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‘Situation of children in Somalia is devastating’ – UN Special Representative

New York, April 1 2020 – Children in Somalia have endured among the highest levels of violence of al..

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New York, April 1 2020 – Children in Somalia have endured among the highest levels of violence of all countries on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda, with number of cases of recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence exceeding those verified in other country situations, highlighted the fifth report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia.

A total of 14,856 grave violations against children have been verified during the reporting period, between August 2016 and September 2019.

“The situation of boys and girls in Somalia is devastating,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. “The correlation between violations is particularly distressing, with abductions of children often leading to their recruitment and use or sexual violence; even once released, their ordeal is not yet over as boys and girls are often detained for their association with armed elements, perpetuating an infernal cycle of violence.”

Recruitment and use of children remained one of the most worrisome violations with Al-Shabaab as the main perpetrator, followed by Government Security Forces, including increasingly the Somali Police Force and the regional forces of federal member states. An alarming number of 4,462 children were abducted, almost all by Al-Shabaab and often for the purpose of recruitment, making the country by far the one on the CAAC agenda with the highest verified numbers of abductions.

The detention of children for their alleged association with armed groups remained highly concerning, with 910 children affected. The Special Representative reminded that children associated with parties to conflict should be treated primarily as victims and detention used only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time. She further called on the authorities of Somalia to fully implement the Standard Operating Procedures for the reception and handover of children associated with armed groups, endorsed in 2014.

The number of children killed or maimed remained high (2,916), which was the result of crossfire, lack of precaution in the conduct of military operations, improvised explosive devices, explosive remnants of war and airstrikes. Access to education and health care was also disrupted because of the conflict; 242 incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals were verified, the majority attributed to Al-Shabaab; 148 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified. The Special Representative praised the work of humanitarian colleagues on the ground, often operating in challenging environment.

Despite the high number of verified cases for rape and other forms of sexual violence (958 children), the actual figures are likely to be higher as the violation remains consistently underreported for fear of stigma, reprisal, or lack of services for survivors. Somali security forces were responsible for one-third of the violations; girls were also forcibly married to Al-Shabaab combatants.

Engagement for Children

Despite the dramatic figures, some steps have been taken by the authorities in Somalia. The commitment of the Federal Government to better protect children, as evidenced in the proposed Sexual Offences Bill and Child Rights Bill, among other things, is encouraging and welcomed by the Special Representative. She called on the authorities to pursue their engagement for children by enacting the two pending bills, so they effectively criminalize grave violations against children.

The Special Representative also noted the efforts of the Somali authorities to expedite the implementation of their Action Plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use as well as the killing and maiming of children through the signature of a roadmap during her visit in October 2019. The roadmap also incorporates measures for the prevention of sexual violence and other measures to enhance the cooperation on child protection at the federal member state-level.

3,554 children benefited from reintegration services during the reporting period, an encouraging number and significant increase compared to the previous reporting period. “Each and every child released should have access to comprehensive reintegration programmes. This is not only necessary for their recovery: it benefits the country as a whole. I call on the international community to support politically and financially the long-term and sustainable reintegration of all children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups,” she added.

Furthermore, the Special Representative urged the Federal Government to ensure that all militias and regional forces integrated in the Somali National Army and other Somali security forces are screened to identify and release all children below 18 years old.

The Special Representative also encouraged the Somali authorities to use the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) to ratify it. She reiterated the willingness of her office to support the authorities in their efforts to better protect children from hostilities.

Facts for the reporting period (August 2016 – September 2019)

14,856 grave violations against children throughout the country

Recruitment and use: 6,143 children * 80% by Al-Shabaab

Killing and maiming: 2,916 children * the majority of child casualties could not be attributed

Rape and other forms of sexual violence: 958 children (954 girls and 4 boys)

Abductions: 4,462 children

Attacks on Schools and hospitals: 242 incidents (203 against schools, 39 against hospitals)

Denial of humanitarian access: 148 verified incidents

Reintegration support: 3,554 children benefited from reintegration services

Note to editors:

Parties to conflict in Somalia listed in the 2019 Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict

List A – parties that have not put in place measures during the reporting period to improve the protection of children

Al-Shabaab (Recruitment and use of children; Killing and maiming of children; Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; Abduction of children; Attacks against schools or hospitals) Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamaa (ASWJ) (Recruitment and use of children) List B – parties that have put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children

Somali National Army (Recruitment and use of children; Killing and maiming of children)

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Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated on ground

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thepeninsulaqatar– The Ministry of Labour has issued a statement in response to Amnesty’s report “Reality Check 2021: A Year to the 2022 WorldCup”, stating that Qatar rejects its assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

The statement is as follows:

Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Amnesty fails to document a single story from among the 242,870 workers who have successfully changed jobs since barriers were removed in September 2020, or from the more than 400,000 workers who have directly benefitted from the new minimum wage through salary increases and other financial incentives.

Since exit permits were removed in 2018, hundreds of thousands of workers have left Qatar and returned without permission from their employer; improvements to the Wage Protection System now protect more than 96 percent of eligible workers from wage abuse; new visa centres in labour-sending countries have significantly reduced exploitative practices before workers arrive in Qatar; and new rules extend the ban on summer working to minimise the effects of heat stress.

Qatar has also strengthened its enforcement measures to safeguard workers and prosecute employers who fail to comply with the law. The number of inspectors employed by the Ministry of Labour has increased year on year, as has their capacity to thoroughly investigate working conditions and refer violators for sentencing in the labour courts.

