Members of the Honduran security forces, in particular the military police, used excessive – including lethal – force to control and disperse protests that erupted following November’s disputed presidential election, a report the UN Human Rights Office said on Monday.
The report details human rights violations that happened between voting day on 26 November and the presidential inauguration on 27 January. It found that at least 22 civilians and one police officer were killed during the protests. Of these, at least 16 people, including two women and two children, were shot dead by the security forces. The report also documents the killing of 15 individuals in the run-up to the elections, including party candidates, municipal councillors and activists.
While some of the protesters became violent, the report notes that, “analysis of the type of injuries suffered by the victims indicate that the security forces made intentional lethal use of firearms, including beyond dissuasive or self-defense (legitimate) purposes, such as when protestors were fleeing.” This was illustrated by the deaths of seven individuals who received shots to the head.
“These cases raise serious concerns and may amount to extra-judicial killings,” the report says. According to information received, by 27 January, no charges had been brought against any member of the security forces in relation to the killings and injuries.
In addition, some 1,351 people were detained between 1 and 5 December for violating a curfew imposed as part of a state of emergency declared on 1 December. The state of emergency’s imprecise and broad grounds for detaining people, including those “somehow suspected” of causing damage or committing crimes, went beyond what was required by the situation, resulting in mass and indiscriminate arrests, and discouraging people from exercising the right to peaceful assembly and of association.
The report also highlights “credible and consistent allegations of ill-treatment of persons at the time of arrest and/or detention,” illegal house raids, and a surge in “threats and intimidation against journalists, media workers, and social and political activists.”
The human rights violations described in the report, took place “in the context of a political, economic and social crisis, which can be traced back to the 2009 military coup d’état and significant delays to undertake critical institutional, political, economic and social reforms.” The report urges the Honduran Government to engage in a participatory national dialogue on reforms to promote development, human rights and reconciliation.
“The already fragile human rights situation in Honduras, which suffers from high levels of violence and insecurity, is likely to deteriorate further unless there is true accountability for human rights violations, and reforms are taken to address the deep political and social polarization in the country,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Among its recommendations, the report calls on the authorities to restrict the use of of the military police and armed forces in law enforcement functions, and to regulate the use of force by all security and law enforcement agencies, in line with applicable international human rights norms and standards. There should be prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigations into all allegations of human rights violations that took place in the context of the elections, the report recommends.
Published on OHCHR on March 12, 2018
By Sam Jones
Amnesty International has warned that an “exponential increase” in prosecutions under a controversial Spanish anti-terrorism law is having a chilling effect on satire and dissent and is pushing social media users, musicians and journalists towards self-censorship.
The charity is calling for the law to be repealed, arguing that recent high-profile cases brought under article 578 of Spain’s criminal code have highlighted the danger the legislation poses to freedom of speech and international human rights law.
Under the article, those found guilty of “glorifying terrorism”, justifying terrorist acts or “humiliating the victims of terrorist crimes or their relatives” can be jailed, fined and banned from holding public sector jobs.
Over the past two years, the legislation has been used with increasing frequency. In 2016, a judge eventually shelved an investigation into two puppeteers who were suspected of glorifying terrorism during a performance in Madrid.
Two musicians – César Strawberry, lead singer of the group Def Con Dos, and the rapper Valtonyc – have given prison sentences following prosecutions under article 578.
Strawberry was sentenced to a year in prison in January last year for tweeting jokes about Eta and giving the king “a cake-bomb” for his birthday, while Valtonyc recently had his three-and-a-half year prison sentence upheld after being convicted of distributing songs online that threatened a politician with violence, glorified terrorism and insulted the crown.
A film-maker and a journalist are also among those charged under the legislation.
Perhaps the most notorious case, however, is that of Cassandra Vera, a student who was given a suspended jail sentence and banned from doing a publicly-funded job for seven years for tweeting jokes about the 1973 assassination of a Spanish prime minister.
