#UN; #CentralBaghdad; #Protests
New York, Oct 30 (Canadian-Media): The UN’s most senior official in Iraq, visited protesters in central Baghdad on Wednesday, calling for “a national dialogue to identify prompt, meaningful responses to break the vicious cycle of violence” which has roiled the country during the past five days.
Street scene in Baghdad, Iraq. Credit: Photo: UNAMI/Sanaa Kareem
Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said she had gone to Tahrir Square to engage with the people, and listen to their concerns, as part of the UN’s continuous efforts to promote dialogue with the Government, as news reports suggest that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, is facing growing calls to resign.
More than 220 have reportedly been killed across Iraq since the first anti-Government protests began at the start of October. Some protesters have ignored a curfew, and are demanding better public services, more job opportunities and an end to alleged large-scale corruption.
In a statement released by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert, said that the whole of Iraqi society needed to “unite against the perils of division and inaction. Standing together, Iraqis can find the common ground needed to shape a better future for all”.
She also told protesters that “no government could comprehensively tackle the legacy of the past, and the present challenges, in just one year in office.”
On Tuesday, she released a forceful statement condemning all violence saying that it was “never the answer, the protection of life is the overriding imperative.” She condemned the alarming reports that live fire had been used against demonstrators in the Shia stronghold of Kerbala, causing a “high number of casualties”. News reports say that up to 18 had died, with hundreds injured, but officials have denied there were any fatalities.
Brutal and ‘heart-breaking’ use of force against demonstratorsIn a press release from a group of independent UN human rights experts released on Tuesday, they called on the Government and security forces to “prevent and cease violence immediately” against protesters, and ensure that those responsible for the “unlawful use of force are investigated and prosecuted.”
Experts said that during the earlier week of protest from 1-9 October, security personnel had used live fire, rubber bullets and armoured vehicles, coupled with the “indiscriminate use” of tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades.
Since 25 October, Iraqi security forces, particularly in Baghdad, appear to have shown more restraint than in the earlier demonstrations, however, reports continue of excessive use of less lethal means, causing injuries and some deaths, said the experts.
The situation in some southern governorates, in which armed individuals have used live fire against demonstrators while protecting political offices requires urgent attention, they added.
"We express our utter dismay at the use of excessive force and violence by Iraqi security forces and other armed elements against demonstrators," said the experts. "It is incomprehensible - and heart-breaking - that such a brutal response can be levelled against Iraqis simply wanting to express their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.”
"The Iraqi State has a duty to protect those exercising their right to peaceful assembly, including from violent non-state actors”, they concluded.
#UN; #Indian-administeredKashmir; #HumanRights
United Nations, Oct 30 (Canadian-Media): The people of Indian-administered Kashmir continue to be deprived of numerous basic freedoms, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday, before urging the Indian authorities “to unlock the situation”.
Children attend class in open at a government middle school, Rajouri district, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Credit: UNICEF/Syed Altaf Ahmad
The appeal over the territory – which both India and Pakistan claim as sovereign - follows months of escalating tensions linked to earlier suicide attacks and the Indian Government’s decision in August to revoke majority-Muslim Kashmir’s special status, which for decades had allowed it partial autonomy.
At the time of the Indian Government decision, five UN-appointed independent rights experts warned that it had led to tighter central Government control, restrictions on peaceful protests and a communications blackout.
Curfew ‘still in place in large parts’ of Kashmir valley
In Geneva on Tuesday, spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville acknowledged that an “undeclared curfew” had been lifted from much of Jammu and Ladakh regions within a few days.
But he noted that it was reportedly still in place “in large parts of the Kashmir Valley, preventing the free movement of people, as well as hampering their ability to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and restricting their rights to health, education and freedom of religion and belief.”
Highlighting several allegations of excessive use of force against protesters that involved the use of “pellet-firing shotguns, tear gas and rubber bullets”, Mr. Colville said that there had also been unconfirmed reports of “at least six civilian killings and scores of serious injuries”, in separate incidents since the Indian Government declaration on 5 August across Jammu and Kashmir.
The Office of the High Commissioner had also received reports that armed groups in Indian-administered Kashmir have threatened some residents trying to work or go to school, the OHCHR spokesperson said.
In addition, “at least another six people have been killed and over a dozen injured in alleged attacks by armed group members, since 5 August”.
