United Nations

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People of strife-torn Central African Republic must not be forgotten, UN official stresses


1 August 2013 A senior United Nations human rights official today urged the international community not to forget the people of the Central African Republic (CAR), where State institutions remain “close to collapse” and security is “virtually non-existent.”

Violence erupted this past December in CAR – which has been marked by decades of instability and fighting – when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee.

“The relatively inclusive transitional government which has been set up remains very weak. While the situation in Bangui has slightly improved, the State simply does not exist outside of the capital and there is no rule of law,” Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović said at the end of a four-day visit to the country.

The recent fighting has further eroded even the most basic services in the country and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation that UN humanitarian officials have said affects the entire population of 4.6 million people, half of whom are children.

“Beyond Bangui, there is no police, no justice system and no social services. Security is virtually non-existent and people live in constant fear,” said Mr. Šimonović.

He added that he was particularly alarmed by the high number of Séléka members in the streets who do not receive any salary and set up check points, asking for money or just looting houses.

“The extent of the looting and destruction I witnessed is shocking. When I visited Bambari’s courtroom, I only found an empty room with broken doors, no windows and a thick layer of remnants of archives and registries covering the floor,” he said in a news release.

“State institutions, including justice, in the Central African Republic look today exactly like this courtroom,” said Mr. Šimonović. “How will this country hold fair elections if all its archives and civil registries are being destroyed?”

He said the country has reached an “unprecedented” level of violence and destruction since the Séléka coalition forces from the north launched their offensive last December.

While noting that the total number of victims remains unknown, Mr. Šimonović visited a site of a likely mass grave in Bambari – the third biggest town in the country – that still has to be investigated. Members of the local community said that victims were summarily executed but could not confirm the identity of perpetrators. He also voiced concern about the high rate of sexual violence in CAR.

“The chaotic situation in the country is affecting all aspects of people’s daily lives,” he said. “State schools have remained closed since December 2012 and less than 20 per cent of medical facilities are operational.” Afraid of killings and rapes, many people continue to hide in the bush, living on roots.

“Rapidly spreading malaria and other diseases, high maternal mortality and malnutrition are likely to kill many more than the conflict related violence itself,” Mr. Šimonović warned. “In some areas, less than 20 per cent of the crops have been planted and severe food shortages can be expected for early 2014.”

He said he is extremely concerned by the lack of attention given to the humanitarian and human rights situation in CAR, both by the media and the international community.

“The conflict in the Central African Republic should not remain forgotten for three main reasons: conflict will continue to impose suffering on large numbers of people, it will deepen the religious and ethnic divide, and it may destabilise the wider region,” he warned.

“Restoring security is essential to bring some normalcy back throughout the whole country, avoid further deepening the ethnic and religious divide and facilitate national reconciliation.”

The Assistant Secretary-General added that disarmament, integration and joint training of a limited number of vetted elements of both former security forces and Séléka, excluding perpetrators of human rights violations, is the way forward. However, it does not resolve the problem of the current security vacuum,” he noted.

A key step to restoring security, he said, is to urgently reinforce the regional African troops already on the ground with “a larger and more diversified international force under the logistical umbrella of the United Nations.”

He also stressed the importance of transitional justice and accountability for the rebuilding and stability of the country, stating that perpetrators of human rights violations should not remain unpunished.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45545&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=

Madagascar: UN rights expert calls for greater efforts to tackle child sexual exploitation


26 July 2013 An independent United Nations human rights expert today encouraged the Government of Madagascar to step up efforts to combat the sexual exploitation of children and ensure that perpetrators are punished.

“The scourge of sexual exploitation of children through prostitution or sex tourism is omnipresent and too often justified by poverty. Its exponential growth, in particular since 2009, underlined by all stakeholders met, is alarming,” said Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

“Its actual scope remains difficult to determine, due, among other factors, to reluctance to report and fear of reprisals. The low number of reported cases is very rarely followed by heavy sanctions, as provided by Malagasy law,” she stated in a news release issued following her official visit to the country.

During her 15 to 26 July mission, the expert met with various State and local authorities, as well as representatives from UN agencies, the diplomatic community, civil society and the private sector. She also met child victims and went to the main spots of child sexual exploitation in the capital, Antananarivo, as well as in Toliara, Nosy Be and Toamasina.

