Category Archives: Human Rights

EU: concerns about sexual violence

Brussels 18.06.2021 “One year ago, the UN Secretary-General called for a cessation of violence both on battlefields and in homes. Yet his latest report shows that conflict-related sexual violence has continued unabated during the COVID-19 pandemic and remains a cruel and widespread tactic of war, torture, terror and political repression,

reads the Joint Statement by EU High Representative, Josep Borrell and UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten. The statement is issued on June 18, referring to the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

(Image: illustration).

“The report records cases of sexual violence against women detained for alleged violations of curfews and quarantines, as well as violations by armed groups that have taken advantage of the pandemic to intensify their operations and gain ground. The pandemic has also laid bare the intersecting inequalities that plague our societies, as compounded by conflict, displacement, and institutional fragility.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact on women and girls of recent events, including the use of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and the persistent threat and occurrence of sexual violence in many countries affected by conflict, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as documented in the UN Secretary-General’s report.

“The level of compliance by all parties to conflict with international obligations, including relevant Security Council resolutions, remains low. Yet this does not deter us. We continue our work to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda, to prevent conflict, and to uphold women’s rights, agency and safety.

“We urge all state and non-state parties to conflict to adopt specific commitments to address conflict-related sexual violence, which must include peacekeeping missions receiving the necessary budgetary allocations to properly implement their Women, Peace and Security mandates. The protection of survivors and a survivor-centred approach, including in terms of justice and reparations, is essential, particularly in fragile conflict-affected settings, and when survivors face multiple forms of stigma and discrimination.

“We are committed to keep strengthening our partnerships with civil society, women’s rights organisations, human rights defenders, peace builders and local and religious leaders. We look forward to the high-level meeting of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris on 30 June to 2 July, which provides an opportunity to accelerate the work to end sexual violence in peacetime, as well as during conflict by mobilising states and other stakeholders.

“Building back better in the wake of this pandemic requires political resolve and resources equal to the scale of the challenge. A gender-responsive and inclusive global recovery from COVID-19 should promote a new social contract in which no one in power is above the law, and no one rendered powerless is beneath its protection. Responses must be comprehensive, multisectoral, age-appropriate and survivor-centred, Survivors’ rights, needs and voices should inform national COVID-19 response and recovery plans.

“On this day, we call on all parties involved in armed conflicts to heed the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire and immediately end all acts of conflict-related sexual violence. We call on the international community to put the safety of women and girls first in the response to COVID-19. The goal of achieving safer, fairer, more secure and more peaceful societies will require the international community to demonstrate sustained vigilance and dedication”.

Borrell welcomes Azerbaijan steps

Bruxelles 13.06.2021 “The European Union welcomes the actions taken by Armenia and Azerbaijan and facilitated by Georgia that led to the release by Azerbaijan of 15 Armenian detainees and the handing over by Armenia of maps of mined areas on Saturday,June 12” read the statement of Statement by High Representative Josep Borrell on the latest developments between two countries. (Image above: Baku, Azerbaijan).

“These are important humanitarian and confidence building gestures by Baku and Yerevan that wil hopefully open the path for further cooperation between the sides and the ultimate release of all Armenian detainees, as well as the handing over of all available maps of mined areas to avoid further civilian casualties.

“The European Union and other international actors have actively encouraged moves in this direction and we urge further cooperation between the countries involved.

“We will continue to promote a durable and comprehensive settlement of the conflict, including where possible through support for stabilisation, post conflict rehabilitation and confidence building measures and reiterate our call on Armenia and Azerbaijan to reengage in substantive negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs”.

Belarus: Borrell demands investigation

Brussels 24.05.2021 Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell called for an international investigation after Belarus forced a Ryanair passenger jet to land in Minsk, in an apparent effort to arrest an activist journalist.
“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew,” Borrell said in a statement issued on Monday, May 24, the following day after the incident.

“An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules,” the statement went on.

The Belarusian Transport Ministry on Monday announced it had set up a commission to carry out its own investigation into the forced landing and would publish the results soon, according to a report by the Russian RIA news agency.

