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UN Special Adviser welcomes start of trial against top Rwanda genocide suspect

Opening statements in the case against Félicien Kabuga are set for Thursday and Friday at the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), located in The Hague. 

According to his indictment, Mr. Kabuga was a founder of the radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, whose broadcasts furthered hatred and violence against the Tutsi ethnic group and others. 

He is charged with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution on political grounds, extermination, and murder as crimes against humanity. 

Prevention and accountability 

“Our collective commitment not to forget constitutes a commitment to prevent” said UN Special Adviser on Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, in a statement issued on Wednesday. 

“Accountability is prevention in itself and hence a deterrent for future crimes,” she added.  

Ms. Nderitu said fair and credible judicial proceedings can also provide victims with a form of redress for the gross and systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law that they have endured.   

They can also help prevent and address feelings of frustration and bitterness, and the possible desire for retaliation.   

However, when justice is not served, lingering perceptions of injustice can become a risk factor for further violence and possibly, atrocity crimes, she warned.  

Alice Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

Kate McElwee
Alice Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

Collective responsibility 

The Special Adviser commended the important work by the UN Mechanism on ensuring accountability for serious international crimes, including in the context of Mr. Kabuga’s alleged role in the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which moderate Hutu, Twa and others who opposed the genocide, were killed. 

Ms. Nderitu stressed that hate speech contributes to mistrust between communities.  It also feeds what she called “an ‘us versus them’ narrative” and corrodes social cohesion between communities.  In its most serious forms, hate speech can lead to incitement to violence and even genocide. 

She said commitment to prevent atrocity crimes requires all relevant stakeholders to take appropriate measures against hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.  

“Literally all atrocity crimes were preceded by hate speech.  Hence, it is our responsibility to pay particular attention to this phenomenon if we are really committed to prevent atrocity crimes,” she added. 

Support UN Mechanism 

Mr. Kabunga was apprehended in Paris in May 2020 by French authorities as a result of a joint investigation with the IRMCT.  

At the time, he was among the world’s top fugitives, and had been wanted by the UN Mechanism since 2013.   

The IRMCT performs essential functions previously carried out by the international tribunal for Rwanda, which closed in December 2015, and another for the former Yugoslavia, which concluded two years later. 

Ms. Nderitu further called for countries to continue to fully cooperate with the IRMCT in the identification, arrest, detention, surrender, and transfer of accused persons who are still at large.   

She also urged the international community to step up efforts to address and counter hate speech, and prevent incitement to violence, in line with the UN action plans. 

Time to address mental health issues in the workplace, UN agencies urge

The UN agencies have launched two publications which aim to prevent negative work situations and cultures while also offering mental health protection and support for employees.  

Performance and productivity affected 

“It’s time to focus on the detrimental effect work can have on our mental health,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at WHO, which has issued global guidelines on the issue. 

“The well-being of the individual is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity.” 

The WHO guidelines contain actions to tackle risks to mental health at work such as heavy workloads, negative behaviours, and other factors that can create distress. 

For the first time, the UN health agency recommends manager training, to build their capacity to prevent stressful work environments and respond to workers’ needs. 

A workplace taboo 

WHO’s World Mental Health Report, published in June, revealed that of one billion people estimated to be living with a mental disorder in 2019, 15 per cent of working-age adults experienced a mental disorder.  

The workplace amplifies wider societal issues that negatively affect mental health, including discrimination and inequality, the agency said.

Bullying and psychological violence, also known as “mobbing,” is a key complaint of workplace harassment that has a negative impact on mental health. However, discussing or disclosing mental health remains a taboo in work settings globally. 

The guidelines also recommend better ways to accommodate the needs of workers with mental health conditions and proposes interventions that support their return to work. 

Increasing opportunities 

They also outline measures to ease entry into the jobs market, for those workers with severe mental health conditions. 

Importantly, the guidelines call for interventions for the protection of health, humanitarian, and emergency workers. 

A separate policy brief with ILO explains the WHO guidelines in terms of practical strategies for governments, employers and workers, and their organizations, in both the public and private sectors.  

The objective is to support the prevention of mental health risks, protect and promote mental health at work, and support those with mental health conditions, so they can participate and thrive at work.  

“As people spend a large proportion of their lives in work – a safe and healthy working environment is critical,” said, Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General. 

