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‘Abusive and arbitrary’: OHCHR report confirms Qatar blockade in violation of human rights

As the ongoing blockade against Qatar enters its 7 month, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC)..

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As the ongoing blockade against Qatar enters its 7 month, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) announced in a press conference this morning that it had received the report detailing the findings of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Technical Mission to the State of Qatar.

The report, title ‘On the impact of the Gulf Crisis on human rights’, is the result of an investigation by the OHCHR team who visited Qatar from November 17-24, 2017 to document and assess the impact of the blockade on human rights infringements and violations among the population.

(Copy of the OHCHR report received by NHRC. Photo credit: I Love Qatar)

During their mission to Qatar OHCHR representatives met with and interviewed 20 government and non-governmental organizations, and 40 victims during the course of their assessment. The report also stated that the OHCHR team reached out to the member states of the blockade to make them aware of the functions of the Technical Mission to Qatar and requested that human rights cases affected as a result of the blockade be monitored closely – but received no response.

This is the first of its kind commissioned by a government organization, and while it’s comprehensive, the document it’s also dense. To help you understand it’s scope, here’s a breakdown of some of its key points and findings as outlined by NHRC President Dr. Ali bin Samih Al Marri at this morning’s press conference:

Key Findings

  • The actions and procedures of the blockading states against Qatar do not fall within the scope of diplomatic/economic standard sanctions. They are found to be unilateral, coercive, arbitrary measures that directly impact Qatari citizens.
  • Those Qatari citizens who have interests in blockading countries were compelled to rapidly exit those countries within 14 days. This forced exodus has adversely impacted Qatari families, migrant workers, and has led to an overall decrease in Qatar’s population due to this imposed restriction of movement.
  • The measures of the blockading countries are discriminatory and not legally-bound, amounting to ‘economic warfare’. The blockading countries have not differentiated between the Qatari government and the Qatari people – effectively disproving that the blockade doesn’t discriminate between the two.
  • The OHCHR confirmed that the government of Qatar has been successful at containing the repercussions of the crisis and alleviating its impact on citizens and residents. The report also noted that there have been no reprisal measures from the State of Qatar against the blockading nations.
  • Through hate speech and inciteful discourse that targets the state, the blockade has had a dangerous psychological impact on expats and nationals in Qatar. Those impacted have found no solutions, while the member states of the blockade have been regressive at facilitating a solution.

(NHRC President Dr. Ali bin Samih Al Marri speaks at this morning’s press conference. Photo credit: I Love Qatar)

  • The OHCHR has praised Qatar’s NHRC cooperation in documenting human rights violations cases and victim’s reports during the blockade.
  • The report further confirmed that, in direct contradiction to freedom of speech, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, have declared through their news agencies that anyone who expresses compassion towards Qatar will face punitive measures.
  • News media and entertainment programs in the blockading nations are confirmed to have used their platforms to call for violence and inciteful speech towards Qatar in violation of economic, social, and cultural rights.
  • The OHCHR report called for freedom of religious practice during Hajj and Ramadan, elaborating that the United Nations asked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia not to politicize the Holy Pilgrimage by preventing Qatari citizens or residents making the pilgrimage from Qatar to enter the Kingdom, as these actions were inimical to freedom of movement.
  • As Qatari students were expelled from institutions in blockading nations, the report confirms that the crisis has had an indelible impact on the union of families and the social fabric of the GCC as a whole.

(Flag of the United Nations. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

What comes next?

After the review and the release of the report, the NHRC says it will make the following recommendations to OHCHR:

  • To move further at all levels of international human rights mechanisms and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • To raise the issue of the impacts of the blockade in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the next session of the United Nation Human Rights Council.
  • To address specialized international organizations such as the International Labor Organization, UNESCO, the WTO, and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) to share information and promote the complaints against the countries of the blockade.
  • Call on the United Nations special rapporteurs to act promptly to address the issues of victims of the blockade and to visit the countries of the blockade, and to include the impacts of the blockade in their reports to the Human Rights Council.
  • Invite the OHCHR Technical Mission to visit the countries of the blockade to identify the impacts of the blockade on their citizens and citizens of the State of Qatar.
  • Include the impacts of the blockade in the General Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

(United Nations General Assembly. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

The NHRC has also made the following recommendations for action to the Government of the State of Qatar:

