GENEVA (26 February 2016) – A group of six United Nations human rights experts* today urged President Barack Obama to ensure proper investigation and full accountability for human rights violations in his plans to close the Guantánamo Bay detention centre.
“It is not just about closing the detention facility and dealing with the current group of detainees,” the UN experts on counterterrorism, torture, independence of the judiciary, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and international equitable order said, while welcoming President Obama’s announcement made earlier this week.
“It is about closing a chapter in the United States’ history that began in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the chapter of the ‘global war on terrorism’, which justified a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations,” they noted.
“In order to turn the page completely, the US authorities must ensure independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions into all credible allegations of violations carried out within this context, such as extraordinary rendition, torture and secret detention,” the group of experts stressed. “And the findings should be made public, and those responsible must be brought to justice.”
The human rights experts expressed the hope that the plans to close the Guantánamo detention facility are implemented without delay so all detainees can be transferred to regular mainland detention facilities.
“Any detainees must be held under the conditions that respect international standards,” they stated, “including those under international humanitarian law and the ‘Mandela Rules’ – the Revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs).”
“In particular, no individual must be held incommunicado, or in prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. Detainees must be legitimately charged and prosecuted before ordinary courts in line with the norms of international due process and fair trial standards,” they said. “Otherwise, they must be released, including with due regard to the principle of non-refoulement, and, if appropriate, afforded adequate reparation.”
“Above all, the closure of Guantánamo is an absolute necessity and must be a fundamental priority of both the President and Congress,” they concluded.
(*) The experts: Mr. Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Mónica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on independence of the judiciary; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Ms. Houria Es-Slami, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and Mr. Alfred De Zayas, UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
(Juba, 26 February 2016): UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang, today concluded a two-day visit to South Sudan, calling on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and grant safe and unhindered humanitarian access.
ASG Kang travelled to South Sudan with the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on 25 February, where they met Government officials and visited communities affected by the conflict. During her mission, Ms. Kang also met humanitarian partners and the diplomatic community and visited Malakal, where she witnessed the devastating impact of the armed violence that took place on 17 and 18 February in the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site.
“I am outraged by what I have seen in Malakal,” declared the Assistant Secretary-General. “Civilians who had sought safety in the PoC have been attacked, killed, traumatised and displaced once more, with whole sections of the PoC completely and systematically burnt down and destroyed, including medical clinics and schools. Those responsible for these heinous acts must be held to account.”
The two-year conflict in South Sudan has taken a brutal and deadly toll on civilians. Recently, fighting has spread to new areas, including in Wau and Mundri, and there continue to be reports of people being raped and killed and of homes and crops being destroyed and damaged by fighting.
“Despite the peace agreement, civilians in this country continue to face destitution, destruction, death and devastation, and the humanitarian needs continue to grow,” said Ms. Kang. “This is unacceptable. The fighting must stop now. People caught in the middle must be protected and humanitarians granted immediate and unhindered access to all those who need aid and protection.”
ASG Kang appealed to the international community to act immediately to avert an even greater tragedy in South Sudan, as humanitarian needs are higher now than ever.
The South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2016 is currently only 6.5 per cent funded, including the US$21 million of Central Emergency Response Fund allocation announced by the Secretary-General in Juba on 25 February, leaving a gap of nearly $1.21 billion dollars. Some $220 million is needed without delay to ensure that vital supplies can be procured and delivered during the dry season, before nearly 60 per cent of the country is again unreachable by road.
Juba, 17th February 2016: UNESCO has welcomed the establishment of an autonomous Media Regulatory Authority in South Sudan, to oversee the media industry in terms of regulation, media development and issuance of broadcasting licenses. This is expected to contribute to a vibrant, independent and pluralistic media in South Sudan, by curbing the increased rate of incidents affecting journalists, end impunity on crimes against journalists as well as create an enabling environment for the media to operate in.
Pledging its continued support to the development of the South Sudan media sector, UNESCO, the UN lead Agency on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, stressed the need for media donors and development partners to join efforts in supporting the full operationalization of the Media Authority and the establishment of the 8 specialized committees as outlined in the Media Authority Act, 2013.