Web access blocked, politicians detained
And although restrictions on landline telephones were eventually lifted, and a state-run telecom company allowed to resume partial mobile phone services, all internet services remain blocked in the Kashmir valley, Mr. Colville insisted.
In line with the Indian Government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s partial self-rule, two separate federally-administered Union Territories are to be created this Thursday, the OHCHR Spokesperson explained, adding that “hundreds of political and civil society leaders” had been detained “on a preventative basis”.
While some political workers have reportedly been released, most senior leaders – especially those from the Kashmir Valley – remain in detention, he said.
#Protests, #Politicians, #GlobalProtests
New York, Oct 26 (Canadian-Media): Protests in cities across the world in recent days show that “people are hurting and want to be heard” by political leaders who must now address a “growing deficit of trust”, said the UN chief on Friday.
Speaking to correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York, António Guterres said that although “every situation is unique” there are common underlying factors which constitute “rising threats to the social contract” between citizens and the political class.
“People want a level playing field, including social, economic and financial systems that work for all”, together with respect for their human rights and a real say in decisions that affect them, Mr. Guterres added.
Current or recent demonstrations and protests have raged in the streets of Bolivia, Chile, Hong Kong, Ecuador, Egypt, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq and Lebanon, said the UN human rights office (OHCHR), briefing reporters in Geneva earlier in the day.
Major protests earlier in the year were also seen in Algeria, Honduras, Nicaragua, Malawi, Russia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Protests, rights violations
OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said the UN had received reports of police using force against protesters in Bolivia following disputed election results this week, including tear gas, and she called on all actors, “including political leaders and their followers, to exercise restraint in order to reduce tensions”.
There was a similar message for politicians in Baghdad, where at least 157 have been killed and nearly 5,500 injured across Iraq. There are “credible reports” of serious rights violations including killing of unarmed protesters, and excessive use of force, combined with Government repression of information.
In Chile, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet – twice elected president there – said on Thursday her office would send a team of three officers to the country to establish the facts behind allegations of rights abuses, following days of protests over inequality, the rising cost of living, and a declared state of emergency.
And in Lebanon, the “biggest spontaneous protests in over a decade” have continued, despite a package of anti-corruption reforms announced by the Prime Minister, said Ms. Shamdasani: “Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters from all walks of life and confessions, continue to unleash anger across the country, against what they perceive to be decades of corruption and government mismanagement.”
‘No excuse for violence’ - UN chief
Mr. Guterres said he was “deeply concerned that some protests have led violence and loss of life”. Governments have an obligation to uphold free expression and peaceful assembly, and to “safeguard civic space”.
But while security forces needed to use maximum restraint, it is also incumbent on protesters “to follow the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and other champions of non-violent change”, added the UN chief.
“There can be no excuse for violence – from any quarter. Above all I urge leaders everywhere to listen to the real problems of real people. Our world needs action and ambition, to build fair globalization, strengthen social cohesion and tackle the climate crisis.”
He concluded with a final note of advice to those in power, from Algeria, to Zimbabwe: “With solidarity and smart policies, leaders can show they ‘get it’ - and point the way to a more just world.”
New York, Oct 24 (Canadian-Media): The international community has a responsibility and legal obligation to compel Israel to end its 52 year-long “occu-annexation” of Palestinian territory and remove barriers preventing Palestinian self-determination, a UN independent human rights expert told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Children walk on road in Gaza, where the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) maintain food assistance to over one million Palestine refugees. Credit: World Bank/Natalia Cieslik
Michael Lynk made the call in his latest report on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
“The status quo of Israel’s ‘occu-annexation’ is endlessly sustainable without decisive international intervention because of the grossly asymmetrical balance of power on the ground,” said Mr. Lynk, a Special Rapporteur who advises the UN Human Rights Council on the issue.
“Accountability is the key to opening the titanium cage that is the permanent occupation. The international community has issued countless resolutions and declarations critical of the never-ending Israeli occupation. The time has long past to match these criticisms with effective consequences.”
To remedy this, Mr. Lynk recommended that the international community should devise a list of effective countermeasures which would be “appropriate and proportional” to the circumstances.
His report outlines some modern examples of applying pressure, such as diplomatic public statements, trade sanctions, flight bans, travel restrictions and reduction or suspension of aid.
“Should Israel remain unmoved, (the international community) should apply and escalate the range of its targeted countermeasures until compliance had been achieved,” he said.
