International Justice Section
- Israel & Palestine: Human Rights Watch Demands ICC Investigation Into Apparent War Crimes in Gaza
- Sweden: Authorities Indict an Iranian National for Inflicting War Crimes
- ECtHR: Applicant’s Right to Freedom of Expression Disproportionately Interfered with in Portugal
- ECtHR: Applicant’s Right to a Fair Hearing Violated in The Netherlands
- ECtHR: Applicants’ Right to Liberty in Detention Violated in Russia
- Germany: Syrian Doctor in Germany Convicted for Crimes Against Humanity
- IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favour of Erica Sheppard on Death Row in the USA
- ICJ: Public Hearings Concerning Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia)
- HRC: Decision to Disqualify Belarusian Lawyer of Former Presidential Candidate a Violation of Fundamental Rights to a Fair Trial and Freedom of Expression
- CAT: Findings on Belgium
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
- UNAMA: Record Number of Women and Children Killed or Wounded
- Palestine: Free, Fair, Democratic and Credible Vote Must Include East Jerusalem
- UNAMID: The Hybrid UN Mission in Final Shutdown Phase
- CAR: Investigating and Prosecuting the Bongboto Killings
- Guatemala: The Treatment of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders Must End
- UNHCR: Deadly Flooding and Landslides Wreak Havoc on Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
- UN: Gaza’s Humanitarian Response is Underway but Political Solutions are Required UN: Gaza’s Humanitarian Response is Underway but Political Solutions are Required
- OHCHR: Victims of Human Trafficking are at Risk due to Racism, with COVID-19 Leaving ‘Millions’ Vulnerable
- OHCHR: Zambian Children Suffering from Lead Poisoning Must be Treated and the Mine Site Cleaned-Up
- Yemen: World Bank Funds Offer Necessary Assistance to the Most Vulnerable
- UN: Expert Calls Upon Governments to Combat Hate Speech and Crimes Aimed at Roma and Other Minorities Ahead of the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day
International Justice Section
Israel & Palestine: Human Rights Watch Demands ICC Investigation Into Apparent War Crimes in Gaza
On 27 July, Human Rights Watch (HRW), urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate an inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, in May of this year. It further called upon the US government to incorporate certain conditions while assisting Israel, which includes calling upon Israel to improve its compliance with the laws of armed conflict and international human rights law. HRW reiterated that both these groups have a long-standing record of refusing to investigate war crimes committed in or from Gaza and that both parties had evidently, carried out indiscriminate attacks recently, violating the laws of armed warfare and committing war crimes. HRW has reportedly visited sites and carried out investigations, reviewed satellite imagery, video footage and photographs. While there is evidence of US-manufactured weapons being used in some of these attacks, it is important that the US, a significant provider of military assistance to Israel, immediately stop giving further assistance to Israel until it commits to uphold principles of international human rights law and laws of armed conflict. This report is significant as it has been prepared following the UN Human Rights Council’s appointment of three members to the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel. The Commission has been entrusted to review ‘all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since’ April 2021, and submit annual reports on its activities to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commencing in June 2022.
Sweden: Authorities Indict an Iranian National for Inflicting War Crimes
On 27 July, a 60-year-old Iranian national has been indicted by Swedish authorities for committing war crimes and murder of almost 100 political prisoners in Iran back in 1988. According to the prosecutors’ statement, the accused was an assistant to the deputy prosecutor in Gohardasht prison in July 1988 when Ayatollah Khomeini directed, the execution of all the Iranian prisoners who sympathized with the Mujahideen group, who was responsible for several attacks in Iran during the final phase of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. Khomeini’s order led to the mass execution of a large number of prisoners in Gohardasht prison, to which the accused was an active participant. It was argued that these executions were linked to the ongoing war, thus categorising them as war crimes. Swedish law recognises war crimes as serious crimes violating international law. Sweden also exercises universal jurisdiction over crimes violating international law, and is ‘under a certain obligation, to prosecute these crimes.’ The prosecution claimed that ‘extensive police investigation that led to this prosecution, is an important signal that although crimes have been committed outside Sweden’s borders and happened many years ago, this type of suspicion can be prosecuted in Sweden.’