Vera’s conviction was quashed and her sentence overturned at the beginning of March after Spain’s supreme court ruled that while her behaviour may have been morally reprehensible, it had not merited the punishment imposed by a lower court.
In a report published on Tuesday – entitled Tweet … if you dare: how counter-terrorism laws restrict freedom of expression in Spain – Amnesty detects an “exponential increase” in the use of article 578.
It says that while only three people were charged under the article in 2011, the figure rose to 39 in 2017, with almost 70 people convicted over the past two years.
The report also notes that the legislation is overwhelmingly being used in relation to the apparent glorification of domestic terrorist groups – such as the Basque separatists Eta or the far-left Grapo – rather than foreign ones.
According to Amnesty, this has led to “increasing self-censorship and a broader chilling effect on freedom of expression” in Spain.
“Sending rappers to jail for song lyrics and outlawing political satire demonstrates how narrow the boundaries of acceptable online speech have become in Spain,” said Esteban Beltrán, director of Amnesty International Spain.
“People should not face criminal prosecution simply for saying, tweeting or singing something that might be distasteful or shocking. Spain’s broad and vaguely worded law is resulting in the silencing of free speech and the crushing of artistic expression.”
Vera expressed similar views after her sentence was overturned. She pointed to the recent censorship of a work at a Madrid art fair and the seizure, on a judge’s orders, of Fariña, a book about drug-trafficking in Galicia, as proof that something was seriously wrong with free speech in Spain.
“People shouldn’t have to be afraid of expressing their opinions,” she told the Guardian. “What happened with Valtonyc and Fariña and the art exhibition showed that freedom of expression is under serious attack. I think freedom of expression has been dealt an almost fatal blow in Spain.”
Amnesty wants to see article 578 repealed, and says the situation in Spain is emblematic of “a disturbing trend” of European countries using national security arguments to limit freedom of expression and restrict rights.
“Governments should uphold the rights of victims of terrorism, rather than stifling free speech in their name,” said said Eda Seyhan, Amnesty’s campaigner on counter-terrorism.
“Spain’s draconian law must be repealed and all charges brought against anyone solely for peacefully expressing themselves must be dropped.”
Kartik Raj, western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the Spanish government needs “urgently to reform the overly broad definition of the glorification of terrorism”.
“The raft of ill conceived prosecutions of people on charges of glorifying terrorism or insulting the King, in some instances merely for having made jokes on social media, beggar belief,” he said.
Published on The Guardian on March 12, 2018
Gender equality in the workplace is key to unlocking significant business growth, and driving positive social and environmental impacts, according to Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, released ahead of International Women’s Day
London (5 March 2018) – Women’s leadership in business is critical to driving significant economic opportunities and driving better performance, as well as broader, long-term benefits for society and the environment, according a new report released by WomenRising2030, an initiative launched by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, argues that, gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than US$12 trillion in new market value linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals).
“We are at a tipping point when it comes to equality in the workplace,” said Marisa Drew, CEO of Credit Suisse’s Impact Advisory and Finance Department who is featured in the report. “Business benefits when all employees have a shared vision of the future – one that is fairer, more inclusive and sustainable. This report provides the business case for gender-balanced leadership to help propel these conversations in boardrooms and across the workplace.”
In 2017, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission showed in its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, there is a compelling financial incentive for pursuing sustainable business models: unlocking more than US$12 trillion per year and up to 380 million jobs by 2030. This new report, “Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals,”showsthat women leaders are accelerators, helping companies unlock this ‘economic prize’ associated with pursuing the Global Goals – 17 objectives to end hunger, poverty, and inequality, and effectively tackle climate change and resource degradation by 2030.
"Women’s leadership cannot be a ‘nice-to-have’ for business. Companies that continue to have male-dominated leadership will miss out on business opportunities unlocked by gender-balanced teams,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and member of the Business Commission. “At the current pace, it will take 217 years to achieve gender equality – and that’s bad news for economy and society. We at Unilever understand the importance of gender-balanced leadership and investments across our value chains. Women’s leadership makes good business sense."
