Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Accord in Madagascar

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the accord in Madagascar that is aimed at settling the country’s prolonged political crisis and called for the deal’s implementation so that free and fair elections can be staged soon.  Political parties in the Indian Ocean nation signed a road map on Saturday in an agreement brokered by mediators with the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The road map allows for the unconditional return from exile of the former president Marc Ravalomanana – deposed in a coup in early 2009 led by Andry Rajoelina, the interim national leader, after weeks of unrest – and for the establishment of transitional institutions ahead of elections, according to media reports.  In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban commended the agreement and stressed the need for its “full implementation in order to pave the way for peaceful and credible elections.”

The Secretary-General urged all Malagasy political parties to concur quickly on the composition of a transitional government, and called on the country’s partners to assist in that process.  Mr. Ban also pledged the continuing commitment of the UN to help Madagascar try to consolidate peace.  A previous power-sharing deal reached by Madagascar’s main political groups in late 2009 foundered before it could be implemented.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Hikers Reportedly Released from Iran

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed today’s release from an Iranian prison of two United States men who had been convicted and jailed over spying allegations.  Media reports indicate Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal were released earlier today and have since flown out of Iran, more than two years after they were arrested while hiking near the Iranian-Iraqi border and a month after they were each sentenced to eight-year prison terms on espionage-related charges.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban “appreciates the decision of the Iranian authorities to positively respond to international appeals on humanitarian grounds. He commends all parties who helped to secure their release.”  A third US national, Sarah Shourd, who was arrested at the same time as Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal, was released by Iran last year.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Latvia at the UN

The United Nations needs to adapt quickly to new global realities so it can better serve the world’s peoples, starting with the “long overdue” reform of the Security Council, Latvia’s President Andris Berzinš said today.  Speaking on the opening day of the General Assembly’s annual general debate, where dozens of heads of State or government have gathered, Mr. Berzinš underlined that the UN is “the only truly global, universal international organization.”

But he said the UN “must change and adapt to the new realities in order to deliver the best results and sustain its influence. The revitalization of the General Assembly and reforming of other principal organs is essential for the UN in order to keep pace with the modern realities in the world and to make the whole work of the UN more effective.”

The President said reform of the 15-member Council, where five countries have a permanent right of veto, is much needed.  Mr. Berzinš also said overall reform would allow for better budgetary discipline within the Organization and for a fairer distribution of contributions and expenses among the UN’s 193 Member States.  “In the context of the global economic slowdown, we welcome the initiative of the Secretary-General to cut the UN budget for 2012-2013 by 3 per cent,” he added.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

European Union Considers Creation of European Crimes

Under the two-year-old Lisbon Treaty, the EU is authorized to create EU crimes with a definition of the crime that would be uniform throughout the EU and with specified minimum penalties. The European Commission is considering this politically sensitive issue this week. It has suggested that it may develop rules for particularly serious crimes where results in individual member states are not satisfactory, presumably because much of the criminal activity is not contained within one member state. The European Commission wants to put an end to criminals seeking out member states with less harsh punishments. Areas in which the Commission may act include human trafficking, environmental crimes, money laundering, corruption and other financial crimes. Agreeing on common definitions and punishments will be a challenge as domestic laws differ and some politicians still resist EU authority in this area as too intrusive on member states' sovereignty.


September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estonia Wants to Strengthen the "Responsibility to Protect"; Says that International Law is the Tool to Prevent Human Rights Violations

The principle known as ‘responsibility to protect’ – safeguarding populations from genocide and war crimes – must be turned into practical steps to ensure that societies are no longer devastated by such atrocities, Estonia’s President told the General Assembly today.

In a speech in New York to the Assembly’s annual general debate, Toomas Hendrik Ilves said “it is vital that we develop common practices and the capacity to implement the principle” known as responsibility to protect.  “Protecting civilians from atrocities is not just about ‘protection.’ It also means bringing perpetrators of crimes and atrocities against civilians to justice,” said Mr. Ilves  “International law, and in particular the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the understanding that justice will be done, no matter how long it takes, are the tools we possess to prevent the worst human rights violations.

“Rule of law and respect for international law are what will help ravaged and victimized societies regain their dignity and rebuild their communities,” he said, adding that working with the ICC was a priority for the Eastern European nation. 

