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Defending people - An interview with the UN rights cheif - Zeid

In his last major interview with UN News, the outgoing UN human rights chief tells us that the “real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us.”

If you don't sometimes speak out, if you don't threaten to speak out, you don't grab their attention. And I would rather err on the speaking out part than staying silent

 Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Full interview:

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN LOOKS BACK ON HIS TERM

The real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us. And that’s the pressure that I think matters most and is most consequential on us in terms of the need to do the right thing.

Our job is to defend the individual victims, vulnerable communities, marginalized communities. Oppression is making a comeback. Repression is fashionable again. I don't believe anyone holding this position, even if they felt differently, ultimately can conduct business in a manner that departs too radically from the way that I've done it and my predecessors have done it. My belief is if you try to depart, you're going to hear it, and it will be extremely unpleasant for you because you're going to hear it from the very people who are suffering. 

ON HIS LEGACY

People who mattered to me are in the civil society, victims groups, human rights defenders. And if they say Zeid has, done a good job, I'd be very content with that.

If they say Zeid could have done better, I'll have to learn to live with it and accept it.

ON THE FIGHT AGAINST INJUSTICE

I met with four young girls. They had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for - and they claim these were obstetric emergencies, these were miscarriages - the State claimed that these were terminations of pregnancy. And when I sat with them, and I had with me a full team, my office was there; I think within the space of about ten minutes we were all weeping, we were in tears because their suffering was so extreme.

I saw the President after that and I said, “Why is it that all these girls are poor?” I think in many, many parts of the world, this is the point that really strikes home: that time and again, the poor suffer all the consequences.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEAKING OUT

I first worked with the UN in 1994, 1995 in the former Yugoslavia, and I saw what catastrophes silence can bring. And I think from that point on, I was determined not to be silent when the evidence before us was presented.

ON THE CHALLENGES OF THE UNITED NATIONS

It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether they be humanitarian actors or humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring or observing. And I take my hat off to them. I mean, they are the UN that I will cherish and remember.

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Former UN Women Director to be the new High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms. Bachelet was most recently President of Chile between 2014 and 2018, having served previously from 2006 to 2010, the year in which she was appointed the first Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women).  Ms. Bachelet also held ministerial portfolios in the Government of Chile, serving as Minister for Defence (2002‑2004) and Minister for Health (2000‑2002),

Please see below the official transcript from the SG 

REMARKS AT PRESS ENCOUNTER ON APPOINTMENT OF MICHELLE BACHELET AS UNITED NATIONS

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

New York, 10 August 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted that the General Assembly has confirmed the appointment of Ms. Michelle Bachelet as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms. Bachelet has been as formidable a figure in her native Chile as she has at the United Nations.

At home, she has known the heights and the depths – as the first woman to serve as the country’s President, but also as a survivor of brutality by the authorities targeting her and her family many decades ago.

She was also a pioneer here at the United Nations – the first leader of UN Women, giving that new entity a dynamic and inspiring start.

Now, she takes on a role for which she is perfectly suited. In this year in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, I could not think of a better choice.

She has lived under the darkness of dictatorship.

As a physician, she knows the trials of people thirsting for health and yearning to enjoy other vital economic and social rights.

And she knows the responsibilities of both national and global leadership.

She takes office at a time of grave consequence for human rights.

Hatred and inequality are on the rise.

Respect for international humanitarian and human rights law is on the decline.

Space for civil society is shrinking.

Press freedoms are under pressure.  

To navigate these currents, we need a strong advocate for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

We need a person who can ensure the integrity of the indispensable human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.

I want to express my deep gratitude to my good colleague and friend Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his leadership, passion, courage and skill in serving as High Commissioner for the past four years. I wish him well as he takes time with his beloved family, and in all his future endeavours. 

Michelle Bachelet brings unique experience to the United Nations and to all of us, and is strongly committed to keeping human rights at the forefront of the work of the United Nations. She has my full confidence and support, and I ask all Member States and our partners to extend to her their support.

I look forward to working together to promote and encourage respect for human rights for “we the peoples”, everyone and everywhere.

Thank you very much.

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Nearly three million more displaced year-on-year, warns refugee agency chief, but solutions are within reach

The number of people forced to flee their homes last year rose by nearly three million to 68.5 million, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday, warning that the world’s displacement hotspots “are becoming hotter”.