Ms. Maalla M’jid noted the alarming poverty affecting 92 per cent of the population, as a result of successive political crises. This socio-economic precariousness affecting families and communities has considerably increased the number of children out of school and the vulnerability of children to all forms of economic and sexual exploitation, she noted.

She also raised with concern the survival strategy adopted by many parents who encourage their children to enter prostitution.

Madagascar, the expert pointed out, has a relatively complete legal framework but the implementation of these laws is significantly compromised by a lack of effectiveness due to corruption, impunity and difficult access for children to reporting mechanisms ensuring their protection and security.

“Amicable settlements take place at the expense of the rights of children, whose voice is rarely taken into account,” the news release stated.

Despite initiatives such as the National Committee for the Protection of Children, Child Protection Networks and centres for legal and psychological counselling, care and assistance to children remains very partial and suffers from a significant lack of resources.

The Special Rapporteur stressed the gravity of the situation and the necessity to act urgently to ensure an integrated protective framework for children.

“It is unacceptable that so many lives of Malagasy children are sacrificed under the excuse of the current political and economic crisis,” said Ms. Maalla M’jid, who encouraged the international community to support the establishment of integrated child protection and development plans at the local level to efficiently combat all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45504&Cr=sexual+exploitation&Cr1=

Bashir makes rare admission of "bloodshed" & "injustice" in Sudan

July 22, 2013, (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir gave an unusually candid assessment of the situation in his country expressing regret over the prevalence of bloodshed in Sudan and even appeared to be holding himself personally responsible.

JPEG - 14.6 kbSudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir

“How will god answer our prayers when we are shedding the blood of Muslims and each others’ blood?” Bashir told attendees at an Iftar dinner hosted by the head of the Darfur Transitional Authority (DRA) al-Tijani al-Seisi at his home in Khartoum.

“We know that the destruction of the Ka’aba [in Mecca] is lesser [in gravity] in the eyes of god than the killing of a [human] soul,” he added.

The Sudanese president stressed that people get punished in this life for all sins they commit except murder which has its retribution saved for the day of judgment.

The veteran Sudanese general, who ruled Sudan for 24 years since staging a coup in 1989, also said that the “injustice” shrouding the country resulted in drought and lack of rain.

“How can we ask for mercy [from god] when our hands are covered in blood?” Bashir asked.

He then addressed the growing trend of tribal conflicts in Darfur and urged the Darfuris present to raise their hands and make an oath on their desire to seek peace.

“Swear and say we are for peace and against war….We do not want anyone from outside advising us. We will solve our own problems,” the Sudanese president said.

Bashir said that reasons for the killings in Darfur do not even warrant slaughtering a sheep let alone a human being and vowed that an upcoming a tribal reconciliation conference will come up with real solutions.

The out-of-the-ordinary statements by Bashir represent a stark departure from his usual fiery speeches in which he often strikes a challenging and threatening tone to his opponents and to the western nations alike which he claims are working to topple his regime.

Throughout his two-decades rule, Bashir has managed to weather a major civil war with what is now independent South Sudan, multiple rebellions that continue till this very day, U.S. sanctions and most recently an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant alleging that he orchestrated war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

The conflict erupted in the large western region of Darfur in 2003, when ethnic African rebels rose up against Khartoum, complaining of discrimination by the Arab-dominated government.

Khartoum responded with a military crackdown, and it is accused of unleashing Arab militias known of Janjaweed, which have attacked ethnic African villages, killing, raping and looting residents, according to United Nations reports.

While Khartoum’s human rights record has always drawn condemnation since Bashir came to power over its brutal suppression of dissent, the Darfur conflict created a headache for the Sudanese government which has sought tirelessly to label it as a manufactured and an exaggerated crisis.

Bashir himself has vehemently denied any mass killings in Darfur and continuously asserted that no more than 10,000 were killed since the violence broke out a decade ago and rejected responsibility for the deaths.

The UN estimates that 300,000 people were killed in the course of the Darfur conflict while more than 2 million civilians were displaced.

Even though the violence in Darfur has ebbed from its 2003-2004 peaks it has recently picked up again between the army, rebels and rival tribes, displacing some 300,000 people since January of this year.


Article source: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article47375

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