EU to discuss incident at summit
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said EU leaders will discuss the incident at an EU summit beginning on Monday, adding that the affair would not remain “without consequences.”

Michel called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the detained passenger – the 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich who worked for Poland-based online news service NEXTA, which broadcast footage of protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) last year during presidential elections mass protests.

An EU spokesman said the leaders would discuss “possible sanctions” on Belarus. High-level officials in the country have already been sanctioned by the bloc over the brutal repression of the opposition, protesters and journalists following disputed elections in August 2020. More than 34,000 people have been arrested in the country since August, and thousands have been brutally mistreated.

Protasevich was traveling by commercial airline RyanAir from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force sent a fighter jet. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted and escorted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich was returning to Vilnius from an economic conference in Greece with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Greek officials said.

The flight, which had been carrying some 170 passengers, should have taken about three hours. As it approached the border between Belarus and Lithuania, a MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept it.

Lukashenko, who is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered the fighter jet MiG29 to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport after a bomb threat alert, his press service said. According to the statement, Lukashenko, an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”

Japan promotes women

A cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers promoting women’s participation in politics has given up on including in an amendment bill a clause on numerical targets for female political candidates.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party opposed the idea of obliging political parties to set targets on the proportion of women in all candidates they field in elections, citing the difficulty in replacing many incumbent male lawmakers and local assembly members across the country with female candidates.
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) also claimed that it would be difficult to make it obligatory to set such numerical targets.

Instead, the bill to revise the law on the promotion of gender equality in the political field, which was compiled by the cross-party lawmaker group on Tuesday, included a clause for preventing sexual harassment against lawmakers, local assembly members and political candidates, in an effort to improve the environment of the political arena and boost the number of female politicians.

The bill also calls on the state and local governments to devise measures aimed at helping politicians balance their work with parenting or nursing care, such as expanding the scope of acceptable reasons for being absent from parliamentary or local assembly sessions.

Wakako Yata, a House of Councillors member from the Democratic Party for the People who serves as secretary-general of the cross-party group, told reporters, “We hope to work to continue revising the law, including for introducing a (gender) quota system.”

The group aims to submit the bill to the ongoing parliamentary session, which will run through June 16.

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Turkmen Ambassador denies domestic violence

Brussels 13.05.2021 Contacted by radio Sputnik, the Turkmen Embassy in Paris denied and described as “absolutely incorrect” the information published in Le Parisien, according to which the ambassador of this country is suspected of violence against his wife and daughter.

Turkmenistan’s diplomatic mission in France responded to reports in Le Parisien about alleged violence by Chokhrat Djoumaïev, Turkmen ambassador to France, against his wife and daughter.

According to a police source, Le Parisien wrote on May 13 that the wife of Turkmenistan’s ambassador to France had contacted the police to denounce violence inflicted on herself and her 19-year-old daughter by her husband.
The wife of Ambassador has contacted the police at around 5.30 p.m. to denounce the violence that this 46-year-old senior diplomat allegedly inflicted on her, as well as on her 19-year-old daughter. .

The facts would have occurred on May 12 in the XXVIth arrondissement of Paris, the daily said. The Turkmenistan Embassy in France is also located in this district.

According to Le Parisien, when the police arrived, the diplomat was not present at his home. The women have been relocated, again according to the daily.

Due to the diplomatic immunity of the alleged perpetrator and his victims, no investigation could be initiated.

The Paris prosecutor’s office told the daily that they had no “information to communicate at this stage” on the subject.

The Turkmen diplomat, who was not present at the family home when the police arrived, has diplomatic immunity as an ambassador, as does his family, which explains why, according to our information, the prosecution requested that no act or writing is carried out within the framework of the appeal of his wife.

World Press Freedom Day

Brussels 03.05.2021 This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind. The theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development.

World Press Freedom Day- In 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of the violations of press freedom. It is a reminder that publications and social media are censored, fined, suspended, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked and even killed worldwide.

