UN forum in Morocco agrees draft action plan for religious leaders on preventing incitement to violence

24 April 2015 – A United Nations-backed forum today concluded in Fez, Morocco, having developed a plan of action aimed at preventing incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes.

The 'Forum on the Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Incitement that could Lead to Atrocity Crimes' was organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights and Rabita Mohammadia of Ulama of Morocco, and the plan of action focused on eight major areas for consideration.

It called for monitoring of incitement, the development of alternative messages, engagement in dialogue, efforts to develop and revise education to include better mainstreaming of appreciation of all cultures, engaging in and strengthening inter-religious and intra-religious dialogue and activities to ensure understanding, respect and communication, engaging in dialogue on grievances, strengthening clarity of message and engaging with political leaders.

Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, spoke to UN Radio about the discussion, saying that agreement on the draft came with the knowledge that the final outcome would need to balance different views on freedom of expression and the need to prevent incitement.

“Of course, from a human rights perspective, I am a very strong supporter of freedom of expression,” Mr. Dieng said. “At the same time, we do believe that there are efforts to be made because we have seen the role that some media play – Rwanda was a case, even Kenya, we remember the 2007 election, when the radio was used to spread messages of hatred.”

The agreed Plan of Action, which is currently a draft, will be further developed at five regional meetings over the next year, where religious leaders and faith-based organisations will strengthen and augment it with additional detailed elements. The Plan of Action and a Declaration will be adopted at a plenary meeting of religious leaders which is planned to take place in 2016.

The Plan also recommends several other actions including dialogue training, mapping and networking of religious leaders who actively work to prevent or counter incitement that can lead to atrocity crimes around the world, engaging with youth and ensuring a gender perspective in all actions proposed and undertaken.


Libya: UN condemns ‘horrific’ week of human rights violations amid county’s rising violence

24 April 2015 – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today condemned the “successive horrific incidents” in Libya this past week – ranging from the appalling loss of life in the Mediterranean of those escaping violence, the execution of Christians and the killings of several members of a prominent family by the so-called ‘Islamic State in Libya.’

“We have been shocked by the appalling loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea, following the reported deaths of several hundred individuals seeking to escape the violence in Libya,” OHCHR Spokesman Rupert Colville told the bi-weekly UN press briefing in Geneva.

“Many of those fleeing Libya are migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in an extremely vulnerable situation in Libya. Amidst the violence and breakdown in law and order, they are at risk of killings, torture, abduction, and physical assault,” he explained.

Mr. Colville said that following visits to a number of detention centres inside Libya, the human rights division of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) had reported conditions of grave concern including chronic overcrowding, poor sanitation, health care, and insufficient food.

“The division also received consistent reports of physical or verbal mistreatment, labour exploitation, sexual violence, and confiscation of identity documents,” he said.

The human rights spokesman also noted that reports were received of the death of several members of the prominent Al-Harir Al-Mansouri family by individuals affiliated with the so-called ‘Islamic State in Libya.’

“It was reported that armed men attacked the family’s residence after Ibrahim Al-Harir al-Mansouri resisted arrest,” he explained, adding that “three members of the family were publicly hanged in the city” in an apparent bid to send a message to those challenging the group.

Also this week, Mr. Colville said, a group affiliated with the Islamic State in Libya released a video showing the execution of at least 28 Christians in two separate incidents.

“We condemn the brutal killings of these individuals who we understand are mostly Ethiopian nationals and who appear to have been targeted on the basis of their religion,” he said.

“In February of this year, the High Commissioner condemned the beheading of 21 mostly Egyptian Coptic Christians, and further urged Libyans to unite against extremists launching attacks based on religious, ethnic, national, racial, or political grounds and we reiterate that call today.”

Mr. Colville urged all parties in Libya involved in talks facilitated by the UN to redouble their efforts to reach an agreement as soon as possible so as to begin the process of rebuilding institutions that would ensure the rule of law and the protection of human rights for all those residing in Libya.


