Sunday, November 29, 2015

Senate Hearing on U.S. Role in the Middle East

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. role in the Middle East. 12/3/15, 9 am, S-116 U.S. Capitol.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office



November 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Landmark Ruling in Bermuda on Same-Sex Relationships

The Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a landmark decision on November 27, 2015 finding that persons in same-sex relationships with Bermudians should have the same rights as opposite-sex spouses of Bermudians to live in Bermuda and to seek employment there.

The decision delivered by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley was in a case brought in February 2015 by the Bermuda Bred Company against the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General of Bermuda. The company was seeking a declaration that same-sex partners were entitled to the same treatment as wives and husbands under the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 as read with Section 5 of the Human Rights Act 1981.

The parties agreed that Bermudians in stable, long-term same-sex relationships (whether unmarried or legally married in the United States) had no right to have their same-sex partners residing and working in Bermuda. This makes it "emotionally and financially difficult for Bermudians who are gay and/or lesbian . . . to live in their own country while sustainging such relationships."

The court noted that Section 30B(1) of the Human Rights Act provides that the Human Rights Act should prevail over any contrary legislation (unless the other legislation specifically provides that the Human Rights Act should not prevail over a specific piece of legislation). Section 29 of the Human Rights Act also allows the Supreme Court to declare inoperative any statute that contravenes the Human Rights Act. And Section 2(a) of the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status.

The court also noted that the European Convention on Human Rights applies to Bermuda, and that the European Court of Human Rights had ruled on July 21, 2015 in Oliari v. Italy, Nos. 18766/11 and 36030/11, that Italy had contravened the right to family life under Article 8 of that Convention by failing to establish a statutory mechanism in Italy to recognize same-sex unions:

167. The court notes that the applicants in the present case, who are unable to marry, have been unable to have access to a specific legal framework (such as that for civil unions or registered partnerships) capable of providing them with the recognition of their status and guaranteeing to them certain rights relevant to a couple in a stable and committed relationship.

The court noted that the Oliveri decision against Italy showed a "positive international law duty under article 8 of the [European Convention on Human Rights] to create some coherent legal framework for the recognition of same-sex relationships formed by Bermudians." [Para. 90.]

The court thus declared inoperative those provisions of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act that would deny residential or employment rights to any person who had formed a stable same-sex relationship with a Bermudian. Although the decision in this particular case did not provide for recognition of same-sex marriage in Bermuda, it provides non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians the right to live and work in Bermuda.

Click here to read more about the decision.

Click here to read the decision.

h/t rw

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

November 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nigeria Urged to Stop Large-Scale Evictions

A United Nations human rights expert has called on the Nigerian Government to immediately end unlawful large-scale evictions that are threatening tens of thousands of people with homelessness even as the rainy season rages on, voicing alarm at the violence sometimes used by police. “There is no viable resettlement or alternative accommodation provided by authorities for affected individuals, and many fear further evictions as they lack security of tenure,” UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, warned in a statement.

She referred specifically to large-scale demolitions and evictions in the Badia neighbourhood of Lagos, the country’s largest city, which rendered thousands of people homeless. More than 30,000 people will lose their homes, businesses and livelihoods, if demolitions here continue as planned, she noted. “I am alarmed that over 10,000 people, including children, women and elders have been pushed out of their homes without prior notice in the middle of the rainy season, with police sometimes resorting to violence to carry out the evictions,” Ms. Farha said. “There was no consultation or discussion about alternative temporary housing options available to them. “More troubling yet is that two months later there are still hundreds of people sleeping in makeshift shelters or churches, facing routine harassment, with the situation getting worse every day, and without any adequate response by the local or federal authorities in line with their international human rights obligations.”

She stressed forced evictions invariably lead to homelessness due to a lack of affordable and adequate housing, in particular for people living in poverty or who have moved to cities to escape violence.

Unlawful forced evictions already struck an adjoining Lagos area in February 2013, displacing over 9,000 people, with one out of every three persons still homeless more than two years later. Two months after the latest evictions, neither the State or Federal authorities have responded yet to the concerns raised by those affected and their representatives even though the expert raised the issue with the Government last month.