EU: MEPs call to free Navalny

Brussels 29.04.2021 The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reiterate their call for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose sentencing is politically motivated and runs counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations.

The Resolution of the Europarliament reminds the Russian authorities and President Putin personally that they bear full responsibility for Alexei Navalny’s health and bodily integrity and they must take all necessary measures to protect his physical and mental well-being.

Alexei Navalny, Russian military build-up around Ukraine and the recent Czechia-Russia diplomatic row have been debated with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday, April 28.

Alexey Navalny, who was imprisoned earlier this year, was recently hospitalised. He began a hunger strike weeks ago, after the Russian authorities denied him access to medical personnel of his choice to examine physical pain and numbness he was experiencing in prison.

MEPs have also debated the latest Russian military build-up around Donbass and the recent diplomatic row between Czechia and Russia. The Czechia-Russia spat began after Czech authorities accused Russian intelligence officers of being involved in an explosion in an ammunition storage depot in Czechia in 2014, which killed two people. Following the row, several diplomats from both countries have been expelled.

EU on Unions of Poles in Belarus

Brussels 25.03.2021 “We are witnessing a further escalation of repression against the Belarusian people, including orchestrated campaigns of persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in Belarus” reads the Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on targeting the Union of Poles in Belarus.

“Recent developments have shown that the latest target of this policy is the Union of Poles in Belarus. On 23 March, Andżelika Borys, the newly re-elected Chairwoman of the Union of Poles in Belarus was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison. On 25 March, Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and a member of the board of the Union of Poles in Belarus has been detained. The offices of the Union of Poles in Belarus throughout the whole country have been searched. New criminal charges have been brought against the leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus, which can lead to a sentence up to several years in prison.

“The European Union expects Belarus to uphold its international commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We call on Belarus to release Ms Andżelika Borys and Mr Andrzej Poczobut immediately and unconditionally, along with all political prisoners currently detained.

“The European Union remains convinced that an inclusive national dialogue remains crucial to address the situation in Belarus. The EU stands ready to support and calls on the Belarusian authorities to use every opportunity offered, including the facilitation by the OSCE”.

EU actions for Human Rights

Brussels 22.03.2021 The EU Foreign Ministers Council today decided to impose restrictive measures on eleven individuals and four entities responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in various countries around the world. Together with the listing of four Russian individuals earlier this month, these 15 designations are part of the first broader package of listings under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. The sanctions signal the EU’s strong determination to stand up for human rights and to take tangible action against those responsible for violations and abuses. EU actions for Human Rights

The violations targeted today include the large-scale arbitrary detentions of, in particular, Uyghurs in Xinjiang in China, repression in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Libya, torture and repression against LGBTI persons and political opponents in Chechnya in Russia, and torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings in South Sudan and Eritrea.

Under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime established on 7 December 2020, the listed individuals and entities are subject to an asset freeze in the EU. In addition, listed individuals are subject to a travel ban to the EU. Moreover, persons and entities in the EU are prohibited from making funds available, either directly or indirectly, to those listed.

The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons and entities concerned, have been published in the Official Journal.

EESC: Asylum Pact IMBALANCES

Brussels 12.03.2021 The New Migration and Asylum Pact: short on solidarity and weighing heavy on states of first entry, according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The EESC is worried about the feasibility of a number of proposals contained in the pact. There are grave concerns that it may even add to the pressure on the already overwhelmed states of first entry, effectively turning them into “closed centres” for migrants at EU borders.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has welcomed the new Migration and Asylum Pact but says that the proposals it sets out will be hard to implement and cannot be called a clear step towards creating a resilient and forward-looking common EU strategy on migration and asylum.

In two recent opinions, in which it analyses several proposals for regulations governing asylum management and asylum procedures, the EESC states that the new pact might not be able to ensure the fair and efficient processing of asylum applications. These would need to be shared evenly among Member States, which would result in the swift granting of international protection at EU borders to those migrants that need it and the return of those that do not.

