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Racism and discrimination against children rife in countries worldwide: UNICEF

The report looks at the impact of discrimination on children and shows the extent to which racism and discrimination affect their education, health, access to a registered birth, and to a fair and equal justice system.

It highlights widespread disparities among minority and ethnic groups.

A lifetime of pain

“Systemic racism and discrimination put children at risk of deprivation and exclusion that can last a lifetime,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell. “This hurts us all. Protecting the rights of every child – whoever they are, wherever they come from – is the surest way to build a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world for everyone.”

The report shows that children from marginalized ethnic, language and religious groups, from 22 low and middle-income countries which were analysed, lag far behind their peers in reading skills.

Lagging behind

On average, students aged seven to 14 from the most advantaged group are more than twice as likely to have foundational reading skills than those from the least advantaged group.

An analysis of data on the level of children registered at birth – a prerequisite for access to basic rights – found significant disparities among children of different religious and ethnic groups.

For example, in Lao PDR, 59 per cent of children under five in the minority Mon-Khmer ethnic group, have their births registered, compared to 80 per cent among the Lao-Tai ethnic group.

Discrimination and exclusion deepen intergenerational deprivation and poverty, and result in poorer health, nutrition and learning outcomes for children, a higher likelihood of incarceration, higher rates of pregnancy among adolescent girls, and lower employment rates and earnings in adulthood.

Girls from an indigenous community read outdoors at Ban Pho Primary School in Bac Han District in remote Lao Cai Province, Viet Nam.
UNICEF/UNI10236/Estey

Girls from an indigenous community read outdoors at Ban Pho Primary School in Bac Han District in remote Lao Cai Province, Viet Nam.

Long-term pattern

While COVID-19 exposed deep injustices and discrimination across the world, and the impacts of climate change and conflict continue to reveal inequities in many countries, the report highlights how discrimination and exclusion have long persisted for millions of children from ethnic and minority groups, including access to immunization, water and sanitation services, and a fair justice system.

“On World Children’s Day and every day, every child has the right to be included, to be protected and to have an equal chance to reach their full potential,” said Catherine Russell. “All of us have the power to fight discrimination against children – in our countries, our communities, our schools, our homes, and our own hearts. We need to use that power.”

Sudan: Human rights must ‘be at the core’ of democratic transition, urges Türk   

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk told journalists at a press conference in Khartoum that the military takeover of October 2021, which put an end to civilian power-sharing following the ouster of former dictator Omar Al-Bashir, had left Sudan “at a decisive fork in the road”.  

“As political negotiations continue towards a framework for a new transition, I urge all those involved to set aside entrenched positions, power games, and their personal interests, and to focus on the common interests of the Sudanese people”, he said. 

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Advocating for “bold steps towards consensus” and using human rights protections as “the driving force”, the senior UN Official spelled out: “The future of the country depends on it”. 

Much at stake 

In outlining what’s at stake, he said that half the population only earns only about $2 a day; electricity costs have soared 25-fold in the past year; the prices of bread and fuel have doubled; and the economy is in freefall, “with serious consequences for the most vulnerable”

Moreover, there has been an escalation in armed attacks in Darfur, Blue Nile, Kordofan and other parts of the country as historical grievances such as over land, water and other resources, continue to drive inter-ethnic clashes.  

And Sudan is likely to be heavily affected by climate change, threatening to inflame tensions over land and resources. 

Turning to the “desperate humanitarian situation”, Mr. Turk said that a “staggering” one-third of the population needs assistance; 3.7 million people are displaced, more than 211,000 since early this year; and seven million children are out of school. 

Meanwhile, he continued, young people are protesting, demanding that authority be handed over to civilians.   

“There is a hunger…and a need for good governance and a new social contract between State institutions and the population, grounded in human rights,” said the rights chief.  

Solutions within reach 

 While acknowledging that “the situation is grim”, he flagged that “the tools to chisel away” and overcome some challenges, are within reach.   