“I urge all levels of Government in Nigeria to immediately halt these unlawful evictions which are causing massive homelessness and ensure that those affected have access to just and effective remedies, including compensation,” she concluded.

Special Rapporteurs, who are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization, are appointed by and report back to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 26, 2015


HappyThanksgivingHere in the United States, we are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today, a time to gather with family and friends and reflect on the blessings in one's life.  There is much research suggesting that an "attitude of gratitude" is beneficial to one's mental and physical health and may even lead to more peaceful outcomes by enhancing empathy and reducing aggressiveness.  So whether you are in the United States or not, may you take time today to reflect on and give thanks for the good in your life, whether that be family, friends, food, shelter, a job, or whatever makes you happy.  





November 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hearings on U.S. Strategy in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan

The House Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives announced that it will hold a hearing on U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria on December 1, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2118 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

And the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on strategy in Afghanistan on December 2, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office.


November 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ten NGOs Working on Human Rights in Burundi Have Been Suspended

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein deplored the Burundian authorities’ suspension of 10 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including several working on peace and human rights issues, warning against a relapse into “full-fledged civil war.” He said: “This suspension appears to be an attempt by Burundian authorities to silence dissenting voices and to limit the democratic space.”

Burundi has been in the midst of a political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term earlier this year.

The Commissioner also warned about the worsening human rights and security situation in Burundi, where the UN played a key role in restoring stability after decades of strife between Hutus and Tutsis, and the risk of regional repercussions.

In 2006 Burundi became the first post-conflict nation, along with Sierra Leone, to be referred to the UN Peacebuilding Commission, newly created to help countries avert relapsing into bloodshed, but now that relative stability is under serious threat.

“There is still a chance and hope that Burundi can avoid a full-fledged civil war. This is why I urge all actors involved in the current crisis to refrain from violence and to engage in a meaningful and truly inclusive dialogue,” Mr. Zeid said.

He noted that the number of people killed or forced to flee their homes continues to steadily grow, with 277 killed since April, including 41 since 7 November, when the president’s ultimatum for Burundians to hand in all weapons ended. More than 280,000 Burundians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries or have been internally displaced.

Targeted attacks are on the rise in areas previously considered safe, and are increasingly directed against the police and Government officials, he warned.

“Police presence is heavy in Bujumbura (the capital) and search operations continue in some neighbourhoods, often accompanied by killings, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and sometimes extortion as well,” he added.

Referring to the NGOs, Mr. Zeid noted that none of the five media outlets suspended in June pending investigation has been able to resume activities, and voiced fears that the suspension of the 10 groups, some of which dealt with alleged torture and the rights of women and children, will be similarly prolonged.

Since April, at least 15 heads of NGOs have been forced to flee after receiving threats against themselves or family members, and four NGO members have been killed, two by police and two by unidentified armed men.

One of the newly suspended NGOs is APRODH (Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons) led by Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who survived an assassination attempt in August and whose son and son-in-law were recently killed.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Police Are Assisting Mali After the Terror Attack in Bamako

United Nations police are providing Mali with support and technical expertise in the investigation of last Friday’s deadly terrorist attack on the Radisson hotel in Bamako, the West African country’s capital.

Already on the day of the “despicable terrorist attack,” a force from the security and safety section, the Quick Reaction Force, and police segment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was on site together with medical care personnel, ambulances and fire trucks to provide all possible aid, the Mission reported.

“I am impressed by the good coordination with the Malian Defence and Security Forces,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and MINUSMA head Mongi Hamdi said in a statement on the assault, in which at least 22 were killed – including the attackers – and dozens more were reportedly trapped for hours until the terrorists were overcome. “I want to renew my appreciation to our police officers from UNPOL (UN Police), to the UN Security personnel, and to all firefighters and rescuers who have joined forces with our Malian and international partners with a great deal of passion and professionalism. I finally salute the composure and courage of hotel guests and staff who had to overcome this ordeal.”

