(Geneva) – The United States government’s decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council will sideline the country from key global initiatives to protect human rights.

“The US has been threatening to walk away from the Human Rights Council ever since President Trump came into office, so this decision comes as no surprise,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Trump has decided that ‘America First’ means ignoring the suffering of civilians in Syria and ethnic minorities in Myanmar at the United Nations.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks in the U.N. Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York City, U.S., February 28, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

The Human Rights Council was created by the UN General Assembly in 2006 as the UN’s top human rights body. While it has its shortcomings – including the participation of persistent rights violators such as China, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela – the council plays a vital role in addressing serious rights abuses around the world. It has initiated investigations into rights violations in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, and South Sudan, and addresses key topics such as migration, counterterrorism and protecting women, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and others from violence and discrimination.

The US has long criticized the Human Rights Council for its standing agenda item 7 on rights violations by all parties in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This item was included when the council’s agenda was drawn up at the conclusion of its initial year, in 2007, at a time when the US had decided not to participate in the council. The US has actively campaigned for removing agenda item 7, and has opposed resolutions dealing with the Occupied Palestinian Territories, even when not presented under this agenda item, such as a recent Special Session resolution creating an inquiry into violence in Gaza.

Negotiations about potential reform or consolidation of the council’s agenda and work program are ongoing in Geneva. The United Kingdom, which largely agrees with the US position on item 7, has announced that it will vote against all resolutions brought under that agenda item unless reforms are carried out, but it has not threatened to leave the council.

By forfeiting its membership in the council with almost 18 months remaining on its term, the US will be removing itself from key issues that could affect allied governments. No country has ever withdrawn from the council after running for election to secure a seat. It is unclear which country would take the open seat left by the US. The UN resolution creating the council provides that any successor would be another country from the group that includes Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.

While the US government’s engagement with the council has been uneven, the US has helped shape some of the body’s decisions with the greatest impact, including to establish a commission of inquiry into grave human rights violations in North Korea. The US withdrawal risks emboldening countries like China, and other actors that regularly seek to undermine UN human rights mechanisms.

Since rejoining the Human Rights Council in 2010, the US has played a leading role on initiatives related to Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia. Following its decision to withdraw, the US may continue to advance these priorities as a non-member, or may choose to disengage entirely. But quitting the council will not allow the US to shield itself from the scrutiny of the international community, Human Rights Watch said. The UN will continue to consider a broad range of rights issues and initiatives, and conduct its Universal Periodic Review, which applies to all UN member countries.

“The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy in which the US defends Israeli abuses from criticism above all else,” Roth said. “By walking away, the US is turning its back not just on the UN, but on victims of human rights abuses around the world, including in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Myanmar. Now other governments will have to redouble their efforts to ensure that the council addresses the world’s most serious human rights problems.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Asylum seekers behind a metal fence in the ‘Hangar 1’ detention center, in Röszke, Hungary. September 9, 2015.

© 2015 Zalmaï for Human Rights Watch

(New York) – The massive refugee crisis demands an unprecedented global response. At two summits on September 19 and 20, 2016, at the United Nations, world leaders should take bold steps to share responsibility for millions of people displaced by violence, repression, and persecution.

Leaders will gather in New York to discuss providing greater support to countries where refugees first land, just as many of those countries are at breaking point. There is a grave risk to the bedrock foundation of refugee protection, the principle of nonrefoulement – not forcibly returning refugees to places where they would face persecution and other serious threats. People are fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Honduras, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria, among others.

“Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This is not just about more money or greater resettlement numbers, but also about shoring up the legal principles for protecting refugees, which are under threat as never before.”

This year, Human Rights Watch has documented Turkish border guards shooting and pushing back civilians who appear to be seeking asylum; Jordan refusing entry or assistance to Syrian asylum seekers at its border; Kenya declaring that it will close the world’s largest refugee camp in November and pushing Somalis to return home despite potential danger; and Pakistan and Iran harassing and deregistering Afghan refugees and coercing them to return to a country in conflict.

The UN General Assembly has convened the September 19 summit “with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach” to refugees. The final statement, already drafted, is a missed opportunity to widen the scope of protection and limits expectations for concrete, new commitments. However, it affirms refugee rights and calls for more equitable responsibility sharing. Given the scale of the refugee crisis and populist backlash in many parts of the world, this affirmation should be the basis for collective action, Human Rights Watch said.

On September 20, US President Barack Obama will host a “Leader’s Summit” to increase commitments for aid, refugee admissions, and opportunities for work and education for refugees. Governments are expected to make concrete pledges toward goals of doubling the number of resettlement places and other admissions, increasing aid by 30 percent, getting 1 million more refugee children in school, and granting 1 million more adult refugees the right to work. Though the participants have not been announced, 30 to 35 countries are expected to attend. Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Sweden, and Jordan will join the United States as co-facilitators.

Boost Humanitarian Aid to Countries of First Arrival
The vast majority of the world’s 21.3 million refugees are in the global south, where they often face further harm, discrimination, and neglect. Human Rights Watch called on countries of first arrival like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Thailand, Kenya, Iran, and Pakistan, to commit to proposals to provide refugees with better access to work and education.

The world’s richest nations have largely failed to help countries on the front lines of the displacement crisis. As of September 9, UN aid appeals were 39 percent funded, with some of the worst-funded in Africa; the appeal for refugees from South Sudan stands at 19 percent. The regional refugee response plans for Yemen and Syria are funded at 22 and 49 percent.

Increase Numbers Resettled in Other Countries
Resettlement from countries of first arrival is a key way to help refugees rebuild their lives and to relieve host countries, but international solidarity is glaringly absent. In 2015, the UN refugee agency facilitated resettlement of 81,000 of a projected 960,000 refugees globally in need of resettlement. The agency estimated that over 1.1 million refugees would need resettlement in 2016, but projected that countries would only offer 170,000 places. Representatives of 92 countries pledged only a slight increase in resettlement places for Syrian refugees at a high-level UN meeting in March.

