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UN Daily News Thursday, 5 June 2014
In the headlines: • South Sudan: as rains set in, UN agency boosts aid
• Ban deeply concerned at reported Israeli
• 'Raise your voice, not the sea level,' urges UN on
• UN tribunals crucial for delivering justice for
• ‘The future starts now,’ Ban says at launch of UN
• Worsening health of Palestinian detainees on
operations to reach remote areas World Environment Day
Decade of Sustainable Energy for All
Global food prices down for second straight month in May, UN agency reports
• FEATURE: Partnerships, cooperation focus of UN
settlement expansion in West Bank
Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Security Council told hunger strike draws concern of UN human rights expert body
• Outraged UN rights experts call for end to death penalty in Iran
sustainable energy summit
South Sudan: as rains set in, UN agency boosts aid operations to reach remote areas 5 June - As the rainy season begins in South Sudan, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has scaled up its emergency response operations with large-scale airdrops to provide remote communities with livelihood kits that will allow them to plant crops, fish waterways and protect livestock from fatal diseases.
FAO’s first airdrop in partnership with WFP will allow 250 households to produce over 200 tons of crops including maize, sorghum, cowpea and sesame. Photo: WFP/George Fominyen
The agency announced today that despite problems of access and insecurity in parts of the country, it has extended its emergency response for an additional three months to reach conflict-affected farmers, fishers and herders with the tools they need. Along with targeting conflict-affected communities with large-scale distributions by truck, FAO successfully flew 21 tonnes of crop seeds to Pibor in Jonglei state in partnership with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Subsequently, FAO undertook an emergency airdrop with the support of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) logistics capacity, dropping packages from a plane to a partner on the ground who then distributed the seed to farmers. Although used only as a last resort due to their high cost, airdrops guarantee that farmers in the most inaccessible areas receive support, enabling them to grow their own food and making the operation cost-efficient in the long run. Three tonnes of crop seeds were successfully air-dropped in Mayendit county in Unity State, and will enable 250 households to produce over 200 tonnes of crops including maize, sorghum, cowpea and sesame. “FAO is doing everything it can to assist the highly vulnerable people of South Sudan, including innovations in the delivery of seeds through airdrops,” said Sue Lautze, the agency’s Head of Office in South Sudan and the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in the country. “Portability and flexibility are our watchwords right now. FAO is grateful to WFP and the donors who facilitated these
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5 June 2014
initial airdrops. We will continue to integrate this logistic option as part of the FAO-WFP-UNICEF rapid response partnership.” Since the crisis began, more than 110,000 emergency livelihood kits have been distributed, including crop seeds, fishing kits, vegetable seeds and livestock health kits. With $42 million in funding received to date, FAO is supporting 1.3 million people. However, more funding is urgently needed to reach out to vulnerable rural communities in the worst-hit areas while building resilience throughout the country and to prevent a further worsening of food insecurity, the agency says.
'Raise your voice, not the sea level,' urges UN on World Environment Day 5 June - Barbados, a small Caribbean island at the cutting edge of the fight against climate change, will be hosting this year's World Environment Day, leading United Nations-wide efforts to draw attention to the plight of the world's small islands potentially in peril of being lost to sea-level rise.
“On World Environment Day, millions of individuals, community groups and businesses from around the world take part in local projects – from clean up campaigns to art exhibits to tree-planting drives,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, marked every year on 5 June.
