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Organization for Difending Victims of Violence Human Rights Council 31st session
Item 3: Middle East Children: Victims of Endless Armed Conflicts
Statistics show that within the past 13 years, the civilian’s death toll in Iraq amounts to over 171,000 lost lives, many of whom are women and children.
An increasing number of children are victims of the ongoing armed conflicts in Iraq and the whole Middle East: children in Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Yemen are facing breaches of their human rights including the right to life, health, education, food, clean water and adequate housing.
Armed conflicts have various adverse effects on children. Children are killed, maimed, abducted, raped, displaced, made to drop out of school or to serve as child soldiers during the conflicts. The shocking number of children deprived of basic education because of the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa is estimated to be over 13 million.
As innocent children in war zones, especially in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine are still paying the price of war, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) would like to offer the following recommendations to the Human Rights Council:
• In the wake of the atrocities committed toward children in the Middle East, ODVV calls on the Human Rights Council to mandate the Special Rapporteur of Children and Armed Conflict to prepare a report on the situation of children in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine and present it to the 34th session of the Council.
• ODVV urges the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen to assist independent European NGOs to study the physical, and psychological harms on the children of Yemen.
Item 4: Is the Collective Attempt to Eliminate the Threat of ISIS Successful?
It seems as if the unanimous attempts to eliminate ISIS have not been successful and the terrorists continue to pose a threat not only to the Middle East but to Europe and the world. As the recruitment of new members to the terror group continues, the attacks carried out by them appear to be countless.
Children and teens join ISIS, under the influence of the organization’s propaganda machine and due to the indoctrination of moderate Muslim youths towards radical ideas. In particular Western youths have been the target of radicalization and unfortunately the measures taken by Western states have been counter-productive and worked in favour youth radicalization and rather strengthened ISIS.
Military solutions have not proven to be sufficiently successful in eliminating the threat of ISIS and our organization wishes to make the following recommendations to help re-establish stability in the Middle East:
First, we would like to urge the Council to support awareness-raising projects to eliminate all forms of radicalism regardless of its religious identity in order to put stop to this vicious cycle of extremism.
Secondly, we suggest that the HRC supports measures to be taken to de-alienate Western Muslim youths and help potential recruits understand that ISIS is not creating an Islamist utopia, but a hell on earth.
Item 5: Shia Minority Rights in Judicial System
International law requires all criminal justice systems to ensure equal treatment of minorities within the criminal justice system.
The Shia minority suffer from a variety of violations of their rights, including the right to worship in mass, maintaining and repairing their places of worship, equal job opportunities, freedom of expression and belief and their right to equal treatment by the police and the judicial system.
Shias face various discriminations in Saudi Arabia’s judicial system including: arbitrary arrests, denial of access to justice, discriminatory verdicts and religiously motivated charges. A recent case that demonstrates this was the execution of the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr and 46 other people in January 2, which has sparked outrage across the world.
Considering that Shias constitute 15 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population, Shias are under-represented in the judicial system and Shia judges are only present in two courts of the Eastern Province, where there is a significant Shia population, having jurisdiction over personal status cases involving Shias exclusively. However, Saudi Sharia judges rule all criminal cases without taking into consideration the Shia sect of the defendants.
Often, judges rule against Shias because of their religious identity and they receive harsher sentences than for similar offenses that non-Shias are liable for.
Considering the evident prejudice s against the Shia minority in the justice system, indeed the apparent institution where racial equality should be concretely appreciated. Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) calls on the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to study and assess the cases of minority rights violations especially discrimination against Shias in the country.
ODVV also urges the forum of minority Issues to study the alleged cases of discrimination against the Shia in the country, including the reports of the alleged human rights violations in the legal and the judicial system, offering practical recommendations.
Item 5: Shia Minority Rights in Saudi Arabia
There has been a sharp escalation in sectarian tensions in Saudi Arabia, mainly due to the increased discriminations against minorities by the Saudi officials.
Within Saudi Arabia’s judicial system, minorities often face religiously motivated charges, arbitrary arrests, denial of access to justice, and discriminatory verdicts. In January 2, 2016 Saudi authorities demonstrated their disregard for human rights by executing the prominent Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh al-Nimr, whose trial is believed to have been “grossly unfair” and based on “vague” charges. He was not in breach of any national laws as he was merely a peaceful protester and so indeed his execution stirred a wave of objections from the UN Secretary General, the US and the EU.
Government offices and police officials ban Shias from enjoying their rights to worship and practice their religion freely, and deny the rights of Shias and other minorities to freedom of expression and assembly.
Moreover, we would like to bring the Council’s attention to the arbitrary arrest of Ali al-Nimr as a minor, for alleged crimes related to anti-government protests. We further demand that Saudi Arabia repeal the death penalty against Ali al-Nimr and all other protestors who were arrested as minors such as, Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hassan al-Zaher.