In the European Union, the arrival by boat in 2015 of more than 1 million asylum seekers and migrants – and more than 3,700 deaths at sea – laid bare the need for safe and legal channels for refugees to move, such as resettlement.  However, many EU countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, and Hungary, are focused primarily on preventing spontaneous arrivals, outsourcing responsibility, and rolling back refugee rights.

A July 2015 European plan to resettle 22,500 refugees from other regions over two years has resettled only 8,268 refugees, according to figures from July 2016. Most EU countries underperformed, and 10 failed to resettle a single person under the plan.

End Abusive Systems, Flawed Deals
The EU struck a deal with Turkey in March to allow the return to Turkey of almost all asylum seekers on the deeply flawed grounds that Turkey is a safe country for asylum; it is on the verge of falling apart. Australia forcibly transfers all asylum seekers who arrive by boat to offshore processing centers, where they face abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect.

The EU and Australia should renounce these abusive policies. EU countries should swiftly adopt a proposed permanent resettlement framework with more ambitious goals and a clear commitment to meet them, Human Rights Watch said. They should share fairly the responsibility for asylum seekers arriving spontaneously, and help alleviate the pressure on Greece and Italy.

Governments also undermine asylum with closed camps, as in Kenya and Thailand, and by detaining asylum seekers, as do Australia, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and the United States.

While by many measures the US leads in refugee resettlement and response to UN humanitarian aid appeals, it has been particularly slow and ungenerous in admitting Syrian refugees. And it has had notable blind spots, as with its border policies for Central American children and others fleeing gang violence and its use of Mexico as a buffer to keep them from reaching the US border.

The Obama Administration met its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year in the face of opposition from more than half of US governors and a lack of resettlement funds from Congress, but the US has the capacity to resettle many times that number. It should commit to meeting the Leaders’ Summit goals, which would mean doubling this year’s 85,000 total refugee admissions to 170,000.

Several other countries with capacity to admit far more refugees, including Brazil, Japan, and South Korea, have fallen woefully short. Japan admitted 19 refugees in 2015, South Korea only 42 aside from North Koreans, and Brazil only 6.

Russia resettles no refugees. The Gulf States do not respond to UN resettlement appeals, though Saudi Arabia says it has suspended deportations of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who overstay visitor visas. Most Gulf states, except Kuwait, have also fallen short in their response to Syrian-refugee-related UN appeals to fund refugee needs, according to an Oxfam analysis.

“Every country has a moral responsibility to ensure the rights and dignity of people forced to flee their homes,” Roth said. “When more than 20 million people are counting on a real international effort to address their plight, lofty pronouncements are not enough.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, has specialized expertise on the United Nations, particularly UN peacekeeping, and the Balkans. Hicks is responsible for coordinating Human Rights Watch's advocacy team and providing direction to advocacy worldwide. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2005, Hicks served as director of the Office for Returns and Communities in the UN mission in Kosovo. She has also worked for the International Human Rights Law Group (now Global Rights), the Deputy High Representative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the former Yugoslavia, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and as clinical professor of human rights and refugee law at the University of Minnesota Law School. Hicks is a graduate of Columbia Law School and the University of Michigan.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A syringe used for injecting the opioid heroin. 

© Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters

As we approach 2019 – the year set out by the UN a decade ago as the target date by which to “eliminate or reduce significantly and measurably” illegal drug markets – the International Drug Policy Consortium, a global coalition of 170 nongovernmental organizations working on drug policy issues, argues that this goal has been “spectacularly missed.”

The Consortium’s report, drawing on data from government and nongovernment sources, provides a comprehensive evaluation of the 10-year UN drugs strategy and concludes by urging UN member states to conduct their own honest and thorough assessment of the strategy, something that has so far not happened.

According to UN data analyzed in the report, illegal cultivation of opium poppy and coca bush increased by 130 and 34 percent respectively between 2009 and 2018; the number of adolescents and adults who had used drugs at least once in 2016 grew by 31 percent compared to 2011; and drug-related deaths surged by 145 percent from 2011 to 2015. Meanwhile, the global drug market continues to flourish with annual turnover estimated at US$426 to US$652 billion. More than half of the gross profits from the drug trade are laundered, with law enforcement seizing less than one percent of that money.

Overly punitive drug policies have exacerbated violence in countries like Afghanistan, Colombia, and Mexico, the report said, resulting in countless deaths, enforced disappearances, and displaced persons.

UN data shows that one in five prisoners worldwide is behind bars for drug offences, the overwhelming majority for mere drug possession. In some countries, as many as 80 percent of women in prison are there for drug offences.

Rates of HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis infection among people who use drugs continue to be far higher than in the general population as most countries lack prevention and health services, or people are reluctant to use health services because drug use is criminalized.

At the UN General Assembly, US President Donald Trump recently called for member states to sign a document supporting “action on the global war against drugs”. Sixty-three countries did not sign, saying the document was too narrow, without enough focus on health, human rights, and appropriate punishments.

The report recommends that the next global drug strategy focus not on creating a “drug free world” but on improving health outcomes, compliance with human rights norms, and promoting development, peace and security.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(New York) – Turkey should urgently ask UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a United Nations investigation into the possible extrajudicial execution of the prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders said today.

The investigation should determine the circumstances surrounding Saudi Arabia’s role in the enforced disappearance and possible killing of Khashoggi. It should aim to identify everyone responsible for ordering, planning, and executing any operations connected with the case.

