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“When we protect human rights, we are tackling the root causes of terrorism," UN Secretary-General

Noting that at least 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in more than 100 countries last year, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed on Thursday that “terrorism is fundamentally the denial and destruction of human rights.” Therefore, “when we protect human rights, we are tackling the root causes of terrorism. For the power of human rights to bond is stronger than the power of terrorism to devastate,” he said.

“Terrorism has been unfortunately with us in various forms across ages and continents,” Mr. Guterres said in a lecture on counter-terrorism and human rights at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. 

“But modern terrorism is being waged on an entirely different scale, and notably its geographic span. No country can claim to be immune,” he added. 

Last year, more than 25,000 people died and 33,000 injured in at least 11,000 terrorist attacks in more than 100 countries. 

In 2016, nearly three-quarters of all deaths caused by terrorism were in just five states: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Somalia. The global economic impact of terrorism is estimated to have reached $90 billion in 2015. That year, terrorism costs amounted to 17.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Iraq and 16.8 per cent in Afghanistan. 

Recalling how the Magna Carta 800 years ago established the principle of the rule of law, the Secretary-General said that at its core, human rights are a true recognition of common humanity. 

“When we protect human rights, we are tackling the root causes of terrorism. For the power of human rights to bond is stronger than the power of terrorism to devastate,” he said.

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UN condemns terrorist attack in Barcelona, stands with the people of Spain

"The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Government and people of Spain in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism"

Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General

17 August 2017-  Secretary-General António Guterres said the United Nations stands in solidarity with the Government and people of Spain in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

“He extends his heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those killed and to the Government and people of Spain,” according to a statement issued by UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq.

In a separate statement, the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

The 15 members of the Council “expressed their solidarity with Spain in its fight against terrorism and stressed the need to intensify international efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, which may be conducive to terrorism.”

Condemnations echoed from other UN bodies and agencies.

The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, called the attack “brutal” targeting “a group of innocent people.”

“Yet again, we are forced to face the hateful actions of people who show no regard for the sanctity or value of life,” Mr. Al-Nasser said.

Spain is one of the co-sponsors of UNAOC, a collective promoting pluralism, peace and tolerance.

The UN World Tourism Organization (WTO) condemned the attack as “heinous” and urged the international community to “fight these forces of darkness and all acts of terror.”

According to media reports, a van ran into a crowd of pedestrians walking through Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas area, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens of others.

image conference

More about the UN and terrorism

The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism was established through the adoption of General Assembly resolution 71/291 on 15 June 2017. Mr. Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov was appointed as Under-Secretary-General of the Office on 21 June 2017.

The Office of Counter-Terrorism has five main functions:

  1.  provide leadership on the General Assembly counter-terrorism mandates entrusted to the Secretary-General from across the United Nations system;
  2.  enhance coordination and coherence across the 38 Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force entities to ensure the balanced implementation of the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy;
  3.  strengthen the delivery of United Nations counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to Member States;
  4. improve visibility, advocacy and resource mobilization for United Nations counter-terrorism efforts; and
  5. ensure that due priority is given to counterterrorism across the United Nations system and that the important work on preventing violent extremism is firmly rooted in the Strategy.

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UN in Colombia strongly condemns bombing

United Nations entities based in Colombia have strongly condemned Saturday's terrorist attack at a shopping centre in the capital, Bogota, and underscored that they “remain determined” to support the country and its peace process.

“The UN in Colombia regrets and repudiates this act of violence and reiterates that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes a threat to peace and security,” read a statement (in Spanish) issued by the UN Country Team over the weekend.

[testimonial author="UN System in Colombia"  title="United Nations" avatar="../images/2017/onu-logo-2SM.jp"  icon="icon" ]

We remain determined to continue to support Colombians and their government in their efforts to build sustainable and lasting peace in the country”


At least three people (one French citizen and two Colombians) were killed and another nine wounded in the terrorist attack that struck the Andino shopping centre, located in Bogota's Chapinero district.