Mr. Lynk said the occupation is the longest in the modern world. It has been characterized by what he described as “a strong sense of impunity” by Israel.
“This occupation will not die of old age,” he stated.
“Palestinians, along with Israelis of conscience, have been asking repeatedly for the international community to act decisively in support of international law to compel Israel to end the occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination. We can’t afford to ignore their call.”
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
New York, Oct 22 (Canadian-Meda): The top UN human rights official is calling for politicians and civil society in Chile to engage in “immediate dialogue” to resolve the deadly crisis which has gripped the nation in recent days.
Photo caption and credit: Diana Leal
At least eight people have died and more than 40 have been injured in protests against rising inequality. The demonstrations began last week following a proposal to increase public transportation fares, which was later scrapped.
There needs to be open and sincere dialogue by all actors concerned to help resolve this situation, including a profound examination of the wide range of socio-economic issues underlying the current crisis,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Monday.
She added that: “It is essential that all actions, by the authorities and by protestors, that have led to injury or death, are subjected to independent, impartial and transparent investigations.”
Ms. Bachelet warned against the use of “inflammatory rhetoric” which she said will only further aggravate the situation.
The unrest prompted Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Saturday to declare a state of emergency in the capital, Santiago, which has since been extended to other cities.
The UN rights chief said any application of the state of emergency “must be exceptional and rooted in law” and that the authorities must act in according with international human rights standards.
“There are disturbing allegations of excessive use of force by security and armed forces, and I am also alarmed by reports that some detainees have been denied access to lawyers, which is their right, and that others have been mistreated while in detention,” said Ms. Bachelet, who noted that members of the security forces are also reported among the injured.
The High Commissioner called on the Chilean Government to work with all sectors of society “to find solutions that can help calm the situation and address the grievances of the population”.
She called on those planning to take part in any protests to do so peacefully.
The UN Country team in Chile has also expressed concern following violence in the capital this past weekend, where several deaths were reported in fires at looted supermarkets. The team lamented the high number of people injured in these incidents, as well as the damage and losses sustained.
Echoing the High Commissioner, the UN system in Chile recalled that states of emergency must be applied in strict compliance with the rule of law and international human rights standards.
Protesters take to the streets of Santiago, Chile.
United Nations, Oct 23 (Canadian-Media): States and companies are “failing” when it comes to combating online hate, the UN independent rights expert, or Special Rapporteur, on freedom of speech and expression said on Monday, ahead of the launch of a landmark report to reinforce legal standards for internet spaces.
Governments and Internet companies are failing to meet challenges of online hate. Credit: Unsplash/Priscilla du Preez
Cautioning that hate speech runs the risk of being devalued as a term, David Kaye stressed the real dangers posed by a lack of consistent policy when it comes to monitoring and stamping out hate speech in the digital age.
“The prevalence of online hate poses challenges to everyone, first and foremost the marginalised individuals who are its principal targets,” said Mr. Kaye, in the report to be presented to the UN General Assembly today.
“Unfortunately, States and companies are failing to prevent ‘hate speech’ from becoming the next ‘fake news’, an ambiguous and politicised term subject to governmental abuse and company discretion.”
UN experts addressed the scourge in an open letter last month, warning that hate speech, both online and offline has “exacerbated societal and racial tensions, inciting attacks with deadly consequences around the world” and highlighted the correlation between exposure to hate speech and number of crimes committed as a result.
The prevalence of online hate first and foremost challenges marginalized individuals, Mr. Kaye said. These individuals “are its principal targets.”
In June the Secretary-General put forth a new plan to identify and confront the growing scourge, which Mr. Guterres noted was launched at a time of a groundswell in xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism.
Moreover, “hateful and destructive views” are amplified “exponentially” through digital technology, he warned.
The UN Strategy and Plan of Action targets the root causes of hate speech - from violence, marginalization, discrimination and poverty, and advises bolstering weak national institutions.
Echoing the UN Chief, Mr. Kaye stressed that “online hate is no less harmful because it is online...To the contrary, online hate, with the speed of reach of its dissemination, can incite grave offline harm...The question is not whether to address such abuse. It is how to do so in a way that respects the rights everyone enjoys.”