In all, 45 UN Police Officers (UNPOL) and 14 UN Security Officers were involved and Mr. Hamdi stressed that UNPOL support is still continuing the in follow-up investigation.

MINUSMA strongly condemns any action aiming to jeopardize the peace process and remains committed to support the people and Government of Mali in their efforts to bring back lasting peace to the country, the statement added.

Set up in 2013 to carry out security-related tasks and help to stabilize the country and implement a transitional roadmap following a coup and separatist and Islamist takeover of the north, the Mission currently deploys more than 9,000 military personnel, some 1,180 police and an equal number of civilians on the ground.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

20th Anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords

On the twentieth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the most devastating conflict in Europe since the Second World War, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the people and Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the consolidation of peace and political stability, as well as on the socio-economic progress achieved during the past twenty years.

“On this momentous occasion, the Secretary-General encourages the people, Government and all institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue their efforts to strengthen rule of law and to lay the conditions for a lasting and meaningful reconciliation in the country,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.

Mr. Ban noted that on 21 November 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords laid the foundations for a sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina and added that the General Framework Agreement for Peace remains the foundation for the country's unity and territorial integrity. He also said that the UN remains 'committed to continue supporting the people and Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina in their efforts to build a truly multi-ethnic society as well as a peaceful and prosperous future'.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy Thanksgiving!

HappyThanksgivingThanksgiving in is celebrated as a day of giving thanks. Traditionally associated with giving thanks for a successful harvest, the holiday is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.

Thanksgiving is also celebrated in various forms in some other countries around the world. The nation of Saint Lucia, for example, celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Monday in October (as in Canada). And Thanksgiving is celebrated on the first Thursday of November in Liberia, the West African country founded in 1820 by freed slaves from the United States.

No matter where in the world you are, we support a day when we give thanks.  So today we are grateful for all of our readers around the world and we extend to you our thanks and good wishes for your happiness.

The Editors

November 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

International Day to End Violence Against Women

Orange the world poster 2015November 25 is the International Day to End Violence Against Women.  According to the United Nations, 35% of women or 1 in 3, have experienced physical or sexual violence during their lifetimes - usually by an intimate partner.  It is estimated that 133 million women and girls have experienced some form of genital mutilation. Worldwide, 700 women alive today were married as children and 250 million of them were married before the age of 15. It is long past time to end these practices.

From today to Human Rights Day on December 10, the UN Women are urging engagement in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. This year  marks the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive road map to gender equality. World leaders met in March 2015 at the United Nations for the 59th Commission on the Status of Women and in September 2015 at the 70th UN General Assembly to take stock of the progress made and commit to take action to close the gaps that are holding women and girls back. The new Sustainable Development Agenda, which replaces the Millennium Development Goals, includes specific targets and indicators on ending violence against women for the firs time.  Goal 5 is to "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."



November 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

IACHR Publishes Report on "Access to Information, Violence Against Women, and the Administration of Justice in the Americas

The International Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report titled, Access to Information, Violence Against Women and Administration of Justice.  According to an IACHR press release:

"The report aims to provide an introduction to the challenges faced by women in the Americas in gaining adequate access to State-controlled information on violence and discrimination. It also seeks to systematize the international standards that have been developed in the inter-American system on this subject, and to identify good practices in the region with regard to the application of and compliance with those standards.

The right of access to information is closely related to the exercise of other human rights, and in that sense, the failure to comply with the obligations of respecting and guaranteeing women’s free access to information can be understood to lead to various violations of their rights to live free from violence and discrimination.

The IACHR has observed that even in States with institutionalized mechanisms for gathering, processing, and producing information on violence against women, often that information is not adequately disseminated. Likewise, the IACHR has noted that there is a widespread lack of coordination in the region between the various systems that coexist in the States for gathering and producing information, for example records kept by free legal aid offices, data collected by observatories on violence or discrimination, and mechanisms for compiling judicial statistics."

