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Posts Tagged ‘Human rights’

UN call for investigations into serious human rights abuses by traditional hunters

Posted by African Press International on December 9, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ A UN report has called for investigations into serious human rights abuses committed by traditional hunters called Dozos between March 2009 and May 2013 in Côte d’Ivoire.

The report, released today by the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for human rights (OHCHR), documents serious human rights abuses committed by Dozos while undertaking security activities, These include violations of the right to life, including extrajudicial killings and summary executions, illegal arrest and detentions, looting and extortions.

The investigations carried out by the Human Rights Division of UNOCI showed that at least 228 people were killed, 164 others injured by bullets, machete and knives, and 162 arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained by Dozos between March 2009 and May 2013. In addition, 274 cases of looting, arson and extortion committed by the Dozos have been verified and confirmed, including in the regions of Gbôklé, Haut-Sassandra, Gôh, Cavally, Guemon, Tonkpi, Marahoué, Nawa, Indenie-Djuablin, Poro and Moronou.

“Dozos involved in the perpetration of human rights violations must be held accountable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “The authorities have the duty to carry out serious investigations into the human rights violations committed by the Dozos in Côte d’Ivoire, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide appropriate redress to the victims. The State authorities of Côte d’Ivoire have the duty to deploy appropriate security forces throughout the country to prevent the population from using Dozos on security issues. Impunity granted to Dozos in Côte d’Ivoire is unacceptable and must be stopped,” she said.

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène, and NGOs have already made several recommendations urging the Government to take steps to address the situation of the Dozos who continue to endanger the population.

“I welcome the ongoing efforts by the Government to cover the entire country with professional security forces. These efforts are crucial in reestablishing the rule of law and in preventing Dozos from carrying out security functions,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in Côte d’Ivoire, Aïchatou Mindaoudou. “The UN continues to offer its support to the Ivorian authorities for the advancement of security sector reforms. However, it is necessary that the Government investigates human rights abuses committed by the Dozos, in the interest of victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation.”

 

SOURCE

United Nations – Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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Norway increases its humanitarian support to the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2013

OSLO, Norway, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – “I am very concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic. Norway welcomes the decision by the UN Security Council to authorize an expanded peacekeeping force, in order to contribute to the protection of civilians and the restoration of security and public order,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is steadily deteriorating. Attacks on civilians and violations of human rights are widespread, and law and order is virtually absent. The local population and displaced persons are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

The Norwegian Government is therefore increasing its humanitarian support by NOK 20 million, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (NOK 15 million) and Médecins Sans Frontières (NOK 5 million). Norway also contributes to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in CAR. The total humanitarian support to CAR now stands at NOK 32 million. In addition, Norway contributes to other UN funds and programmes in the country.

“I am concerned about the impact of the crisis on the region. There is a risk that the lawlessness we are seeing in the Central African Republic will turn the country into a haven for extremists, armed groups and international organised criminals, thus increasing instability in the region,” Mr Brende said.

The Foreign Minister considers the decision by the UN Security Council to authorise the deployment of an African-led stabilisation force (MISCA), which will be assisted by an expanded French force, to be crucial for the country.

“We are following the situation closely and we will consider further contributions to the humanitarian response early next year,” Mr Brende said, underlining that all parties to the conflict are obliged under international humanitarian law to ensure that people in need have access to humanitarian assistance.

 

SOURCE

Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Action needed for the eradication slavery and child labour in Ghana

Posted by African Press International on December 5, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, urged the Government of Ghana to consolidate the important steps it has taken with strong and sustainable implementation strategies with measurable impact on groups at risk as well as victims of slavery.

“Further progress on eradicating the various forms of modern day slavery and exploitation in Ghana can only be achieved by addressing the root causes sustaining these practices, including poverty, regional disparities and the lack of access to livelihoods, education and health,” the expert said. A human rights-based approach is essential to do this.

“During my visit, I have seen that child labour, including in its worst forms continues to thrive in some communities. Children, some as young as 4 years of age, continue to be sent to work in fishing communities where they do dangerous work, are deprived of an education and are not paid,” she noted.

Ms. Shahinian hailed the steps taken by some of these fishing communities to ban child labour in their villages and to extend their child protection work to neighboring areas. “More community awareness raising and livelihoods are needed,” she explained. Children also work in hazardous and slavery conditions in the artisan mining sector, and in the cocoa sector – though the latter has seen significant improvements.