Rooted in human rights
The Monday report urges States meet their obligations by rooting their efforts in rights’ treaties and international human rights law, in accordance with the UN Human Rights Committee, and the 2013 Rabat Plan of Action, a framework by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) which aims to clarify State obligations prohibiting incitement of hatred and discrimination.
New laws imposing liability on companies “are failing basic standards” Mr. Kaye said, and companies are not “taking seriously their responsibilities to respect human rights”, despite hate speech fermenting on their platforms.
The roadmap to tackling online hate in the new report also underscores the impact of leaving human rights best practices out of company culture.
“The human rights community has had a long-term conversation with social media and other companies in the Internet economy,” the independent expert said, “and yet the companies remain stubbornly committed to policies that fail to articulate their actions according to basic norms of human rights law.”
The landmark report comes at a time when social media giant Facebook, which owns other popular social platform, Instagram, has reportedly been pushed to address violent content spreading on its services, in addition to false news reports and disinformation, which has prompted discussion around the role of social media overall in the spread of hate messages.
“The companies’ failure to recognise their power and impact, and to value shareholders over public interest, must end immediately,” Kaye said. “This report gives the companies the tools to change course.”
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
#Kartarpur, #KartarpurCorridor, #KartarpurPilgrims, #GuruNanak, #Pakistan, #India
New Delhi: The Indian government on Monday asked Pakistan not to levy USD 20 fee on pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara through the highly anticipated Kartarpur corridor.
Image credit: UNI
The Government has taken the initiative to put in place the state of art infrastructure and open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji so that the pilgrims from India and those holding Overseas Citizen of India Card can undertake visit to the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, currently in Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday.
“It is a matter of disappointment that while understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continue to insist on levying a service fee of USD 20 per pilgrim per visit. Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee,” the MEA said.
In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalisation of the Corridor in time before the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak falling on 12 November 2019, Government on Monday conveyed that we would be ready to sign the Agreement on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 23 October 2019.
“While agreeing to sign the Agreement, the Government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the Agreement accordingly at any time,” it said.
What is the Kartarpur Corridor?
Kartarpur is a small town in district Narowal, 4 km from the Pakistan- India border, where the founder of the Sikh religion, Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.
Subsequently, Gurdwara Darbar Sahab was built at the site on the Pakistan side and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak in India, which are visited by thousands of Sikhs every year.
As per the Pakistan Foreign Office statement released earlier: “Opening the corridor will allow Sikh Yatrees ease of access for their most reverential place of worship which has been their longstanding demand. This is also reflective of the importance and primacy that Pakistan gives to all minorities.”
(Published first in India Blooms News Services)
United Nations, Oct 20 (Canadian-Media): Authorities in Egypt are being urged by the UN human rights office, OHCHR, to immediately release scores of citizens who have been arrested in connection with recent anti-government demonstrations in several cities.
OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani: UN Multimedia
Civil society groups report more than 2,000 people were detained before, during and after the protests on 20 September, which prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to express concern about reports of lack of due process.
On Friday her office reported that the arrests are continuing, with a number of well-known and respected civil society figures affected, some of whom have been accused of terrorism.
“Once again, we remind the Egyptian Government that under international law people have a right to protest peacefully, and a right to express their opinions, including on social media. They should never be arrested, detained – let alone charged with serious offences such as terrorism – simply for exercising those rights”, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva.
Prominent members of civil society detained
Ms. Shamdasani provided information about some of the detainees, who include Esraa Abdelfattah, a journalist and human rights defender based in the capital, Cairo, who was arrested on 12 October.
Plainclothes security officers took her to an undisclosed location where she reportedly was beaten for refusing to unlock her mobile phone. She was also allegedly forced to stand facing a wall for seven hours after her phone was unlocked through enforced use of her fingers or thumb, thus allowing it to be searched.
Ms. Abdelfattah appeared before a prosecutor the following day and was given 15 days’ detention pending investigation on charges that include collaborating with a terrorist organization and "defamation and the spread of false news".
“We call on the Egyptian authorities to promptly and effectively investigate any allegations of torture or ill-treatment in detention and to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent such acts”, Ms. Shamdasani said.
Prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah as well as his lawyer, Mohammed El-Baqer are currently being held at the Tora Maximum Security Prison, south of Cairo.
Both have been accused of belonging to a terrorist group, funding terrorism, spreading false news that undermines national security and “using social media to commit publishing offices”, the UN human rights office said.
