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Pillay appeals for restraint, investigations in wake of escalating violence in Egypt

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 27, 2014 –UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday said she was gravely concerned about the escalating violence in Egypt in recent days that has led to scores of people being killed and injured. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay She called for a prompt investigation into the incidents that led to the regrettable loss of lives, and appealed on all sides to exercise restraint. “After the recent reprehensible terrorist attacks led to the loss of life and injuries, at least 62 people were killed in Cairo on Saturday,” the High Commissioner said. “I call on all sides to renounce the use of violence. Security forces have a duty to respect the right to peaceful protest, and it is important that Egyptian authorities comply with their international obligation to ensure that all Egyptians can exercise their rights to free assembly and freedom of expression without fear of violence or arrest. Demonstrators must also ensure that their protests remain peaceful.” The High Commissioner stressed that security forces in Egypt must at all times operate in line with international human rights laws and standards on the use of force, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which contain detailed guidelines governing the use of live ammunition.* Pillay also condemned the violent attacks against police and security forces. “The people of Egypt have the right to go about their lives without fear of violence,” she said. “I call on the Egyptian authorities to carry out prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the killings, to make the findings public and to bring to justice those responsible in accordance with international human rights standards.” The High Commissioner expressed concern about reports that numerous people have been arrested in connection with protests, stressing that those detained should either be promptly released or charged with a recognisable criminal offence and brought to justice in accordance with international standards. *Principle 9 of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states that: “Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”

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Mauritania: Follow-up mission by UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 23, 2014 –United Nations Special Rapporteur on slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, will undertake a follow-up mission to Mauritania from 27 to 30 January 2014, to assess new developments since her first country visit in 2009 and the initiatives taken by the Government in response to her recommendations*. United Nations Special Rapporteur on slavery Gulnara Shahinian “This visit will allow me to discuss the adoption of the road map to ending slavery in Mauritania, which was prepared in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Ms. Shahinian said. “Its adoption and implementation would be a milestone towards the eradication of slavery in the country,” stressed the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate on contemporary forms of slavery includes issues such as forced and bonded labour, worst forms of child labour, servile marriages and domestic servitude. During her four-day visit to Nouakchott, Ms. Shahinian will hold discussions with government representatives, as well as non-governmental organizations, trade unions, community members and others working in the area of combatting all forms of slavery. The Special Rapporteur is visiting Mauritania at the invitation of the Government. The visit’s findings and recommendations will be presented at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014. A press conference will be held in Nouakchott at the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur’s visit – on Thursday, 30 January 2014 with additional information to follow. (*) Check the 2010 report on Mauritania by the Special Rapporteur Gulnara Shahinian:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/CountryVisits.aspx

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Un Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos to visit South Sudan

UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos is scheduled to visit South Sudan from 27 to 29 January 2014 to draw attention to the humanitarian consequences of the current crisis and to mobilize further support for vital aid efforts.

Under-Secretary-General f…

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Ceasefire agreement signed in South Sudan

OSLO, Norway, January 23, 2014 –“Norway welcomes the ceasefire agreement in South Sudan. It is crucial that the parties now keep strictly to these agreements. Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende All hostilities must cease at once and civilians must get access to humanitarian assistance,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende. The conflicting parties – the Government of South Sudan, and a delegation representing former Vice President Riek Machar – have today taken an important step towards reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict. The ceasefire agreement was brokered by mediators from the regional organisation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), with Ethiopia playing a facilitator role and hosting the talks in Addis Ababa. “The ceasefire agreement is essential for ensuring that humanitarian assistance can reach the many people affected by the conflict, who are in dire need of protection, food, drinking water, medical assistance and shelter. The UN and its peace mission UNMISS are playing a key role in the efforts to stabilise the situation in South Sudan. I would like to express Norwayʼs full support of UNMISS in this context,” said Mr Brende. The current crisis in South Sudan began in mid-December last year, as a result of growing internal divisions in the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The hostilities have resulted in widespread devastation and massive humanitarian needs. According to UN estimates, several thousand people have been killed and almost half a million have been forced to flee from their homes. “The parties must quickly negotiate the next step, which is to establish a broad and inclusive political process, with civil society organisations – including women’s rights organisations – playing a central role. A process of this kind can pave the way for more robust democratic development, allowing the underlying causes of this serious crisis to be addressed. Norway stands ready to support these efforts,” said Mr Brende.