The IACHR has identified effective domestic implementation of international legal standards as a priority. According to the IACHR, "although the vast majority of countries in the region have constitutional and/or legal regulations in place on this matter, concrete information about the practical implementation and effectiveness of those regulations is not available, which makes it difficult to evaluate the level of compliance with State obligations." 

With respect to access to information in the realm of the administration of justice, the IACHR has identified the following are priority challenges: ensuring access by women and their family members to information on their pending violence or discrimination cases; the availability of appropriate and sufficient free legal aid services; and access to interpreters and information in other languages for women who do not speak the official State language, among other challenges.

The IACHR urges the Member States of the Organization of American States to adopt measures to guarantee the availability of high-quality free legal aid services, the training of justice operators and other public employees who are involved with violence-related issues, and the implementation of action protocols for cases in which violence is imminent. The Commission also reiterates its willingness to work with the States in their efforts in this sphere of protection which is so essential for women to be able to fully exercise their rights.


November 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 20, 2015

UN Security Council Calls for Destruction of the So-Called Islamic State's Safe Haven

UN Security CouncilThe United Nations Security Council this evening called on all countries that can do so to take the war on terrorism to Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq and destroy its safe haven, warning that the group intends to mount further terror attacks like those that devastated Paris and Beirut last week.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body declared the group’s terrorist attacks abroad “a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security” following the “horrifying terrorist attacks” it perpetrated recently in Sousse (Tunisia), Ankara (Turkey), over Sinai (Egypt) with the downing of a Russian plane, and in Beirut and Paris.

It warned that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Da’esh as it is also known, “has the capability and intention to carry out” further strikes and called upon “Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law” on its territory.

Condemning “in the strongest terms” ISIL and other terrorist groups in the region such Al-Nusrah Front, the Council Member States “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria.”

It called on Member States to intensify efforts to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and Syria and to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism, and reaffirmed that those responsible for terrorist acts, violations of international humanitarian law or violations or abuses of human rights must be held accountable.

It cited “the continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law, as well as barbaric acts of destruction and looting of cultural heritage” carried out by ISIL.

The resolution also expressed deepest condolences to the victims of the terrorist attacks and their families and to the people and Governments of Tunisia, Turkey, Russia, Lebanon and France, and to all Governments whose citizens were targeted in these attacks and all other victims of terrorism.

“By its violent extremist ideology, its terrorist acts, its continued gross systematic and widespread attacks directed against civilians, abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including those driven on religious or ethnic ground, its eradication of cultural heritage and trafficking of cultural property,” ISIL constitutes “a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security,” the Council stressed.

It also cited the group’s its control natural resources in Iraq and Syria and its “recruitment and training of foreign terrorist fighters whose threat affects all regions and Member States, even those far from conflict zones.”

(UN Press Release)

November 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S.-Mexican Migration

USA Today reports that from 2009 to 2014, approximately 870,000 Mexican nationals came to the United States. During that same period, more than one million Mexican nationals returned to Mexico. Migration from Mexico has reversed directions, with 130,000 more leaving the United States. [An] Historic Shift in Mexican Migration, USA Today, Nov. 20, 2015, at 2A.

The newspaper also reports today that most people fleeing to the United States are doing so to escape violence in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Alan Gomez, Central Americans Flee Mayhem Back Home: Most Aren't Coming to USA for Paycheck But to Stay Alive, USA Today, Nov. 20, 2015, at 15A.


November 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Secretary-General Condemns Attacks in Israel and the West Bank

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned yesterday’s terror attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank that killed five people, including three Israelis, a Palestinian and an American. In a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Mr. Ban expressed hopes for a full and speedy recovery for those injured and stressed that it is imperative to restore calm. “The Secretary-General calls upon all political, religious and community leaders to speak out against such brutal acts and refrain from incendiary language,” said the statement. Mr. Ban reiterated that only a ‘negotiated solution to the conflict can bring peace and security to the peoples of this troubled land.’

