Human Rights 

Syrian conflict has ‘erased’ children’s dreams: new UN report

The findings come in the latest report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, released on Thursday.  “I am appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.   “While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the country’s future generation.”   Dreams erased  The three-member Commission…

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Human Rights 

Colombia: ‘Staggering number’ of human rights defenders killed in 2019

“The single most targeted group was human rights defenders advocating on behalf of community-based and specific ethnic groups such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians”, Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva, adding that the number of women human rights defenders killed increased “by almost 50 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018”. According to OHCHR, 107 activists were killed last year.  And staff in the country are still in the process of verifying 13 additional cases reported during 2019 which, if confirmed, would raise the annual total to 120 killings. Attacks…

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Human Rights 

Killings and violence targeting ethnic group in DR Congo ‘may amount to crimes against humanity’

An investigation carried out by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC, found that at least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured following attacks involving the Hema and Lendu communities in the country’s northeast province of Ituri, between December 2017 and September last year.  “In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence” the report said, “most of them members of the Hema community.”  Since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have become increasingly organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic…

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Human Rights 

New El Salvador law, a victory for forced displacement victims: UN refugee agency  

The legislation, which was passed by a resounding majority in El Salvador’s National Assembly on Thursday, also protects, aids and offers durable solutions to people who may be either at risk or who have already been internally displaced, due to violence perpetrated criminal gangs.  And for the first time ever, the law also provides for the establishment of a comprehensive national system of State institutions to prevent and respond to forced displacement.  ‘Lasting positive impact’ Once the new law is signed by President Nayib Bukele, it can have “a lasting positive impact on the lives of the 71,500…

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Human Rights 

Monday’s Daily Brief: Geopolitical strife, Australia bushfires, Burkina Faso, Cambodia updates

Stop escalation, urges UN chief, as geopolitical tensions reach ‘highest level this century’ UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on world leaders to de-escalate geopolitical tensions on Monday, which he described as being “at their highest level this century” as the new decade dawns. The New Year has begun with our world in turmoil. We are living in dangerous times”, said the UN chief, noting that turbulence is only escalating.  Here’s more on this story. Australia bushfire crisis: UNICEF offers help and support Raging bushfires wreaking havoc across Australia have prompted the UN Children’s Fund,…

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Human Rights 

FIRST PERSON: Cajun cuisine feeds expanding business

Dana Cormier manages the Best Stop Supermarket in Scott, Louisiana. Her business specializes in Cajun cuisine including boudin (a type of sausage) and cracklins (deep fried pork rind). Her father established the supermarket 33 years ago, and she has been working there for 24 years. The Cajun people settled in southern Louisiana after being exiled from Canada in the mid-1700s.  “When I was growing up, the one thing I wanted to be was a police officer, so I joined up and worked in narcotics for two years. I then decided…

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Human Rights 

Israel/Palestine war crimes probe ‘momentous step forward’, says UN rights expert

“Accountability has, until now, been largely missing in action throughout the 52-year-old occupation,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. On 20 December, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that she was “satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine”. Mr. Lynk maintained that although the international community has adopted hundreds of UN resolutions condemning various features of “Israel’s entrenched occupation of the Palestinian territory…rarely has it ever combined criticism…

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Human Rights 

FIRST PERSON: ‘You can’t get paid for staring out of the window’ – How I proved my teacher wrong

As a boy, Zack Martin’s school teacher told him, he couldn’t get paid for staring out of a window, but the former marine says he proved the teacher wrong by becoming a truck driver and building a successful heavy-load trucking business, Crawler Haulers, in the city of Lafayette in Louisiana.  “I joined the US Marines when I was a young kid and it really made me who I am, as I was taught right from wrong, responsibility and having the focus to do something. The mentality of a Marine is to adapt and overcome. I found it challenging when I left and became an executive sous-chef…

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Human Rights 

Continued airstrikes in western Libya ‘utterly unacceptable’, says UN mission chief

Ghassan Salamé, head of the UN Support Mission in the country, UNSMIL, called for greater civilian protection following the incidents, which occurred in three locations in the west. “We have said it loud and clear that indiscriminate attacks against civilians not only constitute a grave violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, but also further escalate the conflict and incite future acts of revenge, which threaten the social unity in Libya,” he warned in a statement issued on Saturday, adding that “this is utterly unacceptable.” Week of airstrikes…

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Human Rights 

FIRST PERSON: Louisiana alligator whisperer’s ‘dream job’

Tucker Friedman is known in the Louisiana swampland as the alligator whisperer. He set up his tour company Atchafalaya Basin Landing Airboat Tours 20 years ago and introduces visitors from around the world to the unique ecosystem of the swamps in the Mississippi River flood plain.  He entertains his customers by calling to the alligators in Cajun French, a Louisiana vernacular, and then tickles them on the chin.  “People call me Captain Tucker in these parts. I’m a tour operator and alligator handler and have been running airboat tours in the Atchafalaya Basin for the past 19 years. I spend most of my…

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