“Turkey should enlist the UN to initiate a timely, credible, and transparent investigation” said Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “UN involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh.”

 Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

© 2018 Cemal Kaşıkçı

Evidence collected by the UN investigation team should be preserved for use in future prosecutions. The investigation team should have complete access to travel where it needs to and to interview potential witnesses or suspects without interference. The team should also recommend avenues for bringing to justice anyone against whom credible and admissible evidence of involvement is found.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and has not been seen or heard from since. Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, claiming he left the consulate on his own shortly after his arrival, but it has failed to produce any evidence supporting this claim.

Saudi authorities have escalated their crackdown on dissenting voices in the country since Mohammad bin Salman became crown prince in June 2017, marked by systematic repression of dissent, including peaceful expression directed to the promotion and protection of human rights. Virtually all human rights defenders and critical voices, including religious clerics, journalists, and academics, have been targeted in the recent arrests.

Khashoggi’s disappearance comes after more than a year of arrests targeting journalists who reported on corruption, women’s rights, and other sensitive issues. Several are being held in unknown locations, without charges, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Many individuals, including the prominent women human rights defenders Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, and Aziza al-Yousef, have been arbitrarily detained without charge for months. These women activists and many others may face lengthy prison terms or the death penalty following grossly unfair trials before the counterterrorism court for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, or assembly.

The Turkish authorities announced that they had initiated a criminal investigation on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2. As part of this investigation, they conducted a forensic examination of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 15. Information from the investigation has been shared with the media through a series of leaks, including claims regarding the existence of audio and visual records proving that Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate.

On October 15, Saudi Arabia’s king ordered the Public Prosecution to open an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Given the possible involvement of Saudi authorities in Khashoggi’s enforced disappearance and possible murder, and the lack of independence of Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system, the impartiality of any investigation by the Saudi authorities would be in question. 

Khashoggi’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish national, told media outlets that when Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 to obtain their marriage documents, he left her his phones and instructions to alert the Turkish authorities if he did not return after two hours. That was the last time Cengiz saw him. Turkish authorities believe Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the consulate.

"This demonstrates all the more clearly how imperative an impartial and independent investigation is in order to establish the truth and ensure justice for Jamal Khashoggi,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. “If the UN is truly mobilized to fight impunity for crimes against journalists, then at the very least they must be fully engaged in one of the most shocking and extreme cases in recent years by undertaking this investigation."

There is a precedent for such a UN investigation. In 2008, Pakistan asked then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish an investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. That investigation uncovered what investigators said was an attempt by Pakistani authorities to whitewash the events surrounding Bhutto's murder.

An investigation into Khashoggi’s enforced disappearance and possible murder should start promptly and be thorough, impartial, and independent. UN Secretary-General Guterres should appoint a senior criminal investigator with extensive experience in international investigations to head the team. Once the investigation is concluded, the secretary-general should issue a public report on the overall findings along with his recommendations for following up.

“Jamal Khashoggi’s family and the rest of the world deserve the full truth about what happened to him,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “Partial explanations and one-sided investigations by Saudi Arabia, which is suspected of involvement, aren’t good enough. Only the UN has the credibility and independence required to expose the masterminds behind Khashoggi’s enforced disappearance and to hold them to account.”

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and all other UN member countries should fully cooperate with the UN investigation to ensure that it has all the access and support necessary to determine what happened to Khashoggi. To facilitate the investigation, Saudi Arabia should immediately waive diplomatic protections such as the inviolability or immunity of all relevant premises and officials bestowed by treaties such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for waiving these diplomatic protections in the case. 

Turkey should turn over all evidence, including audio and visual records that Turkish officials have repeatedly claimed to the media reveal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate. A newly formed Turkish-Saudi working group investigating the murder will be unable to make progress in the face of Saudi Arabia’s blanket denials and rejection of any involvement in Khashoggi’s enforced disappearance.

“If the government of Saudi Arabia is not involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s fate, it has the most to gain in seeing an impartial UN investigation determine what happened,” said Sherine Tadros, head the New York office of Amnesty International. “Without a credible UN inquiry, there will always be a cloud of suspicion hanging over Saudi Arabia, no matter what its leadership says to explain away how Khashoggi vanished.”

Jamal Khashoggi is a prominent Saudi journalist with several Saudi Arabia-based Arabic and English-language newspapers including Okaz and the Saudi Gazette, and he served two stints as the editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily al-Watan. In December 2016, Saudi authorities publicly denounced Khashoggi after he criticized then US President-Elect Donald Trump at an event in Washington, and he fled Saudi Arabia to the United States in June 2017, becoming a regular columnist for the Washington Post.
 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

This submission summarizes Human Rights Watch’s concerns regarding the government of Tajikistan’s compliance with its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Human Rights Watch believes the upcoming review by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (“the Committee”) provides a crucial opportunity to highlight the Tajik government’s record on domestic violence and to formulate recommendations for specific steps the authorities should take to address urgent concerns in this area.

This submission is based on Human Rights Watch research into the Tajik government’s response to domestic violence. Human Rights Watch conducted interviews with survivors of domestic violence, service providers, police, women’s rights activists, government agencies, doctors, psychologists, and international donors and experts in July and August 2015, July and September 2016, and follow-up interviews in August and September 2018. It and its recommendations focus primarily on violence against women by male partners and their relatives, often by mothers-in-law.

Violence against women remains pervasive today in Tajik society. Survivors of domestic violence told Human Rights Watch harrowing stories of the worst kinds of abuse, including sadistic violence committed by perpetrators, all across the country across every socioeconomic category. Officials often neglect survivors’ needs for protection, services, and justice and marital rape is not recognized as a crime under Tajikistan’s criminal law. Yet there are some signs of progress. Civil society groups are providing life-saving assistance. According to service providers and civil society activists, the adoption of the Family Violence Law in 2013 made for some breakthroughs in public awareness about the problem, and the law could be transformative if it is fully implemented across the country. The government has also worked, with support from donors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to establish Gender-Sensitive Police Units in police stations and Victim Support Rooms in hospitals, designed to make these institutions more accessible to and supportive of victims of family violence.

