Thailand: UN Human Rights Office welcomes progress on enforced disappearance case, urges government to do more

UNBANGKOK (13 November 2019) - The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia welcomes the issuance of arrest warrants for four persons linked to the abduction and killing of prominent Karen community rights activist Pholachi 'Billy' Rakchongcharoen.

On Monday, the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) obtained the warrants from the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct. DSI stated that the four accused including the former chief of Chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, had been charged with premeditated murder, coercion, deprivation of liberty and extortion.

"The DSI’s efforts to bring the alleged perpetrators of the murder of Billy to justice are an important step in ending the impunity that has surrounded this case for four years," said Cynthia Veliko, Regional Representative of the UN Human Rights Office in Bangkok.

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Malaysia: Press Conference by UN Human Rights Chief calls on Malaysians to spurn racial, religious hatred

UNKUALA LUMPUR (5 October 2019) - UN Human Rights Chief calls on Malaysia to celebrate the kaleidoscope of ethnicity, religion, language and other identities that make the nation so special by standing up for the rights of others, especially those whose beliefs, background or other status differ.

But, she said, "please be suspicious of, and spurn, any efforts to stoke racial or religious hatred, online and offline. It is easy to create divisions in society but so difficult to repair the social fabric once it has been damaged. Only when we seek to protect the human rights of all of us can we hope for lasting stability and prosperity.


Enforced disappearances: UN experts urge States to stop looking the other way"

UNGENEVA (11 September 2019) - States around the world must act urgently to prevent enforced disappearances rather than looking the other way, said a group of UN human rights experts.

"It is our responsibility to alert the Human Rights Council and the international community as a whole, of what we are witnessing as a Working Group," said Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the Working Group, after presenting the group’s latest annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Duhaime said the global trend in deteriorating human rights was underlined by a number of worrisome developments in the area of enforced disappearances.


THAILAND: UN Human Rights Office Recognizes Progress in Enforced Disappearance Case

UN BANGKOK (9 September 2019) - The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia recognizes the important progress by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation in the enforced disappearance case and recently confirmed murder of Karen community rights activist Pholachi 'Billy' Rakchongcharoen.

"The location and identification of Billy’s remains is a significant step in the criminal investigation of this heinous crime and the right to truth for the family," said Cynthia Veliko, the Office’s Regional Representative.


MEDIA STATEMENT: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Indonesia (Papua and West Papua)

UN GENEVA (4 September 2019) - "I have been disturbed by escalating violence in the past two weeks in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, and especially the deaths of some protestors and security forces personnel."

"There should be no place for such violence in a democratic and diverse Indonesia, and I encourage the authorities to engage in dialogue with the people of Papua and West Papua on their aspirations and concerns, as well as to restore internet services and refrain from any excessive use of force. Blanket internet shutdowns are likely to contravene freedom of expression and limiting communications may exacerbate tension."

Pholachi Rakchongcharoen was last seen alive 17 April 2014 in the custody of national park officials who detained him at the checkpoint of Kaeng Krachan National Park for allegedly possessing wild honey.


OHCHR says Human Rights Must Be Front and Centre in Climate Action

UN BANGKOK/SUVA (4 September 2019) - Global efforts to confront the wide-ranging effects of climate change must take a human rights-based approach if they are to be effective in dealing with the crisis, the UN Human Rights Offices for the Pacific and for South-East Asia said at the occasion of Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2019.

Climate change undermines people’s access to clean air, drinking-water, food and shelter, and protecting the environment is a fundamental pre-requisite for the enjoyment of all human rights.

"All States, jointly and individually, have human rights obligations with respect to climate change mitigation and adaptation," said Cynthia Veliko, Representative of OHCHR’s South-East Asia Regional Office. "Mitigation efforts must be enhanced ... if we are to avoid a human rights catastrophe."


Torture and forced child labour: UN experts find Nepal violated human rights

UN GENEVA (27 August 2019) - Nepal must remove all existing obstacles that hinder victims of torture and forced labour in filing complaints, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a decision published today in Geneva.

The Committee’s decision came in response to an individual complaint from Mr. Bholi Pharaka (pseudonym), a member of an indigenous group who was a domestic worker in Kathmandu from the age of 9. He was forced to work every day from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m., not allowed to go to school and never received payment for his work. He was also subjected to physical and psychological abuse. After two years, he escaped, but soon thereafter was falsely accused of theft by his former master, arrested and tortured during police interrogation.

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Sri Lanka: Simmering ethno-religious tensions must not be ignored, says UN rights expert

UN GENEVA/COLOMBO (26 August 2019) - Simmering ethno-religious tensions in Sri Lanka require urgent action by the authorities to strengthen respect for freedom of religion or belief in Sri Lanka, says UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed.