This follows a visit to UNESCO office in Juba on Wednesday 17th February 2016 by the newly appointed Media Authority Board members. Reaffirming their commitment to the tasks and mandate given to them, the Acting chairperson Ms. Atong Majok Kur said that inspite of the financial challenges they are facing related to lack of an office space to operate from, the necessary office staff, difficulties in mobility and ICT facilities to enable real time communication with the media stakeholders, the Media Authority is now in place and ready to engage with all the media stakeholders in execution of its duties.
The Media Authority Board Members also raised with UNESCO the need to be supported in exposing them to good practices through a regional study tour, to a well-established Media Authority such as the Media Council of Kenya and Tanzania. In addition, they also expressed the urgent need to put in place a Media Authority Strategic Plan with the support of experienced and successful Media authorities from the neighbouring countries.
Noting the important role the Media Authority is expected to play in the South Sudan media sector, UNESCO emphasised to the board members the need to safeguard the independence and integrity of the newly established institution, uphold the tenets of media freedom and safeguard the media, from clawback clauses such as the Media Authority Act Chapter 1. 5 which gives the interpretation of defamation to have the meaning assigned to it in the 2008 Penal Code.
In this regard, UNESCO reiterated its earlier call to have this interpretation of defamation as criminal offence, replaced with the definition provided under the same Media Act Chapter 28, which gives the interpretation of defamation as a civil offence in line with other internationally accepted media laws. UNESCO reiterated its commitment to support the Media Authority’s key role in ensuring South Sudan is no longer listed in the global impunity index and ranked among the countries deteriorating in the media freedom rating.
South Sudan is one of the 5 Countries that have been implementing the UN Plan of Action on Safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. In 2015, 7 journalists were killed which greatly contributed to the country being ranked as second worst in Africa and 5th globally, on the Committee to Protect Journalists global impunity index. Reporters without Borders also ranked South Sudan as 125/180 countries on 2015 World Press Freedom Index, 6 positions down from the previous year. The Press Freedom Index reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. The Newly established South Sudan Media Authority is therefore expected to help in improving the country’s ratings.
Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), will visit Chad and Cote d’Ivoire on February 21-27, to engage with policymakers and other stakeholders in both countries and to underline the strong relationship with the institution’s African member countries.
The visit to Chad will provide an opportunity to reaffirm the close relation with the country over the last few years. In N’Djamena, Mr. Furusawa will meet with President Idriss Déby Itno and other senior officials, the private sector, and representatives of the civil society.
“I very much look forward to productive meetings with President Déby and his teams as they address important challenges, notably the combined effects of a sharp and persistent decline in international oil prices and elevated regional security threats,” Mr. Furusawa said ahead of the trip. “Despite these challenges, the economic performance has been broadly satisfactory and the Fund stands ready to continue to provide financial and technical assistance to help Chad tackle its immediate challenges and achieve its developmental aspirations,” Mr. Furusawa added.
In Cote d’Ivoire, the Deputy Managing Director will meet with President Ouattara and Prime Minister Kablan Duncan, as well as private sector executives, civil society representatives, and students. The visit to will allow Mr. Furusawa to discuss the country’s exceptional economic performance and the ways to sustain it and ensure that it benefits all.
“Cote d’Ivoire has achieved an impressive economic performance over the past four years, with growth averaging 8.9 percent per year. I commend the authorities for this accomplishment and look forward to ours discussions.” Mr. Furusawa said.
(Juba, 19 February 2016): The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan is deeply saddened by the tragic killing of at least 18 people, including two aid workers, and appalled by the destruction of humanitarian facilities and civilian shelters, during the violence in Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site.
The Humanitarian Coordinator sends his deepest condolences to the families of those killed and calls on all those responsible for this violence to be held to account and for all those with influence to ensure there is a return to calm.
“The events which took place on 17 and 18 February in Malakal Protection of Civilians site are utterly reprehensible,” said Mr. Eugene Owusu, Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan. “The PoC site was established as a place of refuge for people fleeing for their lives. It is absolutely unacceptable that this place of refuge has become a site where people have been killed and injured.”
Humanitarian partners are rapidly mobilizing additional supplies to respond to the new needs generated by the violence and have already set up temporary water points and treated people wounded during the fighting.
Prior to the violence, there were more than 47,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Malakal PoC. Several thousand IDPs have fled from the PoC to Malakal town, while thousands of others have relocated away from sectors affected by fighting and fires to other areas within the site.