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

UNESCO Says No to Membership for Kosovo

Last week (before the terror attacks in Paris) a vote was held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Most of those voting favored membership for Kosovo, but the final vote fell two votes short of approving  membership for Kosovo.  The vote was 92 "yes" votes, 50 "no" votes, and 29 abstentions.  Kosovo needed two-thirds of those voting, or more than 94 "yes" votes. 

The defeat for Kosovo was seen as a victory for Serbia and Russia, which had lobbied against membership for Kosovo.  Reports are that Kosovo will try again to join UNESCO at the next general conference. Matthew Brunwasser, UNESCO Rejects Membership for Kosovo, N.Y. Times, Nov. 10, 2015, at A5.

UNESCO was created in 1945 to respond to the firm belief of nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation, that political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. Peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity.

UNESCO strives to build networks among nations that enable this kind of solidarity, by:

  • Mobilizing for education: so that every child, boy or girl, has access to quality education as a fundamental human right and as a prerequisite for human development.
  • Building intercultural understanding: through protection of heritage and support for cultural diversity. UNESCO created the idea of World Heritage to protect sites of outstanding universal value
  • Pursuing scientific cooperation: such as early warning systems for tsunamis or trans-boundary water management agreements, to strengthen ties between nations and societies.
  • Protecting freedom of expression: an essential condition for democracy, development and human dignity.

November 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trafficking in Cultural Property

Trafficking in cultural property has increasingly come to the attention of the international community and represents a source of enormous illicit profits, an official from UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stressed recently at a special event in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“In recent years, the world has witnessed the growing involvement of violent extremists and terrorists in the destruction, looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property, in complicity with organized criminal groups,” John Brandolino, the Director of UNODC’s Division for Treaty Affairs, told delegates attending a special event of the world’s largest anti-corruption forum.

“The challenges presented by this phenomenon are complex and multi-faceted, and clearly require responses at the national level as well as strong regional and international cooperation to meet them,” he added.

Mr. Brandolino said UNODC is honoured to be part of the global initiative recently launched at UN Headquarters in New York to protect cultural heritage and mobilize the international community against the trafficking and destruction of cultural property by terrorist groups and organized criminal networks.

“There is also growing awareness and evidence of the increasing involvement of organized criminal groups in the looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property,” he explained. “Such groups are also often involved in other types of crimes, such as illicit arms and drug trafficking, money-laundering, corruption and terrorism financing.”

According to UNODC, proceeds of transnational crime related to art and cultural property may amount to some 0.8 per cent of all illicit financial flows, between 3.4 and 6.3 billion dollars every year.

“Trafficking in cultural property is also used to launder the proceeds of crime, and has been identified as a source of financing for terrorist acts,” Mr Brandolino added. “This is clearly an urgent threat requiring the attention of the international community.”

In addition, he noted that there have been some relatively recent pronouncements on this subject by the UN community, including at the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Doha in April, as well as by the Security Council through a number of resolutions.

Meanwhile, he recalled that both the UN and the international community have some existing tools and frameworks available, such as the Hague convention of 1954, the UN Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Mr. Brandolino also  emphasized the importance of getting all organizations and national authorities represented at the forum to work together in addressing the challenges posed by the looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

November 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

News from Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility

The U.S. government announced today the transfer of five Yemeni nationals from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the United Arab Emerites (UAE). The men were arrested in 2001 by Pakistani and Afghan forces and turned over the the United States. They have been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade without charges.  After extensive review, the U.S. government has determined that the men no longer pose a security threat.  They are being transferred to the UAE rather than being returned to Yemen because of the ongoing conflict in Yemen and because of congressional opposition to the return of detainees to Yemen. 107 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Some of the detainees have been approved for transfer out of Guantanamo Bay for years, but have remained in the facility while the U.S. government found a country willing to accept them. One such man, Muhammadi Davilatov filed a habeas corpus petition many years ago. The U.S. court stayed his petition because the government represented to the court that he would be released expeditiously. He was not released, however.  The Center for  Constitutional Rights announced today it has filed a new habeas petition on Mr. Davilatov's behalf asking the court once again to order his release.