“We need to invest to build a culture of prevention around mental health at work, reshape the work environment to stop stigma and social exclusion, and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported.” 

ILO’s Convention on occupational safety and health, and a related recommendation, provide legal frameworks to safeguard workers.  

Lack of national programmes 

However, only 35 per cent of countries reported having national programmes for work-related mental health promotion and prevention. 

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25 per cent increase in general anxiety and depression worldwide, according to a WHO study published in March. 

The crisis exposed how unprepared governments were for its impact on mental health, as well as a chronic global shortage of mental health resources.  

In 2020, governments worldwide spent an average of just two per cent of health budgets on mental health, with lower-middle income countries allocating less than one per cent. 

Climate Change: Hurricanes and cyclones bring misery to millions, as Ian makes landfall in the US

The two tropical cyclones came quick on the heels of Hurricane Fiona, which caused deadly flooding in the Caribbean and was the strongest storm on record to hit Canada. Typhoon Nanmadol, prompted the evacuation of nine million people in Japan.

Fingerprints of climate change

The World Meteorological Organization has reminded that climate change is expected to increase the proportion of major tropical cyclones worldwide, and to increase the heavy rainfall associated with these events.

Meanwhile, sea level rise and coastal development are also worsening the impact of coastal flooding.

“The human and socio-economic impacts of these cyclones will be felt for years,” warned Cyrille Honoré, WMO Director of Disaster Risk Reduction and Public Services branch.

Map showing sea surface temperatures (SSTs) as measured on September 26 by a combination of satellite and ocean instruments and processed by NASA scientists.

Map showing sea surface temperatures (SSTs) as measured on September 26 by a combination of satellite and ocean instruments and processed by NASA scientists.

Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian slammed into Cuba on 27 September as a Category 3 storm, with sustained winds of 205km/h and even stronger gusts leading to flash flooding and mudslides.

It is estimated that more than three million people have been affected, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office informed.

According to WMO, Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel said that the damage caused by Ian will likely be significant, though only preliminary assessments have been carried out.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. But there was severe damage to infrastructure, housing, agriculture, and telecommunications, with power reportedly lost to the entire country. Pinar del Río, the hardest hit province, is home to 75 per cent of the country’s tobacco production – a key export for Cuba – and about 40 per cent of the nation’s bean production.

Florida on high alert

Ian is intensifying rapidly and is now a very strong category 4 hurricane (maximum sustained winds near 155 mph (250 km/h) with higher gusts). It is expected to maintain this intensity.

Ian is the first hurricane to make landfall in mainland United States this season.

The US national weather service warned of catastrophic wind damage near the core of Ian when it moves onshore and of life-threatening storm surge and catastrophic flooding.

The combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline, according to expert forecasts. The water could reach up to 12 to 16 feet (3.5 to 4.8 meters) in the worst affected areas.

Heavy rainfall will spread across central and northern Florida through Thursday as it is forecasted to slow its forward motion. Ian is forecast to reach portions of the US Southeast later this week and this weekend (1-2 October).

Catastrophic flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in, northern Florida, south-eastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina.

Ian poses an exceptional threat because of its size, its strength and its landfall in a heavily populated, low-lying area”, WMO has warned.

Typhoon Noru

Meanwhile, in the eastern hemisphere, Typhoon Noru, known in the Philippines as Karding, hit the northeastern part of the Philippines on 25 September as a “super typhoon” with sustained winds of 195 km/h (121 mph) before tracking across the main island of Luzon on 25 September.

More than two million people live in the worst affected areas, according to a disaster analysis, and nearly 430,000 people were directly impacted. Despite the relatively short space of time for mobilization, thousands of people were successfully evacuated, limiting loss of life.

From 26-27 September, typhoon Noru made its way towards Viet Nam, and intensified once again.

The importance of early warnings

WMO underscored that accurate early warnings and coordinated early action are proving key to limiting casualties during extreme weather events such as Hurricane Ian, Fiona and Thyphoon Noru.

“It is more important than ever that we scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate risks in vulnerable communities,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

Join forces to prevent ‘food availability crisis’ urges FAO chief

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu told a meeting of agriculture ministers from the G20 industrialized nations in Bali, that with access to Ukrainian grain, cooking oils and other vital foodstuffs for the most vulnerable countries restricted by seven months of conflict, “we must must increase the resilience of global agrifood systems.”