Mr. Ban was referring to activities and events taking place worldwide – ranging from a 45,000-strong clean-up campaign involving UN staff throughout Kosovo and the Baltimore Orioles baseball team raising awareness of the environment in Sarasota, Florida, to a bike ride around the lakeside in Geneva, Switzerland – all aiming to raise awareness of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the convening of a youth conference on “Eco-civilization and Green Development” in Shanghai. In support of the UN designation of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States, World Environment Day will focus on those countries in the broader context of climate change as its theme. Many of the events under way will also spotlight the upcoming Third International Conference on the Small Island Developing States, set to be held in Apia, Samoa from 1 to 4 September. “Small island nations share a common understanding that we need to set our planet on a sustainable path,” said the Secretary-General, explaining that reaching that goal demands the engagement of all sectors of society in all countries. “This year, I urge everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future,” said the UN chief. “Raise your voice, not the sea level.” Home to 62.3 million people, these island nations play a crucial role in protecting oceans while contributing little to climate change - emitting less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gases. But they suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change owing to their small size, remote locations, and limited economic resilience. Research shows that by 2100, global warming could lead to a sea-level rise of up to 2 meters, making many of these island States, especially in the Pacific region, uninhabitable. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that the very existence of low-lying nations, such as Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu is threatened by climate change-induced sea level rise. While climate change adaptation was a top priority for island nations, the lack of financial resources is an obstacle, with, for example, the capital cost of sea-level rise in the Caribbean Community countries alone estimated to reach $187 billion by 2080. UN News Centre • www.un.org/news
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“Investing now to head off such a massive economic impact makes sound business sense,” Mr. Steiner said in his message. A new report by UNEP says that climate change-induced sea-level rise in the world’s 52 small island nations – estimated to be up to four times the global average – continues to be the most pressing threat to their environment and socio-economic development; with annual losses at the trillions of dollars due to increased vulnerability. The “SIDS Foresight Report” identifies climate change impacts and related sea-level rise as the chief concern among 20 emerging issues impacting the environmental resilience and sustainable development prospects of SIDS – including coastal squeeze, land capacity, invasive alien species and threats from chemicals and waste. UN General Assembly President John Ashe, in his message on the Day, also appealed for a global call to action for people across the world to support SIDS and low-lying coastal States endangered by rising sea levels, and disproportionately impacted by climate change, the loss of biodiversity and forests and overfishing. “Only by transitioning together to a green economy can we ensure a sustainable prosperous future for all countries threatened by rising sea levels,” Mr. Ashe said. In her message on the Day, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that while small islands faced many challenges, they are also leaders under that treaty “both morally and practically” in terms of reminding nations of the risks and collective responsibilities to act while driving ambitious national and international action. She went on to site a host of SIDS-driven initiatives, from improved adaptation of water resources in the Comoros to wind power projects in Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica and methane capture in Papua New Guinea and Cuba, that have leveraged the UN Clean Development Mechanism to build their own clean energy futures. Many of these nations have undertaken National Adaptation Programmes of Action under the Convention. “Our pathway is clear. Clean energy economies produce profits without pollution, better livelihoods in stable industries, restore health and wider wealth and preserve water and essential resources,” Ms. Said, calling on all raise their voices and their ambition now. On 5 June 1972, the General Assembly formed UNEP to, "provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations." That same day was also designated World Environment Day and has since been celebrated as a worldwide day of environmental awareness. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the 'people's day' for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet. During the global celebration in Barbados, UNEP designated Ian Somerhalder – an actor best known for his work on the international hit TV series, “The Vampire Diaries,” and on the critically acclaimed drama “Lost” – as a Goodwill Ambassador. He joined fellow UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors Gisele Bündchen, Don Cheadle and Yaya Touré in sending an SOS to the world on behalf of SIDS. Their ‘message in a bottle’ is: “We are all connected. The challenges faced by islands will face us all. So, every action we take to reduce waste and mitigate climate change counts. Join one of our teams and pledge to make a difference by taking action for WED.”
