Posts Tagged ‘prevention’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in last Council Statement does not mince words

February 28, 2018

 “Given this is my last address as high commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt,” outgoing U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on 26 February 2018. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/] And he was: Zeid delivered one of the strongest and clearest denunciations from a top U.N. official about the Security Council veto. He didn’t mention specific vetoes, but the context made crystal clear he referred to war in Syria, over which Russia and China have repeatedly used the veto to block efforts such as to hold war criminals to account or punish Assad’s government for alleged use of chemical weapons. Zeid instead spoke more broadly and decried “some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times“: Syria, the Ituri and Kasai regions of Congo; the embattled city of Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; and Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.  He denounced the “minimal action” taken even though his office has repeatedly exposed human rights violations that “should have served as a trigger for preventive action.“The High Commissioner stated that the five permanent, veto-wielding council members “must answer to the victims” if the veto is used to block any action that could reduce human suffering. “Second to those who are criminally responsible — those who kill and maim — the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council,” he said Still, Zeid praised France for “commendable leadership” for its recent push for a code of conduct on use of the veto, which he said Britain and more than 115 countries have supported. “It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto,” he said.

Another outspoken statement that lead to furious reactions concerned especially some eastern european states: “Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary‘s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?”  This led to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó  urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to resign. “It is not acceptable for an employee of an international organization to make such disgusting accusations. The Supreme Commissioner must resign, “Szijjártó said. “We have to defend our borders and we will make every effort to clarify the full stance in the UN debate on migration“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/]

For the full text of the High Commissioner’s speech delivered on 26 February 2018 in Geneva see below:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/united-nations-zeid-raad-al-hussein-russia-china-us-security-council-veto/
http://www.novinite.com/articles/188279/Hungary+Wants+the+Resignation+of+the+United+Nations+High+Commissioner+for+Human+Rights%2C+who+Called+Victor+Orban+%22Racist%22
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-u-n-human-rights-chief-blasts-1519666939-htmlstory.html

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37th session of the Human Rights Council: Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (Published on 26 Feb 2018)

Distinguished President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Friends,

May I begin by welcoming the Security Council’s unanimous decision in relation to a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which came after intense lobbying by our Secretary-General and others, and we applaud Sweden and Kuwait for their leadership in the Security Council on this. We insist on its full implementation without delay. However, we have every reason to remain cautious, as airstrikes on eastern Ghouta continue this morning. Resolution 2401 (2018) must be viewed against a backdrop of seven years of failure to stop the violence: seven years of unremitting and frightful mass killing.

Eastern Ghouta, the other besieged areas in Syria; Ituri and the Kasais in the DRC; Taiz in Yemen; Burundi; Northern Rakhine in Myanmar have become some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times, because not enough was done, early and collectively, to prevent the rising horrors. Time and again, my office and I have brought to the attention of the international community violations of human rights which should have served as a trigger for preventive action. Time and again, there has been minimal action. And given this is my last address as High Commissioner at the opening of a March session, I wish to be blunt.

Second to those who are criminally responsible – those who kill and those who maim – the responsibility for the continuation of so much pain lies with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. So long as the veto is used by them to block any unity of action, when it is needed the most, when it could reduce the extreme suffering of innocent people, then it is they – the permanent members – who must answer before the victims.

France has shown commendable leadership among the P5 in championing a code of conduct on the use of veto; the United Kingdom has also joined the initiative, now backed by over 115 countries. It is time, for the love of mercy, that China, Russia and the United States, join them and end the pernicious use of the veto.

Mr. President,

A few miles away, at CERN, physicists try to understand what our planet, and the universe or universes, are made of. What matter is, at the most basic level, and how it all fits together. To understand the physical world, we humans have long realised we must tunnel deeply, beyond molecular biology and geology; and go to those sub-atomic spaces for answers.

Why do we not do the same when it comes to understanding the human world? Why, when examining the political and economic forces at work today, do we not zoom in more deeply? How can it be so hard to grasp that to understand states and societies – their health and ills; why they survive; why they collapse – we must scrutinize at the level of the individual: individual human beings and their rights. After all, the first tear in the fabric of peace often begins with a separation of the first few fibres, the serious violations of the rights of individuals – the denial of economic and social rights, civil and political rights, and most of all, in a persistent denial of freedom.