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Burma mobs ‘kill 30 Rohingyas’

More than 30 Rohingya Muslims were killed in attacks by Buddhists last week in Burma’s Rakhine state, the BBC has been told. The attacks were said to have taken place near the town of Maungdaw Two international aid officials who were granted access to the area in the far west of the country said they had found evidence of a mass killing. Human rights group Fortify Rights claims a series of attacks took place over five days last week. The government and local officials have strongly denied claims of a massacre. Revenge attacks The latest development follows reports of clashes between Rohingyas and the police in the Maungdaw township over the past month. It is thought tensions initially arose amid reports that several Rohingyas had been killed trying to flee over the border into Bangladesh. Things escalated after a local policeman was reported missing, presumed killed. Local Rakhine Buddhists aided by the security forces are then reported to have taken part in bloody revenge attacks in and around the village of Du Char Yar Tan. The death toll of 30 is thought to be a conservative estimate, says the BBC’s Jonah Fisher in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. Some reports say as many as 70 people – including women and children – were killed. The UN’s humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has called on the government to allow aid workers into the area and to “immediately launch an impartial investigation” into the events. The Rohingya people are considered stateless and are rejected by both Burma and neighbouring Bangladesh, our correspondent says. At least 200 people were killed in fierce clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state in 2012. Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims remain displaced in the wake of that violence, many still living in camps. Sporadic outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence continued throughout 2013 in other parts of Burma as well. BBC

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Good governance remains bedrock of transformation

We in Tanzania and other people elsewhere in the world are now living witnesses to the collapse of authoritarian and unpopular regimes. If there is a political revolution going on throughout the world, it’s what might be called the …

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Pope Benedict XVI defrocked 400 priests over child abuse

Close to 400 priests were defrocked in only two years by the former Pope Benedict XVI over claims of child abuse, the Vatican has confirmed. The Vatican initially rejected the report, but later confirmed the figures The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase compared with previous years, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press (AP). The file was part of Vatican data collected for a UN hearing on Thursday. It was the first time the Holy See was publicly confronted over the sexual abuse of children by clergy. Church officials at the hearing in Geneva faced a barrage of hard questions covering why they were withholding data and what they were doing to prevent future abuse. Victims’ advocates complained there was still too little transparency. ‘Shame of the Church’ Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi initially said the AP report had been based on a mistaken reading of data. But he later retracted his statement, confirming to the BBC that the story was correct. The latest statistics reveal the number of priests defrocked in 2011 and 2012 was more than double the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided figures. The Vatican also sent another 400 cases to either be tried by a Church tribunal or to be dealt with administratively, AP reports. Benedict, who was elected in 2005, took the helm as the scandal of child sex abuse by priests was breaking. The flood of allegations, lawsuits and official reports into clerical abuse reached a peak in 2009 and 2010, which observers say may explain the spike shown in the document. The Holy See is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally binding instrument which commits it to protecting and nurturing the most vulnerable in society. It ratified the convention in 1990 but after an implementation report in 1994 it did not submit any progress reports until 2012, following revelations of child sex abuse in Europe and beyond. Last month, the Vatican refused a request from the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child for data on abuse, on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings. In a homily on Thursday, Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, called abuse scandals “the shame of the Church”. He announced in December that a Vatican committee would be set up to fight sexual abuse of children in the Church. Agencies

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Secretary-General, fearing same-sex marriage ban may fuel prejudice, violence in Nigeria, ‘Strongly Hopes’ for review of new law’s…

NEW YORK, January 16, 2014 – The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon The Secretary-General shares the deep concern expressed yesterday by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, following the recent signing into law of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in Nigeria. The law introduces a wide range of offences, in breach of fundamental human rights, including 14-year jail terms for same-sex couples who live together or attempt to solemnize their union with a ceremony. The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them. As the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Global Fund noted in a statement yesterday, the law also risks obstructing effective responses to HIV/AIDS. The Secretary-General reiterates that everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination. This fundamental principle is embedded in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Secretary-General strongly hopes that the constitutionality of the law can be reviewed. The United Nations stands ready to assist Nigeria in any way to bring about constructive dialogue and change on this matter.