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‘The future starts now,’ Ban says at launch of UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 5 June - Launching the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon today hailed modern energy services as the source of profound and life-changing opportunities – for the poorest communities and the richest investors – and urged generating the innovative ideas and vital partnerships to wholly transform the global energy landscape. “We are here because we understand that sustainable energy is central to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda,” the UN chief told the first annual Sustainable Energy for Photo: UNIFIL/Pasqual Gorriz All Forum, which opened yesterday in New York and wraps up tomorrow, aiming to generate momentum for Mr. Ban’s eponymous 2011 initiative that brings together governments, civil society and business to make sustainable energy for all a reality by 2030. The Forum, which sets the stage for the launch of the UN Decade (2014-2024), was also addressed by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (by video) and John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly, which designated the Decade as a vehicle to increase advocacy and action. Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and CEO of SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy for All), announced that the initial two years of the Decade would be focused on a campaign for energy access for women and children’s health. He said that while energy is a global issue, in many places, it is a woman’s issue. It can mean the difference between safety and fear, freedom and servitude, and even life and death. “The world must come together to end energy poverty and ensure that the poor can manage their lives and thrive economically." “The Sustainable Energy for All initiative is maturing and bearing fruit – thanks to you,” Mr. Ban told the Forum, noting that commitments worth many billions of dollars have been pledged and delivered. More than 80 developing countries have joined the initiative. From India to Brazil a growing number of people have light and power where there was none before. “From NGOs to multilateral development banks, we are working together for a common goal,” said the Secretary-General, recalling that the initiative had set three targets: ensuring universal access to modern energy services, and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030. “Our efforts so far show that these objectives are realistic. Our focus now must be to achieve them,” he said, noting that while some 30 countries have announced relevant action agendas this year, the declaration of the UN Decade will provide an “extra boost.” Indeed, Mr. Ban explained that the Decade can bring the world closer to the goals of universal energy and a life of dignity and opportunity for all. “Modern energy services are the key to changing people’s quality of life. Clinics can store lifesaving vaccines. Children can study after dark. Cleaner cookstoves can save the lives of millions of women and children every year. Electricity can power street-lights that will make women safer,” he said. “The benefits will be felt throughout society in all countries. That is why we must continue to build our initiative and bring more partners and stakeholders aboard,” he said, adding that the Forum should be seen as an annual meeting place for the global energy community. “Here we can shape a new energy future. That future starts now.” Looking forward to the 23 September climate summit in New York, the Secretary-General said, “The more you bring in terms of concrete deliverables, the more we can achieve towards our objectives, and the better we can support global efforts to combat climate change and strengthen resilience. I count on all actors here today to deliver new and expanded commitments and partnerships that will transform the global energy landscape.” UN News Centre • www.un.org/news
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In his remarks, Mr. Ashe said the history of the development of modern society is inextricably intertwined with the story of the development of energy and its impact on the natural, social and economic environments. From climate change to agriculture and from gender equality to health, he said, access to sustainable energy clearly impacts all dimensions of sustainable human development. Energy is woven into the fabric of human life at all levels, and all people and all nations need access to energy to grow and prosper. But it is precisely for this reason that the crippling lack of access to sustainable energy services is so important to address at this point in time, he said. “As we prepare to usher in a new development paradigm in the post-2015 era, the issue of sustainable energy for all must form an integral part of our deliberations on shaping a sustainable future,” he declared, referring to the ongoing UN-led effort to craft a global development agenda to succeed the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Global food prices down for second straight month in May, UN agency reports 5 June - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today that global food prices were down for the second straight month in May and that the outlook for worldwide cereal supply has improved considerably since last month. FAO’s Food Price Index continued its decline from the 10-month high it experienced in March, the agency said in a news release, noting that prices fell as generally ample supplies weighed on international prices for most commodities included in the Index. Photo: UNMISS/James Sokiri