Considering the systematic discrimination against minorities by the Saudi police forces and the justice system, our organization urges Saudi Arabia, as a HRC member State, to meet all its commitments under international human rights law and especially intensify its efforts to protect minority rights.
Since oppression against minorities brings about more violence, our organization calls on the Saudi Arabia’s government to seriously address all cases of violence against minorities and bring its perpetrators to justice.
Item 6: UPR: The 1st and 2nd Cycles
In order to improve the human rights situation in all UN member states, their performance has been reviewed in the 1st UPR cycle. in which, a number of recommendations were offered to them. In the 2nd cycle, the objective was to look into the level of implementation of 1st cycle recommendations, which will be the main goal of the subsequent UPR cycles. However, the results of a study that was carried out based on the 70 percent of first reviews of the second UPR cycle shows that only less than 20 per cent of the 2nd cycle recommendations were linked to ones made at the 1st cycle.
A weak link among the recommendations offered in the UPR cycles will make the follow up process extremely difficult for the stakeholders. The stronger the link among recommendations, the more pressure on the State under review to intensify its efforts to promote human rights within its borders.
In addition, the mechanism is suffering from various sources of bias that arise from diplomatic relations among States, such as the tendency of some recommending States to support their allies, or some states under review to reject the recommendations of the countries who disagree with them on a political level.
In order to enhance the objectivity of the UPR, our organization encourages all recommending States to make sure that similar cases of human right violations, receive equal levels of attention in different countries.
Since NGOs have access to the relevant information on the human rights violations domestically, ODVV calls on the Human Rights Council to include the recommendations of NGOs to the States under review in its final list of recommendations.
Considering the UPR objective, ODVV urges all recommending States to help the follow up process by offering precise recommendations, in line with their own previous suggestions, to the State under review.
Item 7: OPT: Is There an End to the Endless Tragedy
Our Organization echoes the Secretary-General’s concerns on OPT, that Palestinians are frustrated of the half century resolutions condemning violations of their rights while nothing changes on the ground. On February, 11, 2016, the U.N. human rights investigator for Gaza called on Israel to investigate the excessive use of force against Palestinians, urging the authorities to charge or release all Palestinian prisoners including children .
Killing, kidnapping and detention of Palestinians including the minors continue. In February 2016, 450 Palestinian children were held in Israeli jails and 75 percent of them experience physical violence under arrest. Despite the UN warnings, destruction of Palestinian structures continues. On February 8, 2016, the EU deplored the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, regretting that the operations will threaten the peace process . In Gaza, lack of access to basic supplies such as food and medicine jeopardizes patients’ lives. In February 2016, more than 90,000 people who lost their homes in War with Israel, remain homeless . U.N. experts believe that Israel's blockade subjects Gazans to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international … law." UN has warned the Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 .
Echoing the Secretary Generals concerns, our organization calls on the Council to design a mechanism to make Israel cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on OPT
ODVV urges invites all NGOs concerned with OPT situation to establish another Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
. According to Israeli officials from October 2015 to January 2016 at least 157 Palestinians have been killed in OPT http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/333324/un-official-accuses-israel-of-excessive-force-in-occupation/
. On February 8, 2016, the EU deplored the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, regretting that the operations will threaten the peace process between Israel and Palestine.
Item 9: Islamophobia and Violation of the Rights of Muslims
In only one year, 19000 people were brutally killed in Iraq and over 3.2 million others have lost their homes. 3500 women and children, mainly from Yezidi community have been enslaved and mass graves are being discovered every day.
In Syria about 300,000 people have been killed and about 6.5 million have been displaced. Ultimately leading to one of the most serious challenges of our time; the refugee crises.
Due to the brutal acts of ISIS and other extremist groups, a heinous image of Islam and Muslims has been put on display for the world to see through illusive headlines referring to ISIS as the “Islamic State”. The demonization of Muslims in the media has led to instigation of hate-speech and violent attacks against Muslims in Europe. The remarks made by political figures such as Donald Trump, further incite islamophobia as has recently been demonstrated by the murders of three Muslim Americans, shot dead in Indiana.
Amid a “politics of fear”, Muslims and refugees are being scapegoated and alienated. Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) is seriously concerned about the many reported instances of Islamophobic verbal abuse and physical attacks that have been on the rise. In the week following the Paris attacks 115 incidents were registered in the UK alone. More concerning is the number of hate crimes that have gone unreported and thus are not even taken into account when addressing the issue
ODVV believes that it is vital to counter contemporary forms of Islamophobia, and forms of prejudices against the Muslim population formulating a strong international legal framework. In the absence of such a framework, measures taken by states would lack universality, objectivity, coherence and adherence to international human rights standards.