ECtHR: Applicant’s Right to Freedom of Expression Disproportionately Interfered with in Portugal
On 27 July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment against Portugal in the case of Sociedade Independente de Comunicação v. Portugal. The applicant, a television network and media company, in December 2003, broadcasted a television report on a network of child sexual abusers, wrongfully alluding to the involvement of a well-known politician who served as a Regional Secretary in the Agriculture and Fisheries department. The politician resigned from his above-mentioned post the next day. In a subsequent news report relayed by the applicant in 2004, it wrongfully reported that said politician had been arrested and questioned by the police. While the applicant rectified its statement later, it was convicted for disseminating wrongful information following civil proceedings instituted by the politician. It was further directed to pay a large sum as non-pecuniary damages for infringing the politician’s right to reputation. The applicant unsuccessfully challenged the ruling as an ‘interference’ with the applicant’s right to exercise freedom of expression. This case concerns the issue as to whether the said interference by the court was necessary in a democratic society. The European Court of Human Rights acknowledged that ‘there had been compelling reasons to impose a sanction on the applicant for relaying false information. It had, however, limited the harm to the politician’s reputation, both in scope and in time, by rectifying this mistake within few hours after the broadcast.’ While it was not completely possible to conclude that there had been no harm caused to the politician’s right to a reputation and honour, the Court found it difficult to ‘accept that the injury to his reputation was of such a level of seriousness as to justify an award of the size the applicant had had to pay.’ The Court observed that such a high amount of compensation, would discourage the participation of the press in debates over matters of legitimate public concern and might produce a chilling effect on the freedom of expression and that of the press.
ECtHR: Applicant’s Right to a Fair Hearing Violated in The Netherlands
On 27 July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment against The Netherlands in the case of X v. The Netherlands. The case concerns a complaint regarding the refusal of the appellate jurisdiction to adjourn the hearing of the applicant’s criminal case in order for her to attend the hearing in person. The applicant, who was born in 1974 and lives in Utrecht has a history of shoplifting, stated to be compulsive and related to mental illness. The present case stems from a prosecution on two counts of theft. The applicant had declared to the police that she had put the items at issue in her bag and had left the premises without paying for them. She was subsequently held liable for committing a criminal offence and appealed before the higher court. However, she failed to appear in person on two consecutive dates following her work commitments abroad. Although the reasons for not being able to attend the hearing was communicated to the court well in advance, it refused to order a second adjournment and declared the applicant to be in default of appearance while holding her guilty of the said offences. She was subsequently sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment. She unsuccessfully appealed her conviction. The European Court of Human Rights reiterated that ‘where the appellate court is competent to modify, including to increase, the sentence imposed by the lower court and when the appeal proceedings are capable of raising issues involving an assessment of the accused’s personality and character and his or her state of mind at the time of the offence, which makes such proceedings of crucial importance for the accused, it is essential to the fairness of the proceedings that he or she be enabled to be present at the hearing and afforded the opportunity to participate in it.’ The Court noted that the applicant had informed the court of her desire to attend the hearing in person, to explain the causes of her re-offending and also her willingness to prevent further occurrences of shoplifting and to elaborate on the aspects that had helped her not to re-offend since her last arrest. As it was evident that she was worried about the consequences for her employment, the interests cited by the local court’ were insufficient to outweigh the applicant’s right to attend the hearing of her appeal in person.’