On the contrary, the burden of responsibility and inconvenience for the countries of first entry will only increase, since the proposed solidarity mechanism, which is supposed to regulate the control of migration flows at borders, is based on a hypothetical, voluntary system of solidarity.

This means that under the mechanism, Member States will be able to choose whether they wish to participate in the relocation or sponsored return of persons in an irregular situation. However, no mention is made of incentives to encourage countries to take part, or of clear-cut criteria for how much each country should contribute.

Coupled with the Pact’s new pre-screening and border control proposals, which are likely to result in complex and lengthy procedures at the EU’s external borders, the mechanism may lead to the transformation of first-entry countries into large pre-departure or detention centres, increasing the chances of human rights breaches and of pressure on host communities.

“The pact is not ideal. We wanted something with more initiative, something more supportive. But we have to endorse it. It has some fresh ideas after the failure of the Dublin process and it is a big package. It is extremely important for the future of the EU,” says Dimitris Dimitriadis, rapporteur for the EESC’s opinion on asylum management.

Mr Dimitriadis says the EESC is pleased that the regulations proposed in the Pact invoke the principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, but believes the solidarity obligations of the states of first entry to be disproportionate. The procedures provide no assurances for relocation. There are only mandatory border procedures without an automatic sharing mechanism. “Put simply, solidarity, in the form of relocation, cannot be voluntary. Solidarity needs to be automatic and it needs to be binding. We need to have mandatory relocations without a question mark, without red tape or bureaucracy hampering them.”

Panagiotis Gkofas, rapporteur for the opinion on asylum procedures under the new pact, is pessimistic about the outcome of the pact’s implementation: “Ultimately, the proposed regulations will place a huge burden on the Member States of southern Europe, with the inevitable consequence that the regulations will be inapplicable and will fail to achieve their intended result. These Member States will have no choice but to become either detention or pre-departure centres for human beings, for a period of up to six or seven months, if not more, until the outcome of the procedures is known, resulting in situations that are much worse than before.”

According to Mr Gkofas, Member States will end up being de facto forced “to reject many asylum applications, even those that meet the conditions for asylum to be granted, in order to avoid increasing numbers of people being held together in inhumane conditions”.

The legislation analysed in the opinions includes the proposals for a regulation on asylum and migration management and for a regulation addressing situations of migration crisis and force majeure. Three of the nine instruments contained in the new pact are also scrutinised: a new screening regulation; an amended proposal revising the asylum procedures regulation and an amended proposal for a recast Eurodac regulation.
The EESC recognises the importance of the proposals having the legal status of a regulation, which is binding and directly applicable in the Member States. In order to become a fully-fledged policy, however, all the relevant proposed regulations will need to be adopted concurrently.

Among other matters, the EESC discusses the proposed policy of return to countries of origin, which may be fraught with problems, as the EU will be forced to rely on the willingness of these countries, whether of origin or transfer – to collaborate. This is why those countries should be given clear incentives and disincentives

The EESC welcomes the introduction of a crisis and ‘force majeure’ component in the field of migration and asylum. While the crisis and ‘force majeure’ regulation provides a window of opportunity for binding solidarity, however, it covers procedural support rather than emergency solidarity measures. Solidarity is undermined by the complex and bureaucratic procedures required to implement it.
The EESC expresses concerns about the new border procedures, especially as regards protecting the right to request asylum. It also objects to the use of ill-defined legal concepts such as “security threat” and “public order” or the flawed concept of “countries with low asylum recognition rates”, which give rise to legal uncertainty.

In the EESC’s view, the proposals leave many questions unanswered, such as how and where people are going to be kept during the border procedure and how to avoid a state of legal limbo by guaranteeing the right to effective judicial protection.

The asylum procedure regulation should make solidarity mandatory when it comes to relocation: without such a provision and unless procedures are created to allow people to apply for asylum in EU Member States without the need to cross EU borders, in practical terms, the regulation will not work. Furthermore, the EESC urges the Commission to take special care of families with children and unaccompanied minors, stating that it is unacceptable for a child to only be considered as such under the age of 12 and not 18, which is contrary to international law.

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