The ICC was established after 120 countries adopted the so-called Rome Statute in 1998, calling for the creation of a permanent, independent court to try those accused of the worst war crimes. It is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.  In 2005, UN Member States attending the World Summit agreed on the validity of the responsibility to protect for four types of crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)


September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ukraine Calls for Protections for Non-Nuclear States

The President of Ukraine today told the General Assembly that the world should move towards gradual and irreversible nuclear disarmament and called for legally binding international security assurances to protect non-nuclear States.

“I urge the leaders of other States to consciously follow the example of Ukraine and its real actions to promote disarmament and non-proliferation,” the country’s President, Viktor Yanukovych, told the Assembly’s annual general debate in New York.

He noted that the awareness of the scale of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster had prompted Ukraine to convene an international conference on the safe and innovative use of nuclear energy to mark the 25th anniversary of the accident in April this year.

Mr. Yanukovych urged States to pay greater attention to climate change and environmental protection, and called for the creation of an effective international mechanism mandated to protect the environment.  Such a mechanism would take the form of an “environmental constitution” to guide States on environmental issues and identify “compulsory principles” of sustainable development.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Meetings at UN About Membership for a Palestinian State

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today to act with responsibility, wisdom and restraint towards the Palestinians’ approach to the United Nations, where they have said they will seek full membership.

In a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s 66th annual session, Mr. Ban reiterated his support for a Palestinian State, living side by side in peace with a secure Israel, reaffirming his belief that negotiations were the only path for a sustainable resolution of all final status issues.  He emphasized the need for historic decisions on both sides at this critical moment.

In a meeting last week, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, told Mr. Ban he intended to submit an application this Friday for Palestine to become a UN Member State.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since late September 2010 following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.  That decision prompted Mr. Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Mr. Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Foreign Rights Policy Toward Iran and Syria

The Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing titled “Axis of Abuse: U.S. Foreign Rights Policy Toward Iran and Syria.” tomoorow at 2 pm, in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Buidling in Washington DC. 
Hat tip to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office


September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama Urges UN to Stand Up for Rights of Gay and Lesbian Persons

Obama at UN "No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere."

U.S. President Barack Obama, UN General Assembly, September 21, 2011

Click here for the full text of his remarks.


September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US President Obama at the United Nations: "Peace is Hard"

Obama at UN Peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be attained through negotiations, United States President Barack Obama told the General Assembly today, urging both sides to make compromises to break the current deadlock and saying that “statements and resolutions” at the United Nations will not resolve the conflict.

“Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem,” Mr. Obama said in his speech to the General Assembly’s annual general debate.

He stressed that Palestinians deserved their own State and that Israel for its part deserved recognition and normal relations with its neighbours.  “Friends of the Palestinians do them no favours by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-State solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.”

The fact that each side had legitimate aspirations was one of the reasons why it has been difficult to make peace, Mr. Obama said.  “The deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the other’s eyes. That’s what we should be encouraging. That’s what we should be promoting.”

Turning to nuclear non-proliferation, Mr. Obama said the US will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

He urged Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abandon its nuclear arms development and what he called its belligerent actions against the Republic of Korea.  “But if they continue down the path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation,” he said.

Mr. Obama hailed the recent progress made towards democracy in North African and the Middle East, including the dramatic political changes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and the groundswell of demands for greater freedoms in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.  “Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way that they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open. Dictators are on notice.”

He pledged that the United States will stand up for universal rights that have been embraced by the General Assembly, and continue to support States in transition to democracy with greater trade and investment so that freedom is followed by economic opportunities.

Click here for the full text of his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Finland Says UN Should Mediate More Conflicts

United Nations capabilities in conflict mediation must be strengthened to give the world body a greater role in the prevention and settlement of disputes, Finland’s President Tarja Halonen said today.

In an address to the General Assembly’s annual general debate in New York, Ms. Halonen said mediation should be deployed at every phase of a conflict in an effort to stop it starting or continuing.  “We need to enhance the capabilities of the UN in this field. Training and guidance are pivotal,” she said, adding that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women and grassroots activities also have an important role to play in conflict mediation.

This year’s theme of the general debate is the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, and earlier this year the General Assembly adopted a resolution – the joint initiative of Finland and Turkey – calling for a greater role for mediation.

Ms. Halonen said that peace processes must also be more inclusive, stressing the need for women to play a more prominent role.  “The record is far from impressive at the moment as the number of women around the negotiation tables continues to be strikingly low.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

France Says Palestine Shome Become an Observer State at the United Nations

Palestine should become an observer State at the United Nations as an intermediate step towards becoming a full Member State, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today, calling for the immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with a strict timetable to produce a lasting settlement within the next year. 