Better Leadership, Better World identifies six leadership competencies critical to successfully developing business opportunities in line with the Global Goals: long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management, and social inclusiveness. Research highlighted in the report underscores that women in business can play a critical role in deploying these six competencies within more gender-balanced leadership teams.
A number of studies support this argument, showing there are compelling financial incentives for companies to achieve gender balance across all levels. One study found If women were to participate in the economy identically to men, they could add as much as US$28 trillion to global annual gross domestic product by 2025. There is also evidence that businesses with more women in high-level management positions, particularly on directorial boards, are better able to shift their business’s focus from maximising short-term profit to achieving longer-term growth goals. Research shows that women leaders also tend to be collaborative and skilled at balancing multiple stakeholders’ interests to reach decisions that benefit all parties. Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to invest in renewable power generation, low-carbon products, and energy efficiency.
In addition to highlighting relevant research, the report features interviews with 25 senior women leaders from across diverse industries, including AXA, Credit Suisse, Mars, Symantec, Telenor, Thomson Reuters, and Unilever, as well as from major civil society organisations, including the African Development Bank, Ceres, the International Trade Union Confederation, the UN Global Compact, and Women’s World Banking.
Both technology and investment have been identified as drivers of the Global Goals, and industries where women’s leadership could help further accelerate achievement of the goals.
“We used to think that leading with purpose was a nice to have, however, today this has become a must have,” said Cecily Joseph, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Symantec Corporation. “Technology innovation is moving at lightning speed, and at the same time there is an underutilized opportunity to drive value for business and society. Female technology leaders can apply their unique and individual strengths to capitalize on this, creating businesses that outpace the competition and a world we can all be proud to be a part of.”
"There is incredible value in investing in women’s leadership, which is a priority for my company,” said Vineet Rai, founder Aavishkar-Intellecap Group, a leading impact investor based in India. “With the growth of gender-lens investing and expansion of the number of investments that promote women’s leadership globally, there is a positive shift happening in the investment world that cannot be ignored.”
The lack of women’s leadership is a global business issue. Women occupy just 15 percent of board seats worldwide. In the US, women account for an abysmal 5 percent of all CEOs among S&P 500 companies. And in the UK, the situation is worse: In 2016, there were more men named David (eight) than women (six) CEOs in the FTSE 1000. In the 1,557 largest listed companies in 20 Asia-Pacific countries, measured by market value, women account for just 12.4 percent of board seats. In Africa, women hold 14.4 per cent of board seats at the 300 largest listed companies. In 2016, one study of 1,259 listed companies in Latin American and Caribbean countries showed that on average 8.5 percent of board members were women.
There are promising signs that the winds are starting to shift. In January of this year, the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, sent a letter to Russell 1000 companies with fewer than two women directors – an estimated 367 companies – asking them to justify how the lack of gender diversity on their boards aligned with their long-term strategies and to report on their efforts to address this gender imbalance. At the same time, the UN announced it had achieved gender balance across senior management.
“Meaningful change can happen,” said Gail Klintworth, champion of WomenRising2030 and Business Transformation Director of the Business Commission. “First, we need to speak in a language that consistently highlights the positive impacts for individual companies when there is gender-balanced leadership. Second, we need to break out of the echo chamber. Business needs to have more open dialogue with both men and women to challenge the status quo, and companies need to prioritise these conversations at every level.”
This report is a call to action for more companies to integrate the Global Goals into their core business strategies, value the leadership competencies critical to achieving the goals, build gender-balanced leadership teams, and promote gender equality throughout their value chains.
Published on the Business and Sustainable Development Commission on March 5, 2018
By Anuradha Nagaraj
Women making clothes for global fashion brands in South Asia are often yelled at by their supervisors and have to take out loans to make ends meet, hundreds of garment workers' diaries showed.
