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UN mission on Myanmar calls for justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence

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NEW YORK (22 August 2019) – The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said the countrys military must stop using sexual and gender-based violence to terrorise and punish ethnic minorities. The Mission said the brutal tactic was still being employed in Kachin and Shan states, and was so severe in Rakhine State, during the “clearance operations” of 2017, that it was a factor indicating the Myanmar militarys genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya population.

The Mission made its conclusions in a new report, released Thursday in New York, that soldiers routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law.

“Extreme physical violence, the openness in which it is conducted … reflects a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation and the deliberate infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering on civilians,” the report said.

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission, said, “The international community must hold the Myanmar military to account for the tremendous pain and suffering it has inflicted on persons of all genders across the country.”

The Mission conducted interviews with hundreds of survivors and witnesses of sexual violence in Kachin and Shan States in the north, and in Rakhine State in the west, where the militarys “clearance operations” that began on 25 August 2017 led to more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. On the second anniversary of the beginning of the operations, this report is an important reminder of the continuing need for accountability.

Mission Expert Radhika Coomaraswamy said the findings also “address a gap that usually surrounds sexual and gender-based reports – cases of sexual violence against men and boys and transgender people.”

“The silence must be broken,” she said.

The Mission said only one conclusion could be drawn from the accounts it had obtained: sexual violence perpetrated by the military was “part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise and punish a civilian population.”

Myanmars military, known as the Tatmadaw, demonstrated its genocidal intent against the Rohingya population “through the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injuries to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh, and so severely injuring victims that they may be unable to have sexual intercourse with their husbands or to conceive and leaving them concerned that they would no longer be able to have children,” the report said.

The majority of assaults reported were directed at women and girls who were beaten, burned with cigarettes, slashed with knives, raped and held as sexual slaves on military bases. The report also documents cases of rape, forced nudity and the sexual torture of men and boys.

“For the first time in such a UN report, we are clearly highlighting violence against transgender people,” said Mission Expert Christopher Sidoti. “We spoke to transgender Rohingya women, and found they are victimised twice, because they are Rohingya and because they are transgender.”

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The report also documents rape, gang rape and other sexual violence, sometimes deadly, against boys and men. In one incident in Kachin States Myitkyina Township, Myanmar Intelligence Office agents forced two male detainees to undress and rape each other. The agents reportedly laughed as they watched, asking “Are you enjoying yourselves?”

The report also examined how gender inequality within Myanmar and within ethnic communities enables sexual and gender-based violence.

The Mission said it felt compelled to update the findings it made in an earlier 2018 report to the Human Rights Council to underscore the importance of accountability for perpetrators.

Many of these acts amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Yet, the Myanmar Government has failed to cease, prevent and take action against sexual and gender-based violence in the country, or hold those responsible to account.

With hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees still trapped in Bangladesh, too fearful to return home, the report should serve as an important reminder of the need for accountability of perpetrators and justice for victims. It makes a call to action to the Government of Myanmar, the Security Council and the international community to make accountability for these grave crimes an urgent priority.

The Fact-Finding Mission will present its final report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2019.

ENDS

Background
The Human Rights Council on 24 March 2017 decided (through Resolution A/HRC/RES/34/22) to dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State, including but not limited to arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement and unlawful destruction of property, with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.

The Experts
Marzuki Darusman, lawyer and human rights campaigner and former Attorney-General of Indonesia, is chair of the fact-finding mission. The other two members of the fact-finding mission are Radhika Coomaraswamy, a lawyer and former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; and Christopher Sidoti, an international human rights lawyer and former Australian Human Rights Commissioner.

Website of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar:
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/MyanmarFFM/Pages/Index.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact: Todd Pitman in Bangkok (+66 63 216 9080 / [email protected]), Kitty McKinsey in Geneva (+41 22 978 315 / [email protected]), or Nenad Vasić in New York (+1 917 941 7558 / [email protected]).

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World Bank and WHO Statement on Partnership & Deployment of Financing to WHO for Ebola Response in DRC

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WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Government and other key partners, are working in close partnership on the Ebola Crisis Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central to this partnership is the assessment of the financing needs, and deployment of resources, with the goal to put an end to the current deadly outbreak.

The World Bank is today announcing that US$50 million in funding is to be released to WHO for its lifesaving operational work on the frontlines of the outbreak. The WHO is announcing that this US$50 million in funds will close the financing gap for its emergency health response in DRC through to the end of September 2019, and is calling on other partners to mirror this generous support in order to fund the response through to December.

The funding comprises US$30 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) and US$20 million from the World Bank. The US$50 million in grant funding is part of the larger financial package of approximately US$300 million that the World Bank announced last month to support the fourth Strategic Response Plan for the DRC Ebola outbreak.

“WHO is very grateful for the World Banks support, which fills a critical gap in our immediate needs for Ebola response efforts in DRC, and will enable the heroic workers on the frontlines of this fight to continue their lifesaving work,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “We keenly await further funding from other partners to sustain the response through to the end of the year.”

