Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
Austerity measures in Greece undermining human rights, says UN independent expert
UN independent expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina, urged Greece and its international bailout lenders to adopt a human rights-based approach to economic reform, warning that some austerity measures are undermining people’s access to jobs, health, water and energy.
“More than 10 percent of the population in Greece now lives in extreme poverty, and unemployment amongst youth has reached an unprecedented rate of 59.3 per cent,” Lumina stated. Access to essential public services is a key concern, as the Government moves forward with plans to raise its coffers by privatizing State-owned assets, including water and energy. Mr. Lumina cautioned that “privatization should be undertaken cautiously and with sensitivity to the rights of the population.”
Myanmar: UN expert calls on Government to address impunity for crimes in Rakhine
A United Nations expert recognized efforts by the Myanmar Government to investigate the sectarian violence that erupted last year in Rakhine state and called for increased efforts to end discrimination and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, stated that while the recommendations of the Rakhine Investigation Commission report address the humanitarian situation in the region, problems remain, including restrictions on the movements of the Muslim community in particular.
UN steps up vaccination campaigns amid measles outbreaks among uprooted Syrians
Measles outbreaks in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey have prompted the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners to improve vaccination campaigns in the region. UNICEF estimates that nearly half of the 4.25 million people displaced within Syria are children, with many living in cramped and unsanitary conditions where disease can easily spread.
Mahendra Sheth, UNICEF Regional Health Advisor, stated that additional precautions against deadly diseases are necessary due to large population movements and the breakdown of regular health services in Syria. “Immunization is one of the most cost-effective tools we have available,” she added.
UN chief condemns latest attack on Somali legal system
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing of Somalia’s Deputy State Attorney, Ahmed Malim Sheikh Nur, expressing concern that the recent attacks in Mogadishu may be targeting the country’s legal system.
According to media reports, gunmen killed the Deputy Attorney General on April 26 as he was leaving a mosque following Friday prayers. Despite the Secretary-General’s concern, he “remains confident that such criminal acts will not undermine efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the country.”
Argentina must ensure independence of its judiciary - UN expert
A United Nations expert called on Argentina to ensure the independence of its judiciary, following recently passed reforms affecting the election process of the Magistrates Council -
The reforms include a change to the process of designating the members of the Magistrates Council. The draft law, if approved by the Senate, would subject the members of the Council to popular elections, with candidates being channeled through political parties. According to media reports, the draft law would give the majority party control over the Council, enabling it to impeach judges by a simple majority, instead of the two-thirds vote currently required.
“The provision on partisan election of members of the Magistrates Council is contrary to Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Basic Principles on the Independence of the judiciary,” Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, stated.
Libya: UN urges political dialogue as gunmen overtake Ministries and other State institutions
After armed gunmen overtook the ministries of justice and foreign affairs, and other State institutions in Libya, United Nations officials urged Libyans to join the country’s democratic transition.
According to media reports, dozens of armed men occupied the Libyan Justice Ministry, forcing ministry staff to leave. The country’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, remains under siege for a third day. Protesters reportedly told journalists that they want to persuade the General National Congress - Libya’s highest legislative authority - to pass a proposed law that would ban Muammar al-Qadhafi-era officials from holding Government posts.
UN Support Mission (UNSMIL) stressed the basic right of all Libyans to express their demands by peaceful means but “underlines the need for all to abide by the principles and goals of the Libyan revolution, in which the revolutionaries played a historic and decisive role and paid dearly to achieve it.”
Central African Republic: amid worsening violence, UN refugee agency warns against forcible returns
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged countries to refrain from repatriating refugees to the Central African Republic (CAR), amid worsening violence and human rights abuses in the country.
According to UNHCR, targeted killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and the recruitment of children as well as rape, disappearances, and kidnapping are being widely reported throughout the country. The violence in recent months has caused an estimated 173,000 people to be displaced internally and nearly 50,000 refugees.
“Our aim through issuing this advisory is to see that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld until conditions in CAR allow for safe and dignified returns,” a spokesperson for the UNHCR reported.
South Sudan: UN mission welcomes peace deal between armed groups and Government forces
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) welcomed a peace deal between the Government of South Sudan and local militia groups, adding that it remained ready to assist the country as it moved forward in achieving sustainable peace. UNMISS also urged all other armed groups “to lay down their weapons and join the government to build a stable and prosperous South Sudan.”
According to a spokesperson for the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) and the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF), the peace accord was agreed upon last Friday, specifying that the three armed groups would begin “interacting” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the official army of the Government of South Sudan, “without any confrontation.”
UN Great Lakes envoy kicks off regional visit with meetings in DRC
Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, began her week-long visit to the region today by meeting with the senior leadership of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including President Joseph Kabila, Prime Minister Augustin Matata, and Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda.
Mrs. Robinson’s first visit to the DRC as Special Envoy follows the signing in February of the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region,” which seeks to end the recurring cycle of conflicts and crisis in the eastern DRC and to build peace and development. Mrs. Robinson stated the agreement offered renewed hope and a new opportunity to resolve the conflict and its causes, adding “that is why I call it a framework of hope, and I hope it will be implemented in that spirit of progress moving forward for the peoples of the region.”
UNHCR gives Malian soldiers primer on humanitarian law
UNHCR Protections Officers conducted training sessions at the Koulikoro military base in southern Mali - the first of six scheduled seminars on human rights and international humanitarian law sponsored by the European Union, UNHCR, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other agencies.
The training and seminars are designed to make rank-and-file soldiers aware of the difference between combatants and civilians; the protection of humanitarian workers, children, refugees, internally displaced people and civil officials; and the prohibition against taking hostages, using torture or engaging in random looting and shooting.
Full Story: http://www.unhcr.org/517e44599.html
Topic In Focus
Renewed efforts to close the Guantánamo detention center:
A group of United Nations independent experts on human rights, arbitrary detention, torture, counter-terrorism and health reiterated their calls on the United States to close the detention center at the Guantánamo Naval Base, amid nearly 100 prisoners on a hunger strike at the detention center.
The experts noted that they have received specific information about severe and prolonged physiological and psychological damage caused by the high degree of uncertainty the detainees face over basic aspects of their lives, including not knowing if they will be tried or released, or whether they will see their family members again. The experts further urged the US Government to: i) adopt concrete measures to end indefinite detention of persons; ii) ensure the detainees are either released or prosecuted in accordance with due process and the principles and standards of international human rights law; and iii) allow for independent monitoring by international human rights bodies.
President Barack Obama stated that he would recommit himself to closing the detention center.
News release from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) - Guantánamo / Human Rights: “Indefinite detention - will it ever end?”
Expert’s full public statement - IACHR, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Rapporteur on Torture, UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, and UN Rapporteur on Health reiterate need to end the indefinite detention of individuals at Guantánamo Naval Base in light of current human rights crisis