Human Rights 

Saudi Arabia commutes three death sentences, UN experts call for charges to be dropped 

Five UN rights experts called Saudi Arabia’ decision to re-sentence to 10 years, the imprisonment of Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher “an important step towards compliance with the country’s international human rights obligations”, particularly under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits executions for crimes committed by persons under the age of 18.  They highlighted that the sentencing commutations were based on the March 2020 Royal Order, which provides that any individual who received a death sentence for crimes committed as a minor would no…

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Human Rights 

Environmental racism in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’, must end, say UN human rights experts

Originally dubbed “Plantation Country”, Cancer Alley, which is located in the southern state of Louisiana along the lower Mississippi River where enslaved Africans were forced to labour, serves as an industrial hub, with nearly 150 oil refineries, plastics plants and chemical facilities.    The ever-widening corridor of petrochemical plants has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected the mostly African American residents in St. James Parish to cancer, respiratory diseases and other health problems.  “This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment…

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Human Rights 

Rights experts condemn ongoing demolition of Palestinian Bedouin village

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, have condemned the move, according to a statement issued on Tuesday.  Humsa Al-Bqai’a is a traditional Bedouin village located in the northern Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.   The experts said its ongoing destruction by the Israeli army has caused great hardship to the approximately 60 people living there, more than half of whom are children.  “Severing the villagers from their lands and their homes…

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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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