"There is a serious deficit of trust among ethno-religious communities in Sri Lanka following the deadly Easter Sunday bomb blasts and subsequent mob violence this year, and these tensions must not be ignored," Shaheed said, presenting a report at the end of a 12-day mission to the country.

While the Government promptly brought the situation more or less under control after the bomb blasts, many religious communities remain very concerned about their security because of incitement to hatred and violence by some religious extremists.


Malaysia vastly undercounting poverty, says UN rights expert

UN KUALA LUMPUR (23 August 2019) - Malaysia lays claim to the world’s lowest national poverty rate by using an unduly low poverty line that does not reflect the cost of living and by excluding vulnerable populations from its official figures, said UN human rights expert Philip Alston at the end of a mission to the country.

“While Malaysia has achieved undeniably impressive growth in reducing poverty in the last 50 years, the official claim that poverty has been eradicated, or exists merely in small pockets in rural areas, is incorrect and has crippled policymaking,” Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said as his 11-day visit ended.

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UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar Calls for Justice for Victims of Sexual and Gender-based Violence

UN NEW YORK (22 August 2019) - The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said the country’s military must stop using sexual and gender-based violence to terrorise and punish ethnic minorities. The Mission said the brutal tactic was still being employed in Kachin and Shan states, and was so severe in Rakhine State, during the "clearance operations" of 2017, that it was a factor indicating the Myanmar military’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya population.

The Mission made its conclusions in a new report, released Thursday in New York, that soldiers routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people in blatant violation of international human rights law.

"Extreme physical violence, the openness in which it is conducted … reflects a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation and the deliberate infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering on civilians," the report said.


Myanmar: UN Fact-Finding Mission exposes military business ties, calls for targeted sanctions and arms embargoes

UN GENEVA (5 August 2019) - The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar urged the international community on Monday to sever ties with Myanmar’s military and the vast web of companies it controls and relies on. The Mission said the revenues the military earns from domestic and foreign business deals substantially enhances its ability to carry out gross violations of human rights with impunity.

The report, for the first time, establishes in detail the degree to which Myanmar’s military has used its own businesses, foreign companies and arms deals to support brutal operations against ethnic groups that constitute serious crimes under international law, bypassing civilian oversight and evading accountability.

The Mission said the U.N. Security Council and Member States should immediately impose targeted sanctions against companies run by the military, known as the Tatmadaw. It encouraged consumers, investors and firms at home and abroad to engage with businesses unaffiliated with the military instead. The Mission also called for the imposition of an arms embargo.


Myanmar: Human rights violations affecting region and ASEAN must apply pressure, says UN expert

UN GENEVA/SEOUL (30 July 2019) - Evidence of serious, systematic infringements of the right to privacy in South Korea has been found by UN Special Rapporteur Joseph Cannataci, together with significant progress on the issue.

"The evidence I have found relates to infringements by the National Police Agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Defence Security Command up to late 2016 and possibly early 2017," said UN privacy expert Cannataci, presenting a statement at the end of a visit to the country.


Myanmar: Human rights violations affecting region and ASEAN must apply pressure, says UN expert

UN KUALA LUMPUR (18 July 2019) - Human rights violations in Myanmar are creating increasingly serious issues for South and South East Asia, a UN expert said today, urging stronger action by regional countries to address potential peace and security concerns.

"Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee cited the nearly 1.5 million refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, trafficking and smuggling of people from Myanmar and the drug trade within and outside the region as examples of deepening concerns."


Sri Lanka: UN expert to assess rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

UN GENEVA (16 July 2019) - UN Special Rapporteur Clément Nyaletsossi Voule will visit Sri Lanka from 18 to 26 July 2019 to assess rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the country.

"We have seen a commendable effort to expand civic space in Sri Lanka, the establishment of strong and independent institutions, and noticeable strides towards truth and reconciliation in the country," Voule said. "I hope that my visit will aid in the further strengthening of public freedom, at a conjuncture where the country has had to face important challenges, including the recent and tragic Easter terrorist attacks."


Myanmar: Statement by UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore

UN GENEVA (10 July 2019) - "The Government of Myanmar can and must take urgent steps to reverse this situation and to end the statelessness of the Rohingya. They must establish a credible process for recognition of their citizenship status and the conditions conducive for the return of all refugees and IDPs to their places of origin in compliance with international law," Gilmore said.

"Furthermore, the Government must act to bring the continuing violations of human rights to an end, and ensure that the grave crimes that have been committed against the Rohingya, and now the ethnic Rakhine community, are properly, transparently, impartially and fully investigated and that those who are responsible for such crimes are held accountable according to the rule of law."


Kashmir: No steps taken by India or Pakistan to improve human rights situation

UN GENEVA (8 July 2019) - A UN human rights report on the situation in India-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019, says the number of civilian casualties reported over the 12-month period may be the highest in over a decade, and noted that neither India nor Pakistan have taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised in an earlier UN report.