The High Commissioner advocated for the urgent implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement to restore civilian authority, as “a step” towards peace and a National Plan for the Protection of Civilians to provide security throughout the most volatile parts of the country.  

He also drew attention to traditional practices, local dispute-resolution mechanisms and peace initiatives, upholding that the “energetic, vibrant” Sudanese have a vision to build, for the benefit of the whole country. 

Noting that the median age of the population is just 18.9 years, Mr. Turk attested to their potential, saying the young generation “live and breathe human rights”.  

An aerial view of a UNICEF-supported water facility in Gorora village, Red Sea state, Sudan..
© UNICEF/Ahmed Ammar

An aerial view of a UNICEF-supported water facility in Gorora village, Red Sea state, Sudan..

 

Lapse of trust  

Following decades of repression, and a few tumultuous years, building trust between the authorities and people is a huge challenge.  

State institutions need to be representative of, accessible by and work for the people, including women and the most vulnerable.   

During his visit, the human right chief met with high-level officials, acting ministers of foreign affairs, justice, and the interior; and civil society representatives and human rights victims – whose “tireless work across a variety of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights issues was palpable”.   

Right to assemble 

He noted that OHCHR has documented the excessive use of force against protesters in Khartoum, including the use of live ammunition, pointing out that since the military takeover “at least 119 people have been killed and more than 8,050 sustained injuries – many life-changing”. 

He called on the relevant authorities to instruct security forces to respond to demonstrations in line with human rights laws and standards.  

“People have the right to peaceful assembly, and the State has an obligation to ensure this right can be exercised without fear of being shot at”, he said.   

Also deeply worrying are reports of sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, men and boys, continuing with impunity and serious human rights violations in the Darfur region among civilians and internally displaced.   

And deadly incidents in the Blue Nile and Kordofan States have resulted in hundreds of killings.  

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk with members of civil society in Khartoum during his recent official visit to Sudan.
Volker Türk

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk with members of civil society in Khartoum during his recent official visit to Sudan.

Thread of justice 

A key thread during the High Commissioner’s visit was the need for accountability.   

Victims must be acknowledged, and survivors properly recognized, honoured, and compensated while perpetrators be brought to justice.  

Impunity breeds further violence. It must be addressed head on”, he underscored.  

Delicate transition   

Mr. Türk called on all sides to go the extra mile towards restoring civilian rule and ending “the uncertainty that has left much of the population in peril”.   

Along with international support, he assured that OHCHR will work to strengthen the State’s capacity, including the promotion and protection of human rights.   

The High Commissioner concluded by saying that “unity, combined strength and great potential” were his “deepest hopes for the next phase of Sudan’s transition”.  

 

UN Human Rights Chief @volker_turk travelled to El Fasher, northern Darfur, where he met representatives of internally displaced people and other civil society organisations. https://t.co/PUnI9TO0TY

Ukrainian and Russian POWs tortured and ill-treated: OHCHR

Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN’s human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, said that, over the past few months, her team had interviewed 159 prisoners of war – or POWs – both men and women, held by Russia, and 175 male prisoners of war held by Ukraine. 

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Ukraine gave the mission access to Russian POWs where they were being held. Russia did not, so interviews were conducted with Ukrainian POWs when they were released. 

Beatings, dog attacks 

Ukrainian POWs have said that they were frequently subjected to prolonged beatings, threats, electric shocks and dog attacks. Nine people are said to have died during such attacks in April this year.  

Women POWs told interviewers that they were not subjected to physical violence but described being psychologically tormented by the screams of male POWs being tortured in nearby cells. Both men and women prisoners reported being subjected to various forms of sexual violence. 

The vast majority of Ukrainian prisoners who were interviewed said that during their internment they were tortured and ill-treated. 

Intimidation, humiliation 

They said their treatment was not only used to coerce them to give military information or statements about alleged crimes but to intimidate and humiliate them on a daily basis. 

