Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
CIA rendition programme: UN expert in human rights and counter-terrorism expert asks for truth and accountability
United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, released a report urging the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom to release the findings of confidential inquiries into the secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detention and interrogation practices administered during the Bush administration. Presenting his report to the UN Human Rights Council, Emmerson addressed the principle of accountability for grave or systematic human rights violations while countering terrorism and highlighted “the failure to date of the international community to secure full responsibility for the acts of certain sections of the CIA during the Presidency of George W. Bush in implementing a programme of torture, rendition and secret detention of terrorist suspects.”
Palestinian children need better protection in Israeli military detention - UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a report detailing the mistreatment of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in violation of international law. According to the report, Children in Israeli military detention: observations and recommendations, approximately 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year are arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli army, police and security agents. Based on interviews with some of these minors, as well as with Israeli and Palestinian lawyers, and reviews of cases, UNICEF concluded that there may be a pattern of ill-treatment during the arrest, transfer and interrogation of child detainees.
The report cites examples of ill-treatment, including arrests of children at their homes between midnight and 5:00am by heavily armed soldiers, as well as physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, and interrogation using physical violence and threats. The report also mentions “treatment inconsistent with child rights,” including shackling minors during court appearances and incarcerating them in Israel, isolating them from their families and interrupting their studies.
Ban and Security Council demand release of UN peacekeepers held in Golan Heights
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council strongly condemned the detention of 21 UN peacekeepers by “armed elements of the Syrian opposition.” The peacekeepers, members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), with the mandate to monitor the ceasefire in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria are currently detained in the vicinity of Al Jamla.
Peacekeepers serving with UNDOF monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after the 1973 war between the two countries. In December, the Security Council extended the mission’s mandate for another six months, until June 30, 2013.
When a health carer becomes a torturer, key report by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, advocated for an international debate on abuses in health-care settings that may cross a threshold of maltreatment equivalent to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Méndez’s report analyzes all forms of abuse labeled as ‘health-care treatment,’ premised or justified by health-care policies. It also identifies the scope of State’s obligations to regulate, control and supervise health-care practices while attempting to prevent maltreatment under any pretext and the policies that promote these practices and existing protection gaps.
Presenting his report to the UN Human Rights Council, Méndez warned, “medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture.”
Landmines threatening safe return of displaced Yemenis, UN warns
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that landmines and other explosive remnants of war are threatening the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen. According to OCHA estimates, approximately 140,000 formerly displaced people have returned to Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen. Clearing landmines and explosive remnants is especially critical to ensure their sustainable return to the area, as more than three out of four people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. OCHA also noted that demining efforts are being hampered by a funding shortfall.
UN women’s commission begins annual session with call to stop gender-based violence
The Commission on the Status of Women, a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, kicked off its 57th annual session by advocating for an end to violence against women and girls worldwide - a problem which pervades all countries, even in the most stable and developed regions. During the two-week session, the Commission seeks to examine more effective means to prevent violence against women and girls and to create meaningful change in women’s lives.
According to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), up to 70 percent of women in some countries face physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. More specifically, in countries such as Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims. Additionally, approximately 140 million girls have suffered female genital mutilation and millions more are subjected to forced marriage and trafficking.
During the opening of the ceremony, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson noted that eliminating violence against women and girls is an issue intricately linked to development and peace and is critical to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Access to sanitation, for example, is essential to guarantee women a safe place to seek privacy. With more than one billion people without access to toilets, this is currently impossible.
UN welcomes news of HIV baby who appears to be cured by treatment
United Nations agencies lauded news that a baby born with HIV and treated in the United States with antiretroviral drugs during the first months of her life appears to be functionally cured of the disease. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michel Sidibé commented that “this news gives us great hope that a cure for HIV in children is possible and could bring us one step closer to an AIDS-free generation” while simultaneously underscoring the need for research and innovation especially in the area of early diagnostics.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, while approximately 330,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2011, only 28 percent of children under the age of 15 living with HIV were on HIV treatment at the end of the year, compared to 54 percent of eligible adults.
UN nuclear watchdog reports on Fukushima accident, Iran and DPR Korea
March 11 will mark the second anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant - an incident reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presented a report commenting on the United Nations involvement in assisting Japan deal with the consequences of the accident. He also expressed concern regarding issues relating to Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
In meeting with Foreign Minister, Ban welcomes Italy's support to UN efforts
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed a commitment from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, to support United Nations efforts in Mali, as well as the entire Sahel region, and Libya and Somalia. The two also agreed on the urgent need to find a political solution to the ongoing violence and human rights abuses in Syria.
With regard to the situation in Mali, the Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for Italy’s support to the UN’s engagement, including support to European Union initiatives, as well as for the work of former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, on the development of a strategy for the troubled northern African sub-region. Mr. Ban also commended the Foreign Minister for Italy’s leadership role in support of Libya’s transition to democracy following the fall of the Government of Muammar al-Qadhafi.
Cambodia: UN official welcomes possibility of genocide court trying sexual crimes
The UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Cambodia’s tribunal established to prosecute war crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime, annulled a previous ruling that would have prevented it from prosecuting crimes of sexual violence. This ruling paves the way for the possibility of including acts of sexual violence, namely forced marriage and rape, to be included in its case against three former Khmer Rouge officials who have been charged with crimes against humanity and genocide.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, welcomed this decision, stating: “This ruling provides an opportunity to send a clear message that conflict-related sexual violence is a crime against humanity and that no matter how long it takes perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished.”
Topic In Focus
Commission on the Status of Women
The Commission on the Status of Women (referred to as “CSW” or “the Commission”) is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Established in 1946, the Commission prepares recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields as well as makes recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights.
Every year the Commission hosts a two-week conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for representatives of Member States, as well as relevant NGOs, to gather and evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide. The Commission’s contribution after the conference is a set of agreed conclusions on priority themes which contain an assessment of progress, as well as of gaps and challenges. The conclusions also contain a set of concrete recommendations for action by governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local levels.
This year marks the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women and is taking place at the UN Headquarters from 4 to 15 March 2013. The priority theme of this year’s conference is the Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/57sess.htm