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ORGANIZATION FOR DEFENDING VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE, Human Rights Council 33rd Session – September 2016
Item 3 - Terrorist and Islamophobic attacks in Europe
World has witnessed numerous terrorist attacks in a number of European countries including France, Germany and Belgium in which many civilians are killed and injured. The killings, done in the name of Islam, create a tense and troubling atmosphere for Muslim minorities and further make them vulnerable to abuse and violence.
In France alone, about 10 deadly attacks have been reported within the past two years including: Bataclan attacks (2015 November) that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded; explosion outside Stade de France (July 2016) few hours before Euro 2016 game between France and Iceland; Charli Hebdo attacks (2015 January) that began with a massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo’s satirical magazine; Nice terror attack (July 2016) in which an Al-Nusrah terrorists drove through crowds killing 84 people and the beheading of an elderly priest by ISIS supporters in July 2016.
The attacks are not limited to France, other European countries have been subjects of similar attacks mostly committed by ISIS associated terrorists. The incidents definitely aggravate the feelings of xenophobia that disproportionately target Muslim minorities in Europe, despite the fact that a huge plethora of Muslims have publicly rejected the attacks. For instance 30,000 Muslims gathered in the UK to condemn religious extremist attacks done under the banner of Islam. In accordance with recent universally recognized research results, it has been illustrated that in 11 countries with significant Muslim Populations, the majority of people have expressed hatred toward ISIS.
While Muslims have expressed their disdain of ISIS, scientific research results indicate that in four European countries (Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece), over 60 percent of the population (%65-%72) hold unfavorable views of Muslims, which indicate an alarming rate of Islamophobia as widespread in parts of Europe.
Manifestations of Islamophobia vary form hate speech against minorities and Muslims, schools, on the Internet and social media, attacks against Muslims, their properties and places of worship. This further extends to discrimination against minorities in the justice system and by the law enforcement officials and unequal opportunities for employment and education that further maginalise Muslim minorities.
Considering the spread of negative sentiments against Muslims in Europe and the fact that a huge population of Middle Eastern refugees have complicated the situation in the continent, our organization expresses its deepest concerns on the increase of Islamophobic cases and violence against Muslims round the world, In particular in Europe where Muslim refugees are attempting to integrate into the western society.
We call upon the States, especially the refugee host countries, to recognize the need to counter Islamophobia and any emergence of Islamophobic movements
We call on the host countries to study the effectiveness of current strategies to counter marginalization of religious minorities and produce more inclusive policies that will lead to an enhanced integration of minorities.
We call on the Human Rights Council to ensure better implementation of the convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and improve existing mechanisms with regards to it’s supervisory functions, especially in refugee host countries.
Item 3: Foreign Fighters in Iraq and SyriaThe issue of preventing the use of mercenaries has been discussed in the Human Rights Council for years. It has been raised by the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries and later by the working group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of people to self-determination.
Unfortunately, the mercenary phenomenon has casted its ill shadow on Iraq and Syria for more than a decade, leaving countless casualties behind. The ISIS foreign fighters have been making a collection out of the unprecedented crimes committed against the vulnerable civilians of the two countries.
Various forms of heinous crimes have been and are being committed against the civilians including women and children and anyone who disobeys the terrorists’ ideological commands. The atrocities include, summary execution, burning alive, rape, torture, selling women and children as slaves, and using children as soldiers and suicide bombers. The crimes, which are mostly committed against members of the Yazidi minority, are considered by a UN panel as genocide. According to the reports about 19,000 people have died in Iraq in less than 2 years- about 90 percent of whom are Muslims.
- In line with the Security Council resolution 2170 (2014) on foreign fighters, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) expresses concern over the ongoing crimes committed by the foreign fighters and condemns any recruitment of fighters by ISIS, Al-Nusrah and other terrorist organizations.
- Regarding the ongoing recruitment attempts by terrorists, ODVV echoes the Security Council’s call on the States to take practical steps to prevent the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.
- ODVV also calls on States to take measures to stop the financial aids for the terrorist groups.
Referring to the conclusion made by the UN Panel that considers the crimes committed by ISIS against Yezidis as genocide:
- We urge the Human Rights Council to demand that states selling any form of weaponry to states with potential links to ISIS to put an immediate end to this illegal arms trade.