POWs described being beaten, including with batons and wooden hammers, being kicked, and given electric shocks with tasers and a military phone known as TAPik. 

Summary executions 

Russian POWs, held by Ukraine, told interviewers of summary executions and several cases of torture and ill-treatment, mostly when they were captured, first interrogated, or moved to transit camps and places of internment. In some cases, they said they were punched and kicked in the face and body after surrendering and when they were interrogated. 

In several cases, Russian POWs said they were stabbed or given electric shocks with the ‘TAPik’ phone by Ukrainian law enforcement officers or military personnel guarding them. 

Accountability key 

Ms Bogner said that states must treat all prisoners of war humanely at all times, from the moment they are captured until their release and repatriation, and that the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment is absolute, even in times of armed conflict.  

She also said that accountability is key to deterring and preventing further violations, adding that the parties to the conflict have clear legal obligations to investigate and prosecute all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law in relation to the treatment of prisoners of war within their control.  

 

🇺🇦#Ukraine/🇷🇺#Russia: All prisoners of war must be treated humanely at all times – from capture until release & repatriation. We call for an end to torture & ill-treatment, full access to prisoners of wars & accountability. https://t.co/HO6VltRiSM https://t.co/6AAGbqaFXU

Iran: Thousands held for peacefully protesting must be released

OHCHR Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence, briefed reporters in Geneva, reporting that on 8 November, Iran’s prosecutor had said more than 1,000 indictments had been issued to protesters in Tehran province alone, with hundreds of others outside the capital.

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Immediate release

We urge the authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection to peaceful protests, and to drop the charges against them. Human rights law protects the rights of people to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression”, he said.

He said rather than choosing dialogue to air legitimate grievances, the authorities were responding to the unprecedented protests sparked by Ms. Amini’s death in police custody, “with increasing harshness.”

Death sentences

And on Sunday, recriminations reached a new level with the first sentencing to death of a protester by an Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, which found the unnamed defendant guilty of moharebeh or “waging war against God” and efsad-e fel-arz or “corruption on earth” for allegedly damaging public property.

At least nine other protesters have been charged with offences that carry the death penalty, said OHCHR. 

Under international law, countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty can only impose it for the “most serious crimes”, which is interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing, Mr. Laurence reminded.

Disproportionate

Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death can never serve as the basis for the imposition of the death penalty”, he added.

According to news reports, the protests have spread to at least 140 towns and cities, and over 300 have been killed during the violent crackdown, including more than 40 children and two dozen women.

The OHCHR Spokesperson called on Iran “to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, to refrain from charging capital crimes, and to revoke death sentences issued for crimes not qualifying as the most serious crimes.”

🇮🇷 #Iran: We urge Iranian authorities to release thousands of peaceful protesters, revoke death sentences issued for crimes not qualifying as the most serious crimes and to impose a moratorium on the death penalty: https://t.co/vJ46UEJ3NY https://t.co/7iaXPS2S3s

Somalia: Human rights chief decries steep rise in civilian casualties

According to latest UN figures, at least 613 civilians have been killed and 948 injured so far this year – the highest number since 2017 and nearly a third more than 2021.

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Most of the casualties, 315 killed and 686 injured, have been due to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), nearly all the work of Al-Shabaab extremists. Some casualties have been due to Government security forces, “clan militia and other unidentified actors”, according to the UN rights office, OHCHR.

Worrying uptick

High Commissioner Volker Türk , said that 2022 has “brought an abrupt halt to a general decline in deaths and injuries documented since 2017”, adding that he is “deeply concerned that more Somalis continue to lose their lives on a daily basis.”

“All parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians are protected. This also includes armed elements engaged alongside the Government in the conflict against Al-Shabaab, as well as international forces.”

The UN rights chief called on the Government to “take all necessary steps” together with those invested in stability across Somalia in the international community, to strengthen protection for all civilians, “in line with international human rights norms and standards and international humanitarian law”.