Grain Initiative, ‘an important step’

He lauded the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative as “an important step forward”, and it has now freed-up more than five million metric tonnes of food, with well over a quarter of shipments going directly to lower income countries.

“But still it needs to be complemented to improve the food access of most vulnerable countries”, he said.

Overall, wholesale food prices have been heading down for five months now, but consumer food prices and inflation are soaring, “with devastating implications for global food security and nutrition.”

And beyond the crisis sparked by conflict, an increase in extreme weather is also fuelling to crop destruction and failure worldwide.

“While we witnessed improvements in the forecasts for wheat and soybean markets, the outlook is less positive for maize and rice, and fertilizer markets remain supply-constrained and volatile…Much needs to be done to ensure that all people can afford safe and nutritious food in sufficient quantities to meet their dietary needs and preferences and have a healthy life.”

Recipe for resilience

Mr QU said key steps must be taken, to boost resilience for now, and in the future:• Improve early warning and early action systems.
• Increase productivity sustainably.
• Accelerate trade; and find innovative solutions to tackle inorganic fertilizer supply constraints.

In the medium-term, he told ministers it was crucial to boost innovation, invest in infrastructure to reduce inequality, reduce food loss and waste, and in the short-term, improve food access.

“For that FAO proposed the Food Import Financing Facility – which I am happy the IMF has now taken over and it is calling it the ‘food shock window’ within the IMF emergency lending instruments”.

Support for low-income nations

The idea of the financing facility is to provide funds for 62 lower-income food importing nations that are home to around 1.8 billion people, in order to meet their most urgent needs.

He said it was important to accelerate exports from Ukraine and Russia via the Black Sea Grain Initiative; and “increase fertilizer availability through the comfort letters issues by United States and the new guidelines issued by the European Commission”.

Conflicts, slowdowns and downturns, because of COVID-19, and the climate crisis, he told ministers, “are the major drivers of our crises today and tomorrow.”

“It is important that all nations join in the dividends of peace and stability, so that we all commit to peace. Without peace we will not achieve Zero Hunger and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Women carry food from a WFP distribution site in Marsabit County in northern Kenya.

Women carry food from a WFP distribution site in Marsabit County in northern Kenya.

Guinea: UN pledges support for justice and accountability, as stadium massacre trial begins

Alongside the deaths, during the opposition rally protesting military rule on 28 September, women and girls were raped, after security forces blocked off exits to the stadium in Conakry, before opening fire. Some protesters were shot dead, or brutally attacked with knives, while others were trampled to death.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he took note of the start of the trials, saying the families of the dead and those who witnessed the events that day, “have waited for justice for so many years.”

Support for justice

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, Mr. Guterres reaffirmed the commitment of the UN to support efforts aimed at upholding justice and accountability.

“He calls on the authorities to ensure that the trials are conducted in accordance with due process of law, so that perpetrators are held accountable, and victims receive reparations.”

Guinea’s former military ruler, Moussa Dadis Camara, is in the dock, along with ten other officials, all charged with having responsibility over the soldiers who allegedly carried out the massacre and other crimes on the day.

“The Secretary-General calls on the authorities to further ensure that human rights are respected throughout the country’s political transition process”, said the statement. “He reiterates the solidarity and support of the United Nations to regional efforts to accompany a return to constitutional order in Guinea.”

‘Sexual mutilation and slavery’

The acting UN human rights chief, Nada Al-Nashif, also welcomed the start of proceedings, noting that many of the 156 who disappeared or were killed during what had been a peaceful rally, had been tortured to death, with their corpses buried in mass graves.

The head of OHCHR added that at least 109 girls and women had suffered sexual violence, “including sexual mutilation and sexual slavery.”

The UN Commission of Inquiry in 2009, concluded that there was a “strong presumption that crimes against humanity were committed” and that “there are reasonable grounds to suspect individual criminal responsibility”.

13-year wait

Hundreds of people were killed and injured, and hundreds of women raped at the 28 September Stadium in 2009, in Conakry, Guinea. Photo: IRIN
Hundreds of people were killed and injured, and hundreds of women raped at the 28 September Stadium in 2009, in Conakry, Guinea. Photo: IRIN, by IRIN

“Victims and relatives have been waiting for 13 years for truth, justice and reparations. Today’s opening of this long-awaited judicial process is a crucial step for Guinea in its fight against impunity,” Ms. Al-Nashif said.