- ODVV calls on Iraq and Syria to consider the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over the current situation and facilitate the process of bringing human rights perpetrators to justice.
- ODVV would also recommend an ad hoc tribunal to be established urgently to address the genocide committed by ISIS terrorists.
• http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54247#.V6pcpXGUeSw. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-death-toll-18-800-killed-iraq-2-years-u-n499426
Item 3: the Refugee Crisis TodayWar and conflict in different parts of the world which in the recent years have further escalated, particularly in the region of the Middle East, have resulted in crises such as asylum seeking and migration, which has been unprecedented since the end of the Second World War. According to existing data, in recent years, war, violations of human rights, under-development, climate change and natural disasters have forced more people to leave their homes. More than 60 million people, half of which are children, have fled war, torture and persecution and are currently refugees or internally displaced. Furthermore, another 225 million people are migrants who have left their countries in search of better opportunities or just seeking survival.
The United Nations clearly warns, that war, violence, and persecution cause homelessness, and asylum seeking of one out of every 122 people on this planet. The UNHCR’s annual studies indicate that the displacement levels around the world have increased more than before, and the levels have reached 65 million.
According to official figures, on average 34 thousand people become displaced each day. Half of them are women and or children under eighteen.
The nature of asylum seeking and migration alone threatens individuals with human trafficking. During their temporary stay in host countries, asylum seekers, refugees and the displaced are an easy prey for traffickers. As a result of a lack of receiving necessary protections, particularly in countries that are not members to the International Convention on Refugees Rights, refugees are left unprotected against human traffickers.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, in her recent report on the 14 of June 2016, finds that armed conflicts and wars by themselves are not the only cause of human trafficking, but their negative consequences, including asylum seeking, displacement and homelessness. These have a direct role in the rise of migration leading to human trafficking.
According to the IOM figures, in 2015, seven thousand people fell victim to trafficking and exploitation, 45 percent of which were women and 13 percent of which were children.
Despite the fact that most experts deem human trafficking a gender phenomenon, IOM studies show that men are as equally threatened by trafficking as women. In most trafficking instances men are compelled into forced labour, without pay and they are subject to exploitation and abuse.
The IOM figures show that 21 million people around the world are victims of forced labour. Before 2015, human trafficking was mainly concentrated in the Southeast Asian countries. But the recent crises of the Middle East have also turned this region into the starting point for human traffickers.
In the first five months of the current year, more than 7000 unaccompanied children have travelled from North Africa to Italy, a route that has turned into the busiest and deadliest rout for migrants. These children are used by traffickers. Most of them are subject to exploitation and abuse including sexual rape, forced labour and beatings. Sexual slavery, forced marriages, forced prostitution and forced pregnancies are all forms of sexual exploitations in human trafficking.
A clear example of these exploitations can be seen in the actions of terror groups, in the recent years. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram for whom sexual exploitations acts as a power tool and the instillation of fear and more so as a main factor in the encouragement of recruits to their ranks.
Forced marriages among children is also strife. Among many Syrian refugees, forced marriages in exchange for money provision to the girl’s parents, is visible.
According to reports thousands of people have disappeared in the route of refugees from Africa into Europe, via Libya, most of which have been victims of sexual exploitations of human traffickers.
In the trafficking of children for military objectives, boys are abducted from their families for their role in frontline combats. As well as taking part in battles, they are also exploited for other things.
In many instances children are used to carry out suicide attacks or are made to work in bomb-making factories and so, are constantly in contact with chemical and dangerous materials.
The trafficking of workers into conflict regions is another issue that is the result of these crises. According to secret agreements, through the exploitation of local people trapped in conflict regions, they are used as cooks, domestic servants, construction labourers and etc. Women and girls are faced with numerous threats, in this regard.
ODVV declares these figures as an indication of a lack of common understanding when dealing with the human rights crises in today’s world. While developing countries are host to approximately 90 percent of the refugees around the world and eight countries have taken in half of the world’s refugees, the rest of the countries including developed countries, despite much propaganda, have played less of an effective role in assisting with these crises.
ODVV wishes to draw the attention of the Human Rights Council to the evident point that the repercussions of war and conflict in one region will proliferate to the rest of the world. An example of this claim is the evidence and statistics that have been presented in this narrative of the refugees and the migration crisis. What is happening in these crises can be deemed as crimes against humanity.