The Index – which measures monthly changes in global prices of a basket of meat, dairy, cereals, oils and fats, and sugar – averaged 207.9 points in May 2014, down 2.5 points from April. According to FAO, the Index had risen to a ten-month high of 213 points in March, but fell in April and May amid lower dairy, cereal and vegetable oil prices. Sugar prices went against the trend, making strong gains in May, while meat remained firm. The Cereal Price Index was down 2.4 points in May, as compared to April, with the decline mostly triggered by maize prices, which fell in response to favourable growing conditions and good supply prospects in 2014/15. Wheat prices, which had contributed to price increases in previous months, partly amid fears of disruptions to trade flows from Ukraine, also fell, while rice prices saw little change. “We went into May with concerns over unfavourable weather conditions, especially in the US, and geopolitical tensions in the Black Sea region, but towards the second half of May, we began to see lower wheat prices following improved weather conditions and the continuation of regular shipping patterns from the Ukraine,” said FAO Senior Economist Abdolreza Abbassian. Vegetable oils were down 3.7 per cent from April, reflecting lower quotations of palm, soy and grapeseed oils. Meanwhile, after a period of limited export supplies and exceptionally high prices in 2013 and early 2014, the market for dairy commodities is undergoing some “adjustment” as the production outlook improves. The Dairy Price Index in May declined 12 points over April. Meat prices remained nearly unchanged from April, while sugar was up 9.3 points amid early forecasts of a possible production deficit for the 2014/15 season and El Niño-related weather concerns. FAO’s monthly update on the world cereal market, the Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, puts world cereal production in 2014 at nearly 2,480 million tonnes, almost 1 per cent higher than was reported in May, though still 1.4 per cent down from 2013. UN News Centre • www.un.org/news
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FEATURE: Partnerships, cooperation focus of UN sustainable energy summit 5 June - “We need to form partnerships and investments on energy”, a senior official from Fiji said today at United Nations Headquarters, echoing calls from other diplomats, business partners and civil society who traveled to New York to do exactly that, as they also celebrated World Environment Day and the launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.
Water levels are receding in Pacific islands
“Climate change is a threat to national security and a threat to the fabric of our society,” Ravinesh Nand, a senior energy analyst at the Fiji Department of Energy told the audience gathered for a panel discussion on small islands and clean energy. “The threat is not an issue for the future,” he warned, “it is now.”
Fiji is one of 52 countries and territories classified as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by the UN and grouped to share characteristics such as fragile natural environments, high costs for energy and heavy dependence on remote, external markets. The States are also heavily dependent on fossil fuels and conventional biomass which negatively impact the environment, which unfortunately, most island nations depend on to boost the lives and livelihoods of their people. “November to April used to be the hurricane season. Now it is January through December,” Lord Ma’afu, Lands and Environment Minister of Tonga, told the panel. Cyclone Ian hit the South Pacific archipelago on January 10, bringing winds of up to 270kmh and causing almost complete destruction to the northern islands of Ha’apai. Thousands of people were displaced and more than 100 lost their homes. In addition, the majority of the fresh water drinking supply was lost. “The things that Tonga is really looking at are finance and adaptation,” Lord Ma’afu told UN News Centre afterwards, stressing the need to start the process of accessing funding for mitigation and adaptation purposes. “There is a lot of talk about billions and billions of dollars available. We are doing a lot in the Pacific, but all of talk fest of how much is available for adaptation and mitigation is not actually touching the ground. A lot of the money seems to be spent on an annual basis having another talk fest about having exactly that,” the Minister said walking by a model solar panel. “My message would be - let’s stop talking, let’s start and let’s accelerate that start,” he continued, adding that there is a lack of political will from the Member States controlling the purse strings. “We want the political will from the other side that has the funding.” Lord Ma’afu and Mr. Nand delivered their strong calls to action during a panel discussion to mark World Environment Day, as part of a three-day UN Sustainable Energy Forum, named after the initiative Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched in 2011 with the aim of making sustainable energy for all a reality by 2030. This week’s summit is meant to draw attention to the initiative. It will also draw attention to Mr. Ban’s climate summit, which will be held in September in New York, to garner support for a legally-binding climate change treaty aimed at limiting warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. This past April, while in the United Arab Emirates to address leaders weighting action on climate change at the “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, Mr. Ban met with representatives from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative, a network supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to promote debate and discussion around better use of fuel economy. “Energy efficiency is so unsexy,” said Sheila Watson, director of environmental issues at the FIA Foundation. “For years everyone wanted to talk about new technologies. But actually it’s crucial, it’s free money basically; $2 trillion dollars by 2013 is just free money that we’re throwing away. And I think Sustainable Energy for All has really pushed the whole thing UN News Centre • www.un.org/news