“I had the opportunity to speak to girls engaged in survival and commercial sex in Accra and Kayayes in the market who sleep in the open in appalling conditions with very young children and are regularly exposed to rape, exploitation and abuse, the the Special Rapporteur said. “These women and girls, as well as the children who accompany them are vulnerable to become victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced and bonded labour and other forms of slavery. In addition to poverty, some are fleeing from early and forced marriages.”

Domestic servitude, often involving young children is another form of contemporary slavery which is believed to be rampant and must be studied and addressed. Equally there is a need to understand better the dynamics of forced labour and other forms of slavery along the person’s life cycle and pay greater attention to the situation of adults, on which there is too little effort and information.

The independent expert noted that many of these situations of exploitation increasingly occur in the context of the large waves of internal migration from poor rural areas to urban centres. “It is critical to invest in areas of origin and to invest heavily in the management of urban development, so that poor informal settlements or slums do not become sourcing centres for all forms of slave labour and trafficking for criminals,” Ms. Shahinian stressed.

The government of Ghana has taken the important step of recognizing the existence of slavery, of adopting legislative frameworks, and putting in place a number of institutional mechanisms and programs, such as in the area of child labor, and human trafficking. They have adopted the National Plan of Action (NPA) for the Elimination of the Worst forms of Child Labor, which aims to eradicate such practices by 2015, and ratified a number of international agreements, including key human right and ILO Conventions.

“I commend the authorities for these efforts and for establishing these frameworks,” the Special Rapporteur said. “I now urge the Government, in partnership with other stakeholders, to ensure that these frameworks become genuine tools for change.”

The expert warned that “budgetary allocations from the national budget to relevant ministries, departments and programs are inadequate, as is data collection, which is necessary to inform actions and understand the magnitude of the problem.”

In her view, greater and urgent efforts are necessary to ensure that social protection programs are rationalized, purposeful, and sustainable. These must be able to effectively identify and target the most vulnerable, be sufficiently resourced, and informed by a truly participatory and bottom-up approach.

Other challenges include coordination between relevant government structures and programs, the need for greater inclusion of civil society and affected communities at every stage, and genuine decentralisation which is more representational, able to reach all communities and supported with sufficient resources.

“The importance of education was stressed by everyone I encountered on this visit,” Ms. Shahinian noted. “Communities explained how critical education was to keep children out of child labour, while mothers working in terrible condition in the streets or in markets explained their objective was to earn money to send their children to school. Effective access to basic services such as primary education, adequate housing and health continue to be a challenge for many, despite favorable legislation.”

“Using a human rights-based approach can empower all stakeholders, including Government, and affected communities to address these rights as well as other socio-economic rights from the point of view of good governance and accountability,” she underscored.

During her nine-day mission, The Special Rapporteur visited various fishing communities in the lake Volta region, a rehabilitation centre, outdoor markets and other areas in Accra. She met with Government representatives, law enforcement agencies, victims, traditional community chiefs, teachers, members of community child protection committees, and international and civil society organisations.

Ms. Shahinian will present the findings of the visit to the Human Rights Council in September 2014.

 

SOURCE

United NationsOffice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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A call for the Protection of Eritreans in their quest for safety

Posted by African Press International on November 25, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 25, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/– The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, expressed great concern about rampant human rights violations in Eritrea which caused hundreds of thousands to leave their country for an unknown and precarious future.

“I call on the Eritrean Government to respect its human rights obligations and to put an immediate stop to human rights violations that are committed in the country”, Ms. Keetharuth stressed after interviewing Eritreans during an official mission* to Tunisia and Malta.

The blanket disrespect of fundamental human rights in Eritrea is pushing some 2,000 to 3,000 people to leave the country monthly, although the risks along the escape routes are of a life-threatening nature. In 2012, the total Eritrean population of concern to UNHCR amounted to 305,723.

During her ten-day mission, the indefinite national service was quoted as the main reason inciting Eritreans to leave their home country. “The open-ended national service is a system which keeps Eritreans captive in a situation of despair, forcing them to take unimaginable risks in search of freedom and a safe haven,” she noted.

Young Eritreans, both women and men, often before reaching 18 years, are recruited into a compulsory national service characterised by severe human rights abuses. Punishment amounting to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment as well as detention in inhumane conditions is routine in the military. Women explained they were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuses by officers.

“These violations are committed with complete impunity, without any structures and procedures in place for victims to bring the perpetrators to justice”, she said.

Most of those she interviewed described difficult economic and social conditions in their home country; however, they noted that the daily struggle for access to food and water, and lack of adequate health care and electricity had not motivated their departure.