Our expectation of the Human Rights Council include:
-The creation of universal guidelines for the resolution of the refugee’s crisis, while taking into consideration its roots
-Encouraging countries to join the relevant conventions and accepting responsibility towards common humanitarian crises, such as the refugees crises.
The UN Human Rights Council must fight against defective Unilateral Coercive Measures impeding citizens from their fundamental rights and needsThe crises in Syria and Yemen remain catastrophic, war crimes and crimes against humanity are widespread. Civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict. As Graig Mokhiber stated, “all human beings have human rights, wherever they reside. No State should ever impose measures against another that are in breach of its human rights or humanitarian law obligations under treaty or customary international law”.
Unilateral Coercive Measures (UCM) refers to economic measures taken by one state to compel a change in the policy of another state. Already in 1993, The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action adopted, by the World Conference on Human Rights, called upon States to “refrain from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that (…) impede the full realization of the human rights (…) and in international human rights instruments, in particular the rights of everyone to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, including food and medical care, housing and the necessary social services”.
Despite, the various UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning war in Yemen and in the Syrian Arab Republic but also the intended “smart” coercive measures created by the UNSC such as Resolution 2210 and 2216 in Yemen, civilians are suffering from UCM.
The use of UCM in Syria
In Syria the diplomatic relations between much of the West have been virtually non-existent since the start of the civil war in 2011. The range of punitive measures is broad ranging from restricted trade to the freezing of assets on some the most prominent members and companies of the Assad government.
The sanctions have had a dramatic effect on the Syrian economy. The Syrian Centre for Policy Research said in a recent report that the country had lost nearly 40 years of economic development and accumulation of capital. The international sanctions play a role in reducing the flow of goods, blocking financial transactions and insurance services. As a result, due to the sanctions the country is facing a lack of raw materials, and various equipment and strategic assets.
In addition to Western sanctions, the Arab League has imposed their own punitive measures on the country. This has deeply affected the country. Economists estimate that prior to the sanctions about 50% of Syria’s exports were directed to the Arab World, and 25% of its imports are originated there.
Syrian citizens are the main victims living and suffering from the outcome of the economic sanctions, most significantly the poor.
In addition the sanctions exacerbate the brutality of the conflict and perpetuate violence. Indeed, unemployed youths among others are opportunistically recruited to fight for Jihadist group, destroying infrastructures for economic and political gain.
The use of UCM in Yemen
Regarding the situation in Yemen, on March 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched a war on the people of Yemen without a UN mandate.
According to the Legal Center for Rights and Development, in the first 12 months of the war, 9136 civilians in Yemen were killed by Saudi Coalition airstrikes and shelling. In addition to the casualties, these bombardments occasioned as well the destruction of 578 food storage facilities, petrol stations, 14 Airports, 11 seaports, 250 hospitals, 630 schools and many more vital infrastructures.
Since the crisis began, Coalition restrictions on imports have added to the humanitarian burden by preventing or discouraging commercial imports into the country. Over 90 per cent of the primary food in Yemen was imported prior to the crisis, and the country was using an estimated 544,000 metric tons of fuel per month. Fuel is essential for the distribution of food, water pumping and running hospital generators, among other critical activities.
In addition to the air strikes and other attacks disturbing the livelihood of the population, there is the mechanism used by the coalition to search Ships for weaponry. Ships are being stopped at will, delayed from entry for days, weeks or months under the pretext of ongoing weapon searches. Usually after a coerced bribe the ships are free to reach the Yemeni ground but it also happens that the ships are entirely denied entry. The food, medicine, fuel and other goods brought by the ships do not, as a result, get to the Yemeni people.
These unilateral coercive measures have created obstacles to trade relations among States and impede the full realization of social and economic development. It has hindered the well being of the population, with particular consequences for women, children, including adolescents, the elderly and persons with disabilities. This conduct appears to further exacerbate the status of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Organisation for Defending Victims of Violence is gravely concerned by the fact that in Yemen and Syria, most of the unilateral coercive measures amounts to a collective reprisal, which is in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 33 states that “when it comes to the protection of civilians in times of war, no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed”.