There is another parallel with physics. Gravity is a weak force, easily defied by a small child raising a finger, but there is also a strong force governing the orbits of planets and the like. So too with human rights. Some States view human rights as of secondary value – far less significant than focusing on GDP growth or geopolitics. While it is one of the three pillars of the UN, it is simply not treated as the equal of the other two. The size of the budget is telling enough, and the importance accorded to it often seems to be in the form of lip service only. Many in New York view it condescendingly as that weak, emotional, Geneva-centred, pillar — not serious enough for some of the hardcore realists in the UN Security Council.

Yet like in physics, we also know human rights to be a strong force, perhaps the strongest force. For whenever someone in New York calls a topic “too sensitive,” there’s a good chance human rights are involved. And why sensitive? Because a denial of rights hollows out a government’s legitimacy. Every time the phrase “too sensitive” is used, it therefore confirms the supreme importance of human rights, and their effect as a strong force.

For no tradition, legal or religious, calls for or supports oppression – none. Discussions about rights are avoided by those who seek deflection because of guilt, those who shy away from difficult decisions and those who profit from a more superficial, simple, and ultimately useless, analysis. Better just leave it to Geneva, they say – and the crises continue to grow.

To understand the maladies of societies, grasp the risks of conflict, and prevent or resolve them we must — like particle physicists – work ourselves into the smaller spaces of individuals and their rights, and ask the most basic questions there. The most devastating wars of the last 100 years did not come from countries needing more GDP growth. They stemmed from – and ¡ quote from the Universal Declaration – a “disregard and contempt for human rights”. They stemmed from oppression.

Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment – like Hungary’s Viktor Orban who earlier this month said “we do not want our colour… to be mixed in with others”. Do they not know what happens to minorities in societies where leaders seek ethnic, national or racial purity? When an elected leader blames the Jews for having perpetrated the Holocaust, as was recently done in Poland, and we give this disgraceful calumny so little attention, the question must be asked: have we all gone completely mad?

Mr. President,

Perhaps we have gone mad, when families grieve in too many parts of the world for those lost to brutal terrorism, while others suffer because their loved ones are arrested arbitrarily, tortured or killed at a black site, and were called terrorists for simply having criticized the government; and others await execution for crimes committed when they were children. While still more can be killed by police with impunity, because they are poor; or when young girls in El Salvador are sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for miscarriages; when transgender women in Aceh are punished and humiliated in public. When Nabeel Rajab is sentenced to five years for alleging torture; or when 17 year-old Ahed Tamimi is tried on 12 counts for slapping a soldier enforcing a foreign occupation. When journalists are jailed in huge numbers in Turkey, and the Rohingya are dehumanized, deprived and slaughtered in their homes – with all these examples bedevilling us, why are we doing so little to stop them, even though we should know how dangerous all of this is?

It is accumulating unresolved human rights violations such as these, and not a lack of GDP growth, which will spark the conflicts that can break the world. While our humanitarian colleagues tend to the victims – and we salute their heroism and their selflessness – their role is not to name or single out the offenders publicly. That task falls to the human rights community, that it is our task. For it is the worst offenders’ disregard and contempt for human rights which will be the eventual undoing of all of us. This, we cannot allow to happen.

We will therefore celebrate, with passion, the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which incarnates rights common to all the major legal and religious traditions. We will defend it, in this anniversary year, more vigorously than ever before and along with our moral leaders – the human rights defenders in every corner of the globe – we will call for everyone to stand up for the rights of others.

This is, in the end, a very human thing to do. Artificial intelligence will never fully replicate the moral courage, the self-sacrifice and, above all, the love for all human beings that sets human rights defenders apart from everyone else. As I close out my term as High Commissioner in the coming months, I wish to end this statement by saying it has been the honour of my life to have come to know many of these defenders; to have worked with them, and for them.

Thank you.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/37th-session-human-rights-council-opening-statement-un-high-commissioner-human-rights

Front Line’s 2017 report confirms worst expectation: over 300 HRDs killed

January 5, 2018

At the end of last year I published the post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/31/2017-a-year-to-forget-for-human-rights-defenders-but-dont-forget-the-human-rights-defenders/, and now – 3 January 2018 – Front Line Defenders has published its 2017 report which confirms this impression.

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks. File photograph: Getty Images

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks. File photograph: Getty Images

There were 312 human rights defenders killed in 27 countries last year, according to the new report. Two-thirds of those killed were activists working on issues of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights, while 80 per cent of killings took place in just four countriesBrazil, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines. Front Line Defenders said the number of killings remained “truly shocking”, while the “weak response of both national governments and the international community gives little hope that this will change in the short term”. The report outlined that in 84 per cent of killings the defender had previously received a threat.