The government is in the process of developing a strategy for handling gender-based violence, which should focus greater government attention on protecting women. In 2014, the government adopted an Action Plan for the implementation of the law through 2023.  A hotline has been set up to refer survivors of family and sexual violence to services. A growing network of activists—many of them also survivors of family violence—are bringing help to some of the most remote areas of the country. However, government efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence remain inadequate and fail to ensure critical protection and support for survivors.

“The morning after my husband beat me I narrowly escaped from the house and went to the Shaartuz [a city in southwestern Tajikistan] city prosecutor’s office covered in blood, with fresh wounds, and asked to file a complaint,” said Zebo, who told Human Rights Watch that she first reported violence to authorities after more than four years of spousal abuse and rape. “But when I got to the prosecutor’s office and started to describe what had happened the officer interrupted, ‘Aren’t you yourself to blame?’ and immediately called my husband to tell him I was there. He then said, ‘Everything will work out fine. Go straight home.’’’

The night before, her husband had beat her continuously for three hours until her face and his hands were entirely covered in blood. In a drunken rage, he threatened to strangle the couple’s two-year-old son. When Zebo asked neighbors for help, they answered, “How can we take you in? This is a family affair.” Zebo and her three children were left on the street.

Zebo walked out of that prosecutor’s office and straight into the local city court. “I found a judge and told him how my husband had bashed my head against a wall repeatedly,” she said. “He listened and then immediately called my husband, saying to me, ‘Why did you leave the house looking like this? Your husband’s a good man. Just go home.’”

“These officials saw I was covered in bruises and blood, but did nothing,” she said. “They sent me home and promised to send an officer to visit me there. When the officer finally came he said, ‘This is a domestic problem,’ and just told my husband not to do it again.”

Zebo has 3 children. Her husband was abusive from the beginning of the marriage, even during pregnancy. Like many families in Tajikistan, Zebo’s marriage was unregistered with the state, performed only through a religious ceremony (nikoh). Zebo’s husband started to beat her more intensively after their first son was born. “He said he got pleasure from this,” she said. “He would beat me all the time and say he was doing this so that I would end up in heaven.” Once when the couple was driving, and Zebo was pregnant, she said her husband pushed her out of the moving car, accusing her of cheating on him. He would often come home drunk and rape Zebo.

Zebo’s story is sadly representative of the experience of many women in Tajikistan. The precise number of women who experience violence at the hands of a partner is unknown, as the government does not systematically monitor the issue. But experts, including sociologists, government officials, lawyers, and service providers Human Rights Watch spoke to in various regions of Tajikistan found that domestic violence has occurred in more than two-thirds of households.

Survivors and advocates told Human Rights Watch that police often refuse to pursue investigations, issue protective orders, or arrest people who commit domestic violence, even in cases where the violence is severe, including attempted murder, serious physical harm, and repeated rape. Sometimes police tell victims it’s a “family matter” and send them away, or refuse to respond without a medical report, even when victims present with visible wounds. In rural areas, where there is little government presence and where police might have to travel long distances to conduct investigations, survivors and service providers said police often tell victims it is their responsibility to bring the perpetrator to the police station.

When police do get involved in family violence cases they typically fail to maintain confidentiality for victims. They often mandate mediation for the couples involved, in contrast with international best practices, which recommend arrest and prosecution. Even in the limited number of police stations trained in gender-sensitive techniques, police often insist on mediation and signing of an agreement between the victim and perpetrator, even when there is clear evidence that a serious crime has been committed, when the victim reports that abuse is continuing between mediation sessions, and even when the victim tells the police she wants the attacker to be prosecuted and imprisoned.

Survivors of violence face difficulty securing protection orders. Police often fail to tell survivors about protection orders or refer them to court to seek one in cases where they would have been appropriate. Survivors who do seek protection orders often encounter delays and costly fees in the courts.

There is a dire lack of services for people requiring assistance after suffering domestic violence. Tajikistan has a total of three shelters for victims of domestic violence for a population of over 8 million people. Long-term shelters for survivors and access to state-subsidized and affordable housing is badly needed.

Most counseling focuses on reconciling the survivor with her abusive partner, often sending the victims back into situations where they face continued risk of violence. Even in crisis centers, the focus is often on mediation of family disputes with the goal of reconciliation, not ensuring accountability for cases of serious, ongoing violence. Qualified psychosocial counselors are all but nonexistent, and despite a network of women’s crisis centers throughout the country operating with international support, meaningful legal assistance for survivors, including a capacity to represent survivors in criminal, divorce, child custody, and maintenance proceedings, or property division following divorce, is almost entirely absent.

Poor police response acts as a deterrent to reporting. “I didn’t bother going to the police to complain about the violence,” one survivor of domestic violence told Human Rights Watch, “because after the first time I went he began to beat me even harder.”

Other barriers can also keep women from seeking help or halt them in the process. Many women have little or no income of their own and depend on their partners to support them and their children. Women often fear sending an abusive partner to prison, as it would mean the loss of his income. Fathers often fail to support their children financially after a separation, and courts rarely enforce maintenance orders. The government offers no financial assistance to survivors of domestic violence, even those with dependent children. Many women stay in abusive relationships, or even try to get abusive husbands who have abandoned them to return, simply because the alternative is that their children go hungry. Others stay because they fear losing custody of their children, as they have little ability to seek and enforce custody agreements through the courts.