As a result, the Organisation urges the Human Rights Council, its members and observer states to:
1. Call on all parties to the conflict to immediately and unconditionally stop all embargoes, trades restrictions, airstrikes, and all measures hampering the wellbeing and accessibility to fundamental resources for the Yemeni and Syrian population.
2. Demand that the Syrian and Yemeni authorities but also the coalition and other parties to the conflict, respect and recognize international law and specifically Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention.
3. Call on all countries and the Human Rights Council to stand up for the respect of Human rights in Yemen and Syria. All mechanisms and measures have to be implemented in order to make sure that human dignity and basics needs are not being impeded on Yemenis and Syrians.
4. Demand that the Human Rights Council bring together all parties to work together in unity for the common good. The repercussions of such a coalition could be huge; it could help decrease migrations and the intimidating growth of of terrorist groups.
• Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch at the UN Human Rights Office
• Garfi eld R. The impact of economic sanctions on health and well-being in Iraq. London: Oversears Development Institute, 1999.
• Al Faisal W, Al Saleh Y, Sen K. Syria: public health achievements and sanctions. Lancet 2011; 379: 2241.
• Humanitarian Needs Overview – Yemen, OCHA, Nov http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2016_HNO_English_%20FINAL.pdf
• Testimony of ARWA’s Executive Director based on documents available to him and discussions with the Port Authority in Hodeida.
• Op. cit., 7
• See Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Art. 33.
• http://www.essex.ac.uk/armedcon/story_id/The%20Impact%20of%20Econmoic%20 Sanctins%20on%20Health%20abd%20WellBeing.pdf (accessed May 18, 2015).
Item 4: Human Rights abuses in Yemen
Article 9 of the Establishment of the Human Rights Council’s Resolution, allows member states to apply and preserve the highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights. Saudi Arabia has been a member of the Council since 2013, and this membership heightened the international community’s expectations from Saudi Arabia on the promotion and protection of human rights. This is while, from the formation of the Saudi-led coalition, countless cases of human rights and humanitarian law violations have been reported including the killing of civilians in Yemen, particularly children by the coalition air strikes.
In Yemen, almost three million people have fled their homes since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, and over two million remain displaced within the country. Eight out of every 10 Yemeni civilian requires some kind of humanitarian assistance or protection. In addition, according to the NRC, since the escalation of the conflict nearly two years ago, more than 6,500 civilians have been killed and 32,000 injured.
On the 9th of August 2016 UNICEF reported that 1121 have been killed and 1650 children injured in Yemen since the launch of the Saudi-led coalition.
A major part of these killings have been committed through coalition airstrikes on civilian targets. These attacks have been carried out using the weapons purchased from the United States and some Western countries by Saudi Arabia.
According to the reports of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), in 2015, more than 35 thousand people have been killed and injured in attacks on residential areas by weapons produced by France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
This is while all weapon exporting countries that were mentioned in the report, are members of the Arms Trade Treaty and also a signatory to it. The aim of this Treaty is to reduce human sufferings through the writing of new universal principles to regulate the weapons trade, in the event that war crimes are committed or their use violates international law.
But we see that weapons are used by Saudi Arabia and its allies for extensive human rights violations and war crimes in air and ground attacks in Yemen, resulting in the displacement of 2.5 million people in just less than one year.
According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, US-made CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons have been used in the Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Yemen that includes the bombing of Amran, Hodaida, Saada, and Sanaa.
Due to the largeness of the area that the cluster weapons cover, they cause extensive human casualties, and at times if they don’t detonate, can still kill civilians months and years after they have been dropped. The sale of these weapons was banned in a convention in 2008, but the United States refused to become a signatory to it.
In June 2016 despite international protests against the use of cluster weapons, the US House of Representatives suspended the ban on the sale of WMD to Saudi Arabia. This bill was passed with 216 votes in favor of it and 204 against it.
Many human rights organizations in America called for a ban on the sale of these weapons to Saudi Arabia and they deemed the use of these weapons by the Kingdom as measures that are being taken towards mass killings and war crimes, following a comprehensive investigation.
Following the demand of human rights organizations and considering the countries commitment subject to the laws of war to investigate allegations of war crimes, and following the pressures and persistence of human rights organizations for one and a half years, the Saudi government held a panel to review the issue through which 8 airstrikes were investigated, and only one of the eight was deemed as an example of a war crime.