“It is the complete deprivation of the freedom and security of the person, a fundamental human right also recognised by Eritrea that drives entire families to leave their country in the hope to find a place where they feel protected”, Ms. Keetharuth explained.

Many refugees she met during her mission were rescued at sea after a dangerous journey across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea. One young man told her: “We are aware of the risks associated with crossing the desert and the sea. Nobody in his right mind would take such a decision. We do it because there is no other choice.”

Ms. Keetharuth called for the protection of those fleeing from risking their lives by undertaking highly dangerous journeys to reach a place they feel is safe. She also urged the international community to address the root causes of the refugee situation by listening to the voices of victims of human rights violations in Eritrea who reach the conclusion that their only option is flight.

The human rights expert reiterated the importance to end bilateral and other arrangements between Eritrea and third countries that would provide for Eritreans to be returned to their home country where they risk facing persecution, torture, inhuman treatment, and forced recruitment into indefinite military service.

Since her appointment in November 2012, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit Eritrea, which have so far not been granted. Consequently, the Expert resorted to gathering first-hand information from those who have left Eritrea. She reiterates her call for access to the country to assess the human rights situation.

The expert’s findings will be presented in her second report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.

 

SOURCE

United NationsOffice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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Human rights in Eritrea

Posted by African Press International on November 7, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth , will undertake an official visit to Tunisia and Malta from 11 to 20 November 2013 to collect first-hand information from Eritrean refugees on the human rights situation in Eritrea.

Since her appointment in November 2012, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit Eritrea, which have so far not been granted. She has repeatedly urged the Eritrean authorities to collaborate with her mandate with a view to addressing its human rights challenges.

Due to lack of access to Eritrea, the Special Rapporteur has decided to collect first-hand information from Eritrean refugees. The Special Rapporteur appreciates that Tunisia and Malta have agreed to provide her access to the Eritrean refugee population residing in those two countries.

During her mission, the Special Rapporteur will interview Eritrean refugees about the situation of human rights in Eritrea to corroborate allegations of widespread and systematic violations of human rights in Eritrea contained in reports she has received from a variety of interlocutors . The result of her findings, which will be strictly limited to the situation inside Eritrea, will be reflected in her second report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.

 

SOURCE

United NationsOffice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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Disasters and conflicts hinder girls’ access to education

Posted by African Press International on October 16, 2013

Disasters and conflicts hinder girls’ access to education

NAIROBI, 16 October 2013 (IRIN) – During disasters, girls fare worse than the rest of the population, according to a new report released on 11 October by child rights NGO Plan International.

“Men, women, boys and girls experience disasters in different ways. Pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities will be exacerbated in disasters and will affect girls and women more,” said Plan International regional director Gezahegn Kebede at an event for the launch of the report.

“In emergencies, given their gender, age, and humanitarian status [girls] experience triple disadvantage,” said Kebede. However, education can be a powerful mitigating tool, and can significantly improve their livelihoods.

The report entitled The State of the World’s Girls 2013: In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters argues that a combination of political, economic, social and cultural attitudes can lead to discrimination of girls during disasters.

“Three of the four main categories of rights that are most relevant to adolescent girls – rights to protection; development through education; and participation – are also among the lowest priorities and often receive the least funding in the humanitarian community. This is because these rights are not seen as immediately life-saving – like food, water and shelter,” the authors noted.

“In general, when times are tough and there are less household resources for school fees, school uniforms, then there is a son preference. If families have to make a choice, they would rather continue education for boys than girls,” said Plan’s Kebede.

Research conducted by the report’s authors in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Mozambique indicated that boys are more likely to attend school after a disaster than are girls.

“Girls in the developing world tend to draw the short straw in life. They are intrinsically vulnerable, and face everything from the threat of early marriage and violence to the simple fact that their parents do not think girls important enough to go to school,” said Rose Odhiambo, CEO of the Gender and Equality Commission of Kenya.

More child marriage in emergencies 

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), one third of girls are married before the age of 18, and one in nine do so before they turn 15, globally.

Child marriage often increases in emergencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with income for parents,” said Kebede.

Earlier research shows that fear of gender-based violence and pregnancy out-of-wedlock can motivate families in fragile states to marry-off girls at very young ages as a protective measure.

“Child marriage often increases in emergencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with income for parents”

Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to those that give birth in their twenties, and those married before the age of 18 were also twice as likely to be physically abused or threatened by their spouses when compared to those who married later.