In the aftermath of the events, the UN Commission of Inquiry with the support of the UN Human Rights Office was mandated to establish the facts and circumstances of the event, and to identify those responsible and make recommendations.

“Since 2009, we have been advocating for fair and independent trials. We call on all the authorities involved to ensure that this important trial is conducted in a victim-sensitive manner, and in accordance with international standards and due process,” the acting High Commissioner added.

“Accountability is essential for wounds to heal and for reconciliation,” she stressed.

‘Only the beginning’: ICC Prosecutor

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, addressed survivor groups and others in the courtroom on Monday in Conakry, before proceedings began, and said “on this important day, I applaud the people of Guinea, the survivors, and those who lost loved ones.”

The start of the trial, “is only the beginning”, he added. “My office will be watching closely. Presumption of innocence is critical for justice. This trial rests not only on the shoulders of the judges and parties. It is the collective responsibility of the people of Guinea.”

Israel-Palestine: ‘Meaningful initiatives’ needed soon, to reverse current course

Tor Wennesland updated ambassadors on a litany of violations, including “mounting pressure” on Palestinians to leave their homes, and plans for new construction outposts.

“The absence of a meaningful peace process to end the Israeli occupation and resolve the conflict is fueling a dangerous deterioration across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory], particularly in the West Bank, and driving the perception that the conflict in unresolvable”, he said.

‘Perpetual state of violence’

The UN envoy reminded that resolution 2334 called for “immediate steps to prevent all violence against civilians,” before listing a wide range of attacks carried out between June and September in the West Bank and Gaza, the vast majority of which left Palestinians dead or injured.

“I am particularly appalled that children continue to be killed and injured in large numbers,” he stated. “Children must never be the target of violence or put in harm’s way”.

He said Israel should only use lethal force when “strictly unavoidable to protect life”, must thoroughly investigate all resulting deaths or injuries, and “hold those responsible, accountable”.

“Negotiations can no longer be pushed off indefinitely”, Mr. Wennesland continued, observing that the current course is heading towards “a perpetual state of violence and conflict”.

Reversing ‘negative trends’

As resolution 2334 also calls for immediate steps to “reverse negative trends…imperiling the two-State solution”, he described some positive developments, such as on 7 July when President Abbas and Defense Minister Gantz met in Ramallah, and the following day when Israeli President Herzog and Prime Minister Lapid, spoke to President Abbas by phone.

And during his July visit to Israel and the OPT, US President Biden announced a $100 million contribution to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network; $201 million for UN Palestine refugee relief agency, UNRWA, and $15 million to address food insecurity.

Moreover, Israel issued some 16,000 worker and other business permits for Palestinians in Gaza and extended social entitlements under Israeli labour laws, to workers entering from the Gaza Strip.

Chief concerns

The UN envoy informed the 15 Council members of the Secretary-General’s concerns over continued settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

He highlighted the Supreme Court’s Mitzpeh Kramim decision that could set a legal precedent for additional outposts, and demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned property.

He also noted civilian casualties from the latest escalation in Gaza; indiscriminate rocket launches there by Palestinian militants; and the deteriorating security situation in the occupied West Bank.

He also relayed the UN chief’s apprehension that “the current negative trajectory” puts at great risk the socioeconomic and institution-building that has prepared the Palestinian Authority for eventual statehood.

At the same time, the Secretary-General welcomed the Special Representative’s 22 September report on a comprehensive package of “incremental, durable, and meaningful steps” that the parties and their partners should take, to address the current situation, strengthen the Palestinian Authority, and advance the goal of a sustainable peace.

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

UN Photo/Ariana Lindquist
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

‘Meaningful initiatives’

In closing, Mr. Wennesland stressed the need for “meaningful initiatives” to reverse the current trajectory, adding, “they are needed quickly”.

He said that “Israelis and Palestinians must determine how they envision the future”.

“Ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution must drive our collective efforts”, he concluded, vowing to remain “actively engaged in advancing these objectives with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and with key international and regional partners”.

Iran: UN condemns violent crackdown against hijab protests

OHCHR said it was very concerned about the continued violent response to the protests, as well as communications restrictions affecting phones, the internet and social media, Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva. 