  • Not to accept any solution to the crisis or any negotiations before lifting the violations and injustice and redress for the victims.
  • The need to refer to the report of the Technical Mission in supporting complaints before the World Trade Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and UNESCO.
  • To move and raise the issue in international and regional forums to life the injustice suffered by the victims of the blockade.
  • To move at the level of the Human Rights Council to present a draft resolution on the impacts of the blockade on citizens and residents of the State of Qatar.
  • To move and raise the issue before the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Security Council.
  • Access to the International Court of Justice, arbitration committees, and national and international specialized courts.
  • To bring some of the perpetrators of the defamation and hatred campaign launched against Qatar from the countries of the blockade to justice, including the Advisor to the Royal Court in KSA, who was orchestrating the media campaign against Qatar for the crimes of hostility and incitement in violation of international law and domestic laws – noting that the NHRC monitors and reports all the defamation and hatred campaigns launched by that official, and the officials of the countries of the blockade to carry out legal movements.
  • Call on the National Compensation Claims Commission to expedite the proceedings of litigation and international arbitration and, depending on the report of the mission, to facilitate the role of the appointed International Law Office.

(Doha’s West Bay district. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

Finally, the NHRC has called on the blockading states to implement the following recommendations:

  • To deal positively and immediately with the findings of the report of the OHCHR Technical Mission and the abolition of all unilateral arbitrary measures.
  • Respect for its obligations under international human rights law, and the immediate lifting of violations and redress of victims.
  • To allow the OHCHR Technical Mission to conduct their visits and to observe closely the effects of the measures taken on the citizens of these countries and the citizens and residents of Qatar.
  • Allow field visits of special rapporteurs and international human rights organizations.
  • Allow victims to resort to national justice and litigation procedures to recover their rights.
  • The immediate cessation of defamation, hatred campaigns, provocative calls, and accountability of the perpetrators.

What impact do you hope the OHCHR Technical Mission Report will have on the current situation in Qatar amid the GCC Crisis? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to like and share this article!

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presi..

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presidential election, despite no official result being declared.

“Its pretty clear that American people have elected ⁦Donald Trump and Mike Pence for four more years,” Janša tweeted on Wednesday.

Donald Trump declared a premature victory at the White House and described the election process as a “major fraud on our nation”.

The campaign for Democrat candidate Joe Biden has described the bid to stop vote counting as “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect”, and say they are “ready to deploy” legal teams.

The Slovenian Prime Minister’s tweet generated an immediate response from several MEPs, including German Nicola Beer from Renew Europe Group.

“Donald Trump has his deeply undemocratic, unjustified playbook on elections EU Member States should not play along,” tweeted Beer.

“The European Union, with all Member States, has a duty to show respect for every single vote. Period.”

No other EU leader has issued congratulations or themselves announced a result in the US election.

“While we wait for the election result, the EU remains ready to continue building a strong transatlantic partnership, based on our shared values and history,” said EU Vice-President Josep Borrell.

The electoral college votes have not all been counted at time of writing.

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“More delays and facts denying … [the] bigger the final triumph for the President. Congratulations ⁦to the Republican Party for strong results across the US”.

The US election is currently locked in a stalemate, with hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted, and the outcome still unclear in key states.

The post Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.

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Lessons for Africa from devastating Mauritius oil spill

The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and i..

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The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and its devastating impact is expected to last for decades. Over 1 000 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into pristine Mauritian waters, covering the nearby shore in toxic sludge and immersing the ecosystem in a desperate struggle for survival.

This environmental crisis couldnt have occurred at a worse time for Mauritius. The spill will seriously impede the recovery of a Mauritian economy highly dependent on coastal tourism and already battered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Mauritius and other African states need to promptly review their contingency strategies and response capacities so we can start positing immediate lessons to be learnt.

The national and international response to the MV Wakashio crisis was commendable. France, India, Japan and the International Maritime Organization cooperated to support local Mauritian efforts in a race against time to pump out the fuel from the vessel, which eventually broke apart on 15 August. Meanwhile local volunteers flocked to the shore with improvised booms and barriers.

Mauritius and other African states need to urgently review their contingency strategies

While a full investigation and report is urgently required, it is possible to start piecing together a narrative of what has occurred and how it turned so bad so quickly.

The MV Wakashio left China on 14 July heading for Brazil. On 25 July it ran aground on the reefs located roughly a mile off Pointe dEsny and the Blue Bay Marine Park along the south-eastern shore of Mauritius. No oil leakage was reported at the time, and the Mauritius coast guard swiftly deployed booms and took other preventive actions. The government activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan the following day.