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on the agenda.” The $2 trillion is the estimated amount that FIA says could be saved through 2025 using fuel economy improvements. The issue is particularly pertinent to SIDS, which are likely to increase their use of cars in the next few years. Mauritius, also a small islands development State, doubled its car use between 2002 and 2012, Ms. Watson said. Based on this number of cars, the Government could save one billion liters of gasoline and decrease their carbon dioxide out by 2,500 kilotons, if they had fuel economy policies in practice. “I don’t know if there is a politician alive who does not want to get money back. Certainly finance ministers can get pretty interested when you’re talking about savings,” she told the UN News Centre. Ms. Watson spoke on the same panel as Lord Ma’afu and Mr. Nand, and afterwards, some officials approached her to discuss further partnerships. “SIDS are just like everyone else in many ways. They face the same kinds of issues – lack of resources, a growing car fleet. It’s relevant to them because it is relevant to anyone,” she noted. That is a bit of what the Forum is meant to encourage – the creation of partnerships between the different representatives, including the hundreds of businesses, academics and non-governmental organizations in attendance. Harry Gregory, from Savannah State University, said he came to the Forum because he is a student and was impressed by Mr. Ban’s message that one person can have an impact. While waiting at the forum, he joined in a conversation with Negin Janati, whose focus at the UN is global health. “The political will is there,” Mr. Nand told the UN News Centre following his presentation, pausing ever so often to shake hands and take pamphlets and cards from passersby. “I think what is lacking is on the financial side. We need to form partnerships, [generate] investments,” he continued. “We have done our ground work in terms of feasibility studies and identification of gaps. We need some project developers and implementation partners.” “Fiji is a small country, and in some areas, we do not have the technical capacity. For example, geothermal resources have big potential, but we do not have the technical capacity,” he said. “The UN and other international and regional agencies and provide the expertise to develop such projects.” In early September, the Government of Samoa will host the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in its capital Apia. The focus will be sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships.
Ban deeply concerned at reported Israeli settlement expansion in West Bank 5 June - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he is deeply concerned by reports that Israeli authorities have issued tenders for the construction of over 1,400 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem. “As the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions, the building of settlements on occupied territory is illegal under international law,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. A settler woman walks past an Israeli soldier standing guard in East Jerusalem. Photo: IRIN/Andreas Hackl (file photo)
Mr. Ban has, on previous occasions, urged on both parties to exercise prudence and to avoid taking unilateral actions on the ground that would further diminish the chances of
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reaching a negotiated final peace agreement. “The Secretary-General calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to freeze settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Road Map,” the spokesperson added, referring to the plan which calls for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and within secure borders. Israelis and Palestinians have been engaged since last August in United States-brokered talks to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, resuming negotiations that had ended in September 2010 when Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
UN tribunals crucial for delivering justice for Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Security Council told 5 June - What began as ‘bold experiments’ in international justice two decades ago have resulted in ensuring accountability for the worst of crimes, officials from the United Nations tribunals dealing with the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda told the Security Council today, as they highlighted ongoing efforts to bring the work of their respective bodies to a close.
President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Vagn Joensen. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
This past April marked 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda, where some 800,000 men, women and children – overwhelmingly Tutsi, moderate Hutu and Twa – were systematically killed over the course of 100 days.