Harmful practices including polygamy, unregistered, forced, and early marriages continue unchecked, although the Tajik government has taken steps to ensure couples officially register their marriages with the state. A man’s marriage to a second wife often precipitates abuse of the first. Patriarchal practices reinforce discriminatory gender norms.

 

Critical Gaps in the Family Violence Law

In 2013, following a ten-year effort by civil society groups, Tajikistan passed a new law, the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family (hereinafter Family Violence Law), which, while making key advances in the protection of women, left serious critical areas unaddressed. Most notably the Family Violence Law does not recognize domestic violence as a crime, providing only for administrative liability. It also does not define the term “family” and women in polygamous, early and unregistered marriages as well as women who were previously married, are not protected under the law.

Focusing primarily on prevention, the Family Violence Law recognizes the rights of victims to legal, medical, and psycho-social assistance and individual remedies, including registering a case of violence and obtaining protection orders. The adoption of the Family Violence Law was a positive step in the effort to prevent and combat domestic violence in Tajikistan.

But numerous areas of ongoing concern remain, including women’s lack of awareness of their rights under the Law, which particularly affects women living in rural and mountainous areas of the country. Moreover, predominant patriarchal attitudes in Tajik society contribute to the persistence of violence against women and underreporting to law enforcement bodies.

Victims seeking prosecution and punishment of the abuser must bring claims under the Tajik Criminal Code.

The law aimed to make it easier for victims of family violence to get protection orders and services. Yet five years in, the Family Violence Law has not been meaningfully implemented. The government has issued implementing regulations, and some international organizations such as the OSCE have provided crucial support for the expansion of services, but pervasive patriarchal norms and societal stereotypes, a lack of awareness among victims about their rights and the remedies available to them under the law, and critical gaps in protection mean that domestic violence remains widespread and pervasive. Ambiguity remains about the coordination among government agencies in implementing the law and its various aspects. The Law does not require for the systematic collection of information and data by government agencies of the types of violence against women nor access to long-term shelters for women facing violence.

Limited Definition of Family

The Family Violence Law does not define the term “family,” nor does any other provision in Tajik law define the term. This leaves open the question of what relationships are covered under the Law, consequently leaving women in unregistered marriages who face violence vulnerable to abuse.  Tajik authorities should ensure that a comprehensive definition of “family” is included in the law, in accordance with earlier draft versions of the law that explicitly include the following intimate partner relationships: marriages officially registered with the civil registry; religious marriages performed by nikoh ceremony that are not officially registered with the civil registry; co-habiting partners or couples  without registered marriages; and polygamous marriages. The law should also explicitly protect women who experience violence at the hands of their in-laws as well as other family members, including former in-laws who commit or threaten violence after divorce.

Failure to Criminalize Domestic Violence

The Family Violence Law fails to explicitly recognize domestic violence as a crime under the law. Moreover, no other Tajik law, including Tajikistan’s Criminal Code, criminalizes it as a separate, specific crime.

The Family Violence Law instead places an emphasis on prevention, providing merely for administrative punishment, such as fines and administrative custody of the perpetrator.[1] Exhibiting a bias for reconciliation, the Law provides only for “disciplinary conversations” with perpetrators and victims of violence to identify the causes and circumstances of the violence and explain social and legal consequences of future violence.[2]

Opponents to criminalizing domestic violence argue that it is unnecessary because the Tajik Criminal Code offers sufficient protection to victims. Relevant provisions of the Criminal Code, for example, include intentional infliction of major bodily harm, minor bodily harm, or bodily harm to a lesser degree.[3] While these crimes would cover some instances of violence perpetrated in the domestic context, a conviction requires evidence that a victim sustained physical injuries. Therefore, the Criminal Code provides no accountability in cases in which the physical injury is no longer detectable or for instances of psychological or economic violence.

Survivors of domestic violence report that following violence their husbands, mothers-in-law, and other relatives often actively prevent them from leaving the house until such time as their wounds are no longer visible. “He often beat me up, but I never told my own parents because my in-laws would not allow it. When I had bruises on my face my mother-in-law would make me stay home. She would say ‘He must beat you up a lot because he really loves you,” said a domestic violence survivor in 2016.[4]

Another major shortcoming of the Family Violence Law and Criminal Code is its failure to criminalize spousal rape. Spousal rape is rarely reported in Tajikistan due to social stigma, yet interviewees and advocates told Human Rights Watch that perpetrators of sexual violence are overwhelmingly a woman’s current or former partner.

Criminalization of domestic violence is crucial to overcoming patriarchal norms and recognizing the seriousness of intra-familial violence, including beatings, rapes, humiliation, deprivation of food and property, and other acts of physical, mental, sexual, and economic violence, which disproportionately affect women. The CEDAW Committee has reiterated that all violence against women, including domestic violence, needs to be criminalized, and has urged Tajikistan to amend its legislation.[5]

Unless the Tajik government amends the Family Violence Law to specifically criminalize domestic violence, victims of abuse will have to pursue criminal prosecutions through other provisions of the Tajik Criminal Code that do not adequately recognize the specific protection risks and needs of survivors of domestic violence.

 

Recommendations
The government needs to lead the work to end domestic violence in Tajikistan. At present, much of the leadership on this issue comes from civil society activists and service providers outside of government and from international organizations and donors. While these actors have critical roles to play, domestic violence cannot be systemically tackled without full engagement and leadership from the government.

