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UN Human Rights - Briefing Notes

UN Human Rights - Briefing Notes

2 May 2014

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville


1) South Sudan

This afternoon, the High Commissioner will brief the Security Council, at its request, in public session on her recent mission to South Sudan in the company of Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (a link to the High Commissioner's end-of-mission statement can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14550&LangID=E).

2) Ethiopia

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has just issued a press release expressing her concerns about the increasing restrictions placed on freedom of opinion and expression in Ethiopia, following the recent arrest and detention of six bloggers and three journalists.

The press release is available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14555&LangID=E

3) United States

The suffering of Clayton Lockett during his execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday 29th April, may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international human rights law. It also appears to run counter to the 8 th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states that “…nor cruel and unusual punishment [shall be] inflicted.” We note that the execution of a second man in Oklahoma, scheduled later on Tuesday, was stayed by the Governor, who has ordered a review of execution procedures and protocols.

The prolonged death of Clayton Lockett is the second case of apparent extreme suffering caused by malfunctioning lethal injections reported in 2014 in the United States. The other case was that of Dennis McGuire, executed by the State of Ohio on 16 January 2014 with an allegedly untested combination of drugs.

The UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have both previously called on the United States to review its execution methods in order to prevent severe pain and suffering. Most recently, in March 2014, the Human Rights Committee recommended the US ensure that lethal drugs used for executions originate from legal, regulated sources, and are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The apparent cruelty involved in these recent executions simply reinforces the argument that authorities across the United States should impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and work for abolition of this cruel and inhuman practice. Thirty-two out of 50 states in the US still have the death penalty in their laws (in addition to the US government and the US military). Eighteen states in the US have abolished the death penalty, most recently Maryland in 2013 and Connecticut in 2012.

The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.

4) Palestine

A month ago, on 2 April 2014, the State of Palestine deposited with the Secretary-General its instruments of accession to a number of international treaties. These include seven of the nine core human rights treaties plus one of the substantive protocols, as follows:

• The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
• The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
• The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
• The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
• The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
• The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
• The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
• The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict (CRC-OPAC)

Five of these treaties are set to enter into force today (namely CAT, CERD, CEDAW, CRPD and CRC); the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC-OPAC) will enter into force on 7 May; and the two Covenants (ICESCR and ICCPR) will come into force on 2 July. As of these dates, the State of Palestine will be formally bound by these treaties under international law.

This accession to seven core human rights treaties and a key protocol is a significant step towards enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights in Palestine. it is notable in a region with a high number of reservations to human rights treaties, that Palestine is acceding to eight human rights treaties without making a single reservation.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights commends the commitment of the State of Palestine to be bound by the international human rights standards contained in these treaties and to engage with the associated human rights treaty bodies which monitor their implementation. Her Office stands ready to assist the State of Palestine, at its request, to support implementation of its treaty obligations.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights works for the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of the international human rights treaties. The Office, in partnership with the Government of the State of Palestine and a broad range of stakeholders, has steadily worked towards ensuring integration of human rights into the Palestinian institutions and the planning and funding framework. In early 2014 a significant milestone was reached when the Guidance Document on Integrating Human Rights into Palestinian National Development Plans was endorsed in a signing ceremony in Ramallah.

5) Thailand / South East Asia

We are concerned about the lack of progress with an investigation into the disappearance of a prominent human rights defender in Thailand. Mr. Pholachi Rakcharoen (known as “Billy”), has been working to promote the land rights of indigenous people in Thailand. He was last seen on 17 April 2014 after he met with community representatives to discuss an upcoming lawsuit related to the burning of the homes and properties of Karen villagers by Kaengkrachan National Park officials Petchaburi Province in central Thailand in 2010 and 2011. The chief of the park has said that he had arrested and interrogated Billy on 17 April for possessing “illegal wild honey”, and that he had later released him, but he has not been seen since.

This case illustrates a disturbing pattern of killings and disappearances of environmental activists in South East Asia.

In recent years, several environmental activists well known for campaigning against large-scale mining projects were killed in the Philippines, including Mr. Marcelo Monterona, Ms. Juvy Campion and Mr. Jimmy Liguyon. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mr Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society leader and advocate against land grabbing disappeared on 15 December 2012 and his whereabouts remain unknown. The same year, Mr. Chut Wutty, an environmental activist well known for exposing illegal logging and corruption in Cambodia was shot dead.

We urge the relevant authorities in each of these countries to conduct thorough and independent investigations into these cases and to take measures to protect all human rights defenders, including those working on human rights relating to the environment, land and natural resources management.


ends

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