In Mozambique for instance, roughly 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared with just 10 percent of those who have completed secondary school, according to the ICRW.

Gender-based violence during disasters 

Poorly thought-out humanitarian programmes, too, increase the dangers girls face in disaster situations. “We are all aware of the risk of exacerbated gender-based violence based on WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] programming that doesn’t take into account how latrines and water points are established, for example,” said Kebede.

“Gender-based violence in and around school is a major issue that needs to be addressed and teachers are often exploiting rather than protecting girls, according to various studies,” said Elke Wisch, deputy regional director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern and South Africa

In fragile countries like Somalia, lax or non-existent regulatory frameworks coupled with cultural attitudes can increase violence against women and girls.

“The issue in Somalia is that, to many, gender-based violence still only means rape. Denial to education, denial to resources, female-genital mutilation, forced early marriage – none of these are considered gender-based violence,” said Ilwad Elman, programme director at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu.

Somalia is yet to ratify the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). “Innovative strategies to actually support Somalia women and girls are paramount,” Elman added.

Education as the solution

“There is overwhelming evidence that girls’ education is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves,” UNICEF’S Wisch noted. “It is the one consistent positive determinants of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to enhanced participation and democratization.”

“A girl who has completed her education is less likely to marry and have children whilst she is still a child herself. She is more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children,” said Kebede.

Needed: Policies to address girls’ vulnerabilities during disasters

But conflict hinders girls’ access to education. Plan International believes that half of the estimated 57 million primary-school children out of school reside in countries affected by conflict.

“When we include cyclical or protracted disasters this figure is of course even higher,” Kebede said.

Research conducted looking at disasters over a 20-year period in 141 countries shows that boys generally received preferential treatment over girls in rescue efforts.

The use of new technology, as well as innovative partnerships and policies, can help improve access to education, particularly for girls in disasters.

In Bangladesh, solar powered floating schools enable communities affected by seasonal rains and rising sea levels to continue with their educationdespite flooding.

By prioritizing education during emergency responses, disaster situations provide an opportunity to get more girls into school. “Education in emergencies provide safe spaces for girls and boys, provide psycho-social support and peer support spaces and are often used to communicate life-saving messages throughout the first phases of a disaster,” said Kebede.

The report calls for, among other things, greater gender-disaggregated data to better inform policy, and specific initiatives to address the vulnerabilities exacerbated by gender, especially in disaster prevention and response.

aps/ko/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Norway welcomes UN statement on the humanitarian crisis in Syria

Posted by African Press International on October 4, 2013

Norway is pleased that the UN Security Council has finally reached agreement on a strong statement that condemns the serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Syria, and calls for unhindered humanitarian access,” said Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.

The Security Council issued a presidential statement today concerning the lack of respect for international humanitarian law and the grave human rights violations in Syria.

“I am glad that the Security Council has urged the Syrian authorities and the various armed groups to implement concrete actions in a number of areas to ensure that civilians are given protection and assistance,” Mr Eide said.

The Security Council statement condemns the obstacles and impediments put in the way of humanitarian aid deliveries by the Syrian authorities and various armed groups. It calls for unhindered humanitarian access across conflict lines and across national borders when necessary. The lack of access granted to UN and other humanitarian actors seeking to bring help to those in need is currently the greatest humanitarian problem in Syria. The statement also condemns the widespread sexual and gender-based abuse and violence, and focuses particularly on the protection of children.

“It is crucial to demilitarise schools and hospitals, and to combat sexual and gender-based violence, especially to protect the very weakest groups in Syria, including children,” Foreign Minister Eide said.

 

end

 

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Norway congratulates Bahrain Center for Human Rights on award of 2013 Rafto Prize

Posted by African Press International on September 26, 2013

“The prize recognises the courageous and valuable work of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights to promote respect for fundamental human rights in Bahrain. In Norway’s view, independent voices and institutions are vital for promoting freedom of expression. For several years the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has carried out important work in documenting discrimination and violations of freedom of expression and assembly,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

It was announced today that the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BHRC) has been awarded the 2013 Rafto Prize. The Center was established in 2002. In its announcement, the Board of the Rafto Foundation emphasised the Center’s longstanding efforts to promote human rights in Bahrain and draw attention to violations of human rights in an area of the world where this often receives little attention from Western countries.