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Repeating ‘Never Again’ after atrocity ‘A Sign of Continued Failure’, Deputy Secretary-General says at event on Rwanda genocide

NEW YORK, January 16, 2014 – Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the event on the Rwandan Genocide, in New York today: UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson I am deeply honoured to have been invited to speak at this event at the United Nations and in this year that so sadly marks the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. We all recall that our honoured guest today, Senator Roméo Dallaire, as Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Rwanda, sounded the alarm about the frightening developments in the country. As we all know, he did not receive the response he needed and, above all, the response which the people of Rwanda needed, as we have just heard so movingly from Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana [Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States]. Others, too, tried to alert and mobilize the international community. In 1993, a United Nations Special Rapporteur warned that all the precursors of genocide were visible in Rwanda. But, the United Nations system and the world were not able to stop the events unfolding on the ground. The consequences of failing to heed the warning signs were monumentally horrifying. We must never forget the collective failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide. Repeating the phrase “never again” is, in itself, a sign of continued failure. Over the years, there have been several proposals to improve action by the United Nations in the face of grave crimes and violations of human rights. Some of these recommendations emerged from two landmark exercises in self-scrutiny: the 1999 Independent Inquiry on United Nations Action in Rwanda, and the United Nations Secretariat’s 1999 review of the fall of Srebrenica. One of the first areas in which we saw progress was on criminal accountability for atrocity crimes. The Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda to prosecute alleged perpetrators. We also now have a permanent body, the International Criminal Court, as the centrepiece of the global system designed to deal with these horrendous crimes. Trials by domestic justice systems have also confirmed the primary duty of States to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses. In September 2005, Member States endorsed the concept of Responsibility to Protect. I was very proud to be the President of the General Assembly at that time. In recent years we have also taken steps to strengthen genocide prevention, conflict resolution, the protection of civilians, the rule of law and human rights mechanisms. …

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Rights activists oppose Kenya’s bid to get UN seat

Civil society activists are opposed to Kenya’s plans to vie for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC). Ken Wafula, President of the National Association of Human Rights Activists Ken Wafula, President of the National Association of Human Rights Activists, argued that Kenya is not fit to be elected to the council following the ongoing cases at The Hague. “The President and his deputy are facing trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Therefore, for the country to campaign for a seat at the UNSC, it will be against the principles of national justice,” said Wafula. He noted that Kenya’s move is not noble. “Kenya had reached the UNSC to have The Hague cases deferred for a period of one year, which was denied. There are no guarantees that once they are elected, they will not pursue this deferral,” he said. He noted that if the bid is successful, Kenya will use its position to undermine the ICC cases. “Kenya is not seeking the seat at the UNSC for the purposes of serving the world but rather to interfere with the Fatou Bensouda’s cases,” he said. He added: “Kenya should be patient until ICC cases are concluded regardless of the outcome then they can vie for a non-permanent seat at the security council.” The umbrella body for human rights defenders said they will lobby UN member states in an effort to ensure that Kenya is not elected during the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in 2016. Wafula said Kenya should sort out its domestic security first before seeking to serve the world in a UN organ charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. “The country’s security situation is deteriorating. It beats logic for them to vie for a position at the security council when they are unable to provide adequate security for people,” he said. “You are supposed to have the best security practices while at the council, which practices will Kenya share to the world?” By ABIGAEL SUM, The Standard

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Genocide memory through the eyes of ex-combatants