A year-long study of more than 500 workers in Cambodia, India and Bangladesh found women often work overtime or borrow money from their husbands to feed their families and pay rent.
"I wouldn't have enough money if we ate a lot," read one entry by Chenda in Cambodia, where researchers found most workers were in their 20s and married, with some primary education and earned about $45 for a 48-hour week.
Fashion industry manufacturers have come under pressure to improve conditions and workers' rights, particularly after the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh.
The largely female workforce in South Asia is often underpaid, faces verbal and sexual harassment on a daily basis and is forced to work long hours, campaigners say.
The research, published on Tuesday, was carried out by transparency campaigners Fashion Revolution and The C&A Foundation, affiliated with retailer C&A, which partners with the Thomson Reuters Foundation on trafficking.
The diaries' aim, they said, was to show "the human cost" of fashion and improve workers' lives.
"This gives brands something to consider above and beyond their margins when deciding where to make their clothes," Eric Noggle, research director at Microfinance Opportunities, said in a statement.
"Their decisions have a real and meaningful impact on the lives of these women and their families."
Researchers found that India had the best living and working conditions and Bangladeshi women earned the least per hour, often forcing them to borrow money.
In Cambodia, despite earning the minimum wage and supplementing their income with overtime, researcher found that most workers were still short of money, which meant they had limited access to quality food and medical care.
"What we see are stories of endurance in face of a difficult combination of low wages and economic uncertainty," said Guy Stuart, executive director of Microfinance Opportunities.
Published on Thomson Reuters Foundation on February 21, 2018
The diaries are available below, and can be found at: http://workerdiaries.org/garment-worker-diaries-reports/
UNPO announces the release of a new report ‘Breaking the Silence: Gilgit Baltistan and the Human Rights Cost of CPEC’, which focuses on the plight of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan under the ongoing occupation of Pakistan. Discussing the issue within the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the report highlights the strategic location of Gilgit-Baltistan as an entry point into Pakistan, as well as Islamabad’s lack of consultation and complete disregard for the local indigenous population.
Additionally, information received by UNPO through members and NGO’s detail the ongoing commonplace practice of torture, enforced disappearance and denial of freedom of speech and belief taking place within Pakistan at the hands of the state authorities and agents.
Furthermore, the shifting alignment of US-Pakistan relations is explored, especially given the Trump administration’s recent decision to cut strategic aid to Pakistan unless it takes decisive action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Particularly, how will this pan out in regards to Pakistan’s increasing dependency on Chinese investment into CPEC - and thus China’s influence in the region.
Regarding CPEC, the report looks into the military’s increased involvement in the implementation process; how the project is affecting the Baloch, Sindh and the people of Gilgit Baltistan; and the high economic cost and increased debt Pakistan is finding itself in as a result of the project.
This report aims at raising awareness of the dire human rights situation ethnic minorities and indigenous people find themselves in within Pakistan, as well as of the complexities regarding the human rights dimension of the implementation of CPEC and its affiliated projects within Pakistan.
To read the report, please click here.
Published on UNPO on February 20, 2018
By Ilan Lior
Around 20,000 Israelis gathered alongside African asylum seekers in Tel Aviv to protest against the Israeli government's policy of deportations and imprisonment of the asylum seekers.
The protest took place in south Tel Aviv, where most of the city's asylum seekers live, and local residents have long complained about their presence there.
Protesters carried signs reading, "No to deportation," "We're all humans" and "Refugees and residents refuse to be enemies."
Togod Omer Adam, an asylum seeker from Sudan, spoke at the protest. "We did not choose to come here to south Tel Aviv. When people arrive at the border [between Israel and Egypt], they give you a one-way ticket to the central bus station in Tel Aviv."
He said that he understands the difficult situation this has created in south Tel Aviv, saying, "We are all victims in this story – the older Israelis residents and we, the asylum seekers. We all live here and for so long they have tried to make us fear one another."