“The award of the Rafto Prize to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights is also a signal of support and recognition of the important and challenging work being done by human rights defenders in the Gulf region. Norway is following developments in Bahrain closely and is concerned about the human rights situation. We are therefore pleased that an institution from Bahrain has been awarded the 2013 Rafto Prize. We hope that the prize will help to promote wider recognition and respect for the fact that human rights apply to all people – including vulnerable groups such as women, children and migrant workers,” Mr Eide said.

 

End

source mfa.norway

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He speaks of being tortured

Posted by African Press International on September 19, 2013

YAOUNDE,  – Cameroon is among the world’s most hostile countries to homosexualityrights groups say. Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison, as well as fines.

In the past three years, the country has prosecuted at least 28 people for homosexuality, according to Human Rights Watch.

Roger Jean Claude Mbede, 34, was sentenced to three years in prison for sending an SMS to another man saying, “I’m in love with you.”

“One day in 2011, after going out with friends, I sent an SMS to one of them to express my feelings, but this landed me in jail on charges of homosexuality.

“From the time of my arrest in Yaoundé, I was subjected to torture from the law enforcement officers. They coerced me to disclose information on my past relationships and my sex life. The gendarme officers kept smacking me, tore my shirt and treated me like a bandit.

“And during my prosecution, the judge kept shouting insults at me. I had no lawyer at the time. On 28 April 2011, I was convicted and given two-year prison term.

“While in jail, I suffered continuous abuse from inmates and prison guards. Many times, I went without basic necessities, such as food and water, because the prison officials refused to serve me like the others.

“Thanks to [a] human right defender and lawyer. I started receiving legal representation after some months in prison. This was due to the fact that my health was deteriorating from the ill treatment I was undergoing in prison. I lost close to 15kg, regularly suffered malaria fever and other complications. The lawyer filed a motion for my release on grounds of my health. The motion was granted on July 16, 2012, and I was provisionally released.

“But after my release, the bad publicity about me made me leave my university studies because I was scared of the threats and insults from fellow students and neighbours.

“Since then, my life has not been the same, and this was worsened by the recent killings of homosexuals and public threats made to anyone suspected to be gay or [gay] rights defenders.

“I can’t find a job where people know me. This has made me live in isolation, like many other gays in Cameroon. We have very few people as friends, and it is even a dreadful thing to meet with someone in your similar situation because any gay [meeting place] is a target today.

“My livelihood has mostly been supported by civil society organizations and human rights defenders. But I could start running a blog to defend and promote the rights of LGBT in Cameroon and beyond.

“Due to the tense environment in Cameroon, I am thinking of seeking asylum to any country where my sexual preference will not cause me many problems.

“But it is not an easy decision to make. I miss my friends and family despite their opinion about me.

“The government doesn’t protect suspected gay people from the gruesome killings and threats that many have gone through in Cameroon.

“If every citizen had equal human rights and freedom in Cameroon, carrying condoms and lubricant wouldn’t be a crime, dressing like women and drinking sweet whisky wouldn’t be an offense, and nobody would be arrested for arranging to meet with another man in a hotel lobby.”

mn/ob/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Halting fight against impunity

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– Since 2012, in an unprecedented effort in the country, top security officials in Guinea have been indicted for alleged crimes against civilians. But t he indictments have yet to lead to trials or, in most cases, even arrests.

Guinea has seen a string of judicial firsts that sparked hope the country could finally chip away at impunity, including military officials long seen as untouchable being called before a court of law. But they have retained their posts; Col Claude Pivi remains head of presidential security; Lt Col Moussa Tiégboro Camara continues in his role as director of the national anti-drug-trafficking agency; and Sékou Resco Camara is still the Conakry governor.

“Every time there’s news of another indictment, [someone on the outside] might think, ‘Ah, things are progressing well there’, but that’s not the case,” said Thierno Madjou Sow, long-time human rights activist and head of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation. “Things get started then just stop. Look at Tiégboro, Pivi, and Resco – all still in their government positions.”

Pivi and Tiégboro Camara are among eight people indicted to date over the 28 September 2009 stadium attack, in which, according to an international inquiry, soldiers killed, raped, or injured hundreds of people. One gendarme has been arrested and detained on charges of rape in that case. Resco Camara has been indicted for alleged involvement in the torture of civilians by gendarmes in 2010.

Sow and other human rights advocates are quick to say the indictments themselves are significant considering the history of impunity among Guinea’s leadership. But the process must continue, they say.

“These indictments do carry some weight. People see that a top military official can be called before a judge – that reassures them,” said Hamidou Barry, a Guinean lawyer and the coordinator of the judges investigating stadium attack. “The problem is everything stops there. Guinea’s judges are not free and independent.”

