Posts Tagged ‘UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’

UN rights chief says China failing to protect Tibetan, Uighur rights

September 17, 2009, Sep17, 2009

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, has cited “discrimination and the failure to protect minority rights” among the factors that had led to the recent violent events in Chinese ruled Eastern Turkestan and Tibet. Pillay made the comment in an “update report” to the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Geneva, on Sep 15 morning. She called lack of democracy a major factor contributing to rights violations.

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US ‘War on Terror’ Eroded Rights Worldwide – Experts

February 17, 2009

by Laura MacInnis |

GENEVA – Washington’s “war on terror” after the Sept. 11 attacks has eroded human rights worldwide, creating lingering cynicism that the United Nations must now combat, international law experts said on Monday.

[An Afghan child peers from the window of his classroom in the village of Surobi in early December. American envoy Richard Holbrooke has held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as part of a review of Washington's fight against extremism, after the Afghan leader warned of a "crisis" with his US backers. (AFP/File/Joel Saget)]An Afghan child peers from the window of his classroom in the village of Surobi in early December. American envoy Richard Holbrooke has held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as part of a review of Washington’s fight against extremism, after the Afghan leader warned of a “crisis” with his US backers. (AFP/File/Joel Saget)

Mary Robinson, who was the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights when al Qaeda militants flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, said the United States caused harm with some of the ways it responded.”Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and repeal abusive laws and policies,” the former Irish president said, warning that harsh U.S. detentions and interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba gave a dangerous signal to other countries that could easily follow suit.

While new U.S. President Barack Obama has announced he will close Guantanamo to break from the practices of his predecessor George W. Bush, Robinson said sweeping changes needed to take place to ensure Washington abandons its “war paradigm”.

“There has been severe damage and it needs to be addressed,” she told a news conference in Geneva. “We are not more secure. We are more divided, and people are more cynical about the operation of laws.”

Arthur Chaskalson, former chief justice of South Africa, said that the United States should launch an inquiry into its counter-terrorism practices, including acts of torture by individual security and intelligence agents.

Although counter-terrorism issues have faded from the front pages since the change of government in Washington, Chaskalson said such practices have shifted around the world and could keep restricting liberties if they are not confronted head-on.

“We all have less rights today than we had five or 10 years ago, and if nothing happens, we will have even less,” he told a Geneva briefing to launch an International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) report on counter-terrorism and human rights.


The report found that many undemocratic states have referred to U.S. counter-terrorism practices to justify their own abuses, a trend Robinson said was particularly alarming.

She called on the U.N. Security Council and Human Rights Council to step up their abuse monitoring and to assist poorer nations with police training to better target rights violators.

Counter-terrorism policies worldwide should also be put under the microscope, according to Robinson. “It could warrant a special session of the Human Rights Council,” she said.

The 47-member-state body has previously had special sessions on Israel and the Palestinians, Sudan’s Darfur region, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and high food prices, and will assess the global financial crisis on Friday.

Robinson also questioned the effectiveness of the Council’s universal periodic review, under which every U.N. member has its rights record assessed on a regular rotation.

“We have looked at some of the universal periodic reviews of countries that we know from our hearings have severely abused human rights in their counter-terrorism measures, and it is a soft review, there is no accountability,” she said. “There is a necessity now for leadership at the United Nations.”

Countries recently reviewed by the Council include China, Russia, Germany, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. Hearings for the ICJ report took place in Bogota, Nairobi, Sydney, Belfast, London, Rabat, Washington, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Moscow, Delhi, Islamabad, Toronto, Ottawa, Jerusalem, Cairo, and Brussels.

Torture As Official Israeli Policy

August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman | ZNet, August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman’s ZSpace Page

The UN Convention against Torture defines the practice as:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”

The US and Israel are the only two modern states that legally sanction torture. An earlier article covered America. This one deals with the Jewish state, but let there be no doubt:

Although its language in part is vague, contradictory and protects abusive practices, Section 277 of Israel’s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture:

“A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years: (1) uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; (2) threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property of anyone in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.” However, Israel clearly discriminates against Palestinians, (including Israeli Arab citizens), denies them rights afforded only to Jews, and gets legal cover for it by its courts. More on that below.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws banning the practice. It’s thus accountable for any violations under them to all its citizens and persons it controls in the Occupied Territories.

US statutes leave no ambiguity on torture. Neither do international laws like The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War). It states:

They “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….(these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation….”

Third Geneva’s Article 17 states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war” for any reasons whatsoever.

Third Geneva’s Article 87 states:

“Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 27 (on the treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War) states:

Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”

Fourth Geneva’s Articles 31 and 32 state:

“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.”

“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”

Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms,” to be treated humanely at all times.

The (1966) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 states:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Its Article 10 states:

” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”

The (1984) UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is explicit in all its provisions. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment of all kinds against anyone for any purpose without exception.

Various other international laws affirm the same thing, including the UN Charter with respect to human rights, 1945 Nuremberg Charter on crimes of war and against humanity, the (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the (1988) UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN (1955) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and (1990) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So does Article 5 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute with regard to crimes of war and against humanity. Torture is such a crime – the gravest of all after genocide.

Continued . . .

Respect right to freedom of assembly: UN tells India

August 28, 2008

Greater Kashmir, August 28, 2008

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Expresses concern over violent Kashmir protests

Srinagar, Aug 27: The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday voiced its concern about the recent violent protests in Kashmir that have led to civilian casualties and restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression.

“OHCHR calls on the Indian authorities and in particular security forces to respect the right to freedom of assembly and expression, and comply with international human rights principles in controlling the demonstrators,” a spokesman of OHCHR said in a statement  in Geneva.

“The use of force should be proportionate to the threat posed and firearms must only be used in dispersing a violent assembly to protect individuals against an imminent threat of death or serious injury,” it added.

The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for thorough and independent investigations into all killings that have occurred so far.
OHCHR also called on the demonstrators to use only peaceful means when protesting.

“Leaders of the different protesting groups have a responsibility to ensure that demonstrations are peaceful and that the demonstrators are not carrying sticks, guns or other weapons and refrain from intimidation,” stated OHCHR.

The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has been deployed to observe a ceasefire in disputed Jammu and Kashmir since 1949. The princely state was split between India and Pakistan after they won independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.

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