By 5 August a minor oil slick was observed surrounding the vessel. It was still assumed that the countrys contingency plan was sufficient and that the risk of oil spill was still low. But then the MV Wakashio flooded and began sinking. Oil started to spill into the sea.

On 7 August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a national environment emergency. Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo suggested that this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem. Mauritius called for international help once the scale of the emergency became apparent and quickly overwhelmed the resources and capacity of the countrys national contingency plan.

The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating

Some of these resources were acquired as part of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Highway Development and Coastal and Marine Contamination Prevention project from 2007-2012. The project also called for the establishment of the Regional Marine Pollution Co-ordination Centre (RCC) for Marine Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Western Indian Ocean.

South Africa will host the RCC, and its establishment must now be expedited. The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating, especially when they occur in sensitive and critically important environmental areas.

Will other African countries and regional organisations develop sufficient capacity to respond to crises on the scale of the MV Wakashio without depending on international assistance? There is a great risk of oil spills and leaks occurring elsewhere in the African maritime domain in the future, especially spills that occur during bunkering.

The Cape of Good Hope route is a maritime super highway. Some countries, like South Africa, are able to swiftly respond on their own, as demonstrated in May when the potential wreck of the Yuan Hua Hu, also carrying 4 000 tonnes of fuel oil, was narrowly averted.

Theres a great risk of oil spills occurring elsewhere in Africa, especially during bunkering

Many countries such as Mauritius lack at least some of the resources or capacities needed to deal with such a disaster. Governments require up-to-date assessments to plan future responses. Better and more collective resources and skills at a regional or continental level are required.

Improved accountability mechanisms are also important. The Japanese owners of the MV Wakashio have offered, under international obligations, to pay compensation for applicable damages caused by the oil spill. Yet in other cases it might not be as easy to track the owners and determine liability (as can be seen in the investigation into the tragic Beirut port explosion of 4 August).

It is time for African maritime institutions to review their approaches and develop appropriate expertise and response mechanisms. This should ensure fast and effective regional or continental action when the inevitable oil leaks arise.

The results should be reported to key multilateral organisations – ideally to the African Union (AU) – as part of the implementation of 2050 Africas Integrated Maritime Strategy. The AU could, for instance, convene a consultative forum for experience and skills sharing with inputs from all the regional economic communities such as that hosted by the Southern African Development Community in 2018.

Disaster relief is expensive, but is nowhere near as controversial as other maritime issues such as creating security frameworks and determining boundaries. It can also foster collaboration anchored in regional AU institutions that draw on indigenous expertise and capacities.

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More than 100 children killed and injured as violence intensifies in Ituri, DRC – Save the Children

Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the..

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Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo between April and July. Save the Children is horrified by the recent escalation of extreme violence, in which also at least 17 children were injured and 12 were sexually abused.

In the same period, around sixty schools were attacked, and 17 health facilities – two of which were supported but the charity.

“The situation for children is getting worse by the day, in a conflict they should not have a part in. We need to ensure children can return to school, that they and their families can go to health facilities if they need to, and that they are protected”, said Malik Allaouna, Save the Children country director in DRC.

“We need more resources, and call upon the international community and the Government of DRC to help alleviate the suffering of these children. We are asking all involved parties to grant unhindered access to humanitarian workers, so they can support those who are most in need.”

Since January 2020, the situation in Ituri has deteriorated significantly in the Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi territories. At least 1,315 people were killed, including 165 children. An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced since January, adding pressure to the situation in Ituri, which already hosted over 1.2 million Internal displaced people in 2019.

“Children who had to flee from the violence told us they had to leave everything behind because militias came into the area of Djugu. Suddenly, they found themselves homeless and without any food, having to sleep in schools”, said Dr Macky Manseka, Humanitarian Health and Nutrition Programme Manager at Save the Children.

Save the Children, which has been responding to this crisis for over a year, warns that displaced populations do not have access to enough food. Communities are also lacking health and nutrition services, clean and safe water and hygiene materials, as areas become increasingly cut off by violence and resources are in low supply.

“For example, there were more than 235 new cases of severe acute malnutrition in July 2020”, Dr. Manseka continued. “But because of the violence, we cant follow-up properly on sick or malnourished children. As a consequence, their treatment is disrupted, which might lead to relapses or even deaths.”

END

Note to editors:

Save the Children supports 17 health facilities, and runs programmes in support of survivors of sexual and gender based violence. It has a strong presence in the field of nutrition, and water, hygiene and sanitation. The organisation is also running education programmes in Ituri, and working to improve access to education for girls.

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