Earlier this week, Israel began jailing citizens of African countries for refusing to leave of their own accord.
On Tuesday night, all asylum seekers at the Holot detention center began a hunger strike in response. Earlier in the day, seven Eritreans who held at Holot were summoned for pre-deportation hearings. After they refused to leave the country for either Eritrea or Rwanda, they were immediately transported to Saharonim Prison, apparently due to fear they would flee.
Two of the men survived torture in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula en route Israel, but their asylum requests were denied.
In line with new rules issued by the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, they will be held at Saharonim indefinitely unless they change their minds.
Hundreds of asylum seekers marched from Holot to Saharonim on Thursday in protest of the government's policies.
Published on Haaretz on February 24, 2018
By Sophie Edwards
The United Nations has warned that progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals for women and girls is “unacceptably slow,” and has called for better data as well as a special focus on unpaid care work and ending violence against women to drive change.
The monitoring report from UN Women, “Turning Promises into Action,” released Wednesday, assesses progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, specifically looking at efforts to achieve gender equality — a prominent and cross-cutting issue across all 17 goals, the report states, as well as a standalone goal in itself.
“Progress for women and girls remains unacceptably slow,” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in the report, adding that this “new data and analysis underlines that, unless progress on gender equality is significantly accelerated, the global community will not be able to keep its promise.”
While there has been some progress in recent years, the report concludes that the focus on women and girls provided by the SDGs is yet to turn into practice in most countries. For example, 15 million primary school-aged girls are out of school globally, compared to about 10 million boys; women hold only 24 percent of parliamentary seats; the gender pay gap stands at 23 percent; and gender-based violence is still a “global pandemic,” the report states.
It shines a light on huge disparities in the opportunities offered to women and girls living in the same countries. In India, for example, a woman aged 20–24 from a poor, rural household is 21.8 times less likely to have attended school, and 5 times more likely to have married before the age of 18, compared with a woman of the same age from a rich, urban household. Such disparities in education and opportunities also persist in developed nations, the report finds.
Furthermore, new and re-emerging challenges, such as conservative attitudes towards women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as climate change and environmental degradation, which are undermining “the livelihoods of millions,” are putting increasing pressure on women’s opportunities, the report warns.
It points to a number of key challenges holding back progress and concludes that “making every woman and girl count will require a revolution not only in gender data but also in policies, programming and accountability,” and offers recommendations to help member countries translate positive rhetoric about equality into practice.
Better data, statistics, and analysis on gender can be used to hold governments, companies, and other stakeholders accountable for their commitments to gender equality, UN Women advises. Additional financing and policies are also needed, it says.
Katja Iversen, head of Women Deliver, said the report contained “stronger messages, findings, and recommendations than we normally hear from a U.N. agency,” which she said is “very appropriate at a time when conservative winds are blowing” and threatening women’s health and rights.
She also commended the report for promoting an “integrated approach — looking at the whole girl and the whole woman and how the different dimensions of the SDGs are deeply intertwined with women’s well-being.”
“The evidence is clear: If we want to solve the world’s biggest problems, we need to break down the silos and work together across issues, sectors, and geographies — with women at the center,” she added.
Despite increasing attention to gender statistics in recent decades, effectively tracking and monitoring progress against the global goals is challenging in many countries for a number of reasons, including “uneven coverage” of gender indicators across the targets.
For example, UN Women finds that only 10 out of 54 gender-specific indicators are collected with enough regularity to be classified as Tier 1 by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group, which means they can be monitored in a reliable way at the global level. For another 24 gender indicators, “coverage is patchy and insufficient to allow global monitoring,” the report states, while 17 indicators are still being developed.
The report also points to a lack of internationally-agreed standards around how the data is collected as another fundamental challenge to effective monitoring.