Suicide bombings

The long-established Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgency also continues to use suicide bombing as part of its terror campaign, the most recent of which was on 29 October near the Ministry of Education in the capital Mogadishu.

At least 121 people were killed, and 333 injured, according to Somalia’s Ministry of Health, the majority were civilians.

An earlier Al-Shabaab attack on Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel on 21 August, killed at least 22 civilians and injured 30.

Poisoning the well

Aside from the deliberate targeting of civilians, latest information gathered by OHCHR indicates that Al-Shabaab has destroyed numerous wells and carried out at least one poisoning of wells in the Hiraan region, at a time when Somalis are facing extreme hardship due to widespread drought in many parts of the country, which threatens hundreds of thousands with famine.

The terrorist group has also destroyed part of the riverbank of the Shabelle river, houses, a bridge, the disabling of telecommunication antennas, and 11 school buildings.

“Such wanton destruction is reprehensible, particularly given the difficult humanitarian situation, with the consecutive failure of five rainy seasons and large-scale displacement in the country,” Mr. Türk said.

War crimes must end

“Deliberately targeting civilians and destroying, as such, objects indispensable to the civilian population, constitutes war crimes under international law. They must stop.”

The rights chief also stressed the crucial need for accountability for gross violations of international law, saying it was key to any serious effort to end the decades-long vicious cycle of violence across Somalia.

 

🇸🇴#Somalia: Steep rise in civilian casualties largely due to Al-Shabaab attacks is exacerbating already grim human rights situation. UN Human Rights Chief @volker_turk calls on the Government to strengthen the protection of civilians.

👉https://t.co/M8KGyZT48s https://t.co/mQ6XJVyfK8

Secretary-General upholds the importance of a single global economy

Mr. Guterres was speaking to journalists a day after addressing regional leaders attending the 12th Summit between the UN and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Avoid at all costs

“As I told yesterday’s summit meeting, we must avoid at all costs the division of the global economy into two parts, led by the two biggest economiesthe United States and China,” he said.

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“Such a rift, with two different sets of rules, two dominant currencies, two internets, and two conflicting strategies on artificial intelligence, would undermine the world’s capacity to respond to the dramatic challenges we face.”

He said ASEAN countries are well placed to bridge this divide, stressing that “we must have one global economy and global market with access for all.”

‘Unending nightmare’ in Myanmar

The UN chief also reported on some of the issues discussed at the summit, including the situation in Myanmar which he described as “an unending nightmare for the people of that country, and a threat to peace and security across the region.”

Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021 and since then, the country has been in the grip of a political, human rights and humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Guterres said ASEAN has taken a principled approach to the issue through its Five-Point Consensus.

Unified strategy needed

The plan was adopted in April 2021 and calls for an immediate cessation of violence, constructive dialogue among the parties, appointment of a Special Envoy, provision of humanitarian assistance, and a visit to the country by the Special Envoy.

“I urge all countries, including ASEAN members, to seek a unified strategy towards Myanmar, centred on the needs and aspirations of the country’s people,” he said.

Solutions for turbulent times

The war in Ukraine, the global energy and food crisis, and the climate emergency were also on the agenda at the day-long summit.

“In these turbulent times, regional organizations including ASEAN are essential to building global solutions,” Mr. Guterres told reporters.

The Secretary-General travelled to Cambodia from Egypt, where the COP27 UN climate change conference is underway. 

Climate Solidarity Pact

Mr. Guterres is calling for a Climate Solidarity Pact for developed and emerging economies to combine resources and capacities to defeat climate change.

He is also pushing for leaders to reach agreement on a financial mechanism to support countries that suffer loss and damage from climate-related disasters.

The UN chief will next travel to Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 summit of the world’s major economies, which begins on Tuesday.

Stimulus package proposal

“My priority in Bali will be to speak up for countries in the Global South that have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, and now face crises in food, energy and finance – exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and crushing debt,” he said.  

