbi recounts hate attack
One rabbi from California drove home the brutal impact of the hate permeating societies globally, recounting how a gunman appeared in his synagogue in late April. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein described how the attacker fired on his congregation inside the Chabad of Poway, near San Diego, killing one woman and injuring three others before fleeing the scene and being apprehended two miles away.
With his own hands still heavily bandaged from being shot during the attack, the rabbi spoke passionately from the General Assembly podium about how that day he stood in the lobby about to read a prayer to memorialize the last day of Passover when he suddenly heard “the thundering sound of gunshots”.
“I saw in the lobby of our synagogue, a house of worship, a home where children come to celebrate…this terrorist standing in the lobby, holding an AR-15 and I am looking down the barrel of it”, he recounted.
“I turned around to grab the children” he continued, “and the terrorist takes aim and shoots at me, blowing off my fingers”.
The Rabbi managed to pull the children to safety, including his four-year-old-granddaughter, who cried “why are you bleeding?”.
When he returned to find that the terrorist had been pushed out, the Rabbi stood on a chair, and pronounced: “God has spared us. Do not let this moment define us. It will not consume us”.
He emphasized at Wednesday’s event that each of us have to be seen as human beings, “not by our colour of our skin, not by our language, we are all children of God”.
Hateful attacks: ‘No surprise’In her opening statement General Assembly President María Espinosa said it had been a year of “despicable” attacks based on hatred, noting that “sadly, they come as no surprise”.
“What is frightening now is that it is no longer confined to extremist groups” but has become “part of a broader surge in intolerance, racism and xenophobia mainstreamed”, she lamented.
Ms. Espinosa recalled that the Assembly had met several times already this year to “discuss hate speech, nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies, and attacks against Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews; against people of all faiths and none”.
“We must redouble our efforts to ensure that…the seeds of hate do not find fertile ground”, she stated, encouraging education to address intolerance and combat falsehood and disinformation.
But, she underscored, “we must not see education as a vaccination that gives you immunity for life”, saying that it is part of an equation that also includes changing mindsets, standing up for values and “taking a stand against intolerance”.
“And we must also extend our vigilance to the internet and social media”, Ms. Espinosa continued, calling them “powerful tools” that can be used to “spread hatred and distort reality”.
Watch the UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, talk about hate speech:
Vile act of torture prohibited ‘under all circumstances’, UN chief affirms on International Day to support victims
International Day to support victims; UN; #prohibitionoftorture
Jun 26 (UN/Canadian-Media): While the prohibition of torture is “absolute, under all circumstances”, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres bemoaned the fact that “this core principle is undermined every day” - in detention centres, prisons, police stations, psychiatric institutions and other places where captor can prey on captive, UN media reports said.
Singers wearing hats advocating “No Torture” line up before performing at a Human Rights Day event outside of Mogadishu Central Prison in Somalia/Credit of: UN Photo/Tobin Jones
This was part of his message for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, on Wednesday, describing the despicable act, as a vicious attempt to break a person’s will.
The United Nations has long condemned torture as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by humankind, saying that it seeks to “annihilate the victim’s personality” and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. Despite its absolute prohibition under international law, torture persist in all regions of the world and is often uses around national and border security.
Moreover, its pervasive consequences often go beyond the isolated act on an individual; and can be transmitted down through generations, leading to cycles of violence and revenge.
Currently ratified by 166 States, the UN chief said he was “encouraged that we are moving towards universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture”, which aligns national laws and practices with the Convention to move the prohibition of torture from principle to practice.
“Torture usually happens behind closed doors”, Mr. Guterres said. “It is therefore crucial for independent international and national human rights mechanisms to open those doors”.
He explained that the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture “does exactly that”, by visiting prisons and other institutions and interviewing detainees, officials, law enforcement personnel and medical staff every year, in close partnership with national preventive mechanisms.
“In all our work, we must support victims and ensure respect for their right to rehabilitation and redress”, the UN chief stressed, noting that “this victim-centred approach guides the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture”, which assists nearly 50,000 victims annually, in some 80 countries.
Moreover, he said it has also helped in understanding better the different dimensions of torture, including the use of sexual and gender-based violence, and the specific assistance that different kinds of survivors of torture need.
“On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I urge all States to end impunity for perpetrators and eradicate these reprehensible acts that defy our common humanity.
Libya, June 7 (Canadian-Media): Migrants and refugees suffering from tuberculosis are being left “effectively to die” in a Libyan detention centre south of Tripoli, the UN (United Nations) human rights office, OHCHR, said on Friday, citing reports that those returned to shore by the coastguard have been disappeared or sold to traffickers, UN reports said.
Amid ongoing conflict in and around the capital, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville expressed deep concern about the “ghastly conditions” in which migrants and refugees are being detained in the capital Tripoli and elsewhere.
He explained that at the Zintan facility south of Tripoli, 22 people had died of tuberculosis - which is preventable - and other illnesses since last September.
“Tuberculosis need not be a killer disease, but in these circumstances, clearly it is killing people and there must be a risk that more will die”, Mr. Colville said. “There’s another report that people are being sent to a different place near the front line effectively to die there, because they are Christians, and there are no burial facilities near Zintan.”
The development follows clashes in and around the outskirts of Tripoli, instigated by the self-styled Libyan National Army forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who leads a parallel administration in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Insisting that conditions at Zintan may amount to “inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment” and possibly torture, the OHCHR spokesperson expressed concern that other migrants have been sold into forced labour or to smugglers offering transit to Europe.
“We are also extremely concerned about ongoing reports of disappearances and human trafficking after people were intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and taken back to Libya,” he said, in an appeal to the Government of National Accord to launch an investigation to locate those missing.
“The Libyan Coast Guard and the DCIM (Department for Combatting Illegal Migration) must ensure that they are accountable for every person held in detention, and that their human rights are respected”, Mr. Colville said. “We remind the Government that when a person dies in custody, there is a presumption of State responsibility…TB is clearly really a menacing threat in Zintan and it needs proper attention…proper medical care; and this is really a crisis.”
More than 2,300 people have been picked up in the Mediterranean Sea since 30 April and put in detention facilities, Mr. Colville noted, adding that the Libyan Coast Guard reported that it had delivered “hundreds” to a facility in Al-Khoms, which is under the oversight of the UN-recognized Government’s Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, or DCIM.
Of this number, more than 200 were delivered there on 23 May, but the Al-Khoms facility reported that it now has “only 30 migrants present, despite 203 been taken there just a couple of weeks ago”, he said.
In addition, Mr. Colville highlighted reports that some women have been sold for sexual exploitation – the latest in a long list of “horrific abuses to which migrants and refugees are subjected” in the troubled North African State.
Today, some 3,400 migrants and refugees are detained in Tripoli, according to OHCHR. “Libya has a heightened duty of care to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty, including providing them with the necessary medical care,” Mr. Colville said.