Tanvi Jaluka, program coordinator for gender and development at the Center for Global Development, said the report was right to focus on the need for more and better data to monitor the SDG’s progress on women and girls.
“Holes in gender data exist because methodologies are not clear or because data standards are not actively being practiced by countries,” she said.
New areas of focus
Ensuring gender-equitable access to financial services is another major priority highlighted in the UN Women report, and one which Jaluka said currently receives too little attention.
“Unfortunately, a lot of attention is paid to the creation of jobs in the private sector and not to reducing the gender gap in financial services,” she said, adding that “countries should work with financial institutions to invest in and test innovative financial products, as well as deliver products that are specifically targeted toward women.”
“Taking these steps will promote productive labor activities, small and medium enterprise business growth, and savings and investment,” the CGD expert added.
The report also makes specific recommendations for change around unpaid care work which experts say is one of the key reasons why women, as the default providers of care, are less likely to have quality jobs, attend school, participate in political life, and become financially independent.
In South Africa, for example, providing free and universal child care for children aged 0 to 5 would “at least in part” pay for itself, the report suggests, by creating between 2.3 million new jobs and bringing 10 percent more women into the workforce. The associated tax and social security revenue from these new jobs would cover more than a third of the costs of investing in free early childhood education and care, it says.
The report also takes an indepth look at the issue of violence against women and girls, noting that despite the prevalence of violence against women inflicted by an intimate partner, there are still no laws to protect victims from such abuse in 49 countries. It offers a range of recommendations, including pushing countries to adopt and implement comprehensive legislation, and overhauling services for victims in order to reach the most marginalized.
Published on Devex on February 15, 2018
Vast numbers of Venezuelans are starving, deprived of essential medicines, and trying to survive in a situation that is spiralling downwards with no end in sight, according to a group of UN human rights experts*. They made an urgent plea to the government to take action to tackle the crisis, and called on the international community to adopt measures to avoid an unfolding tragedy of immense proportions.
“Millions of people are suffering a lack of food and essential medicines, a shortage of goods including those for personal hygiene, power cuts, and dire housing and living conditions. Conditions are worsening by the day putting many lives at risk,” the experts said in a joint statement.
“2016 estimates pointed to over 50 percent of the population facing extreme poverty, a figure that has undoubtedly increased when taking into account the reported 2,400 percent inflation of 2017.
“Venezuelans are suffering multiple breaches of their human rights,” the experts said. “Many people are suffering from lack of food and malnutrition, while the health situation has reached unbearable levels, especially for patients with chronic and terminal diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer.
“Health centres continue to report serious shortages of medicines, basic equipment and medical supplies causing many preventable deaths. Even essential health services like kidney dialysis are unavailable in many parts of the country, affecting the health and putting at risk the lives of 15,000 people with kidney disease.
“By the end of last year, a family needed to earn the minimum wage 63 times over, simply to buy basic food. Other statistics suggest that the country now has 1.3 million undernourished people, and an average of five to six children dying every week from malnutrition,” said Hilal Elver, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
“Financial constraints, do not exempt States of their core obligations and needed austerity measures should not affect the minimum content of economic, social and cultural rights,” said one of the experts, Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health.
“In terms of the right to health, States must ensure, at the very least, essential primary health care for everyone and the provision of essential medicines, especially for medically vulnerable groups.”
Leilani Farha, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, drew attention to reports of forced evictions, adding to the dire circumstances people were already facing.
“We have received information that individuals and families have been forcibly evicted from their homes with excessive use of force, and rendered homeless,” she said. “Many homes have been demolished and personal belongings confiscated or destroyed. Due process and rule of law have been abandoned in these cases.”
The experts noted that a lack of updated official data on food, health and power cuts made it impossible to assess the full scale of the crisis and whether the Venezuelan Government was protecting and fulfilling its international obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“We call on the Government to address the appalling living conditions, tackle the food and health crisis, and to restore electricity,” the experts said. “If necessary, the Government should seek international cooperation to ensure the rights of Venezuelans are protected.