We encourage the Committee to make the following recommendations to the government of Tajikistan:

  • amend the Family Violence Law and Criminal Code without delay so as to explicitly criminalize domestic violence, including marital rape;
  • take measures to ensure that domestic violence is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law;
  • ensure the systematic collection of information and data on violence against women by government agencies, including by types of violence and perpetrator;
  • ensure that women subject to or at risk of domestic violence have full access to essential services, including short and longer-term shelters, medical care, psychosocial support, and legal assistance; material support; and to civil remedies, such as divorce and equitable distribution of property;
  • draft and adopt regulations on coordinated response to domestic violence, including clear roles and responsibilities of agencies including the Ministry of Health, State Women’s Committee, Ministry of Interior, Prosecutor-General, Ministry of Justice, and a referral system for victims of domestic violence;
  • develop and implement mandatory initial and ongoing training for law enforcement and judicial officials on domestic violence response in accordance with international best practice standards on survivor-centered response;
  • take measures to raise awareness among the public regarding domestic violence, available services and how and why to access them, and appropriate police and judicial response;
  • investigate all complaints of police or judicial misconduct in cases of domestic violence and hold law enforcement and justice officials to account for failure to register and investigate domestic complaints and take necessary measures to protect victims;
  • ensure an effective complaints mechanism for victims whose complaints are not treated appropriately by law enforcement or judicial officials; and
  • Ensure that perpetrators of domestic violence are brought to justice and held accountable.

 


[1] Family Violence Law, Art. 22.

[2] Family Violence Law, Art. 20(1).

[3] Tajik. Crim. Code, Arts. 110-112.

[4] Interview with Nargis N., Khurasan, Khatlon province, July 23, 2015.

[5] “Breaking Barriers: Challenges to Implementing Laws on Violence Against Women in Afghanistan and Tajikistan with special consideration of displaced women,” P. 69

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
(New York) – United Nations member countries should oppose the candidacies of the Philippines and Eritrea for the Human Rights Council because of their egregious human rights records, Human Rights Watch said today. Serious rights violations in Bahrain and Cameroon also raise significant concerns. On October 12, 2018, the UN General Assembly will vote to fill one-third of the seats on the 47-member council for the 2019-21 term.  

All five of the General Assembly’s regional groups submitted competition-free slates, meaning that all candidates, regardless of their rights records, are virtually assured seats on the council. The absence of competition reverses the modest progress in previous years when some slates offered a modicum of competition. By putting forward serious rights violators and presenting only as many candidates as seats available, the regional groups risk undermining the council’s credibility and effectiveness.

“UN member countries should show their outrage at the Philippines and Eritrea by leaving two spots on the ballot sheet blank and keeping them off the council,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive ‘war on drugs’ has been a killing frenzy that has left thousands dead. In Eritrea, the authorities persecute and jail government critics and force citizens into indefinite national service.”

Countries need a minimum of 97 votes – a simple majority – to get elected to the council.

The Philippines is undergoing a human rights crisis that may amount to crimes against humanity. Since Duterte took office in July 2016, more than 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been gunned down in what they call “legitimate police operations.” Human Rights Watch and other rights groups, as well as the media, have found a pattern of police misconduct, notably the planting of drugs and handguns on suspects’ bodies. The killings continue daily and have spread to cities and provinces outside the capital, Manila. The Duterte administration has sought to quell all dissent and criticism of the “drug war” by jailing, threatening, and harassing critics. No police officer has been convicted for any of these deaths.

The recent arrest of Eritrea’s former finance minister is indicative of the ongoing repression in the country, despite recent progress in its diplomatic engagements. Eritrean political prisoners include 21 senior government officials and journalists detained since 2001 after they criticized President Isaias Afewerki. Some have been in incommunicado detention without charge for over 17 years.

A 1995 proclamation requires 18 months of national service for all Eritreans, but the government forces many conscripts to serve indefinitely. A UN Commission of Inquiry in 2016 said the government’s “totalitarian practices” and disrespect for the rule of law manifested “wholesale disregard for the liberty of its citizens.” Indefinite national service has compelled tens of thousands of Eritreans to flee the country over many years.

As a condition of membership, Human Rights Council members are expected to cooperate with the council and its rights experts. Instead, the Philippines has carried out vicious campaigns against UN officials, including against the special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and the high commissioner for human rights. Eritrea has refused all cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry and a special rapporteur, whom the Council appoints.

Human Rights Watch also raised serious concerns about human rights in Bahrain and Cameroon. In Bahrain, the courts have convicted and imprisoned peaceful dissenters, including prominent human rights defenders such as Nabeel Rajab. Police and National Security Agency officers threaten, coerce, and mistreat detainees into signing confessions. Authorities have failed to hold officials responsible for torture to account.

In Cameroon, government security forces and armed separatists have committed grave abuses against residents of the country’s Anglophone region. The region has been rocked by protests and violent clashes rooted in longstanding political grievances of the Anglophone minority. While the government has taken some positive steps in recent months, including signing the Safe Schools Declaration, violence and abuses in the Anglophone region continue.

In addition to Bahrain and the Philippines, the Asia group has also nominated Fiji, India, and Bangladesh. In addition to Eritrea and Cameroon, the Africa group has nominated Burkina Faso, Togo, and Somalia. The Latin American group has put forward Argentina, Uruguay, and the Bahamas. Eastern Europe has proposed Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. From Western Europe, Austria, Denmark, and Italy are running.

The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the failed UN Commission on Human Rights, which had largely been unwilling to address grave human rights concerns and to which the world’s worst rights violators could easily be elected. Over the last 12 years, the council has made significant contributions to human rights, reviewing the human rights records of all countries under the Universal Periodic Review process.

It has created commissions of inquiry on North Korean, Syria, Burundi, Myanmar, Yemen, and other countries. And it has appointed numerous special rapporteurs and other independent experts to ensure competent and impartial investigations into alleged abuses even when the country concerned refused to cooperate.