The DRC government, working in collaboration with the World Bank, WHO, and other key partners, has finalized the Fourth Strategic Response Plan (SRP4), which outlines the total resources needed for the DRC Ebola Crisis Response from July to December 2019. The financing announced today is part of the World Banks previously announced financial package of up to US$300 million and covers over half of SRP4s needs, with the remainder requiring additional funding from other donors and partners.

“The World Bank is working closely with WHO, the Government of DRC, and all partners to do everything we can to put an end to the latest Ebola outbreak,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank. “The partnership between our organizations and the Government is critical for responding to the emergency as well as rebuilding systems for delivery of basic services and to restoring the trust of communities.”

The Government of DRC requested US$30 million from the PEF Cash Window to be paid directly to WHO. The PEF Steering Body approved the request bringing the PEFs total contribution to fighting Ebola in DRC to US$61.4 million. The PEF is a financing mechanism housed at the World Bank; its Steering Body is co-chaired by the World Bank and WHO, and comprises donor country members from Japan, Germany and Australia. The quick and flexible financing it provides saves lives, by enabling governments and international responders to concentrate on fighting Ebola—not fundraising.

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Increasing collaboration to break cycles of vulnerability and better protect children in armed conflict

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Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict to the General Assembly

The previous year was marked by persistently high levels of grave violations against boys and girls in armed conflict, a call to urgently enhance joint advocacy and international cooperation to better protect millions of children affected by conflict, highlights the new report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict to the General Assembly. The report presents progress and issues of concern for conflict affected children between August 2018 and July 2019, as well as recommendations to the General Assembly.

“The protection of children is a cross-cutting issue and the international community has a collective responsibility to act to end and prevent grave violations against children, which can be early indicators of conflict escalation, as per Security Council Resolution 2427 (2018). Child protection strategies are at the center of security, human rights, humanitarian and development issues, and can serve as tools for conflict resolution and peace building,” Special Representative Gamba said.

Through advocacy, awareness-raising and engageent with parties to conflict, the Special Representative and partners like UNICEF, DPO and DDPA, have consistently promoted the prevention agenda, the report shows. Preventative measures should be given the same level of attention and resources as restorative measures in efforts towards sustainable peace, the report shows. The Special Representative also stressed the importance of dedicated specialized child protection actors in UN peacekeeping and special political missions, as well as in regional and international organizations.

In her recommendations to Member States, the Special Representative emphasized the importance of protecting humanitarian space and allowing unimpeded access for humanitarian and protection actors. “Child protection actors have a leading role, whether in peace operations, political missions or other settings, and they often put their lives at risk to reach the most vulnerable; I urge all Member States to ensure that these actors can operate safely in conflict situations and I call on Member States to provide political and financial support to their crucial work,” she added.

Protracted and new crises, intensification of combat situations and new conflict dynamics continued to have a devastating impact on children, with a spike in killing and maiming in 2018. “Ensuring adequate application of international law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and military necessity, as well as other relevant principles and commitments, is fundamental in the protection of children to curb the worrying trend,” she said.

Among the challenges facing conflict-affected children, the Special Representative highlighted the detention of children for security-related charges, including children of foreign origin. She called on Governments and concerned Member States to facilitate the reintegration and return of boys and girls in line with international law, bearing in mind the best interest of the child. She further urged Member States to treat children accused of actual or alleged association with parties to conflict primarily as victims and reiterated that detention should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time.

While boys and girls around the world continued to be victims of grave violations, engagement with parties to conflict, partners and supporters of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate has produced tangible progress for the protection of children, including three new Action Plans signed in 2018 in the Central African Republic (2) and Syria (1). In addition, other important preventive and protective measures have been taken by some of the parties to conflict, including a Memorandum of Understanding with the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen, a roadmap to revive the implementation of the action plan signed in 2014 with the Government of Yemen as well as eight unilateral declarations by armed groups commanders in the Democratic Republic of Congo to end and prevent grave violations against children, to cite some examples.

Engagement with UN entities, international, regional and sub-regional organizations, as well as civil society, has amplified advocacy efforts for stronger child protection mechanisms at all levels. The Special Representative launched the campaign ACT to Protect Children Affected by Conflict in April 2019 to generate more support and action to protect children affected by war. She also launched the Global Coalition for Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers, co-chaired by UNICEF, to generate innovative ways to sustainably address support for child reintegration programmes, in collaboration with partners from the UN, World Bank, civil society and Member States.

Learning from more than 20 years of action for children, the Special Representative and her Office have started compiling and analyzing lessons learned and best practices on CAAC, as encouraged and welcomed by the Security Council (S/PRST/2017/21 and SCR 2427); this initiative includes the development of a practical guidance on the integration of child protection issues in peace processes in collaboration with DPPA, DPO and UNICEF.

“The 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the upcoming 20th anniversary of its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) must be seen as opportunities for Member States to renew their commitment to protect boys and girls and place the best interest of the child at the heart of their international efforts,” Special Representative Gamba said. “Engagement should be ongoing, including through the campaign ACT to Protect children affected by conflict; my office will continue to strengthen and expand partnerships with States, regional and international organizations.”

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