ECtHR: Applicants’ Right to Liberty in Detention Violated in Russia
On 27 July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment against Russia in the case of Minin and Others v. Russia. The case relates to the alleged ill-treatment of the applicants by law‑enforcement officers during an arrest and custody, and the Russian authorities’ failure to conduct an effective investigation into the complaints about such ill-treatment. The applicants are Russian nationals who were arrested on various dates between 2004 and 2012 on suspicion of having committed crimes in different Russian regions. After spending different lengths of time in custody, the applicants were found to have sustained injuries of various degrees of severity, as recorded by forensic medical experts, detention facilities and medical institutions. The applicants’ alleged that their injuries had been inflicted by the law-enforcement officers; however, these were dismissed by the investigating authorities as unfounded, mainly on the basis of the statements of the respective law-enforcement officers denying any such ill-treatment. The European Court of Human Rights observed that ‘injuries sustained by the applicants were well‑documented and could arguably have resulted from the violence allegedly suffered by them at the hands of State officials.’ Also, the court found that the ‘state had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the applicants’ allegations of violence on the part of the law-enforcement authorities and accordingly, directed the state to pay compensation to all the applicants.
Germany: Syrian Doctor in Germany Convicted for Crimes Against Humanity
On 28 July, a German court convicted a Syrian doctor, Alla Mousa, for committing crimes against humanity after he was accused of 18 counts of torturing people in military hospitals across the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus. Mousa had been practising medicine in Germany prior to his arrest. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe stated that Mousa, who arrived in Germany in 2015, had not only been accused of torturing people in military hospitals, but also of trying to make people infertile. These crimes were allegedly committed following the emergence of an opposition uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011 when many protesters were detained and subject to ill-treatment and torture. In February this year, a German court held a former member of Assad’s secret police liable for inflicting torture on prisoners and sentenced him to imprisonment for four and a half years. This was the only instance where an international court delivered a ruling in a case accusing Syrian government officials, of committing crimes against humanity. Wolfgang Kaleck of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights highlighted the positive implications of Mousa’s case with regards to addressing the specific role of military hospitals and medical staff in facilitating war crimes and crimes against humanity for the very first time and also underlined its significance in terms of addressing sexual violence as an oppressive tool.
IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favour of Erica Sheppard on Death Row in the USA
On 29 July, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 57/2021, in which it granted precautionary measures in favour of Erica Sheppard, who is currently on death row in Texas, in the United States of America, after considering that the conditions of her confinement are incompatible with international human rights standards and that she is at risk of irreparable harm to her rights. According to the request, she has been held in solitary confinement on death row for 26 years. Due to a degenerative spinal condition, she is unable to stand up and walk without a walker, however, she has not had access to proper accommodations for her physical disabilities. She has also been subject to violations under various provisions of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, especially with regards to her rights to access to justice, due process, and a proper defence during her trial. The Commission acknowledged that there exists a serious and urgent risk of irreparable harm to Ms. Sheppard’s rights to life and personal integrity and put a request before the United States of America to: a) adopt the necessary measures to protect her life and personal integrity; b) refrain from carrying out her death penalty until the IACHR has had the opportunity to reach a decision on her petition; c) ensure that her detention conditions are consistent with international standards, giving special consideration to her personal conditions; d) provide appropriate accommodations and attention for her physical disabilities, in accordance with the applicable international human rights standards.
ICJ: Public Hearings Concerning Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia)
On 29 July, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) scheduled public hearings on the merits of the landmark case concerning Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia), commencing on 20 September 2021, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The hearings most likely will be held in a hybrid format with some members of the Court attending the oral proceedings in person, while others will participate remotely by video link. The complaint instituted by Nicaragua in 2013 stems from a ‘dispute [which] concerns the violations of Nicaragua’s sovereign rights and maritime zones declared by the Court’s Judgment of 19 November 2012 [in the case concerning the Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia)] and the threat of the use of force by Colombia in order to implement these violations.’ In support of its claim, Nicaragua quoted certain declarations by Colombian authorities, that clearly shows, Colombia’s ‘rejection of the Court’s Judgment’ and its decision to regard that Judgment as ‘not applicable.’ It further argued that ‘these declarations by the highest Colombian Authorities culminated with the enactment of a Decree [of the President of Colombia] that openly violated Nicaragua’s sovereign rights over its maritime areas in the Caribbean’.