Doubts about judiciary

The stadium case – the latest but perhaps the most spectacular in a string of military abuses against civilians – is in preliminary examination at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which says the prosecutor has a responsibility to intervene if it becomes clear that national authorities are “unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the proceedings”.

But given what they see as a stalled process, survivors say they wonder what it would take for the ICC to find the Guinean authorities unwilling.

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out,” said Asmaou Diallo, head of the  Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of 28 September (AVIPA), which assists survivors of the attack and other human rights abuses.

“The victims are here, the assailants are here,” she said. “It’s possible to hold trials. But the authorities can’t. They don’t dare. And I don’t know at what level things are blocked. Meanwhile as long as impunity reigns in Guinea, the country cannot move forward.”

Survivors and human rights activists in Guinea say coming out more forcefully against impunity exposes them to threats and intimidation by the accused and their supporters. But many say it is worth it.

“Sure, there is a risk. But I think it’s time Guinea’s human rights community assume that risk,” said Mamady Mansare, a journalist who was injured during the stadium attack. “Survivors must denounce the authorities’ unwillingness to arrest suspects and proceed with this.”

Tamar Thiam, who was injured in the stadium attack and fled Guinea after she was threatened for speaking out, said Guineans must push for more pressure to be brought on the government. “We must raise our voices to show the international community that the authorities lack either the means or the will to bring perpetrators to justice,” she told IRIN. “If this drags on for too long, the witnesses will be dead, the assailants will be dead. What good would a trial do then?”

“This case is in the judges’ hands,” said government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara. “The government has never obstructed their work. To date, several high-level officers have been indicted, and the procedure is following its course with absolutely no interference from the government.”

Cautious optimism

International justice experts say, while things are moving slowly in Guinea, there has been progress. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) says the indictment of officials in the stadium massacre “is a serious indication that they will be brought to account” and the office expects a trial will take place.

“The competent national authorities have initiated proceedings, as it is their primary responsibility to do,” the OTP told IRIN. “The OTP will continue to encourage their efforts as long as we assess they go in the right direction.”

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out.”

Florent Geel, Africa desk director with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), says these cases must not be allowed to drag on for decades, but that considering Guinea’s past, the indictment of top military officials within a few years of the alleged crimes is remarkable.

“Guinea’s history is 40 to 50 years of impunity, so it’s difficult from one day to the next make the justice system function normally,” Geel told IRIN. “It’s not easy. It’s slow. It’s complicated, but little by little there are positive moves.”

Rights expert Sow said since independence in 1958, Guinea’s judiciary has been side-lined by the executive. Geel said he is confident there will be trials in the stadium attack and the 2010 torture case by the end of 2014.

FIDH has called for the suspension of indicted officials, particularly the head of presidential security. “Clearly the accused are innocent until proven guilty. We must respect this principle,” Geel said. “But given Pivi’s position and the seriousness of the indictment, we think it is reasonable to demand his suspension pending further judicial proceedings.”

The ICC prosecutor’s office acknowledges that seeing those charged remain in power is a blow to survivors. “The fact that two indicted officials [in the 28 September case] have retained their post in government is undoubtedly shocking and frustrating for the victims,” the OTP said. “It is, however, insufficient for the office to determine that the proceedings are not being conducted with the intent to bring to justice the persons bearing responsibility for the crimes committed.”

So far in Guinea, “complementarity is working”, the prosecutor’s office told IRIN, referring to the principle that sees the ICC stepping in only as a last resort, when national jurisdictions fail to address crimes.

FIDH’s Geel said it would be best if Guinea’s judiciary were to work. “The goal of international justice is to push the national judiciary to prosecute. Otherwise what would ever be changed in the fight against impunity in the country?”

For the four-year commemoration of the stadium massacre, survivors and families of victims hope to hold a rally at the venue of the attack. The past three Septembers, the government denied authorization to do so, said AVIPA’s Diallo, whose son was killed in the crackdown.

“We hope this year we can at least go to the stadium and place flowers for our dead and missing.”

np/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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3rd annual Iberoamerican week of International Justice and Human Rights to open in The Hague on 8 July 2013

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

On Monday, 8 July 2013, at 09:00, the 3rd annual Iberoamerican Week of International Justice and Human Rights will kick off with an Opening Ceremony at The Hague University’s main auditorium, with speeches by Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, President of the Assembly of States Parties, and Mr Herman von Hebel, Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC), among others.  