Mr. Guterres wants G20 leaders to adopt a stimulus package to provide developing countries with much-needed investments and liquidity.

The UN is also working to alleviate the global food crisis by extending a landmark initiative to get Ukrainian grain back on markets, and by removing obstacles to the Russian food and fertilizers exports.

Responding to questions

The Secretary-General was asked his view of human rights in the ASEAN region, and in host country Cambodia.

Although the situation is different from country to country, he stressed that human rights should be fully respected.

“Indeed, my appeal, and namely my appeal in a country like Cambodia is for the public space to be open and for human rights defenders and climate activists to be protected, and for the cooperation with civil society to be extended,” he said.

The Secretary-General also expressed concern for Myanmar, saying systematic violations of human rights there are “absolutely unacceptable” and causing immense suffering for the population.

Hopes for Indonesian presidency

Asked about UN and ASEAN cooperation to resolve the Myanmar crisis, he said it was important that the Five-Point Consensus moves forward.

Indonesia will chair ASEAN next year, and Mr. Guterres expressed hope that its presidency will see the development of initiatives towards this objective.

“We need to go back to a democracy, to a transition to democracy. We need to release political prisoners. We need to establish an inclusive process, and I’m confident that the Indonesian presidency will be working hard in the next year in that respect.” 

Peace in Ukraine

Mr. Guterres also underlined the UN’s clear position on Ukraine, again responding to a journalist’s question.

The Russian invasion was a violation of the UN Charter, he said, and a violation of the country’s territorial integrity.

At the same time, he stressed that it is very important to create the conditions for progressively re-establishing dialogue that will lead to a future where peace will prevail, adding “not any kind of peace –  peace based on the values of the UN Charter, and peace based on international law”.

At ASEAN, I condemned appalling human rights situation in Myanmar & repeated call on country’s authorities to release all political prisoners & launch inclusive process to return to democratic transition.

I also urged countries to develop regional framework to protect refugees.

Liberia: Put people before profit, experts on human rights and business urge

“The present climate of irresponsible business practices provides profit for companies but does little for people”, members of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights said in a statement marking the conclusion of their first visit to the country. 

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“A sustainable and stable peace calls for accountability, transparency, equality, social cohesion, the rule of law, and respect of human rights for all”, they added. 

Praise and alarm 

Liberia, located in West Africa, suffered 15 years of conflict between 1989 and 2003, with two civil wars that left nearly 250,000 people dead. 

The rights experts welcomed the Government’s commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which define concrete steps on protection and respect, as well as remedies, should abuses occur.  

They also praised the development of a national action plan on business and human rights but were alarmed at the absence of State oversight in various parts of the country. 

“Facilitating foreign investment has superseded the implementation of responsible business practices”, said Working Group Chair Fernanda Hopenhaym. 

“Basic infrastructure and services were lacking, especially outside Monrovia. The general neglect of local communities in development planning is unacceptable”.  

Respect human rights 

Ms. Hopenhaym said the Liberian Government needs to ensure domestic and foreign businesses demonstrate much greater respect for human rights.  

“A critical element is transparency and meaningful participation of affected communities in decisions regarding business activity,” she recommended. 

During their 10-day visit, the experts met with representatives from the Government, businesses, workers unions, civil society organizations and local communities to discuss opportunities and challenges in implementing the UNGPs. 

Policies for implementation 

Legal reforms, such as the 2018 Land Rights Act and the Decent Work Act of 2015, were welcomed but implementation was weak, they reported. 

“The experience of Liberia shows the urgent need for a smart mix of policies, incentives and regulations to implement laws and promote a business culture that respects human rights,” said Damilola Olawuyi, the other member of the Working Group who travelled there.

As human rights activists, trade unionists and community members were vulnerable to attacks and intimidation for speaking out against business-related human rights abuses, the UN experts called for the Government to take action.  

“People who are seeking to hold businesses accountable need to be respected, taken seriously, and offered effective grievance mechanisms to have their cases heard and remediated”, said Ms. Hopenhaym. 