HRC: Decision to Disqualify Belarusian Lawyer of Former Presidential Candidate a Violation of Fundamental Rights to a Fair Trial and Freedom of Expression
On 29 July, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee (HRC) expressed deep concern regarding the decision to revoke the licence of a Belarusian lawyer following his interview with the media on detention conditions of his client, who is an opposition presidential candidate. The Committee termed such disqualification as a violation of the lawyer’s rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression. Mr. Aleh Aheyeu, defence counsel, represented Ales Mikhalevich, an opposition candidate in the presidential election of 2010. Mikhalevich was arrested the day after the election by Belarus KGB agents for organizing mass riots. While he vehemently denied these allegations, he was still detained and allegedly tortured, deprived of medical care and legal assistance. Mr. Aheyeu highlighted the precarious conditions in which Mikhalevich was detained in an interview with local media. His statements were published online by European Radio for Belarus, following which the authorities initiated investigations against Aheyeu for overstepping the work of a lawyer and violating professional ethics. Subsequently, his licence was cancelled by the government, citing that he had ‘committed an offence incompatible with being a lawyer.’ Thereafter, he unsuccessfully appealed to the authorities, after which he was left with no other choice but to approach the HRC. ‘It is clear that Mr. Aheyeu was severely and unfairly sanctioned merely for speaking to the media, which he did in the interests of his client and in order to satisfy public interest,’ said Arif Bulkan, member of the Committee, that had been calling upon Belarus to take appropriate steps to provide Aheyeu with adequate compensation and to restore his lawyer’s licence.
CAT: Findings on Belgium
On 30 July, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) put forth their findings on Belgium, one of the State parties to the Convention. The research highlights ‘positive aspects of Belgium’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as, the Committee’s primary areas of concerns and suggestions.’ Such concerns included ill-treatment and use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, leading to the death of several detainees since 2014. The case of a Slovak national, Jozef Chovanec, is of relevance as it highlights the extent of police brutality inflicted on the undertrials in detention. In February 2018, Mr. Jozef died a day after police officers pinned him down in a cell and sat on his chest. Specific instances have been pointed out by the Committee especially, on the issues of disproportionate forces being employed to control crowds, such as with the unauthorized protests held this year against COVID-19 restrictions. The report expressed deep concern at the excessive/unauthorised use of weapons to disperse demonstrations and further questioned the effectiveness of investigations by investigating agencies on illegitimate use of force, criminal penalties, as well as, the very high rate of suspension of sentence. Besides, overcrowding in detention centres and conditions of such facilities including inadequate showers, toilets, and poor hygiene, were also highlighted in the report. The CAT also regretted the Belgian Constitutional Court’s decision in February this year to uphold the systematic detention of asylum seekers at the border. The Committee outlined reports that specifically mentions how Belgium continues to deport asylum seekers to countries in conflict where there is a high risk that those returned will be subjected to torture or ill-treatment. While the Committee acknowledged the positive moves made by the authorities with regards to repatriation of 10 Belgian children and six Belgium women from conflict zones, as well as, the State’s decision to repatriate all children under the age of 12 born to Belgian nationals, it nonetheless highlighted the plight of the children and their mothers, who had been detained in camps in north-eastern Syria in inhumane and degrading conditions.
International Peace AND Security Section
UNAMA: Record Number of Women and Children Killed or Wounded
On 26 July, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported in its Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict mid-year update, a particularly sharp rise in civilian casualties in May, when international military forces began withdrawing from the country and Taliban launched offensives. The report identified more than 5,000 civilian casualties in the first half of 2021; a 47 per cent increase compared with the same period last year. Of those reported casualties 32 per cent were children, with 468 killed and 1.214 wounded. A further 14 per cent of civil casualties were women, with 219 killed and 508 wounded. In a statement accompanying the report, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, said that “the report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed.” Among worrying trends, UNAMA’s report identified an increase in the use of IEDs, a resurgence of sectarian-motivated attacks against the Shi’a Muslim religious minority, and deliberate attacks against civilians, including school girls. UNAMA warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan will likely witness the highest ever number of documented civilians casualties in a single year, since it began keeping records in 2009. The report further noted that this is the first time that it has not attributed a single civilian casualty to international military forces. Ms Lyons called to “[s]top the Afghan against Afghan fighting. [To p]rotect the Afghan people and give them hope for a better future.”