Also this year, 8 November marks the 20 anniversary of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was established by the Council, at the request of Rwanda, in the wake of the tragedy. “The development of Rwanda’s judicial system, including holding accountable those who participated in the atrocities in 1994, remains a crucial part of the peace and reconciliation process in Rwanda and there can be no question that the ICTR has played an important role as an accountability mechanism,” said Judge Vagn Joensen, President of the ICTR. “It is a testament to Rwanda’s dedication to accountability that as the Tribunal draws near to closure, Rwanda is now in the process of trying two cases referred by the ICTR and has taken over responsibility for six of the remaining fugitives,” he added in his briefing to the Council. “We hope that the international community will use this occasion as an opportunity to mark Rwanda’s achievements, as well as to further study the lessons learnt from what was only an experiment in international justice in 1994,” he said. “This great experiment has faced some adversity over the years, but it has also proven to be an integral part of the evolution of post-conflict justice.” Justice Hassan B. Jallow, Prosecutor of the ICTR as well as of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), said that as the Tribunal prepares for its imminent closure and the complete takeover of its functions by the Mechanism, it is important to recognize, “despite many achievements, much remains to be done to bring the process of legal accountability to a proper end.” In particular, he said Member States need to cooperate with and support the Mechanism and Rwanda to ensure that the nine remaining fugitives are arrested and transferred to the appropriate jurisdiction for trial, and that the many persons suspected of involvement in the genocide who could not be indicted by the tribunal need to be extradited to Rwanda for trial or prosecuted by the States where they reside. Also, witnesses who require protection need to be secured against those seeking to subvert the process of justice, and those who have been acquitted or have finished serving sentences need to be assisted with resettlement. “These are all matters in which only Member States can provide solutions,” said Judge Jallow.
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Judge Theodor Meron, President of ICTY as well as the MICT, noted that international courts on their own cannot resolve long-running historical conflicts. They must be part of a “panoply of transitional justice measures,” including broader societal efforts, spearheaded by community leaders, focused on history, memory, responsibility, and respect for the rule of law. “The need for such a broader approach should not, however, detract from our appreciation for the groundbreaking role of the Tribunal and the valuable contributions made by international criminal justice more generally,” he stated. “Ensuring accountability for the worst of crimes and respect for the rule of law sometimes is not easy, and it certainly is not cost-free. But it is essential,” he stated. ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz reported that his office has finished presenting its evidence in all of the remaining trials. “We are now well and truly in the final phase of our work,” he stated. A key feature of the Tribunal’s completion strategy has been the transfer of some cases to national jurisdiction. “We will continue encouraging national authorities, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to take full advantage of the resources available to them within my office to ensure accountability for the crimes committed,” said Mr. Brammertz. “More broadly, we know that finding creative and effective new strategies for building national capacity is a priority area if we are to construct a more coherent and complete international justice system.”
Worsening health of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike draws concern of UN human rights expert body 5 June - Gravely concerned about the reported worsening health of more than 75 Palestinian detainees on hunger strike now in hospital protesting Israel’s continued use of administrative detention, members of a United Nations committee today urged Israel to end the practice and heed the “desperate plea” prisoners to be told what they are accused of so they can mount a defence. “It is a desperate plea by these detainees to be afforded a very basic standard of due process: to know what they are accused of and to be able to defend themselves,” said the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories said in a press release.
Palestinian prisoners are being held in Israeli prisons similar to this one. Photo: IRIN
At the end of its annual fact-finding visit to Amman, Jordan, and Cairo, Egypt – from 1 to 5 June – members of the Special Committee urged Israel to heed the demand of the hunger strikers to end the practice of arbitrary administrative detention of Palestinians. According to the Committee, a first group of around 100 Palestinian administrative detainees launched a peaceful protest on 24 April 2014 and were later joined by more detainees. The total number of hunger strikers now stands at 290, with more expected to join in the coming weeks. “International humanitarian law only exceptionally allows for the use of administrative detention, yet the Israeli authorities have detained a large number of Palestinians for reasons not explicitly indicated. Initial administrative detention orders of six-month periods can be renewed an indefinite number of times without producing charges,” the Committee noted. The Committee has learned that there are 11 elected Palestinian Legislators serving prison terms, including 8 held under administrative detention. Further, the Special Committee is alarmed by reports that the Israeli Government is pressing for an early vote on a bill in the Knesset that would allow the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees. The experts stated that force-feeding would contravene accepted principles of international human rights law and violate the rights of the detainees.