Initial findings 

The experts will present their final report on the Liberia mission to the UN Human Rights Council in June. 

Their initial findings reflect on issues such as the very limited employment opportunities in the country, the significant hold that a small number of large multinational corporations have on the economy, poor labour conditions across different sectors, and the multiple forms of harassment, abuse and violence faced by women and girls. 

“Liberia should ensure that all government institutions dealing with business, and the judiciary, together with the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, have the necessary resources and training to provide effective oversight of corporate behaviour, and corporate accountability”, they said. 

About UN experts 

The Working Group consists of five human rights experts from across the globe. 

Besides Ms. Hopenhaym and Mr. Olawuyi, the other members are Pichamon Yeophantong, Robert McCorquodale and Elżbieta Karska. 

They were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to promote dissemination and implementation of the UNGPs. 

They serve in their individual capacity and are neither UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. 

 

🇱🇷#Liberia: The Government & businesses must put people before profit & ensure a responsible business environment w/ respect of human rights for all, say UN experts.

👉https://t.co/MSqTyoG65x
#BizHumanRights https://t.co/DfjCuHNlv0

UN Human Rights Council inquiry hears testimonies on Shireen Abu Akleh killing 

The session – mandated by the Human Rights Council – forms part of the Commission’s ongoing investigative work. 

First-hand accounts 

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Its objective was twofold, explained Commissioner Chris Sidoti: First, to understand the designation of seven Palestinian non-Government organizations, human rights organizations, as unlawful organisations and six of them as terrorist organisations. 

Recording first-hand information on the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh formed the second part of the week’s activities.  

“These are not the sole focus of our investigation at all, but rather we see them as particularly significant in giving us a better understanding of the overall situation of civic space, civil society and throughout that region, throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel”, Mr. Sidoti continued. 

In total, 13 witnesses and victims of civil society organizations and legal representatives provided testimony to Commissioners Navi Pillay, Mr. Sidoti and Miloon Kothari at the public forum.  

Family mission 

One woman, Lina Abu Akleh, has sought justice and accountability for the killing of her aunt, Ms. Abu Akleh, on 11 May 2022. 

The experienced television journalist, who was very familiar with reporting in the OPT, was killed as she attempted to report on an arrest operation by Israeli Security Forces and clashes in Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank.  

Following her killing, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, alleged that Israeli forces were behind the fatal shooting, and not indiscriminate Palestinian firing. 

In September, the Israeli authorities announced that there was a “high possibility” that Ms. Abu Akleh had been hit accidentally by the Israeli military. 

“It is really important for these public hearings to be held because it allows us the space to share our testimonies, the experience and the suffering we had to endure over the past six months, but also it allows our voices to get across and our messages and our demands. It’s because it’s unfortunate that the Commission of Inquiry cannot access the territories”, said Lina Abu Akleh. 

“The lack of accountability, the lack of justice is what pushed me to advocate for my Aunt Shireen”, she added. “It’s the importance of getting justice and getting her message across, is what continues to push me towards our pursuit”. 

A placard from a protest in London in support of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
© Unsplash/Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

The Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel concluded its first public hearings in Geneva, after having heard 13 testimonies from Palestinian and Israeli witnesses and victims.

COI closing remarks https://t.co/3Oz1uOBcOG https://t.co/BDVOK67Pyz

Rights expert urges Saudi authorities to allow family to access jailed activist

Ms. Lawlor has issued a statement expressing her increasing concern for the health and life of Mohammad Al-Qahtani, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, which was dissolved in 2013.  

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He was sentenced to a decade in prison that same year for allegedly providing false information to outside sources, including UN human rights mechanisms. 

Appeal to authorities 

“I am concerned at reports that his family has lost communication with Mohammad Al-Qahtani since 23 October 2022, after filing a complaint about attacks on him by other inmates,” said Ms. Lawlor.  