November 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

International Day of Tolerance

Tolerance is much more than passively accepting the “other;” it brings obligations to act, and must be taught, nurtured and defended, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling on the world to recognize the mounting threat posed by those who strive to divide, and pledge to forge a path defined by dialogue and mutual understanding.

“People are more connected – but this does not mean there is more understanding. Societies are ever more diverse – but intolerance is growing in many places,” said Mr. Ban in his message to mark the International Day for Tolerance, marked each year on 16 November.

The UN chief said that sectarian tensions can be found at the heart of many conflicts, with the rise of violent extremism, massive human rights violations, and cultural cleansing. Moreover, the biggest crisis of forced displacement since the Second World War has spawned hatred and xenophobia against refugees and others.

Emphasizing that tolerance requires investment by States in people, and in the fulfilment of their full potential through education, inclusion and opportunities, Mr. Ban called for building societies founded on respect for human rights, “where fear, distrust and marginalization are supplanted by pluralism, participation and respect for differences.”

“This is the message of the International Day of Tolerance – reflected in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, adopted in 1995, the Secretary-General said, adding that the same idea animates the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), which is being led forward by UNESCO across the world.

He also emphasized that the call “to practice tolerance” was written into the identity of the UN 70 years ago. “Today, in a world buffeted by turbulence and change, the Charter's summons remains a vital touchstone for our work,” declared Mr. Ban.

Echoing many of those sentiments, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stressed: “Tolerance is a new idea, one which we need now more than ever. It leads us to respect cultural diversity, ways of life and expressions of our own humanity. It is a necessary condition for peace and progress for all people in a diversified and ever-more connected world.”

UNESCO was founded 70 years ago on this very day on the basis that wars could be avoided if people learned to get to know each other better and understood that, “in the fertile diversity of their cultures, that which unites them is stronger than that which divides them,” emphasized Ms. Bokova.

She said that tolerance is a means of constructing peace; it accelerates innovation and creation, opening peoples' minds to other ways to view the world.

“When violent extremism spreads messages of hate and intolerance, both on the ground and on social media; when human beings suffer persecution, exclusion or discrimination on the basis of their religion or background; when economic crises accentuate social divides and stand in the way of acceptance of others, such as minorities, foreigners or refugees; we must offer up a different discourse, an open message which calls for tolerance,” Ms. Bokova declared, adding that lessons of the past must be more visible and people must be reminded of the extreme situations which can result from rejection of others, racism and anti-Semitism.

“Diversity is a reality, calling us to adapt our policies and act appropriately, for which tolerance is key,” she said, stressing that today's world presents considerable opportunities to better understand each other, share stories, create a public space on a global scale.

(UN Press Release)

November 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Expert Says There is "No Turning Back in Myanmar"

Welcoming the recent elections in Myanmar as ‘a new chapter in the country’s history,’ United Nations Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee today reaffirmed her commitment to work with all parties in the country to improve the human rights situation there, saying “the people have expressed the will for change. There is no turning back now.”

“In the new post-election environment, respect for human rights and democratic space must be ensured to protect and support those wishing to work with the new government in furthering democratic transition, national reconciliation and sustainable development and peace in Myanmar,” said Ms. Lee.

Noting that many people voted for the first time during the elections held on 8 November and ‘it was truly heartening to see thousands flock to the polls,’ she said: “The people have clearly expressed their wish for a free and democratic nation. These elections also demonstrate just how far the country has come in a few short years.”

However, Ms. Lee highlighted the human rights concerns that arose in the run-up to polls, including, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people, including from minority communities, the disqualification of many Muslim candidates, as well as continuing restrictions in the exercise of the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

“These concerns are symptomatic of broader human rights challenges that will require the urgent attention of the new government. Now is the perfect time to recognize the situation and to chart the way forward to address them,” Ms. Lee said.

The expert stressed that discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya in Rakhine state, as well as prevalent hate speech and incitement to hatred and violence against minority communities, should be addressed as a matter of priority.