Ms. Amini, 22, was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” in the capital, Tehran, on 13 September, for allegedly not wearing a hijab in full compliance with mandatory requirements.   

She fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre and died three days later from a heart attack, according to the authorities.  

Ms. Shamdasani said the Iranian Government had so far failed to launch an “adequate investigation” into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Amini’s death.  

Wave of demonstrations 

Since her death, thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country. 

Security forces have responded at times with live ammunition, and many people have been killed, injured and detained in the protests. 

“Due in part to restrictions on telecommunications, it is difficult to establish the precise number of casualties and arrests,” said Ms. Shamdasani. 

Violent response to protests 

On Saturday, State media put the number killed at 41, she added. However, non-governmental organizations monitoring the situation have reported a higher number of deaths, including of women and children, and hundreds injured across at least 11 provinces.  

“We are extremely concerned by comments by some leaders vilifying protesters, and by the apparent unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against protesters,” said Ms. Shamdasani. 

“Firearms must never be used simply to disperse an assembly. In the context of assemblies, they should only be used in cases of an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.”   

Number of arrests unknown 

Meanwhile, reports indicate that hundreds of people have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists, and at least 18 journalists. The Government has not announced the overall number of arrests.  

Ms. Shamdasani reported that in the province of Gilan alone, the police chief said 739 people, including 60 women, had been detained during three days of protests. 

OHCHR called on the authorities to ensure the rights to due process and to release all who have been arbitrarily detained.  

‘Persistent impunity’ for violations 

“We are concerned that the disruption to communications services has serious effects on people’s ability to exchange information, to carry out economic activities and to access public services,” she continued. 

“This undermines numerous human rights, notably the right to freedom of expression. We call on the authorities to fully restore Internet access.” 

OHCHR also expressed concern over “the persistent impunity with respect to human rights violations in Iran”, including the recurring deaths of protesters due to the alleged use of lethal force by security forces in November 2019, July 2021, and May of this year. 

“Our Office reiterates our call upon the Iranian authorities to fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, as a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Ms. Shamdasani. 

Referenda in Russian-controlled Ukraine ‘cannot be regarded as legal’: UN political affairs chief

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also briefed ambassadors, blasting the “sham referenda”, though Russia objected to his participation via videoconference. 

The country’s ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said the President should participate in person, in line with the rules.  “The Council should not turn into a forum for political shows or cinema,” he added.

Door-to-door voting 

The referenda were held over the past five days in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions for residents to vote on whether they wished to become part of the Russian Federation. 

Voting took place in polling centers, Ms. DiCarlo reported, and de facto pro-Russian authorities accompanied by soldiers, also went door-to-door with ballot boxes.  

These exercises – which were held during active armed conflict, in areas of Ukraine under Russian control and outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework – “cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will,” she said. 

“Unilateral actions aimed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the attempted acquisition by force by one State of another State’s territory, while claiming to represent the will of the people, cannot be regarded as legal under international law.” 

Upholding Ukrainian sovereignty 

The political affairs chief underscored the UN’s full commitment to the sovereignty, unity, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine. She reminded Russia of its obligation to respect the country’s laws in the administration of occupied territories. 

This latest development is among recent actions that threaten to further escalate the conflict, now in its seventh month.  

Ms. DiCarlo spoke about heavy fighting in southern Ukraine in the past few weeks and escalating military operations in Donetsk and Luhansk.   

The Ukrainian military also conducted a successful counter-offensive this month to restore control over most of the Russian-held areas in the Kharkhiv region. 

Meanwhile, daily attacks on many Ukrainian cities have continued, including in Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as targeting of civilian energy and water infrastructure.  

Nuclear threat persists 

“We have also heard alarming rhetoric regarding the use of nuclear weapons. This is unacceptable,” said Ms. DiCarlo. 

The UN remains deeply troubled by reports of continuing attacks near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and she urged combatants to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

“It is imperative that all attacks on nuclear facilities end, and that the purely civilian nature of such plants be re-established,” she stressed.   

Human rights violations 

Ms. DiCarlo also expressed grave concern over allegations of human rights violations committed in areas of northeastern Ukraine, including after the recovery of more than 400 bodies from improvised graves in the city of Izium. 