The blast occurred at around 5 pm local time (GMT -5:00) on a busy Saturday, with many people shopping for Father's Day, the next day.
In the UNCT statement, the agencies also expressed their condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the people and Government of Colombia and of France and wished for a speedy recovery of those injured.

(originally posted on UN News Centre)


Abuses by non-State actors no justification for rights violations by Governments – UN rights chief

1 May 2017 – Raising alarm over use of rhetoric by States that they can “solve problems” and find ways around lawful safeguards, the United Nations rights chief today urged vigilance to protect and promote human rights of everyone.
“The use of, or the creation of, some form of political fog to create confusion at times, even amounting to the depth charging of truth or parts of it, so that a government can pursue a particular line [is,] I think something […] to watch very carefully,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a press briefing in Geneva.

“Violations by non-State actors of human rights norms, of international law, do not, and should not serve as grounds for violations thereby by Government actors,” he underscored.

In his remarks, he expressed particular concern over the renewed state of emergency in Turkey and the human rights situation in the country.
According to reports, up to 150,000 civil servants have been suspended. Furthermore, there are reports that last week about 10,000 police officers were also suspended and some one thousand among them detained.
“With such a large number, it is highly unlikely that the suspensions and detentions will have met due process standards,” added Mr. Zeid.
“Yes, the terror attacks need to be tackled, but not at the expense of human rights, and I am very concerned about the renewed state of emergency which was undertaken in mid-April and the climate of fear in the country,” he underscored.

In the same vein, he also drew attention to the dangers confronting human rights defenders, journalists and civil society members in their lines of work.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights also spoke out against the impact of human rights violations on the lives of people and the resulting increased suffering.

“Human rights violations have also resulted in famines in Yemen and South Sudan and human rights deficits have exacerbated the impact of droughts in other places like Kenya, Somalia and northern Nigeria,” he said.


New UN manual aims to address management of violent extremists in prison

16 January 2017 – Highlighting the challenges brought on by and the need to address violent extremism and radicalization in prisons, the United Nations agency mandated to prevent international crime and assist criminal justice reform unveiled a new manual that offers practical advice on managing violent extremist prisoners, disengaging them from violence and facilitating their social reintegration upon release.

The Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons, launched today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) aims to strengthen key components of prison management, including training of prison staff, risk management and rehabilitation efforts.

“It also cautions against generalized assumptions regarding a very complex topic, as well as against 'quick fix solutions' when it comes to the management of violent extremist prisoners,” said UNODC in a news release announcing the manual.

In addition to loss of life and economic damage, violent extremism – a challenge confronting many countries around the world – can divide communities and give rise to increasingly reactionary and extremist views. On top of these challenges, management of such violent elements who end up in custody of the State is equally important and urgent.

Speaking at the launch, the Deputy Executive Director of UNODC, Aldo Lale-Demoz, drew attention to the need to integrate interventions for violent extremist prisoners in broader prison reform efforts.

“Overcrowding, poor prison conditions and infrastructure, insufficient prison management capacity as well as corruption, for example, are all factors which will poison attempts to effectively prevent and counter violent extremism in prisons,” he said.

Also at the launch event, held in the Austrian capital, Vienna, participants underscored the importance of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners – informally dubbed the Nelson Mandela Rules – for prison management.

They added that the overarching framework equally applied to violent extremist prisoners.

The Standard Minimum Rules constitute the universally acknowledged minimum standards for the management of prison facilities and the treatment of prisoners. Originally adopted by the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955, the revised Rules were launched in October 2015.


This story was originally posted on the UN News Centre link goes to a UN website


UNESCO launches strategy to prevent youth radicalisation

  • 02 November 2016 |
  • Published in Youth

31 0ctober 2016 - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova opened  the International Conference on Internet and the Radicalization of Youth: Preventing, Acting and Living Together, declaring, in Quebec, Canada, “Violent extremism seeks to impose a sectarian vision of society, and propaganda is a central element of its strategy.”