Palestine: Free, Fair, Democratic and Credible Vote Must Include East Jerusalem
On 26 July, Mr Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Ms Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression, and Mr Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, jointly expressed their concern about “the postponement of the scheduled elections in Palestine” and called upon the Palestinian Authority and the occupying power, to reschedule the elections for new dates in the very near future. The parliamentary and presidential elections had been scheduled for May and July respectively but were postponed indefinitely on 29 April by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas due to concerns about Palestinians’ ability to vote in Jerusalem. UN experts further noted that “given the advances in technology and in remote and electronic voting, a variety of means to enable full democratic participation are available.” UN experts have called “upon Israel to clearly state it will allow, the full democratic participation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem in the planned elections. As the occupying power in East Jerusalem, it must interfere as little as possible with the rights and daily lives of the Palestinians. They emphasised that the Oslo Agreements expressly provides for the right of Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate in Palestinian elections. However, this has never been without difficulties. As Special Rapporteurs stated in their joint statement, “[…] intimidation, arrests and detentions and the disruption of political meetings and campaigning by any governing authority are utterly incompatible with international human rights protections.” They finally stressed that although “the international community has repeatedly stated, through the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, that all Israeli alterations to East Jerusalem’s demography and its political and legal status are null and void […]. Here is a golden opportunity for the world to affirm these commitments in the name of, democracy and international law.”
UNAMID: The Hybrid UN Mission in Final Shutdown Phase
On 27 July, Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, updated ambassadors on progress towards the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur’s closure and final liquidation, following the end of its mandate last December; after 13 years protecting civilians uprooted by conflict. Mr Khare told the UN Security Council that, in line with its drawdown plan, practically all peacekeepers and staff have now left the UNAMID. Nearly 6,000 troops and police were repatriated from the Sudanese province ahead of the drawdown deadline of 30 June, and nearly 1,200 civilian staff were separated from the mission. The hand over is part of UNAMID’s drawdown process as it endeavours to build the capacity of designated parties who will continue to serve the host community after the mission’s full departure from Darfur. The UN intends to gradually handover the El Fasher site to the authorities, starting in November, a process that would lead to the phased reduction of the Guard Unit. Mr Khare nonetheless said that “[f]or all this to occur in an orderly and speedy fashion, I must raise the issue of the armed movements that have stationed forces around the El Fasher compound since the beginning of June.” Accordingly, he stressed that coordination and leadership among these groups are critical if the liquidation process is to proceed smoothly.
CAR: Investigating and Prosecuting the Bongboto Killings
On 27 July, Mr Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (CAR) called on authorities in CAR to thoroughly investigate the killing of 13 individuals whose bodies were found by UN peacekeepers some 300 kilometres north of the capital, in the vicinity of Bongboto village, last week. The victims were killed on 21 July. On 22 July, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) consequently sent a joint patrol of UN Police (UNPOL), MINUSCA Forces to the Bossangao-Nana-Bakassa axis, and dispatched a joint mission composed of UNPOL and its Human Rights Section to investigate and establish the facts. The same day the bodies were found, the CAR government promised to open a judicial investigation to identify the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Mr Agbeste called the “CAR Government to keep on its promise” and appealed to “authorities to shed light on this alarming incident as soon as possible.[…] Impartial and diligent investigations must be carried out, the facts established, the perpetrators and all their accomplices must be identified.” On 29 July, the MINUSCA officially announced the establishment, by the CAR government, of a commission of inquiry on Bongboto killings and offered its help to the commission. Globally, security remains fragile and volatile across the country. The MINUSCA Spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Abdoul Aziz Fall, further noted that this week has been marked by an increase of violent incidents opposing armed groups to National Defence Forces.
