WEEK OF FEBRUARY 21, 2014

Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.

Ukraine: top UN officials urge peaceful resolution of crisis after deadly clashes in Kiev

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement following the clashes in Kiev between protesters and riot police on February 18 which resulted in at least 22 deaths, "urg[ing] an immediate end to the violence" and reiterating his prior appeal to both sides to seek a peaceful resolve to the escalating political and security crisis which has brought unrest to the Ukrainian capital since November 2013. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also issued a statement urging both sides to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict, and emphasized that the right to peaceful assembly must be protected pursuant to international human rights obligations.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47171

On eve of elections, UN in Libya urges voters to contribute to political process

In advance of the "long-awaited" February 20 election for the Libyan Constitution-Drafting Assembly, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) issued a statement urging those participating in the political process to "provide the suitable atmosphere" for peaceful elections and emphasized the importance of democratically elected institutions in ensuring the rule of law. Special Representative of the Secretary-General Tarek Mitri stated that UNSMIL "reaffirms its clear stand of rejecting the threat to use force in the political process, which is contrary to the basic democratic principles."

The election of the constitutional assembly constitutes a significant step towards the establishment of a legitimate democracy following the rebellion that led to the ousting of Muammar al-Qadhafi in the February 17 Revolution of 2011. In the election, voters will elect a 60-member constitutional assembly. The elected assembly will then draft a new constitution within 120 days; the document will subsequently be submitted to a popular referendum.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47179

UN rights office urges Libya to reconsider new law curbing free expression

Coinciding with the third anniversary of the 2011 Libyan uprising, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called upon the Libyan General National Congress to reconsider new legislation which would restrict freedom of expression and opinion. "Law No. 5" imposes prison sentences on any person "undermining the February 17 Revolution" and for "publicly insulting one of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities." OHCHR expressed concerns that the new law "appears to go against the spirit of the [revolution]," and urged the Libyan Congress to bring the law into compliance with international human rights standards. OHCHR also stated that the new law appeared to run afoul of the Libyan Constitutional Declaration, passed in the wake of the Libyan revolution 3 years ago, which guarantees that the Libyan government will protect freedoms of opinion, communication, assembly, and liberties of the press, publication, and mass media. OHCHR offered the assistance of the UN Support Mission in Libya to adjust the legislation, and articulated hopes that Libya will, in drafting its new Constitution, "firmly enshrine human rights principles, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion, in the legal system."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47163

Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill has 'serious human rights implications' – UNAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN agency leading the global HIV/AIDS response, issued a statement denouncing the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and expressed concern that signing the Bill would have "serious human rights implications." The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed by the Ugandan Parliament on December 20, 2013, and calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction and imprisonment for life for the offence of "aggravated homosexuality."

In the statement, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, "strongly urge[d] the Ugandan authorities to reject the bill and ensure the human rights and dignity of all people in Uganda." The agency also made a global appeal to all governments "to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47169

UN experts urge Kenya to repeal discriminatory sections of marriage property act

United Nations human rights experts issued a response to the Kenyan Marriage and Property Act, which entered into force on 16 January 2014, expressing concern that the law runs afoul of Kenya's international and regional human rights obligations as it could result in many Kenyan women losing access to the lands on which they live and farm. Provisions of the Act, say the experts, "clearly discriminate against Kenyan women and are squarely at odds with equality provisions enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution."

Frances Raday, head of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, stated that "The passage of the Act will have a detrimental impact on the right to food, the right to adequate housing and the right to an adequate standard of living for Kenyan women, children and communities." Several independent Special Rapporteurs, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, likewise "urg[ed] the Government of Kenya to repeal discriminatory sections of this Act."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47158

Ban, Security Council condemn deadly attack on Egyptian tour bus in Sinai

A February 16 terrorist attack on a bus in the south Sinai region of Egypt killed four people, including three tourists from the Republic of Korea, and wounded many others. The attack is the latest in the ongoing unrest in Egypt in the three years following the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak regime in early 2011. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have consistently issued statements strongly condemning the violence.

On the day of this attack, the Secretary-General issued a statement condemning the violence and "convey[ing] his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Governments of Egypt and the Republic of Korea. He calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice." Following suit, the UN Security Council issued a harsh condemnation of the bombing, emphasizing the serious threat to international peace and security posed by terrorist acts.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47157

UN-Arab League envoy apologizes to Syrian people over stalemate in peace talks

United Nations/Arab League Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi announced on February 15 the indefinite end to the second round of UN-facilitated peace talks between the two factions in the civil war which has raged on in Syria for nearly three years. Brahimi issued a public apology to the Syrian people for the negotiators' inability to reach a conclusion in the discussions, specifically apologizing that "the little that has been achieved in Homs gave [the Syrian people] even more hope that maybe this is the beginning of the coming out of this horrible crisis." Telling the press that no date had been set to resume additional talks, Brahimi urged both sides of the conflict to "reflect and take their responsibility: do they want this process to take place or not?"