“We also urge the Government to re-examine the policies and decisions that have been taken that have brought Venezuela, a wealthy country, to this critical human rights situation.”
The experts added: “We cannot fail to note that these violations of economic, social and cultural rights come in parallel with the weakening of democratic institutions, the persecution of political opponents and an overall disrespect for civil and political rights in the country.”
In December 2017, several UN experts wrote to the Government of Venezuela, raising concerns over the situation regarding extreme poverty and economic, social and cultural rights. Their letter and the Government’s reply will be made public in the following link: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/ before the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, which starts on 26 February.
Published on February 9, 2018
By Stefan Armbruster
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called on Papua New Guinea to tackle a long list of abuses in the country.
Praising PNG’s “welcomed openness” after inviting him for a one-day visit, the high commissioner issued a to-do list and emphasised the eyes of the world would be on the country during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in November.
After meeting with prime minister Peter O’Neill, Mr Zeid said PNG needed to tackle corruption, strengthen the rule of law and hold business accountable for human rights abuses. He also raised the issues of refugees on Manus, resource industry land leases, and associated police brutality, gender-based violence and sorcery.
“Papua New Guinea appears to be a country of contradictions. There are exemplary laws and policies in place to protect human rights, but they are reportedly often not enforced,” he said.
“It is a resource-rich country, but much of its population lives in abject poverty, with acute malnutrition rates in some areas comparable to Yemen and minimal access to quality healthcare and education.
“It has strong civil society activists but there is little room for them to influence Government policy.”
'Committed' to Human Rights Commission
In a statement issued before the High Commissioner’s visit, Mr O’Neill’s office thanked him for visiting PNG for the first time.
“The observations of the High Commissioner are comforting as this government has made a concerted effort to engage with all stakeholders, particularly civil society,” Mr O’Neill’s statement said.
“Our Government is committed to establishing a Human Rights Commission in our country. We are working through the details required to establish this important office and look to making an announcement soon before the matter is put to Parliament for discussion.
“As our country continues to advance, we will still experience the same human rights issues that are experienced by countries around the world.”
Reported actions 'shameful'
The creation of National Human Rights Track Court and a planned independent national human rights commission by the O’Neill government were praised by the UN commissioner.
“I was, however, troubled to hear about attacks against human rights defenders and journalists working on sensitive issues, particularly relating to land rights and corruption,” Mr Zeid said.
“I call on the government to protect the important watchdog function of civil society, and indeed treating them as partners in tackling difficult human rights challenges, including the endemic gender-based violence and horrific attacks against those accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea.”
Mr Zeid condemned as “unacceptable” leases to the resource industry that trampled on the rights of landowners, especially the Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL) and forced evictions.
“The reported actions of some major corporations engaged in the extractive industries in Papua New Guinea are shameful,” Mr Zeid said, citing also incidence of sexual violence with impunity in some cases.
“States have a responsibility to prevent, investigate, punish and redress human rights abuses within their territory, including abuses committed by private corporations. And business enterprises have an obligation to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and to address adverse human rights impacts of their activities.”
“States and businesses can flourish without trampling brutally on people’s human rights – but in Papua New Guinea, human rights advocates report that local communities rarely get any benefits from the extractive operations carried out by large corporations on their land,” he said.
Call to end death penalty
He also called for an end to the death penalty. There are currently eight men on death row, down from 12 after two were acquitted on appeal and another two died in prison.
PNG authorities have not carried out any executions due to lack of equipment and training.
During his visit the High Commissioner met with the prime minister, government officials, judiciary and civil society organisations.
PNG's nearest neighbour Australia is its largest aid donor and when elected to the UN Human Rights Council late last year said it would champion issues on behalf of the Pacific.
Published on SBS News on February 10, 2018
Read the full paper here.
Published on People's Policy Project on January 30, 2018