Guatemala: The Treatment of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders Must End
On 27 July, in a joint call for the protection of human rights defenders Mr Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and members of the Working Group on business and human rights, expressed their deep concern about the situation of Mr Bernardo Caal Xól, an indigenous human rights defender detained in Guatemala. Mr Caal Xól is a leader of the peaceful resistance of Cahabón, a collective of 38 Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in the northern department of Alta Verapaz in northern Guatemala. In 2015, he organised peaceful opposition to the Oxec hydroelectric project, which the communities said endangered their sacred Cahabón River. On behalf of his community, Mr Caal Xól took the case to the Supreme Court to try to halt this project. UN experts said that, in retaliation, his activities have been criminalised, and his health rights, as well as, his due process rights have been violated. Despite a lack of evidence against him and procedural irregularities, in November 2018, Mr Caal Xól was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison. Appeal hearings have been repeatedly cancelled or suspended, and after many delays, arguments of Mr. Caal Xól were finally heard on 21 June by the Supreme Court, and although rulings are generally issued in 15 days, no ruling has been issued yet. UN experts expressed concerns over the “long period of pre-trial detention”, and the deterioration of his health, and “urge Mr. Call Xól to be given a fair trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal without further delay.”
UNHCR: Deadly Flooding and Landslides Wreak Havoc on Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
On 28 July, UNHCR reported that nearly a foot of rain fell on camps hosting more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees, and initial reports have revealed that an estimated 2,500 shelters were damaged or destroyed, affecting more than 12,000 refugees in the last 24 hours alone. According to news media reports, at least 11 people have died, and thousands are homeless again and with the monsoon season stretching over the next three months, the agency has warned that more heavy downpours are expected, threatening further casualties. Adverse weather along with the latest landslides and floods have further aggravated the misery and immense humanitarian needs of the refugees who have suffered for years from disease, heavy rains and fires including a massive blaze in March which killed at least 15 people and left tens of thousands homeless. UNHCR is supporting a Government-led response by deploying its network of Emergency Response Teams to provide immediate support and assistance to affected families and to those forced to temporarily relocate. Teams are also assessing the damage to shelters and initiating immediate shelter repairs and site improvements, along with ensuring access to essential services for all those affected. To date, the 2021 Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh has received only $274 million; roughly 30 per cent of the $943 million required for the response this year.
UN: Gaza’s Humanitarian Response is Underway but Political Solutions are Required
On 28 July, Lynn Hastings, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council on developments in the aftermath of 11 days of brutal fighting in May. She stated that there are urgent efforts needed to improve the situation in Gaza, along with moving forward swiftly the broader goal of resolving Israeli –Palestinian conflict, ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements should not be forgotten. She also underscored the readiness of the UN and partners to implement recovery and reconstruction initiatives in coordination with the Israeli & Palestinian authorities, Egypt, Qatar and other regional and international entities, further stating that it is essential that Israel implement additional measures to allow unhindered entry of all humanitarian assistance, including materials to implement the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan and the Flash Appeal. She also highlighted that the financial situation at the UNRWA, who assists the Palestinian people, is facing a $100 million shortfall, which could affect the re-opening of schools for half a million children in Gaza and would undermine the humanitarian, as well as, early recovery programmes there. She appealed to all donors, including those from the Arab region, “to sustain the funding levels of past years and advance disbursements of funds as much as possible to avoid a disruption of essential services and humanitarian aid.”
OHCHR: Victims of Human Trafficking are at Risk due to Racism, with COVID-19 Leaving ‘Millions’ Vulnerable
On 29 July, Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, stated that the victims of human trafficking are being arrested, detained, denied assistance and protection, and are even being forcibly returned to countries of origin because of racial profiling and discrimination at border crossings, and in criminal justice systems; especially women and children. According to her, a deadly combination of racism, xenophobia and gender-based discrimination means that victims of human trafficking are not getting the protection they deserve, and traffickers can carry out their illegal trade with impunity. Further, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General ahead of ‘World Day Against Human Trafficking Day’ highlighted that the COVID pandemic has pushed as many as 124 million more people into extreme poverty, insisting that “many millions” have been left vulnerable to the scourge and that half of victims in low-income countries are children, adding that most are trafficked for forced labour. He also urged governments to take urgent steps to strengthen prevention, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice and this includes implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.