Citing ongoing, protracted violence around the globe and a lack of solutions to conflicts as reasons for the increase, Filippo Grandi said that “continuous pressure on civilians” caught up in fighting, had pushed them to leave their homes.

More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide originated from only a handful of countries, the High Commissioner told journalists in Geneva.

Top of the list is Syria, where seven years of brutal fighting have forced more than 6 million people to seek shelter abroad, followed by Afghanistan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (2.4 million).

Responding to a question about ongoing concerns over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring host countries, including Lebanon, the High Commissioner stressed that “it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’” they will return to Syria — once conditions allow.

New disputes in 2017 were also significant contributors to global displacement.

These include the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh last year, the UNHCR chief said, adding that it is still not safe for them to return, as well as 1.5 million Venezuelans who had sought shelter in neighbouring countries in Latin America.

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UN rights chief slams ‘unconscionable’ US border policy of separating migrant children from parents

As part of his final global update, the United Nations human rights chief on Monday voiced his deep concern over recently-adopted United States border protection policies that have seen hundreds of migrant children forcibly separated from their parents.

“In the past six weeks, nearly two thousand children have been forcibly separated from their parents,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in his opening remarks to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the last session before his four-year term expires in August. 

Mr. Zeid said that the American Association of Pediatrics in the US, had called it a cruel practice of “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences”.

“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” he said, calling on the United States to immediately put a stop to the policy, and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In a statement issued on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres defended the rights of migrant and refugee children, but did not single out the US.

As a matter of principle, the Secretary-General believes that refugees and migrants should always be treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law,” said a statement issued by his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

“Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents. Family unity must be preserved,” said the statement.

The human rights situation in the US was one of the many topics to be discussed at the latest Human Rights Council session, which runs through 6 July.

Mr. Zeid also expressed his deep concern about a bill presented to Parliament in Hungary last month which, if adopted, would effectively criminalize human rights monitoring at borders and within border zones, as well as criminalizing the provision of information, legal aid and assistance to migrants.

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ILO Director-General calls for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, saying it is “a factor leading to violence and harassment in the world of work."

The ILO joins the international community to mark this International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Standing together under the banner of Alliances for Solidarity , we highlight the importance of human rights for all, irrespective of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. 

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people doesn’t just hurt them; it hurts families, companies and entire countries. The ILO’s Constitution affirms that all human beings “have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity”. Each of us has a part to play in ensuring that this aspiration becomes a reality for all workers, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

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Women journalists in Afghanistan, defiant in the face of violence

The cold-blooded murder took place just days before World Press Freedom Day marked annually on May 3rd.

Outside the Afghan capital, the dangers of reporting the news, particularly as a woman, have never been so apparent.

Sediqa Sherzai is the news director of Radio-TV Roshani, a media organization In Kunduz in the north of Afghanistan. Her female reporters are under constant threat not only from insurgents but also from men who do not want women to work in the media.

“When insurgents seized Kunduz in 2015, they came immediately for our station because they didn’t like our content focused on women’s rights,” she said. “Even though most of our reporters fled in advance of their arrival. They looted our equipment and destroyed what they could not take.”

Elections

Despite the challenges of working as a woman in the media in a conservative and conflict-affected country, Sediqa Sherzai is committed to ensuring that the voices of Afghan women area heard ahead of the country’s elections slated for October this year.

In the volatile province of Kunduz where some territory is beyond government control, women say they fear to speak to the media and talk about human rights, much less advocate openly for democracy and change. Even Sediqa Sherzai and her staff of women shy away from photographs, cautiously protecting their identities.

Elections are considered essential to solidify fragile the social and human rights advances made during the last 17 years. The struggle for full women’s suffrage in Afghanistan, reminiscent of similar fights in centuries past in other nations, has gained broader international support in the last two decades.

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[ read the full story on UN News ]

 

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Message on World Press Freedom Day

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

3 May 2018

A free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all.

It is crucial to building transparent and democratic societies and keeping those in power accountable.

It is vital for sustainable development.

Journalists and media workers shine a light on local and global challenges and tell the stories that need to be told.

Their service to the public is invaluable.

Laws that protect independent journalism, freedom of expression and the right to information need to be adopted, implemented and enforced.

Crimes against journalists must be prosecuted.