The UN human rights office, OHCHR, is working with local authorities to investigate this and other allegations in areas in the Kharkiv region that were until recently under Russian control.  

Last week, the UN-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine concluded that war crimes had been committed in the conflict.  

Ms. DiCarlo called for those responsible to be brought to account. 

“Rarely, if ever, has the international community collected so much evidence of human rights violations, potential war crimes and other atrocities as they were happening,” she said. 

“It is tragic that we have not been able to stop them. But it would be shameful if we were not able to ensure justice for the victims and their loved ones.” 

Extend grain deal

Overall, the war has resulted in some 14,844 verified civilian casualties so far, with nearly 6,000 deaths, according to OHCHR, though actual numbers are likely to be considerably higher. 

Its ripple effects continue to be felt by millions worldwide, affected by rising fuel and energy costs. Ms. DiCarlo highlighted the vital need to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is due to expire in November. 

More than five million metric tonnes of foodstuffs have been shipped from Ukrainian ports since the deal was signed in July, according to the UN Spokesperson briefing journalists in New York on Tuesday, heralding the 5,250,578-tonne figure so far, as “good news”. 

The initiative continues to gather pace, Ms. DiCarlo told ambassadors, while efforts to remove remaining obstacles to Russian food exports continue. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on screen) of Ukraine addresses the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine.

UN Photo/Laura Jarriel
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on screen) of Ukraine addresses the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine.

Attempt to steal territory: Zelenskyy

Appealing for international action, President Zelenskyy called for Russia to be isolated in the international community.

“In front of the eyes of the whole world, Russia is conducting this so-called sham referenda on the occupied territory of Ukraine”, he said, speaking through an interpreter.

The alleged results have been prepared well in advance, “just as this compulsory issue of passports for the population of the occupied territories,” he continued, adding that Russia wants to annex these areas.

“This is the most brutal violation of the UN Charter,” he said.

“This is an attempt to steal the territory of another state. This is an attempt to erase the norms of international law. This is a very cynical attempt to force the male population in the occupied territory of Ukraine to mobilize into the Russian army in order to send them to fight against their own homeland.”

Referenda followed norms: Russia

Mr. Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador, defended the controversial referenda, which he said were monitored by more than 100 independent international observers from 40 countries.

He told the Council President Zelenskyy had stated in an interview that people who considered themselves Russian, or who liked Russia, should leave Ukraine.

“Now the inhabitants of Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia  oblasts are carrying out his cynical recommendation.  They’re returning to the homeland and they’re taking their land with them that their forefathers lived on for centuries,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

“The referendum were conducted exclusively transparently with upholding of all electoral norms. This is an undisputed fact. However, the Kyiv regime and its backers want to say anything to the contrary.”

UN urges investment in clean, sustainable tourism, as numbers bounce back

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released encouraging news on Monday, with its latest World Tourism Barometer, which shows that international tourism arrivals almost tripled in the first seven months of 2022 (compared to the same period in 2021).

Cautious optimism

The agency’s Panel of Tourism Experts expressed cautious confidence for the rest of year, and into 2023, despite the uncertain economic environment: increasing interest rates, rising energy and food prices, and the growing prospects of a global recession, continue to pose major threats to the sector.

In a message released to mark the Day, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, hailed tourism’s ability to drive sustainable development, and called for more investment in clean and sustainable tourism, the creation of decent jobs, and for measures to ensure that profits benefit host countries and local communities.

Dekha Dewandana arrange words with flowers at Esa di Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Putu Sayoga for ILO
Dekha Dewandana arrange words with flowers at Esa di Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Go green to survive

“Governments, businesses and consumers must align their tourism practices with the Sustainable Development Goals and a 1.5 degree future”, said Mr. Guterres, referring to international agreements aimed at keeping global warming in check. “The very survival of this industry, and many tourist destinations, such as Small Island Developing States, depends on it.”

“The restart of tourism everywhere brings hope,” declared Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General, in his address at the opening of the official celebrations organized for the Day, in the Indonesian resort city of Bali.

Mr. Pololikashvili described tourism, which employs around 10 per cent of the global workforce, as the “ultimate cross-cutting and people-to-people sector, which touches on almost everything we do.”

Report card

To mark the day, UNWTO launched its first World Tourism Day Report, the first in an annual series of updates and analysis of the Organization’s work guiding the sector forward.