The week of events, organised by the International Criminal Court and the Iberoamerican Institute for Peace, Human Rights and International Justice (IIH), is held annually to bring together students and experts from the Iberoamerican region and practitioners in The Hague. This year’s activities are supported by the Embassies of Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico.

From 8 to 12 July, a number of events and activities will take place throughout The Hague to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of international law and human rights. Experts and interested members of the public are welcome to participate.

The week’s activities will conclude on 12 July 2013 with the final round of the ICC Trial Competition 2013 – Spanish version, starting at 09:30 in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court. The top three universities from the regional competitions will compete on a fictional case in an open session of Court. The competition is open to the public and will also be webstreamed live on the ICC website (www.icc-cpi.int). ICC Trial Competitions play a critical role in galvanising interest in the Court’s work with academic communities and enhancing global respect for international criminal law.

 

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source ICC

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Norway: Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime – Minorities under Pressure in Europe and Beyond

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2013

“The final Chair’s Summary of Conclusions from the Oslo Conference on Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime: Minorities under pressure in Europe and beyond, which took place in Oslo 14-15 May 2013.”

Based on the discussions at the Oslo Conference on “Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime: Minorities under Pressure in Europe and Beyond” (14-15 May 2013), which brought together more than 150 representatives from over 25 European countries and 70 organisations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, UN special rapporteurs and independent experts, members of national human rights institutions, academics, and representatives of civil society organisations and minority groups, we present the following summary of conclusions:

 
1. We reaffirm the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, and as reflected in the international human rights conventions, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights;

 
2. We further reaffirm the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 and resolution 22/6 on protecting human rights defenders, the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality as well as the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, which have provided a solid foundation on which to build a framework for addressing manifestations of hatred while protecting fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression;
3. We welcome the positive and necessary steps taken in all regions to address right-wing extremism, hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance against minorities, including efforts to study, analyse and document such incidents, legal reforms, trust-building, public awareness and sensitivity campaigns, as well as the provision of support for activities aimed at protecting and promoting the fundamental rights of minorities, and to respond to hate speech with open and inclusive debates;
4. We express deep concern at the right-wing extremism, hate crime and hate speech directed towards minorities in Europe and beyond, and we are alarmed by the continued serious instances of derogatory stereotyping and stigmatisation of different minority groups, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about minorities, in particular when ignored or even condoned by governments and political leaders;

 
5. We also express concern about the current situation in Europe, which remind us of the links between economic crisis, unemployment, and political and social instability, and we encourage States, when adopting coping-strategies, to enhance levels of trust and inclusiveness and to build upon broader definitions of identity, according to which, inter alia, political, ideological, cultural and/or religious affiliation would not be mutually exclusive, neither at the individual level nor as a community;
6. States, international organisations and other stakeholders should take effective measures to address and combat hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance. States should in this regard allocate adequate resources, as well as swiftly investigate and effectively sanction such incidents, and provide access to justice and the right to remedy when appropriate, while at the same time fulfilling their obligations under international human rights law to respect, protect and promote fundamental rights and freedoms, including protection against violence and discrimination, of all persons without distinction;
7. States should in a coherent manner enact legislation to combat and prevent intolerance, discrimination and violence against minorities, including through the Internet and social media, while at the same time safeguarding other fundamental rights, particularly the freedom of expression and opinion;
8. Any related legislation should be complemented by sustained and wide-ranging efforts to tackle the root causes and various facets of intolerance, especially in the educational field, as we recognise that the problems of right-wing extremism, discrimination and negative stereotyping of minorities are deeply rooted in socio-economic and political factors;
9. States should provide the mechanisms and institutions needed to guarantee the systematic and recurrent collection and analysis of standardised, comparable and comprehensive data on the nature, extent and trends, as well as challenges and opportunities pertaining to extremism, hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance against minorities, in order to ensure informed public debates as well as decision- and policy-making based on sufficient and reliable information;
10. We call upon civil society organisations to contribute to the monitoring and reporting of incidents of discrimination and hate crime against minority groups, and to make use of their position to stand up and act as a voice for victims of hate crimes, through serving as intermediaries with the authorities, and providing practical assistance, such as legal advice, counselling and other services, while at the same time invite and meet opponents with tolerance and respect for democratic principles. States should provide the legal and political framework conducive for civil society organisations to carry out the afore mentioned activities;
11. We encourage States and other stakeholders to adopt positive and preventive measures, inter alia, by nurturing social consciousness, tolerance and understanding through education, training, social dialogue and awareness-raising about human rights, other cultures and religions, and the value of diversity:

a. States should, in cooperation with civil society actors and representatives of various minority groups, develop educational and awareness-raising programmes to inform the population at large about the situation of different minorities and their human rights, while at the same time strengthening the voice of members of minority groups;
b. States, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations should in consultation with different minority groups further encourage, support and facilitate intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, in order to foster mutual respect, trust and understanding;
c. States and other stakeholders should further promote media literacy and make use of the opportunities presented by the Internet and social media to promote equality, non-discrimination and respect for diversity;
d. States should encourage and support platforms for debate, partnerships and the dissemination of knowledge between policymakers, civil society organisations, media organisations and other relevant experts and stakeholders in order to facilitate cooperation on emerging issues and opportunities, as well as exchange of best practices;
12. We further encourage States and political leaders to demonstrate consistent and inclusive leadership, and to develop and implement national action plans to combat discrimination, hate crime and related forms of intolerance targeting minorities, as national action plans are vital in providing a comprehensive and transparent approach and roadmap regarding national-specific issues, while at the same time establishing benchmarks against which progress might be measured both nationally and regionally;
13. We call upon governments, politicians, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to engage in debate on these issues through all possible channels, and in a clear and consistent manner to publicly condemn manifestations of hate in public discourse and acts of violence based on bias, as well as to refrain from making discriminatory statements.
14. We recommend that all media, in enacting their moral and social responsibility, and through ethical journalism and self-regulation, play a role in combating discrimination and in promoting cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and acceptance of differences in communities, including by considering the following:
a. Taking care to report in context and in a factual and sensitive manner, while ensuring that acts of discrimination are brought to the attention of the public;
b. Being alert to the danger of discrimination or negative stereotypes of individuals and groups being furthered by the media;
c. Avoiding unnecessary references to nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and other group characteristics that may promote intolerance;
d. Raising awareness of the harm caused by discrimination and negative stereotyping;
e. Reporting on different groups or communities in a balanced and inclusive manner;
f. Strive to ensure inclusive media, in ownership and organisation, in order to reflect the diversity of the society they serve.
15. We further recommend regional and international coordination and cooperation in the search for new and more effective measures to counter right-wing extremism, hate crime, hate speech and other forms of intolerance, especially by;
a. Building on the good work of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union, and ensuring continued and enhanced engagement in this field through coordination and collaboration both between these regional organisations and with the United Nations;
b. Reaffirming the responsibility of the United Nations, particularly the UN Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, the UN special rapporteurs and independent experts and the treaty bodies to address human rights violations against all persons, regardless of their perceived or real nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion or belief, or any other status.
16. We all share the goal of working together towards a world where no-one faces violence or discrimination on any ground, and we commend the willingness of all stakeholders to participate in the discussions to this end, and look forward to working with all parties in an open, including and transparent manner to take concrete and practical steps to address violence and discrimination against different minorities, and to help ensure that those who face violence and discrimination are treated with equal dignity and with the fundamental respect to which all human beings are entitled.

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Ghana: 60 Books presented to School Children by an NGO

Posted by African Press International on November 1, 2012

Accra, The PAAJAF Foundation (Providing Adolescents & Adults with Jobs for Advancement in the Future) an NGO, has presented 60 books worth $40 USD to pupils at the Gbawe Methodist School in Accra.

The items included much-needed exercise books and pencils –  prizes for articles the students wrote about Human Rights, during their After School program (Nkabom – Children’s Network) which supports 36 pupils.

Headmistress Mrs. Elizabeth Larbi who presented the books to students, said the donation was to motivate students to keep writing.

Teacher Mr Alex Nyani of class JHS 3 at the Gbawe Methodist School expressed gratitude for the support the organization has given which helps pupils improve on their studies.

Mr. Philip Appiah, Founder and Director of PAAJAF said the NGO runs the Children’s Network at the school which creates a safe after-school environment for pupils to do their homework and interact with their peers that enriches their lives and community.

“It helps students to share ideas and give them a supportive environment for learning.” he added.

He said the organisation is sponsoring 6 underprivileged children in the community and taking responsibility for their fees, books, uniforms and school materials.  The NGO provides formal education, job training and health support for deprived children, youth and women in the Gbawe community.

He noted, from now until Christmas, the organization is looking for sponsors who are willing to support children by providing books, school materials and financial support in order to enable them to focus on their school work.

 

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