Human Rights 

First Person: A life dedicated to indigenous rights in Brazil

Joenia Wapixana With a law degree from the Federal University of Roraima, Ms. Wapixana has been advocating on behalf of indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon since the 1990s. In 2018, at the end of a long campaign, financed at the grassroots level by crowdfunding, she became the first indigenous woman elected to Brazil’s federal parliament. In that same year, she was awarded the UN Human Rights Prize, a high profile award whose previous winners have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. After taking the “Raposa Serra…

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Human Rights 

Venezuela’s justice system aiding repression: Human rights probe

In its second report mandated by the Human Rights Council, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, alleged that judges allowed evidence submitted by prosecutors to be used that had been obtained by torture, among other “recurrent” due process violations.  “In some of the cases reviewed, judges also failed to protect victims of torture by ordering that they return to the places of detention where the torture allegedly occurred, despite having heard victims – sometimes bearing visible injuries consistent with torture – make the allegation in court,” the…

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Human Rights 

Bachelet calls for major re-think over impact of sanctions on human rights

While there is a place for asset bans, visa restrictions and other punitive measures against individuals who perpetrate severe human rights violations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights believes sanctions which target whole countries or sectors of economic activity, should be avoided.  “When sanctions target an entire country, or address entire economic sectors, it is the most vulnerable people in that country – those who are least protected – who are likely to be worst harmed”, said Michelle Bachelet. Moreover, those targeted “can perversely benefit through gaming sanctions regimes and…

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Human Rights 

Urgent action needed over artificial intelligence risks to human rights

Urgent action is needed as it can take time to assess and address the serious risks this technology poses to human rights, warned the High Commissioner: “The higher the risk for human rights, the stricter the legal requirements for the use of AI technology should be”.  Ms. Bachelet also called for AI applications that cannot be used in compliance with international human rights law, to be banned. “Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic,…

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Human Rights 

After 10 years of war in Syria, siege tactics still threaten civilians

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the country is not safe for refugees to return to, after a decade of war. The panel’s findings come amid an uptick in violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, where the Commissioners highlighted the chilling return of besiegement against civilian populations by pro-Government forces. “The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians,” said head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro. “The war on Syrian…

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Human Rights 

FIRST PERSON: Human trafficking, migrant smuggling, still significant threats in Asia

Martin Reeve is a Regional Adviser for GLO.ACT a joint European Union-UNODC programme which focuses on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. He spoke to UN News from his base in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.  “As a UNODC Regional Adviser, I engage with police officers and other criminal justice officials to help them improve their responses to trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.  Here in Iraq, I’ve heard reliable accounts of trafficking for sexual exploitation, especially of young women and girls, and trafficking of migrant workers, especially women into…

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Human Rights 

Yemen: ‘Climate of fear’ grows, all sides to blame, say rights experts

In a new report commissioned by the Human Rights Council into how the war has been waged over the last 12 months, the panel condemned the same “egregious” violations that have characterized their previous findings. These include airstrikes by the Saudi-led international coalition that supports the Yemeni Government, and “indiscriminate” shelling of civilians, “particularly by the Houthis but also by the Government of Yemen and the Coalition”. The country has been divided since 2015 between Government forces backed by the military coalition, and the Houthi rebel group – also known…

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Human Rights 

Iran must halt execution of Kurdish prisoner: UN rights experts 

Their appeal follows serious concerns that Heidar Ghorbani did not receive a fair trial and was tortured during pre-trial detention.  He was arrested in October 2016 in connection with the alleged killing of three men affiliated to Basij paramilitary forces and no information was provided to Mr. Ghorbani’s family on his whereabouts until three months later.   🇮🇷 UN experts appeal to #Iran to halt imminent execution of Iranian Kurdish prisoner Heidar Ghorbani and repeal his death sentence amid serious concerns that he did not receive a fair trial and was tortured during pre-trial detention. Learn more: https://t.co/ZJDaS6aBL1 pic.twitter.com/cECws89535 — UN…

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Human Rights 

UN experts urge Afghanistan’s new rulers to prohibit torture ‘in any circumstances’

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) drew particular attention to the provisions of the Convention and of its Optional Protocol (OPCAT). Noting that Afghanistan has entered into “a very challenging new chapter of power transition”, the SPT reminded in a statement that torture is “absolutely prohibited at all times and under all circumstances”. Torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment cannot be justified in any situation, be it state of war, internal political instability or public emergency, they underscored. Moreover, the Afghan authorities must protect everyone against torture and ill-treatment, “regardless of their ethnic…

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Human Rights 

From one anti-racism trailblazer to another: Andrew Young remembers Ralph Bunche

Speaking to UN News in July 2020, Andrew Young recounted his memories of Mr. Bunche, and explained why his influence continues to be felt, at the UN and in the broader fight against racism. “Ralph Bunche was one of my childhood heroes. I thought of him as my father, because he has already done everything that I was trying to do, 40 years earlier! Ralph left Howard University, [one of the foremost historically black universities] in 1939 to take a tour of Africa, developing military intelligence on the continent, for…

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