Addressing the General Assembly’s annual general debate, Mr. Sarkozy said granting Palestine the status of observer State “would be an important step forward” in resolving the long-running Middle East conflict.  “It would mean emerging from a state of immobility that favours only the extremists,” he said. “We would be restoring hope by marking progress towards the final status.”

On Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he plans to submit an application for full UN membership on behalf of Palestine this Friday. Currently, Palestine has observer status at the world body.

Mr. Sarkozy told world leaders gathered today that “each of us knows that Palestine cannot immediately obtain full and complete recognition of the status of United Nations Member State. The first reason for this is the lack of trust between the main parties.  “But who could doubt that a veto at the Security Council risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East?”

Mr. Sarkozy said the Palestinian authorities must reaffirm Israel’s right to exist and to its security, and pledge to not use any new status as an observer State “to undertake actions incompatible with the continuance of negotiations.  “In parallel, Israel must observe the same restraint – it must abstain from any actions that would prejudice the final status. The ultimate goal of peace negotiations must be mutual recognition of two nation States for two peoples, established on the basis of the 1967 lines, with agreed and equivalent exchanges of land.”

The French President said those negotiations – which stalled at the end of September last year – ought to resume within a month, with a timetable to reach an accord on borders and security within six months and a definitive agreement within a year.  He added that France proposes holding a donor conference to assist the Palestinians in the construction of their future State.

“We can wait no longer. All the elements of a solution are known and enshrined in numerous documents, from the Madrid Conference of 1991 to President Obama’s speech on 19 May this year, and including the Roadmap, the Arab Peace Initiative and the parameters agreed on by the European Union.”

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mexico Calls for Help on Drugs and Arms

Mexico Mexico, where tens of thousands of people have been murdered and mutilated in drug wars over the past five years, today called on the United Nations to help establish strict controls in producer and supplier countries on the high-powered weapons that feed the arsenals of traffickers.

“It is unjust and inhuman that the profits of the arms industry should decide the deaths of thousands of people,” Mexican President Felipe Calderón told the UN General Assembly on the opening day of its annual general debate, calling the huge profits of drug trafficking and easy access to high-powered weapons two sides of the same coin against which the world must forge a common front.  “At the United Nations we must continue to drive forward negotiations for the International Convention on Trade in Arms so as to avoid their diversion to activities that are forbidden under international rules,” he said, citing a proposed treaty that has been under discussion in various UN forums for several years.

Listing drug trafficking and transnational organized crime among three major challenges facing the UN – the other two were climate change and health – Mr. Calderón called for action by consumer countries to curb the stratospheric profits of drug trafficking, which are fuelled by an ever growing demand.  “Now, more than ever, countries with the highest levels of drug consumption must take effective action to reduce demand,” he said. “And if that is not possible, or they are disposed or resigned to seeing consumption continue to grow, these consumer countries must in any case find ways of reducing the enormous profits which criminals make on their black market.  “They are morally obliged to find solutions that cut off this source of financing and explore other options and alternatives that stop drug trafficking money from being the source of violence and death, particularly in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Africa.”

On climate change, Mr. Calderón called on the international community to turn into action decisions taken last December’s UN talks in Cancún, Mexico, that formalized mitigation pledges for developing nations and protected the world's forests.  “I am concerned that what has been achieved so far could be lost though the lack of necessary political leadership, hence I appeal to the United Nations and its leaders to take serious responsibility for the results of Durban 2011,” he said, referring to the upcoming climate change talks in the South African city.

On public health he cited Mexico’s own system of universal coverage, calling it the basis for confronting the challenge of chronic and infectious diseases at the international level.

Mr. Calderón also referred to the Middle East crisis, the unrest shaking the Arab world, and the need for reform of the 15-member Security Council, which has remained unchanged for decades although overall UN membership has increased to 193.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President of Palestinian Authority Holds Talks on Application for UN Membership

The General Assembly President and the President of the Palestinian Authority have held talks focusing on the Palestinians’ imminent move to apply for full membership at the United Nations.

In a meeting yesterday in New York, held on the eve of the Assembly’s annual general debate, PA President Mahmoud Abbas briefed Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser on his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week.  At that meeting Mr. Abbas informed Mr. Ban that he would present him with a letter requesting all UN Member States to support the full membership of Palestine in the world body.  The UN currently has 193 Member States, and Palestine has observer status.

According to the provisions of the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is tasked with verifying a letter requesting UN membership, after which he sends it to the Security Council and the General Assembly.  The application is considered by the Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission to the Assembly, which has to adopt a resolution for the admission of any new Member State.