The council recently displayed its important role protecting and promoting human rights. In its September 2018 session, the first since the US withdrew  from the body, the council created a quasi special prosecutor unit to gather and preserve evidence related to the abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar. It adopted the UN’s first-ever resolution on the crisis in Venezuela, renewed the mandate of the UN investigation into abuses by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, and held the first public discussion of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ report on reprisals against human rights defenders by such countries as China, Egypt, and Bahrain.

“Many UN member states talk a good game about strengthening the Human Rights Council, but this year all regional groups ignored the need for competitive elections,” Charbonneau said. “Instead of pushing candidates to demonstrate they’re worthy of joining the UN’s premier human rights body, the UN membership has put forward a non-competitive vote that makes a mockery of the word ‘election.’”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks in the U.N. Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York City, U.S., February 28, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, will not be remembered as a staunch defender of human rights when she resigns at the end of the year. She vigorously defended egregious Israeli abuses like the unlawful use of lethal force that killed over 150 protesters in Gaza this year. But her main legacy will be leading the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, dismissing it as an ineffective institution that criticized Israel too much.

Many had hoped she would help the administration of President Donald Trump promote human rights abroad. After all, she had made a name for herself in 2015, when, as governor of South Carolina, she ordered the Confederate battle flag removed from the state capitol grounds after a mass shooting. Although she joined other Republican governors in opposing resettling Syrian refugees in her state, in 2016 she criticized presidential candidate Trump for his anti-immigration rhetoric. Haley wrote recently that she occasionally disagreed with Trump, though she offered no details.

As UN ambassador, Haley made important progress on several issues. She helped push the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan. She urged the council to look hard at the crisis in Nicaragua. And she repeatedly asked the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to curtail abuses against opponents and investigate the murder of two UN experts there.

When it comes to the Human Rights Council, Haley announced the US departure from the body in June, just days after the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Haley called the council a “cesspool of bias,” and wrongly blamed Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations for the US withdrawal when her ill-conceived attempts to “reform” the council received virtually no support from UN member states.

The Human Rights Council, like other UN bodies, has its shortcomings, including having serial rights violators like Saudi Arabia and China as members. Still, the council has had a positive impact, with or without US involvement. In last month’s session, it created a means to gather evidence and identify those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in Myanmar. It also adopted the first-ever UN resolution on Venezuela’s crisis, and renewed an investigation into rights abuses in Yemen.

Haley’s dismissal of what she calls the “so-called Human Rights Council” rings increasingly hollow.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Today, Human Rights Council members face a choice that goes to the core of this body’s credibility: whether to renew the only independent monitoring mechanism on Yemen, or let the mandate lapse.

No one has suggested that the situation in Yemen has improved such that the mandate is no longer needed. As the Group of Eminent Experts documented, the warring parties continue to indiscriminately bomb and shell civilians, abduct people from their homes, and interfere with the delivery of food and medicine.

We are dismayed – though not surprised – by the campaign of misinformation waged by the Saudi-led coalition in an attempt to discredit the experts’ work:

  • They critique the experts for using a “reasonable grounds” standard of proof – yet that is the exact same standard used by the Myanmar Fact-finding Mission, and other UN monitoring bodies.
  • They critique the experts for referring to the Houthis as “de facto authorities” in relation to areas under their control - yet the Secretary General himself has used this common term while making clear it does not confer legal recognition.
  • The coalition claims the experts ignored Houthi abuses – yet the experts reported on Houthi unlawful shelling and sniper attacks, forcible recruitment of child soldiers, arbitrary detention, torture, and denial of humanitarian aid.

One can understand why the Saudi-led coalition would want to terminate independent international scrutiny of the conflict. Just last month, a coalition airstrike killed at least 26 children and wounded more than 19 in or near a school bus in a busy market. Some parents said they were unable to recover any body parts of their children.

Much more remains to be done to document abuses on all sides.

When you leave this place tomorrow, don’t turn your back on Yemeni civilians. Don’t abandon them to their fate, caught between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi armed group in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Don’t let the message be: we know about your suffering, but somewhere along the way, we just stopped caring. 

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Rohingya refugees try to take shelter from torrential rain as they are held by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) after illegally crossing the border, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, August 31, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

(Geneva) – The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has advanced justice for victims of grave crimes in Myanmar by creating an international body to help prepare case files for future criminal proceedings, Human Rights Watch said today. The council on September 27, 2018 passed a resolution for that purpose, a joint initiative of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union, by a vote of 35 to 3, with 7 abstentions. 

“The Human Rights Council took an important step for justice by creating a body to pinpoint criminal responsibility for the countless atrocities in Myanmar,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “It deals a blow to Myanmar’s deep-seated culture of impunity and moves victims closer to seeing Myanmar’s generals held to account.”

The resolution mandates the new body to “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes” in Myanmar since 2011 and to “prepare files…to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings.” The resolution calls on the UN secretary-general to appoint staff and allocate the resources necessary to support the body’s work. The UN secretary-general should act promptly to ensure that it is fully operational as soon as possible, Human Rights Watch said.

The resolution follows the report in August by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which found that Myanmar’s security forces committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State. The report also examined abuses by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and by government forces and ethnic armed groups in Shan and Kachin States.

The Fact-Finding Mission recommended that either the Human Rights Council or the UN General Assembly should create as a matter of urgency an international, independent, impartial mechanism, similar to the one created by the General Assembly for Syria in late 2016. It also urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. The Fact-Finding Mission will brief the General Assembly on its findings in October.

“The UN General Assembly should support justice for victims of murder, sexual violence, and mass arson by welcoming the new body and calling on Myanmar’s government to cooperate with it,” Fisher said. “Raising the mechanism’s profile in the General Assembly would also make clear that all countries, including Security Council members, should make justice a priority as part of any proposed solution to Myanmar’s devastating rights crisis.”

