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UN Week – 2/13/12

February 16, 2012

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

by John and Douglas Carey www.unweek.blogspot.com 

Contents of this issueSyria in the General Assembly; El-Araby visits our home; human rights defenders.

 Syria in the General Assembly.

Today the General Assembly takes up Syria. In the Security Council, Russia and China were able to block approval of the Arab League’s proposed peace plan by exercising their veto power. In the GA there is no veto.

If nine members of the Security Council had invoked the Uniting for Peace procedure under Assembly resolution 377V, by calling for an emergency special session of the Assembly to consider a subject blocked by veto, then the Assembly could by majority vote adopt a resolution like what was blocked in the Council, or an even stronger resolution. We shall see.

El-Araby visits our home.

The League of Arab States is becoming better known around here,  now that the League is putting its weight behind a settlement in Syria. Let me tell you how its Secretary-General, Nabil El-Araby, and his wife and daughter, came to stay over night in our home in Rye, New York.

Human rights defenders.

A report just published (though dated December 21, 2011) A/HRC/19/55, contains recommendations from Margaret Sekaggya, Special Raporteur on human rights defenders.. The following is what she recommends as to journalists and media workers:

“118. Journalists and media workers monitoring demonstrations and shedding light on violations and abuses often risk their lives. In most regions, they seem to be targeted by the same State actors they investigate, except for the Americas where non-State actors and unknown groups emerge as the main perpetrators.

“119. The monitoring role of journalists and media workers during demonstrations is essential, as it can provide an impartial and objective account of the conduct of both participants and law enforcement officials. States should grant media access to public assemblies to facilitate independent coverage.

“120. Restrictions on media and press freedom, and impunity around violations against journalists and media workers defending human rights can foster a climate of intimidation, stigmatization, violence and self-censorship that can have a chilling effect on their work.  States should publicly recognize the role of these defenders and ensure prompt and impartial investigations and the prosecution of those responsible for violations against them.

“121. If journalists or media workers violate an administrative provision, a solution should be found within the administrative civil framework. Criminal law should only be applied when strictly necessary.

States should refrain from the persistent use of legislative frameworks to silence legitimate dissent on human rights issues.

“122. The protection of journalists and  media workers active on human rights issues should not be limited to those formally recognized as such, but should include other relevant actors, such as community media workers, bloggers and those monitoring demonstrations.

Other categories of workers that Ms.Sekaggya feels deserve protection are land and environment defenders as well as youth and student defenders. Here is some of what she said:

“123. Defenders working on land and environmental issues are also highly exposed to attacks to their physical integrity, often by non-State actors, and many are killed because of their work on the environmental impact of extractive industries and development projects, or the right to land of indigenous peoples and minorities. The Americas seems to be the region where these defenders are most at risk. * * *

“127. Youth and student defenders seem to be targeted for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations and protests or the publication of articles or blog entries. They also seem to be highly exposed to physical attacks.

“128. States should refrain from having their security personnel use excessive force during demonstrations. Law enforcement officials should be trained in international human rights standards and child/youth protection measures, particularly during public assemblies.”

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