Yesterday, Mr. Al-Nasser also met Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Steven Vanackere, and their talks touched on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue. They discussed the importance of mediation, which Mr. Al-Nasser has stated would be one of the key pillars of the 66th session of the General Assembly.

The President of the General Assembly also conferred with the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Igor Luksic, the country’s Foreign Minister Milan Rocen, as well as its State Secretary for Political Affairs, Nebojsa Kaludjerovic.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kazakhstan Proposes Global Treaty on Information and Cybersecurity

A global pact on information and cybersecurity is vital to deter the increasingly frequent attacks by hackers against governments, businesses and other institutions, the leader of Kazakhstan told the General Assembly’s annual general debate today.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev told the debate’s opening session – held at United Nations Headquarters in New York – that it was worrying that “not a single international convention or multilateral treaty governs information processes.  “Is it not the reason why, in practical terms, most hacker attacks on banks, businesses, government institutions, [the] military and even nuclear facilities have been carried out with impunity?” he asked.

Mr. Nazarbayev stressed the need for what he called “an international legal framework of the global information space.”  He said such a legal framework could be based on the nine elements of a global culture of cybersecurity, which the General Assembly adopted in 2002.

In his speech today the Kazakh President also underlined the importance of greater dialogue between the Islamic world and the West, in a bid to counter Islamophobia and promote harmony between peoples of different religions and ethnicities.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WIPO Reports Increase in International Trademark and Patent Applications

The number of international trademark and patent applications rebounded around the world last year after having fallen in 2009, according to intellectual property (IP) figures released by the United Nations yesterday.

Trademark applications, the most sought-after form of IP protection, recuperated some of their losses with an increase from about 36,000 to 37,500, a 4.5 per cent growth, while patent filings rose to 164,300, slightly higher than 2008 levels, the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reported.

Four Asian countries – China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) – accounted for 37 per cent of trademark applications. India showed the highest five-year growth, recording 13.5 per cent from 2005 to 2009, while China had one of the highest annual growth rates, with 20.8 per cent from 2008 to 2009, according to <i>WIPO IP Facts and Figures 2011</i>, which covers patents, utility models, trademarks and industrial designs.

Trademark applications topped three million per year since 2005, with the China Trademark Office receiving a quarter of all such applications worldwide.

The top 10 patent offices accounted for approximately 87 per cent of all such applications in 2009, with the United States, Japan and China filing about 60 per cent of the total.

Of the top three patent offices, Japan showed a 10.8 per cent drop in applications received between 2008 and 2009, the US remained almost unchanged, and China saw an increase of 8.5 per cent. While most of the top 20 offices show a drop in applications from 2008 to 2009, about half indicate positive five-year growth.

Industrial design also shows significant growth rates due to high filings in China, which accounted for 50 per cent such activity, growing by 12.3 per cent from 2008 to 2009.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

World Leaders Gather at United Nations

UN Headquarters Dozens of world leaders have gathered this morning at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the start of the General Assembly’s annual General Debate, to discuss global issues ranging from climate change, poverty and sustainable development to terrorism, human rights and humanitarian crises.

More than 120 heads of State or government are slated to speak between today and next Tuesday, with the theme of this year’s General Debate being the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes.

Representatives of all 193 UN Member States, as well as the Holy See and Palestine, will address the General Debate. This includes the newest UN Member State – South Sudan.

Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the debate with speeches this morning.

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brazil's President Urges Urgent Steps to Deal with Global Economic Crises

Brazil Unless governments take urgent steps to deal with the ongoing global economic crisis, “a grave political and social rift” could open up between countries and peoples, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff warned world leaders gathered today at the General Assembly.

Speaking at the opening of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, Ms. Rousseff called on the international community to find “collective, rapid and real solutions” to the crisis, particularly the large numbers of unemployed people worldwide.

“This crisis is too serious to be managed by a small group of countries,” she said, stressing the need for the United Nations, multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the G-20 bloc, and individual countries to more closely coordinate their response to the current economic strife.

“It is not for lack of resources that the leaders of the developed countries have not yet found a solution to the crisis… It is the lack of political resources and of clarity of ideas that are to blame.

“Part of the world has not yet found the balance between appropriate fiscal adjustments and proper and precise fiscal stimuli to demand and growth. They are caught in the trap that does not distinguish between partisan interests and the legitimate interests of society.”