The report contains updates on the agency’s activities in key areas including gender equality, sustainability and climate action, tourism governance and investments and innovation.

Representatives of the G20 group of the world’s leading economies, including tourism ministers, will meet in Bali in November. Ahead of the event, UNWTO has produced a set of guidelines for ministers, to enable them to support resilient and sustainable tourist businesses, which take into account human capital, innovation, youth and women empowerment, and climate action.

Ensure zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation: UN rights expert

An independent UN rights expert released a statement ahead of the Day, to call for Governments to ensure that the tourism industry is free from child forced labour, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. 

Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and socioeconomic setbacks have caused enormous strains on child protection systems.

This, she said, has made children more vulnerable to sale, trafficking and sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism, especially in countries that have traditionally relied on the income generated from travel and tourism.

Tourism and the climate crisis

  • In response to concerns surrounding the impact of the tourism sector on the climate crisis, UNWTO launched the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism at the 2021 UN Climate Conference (COP26), which was held in the Scottish City.
  • Signatories commit to supporting global commitments to halve harmful emissions by 2030, and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050, implement climate action plans, and report on their progress on an annual basis.
  • To date more than 530 organizations have signed the Declaration, including major international companies, and tourism boards from a wide variety of countries.

‘Dire’ and deteriorating pattern of rights abuse continues in Ukraine

Highlighting a wide range of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, the report notes multiple cases of “willful killings”, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and conflict-related sexual violence.

“Hostilities continue to kill and injure civilians as well as destroy and damage civilian infrastructure”, said Head of HRMMU, Matilda Bogner, indicating that hostilities “not only endanger the lives of civilians, but also leave them living in degrading conditions and undermine their rights to health, education, housing, food and water”.

Litany of abuse

Since the Russian invasion of 24 February, the mission has recorded 5,996 civilian deaths, including 382 children, together with 8,848 injured, noting that the actual figures are much higher, as complete information from conflict zones cannot be obtained.

According to HRMMU, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention were widespread in territory controlled by Russian armed forces or affiliated armed groups, as well as cases of torture and ill-treatment of civilian detainees.

“The prohibition of torture and arbitrary deprivation of life is absolute and applies in conflict and non-conflict settings to all persons,” said Ms. Bogner. “Perpetrators must be held accountable, and victims and their relatives must enjoy their rights to remedy and truth”.

HRMMU also documented cases of rape, including of one girl; sexual violence used as torture or ill-treatment against men; forced public stripping – and other forms of sexual violence, such as forced nudity, unwanted sexual touching, sexual abuse and threats of sexual violence.

Prisoners of war

The report also found that Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) were subjected to torture or cruel and degrading treatment.

“Such mistreatment…appears to be systematic, not only upon their capture, but also following their transfer to places of internment both in territory of Ukraine occupied by the Russian Federation and in the Russian Federation itself,” said the HRMMU chief, calling it “a grave violation of international humanitarian law” that Russia must address.

Meanwhile, some Russian POWs were tortured and ill-treated by Ukrainian armed forces as well.

There must be timely and effective investigations into all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and sexual violence,” she continued, adding that “regardless of their affiliation,” perpetrators need to be “duly prosecuted”.

‘Shrinking civic space’

Hostilities have severely impacted the rights of persons with disabilities and the elderly, the majority of whom are women, leaving them without healthcare, adequate housing, heating, water and electricity.

Furthermore, some journalists, media workers, and bloggers have been killed in areas controlled by the Russian military or affiliated armed groups.

The report emphasized that freedom of expression, including access to media, has been restricted in occupied areas.

“We are concerned that the shrinking civic space and highly restrictive environment in areas occupied by the Russian Federation deter people from reporting the human rights violations they have experienced or witnessed,” said Ms. Bogner said.

A twelve-year-old girl stands in front of her school which was destroyed in an air strike during the conflict in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson
A twelve-year-old girl stands in front of her school which was destroyed in an air strike during the conflict in Kharkiv, Ukraine.


The report made recommendations to both Governments and the international community and called for their swift implementation to improve human rights in the country, better protect civilians, and strengthen accountability.

Ms. Bogner assured that HRMMU would “continue to document and report the facts on the ground and give a voice to victims”.

“We consider this to be an essential part of seeking to prevent further violations and hold those responsible accountable for the violations already committed”.

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