“The new report, published on Monday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, describes how tensions over Kashmir – which rose sharply after a deadly suicide bombing in February targeting Indian security forces in Pulwama -- continue to have a severe impact on the human rights of civilians, including the right to life.”


Myanmar: UN expert 'fears for civilians' after Internet shutdown

UN GENEVA (24 June 2019) - The Myanmar Government’s shutdown of mobile data networks in nine townships could have serious implications for human rights and humanitarian monitoring in the conflict areas of Rakhine and Chin States, a UN expert warned on Monday.

“As there is no media access and serious restrictions on humanitarian organisations in the conflict-affected area, the entire region is in a blackout,” said Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. “I fear for all civilians there, cut off and without the necessary means to communicate with people inside and outside the area.”


Opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

UN The eyes of the world are on the Council as this June session opens. Over 100 reports are due to be examined. Panel discussions will delve deeply into many human rights situations and themes. They include topics crucial to women’s enjoyment of human rights in the context of work, old age and climate change; targeted surveillance and the private surveillance industry; mental health; and other essential areas of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. There will also be interactive dialogues regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Sudan and Venezuela, among many other issues. I will review aspects of my mission last week to Venezuela during our dialogue on 5 July.


North Korea: Dark clouds on the horizon of peace without rights approach

UN GENEVA/SEOUL (21 June 2019) – “North Korea is at a historical crossroads. If the right and just decisions are made, a peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula will appear on the horizon,” said UN human rights expert Tomas Ojea Quintana.

The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, urged the Government to eliminate corporate tax loopholes, reassess its dependence on dubious infrastructure projects and land concessions, and invest in education, health and social support.


UN Human Rights Office: Leave Behind Prejudice and Fear to Change Narrative on Migration

UN BANGKOK (19 June 2019) – The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia is calling for a human rights-based approach to refugee movements in Asia that emphasizes shared values over differences which fuel fear and prejudice of migrants. Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the UN Human Rights Office Regional Representative, Cynthia Veliko, calls for strong protection of the rights of all refugees and other people on the move.

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UN expert calls for reform of poverty-driving policies in Lao PDR

UN GENEVA (19 June 2019) – The Lao People’s Democratic Republic should urgently adopt widespread reforms to alleviate poverty, protect the rights of people in poverty and ensure economic growth benefits the poorest, an independent UN expert said in a report released today.

The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, urged the Government to eliminate corporate tax loopholes, reassess its dependence on dubious infrastructure projects and land concessions, and invest in education, health and social support.


Maldives: Moment of political hope at risk from environmental and fundamentalist threats to culture, says UN expert

UN MALE (18 June 2019) - A UN human rights expert says the Republic of the Maldives should grab the chance offered by a moment of reform and optimism to strengthen Maldivian culture as a key response to the existential threat of climate change, and as a vital resource for combating fundamentalism and extremism.

Welcoming the country’s renewed engagement with the UN human rights system, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, said after a 10-day visit that the government’s ambitious reform programme could greatly benefit human rights.

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UN experts urge ILO to back safe and healthy work conditions as a 'fundamental' right

UN GENEVA (13 June 2019) – UN experts today urged the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to immediately recognise and adopt safe and healthy working conditions as one of its fundamental principles and rights at work.

"Millions of workers around the world suffer from diseases and disabilities due to unsafe and unhealthy conditions of work. It is estimated that approximately two million workers die prematurely each year because of an unsafe or unhealthy workplace," the experts* said as the ILO held its centenary conference in Geneva.


Sexual orientation and gender identity: policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, says UN expert

UN GENEVA (12 June 2019) – Information about the lived realities of LGBT people around the world is, at best, incomplete and fragmented, but in most countries it is simply non-existent, said the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a report due to be presented to the Human Rights Council on 24 June, Victor Madrigal-Borloz urged States to collect data in an effort to understand the root causes to and eliminate violence and discrimination against LGBT people.


“UN experts stress links between digital space and human rights at RightsCon, Tunis

UN GENEVA (13 June 2019) – Human rights must be embedded in the design of our digital age, say UN experts* attending RightsCon 2019 in Tunis this week.

As the conference on human rights in the digital age got underway, David Kaye, Michel Forst and Clément Voule, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, the situation of human rights defenders, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, said States must ensure that human rights are respected and protected in the digital arena.


“UN human rights experts call for independent probe into Philippines violations

UN GENEVA (7 June 2019) – UN human rights experts* today called on the United Nations to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, citing a sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights across the country, including sustained attacks on people and institutions defending human rights.

“Given the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations we call on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into the human rights violations in the Philippines,” said the independent experts, referring to the body made up of 47 UN Member States elected by the UN General Assembly.


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