Human Rights 

Fate still unclear of ‘tens of thousands’ of civilian detainees in Syria 

According to the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, thousands more have been subject to torture, sexual violence or death in captivity.  Despite the “staggering” wealth of evidence, almost all parties to the conflict “failed to investigate their own forces”, said Commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd.   “The focus appears to be on concealing, rather than investigating crimes committed in the detention facilities”, she added in a statement.  More than 100 detention sites   The findings, which the panel will deliver to the Human Rights Council in Geneva next week, highlight investigations into more than 100 specific detention facilities.  They cover mass arrests of…

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Human Rights 

USA: Rights experts call for reforms to end police brutality, systemic racism

Affected communities must be included in shaping these reforms, which include diverting funding from policing to alternate safety measures, they added.  “We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the excessive force used by American police in the context of peaceful demonstrations, and the use of lethal force against individuals who did not present a threat to life at the time of the police intervention”, the experts said in a statement.  “In this time of political change, the United States must initiate far-reaching reforms to address police brutality and systemic racism.” …

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Human Rights 

Pandemic pushing people ‘even further behind’, UN rights chief warns

Delivering a global update to the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said people everywhere were being excluded from not only development, but also opportunities.   The #COVID19 pandemic has sharpened and shifted our view of what is valuable in any country’s economy. We now see that health care, child care and social protections are essential and effective tools to avert a devastating economic crisis. — Michelle Bachelet (@mbachelet) February 26, 2021 At the same time, civil society activists were being denied the right to voice opposition to government.  “This makes us…

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Human Rights 

UN envoy: Democratic processes ‘pushed aside’ in Myanmar  

Speaking at an informal General Assembly meeting on the Myanmar crisis, Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said, “I told you in 2019 that I would sound the alarm if necessary…This is now the case”.  ‘Fragile and fluid’ situation  The situation in Myanmar is “fragile and fluid”, the UN envoy said, calling it “a people’s fight without arms”.   Ms. Schraner Burgener strongly condemned the military’s “recent steps” and urged the Ambassadors to “collectively send a clear signal” supporting democracy.  She underscored the urgency in helping to lay the foundations of a…

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Human Rights 

Pandemic recovery presents historic opportunity to ensure human rights for all: Guterres

The UN chief addressed ambassadors exactly one year after he issued a Call to Action for Human Rights, a seven-point blueprint aimed at boosting equality and reducing suffering everywhere.  Amid budget cuts and financial crisis, he appealed for support for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and related bodies, noting that funding is critical to achieve transformational change.  “Much like COVID-19 vaccines, human rights will not lead to a healthier world if they are only available to the privileged few”, he cautioned.  Pandemic exposes inequalities  The…

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Human Rights 

UN rights experts call for US to address ongoing violations at ‘Kafkaesque’ Guantánamo military prison

This should include investigating alleged torture and other ill-treatment at the facility, which was set up to house foreign terrorist suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, said a statement from the UN rights office, OHCHR. The new United States administration said on 12 February, it was launching the formal review in an effort to finally close the military prison, reviving a stalled effort to shutter it during the Obama administration, where Mr. Biden served as Vice President. “We welcome the goal of closing…

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Human Rights 

FROM THE FIELD: Focusing a lens on courage, despair and hope

A father plays with his daughter during the COVID-19 pandemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina. , by Constanza Portnoy People sleep rough on a train platform in Chittagong, Bangladesh, oblivious to trains speeding past in either direction; an Argentinian man playing with his daughter, ignoring his lack of arms and legs, a consequence of the drug thalidomide; and an Indonesian teenager literally sees the light, as it streams into the prison cell where he is being held after recovering from the effects of powerful synthetic street drugs which rendered him aggressive.…

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Human Rights 

Yemen: UN rights office calls for de-escalation in Marib Governorate

Spokesperson Liz Throssell said OHCHR is increasingly concerned about the fate of civilians, including at least 800,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), caught in the conflict.  🇾🇪 #Yemen: We are increasingly concerned for the fate of civilians in Marib Governorate, incl. at least 800,000 IDPs, amid escalating fighting as Houthi forces try to seize control. We remind all parties of their obligations to protect civilians. Read 👉 https://t.co/7NROBDWqSL pic.twitter.com/HEiRK6UbdE — UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 19, 2021 IDP sites in the mountain district of Sirwah are without water, electricity and health…

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Human Rights 

UN human rights office alarmed by ‘attacks’ on judicial independence in Haiti

According to spokesperson Liz Throssell, a judge of the Haitian Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court), was arrested on 7 February, in circumstances that may amount to unlawful or arbitrary arrest and detention. Twenty-two other individuals were also arrested, 17 of whom still remain in pre-trial detention. While the judge was subsequently released, the person along with two others were “forced to retire and later replaced, apparently through an irregular procedure”.  “These developments cause concerns about judicial independence and have further eroded the separation of powers in Haiti,” Ms. Throssell said…

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Human Rights 

Stop criminalizing civil society, UN rights experts urge Venezuelan authorities 

Their call followed the release on 10 February of five human rights defenders and members of the non-governmental  organization (NGO) Azul Positivo, who had been detained since 12 January. However, the charges they faced, relating to money laundering along with terrorism and its financing have not been dropped, according to a news release issued by the experts.  “The arrests and criminal charges are part of a pattern of increasing criminalization of civil society organizations in Venezuela, which already operate under a repressive set of laws and regulations including the 2017 ‘Law Against Hate’ that restricts the…

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