Brahimi stated: "My message to everybody involved in this terrible crisis is to think of the Syrian people, to think of the immense suffering that has been imposed on [them], the destruction that has taken place in Syria, and to think of what anyone can contribute to pull Syria out of the ditch in which it has fallen." The now-concluded talks follow the first round of talks held in Geneva in late January 2014.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47152

Security Council, Ban welcome formation of new Government in Lebanon

Following the February 15 announcement that a new Government had been formed in Lebanon, the UN Secretary-General issued a statement "warmly" welcoming the development and "encourage[ing] Lebanon's political leaders to build on the constructive engagement which led to the formation of the new Government." The Secretary-General acknowledged "the severity of the security, humanitarian and economic challenges facing Lebanon" which will require the new Lebanese Government to be "able without delay to act effectively to address such challenges with the full support of all parties." The statement added, "The United Nations looks forward to working with the new Government in its efforts to serve the people of Lebanon." The Security Council also issued a statement expressing its strong support of the new Government and emphasizing the need for the democratic tradition of Lebanon to be upheld throughout the transition.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47153

Turkey's new law on Internet curbs draws concern from UN rights office

Following the Turkish parliament's adoption of "Law 6518," which grants Turkey's telecommunications authority the power to block websites without court order and to penalize Internet providers if they fail to cooperate with requests for data information, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concerns that the law would run afoul of Turkey's human rights obligations. Turkish President Abdullah Gul has reportedly faced pressure not to endorse the bill.

Rupert Colville, OHCHR spokesperson, told the press that OHCHR fears the new law "may lead to breaches of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy." Mr. Colville stated that OHCHR "call[s] on the authorities to review laws No.5651 and 6518 to bring them in line with international human rights standards, in particular the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47143

South Sudan: Security Council urges 'fully inclusive' dialogue as new political talks launch

The UN Security Council issued a statement welcoming the February 11 start of the second round of political talks between opposing South Sudan factions. The talks are facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and seek a resolution to the political conflict between the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army which erupted in December 2013 into widespread conflict that has resulted in the killing of thousands and the displacement of roughly one million South Sudanese in the months since.

The Security Council emphasized that the talks should seek a "fully inclusive" political dialogue, "while addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and preventing further escalation of inter-ethnic violence and division." The Council also expressed concerns about reported human rights violations and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan, and reiterated its steadfast support for the work of the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).

Full story:http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47141

Topic In Focus

Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The Report of the independent UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ("DPRK") was published this week following a year-long inquiry into the situation of alleged protracted and systematic human rights abuses in the DPRK.

The Report grimly documents a wide range of human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed in the DPRK since 1950 "pursuant to policies at the highest level of the state," and has been received as unprecedented in the scope and depth of its documentation into the isolated country. The Report alleges severe human rights violations rising to the level of crimes against humanity, including "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation." The Report calls for urgent international action to address the abuses, and has recommended that the UN Security Council refer the DPRK to the ICC for prosecution of those responsible for the alleged systematic, prolonged, and ongoing crimes against humanity. The Commission additionally called upon the UN Security Council to adopt targeted sanctions against those who appear to be responsible for the violations.

The 400-page Report was compiled from the first-person testimony of hundreds of victims and witnesses (many of whom were North Korean refugees, escapees and asylum seekers) who spoke in public hearings and confidential interviews in cities around the world, as well as from the formal submissions of other entities. Governmental authorities within the DPRK did not grant the Commissioners access to the country to undertake their investigations.

The Commission also issued a letter to DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, conveying notice of the release of the Report and summarizing the Commission's findings of widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations within the DPRK which rise to the level of crimes against humanity. The letter includes recommendations to the government to rectify such abuses, and notifies the DPRK of the Commission's intent to recommend referral to the ICC, with the Supreme Leader possibly to be held personally liable. The DPRK government has denied that the human rights violations documented in the Report exist in the country.

Sources:

The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights in the DPRK:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/
ReportoftheCommissionofInquiryDPRK.aspx

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Media.aspx?IsMediaPage=true&LangID=E

News Reports:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/world/asia/un-panel-says-north-korean-leader-could
-face-trial.html

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47160

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46502

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46369


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