Mr. Abdel Fattah has been arrested and jailed previously. He was released from prison in March 2019 after serving a five-year sentence for organizing a protest without permission and is required to spend each night in a prison cell.
Security forces arrested Mr. Abdel Fattah on 29 September when he reported to a Cairo police station to fulfill his probation conditions. He allegedly was blindfolded, forced to strip down to his underwear and walk down a prison corridor while being beaten on his back and neck.
Mr. El-Bager was arrested that same day while attending his client’s interrogation at the State Security Prosecution. Since that time, he allegedly has been subjected to physical and verbal abuse, in addition to being denied access to drinking water, sanitation and medical assistance.
“All those arrested and detained solely for exercising their rights, or lending legal assistance to others who have been arrested, should be released immediately,” Ms. Shamdasani stated.
OHCHR also called on the authorities to “promptly and effectively” investigate any allegations of torture or ill-treatment.
New York, Oct 11 (Canadian-Media): The world’s one billion young girls, are being celebrated on Friday as an “unscripted and unstoppable” force for change, with 11 October designated each year the International Day of the Girl Child, UN reports said.
Every day, girls under-18 are challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers, and leading movements to tackle the issues that affect them, and beyond, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the Day.
“As the theme of this year’s observance underscores, they are proving to be unscripted and unstoppable” in their undertakings, from eliminating child marriage, to closing the education gap, addressing violence and standing strong against the climate crisis.
The Day is an opportunity to recognize developments in the livelihoods of girls since the adoption of a visionary blueprint for the empowerment of women and girls in 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which grew out of a meeting involving some 30,000 men and women at the Fourth World Conference on Women, in China.
Since the landmark policy agenda was put into force, Mr. Guterres highlighted that “we have seen more girls attending and completing school, fewer getting married or becoming mothers while still children themselves, and gaining the skills they need to excel in the workplace.”
Figures from the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF) indicate that in the past decade, the proportion of young women who were married as children has decreased by 15 per cent, and from the year 2000 to 2016, the number of girls out of school at the primary level, fell from 58 to 34 million.
Yet, many are still barred from reaching their full potential, and “it is no longer acceptable for girls to have to scale-back their dreams or be made to believe they were unreachable in the first place,'' the UN chief urged.
Harmful gender norms can take hold of girls’ livelihoods, as they “influence everything they do”, Mr. Guterres noted. Such expectations dictate their marriages, limit school attendance, access to health services or earning a living, among other vital aspects of their lives.
A number of factors have a tight grip on their futures, with 200 million girls and women subjected to female genital mutilation worldwide, women and girls representing three of every four trafficking victims, and for those living in crises, the protracted nature of conflict can affect the future of entire generations, according to UNICEF.
Shortfalls in education mean youth growing up in conflict will also be deprived of skills to contribute to their families and economies, exacerbating desperate situations and spiraling into crisis. However for every year of secondary schooling a girl receives, her earning ability is boosted by as much as 25 per cent.
To ensure a bright future for all young girls, “we need concerted efforts and investments in their health, safety and 21st-Century skills,'' the Secretary-General said.
“If all girls and boys complete secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. The benefits unfold across generations”, he explained.
Efforts to empower girls around the world were reinforced on Friday, through the announcement of a multi-year partnership between UNICEF and a skincare brand to support the agency’s Gender Equality Program.
Clé de Peau Beauté, a luxury skincare and makeup brand of Tokyo-based Shiseido Company Limited, pledged the world’s largest contribution of $8.7 million to fund the initiative, making it the first ever Japanese brand to commit to a multi-year effort with UNICEF for girls' empowerment and education.
The beauty brand’s contribution will reach some 6.5 million girls through programs in empowerment, employment and education, which UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, has deemed “one of the best ladders out of poverty.”
On 10 October, rights experts in Geneva applauded the efforts of girls and young women around the world, calling youth activism, spearheaded by girls, a means of bringing about “a fresh energy and renewed sense of urgency” to issues than generations before them, and they are earning their recognition.
Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel laureate at the age of 17; 16-year-old Greta Thunberg grabbed world attention this year through her commitment to combating climate change, and Autumn Peltier, the 13-year-old indigenous girl and clean water advocate, has been nominated for a global peace prize.
Evidence is mounting that “girls can be powerful agents of change”, Mr. Guterres stressed, “and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life.”