#UN; #Inclusion; #HumanRights; #PublicParticipation; #GovernmentPolicies
UN, Sep 25 (Canadian-Media): Not only COVID-19, but climate protests, struggles for more inclusive politics, human rights and waning public trust, have put a magnifying glass to the social and economic injustices plaguing societies, the UN Secretary-General said on Friday.
Protesters take to the streets in Santiago, Chile. (October 2019). UN News/Diana Leal
Speaking at the end of the annual high level week, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that such crises are an “enormous governance challenge” for all nations, and overcoming them requires approaches driven by unity, solidarity and compassion.
“For that, we need governance models and structures that work for the common good, with an intergenerational perspective. We need to prioritize the rebuilding of trust between people, institutions and leaders,” he highlighted.
Lead through equality
The UN chief called for leadership that is gender equal, noting recent studies that show women leaders have responded faster to COVID-19, adopted well-informed positions, led with empathy, and built inclusive coalitions that delivered better results.
“The key to reinvigorated and reimagined governance lies with truly meaningful participation of people and civil society in the decisions that affect their lives”, he added.
The high-level event, held on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly’s high-level annual debate, deliberated on the importance of participation as a human right and a vital tool for multilateralism, as well as how to address major global challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis and development.
Participation ‘an under-utilized tool’
In his remarks, delivered via a video link, the Secretary-General highlighted the importance of participation in public affairs as a fundamental human right and an underutilized tool for better policy making.
Meaningful participation of all segments of society in decision-making can address daunting challenges and it is a key element of the inclusive multilateralism needed for 21st century global governance, said Mr. Guterres.
However, participation is being denied and civic space is being crushed in many places around the world, he warned.
“A global pushback on human rights has placed participation in its crosshairs,” said Mr. Guterres, adding that repressive laws are impeding the work of journalists and human rights defenders – especially women – and governments, are employing broad definitions of terrorism and abusing new technologies to curtail freedoms of civil society groups.
Make participation and inclusion a reality
Mr. Guterres called on everyone to “take a hard look” on how such alarming trends be reversed, and participation and inclusion – online and offline – become reality.
He also reminded that the decisions today have implications in the future, and therefore, urged ways to allow future generations be represented in decision making, at both the national and international levels.
“Let us nurture and draw on the knowledge, creativity and diversity of our communities,” added the Secretary-General, stressing: “Participation is critical if we are to strengthen societies and meet the urgency of our times.”
Beware ‘tokenistic’ participation
Also speaking at the event, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, underlined the need to ensure that participation is not merely formal or tokenistic, but in fact truly “meaningful and effective.”
It must, therefore, have an actual impact on decisions; and be timely and sustained: “Crucially, participation must be inclusive, extending participation most especially to marginalized and vulnerable groups,” stressed the top UN human rights official.
Ms. Bachelet outlined five key messages regarding participation. Firstly, it should be seen as an essential principle of governance; and it is key to achieving the core purposes of the UN – sustainable development, preventing conflict and promoting human rights.
Third, not only is participation itself a human right, it also supports and is dependent on other rights that are essential to effective governance, development and peace; and when people are prevented from taking part in shaping decisions that affect them, the consequences for governance can be severe.
And lastly, it should be considered an urgent priority.
The world is at a “governance cross-roads”, explained the High Commissioner, the pandemic has exposed and found fuel in the inequalities that result from weak governance of development, climate change, and peace and security.
No government “can afford to ignore these powerful demands for change,” she said.
#Cuba; #JusticeCuba; #HumanRights
US, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State said in a statement issued Sep 6 The U.S. Government is gratified to see independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones reunited with his family after a year of undue suffering as a prisoner of conscience in Cuba.
Justice Cuba. Image credit: Twitter handle
However, we repeat our strong condemnation of his unjust imprisonment for the simple act of doing his job.
On August 7, 2019, the Cuban regime convicted Quiñones on dubious charges of resistance and disobedience and sentenced him to one year in a labor camp. His detention and trial were marked by the flagrant disregard for legal norms, which is typical of the Cuban regime. Cuban authorities did not inform Quiñones of the charges against him until minutes before the trial, and did not permit him legal representation in the courtroom. The regime’s prosecutors did not permit Quiñones to present evidence of his injuries at the hands of the police who arrested him. In March, he was denied parole.
It is disgraceful that the Cuban regime incarcerated a journalist whose only “crime” is working for a more transparent society. It is also unsurprising. The regime uses any excuse to silence its critics and to violate human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and to fair trial guarantees.
We call on our democratic partners across the globe to make respect for human rights a prerequisite for any dealings with Cuba.
#UN; #UNHumanRights; #SecretDetention; #Pakistan; #HumanRightsCouncil
Pakistan/UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): Independent UN rights experts have called on the Government of Pakistan to end the secret detention of a human rights defender, who has not been heard from in more than nine months.
Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture, one of the experts making the appeal.
Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The experts said they are seriously concerned for the life of Idris Khattak – an activist who worked on a number of reports on disappearances in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas – as he has not had contact with the outside world since he was taken into custody by Pakistani Military Intelligence on 13 November 2019.
On 16 June 2020, authorities acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Khattak has been in their custody, seven months after he was taken away.
“The mere acknowledgment that he is in custody does not absolve Pakistan of its human rights obligations. Pakistani authorities must produce him and guarantee him a fair trial,” the experts said in a news release on Friday.
An emblematic case of enforced disappearace Mr. Khattak is also a former consultant for human rights NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
His case is emblematic of the many enforced disappearances occurring in the country, and the concealment of his fate and whereabouts constitutes a continued offence of enforced disappearance, said the experts.
