Friday, June 14, 2013
An independent United Nations expert today urged the Government of Belarus to grant his request for an official visit the country and to engage with his mandate to improve its human rights situation. “Human rights are systematically restricted in Belarus through different measures: decrees, policies and practice,” said Special Rapporteur on Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, speaking after his mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council for another year. “The fulfilment of human rights remains purposefully blocked by a governance system that is devoid of any checks and balances.”
The Special Rapporteur said he was unable to visit Belarus and talk to officials during his first mandate, having received no response to his requests from the Government. He had gathered facts by talking to a great variety of Belarusian sources during several trips to neighbouring countries.
An urgent issue to be addressed was the unconditional release of human rights activists and political opponents imprisoned on spurious criminal charges, the UN expert said.
“Rule of law is not identical with ruling by law,” Mr. Haraszti said. “True stability and economic prosperity for a country rest on full respect for human rights. In my life, I have seen many times that if there is political will in these areas, progress can be mutually rewarding for Government and society.”
Mr. Haraszti said other particular concerns included: enforced disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detention; harassment of imprisoned political opponents and human rights defenders; the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the death penalty, Belarus being the only country in Europe that executes people. “This is the situation where the Council, through this mandate, needs to support the promotion and protection of human rights in Belarus.”
Among his recommendations for sustainable improvement to the human rights situation in the country, Mr. Haraszti cited guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and bar associations; establishing judicial procedural safeguards; abolishing the system of arbitrary arrest and detention, among others.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.
(UN Press Release)
As for the fugitives, Mr. Jallow urged them to turn themselves in and stand trial in “very transparent and impartial” judicial processes. “There is no time limit to the prosecution of these cases. Your hiding does not pay off. The mechanism will not relent,” Mr. Jallow said.
Based in Arusha, Tanzania, the ICTR was set up after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during a span of three months beginning in April 1994.
The Security Council has urged both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to conclude their work by the end of 2014. It set up the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in December 2010 and mandated it to take over and finish the remaining tasks of the two courts when they are closed after their mandates expire. The ICTR branch of the Residual Mechanism began its functions on 1 July 2012 in Arusha, while the branch for ICTY will start this coming July in The Hague.
Members of the Security Council had emphasized that establishing the Residual Mechanism was essential to ensure that the closure of ICTR and the ICTY “does not leave the door open to impunity for the remaining fugitives and for those whose appeals have not been completed.”
“The ICTR has concluded the trial phase of its work and is currently focused on management of appeals, and legacy and closing issues,” Mr. Jallow has said.
During its operations, it indicted some 93 people, all of whom were arrested with the exception of nine men. Augustin Bizimana, the Minister of Defence of the interim Government during the time of the atrocities; Félicien Kabuga, who is believed to have financed the genocide; Protais Mpiranya, who as Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion in the Rwandan Army allegedly oversaw all the units in the battalion; as well as Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Charles Sikubwabo, Aloys Ndimbati, Ladislas Ntaganzwa and Charles Ryandikayo.
The Office of Global Criminal Justice – headed by Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice who also attended the press conference – is offering up to a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any of the nine men.
“We are still very optimistic that we will track and find and bring them to justice,” Mr. Jallow said. “It is not an easy task to track.”
The Prosecutor noted that the men on the run make every effort to evade the trackers by changing their identities, relocating to different terrains and sometimes assisted by slow cooperation of Member States. “There is nonetheless intense activity ongoing,” he added.
Given that there is no time limit to be prosecuted, the residual mechanism can be activated at any time to try the men. In addition, precautions have been taken to secure evidence against the accused and preserve testimony, if witnesses are no longer available to participate in person at future trials.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Every year, millions of children work in jobs that violate their human rights. For the past decade, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has sponsored the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12 to bring international attention and action to this problem. Child labor deprives these children of an adequate education and health, as well as leisure time, among other human rights violations. According to the ILO, more than half of working children are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict. The ILO has addressed these issues in part through two widely ratified conventions: ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour (174 ratifications) and ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment (161 ratifications).