The laws of war require states to investigate allegations of war crimes and hold those responsible to account. After nearly a year-and-a-half of international pressure and accumulating abuses, the Saudi government announced the findings of the preliminary investigations into eight widely publicized coalition airstrikes causing civilian casualties. The coalition-appointed a panel of investigators recommending compensation for victim of only one. They did not accept the other seven as examples of war crimes and claimed that the investigations of human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch are not credible.
This is while human rights organizations have documented 19 cluster attacks that have killed over 20 civilians, some of which used US-supplied munitions. The victims of this discrepancy between the investigations carried out by Saudi Arabia and the findings of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch clearly illustrate that Yemeni people and their families must urgently receive suitable compensations. Therefore ODVV calls for the followings:
1. Saudi Arabia should uphold its international obligations, including its obligations as a Council member.
2. The UN should initiate an independent international investigation regarding examples of war crimes committed in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the rest of the coalition must accept this independent investigation and respect its findings, and compensate the victims’ families for their loss as the least that they can do.
3. The United States must stop selling WMD to Saudi Arabia and stop taking part in war crimes being committed in Yemen.
Item 7 – Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian TerritoriesAs an organization concerned with the human rights situation in OPT, we would like to express our deep concern over Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, in particular the following:
According to the statistics from the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, in April 2016, there were 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 750 administrative detainees without charging them or allowing them to stand for trial.
Israel uses three distinct laws to hold individuals without trial:
Article 285 of the Military Order 1651, which is part of the military legislation applying in the West Bank;
Internment of the Law on Unlawful Combatants (Unlawful Combatants Law), which has been used against residents of the Gaza Strip since 2005;
Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law, which applies to Israeli citizens.
Although international human rights law permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, the authorities are required to follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her imprisonment. Moreover, to use such detention methods, there must be a public emergency that threatens the nation, and detention can only be ordered on an individual, case-by-case basis without discrimination of any kind.
Attacks on Palestinian civilians
Illegal Israeli attacks of Palestinian civilians continue throughout 2016. Based on data published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), there have been more than 100 incidents of Israeli forces opening fire at Palestinian civilians and property on land and at sea, since the start of the year. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza has documented 71 incidents of Israeli attacks on land and at sea during January and February, including 45 shootings, and seven military incursions.
This is while the prohibition of attacks against civilians has been stressed on in several international treaties, such as the Four Geneva Conventions and numerous Human Rights Council resolutions urging Israel to respect international laws.
Acute deterioration of the humanitarian situation
The blockade has created an acute deterioration of the human rights situation in OPT, with a negative impact upon all sectors of life because of the restrictions imposed on Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, with both economic and social repercussions.
80% of the population currently receives international aid, while 73% suffer from food insecurity and 95% of lack of access to safe drinking water because the water from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption and may become unusable by the end of 2016.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
All these instances continue to take place despite numerous resolutions that have been approved against Israel in regular Human Rights Council sessions.
In the last ten years, the Human Rights Council and its regular sessions have exclusively issued more than 70 resolutions against Israel. These resolutions have always been approved with almost universal consensus, with the exception of the United States, which always votes against them; and or in some instances some Europeans countries have abstained in the voting.
Earlier, on 13 June 2016, the fifth annual report on Occupied Palestinian Territories stated that the main cause of “human catastrophes” of Palestinians is the occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza by Israel.
Under these conditions, with a 109 votes, Israel was appointed as the chair of the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee, which casts a shadow of doubt on the practicality of the UN.
In view of the grave concern of this NGO with regards to the human rights situation in Occupied Territories and the urgency for attention towards any subject that threatens international peace and security, we call upon the Human Rights Council to undertake the following:
Take strong measures to bring an end to Israeli impunity and bring Israel to immediately lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and cease collective punishment of Palestinians in OPT.
Exert pressure on Israel to bring to an end its illegal attacks on Palestinian civilians, preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands and fishing areas which violates numerous provisions of international human rights law, including the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
Take strong measures to bring Israel to end the practice of administrative detention and ensure that all persons who are currently held in administrative detention are “afforded all basic legal safeguards”, as mentioned in the recent report of the UN Committee against Torture.
Work towards ending the Israeli occupation and have a long-lasting solution whereby Palestinians enjoy their full human rights including the right to self-determination.