In addition, she called for further reforms to fully guarantee the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association and to reform numerous laws that do not comply with international human rights standards.

Ms. Lee urged the immediate cessation of arrests, convictions and harassment of civil society and journalists and called for the release of all remaining political prisoners.

“I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders in the coming months to address these and other important human rights challenges,” said Ms Lee reiterating her willingness to “work constructively and cooperatively” with all parties to improve human rights situation in Myanmar.

(UN Press Release)

November 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Relief Official Says that Israeli Punitive Demolitions of Palestinian Homes Violates International Law

While recognizing Israel’s “serious security challenges,” a senior United Nations official today called its punitive demolition of the homes of alleged attackers “inherently unjust” and against international law, noting that 20 Palestinians, eight of them children, were made homeless in the past three days.

“I am distressed by reports of punitive demolitions carried out by Israeli security forces of five homes in the Jerusalem, Nablus, and Ramallah governorates in the last few days,” Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said in a statement, noting that two Palestinians were reported killed and nine others injured in clashes today protesting against the demolition.

In operations to “deter others,” the family homes of five alleged perpetrators of attacks against Israelis in 2015 have been demolished by Israeli security forces since 14 November. At least nine additional adjacent apartments have been damaged and rendered unsafe. The deaths and injuries occurred during the most recent operation this morning in Qalandiya refugee camp.

“We recognize Israel’s serious security challenges today, but any law enforcement response must be consistent with international law,” Mr. Piper said. Punitive demolitions are inherently unjust, punishing innocent people for the acts of others.”

According to the statement, punitive demolitions are a form of collective penalty as they effectively punish not only the alleged perpetrators but also relatives, neighbours for acts they have not committed. Collective penalties are prohibited under international law.

The policy was suspended by the Israeli Government in 2005 after a military committee deemed it ineffective as a deterrent. Such actions have restarted since mid-2014, with the exception of one case in 2009.

Since 1 June 2014, the Israeli authorities have demolished, sealed or destroyed with explosives 16 structures, displacing 90 Palestinians, including 51 children, according to UN. In addition, at least 12 adjacent apartments were damaged, temporarily displacing at least 55 people.

In a related development, two UN experts today voiced grave concern over continuing violence in the Occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, noting individual Palestinian attacks against Israelis and reported excessive force by Israelis when apprehending Palestinian suspects “including some which appear to amount to summary executions.”

They called on Israeli authorities to carry out “independent, thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary executions, and to provide compensation to the victims or their families.”

Since the beginning of October over 80 Palestinians and some 15 Israelis have reportedly been killed, while thousands of Palestinians and more than 100 Israelis have been injured.

Makarim Wibisono and Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and on summary executions respectively, called for strict compliance with international law, noting the alleged shooting death of a Palestinian during an undercover arrest operation in a Hebron hospital last week.

“The current escalation of violence with individual attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, excessive use of force by Israeli forces when apprehending Palestinian suspects of alleged attacks and in the context of clashes, as well as violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians, is occurring within the existing context of policies and practices under the longstanding Israeli occupation which entail violations of Palestinian human rights and raise tensions,” the experts noted.

“In such a climate one would expect the leaders to make public calls to stop the carnage.”

Mr. Wibisono voiced particular concern at the high level of clashes in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, where Palestinians live in close proximity to a large settler population.

“It is sadly a predictable flashpoint, but I strongly reiterate that Israeli security forces must abide by international standards on use of force,” he stressed. “In addition, there must not be impunity for settler violence”.

The experts welcomed the reported clarification by Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to the effect that Israeli security forces are prohibited from firing at a suspected assailant unless an immediate danger to human life cannot otherwise be prevented and that the use of fire must be proportional to the threat.

“This is an important statement as the rhetoric used by certain Israeli politicians and senior members of the police seems to suggest otherwise,” Mr. Heyns said. “International law allows the use of lethal force only where it is absolutely necessary - a last measure - to protect life. All uses of firearms should be considered potentially lethal.”

(UN Press Release)

November 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)