“We are concerned that Mr. Khattak’s human rights are being violated,” they added, noting that he has not been allowed to speak to his lawyer, family and he allegedly has not been given a medical examination by an external independent doctor.
The Pakistani rights defender is reportedly facing charges under the Official Secrets Act and Army Act as a civilian. Use of the Official Secrets Act is yet another means of silencing dissent from human rights defenders including those working on minority issues in Pakistan, the experts said.
“The flagrant abuse of authority and lack of cooperation by the Military Intelligence to produce Mr. Khattak before the Peshawar High Court during the habeas corpus petition is a violation of their obligations under international human rights law,” stressed the experts.
Concerns over inadequate investigation The High Court dismissed Mr. Khattak’s case, saying it did not have jurisdiction, and the Joint Investigations Tribunal, constituted to probe into cases of enforced disappearances, closed the case reportedly because he was no longer considered a missing person.
The experts are concerned that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances disposed of the case prematurely without an adequate investigation or recommendation to the respective authorities for criminal responsibility or ordering compensation.
“We urge authorities to conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the institutional and criminal responsibilities for Mr. Khattak’s disappearance and arbitrary detention with a view to end impunity,” they said.
“The victim and the family also have a right to redress, rehabilitation and compensation,” the experts added, noting that they will continue to engage with the authorities and closely monitor the situation.
The experts making the appeal include the special rapporteurs on torture; on the situation of human rights defenders; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and on minority issues; as well as the members of Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
#UN; #UNHCR; #AlgerianNewsReport; #UNTribunal; #UNHumanRights
UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is dismissing as a “complete fabrication” an Algerian news report claiming that a UN tribunal has rejected a complaint by a group of political activists.
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Image credit: UN Photo
In an article posted online on Tuesday, the Algérie Presse Service (APS) listed the reasons why “the Geneva Office of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal” had turned away the complaint in just 24 hours.
Phantom room The story – which quoted an interview on Radio Monte Carlo two days earlier with someone described as the tribunal’s secretary - was illustrated with a photo of a UN meeting room in Geneva.
There is indeed a UN Dispute Tribunal in Geneva, but it deals with internal administrative issues within the UN, not with human rights matters.
“The information contained in the article – which has been widely picked up by other media in Algeria and elsewhere – is a complete fabrication from start to finish”, OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement on Friday.
“No UN human rights body with this name exists”, he insisted.
Nor, he added, has the Office been unable to identify any relevant UN staff member or independent human rights expert with a name that correspondents with the individual who purportedly spoke with Radio Monte Carlo.
Complaints lodged The Office has received complaints in recent weeks from Algerian citizens and activists that will be examined by relevant bodies in due course. But, as Mr. Colville’s statement explained, no UN human rights body conducts an expedited 24-hour procedure.
A second problematic story “from the opposite perspective”, appeared on Thursday on the Algérie Part website. It correctly described the APS report as false – but also included “largely invented” quotes that it attributed to a UN human rights office spokesperson.
Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced on 25 August that a referendum will take place on 1 November on a new constitution that would give more power to the prime minister’s office and parliament, according to news reports.
#UN; #AttackOnJournalists; #Covid19Crisis; #UNAMA;
UN, Sep 2 (Canadian-Media): UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged all countries to do more to protect journalists, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, as their work helps save lives.
Afghanistan marked World Press Freedom Day with speeches and the recognition of journalists for their work in covering key national and political issues. (file). Image credit: UNAMA/Fardin Waezi
Speaking at an event in support of press freedom in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that around 1,000 journalists have been killed in the last decade – and that nine in 10 cases “are unresolved”.
Her comments, on the eve of the trial of alleged accomplices of extremists who killed 12 people at the French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo in 2015, were echoed by political cartoonist Patrick Chappatte.
“We live in an open world with closed minds”, he told participants at the UN General Assembly side-event for the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Line ‘crossed in blood’
“We have seen five years ago a line being crossed in blood and that’s the line where you can get killed in Paris, Europe, anywhere, you can get killed for your opinion. And that was a new threshold.”
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the work of the media is paramount, High Commissioner Bachelet continued, as their reporting is “an essential tool for officials to quickly learn where measures are being inadequately applied”, and what concerns are most important to people.
Without naming them, she said that several countries had seen “increasing politicisation of the pandemic and efforts to blame its effects on political opponents, have led to threats, arrests and smear campaigns against journalists who maintain fact-based information about the spread of COVID-19 and the adequacy of measures to prevent it”.
She added: “When journalists are targeted in the context of protests and criticism, these attacks are intended to silence all of civil society and this is of deep concern…Journalism enriches our understanding of every kind of political, economic and social issue; delivers crucial – and, in the context of this pandemic - life-saving information; and helps keep governance at every level, transparent and accountable.”
At a press conference after the event, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga echoed the High Commissioner’s concerns over threats to freedom of expression.
Even in Switzerland, where people have the opportunity to vote multiple times a year, the concept should not be taken for granted, Ms. Sommaruga explained, in response to a journalist’s question and earlier comments about the shrinking space and threats to the Press being “not always from dictators (but) also from business models”.
“The freedom of the Press is not something that you just have, it’s something that you have to defend and continue to defend,” the Swiss President maintained.
Infrastructure for democracy
“In our country, the economic situation for the Press is very, very difficult, so we (the Federal Government) are looking at ways how we can better support it, because we think that the Press, the media, provides the infrastructure for democracy,” she said. “If we want this infrastructure to exist, we also need to support it, while also ensuring its independence.”
Earlier, Mr. Chappatte described how “moralistic mobs” now used social media to bully others into getting what they want.
“They gather like a storm. They take on an issue, they denounce expression, they denounce cultures, they go after the cartoonists.”
It was no longer repression “by the State or the religious powers, but society ourselves”, he insisted.