Ban condemns deadly xenophobic violence in South Africa

22 April 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa that has resulted in the deaths of at least seven people in the past few weeks.

“He expresses his condolences to the families of the victims,” said a statement released today in New York by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General notes the actions and statements of the President of South Africa and the Government to address the violence,” that statement added.

Mr. Ban in the statement also welcomed the public expressions of the many South Africans who have been calling for peaceful coexistence and harmony with foreign nationals.

“He urges that all efforts are made to avert future attacks, including any incitement leading thereto, and encourages peaceful solutions,” the statement said.


US: Supreme Court to Hear Marriage Equality Case

Justices Should Consider Same-Sex Marriage Practices in Other Countries
APRIL 27, 2015

Despite many predictions to the contrary, in the 18 countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized, life has continued as before with greater respect for everyone’s rights.

Graeme Reid, LGBT director

(Washington, DC) – The United States Supreme Court should consider the same-sex marriage practices of other countries when it hears arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges on April 28, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. In March, Human Rights Watch submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief along with the New York City Bar Association and several nongovernmental organizations based in other countries.

“The Supreme Court will be hearing constitutional arguments about same-sex marriage, but the justices should be attuned to the acceptance of marriage equality abroad,” said Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The experiences of countries where marriage equality is already a reality can bring a fuller understanding of what’s at stake.”

The case will consider whether the US Constitution requires US states to license two people of the same sex to marry. The brief asks the court to consider countries such as Argentina, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa, which provide marriage licenses or similar regulatory permission to people of the same sex to marry. In establishing these policies, the governments and courts of these countries weighed legal and constitutional questions similar to those now before the US Supreme Court. 

The court is expected to hand down its ruling in June.

“Despite many predictions to the contrary, in the 18 countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized, life has continued as before with greater respect for everyone’s rights,” Reid said.


Burundi: Crackdown on Protesters

Government Lashes Out Amid Rising Protests
APRIL 27, 2015

The Burundian authorities should respect people’s right to demonstrate peacefully. Police in Burundi should be given strict instructions to avoid excessive force.

Daniel Bekele, Africa director.

(Nairobi) – The Burundian government is cracking down on activists, journalists, and demonstrators following protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term. 

The announcement on April 25, 2015, by the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) that Nkurunziza would be its candidate in June elections triggered widespread demonstrations in the capital, Bujumbura, on April 26 and 27.

“The Burundian authorities should respect people’s right to demonstrate peacefully,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Police in Burundi should be given strict instructions to avoid excessive force.”

A heavy police presence prevented many demonstrators from reaching the city center, but there were numerous clashes between police and demonstrators in the suburbs, with police using teargas, water cannons, and live ammunition, Burundian and international journalists and human rights activists told Human Rights Watch. Some demonstrators threw stones at the police and burned tires in the streets. Burundian journalists and other local sources reported that at least two people were shot dead and others injured during the clashes.

On April 27, police arrested a leading human rights defender, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who had gone to give an interview at Media House (la Maison de la Presse), a gathering place for local media. The police kicked and roughed up Mbonimpa, aged 66, journalists at the scene told Human Rights Watch. Mbonimpa, president of the human rights group APRODH, has been an outspoken critic of abuses by the government, including during recent events.

“The Burundian authorities should immediately release Mbonimpa and let him carry out his human rights work,” Bekele said.

On April 26, the government banned live reporting from the sites of the demonstrations by three popular radio stations – Radio publique africaine (RPA), Radio Isanganiro, and Radio Bonesha FM, suspended their broadcasts outside the capital, and cut off their telephone land lines, journalists told Human Rights Watch. On the afternoon of April 27, the government completely shut down RPA’s broadcasts, including in the capital, and shut down la Maison de la Presse.

“These radio stations in Burundi are doing their job by covering the news,” Bekele said. “Government restrictions on communications not only violate basic media freedom but deprive many Burundians of the right to information about events that affect them directly.”