She identified the challenges and the opportunities that the Internet presents. “Anonymous, decentralized and easy to access – the Internet is a boon for extremists.” She added that  it is also a platform on which positive change can occur. “I see this as a new global struggle of ideas, a struggle for hearts and minds,” said the Director-General. “Young women and men must have knowledge to claim humanity’s cultural heritage and diversity as their own – and they must have skills to build dialogue through diversity. This means nurturing the Internet’s full potential for peace."

Mr. Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary General, spoke on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, underlining the vital need for tolerance, diversity and mutual respect to spearhead new joint actions to prevent radicalization leading to violent extremism.

The International Conference is designed to provide a platform for discussion between high level representatives of Governments for across the world – including Mr Martin Coiteux, Minister for Public Security (Quebec); Representative of the Government of Canada, Mr Amadou Koïta, Minister of Youth and Civic Construction (Mali) ; Mr Hector Leonel Ayala Minister of Governance and Justice (Honduras); Mr Rachid Madrane, Minister of Youth Aid, Houses of Justice, Sports and Promotion of Brussels to the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (Belgium); Ms Juliette Méadel, Minister of State for Victim Assistance (France).

The conference, organized by UNESCO, its Information for All Programme, the Government of Quebec, with the support of the Government of Canada, has attracted some 400 participants, who have come together to explore how to prevent the rise of violent extremism and radicalization of young people on the Internet.

Ms. Bokova also thanked the Government of Quebec for its support to UNESCO, with the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism, to prevent violent extremism through youth empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as the proposed new UNESCO Chair on Preventing Radicalization and Violent Extremism in Quebec.

UNESCO Artist for Peace Celine Dion, Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Ms. Kathleen Weil and the Mayor of Quebec, Régis Lebeaume, were also among the key speakers during the opening.


UN Condemns killings in the USA

8 July 2016 – United Nations officials today spoke out against recent violence in the United States which has left several people dead, expressing both outrage and condemnation over the killings, and highlighting the need for more to be done to fight discrimination.

Earlier this week, two African-American men were shot dead by US police in the states of Minnesota and Louisiana. On Thursday, five police officers were killed in the Texan city of Dallas at a rally over the earlier killings.

“The Working Group [of Experts on People of African Descent] is outraged and strongly condemns the new police killings of two African-American men,” the Group’s Chairman, Ricardo A. Sunga III, said in a statement today, in which he also noted that the incidents demonstrate “a high level of structural and institutional racism.”

“These killings, which were captured on video, cannot be ignored. We call for prompt independent investigations to ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished,” he added.

Also today, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Mr. Ban condemned the killing of the police officers in Dallas.

“There is no justification for such violence. Those responsible compounded the suffering that many in the United States feel following the killing of two African-American men over two days. Those killings must be the subject of a thorough and impartial investigation,” the spokesman said, adding that the killings once again put the focus on the need to address discrimination, including racial disparities in law enforcement, in a comprehensive manner.

The UN chief extended his condolences to the families and colleagues of the victims, as well as the Police Department of Dallas, according to the spokesperson.

For its part, the Working Group stated that excessive use of force by the police against African-Americans in the US is a “regular” occurrence, with African-Americans reportedly shot at more than twice the rate of white people.

The Working Group is monitoring the situation and has repeatedly expressed its concern to the US Government about police killings of African-Americans and called for justice, and is convinced that the root of the problem lies in the lack of accountability for perpetrators of such killings despite the evidence.

“The killings also demonstrate a high level of structural and institutional racism. The United States is far from recognizing the same rights for all its citizens. Existing measures to address racist crimes motivated by prejudice are insufficient and have failed to stop the killings,” the human rights expert said. “It is time, now, for the US Government to strongly assert that Black lives matter and prevent any further killings as a matter of national priority.”

He also condemned yesterday's sniper attacks on police officers in downtown Dallas during a protest over the killings of African-American men in other cities, calling for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

According to media reports, at least one sniper killed five officers and wounded seven others at the rally on Thursday night. The sniper was killed, and three other people are in custody.

Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. They serve in their personal capacity and are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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