OHCHR: Zambian Children Suffering from Lead Poisoning Must be Treated and the Mine Site Cleaned-Up
On 29 July, UN experts stated that Zambia must immediately provide medical treatment to thousands of children suffering from lead poisoning, and must take swift steps to clean up areas contaminated by residue from what was once the country’s largest lead mine. The WHO has concluded that there is no safe level of lead in human blood. In Kabwe’s afflicted townships, over 95% of children have levels of 10 µg/dL and above, meaning they are exposed to serious risks and harms. Last year about 2,500 Kabwe children tested under a World Bank project, were found to have levels of 45 μg/dL or higher, meaning they require immediate chelation therapy, the most common treatment for lead poisoning. The experts emphasized that states and mining companies have respective duties and responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to protect, respect and remedy business-related human rights abuses. Kabwe, the capital of Zambia’s Central Province, was founded on the discovery of lead and zinc deposits during colonial times and was home to lead mining and smelting from 1904 to 1994 when the Government closed the mine and over three million tons of tailings (waste from the mining process), about 2.5 million tons of slag (waste from the smelter) and other waste remain in the area.
Yemen: World Bank Funds Offer Necessary Assistance to the Most Vulnerable
On 29 July, WFP, UNDP and FAO welcomed $127 million in new funding from World Bank to provide lifesaving support to some of the country’s worst-hit rural families struggling under the impacts of multiple crises. Approximately $61 million will support FAO-led activities aimed at increasing crop production, livestock and fish products; strengthening local farming systems; and establishing national-level agricultural chains; while the UNDP will receive $23.8 million for a range of climate change adaptation measures in rural Yemen, which will create temporary employment through a cash-for-work programme to restore damaged public and collective productive assets including those affected by the 2020 floods. WFP will use $42.2 million to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable rural households, focusing on improving food security for women and children by delivering specialized nutrition supplies. Although agriculture remains Yemen’s most important economic sector, conflict and disease have had a devastating impact, including limiting livelihoods and due to limited land and water resources along with poor agricultural practices compounded by years of war, high fuel prices, and water scarcity, the country’s agricultural sector currently supplies only 15 to 20 per cent of its food. Auke Lootsma, UNDP Resident Representative, stated that rebuilding vital infrastructure is a critical starting point for long-term recovery in Yemen.
UN: Expert Calls Upon Governments to Combat Hate Speech and Crimes Aimed at Roma and Other Minorities Ahead of the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day
On 30 July, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes issued a statement ahead of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, insisting that the Roma community around the globe must not be used as scapegoats of politicians, or subject to harassment on social media. To this effect, he urged states to proactively crackdown on the emerging signs of intolerance and attacks against Romani as well as other minorities, including hate crimes and attacks on social media. ‘It’s tragic that almost 80 years after the Romani genocide during World War Two, minorities — particularly Roma in Europe and other parts of the world — are increasingly experiencing hate speech and are being targeted by politicians and others,’ he commented. ‘We have seen what happened when members of the Jewish minority in Nazi Germany were portrayed as alien and antagonistic to the nation and German values and culture.’ de Varennes said. ‘Today the Roma are again facing the same sort of divisive rhetoric.’ Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August signifies the dreadful night of 1944 when around 3,000 Roma children, women and men from the ‘Gypsy family camp’ of Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered in the gas chambers. It commemorates all the victims of the Romani genocide by Nazi Germany and its allies during World War II. He emphasised on the need for greater public education about the Romani Holocaust in order to do away with these crimes and urged States to look into the issues of widespread exclusion and discrimination faced by Roma today. They must also address hate crime in Europe as high levels of hate speech have been demonising Roma communities on social media.