Ms. Rousseff warned that if a rift opened, it “would be unprecedented, capable of causing serious imbalances in the relationship among people and among nations.”

She said the solution to the debt crisis engulfing many countries “must be combined with economic growth. There are glaring signs that many advanced economies are on the threshold of recession, which will significantly hinder the solving of their fiscal problems.”

The global priority “must be resolving the problem of those countries facing sovereign debt crises and turning back the current recessive tide.”

The Brazilian President called on affluent nations to introduce coordinated policies to stimulate the economies of those countries especially weakened by the crisis, and urged countries with high surpluses to strengthen their domestic markets and adopt more flexible exchange rate policies for their currencies to contribute to a “rebalancing of global demand.”

She also pressed for the reform of multilateral financial institutions to allow the greater participation of the so-called emerging countries, “who are chiefly responsible for growth in the global economy.”

Ms. Rousseff – who assumed the presidency of her country in January – today became the first woman to open the General Debate. In a tradition stretching back to the early days of the UN, a Brazilian representative has always been the first speaker.

Noting “this historic moment,” Ms. Rousseff said she shared “this feeling with over half of the human beings on this planet who, like myself, were born women and who, with tenacity, are occupying the place they deserve in the world.”

(UN Press Release)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Palau is the Busiest UN Member Today, Signing On to Eight Human Rights Treaties

From 1994 to 1995, I served as Court Counsel to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau.  Palau became an independent country while I was serving in that post.  Today, Palau was "the busiest member state" at the United Nations, signing on to the following treaties:

  1. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  2. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  3. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  4. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  5. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  6. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
  7. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and
  8. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

So way to go Palau.  Ke kmal sulange!

Here is the press release from the United Nations about the treaty event now underway:

Ten conventions or protocols dealing with human rights received signatures or ratifications today as the annual United Nations event aimed at promoting greater participation in global treaties and international law kicked off.

The Pacific island nation of Palau was the busiest Member State, signing up to each such pacts or protocols – part of 34 separate treaty actions taken by 21 countries on the sidelines of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York.

Palau signed up to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

It also signed the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

El Salvador also signed the ICESCR with a declaration, Montenegro ratified – also with a declaration – the enforced disappearances convention, and New Zealand ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Beyond the human rights sphere, Nigeria acceded to both the Convention relating to the status of Stateless Persons and Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

New Zealand ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel and Côte d’Ivoire signed the International Cocoa Agreement, 2010.

On the environment, 13 countries signed the Nagoya Protocol, a key text on equitably sharing Earth’s genetic resources and their benefits, while four European Union countries signed a supplementary protocol on biosafety.

Suriname ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and acceded to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

The annual treaty event, which began in 2000, continues until 27 September.


September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Calls for Belarus to Relase Political Prisoners

United Nations human rights officials today called on Belarus to immediately release all political opponents not involved in violence, voicing concern at a pattern of rights violations involving freedom of speech and assembly and “serious allegations” of torture after last year’s elections.

A report presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang called on Belarus to speedily accept a mission from her office, noting that previous requests for an on-site visit had remained unanswered.

The report follows repeated expressions of concern by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN officials at violence and the detention and treatment of journalists, opposition candidates and their supporters after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s victory in December’s elections, as well as calls for the release of the detainees.

Noting that the human rights situation deteriorated significantly after the poll, amid opposition protests that it was neither free nor fair and the results were flawed, the report cites the beating with batons and injuring of many protesters, the vast majority of them peaceful, and bystanders, reports of physical and psychological torture by several defendants and the alleged intimidation of defence lawyers.

“The authorities have reportedly tightened their already highly restrictive control of the media since December,” it states, calling on the Government to conduct an objective investigation into the circumstances of the detentions and all reported cases of torture, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The authorities have allegedly been conducting a policy of harassment against independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders,” it adds, calling for an immediate end to all such acts and forms of political and administrative pressure.

The report, which highlights that Belarus is the only country in Europe that still issues death sentences and carries out executions, notes that because of the absence of a UN human rights presence in the country, significant segments of its information come from secondary sources and some of the allegations remain unverified.

Belarus’ delegate Mikhail Khvostov said his country disagreed with those such as the European Union on what constituted peaceful demonstrations. The EU considered that the storming of buildings was a peaceful activity, while Belarus considered it to be a criminal activity, he added, stressing Belarus continued to be devoted to its international obligations to protect human rights.

A politically motivated approach to countries was not an approach that the Council or the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should follow, he stressed.

(UN Press Release)

September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)