On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists.

Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth.

Thank you.

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UNHCR regret at deportations of Venezuelans from Trinidad and Tobago

as released by UNHCR :

UNHCR logo

23 April 2018   | 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, deeply regrets the deportation this past weekend by Trinidad and Tobago of 82 Venezuelan nationals. The 82 include registered asylum-seekers and individuals who had declared an intention to apply for refugee status, making their return to Venezuela a breach of international refugee law.

“The forced return of this group is of great concern,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. “We are in contact with the authorities and are seeking clarification on the legal process which has led to the deportations of this group, to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago continues to abide by its international obligations.”

The group, which had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, was deported from the country on Saturday despite UNHCR’s request for access to the individuals concerned and written interventions.

UNHCR calls on Trinidad and Tobago to continue to abide by its international obligations as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and other applicable international instruments that are incorporated into its official Refugee Policy, in particular the principle of non-return, known as non-refoulement, and Article 31 of the Convention which requests signatories “not to impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence” to people who are in need of international protection.

UNHCR will continue working closely with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to complement its efforts aimed at developing, strengthening and implementing its asylum policy, as well as to support host communities, while offering guidance and assistance to people in need of international protection.

Contacts:

  • In Washington DC, Chris Boian, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 202 243 7634
  • In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +1 347 443 7646
  • In Mexico, Francesca Fontanini, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +52 1 (55) 9197 2690
  • In Geneva, Aikaterini Kitidi, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +41 79 580 8334
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United Nations concerned by Trinidad and Tobago return of Venezuelans

Port of Spain, 22 April 2018 - The United Nations System in Trinidad and Tobago is concerned after authorities in Trinidad and Tobago announced they had facilitated the return to Venezuela of scores of Venezuelan citizens, including asylum seekers, who had been in detention.

"The United Nations is concerned for the welfare of these people and is in contact with the appropriate authorities in Port of Spain to ensure that any person in need of protection will get it without fail," said the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Richard Blewitt, today.

Mr. Blewitt’s comments came after the Ministry of National Security announced that 82 Venezuelan citizens who had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, had been turned over to the Venezuelan Embassy for repatriation to Venezuela.

The group, comprising 53 men and 29 women, included several individuals who had been registered as asylum seekers in Trinidad and Tobago as well as others who had initiated asylum requests or had signaled an intention to do so.

They were flown out of Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday aboard a Venezuelan Government aircraft. The Ministry statement said all returns were voluntary although this could not be verified independently by United Nations observers.

Venezuelans have been leaving their country in growing numbers, many in need of international protection and seeking temporary refuge in countries of the Americas region, including in some Caribbean small island States like Trinidad and Tobago.

The United Nations and its local partners have encouraged the prompt adoption of national legislation on refugee issues, and work together to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in its efforts to develop an efficient and secure asylum system.

Contact

Ruben Barbado, Protection Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 1-868-623-7056 ext. 26

 

 


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UN migration agency rolls out regional response to ongoing Venezuelans exodus

As the exodus has considerably increased over the last two years, an estimated 1.6 million Venezuelans were abroad in 2017, up from 700,000 in 2015, with 1.3 million in the Americas, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“The plan is tailored to specific national contexts across 17 countries including eight South American countries, six Caribbean countries, two Central American countries and Mexico,” explained Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

The exodus is not letting up. For instance, more than 800 Venezuelans are estimated to be entering Brazil each day, bringing the total arrivals to more than 52,000 since the beginning of 2017, according to the host Government.

IOM’s regional plan seeks to strengthen the response to the needs and priorities expressed by concerned governments and focuses on such activities as data collection and dissemination, capacity building and coordination, direct support and socio-economic integration.

Diego Beltrand, IOM Regional Director for South America, encourages host countries to consider adopting measures, such as regularizing the stay of Venezuelans, and called for the international community to contribute to the regional plan, which requires $32.3 million to implement.

[ this story was originally posted on UN News ]

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student read iconNearly 800 Venezuelans arriving in Brazil each day, many seeking asylum, UN refugee agency says

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Contact

Email: unic.portofspain@unic.org 

Telephone: 1(868) 623 8438 or 623 4813

Fax: 1 (868) 623 4332 

Address: 

2nd Floor Bretton Hall, 16 Victoria Avenue, 

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

 

 

 

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