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Sudan’s human rights situation has not improved.  Armed conflicts in Darfur since 2003, and in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011, are not over. While evidence suggests the government has stopped indiscriminate bombing, its forces still attack, burn and loot civilian property, forcing thousands to flee their homes.  To date, Sudan has taken no meaningful steps to ensure justice for victims of atrocities committed during these long-running conflicts.

Across the country, government authorities continue to stifle dissent and criticism. Security forces routinely use excessive violence to break up protests. In January 2018 in West Darfur, they used live ammunition against students, injuring several and killing at least one. There has been no accountability for the injuries and deaths of over 170 protesters in Wad Madani in September 2013.

Police and security forces continue to disperse protests by arbitrarily detaining protesters and activists. Some detainees have been held for months without charges. All detainees are at risk of torture, and many released detainees reported torture and other ill-treatment. To date, Sudan has not investigated, far less prosecuted national security officials implicated in such crimes.

Authorities have arrested and detained outspoken critics, including women’s rights activists opposing discriminatory public order codes, outspoken teachers, and other professionals, sometimes bringing trumped up charges that carry heavy penalties. They have successful sought the extradition of activists living outside Sudan, detained them on their return for no more than critical writings. Security officials have also harassed activist and rights lawyers, blocking them from traveling out of Sudan, and continue to censor the media, confiscating newspaper editions with articles on topics deemed too critical.

Given Sudan’s continued use of violence against civilians in conflict zones and serious and persistent violations of basic freedoms of expression and assembly, the Human Rights Council should not abandon scrutiny of Sudan’s human rights record.  

The draft resolution at this Session envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up, which would be an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, states should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on human rights across Sudan, including in conflict zones where the planned reductions to UNAMID leave much of the region without peacekeepers’ protection. The High Commissioner should be mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.    

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Human Rights Watch welcomes the detailed addendum to this year’s annual report of the UN Special Rapporteur regarding the election-related crackdown on the political opposition, civil society and independent media in Cambodia.

On July 29, a sham election that was neither genuine nor free or fair saw the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secure its continued rule after arbitrarily dissolving the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party; through politically motivated prosecutions of key leaders of the opposition and government critics; by banning more than 100 opposition members, including elected members of parliament, from political activity for five years; by adopting a series of repressive laws aimed at clamping down on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly; and through illegally utilizing state assets, including the media and armed forces, to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power for 33 years, and the CPP have undone all democratic gains since the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, taking all 125 seats in parliament and creating a de facto one-party state.

Civil and political rights have hit a new low in Cambodia. While we welcome the release of some political prisoners, we remain concerned that without the repeal of repressive laws, such as a lese majeste clause in the Penal Code, the Law on Association and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), the Trade Union Law, and the Law on Political Parties, arbitrary prosecutions in the country’s  CPP-controlled courts will continue.

Human Rights Watch is also deeply concerned about the expiration of the MoU for the Cambodia field office of the OHCHR on December 31. The office has been crucial in supporting civil society and addressing rights violations with the government. Its closure would lead to an escalation of abuses. We call on donors and the UN to press the Cambodian government to renew OHCHR’s mandate.

Cambodians are facing a human rights crisis, with all the hard-fought freedoms gained in the past decades under threat. Yet the Council has failed before and since the election to take appropriate action and signal to the Cambodian government and the world that it is aware of the grave nature of the situation. We call on the Council and all UN member states to ensure increased monitoring and reporting by the High Commissioner of the country’s deteriorating human rights situation.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A cross-regional joint statement delivered by Peru on behalf of 53 States at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in June expressed concern at the human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country and called for continued reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner. The Human Rights Council should respond to that call and adopt a resolution this session to ensure continued reporting by the High Commissioner, and discussion of those reports by the Council so that it may consider an appropriate response to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The United Nations Human Rights Council should renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen during its current session in Geneva. The parties on both sides of Yemen’s armed conflict are committing laws-of-war violations and human rights abuses with impunity.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The urgent situation in Gaza deteriorated in recent months. Israeli forces have continued to fire on Palestinians participating in weekly demonstrations against Israeli rights abuses near the fences between Gaza and Israel, killing 156, including 24 children, and wounding more than 5,000, since March 30. Demonstrators have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to hurl projectiles, and launched kites with incendiary materials, which caused significant property damage to nearby Israeli communities and, in at least one instance, fired in the direction of soldiers, but Human Rights Watch has not documented instances where protesters posed an imminent threat to life.

The Commission of Inquiry established by this body should identify any Israeli officials who sanctioned expansive open-fire orders that allowed soldiers to fire on protesters on the other side of the fence posing no imminent mortal danger, which would be contrary to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. 

The Israeli army also conducted air and artillery strikes in Gaza, killing an additional 20 Palestinians so far this year, including civilians.

Palestinian armed groups, meanwhile, fired more than 600 rockets, apparently indiscriminately towards Israeli population center from Gaza between May and August, more than ten times the number of rockets fired cumulatively between 2015 and 2017, injuring 28 Israelis, including civilians.

In July, Israeli authorities further tightened its closure of Gaza, exacerbated by Egyptian restrictions on its border with Gaza, as a measure to punish Palestinians for the launching of incendiary kites, banning the exit of most goods out of Gaza and limiting entry to “humanitarian” items. This move serves to undermine commerce in Gaza at a time where the unemployment rate stands at a 53.7 percent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and 80 percent of the population depends on humanitarian aid.  

This body should continue to insist that Israel lift the unlawful sweeping restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza.

We welcome the High Commissioner’s highlighting of rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in her opening statement, including the anticipated demolition of the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar east of Jerusalem, and look forward to the publication soon of the database of businesses facilitating settlement construction and growth. Businesses cannot operate in or with settlements without contributing to serious abuses.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am