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UN report details scale of rights violations suffered by children in Syrian war

UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Publishes Report on Childrens Rights over the course of the Syrian..

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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Publishes Report on Childrens Rights over the course of the Syrian War

GENEVA, 16 January 2020 – Children in the Syrian Arab Republic have been robbed of their childhood as they are forced to participate in a brutal war and endure numerous violations of their rights by all parties to the conflict while remaining acutely vulnerable to violence and abuse, the Commission of Inquiry for Syria noted today in its latest report.

In a 25-page report released today, entitled “They have erased the dreams of my children,” the three-person Commission outlines the multiple rights violations children have been subjected to – including over five million children displaced internally and abroad – and how boys and girls have been robbed of their childhood over the course of the brutal eight and a half-year war.

“I am appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission of Inquiry Chair Paulo Pinheiro. “While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the countrys future generation,” he noted.

Children have been killed and maimed, and subjected to myriad violations by warring parties, states the report, which covers the period between September 2011 to the end of October 2019. On multiple occasions, pro-Government forces used cluster munitions, thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons causing scores of child casualties. Rape and sexual violence have been used repeatedly against men, women, boys and girls as a tool to punish, humiliate and instil fear among communities. Government forces have detained boys as young as 12, subjecting them to severe beatings and torture.

The devastating situation of education in Syria is particularly highlighted as an area of concern. Since the start of the conflict thousands of schools have been destroyed or used for military purposes and more than 2.1 million boys and girls are not regularly attending classes of any form. “Urgent efforts are required by the Syrian Government to support as many children as possible to return to education,” noted Commissioner Karen AbuZayd. “Armed groups holding territory also need to act with haste to facilitate access to education,” she added.

Armed groups targeted schools and used educational facilities for military purposes. Children were detained and used as bargaining chips for prisoner swaps or to extract ransom. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists recruited and used boys to fight on the frontlines. At its peak, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) subjected girls as young as nine to rape and sexual slavery. Boys, meanwhile, were given military training and routinely exposed to extreme violence, including witnessing public executions or forced into the role of executor.

The impact of the conflict on the long-term physical and mental health of boys and girls has been severe. Today, large numbers of children suffer from disabilities as well as devastating psychological and development issues. The report also outlines how over five million children have been displaced by conflict and have become increasingly vulnerable to violations.

The Commission urges States to ensure the protection of displaced children, particularly with regard to the obligations upon all States to repatriate children with familial links to ISIL fighters. “States have well defined obligations to protect children, including from statelessness. Failing to abide by such fundamental principles would be a clear derogation of duty,” noted Commissioner Hanny Megally.

Among the recommendations to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and other key actors aimed to improve the protection of children in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Commission urges parties to respect the special protection children are entitled to under international humanitarian and human rights law and to ensure accountability for violations that have occurred. The Commission also makes a series of recommendations aimed at increasing the support for children who have suffered abuses.

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Spain locates Christopher Columbus’ first tomb

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It has long been known that Columbus was buried in Valladolid after his death there in 1506 but the exact location of his tomb was not known until now.

Three years later his remains were taken to his family mausoleum in the southern city of Seville, and were moved several more times over the following centuries before returning to Seville in 1898.

Using DNA samples from bone slivers taken from the Seville tomb, a forensics team led by the University of Granada confirmed in 2005 that the remains kept there did in fact belong to Columbus.

Researchers have now determined that he was first buried in the San Francisco convent in Valladolid which no longer exists, Spain’s Naval Museum, which helped coordinate the study, said in statement.

The site is currently a commercial zone near the spacious Plaza Mayor, a broad, pedestrianised expanse surrounded by arcaded buildings painted red.

This conclusion follows “a detailed historical investigation, confirmed by ground-penetrating radars,” the statement added.

Researchers took samples of elements from the Seville burial sport — lead, brick, golden threads — and found they matched with the location of the spot in Valladolid which was excavated, it added.

Historians and archeologists have since recreated in 3D the dimensions the chapel in Valladolid that housed the remains of Columbus.

In 1544 his remains were moved from Seville to Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic, in accordance with the instructions he had left behind.

In 1795 his bones were moved to Havana before being shipped back across the Atlantic and returned to Seville in 1898.

The Dominican Republic claims Columbus is buried at an ornate lighthouse in Santo Domingo.

The teams behind the 2005 DNA study said that while they are convinced the bones in Seville are from Columbus, the tomb in Santo Domingo might also hold part of his remains.

Columbus, long hailed by school textbooks as the so-called discoverer of “The New World,” is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas.