“I am calling on the relevant authorities in Saudi Arabia to inform his family of his whereabouts and current state of health, and to allow access by his family and lawyers.” 

The Special Rapporteur is in contact with the authorities about the case. 

Against incommunicado detention 

Mr. Al-Qahtani has repeatedly protested against ill treatment at Al-Ha’ir Reformatory Prison in the capital, Riyadh, where he is serving his sentence. 

The human rights defender has complained about attacks by other prisoners since May, but authorities have refused his request to be transferred. 

Ms. Lawlor said she is gravely concerned about the use of incommunicado detention as it represents a violation of detainees’ rights under international law.  

“Such methods give rise to grave concerns for the personal integrity of detainees, as they run a heightened risk of being subjected to ill-treatment and torture when all contact with the outside world has been blocked,” she added. 

Role of UN Rapporteurs 

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on specific country situations or thematic issues. 

These human rights experts are independent of any government and operate in their individual capacity. 

They are not UN staff and they do not receive a salary for their work. 

I’m concerned at reports that Mohammad Al-Qahtani’s family has lost contact with him since 23 Oct. I call on #SaudiArabia to inform his family of his whereabouts & current state of health & to allow them access.
@stephenkalin @ALQST_En @KSAPermanentGVA
https://t.co/E5lxrrORdM

Türkiye: UN experts call for end to harassment of human rights defenders

“We have documented many cases where counter-terrorism legislation and other criminal provisions have been used to harass, arrest, detain and convict civil society actors in Türkiye, including Dr. Fincancı, on spurious grounds”, the experts said in a statement.

Blurred charges

On 26 October, Ms. Fincancı, who helped develop UN reference standards on the investigation and documentation of torture cases, known as the Istanbul Protocol, was arrested at her home on unclear grounds.

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Her detainment is believed to be in retaliation for her publicly calling for investigations into the alleged use of chemical weapons and associated deaths involving the Turkish military.

“Dr. Fincancı’s arrest appears part of a deliberate pattern of applying counter-terrorism legislation to discredit human rights defenders and organizations and interrupt their vital human rights and medical work”, they added.

Undermining freedoms 

These types of attacks aim to shrink safe civic space, undermine the rule of law, and encroach upon fundamental freedoms and democratic values, according to the Human Rights Council-appointed Special Rapporteurs.

Human rights defenders and medical practitioners’ ability to speak truth to power must be protected”, underscored the independent experts, stressing that exposing human rights violations is “one of the cornerstones of democratic societies”, and that exercising rights of freedom of expression and association, are “protected rights under international human rights law”.

“Detention pending investigation beyond an initial period of interview is an exceptional measure and must be subject to judicial authorization as to its continuing lawfulness and proportionality”, they reminded. 

Call to Türkiye

The Special Rapporteurs urged the Turkish authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release Ms. Fincancı as well as other civil society actors detained for politically motivated purposes.

They also advocated for access to fundamental safeguards and the protection of defenders mental and physical integrity – both in and outside of detention.

Fulfilling obligations

Since 1988, Türkiye has been a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

After ratifying, States parties are obliged take all measures to prevent torture and similar ill-treatment or punishment, and to investigate and prosecute related crimes.

Threats of arrest and imprisonment and judicial intimidation cause high levels of distress and anxiety, which could amount to psychological inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, in violation of international law.

And in 2003, Türkiye ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention.

Call to take action

The UN experts have expressed their views on this case with the Government of Türkiye and requested the authorities to immediately take interim measures to protect the mental and physical integrity of Dr. Fincancı and to end the judicial harassment of those who defend the rights of others.

Special Rapporteurs are mandated to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work. 

Click here for the names of the Special Rapporteurs who have signed the statement.

🇹🇷#Türkiye: UN experts call for the immediate release of anti-torture expert Sebnem Korur Fincancı, & urge authorities to stop using counter-terrorism legislation to intimidate human rights defenders.

👉https://t.co/8HKMRhNZgA https://t.co/se05787QvS

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