Andrew Anderson, executive director of Front Line Defenders, said “we know that those killings, in many cases were preventable”. “When we analyse those killings, in 84 per cent, the defendant had previously received a threat, and that highlights if there had been effective action taken by the police or other authorities, there could have been something done to prevent that killing happening.” Mr Anderson added: “These are not random killings of people in crossfire – This is the targeted elimination of people who are working to defend the rights of the most vulnerable.

Front Line Defenders said female human rights defenders in particular are increasingly reporting “hyper-sexualised smear campaigns and defamation” which aim to limit their activism by eroding local support networks.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/annual-report-human-rights-defenders-risk-2017

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/over-300-human-rights-activists-killed-in-2017-says-report-1.3345060

 

Next Secretary General of the UN: human rights NGOs know what they want but candidates still vague

April 19, 2016

Who will be the next secretary-general? The field is still wide open but thanks in part to the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, campaigning for the job is – for the first time in UN history – mostly public, even if the decision is ultimately made by General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. There are strong arguments in favor of a woman (first time ever, see link below) and someone from Eastern Europe (‘their turn’ in the informally agreed regional rotation).  Of the nine candidates currently in the running, UN insiders and others close to the process see UNESCO head Irina Bokova, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and former Slovenian President Danilo Türk as the frontrunners (if the bookmakers are right).

Last week, for the first time ever, nine candidates presented their visions for the UN to the General Assembly in New York Read the rest of this entry »

Emma Bolshia helps Bolivian victims recover from torture and its second trauma, silence

December 9, 2015

In the series “10 December, 10 Defenders” OMCT published on 4 December 2015 the profile of Emma Bolshia Bravo who helps Bolivian victims recover from torture and its second trauma, silence.

 

Considering the magnitude of the psychological effects on the victim, the fear it generates within society, and the traumas transmitted to the following generations, torture causes irreparable damage,” says Emma Bolshia Bravo. “That’s why prevention of torture is crucial.Read the rest of this entry »

Another passionate plea by UN High Commissioner for better education and global leadership

February 6, 2015


High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein delivers his speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Credit: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum | Photo: Miriam Lomaskin

In an impressive speech on 5 February 2015 at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. – one week after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein emphasized that education devoid of a strong universal human rights component can be next to worthless, especially in a crisis. “What good was it to humanity that…eight out of 15 people who planned the Holocaust at Wannsee in 1942 held PhDs?” he asked. “In the years after the Holocaust, specific treaties were negotiated to cement into law obligations to protect human rights. Countries the world over accepted them – and now alas, all too frequently, they ignore them in practice.” While it has been 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp, some of the processes used by the Nazis to carry out humanity’s largest organized destruction are being implemented again today by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), explained Mr. Zeid.

This logic is abundant around the world today: I torture because a war justifies it. I spy on my citizens because terrorism, repulsive as it is, requires it. I don’t want new immigrants, or I discriminate against minorities, because our communal identity or my way of life is being threatened as never before. I kill others, because others will kill me – and so it goes, on and on.

Since the world cannot afford “sinking into a state of paralyzing shock…the task is to strengthen our ethics, clarity, openness of thought, and moral courage,” calling for new battle lines to combat extremism – based on the struggle for minds.

Children need to learn what bigotry and chauvinism are…they need to learn that blind obedience can be exploited by authority figures for wicked ends. They should learn that they are not an exception because of where they were born, how they look, what passport they carry, or the social class, caste or creed of their parents; they should learn that no one is intrinsically superior to her or his fellow human beings,” said Mr. Zeid.

The world needs “profound and inspiring” leaders who fully observe human rights and humanitarian law and all the treaties drafted to end discrimination, poverty, war, “with no excuses.”

It is obvious, Mr. Zeid continued, that forceful reprisals against atrocities – including “the savage burning of my compatriot the pilot Mu’ath al Kassassbeh” by ISIL – have had limited impact. Leaders must adopt a “battle-line based on ideas,” to speak out against Takfiri ideology (when one believer apostasies another believer and condemns them as impure). The movement to end that dangerous ideology must be waged by Muslim leaders and Muslim countries, he said.

Just bombing them or choking off their financing has clearly not worked…for these groups have only proliferated and grown in strength,” he said. “The space for dissent in many countries is collapsing under the weight of either poorly-thought out, or indeed, exploitative, counter-terrorism strategies.”

Few crises erupt without warning, he continued. Extremist ideas and violence manifest from years of tyranny, inequalities, fear and bad governance. They build up over years – even decades – of human rights grievances and the denial of basic economic and social rights. He insisted that atrocities can be prevented and extremism curbed through better, human rights-based global leadership and a fundamental rethink of education. “Surely we now know, from bitter experience, that human rights are the only meaningful rampart against barbarity.”