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Spain’s Infanta Cristina and Iñaki Urdangarin announce ‘interruption of marriage’

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The sister of Spain’s King Felipe VI, Cristina de Borbón, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin have decided to “interrupt” their marriage, according to a press release published Monday by Spanish news agency EFE.

“By mutual consent, we have decided to interrupt our marital relationship. Our commitment to our children remains intact. Given this is a private decision, we ask for utmost respect for everyone around us,” the document stated.

The former Olympic handball champion was sentenced to prison in 2018 in connection with a financial crimes scandal known as the Nóos case, and the Infanta – a title Cristina bears for being the daughter of a king – was questioned in court over the matter, although she was later cleared of all criminal charges. Urdangarin has since been moved to an open regime and only reports to prison once a week.

The public announcement comes after Urdangarin was photographed holding hands with another woman last week in Bidart in southwestern France. When asked about his relationship to the woman in question, Ainhoa Armentia, a 43-year-old from the Basque city of Vitoria, Urdangarin replied: “These things happen.”

The relationship between Cristina de Borbón and Iñaki Urdangarin officially began in 1996 at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, where Urdangarin was competing as a member of the Spanish handball team. One year later, they married in a church in Barcelona in a ceremony attended by 1,500 guests. The couple have four children together.

In June 2018, Urdangarin was sentenced by the Supreme Court to six years and three months in prison for his involvement in the Nóos case. He was found guilty of tax fraud, embezzlement and influence peddling, and entered prison on June 18, 2018. He has served five years and 10 months at Brieva penitentiary, and is now allowed to serve out the remainder from home.

Last year, the former Duke of Palma – who was stripped of his title following the scandal – was granted permission to move to a more flexible prison regime, meaning he could serve the remaining 11 months of his sentence from home. Under this regime, Urdangarin does not need to wear an electronic bracelet that tracks his movement, and is only subject to weekly in-person meetings and phone check-ins. Since then, he has been living in Vitoria with his mother, Claire Liebaert, who is in poor health.

The new regime also allowed Urdangarin to start working at the accounting firm Imaz & Associates, which has a good relationship with his family. But the frequency in which the former duke was seen in the streets during working hours – under the pretext that he was teleworking – prompted prison authorities to recommend he work in the office in person. There he met Armentia, a married woman whose marriage was not going well, but who continued living in the same apartment as her husband.

Since the photograph was taken last Wednesday, a scrum of photographers and reporters have been waiting long hours outside the accountancy firm to get a statement from Urdangarin and Armentia. According to sources close to the owner of Imaz & Associates, the media attention has made the director question his decision to hire the former duke, which he did as a personal favor to his family. The media attention has also surprised Armentia, who until a few days ago was just an anonymous accountant with two young children.

According to sources close to the Royal Household, news of Urdangarin’s relationship with Armentia also caught Cristina de Borbón off guard.

In June 2015, Felipe VI stripped his sister of the title of Duchess of Palma after the latter repeatedly refused to give up her hypothetical rights to the throne (she is sixth in line of succession). The decision was made a week after the first anniversary of Felipe’s reign, as the monarchy was going through an institutional crisis derived partly from the Nóos scandal.

After Felipe’s father Juan Carlos I abdicated the throne in 2014, the Royal Household announced that membership in the royal family was being reduced to include just Felipe and Queen Letizia, their daughters Leonor and Sofía and Felipe’s parents Juan Carlos I and Doña Sofía. Felipe’s sisters, the infantas Elena and Cristina, were excluded from this group and do not receive any allowances from the Spanish budget.

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Swiss company helps recycle Morocco’s organic waste

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africanews– In Morocco, a Swiss company is helping to process organic waste.

EV or Green Elephant has an annual turnover of 40,000 tonnes of compost and organic fertiliser.

In Morocco, nearly 80% of household waste is organic compared to less than 30% in Europe.

“Our sector of activity is the recovery of agricultural by-products through an industrial process called composting. There are different raw materials of vegetable and animal origin that are mixed together, with well-defined ratios”, says Mohamed El Kabous, EV production manager.

The organic waste is processed and replaces chemical fertilisers improving sustainability.

Traditionally, in Morocco, most household waste is buried.

According to official data, 66 illegal dumps have been rehabilitated so far.

“All our products are organic and can be used in organic farming to replace some of the chemical fertilisers that kill the soil, and also to participate and offer customers a healthy and sustainable agriculture” promises EV’s production manager.

According to the Ministry of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, in 2015 only 6% of household waste was recycled.

A national waste programme whose objective was to reach a recycling rate of 20% by 2022 was pushed back to 2030.

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