Walking into Kanombe, in Kigali’s Kicukiro District, one sees an individual being pushed up a dirt road in a wheelchair. The person pushing him is missing some fingers, extending his scarred stump as he introduces himself. One of the residents of Nyarugunga Village. Sunday Times/Kim Harrisberg Further down the road sits three friends in a circle, all in wheelchairs and all so engrossed in their conversation they do not notice the light raindrops that have begun to fall on them. Under the canopy of a nearby patio sits an elderly man, also wheelchair-bound, his one leg propped up as he studies the pages of the bible in his hand with a steady and devoted gaze. His friend leans against the wall, weighing heavily on a crutch for support. This is the makeshift family of the Nyarugunga settlement site, where members make up some of the over 4000 disabled ex-combatants currently supported by the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC). Twenty years after the Genocide, two neighbours of this village can include an ex-RPF soldier and an ex-FAR soldier; previous enemies who now live side-by-side. Twenty years on   This week, the Kwibuka Flame was lit, beginning a three-month tour of remembrance through the 30 districts of Rwanda before the country begins the national mourning period on April 7, which will be happening for the 20th time since the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. One of those districts will be Kicukiro, notorious for the mass murders that followed the UN abandonment of thousands of desperate Tutsis. Today, the district carries a different meaning for the Nyarugunga community members. The three Nyarugunga Settlement sites set up by the RDRC have become a home to those who fought in previous Rwandan wars. What will the Kwibuka Flame mean to those who were once enemies? “People cannot believe it when we tell them that all ex-combatants now see one another as friends,” says Jean Sayinzoga, the chairman of RDRC. “There is no special treatment for RPF soldiers; everyone is seen as equal and will receive the same benefits”. The benefits include medical care, skills training, and financial assistance and job recommendations. One might expect a village filled with ex-combatants to be a place of trauma, aggression and bad memories. But instead, united in both suffering and tenacity, these men and women have become “brothers” and “sisters” to one another. “Free for the first time” “We are all in the same boat,” says Adolphe Sakindi who is wheelchair-bound, and has been for the past twenty years. “It was my wish to fight for my country in 1994, and so I joined the RPF. I was shot in the back and lost my ability to walk since,” he said. For the past five years Sakindi has been a part of the Nyarugunga community. And before that? “I have been in hospital,” he says, matter-of-factly. Severely affected by his injury, Sakindi has been bed ridden and plagued with bed sores and pains. Trapped by his disability, he missed out on the years of his life when he could have started a family. “I have no wife and no children, only an older sister who stays with me in the village,” he said. When asked about the fact that his fellow community members may, in principle, be those that shot at him twenty years ago, Sakindi is resolute. …

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Ethiopian Returnees from Saudi Arabia Top 151,000

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 10, 2014 –Two months after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) started its crackdown on irregular migration, the operation to repatriate Ethiopian irregular migrants from the Kingdom continues, with over 151,000 already returned home. Since the outset IOM has provided the returnees, over a third of whom are women and children, with emergency medical assistance, food, essential items for those in dire need, and reintegration allowances to help people to return to their areas of origin. Some 339 Unaccompanied Minors (UAMs) have been reunited with their families by IOM, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. Some 60 UAMs are still awaiting family reunification at an IOM transit centre. IOM’s health team, together with government and other partners are providing post-arrival health assistance, including psychological first aid, treatment and referrals both at the airport and in the transit center. IOM has appealed for USD 20.15 million to pay for post-arrival assistance to the returnees. While many donors have come forward to assist, the operation still faces a funding shortfall of USD 12.35 million. Current donors include CERF-OCHA, HRF-OCHA, ECHO-ERM, Plan International, Indian Business Forum, Irish Embassy and IOM’s US-based partner, the US Association for International Migration (USAIM). USAIM this week received USD 30,000 from the Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia. In-kind assistance has also been received from International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, Plan International, MSF Spain, Ethiopian Red Cross Society, ICRC, VEDIKA Ethiopia Telugu – Association, Association of French in Ethiopia (ADFE), and Medhanialem Church Fellow Members Association.