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“Concerns over the health of Palestinian prisoners extend more widely,” the Committee continued in its press release, noting that, “this year again, we have a number of testimonies indicating that medical needs of Palestinian detainees within the Israeli prison system have been neglected, in some cases leading to deaths which might have been avoided with proper care and timely diagnosis.” Given that there are more than 5,000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody, the Committee members strongly appealed to the Israeli authorities to allow all Palestinian detainees, especially women and children, to be periodically seen by Palestinian doctors in order to avoid losing more lives. During its annual mission to the region, the Committee met a number of witnesses, non-governmental organizations, Palestinian government officials, and UN agencies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan to be briefed on human rights and humanitarian concerns. “In all Israeli occupied territories, settlement expansion continues at an alarming pace and scale, with new policies and procedures allowing for the confiscation of Palestinian lands and property. The Special Committee is also concerned about excavations under the Al-Aqsa holy site. “However, Israel continues to turn a deaf ear to repeated calls by the UN to comply with international law and to halt and dismantle settlements,” noted the Committee members. “Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the wall,” they added. Committee members recalled that the Court Opinion referred not only to the illegality of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but also its associated regime. The experts were also briefed on the continuing exploitation of natural resources in the Occupied Territory by Israel, in violation of its international obligations. They were also informed of the involvement of some international companies in settlement-related activities, in contradiction with their corporate social responsibilities. The Committee was also updated on the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and ongoing settler violence in the West Bank. The Special Committee will present a full report on its mission and other activities to the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly. The Assembly established the Committee in 1968 to examine the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Outraged UN rights experts call for end to death penalty in Iran 5 June - A group of United Nations human rights experts today expressed outrage at the recent executions of two prisoners in Iran, and urged the Government to institute a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it all together.
According to Iranian officials, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani was sentenced to death for “Moharabeh” (enmity against God) for allegedly sharing information and possibly providing financial assistance to a London-based TV station supposed to be affiliated with the Mujadiheen-e Khalq (MKO) organization.
Despite international appeals, Mr. Khosravi, a political prisoner, was executed on 1 June. He was originally arrested in 2008 and sentenced to six years in prison for alleged espionage, but was re-tried in 2011. “The execution of an individual for the alleged offence of transmitting information and providing financial assistance to a dissident organization is simply illegal,” said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. The human rights expert stressed that “the death penalty is an extreme form of punishment and, if used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law.” UN News Centre • www.un.org/news
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The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, added that Mr. Khosravi’s execution shows “the complete disregard of the Iranian judicial system for international fair trial standards and due process guarantees.” For the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, “the imposition of such an extreme sentence against a political activist is an alarming signal of the restrictions to freedom of expression in Iran.” The experts further noted that the execution of Mr. Khosravi is not only contrary to international human rights law, but is also contrary to the new Islamic Penal Code, which came into force last year and prohibits the use of capital punishment for Moharebeh in cases that do not involve the use of weapons. “It is beyond comprehension that Mr. Khosravi was tried twice for the same acts and with the same evidence,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed. “This is not only contrary to international human rights standards but also Iran’s domestic law.” The imposition of the death penalty against Mr. Khosravi comes days after the execution of former businessman Mah Afrid Amir Khosravi, allegedly accused of large-scale financial corruption. “The fight against corruption by no means justifies the execution of individuals on charges of embezzlement, especially when serious questions about the transparency and fairness of trials remain,” Mr. Shaheed underscored. In April, Mr. Shaheed issued a strong call on the Government of Iran to halt a scheduled execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman said to be the victim of physical and sexual assault, but who stood accused of murder. At that time, the Special Rapporteur noted with concern the spike in executions this year in Iran. More than 170 persons, including at least two women, have been executed since the beginning of 2014 and a large number of prisoners on death row risk imminent execution. Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the 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.
The UN Daily News is prepared at UN Headquarters in New York by the News Services Section of the News and Media Division, Department of Public Information (DPI)