In the first half of 35,280,2021 accommodation and worksite inspections were carried out and 13,724 penalties were issued to violating companies, including worksite closures, fines and prison sentences. A further 4,840 site visits were made by labour inspectors to raise awareness of the new laws among employers and employees.

Every year, more companies are held accountable for violating the law. Systemic reform is a long-term process and shifting the behaviour of every company takes time. Through its actions, the government is sending a strong message to companies that violations will not be tolerated.

Qatar has never shied away from acknowledging that its labour system is still a work in progress. The government is committed to engaging collaboratively and constructively with international partners and critics to further improve standards for all migrant workers in Qatar

Qatar will therefore continue to consult with international experts including the ILO and trade unions. International NGOs will also be routinely consulted to provide their recommendations.

The reality is that no other country has come so far in such a short amount of time. Following Qatar’s lead, and as a sign of the programme’s wider impact, other countries in the region have now taken steps to introduce their own labour reforms.

Labour reform is a complex task, and Qatar believes that solutions are best found through dialogue and engagement. For this reason, and despite Amnesty’s criticism, Qatar will continue to work constructively with a range of labour experts and practitioners to build on the progress that has been made.

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Myanmar election body charges Suu Kyi with electoral fraud

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independent– Myanmar’s state election commission announced it is prosecuting the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and 15 other senior political figures for alleged fraud in last November’s general election.

The announcement was published Tuesday in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper and other official media.

Allegations of widespread electoral fraud were the main reason cited by the military for its Feb. 1 seizure of power that toppled Suu Kyi’s government. Her National League for Democracy party was about to begin a second five-year term in office after its landslide victory in the polls. The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party suffered unexpectedly heavy losses.

Independent observers, such as the Asian Network for Free Elections, found no evidence of substantive irregularities in the polls, though they criticized some aspects.

The action by the Union Election Commission could potentially result in Suu Kyi’s party being dissolved and unable to participate in a new election the military has promised will take place within two years of its takeover. However, the commission’s notice, dated Monday, did not specify which laws would be used to prosecute the accused.

In May, the military-appointed new head of the election commission said his agency would consider dissolving Suu Kyi’s former governing party for alleged involvement in electoral fraud and have its leaders charged with treason. Commission Chairman Thein Soe said an investigation had determined that the party had worked illegally with the government to give itself an advantage at the polls.

After taking power, the military dismissed the members of the election commission that had certified the results of last year’s poll and appointed new ones. It also detained members of the old commission, and, according to reports in independent Myanmar media, pressured them to state there had been election fraud.

The new commission declared last year’s election’s results invalid.

The new notice from the commission said Suu Kyi, former President Win Myint, other leading figures in her party and the commission’s former chairman were “involved in electoral processes, election fraud and lawless actions” related to the polls.

It accused 16 people of carrying out illegal actions, including compelling local election officials to obstruct military polling booths, threatening such officials in connection with advance voting for voters over 60 years old, forcing local officials to approve voting lists that included ineligible voters and interfering in campaigning to favor Suu Kyi’s party.

Suu Kyi is already on trial or charged in about a dozen criminal cases in which a conviction would almost certainly bar her from running for office again. Several of her top political allies also have been tried or are facing charges. Suu Kyi’s supporters as well as independent rights organizations contend that the cases are spurious and meant to discredit Suu Kyi and her party while legitimizing military rule.

Dissolving Suu Kyi’s party would follow a regional trend of dissolving popular political parties seen as a threat to governments in power.

Cambodia’s high court in 2017 dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party the sole credible opposition force, ahead of a 2018 general election.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court in 2020 dissolved the newly formed Future Forward Party, which had won the third highest number of seats in the lower house in the 2019 general election.

In both the Cambodian and Thai cases, the courts cited specific violations of the law for their rulings, but their actions were widely seen as reflecting political pressures.

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More than 20 killed in attack on Kabul military hospital

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bbc– More than 20 people have been killed and at least 16 injured in a gun and bomb assault on a military hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Attackers targeted the 400-bed Sardar Daud Khan hospital starting with two massive explosions outside the building, officials said.

Gunmen then broke into the hospital grounds, witnesses said.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group, IS-K, later said it had carried out the attack.

Photographs and video footage from Kabul showed a plume of smoke over the area and recorded the sounds of gunfire. A doctor in the building told the AFP news agency he had been sent to seek shelter in a safe room during the attack and could hear guns being fired.

Sayed Ahad told broadcaster EVN that one of the blasts was a suicide attack.

“As an Afghan citizen, I am really tired of this war, suicide and explosions,” he said. “How long do we have to endure this misery?”

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The Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, told the BBC that fighters from IS-K had entered the compound after detonating the first explosion at the entrance gate.

Mr Karimi said Taliban fighters shot and killed four IS-K attackers and captured one alive.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid meanwhile told Reuters news agency that Taliban special forces dropped by helicopter had stopped the attackers from entering the hospital itself, killing them at the entrance or in the building’s courtyard. All the assailants were killed in 15 minutes, he said.

Witnesses quoted by Reuters said they saw two helicopters over the area during the assault. The news agency reports that this would be one of the first times Taliban forces have used aircraft captured from the previous, Western-backed government during an operation.

The attack is the latest to hit Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control in August, after the US withdrew its last troops from the country.

IS-K, which stands for Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks targeting civilians and Taliban fighters.

In August, a bombing by IS-K at Kabul international airport in August killed more than 150 civilians and 13 US soldiers.

The Sardar Daud Khan hospital has been targeted before. More than 30 people were killed and 50 others wounded in 2017 when gunmen dressed as doctors stormed the building. That attack was also claimed by the Islamic State group.

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