United Nations News Centre – In Washington, UN rights chief says atrocities can be prevented through better global leadership.

Adama Dieng speaks on prevention of mass atrocity on 10 October

October 3, 2014

Prevention of mass atrocity crimes:Achievements, current trends and challenges” is the topic on which Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide ( former Registrar of the Rwanda Tribunal and former Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists) will speak on Friday, 10 October 2014, from 10h30 to 11h45, in Bundesgasse 28, Room BGA 12, Bern, Switzerland.

There are only a limited number of seats available, so please book your seat by e-mail to nathan.broquet[at]eda.admin.ch before Wednesday 8 October 2014.

‘Rights up Front’ presented by Jan Eliason: “It is irrefutable that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of atrocities”

December 26, 2013

(Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Still haunted by its failure to forestall genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica nearly 20 years ago and confronted by ongoing bloodshed in Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations is revamping its preventive strategies under a new initiative called ‘Rights up Front.’ “The need for early action, and the crucial role of responding early to human rights violations, is at the heart of theRights up Front’ initiative,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told an informal session of the General Assembly on 17 December 2013 – as he presented a six-point action plan.

It includes training UN staff on the world body’s core purpose of promoting respect for human rights; providing Member States with the information needed to respond to human rights violations; and ensuring that UN personnel around the world are more attuned to situations where there is a risk of serious human rights abuses and are equipped for the responsibilities that such potential crises entail.

The strategy, initiated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also includes achieving a more coherence by strengthening engagement with the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and providing earlier and more coherent support to teams on the ground before a crisis emerges; and better organization of human rights staff so that they can identify risks of serious violations of human rights that could lead to atrocities.

Finally, underpinning all these activities will be better information management on threats and risks to populations for planning operational activities and for sharing with Member States.

“. ..It is irrefutable, and needs repeating, that serious human rights violations are the best early warning of impending atrocities.” Eliasson said. “If we fail to act early, the human, political and economic costs can be devastating as we know far too well. This calls for a more alert, flexible and coordinated UN System, both on the ground and at headquarters.”

Horrendous events led us all to say ‘never again’, Mr. Eliasson said. “We said we would have to do more to prevent serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Despite much effort, since 1995 hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of mass atrocities and tens of millions have been displaced.” But steps forward have been taken. “World leaders endorsed the ‘responsibility to protect in 2005. And Member States have over the years articulated an increasingly detailed agenda for the protection of civilians,” he said. Yet, the crises in Syria, where over 100,000 people have now been killed and 8 million driven from their homes in the nearly three-year civil war, and in CAR, where thousands have been killed and over 600,000 displaced in a conflict increasingly marked by inter-communal clashes between Christians and Muslims, are reminders that serious human rights abuses are often the clearest early warning of emerging conflict, he added.

“When people in today’s world are at risk or subject to serious violations, they expect and request the United Nations to act – and we do,” Mr. Eliasson declared. “However, in practice, our response to crisis often comes when a situation has deteriorated to the point where only a substantial political or peacekeeping mission can deal with the problems.”

via United Nations News Centre – New UN ‘Rights up Front’ strategy seeks to prevent genocide, human rights abuses.

 

New Network launched today:Infrastructures for Peace (I4P)

March 13, 2013

The new International Civil Society Network on Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) is launched today with its website: www.I4Pinternational.org 

Many countries lack capacities and structures to deal adequately with on-going and potential violent conflict. This has emerged as a central obstacle to the attainment of equitable and sustainable development. In recent years, the number of conflicts has been increasing once again. What is needed – in the same way as for threatening natural disasters – is a comprehensive, inclusive and long-term approaches to peacebuilding, which involves the main stakeholders. Infrastructures for peace and Local Peace Committees can be important pillars to counter these dangerous developments or substantially reduce their impact. Several local peacebuilding NGOs and practitioners felt the need to exchange experiences and best practices about this approach and make I4P more recognised:the network was born and counts now some seventy members. There is an Interim Steering Committee with members from three continents.

Human rights and human rights defenders play a crucial role in this process – even if not spelled out in the main pages of the new website. The local peace groups mentioned as members however frequently refer to the need for human rights and social justice as they realise that lasting peace cannot be the ‘peace of the graveyard’. Moreover, it is the local Human Rights Defenders who suffer most from the absence of peace as this blog and many more sources regularly demonstrate.